Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Fire Man

A poem, by Maddie (inspired by our new UU Church's candlelight Solstice service)

Flickering and popping,
Lighting up the world without stopping,
we owe fire our life, you know.
And even so, we rarely treasure it.
Fire being big or small, you cannot measure it
At all.

It can be a candlelight or a bonfire lighting up
for easy sight.
It comes from a spark or a candle.
Without it we'd be in the dark.
But even so, fire can be a vandal.
So I hope you enjoyed this scandal.

Now, do not cry; it's not a permanent goodbye.
And I can assure you I don't lie.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Meet the Robinsons

We gave this movie a pass in the theaters because the reviews were so tepid. What were they thinking?! I rented it for the kids this week after striking out with Pirates3 and Harry Potter5, and found it absolutely charming! Kinetic and kooky, with absolutely wonderful themes about success and the importance of failures, family and the stories we tell about them and the importance of letting go of the unhappy stories we tell about our past!

Steve loved it too and we both cried a bit. The kids were, oddly enough, less enthralled by it that we were, but they still liked it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

New Desk

Yesterday, I woke up feeling mildly depressed again, which I've hesitated to blog about, as I know that recounting depressive thinking (it's crazy cold and it's only early December, I'm trapped in a house with two kids and no friends, what have I done with this move) only strengthens it, and I know that I could tell myself a different story and feel very cozy and happy (it's a beautiful winter's scene outside, the kids are happily engaged in their new home, I can putter about to my heart's content).

But nonetheless I was feeling down yesterday morning, then I had a long and wonderful conversation with my Mom, which made me feel 100 percent better and more connected. So I decided to call up a friend I haven't seen yet since this move and invite her and her three girls over. What a wonderful afternoon we had, making homemade pizza and scented soaps and talking!

They stayed till early evening, then I spent the next 4 1/2 hours putting together a new desk for Maddie, an early Christmas present. Luckily, I'm not working right now, as I managed to slice, bruise and blister my hands pretty good in the process. But it's done, and with any luck, I may be able to reclaim the dining room table for actual eating! We'll create a work station for Harry today.

Here's Maddie and Harry sitting at the desk this morning, sketching. Maddie wanted to place it in front of the dining room window so she could sketch Cherry and Snowflake, our two resident front-yard squirrels, while they nosh on seeds and peanuts.

Here's a drawing Maddie did of Cherry (and yes, she did the animals in the corners too, which are glued to magnets -- I think that's Fang on the lower left)

And here's Harry's sketch of the back of our digital camera!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Birthdays and more snow...

Hmm, which present to open first. A huge thank you to Great Aunts/Uncles Diane, Richard, Toby & David for finding the time to send packages and cards with money in them! It was very fun for Harry to receive presents at his new home, as torturous as it was to wait to open them...

There's never a shortage of present openers at birthday parties, is there....

Sunny doesn't care which family she snuggles up with, as long as they've got warm feet...

Our friends Jill and her daughter Addy braved the snowfall to come, bless them! Jill plays rock-em sock-em robot with cousin Owen.

Harry was quite enthralled with this camera-mounted remote-controlled spy car that Nic picked out for him (though the face he makes trying to shut one eye and see the video feed is kind of freaky to me...)

The icing was so slippery the cake fell over shortly after this was taken. Still tasted great!

The cake has an image of Redwall Abbey on it.

All in all, a lovely party, despite the snow that kept folks away and the still-new, still-strange environs.

A few days after Harry's party, we got yet another snow! It's lovely each time and I can enjoy it until I start thinking about the fact that it's not even officially winter yet and we've already had three snows in the four weeks we've been here for god's sake! Then I calm down and remember how everyone says the weather changes constantly here and I'm sure it will be warm(ish) and sunny again soon... Right??

Maddie working on a snowfort after our latest four inches of snow yesterday.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Daily coyote

Getting ready for Harry's birthday party on a cold and snowy day, but wanted to post a link to this wonderful blog.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The best mortgage lender ever!

I don't usually do endorsements (don't want to sully the purity of my blog) but I just have to rave about Navy Federal Credit Union (thanks Dad, for being in the Marines!) We just got a call today from our loan processor to tell us that we were getting a rebate from NFCU for taking out our home loan with them. Now, mind you, this is a $70,000 loan, not very big potatoes, and they charged us a grand total of $421 to process the loan (and that included $350 for an appraisal), but they issued us a $2,000 rebate!!

Needless to say, I'm feeling very warm and fuzzy towards them right now. In fact, I'm willing to overlook the two returned check fees they charged me this month in the midst of all the moving chaos.

Closing went well -- we actually met our home seller, Kate. That's how you do it here in friendly Colorado. No escrow companies here, the title company handles the close. So Kate, our vivacious young title agent Candace, and our respective real estate agents sat down at a big table and signed documents for 45 minutes. I was really impressed when Candace explained how title insurance worked using our actual neighbors as examples. That admiration dissipated when Candace confessed that she and Kate were friends and that she had actually helped Kate remodel the house when she first bought it.

Kate was a young woman who seemed both sad and relieved to be done with the house. She'd bought it with a "no-good" ex and put a ton of work into it, ripping off plastic wallpaper and taking down mirrored wall panels, scraping popcorn and removing weird faux ceiling beams. I had a much greater appreciation for all she'd done, after realizing that I probably wouldn't have bought the house in its original state. (Previously, I'd been noticing only the work that still needed to be done -- the bathroom that needs a remodel, the peeling kitchen countertops and the worn carpeting.)

She said we had wonderful neighbors, which I was glad to hear, and reccomended a potential babysitter across the street from us. And, once all the paperwork was signed, she said, "now I can tell you, let the water run in the upstairs bathtub on the coldest nights of the year or the pipe freezes and you can't use it until it warms up again." I thought it was so funny that she was worried we'd back out of the sale if we knew that in advance.

It was quite nice to actually meet the person who lived her before us. It seems so strange to turn a home over to someone else sight unseen. Steve and I wrote out a letter to our buyer in Murrieta, explaining the various apple trees and grape vines in the garden and how to care for them, when we mailed her the mailbox keys we'd accidentally taken with us. She kindly sent us 9 pounds of mail that hadn't been forwarded, but without even a note. Which of course convinced me that she's mad at us because we couldn't get all the dog pee smell out of the upstairs carpet before we left. (sigh.)

What an interesting and fraught process buying and selling a house is....

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Playing doctor

The kids have been having fun with a new game, thanks to a craft-related accident I had last night.

Maddie has been wanting to make homemade paper by shredding paper products, blending them into a pulp, suspending them in water and sieving through the water with a screen to create a sheet of artsy-looking paper. I was trying to peel the plastic sleeve off a roll of metal window screening when I jammed a piece of wire under the skin of my thumb about an inch. I thought the wire had broken off under my skin, so I had Steve try to dig it out with tweezer and needle while I closed my eyes and chanted OMmmmmm. Turns out there was just a fragment of metal in me, not a long wire.

Shortly thereafter, Harry announced that he wanted us to make him a patient with a wire that needed to be removed. (I was convinced he was processing his trauma through play acting, but Steve thinks Harry just thought it was cool to see Steve operating on me. Gives you a little insight into our respective issues or lack thereof.)

So we set Harry up with a potato (who was working on his car when it exploded and impaled him with wire, nails and other objects) and Harry carefully removed foreign bodies with tweezers. Maddie got into the game, and all evening long, she searched out various food items that could be skewered with unpleasant objects, doused them with red food coloring and sent them down to Dr. Harry in the basement.

