Friday, December 31, 2010

Year in, year out

So, today is The Big Day, New Year’s Eve, and tradition dictates that I am suppose to reflect on the previous year and list resolutions for the coming year. However, I extremely dislike the term “resolution” it sounds so cliché, plus it just means that the gym is going to be crowded for the next month. In years past the California Stars household made goals, SMART goals, according to business-savvy J, but this year I am finding no motivation and a lack of inspiration to write any such goals.

I rather like the idea of setting aside time to review and reflect, in fact the past few years we have spent long car rides on I-5 mulling over the previous year and discussing personal, professional and family goals for the New Year. However, this year, I cannot find any motivation. Perhaps it’s a lack of time or a reflection of my overall severely lacking holiday spirit. But, on our recent road trip to Santa Barbara, my only ideas for 2011 goals were to be hipper and to read more American Literature, which are definitely not specific, measurable, attainable, realistic or tangible.

This year past was the year which brought new babies, new friends, new jobs, graduations and some travels. It was the year I established myself as a mother. It was the year which I developed new priorities. It was the year which I developed many new skills and talents, like changing diapers, laundry guru, one-handed cooking. But, mostly, I will remember 2010 as the year my daughter was born. I spent the first several months of this year consumed by her: preparing, waiting, laundry, diapers, poop, nursing, napping, and of course, cuddling. And while, she was the focal of my world this year, and brought about many smiles and laughs, I have also had to deal with many tears and sadness. New words and phrases have been added to my vocabulary this year, including cancer, chemotherapy, and metastasis status and survival rate. In fact, February was the month which essentially rocked my world and one that will forever stay etched in my memory.

While this year I am unable to articulate goals for the upcoming New Year, one thing I am going to try very hard is to keep things in perspective. My days of exhaustion, or the weeks deadlines abound are just that. I am thankful for the work that keeps me busy, the baby that makes me exhausted, and life that continues to surprise me. Life isn’t expected to always be rosy, and we encounter bumps and bruises, along the way, but they are just that. I am going to remember to take deep breaths, be my best self, drink more water, and dance a little more often. I want to take long walks, read my Bible, and just sit down and play. And, of course, be hipper, and look!, I’m almost there, as apparent with my new sunglasses, obtained in San Barbara:


So, happy New Year Internet. Cheers to 2011!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And we danced anyways

The pub was packed, patrons spilling out into the square off Geary Street, and it was raining. Not the normal drizzly rain that is typical of Ireland in the spring, but solid raindrops that splatter when they hit the sidewalk. I can hardly remember the pub name, or who was with us, but I do remember we danced. The music was barely heard over the rumble of the people milling about, we were on a crowded street, the rain pelting our faces, and we danced. Oh, how we danced. I was with a new friend I had just met, rather my parents forced an introduction, and we had just come back from the Aran Island of Inishmore off the coast of Galway. We were parting ways in the morning, this being our only night together in the big city of Dublin. We started off with a big group, pub crawling, but somehow we lost our group in the mess of people and crowds, finally deciding to abandon the pub crawl idea. Instead, we started dancing, the kind of dancing where you put your arms out and spin around and around and around. You twirl and dip and kiss and hug and kick your feet up and above all, laugh. The exhilaration from dancing in the rain, under the stars, in a foreign place was the purest sense of freedom I’ve ever had.

I have always been overly cautious. I look before I barely jump. I guard my heart, worry about what others think, and am always, practical, diligent and sensible. But, for some reason, this particular weekend, I did not care: I leaped, and danced, and laughed like a complete fool, and I felt free. Of course, in the end I did get hurt, but that one night when I let my heart open and danced in the rain, feeling each drop tickle my skin, running down my face, splashing in the puddles, and not caring what anybody else saw.

Now, rainy days remind me of that perfect freeing moment. That one moment when I wore my emotions on my sleeve, threw caution to the wind, and felt every rain drop.

These days, my life is practical and sensible. I guess that’s what happens when you live with a nearly 10-month old, and hold down two part-time jobs. And while my girl is a happy baby, I see glimpses of her personality emerging. She seems to be careful, always calculating her next move: not pulling herself up unless she has a surefire way to sit back down. While, this can be an admirable trait, I want her to be able to throw caution to the wind as well, leap, and take chances. After all, those can often bring us the greatest life lessons or perfect moments. So yesterday, in the pouring rain, I opened the windows, turned on iTunes, and donning our goulashes and raincoats, laughing and singing, we just let go. And on our driveway we danced anyways.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The nine month love letter

Dear Daisy,

This past Sunday you turned nine months old, nine months. I can barely believe it. You are 27 inches long, and you weigh 16 pounds, 11 ounces, roughly in the 30th percentile of your peers. I stumbled to get you from your crib and carried you back to bed with me. Your father and I snuggled with you after your early morning nursing session, enjoying our last morning of the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. We gave Eskimo kisses, blew raspberries, and tickled you until you belly laughed. We told you that you are among the most adorable and wonderful beauties of the world.

