Sunday, December 30

Ziggy - The Newest Hart

**
We've added a little extra crazy to Casa de Looney Toons with the addition of Ziggy, a 2-year old playmate for 9-year old Ollie.
**

Thursday, December 27

Conversing with Ray...

**

Mama?

Yes?

Mama?

Yes?

Mama?

What is it, Rachel?

teehee-haha

Mama?

What?

Mama?

What?

HAHAHAAAAHAA!

Mama?

Yeah?

Mama?

What?

Mama?

Yes?

HAAHAAHAHAHA!! HAHAHA!!

Mama?

I'm done with this game honey.

Mama?

I'm done with this game.

Mama?

I'm done honey.

HAHAHAAAHAAAAA!! HAHAHAAA!!

**

Monday, December 24

Merry Christmas 2007

**
Merry Christmas 2007 with Best Wishes for a Bountiful New Year!

This was a year of new beginnings and big changes. It seems to be our way – just as things begin to get easy and comfortable, we mix it up and start new adventures.

So, after living a few years in maintenance (read: survival) mode (those of you with small children understand), 2007 was a year of great milestones and changes. And, with all that’s happened in the past 12 months or so, we decided it was time to update our faraway family and friends.

The biggie this year was Casey's decision to return to the world of suits, commutes, deadlines and take-out lunches. Yes—after five years filled with giggles, sniffles and playdates—she is now back in the adult world of paychecks and office politics.

And so, after 5 years off, Casey (in surprisingly short order) landed a plum position as communications manager with a great team at Kaiser Permanente. BIG hugs to Dave, Deanna G., Julia, Nadine and everyone who supported and cheered Casey on through this process. It was a bit stressful at times, and you were all so great in helping her reach this goal.

Casey's new adventure also meant BIG changes for the girls. After life at home with Mommy, they’ve ventured out into the great big world too. Rachel and Alex are now in a wonderful new school that they absolutely love. Miss Melissa, Miss Heather and Miss Donna mean more to us than you can imagine. The girls love the school and their teachers, and without such amazing caregivers, Casey wouldn’t have lasted a week away from her babies. (Some days it’s still a bit touch and go.)

Throughout the year, and as the family readied for the big change, we packed in tons of fun including a visit with Grandpa and Grandma Casey in Tucson, our yearly adventures in Georgia with Dave’s family, a quick trip to Portland to see Papa and Sherrie, the magic of Disneyland, our first family camping trip that lasted all of 18 hours, and the cutest little toddler dance recital ever!

And Daddy? He accomplished what can only be called a marathon—the Rock'n'Roll Marathon. He ran 26.2 miles in just 4 hours and 13 minutes! We are VERY proud of him. With just six months of training—less 6 weeks due to injury, little sleep the previous week due to nerves and a virus that he caught from Rachel earlier in the week—he did it!

Oh yes, and did I mention that after running the marathon Sunday morning, he took the girls out for pizza (I needed a nap!), and he took the red-eye flight that same night for a week long biz trip to Wisconsin?? Did I also mention he is a little crazy? Why did no one tell him before now that 26 miles is an INSANE distance to run?

Gotta love that man!!

Oh and let’s not forget Rachel’s BIG milestone of the year. NO MORE DIAPERS!! Oh yes, our little rock star is now potty trained. (Again, those of you with small kids get the hugeness of NO MORE DIAPERS – EVER. Or at least not until Dave and I need them…HA! Payback, girls! Remember, we changed yours and ‘never’ complained!)

As summer turned to fall and Rachel turned to three, Casey started her second job. We knew that returning to work after 5+ years would be an enormous adjustment. But, seriously, that first week was NUTS!! Aside from the expected, we were hit with several unanticipated anomalies that sent us into a bit of tailspin.

The Summary:

* A fender bender and insurance fraud,
* a once-in-a-decade crisis at the office,
* two very sick kids,
* and a trip to the emergency room.

It was CRAZY, but somehow we survived. (Click here for details)

And just as things began to settle down again, the wildfires hit San Diego and created chaos for the entire community. Thanks to my sister and B-in-L, Jane & Dave, we had a wonderful place to stay and our girls and our dog Ollie had a great time and no stress. ("Sleep-overs at Auntie Jane's are fun!")

And thanks to Daddy Dave, our girls & Ollie were happy and well cared for and Casey was able to go to work (LOOOONNNGG shifts in the emergency ops center) without worrying about my family.

THANK YOU - THANK YOU - THANK YOU. You all ROCK!!

And thanks for all the calls we received from people who were worried about us.

Things are now settling back into a new normal, and we’re still finding the time, amazingly, to cram all the love we can into the fraction of time that we, now both working parents, have to spend with our kids. We’re thriving and hope you are too.

Hugs to all of you this holiday season! We love you and wish you well.

**

Sunday, December 23

The Governator & The Virus

**
Good rule of thumb for a media relations professional: Don't hurl on the Governor. Thankfully, I have yet to break that rule. But on Thursday, December 20, I came awfully close.

On Wednesday evening, at just about dinner time, the call came in from the Governor's office inquiring about holding a press conference at the local Kaiser Hospital to promote his health care reform bill. So, after ridiculously in-depth consideration (like we were ever really going to decline), the wheels were set in motion and preparations began.

The prep was CRAZY, involving multiple departments doing everything from spraying down the driveway and sprucing up the garden to painting stairwells and hanging new signage.

As the hospital kicked into high gear so did the flu virus that had taken refuge in my body. And, just as old Arnold was about to arrive, my stomach started churning and doing some crazy little flips. I knew I was in trouble. I had the horrible vision of the news headlines, "Local PR Woman Pukes on the Governator!"

Not good.

That thought alone kept my stomach settled just enough to get through this...


and a celebratory beer and nachos with the team for a job well done, but not quite enough to get me all the way home. Bye-Bye nachos!!

The next day we mailed our Christmas cards, sans our holiday letter.

**

Oh - yes and BTW:
  • Health care reform - good thing.
  • Puking - bad thing.
Just in case you weren't clear.

**

Thursday, December 20

It's Not Nice to Hurl on the Governor...

**

Are you here looking for our Christmas letter?

Yeah? Well, there has been a short delay, which we're blaming on the Govenator and a stomach virus.

More later...