The game continues today, and here's Maddie and Patient Potato (who apparently works at a munitions dump with lax occupational safety regulations):

Here's Dr. Harry at work:

Next up, a Banana in bad shape. What happened to him? "A carton of sour-humored milk attacked him," says Maddie.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Cold, colds and closings

It's been a cold week, venturing up into the 40s a couple of days, but otherwise staying in the 30s. Which was okay, I guess, as I had caught the kids' virus Monday and wasn't up for much of anything outside for most of the week. The kids are getting over their colds, with some residual coughing at night. Not exactly hitting the ground running here in Colorado, but it gives us time to settle into our new house. Harry and I are struggling with some homesickness, not so much Maddie and Steve. It'll help when we're all well and can socialize with some friends here.

We're getting ready to head on over to the escrow office to close our house sale. As of 5 p.m. this afternoon, this house will be ours! Feels good and weird at the same time. I'll be glad to get through this transition time. I heard from my Mom that there's a big rainstorm in SoCal right now, and it made me homesick! We have a 40 percent chance of some snow tonight, so maybe that'll help me get over it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Very local weather

We met another of our new neighbors this afternoon. He waved from across the street and introduced himself. Doug just returned from a surfing trip to southern Mexico and was surprised to find new neighbors. Maddie and I had been looking at a whirling thingamajig on his roof for a while, which I figured was a weather station.

Turns out Doug is a hydrologist specializing in snowpack consulting. His weather station is part of Weather Underground, so if you want to know what the temperature and windspeed is just across the street from us, you can always click here.

The funny thing is, Doug looks *way* more like a Californian than any of my California neighbors ever did, blond hair, deep tan, puka shell necklace, tres surfer dude, yet he's a Minnesota native who's lived in Colorado for 11 years now. Treats himself to a surf vacation every year, he said.

So far, we've got Joe and Vivian who live across the street and down a house. Joe has worked in the Budweiser plant a couple of miles away for many years. Jean lives to our south and used to have a daycare in her house, but I think is retired now. Tom lives to our north, with his 18-year-old son (Michael?) who likes reggae and some rather more urban music (I'm not up on my pop music enough to name the style) and plays it rather loudly when he drives up or away.

We hope to meet more folks, but with the weather chilly as it is, it may be a while before we do...

A few notes on our new home...

We've been in the new house a week now, and are greatly enjoying just being in such a different place. The scenery and climate are so different, and oddly enough, the people are just much nicer than folks are in SoCal. I can't quite figure out why it is, but I notice it everywhere in little ways.

The house is bigger than our Murrieta house, with more light and more openness, and that's very pleasing. It needs a lot of work, and that's daunting. We had to call out an appliance repair guy yesterday when I discovered that the oven wouldn't work after I'd already made dough for a loaf of bread. I suppose we should have waited and bought a new stove, as the repair cost $184 and it wasn't a pretty stove to begin with, but with any luck our sellers will reimburse us for the cost of the repair, and if not, well, it was a very tasty $184 loaf of bread. (Actually, the reason I didn't just buy a new stove is that I want a gas stove to cook on eventually, and that requires replumbing, which we can't do until we actually own the house. Which will hopefully be at the end of this week, though I haven't heard from our loan officer since we moved. I need to unpack her number and call her!)

Steve went out yesterday afternoon and painted a scene along the irrigation canal. I'll try to remember to ask him to post it here. Yesterday was as warm as it's been since the snowfall Tuessday night; I'd guess it got into the low 40s. It's supposed to hit the low 50s today before returning to 30s/40s for the rest of the week, so we'll dig out some Christmas decorations and get them up. It's actually quite pleasant as long as the temperature is above freezing. I sat on the back deck with a book and a cup of tea yesterday, and I plan to do it again today!

Our solar blower does a nice job of heating the house, though it can't get it above 66 on the colder days and of course, after about 3:30 pm it goes off because the temperature in the collector gets too cool. I think we could heat the house entirely with the blower and a good wood stove, just waiting for close of escrow for that as well.

The kids have been plagued with horrible coughs, Harry even more so than Maddie; if it doesn't improve significantly by tomorrow, we'll take them in to a doctor. They have energy enough during the day, but are racked all evening and night by terrible, unproductive coughing. And Maddie got hit with an epic nosebleed on our way to town to run some errands last Wednesday, and has been worried about a repeat ever since.

I find it ironic that our fish made it through the move just fine and even spent a week in tiny tanks before we finally got them set up in the right size for them, but our kids have been hammered by the change.

Maggie, our 15-year-old dog, has taken to this move much better than I though she would. The back porch steps are a bit of a challenge for her, but she's making it up and down them and she dances at the front door for a walk every morning. Sunny seems to get very charged up by the snow (too much so, sometimes -- when we were exploring the fabulous play structure at the elementary school outside our back fence yesterday morning, she was tearing around in circles and decided to bite Harry on the calf for no particular reason!) She isn't really up for the long walks I want to do, as the snow get clotted in her paws. Maybe I need to get her booties.

We have a (red fox?) squirrel that lives in one of our cottonwood trees out front, a male, as Maddie pointed out. The kids have named him Cherry after watching him scamper to our (chokecherry?) tree and breakfast on its fruits. (I need to acquaint myself with the local flora and fauna better. We had a fabulous view of a gorgeous Northern flicker on the cottonwood yesterday morning and after looking it up in the bird book decided it was a red-shafted Northern flicker.)

The upper half of the house is pretty well unpacked and I've set up a little meditation/yoga corner in our great room. Maddie's asked to do yoga in it each of the last few mornings. I'd love to make that a habit (in fact, I'm going to suggest a yoga session as soon as I'm done with this post.)

The lower level is a jumble of boxes and I'm reluctant to do much unpacking there because I want to replace the carpeting ASAP and can't find the enthusiasm to set up, move and reset up the kids toys and craft areas. Have to wait to get carpeting in as well, though, and Steve's willing to just live with the old carpet for a while.

Now that I've got an urge to do some yoga, I'd better go off and get to it before it wanes. Steve should be back soon from church; he headed out to the 9 am service of Foothills UU Church, a huge, exciting Unitarian church here (the kids are too cough-y to go today.)

A late first snow

According to the Coloradoan, last week's 4 or so inches was one of the latest first snows in more than a century. I guess the snow gods were waiting for us to arrive. After unloading in sunny 70-degree weather for several days, Tuesday night it began to snow. The kids have been sick with cough/colds, so they didn't get out and do some real snowplay until yesterday (Sat) when it warmed up enough that the snow could be packed.

Here's some photos of us moving in with our cousins helping to rake up a huge pile of leaves, the first day of the snow, and yesterday's sledding...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Our last week

Last Monday, we were packing up our house with our friend Laurie.

On Tuesday, we went to Disneyland (which turned out to be a bit more than the kids could handle, as they were either coming down with a cold before they got there or picked one up at the park, and wanted to go home by about 3 p.m.)

On Wednesday, we loaded the van and said goodbye to Laurie in the evening.

Thursday around noon, my folks came down and, seeing our panicked faces, agreed to load their truck with as much of our remaining stuff that wasn't fitting in the van as possible. Then around 2:30 p.m., Steve headed out to a U-Haul place to rent a pull-behind trailer, which we packed up with the last of our stuff, including the keys to the Penske moving van. So we unpacked the U-Haul about halfway til we found the keys, repacked it, and finally rolled out of town, frazzled and four hours behind schedule.