We watched you crawl, cheered you along, and you flashed us your dimpled grin after you made it across the kitchen floor, ready to play with your alphabet magnets. We fed you homemade applesauce with a sprinkle of cinnamon. We let you feed yourself Daddy’s famous pancakes – and we told you that you are the prettiest and loveliest eater in the world. Daddy rocked you to sleep, whispering sweet nothings in your ear before placing you in your “big girl crib” with your favorite green blanket clutching the silk ribbon edges. After your nap, we built tower after tower after tower, for you to knock down, with blocks, plastic measuring cups, and stuffed animals; always with a squeal of delight and some clapping, after which you raise your arms in the air, so proud of your accomplishments.

We called you Silly Monkey and Stinker. We read I love You, Stinky Face half a dozen times. You stuck out your toes in anticipation of the onslaught of kisses coming with the reading of Counting Kisses. We took you on a long walk; you laughed at Casey chasing the birds, and babbled in your stroller, clearly contributing to the conversation. We played Christmas Carols and sang and laughed and danced while we made dinner.

We let you feed yourself sweet potato spears, string cheese and peas for dinner. You drank water from my cup. We kissed your cheeks and stroked your head. You splashed in the bath, reading your “bath book” and throwing your dolphin, crab and turtle bath toys over the side. You chuckled at Daddy’s silly voices, smiling and giggling at his witty song lyrics.

And when we tucked you in at night we told you that you are undoubtedly the very best part of our lives. And when we woke up on Monday morning, to another busy day and another busy week, we spent a moment and reveled in our luck at having spent the past nine amazing months with perfect, precious, wonderful you.



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A review: Toddle Tunes


My world revolves around three things: books, music and food. And I guess, since having a baby, now Daisy. But, the best part is that I get to incorporate Daisy into my three previous loves. Well, except food. She and I don’t see eye to eye just yet in the food department. She goes crazy for pureed squash and mashed avocado, while I prefer something with a bit more substance, like filet mignon and good red wine. But, as for music and books, well we both go wild for the two. I’ve mentioned before our little dance parties, and how much she loves to play (read: bang ) the piano.

It all started, you see, with our first visit to Toddle Tunes in Santa Monica. A passing stranger who oohed and ahhed over Daisy one hot early summer day informed me of this children’s music business: “It’s over the hill” he said, “but it’s worth it.” Any lingering disappointment I’d had about driving over the Sepulveda Pass vanished the minute we set foot inside the small studio, listened to our first live set, and banged away at the drum set.

photo 18 

Here’s how it works: every week features a different type of music, from classic rock to classical, jazz to reggae, and the associated instruments are introduced. For example, two weeks ago was classic rock, hence the drum set, and the class is broken down into three segments. The first segment includes a set of music, two or three different songs with toys for the babies to play with: a stuffed horse, a rattle, a toy drum. The set includes a discussion of the songs and instruments, mostly for the parents, but also to expose the babies to the vocabulary associated with music, and I’m assuming that the children participate more in the discussion as they are older, but the babies, at least Daisy, just sits in rapture watching the teachers.

photo 20

The second segment, a shorter segment, includes dancing, in order to feel the beat of the music. Last week we waltzed, but mostly we just stomp our feet or clap to the rhythm of the music. The last segment is the crowning jewel of Toddle Tunes, what sets it apart from other music classes, the “real” instruments are then introduced to the babies. The teachers sit with the babies on their laps and have them feel the vibrations, palm the instrument, strum the strings, bang the keys and listen to the music. photo 21

The curriculum is always changing, we’ve been going for several months now and we’ve only had one type of music repeated, and honestly, in my opinion you can never have too much classical music. Plus, it seems to be Daisy’s favorite type. But, my favorite part of Toddle Tunes is that it’s exactly the type of place where I don’t ever need to pretend to be cool and blasé enough about anything, and I can totally clap and sing along and dance and bounce and act like a little moron because hey, it makes my kid smile. The whole 45 minute class is very hands on and the babies are exposed to lots of songs, movements, genres, and most of all instruments. Additionally, the classes are led by (what seems like) accomplished musicians who are interested in teaching, not just babysitters with guitars. 


Teacher Matthew, part co-owner with his lovely wife Lisa (who, I’ve never had the pleasure of actually meeting in person, but feel as if we’re best buds through the fact that she charges my MasterCard every 8 weeks), who turned out to be (and I’m sure he’ll want to put this on his business card, right next to his official title) The Man Who Had The Distinction of Teaching Daisy How To Clap. Teacher Matthew, you see, has the babies clap every week, during and after each song, that now Daisy is a clapping machine when any sort of music (or really noise) is around.

All the teachers, Teacher Matthew included, are so loving and adoring, and just, in general, rad with the babies. That, together with their tribute to John Lennon’s birthday with The Beatles week – pretty much cemented my desire to move next door to Toddle Tunes and start their marketing program. Tell me: is there anything more endearing seeing someone simultaneously teaching your baby all about the electric bass while paying tribute to the second best Beatle out there? Because I can only think of it being a better situation if they offered me a glass of wine too, and you know what, it’s probably not that appropriate at 1pm on a Thursday afternoon in a room full of babies.  IMG_0582

Music is fun. The songs they play include the classics, but they often put a whimsical, playful and light-hearted spin to them, and I think that makes them perfect. For example, during classic rock week, the teachers changed the lyrics to several of the songs to make them more age appropriate, plus it enhances creativity. It’s those types of subtle touches that put Toddle Tunes over the edge. That said, Daisy’s favorite part of Toddle Tunes is this: the bubbles. The class ends with a few minutes of the bubble machine, and again, Daisy just sits in wonder, afraid to touch them for fear of them popping.


