Wednesday, July 27, 2005

We're Back

We're back from our mini-vacation to Portland. It's nice to be home again. Except that it's still friggin' hotter than hades here and I was quite used to the central a/c at my parents house. No such luck at my home, so I'm melting once again. Mr. Chick is missing out - I'm posting sitting here in a semi-transparent white tank (think wife-beater style - nice, huh?), and white cotton undies. And nothing else. Most guys would probably think it's a sexy look, from a distance. Get too close and you can begin to smell how hot I've been.

But on to better topics than sweat. Mr. Chick has finished the dreaded Bar Exam! Hip Hip Hooray!! That damn thing is officially behind us and now the waiting starts. He won't know whether he's passed until the first part of September. That's an eternity. AND, even better, he tells me that most firms hold off hiring decisions this close to getting the Bar results, preferring to wait until they know if you've passed the test. So we have, like, 6 weeks of time to do.... anything! I'm not sure if having him home will be the best thing ever, or will make me crazy and want him to be elsewhere during normal working hours. Husbands have a way of disrupting the normal rhythm of daily routines. I've gotten quite used to being in charge of everything around here and a certain way I like to do stuff. He has a way of throwing me off-track when he's around unexpectedly. I hope it goes the other way and it turns out great that he's around to help out with the kids and get stuff done around the house. Like, for example, getting the place ready to sell. There's SO much to do. We even have a nice lesbian couple knocking on our door and calling us wanting to see the house already! I tell you, this market is out of control. Did anyone else read the recent Forbes ranking of the most expensive housing markets? Portland was ranked THIRD out of 85 cities. THIRD!! Behind Seattle and New York. We're now officially more expensive than the Bay Area, all things being equal. It sucks.

Ok, back to our week away: I kept the kids as busy as possible while at my parents place. They have a way of being sucked into watching far too much TV whenever we're there. Grandma has cable, you see, and there are cartoons - the good ones - on 24/7 if you want. Nickelodeon round the clock. So it's imperative that I plan lots of things to do to keep the kids (and me) busy and on the go. Mission accomplished. We spent the first night at my sisters place and she has 2 boys and a girl. Her two boys (one of which is just 3 months older than Nicholas) share a room and have bunkbeds. So Nicholas got to have a "sleep over" in their room - what a treat! The two 4 year olds outlasted my 7 yr old nephew and were laughing and chatting it up until way past 10pm. Lauren was with me on the pull-out, so she didn't go down until 11pm. We were all very tired the next day, needless to say. I ended up taking the kids swimming, which set them up beautifully for nice long naps. The following day I met up with a friend and her kids at a park. The kids all had fun running around, again allowing for decent naps (it's all about the sleep for me, in case you hadn't caught on yet). My parents attended a swanky wedding that night, leaving us on our own for dinner, so I met up with the same friend and another friend at a Burger King for dinner. Oh yes, we are gourmet all the way. The BK has the most fun play structure I've ever seen at a fast food place, which is why we go there. You actually have to pay by the hour to play there. It's attended, so it's not utterly dirty and disgusting. The kids love it, and I like keeping them entertained cheaply. So there. I was able to give my friend the cable-knit sweater I'd crocheted - she loved it. :) Sunday was a family birthday day and that's always fun. All of my sisters and my new brother-in-law were there. On Monday I got to take the kids on a long MAX train ride from our mechanics to the zoo, where we met up with my sister and her two youngest kids for the day. Thankfully everyone got along really well and had fun. How could you not have fun at the zoo?? My dad and I went to see "March of the Penquin" and we both thought it was amazing! A must-see. Then on Tuesday my dad, one of my sisters, and the kids and I went to a new park down in the Pearl district that I'd heard about. It has a wading pool for kids to play in. But better yet, the water fills the wading pool by cascading down a rock wall. It's so cool! Once it's full it drains completely and then the whole thing starts over again. It's on a 12 min cycle or so. Very, very entertaining for kids. The place was packed. My kids had the time of their lives for a solid hour. Below are some pictures:

Yay! We're going swimming!

Awright! I love the water!

Now THIS is good summertime fun!

Nicholas gets in on the action. Note the cool waterfalls that cascade down the rock wall that fills the wading pool.

Nicholas takes a moment to cool off

Refueling Posted by Picasa

The Bar Exam was Tuesday and Wednesday. I was able to go out and see Mr. Chick Tuesday night. He was doing ok, if a little stressed and tired. He won't even hedge a guess as to how well he's doing - he doesn't want to jinx himself, I guess. We met out for a beer and then went back to my sisters house where he's staying. He and I both were looking for a little action so we went for a drive like teenagers. It was hard to find a dark, private spot in the middle of the city, but we did. Or so we thought. We were getting it on in the Volvo, trying not to look at the two carseats in the back that would have just killed the moment, when Mr. Chick saw some headlights shining as if they were coming behind the building where we were parked. He practically threw me off him into the drivers seat he was so freaked out. We left and tried to find another hot spot, but failed. So we both had to go to our respective "homes" for the night completely unsatisfied. I swear, it totally felt like we were dating again and I was still living with my parents. Very surreal. So you know we're both eager for him to return home tomorrow night!!

