Sunday, December 27, 2009

Avatar: A Must See

I'm not a big blockbuster movie goer. I tend to gravitate toward independent and foreign films - or at least films with rich dialogue and complex characters. Cars blowing up or giant monsters attacking sky scrapers? Not interested. So, with the grandmothers available to babysit, when we decided to see Avatar (figuring that if we were ever going to see it, we should see it in the theater), I almost expecting to be disappointed.

Avatar serves up some of your typical blockbuster problems. As in Cameron's Titanic, the dialogue is at times laughable. The main "bad guy" is a marine intent on blowing up the planet of Pandora to get to their version of fossil fuels, which are called "unobtanium" here. (Why one of the writers didn't call this word out as a totally ridiculous to the point of distracting is beyond me.) He serves up plenty of "Take this, bitch!" dialogue, which delivered unintended laughs from the audience several times. And, truthfully, none of the characters are very well developed.

And yet, it's worth sitting through some of the ridiculous dialogue because the rest of the movie is incredible. James Cameron, as always, keeps you at the edge of your seat with his action sequences. He also offers a beautiful message about war, American culture and the environment. But the most incredible aspect of the movie is clearly the art and the technology. Mike wrote a great summary here of the human-like appearance of the avatars/aliens in the movie. As I said before, I'm usually not impressed with visual effects, but his movie was truly a splendor of color and creativity. When the movie ended, it took me about half an hour to get used to the dull colors that make up our existing world.

When the credits rolled at the end of Avatar, the theater was silent for a moment. Everyone seemed to be in shock after what they had just seen. Then a man in the audience yelled out, "Refund!" Everyone laughed. Go see Avatar while it is still in the theaters. Whatever your preference for movies is, I guarantee you will feel that you more than got your money's worth.

First Colorado Christmas

It's always a little bit sad when the Christmas season comes to an end, especially when family lives so far away. Our first Christmas in Colorado was wonderful. My memories include taking the girls skiing with my dad, a family hike up the Flat Irons, a evening out with Mollie and Caine (where Toby ordered Caine the infamous "leather belt" scotch that didn't have him feeling too well the next day), a two-hour Michael Jackson dance party with the cousins, a freezing cold Christmas day walk where a bald eagle swooped overhead, high tea at the St. Julien with the girls, and a full day at the Denver Nature and Science Museum. The Christmas spirit all-star award clearly goes to my brother-in-law, Caine, who drove all the way from North Carolina to be with us on Christmas day. Colorado proved to be a great place for family to visit. I only wish it were about 20 hours closer to the east coast.

Happy holidays to everyone!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Where we love is home,
Home that our feet
may leave, but not our hearts.

~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.,
Homesick in Heaven

Today, a friend asked me how life is in Boulder. I told her that aside from a little bit of vertigo and the stress of a start-up, things are great. We love the skiing, the hiking, the girls' school, our neighborhood, the people we've met so far, the people we've reconnected with by moving here...the list could go on and on. Then she said, "It must be starting to feel like home." Home to me these days is wherever Toby, Evie, Lucy and Noni are, but I don't think we've lived in Boulder long enough for it to truly qualify as our "home". It takes a while to settle in to a place and to me "home" implies that your roots run deep in the ground. By that definition, home to me is still one of two places - either a wooden house at the end of a point in Shelburne, Vermont or a brick house on a tree-lined street in Frederick, Maryland.

I've been thinking of Frederick a lot this week. Maybe it's because the Christmas cards started rolling in and so I am glancing at everyone's smiling faces everytime I walk in or out of the front door; maybe it's the thoughtfulness of the package that arrived for Noni today from a friend; or maybe it's looking through old photographs to find a picture of Adam, since Evie was writing a report on him and his job at the African Wildlife Foundation, and reliving so many memories as I flipped through the photo album. It's probably all three mixed together with the lights that are going up around town, reminding me of downtown Frederick this time of year, the Kris Kringle parade (even though those memories generally consist of trying to prevent freezing ballerinas dressed as snowflakes in cotton sweatshirts try to avoid frostbite), and all of the holiday parties with friends.

We won't be going back east for Christmas this year. The next time we plan to visit Frederick is next summer. I'm so excited for my family to come visit and am frankly happy not to be packing bags of presents and loading all the girls onto a plane or in a car, but I do miss our friends.

At school, Lucy made a paper kite with a string tail. She was supposed to write on it where the kite would like to go. Hers reads, "Lucy's kite would go to Maryland" and she drew a picture of our family in our old house on it. If only it were that easy. It would be nice to grab onto the kite and fly back for a day, to enjoy some mulled wine and home-brewed beer with friends, to exchange holiday wishes and hugs, and to walk through Baker Park and then downtown to see the lights.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Princess Power

When Evie was about three-years-old, her obsession with Teletubbies and The Wiggles began to wane and she found a new interest: Disney Princesses. Weird looking creatures with televisions on their bellies hadn't concerned me, but thick-haired, thin-waisted young women with the single dream of meeting a handsome, wealthy prince creeped me out a little. I was sure that by playing with a Cinderella doll she was quickly heading down the path of ending up as the next Paris Hilton. Such is the way of thinking with the first child.

Six years later, Evie is a happy third grader who recently joined the school math team and refuses to wear anything but Circo sweatpants from Target. So with her two-year-old younger sister Noni, who has recently transitioned from Sesame Street ("Sunny Days") to the Princess set, I am embracing this stage. I realize now that it is just a stop on the path of self-discovery for her. And, I should add that if she grows up to love dresses and dancing and handsome men, that's all good too. (A certain third grader is very excited about the formal "third grade ball" on Thursday and a little bit nervous about asking a certain boy to dance.) Playing with her Cinderalla doll right now is not going to define Noni's personality one way or another. And so, I happily ordered her a Disney Princess shirt for Christmas (which is somewhere in California as we speak, but that's a different story) and today I took all three girls to see Noni's first movie in a theater: The Princess and The Frog.

I'd like to give Disney a few props for their princess evolution over the past few years. When I was little, we had Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Since then, six more princesses have been introduced, four of them are ethnic minorities in America (though only two of them actually live in America) - Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine and now Tiana. Mulan and Pocahontas both have their own things going on beyond princes. But to me, Tiana is the best heroine of the bunch. (Actually, the idea of a princess being a heroine wasn't even introduced when I was younger unless perhaps you count maintaining a good atitude about constantly having to clean up after three other messy people as an admirable trait. Hmmm. Come to think of it, maybe I could learn a bit from Cinderella...) A young African-American woman living in New Orleans during the jazz age, Tiana has a dream of opening a restaurant and works practically non-stop against great odds to realize that dream. Her lesson in the movie is to let more love and fun into her life, but the movie continues after the fateful smooch with the prince and her career dreams are actualized as well. (I guess that's a bit of a spoiler, but it's Disney after all. You expected the happy ending, right?) It was nice to watch a Disney movie with such a strong female character. The lack of an evil stepmother was a nice change too.

Noni and I will continue to play with her Polly Pocket-sized Jasmine, Belle, Cinderella and Snow White. We'll add Tiana to the bunch too, once some of the dolls of her are actually in stock. It's nice to know that instead of simply having them all go to a ball, Noni can also imitate a princess running a restaurant. Of course, I think she has her own ideas about what they like to do. Last week, the four princesses went for a hike up the boulders on Pearl Street.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Spins

When I was younger, I had a recurring nightmare about being trapped underwater. I wasn't exactly trapped, I just found myself deep in the water, unable to tell which way was up. It always concluded in panic and then I'd wake up. I spent my childhood diving off the raft at the beach, water skiing, jumping off the cliffs at red rocks... in any number of situations where I'd end up in the lake so the underwater part made sense. As far as the panic, I've always been somewhat claustrophobic, which is probably where the fear of entrapment came from in the dream.

I haven't had that dream in a while, but when I moved to Boulder, I started experiencing a similar feeling. It started when I was taking a shower and suddenly up and down weren't as clear as they usually are. The room felt like it was rocking like a boat and my feet didn't feel securely grounded. At first, I attributed it to the altitude change of moving to over 5,000 feet above sea level. It seemed a little strange since I lived at nearly 10,000 feet for a year in Ecuador with no problems, but most people I talked to confirmed that made sense. But then it continued. For the next two and a half months, I experienced a similar feeling of dizziness or unbalance almost regularly.