**

Thursday, December 13

The Equation...

**

I once wrote, when I was contemplating my return to work, that I get to matter in the family equation too—that I get to count. Being a good mom does not mean giving all of oneself over to your children. I was clear that it is important that I get to have a me that is more than 'just' (OK - shockingly poor choice of words) a mom.

So, I returned to work as a way of 'mattering' in the family equation and the larger world equation. It wasn't that I didn't feel that I was making a difference, because for my children, I was making the world. But there needs to be something...

More? No.

Different. Something of me that is for me that matters beyond familial constraints.

HA! How is that for vague? But it is what it is - vague and more than a little ambivalent.

Hmm.

And, as always, with every (vague) answer comes more questions. Was all that simply me rationalizing my decision to work? The answer to that question depends on when you ask me, but I can tell you that the transition back to work has been a bit brutal.

Not, apparently, for my kids. They LOVE school, adore their teachers and can't get enough of their new friends. Not for DH, who is "happy if I'm happy" and thrilled with the new HDTV that my added income enabled us to buy.

No. Not for them.

But for me, after what seems like years of transitions and adjustments, this has been tougher than I ever imagined. And for very different reasons than I anticipated.

My heart actually, physically, hurts when I think:
• of the time that I'm missing with my girls.
• about our worlds—no longer revolving solely around each other.
• of the giggles that we no longer share, and worse yet, that they now share with another.
• of the scrapes, bruises and hurt feelings that I'm not there to sooth.

It's not about guilt. It's about loss. I, we, have lost something or at least a piece of it. Something important and precious.

Have I made the wrong decision? Are we headed down the wrong path?

I'm not ready to say either way, just yet. I just know that this transition is HARD and I MISS MY BABIES.

**

Sunday, December 9

Tidbits o' Kidlets

**
After my morning shower, I come out to the living room to find the girls reading Christmas stories with Daddy. They're also playing with the little Fisher Price nativity scene that Papa brought last year. (I'm pretty sure the wise men didn't really sleep in the palm trees - but you never know.)

"MOMMY!" they yell in unison.

"The girls really want to do the *T*R*E*E*."

"TREE!"

"Wh...? Alex?"

"TREE! Daddy said tree-spelled tree. Can we PLEASE help decorate the big tree?"

And just minutes later...

"Dave. Do you know what's in the mountains today?"

"*S*N*O*W*?"

"SNOW!!" Alex shrieks.

Hey that was pretty good - especially given that 'it never snows in Southern California,' and the last snow in her life was back in Virginia, before Rachel was born.

And then it hits us. The whole communicate by spelling in front of the kids thing is gone! No more easy parent code. At 4 & 1/2, she's on to us! Too quick for our own good.

**

"Mommy? Mommy?" my breathless little Rachel whispers as she wonders into the office 15 minutes AFTER we've put the girls to bed.

"Rachel? What is it?"

"Mommy. Mommy?" she seems very concerned about something.

"Yes?"

"You need to put the gate up in front of my door so I won't get up . Come put the gate up so I won't get out of bed."

And with that, she grabs my hand and takes me back down the hall, points to the gate and says, "There it is Mommy. You forgot." (Note that we don't usually use the gate.)

As I bite my tongue to keep from laughing out loud, Rachel watches me install the gate. She then gives me a kiss and is off to bed without whimper. Not to be seen or heard from again until morning.

She is a laugh riot!

**

Saturday, December 8

The 'Meaning' of Christmas?

**

So I'm hearing about a new 'trend.' One in which the story of Santa, as told to children, is considered 'lying.' And -- oh that's baaad. You should NEVER lie to your kids or 'trick them. Or so say the perpetrators of this new trend.

Seriously, people.

Get a grip! It's fun, it's magic - don't deny the kidlets this. (And who among us has ever said, "No. I'm sorry honey. We don't have any ice cream - only to dig out the pint and wolf down a bowl of Hagan Daas once the kids are snuggly, tucked into bed?)

Life is anything but literal. Can you imagine a child's life without fairy tales or Dr. Suess?

Santa is just another fairy tale - nothing more. Let's all just settle down and re-experience our youth through the eyes of our children. From my experience, it's sometimes better the second time around!

**

What to do...

**

What do you do in a game of tug-of-war when you are the rope?

Hmmm?

**

Thursday, December 6

Seriously, could they be any cuter?

**
Wow! Preschool pictures have changed A LOT since I was a kid.

And - no. I'm not telling you exactly how long ago that was. But somewhere along the way, photographers figured out that moms are suckers for photos.

Shhhh, don't tell Dave.

**
(If it's not running, click on the 'X' in the upper right corner to start the slide show)



**

Tuesday, December 4

Quote for the Day...

**

This is one for my girls...

"No boy is worth crying over and the one who is won't make you cry!"
~ anonymous ~

Find someone like your Daddy, and you'll be just fine.

**

Friday, November 30

Black Friday

**
True to our Thanksgiving Holiday tradition, we ventured into the depths of proverbial hell—the mall—on Black Friday. Our mission: Christmas photos.

And for the second year in a row, knock on wood, it was a hassle free morning;

The girls got to see Santa,

Mommy got the Christmas photos she wanted,


and Daddy just came along for the ride.

**

Wednesday, November 28

Thanksgiving '08

**
Thanksgiving at the Hart House was different this year. It was just the four of us. It was nice and simple and, most importantly, fun. We served Cornish Game hens and the girls each got their own bird to stuff.




Alex and Rachel helped Daddy make pies, and they helped Mommy make her traditional orange cranberry sauce. They had a great time and the food was yummy, especially the birds (email me for the recipe—it’s really delicious).

The four day holiday was GREAT. I got the taste of being a stay-at-home mom again and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. When Monday finally came, and it was time to go back to work and school, I wasn’t ready to go get back to the ‘real world.’

**

Giving Thanks...

**
Oh – what a difference a year makes. So many things change and so many things stay the same.

Last year we started a family Thanksgiving tradition of making our lists of the things we are thankful for. A lot of what was on my list last year remains on my list this year—and probably always will. But there have been some pretty big changes too.

This year my focus is still on my girls and Dave—with a greater appreciation of the time that we have together. Stealing extra time wherever we can to cuddle and laugh and play. Now that I’m working and the girls are in school, our time together is more precious than ever.