Anyway, we're home again and I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again. My own hot, sweltering, sweaty bed. Alone. But only for one more night. And then we can officially close the book on our law school years and look ahead to a bright future.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


I'm outta here, folks. Well, for a few days at least. I'm heading up to Portland with the kids until the Bar Exam is over. We're leaving a few days ahead of Mr. Chick to give him some time on his own to stress and prepare and do whatever he needs to do in order to get ready. The test is 2 days early next week. I'll be staying with my sister Katie tonight and my parents for the following 4 nights. I doubt I'll get much opportunity to post while I'm gone, so be patient - I'll be back shortly. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves. I'll catch up in a few days.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Drowning in Dog Hair

It's hot and I don't do well in the heat. I get bitchy. Last night as I was going to bed I glanced at my thermostat and it was 89.7 degrees IN MY BEDROOM! At 11pm. Obviously we don't have a/c. We have a ceiling fan in two of the bedrooms and an ocillating fan (circa 1983) in the kitchen/living room area. I open the house up at night in an attempt to cool the place off while we slumber, and then close everything up by 9:30am in a vain attempt too keep it as cool as possible during the scorching heat of the day. In essence I now live in a cave. A dark place with no sunlight whatsoever yet with a slight breeze from the fan. That's really just moving the hot air from one corner to another. No fresh air here, no sirree. Cracking a window might make the temperature jump up a degree. Can't have that, so we continue to live in the shadows for the next week or so. Mr. Chick convinced me to go in the hottub last night because he had turned the temp down to 96 degrees and really, that would cool me off. What's sick is that he was right, and sitting in a HOTTUB *cooled* me off. Scary.

Like I said, I get bitchy when the weather is too hot. What's too hot? 70's are good, 80's are fine, 90's push it. High 90's/100's = TOO F*CKING HOT. Yesterday it was 100+. I find that my patience wears out by mid-afternoon and I start to yell more at the kids. I snap at Mr. Chick more. I don't feel like cooking. It's too hot to do much of anything, really. I break a sweat just walking from the couch to the refridgerator to get something to drink. So you KNOW I'd be in a lather if I had to vaccuum in this heat.

Floors are sort of my my "thing". I can't stand a dirty floor. If I get stuff stuck to my feet when I walk barefoot in my house (which is most of the time - we usually take our shoes off when we get home), then I must vaccuum. To make matters worse, we have pets. A cat and a dog. I love our animals, really I do, but is it wrong to confess that I'm ready to be pet-free? After having kids the pets naturally got demoted to pets, not our substitute children. And lately I've been viewing them as liabilities rather than assets.

Take our cat. Or really, Mr. Chick's cat. She is 12 years old and recently went from being a fat cat to being Nicole Ritchie skinny. It was alarming. She simply wasn't eating, it seemed. She was wasting away before our very eyes. A few weeks ago Mr. Chick didn't think she'd make it through the night. She was having labored breathing and making funny noises. We started talking about putting her down the next day. This has been a good cat, but she's very much Mr. Chick's cat. Not mine. She only approaches me if her food or water bowl is empty and he's not around. So part of me, while sad for Mr. Chick to lose his cat, was glad we'd be down to just the dog. Only she made it through the night and continues to hang on. Mr. Chick switched her food from the dry stuff to the wet stuff. That was the problem, apparently. She could no longer eat hard, dry food and now much have the stinky, make-me-gag-to-open-it wet food from a can. On a plate. In my kitchen. I want to hurl just thinking about it. For some reason this diva cat won't eat even the prima donna wet stuff out in the garage where she used to dine on the dry stuff. It has to be on the kitchen floor. Where Lauren wants to play with it. That's a fun battle - keeping her away from it. And having to remember to put it up when the dog comes in, because that's the first thing she goes for once she's inside. I just love have foul-smelling, slightly crusty from the intense heat, wet cat food on a saucer on my kitchen counter. Really, there is nothing better.

And speaking of our dog, she, like me, is not doing well in this heat. She's shedding like crazy. Which only makes me have to vaccuum more frequently. Except lately, because it's just too damn hot for housework. I've brushed her and gotten pounds of hair off, but it still keeps coming. She doesn't really even have long hair - she not a breed that requires grooming. I've taken to keeping her outside most of the time just to cut back on the nasty clumps of hair I find in the house - on the carpet or sides of furniture next to which she'll lay. So the other day I was doing a water-check of her bowl and she came running around from the side yard and dog hair was literally flying off her as she ran. I could see it just coming off her. And I was thinking "hell NO you aren't coming inside!" - I'm not vaccuuming, I just took a shower. So I decided to give her a bath and see if that would help cut down on the amount of hair she's shedding. Our dog is NOT a water dog. Turning the hose on her is tantamount to torture in her little canine brain. But turn the hose on her I did. I had to wash and rinse with one hand because the other had to hold her at all times. She's big (ok, FAT from all the kid scraps, lack of exercise, and occasional saucer of wet cat food) and weighs close to 70lbs. I got her wet and lathered her up, my fingers raking her fur and getting coated in black and white dog hair. Gross. I finished up and she shook the way dogs do and then promptly plopped down in the dirt. Nice. Wet dog now sitting in the dirt. So much for the bath. I was hoping to brush her while she was still wet, but she was having no part of that action. So I figured I'd just brush her later when it was cooler and she'd forgiven me for getting her wet in the first place. Except I didn't. I saw her and saw how much MORE she was shedding post-bath that I didn't feel up to the monumental task and said I'd do it the next day. I instructed Mr. Chick to keep her outside until I could give her a good brushing. Except he didn't. I got home from the pool this morning and my happy-to-be-inside-again dog greeted me at the door. And right behind her, on the carpet in the hallway, was a new area rug of dog hair. I've spent more time than a normal person would picking up clumps (CLUMPS!) of dog hair from all over my house today. Because it's still hot and I don't vaccuum in the heat. The only way I'm able to stand this situation is that we live in a shadowy cave of drawn curtains and closed blinds so I can't actually see how much dog hair is coating everything.