As I had foolishly made a non-refundable room reservation in Cedar City for Thursday night (it would have been so much better to go stay the night with my folks and take off the following morning), we drove from 4:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. and rolled into bed at 3 a.m. local time. Four hours later, Harry awoke us all with the croup, though he refused offers of walking and being held and chose to take a shower by himself instead, which worked wonders and he was able to get back to sleep about an hour later. Not me, however.

We made an on-the-fly decision to not push through to Fort Collins on Friday (I was stressed enough about driving a van with the U-haul trailer -- I'd read a piece in the Times a while back about the terrible accidents that occur when trailers were pulled faster than 45 mph, which I was definitely doing).

We made reservations instead for Glenwood Springs, where, to our delight, our new friends Jill and her son Lucas, met us and stayed overnight as well. Why would an unschooling family from Fort Collins drive four hours to see us on our drive east (aside from a general sense that life is an adventure)? Because we were transporting a puppy from Jill's sister (a dog rescuer in San Diego) for them. Little Spanky was a godsend on the drive, keeping the kids diverted.

After another night of disrupted sleep because of poor Harry not feeling well, we got up and walked dogs and played in the hotel pool with Luke, then took off around noon.

We rolled into our new home shortly after 4 p.m. Saturday, in time to unpack a mattress and a few kitchen essentials.

Maddie woke up Sunday morning with a fever, and slept most of the day. Jill came over Sunday afternoon and helped us unload ridiculously heavy furniture, and Cindi, Chelo, Chelo's mom, Alicia, and Nic and Owen came over yesterday and raked a season's worth of leaves up, helped us move the rest of the furniture from garage to house and toted boxes hither and yon as well. The kids weren't up for playing with their cousins much yesterday, unfortunately, but we'll see them at Thanksgiving.

Today, they're definitely feeling better. Except for the pinkeye. We've never had this before and the kids are finding it so unpleasant they're actually willing to do the eyewashing and soaking.I feel terrible that they've been sick and now infected -- moving has proved a much greater stress on them than I expected.

All in all, though, we're excited to be here. The kids miss my Mom and Dad (and Fang), their friends Joseph, Robbie, Spenser, Luna and Solie, and our old house, but they're having fun in the new one and in that sense, seem immensely adaptable (I don't know how much to blame somatasized stress for their illnesses, or whether it's just coincidence that they're getting sick now.) They're very excited about tonight's forecast of 2-4 inches of snow (we had lovely, 70-degree weather since our arrival, but that's all to change today).

I'm going to wrap up this post and start putting rooms back together. I'll post photos once we get our internet service (I'm poaching off a neighbor's wireless at the moment, and I don't want to slow their service down too much.)

It seems like an insane thing that we just did, but it's also exciting to be exploring a new area and a new climate. I reserve the right to fly back to SoCal frequently in the next year, though, to stay in contact with everyone we've left behind!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Goodbye, Good Tern

Well, it's come to this: I'm considering the fate of the Good Tern, my handbuilt wooden boat. Lots of sentimental value - and a sound vessel - but after the kids came along, I just didn't find myself out sailing that much, and after several years of neglect she needs a bit of work that I just might not be up for.
There's a lake near our new Colorado house - perfect for the canoes, certainly - but I might rather sail in a borrowed boat, or find a sailing club once we're there, or perhaps not sail at all, rather than bring this old girl along.
The large photo is the Good Tern moored at Lake Perris in her glory days a few years back; the other photos show her in her current state: great lines, but lots of chipped paint and faded varnish. No metaphors about my own or anyone else's aging - just decisions, decisions...


Okay, we're packing. We're running down details of two escrows. We had to take Sunny to the vets over the weekend because she charged our neighbor's enormous akitas and got chomped on the leg for her attempts to prove her 21 pounds of dominance (she's doing well now). I'm lining up the cheapest moving van. We're visiting with friends. Wrapping up responsibilities at the UU chuch. I'm trying to fit in a few final clients. I'm freaking out.

How do you process stress, fear, excitement and grief while remaining functional? I'm relying on chinese herbs and, sigh, Coke. We've gone through two two-liter bottles in the last week. We hide it from the kids, of course, sneaking it in opaque plastic cups. I'm worried about getting addicted. Colorado's a healthy state though, I'm sure I'll find plenty of help in getting off the stuff once I get out there, right?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy Halloween. A Maddie post

It's three days til Halloween. We just put up our Halloween decorations today. We have two wooden gravestones and three styrofoam gravestones. We also have a small plastic coffin with a zombie with light up red eyes that pops up and screams if it hears a noise or senses any movement. We also have five pumpkins. And a light up skeleton coming out of the ground. One of the pumpkins we have is white and we are going to carve it like a ghost. One of the pumpkins we grew ourselves but even though it's small we still like it. And we are hoping this will be a happy Halloween.

what, more animals?!

A post from Maddie:

A couple months ago we got some mice. One is gray and nibbles so we named him Nibbles. We also got two other mice and named them Pumpkin and Oatmeal. Oatmeal is fuzzy and blond and Pumpkin is orange. But Sunny wants to eat them all bwahaha but we won't let her. And we got them a new mouse cage with a wheel that spins in a circle when they run.

Here is Nibbles and Pumpkin (Pumpkin is in back)

Here is Oatmeal.

Making an offer

We're making an offer in the morning on this house in Fort Collins. I can't get the photos uploaded in the right order, so you'll have to figure out what's what yourself, but here's the details on the house -- it's on almost a quarter acre, has four bedrooms and two baths, I love the open floor plan. It has a solar collector on the south facing side wall that blows hot air into the house via a fan. There's a family room in a daylight basement with a fireplace as well.

It has a lovely deck with sliders onto the master bedroom and the kitchen. It backs to an elementary school playground which we can use after school hours (how ironic that we're backing to a school!) and has lovely views of the mountains beyond the school. There's a walking trail along an irrigation canal at the bottom of the street that goes for miles in either direction.

We're very excited about this house, even though we're going to have to sneak our chickens in under the radar (I called county code enforcement to ask about backyard flocks and the woman told me that chickens aren't allowed in residential zoning, "but just to let you know, we don't go out and check. We'd only check if a neighbor complained.") So we'll keep up our good relations with our neighbors and keep a few chickens under the back deck. With any luck, we'll be under contract tomorrow and we'll be able to move by mid month (We'll rent from the seller until our loan comes through, as she's already moved out).

Oh, and it needs work. Carpet needs to be replaced upstairs and down, the upstairs bathroom needs to be completely redone and the kitchen is desperately in need of an update. But we (Steve) just did all those things so we know what we're getting into and are pricing our offer accordingly.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Back to business

Mom and Dad are back at home and unpacking their cars and RV and trying to de-stress. The skies are a bit better here today and Steve and I are back to focusing on the home sale. He's almost completed the 25-item honey-do list that our buyer presented, and we're trying to figure out where our title snafu stands -- we've got the previous owners ex-husband (an ex-con, no less) on our title and the title company is working to clear it up because we can't close escrow until they do and I don't know how patient our buyer's going to be about this. What a screw-up on the part of our title company. If they don't salvage this sale, we'll be hiring a lawyer of our own, much as I hate to go that route.
The title company lawyers are in San Diego and affected by the fires, as are the mortgage processors for the loan we want to get to buy a house in Fort Collins. Honestly, I'm starting to wonder if the universe is trying to tell us something (yes, all of Southern California burns and it's all about me. It's always all about me!)
Escrow's supposed to close Nov. 15th, I really want to get under contract on a house in Fort Collins and we're being told, wait a few more days, just to be sure we're going to be able to clear this up for you before you make an offer. I'm getting lots of practice in maintaining equanimity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Firefighters did an incredible job of holding the fires on a line about two miles from my folks' house since yesterday evening. I'm really impressed, from all that I read online last night, I'm stunned that they were able to do that.