I also have a much greater appreciation for Dave and all that he’s done during the past five years to support our family—financially and emotionally (you know, that crazy wife of his. Oh, wait. That’s me.)

I was always clear about the challenges of being a stay-at-home-mom, but didn’t understand, until now, what it means to be a working parent. And one who wants to be involved, and not outsource childrearing duties. (How in the world can we possibly cram all that love into the fraction of time that we, now both working parents, spend with our kids?) And my appreciation is all that much greater because he never asks for recognition. Thanks Dave for all you’ve done and continue to do.

My 2008 list of things I’m grateful for:

* Options, 2nd chances, and (relatively) smooth transitions
* The freedom to choose my own path and change my mind along the way
* The support of my husband, especially when I change my mind along the way
* Bedtime cuddles with Rachel
* Early morning cuddles with Alex
* The Little Country Preschool
* Giggles with my girls
* Dave—who still does way more than his fair share
* The unconditional love of our dog, Ollie
* The strong, protective relationship between Rachel and Alex
* Rachel’s little girl voice and the way she says “Daddy Duuude”
* Alex’s ability to make friends with anyone and her independent, leader-type personality (this child is NOT a follower)
* That Rachel’s hearing impairment isn’t an impairment
* That we’ve faced so (relatively) few challenges with our kids
* That both our girls are bright, socially adept, kind little girls—but are also just tough enough
* A few, stolen, quiet minutes alone – more than that and I get a little antsy
* Babysitters
* 2nd paychecks

What are you thankful for?? I'd love to know....,

(Click here to see last year’s list)

**

Dave, what are you thankful for?

**
(A man of few words)

* My terrific family -- my beautiful wife, adorable daughters, and our trusty dog
* My job at SDSC -- it's been a pretty good gig for the past 12 years
* My home in Southern California and the fact that it survived the 2007 fires
* And a pretty great life all around. I have a lot to be thankful for!

**

Rachel, what are you thankful for?

**
(Unedited and unscripted)

* Balloons
* My family
* My teacher, Miss Melissa (Something inside me breathed a sigh of relief that she listed her family before her teacher. She LOVES her teacher and sometimes I find myself envious of the time they have together.)
* My house
* Lollipops
* Eating (we made these lists over dinner),
* And, all my other stuff!

**

Alex, what are you thankful for?

**
(Unedited and unscripted)

* My family
* My pets (Ollie of course, but she was also including our two little fishes)
* My food
* Pictures
* Santa
* Our plants (random)
* My teacher
* My new shoes
* Our house
* And, balloons!

**

Monday, November 26

Hmmm.

**

Somtimes I wonder...

"Why is that frisbee getting bigger?"

... and then it hits me.

**

Sunday, November 25

Quote for the Day

**

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

~Gandhi~

**

Tuesday, November 20

Out of the Mouths of Babes...,

**

It's after bath, after 'the naked run,' and mommy is just finished getting the girls dressed for bed. Alex has picked out her book and, giggling, she calls out to Daddy in the next room...

"Daddy! Come read this book or you're FIRED!"

LOL!!

**

Sunday, November 18

My Soft Place to Fall

**
FALL

oh look there you go again
puttin on that smile again
even though i know you've had a bad day
doin this doin that
always puttin yourself last
a whole lotta give and not enuff take
but you can only be strong so long before you break
so..

fall

go on and fall apart
fall into these arms of mine
i'll catch you every time you
fall

go on and lose it all
every doubt every fear
every worry every tear
i'm right here
baby fall

forget about the world tonight
all thats wrong and all thats right
lay your head on my shoulder let it fade away
and if you wanna let go it's okay

fall

go on and fall apart
fall into these arms of mine
i'll catch you every time you
fall

go on and lose it all
every doubt every fear
every worry every tear
i'm right here
baby fall

&

hold on
hold on
hold on
to me

**

~ written by: clay mills/sonny lemaire/shane minor ~

**

He is my soft place to fall and, at the very same time, he is my rock.

**

Tuesday, November 13

An 'Ah-Ha!' Moment

**
'They' say it happens to most every parent. It's why people continue having kids. It's why no one really tells you the truth about those first few weeks or months. It's the mind-meld caused by all the good memories created since, and the heart exploding love that colors every decision of your life.

Looking through baby pics and thinking, "Ahhh, what a sweet time. We were first time parents with our brand new baby. Look how adorable she is," or "Look how happy we are - you can just see it and she is soo beautiful."


And that's when I realized it. I had the 'Ah-Ha!' moment.

Yes, this is it. The moment that you begin to forget the reality of it all and it turns to nostalgic longing for a romanticized version of the truth: The long, heart wrenching fertility battle, the early term bleeding and accompanying gut wrenching fear, labor and giving birth (though for me - this was the easy part), the barracuda breast feeder, the longer then usual recovery, the raw loneliness of being away from family and friends, the postpartum depression ... Never happened - none of it. It's all fading away to become just the beauty of my baby and the miracle that she ever came to be.

**

Monday, November 12

Quote for the Day

**

We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson -

**

Friday, November 9

Halloween at the Hart House

**
This year we had two witches

and Sheriff Dave, with Alex as Jessie AND Bullseye from the Toy Story movie.

VERY cute and not a princess in the bunch!

**

Halloween at the Hart House is a month-long affair,
complete with a visit to the pumpkin patch

Baking and decorating Halloween cookies
(OK - Mostly eating the decorations)

Carving and painting pumpkins
Decorating the house (inside & out) and lighting the Jack-O-Lanterns

Trick-or-treating

And the annual Hart Halloween Bash!
Postponed a week due to the fires and lingering air quality issues caused by all the smoke - but a great time was had by all!!



It really was GREAT fun! (And just a bit tiring too.)

**

Monday, November 5

Transitions

**

From sippy cups and giggles to deadlines and paychecks.

This transition has been rough - as expected.

**

Saturday, November 3

She's 4 & 1/2 and a GENIUS !!

**
And, she can now tie her very own shoes!!



**

Thursday, November 1

We're Hardest on Ourselves

**

After the fires, I may have questioned my contributions in the EOC, but as a team - WE ROCKED!!

**

A note from higher up...