But you can bet your sweet ass that tomorrow morning, before the temps climb into the 80's, I'll be vaccumming carpets and furniture like a mad woman. Hell, I may even vaccuum the dog! Anyone up for taking a lovable, sweet, overweight dog who happens to shed hair as if she's Big Foot doing chemotherapy? No? Well, I tried.

Monday, July 18, 2005

This About Sums It Up

We had a good, busy weekend. I kept the kids as occupied as possible to ensure good naps/bedtime. I took them to the beach yesterday, which resulted in eating far too many pieces of salt water taffy and the lion's share of a can of Pringles (you CAN'T eat just one!). Hence, the following comic, which was in the Sunday paper, seems appropriate for the day:

this about sums it up Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 16, 2005

I Wouldn't Change A Thing

I had a surreal moment the other day. A moment when the knowledge of my own middle-agedness hit me smack in the middle of my forehead. It wasn't a pleasant moment, truth be told. I swim at the university student rec center twice a week, and on this particular morning, as I was approaching the building, I became aware that the building was the staging point for new, incoming freshman and many of their parents to register for "introDUCKtion" - an orientation to the university (UO is home of the Ducks, in case you didn't know...). So there were millions (ok, not literally, but it seemed like it at the time) nervous and excited teenagers milling about, some glad their parent is there, some acting like they don't know the adult they're with, or wish they didn't. Some swaggering, some shy, some wide-eyed, some trying to give off an air of sophistication. I can tell that most of the girls picked out their outfits with extreme care that morning. You know, you want to have the right look when you're checking out your college - you never know who you're going to meet. They're showing up in very uncomfortable-looking, but stylish, shoes and I have to shake my head at the vanity. Don't they know it's a big campus and they're going to be doing a lot of walking?? And then I notice the footwear of the parent - much more practical. They've been here before. Anyway, this tableau puts a small, knowing smile on my face. I understand the rush and mix of emotions these people are feeling. And then it hits me like a Mack truck: I'm relating to the parents, not the kids. I'm projecting ahead to when I'm the one escorting Nicholas or Lauren to a university and getting them oriented. Holy crap on a stick - when did *I* become old?? A quick review of the math tells me all I need to know to answer my own question: I graduated high school in 1988. I was going through my own introDUCKtion 17 years ago. 17 YEARS AGO. Has it really been that long? It doesn't feel like that long ago. So then I wryly admit that I'm relating to the parents more than the new students because I have more in common with them. I'M a parent, for starters. I'm probably closer in age to the parents than to the students. It's a shift I wasn't prepared to face so early in the morning. I mean, I'm still young! I'm still vital! My kids are still babies! I feel like the same person I did at 20! But you know what? Those parents were probably thinking the same thing themselves. So I was a little down for awhile, soaking up my middle-agedness.

Then I get invited to go to a late movie last night, and while we normally don't pay full fare for a movie (waayyy too expensive! Wait for the cheap theater to show one or, even better, wait for it to come out on DVD!), nor do we really get to see many movies in a theater (babysitters cost money, too, so it seems much too extravagant for a silly movie when it will be in the rental store in a few months anyway). But I threw caution to the wind - not wanting to feel more middle-aged than I did already (I was going with a bunch of younger law students - how bad could I be if THEY wanted to hang with me?), and saw "The Wedding Crashers". Totally freakin' hilarious - two thumbs up. WAY up.

