Friday, April 30, 2010


It will come as no surprise to most people who know me that I am a control freak.

I keep a tight rein on my life: I work set hours, I am rabidly organized, have a weekly meal plan and a scheduled social life. I even eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch on an almost daily basis.

Unfortunately, the Universe seems to have a different plan in store for me these days. Since I'm a big believer in not fighting said Universe, but sitting quietly and listening to what It's trying to say, I'm attempting to learn the lesson.

Which appears to be: Control is an illusion.

These days, I think of control like holding a fistful of feathers. Something is always going to slip out. If I rigidly control my work life and my eating habits, my house slips. If I get the domestic duties under control, finances spiral out of control. When finances are running smoothly, I'll learn that you can't control another person's actions.

And so on.

So where am I going with this? I wish I knew. See, when you're in control, you've got a plan, a path and a three-step process for getting from Point A to Point B.

When the Universe takes over and you slip from the driver's seat, all you can do is look around and really take in Point A. Forget Point B--if it's even there, it doesn't concern you at the moment.

Now that I think about it, that's not such a bad thing.

Maybe I'll even take a look at the lunch menu.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Being a parent can make you crazy

For the past four years, I have been proud to send my stepson to summer camp.

It's a day camp put on by the city of Santa Cruz, and it's awesome. Kids are filtered into age-specific camp-groups at a local park. They go on field trips just about every day, to the beach once a week, and do umpteen arts-and-crafts.

There's a low ratio of campers to counselors, and they used to take the kids to swimming lessons (before the budget cuts that forced Parks & Rec to sell the local pool).

The tiny issue I had with this camp is that it ran us about $600/month. And you had to register/pay for it in April, or it would fill up.

Shockingly, this year, we just didn't have an extra $600 lying around. (Heck, we don't have an extra $40 lying around right now!) As the deadline to register for camp grew closer and closer, I spent more and more wee hours lying awake, listening to this thought cycle:

We have to send him to this camp.

There's no way we can send him to this camp.

You see how each thought leads to the other, but neither is really good at problem-solving?

Finally, one week away from Deadline, I remembered that the Santa Cruz Boys & Girls Club also ran a summer camp. My printer recommended it to me, quite enthusiastically.

But these are my memories from my tenure at the Boys & Girls Club:
  • Watching seven episodes of Gilliagan's Island in a row, followed by four I Love Lucys.
  • Sneaking off campus to buy candy at the local liquor store.
  • Sneaking off campus to what I thought was my cousin's friend's house, but really going to my cousin's first gang fight.
And then I remembered my sister's summer working at a different Boys & Girls Club. She told me one day about having to restrain a kid who took a chain off a door, wrapped it around his fist, and threatened to beat up another kid.

For two days, the 3 a.m. thought-cycle shifted to this:

We can afford the Boys & Girls Club.

There's no way I can send him to the Boys & Girls Club.

Again, not helpful.

Against my better judgement, I visited the Santa Cruz' Boys & Girls Club website, and discovered that membership is a whopping $15/year. And that summer camp costs $40/week.

That's five weeks of camp for $200, as opposed to four weeks for $600.


The club is also open during his spring break, which typically coincides with no other local camps or schools.


Then I read the outline of activities available at the club:
  • The Arts: Fine arts, crafts, woodworking, movie making, newspaper club, music classes, photography and magazine club.
  • Health and Life Skills: Cooking and nutrition classes, anger management workshops, swim lessons, SMART Moves and SMART Girls, Environmental Club, recycling and conservation
  • Sports, Fitness and Recreation: Basketball Leagues, Karate Classes, Recreational Swims, Hockey Team, Aquatics Team, Camping, Hiking, Fishing Club, Special Events and Field Trips.
What the heck? The SoCal B&GC of my youth had three activities: TV, Bumper Pool, and stealing wires from the electrical box outside to make bracelets. Field trips were either to the movie room to watch such classics as "Arachnophobia" or to go see your cousin get beat up by some chick.