Kudos to Emergency Communicators;

I wanted to let each of you know that all week I have heard from many individuals about what a great job the communications team did last week during the Wildfires - compliments for those of you in San Diego and those supporting in region and program offices. Ben XX, Jerry McXX and Diane G-XX (list o' big cheeses) are among those who have said something in meetings, sent an email, etc. noting your efforts.

Rodger, Molly and Casey - you all were amazing -- fast thinking and fast acting - along with great stamina and an ongoing sense of humor.

Everyone, whether in Oakland, Pasadena, San Diego or in your car, was on the ball, willing to stay until the job got done, figure out how to get the job when obstacles presented themselves - and work a bit outside of the box to ensure that members and patients had many means to get to the information they needed.

Thank you - I am privileged to work with such outstanding individuals.
Diana

Diana XXXX
Director, Communications and Media Services
Southern California Region Public Affairs
COMPANY


**
Hmmm. That feels good.

**

Tuesday, October 30

Open House at the Fire House

**
How crazy is it that just a week before the fires started, we went to this great event at the local firehouse. The girls LOVED it, and now they know who it was working so hard to protect our community during those scary days during the fire storm.

They got to ride in the fire trucks and even sit in the front seat with Daddy.

There is nothing cooler than a fire truck for little ones.

"Wow! Mommy - these trucks are BIG!"

Again - we were among the lucky ones. No damage - just inconvenience and more stress than usual but no lasting impact. My kids are still smiling and safe. My heart breaks for those who aren't.

**

Monday, October 29

All We'll Ever Need...

**
Is each other...
(Photo credits: Daddy Dave, AKA: Mr. Awesome)

This was just the tonic I needed after the hell of last week. There is something so innocent and special about bathing with my babies. It refreshes me and seems to connect us all together again. Just me and the girls - playing and singing in the tub. It's great fun and a sure cure for shared, cumulative stress.

And now, it's all good again.

**

Sunday, October 28

A Picture & A 1,000 Words

**
This was the moon on Thursday Morning
as I was heading off to work at 4:30am.
It was AMAZING.


The soot and ash reached all the way to the ocean and created tragically beautiful sunsets.

The reflections of light, filled with ash and soot.

I love the composition of this photo.

**
I'd love to take the credit - but as I was either in the EOC, with my family, or sleeping - these photos are not mine but borrowed from a variety of sources. I thought I'd share a few of my favorites because they are amazing, strangely beautiful and apart from the expected.

**

Click here to view more photos...

Saturday, October 27

Safe, Sound and Oh So Weary After the 2007 Wildfires

**
This past week has been the craziest time since the fall of 2004 when Dave and I (weary and post-partum) moved cross-country with a 6-week old, a 19-month old, and a dog.

The difference is that the craziness then was happy crazy. We were coming home. This time it was scary crazy with fires raging and consuming my hometown, and a new job that requires 10 - 12 hour shifts during emergencies. It was all so overwhelming and exhausting that by Thursday morning I simply cracked.

And, truth be told, my family and I had it pretty well given the state of our community. We evacuated early to my sister's house (beautiful, comfortable, safe and great fun for my kids and dog). Dave's work simply closed up for the week, so he was able to stay home and care for the girls while I worked some CRAZY hours. Rachel and Alex treated it like a little vacation 'sleep over' at Aunt Janie's. They had a ball in a house w/ my sister's 6 cats, her dog, Chewy and our Ollie. And we were never truly worried about our own house - though we were very worried for some of our closest friends.

In the end, though, it was a tremendous strain to be away from my kids and Dave during this crisis. Working in the EOC at such a critical time with just 4 weeks on the job was almost overwhelming. Things were moving so quickly and, in the beginning, I wasn't too clear on my role. Unfortunately, I inherited a media relations program that is virtually non-existent. Consequently, I was less effective in my role as external communications manager than is really acceptable in a situation of this magnitude. The aftermath of that has been more frustrating than you can imagine. After being apart from my life and working crazy hours w/out breaks or lunch (which was catered in so no one 'needed' to leave) I wondered "Is this worth it?"

Apart from my family and my sister's generosity, one of the real blessings in all of this has been the team I work with. If it hadn't been for the camaraderie, strength and professional excellence of my boss and co-worker (& all the people in the EOC) I think I may have quit sometime Thursday morning.

And now it's over and we're all just mopping up. At home we're spraying down the house and sweeping up the ash that has gotten into every nook and cranny of everything. The entire county now smells like an old campfire that's been doused with water. At work, we're sending out our final communications and trying to identify what went right (most of it) and identify the holes (unfortunately - a few big ones) and get back to 'normal.'

In all, more than a dozen fires have raced across more than 503,000 acres - the equivalent of 786 square miles. At least three people - and possibly as many as seven - have been killed by flames. About 1,700 homes have been destroyed, damage estimates have surpassed $1 billion, and the fires are still burning.

**

What's Happened to Our Home Town?

**
It's difficult to get a sense of all that has happened and the magnitude of the 2007 Wildfires. KPBS has posted pics of some of the devastation. To see the photos click on the link below.

http://www.flickr.com/groups/sandiegofires/pool/show/

FYI: If you place your curser on the left or right sides of the browser frame, arrows will appear and let you move forward or back, manually, among the photos.

**

Friday, October 26

Fire in The Life of A Friend...

**
Hi Casey,

I've been thinking about you and your family!! I've been meaning to call, but ...

I've never been so scared in all my life. Went to bed on Sunday night around 1:00am, was on google maps thinking there is no way it could come to my neighborhood by morning, but still slightly unsure...packed up a few things (not really much), and then woke up at 4:30 by the grace of God and turned on the news...said North East Rancho Bernardo is now evacuating...I freaked, looked out the window and saw flames coming down the hill at my apt and complex!!!!!!!!

I went into panic mode and started throwing stuff in my car and thought with one way in my complex and one way out with all the people...I said forget packing my car and just get the heck out of my complex.

No body was getting up!! It was crazy! People were honking their horns, knocking on people's doors, etc. it was very scary. I thought for sure that my complex was gone.

I got a hold of my mom as I was leaving and she and I met in PQ at a friends and then they evacuated so we went to Chula Vista to another friends. I was awake all that night (Monday) watching flames come over Mt. Miguel...I was a mess, couldn't eat for 3 days and just stressed.