I cut out swimming, wondering if the water in my ears was contributing to the effect. I cut out alcohol and dark chocolate. A friend told me that cutting out dairy had helped her a bit and at that point I decided I needed to see a doctor. It would take a confident professional opinion telling me to cut dairy out of my diet before I could give up cheese and yogurt.

After I explained my symptoms to a general practitioner, she insisted on a pregnancy test then and there, which added panic to my dizziness. When it came back negative, she diagnosed me with benign paroxysmal positional vertigo or BPPV. She felt that basically the little rocks in my inner ear (otoconia) had been thrown out of whack, possibly by our move to a higher altitude, possibly from some unknown cause. She gave me some exercises to do and then told me that it should go away sometime. Maybe in a week, maybe in a few months.

I am not entirely confident about her opinion. Maybe it is because I went to see her with three kids in tow on a snow day and both she and I seemed to want to get me out of there as quickly as possible. Or maybe it's because it seemed like more of a guess than a confident diagnosis.

I started doing Google searches on dizziness. This is a bad, bad idea. I'm pretty sure that if you do a Google search for a runny nose you will end up feeling like you are simultaneously suffering from cancer, a heart attack, and some dread disease that you got from eating ground beef. Also a bad idea? Talking to people you don't know well about your medical issues. I have heard about moms who can no longer take care of their kids because they are so dizzy and an aunt who has been taking valium for years now. Awesome.

I have an appointment with an ENT next week, which I will go to without any kids. The ENT also happens to be a neighbor and friend so I'm confident she will give me the time and attention to hear out my symptoms. She will do a hearing test and some other tests to check out my inner ear. She will hopefully either confirm the other doctor's diagnosis, see it as something else, or at least rule out some possibilities.

The good thing though is that I haven't been feeling dizzy for almost two weeks now. (I am almost scared to write that, as if it might somehow make it come back.) But I can say that I have never had such appreciation for waking up and just seeing the world the same way I've seen it for 35 years. The ground is the ground and the sky is the sky and it's all good, even if it is negative a billion degrees outside.

So I'm hoping that this is the end of the story. I'd like to imagine that it is and that I can provide one story against a thousand on a Google search for dizziness that has a happy ending.

Oh, and if you have a friend whose life was ruined by being dizzy? Kindly keep that story out of the comments on this blog :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009


It's been a while since I've been truly hooked on a show. I watch The Office and 30 Rock most weeks and The Daily Show helped me through the Bush years, but the last time I watched a show where I didn't want to miss a single episode was about seven years ago when I watched Ally McBeal face her problems with theme songs and fantasize about a dancing baby.

And then this year Fox introduced Glee. Maybe it's something about the music. After all, my favorite movie is Moulin Rouge. They sang Imagine and True Colors in one Glee episode and, yes, I'll admit, I cried both times. But the show is also funny, sweet and offers enough drama to keep you guessing until the next episode.

I'm not alone in my obsession. On Facebook last Thursday morning, the first four status updates in my newsfeed were written by women swooning over the previous night's episode. Not to mention that 8.6 viewers tune in every week. A friend of Toby's recently attended a Kennedy Center event chock-full of Hollywood superstars and Matthew Morrison (Will Schuester in the show) drew the biggest crowd of fans.

If you haven't seen Glee yet, now might be a good time to order it on Netflix (or watch full episodes online at Unfortunately, Fox didn't realize that Glee would be such a hit, so the next new episode won't air until April. Until then, you can still embrace your inner Gleekiness and sing and dance along to the two CDs.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Date Day

This morning, Toby and I dropped the girls off at the Shearers' house (who take our kids once a month so we can have a date day or night - love you guys!) and headed up to Eldora for some skate skiing.

Depending on your level of fitness, skate skiing is the opportunity to:

1) sport your CU/Eldora/Olympic Nordic ski team jacket and glide gracefully through the snow at lightening speed.
2) enjoy the beauty of snowy, evergreen-lined trails while getting a good work-out.
3) test your heart's ability to avoid cardiac arrest, even as it pounds so loudly that you can hear nothing else...except maybe the sound of your own desperate attempt to catch your breath.

Toby and I hovered somewhere between a 2 and a 3. Everyone else on the trail fell solidly into category 1. At this point, however, I am used to being humbled while exercising in Boulder. (My friend Marc wrote a great article a couple of years ago that captures this phenomenon, called The Gore-Tex Vortex.)

Lack of grace and speed aside, it was a great morning. I loved being outside and exercising in such a beautiful environment. We ended the morning with pulled barbecue and a "brew-ski" for Toby (a ski bearing beer samples).

All in all, a perfect Colorado date.

Lucy Explaining Christmas to Noni

"You see, first there was this baby born. His name was Jesus and he was really special. He was also really lucky because he was born on the same day that Santa delivers all of the presents..."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Neighborhood Skiers

Noni and I drove by our neighborhood park this morning and I took this photo. I love going by the park and seeing skiers in the snow. With the snow-covered Flat Irons as a back drop, it makes me feel like we live in some sort of winter fairytale land.

(Though I should note about the fairytale land: the reason we were driving instead of walking by the park is because it is 6 degrees outside.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo: So how did it go?

I should be tired today. If everything had gone according to my National Novel Writing Month plan, I would've been up until Midnight last night, typing away those last words to reach the finish line of 50,000 words. Then I would've typed a nice, satisfactory "The End" at the bottom and called it a night, and a month, and a novel. I did stay up a little bit later than usual, staring at the computer screen. But I have to admit that I was checking on the cyber Monday deals (20% off and free shipping at the Gap!), creeping towards The End of my Christmas list, rather than The End of my novel.

So how did it go? As much as I would love to fly a big old "Mission Accomplished" banner as a headline here, and actually mean it, I am still pretty satisfied with what I accomplished. I wrote 19,000 words. Or 35 pages in Microsoft Word of Times New Roman, single spaced. It's enough that I am committed to finishing it and, while it may not be award-winning writing by any stretch, I'm happy with it so far.

I learned a few things this month too. I learned that I love sitting down at my computer and imagining myself in a completely different world, creating characters and directing what happens to them. I learned that even though I started out with a plan, my novel soon took a path of its own, changing and evolving as I dove further into it. I learned that, on week two when I suddenly didn't know my characters or where they were going, my mom's advice and support can pull me out of a writer's block. I also learned that having a writing group to encourage me to keep going is critical to motivating me to find any time to write.

While I loved the process of writing, I felt more frustrated than usual this month. I tried writing during the day a few times and once counted seventeen interruptions in five minutes. (Full disclosure: While writing this blog post, I have cleaned up pee on the rug, broken up two fights, made lunch, washed dishes and wrestled the phone from Noni.) Trying to find the time to do something on my own showed me how little time I actually have to do just that. I do have time to write after the girls go to bed, but I feel like my creative juices have dried up a bit by that time of day. Eventually I found myself writing pages in my head as I did upward dog in yoga class or rode on the bike at the gym and then simply typing out what I had "written" already at night.

The best thing about this month? I never would have even considered writing a novel at this time in my life if both NaNoWriMo and my friend Tara hadn't both pushed me to give it a try. The "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants", "write drunk, edit sober" style of writing that NaNoWriMo encourages allowed me to let my guard down and forced me just to sit and write as much as I could whenever I could.

And so, while part of me wishes I could write "The End" on a novel after this month, I'm happy to announce that I have accomplished "The Middle". And since I am looking forward to continuing to work on my novel, The Middle actually feels like a pretty good place to be.

Friday, November 27, 2009

First Day on the Slopes

We took the girls skiing today for the first time. As Toby wrote here, it was a great success. I have so many memories of skiing when I was growing up in Vermont. Not too many of them involve 50 degree sunny days, but I have a lot of good ones nonetheless. It was fun to share something that I enjoy so much with the girls. I think we'll be spending a lot of time at Eldora this winter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My sister's status update today:

10 years ago today Caine and I got married in a Burnsville courthouse while chewing gum and holding baby Hannah......would do it all again.

