Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Our New Year Plans

When you have kids, New Year's Eve becomes just another night.

FD is working in the hospital today and tomorrow, soooo we'll ring in the New Year with a kiddie video and some Indian take out. I'm sure FD and the Frog will fall asleep well before midnight, so when the ball drops, I'll sneak into the bedroom for a quiet midnight smooch on both my sweetie's cheeks and think of good health, prosperity and a year full of blessings and new beginnings.

Happy New Year to you all!!!

My Date With Sean Penn

Yesterday, I took myself on a date to a movie. I love seeing movies alone, hitting the book store before the show, getting a latte. It's mama decadence. I didn't have to answer to nobody, man!

MILK was an incredibly heartbreaking and beautiful film about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected government official. Sean Penn was brilliant, as was the entire cast. And whether you're open or not to gay issues, this was just a beautiful film, - a story about a man who wanted to make the world a better place. Bring tissues. I was holding back the big sobs.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Goodbye Aunt Dort

Dorothy Marquardt
January 27, 1916 - December 27, 2008

My great-aunt died this week. She was just a month shy of her 93rd birthday.

Froggy LOVED aunt Dorothy (Dort as she was called.) Because we are unable to attend her funeral in Iowa, I wanted to share my favorite Aunt Dort memories.

My sister and I often visited Aunt Dort in Marshalltown, Iowa - a very small town boasting the simpler pleasures of childhood --a candy store, a pond with swans, and Aunt Dort's apartment. We lived in a house in the country, so spending the night in an apartment on a city street with the sounds of cars whooshing by, and the novelty of neighbors on the other side of the wall rather than a cornfield was well just....thrilling! Don't even get me started on the excitement evoked by a communal laundry room. It was like a domestic slot machine, Las Vegas in the middle of Iowa, the splendor of buttons, quarters, and swirling wonder of our pj's getting cleaned. Maybe we were easy to please, but there was something quaint and fascinating about this town, and of course Aunt Dort.

Dorothy never married, and for most of her life, lived with her sister Julie in a white house with fabulous front porch. My very faint memories of that house included an upstairs with slanted ceilings that held what seemed like a bomb shelter supply of paper towels. If ever there were a nuclear war, Aunt Dort and Aunt Julie would be the only two people able to clean up the big messes.

Dort was a wonderful artist, painting china and tiles, and when visiting, we were invited to paint with her. There was something very grown-up about her acrylics and tiny brushes. To be trusted with paint that would permanently stain furniture and table cloths was more fun than actually creating art. That is the beauty of spending time with someone who never had children -they don't know the destruction you are capable of, so they give you dangerous stuff - acrylics over finger paints.

It seems strange now, but one of our favorite things to do with Aunt Dort, was visit the local cemeteries. We'd pick flowers and find the graves of relatives I'd never met and honor them with a visit. I always felt sorry for the dead whose sites were neglected and overgrown with weeds. But Dort always wiped the stones of those we didn't know too, and placed a flower or two in the neighboring sites. One of the cemeteries had a pond that was home to swans and Canada geese. One year both swans were killed, coincidentally one day before Thanksgiving. It made big news in Marshalltown, but Aunt Dort said that maybe the people who killed the pair were poor and couldn't afford a turkey. It was surprisingly optimistic of her. But once you thought you figured Aunt Dort out, you were wrong. She was indeed multi-layered.

Dort said that "Everyday we must do one good deed." I've often thought of that and tried to apply it to my life. She was a big believer in corralling stray shopping carts, picking up litter, driving her elderly friends to church and ice cream socials. She outlived all of her friends, so when the time came that she could no longer drive, unfortunately few could return the favor.

When visiting, we'd stop at the local Wal-mart and Aunt Dort let us each pick out a toy and candy - again someone who had kids would NEVER let us do! But she was never in a hurry and let us spend hours in the pet store, our noses pressed against giant aquariums, and strolling the candy aisles carefully weighing the pro's and con's of gummy worms vs. pop rocks.

There was another side to aunt Dorothy, as there are with most people. We're all complicated and multi-dimensional, and if I didn't mention this, it would be like talking about a turtle and failing to mention that he lives in a shell. Aunt Dort was...well... a little crabby. And I'm not bringing this up as an insult, but because it made her interesting, lively and entertaining. She, like most people of her generation had failed to catch up with the politically correct terms for minorities and would speak loudly in crowded public places while using this outdated terminology. I won't give examples... you know what I mean.

