Tuesday, December 28, 2010


From Frannie to Adam: "I'm the big sister, so please, I need scream at you when I need to."

As I'm cleaning Frannie comes into the bathroom, "Phew! It smells all mechanic in here!"              
                                                            Me: "Mechanic?"
                                                           Her: "Yes, it's too mechanic-y"
                                                           Me: "You mean chemically."

Last night Frannie says to Jason: "Daddy do you want to go to the bike shop?"
                                        Jason: "We can't. It's too late."
                                       Frannie: "I know. I was just speaking to your heart."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Walking in a Wetter Wonderland

Now that's my kind of Santa. 

My Christmas Tree Theory is true

Note: I wrote this post about a week and a half ago, but was waiting to upload some pictures. Typical!
As far as my theory goes...I did cave a little.
Notice how the tree is only decorated at the top? There's my smiley little tree-wrecker right there. And Adam is thinking "Mom can I please just go back to watching Blues Clues?" 

In case you didn't know, I have a Christmas Tree Theory. I have many theories on many things, and one day in November I landed upon my Christmas Tree Theory.

My Christmas Tree Theory is this:
Every year we hear people bemoan the stress of the Christmas season. Most are resentful of the amount of gifts they are compelled and seemingly obligated to buy, mostly due to the amount of money it all ends up costing. Many people turn their anger towards Santa Claus with all of his merry gift-giving that gets played out in so many television shows, movies, and books. On every commercial and storefront. Santa is calling.

But my theory is that Santa isn't to blame at all. It's all the Christmas Tree's fault. Because it isn't the presents that go into the stocking that has everyone knocking themselves out, it's the image of the tidal wave of presents flowing from under the tree that does it. We are compelled to fulfill that iconographic image of the glistening tree with the bounty of gifts perched below.

And now I know that my theory is true. How? Because prior to today I was satisfied with the amount of gifts I had gotten the kids. But today we threw decorations all over our glorious fresh-from-Oregon-to-Starberry-Farms Christmas tree and now I'm all panicky because I feel like I didn't get the kids enough presents. And I'm thinking about how many things they'll have to open on Christmas morning and it just doesn't sound like enough. Argh. Darn tree.

I know that my kids will get lots and lots of presents. We've got quite a collection of family here. And yet, despite knowing that we'll travel from one set of grandparents and aunts/uncles to another, I am feeling that pull to really pack it in under our own tree. So that at that moment when they bound down the stairs and see that the magic really did happen and they begin to dig into their stocking, they'll also have several boxes to tear through in those early Christmas morning hours.

Every year I vow to have a more modest Christmas. And then up goes the tree...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Changes

I've intended on changing the blog format for sometime now. I know you must have been sick of the burnt orange stripe across the screen. Goodness knows I was. The only reason I've kept it for this long is because I kept thinking that I would have the blog printed and I wanted it with that design just for the memory of how things looked in the "early days". But, guess what? I still have not printed the blog, and perhaps I never will. So it is time to stop delaying making changes just because I'm waiting for something that I haven't done!

I also decided to change the blog title to match the URL. Makes things easier and is slightly more confidential.

Anywho, on with the show!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The gift of an ordinary day

I'm reading a really sweet book right now called The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's Memoir by Katrina Kenison. Here is an excerpt:

   "Our photo albums from those days are full of pictures of birthday cakes and holiday celebrations, vacation trips and family adventures, piano recitals and baseball games. But the memories I find myself sifting through the past to find, the ones that I would now give anything to relive, are the ones that no one ever thought to photograph, the ones that came and went as softly as a breeze on a summer afternoon.
    No picture, or home video, or diary entry can begin to capture the nubbly texture, subtle tones, and secret shades of a family's life as it is from one hour, or day, or season, to the next. It has taken a while, but I know it now- the most wonderful gift we had, the gift I've finally learned to cherish above all else, was the gift of all those perfectly ordinary days."

This really speaks to me, because right now my life often feels like a seemingly endless string of ordinary days. Days that are filled with moments of sweetness and moments of frustration, but the effect is more of a song and less of a rock concert. And I sometimes wonder if I will be able to recall the music of this time. Will I be able to access these subtle memories?