News reports say that the fires in Live Oak area are out except for hot spots. More are burning to the north of town but aren't a danger to their house.

Mom and Dad are still on Pendleton, breathing foul air. Hoping the evacuation will be lifted tomorrow...

Monday, October 22, 2007


For anyone wondering what's happening with my folks, they're packing the RV and cars. There's a fire to the east of Fallbrook that may have jumped I-15 already and headed towards them. I don't think we can get to them because I'm hearing the I-15 is closed southbound and possibly in both directions. If they have to evacuate, they'll probably have to go west to Oceanside. I'll update as I know more.
We're unscathed for the moment, don't even have the winds in our valley that are apparently tearing through northern San Diego County. Air is foul, but that's all. This is one of the few times when I wish we had television reception...

You can see what CHP is responding to on this site -- it's written in dispatch speak, but can give an idea of where they're shutting down roads and when fires have reached freeways...

CHP Dispatch Use the pull down menu on the left to get San Diego County updates...

UPDATE: 1 p.m.
They're evacuating on my folks' side of the freeway now, but not as far as their neighborhood yet (they're issuing mandatory evavcuation orders between the 15 and Live Oak Park, if anyone knows the area. That's still about 2-3 miles west of Friends Way). They've driven the RV on base and left it there and have returned home to pack more in their cars. I wish I could help them but we can't get to them.

Update 2:15:
All of Fallbrook is under evacuation orders now, but the wind might be shifting the fire S or SE, instead of due west towards Friends Way, so they're sitting tight for now. The fire has jumped the freeway.
Winds are picking up for us, so that may well indicate a shift in direction.

The fire's burning in Live Oak Park and headed uphilll towards my folks, about a mile and a half away. I'm hoping they evacuate as ordered.

5:30 p.m. The sight of police going door to door convinced them to leave about 45 minutes ago. Traffic is crawling and it may be an hour or two before they make it on base. They're planning to stay in their camper there overnight, then head up our way if the evacuation hasn't been lifted tomorrow.

7 p.m. Folks are on base, getting supplies and heading to the beach campground to squat in the RV for the night. Air is foul, but they're safe.

This is the latest info from the local paper:

" The Rice Fire in Fallbrook has burned about 1,000 acres and was spreading south toward Highway 76, northwest toward De Luz, as well as towards downtown Fallbrook, fire officials said Monday afternoon. The blaze began in the Stewart Canyon area east of downtown Fallbrook. All town residents have been received mandatory evacuations and should be on their way out of town, if they haven't left already, authorities said. "

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Four months later...

We're in escrow, and I must say, it's no fun selling your house in such a crazy down market. I hate how low we went, so do our friends and neighbors, but the timing worked out just right for Steve's new job, which he's quite excited about. We'll drop Steve at the airport early Thursday morning and the kids, Sunny and I will keep driving up Interstate 15 for oh, 500 miles or so, before taking a right turn and stopping for the day.

We'll be in a rental car packed with boxes of books to drop in a corner of Cindi's basement. We'll see what's still on the market when we get out there and check out a few of the communities between Boulder and Fort Collins as well. Escrow closes in mid-November, which will also work out fairly well magazine-deadline-wise.

Steve's new boss turns out to be a wonderfully responsible employer and is providing *fully paid for* health benefits (my jaw dropped when I heard this. Does *anyone* still offer full coverage?? And it's Kaiser, not some weird pseudo-plan that negotiates discounts for you). Even though Steve was lured by the extra $8/hour that Ravi offers if you choose to be an independent contractor, Ravi told him he prefers that Steve comes on as an employee (with the benefits, and half the SS/medicare taxes covered -- I forgot about that cost of self-employment, and retirement), since it's hard to justify Steve as an independent contractor with the work he'll be doing in the eyes of the IRS (Do you know how many day spas pretend that their full-time massage therapists are independent contractors to avoid paying payroll taxes, even though the therapists can't set their own rates or hours? All of them!) Ravi's my new ethical role model, and I haven't even met him yet!

Well, Harry, who picked up a cold at Legoland (and who sounds a bit croupy, but isn't even waking up at night -- as opposed to the trips to the ER we routinely made last year and earlier -- hooray for thicker tracheal cartilage!), is asking me to play Dragon Fable, so I'll sign off for now...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Either there's not enough news or too much

I haven't had the energy to type any of this, probably because I've spent too much effort ruminating over it!

Steve returned from Colorado a week ago today and was immediately offered the half-time magazine job in Boulder for the alternative health magazine, which he really likes. The boss is great, the magazine is interesting, the work schedule is quite flexible, the hourly salary is higher than the newspaper job and it offers some sort of health benefits. Unfortunately, it's in Boulder, which is an hour from Fort Collins, but 15 minutes from my sister, but $150,000 more per house than Fort Collins, but a cool alternative city, but more urban than we really want but.... (can you tell I've been making myself crazy?)

Today, the Loveland paper called and asked him what it would take to get him to take their job, which is fulltime and very mediocre pay. (He put them off until tomorrow as he was walking out the door to teach a class and we're struggling with how to respond to our first offer on the house.)

Yes today, we got an offer on our house, after drastically lowering the price for a two-week period to see if we could get any bites (four months on the market and not a single offer tells me we're overpriced, as much as I can't believe it. I guess I'm as deluded as the next seller.)

Last Thursday or Friday we said we'd consider offers between $345 and $365 for two weeks only. An open house on Sunday drew 8 buyers, an apparent miracle in this market. Today, someone who has seen our house twice in the last few weeks saw our new price range and offered $350k. Ugh. And we're afraid to counter offer and have the buyer walk, as our neighbors' did. So while Steve and I agonize over our options, some small voice in my head is saying, look what a gorgeous fall evening it is, the full moon's rising, this apparent dilemma will mean nothing in another few months or years, quit taking it so seriously!

The kids and I did have a great time in Legoland with our homeschooling friends on Monday, while Steve attended a life drawing class at an art center in Fallbrook.

And tomorrow, we have yet another house showing... I feel like I should have something more profound to say, but my head's too full of thinking to be profound!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Big sigh of relief

I'm SAHMing it for the next couple of days, with Steve off in Colorado and my Mom on the East Coast, no way I can see clients. What a great feeling to have nothing to do but stay home with the kids, cook, clean up and play games with them. Like this addicting one, which disguises some intriguing physics lessons as game play...

I'm trying to figure out why it's felt so wonderful to just stay home the last day or two. I've done many loads of laundry, baked a rasberry trifle and Guosim Shrew Shortbread from the Redwall Cookbook, and we're in process with a batch of no-knead bread that promises to be heavenly (I've always thought it impossible to get a crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside rustic loaf like this in an ordinary oven!)

I think a lot of it is just giving myself over to the day and enjoying how it unfolds. Often when Steve's home, I'm pricked by the thought that I should be off doing something, either hiking or running vague errands or just something, since I have the opportunity to go out. But I don't really want to and I end up wandering around the house a bit aimlessly and feeling out of sorts.

I do know I've missed feeling grounded at home for quite a while. I can remember getting tired of this much domesticity also, but for now, I'm revelling in it.

