Thursday, October 29, 2009

Finished for Friday: Christmas Wishes

Now that the big Halloween quilt is out of the way I can get to some of the other quilts that have been piling up around here. This is the completed "Christmas Wishes" quilt from the free patterns by Gail Pan.

I've also started another quilt full of embroidery blocks, this one from Bunny Hill. I started with the October block and I'll catch up as time allows. I thought this was cute.

I also read a great book this week, "Nurtureshock: New Thinking About Children," by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.

This book debunks many popular theories about parenting and describes in a very readable way what current research really reveals about such things as those ubiquitous Baby Einstein videos. Every parent should read this book. I'll keep it on my kindle and probably reread sections of it.

Please join in if you have accomplishments to share this week. Jack-o-lanterns? Halloween costumes? I love seeing what you've been up to. Please visit the other participants to cheer them on. Have a happy Halloween and save a Reeses for me!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Way Back When-esday: Tinkerbell

I love this picture. Taken around Halloween time in 2003. Dear Wasabi Girl stands in her kindergarten classroom with "Readmore Bear," who is also in costume for the occasion. This was a hard time for Wasabi Girl. After seeing what fun her older sister had with the greatest teacher in the world, Wasabi Girl couldn't wait to become a kindergartener herself. She adored this teacher, who was larger than life and more wonderful than Santa Claus to her heart and mind.

Sadly, after teaching only six days that year, the teacher was hospitalized. Shortly before Halloween, she died. We were all devastated and we still talk about how wonderful that teacher was. To see Wasabi Girl put on a brave face and embrace that teacher's famous bear brings a tear to my eye even today.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Makes My Monday: Indian Summer

October is our most beautiful month around here, and I am reminded about just how wonderful and summery it is every time I see this on my front porch.

Pink geraniums in an oversized teacup on an undersized chair makes my Monday. To see more happy things to start the week, visit Cheryl at Twinfatuation.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Caturday Photo

Dumbledore loves his teddy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Finished for Friday: Just for Fun

Lit and Laundry

It's Friday again! Time for Show and Tell. Now that the big Halloween quilt is finished, I'm turning to all the smaller projects that are piling up around here. I finished the second pillow in the set for Halloween:

I also made a cover for our family notebook from some funny snarky "dsyfunctional family" fabric:

I also finished two books. "Persuasion" by Jane Austen, which I've read before, and "Of Beetles & Angels; A Boy's Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard. "

This is an inspiring story of the author's journey from war-torn Ethiopia to America and how with perseverance, faith, and some excellent parents he managed to get a full scholarship to Harvard, where he delivered the commencement address. It's written for young adults, and my son is the one who found it at the library and brought it home, but it's a good quick read for anyone.

What have you been up to this week? I hope you join in. I hope you're ahead of me in the Halloween costume department. Maybe I'll have something to show there next week.

If you want to join in with a recent post, just add it to the linky below and feel free to grab the button from my sidebar. Be sure to visit the other participants to cheer them on. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stay Calm, Wipe your Snout, and Wash your Hands

I belong to a listserver that delivers a daily email from our middle school principal. I usually glance over the announcements and try to remember the canned food drives and scheduled crazy hair days.

Over the past few months the tone of these emails has grown slightly more ominous and urgent. First the message that swine flu had been detected in California, a few weeks later it was reported in the Bay area. Just over a week ago we were told that there were definite cases in our county.

The updates have stopped now. What can the principal say? It's in our school. We know a boy down the street who is home with it. My own sister had it. It's real, and it's here.

There is only so much we can do as parents short of keeping our kids home for the next few months. We have to trust them as thinking people to remember to wash their hands and try to stop touching their faces so much (not easy for teens experimenting with makeup).

I hate to lecture, and I don't want to scare, but this is one thing I want my kids to take seriously. So when Wasabi Girl complained that the boy behind her was sneezing and hacking nonstop in Humanities class I told her that now is not the time to be polite. She should have moved. It's not about hurting feelings or calling attention to anyone, it's about staying well.

We've been lucky so far, although Jungle Boy had some kind of flu last week. Tell me your story. Are you doing okay? Are there a lot of empty seats at your school and workplace? I haven't been able to find any clinic in the area that has vaccine right now, but I'll keep trying.