And when my sister was thirteen, which is just an awful and self conscious age, Aunt Dort declared, "Well, you better be careful what you eat, or you'll get a big Johnson butt!" It was horrifying for my sis at the time, but has since become an endearing tale of Aunt Dortisms. She had an incredible ability to find the negative in any situation. And I don't mean this with any disrespect. We all need Aunt Dorts. Had the Kennedy Administration had an Aunt Dort, there never would have been a Bay of Pigs Invasion. She could access any situation with a little constructive criticism and a solution to improve. She was that sharp.

My Aunt Dorothy was a brilliant woman who was insightful until the end. She was a wordsmith, a historian, a connoisseur of current events. Nothing got by her, and as negative as she was, she was also appreciative of the little delights in life. She absolutely adored her great-great nephew E-boy and great-great niece Froggy. These two little hellions could do no wrong in Dort's eyes. Even at lunch, with both kids screaming and throwing food, Dort would come up with a wonderful excuse for their inappropriate behavior. It was anyone else's fault but theirs. She had such a soft spot for Froggy and E-boy and their naughty antics, which makes me think that she too was a little naughty at heart.

And if Dort is remembered for one thing, I hope it is her optimism in the midst of criticism. It was something you could trust. She was honest, always. If you needed to know if you'd gained a little weight, or if your head was balding, if someone was doing a good job...or not... she would let you know, without that Midwest polite reservation. She was what she was, and I loved her. We all did.

Good-bye Aunt Dort. You were one of a kind. May you always have someone as thoughtful as you to wipe away the dirt and weeds from your final resting place, and may we all remember to do atleast one good deed everyday.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Froggy was awake at 6:45am on Christmas morning!

Santa Claus brought her a tricycle, camera, clothes, princess computer, boucy ball, drum set, and more. Not like she's spoiled or anything.

Grandma W. made her famous butternut squash soup, and an incredible meal!

Sissysnuggiekins spent the whole day with us! (Those pictures are coming later - I took them with Froggy's new camera, but haven't read the manual yet.)

Buddy begged for turkey, and succeeded in some scraps.

FD and I were pampered with gift certificates galore!

We missed our Iowa family big time.

We had an incredible, amazing, exhausting, thankful, loving, delicious, beautiful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Wonderful Day

Sissysnuggiekins and Froggy
Two crazy girls.

J and S, our WONDERFUL friends!
Ice Skating in Santa Monica.

Woo Hoo!!!
"I do it by MYSELF!!!"
And with Sissy!
I love my Sissy!
The whole Fam!

When our friend "J" said, "Let's take Froggy ice skating," I secretly thought, "You're CRAZY," but agreed to it anyway. I thought Froggy was a little too young, but this kiddo rises to any challenge with lightening speed. It was a blast! Froggy was a great little skater and of course wanted to do it by HERSELF!!!

After skating, we came back to our house for chili (that J made), cornbread and salad. We played the board game, or as FD calls it a "bored game" called "Battle of the Sexes." The girls won... of course.

It was so much fun to have Sissysnuggiekins spend the day with us. She and Froggy are two silly peas in a pod.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Books Read in 2008

So this can be classified as the most boring post of 2008, because seriously, why would anyone care? But for my sanity, for the mere thought of productivity, here goes.... I read the following books... I'll put a star by the really good ones!


Run - by Ann Patchett
*Shantaram - by Gregory David Roberts
Water for Elephants - by Sara Gruen
What is the What - by Dave Eggers
*The Shadow of the Wind - by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
*The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - by Junot Diaz
The Book of Bright Ideas - by Sandra Kring
*Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - by Lisa See
*Out Stealing Horses - by Per Petterson
The Mercy of Thin Air - by Ronlyn Domingue
*The Interpreter of Maladies - by Jhumpa Lahiri


*The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - by Bill Bryson
*Foreskin's Lament - by Shalom Auslander
*Little Heathens - by Mildred Kalish

Non-fiction and yes a little cheesy Self-help:

*The Language of God - by Francis Collins
The Seat of the Soul - by Gary Zukav
The Dance of Anger - by Dr. Harriet Lerner
*In Defense of Food - by Michael Pollan
The Happiest Toddler on the Block - by Dr. Harvey Karp
*Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child - by Dr. John Gottman
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus - by John Gray
When You are Old
by W. B. Yeats (my favorite)

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

by William Butler Yeats

I love the line "But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you. And loved the sorrows of your changing face." What a line. One of the best lines ever.