Steve is spending the day at the Loveland paper and his first impression of it, from last night's dinner with some of the design desk folks and editors, was that it was a flashback, not just to being back in journalism, but to his college newspaper, which was about the same size. He's so far not thinking that this could be an enjoyable growth opportunity. We'll see how today's tours and presentations went. I'm more excited about the magazine job in Boulder. He meets with the editor tomorrow, if all goes well.

And our neighbors' weren't able to negotiate a sale of their house, the potential buyers couldn't offer any more than their initial offer. Discouraging news all around, at the moment....

Thursday, September 13, 2007

UU Jihad

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Shining Battle Axe of Unassuming Balance. What's yours?

I went for the reformed Unitarian Jihad name -- seemed a bit more subtle than the original name they coughed up for me.

Loved the column this was inspired by...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September already!

So, we've survived the awful heatwave that finally broke last week, the kids have learned to snorkel and we're into September already! I just finished a 3-day bodywork seminar with Erik Dalton that was jam-packed with wonderful techniques and information, in fact too much -- I'd love to integrate everything he taught into my practice, but I'll be lucky to retain a fraction of it. There's always so much to learn out there and I sometimes yearn to be able to devote all my energies to my professional life, but there'll be time for that in another decade or so....

Steve's getting ready to fly out to Colorado for a job interview at the Loveland paper. At this point, it's just a question of whether he likes the working environment there, I think. He's more than qualified for the position and I'm sure they'll be wowed by him. It is full-time (though they're open to a 4/10 workweek), which is a drawback for us, as that leaves both our lives unbalanced. I really enjoy that we can both work part-time and parent (I was going to say parent part-time but parenting's always a full-time experience.)

I'm torn about this job possibility. I love the idea of being able to be home more with the kids (and the various benefits that would come with this f/t job) but I don't want to give up my work entirely and I'm anxious about trying to shoe-horn it into Steve's days off and not leaving us enough family time. I still dream about a small homestead and a lifestyle more akin to the Nearings , but Front Range Colorado land is pricey and I'm pretty intimidated by the idea of an owner-built house.

As usual, I'm ruminating way to much on things that may never happen. While Steve's out there, he may interview with an alternative health magazine in Boulder that's looking for a half-time designer, and that sounds very intriguing to me.

On the topic of alternative health, my folks are newly into raw fruit and veggie smoothies (Mom got excited about it at the Qi Gong workshop and after talking Dad into trying some for a week or so, they discovered it made them both feel much better and improved my Dad's wrist and hand pain significantly -- thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties of the phytonutrients, I'd guess.) They just bought me a high-speed blender for an early birthday gift, so I'm experimenting with recipes that pack as much phytonutrients in as possible while still being moderately palatable to my picky tastebuds.

The kids are ridiculously busy, as usual. Maddie's enthralled by the Redwall Cookbook and has been lobbying to try new recipes every day. So far, we've made raspberry jelly rock cakes, hot mint tea and scones and Steve's made shrimp and hotroot soup (I cannot do shrimp. Makes me gag more than the vegetable smoothies) which he really liked. Hare's Haversack Crumble is next.

Harry's suddenly developed an interest in knitting, and after regular knitting proved too frustrating, we tried finger-knitting. It may still be a bit too soon for him to try this skill, but for some reason he's quite determined about it, so we'll keep trying. He's also quite focused on taking things apart to see how they work and coming up with new inventions (which he describes in lengthy and painstaking detail, to the point that I forget exactly what it is he's talking about. Bad Mom.) His interest in writing and reading is picking up and we've been working a bit of phonics in lately.

The housing market is still slow, but has picked up a bit. We had two showings last week and one of those couples put a (low-ball) bid in on our friend and neighbor's house. Our friends are countering the $20k-under bid with a counter offer $2k lower than their asking price (we've each dropped our asking price $30k since listing in June). It'll be interesting to see how that plays out.

We got the alarming confirmation today that the previous owner's ex-husband is indeed still on our title (especially alarming because the man was in prison on a domestic violence conviction when we bought the house. eeek.) I've worried that this was a possibility ever since we got our first tax bill seven years ago, but got weirdly tharn about it and simply accepted our title insurance company's word back then that there was nothing to worry about. Now, the company is saying they can only fix the title when we go to sell, but that they will be able to at that point. I sincerely hope so. It's not likely we'd get too far by politely ask the guy to sign off on the deed for us (he did get out of prison a couple of years ago, but I'm not really interested in tracking him down and asking him for help in clearing this little snafu up.)

So, this whole house thing isn't exactly the smoothest part of our lives these days, but all else is well, and that's what matters!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Battle On!

The kids and I have been playing these on-line RPG games lately, after being introduced to Runescape by an unschooling friend and finding that I don't like the multi-user online games -- too many people walking around typing in computer-speak and randomly trying and usually succeeding at killing and robbing me/us.

Battle On is fun and a great deal of it is available without having to pay the $20 one-time fee. We've also played dragonfable, which has a more interesting and more humerous interface, but is limited in what your character can acquire as a free player.

I was frankly getting sick of the downloaded dungeons game, Fate, that we've been playing for the last year or so and the kids find these two new games less intimidating as the battles aren't a random melee in which you have to attack as fast as possible, but are easier-to-think-through, turn-taking affairs, and the dialog and quests are often quite amusing...

August is my winter...

I read Chris Erskine's column in the times last week, in which he was rhapsodizing comedically about summer and thought, that's not my experience of summer -- I think of it as a time to hide from insufferable heat and blinding sunlight, dreading excursions in the broiler of a car (which, this summer, has a too-tight fan belt that makes it scream earsplittingly everytime it idles with the A/C on, so that I feel compelled to turn off the A/C whenever nearby motorists wince and stare. And no, we haven't made the time to go back to the mechanic and get him to adjust it properly. I have no idea why not...) I can't imagine how people live in places like Palm Springs and Phoenix.

We did pry ourselves out of the house yesterday afternoon and headed down to La Jolla cove, where it was only warm and muggy and the water was delightfully not-frigid. I hadn't brought full diving gear, just a change of clothes for most everyone (Steve had to squelch about in wet shorts for the rest of the evening, I'm afraid) and one pair of goggles, which the kids and Steve used to peer at underwater at schools of fish, while I held onto Maddie ankle to keep the tidal surge from sucking her out to sea. We'll go back on Friday properly equipped for our first real snorkeling outing.

Both kids have made one of those quantum leaps of natural learning and are comfortable, confident swimmers, bobbing and breathing, diving and paddling. Their strokes are rough by my swim-team trained eyes, but more than serviceable, and all accomplished without anxiety or coercion. I remember my experiences at swim lessons as a child. I remember being lied to by a teen-age swim instructor trying to get me to submerge ("There's a green-haired clown you can see if you dive down and look into the pool light!") And it felt at the time like a lie, a surprising, stupid lie. Did I learn to put my head underwater, or did I learn that it's okay to lie to people to get them to do what you want? A bit of both, I suppose, judging by my current communication skills.

In any case, we've had a busy couple of weeks, dinners and playdates with some fun homeschooling families, outings to the Wild Animal Park and a rather nutty Qi Gong conference for my Mom and I. Steve must have spent almost two weeks writing a wonderful service for our UU Church on spirituality and the visual arts (that I didn't even get to hear because I was teaching RE!) Now he's pulling together clips and resumes and cover letters for a couple of promising jobs in Loveland/Fort Collins.

And it's looking at this point like we're going to need a job right away in order to move out there. We'd been thinking we could bank some equity and take a year to get established but the market continues to tank here and we aren't going to sell for anywhere near what we'd hoped. In fact, I found this lovely chart yesterday, in a CNN story on the top 500 foreclosure zip codes in the country. Our city's zips and the neighboring city's are in the top 50 or so. It's getting rather scary and I wonder what broader socioeconomic damage this might wreak.