Just the other day I used a cloth diaper on Natalie and I haven't used cloth in a long time. When I opened the stinky diaper I was instantly transplanted to a time when I took care of baby Frannie and smelled all of her dirty cloth diapers all of the time. And it was a good scent to me (sorry if that sounds weird) and a good memory, triggered by one diaper. A dirty disposable diaper smells nothing like cloth. It's all chemically. But a dirty cloth diaper has a more natural earthy scent. In that moment it was so nice to be with my baby Frannie again with that strong memory.

I feel the same about my baby Natalie now. Will I be able to experience my baby again? I try to pay attention to the little things about her that I love so much: the softness of cheek, the flash of a smile, head back, neck exposed for tickling. Her soft brown ducky hair that she swings like a wild mop when she shakes her head "No" at me. It's that little sound of her voice when she asks for her grubby pink blanket "bie", says "more" or "tank you", and also the screeching screams that she is so good at sirening too. She can be really stubborn! And that sweet little body. I love a little baby body! The perfect size for carrying and cuddling. The squishiness and little butt, and sweet little legs and feet. Little lips for kissing and freshly sprouted teeth smiling at me. I say the words "I just love havin' a baby" out loud every day. Because I do. Every day I get to hug her and kiss her and change her little diaper and put a sweet little shirt over her head and shove her pudgy feet into sandals. Lord help me remember it all.
It's a play spider!

Adam has traded in his hot temper for a cuddly-wuddly guy. I sometimes feel like I have a Laborador in the house. Before having children I had no idea how much physical touch they need all day long. I am surprised how much of my day is spent rubbing Adam's head, scratching his back, wrestling and tickling him, having him on my lap, and yes, even nipping at his ears. Maybe I'm kind of a doggie myself? Either way he's my puppy dog boy. What kind of little boy would he be without all of the physical touch that he seems to need? Adam is growing up a little bit. I can see it in the way his face is maturing and his tone of voice is changing a little. It's a little bit deeper a little clearer. Just small things probably no one else notices. I also sometimes say that he's a little bit like a grumpy old man. I'll tell people not to pay too much attention to him, because he doesn't like it. If someone says "Hi Adam!" he gets all scowly and grumbles "stwop it" or "no!". But if he warms up to you he's as sweet as can be.
Trying on hats at M&I Surplus with Daddy

Since Frannie has been in school I am learning to let go just a little. A friend of mine told me "You can't always edit their experiences." That was helpful for me because while part of me does want to edit everything, I know that part of my job is also to step back a little and allow her to work her life out a bit on her own. So I am enjoying watching from the sidelines as she navigates friendships and her teacher and classroom. She's always been a social girl who makes friends easily, and so far it's the same. She's also my fashionista who puts together great outfits (in my opinion!) and I am looking forward to the day when she can just pick out my clothes because I know I'll finally be a good dresser when it's in her hands.

These days my ordinary days involve walks to and from school, pushing a heavy stroller with Joe's Os in the cup holders. The kids sometimes all pile in with Adam sitting on Frannie's lap and other times they all want to hop out and run. Natalie stops a lot to inspect life (this is on the way home, since going to school is all about business.) Please forgive another dog comparison but, her behavior on these walks really does remind me of my old dog Herbie with the way she goes to the same plants every time and stops to check them out. There is one that attracts a lot of bees and she loves looking at that one. She hit the same huge red rose every time she passed it until the thing finally died. And of course all the walking gets her little system going and she makes a big constitutional. Just like Herbie! (I know my dad will appreciate this since he remembers this all too clearly!) Once we're home it's homework and snacks and housecleaning and playtime and I Love Lucy time.

I really do cherish these ordinary days.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ho-hum Housework- a short post

Housework isn't particularly difficult, but it is so monotonous and tedious and I'm just sick of it. I want a RESET button. I think it was my friend Sonja who introduced me to the the magical reset button. The one that's hidden somewhere in your house and you just push that little button and "Bzzzzt!" it's all done. The laundry is all washed, folded, and put away. Every dish is in the cupboard. The toys are decluttered and neat. The floor is mopped, carpet vacuumed, sinks and counters wiped down, windows sparkling, wall smudges gone, bathrooms shine with polished toilets, fixtures, and shower walls. You open the door and the home is airy and fresh and clean. Not just the entryway or front room, but as you travel from room to room to room it is all lovingly in order with no piles anywhere.

