Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Enjoy Today, Tomorrow May Never Come

Their first smile.  The first time you hear them say “mama”.  Their first steps.  Their first “I love you”.  They mean so much and when they happen, we, as parents, make a mental note and vow that we will “always remember this moment”.  And we do.  Most of the time.

And then there is the other side of reality: our “daily” life.  Or our “daily grind” – depending on the kind of day you’re having.  In our busy lives (yes, even Moms have one) it is easy to overlook the smaller moments, simply because we are “busy”.  Our responsibilities, jobs, stress factors, commitments and other “shoulds” make it easy to overlook the smaller, precious moments – the ones that are just as important and special as those “milestone moments”.  We are slightly put out with the fact that our children yet again, woke us up in the middle of the night because the music had stopped, or because they kicked off their blankets and were cold.  On top of that they manage to wake up before sunrise, depriving you from the extra hour you had hoped to catch after the interrupted sleep.  Add a dash of stress and it doesn’t make for a very happy mommy (or daddy) in the morning.

You make breakfast, provide yourself with the much-needed caffeine in whatever way, shape or form you take it and decide to put this extra long day to good use and get some things knocked out and taken off that to-do-list-without-an-end.  In goes the first load of laundry and out come the swiffer and the mop.  Somewhere in between the smelly socks, mud covered clothes and the dirt that all the living creatures of your family have managed to bring inside, there are the meltdowns, the brotherly fights, toddlers hanging on your legs, begging for… [fill in the blank] and all you think is “this is not working for me.  This way I will never get my work done.”

Last night it hit me: SO WHAT?! Who cares?  None of it matters.  It doesn’t matter if the laundry doesn’t get done.  It doesn’t matter if my floors aren’t clean.  What matters, is savoring the moments of my toddler clinging to my leg, begging for … [fill in the blank].  Him wanting to sit down with me in the middle of me making dinner to read a book for the umpteenth time.  What matters, is enjoying the giggles of the boys, even when they’re up to mischief.  The sparkle in their eyes when they enjoy one of my cupcake creations.  Those are the moments that matter.  Those are the moments that count in life.  Not the clean floor – which by the way doesn’t remain clean for longer than 10 minutes anyways.

Deep in my heart I knew all this.  None of this was really “news” to me.  However, I have to admit that I didn’t always live accordingly.  I had gotten in the habit of taking things for granted.  Life had become a “routine”, in every sense of that word.  The sun sets in the evening and when it rises in the morning, we start over again.

Yesterday I got a dose of painful reality: even though the sun sets in the evening, it may never rise again in the morning.

Last week David had coffee with a dear friend of ours.  They spent an afternoon at Starbucks, chatting about a new business venture, a way to put their mutual creativity to good use, to create a business while having fun.  Both were excited and hopeful.  That was Thursday.  Friday came and Friday went.  But for Frank, the sun never rose on Saturday.  At 49 years of age, he passed away that Friday night.  Unexpectedly.

Life is precious and it should NEVER be taken for granted.  Enjoy and embrace every moment – even the ones that don’t seem so pretty.  Life can be taken from you any moment, without warning.  Make the best of today, tell your loved ones you love them, kiss your children an extra time and be grateful for each and every day.  Tomorrow may never come.

Dear Frank,
Thank you for all that you brought to our lives.  Your warmth, kindness, big heart, generosity and amazing sense of humor will live on in our hearts and memory.  May you rest in peace.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

December; from Craziness to Crazymas

The month of holiday craze, shopping, parties, lots of bad-for-ya (but delicious) food & drinks followed by a full-force-6-week-kick-my-butt-and-the-rest-of-my-bod program my trainer proposed during my 1st session of the year. Little did I know at about that (the kicking-my-butt part) at the beginning of December – I was blissfully unaware.

Speaking of “bliss”…its definition: getting carded at Trader Joe’s for buying a bottle of wine. Now, THAT is bliss, given that I was born in the year that ABBA’s Dancing Queen hit the top 10 on the Billboard charts.

Once again, I fell into the “Holiday Craze” trap and managed (despite my best intentions) to have to go out and shop for last-minute Christmas gifts. This year, EVERYTHING will be purchased online. As much as I love the mall, I want to avoid it at all cost come Christmas 2012.