Not worth worrying about now though. We've got some snorkeling to look forward to!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Home selling update...

Well, the number of people coming to see our house has dropped off dramatically in the last week or two, so we called our agent to ask whether we should drop our price again or just be patient. She called around to a few agents whose clients have recently dropped their asking prices, and they report that going down 5 percent or less ($20,000!) isn't bringing any more potential buyers to their doors. Soooo, we may be looking at just having to be patient. How long, is unclear. Until October, if this were a normal year. And since this is anything but a normal year, who can say.

I've been hesitant to post because I don't want the blog to turn into a housing market vent, but when I think about it, we've been having a very good summer, aside from the impatience I suffer over the whole move.

Steve just finished six weeks of teaching an intensive summer school course, so the kids got lots of time with their grandparents while I worked at my surprisingly busy practice. I'd dropped one day a week from my schedule to save rent money and in anticipation of a summer slowdown, then was surprised by the continued strength of my practice. My two days are often filled and I've been doing a few outcalls to handle the overflow. I keep wondering how busy I'd be if I actually tried to market myself.

Our lovely neighbors up the street have offered us unfettered access to their pool and this has been the summer of swim for Harry. He now leaps fearlessly off the side and swims across the pool, holding his breath for the most part but ocassionally remembering to breathe. I've really enjoyed the luxury of a backyard pool and the lassitude of bobbing away a couple of hours in the afternoon heat.

We've also made some great new unschooling friends and have been socializing with old friends we haven't seen in a while. Nothing like an impending move to spur you to reach out and connect with friends again. It's been wonderful and, as always, I berate myself for not thinking of and doing it sooner, but I obviously wasn't supposed to until I did.

We've just rediscovered the Wild Animal Park, after having tired of it and visiting little in the last two years. It's fun to feel like a tourist in your own backyard again.

In the few weeks break before the fall semester, we plan to visit my friend, Mariel, and hit some museums in LA. My mom and I are going to take a four-day Qi Gong workshop in La Jolla mid-August and I think we'll get a hotel so that Steve and the kids can hit the pool or the beaches while we are in the workshop and we can hit the Zoo at night in the evenings. It might be fun to take a day trip to Tijuana while we're down there.

I keep thinking we should do something a bit more ambitious, like a tour of Arizona's wild places, but my money stories keep nagging at me. (What's the best use of money anyway, but to enable some wonderful life experiences? Hard to say no to clients who want to book though, so I've been having trouble taking time off.)

It's been an interesting summer, I think I've been much more present than usual, if only because I tell myself this will be the last summer I'll be living in SoCal. But I've also been more aware of my emotional states and it's been good to learn to ride them out.

Had a client yesterday at the retreat facility who introduced himself with rather more detail than I usually get (anonymity is of paramount importance to many of the folks who come to rehab), shaking my hand and saying, "Hi, I'm (insert first name here) from Fort Collins, Colorado." He proceeded to regale me throughout the massage with all the wonderful attributes of life in his hometown in Colorado.

Someday, perhaps, I'll be able to do the same, but for now, I'm trying to appreciate the wonders of Southern California (which I find hard to do, worrying that I'll some how stop wanting to move if don't keep my defenses up -- silly, I know.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007


First off, no spoilers here!
We all dressed up and went to the chain bookstore's release party Friday night with our homeschooling friends Rich and Felicia and Ben, Abram and Eli, and immersed ourselves in the frenzy. Photos to be posted shortly.
Maddie directed our costumes and I think we looked great, though I kept having to shrug off feeling silly to be among the minority (of both grownups and kids) in costume in the store. I don't think of myself as getting too into pop culture, but I have to say, this series has captivated me. Which was why the bookstore party underwhelmed me. Too many people, too little interaction, too lacking in real energy and heart. I would have much preferred a smaller gathering that included readings from previous books and real lessons on divination and other magical-themed learning. Ah well, we shall have to have a proper Potter party of our own sometime....
So, I managed to savor the first nine or ten chapters of the book over the course of yesterday, reading them first to myself and then aloud to the kids (Steve read several chapters to them while I worked at the retreat in the afternoon), but as the pace picked up, I became unable to stop reading. I tried, once, around 3 a.m. this morning, to put down the book and go to sleep, but my thoughts kept racing. So I gave in and read through to the light of dawn, blearily finishing the last chapter and a half as the sun was rising.
I *never* pull all nighters, I hate the feeling of sleep deprivation. I've been wandering around today wondering exactly how I feel and why I feel the way I do, and I'm sure I'll be processing the book for weeks, but what I'm noticing most strongly is that I'm mourning the end of the series.
I so wanted to stretch out the reading of this, but I was transfixed by the story. Others will write far more eloquently of what Jo Rowling has done with this series, I'm just amazed and thrilled that I got to experience it in real time.
And I'm impatiently waiting for my husband to get on with *his* reading of the book so I can finally talk about it with someone!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Our Tomato Vendors

The kids have earned at least $15 so far, and the neighbors don't seem to be running out of appetite for tomatoes yet!

The excitement of living on the edge

I read and hear often and in many places of well-off people reminiscing about when they were younger and living hand to mouth and how, paradoxically, those were the best times of their lives. I've never thought to wonder too much about why that is until just recently.
I sat down last week to pay the month's bills and realized that we had come to the end of Steve's LA Times buyout money. Eighteen months later, we'd run through the $22,000. We did well, I think, putting $16,000 into IRAs during that time, and putting $14,000 into home upgrades and repairs. (Hmmm, how exactly did we do that??)
I had a moment of panic as I wrote out an enormous check to cover our Visa bill (granite countertops and aging car get the biggest share of the blame), but after taking a deep breath and asking myself "Is it really true that we're in trouble? Nah.") I had a curious sense of excitement well up. "Okay, now the game gets interesting. How can we cut back? Let's really get intentional again about our spending. Here's more incentive to learn to cook new and delicious meals at home," and other intriguing thoughts surfaced.
I think living closer to the fiscal edge makes life more interesting and more vivid because it spurs us to be more conscious and aware of what we're doing. It's a prompting to mindfulness. It forces me, at least, to be more awake and aware and to consider alternatives that often are simpler and more satisfying.
I won't argue that a life of plenty is very appealing, lots of toys to play with, less worry about finances, frequent and enjoyable indulgences (not to mention social approbation.) But after a while, a life of plenty can be deadening, so much stuff and distraction, more choices (each of which costs us mental energy to make), more to maintain and to clean and to store.
A season of simplicity and fiscal contraction feels like the right thing to do from time to time. I've read that humans are meant to fast from time to time, that our bodies expect and are attuned to have times of leanness and hunger, but we never experience that any more.
I find that I'm rather excited about the idea of a spending drought, a consumer famine, a break, however minimal, from this crazy whirlwind material culture we are in...

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Manifest celebrity

We were down at my folks' house over the weekend, to get out of the way of the droves of people wanting to see our house (not. sigh.) and went to downtown Fallbrook on Friday night for a little date.

We ended up at the Irish pub (because it was the only place still open at 9 pm) and sat in a little room in the back, away from the very loud cover band in the main bar. I was telling Steve about my friend Carrie, who was in LA last weekend (actually at a bar in Malibu) to hear a band called Fu Manchu and ended up standing right next to Elijah Wood, whom she said was very cute and very small.