I got home late but had to get up early with the kids. Mr. Chick got up, too. And then he sent me back to bed for more sleep. I took him up on it. An hour and a half later he's waking me up with a tray in his hand. He made breakfast (eggs, sausage, coffee) and is serving it to me in bed. Oh how I love this man! And then it hits me: yes, I may be middle-aged officially. I may have more in common with parents of college kids than the kids themselves. But I wouldn't change a thing. I have a wonderful man I call my husband, 2 healthy kids, and an easy life, all in all, that makes me happy. Why would I want to return to the world as I knew it as an 18 year old college freshman with no clue?? The bottom line is that I wouldn't. I cherish the knowledge I have now and wouldn't go back for all the tea in China. Middle age ain't so bad after all. Who knew?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Another Crochet Masterpiece

I'm really on a bragging jag here - sorry if it's annoying anyone. I just like to have a place to display my latest creations.... So anyway, I have another pregnant friend due with baby #2 next month. Like my other friend that I crocheted a baby sweater for (see pics in archives), I made a sweater for this baby as well. This time, I crocheted a cable knit pullover. Yes, you can crochet a cable knit design. It's not exactly the same as knitting one, certainly, but it's a pretty good facsimile. I'm very proud of this sweater. There is a lot of detail to it. Thankfully it came together easily - all the pieces working out the way they're supposed to size-wise. When I started it I didn't know yet whether my friend was having a boy or girl so I wanted to make something unisex. This is what I found to do. Turns out it will be for a boy, and he'll be able to wear it, probably, in the fall of 2006 when he's a year old. It's been done for about a month now, but my mom took the pictures and just now sent them to me. I'll be giving it to my friend in the next couple of weeks on my next trip up to Portland. I hope you can see enough of the detail in the pictures below:

It's nap time and the house is clean enough so I'm resisting the urge to make yet another necklace or bracelet with the time. Must.Stop.Making.Stuff!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

On A Roll

Wow - I'm on a ROLL with this wire-wrapping jewelry! This past spring my parents took a trip to Sedona, AZ and my mother bought me some cool beads as a gift. I have been waiting to use them ever since. Well, after my success the other day with wire-wrapping, I made yet another necklace during nap time:

It's a cool turquois pendant hanging from a simple, clear bead chain made using the wire wrapping technique. I wanted the turquois to be the center of attention and the chain to sort of fade into the background. The pendant is what you notice, not the rest (but the rest looks pretty cool, too!). Again, it took about 1.5 hrs to make this. Not bad. So now *I* have a fun new necklace to wear this summer. And I will - right now, in fact, as I take the kids to the wading pool at the park and meet up with some friends. Yay!

Perfect Hair

Hair - love it or hate it? More often than not I'm OK with my hair, but when I have a bad hair day, I really have a bad hair day. My hair is naturally wavy/curly and therefore has a mind of it's own. The cut I have (or don't have, depending) makes all the difference in how my hair looks on any given day. The upside? Curls are forgiving and can hide a lot of cutting flaws. The downside? Frizz. And bulk. I have a LOT of hair and can slip quite easily into 80's big hair. BIG. Thin, straight, skinny hair is a pipe dream for me. I have far too many gray's for my liking. Therefore, I color my hair to "wash those gray's right outta my hair". I dye it as close to my natural color as possible as I'm not into changing the color per se, more to cover the grays. Whenever I can I have it professionally done (the color), but more often than not my color comes from a box and applied in my bathroom. I recently "refreshed" my color and am happy with the results - I went with a color I'd never used before and like it. L'Oreal's Preference dark golden brown (4G), because I'm WORTH it, dammit! Anyway, I get bored with my hair very quickly. I'm pretty fearless when it comes to hair - I mean, it's just hair and it grows, y'know? Make a radical change and it's only temporary. I vary my style frequently but it always ends up back "in the middle". Ultimately it's the most flattering length for me. I'm always on the lookout for a new style, and lately I've been flirting with throwing caution to the wind and cutting it short. REALLY short. Like Alyssa Milano short. Or short like Charlize. I think it would be very liberating. But also a lot of upkeep - you need to keep it trimmed regularly for it to stay looking decent. And the grow-out would be a bitch. Those are the things keeping me from doing it. But it is oh-so-tempting to do anyway!

And then yesterday, while at the park, I was perusing the latest copy of People magazine (oh the decadent joy - !) and came across an advertisement for Diet Coke, of all things. The model had MY hair! I loved it! I almost have that style now, but it would need some tweaking to get it the same. Even the color is nearly identical. I cut the picture out and it's hanging on the side of my fridge so I have it to show to my stylist next time I go for a cut. I'm totally going to go for this look. Mr. Chick seemed non-plussed by it when I excitedly showed him last night, but I'm not daunted. I still like it. Of course, I still my get a wild hair (ha - the pun!) and cut it all off in a fit of defiance, but most likely I'll walk out of the salon looking all the world like this:

I MUST have bangs, like this, because no bangs is not flattering on me. It's downright UGLY, actually. I've tried, trust me, and it just doesn't work. I'll need to grow my length a little longer to achieve this look, but otherwise it's doable. Because of my wavy/curly hair I MUST have layers - this style has lots of layers. She even has my skin coloring (fair) and light eyes (mine are blue), with the dark hair. Maybe THAT'S why I'm drawn to this image - it's very rare I see my particular coloring combo emphasized. So what do you think? Should I go for the uber-short style or trend more towards the look of the ad above? I'm due for a trim soon so I'll need to come to some decision soon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Creative Day