I read a little deeper, and found out about music lessons, a computer animation program and free swim time in their indoor heated pool. So I decided to take a tour and saw the library, aquatics center, full gymnasium, wood shop/crafts room, music room and cafe.

I saw that kids are now issued an ID card that gets scanned when they enter the club, when they enter and leave each activity area and when they leave.

I saw that the club is located about a block from my favorite public library.

I heard about weekly trips to the beach, and other outings to be determined.

Finally, my 3 a.m. thought cycle got productive:

The Boys & Girls Club sounds awesome.

It's got a lot more activities than the other camp.

We can afford it.

Why am I still thinking about this?

This summer, my stepson will join the thousands (millions?) of Boys & Girls Club alumni. And if I could, I'd join too!
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Monday, April 19, 2010

The Curse of the Baby Blanket

I'd like to apologize to my sister-in-law, Staci.

I think I'm the reason that her baby didn't come two weeks early like her doctor said. Today, she's sitting around, 39-weeks-and-five-days pregnant, and it's all my fault.

You see, I'm not finished with the baby blanket I'm knitting for her bundle of joy.

Let me back up. When she was pregnant with her first child, I got straight to work knitting a beautiful blanket. I had it blocked, finished, quilted and embroidered just after her baby shower, and Parker showed up as scheduled.

This time, however, I bit off a little more than I could chew. I'm working on an afghan, not the striped/quilted/embroidered bit I made for Big Brother. And while it's beautiful, it's not quite there yet.

And she's just sitting there, waiting.

So, Stac, I'm sorry! But here's a sneak preview.

There are six of each square--12 of the horizontal stripes--and I've got 12 more squares to knit.

Then I've got to block each one, and sew them together.

Then I've got to knit a border.

But the yarn is the softest I've ever worked with, and the colors will work for a boy or a girl. And there's a whole lot of love going into this project!

Just don't expect it before the baby's first birthday.

And maybe don't look too closely at the finishing work--I'm still figuring all that out.
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

I'm not wearing Spanx today.

I'll pause while that sinks in.

*   *   *

Two years ago, I set out to lose about 1,000 pounds for my wedding. I didn't make it. But I did manage to maintain the weight I was at, for a year, despite practically living on salad, whole-what pita bread and hummus, and religiously waking up at 4:30 a.m. to hit the gym before work.

As a result, I gained 10 pounds in the month leading up to my wedding, when sleep and cake were more important and available than anything else.

After the wedding, I enjoyed a free-for-all lifestyle when it came to food. I plowed through plate lunches in Maui, gorged myself on pizza back home, and was SHOCKED when my favorite pair of jeans didn't fit anymore just six months later.

So I signed up to run a half-marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. You know what the best thing is about running 20 miles each week? If you said the natural high you get from running, you are WRONG! It's the fact that you have license to eat whatever you want, and not gain a pound! Bacon, eggs, cheese, bread, butter, pizza ... it was a delicious time in my life.

Unfortunately, the October marathon signaled the end of my love affair with fat and cholesterol. But I cheated. A lot. And by January, I found myself back up at my heaviest weight ever ... back where I started four years ago before I lost my original 30 pounds.

I spent a couple months halfheartedly trying to count calories and cut back, but mostly I just whined and moaned (internally) about my weight.

Finally, in March, I marched (ha ha) myself into a local Weight Watchers, sat through a meeting, and joined up. I told the meeting leader that first day that I already know about eating right and exercise, but for some reason, despite being a very intelligent woman, I couldn't put it together on my own.

I let her know that I was willing to rethink the way I ate, but remain wholeheartedly against "diet" foods like fat-free cheese and snack foods made with ingredients I can't pronounce. That I'd recalibrate breakfast, lunch and snacks, but wouldn't subject my family to meals like enchiladas made from fat-free cream cheese. We'd be enjoying our lasagne, hamburgers and pot roasts, thankyouverymuch.

After I laid down these laws, Rani looked at me quizzically. "So?" she said. After all, eating what you want is kind of the whole Weight Watchers deal. And I did. I switched around my breakfast and lunch, planned better snacks, and ate what I wanted for dinner. Including pasta shells stuffed with three kinds of cheese.