This got Steve to rueing that in all his years working in LA at the Times, he hadn't rubbed elbows with more Hollywood types, which led us to laugh about the time we were invited to a Christmas party hosted by the opinion page editor (who was the sister of a major producer) and met Harry Shearer and didn't realize who he was or chat him up at all, and how we left the party early because we weren't having a good time and discovered that Warren and Annette had arrived shortly thereafter.

We'd just paid the bill and were thinking about heading out, as the band was getting louder and not better, when the waitress leaned over and told us that if we waited around a bit, Tori Spelling was on her way in. Sure enough, an entourage of LA-looking people, followed by a guy in a kilt and then Tori. She posed for a few photographs with several other patrons and Steve and I sat there for a while, waiting for something interesting to happen, which didn't. (All I could think of is the rich and famous, but mostly just rich, who I work on at the drug and alcohol retreat facility on Saturdays. It's taken all the glamour out of celebrity and fortune for me, I'm afraid.) Eventually, we went home, chuckling about how we had manifested a small dose of celebrity...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Sleepwalking into summer

June is just about over -- our apple trees are bearing fruit (the Anna's is already too mealy for me, but I'm picky about my apples being crisp), Steve is reveling in his tomatoes (he and the kids made $6 the other day selling origami paper cups that Maddie made full of pear, cherry and early girl tomatoes to the neighbors) and the weather is heating up.

I'm in this curious place of being intensely antsy to have the house sold and not believing it will ever happen, that we will never really leave here. Summer here, with its intense heat, makes me a bit dazed anyway, and that, combined with the utter unknowability of what life in Colorado might be like for us, makes any thought of moving seem like just a dream.

I'm trying not to waste this time waiting for the future, as I so often do even when I'm not busy planning major life changes.

I woke up the other morning and noticed how dread seeped into my consciousness as my first thoughts were about what I had to get done today -- "got four clients to get through, I need to get the kids to my folks house, this house needs to be picked up."

And I looked at Harry, sleeping next to me (I started the night in his bed, since Steve and the kids had fallen asleep in the big bed listening to a book on tape, then Harry wandered in at daybreak to sleep a few final hours with me) and thought about how he and Maddie wake up and start their days -- he padding quietly downstairs, she bounding out of bed loudly enough to make me jump when I'm in the kitchen downstairs, but both of them always curious and open and ready to engage with the day, and I wondered how I have gotten so off-track.

Looking at Harry, I vowed to be more aware of how I'm framing my life with my thoughts (I don't *have* to get through four clients, I *love* working on people and making them feel better, though maybe I need to pare my day back to three clients, to keep it from turning into work) and to find ways to inject a sense of freedom and fun into my days. All the work of the past few months on the house has me in a chore mentality, and I need to remember to relax and play again.

Summertime, too, is bittersweet for me, because I remember how it seemed like a time of such freedom, so relaxing (even boring!) when I was young, before 40-hour-a-week, 50-week -a-year jobs, before babies and kids who never stop needing help, food, drink, an ear, comfort, diversion. I wonder will I ever get back to that experience of summer that I had as a child and teenager?

I don't know, but I can create some space for myself to relax in right now. It's funny, now, with the house as clean and the yards as tidy as they've ever been, I still find myself jumping up to water a plant or pick up a toy or wipe down a counter. Truly, it never stops, neither the list of things that could be done to fight entropy nor the voice that insists I must do them now.

One thing that I have done that I'm very excited about, is touch my toes. It's been several years that stiffness and pain has been creeping into my back, burning down my hamstrings and making my achilles tendon ache. This started before I began doing massage, but I'm acutely conscious of it now that I am so focused on muscle and fascia. I've been internally berating myself for not doing yoga regularly, but frankly, on many days I'm tired out by massage, child rearing and housekeeping (or the internal resistance to any or all of the above) and I rarely have the energy at the end of the day, when I'm loosest. As far as morning yoga goes, it undermines what little determination I have when I'm so tight that the poses are painful to hold.

I've found a book, Pain Free, (recommended first by a client months ago, then by another massage therapist last week) by Pete Egoscue that has just what I've been looking for -- slow, deep, static stretches that release the fascia without being difficult to hold, a lazy woman's path to properly aligned joints, pain relief and greater flexibility. I've been doing the exercises a week and already my back feels 80 percent better and I can touch the floor, after several years of being 3 inches away from it. Now that the back is loosened up, I'm going to go through the stretches for neck pain, which is among the most intractible of the pain conditions I see in my practice and will hopefully be able to recommend the book enthusiastically to my clients.

So, this evening I was laying on my yoga mat on the back patio with my legs propped up on an ice chest, enjoying being able to lay down and claim to be doing physical fitness at the same time, listening to Mossflower on CD with Maddie, as she picked handfuls of rosemary and mint leaves and carefully shredded them and piled them on my arms and legs to ward off mosquitos (I am apparently ambrosia to mosquitos. Steve can stand next to me and get one or often not a single bite, and I will get half a dozen), until a couple of bites on my unprotected wrist made me flee into the house, and I didn't in the least bit register how wonderful a moment it all was, until I was finally laying in bed at midnight, unable to sleep, remembering how my daughter had carefully anointed me with fragrant herbs.

I don't know whether to despair that I can have such a charming experience and practically sleepwalk through it, or applaud myself for at least seeing the magic of it before I fell to sleep...

I know that moving somewhere with new people, new routines, new climate, will make me feel awake and present for a time, and that's a big part of the allure for me. But I also know that the new becomes familiar and routine, and if I don't figure out how to maintain mindfulness, I'll sleepwalk through life in Colorado in a few years as much as I do it here. Steve was suggested I return to sitting meditation (which I abandoned in Maddie's early months). I'm sure it's a good idea. I just wonder if I'll have any better luck with it than I did with my aspirations for a daily yoga practice. Hmmm, perhaps there's a lazy woman's path to mindfullness as well...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Now we wait...

We returned from Colorado early this morning, after flying from Denver to Vegas and driving home the car we had dropped off at the Las Vegas airport on the drive out to Colorado (we left our Jeep with Steve's college friend, Lincoln, who lives in Boulder, figuring that we'll need a 4WD vehicle in Colorado and we might as well start moving cars out now -- I know, it's byzantine. But it saved us money and saved driving time as well).
We had a wonderful time playing with the cousins. The weather was gorgeous, if a bit hot, and we loved the afternoon thunderstorms that cooled things off. (Harry just helped me by typing in the last two sentences. And Maddie finished the last two words off. She just exclaimed "hey!" when I tried to give Harry all the credit.)
We met with the unschoolers in Fort Collins again -- I so enjoy spending time with these families. We wandered around Bellvue, the idyllic hamlet outside of Fort Collins that Steve says looks like Hobbiton. Pam and her wonderful family live there, in a hundred-year-old house that was once a Seventh Day Adventist Church, and now is home to four chickens, a rabbit, three dogs, at least one cat and two triops. Maddie was in heaven.
We saw a couple of houses that we really liked, including one with a fabulous view of a small community lake and the mountains beyond. I *really* wanted to put a bid in on it, but without our house under contract, our broker assured us no one would take our offer until we had a buyer of our own.

We actually had a Realtor walk in the house today to show it to his clients without advance notice, so I scrambled to grab the kids and scoot out the back door, leaving dirty dishes in the sink and an suitcase waiting to be unpacked on the bed upstairs. Oh well. At least we hadn't had time to make a bigger mess of the house.
Maddie wants me to go downstairs and listen to a book on CD, Mossflower, with her. We just discovered this series at the library and listened to Mariel of Redwall on the drive out (picking it because one of my best friends is named Mariel!) It's a bit like a milder version of Lord of the Rings with mice, rabbits, rats, stoats and other woodland creatures. (I keep meaning to look up what the heck a stoat is. I think I looked it up once after reading Watership Down and still couldn't figure out what it was, but that was pre-Internet. I'll have to google a picture of it tonight....