My sister Katie is celebrating her 33rd birthday this month. Yes, she's younger than me, but only by 19 months exactly. I wasn't sure what to get her this year. It's not that she's hard to buy for, but nothing was coming to me. I like to make gifts for people whenever possible. I think a handmade gift is something very special and unique. But I didn't have time to crochet anything. It's hard to think about crocheting stuff in the hot summer when you're likely to be making sweaters or scarves or other cold-weather items. So after taking Lauren to Toddler Storytime at the library this morning I was passing by the bead store and inspiration struck. In addition to crocheting stuff and the occasional calligraphy of wedding invitations (envelopes, usually - not the invitation itself), I also make jewelry. I mostly make bracelets and necklaces, but have done some earrings as well. I made myself a mother's bracelet after Lauren was born that I wear with regularity. I wish I had thought to take a picture of the necklace and bracelet I recently did for my mom for my sisters wedding - it turned out GORGEOUS! I re-created a "Y" necklace she'd purchased from Nordstroms and paid $100 for (!), and designed a bracelet to match. It was all done with gold and clear Swarovski crytals. Beautiful! And much cheaper than buying it retail. She received many compliments.

So when I passed by the bead store I thought that I would make Katie a necklace for her birthday. Normally I simply string the beads - one after another on a flexible wire. I have always liked the look of wire-wrapping, but have never made anything that way. It's much stronger and longer-lasting. But today I was inspired to try it. I've never taken a class to learn the proper technique, but I think my innaugural attempt turned out pretty well. Behold!

Not too shabby, huh? I went with frosted glass beads in pastel shades of blue and pink and white/clear. I added a little silver shine between the smaller beads. And joined them together via wire wrapping. I'm pleased with how it turned out. Katie has 3 kids so any jewelry she wears needs to be durable, and I'm confident this will hold up well. It's a simple necklace, but for a first try at this technique I didn't want to get ahead of myself and get all complex. I was able to make this necklace during naps - just under 2 hours. Once you get on a roll it goes pretty fast. I bought the beads in bulk so I have plenty more to make something similar for myself. I'm always giving my creations away, but this time I want one for me, too. So there! Too bad I can't turn my creative hobbies into income!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

I've Been Tagged!

Jenn has tagged me to play a MeMe game, "What 5 Things Do You Miss About Your Childhood". This is the first time I've been tagged for something like this, so here goes:

1) The made up games my sisters and I would create. We did this sort of thing all the time, complete with written (typed, even, on my dad's old manual typewriter - huzzah!) rules. One summer we created and played a game we called "Garage Ball" (I think that's the name - my memory, it fails me), and was similar to wall ball, only the players were front and back to the garage door. Our driveway was sloped, so the person furthest from the garage could get screwed quite easily. The rules were very specific. It was so fun! We also had a game we called, simply, "Monster" and it was all about scaring the shit out of each other in the dark, and another we called "Orange Monster" (we were uber-creative with the names we choose, yes?), named because it was the 70's and we had orange carpet in our house. Didn't everyone?? It was played in the doorways and hallway of our upstairs and was a cross between tag and keep-away. Oh good times!!

2) The game-show re-creations my sisters and I would put together for our parents to play when they got home (notice a recurring theme of games, here?) We would all watch a couple game shows during the day, furiously noting the questions and answers. Then we would re-create the show ourselves. A favorite was Wheel of Fortune (played with the wheel spinner from The Game of Life board game, of course, and a sheet or blanket tacked onto the wall that had pieces of paper taped to with the various letters of the puzzle). One of us got to be Vanna and turn those pieces of paper over for the enthusiastic contenstants (aka mom and dad).

3) Playing in the attic. My sister and I would spend HOURS re-arranging the attic so it became our playhouse. Old sheer curtains were crammed into the joists to create walls. Camping gear morphed into kitchen appliances. Boxes were arranged as furniture. We even had area rugs. Then we'd dress up and pretend to drive places up and down the sidewalk, ending back at "home" and all the visiting that had to be done at each others place. Very cool. It was then I realized that wearing pantyhose in the summer was a bad idea...

4) Vacations at Black Butte Ranch. Every summer we would rent a house there for a week or so, along with several other families/friends. We (the kids) had free reign of the ranch and would spend all day, every day, riding our bikes along the bike paths going from pool to pool (there are 4 pools in the resort). We would check in with our folks from time to time throughout the day, but mostly we were on our own. The freedom - ! It was a great way to do family vacations all those years, and I plan to do the very same thing with my kids.

5) If my teenage years count as childhood, then I'll include just hanging out with my best friend, Carrie. She and I did everything together back then. Just driving around, looking for stuff to do, laughing and listening to Prince or Def Lepard or Madonna or some such 80's rock star on the stereo. "Red sauce on the dash" (you had to be there) and just being ourselves together, talking about boyfriends (or lack thereof), hair dilemmas, school, and all the rest of critical teenage fodder for endless discussion. I miss her. She lives in Alaska now so I rarely get to see her, but she and her family will be here in August and I'm counting the days already.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Afternoon Delight

Is there any better study break during nap time? No, I didn't think so, either. And it was good! ;)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Book Review: The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck

I have meant to write an entry about this book ever since my book club met about it a couple of weeks ago. If you haven't read it, do. Add it to your summer reading list now. It's definitely worth the time to read this novel. It's been around for a long time. Pearl Buck wrote The Good Earth back in the early 1930's and won the Pulitzer for it in 1932. It's a timeless classic. It takes place in China during the time of the last emperor. The main character is named Wang Lung, and he is a farmer. Initially, a poor farmer. He marries, sight unseen, a slave from the big house named O-Lan. He is very industrious and very tied to his land. O-Lan is unusually quiet and stoic, but wise. She rarely speaks, but when she does her words have insight and meaning. They work the land together. They see good times and hard times.