I loved that. Just had to share it because I think it's such a great reminder that sometimes the unexpected challenges in life turn out to be the greatest blessings.

Monday, November 16, 2009


A few years ago, Lucy, Evie, Toby and I went through six stomach viruses in one winter. The next winter we suffered through five. One of them was so terrible and contagious that it seemed we passed it on to everyone we even came near, including my friend's relatives from Europe, who had to fly all the way back to Finland in a miserable state. During that particularly awful stomach flu, my dad called to say a package would be delivered to us the next day. I was hoping to somehow find a box full of warm chicken noodle soup, but what arrived was even better because it made us laugh.

He sent us a box full of "germs", or giant plush toy microbes. Cold was round but with jagged edges, stomach virus was long with a fuzzy trim. Flu, cough and and sore throat also came in the box. The girls loved them and swore they would help fight off any viruses.

We kept them, though they have been sitting in the bottom of the toy box for the last year. Then, last night, we needed them again. When Lucy began throwing up, she panicked that she couldn't breathe. She asked me what was happening. I thought about the stomach virus toy (named "Parkle" in our house, since we always call the stomach flu "the parkle bug". When I was little, for some reason I thought throw up looked like sparkles - apparently my parents fed me glitter - but couldn't say "s". The word "parkle" stuck.) and I asked Lucy if she remembered what he looked like. She nodded yes, still miserable. I explained that lots of mini versions of him were all in her belly and her body was just trying to get them out. This simple explanation made her feel a lot better. Today she dug Parkle out of the toy box to sleep with tonight. (And, as you can tell by the photo above, she is in much better spirits.)

In the past week, Toby has had the flu, Evie had a sore throat, Noni had a cough and cold, and then Lucy had the stomach flu. Hopefully, the stuffed germs will work as good luck charms in our household again. I'm wondering if I get this guy, if we can avoid H1N1 as well:

Brussels Sprouts Revisited

When I was younger, Brussels sprouts made me gag. I literally could not choke them down. I remember the dread I would feel when my mom placed them in front of me. Even our dog didn't like them so I had no escape. When I left home, I left Brussels sprouts and the thought of ever having to eat them again behind.

I started noticing Brussels sprouts again this fall because they keep placing huge stalks of them by the door of Whole Foods. The other night, I went to my friend Hilary's for dinner and she served them, pan seared. I warned her that I may not be able to eat them. Then I found myself asking for seconds and thirds.

I made them for dinner tonight and again, they were delicious. I made a side of peas for the girls, deciding that with this one vegetable, I wouldn't force them to even try it. Hopefully that way they won't wait until they are thirty-five to make Brussels sprouts a regular part of their diet. But they will definitely be in the vegetable rotation in our family every fall, when they are in season.

To cook them, just use olive oil or grape seed oil and sear them in a pan with a little bit of salt. You can also add garlic, lemon or oregano for more flavor. Not only do they taste good, but my mom was right to put them on our plates. They contain vitamin A, C, and folic acid and are supposed to prevent all sorts of cancers.

Bon apetit!

Parasomnia Activity

When I was in high school, a friend drank a bottle of Robitussin and spent the better part of the night wide awake, screaming that spiders were crawling all over her skin. I spent the night trying to convince her otherwise and to keep her quiet so that the dorm teacher wouldn't come to her room. I wasn't sure what rule she had actually broken, but it seemed like there was probably a policy against drinking an entire bottle of cough syrup. All in all, it was an unpleasant experience and, if I had ever thought about drinking a bottle of Robitussin before (pretty sure I hadn't), I definitely wasn't going to do so after that.

I was reminded of that evening today when Lucy woke up from napping on the couch and started screaming in terror. She has the stomach flu so I immediately thought that her head or stomach was hurting again. When I asked her what was wrong, she looked right at me, yet seemed to look through me, and continued to scream. She kept saying over and over again, "Don't let them get me!" And then, "I don't want to go home!" Her eyes were open but she was seeing something I couldn't see. She clung on to me, her body tense with fear. Every once and a while she would thrash away from me, screaming again. I did my best to hold onto her, finally realizing that she was experiencing night terrors.

According to, night terrors are "a disorder of incomplete arousal from deep sleep. Most of the brain is shut down, but certain motor (muscle movement) circuits are active when they should be quiet. Thrashing around, walking up and down in the crib, and seemingly terrified crying out are the result." Lucy has had night terrors before and it never fails to scare me. Usually, it happens at night. Somehow, in the brightly lit room, it felt even eerier to find her lost in a nightmare.

The worst part about having a child with night terrors is that you can't really do much. I held her and rocked her and it seemed to help a bit, but it is extremely difficult to wake her, and not even recommended to do so. Listening to her though, I know the terror is real, and it kills me not to be able to get her away from whoever was trying to get her in her dream.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. She is now lying on the couch watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and eating a grilled cheese sandwich. She has no recollection that she had a nightmare, only that she just woke up from a nap. Whoever was trying to get her has faded away, hopefully never to return.

As for me, I am breathing a sigh of relief, knowing that the nightmare has passed. And I'm breathing an even bigger sigh of gratitude, reminding myself that we have been fortunate enough so far to raise children whose nightmares have only occurred while they have been sleeping.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them - Vicki Baum

A few weeks ago at dinner, my friends Kelley and Hilary were talking about a dance class called Nia that they take at their gym. They insisted that I come sometime and I told them that I'd give it a try. Yesterday, Kelley emailed me that she was going to class today and so, this morning, arriving a little bit late, I suddenly found myself in a room full of twenty barefoot women, all shaking their booties.

I had never heard of Nia (which apparently stands for Neuromuscular Integrative Action, which makes it sound more like a course in medical school than a class for shaking your booty) before and I was a little intimidated to just get out there and shake it on the dance floor at 9 AM. Dancing for me has usually occurred at either weddings or dark bars, after numerous drinks in both cases. But I was there, Sexy Back was blaring from the speakers, and my friends were expecting me to dance so I headed out to the dance floor to give it a try.

In order to dance in a Nia class, you basically have to embrace your inner hippie. Think Dead Show but with a Justin Timberlake/Michael Jackson beat. The dance moves are a mix of yoga, martial arts, jazz, modern dance and whatever else you want to bring to the floor. The instructor was amazing. I could have watched her all morning, but instead had to focus on clumsily following her steps.

The result? I can't say that I looked graceful out there, but the class was so much fun. The world would truly be a better place if everyone woke up and spent seventy-five minutes laughing and dancing before going off to face the day. It was great exercise, but ultimately seemed more like a class in expressing joy.

Oh, and another benefit? After a week of having the Wiggles' Wake Up Jeff in my head all day, today I spent the day humming Sexy Back.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Children in the woods

A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rain forest - but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move. - Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

The voice of nature is always encouraging - Henry David Thoreau

Last weekend, Noni was napping and Toby and I were both working around the house. The girls played for a little while and then, bored, turned on the television. It was a beautiful day outside, about 70 degrees and sunny, and Toby lamented that they should be able to just run outside, meet up with friends, and go play. I felt a pang of guilt that we were letting them watch television on a beautiful day and turned it off, telling them to go play in the yard.

It struck me then, for some reason, how different things are today than they were when I grew up. Of course, that statement has probably been said before in a million different ways about a million different things. People tend to be nostalgic about their own childhood. But the truth is that when I was eight years old, my parents would kick me outside whether it was beautiful out or not and often I wouldn't come home until dinner, when you'd hear shouts from parents all over the neighborhood calling out the front door for their kids to come home. Sometimes, I would go out with my sister and we'd meet up with neighborhood kids to build forts, ride our bikes or play on the beach. Just as often, I'd go by myself and climb on the cliffs by the lake or collect sea glass by the shipyard. Aside from The Cosby Show and The Smurfs, I don't have many memories of watching t.v. because we just didn't that often, but it wasn't because my parents were constantly coming up with activities for us to do. All they had to do was open the door and tell us to go.