Disclosure: I was not compensated for any Toddler Tunes classes, the opinions expressed in the review above are mine, and mine alone. As a company policy, the first class for any child is free.

Monday, November 08, 2010

My life lately

A few things that probably aren’t okay:

Roughly 60% of my motivation for attending my ballet/yoga class is the massive amounts of chocolate I can consume after class without feeling guilty.

I have starting using hoover and facebook in my regular vocabulary. As verbs.

One of my students is convinced that he and his brothers are taller than the rest of his Mexican countrymen because they eat processed food.

The alarming frequency the discussion revolves around my daughter’s poop. At the dinner table.

Sometimes when I’m practicing my French, I pretend the dog is French and conversing with me in a French accent.

The amount of “kisses” the dog and baby give each other.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A few of my favorite things

Internet, did I tell you that I now have my mom’s old piano sitting in my living room? It was my 30th birthday present from my parents. The reason I tell you this, is because at 6:00pm when Daisy is both screaming (actually, it’s more of a screeching) and crying one of the only things that keep her quiet is playing “A few of my favorite things” over and over and over on the piano. I am dangerously close to having it memorized. So, with this song on repeat in my head these days, I thought I’d write a post on a few of MY favorite things because whiskers on kittens, while cute, aren’t one of my favorite things. But,, an alternative to the time-sucking and always packed Target, is. (No crowds, connected with, free next day shipping on orders over $49. NEXT DAY! Basically, it rocks.) But, then I realized that I already wrote a list of my favorite things last year. But, on this list are entirely NEW favorite things. Which, I guess happens when fourteen months; two new jobs and a new baby come into the picture. So, I thought I’d share. And, maybe, just maybe, they might also become your NEW favorite things.

Lunch Skins

I make J’s lunch every morning (I know, I know, he is so spoiled, and somehow he’s got me wrapped around his pinky finger!), and after years of buying plastic baggies or trying to re-use Ziploc disposable food containers (which are bulky for someone who walks to work), I have found these little lifesavers. I have now saved approximately 20 plastic baggies (go ahead, call me a tree hugger, I don’t mind) in the past few weeks. They are dishwasher safe (although, unless disgustingly messy, I’ll probably stick with hand-washing), made in the USA, moisture and grease proof. Did I mention they have tons of different designs and styles? No more boring brown paper and clear plastic for us.

Half Baked: The story of my nerves, my newborn, and how we both learned to breathe

Alright, going into this book, I knew it had a happy ending; otherwise, I might have not finished. This memoir is both incredibly touching and hysterically funny. While her story of infertility and childbirth were extreme, Alexa writes her memoir in such a way that anybody who has ever experienced baby lust, worry, anxiety, or motherhood could relate. This book is about infertility and death, family and science, self-discovery and grief, it is so much more than just that. It will make you think and discuss, and cry and laugh. The writing is amazingly well-written, clever, touching and hilarious considering the serious subject matter. This is a funny book, but it’s also a book about life and death and the thin edge between the two. While being a spectator to a stranger’s horrific tragedy, it forced me to think about my own good fortune, to not sweat the small stuff, and to wrap my arms around Daisy and hold her just a little bit longer. So, this book isn’t for those who can just relate, it’s for anyone who is willing to put their own struggles in perspective, and realize above all else, that even the worst-case scenarios are survivable, with a bit of humor to boot. And if you read this book and find yourself saying (as I did), “I could never do what she managed to do,” Alexa pipes in to respond: “You could so. Yes. And you would.” This book is about premature babies and motherhood is full of lessons, but not just lessons on motherhood and premature babies. These are lessons about life. Essentially, this book is too good to miss. Read this book; you won’t regret it.

Charlie’s Soap

My life these days revolves around laundry between spit up, cloth diapers, a mud-loving dog and my clumsy nature. And, I finally found a detergent that works well, is gentle enough for Daisy’s new skin, and doesn’t cost a fortune WITH less mess. All I can say is HALLELUJAH! (You can buy it at!) It works in both HE and Regular machines, takes the odor out of clothes, and fights stains (I recently mopped up a spill of cranberry juice with my WHITE dishtowel, and it came out of the wash perfectly white again.) Plus, I can use it on all our laundry: from delicates to play clothes (and cloth diapers!) There is no need for fabric softener, it’s environmentally friendly (no more big plastic bottle) and is absolutely fantastic for our family’s sensitive skin. My laundry room is tiny, with very little space to store anything, so because this detergent comes in a tiny 3 pound bag for 80 full loads of was like icing on the cake.

Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder

This is the perfect afternoon snack for Daisy. It keeps her little hands occupied and gives her something healthy to munch on. Daisy’s favorite is cold apples – a perfect alternative to a teething ring. From the reviews, I always rinse immediately after she’s finished, and I always hand-wash (even though it claims to be dishwasher safe).