The book lent me insights into the Chinese culture that I didn't have before reading it. It talked of childbirth and child bearing. There was a concubine and opium addiction. Greed. Success. Moral decline. Remorse. It had all of it. It even had a heart-wrenching scene where the family - the whole region - was suffering an extreme drought and everyone was starving. Literally starving. O-Lan was pregnant with her 4th baby during this famine, and gave birth under these excruicating conditions. The older children were reduced to crawling they had no strength. O-Lan always choose to give birth completely alone and silently. Wang Lung is listening for the sounds of the baby's cries. He hears a faint, weak cry and then silence. He had been thinking (wishing?) that there would be no cry. That it would be merciful if the baby didn't survive. After hearing the cries he goes in to see O-Lan and the baby. She tells him the baby, "just a little slave" (meaning girl), is dead. She is stoic. He is crushed by the news and tends to the child, where he sees two bruises on her neck. The book does not go into detail beyond this, but it is enough to deliver the message that O-Lan killed the child to spare her rather than see her suffer. There was no food. She probably wouldn't have survived anyway. It was tough to read, and even harder to imagine doing such an act, but even harder still to realize that she was probably right to do what she did.

The book spans a lifetime. It chronicles how people handle all extremes in life: deperate poverty and unimaginable wealth. It was interesting to note what moral lapses, according to our society, were willing to be overlooked and which ones weren't. It had all types of family relationships and the yoke that some family members become. It even touches on mental disability. One of Wang Lung and O-Lan's children - the eldest girl - was retarded in some way. She is simply known as "The Fool". Pearl Buck, the author, also had a mentally challenged child.

In our book club discussion it was interesting to listen to the women discuss the polygamy theme. In the book, Wang Lung takes a concubine. We talked about how many cultures in the world practice polygamy. Many African tribes practice polygamy. There is a Mormon sect, albeit extreme, that practices it today (one of the book club members grew up in Utah and witnessed quite a bit of it in her childhood, but never in her own family). We joked about how, in many respects, having several wives makes a lot of sense. Wouldn't it be sort of easier to have a female companion to help out with the house and kids? And they could share the load in the bedroom department when the other one just wants to get some sleep? I think it's safe to say that most American women might agree with those theories on paper but could never imagine putting them into practice. But think about it - it does have some appeal if you can get past your own issues about how to define a marriage. To me, I think Carol Brady had the most ideal arrangement: she was a SAHM yet had Alice to help with everything and offer companionship, but she didn't have to share Mike in the bedroom. PERFECT!

So go to the library or bookstore and pick up a copy of The Good Earth. I think you'll enjoy the read. Next book: Empire Falls.

Staying Busy for the Fourth

I have a love/hate relationship with long holiday weekends. Before kids, when I was working, I LOVED them for the 3-day weekend they provided. Time to just kick back, hang out, and have fun. Then, after Nicholas but before law school, the long weekends meant we got to see more of Mr. Chick, and that's always a good thing. But now, staying home with 2 kids with a husband who is studying for the wicked bar exam, holiday weekends don't have the same appeal. In fact, for me, it's just one more day of trying to find fun things to do with the kids on the cheap when everything is closed. And what is open is crowded. But despite my "bah humbug" attitude towards this particular holiday, it ended up being a better weekend than I expected. And when things exceed expectations, I get happy.

Friday was a very good day (don't ALL holiday weekends actually start on Friday in anticipation of the long weekend?? They always did for me.) We had a playdate with one of Nicholas's best friends and the kids got along beautifully. We had time at their house, time at a nearby park where the kids played and rode bikes, lunch together, and then a trip to a wading pool. It made the day go by so fast! We had yet another birthday party to attend on Saturday morning. It was a nice diversion, if early to indulge in rich and yummy chocolate cake. Mr. Chick set up our tent in the backyard and he and Nicholas "camped" there that night. Always a fun adventure to sleep in the backyard in a tent with your Daddy! We went on a really long bike ride as a family on Sunday. I always enjoy those. We rode downtown and stopped at REI so I could pick out a new bike helmut to replace the old, incredibly ugly white styrofoam one I had been wearing. Mr. Chick referred to me as "egg head" whenever I wore it. And on Monday we took the kids down to the waterfront and the "Art In The Vineyard" annual celebration. I love these types of things. Lots of crafts and artwork to see. A special area for art in the garden. They had a nice area for childrens art with plenty of things for the kids to color or make. One booth in particular specialized in art from recycled materials and Nicholas made a necklace from paper tubes, pogs, wood beads, and old laminate countertop samples. It was strung onto some recycled wire. He loved it. Speaking of art, he's FINALLY starting to draw stuff that has shape and intent vs. random scribbling. AND, he's able to write his own name now! Some of the letters are backwards, but you can tell what they are. YESS!! Now he writes him name on everything - even when he has to turn the paper over to finish writing all the letters. After all, he DOES have a rather long name... Mr. Chick and I got to do a little wine tasting, something we really enjoy, and the weather was perfect! It was a nice way to spend a couple of hours together as a family. Once home the kids each took 3 hour naps (thank you, nap gods!) and even Mr. Chick snuck into the tent and took a quick catnap. I got to put my feet up and indulged in some R&R for me on the couch. It doesn't get any better than catching some zzz's on the couch on a lazy weekend afternoon! Now THAT'S a holiday!