I watched from the dining room window as Evie and Lucy climbed the tree in the front yard. They played outside for a while, but eventually became bored with limited space and no one else to play with and came back in. I could have called a friend to find other kids for them to play with, but that in itself is different from the way things used to be because it would require an extra effort on my part to set up a playdate and then the added responsibility of watching someone else's kids. The restrictions we put on our children's freedom and their ability to roam outside creates limits and challenges for both children and parents that never occurred before.

Yet I don't know how to change that because even as I was thinking about this, I didn't feel comfortable shooing Evie and Lucy out to wander around the neighborhood. When my parents sent us outside, they had the safety net of an entire neighborhood of kids our age wandering around outdoors. For better or worse, it was also a different era - one without car seats and bike helmets and 24-hour news cycles warning us about the dangers of our world. As much as I want them to have more freedom outside, I'm still not planning on letting my five-year-old wander around unsupervised.

As I contemplated what to do about getting the girls outside more, I decided it was time for me to read Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv's book about the growing "nature-deficit disorder" in our nation's children. He paints a disturbing picture of a generation of obsese children growing up in front of the computer and television screen, with no connection to the natural world. I am somewhat reassured as I read it knowing that we have done our best to get the girls outside as much as possible. When Evie was only two months old, Toby and I took her to West Virginia for a long weekend of hiking. Of course, she spent the weekend in the backpack (wearing a florescent orange hunting cap and listening to gun shots in the nearby woods since Toby and I hadn't figured out beforehand that November was hunting season), but as soon as her little legs could carry her, she was hiking up the trail on her own. We have continued that tradition, taking the girls on countless hikes as they have grown. Just this Saturday, we took them on a three hour hike at Eldorado.

Yet going on a hike isn't quite the same as freely spending time outside. When we are hiking, Toby and I are constantly moving them forward - occasionally stopping to listen to a bird or look at lichen on a rock, but still moving forward with a goal in mind. Plus, we are there with them. It isn't exactly their time to roam freely in nature.

Looking around our neighborhood, I am reassured that as the girls get older, I'll feel comfortable giving them more freedom to be out on their own. I often see groups of kids, from fifth grade on, biking or walking together outside, or even just sitting on the sidewalk, hanging out, just being together outside. I'm sure images of mountain lions and kidnappers will cross my mind when that day comes, but I'm hoping at that stage that I will feel comfortable kicking the girls out on a sunny day to go find their friends and to just be outside. For now, we'll have to be content that the time they spend outside will occur on playdates and hikes and days on the ski slope. And when I consider that Evie spent the hike this weekend collecting acorns and moss for a fairy house and that Lucy found over 100 "amazing and cool" sights to point out, I have to hope that, while they may not have all the freedoms that I had, they are still developing a love and appreciation for nature and the outdoors that they will carry with them for life.

Monday, November 2, 2009

100 Pages

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. - Joseph Cambell

The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn't behave that way, you would never do anything. - John Irving

About a month ago, a friend of mine asked me if I'd like to join a writing club. She explained that there would just be three of us in it and we would inspire each other to write more each month. I loved the idea and immediately said yes. Then, as I walked home, fear and doubt began to creep in to my thoughts. What if I can't think of anything to write? What if they are better writers than I am? How am I going to find time to even do this? Not only that, but then, before our first meeting, she send out an email suggesting that we all sign up for nanowrimo (, or in other words, pledge to write a novel by our second meeting. I laughed out loud at the email and thought, there is no way I can write a novel in a month.

I have always wanted to write a novel. It doesn't have to be a novel that anyone reads. It doesn't have to be good. But it's always been on my list of Things I Want To Do. (A list which includes traveling to Vietnam, running a marathon in less than four hours and which doesn't include sky diving out of an airplane.) Yet it's very easy to find reasons not to write a novel. Like three kids for instance. Or a never-ending pile of laundry. But it occurred to me, as I went for a run after reading her email, that there will never be a perfect time for me to write a novel. The kids will grow older and I'll go back to work and there will still be the laundry, but then there will be papers to grade as well. It will always be easy to find an excuse. Plus, I love the idea behind nanowrimo. It's quantity over quality. It's a vow not to find excuses, but just to write at least 100 pages in a month, even if it's crap. And hopefully in that crap, there will be at least a few lines of beautiful writing that you want to keep.

And so, this month I will be writing. Probably not as much in my blog as usual, but I'll be on my computer typing away. While jumping out of an airplane has never been one of my goals, it feels strangely similar. When you set a goal for yourself, you always run the risk of failure. Yet I feel energized at even the thought of trying. And so, wish me luck. 100 pages, here I come!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From One Extreme to Another

We just got back from two hours in the snowy park, sledding and watching teenagers build a ski ramp. I had to remind myself that it is only October. When I uploaded the photos from today onto Flickr, I took a quick look at my album titled "Late October" from last year in Studio City. I was remembering how I used to worry about Evie getting heat stroke during her soccer games in October. Life is a little different in Colorado!

Evie and Lucy at Griffith Park in October. Note the shorts.

Today - and it's still snowing!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Finding Nederland

Ever since moving to Boulder, I've been wanting to get deeper into the mountains. We have done several hikes out of our front door and into the foothills, a couple of hikes up around the Flat Irons, and some biking with snowy mountain views, but because of unpacking and other weekend plans, haven't explored further than that. This weekend, with my dad in town, we finally made the twenty minute drive up the road (and I mean seriously up, about 3,000 feet) to Nederland for some hiking and dinner.

Nederland is only a short drive from Boulder but it feels like a different world. When we left Boulder, it was sixty degrees and sunny, but when we pulled into Nederland twenty minutes later we were under a dark snow cloud. Named for "The Netherlands" by a Dutch mining company, Nederland was originally just a mill down for the silver mines of nearby town of Caribou, which is now a ghost town. Unlike Boulder, Nederland still maintains a gritty, old western vibe, although these days that's mixed with a hippy vibe as well, with the small downtown hosting both a crystal and a hemp store. [A side note: Nederland is also home to one of the most bizarre festivals I've ever heard of: The Frozen Dead Guys festival]

Despite the ominous gray cloud, we passed through the town for a hike around Mud lake. The hike was beautiful, though the girls lost interest when the winds and snow picked up. At one point, we looked into the valley and the snow was blowing horizontally across the tree line. We made our way back to the car, cold, but refreshed by the mountain air.

Since it was still a bit early for dinner, we decided to swing by Eldora, Boulder's nearest ski area, for a quick tour. The lodge is more similar to a West Virginia lodge than a lodge at Vail, but the trails are pure Colorado and I love that we have a great ski area that close to our house.

Then we drove back into town and ate dinner at Kathmandu Restaurant, which is basically a taste of Nepal right in the Colorado mountains. Run by a Nepalese family, the food is served (Nepalese style) on stainless steal plates and cups, and we enjoyed garlic naan and saag and other delicious food. The best part was that it felt wonderfully warm inside as we looked out the windows at the mountains and blowing snow.

As we found from our trip to Nederland, the season for hiking in the mountains to our west is coming to a close. If we want to continue to explore over the winter, we'll have to break out the snow shoes and the skis. Just so long as we have a warm restaurant to enjoy at the end of the day, that works for me.

An old bus at the end of the trail

Eldora map

How can you not love a town with a town hall like this?

Full family photo, if you can spot Noni's foot

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


This weekend, four of my college friends and I met up to spend the weekend together. It's something we've tried to do at least once a year for the past thirteen years. In the beginning, it was easy and we got together far more than just once a year. Several of my friends lived in NYC and it was a great excuse to head up there for a fun weekend. In the past few years though, pregnancies, kids, living further apart (in places as diverse as Iraq and Nicaragua), finances and other obligations have made finding a weekend to get together more challenging. I've missed the last two get togethers because we were about to move and then because of the logistics of getting to Miami from Los Angeles for two days. This past weekend made me realize how much I've really missed my friends and how important it is to figure out a way to get together more often, no matter how challenging that is.