That first week, I lost two pounds. The next week, I lost another two. Two more the following week. And a month after I joined, I lost an insane four pounds in one week.

I've lost 10 pounds (with a minor setback around Easter) since the beginning of March, and today I don't have to wear my Spanx.

I'd call that a vicotry, wouldn't you?
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mmmm ... fresh bread

Have you ever really noticed how many food blogs there are out there?

I'm not pretending to be one of them. But I have started making my own bread. And it's fabulous.

I started out with Perfect Sandwich Bread from RecipeZaar. I'd read about it in a blog I follow, how simple it was to make and how delicious.

The blogger was not lying. It's got nine ingredients. I can handle nine ingredients. And while the step-by-step instructions include 14 separate tasks, they're simple enough. I only had to turn to You Tube once.

It was worth it just to make my house smell like fresh-baked bread. Even if the bread itself weren't delicious. It's white bread, but everything that white bread wishes it could be. And then some. It's like if the cast of Glee and Judd Apatow were a loaf of bread ... so much better than anyone's expectations, and full of delightful surprises!

But I know that white flour is Bad For You, so I wanted to move on to wheat bread. In fact, the week after I made the Perfect Sandwich Bread, I bought a bag of whole wheat flour. Then I found a six-ingredient recipe for Honey Whole Wheat Bread on Tasty Kitchen. SIX INGREDIENTS. That's even easier than the white bread!

This bread is like Perfect Sandwich Bread's European cousin. Earthier, darker and so much more exotic. Our favorite way to eat it is warm with butter and cinnamon-sugar, but toasted with butter and parmesan cheese is equally delicious.

Now my only problem on weekends is which type of bread to make. I've been favoring Honey Whole Wheat, but Perfect Sandwich Bread is right there in the back of my mind, calling out things like "garlic bread" and "raisin toast."

Decisions, decisions.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Did you miss me?

How long has it been since I've posted?

A month? Two months?

Let's just say that 2010 got off to a very rocky start for my family. The world as I know it was turned upside down, and I am just now finding my footing again.

Here is a rundown of my life since Christmas:

  1. The hubs left his toxic former employer for a great new opportunity. That opportunity, though, is commission-only sales. He just happens to be the best, so we're anticipating good times ahead. Getting a client base takes time, however, and as a result our income has dwindled down to the bare necessities. For the time being.
  2. After the dearest hubs made his employement transition, the Universe intervened. We had to purchase a new laptop, new furniture, repair two cars multiple times, buy a new cell phone and upgrade our truck from get-around-town to spiffy-new-work-vehicle.
  3. The Tax Man cameth, and he thumped us hard. We owe just about what we'd been hoping to save for a nice down payment. Or trip to Maui. Really, before the first of the year, it was heads or tails which we'd chose. After our tax preparer let us know that we "make too much money," (a concept I'm still trying to wrap my brain around every time I do the family budget) a house became Priority No. 1.
  4. Without going into much detail, we hit a rocky patch in our marriage that had little to do with money, and a whole lot to do with our choices as individuals.
So, my precious', do you forgive me for taking time off the blog in favor of holding my life together? I can happily report now that our financial future is off life support (but still in serious condition), and that our marriage, just days after our first anniversary, is stronger and happier than ever.

Now that everything at home is running smoothly, I can turn my attention to the blogosphere. I have missed you!

Here is what I would like to talk to you about this week:
  • The crazy, beautiful, all-consuming baby blanket I'm knitting for my neice/nephew who will be born any minute now ... and why he/she won't be getting it until his/her first birthday.
  • Why making my own bread is AWESOME.
  • How parent guilt will make you consider crazy things.
  • My newfound love for Photoshop, and the reason you'll see lots of crazy things on my blog because of it.
  • Why I joined Weight Watchers ... again ... and feel great about it.
As you can see, I've got some things to say. And I'm thrilled to share them with you!
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