We'll get through this. Let's all stay calm. And remember to cough into our shoulders.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I started my daughter on a drug today

Drama Girl is 13. She's begged for and received a cell phone. She's been to a movie with a boy (with a parent along). She's seen PG-13 movies. There remained on her list of forbidden fruit just one thing she wanted to try.

So after months of her begging, I broke down today.

I let her try coffee.

I took her to Starbucks, which is not my favorite coffee, but it was close to the high school where I picked her up. I ordered a latte for myself and a small decaf latte for her. (On a side note, one of the things I really hate about Starbucks is the way they try to make you order in faux Italian or something - small is "tall", medium is "grande" and large is stupido or something - I never order a large so I don't remember what they call it.)

We waited until we were served the cups with our names carelessly scrawled across them. She grabbed hers and I showed her how to slip the little sleeve on the cup. I felt like such a cool, indulgent mom. She loved me.

She took a swig and burned her tongue. "Don't drink it fast! It's hot!" My warning was too late.

"Ya think?" was her only reply. After that she sipped it like a pro.

I looked at her out of the corner of my eye. There was no rolling around on the tongue, no facial expressions of experimenting with a new flavor. This girl who has a limited palate when it comes to food seemed to have no problem with coffee.

"This isn't your first cup of coffee, is it?"


Thanks for playing along and letting me feel like a cool mom Drama Girl. And thanks for your honesty to try to save my feelings. May you enjoy lattes for many years to come.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

5:04 pm October 17, 1989

I had gone to work at the VA hospital early that morning, so I was home at 5:00 that evening. I was standing in the kitchen when the earthquake hit.

At first, like many people, the initial jolt made me think that a truck had hit the building. I lived in a three-story apartment that had probably been built in the 1970s. But the jolt became a rumble, which became a roll, and soon the whole room was rocking.

Although it was only 15 seconds long, my mind had plenty of time to flit through many thoughts. I braced myself in the doorway of the kitchen. Behind me, I could hear the cupboards fly open and all my dishes spill out and break. I turned to see my collection of antique teapots fly from their shelf and shatter into a thousand pieces. Then I turned to the living room and saw my harp swaying dangerously. Because harps are designed to be tilted back against the player's shoulder, they have a very high center of gravity. It isn't hard to tip one over. I stumbled into the living room and grabbed the harp and held on. 15 seconds seemed like forever. "This is a big one" I thought. "Is it going to be the big one?" The noise got louder and louder. A deep earthly rumble, accompanied by crashes, shattering, banging.

And then it stopped. Every car in the parking lot below my window seemed to have an alarm system going off. It was unnerving to hear. Like every other resident on the floor, I went to my apartment door and stepped out. "Are you okay?" "Yes, are you okay?" Strangers became comrades in disaster. We all cared about each other. The woman across the hall from me was about my age and we had a nodding acquaintance. We both had the idea to check on the elderly residents upstairs, so we went together. I think we were both shaking ourselves and simply operated out of reflex. It was very important to us to feel that everyone was okay. We went upstairs where the same scenario was playing out that we'd seen on our floor. People were standing at their apartment doors, reassuring themselves that nobody was hurt.

Minutes later I returned to my apartment. It was a mess. The kitchen floor was full of broken china and the cupboards hung open, with some dishes and food hanging half out. I had a short bookshelf in the living room that had had plants on it and a vase of flowers. All the books had flown out horizontally and the plants had fallen. Dirt had come out of the broken pots and the vase of flowers provided enough water to make mud on the books. Items were broken in the bathroom. I didn't know where to start. It was as if in a matter of seconds my apartment had been vandalized. I felt helpless and had trouble grasping what had happened.

The damage in my apartment wasn't terrible, relative to everything that happened that day, but it was terrible to me. A home is a safe, personal space, and any violation of that can be a bit traumatic.

My water didn't work. The electricity was off. I could hear sirens from emergency vehicles. I could hear people walking up and down the hall outside hauling items to the dumpster. There was the sound of people sweeping up glass. Windows had broken in the apartments above. At some point, the aftershocks began. Some were small, some were enough to make me bolt out of bed in the days that followed. Each was unnerving.