On Saturday morning, I left Toby in the girls in the newly transformed winter wonderland of Boulder, picked up a car through a local car share and headed to the airport to pick up Diana and Karima, flying in from Miami and Brooklyn. From there, we drove another half an hour south to meet up with Annie, who travelled from Maine, and Jen, who sent her husband and older kids to her brother's and hosted us for the weekend. When I picked Karima and Diana up at the airport, we commented on how long it had been, but within about two minutes it felt as though no time had passed at all. We had a lot to catch up on, but the laughter and the easy flow of conversation was unchanged. When we arrived at Jen's house, we all sat down for lunch together and found ourselves laughing until we were crying time and time again.

We spent most of the weekend sitting by the fire, drinking wine, eating good food (without having to get up during meals), shopping (without having to worry about a little one escaping from the dressing room), looking at old photographs, passing Jen's new baby Larson from lap to lap, talking, laughing and relaxing. We turned the tv on once to watch Project Runway, which somehow all of us had missed that week and which Jen fortunately taped, and it was so nice to be sitting on the couch, making comments about the show together. I felt like I was back in college again, minus a terrible hangover and minus some of the juicy gossip we used to enjoy in those days (though fortunately Annie brought $35 worth of gossip magazines to fill the void.)

Need I even say that the weekend was absolutely wonderful? It is always fun to catch up with good friends, but something about the weekend was more than just fun. It was therapeautic. I love my family and my life with them, but there are days when I feel defined by my role as a mother of three children. It's hard to be fun and interesting when you are mopping the bathroom floor or struggling to get three people out the door with lunches made and mittens on. Spending the weekend with my college friends, I realized they don't see me that way at all. They have known me since we were all hanging out on our dorm couch in flannels, Doc Martens and patched jeans, with husbands and children and careers a distant thing in the future. Of course, seventeen years changes people. I am different and so are they. We've all grown up and, given some of the memories we discussed over the weekend, that's a really good thing. But our ability to talk to each other about our lives and enjoy each others' company and perspectives has remained the same.

On Monday, we all headed back home to our lives and families. It was wonderful to see Toby and the girls again and I jumped back into the chaos of life with three kids again carrying the memories of a very relaxing weekend with me. It is sad living so far apart, but Diana has an apartment in Miami and I'm already looking forward to our next gathering, where we'll leave the fireplace behind and catch up with sand between our toes.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Where the wild things are

When your town cozies right up to the Rockies and miles and miles of wilderness, you get some wildlife wandering through your neighborhood from time to time. I noticed the deer as soon as we moved in. They were hard to miss, eating grass out in our front yard. They aren't the Bambi-esque deer of back east, but are a bit hardier looking, with sturdier legs and shaggier fur and I found them completely exotic. We continued to see them and then, when I counted eleven of them on the way to the girls' school one day, it occurred to me that they really aren't exotic at all. Given how often we see them, they are pretty much the neighborhood squirrels. I still like passing them by on the way to school (and probably appreciate them more than most since I'm not a gardener) but I no longer stop to stare or take pictures.

We also discovered pretty quickly that another type of animal frequently makes its way down the mountain. We naively left our trash can out the first week of living here and soon found it knocked over, with a giant crap sitting next to it. We looked at the size of the scat and, after ruling out wandering, trash-digging elephants, realized that a bear had been eating our leftover pizza. We now keep the trash can safely in the garage, but I think about the bear every time I go for a trail run and pass by the "Bear Activity In This Area!" sign.

Then of course, there's another animal. One that recently seems to be, like the deer, as common as squirrels. Only it's not really a good comparison unless you imagine big, meat-eating squirrels with sharp claws and fangs. I'm talking about our friendly neighborhood mountain lions. Like the bears, they come into the neighborhoods feeling a little bit hungry. A week ago, a woman a few blocks away watched in horror as a lion attacked, killed and then ran away with her pet cat. On Friday night, just three blocks away from us, a man saw a lion in his garden at midnight and again at 6:30 AM. And then on Saturday night, just two blocks from us, a family couldn't find their cat in their house before going to bed. The next morning, they found his fur and blood on the sidewalk in front of their house.

I feel terrible about our neighbors losing their cats, but I have to admit that part of me loves that we have bears and mountain lions wandering by our house at night. They should stay in the mountains of course. It's safer for us and for them, as repeat offenders end up shot. But I think it's just that I love the reminder that humans haven't taken over everything, that beautiful wild animals still exist. I often think of Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer, where the main character, a park ranger, describes a wild coyote as the "beating heart" of the forest. The mountain lions seem to me to be the beating heart of the mountains behind us.

Don't worry, just because I like the mountain lions doesn't mean I'm not taking precautions. We keep Mouse in at night, the girls aren't allowed to play outside without adult supervision anytime near dusk, and, while I'd like to see a mountain lion, I hope that it would be from my car or living room window. Also, I have to admit feeling a little bit concerned about Halloween. It's probably not rational, but I'm not sure that I should let Noni be a cat. Halloween is for scary costumes anyway. If she really wants to scare people walking down the street, I'm thinking maybe she should dress up as a mountain lion.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Leapin' Lizards: The brief story of Bindi

As I mentioned before, two weeks ago, Evie got a lizard for her birthday. She had been asking, begging really, for a lizard for at least a month before that, claiming that she wanted one more than anything. She was willing to help pay for it with her allowance. She would clean the cage, feed it, play with it daily. She just really, really wanted one. She needed a lizard. Please, please, pleeeeeaaassse. And so, Bindi the lizard came to live with us.

Then, the next day, Evie decided that she actually didn't want a pet lizard.

To be fair, it was probably partly my fault. I let her hold Bindi on the way home from picking her up. Evie was so excited about her new pet and the lizard actually even looked a little bit sweet lying there on Evie's shirt, so I decided that it sounded like a good idea for her to bond with her on the ride home. It wasn't until we were driving down the highway, with the girls squished together in one seat to make room for the lizard cage, and with the lizard UNDER THE BRAKE that i realized that, um, it was really a bad, bad, bad idea. Evie started screaming, then I started screaming and pretty soon you could no longer hear Michael Jackon singing Beat It for the 50th time that day. After an initial moment of freaking out, I fortunately came to my senses, put on the hazards, pulled the car over and pulled the emergency brake, avoiding the choice between a car crash or squashing Bindi.

While all safely walked away from the Bindi brake incident, Evie's relationship with her was forever altered. After Evie put her in the cage for the rest of the ride home, she decided that she pretty much never wanted to have her out of the cage again. She was scared Bindi would run away. I apologized for my mistake of letting her hold her in the car, explained that escaping in the house wouldn't be such a big deal, and watched as Toby worked with her on feeling comfortable about holding Bindi again. Still, she said she didn't want to play with her out of the cage anymore. And so, as we drove to the pet store to buy more crickets, I started wondering exactly what was the point of having a lizard.

But you know what? Sometimes life just has a way of working itself out. The next day at the gym, I ran into a friend who told me that she was just thinking of us because the night before she'd been looking for bearded dragons on Craig's List. I'm not sure if a thought bubble and lightbulb actually appeared over my head, but suddenly I found myself telling her to wait a few days before buying a lizard. When I told my idea to Evie at home, she became teary, explaining that she really loved Bindi, but then decided on her own that giving her away would be the right choice for everyone.

Today, we brought Bindi to her new home. Her new owner was a lizard last year for Halloween. (Actually a robot lizard, but that's being technical.) He took Bindi out and held her as soon as we brought her over. His mom, who is not squeamish at all about lizards, is taking her to the vet tomorrow for a check up. I can confidently say she is in a better place.

And so, we are back to being a family of two parents, three kids, and a cat. We're less exotic than we were this morning, but I have to say, I kind of like us that way.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Hangover

Evie: Mommy, why are you so sick?
Me: I hate to admit this Eve, but the truth is that I am hungover.
Evie: Oh. Is that contagious?

I am writing this entry from the couch. Lying down. I can actually type quite well this way. What I can't do is keep down food or sit up. Why? Because I am suffering from the absolute worst, God-awful hangover of my life.