I need to stop fantasizing about the button.

Jason fantasizes about the Lottery. I guess to relieve him of financial burdens. I fantasize about this button.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A random kvetch about weather and how we're taught

Why do schools insist on teaching that Winter means snow and mittens and snowball fights and ice skating and Spring means new growth and April showers, and Summer means hot, hot, HOT, and Autumn means rain and wind and leaves falling off of trees? I believe that this universal teaching of "How seasons work" has put us poor Californians in a constant state of being surprised and disgruntled with our weather because our weather is rarely what it's "supposed" to be. Take right now for instance. It is November and all last week it was hot. It was absolutely beautiful, but it got up to 95 degrees. We did have several consecutive weeks of rain, but now we're back to warm/hot. We had a very mild summer this year and I don't recall that it ever got scorching the way I've experienced it in the past. I also don't recall ever experiencing April showers, but June Gloom and scattered June showers I think happen almost every year. And yet we're always surprised by it! Like "Hey! It's June! It's supposed to be hot now!" Well...no it's not. It'll get hot in July. But June is overcast. Of course it never snows here. It does get brisk, but it also tends to be sunny even when it's our version of "freezing outside". This is of course, part of why the Rose Parade is such a success.

I really feel that we would all be more content and relaxed if we were taught "California seasons". Wouldn't it be nice to know, "Hey, this is what happens in New England, this whole snow, new growth, hot, rain/wind thing, but over here, this is what you can expect to see throughout the year as a Southern California resident so that you don't spend the rest of your life complaining when it is hot in November and chilly in June."

I've heard of several people who suggest that we should label California not by our weather seasons but our natural disaster seasons. Fire season, flood season, mud slide season. That's an idea. Sort of negative, but at least more accurate. In my Southern California Gardening book, the author discusses that in many ways our summer season is our "winter" in the sense that it is that harshest season for our plants to endure. While folks in New England are reading gardening books to learn how to protect their plants from winter's frost, we have to protect our plants from the intense summer heat. There are so many plants that simply will not grow here because the life cycle of the plant depends on a dormant frost period to then trigger new growth when it warms up. Because we go hot/rainy/hot/cold/hot/hot/hot/HOT all of the time, it really limits the variety of what we can hope to grow. I'm convinced this is why so many people think they stink at gardening. It is simply that we are taught nothing about our local climate. So people don't know that our summer is really our "winter enduring season" so they stick their delicate plants outside and wonder why they've burnt to a crisp. Or they stick something outside that requires a cold dormant season and then wonder why it stopped growing.

So when I see my daughter bringing home her little Kindergarten weather drawings where she's coloring a little boy's mittens and snow hat with twiggy trees and a snowman in the background...I get a little irritated. Not a lot irritated. Just a little. Why is it so mandated that we hammer home the New England bias? Must we forever be in discord with what our actual surroundings present to us? I'm all for learning about how things are in other places, but SHEESH!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Halloween Peeps

This picture was probably taken 1 hour before the stomach-flu did its thing to Frannie. But flu aside, I want to mention that we spent this holiday with my wonderful nephew and niece, Nicholas and Catie. Jason took the kids to a "Trunk or Treat" event at the Church of the Open Door on Saturday afternoon. The church members decorate their cars and the kids go from trunk to trunk "trick or treating".

The kids were here from Friday to Sunday morning. They had fun just being together as always.

Gotta throw this pic in of the sweetie on the other side of the table. 

So even though it was a sick Halloween, it was a Happy Halloween too!

Monday, November 1, 2010


"Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters..."

We had a pretty wild Halloween what with every member of the family (including Grandma Bobbie) acquiring a vomit-inducing illness. Frannie, unfortunately, got the worst of it. Here's Natalie trying to help her Sissy. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Homemade Thomas the Tank Engine Costume

For the trainiac in our lives I wanted to make him a Thomas costume. 