Personally, my two best Christmas gifts were given to me a few weeks early: my awesomely amazing and rocking Hubster gave me a new laptop. Going into my office to sit down to check my email is impossible, given that the boys possess some sort of "Mommy-at-the computer-in-the-office-radar", causing them to come and find me before I can sit down.  In other words, a laptop solves many a practical issue around this house. In addition, I now have a device that is solely MINE. No sharing, no children, no alphabet movies allowed. Just Mommy stuff. I tell the kids that their movies don’t work on my laptop – I wonder how long that’ll fly with them…
That same night, Ryder fell asleep in my arms. He was restless, so I took him out of his crib and plopped down with my big lil’ buddy in the oh-so-comfortable glider. Within 30 seconds he was out. Could not remember the last time that that happened. It was heaven. I could have sat there the entire night.

David was out of town the first weekend of the month. It was the weekend of soccer practice followed by the celebration of “Sinterklaas” – a Dutch kids’ Holiday. My friend Stacey came along as I really wasn’t up for taking both kids by myself: large crowds, 2 toddlers going in opposite directions, both on sugar highs and impatient to get their presents – not my idea of fun. Kai was old enough to get it and seemed to enjoy it. “Seemed” as I unfortunately did not have the chance to really be with him as most of my time was consumed keeping Ryder from hurting himself in the midst of his tantrums. I was “that” mom; the one with the thrashing toddler, who screams bloody murder. Large masses of people, not being able to run free, not understanding why he is there and why he’s being stopped from running away: tantrum-fueling material. By far the worst tantrums I have ever had to see him go through.

So, here’s December in SoCal: I was absolutely ECSTATIC when we were graced with a couple of days of rain. Hallelujah! The rest of the month: warm enough to drive around in a tank top with the car windows rolled down …, or to play outside … and eat mud.

Something ain’t right with these temps.

We had a new house guest join us in preparation for Christmas: an elf. The boys named him “Tommy”. Tommy the Elf sits of a Shelf and was a wonderful phenomenon that fascinated the boys immensely. In the morning they would explore the house (most of the time holding Mommy’s hand), searching for Tommy who had chosen a new spot after returning from his nightly visit to the North Pole.

Tommy the Elf doesn’t talk, but he does listen and passes on any wishes to Santa. He’s quite the cool dude, that Tommy.

The days leading up to the big Holiday were filled with Holiday fun. David and I had a chance to once again go on our “Annual Christmas Date” as we attended the Christmas party at our friends’ Jackie & Greg.

This is the Christmas Party of Christmas Parties. Jackie’s eye for detail is amazing – with decorations in every nook and cranny of the house. I didn’t use their facilities, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she had Christmas toilet paper hanging in the bathroom.

David and I were not the only ones to have a party as Kai had his first Christmas performance at school. With big eyes, not sure what to make of all this and uncertain of his role in this performance, he stood in the midst of a gaggle of toddlers, singing and performing Christmas songs in front of a church full of parents (and screaming siblings - NO, not Ryder. I had been smart enough to hire a babysitter).

Then there was the cookie & fudge making that Kai and I did. Great fun. Dough needed to be made (and taste tested), cookies needed to be cut, re-cut and cut again. They needed to be baked and yet again go through rigorous quality control to ensure perfect results. Then they needed to be decorated:

Once cookies & fudge are ready, they ought to be wrapped

and then delivered to friends, family, teachers & coaches. Personally dropping them off with the neighbors was incredibly exciting for Kai. He was one proud little boy, spreading Christmas cheer the Kai-way.

I wouldn’t be the “Super Mommy” if we didn’t whip up a Holiday cupcake this month. So, Kai and I baked cupcakes.

Ate them. Shared them. Handed them out. I don’t remember what we did with them, but they were enjoyed.

And then…there are – what started out two years ago as “tickle lights” - “tinkle lights”. Tickle Lights have become Tinkle Lights, but no matter the name they are still excitement ensuing. Fascinated by it all and sometimes too excited to breathe in between exclaiming “Look Mommy, tinkle lights! More tinkle lights! And more, and more tinkle lights!!!”, Kai goes nuts around this time of year. But wait until you get to “the house in Tarzana”… At the bottom of the street where are friends live is a house that, at Christmas time, does not have a square foot in the front yard or on the roof, that is not decorated. Kai’s reaction (in awe): “That’s Crazy-mas!” Crazy-mas. I love it. We’re keeping that one.

Of course we met Santa this year. Once again, not a big success.

At least we had a chance to ride the train to the North Pole.

And Kai got to make his very first purchase: Popcorn.

Despite all the excitement and the busy-ness of the month, Ryder took the month to relax and calm down a bit. A week after the massive tantrum blow out, things eased down a bit. Maybe it was something he needed to get out of his system, I don’t know. If it was, I can see how you wouldn’t want to keep that sort of frustration in, but really, it was extreme.