It's actually been a while since I've been truly hungover. In fact, I don't think I ever really have been since having kids. I mean, I've had your run-of-the-mill wake-up-craving-bacon-egg-and-cheese hangover from time to time, but between pregnancies and breastfeeding and even trying to get pregnant, I haven't really drank that much over the past nine years. I think the last time I woke up feeling really awful was the day after our wedding, when, after being sick numerous times in the hotel room, I attended my wedding brunch still in my guacamole-smeared dress. My grandparents were slightly horrified. Come to think of it, I seemed prone to having bad hangovers whenever I had somewhere to be the next day because the time before our wedding was after our engagement party. My friend Annie had to shove me in the shower and help me get dressed the next morning so that I could attend my sister-in-law's baby shower. Which I did, wearing sunglasses the entire time. Inside the house.

Anyway, those hangovers don't even seem that bad when I consider how familiar I've become with the inside of our toilet today. Eleven hours of lying on the couch, sipping Gatorade, and not being able to keep it down. Ugh.

The lesson? When you haven't had much more than a beer or two in a night for nine years, it's probably not a great idea to jump that number up to seven. Chances are, that's just not going to go over well.

The silver lining in all of this is that the whole reason I am hungover is that we had a great night. We threw a party and had a mix of neighbors, local friends from high school and college, and friends we've met out here all come. People started arriving at 3:30 with food and drinks and, after several hours of eating, drinking, talking and watching kids run around, most people headed home around 8:00. Some of my friends from high school stayed though, putting their kids to bed so we could sit outside and talk and listen to music.It was wonderful to catch up after so many years and I'm hoping to do it again soon. Next time though, I'll be a little more sober.

As for the girls, I wasn't sure whether or not to explain my situation. For the most part, I started drinking after they went to bed. I could have very easily claimed to be suffering from a stomach flu, but decided that, since they had never seen me this way before and hopefully never would again, it was a good opportunity for a lesson. Toby and I sat down with them and talked about alcohol and how it is poisonous at certain levels. It lead to a lesson about addiction and then several questions about our organs (stomach, liver, kidneys), which had me wishing I had taken anatomy.

Fortunately, friends offered to have the girls over for a playdate so they didn't have to spend the whole day in the house with nothing to do. But when they came back, all three of them joined me on the couch and we spent several hours snuggling and watching episodes of Frances, with Noni yelling out "That's me! That's me!" whenever Frances' little sister Gloria showed up. It was nice spending time with them just lying there together and I realized that too often I am talking to them over my back while sweeping or loading the dishwasher. Another lesson from me out of the situation: to take more time just to be with my kids, without rushing around. I think I'll enjoy that even more when I'm feeling better.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Used, it's the new black

For the past few days, the winds have been blowing some cold air down from the mountains and into Boulder. After a year in southern California, I am welcoming the change in temperature, but realizing that those dusty bins of winter clothing might not hold enough to keep me warm. I have some jackets - a shell that's great for layering and a wool coat - but I started thinking that a puffy, down jacket would be my best bet on a wintry day.

Unfortunately, a quick search online showed me that North Face sells wonderful winter coats...for $200. Not quite in our start-up budget this fall. But then it occurred to me that, while I just moved from a warm climate to a cool one, there must be someone out there in the opposite situation. Someone with a coat to sell. Sure enough, a few clicks later and I was bidding for a down coat on Ebay. I lost the auction for last year's model of North Face's down coat (which ultimately sold for $50), but found one from the Limited that's heading my way right now. Cost? $18.

I'm not new to purchasing used items. We have a jogging stroller and trundle bed that are both from Craig's List in L.A. and D.C. But this fall, with a tight budget and a new house and climate, I've been appreciating the option more than ever. Toby found shelving at a used furniture store, we bought Evie's lizard and cage on Craig's list, and I bought ten cloth napkins for $5.00 at a yard sale. Right now I'm in the process of searching for furnishing for our guest room with items from Craig's List.

While the cost is what's mostly driving me to buy items this way, it's also nice knowing that I'm saving items from a landfill and preventing new items from being manufactured. When I bought the cloth napkins, I loved the idea that I'd be diminishing our need for paper napkins and saving the cloth napkins from the landfill at the same time. I only wish I'd had more money with me at the time as it'd be nice to be able to host a party with cloth napkins for every guest.

Well, I'm heading back out into the cold to pick up Evie at school. I hope my new jacket arrives soon. If anyone asks me where I got it, I'm looking forward to replying, "It's vintage."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Good-bye trikes, goodbye training wheels

Walking the girls to school in the morning, I am often struck by the number of little kids riding bikes. By little, I'm talking three and four-year-olds cruising by on their two wheelers like they've been riding forever. Boulder is a biking town - there are bike trails everywhere and it seems like pretty much everyone is training for a bike race or triathlon. Evie even asked for "biking clothes" for her birthday after seeing so many people riding around in their racing gear. So I assumed that maybe these kids had just inherited their parents' biking skills or else maybe they had spent a lot more time on bikes than most in their three short years.

But then it occured to me that at the park or on the road, I never see tricycles or training wheels. Instead, kids Noni's age learn to ride on "Like-a-Bikes" (or other similar brands), which are basically mini bikes with no pedals. They learn to balance before learning to pedal, and then just learn to pedal on a regular bike. I mentioned my observation to a friend at the park this morning and she offered to give their old one to Noni. I'm looking forward to checking it out because I think it's a great way to teach kids how to ride.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A slightly embarrassing addiction

My decision was made, made before I'd ever consciously chosen, and I was committed to seeing it through. Because there was nothing more terrifying to me, more excruciating, than the thought of turning away from him. It was an impossibility. - Bella, in Twilight

On the way to Denver, I picked up a copy of Twilight as I was browsing in the airport bookstore. I wasn't planning on buying it, but suddenly I was five minutes and ten pages into the book...and I didn't want to put it down. I knew even as I started reading it that the series is geared toward teens. Descriptions about people so beautiful they are like "airbrushed pages on a fashion magazine" are good indicators of the target audience. But still, I was hooked.

A few nights later, I was lying on my bed, completely absorbed in the book. Toby had been on the porch playing the guitar when our neighbors asked us to come over for a beer. Since the girls were sleeping, only one of us could go, so I happily continued reading while he went over to socialize. An hour later, he returned and announced that the neighbors wanted me to stop by as well. Grudgingly, I put down the book and walked across the street to greet three slightly drunk couples smiling at me from the front porch. Feeling that I needed some explanation for my disheveled hair, sweatpants and wrinkled t-shirt, I apologized for my appearance, telling them that I had just been in bed reading. When they asked the inevitable, "What are you reading?", I paused for a minute. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was on my bedside table. A respectable, Pulitzer-prize winning, grown-up book. But I decided to go for honesty and instead admitted, "Umm, I'm reading Twilight." Amused smiles all around. Turns out all three couples have daughters who are all currently reading the series. And all of their daughters are in fifth grade.

OK, so that was a little bit embarrassing. But you know what? I found out the next day that I'm actually in good company. When admitted what I was reading on Facebook, within minutes several friends well over the age of fourteen came clean with their own addictions to the series. One friend declared that her children lived in dirty clothing and ate dried cereal for a week because she couldn't put the books down. Another compared it to her childhood addiction to Sweet High Valley. (Who can forget Jessica and Elizabeth and their "perfect size 6" figures?) It was a relief to hear that I wasn't the only grown woman who was bumping into walls while walking around the house holding up a copy of Twilight.

All of this was very reassuring when today, I found myself in Barnes and Noble, unable to wait for six more weeks before New Moon is available at the library. When I asked where I could find the Twilight series, the woman at the counter directed me to the teen section. I smiled sheepishly but she had her own confession to make: "My daughter and I both love those books."

And so, if you haven't read the book yet...and if you're a woman (because there's no denying this is chick lit) might want to give it a try. It's not great writing. And even the plot, with the beautiful but often helpless main character and her strong "movie star handsome" boyfriend, reads a bit like a dated fairytale. But you may suddenly find yourself falling in love with a teenage vampire as you attempt to read while folding laundry. And that just doesn't happen every day.