I was able to convince Nicholas, upon waking from his nap, that if were able to ride his bike to the 7-11 I'd get him a Slurpee. It's just under a mile to the 7-11 from our house. He was game and he rode all the way! We went slowly, but we got there. It's a big deal for him to ride his bike that far - he's still learning and is slowly mastering all the scary stuff like driveway dips and corners. And those speed-inducing "hills" onto the streets - ! (aka the cutouts on the corners so you don't actually have to step off the curb). But he loved that Slurpee and sucked that baby down like a champ. He knew that if he rode his bike all the way home again he'd get to see some fireworks, so he pedalled all the way back. I was very proud and impressed with my boy, who tends to be sort of wussy about anything physical or that requires a lot of effort. He's the type that gives up easily when things get tough.

We joined some friends for a casual dinner and then walked to the waterfront for the fireworks display. I love fireworks. Seeing them this year with both kids highlighted the intrinsic differences between them. Nicholas was initially scared of the loud booms and was actually shaking at one point. He liked the IDEA of fireworks, but the reality was something he didn't care for. He kept saying "I don't like it here anymore!". Until he got used to it in the safety of my arms and then he liked them - a lot. On the other hand we have Lauren, who was excited about them from the get-go. The loud booms and pops would make her jump, but she seemed to really like the thrill of it. She had the biggest smile on her face, and was clapping to the fireworks. She embraced them, Nicholas shied away. That, in a nutshell, is how my two are different. We didn't get the kids home and in bed until after 11:30pm last night. They were both up at their normal time of 7am this morning. And the nap gods must have moved on to other families because neither kid has napped a wink today and it's 3pm.

I snapped this pic this weekend. It pretty much sums everything up. I was a good weekend for everyone. Even my period held off, choosing instead to grace me with it's presence today. But I'm still in a good mood so I don't even care.... too much... maybe because I've already indulged my sweet tooth? That always helps.

It was a topsy-turvy weekend! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Supreme Thoughts

Unless you live in a cave you've heard the news that Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has retired. This is big news. I was still in grade school when she was appointed to the Court in 1981, but I remember it happening. It didn't strike me as groundbreaking as it was to have a woman appointed (& confirmed!) to the Supreme Court - I hadn't yet realized that women had any fewer options as men, or that women couldn't do anything men could do. It had never been explained to me that this was a reality of our society at that time. Strange to think that just 25 years ago it was a huge deal for a woman to assume such a leadership role. Like, duh! And just a few years after Justice O'Connor ascended to the highest court in the land, Geraldine Ferraro was chosen as the running mate of Dukakis in the 1984 Presidential Election. Again, this was a big deal but to me, at the age of 14, it seemed normal. Why not? But now that Justice O'Connor is retiring all of this is being rehashed as the frenzy over her replacement starts to really heat up. Will another woman be appointed? I don't care if it's a woman, man, or monkey who gets appointed as long as they are fair, moderate, and centrist. Republican or Democrat? Who cares?? It's how the person tends to vote on critical issues that affect the days of my life that matters to me.

A big deal has been made over the abortion issue and how Sandra Day O'Connor was a critical swing vote. This is true. The Court has been nearly evenly split on this issue for years, leaning by just one vote to preserve and uphold Roe v. Wade. With Justice O'Connor's departure this could now go the other way and this vital right granted to women could be overturned, making abortion illegal again. It all depends on who Bush nominates as her replacement and whether that person gets confirmed. I don't care what your personal preferences are on the topic of abortion, but it would be a terrible blow to all American women if that right was taken away. The right to choose is vital. Even if you choose life at all costs, the point is that you have the CHOICE. Someone else may choose to terminate a pregnancy, but again, they have the choice to do so. We allow religious freedom in this country and we should continue to allow personal freedoms, like the right to choose to abort or not, as well. What YOUR choice is should be left to you, but the right to choose should be upheld by the court, even if you disagree on the morality of abortions. Think about it. And this is what scares me about Bush being the sitting president with this critical issue at hand. He is very conservative and likely to select a nominee who is against Roe v. Wade and right to choose. I just hope that the good sense of the people on the confirmation committee prevails and the right person is selected. We need another Sandra Day O'Connor.