In the midst of it all, Buster decided to break his nail at the nailbed. It had to all be removed, causing him to sport the lamp shade for a few days.

Keeping a stubborn and a too-smart-for-his-own-good dog from getting to his paw is difficult [strike trough] nearly impossible. Lamp shade or not, the dog manages to find a way to get to it. Nevertheless it healed, but still giving us a big scare (not knowing if it was “just” the nail, or a tumor) until the bandages came off 5 days after the procedure.

And then the day we counted down to (several times a day) had arrived. Well, first there was Christmas Eve. Santa’s bag with presents exploded right above our house. The result:

At the sound of Kai’s door opening at 7am, both David and I jumped out of bed to catch his reaction. Had it not been Christmas morning, we would have tried to bribe him with all that we possibly could to let us sleep for another 30 minutes. But Christmas morning it was – and it was wonderful:

Shortly thereafter, Ryder awoke:

The morning was spent opening gifts, having breakfast, opening more gifts and eating and drinking some more. Then there were gifts, and some more gifts. We could have EASILY saved some more of the gifts for their birthdays (yes, we actually did save some). Once the children were in a state of overwhelm, yet playing with Thomas and his possy – the obvious winners – David and I enjoyed having the day off without feeling guilty. What a delight! In the afternoon the four of us watched the Polar Express, while enjoying some yummy bites and snacks.

Christmas dinner was our non-American style. No turkey, no hams. I am still digesting all that, plus the stuffing and gravy from Thanksgiving. No, Christmas dinner at our house consists of a beautiful Filet Mignon in a Cognac Cream Sauce. On the side: Green Beans topped with Caramelized Onions and Roasted Almond Slivers. This obviously goes hand in hand with a beautiful bottle of red. For dessert: Home Made Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée and finally a decadent double Chocolate Martini as digestive. (If only I knew what awaited me on that 2nd day of 2012.)

And so, Christmas 2011 came to an end.

On to New Year’s Eve we went.

As per tradition, I spent the 30th baking Oliebollen: beignets with raisins, topped with powdered sugar – a Dutch tradition for New Year’s. Of course, I wouldn’t be “me” if I didn’t add some cupcakes to the evening. So, cupcakes were created:

Before our first neighbors arrived, David decided to rescue a cat from the tree across the street. It apparently had been stuck there for 3 days and it was screaming for help. Up he went (David), 25 feet up the tree, in the dark, to rescue a cat. Though terrified, the cat allowed him to pick it up and take it down. I swear that cat wasn’t half as terrified as I was, but that’s a different story. The poor thing was dehydrated and starving. We gave it food, water and left it to calm down and hopefully find its way home.

The evening consisted of waves of neighbors and friends coming over. Catching up with neighbors who had been out of town for a while, to meeting new people. The evening was filled with (surprise…) good food, delicious drinks and laughter.

Happy New Year!!

2011 had come to an end. 2012 had started. Here’s to a wonderfully happy, adventurous, healthy and fun New Year!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fall '11: November

November was … November: a month filled with anything Fall and Thanksgiving. Oh, and romance. 9 years ago, on November 17, 2002, David went down on one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him.

And here we are.  In 9 years we: got married, bought a house, adopted a cat, adopted a dog, adopted another dog, built on to our house, got our scuba certification and dove at the Great Barrier Reef, got our motorcycle license and traveled through New Zealand by motorcycle, went to Fiji, had a son, had another son and ... did a whole lot more, but can't remember.

With my parents living in Europe, Kai & Ryder don’t get to see their Opa & Oma very often. Although twice a year is still very good, considering the distance, it unfortunately doesn’t allow them to have the bond with their grandparents like the one children with grandparents living in closer proximity have.  Needless to say, it’s always a big event when Opa & Oma come over.  And with them spending Thanksgiving with us, came a whole lot of excitement. We had made a count down calendar on which we colored in the day past right before going to bed. Every day a different color, trying to color in between the lines, not on the wall, oh the excitement.

The kids needed to get their hair cut to look a little more “presentable” – the excursion from hell for all 3 of us. The frozen yogurt afterwards made up for it for the kids.

Mama was exhausted for the rest of the day and needed a bit more than just some frozen yogurt.