Sarah’s Key

Honestly, I picked up this book because the title shared my name, but I fell for this book immediately. In the middle of reading this book, at breakfast with some friends, I said (out loud), “I actually almost cancelled because I wanted to stay home and read.” It may not have been polite, but it was the truth. This novel tells the story of a little-known period in the history of France where thousands of Jewish families were rounded up and forcibly kept in the Velodrome d’Hiver before being packed up to Auschwitz, a Nazi death camp. Yep, another book with a serious story line, but a novel that honors the unsung heroes who risked their lives to save others. The author, Tatiana de Rosney writes without melodrama, plot surprises, and excessive sentiment, but through a child’s viewpoint, which makes the writing more authentic and touching.

Gin & Tonic

Did I mention that Daisy’s been testing her vocal chords? Need I say more?

Love & Olive Oil

I am obsessed with this cooking blog. I checked it daily for their new recipes. My favorite are the apricot and white chocolate cookies (in fact, I have a stockpile of the dough in my freezer!) or the quinoa with mango & curried yogurt (perfect for a picnic), or the crispy black bean tacos with feta & cabbage slaw. I really want to try the butternut squash and vanilla risotto sometime soon as well and the Mexican chocolate and almond ice cream. Besides the gorgeous pictures and unique recipes, I love the writing style, and the authenticity of the authors (a Nashville based husband and wife team.) I also want to visit their cool loft. What can I say, I’m obsessed. And, maybe, somewhat stalker-ish.


Have you all heard of Groupon? I’ve become a little obsessed with Groupon, if we’re being honest. I’ve never been able to get into couponing, or becoming a member of other shipping sites, but alright: I love this site. It works like this, the company offers a single deal each morning in each of its many local markets. There are something like 80 cities featured. It could be $50 worth of yoga lessons for $25, or a discount for a car wash. If enough people purchase the coupon, the deal is “on,” which usually always happens – and most of the time a year to use it. I get the one for Los Angeles, but I sometimes browse some of the other cities. For example, I recently bought one for from the Long Island, NY Groupon. You’ve got a day to buy the Groupon, and most of the time, a year to use it. I’ve seen Groupons for massages (okay, okay, I bought that one!) cupcakes, language courses, flower delivers, Gap, and lots and lots of pizza. I try to only buy Groupon’s for something that I’ll actually use (like, I rarely buy the pizza ones since I’m committed to my local pizza delivery). But, if you like to score a deal (and trust me, I like nothing more), have a look and see what you think. I guess my only regret is that I didn’t think of this first.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October: Are you doing your spring cleaning?

In large part just because it’s October, but to some extent because we’ve got the holidays looming and am chomping at the bit for something I can control, I have been tidying up my life for the last week or so. I have cleaned out my closet with extraordinary results, and though I have yet to take the bag of donations to the thrift store down the street, I have got plans to do so soon, and I think you’ll agree this should count. I have shredded old paperwork no longer needed (I don’t think I need those checking account statements from 2003), taken apart the inside of my refrigerator and washed every single piece in the sink before putting it back together again, and have made three to-do lists – Home, General, and Freelance – from which I plan to tackle a few items every day.

I have ordered all my Christmas cards, have almost caught up on email and paperwork (hold on, Santa Monica, I paid that parking ticket yesterday!), have reorganized the ridiculously disastrous hall closets (almost!), have indulged in some fairly fruitless pantry organization and some less fruitless baby proofing, and have discovered that I may be the only person in the world who has (finally) thrown out their never-ending stash of Christmas gift bags in October when the rest of the world continues to stockpiling them. In addition, I identified the three biggest things that make our house messy and stress us me out to the point of distraction – errant dog hair, miscellaneous dust and office clutter – and I am working on solutions for two of them (a renewed commitment to dusting for the second, and putting away stuff instead of leaving it half-hazard in the office. For the first one? We got nothing. A lint brush? A better vacuum? Because the dog stays.)

And I have been tidying up myself too. I have been feeling quite moody and stressed out and on the verge of grumpy-ness for weeks now. So, I have started taking time to enjoy the little things. First, I made an appointment to get my hair cut and styled (granted, it’s not until December, but hey...I don’t have much baby-free time these days), last weekend I left Daisy in the very capable hands of Daddy, and indulged a long walk with an old friend and then followed my tired feet up with a pedicure, and I purchased a Groupon for a massage in the somewhat-not-so-distant-future. Hopefully this will help with the massive head-aches I’ve been experiencing. Also, Casey, Daisy and I have begun taking a lunch-time walk to the park for a picnic.

IMG00050 (3)

Parenthood is hard work. I had just settled into a full-time mommy, part-time freelance writer/editor routine when the semester started back up. And you know what? Teaching a full-load and full-time mommy-hood is exhausting. Not to mention that my freelance work has picked up. Hey, I’m not complaining, someone has to pay off those school loans, so I’m grateful for the work. But, I find myself staring at a computer, shoving toy after toy at Daisy to keep her fussiness at bay, in order to get just a little more done So, I have vowed to start saying no to excess busyness, taking time each day to relax with a cup of tea, and some fun toys and books with Daisy to just enjoy her. She’s only little for a short time, and I don’t want to miss it because I was in a stressed out irritable haze.