This is very easy to make and only requires a cardboard box, 5 paper plates, paint and glue. 

It's really fun to watch Thomas cartoons while sitting inside your very own train eating pretzels!

Here's the whole Halloween crowd. 

(Note: Even when I offer to make her something, Frannie still wants to wear a princess dress up. This is fine by me!)

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bringing the Homeschool Philosophy into the Public School

Welp, my Frannie has been in Kindergarten now for about a month and a half and so far so good. I like her teacher and especially like the way the staff works together as a whole. Everyone is really friendly and I feel like they care about the kids. Frannie is enjoying school and everyday I get to hear about some silly thing that happened on the playground.

Deciding on where to send her to school or to homeschool was a very difficult decision for me. For now I'm happy with my decision because I can see that she is learning and that she is getting enough activity every day.
Although I'm not homeschooling I guess I still think of myself as a homeschooling parent. I like that the school is providing the curriculum and the pacing for what she learns. (I had a tendency to push her too hard with things and then back off completely. I was never very good at doing just a little every day.) But I still feel like her education is my responsibility and it is my responsibility to supplement what the school is doing with lessons geared toward her specific needs.

For example part of her homework is to trace her name 3 times a day on a laminated paper. Through watching her do this activity I can see that she often forms her letters in wonky ways, even though the end result looks pretty normal. So in addition to her writing her name, I have her practicing writing the letter of the week that the class happens to be working on. I can see that this is helping her to learn to trace the letters in the right direction and order so that she doesn't have a problem later on when trying to learn cursive.

The other thing we've been doing is making little books using her sight words. Since Frannie likes to take pictures I developed a bunch of pictures that she's taken. Then we take two of her sight words to make sentences. Her first book was I See (I see my baby sister, I see my mom.) and the second was This Is (This is my hula hoop. This is a flower. etc..). When I did the first book I just had her tell me what to write, but in the second one I had her write the sentences herself and just do her best with the words. There are lots of misspellings but I'm really proud of her because I can see that she's spelling phonetically and that's an important part of learning to write.

Here is a link to the tutorial where I learned how to make the paper books. 

Anyway, I'm actually having a lot of fun helping out with her school activities and doing other projects. The school schedule has definitely provided a structure to our day that was pretty badly needed and it provides her with a lot of activities that I don't have to think up myself. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

More Hairstyles

I'm still having fun with Frannie's hair in the morning. Here are some pics!

It's fun having a girl :)

Miles and Parker come for a visit

About a week before Bryan and Stefanie's wedding I got a call that my Aunt Carrie, who lives in Washington state, would be coming down for the ceremony. I quickly offered her a place to stay and within a few days we grew from a family of five to a family of eight! (Plus occasionally a family of ten when my mom and dad were over.) It was so fun for me to have my aunt here and to see her little boys Miles and Parker again. The kids all love playing together so the house was a bit of a madhouse at times. Call me crazy but stuff like that just makes me happy. Maybe it is because I didn't grow up seeing my extended family very often, so when I watch Frannie, Adam and Natalie playing and having so much fun with their cousins I feel so glad that they will have some really awesome childhood memories and relationships.
Frannie (5), Miles (4), Adam (3), Parker (3), Natalie (1)

The other thing that made me glad?
Well, I am SUPER glad for the July Home Makeover Extravaganza. It felt so good to be able to instantly offer up my house as a place to stay when she called. Even though the one month of inconvenience was a pain in the butt at the time, it was worth having it all done and now we can just enjoy the house. Also, because we had to move all of the furniture out of the bedrooms when the upstairs got carpeted, we used that opportunity to turn the 3rd bedroom into a real bedroom instead of a mish-mash office/bedroom/playroom space. Having already moved all of that office furniture out of there and Adam's twin bed in, made Carrie's visit super-easy to prepare for. Whew!