Finally found out my place and my mom's was OK! I still can't go home, so I'm now getting frustrated because I'm exhausted...

Anyway, it will all be ok and I'm just happy to be safe and have a home to go to...

I'm glad you all are OK... Thanks for checking in!

**

Thursday, October 25

Home Again - SD Fire Evacuation

**
We're home again. Safe and sound and exhausted - but no lasting damage to property or person. It's been a crazy, crazy week.

Thanks to my sister and B-in-L, Jane & Dave, we had a wonderful place to stay and our girls and our dog Ollie had a great time and no stress. ("Sleep overs at Auntie Jane's are fun!" )

And thanks to Daddy Dave, our girls & Ollie were happy and well cared for and I was able to go to work (LOOOONNNGG shifts in the emergency opts center) without worrying about my family.

THANK YOU - THANK YOU - THANK YOU. You all ROCK!!

And thanks for all the calls we rec'd from people who were worried about us. It was great hearing from you and I promise I will give you a call once the dust (ash) has settled.

xoxxo

**

Monday, October 22

Evacuation Notice

**
Hi all -

It's a crazy day.

We've just rec'd our evac. orders caused by the Witch fire in Northern San Diego County. We can't see any flames but the smoke is fairly thick. We're off to my sister's house near the beach and I'm sure that we (and our house) will be fine. Hugs to all of you who are also in the midst of this fire threat.

Alex and Ron - Congrats to you and I hope you're all doing well. We've been thinking of you and your new baby w/ extra special thoughts.

**

Tuesday, October 16

Changes...

**

Because of some questionable things that have been happening with a friend's blog, I'm thinking of making this a password protected site. I'm going to include the list of friends and relatives that check out our site from time to time and some that may want to sometime.

If, by chance, you've been following along and enjoy reading what's posted here - I'll be happy to include you in that list. Please send an email to kcjunked@hotmail.com and let me know. I'll be happy to add your name to the permissions list.

What do you think? Are permissions the best way to go or ??

**

Monday, October 15

Things I miss...,

**
Alex crawling into bed with me at 6:00 a.m for a 30-minute snuggly snooze before joining her Daddy for breakfast.

No more lazy mornings, sleeping a little bit later, enjoying my coffee while reading email and briefly checking the net (reading my favorite blogs and news sites), finally enjoying a surprisingly relaxed shower and dressing for the day–all as the girls enjoy their morning TV time.

Our random, spontaneous daytime adventures; trips to the beach or Zoo or Sea World or Grammy'a house, anywhere.

Nap time (& sometimes sharing naps with Alex. OH - the glorious afternoon nap! How I miss that!)

Days of Our Lives and the occasional Oprah

Rachel's rumpled head when she wakes up from her nap, bleary eyed and wandering down the hall to find her juice and then crawling into my arms for an afternoon snuggle.

Being the center of their world. Now that spot is shared with sooo many others. All of which are influencing my girls, teaching them – all beyond of my protective gaze.

Every little thing . . .
  • Discovering earth worms
  • Playing in the sand box
  • The spontaneous, daily teaching moments
  • Rediscovering crayons, play dough, finger painting and more through the eyes of my kids
  • Knowing every little thing about them and their lives (that I miss A LOT)

*snif*

**

Saturday, October 13

Want the REAL story - Talk to a Teenager

**

Forget the media stories about how the world has gone crazy and all our children are headed for a pre-teen and adolescent life filled with indiscriminate sex, drug and alcohol addiction, mean girls and bullies the likes of which we 'old folks' can't even begin to imagine.

No. If you want the real story, I discovered today quite by accident, go talk to one of THEM. Talk to a teenager. NOT your teenager and NOT one of your teenager's friends or one of your friends’ teenagers. Talk to a teenager who has no vested interest in your opinion of him or her and you're likely to get the real scoop.

Like I did today.

"D" is a 19-year-old young man in his first year at a junior college. He graduated from our local high school and is now working at the rec. center where my girls take Saturday morning ballet. “D” and I spent about an hour talking about parents, siblings, drugs, sex, school pressure, and adolescent life in today’s world. Surprisingly, this frank and honest conversation did a lot to allay my fears about my girls’ future in this big, scary, cruel world.

Rampant, indiscriminate sex at younger and younger ages? No, according to “D.” There are a few kids who do that but the kids who are doing it in middle school are pretty much the same ones that are sleeping around in high school. "D" said there were maybe 5 - 10 'sluts' (my word) in his high school graduating class of 3000. Boyfriend/girlfriend sex isn't uncommon, but its not indiscriminate sleeping around.

Drugs are around and available. Some kids get into it and some kids get hooked. Most don't, though pretty much all the kids are drinking alcohol w/ probably one fatal accident a year at his high school.

This all sounds pretty much like the adolescent world of my youth.

The one striking difference was the prevalence of oral sex as an incredibly acceptable practice. No 'slut' label for this activity and it's 'often' used to entice a boy into a relationship. Though, according to "D," it's rarely successful.

"D" was pretty clear that the girls who were sleeping around, and the boys who were getting in trouble, were from homes that were rough or empty or 'just not what a kid should have.'

So, again, not horribly different from the world of my teen years. And not nearly as scary as the media would have you believe.

Whew.

So. If you want the REAL story - talk to a teenager.

**

Friday, October 12

Quote for the Day...

**

"...[Bush] has worked to turn Washington, D.C., into an evidence-free zone where facts are subordinate to ideology."

- HC -

**

Wednesday, October 10

Parenting: A Huge Leap of Faith

**

There is no way to protect the people we love from EVERY possible danger. I can’t bubble wrap my kids and keep them indoors until...

well, forever.

On some level we all have to trust in the basic goodness of the world, and then step out and live and thrive in that world.

All we can do is our best to guide them and protect them. It's not possible to do more and it's unthinkable to do less.

We can only do our best. Somehow that realization is simultaneously comforting and terrifying.

**

Saturday, October 6

Three Year Old Wisdom...

**

"I just want to be myself when I grow up," Rachel told me today.

So simple - but wise beyond her years.

**

Monday, October 1

Quote for the Day

**
"When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with yourself."

Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief
**

Saturday, September 29

What a week!