On another Supreme Court topic, has anyone been following the Imminent Domain controversy? In a nutshell, it has always been "allowed" for municipalities to seize ownership of private property for purposes of building schools or roads or whatever. Things that "improve" the city or town. But now a ruling has been upheld that allows the seizure of private property if said property can be used to generate more tax revenue for the municipality than it does as private property. So in essence, someone could decide that a hotel, built on your property instead of your home, would benefit the city by generating more revenue than what it receives from you already. And so your property could be legally seized for development whether you like it or not. At least, this is how the ruling has been explained to me. Does this seem crazy and unfair to anyone else?? Yikes! I've also heard that this is a proposal being submitted right now to develop a hotel at the private residence of Justice Souter, a proponent of this ruling, to make a point. You feel it's ok to take private property away from someone for purposes of increased revenue? Fine - we'll take yours, thankyouverymuch. Hmm... might be an interesting investment opportunity!

Rulings like this should make everyone nervous. The Supreme Court wields tremendous power. These Justices are appointed for LIFE. It's very political. They have the power to decide what is OK or not OK for you to do with your own body. They can say whether you can keep the property you already own, or if someone else with a money-making idea can just have it - even if you don't agree. These opinions and decisions affect all of us. And in addition to Sandra Day O'Connor leaving, it's quite possible that another Justice or two will be leaving before the end of Bush's tenure in the White House. That is a very frightening thought. I mean, how old is Chief Justice Renquist?? 81. He was born in 1924. How much longer do you think he'll serve?? Not long, I bet. Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 72. Scalia is 69. Justice Stevens is 85. My point is that it's an old court. It's not unlikely that another one or more will retire before Bush leaves office.

If you don't normally follow the doings of the Supreme Court, now is a good time to take a moment and think about how these Justices affect your life. What is important to you? What sort of jurist would YOU like to see on the court? These are not elected officials. They are political appointees. Whether you like the system or not,it is what it is. I, for one, will be closely following the list of nominees up for consideration. Let's hope it's not all tight conservatives.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Stranger Danger and God

I had the most interesting conversation with Nicholas last night. We layed in his bed together and just talked for nearly an hour! I am fascinated with learning about how his little brain works. I seized this opportunity of one-on-one time with him to talk about "stranger danger". A flyer was sent home from his school reminding parents to discuss this with their kids because kids play outside more in the summer and there can be some sketchy types stalking out the parks. I don't like the idea of telling Nicholas "don't talk to strangers!" because I think that presumes an immediate reason to distrust anyone he doesn't know. And I don't like the idea of going through life thinking the worst of people right off the bat. Personally, I'm very friendly and outgoing and extroverted and enjoy talking to people - even those I don't know already. BUT, I want my kids to be safe. Soooo, we had "the talk". I think it went pretty well. I kept it light and entertaining for him, but he got the message. I gave him the words I want him to say in the event that a grown-up he doesn't know tries to talk to him. He's to say, "I'm not supposed to talk to a grown-up I don't know. I need to find my mom." I reinforced this point by giving him several scenarios to see what he would do.

"Ok Nicholas, let's say a grown-up walks up to you and asks you if you would like some candy. What do you say?"


"No! You say: I'm not supposed to talk to grown-ups I don't know. I need to find my mama!"

"Now say that someone you don't know walks up to you at the park and asks you to help him with something. What do you do?"

"I say (insert given phrase here)"

"Good job!! YES!"

This went on and on with every imaginable scenario being suggested. Sometimes he would intentionally say the wrong thing just to get me to tickle him and tell him the right thing, but I'm pretty sure he got the message. I hope he never has to put it to the test.

Then, out of the blue, he starts talking about the "moment of silence" song he sings at school. This was a new one to me, so I ask him to sing it for me. He does, and it's cute! They sing it before they eat snack or lunch. I had him teach it to me:

My hands up high
My hands in place
On my shoulders (touch your shoulders)
And my face (touch your face)
Then I put them way up high
And let my fingers fly fly fly
Then clap clap clap
And 1 - 2 - 3
See how quiet I can be!

Then his teacher says they'll have a moment of silence. He really likes this ritual before eating so I said we could sing the song before we eat at home. Then I asked him what he thought about during the moment of silence.

"Food!" (that's my boy!)

I suggested he pray and thank God for all the yummy food he's about to eat, because there are some kids who won't get to eat today. Nicholas then asked me what praying was. "Praying is how we can talk to God", I told him. "Who's God?" asked my inquisitive little son. Such a simple question, such a complicated answer! I did my best to explain who God was and how he lived up in Heaven. Then my darling cherub asked me if we could fly in a plane to see God someday. I told him you couldn't take a plane to visit God - that Heaven was even higher than an airplane could go. So he logically replied with, "then we'll take a rocket ship, like in the Wiggles, to see God." Like, DUH! I love how kids think! So literal. When I told him that God made everything, he asked, in awe, "God made all my toys?? I thought Santa did that!" Oh what a can of worms THAT could be! When he asked what God's name was, and I told him "Jesus", he started asking if Jesus was a grown-up he knew if he saw him at the park. I guess if Jesus showed up at the park looking like he does in all those paintings, he WOULD look like someone I wouldn't want my kid talking to!

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