My boyfriend (who is now my husband) called. Their power was out at the house he shared with three other guys. They happened to have a whole freezer full of ice cream. Nothing to do but eat it - would I like to come over? After cleaning up what I could, I grabbed my car keys and went. I didn't want to be alone.

I don't remember noticing the pool at my apartment, but the pool at my boyfriend's house was amazing. Half the water had sloshed out. I was halfway through a bowl of ice cream when I finally thought about my workplace.

I worked at the Palo Alto VA hospital. If you look at an aerial map of California, you can easily discern the San Andreas fault. If you look closely, you will see that the VA hospital lies directly on it.

It only took me five minutes to get there and what I saw was eerie and a bit frightening. Night was falling, and the parking lot of my building was full of mental patients wandering. The third floor of my building was a lock-up ward for the severely mentally ill. It was utterly destroyed in the earthquake. A few doctors and nurses were trying to shepherd the patients and keep them all calm. I parked my car and dashed into my ground floor office to check my freezer. It contained spinal fluid from years of study of Alzheimer's patients in our center. Thankfully, it was running smoothly on a backup generator. I would later learn that the rest of the hospital was not so lucky. An entire storage room full of preserved brains of autopsied patients was destroyed along with all its contents. The pathologist who had spent a lifetime studying this tissue had to be physically restrained to keep from going in and trying to save her samples. The morgue was destroyed, and the active cases on the autopsy table had to remain there for days before it was deemed safe enough for cleanup crews to go into the building.

Days later, an office manager and I would sneak up to the third floor lock up (the "flight deck" as it was called) to look at the damage. Ceiling beams were down, dust was thick everywhere. It was like a horror movie set. We found moldy coffee in coffee cups and all the signs of a hasty exit.

There was no "getting back to normal" after the earthquake. There was just a new normal that I had to adjust to. Everyone had to talk and share their stories. Everyone knew someone who had suffered badly. Everyone had a story of someone's dramatic escape or near-miss. Everyone told of how they were nearly on the Cypress overpass that collapsed. The endless news reporting was fatiguing, and at first I watched a lot just to digest what had happened, but when I reached the point of saturation, I had to turn it off.

Am I prepared for the next one? In some ways yes, in some ways no. It's the gamble we all take. Why do I live here? Because it is the most gorgeous place on the planet, and the chance of an earthquake is not something that hangs over my head like the threat of doom every day. I'd far rather live here than in tornado country, or someplace that could flood.

I do miss those teapots though.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Finished for Friday: The Epic Concludes

The Hocuspocusville Quilt is done! However, I had a little accident yesterday so I was late getting the picture up.

I was going up the stairs into the house with my arms full of shopping bags when I tripped on the top step (I'm still really wobbly after my hip surgery) and smacked my knees down hard on the cement landing. Major ouch. I had to spend the rest of the afternoon/evening with my feet up icing my poor knees.

So I'm putting the last few stitches into the binding this morning.

Thanks for playing along! Remember, you have all weekend to post to this list before I put Monday's post up. Be sure to visit the other participants and cheer them on.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How to Make an 11 Year Old Boy Really Happy

We had a whopper of a storm today. A rare deluge here in beautiful sunny Northern California. Luckily our house is at the top of a hill, so there isn't any danger of flooding, but streets below us became lakes as storm drains overflowed.

It was fun to watch while warm and cozy inside. Not so fun for running around in the car with the kids. On one journey, I picked up Jungle Boy and we made a dash from the car to the house as we got pelted by buckets of rain. We'd park the car in the garage, but that's full of important stuff like legos and my sewing machine. So through the rain we ran and I was a little ahead of him, gimp and all (he had to dig his backpack and trumpet out of the car).

Then I saw it. There in front of me. In a huge puddle at the base of my front stairs. A big lizard. It wasn't moving. In that split second of decision, I weighed my options; I could scare or scoop him out of sight, or I could be the cool mom and call my son over to catch him for a pet.

I opted for cool mom. I'm an idiot that way.

The poor waterlogged beast attempted to escape but couldn't move fast or far in all that water so within a few seconds I had my son's trumpet in my hands and he had a lizard in his. There we stood, in the pouring rain. One of us was elated.