My Aunt Carrie is super great and I love having her around. She is very down-to-earth and funny. She's a no-nonsense kind of a mom who is quick to keep the boys in check and also offers tons of love and snuggles too. The boys are really really sweet kids and if there is one thing that lifts my spirits it is knowing that, at least in my family, everyone is doing such a good job raising their kids! (They're all older than I am so I have a lot of good examples to strive for.) I may not see everyone very often, but when I do see them it's nice to know that the Marr ladies are doing it right. (Well, last names never stay the same with women so it's Campbell-King, Marr-Eckhart, Marr-Byrne, Borkman-Flad, and Borkman-Reed.)

Can't wait to see her again! Next time it will probably be us flying to Seattle. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bryan and Stefanie's Wedding

My brother married his long-time girlfriend Stefanie on Friday, October 1st and I'm very happy for them both!

Dad was Bryan's best man, Jason was a groomsman, Frannie was a flower girl, and Adam was the ring bearer. 

Getting ready

I love this father-son picture. My dad has always been there for Bryan since he was a preemie baby boy and his wedding day was no exception. 
You'd never know from this picture how much Adam truly hated this suit when I took him to try it on at the store (pouting/crying).  I thought we'd have to have cousin Miles do the job instead. Fortunately Daddy worked his magic (I think he can get Adam to do anything) and not only did Adam do the job of ring bearer perfectly, but he wore that suit all evening long. 
The Adam whisperer- Father and Son

Before the Ceremony

Pretty and sweet. I decided to do five cornrows in her hair the night before and take them out to give her hair some curl. I wasn't brave enough to attempt any complicated braiding or twisting styles since I'm still pretty inexperienced and the finished product often has bumps (which is ok for school, but not a wedding). Curls are a sure thing. Since her hair is stick-straight and won't hold curl well, this is the best way to give her a nice style that would last the evening.
Owning the red carpet

The Girls' Side: From Lewis, to Marr, to Castillo
Flower girl and Ring Bearer

The Ceremony
The night before the wedding I was told I'd be walking down the aisle with the kids. I guess during the rehearsal they were getting distracted with the long walk and right-hand turn. I'm very glad I chose a dress that matched their outfits!

I got teared up at this part. Weddings really are so beautiful. 

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Marr!


Awww...ain't we cute
This'll probably be our Christmas card

It was impossible to get a good picture of all three. Natalie is a real busy bee. 

Better than bunny ears
Stefanie and her family wore checked Vans in memory of her brother who passed away

I love this glamor girl photo

I love this one too. You can see Doreen there on the right. She was their photographer and she did an amazing job! (I've seen a few of her pics already.) I'm super proud of my sis!

The Reception
Stefanie is in love with the Nightmare Before Christmas Jack and Sally characters so she decided to make this the theme of the wedding. It was a very lovely elegant wedding with lots of little tasteful accents. Here is the piece de la resistance: The Cake!

The colors for the wedding were black, white, and red. Here are her cute "party favors" that were at each place setting.

M &Ms with their names and picture printed on!
Hershey chocolate bar with this wrapper
One of my favorite parts of the reception was watching the both of them do a little choreographed wedding dance. It was very adorable. They did a simple night-club two step and did a great job!

My other favorite part was just seeing so many family members that I haven't seen in a very long time. 

At the top of the list has to be my aunt Carrie and her boys Miles and Parker. At the last minute they decided to fly in from Washington state and they stayed with us! Frannie and Adam have been in kid-heaven for the past three days. I have loved spending time with my aunt and having her at the house. 

Diane, Donna, Viree, Vicki and Uncle Jack
These are my second-cousins (and Uncle Jack). I don't get to see them very often since Diane and Donna live in Georgia and Viree lives in Washington. I love them all though. They are all really good moms and have good kids and families. It's kind of fun for me too when they are around because we look alike (especially me and Diane) and there is something cool about being around the people who share your same features.

Top: David and Michael Byrne (Viree's boys) Jason Eckhart
Bottom: Trevor Eckhart (Vicki's boys)

My Aunt Terri and Uncle Jack really know how to cut a rug. They are good little swing dancers.

I am hoping to upload some more family photos once I see what my dad took. I hope to get one of Alan and Ryan and Uncle Jim and Gloria and Sherry. I don't know if anyone got one of Rhiannon :/

So that's it for now. I'm tired. Uploading stuff takes forever!!