Sadly, like all great poets, Yeat's love was unrequited. He was enamored with a woman named Maud Gonne, who refused his many marriage proposals, saying, "You would not be happy with me. … You make beautiful poetry out of what you call your unhappiness and you are happy in that. Marriage would be such a dull affair. Poets should never marry."

I think poor Yeats was 'the nice guy'. And Maud went on to marry the 'bad guys.' It's true, poets are most happy and productive wallowing in gloom. But even though sweet William never married his love, we will always remember his name, his words, his love. And we can not say the same for her husbands.

You can read more about Yeats at my favorite website The Writer's Almanac.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday CF Letter

I wrote the 'year end' letter for the CF Foundation (in S. CA). You can click on it to read. I combined some of the 'Sun Submission' piece, so if it feels a little deja vu, that's why.

And Hummingbird's mom did the lovely design!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

We're all gonna freeze!

Not California

The weather lady (and no she is not a meteorologist in that tight mini skirt) on one of our local LA news channels tonight said, "It's getting ugly out there! Cold temperatures, rain, and SNOW" (failing to mention that it will only snow in the mountains, where it is supposed to snow).

The top story at 6 then moves to an overweight couple roasting marshmallows over an outdoor grill. The weather vixen asks the woman what in world she is doing, and the woman replies, "Dang, it's soooo cold. I had to buy a new jacket, it was like so cold," showing off her new jacket that isn't even zipped and exposing her halter top to the blustery blizzard that is the 65 degree Los Angeles tundra.

And then, because the weather is just too dangerous to stop reporting on, they move to another genius standing in his yard (without a jacket mind you), by his mechanical reindeer, and they ask him from the toasty studio, "So any advice about this weekend weather?"

And the genius says, "Don't even go outside."

I'm sorry. I'm from Iowa. I find this hilarious.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Santa Came to Town

Santa Claus drove down our street on his trailer sleigh last night!
Froggy asked for a camera... in a rather stunned and quiet voice. It appears the big red guy scared the holiday poo out of her.

But not Hummingbird. She told Santa he MUST admire her shoes!

Bye Santa! Don't forget about that camera!!!

Last night, right after bath, while Froggy jumped on the bed in her skivvies...we heard a firetruck and police car going down our street. Great, I thought, someone's been shot, because this is LA and by now we're used to it.

But no, FD said, "It's Santa Claus!" Whew, waaaay better than a shooting!

I hurriedly threw an outfit on Froggy (check out above photo), and we raced down the street.

Froggy asked, "Does he have my camera?"

"No Froggy, you get that on Christmas day."

After some disappointment that Santa wasn't giving out gifts, she was thrilled to see him, scared to sit on him, but relieved to see that his elf was indeed giving out candy, which is the next best thing to a present. Sooo much fun.

Sick as Dogs

This was us two days ago.

Froggy and FD have a cold. I had the stomach flu, and was recovering from a sinus infection, and Buddy...well he's as healthy as a pooch can be. Thank you Grandpa J. for coming over and helping FM take care of the little tadpole.

We are feeling MUCH better. But, this is the third cold Froggy has had this season. Not good. I'm at a loss.

She is not in preschool or daycare, I don't let her play in the indoor playgrounds at the mall or other cess pools of toddler germiness. We use so much alcohol gel on our hands that if you licked our fingers, you could actually get drunk. I sanitize the grocery carts, we wash our hands before every meal snack, and many times just for the heck of it, and we've all had our flu why, why, why, have we been so sick this year?

And it's not like we're too clean, preventing Froggy's immune system from building up her natural responses to germs. We have three hairy pets, Froggy goes to the park almost everyday, and we let her play in the sand and yes, sometimes dirt. She has regular playdates, but we always check with the parents if their kiddos have been ill.

I give up. Sometimes you have no control.