My brain went into overdrive. We had a terrarium somewhere. We both went to work and within 15 minutes we had a clean terrarium with a very scared lizard in it. We were wet but proud of our mission accomplished. We don't know the lizard's gender but my son named it "Monsoon."

I was going to snap a picture of our new family member, but he's hiding in the little frog house in the terrarium right now. I'll need to go to the pet store tomorrow and get him some better accessories and some crickets.

I just hope this earns me some "cool mom" points. Never hurts to get a few of those.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Makes My Monday: The Car Wash

Just down the hill from me is a little oasis of delight known as the car wash. Not only will they do a nice hand wash and spritz your car with one of 25 different scents, but the cashier is housed in one of the best gift shops on the planet.

I love gift shops in general. I'm a born browser. I love small quantities of many small things all massed together to peruse. Need a new cookbook? This car wash has everything from tiny pocket versions to coffee table tomes on the cuisine of Peru. Scented candles? check. Silk scarves? check. Little car deodorizers shaped like trees? of course check.

My favorite section has to be the cards. Quirkier than Hallmark and the local drugstores, funny, sentimental - all the best cards are at the car wash.

Today I'm taking my car in and I'm looking forward to the free hazelnut coffee I'll sip while I look at the artisan jewelry and jazz cd selections. Maybe I'll get some Christmas shopping done.

Please don't point out to me that it's going to rain tonight. I'm really looking forward to this little trip today.

For more happy Monday thoughts, visit Cheryl at Twinfatuation.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Finished for Friday: Black Cat

I was going to take a nice close up of this finished Halloween pillow I made out of felt, but how could I resist a shot with some black cat models nearby?

The patriotic quilt has to come off the wall, but I still haven't finished the Hocuspocusville quilt yet. I will be so happy when that's done and on display. I'm counting on next Friday.

The Christmas tree lots are already going up in our neighborhood (no trees though yet), so I am feeling the holiday pressure mounting.

Lit and Laundry

What are you doing for Halloween? What have you finished up this week? Join in with a recent post, and be sure to read the other participants and congratulate them on their hard work. Feel free to grab a button from my sidebar. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday's Toonlet

The Mighty Hunter

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The Mighty Hunter

True story. I'm still a little freaked out that a big old lizard was in our house. We keep the doors closed like Fort Knox around here. We have a lot of lizards out in the garden though. I just wonder how long this one had been indoors.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Makes My Monday: Good Samaritan

It's hard to watch your kids learn the hard lessons in life. Lessons like "if you leave your purse in a public place, someone is likely to pick it up." Poor Drama Girl. According to her "everything" was in that purse. Other than her cell phone, I'm not sure what "everything" is, but they were treasures to her, and her sadness made me sad.

"The world is a good place, full of good people, but some people just cannot resist temptation. A purse is very tempting, and when you left it there, someone was bound to pick it up."

My explanation didn't make anyone any happier, but I didn't know what else to say to help her learn from her mistake.

But how glad I was to be proven wrong. Someone found her purse and cell phone and called the auto-dial number labelled "dad." As I write this, we are working to reunite the purse and its treasures with Drama Girl.

"See mom, the world is a good place!"

I'm glad that's true. She still needs to be careful where she leaves her purse.

This happy ending makes my Monday. To see more good news to start your week, visit Cheryl at Twinfatuation.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Finished for Friday: Eating That Frog

Today's finish is in the "lit" category - a classic book called "Eat That Frog" by Brian Tracy. The Subtitle is "21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time."

If you don't need a book like this, I envy you. I never seem to have the time I want to get everything done. This book is a great motivator. In a nutshell, he urges the reader to get the biggest, most difficult task for the day done first, and do nothing else until it's done. The title is from the Mark Twain quote "If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, the rest of your day will be wonderful."

It's a quick read, and it doesn't astound with anything new, it just inspires with a lot of positive attitude. I'll be picking it up again in the future to give myself a nudge.

The Hocuspocusville quilt isn't done yet, but soon. Soon.

Lit and Laundry

What have you finished up this week? I'd love to see what you've been working on. Feel free to grab a button from my sidebar and please visit the other participants and cheer them on. Have a great weekend!

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