And yes, it’s sort of woo-woo Oprah-ish and certainly not the sort of stoic, always being productive household I was raised in, but you know the saying, “motherhood is part joy and part guerrilla warfare.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beautiful Day

Dear Andy,

This morning before the insane heat set in, I went for a long walk. Daisy was sleeping in the Ergo, Casey was running ahead off-leash, and my iPod started playing Beautiful Day by U2, although it really isn’t a beautiful day with the smoke and the heat, but anyways, it made me think of you. These days I try not to let my mind stray too far from the task at hand for fear of the tears bubbling just below the surface. For thinking about how much I hate cancer. But, instead of tears, I thought about our visit to your Great Aunt and Uncle’s house outside Cologne, Germany. You boasted of your German, and claimed we wouldn’t have any language barrier issues; and you were right – after only 30 minutes of trying to explain that we were related. And then they fed us piles of cold cuts and cheese cubes and we drank pints of beer. That was before the double-scoop ice cream cones. And then they took us to a fancy dinner. I remember sitting down looking at the lovely lake view, and thinking that we were obviously having a bit of translation problems. Oye! I still remember how full I felt. Then, I thought of our time in Amsterdam when we split that “brownie” and I swore to you up and down that I didn’t feel the special ingredient baked into the batter, and you made me sit down at the train station because I was nonsensical while buying our tickets.

In fact, I’m so glad you talked me into visiting Amsterdam as that was one of my favorite cities on our European jaunt. Remember that night we went to the coffee shop, split one of the specials, and after we walked back to our hostel stopping for some pancakes, frites and more pancakes and frites. (I’m noticing a theme here…) And then we stayed up for hours playing Gin Rummy in our hostel, laughing like we had not a care in the world.

When you moved out to California, thirteen odd years ago, I never imagined that we would become friends first, cousins second. You were a college grad, talked with a Bostonian accent and said stuff was “wicked” – in other words, you were an aspiring Hollywood screenwriter. You were a dreamer, laid-back, and took chances. And I was a teenager who was anal, impatient and practical. And yet, we managed to forge a friendship – not just a friendship, but you became a confidant, a role model and comrade. In fact, when I was nervous about moving to a foreign country, you encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. You are generous. You are kind. And you are funny. You always challenged me, and for that I am grateful.

Also, you are courageous, always have been, always will be, and that’s how I think of you most. In fact, you even have Der Mut on your left arm which roughly means “courage, heart, spirit, braveness and grit.” I remember sitting on my parents’ patio and you told me how you wanted that to remind yourself of your mother’s German family, wanted to never lose sight of these traits in whatever walk of life you were experiencing. Later that year, I went with you to get the word Soule tattooed on your shoulder. You wanted to recognize the Swan side, and our ancestor George Soule’s courage and bravery for surviving the Mayflower and that first, hard cold winter in Plymouth. And just like good ol’ George, you are a survivor. And it is that bravery and heart that are at the core of your spirit. It’s a clumsy metaphor, I know, but you seem to help so many people like that, to demonstrate what it means to fully embrace life, to go after your true passions. I want to say thank you for that.

I miss you and Jen and Nicholas in California, but I know you are better back in Boston and being treated at a top rate cancer institute. I look forward to the celebrations we’ll have when we beat this disease. And the smiles and the laughs, and the tears of joy we’ll shed. And, the margaritas we’ll drink - as if we won’t have a care in the world.

Much love,


Saturday, September 04, 2010

The beauty of vacation

“No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one."   ---Mark Twain

Two weeks ago I was hiking to this:


Drinking cold, fruity, adult beverages:


Stopping to admire the view of these:


Keeping my eyes peeled for some of these:


And spending my days with my two favorite people:


Our little family holiday was lovely, and by the time we reached Santa Fe I felt fully recharged. However, from the minute we returned my life has chaotic, intense, and stressful. But, alas, at least I learned a few take-aways from this vacation:

a) Driving through the desert in August is HOT. HOT. HOT.

b) Hands down, New Mexico has the best food in the US of A. They put green chilies and red sauce on everything.

c) I should not attempt mountain biking until I’ve had my morning coffee.

We left on a Friday afternoon and headed for Las Vegas to visit family (not to mention, take advantage of free room & board), before we drove, quite literally, through the middle of nowhere-ville Utah, to Arches National Park where we spent the next two days leisurely melting in the hot sun while we hiked around with a 15-pound weight on our shoulders.


It should be noted, by the way, that in order to recover from our day and a half of hiking through Arches National Park, we spent the next few days doing much of this:


And I now have memorized Caps for sale: A tale of a peddler, some monkeys and their monkey business. (Don’t worry, lest you think I am some sort of memorizing genius; it’s a 6-page rhyming board book.)

By the end of our week we managed to do a little of everything – hiking, shopping, sights, eating, lots of driving – and we spent our evenings drinking margaritas on our patio while watching lightning bolts dance across the sky; counting the seconds in-between for thunder. There is little I love more in life than a good summer thunderstorm: the smell of the rain, the beauty of the lightening, and the cool, quiet blues that follow the storm’s wakes.