Creepy crawly creatures, and it's not even Halloween

Evie at our neighbor's house in LA - with a snail on her nose

When Evie was two years old, she was terrified of bugs. The most innocent looking fly sitting on the slide at the playground would send her into hysterics. I figured that she would grow out of it one day and wasn't too worried about her phobia, but then people in the DC area started talking about the cicadas. Apparently, that spring, from the way people talked about it, millions and billions of cicadas would take over the city. One friend remembered from her childhood that she couldn't even swing a tennis racket without hitting at least one cicada. It occurred to me that if Evie freaked out at a mere fruit fly, a whole city covered in bugs would probably land her in therapy for the rest of her life.

On a drive down to visit my sister in Asheville, I explained this issue to my mom and told her that I had to do something about it and there wasn't a lot of time. We decided to write a book to help Evie understand the cicadas and, from that conversation, Cecily Cicada was born. I don't know if it was actually the book, or maybe just the months that we spent talking about the book and getting more and more excited about the cicadas ourselves, but somehow that spring Evie's fear of bugs disappeared. More than that, she became a little bit obsessed. We suddenly had to stop at every tree trunk to count the ants and soon were buying books to help us identify different beatles and butterflies.

What started as an interest in bugs has morphed into an interest in all things natural science. She has been alternately interested in bugs (mostly snails in Los Angeles), birds, dinosaurs and marine life in the last six years. Most recently, after seeing a pet lizard at her friend Desomond's house, she has taken up an interest in lizards.

I love that my daughter is interested in science, but I should give a little bit of information about myself here. See, as a mother of three daughters, I want to show them that women can do anything. Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails shouldn't be limited to boys of course - the notion that women are more squeamish is old fashioned. The other women in my family demonstrate this well. My sister had a virtual aquarium of fish tanks in her room growing up and was in charge of feeding the animals worms and crickets at her high school zoo. My mom used to fling daddy longlegs from the house as she painted and even caught the giant wood spiders that would show up in our sink in glasses to bring them outside. (I always made note of the glass she used and refused to use that glass ever again, no matter how many washings.) But as for me, if I see a spider in our sink? I do one of two things: yell for Toby or pay Evie a dollar to get it out. The thing is, 2009 or not, I am squeamish and I don't like creepy crawly things. And that includes lizards.

So anyway, when Evie's interest in lizards developed into a desire for a pet, I was uncomfortable with the idea at first, but then I figured I was safe. I decided that I would entertain her interest, even bring her around for a little research, but all along I could play the good cop. It didn't matter that the idea of a lizard gives me the creeps - I could be the mom who would offer to get Evie a lizard because Toby would definitely be the dad who said no. All of which brings me to our dinner conversation last night:

Evie: So, it's almost my birthday. Can we talk about the lizard?
Me: Well, I'd just like to put out there that I'm neutral on the lizard. No opinion from me.
Toby: What do you know about it?
Me: Well, we did a little bit of research and we found one on Craig's list for $100 with the cage. She mostly will eat vegetables, but we'll have to buy some crickets. She needs to stay warm. She will want to come out for exercise every once and a while.
(Big smile, lean back in the chair, here it comes, Toby saying she can't have one...)
Toby: And you'd really take care of it? Would you pay for the food with your allowance?
(Um, wait, what?!)
Evie: Yes, yes, yes.
Toby: Would you do extra chores to help pay for the crickets and the vitamins?
Evie: Yes
(No! No!)
Toby: OK, you can have the lizard. Lucy, how was school today?

Later, I talked to Toby about his thoughts on the lizard. He explained that, while he has no interest in a lizard, he was so impressed with Evie's dedication towards getting one and her sincerity at promising to work for it that he felt it was probably a good idea for her to have one. This made me fall in love all over again because how cute is a dad who is willing to buy an ugly lizard for his daughter just because he knows how important it is for her? And Evie waking up this morning and singing, "I'm getting a beardie! I'm getting a beardie!" also softened me a little more to the idea.

So the bottom line is, I guess we'll be introducing Bindi (named after Steve Irwin's daughter) the lizard to our house this week. I'm still adjusting to the idea, but I am proud of Evie for being the kind of lizard-loving girl that I never was and probably never will be.

As for the rest of the family, Lucy started off by saying that she didn't want the lizard anywhere near her, but then announced this morning that she would donate all of her allowance to feeding the lizard as well. And Noni? When I told her Evie was getting a lizard, she looked at me and said, "Then I get a zebra and a hippo."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

To Boulder: XOXOXOX

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog entry about my relationship with Los Angeles. It was basically a letter, or as I called it a "talk", about the way I felt about living there. It wasn't that I didn't like Los Angeles (and, as I mentioned, there were many good things and wonderful relationships that came out of our year there), it's just that it didn't always feel like a good fit. It occurred to me this weekend, as I was running up the goat trail behind our house, that if I were to write a letter to Boulder, it would probably be soaked in perfume, covered in lipstick kisses, and maybe even accompanied by a mix tape (an ipod songlist? How do highschoolers show their affection these days?) full of songs like "Rocky Mountain High". It would be totally cheesy and over the top, but what can I say? I'm in love.

I'm a sucker for love at first sight, so I was probably smitten from day one, when two fuzzy spotted fawns strolled across our backyard and the girls literally jumped up and down with excitement. But since then, it's continued to offer up some pretty nice surprises. For starters, it doesn't feel like we're new here because we already have friends from our past - some that we loved and knew well already and some that we have gotten to know much better since moving to Boulder - who have been incredibly welcoming. I feel like we've jumped right into a community, without having to work much to make it happen. I also love that the community as a whole is so progressive. For example, we walk to school everyday with our Freiker tags on the girls' backpacks, and are passed by biker after biker with "carbon-free ride" stickers on their bike strollers. We've been pretty busy unpacking on weekends, but the few bike rides and hikes we've done already have been incredible and I look at the mountains every morning thinking of all the exploring we have ahead of us.

I could go on, but you probably get the picture. We picked Boulder in part because it did seem like a good fit, so it probably shouldn't surprise me that since I've moved here, I've felt like someone handed me one of those red Staples "That was easy!" buttons. We truly miss our friends and family in other places, but already Boulder is feeling comfortably like home.

All that said, starting a new business is a risky thing to do. There's no guarantee we'll be in Boulder six months, a year from now. Fortunately, my yoga instructor is also a teacher at Naropa University - who knew Boulder had such a large Buddhist population? - so I get weekly reminders to live in the moment and appreciate the now. And I'm happy to report, the now is feeling really good.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Just your average day at our house

Some days it seems like life would be a lot easier if I worked in an office somewhere. If you are reading this from work, you may not agree. I've done it before and I know it's not always easy. You have deal with unreasonable people and sometimes people don't listen to you, but I have to ask: When you're on the phone, do your co-workers open up three bottles of lotion and spread the lotion all over the office floors, walls and windows? Or, when you leave the room to get something, do they cover themselves with paint? Some photos from this afternoon:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

You know you're child is two when... think it might be a good idea to take a break from cooking and cleaning and eat out. Instead, you leave the restaurant exhausted, covered in food, and wondering if you'll ever be allowed to eat there again. And to top it off, you didn't even taste the food because you ate it like you were a contestant in Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. decide to buy a new t-shirt because all the other t-shirts have stains on them from attempts at eating out. As you stand in your bra in the Target changing room, she slips under the door and takes off running. You grab for anything to cover you up so you can catch her because you're sure that today's the day all the kidnappers have come out to check out sales at Target. You follow her giggles and finally catch her, all the way across the store.

... she enjoys turning the LeapPad on over and over again just so that she can keep saying to it, "No, I won't press the green Go button!"

... her favorite show is Sponge Bob. (Oh, wait, that probably doesn't belong on this list. But hey, this two-year-old we're talking about is the third child and she basically doesn't pull much weight when it comes to TV remote control decisions. At first I was worried that it wasn't an educational show, but now I just figure she's learning to have a wicked sense of humor.)

... you ask her sisters, "Where's Noni?" and you hear a devilish giggle from the other room. You find her in the bathroom with all of the dental floss wrapped around her already marker-covered body. (Perhaps the wicked sense of humor isn't such a good idea.)