**
OK - so we knew that my returning to work after 5+ years would be an enormous adjustment. But, seriously, this week was NUTS!! Aside from the expected adjustments and normal disruptions, we were hit with several unanticipated anomalies that sent us into a bit of tailspin.

The Summary:
  • A fender bender and insurance fraud,
  • a once-in-a-decade crisis at the office,
  • two very sick kids,
  • and a trip to the emergency room.
The Details:

First, I BUMPED into another car's fender at the end of my very 1st day on the job. This wouldn't have been so bad had the other driver not decided to commit insurance fraud and claim that my little bump caused almost $2,000 damage to her bumper and trunk lid! So now I'm in the middle of an investigation with HER insurance company on my side of things. (Ooohhh - she's in trouble!)

The next crisis was work related. K was in the midst of a major PR/member issue involving media, the law, and the public. Because I'm new I did little more than observe from the sidelines. It got a little nuts and my first week was anything but normal as my boss and the executives worked to address the issues, deal with the media and potential legal issues. It was an impressive show of team work and tenacity that, in the end, paid off.

& most important and worrisome of all. My babies. Both Rachel and Alex came down with a VERY nasty cold. Dave stayed home with Ray-Ray on Tuesday and 1/2 day on Friday. But Saturday night I found myself rushing off to the emergency room with our youngest. She was alternating between the chills and fevers as high as 104.7. It was a long and scary night. Diagnosis? Rachel had developed a minor case of pneumonia and Alex 'suffered' with a raging ear infection. (I swear that child has no nerve endings in her ears!)

Well - both girls are on the mend and life is starting to return to "normal." Whatever that is. We're hoping for, and looking forward to settling into a new routine - one that is lot less intense than this past week.

**

Friday, September 28

Wednesday, September 26

Mommy's Angel

**
There are little things that happen in my life as a mom that make my heart swell with pride, and days when I'd swear that I have a guardian angel who gives me a little pat on the back when I need it most. Yesterday was one of those days.

After a very rough start to the day, I decided to take Alex out for a little one-on-one, special Mommy time. She was THRILLED! There is nothing grander for my oldest than 100% Mommy time. No divisions of attention with her little sister, Daddy, the computer, the phone or anything else. Just Alex and Mommy.

We went to dinner and she got to order 'anything' she wanted, play cards with Mommy while we waited for food, and share a bit from Mommy's plate before going to Starbucks for a desert of hot cocoa and a last game of Fish.

During dinner a grandfatherly man stopped by our table as he was leaving the restaurant. He looked at Alex and told her, "I love to see little girls who are such good little girls and act so nice for their mommy."

"May I give her a dollar?" he said as he handed her a bill. Her grin stretched from ear to ear as we both thanked him.

WOW! I hugged her and loved her up with so much pride I thought I'd burst.

But my guardian angel must have been watching this morning as Alex and I struggled with the enormous change in our lives. She must have known that I was struggling with what it means to be a 'good mom' and a 'working' mom simultaneously. Could I really be both??

Just as we were getting up to leave, a woman about my age walked over to our table and handed me a note. Smiling, she said, "This is for you," and walked away.

"Uh?" and I opened the note.


Teary eyed, I gave Alex a huge hug. Confident that being a working mom and a good mom aren't mutually exclusive.

Thanks Guardian Angel. You always seem to know exactly what I need.

**

Tuesday, September 25

The World Can Wait

**

It had to happen, I guess. The day when my oldest refused to let go of her strangle hold around my neck as she sobbed, "Don't go Mommy. I don't want you to go," sniff, sob, sniff. "PLEASE! Don't go..."

My heart was aching for her, my guilt at choosing to go back to work was rising, thick in my throat. Impatience or hurrying off to work weren't options. In that moment the reality of it all became very clear to me. Yes, I made this choice. And, yes, my choice is impacting my family.

But it is the right choice.

I will help her adjust and there is nothing more important to me than my children. Not this choice nor this job and I will take the time and patience to reassure and comfort her through this enormous change.

The job can wait - I can be late. This moment counts, I realized. Slow down and focus 100% on her and help make this moment a memorable, loving one. Not a forced confrontation, showdown or ditch and run.

Somehow I did it. I held it together and focused on her - not on my self-indulgent guilt or desire to put a quick end to a public outcry. I focused on her angst, confusion, frustration and sense of loss caused by this huge shift in her life. It would have been easier, in the short run, to ditch and run but it wouldn't have been fair or helpful.

And the moment came to a soft conclusion and I know she understood that I understood her, heard her and love her. She understood that, while this is tough, school is something that she has to do and I was able to leave once she was calm, as she cuddled Anna and 'read' a story to her sister.

She listened. She believed. She knows that I love her and will always be there for her. I will take the time - I will make things right. When she needs me I will ask the rest of the world to wait - and she knows that.

**

Wednesday, September 19

36 Hours Turns into 18...,

***
Our camping trip started out like most - a long drive, too much time setting up and getting settled in, followed by dinner and the traditional (and super yummy) smores ritual.

(So yummy!)

And this next photo may give you some idea about why our camping trip was cut short. Mommy and Daddy didn't sleep too well.

(Lucky Mom had custody of the camera .
So the only evidence is this photo of DH.)


The girls, on the other hand, slept pretty soundly in between Rachel's random disturbances.


And after Rachel continually jolted us out of sleep throughout the night, Alex awoke at her usual 6(!#&%*#)AM. Bright eyed and raring to go while our little sweet Rachel just kept on sleeping.

(If she weren't so cute I would have been tempted to ring her little neck.)

Instead, we decided to pack it up and try again another day when mommy and Daddy were a little more rested (read: patient).

***

The Magical Kingdom

***


***

Papa Bear

***


***

Sunday, September 16

Crazy Days and Monday

**

True to our goal of treating the girls to a few 'extras' during my last few weeks as a stay at home mom (SAHM), we've crammed in an amazing array of activities during the past 10 days.

First, a trip to Oregon to visit Papa and friends. DH was on a business trip to D.C., so I took the girls on a short trip up north to spend time with a paternal grandpa (Papa) and his family, and visit with Mommy's old friend, Nick Novotny.