I planned to take pictures of my Santa Fe, uh souvenir and parade it about the Internet – and by souvenir, I mean the cowboy hat that I drug J and Daisy all over Santa Fe trying to procure, but instead I find that I have papers to grade, a car battery to fix, and library books to return. Thanks for raining on my parade, real life! I can post more pictures of our Southwest trip and jaunt to Minnesota though, if you’re interested. But unless you’re one of my parents, one of J’s parents, or a member of the Taos Tourism Board, I’m not entirely sure you will be.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


One of my favorite parts of parenthood has been watching the relationship between Daisy & J develop. There has been an instant bond since the moment they laid eyes on each other, and the highlight of Daisy’s day is when her Daddy comes walking through the front door in the evening. Typically, she progressively becomes more fussy throughout the afternoon and then, just as the situation becomes dire, her knight and shining armor comes through the door.

And just like that: HAPPINESS

I heard this song a few weeks ago while I was on a scout for some new children’s music, and the lyrics brought tears to my eyes.


I had a great day full of friends and play

But my favorite part is always coming home to you,  



I did so many things, where do I start

Gonna tell you everything and not leave out a single part



D-A-D-D-Y, oh how I love ya

Oh, how I love ya


D-A-D-D-Y, oh how I love ya

Oh, how I love ya



Riding our bikes through the park

Camping in the summertime

Walking to the waterfalls, Daddy-O


You teach me things without saying a word

The time we spend together is worth more than all the silver & gold



D-A-D-D-Y, oh how I love ya

Oh, how I love ya


D-A-D-D-Y, oh how I love ya

Oh, how I love ya

*Frances England, possibly the best children’s artist.

**Pictures of Daddy and his love were taken at Mesa Verde NP.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Letter to my love: 6 months

Today you hit the six-month mark. At six months you are 15.1 pounds and 25.5 inches long. This means it’s been approximately 182 days since my whole world changed, and the last month has been particularly exciting. We went on our first family vacation, you went to daycare, you ate your first solid foods, and you can now sit completely unassisted for short periods of time. You acquire new skills every day and the learning seems to be unending and you do so with this exuberant and contagious happiness.


Your father and I constantly marvel at how much you learn about your world every day. Some days, you learn quite a bit – that a particular toy can make noise if you press a certain button or that you can flip the pages of a board book – and other days, your “learning” seems to be more developmental. As such, your dexterity has improved exponentially of late. You can now reliably pick up just about anything – big or small – and transfer it from hand to hand to mouth (where it usually stays!).

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One of the best parts of these past few months with you has been watching your personality burst forth. You are a very happy baby, Daisy, and you spend more of your time smiling or laughing. In fact, your mommy and daddy love to hear your belly laugh and will act as silly as a buffoon in order to hear it. Additionally, you love meeting new people, and will happily be passed around from arms to arms. This is important, because in addition to our first family road trip you also flew to Minnesota this past month to visit your extended family. And, Daisy, you have a lot, but you had so much fun. Your eyes grew so wide when you realized all the toys and the kids were there for you to play with. You eagerly watched them run and jump and laugh and play loving every second of interaction with them.




In addition, to being a happy baby, you are also a wee bit stubborn, with I believe an independent spirit – and I’m sorry to say that I believe you got that from me. You refuse to let your dad hold the book when he reads to you, and when you ate your first bites of rice cereal last week you wanted to hold the spoon all by yourself. And God help anyone who tries to roll you onto your tummy.

You have also become much more vocal this month as well. You chatter endlessly to yourself, to Mortimer (the moose), or as your Mickey CD plays on repeat in the background. In fact, the Mickey CD saved our vacation. You see, anytime on our recent road trip you began to get fussy in your car seat, we would immediately press play and “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” would ring in our ears. We’re not sure if it’s Mickey’s voice or because your name is sung over, but it always calms you down.

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Speaking of our road trip, you were perfect. You loved meeting new people, smiling and cooing at them, while they generally adored you. You traveled through new states, slept in new places, rode in an airplane and did so with unyielding delight. But, our favorite part was spending 12 days together as a family with limited outside distractions. However, you let us know when it was time to wrap up the hiking, or driving, or dining, or… I think you get the point.

You are, undoubtedly, the very best part of our lives. We love you sweet girl. We love you so very much. Happy six months! We can wait to see what the next six holds!



Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Celebrating life

I don’t know how you go about celebrating something, but here in the California Stars house, our celebrations include champagne and pizza. We’re classy folks.

What are we celebrating, you ask? Well, for one, we are celebrating J’s new job – excuse me, J’S! NEW! JOB! – which was a long time coming and which we are both thrilled to bits about. Why are we thrilled you ask? Well, frankly because the new job is better. It’s a better position within a better company, with better opportunities, and better compensation. (Do you like how I was all PC there, using “compensation” when really what I meant was MORE MONEY?) and I believe, a better commute (eventually). He will also have the enviable title of Vice President, which I shall henceforth refer to only as Vice President!!! Because when you are a VP of anything, I think, you sort of deserve to have an exclamation point after your name.