... you snuggle up in bed with her every night to read her stories and then she asks you to stay until she is "warm and cozy". Your heart breaks because three is next and, really, two is such a wonderful age.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sigg Update

While I don't like a company to falsely advertise, I do appreciate it when they own up to their mistake. I'm going to give the power of the internet some credit here because I think companies these days are terrified of bad press spreading like wildfire. I just shipped a big box of Siggs off to the company to exchange for some new toxin-free bottles. If you're drinking out of a Sigg bottle, I recommend you do the same since BPA can do some funky stuff like disrupt your homones and give you cancer and all that.

Send your Siggs back by filling out this form: click here
Then print out this label: click here
Can't tell if they're old or new bottles? check here

This has been a public service announcement. Now back to our regular programming...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sometimes you just can't win...

A few years ago, moms across America learned that plastics numbered 3, 6 or 7 were the new 666 and that BPA basically stood for "keep as far away as possible from my kids". We threw out our plastic Nalgene bottles and went around checking the bottoms of Tupperware containers. Then we went out in large numbers and made Sigg a household name. I have a whole cabinet dedicated to Sigg bottles. Large, medium, small, blue, red, decorated with Hello Kitty or Zebras... you name it, we have it. I started giving them as Christmas gifts to relatives who still drank from plastic water bottles, feeling I was being both environmentally-friendly and health-conscious. The girls bring Sigg bottles to school instead of a juicebox everyday, helping to reduce school waste by drinking clean water out of their reusable bottles. Oh, and I continued to buy them even after I realized that they are pain to clean and the tops are easily lost.

All of this is why, this article ( came as a very unpleasant surprise. It's one thing to inadvertantly give your kids BPA, but when you've gone out of your way and spent extra money not to? Pretty frustrating. It looks like I'll be writing some letters to try to return our Sigg bottles. But in the meantime, how do I know that we really can trust the next recommended BPA-free bottle? Sigh. Sometimes it feels like a challenge to keep my family healthy and safe.

Next up: Why organic food is bad for your brain.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


The other day, we were driving and Lucy asked about my wedding.

Lucy:Where were Evie and I during your wedding?
Evie: We weren't born yet.
Lucy: I know we weren't, but where were we?
Evie: Heaven
Lucy: Oh, yeah. I think we were playing checkers up there.
Evie: You and me? I think you're right! I think I won the first game.
Lucy: I won the second.
Evie: We tied the third. Then I had to go.
Lucy: Go where?
Evie: You know, to be born.
Lucy: Ohhh, yeah. Then I started playing with Noni. I mean, until I had to go too. Then Noni kept playing with [her friend] Ethan.

Why not, right? It's as good a theory as any I've heard...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Speaking of friends' blogs...

How did I not know that Mike was posting a great song to listen to every day?
Check out his blog:
Happy listening!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Friends' Blogs

I love it when my friends have blogs. Probably because I live way too far away from everyone, but I think it's a great way to keep in touch. Talking on the phone has proven pretty much impossible for me given the number of interruptions I always seem to have. (The girls have some sort of must-talk-to-Mommmy-while-she's-on-the-phone radar.) Facebook allows me to feel like I have some idea what is going on in a friend's life by looking at photos or hearing random short thoughts, but a blog allows more time to delve into what someone is thinking on any given day - about politics or music or her child not sleeping through the night or whatever. It's a far cry from a long talk over a cup of coffee or glass of wine, but given that most of my friends live in Maryland, D.C., New York, Florida, California, North Carolina, Maine, and other various places that are a plane ride away from Colorado (or a very loooong car ride with three kids away), it's a nice subsitute.

I have a list of friends' blogs along the side of my blog (let me know if you have one and aren't on there!), and am happy to add another one today. Diana, one of my best friends from college, now has a recipe blog.
Check it out:
Happy reading!

Monday, August 17, 2009


If you ever catch on fire, try to avoid seeing yourself in the mirror, because I bet that's what REALLY throws you into a panic. - Jack Handy

If you were sitting in a hotel room and an alarm suddenly blared through the intercom announcing "BEEP...BEEP...BEEP...Attention, this is an emergency. Do NOT use the elevators or the stairways at this time. BEEP...BEEP...BEEP...Attention, this is an emergency..." over and over again, would you:

A) Sit calmly in your chair, ignore the announcement and continue reading the paper

B) Feeling a little concerned, despite the other person in the room remaining extremely calm, open the door and look down the hall to check if anyone else was looking around the hall to figure out what was going on

C) Panic, grab your kids, turn off the lights, and hide in the bathroom, trying not to hyperventilate while imagining that a murderer has taken over the lobby and your life is in danger

D) Panic, call your sister, find out that your sister is in the bathroom with the lights off, drag your screaming kids into the bathroom, imagine that the hotel is under a terrorist attack and poisonous gas is probably about to enter your lungs any minute, tell your kids over and over that you love them until your oldest daughter says, "Why do you keep saying that? Isn't that what people say right before they die?"

If you answered A, then, like my dad, you are probably someone who can remain completely calm in the face of a storm.

If you answered B, then, like Diane, you are probably pretty normal. You feel slightly alarmed in potentially unnerving situations, but you don't panic.

If you answered C (Mollie) or D (me) then you are a total basketcase and have a far too overactive imagination. You probably should have never been allowed to be a lifeguard or to be in any other position that requires you to remain calm in the face of real disaster.

Oh, and the reason for the announcement? Someone pulled the fire alarm. Addis (whose parents were vegan for nine years and whose mom sports three tattoos) guessed that it was probably a "drunk hippie".

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Movin' Right Along

On July 29th, about 18 hours after finding out we were moving, we packed up the mini-van and began our journey to Boulder. I've driven cross country several times before and I've always loved the feeling of hitting the open road, seeing places I've never seen before. However, I've never had three wiggly kids strapped down in the back of the car on my prior road trips and suddenly had visions of myself having a complete mental breakdown on a desert road somewhere. Fortunately, my mom agreed on very short notice - as in "can you meet us there in twelve hours?" - to book a flight to Vegas and meet us for the drive. (I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have made it without her and am eternally grateful for her flexibility and willingness to help out.)

Our journey began in record heat through the Mojave National Preserve, where we stepped out of the car for a minute and could barely breathe. Noni accurately announced that she was "burning hot" and we got back into the car until we arrived in Vegas. In case you're wondering if Vegas offers the same sort of over-the-top decadence for children as it does for adults, the answer is absolutely. The girls ate dinner to the sound of gorillas pounding their chests at the Rainforest Cafe, explored all four stories of the M&M store (which sells everything from M&M underwear to M&M racecars to just plain old M&Ms), and splashed in one of the many pools at the MGM Grande. They had fun but, as is always the way with Vegas, by morning we were all ready to get out of there.

The second day of our trip was mostly spent in Utah. To break up the monotony of driving, we stopped at the Rosenbruch Wildlife Museum after our Cracker Barrel lunch, where you could "experience over 300 species!" in a "real looking setting!" Given Evie's passion for both science and animals, this seems like it would've been a perfect place for her, right? We walked into the room with those 300 taxidermied animals staring at us, and Evie burst into hysterics. My mom, Lucy and I spent the half hour walk through the musuem trying to console a screaming Evie and Noni and occasionally allowing ourselves a second to marvel at the animals.

That evening, we ate dinner at a quaint diner in Sevier county in Utah (County motto: "What happens in Sevier County, you can tell your friends about"). After all five of us had eaten our three course dinners (and I paid the whopping $34 bill - fortunately with a generous tip since our waitress later had to send me my lost cell phone....), we hit the road again, determined to make it to Green River.

By day three, the girls were over the excitement about a car trip and started going crazy in the back of the car. It was around this time that I began regretting not buying a dvd player to keep them entertained. By the time we finally arrived in Boulder, Evie and Lucy were covered in markers and Noni had screamed herself hoarse. But, we had made it! We hopped out of the car at the first hotel, only to find that the town had been taken over by both Phish Fans and Promise Keepers (an interesting mix). Four hotels later, we finally found a place to spend the night.

Mission accomplished: We made it to Boulder with our sanity reasonably intact. It was a crazy whirlwind of a trip, but when we found a house two days later, we knew it was all worth it. Tomorrow we head back to Boulder. The girls will start school on time on Thursday after waking up in their new home. (A home, by the way, with plenty of room for visitors...)