Papa treated the girls to 'cousin' Sammy, a beautiful little girl about Rachel's age, a trout and salmon farm that just enthralled them and, the biggest treat of all, he 'taught' them to fish. In reality, we went to a cool little trout farm where the kids tossed a hooked worm into a little pond which was immediately ambushed by 50 starving fish! The girls LOVED it. Rachel was a bit nervous when the fish started "wigglin-gigglin" as they came out of the water -- but she loved the catchin' and the cleanin' part.

Next, the girls' first trip to the Magical Kingdom of Disney. There is nothing greater in the life of a mom or dad than to witness your child almost explode with excitement as they watch a Disney parade for the first time. The purity of their happiness and joy is awe inspiring and brought tears to my eyes. It was truly magical.

Then a three day camping trip that lasted all of 18 hours. Again, this was a first for us as a family and we learned A LOT in that short 18 hours. Mostly about what NOT to do the next time we attempt a camping trip with two preschoolers.
Such as;
  • Don't drive two hours when there are perfectly good spots MUCH closer.
  • Don't spend the 1st two hours at the site setting up while your two kids, who have just been strapped in car for hours, explode with boredom and drive you insane!
  • Pick a camp site that offers activities for the kids, like swimming, fishing, and horse back riding. Nature for nature's sake can be lost on 3 & 4 year olds after about 20 minutes.
  • And, if it's not working - pack it up, go home and try again another day. Thankfully, we new better than to try and force it and it all ended well. I think Ollie had the most fun of all.

Lastly, we went to the WA Park for a day of a bit more relaxed fun. Although we've been to the park countless times, the girls never tire of seeing the animals and watching the shows.

And now my time as a SAHM comes to an end. Tomorrow, Monday, I will return to the world of suits, commutes, deadlines and take out lunches. I am excited and nervous about jump-starting my brain back into professional mode, while I'm also sad to be leaving the 24/7 life with my girls.

It's funny, as a SAHM, I've heard so many people say that I had the hardest job there is. I'm not sure I ever really, completely believed it. A part of me always thought that this is something people say to SAHM's to make them feel better about the choices and perceived sacrifices they've made. But after having my kids in preschool and after school care during this last month, I realize now, after just a few short weeks apart from it, how challenging it has been to be with kids 24/7.

I also realize that there is NOTHING I would change about these past five years home with my girls. It is the greatest gift I've ever been given. Most people tell me how lucky my girls were to have a mom that was able to stay home. But I was the lucky one. Fortunate to have had this time with Alex and Rachel and to experience all their milestones, bumps, bruises, uncontrolled laughter, unbounded enthusiasm and wonder as they discovered the world around them. I know in my heart that I stayed home as much for me as for them. I have been blessed and I will always treasure this time I had with them - our little threesome learning about the world and about each other.

**

PS: I have some fun pics of all our recent fun and will post ASAP

**

Tuesday, September 4

Teaching Our Children...,

**
About Prejudice

There is no one better than you.
There is no one less than you.
Everyone is different from you.
Different is a good thing.
Different is beautiful.

If we were all the same,
our world would be a very
boring place.

All the same size,
all the same shape,
all the same color,
all the same language.

ALL THE SAME.

No texture,
no flavor,
no variety.

Yes, if we were all the same,
our world would be a very
boring place.

Celebrate the differences.

**

Monday, September 3

Vintage Preschooler

**
"Mom," Alex says in her littlest girl voice. "You're beautiful."

"Awe. How swee..."

"KIDDING!"

DOH! Deflated by a 4 year old!

**

Wednesday, August 29

Our Little Beach Baby

**

As I get ready to return to the workforce, Dave and I are trying to spend a little extra time with the girls. Sprinkling little extra trips and special events into these last few weeks. So, yesterday we pulled the girls out of school an hour early and headed for the beach. Rachel was just too cute, running in circles as she soaked up the sun, sand and salty wind.



**

Monday, August 27

A Stab of Sadness

**

Going out to grab something from the garage and I glanced over at the swings in our backyard. Just hanging there. Empty.

And then over at the pool. Still and quiet.


My heart felt the stab of nostalgic sadness. Had I not put my kids in school and decided to return to work those swings wouldn't be empty and our yard and pool would be filled with laughter and little girl squeals. Sooo many hours of time with my girls that they are now spending somewhere else....

And tomorrow they'll be getting ready to head off for college.

Time is too short and there are not enough hours in the day to do it all or to have it all – at once. So we've decided to do it all in shifts, and with each shift some things are gained and some things are lost.

**

Sunday, August 26

It's time...,

**
Going back to work after five years home with my girls. Yep - i found a great new gig and am excited to get started (mid-sept) but will miss all the little things too. The girls love their new 'school' and seem to be adjusting well.

I'm committing to 6 months and then we'll evaluate how it's going and decide if I should continue or return home. I am SO grateful that I have the CHOICE and the most supportive husband EVER. Those two things make my life as a mom exponentially easier. Hugs of support to all moms doing their best to be their best; for their kids, their partners and themselves. Remember - everyone counts in the family equation.

**

Thursday, August 23

Back in the Game

**

Well, less than 2 months ago I decided it was time to return to the world of suits, commutes, deadlines and take out lunches. Yes - back to the world of work.

And I did it! In less then 8 weeks, and after 5 years off(!), I landed the first position I went after!! WOOOWHOOO! A great little boost for my ego and confidence as I put myself back in the game.

BIG hugs to Dave, Deanna, Julia, Nadine and everyone who supported me and cheered me on through this process. It was a bit stressful at times, and you were all so great in helping me reach this goal. One that, at times, seemed a bit unreachable.

I'll be returning to work as a Communications Specialist for a large, national company. I'm excited, a little nervous and confident about the future - all at the same time.

The girls are in a great new school that they love, we'll be getting a BIG increase in the family income, plus additional benefits. How cool is that? And, I get to work with really cool people at a really cool company. SOOOO excited!

I'll be starting on Monday, September 10. I even know what I'm going to wear my first day. I'm going to wear my new grey suit. So chic.

Soooo excited.

**

WoW - I'm Really Doing This!

**

Well less than 2 months ago I decided it was time to return to the world of suits, commutes, deadlines and take out lunches. Yes - back to the world of work.

And I did it! In less then 8 weeks, and after 5 years off(!), I landed the first position I went after!! WOOOWHOOO! A great little boost for my ego and confidence as I put myself back in the game.