(As an aside, I used to believe that Ticketmaster wasn’t a company but just ONE GUY, with the job title of “The Ticketmaster!”, who was in charge of all the tickets in the country, and whom you contacted when you needed to go see Bono at the Staples Center, or two field goal seats to a Patriots home game. I am not even kidding, and am rather embarrassed to admit this. But what a cool job that would be, right?)


I am not sure what is going on in this photo, but I love the faces.

In addition, to J’s new job and my rather awkward confession, we are celebrating my graduation of my Master’s degree. Because I finished my final requirements a couple months ago the ceremony was a bit anticlimactic. While lacking the normal sweet relief of finishing a final exam hours before you hear the band playing “Pomp & Circumstance;”  it was nice to don the classic black robe and mortarboard, and my colored “hood.” And as you can see, no one really wanted to take my picture of just me in my get-up, but also with my sweet baby girl as well. She really did steal the show.


As a side note, I was kept very entertained reading the background information on the “official degree hood colors” and I couldn’t help but be amused at “drab.” I have to ask, who came up with this color name & selection? Why drab? Why not call it tan? Is this some insight to the person’s option of accounting, business administration and commerce?


Anyways, so yeah, we are very excited about these latest developments. But now, changing subjects to more important matters, I have discovered a new workout that is kicking my, *ahem* behind every single time. It’s called “The Daily Method,” except I go to a knock-off class that focuses on a bit more on cardio...aptly called “Cardio Barre.” It’s a bit of a cross between ballet and Pilates that harnesses the spirit of Jane Fonda and the 80’s. It’s perfect, because everyone knows that I long to be a ballerina - I just have the grace of an elephant. But, Internet, this workout is the best workout E.V.E.R. The first week I went, my armpits were sore. I mean, I discovered that after I crawled out of bed and popped two Advil because my hamstrings were sore, my abs were sore, my feet were sore. I had muscles sore that I didn’t even know existed. The good kind of sore, the kind of sore you get after a fantastic workout in where you don’t feel guilty for eating that extra slice of pizza because you know you burned a million calories with your crunches, Piles, and triceps’ dips. Although, I have to always warn the person standing next to me because I inevitably kick someone as I am fairly (ah, who are we kidding very) clumsy. And, I am the one who is always a half-step behind, with my Brisé in second position when the rest of the class is in fifth. Although, I have quickly learned to wear leggings, put my hair in a messy ponytail and exude confidence. Then know one will know that I’m the one the instructor is referring to when he barks out that someone is a half-step behind.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

My birthday: A photo essay

So, apparently Lindsey Lohan and I share a birthday two days, and ahem, 6 years apart. This is depressing to say the least. But, at least I do not have to spend the rest of summer behind bars sporting a bleep-worthy manicure. A decision I’m sure she is now regretting.

But, alas, I had a wonderful birthday which began the weekend before the “big day,” with a surprise trip to my second favorite city. It began with a lovely 5:30 wake-up call, which sadly is the time my bright-eyed daughter likes to start her day. We raced to get out the door, for what I thought was an 8am boat departure for Catalina, but instead we went here:


Of course, you can’t tell, but we are at Long Beach Airport…which is tiny, with portable buildings, one luggage ramp, and an art deco design makes you think you’re flying in the 60s. And we were flying to San Francisco, my second favorite city. Our mission: San Francisco for 30 hours, with a 30-mile bike ride through Golden Gate Park to and over Golden Gate Bridge, because it was my Golden birthday, in addition to turning 30. (Whew, that was a mouthful!) Only we didn’t quite make it 30 miles on the bike, or over the Golden Gate Bridge…because, well…did you hear that I was turning 30? I just don’t have the stamina like I did in my 20’s.

But anyway, we checked in to the Sir Francis Drake at Union Square before we picked up these puppies:


And because it’s just good common sense, I wore my helmet proudly.


Although, I have decided that I should probably wear one all the time as I ran into two poles and rammed my knee into a wall while OFF the bike. But, anyway, our first stop was Mission San Francisco de Asis. Our goal is to visit all 21 California missions.  (Yes, J and I are TOTALLY NERDY).


Our next stop was the totally touristy (luckily we fit right in with our bikes!) Painted Ladies, or Alamo Square.


After a quick photo op, we headed toward Golden Gate Park, where we ran into some Buffalo. Cause, really don’t you expect to see huge buffalo along the side of the road in a big city park?


Look at how refreshing J looks after 10 miles…


And, I look like this. Apparently, this is what I look like when I’m trying to pretend I’m cold. Obviously, I missed my calling as an actress.


And sadly, that is the last photo of bike ride. After 13 miles I could only focus on one thing: either pedaling or picture taking. I chose the former, because I knew there would be a hot shower and champagne waiting for me upon my return. But, I did snap this quickie before our well-deserved, carbo-loading pasta dinner:


In which we learned that after 25 miles of bike riding, J is unable to smile on command. And my arm is too tired to hold up my camera.

So, the next morning we headed back home to our baby girl where we promptly decided to have her first experience in the pool. Her reaction:


But all was made better with a few tosses and splashes in the water. (See, I told you she was a little daredevil!)