Monday, June 11, 2007

45 Years

We're just back from a long weekend at the beach celebrating my folks' 45th anniversary. Cindi and Nic and Owen came from Colorado, and my folks rented a couple of cottages and a campsite on the beach at Camp Pendleton and we had a wonderful time. We had originally tossed around the idea of having a big party, but a surprising number of my parents' friends are battling serious health issues, and it wasn't coming together, so we switched gears and made it a family affair. The cousins, as always, ran around in a happy pack.

Here they're taking a break from beach time and party preparations to watch Nic play a video game..

And here's Grandma getting some snuggles from Harry and Nic..

At the party, Steve gave my folks a musical card that played the Star Wars theme (A long, long time ago... you were married), and Harry was so enamored with it that he stood up and recited the scrolling narration, as best he could recall, to which Owen and Maddie apparently had strong reactions... (click on the photo to see it up close)

And here's Harry, reprising his soliloquy yet again...

All in all, it was a great party and a great weekend, but terribly bittersweet, at least for me. Steve tells a story of how he decided, without thinking about it too much, to follow his college girlfriend (and later wife), Elisa, to California after they graduated. Jazzed by his exciting new adventure, he called his mother and gushed about his plans to leave Iowa for the West Coast with this young woman she was less than thrilled by. Judith listened politely until he ran out of steam and then said, "Oh, I thought you were calling to wish me a happy birthday." (Steve says he was pretty much speechless and feeling horrible at that moment.)

I feel a bit that way with all these preparations to move bookending this anniversary party. I want to be excited about moving to Colorado and bringing new experiences and new people into our lives, but I hate that I'll be losing the almost daily presence of my parents in my life and in Maddie and Harry's. (Okay, and Steve's too. He's going to miss them, and not just for the frequent babysitting.)

I hesitate to write this because I know the other grandparents haven't had this chance, and I regret that tremendously as well, (it's so hard to knit an extended family together tightly when there's much or all of a continent between us all) but I'm so glad that the kids have had such deep relationships with my folks. (I'm really, really hoping that they'll find a way to tolerate Colorado for at least part of the year and live there part-time).

We will, in Fort Collins, be a day's drive from Grandma Judith and her wonderful farm, and Grandpa Jack may come through Colorado more often than California, so we're hopeful to deepen our connections on the Sedam/Wachter side of the family, even as I try to ignore the impending stretch and thinning of connection with my folks.

So, a bittersweet toast to 45 years and an enduring marriage. I only wish I could pack them up and take them with me.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Almost 6 years ago,

A girl up the street from us posted a flyer on the mailibox advertising her fledgling babysitting business. She was not quite 13 and Maddie was 2 1/2. They hit it off from the start, mostly because Sam was wonderful with her, both leading in play and following, always staying engaged and being a playmate.

At first, Sam would come over so that I could nap when I was pregnant with Harry, then when he was born she came to play with Maddie when I nursed Harry down for his naps.

We were crushed a year or so later when she told us her folks were moving to Temecula. We tried another sitter or three, but no one could replace Sam. So we started driving the 20 minutes to pick her up and bring her back home. And the kids continued to grow with her as a surrogate big sister.

She was tremendously patient and good natured, letting them take charge of play and roughhousing endlessly with them (in her initial sales pitch, she emphasized that she had two younger brothers that had trained her well for babysitting, and it was true.) I kept up with developments in Sam's life on those drives back and forth to her house, as she and her family vacillated between homeschooling and Christian schooling and public schooling and homeschooling again for her and her twin sister Hana. Then to our delight, they moved back to Murrieta to a neighborhood on the other side of town, and it became easier to have Sam over to play. She was for years my only break from stay-at-home parenting and then, after Steve took the buyout at the Times, our biggest source of date time.

When she turned 17 she got her driver's license, which suddenly made it even easier to have Sam over to sit, now that I didn't have to provide transportation as well. But I lost the chance to catch up with her and her life on those drives, and I had gotten busy too, with my massage practice, and didn't take the time to chat on the way out the door or back in. (It was Sam who helped me realize that I wanted to be a massage therapist. She was talking about not knowing what she wanted to be when she grew up and I half-jokingly said something like "I don't know either. I think I want to be a massage therapist when I grow up," and I stopped and thought, "Okay Sue, time to listen to yourself.")

So, I've known that Sam's gotten busier and busier over the last year or two, but wasn't paying too much attention and chalked it up to a social life and growing independence. When she told us a couple of months ago that her folks are thinking of moving to Denver and that she is planning on moving to Chicago, I saw it mostly as confirmation that it's time for us to leave. I did wonder what she was going to do in Chicago and whether it was brave or foolhardy of her to just take off, but I still didn't realize who Sam had become. I knew that she sang and played guitar for her church and that she was good enough to be asked to lead youth music worship each week. I knew she was giving guitar lessons to students and thought vaguely that I should see if the kids wanted to learn from her someday. I knew she was singing at some coffee shops around town and asked her to let us know when she had a gig, but I don't think she was quite ready to have us in the audience.

Last week, I asked her again if she was playing anywhere anytime soon and that we'd love to hear her. I was mostly thinking that I wanted the kids to see someone they knew making music, to connect with it in that way. She called us late in the week and said she'd be playing a set outside the mall Sat. evening. So we went last night.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing as I walked up, and when I saw Steve walking towards us a few minutes later after parking the car, he was mouthing "wow" at me. I sat in the folding chairs of the courtyard and watched her standing on stage, barefooted, unassuming, conversational and at ease in a self-deprecating way. She played guitar and sang in a powerful, rich folksy voice, very distinctive. I wish I knew more about music to describe it better, but here's a link to her myspace page if you want to hear for yourself. Her songwriting is amazingly sophisticated as well, at least to my untrained ear.

So many thoughts went through my head during that set of music -- amazement at her raw talent, dismay that I hadn't been somehow paying more attention to her life and worry that one day I'd turn around and realize that my own kids had blossomed into beautiful, talented adult beings without my paying enough attention to their transformation. I saw her decision to move to Chicago in a totally different light now -- of course she was going to Chicago! She needed to immerse in a larger music scene, to expand herself, to experience more of life and transmute it into music.

Steve sat next to me and marveled at what she was giving to us all, struck, he said, by the realization that this is why you pursue art, to offer it up to the world, to share your gifts.

And somehow, I also felt embarassed that I had been asking this amazingly talented young woman to come play with my kids for ten bucks an hour for all these years, what a waste of her time! (But I realize that's not true. In fact, Sam sweetly dedicated a song to Maddie and Harry, "the kids I babysit in the back row there.") I thought, "Good lord, my kids have been climbing all over the future Alana Morissette." I better get an autograph before she goes. No, what I really want is some pictures. Pictures of the young woman who helped me raise my kids, before she heads off on her own life's adventures...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A few more shots

Yesterday Lisa, our Realtor, asked Steve if he had some art he could put up over the sofa, so today he painted the lovely piece you see hanging over it in these latest shots! And then he started building a new hearth for the fireplace. A true renaissance man!

And a few more shots, in case anyone wandering by our blog is interested in a cozy little four bedroom in Southern California!

Monday, May 28, 2007