BIG hugs to Dave, Deanna, Julia, Nadine and everyone who supported me and cheered me on through this process. It was a bit stressful at times and you were all so great in helping me reach this goal, which at times seemed a bit unreachable.

I'm going to work for Kaiser as their Communications Specialist. I'm excited, a little nervous and confident about the future all at the same time.

The girls are in a great new school that they love, we'll be getting a BIG increase in the family income, plus additional benefits. How cool is that? And I get to work with really cool people at a really cool company. SOOOO excited!

I'll be starting on Monday, September 10. I even know what I'm going to wear my first day. I'm going to wear my new grey suit. So chic.

My goal is to be someone that others want to work with. Not someone who is better, smarter or has something to prove. Just someone who can do the job well and play nice in the sandbox. Something that I haven't always done.

Another goal is to improve my writing. I write well but labor over the minutia. I need to write well and write more quickly. We're not looking for Pulitzer Prize winning stuff. Just enough to communicate the message effectively - which also means timely.

I will be a solid member of this team for the next two to three years at which time Dave and the girls and I are going to move out of California. It's too expensive here to have a comfortable life w/out killing yourself to pay the mortgage.

At $---K we should be pretty comfortable for a while ;-)

**

Monday, August 20

A Soft Place to Fall

**

If there was one thing that I could give to my girls it would be a shield. A shield from the cruelty they will doubtless encounter as they grow up and face the world.

I can't, of course, protect my girls from every hurt. Big or small. But maybe we can give them a strong enough sense of themselves, and the knowledge that they'll always have a soft place to fall, that the words and deeds meant to hurt them will be dulled a bit.

They'll always have Dave.
They'll always have Me.
And, they'll always have home.
A soft place to fall when the rest of the world gets to be too tough.

**

Sunday, August 19

Photographic Marvel

**

I'd like to claim this as my own but it actually belongs to photographer Dean Bertoncelj. He took this photo on Spain's Lanzarote Island during a raptor show. It was published in the June 2007 issue of National Geographic.


I love the intense expression on the eagle's face. If you look closely, you'll see he's just snatched a fish.

It's such a great photo I had to share.

**

Friday, August 17

WHEW!!

**

Interview complete. I can breathe a sigh of relief and get a good night sleep. Actually I'll probably take a nap this afternoon.

This was crazy nerve wracking and I'm not sure why. I've interviewed for a lot of jobs and never been quite this jittery.

The detailed writing project that the final four (Yes, I was in the final four. HOO-RAW!) was challenging but I met the challenge well and delivered quality material, so that isn't a worry.

I didn't sleep well at all last night in anticipation of the interview this morning and was a bit of a wreck when the sun came up. I know that didn't help.

The real cause of the nervousness is that I really want the job. It is a great match for my skill set. The people seem friendly, and the environment appears collaborative. The commute is reasonable, and the travel requirements are minimal.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I should know by next Friday. Wish me luck!

**

Tuesday, August 14

A Tribute To The Man I Love...,

**

...and who loves me. Even when I'm not acting all that lovable, he still loves me. Never wavering, never doubting - he always loves me and I feel safe. Safe enough to be who I am without fear that he'll leave or that his love will change. There is nothing better than knowing, trusting and loving this man.

Everyday that passes I am amazed that I get to spend the rest of my life with him. He brings out the best in me and helps to curb the worst.

Everyone says I'm spoiled. It's true and it's a wonderful thing. I do my best to make sure he feels as spoiled and as loved as I do.

Happy Anniversary, Dave. I love you.

***

Monday, August 13

Cherauckwa. Cherauckwhat???

**

"Alex, please go help your sister get the drum so she can play music with you."

"Rachel! Don't touch my Cherauckwa!"

"Alex, she won't touch it. Just go help her get the drum off the shelf."

"OK. Ray! Don't Touch my Cherauckwa."

"Don't worry, Alex, she won't touch it. And it's a piano, by the way."

"I KNOW THAT! I'm calling it a Cherauckwa because I'm playing Cherauckwa music."

All righty then.

**

Sunday, August 12

Wondering Where We've Been??

**
Daily Swimming Lessons - sooo much fun.
Alex mastering the back-float.

Not sure how much 'learning' is actually going on here,
but
little Rachel is having a ball.

Alex is really giving this her all!

Too, Too Cute!!

To the zoo where we ALWAYS see something new.

– A Mother's Love –
A constant across the animal kingdom.

An adolescent wondering what we're all staring at.

And the job search is on. I'm currently knee deep in the interview process for my target job as a Communications Specialist. I'm down to the final four with a writing project due on Friday. My final interview is scheduled for Friday at 9:30 a.m. So - lots of reviewing resources, strategies and tactics, practicing interviewing techniques and writing in the week ahead. Wish me luck. It's really the perfect position for me - a solid match.

Oh, yes and more swimming lessons. My two little fish are having a ball.

**

Tuesday, July 31

Conversations with Rachel

**

"grrrrr," Rachel growls from the back seat as we're heading out for a play date with the twins.

I look back at her and she says, "I'm frustrated, grrrr."

'"What's wrong hun? Why are you frustrated?"

"You're driving me crazy!" she says.

"Me? What am I doing to drive you crazy?"

"You're freakin' me out!"

"Really?" stifling my laughter.

"Yes. You're a nut!"

I can't stand it anymore & I burst out laughing as Rachel responds again with "grrrr"

(Can you guess where she heard all those phrases??)

**

Sunday, July 29

The Price of Petty

**
Sorry for this less than fun post. I've got to get this off my chest and I need a little advice.

**

What do you say to those who spread gossip. Not simple, innocuous gossip - but calculated, misleading information meant to create an angst filled drama complete with petty retributions.

What do you say to those who hear the gossip and so readily believe it, without fact checking or the benefit of doubt. And how do you react to the resulting retaliation?

**

I've wracked my brain for a constructive way to address both parties. But, short of throttling them or cutting them out of our lives entirely (very sad for my kids), each idea has come up lacking. Any suggestions ??

**

Thursday, July 26

These Things Happen

**
When Mom forgets to put away her stampin' supplies before getting in the shower, things like this happen;
(Yeah. That's black INK!)

This was how I found her.
I could almost hear her thinking,
"Opps! Now I'm REALLY in twouble."

And this was her expression
once she realized she wasn't "Busted!"


**