So, it was a fabulous birthday, and on my actual birthday, we went to The Counter to celebrate my birthday AGAIN, even though Daisy let everyone know she was totally sick of it by wailing the entire time, but it didn’t matter because the sweet potato fries were absolutely worth it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The 30 best pieces of advice anybody ever gave me

Because I am the turning the big 3-0, I thought I should compile a list of the best advice I’ve ever received – from friends, family, and popular culture.

  1. Seriously. Why are you even worrying about this? (J)
  2. If there’s a Côtes du Rhône on the wine list, order that. (My friend Mark, the chef)
  3. Alright, so now you know the importance of pressing “save” every five minutes. (My college roommate, Katie, right after I accidently deleted my term paper by mistake)
  4. If you’re feeling out of shape, add more miles to your training program, preferably double days.  (My college cross-country coach)
  5. Never go with a hippie to a second location. (Jack Donaghy)
  6. Nude-toned undergarments are the only choice if you’re wearing white. (via trial and error, sadly)
  7. Maybe you should think before you speak. (My mom)
  8. Get up early to get your run in, this way you’re half asleep during the workout. (Melissa, a college teammate)
  9. If you don’t feel like going dancing, turn on the music loud and take two vodka shots. (My college friend Angela)
  10. Never spend the principle – only the interest. And really, do you need to spend the interest? (My dad, the banker)
  11. If you’re having a bad day, put a smile on your face. I guarantee it will change your day. (My friend and teammate, Lauren, from High School).
  12. You can’t spoil a baby. (My mother-in-law)
  13. Never drink tequila on an empty stomach. (again, via trial and error, sadly)
  14. If you ever encounter a wolf you should stand tall and make yourself look larger. (My brother)
  15. No one ever needs to know it isn’t homemade (My maternal grandmother)
  16. If you’re not feeling well, take a shower and put on clean PJ’s. (My mom)
  17. Be a best friend; tell the truth and overuse I love you. (Lee Brice)
  18. Lean, lean, lean. Lean back! (John, a long-time family friend, teaching me how to water ski with a single ski)
  19. Why pay with cash when you can get the miles? (My dad)
  20. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. (Philippians 4:6)
  21. Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. (My friend Lara, via a hallmark card)
  22. Don’t look behind you. (My high school Cross-Country coach)
  23. Just Do It. (Nike)
  24. A true lady isn’t identified by what she wears, but how she acts and what she says. (My Sigma Kappa pledge Mom, yes, it sometimes surprises me that I was in a sorority).
  25. After dinner, check to make sure you don’t have broccoli in your teeth. (My friend Kristine)
  26. Don’t be afraid to go to the movies by yourself. (A friend I met while backpacking abroad)
  27. Always wear lipstick. (My paternal grandmother)
  28. Stop working! Go to the movies! (My brother-in-law)
  29. Don’t eat yellow snow. (My dad)
  30. Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go. (Oscar Wilde)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Letter to my monkey

On Monday you will be four months old. Just thinking this makes my heart flutter. At four months of age, you are 25 inches long, and you weigh nearly 14 pounds, ounces  shy of doubling your birth weight. You are both perfectly average and wonderfully extraordinary. Your eyes have transitioned from the stunning violet blue at birth to a deep, dark brown. This is a perfect example of how extraordinarily average you are. Brown eyes are the most common eye color, yet yours have a beautiful hazel-blue twinkle to them, and Daisy I have never loved brown eyes as much as I have loved yours. And, as an added bonus, I now can sing “Brown Eyed Girl” while we dance around the office, cause Daisy “you my brown eyed girl.”

In fact, Daisy you love music. All kinds. We can be frequently found rocking out to “Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers or “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” on your Silly Songs CD. The Beatles, Sunday School songs, Johnny Cash and Tom Petty are all found on our playlist. We sing and dance the day away. And when you need to be calmed, it’s always “Miles from Minnesota” from The Lower 48. It might be because of the melodic beat, or maybe because you’ve got Minnesota in your blood. But I secretly believe it’s because you have a wanderlust spirit.


This month Daisy you have gone from a helpless infant to pure baby. You have just begun to roll, not really understanding exactly how you achieve this great feat because you can’t yet replicate it at will and roll with a huge grin on your face, “DID YOU JUST SEE ME MOMMA?” Besides discovering that you can scoot around your blanket, I have recently discovered you are a little daredevil. You love it when your Dad tosses you around or spins you in circles. It makes ME dizzy and makes my heart skip a beat when I see you flying through the air, but it all melts away when these little pint-sized peels of laughter hit my ears.

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You have also become ridiculously expressive. We have had several days where you have gone from sun-up to sun-down without crying at all, not one single time. I would love to say that this is because I am a baby whispering genius, but the truth is that you’re actually just very easy to read. I appreciate this. Please keep it up. It will make your adolescence so much easier on your Dad and me.

This month has been a big month for us. We are growing and learning. You have learned all sorts of things like how to stand without wobbling so much or how delicious your fingers taste or how Penelope (your pink lovey) makes you less fussy in the car. And what I have learned is this: I want you to know that you always have been loved. Loved beyond comprehension. Loved without condition. Loved.


Your father and I adore you a little more everyday Monkey.