For the couple of weeks that Opa & Oma were here, a good time was had by all. Kai LOVED being dropped off and picked up from school by them, Ryder was just happy to have a house full of people and David and I enjoyed the family, the dinners and the conversations.
When Kai first spotted the poster, announcing that Happy Feet Two would be in theaters in November, he proclaimed that it was his “favorite show” and he had to go see it. I must have mumbled something along the lines of “Mama and Papa taking Kai to see Happy Feet Two, while Opa & Oma look after Ryder”, because from that moment on, he would tell me this (in those exact words), every single time he spotted an ad for the movie. I find it beyond fascinating (and canNOT) wrap my brain around the fact that something like this sticks like glue, while simple things like “Thank You” are so hard to remember. So, we took Kai to see the movie, add popcorn during the the showing and ice cream afterwards and it makes for the perfect afternoon.

The weather made for great leaf play again. Though not comparable to the gorgeous colors in the North East, I love the few days that the trees on our street turn yellow and gold.

Once the leaves start falling one of our neighbors always rakes them up in a pile on the front lawn; it is the invitation that says “Com’on over and HAVE FUN Kai!!” And fun we had.

Playing outside: great fun.
Colds: no fun.

Kai caught a cold and felt like crap. Add to that the heart break that he couldn’t go to school and it makes for a pretty miserable toddler. Poor dude. However, not being able to go to school makes for a great incentive to eat and drink everything that Mommy offers, if it makes you better, ya know?
Luckily the cold kept our schedule in mind and Kai was able to attend the Thanksgiving meal at his school. What a fun thing! All kids in the large assembly room, tables decorated, center pieces, head pieces for the kids, awesome! They had made their own place mats – so cute.

And Ryder? Well, Ryder was Ryder.

Cute kid, right?  Yes, absolutely cute kid.  In between the tantrums.  Back in the day the Terrible Twos came “early” with Kai as well, so it was no surprise that we found ourselves in the eye of the storm once again. I just couldn’t remember one thing: how long is this all supposed to take? I need to know, so I can keep telling myself that within a “reasonable” time things will get better. Though he understands very well in two languages, his spoken word is lacking greatly, which without a doubt, fuels the frustration that lies behind the tantrums. But at the end of the day the most important thing for me is just to get through it. All the reasons in the world do not make it any less frustrating. So for now, I just keep telling myself that it will get better. Some time. I hope.

At the beginning of the month the little one young one decided that he had enough of the high chair, which had served both him and Kai. High chair – Bye Bye. The booster seat reappeared out of the closet and got installed on the chair. Yay, less clutter. Oops, bigger mess. I guess that’s how it goes. Ryder wasn’t grooving on the booster seat. At all. We “fought’ for 4 days at which point I took it off and gave it away to Goodwill. Though he hardly appeared above the table, the kid got his own chair and sat at the table with the rest of us. The mess around his chair didn’t get any better, but at least he created it quietly.

So this month was pomegranate month. The fruits that are priced "light years above reasonable" in stores came in abundance in my weekly organic vegetable crate. Oh, I LOVE this service. For the price of approximately 8 pomegranates in the store, I received a crate filled with fruits and vegetables (enough to serve the 4 of us for a week), including about 3 pomegranates each week. DELICIOUS! Though the seeding takes time, it is all worth it, especially when the fruit "sings in his mouth" the same way it does in yours:

All in all, November went by fast. Too fast. I love the Fall, working towards the Holidays. The time spent with family, warm and cozy inside, comfort food and happiness. Life is good.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fall '11: October

Oh dear rain, how I love thee! This expression of love goes to the first day of real rain, which we received (if I’m not mistaken) in October. As I strapped Kai into his car seat and the rain was pouring right down my neck, he exclaims: “I LIKE this water Mama!” Yeah, me too, as long as I don’t have it soak my back though. Having grown up experiencing the annual 4 seasons, the rain (or even overcast and temps in the low 60's) are a welcome change for me here in SoCal.  This first day of downpour made for a trip to Target to obtain a larger umbrella. Of course, I didn’t get to use it right away as the next day we hit 99 degrees again. Really!? In October? Com’on!

Being inspired by watching the story of a 7-year old boy who had a unique combination of blood disorders and who needed to find a bone marrow donor match, David and I registered ourselves as bone marrow donors this month. How incredible would it be if we could save someone’s life? A LIFE! Life is the most precious gift we are given, so, how out-of-this-world amazing would it be to help save that precious gift for someone? To give them another chance? And that, with minimal to no risks to yourself? I truly hope that I some time I will receive the phone call that I am “a match”.

On a different note: the Pumpkin Bread mix returned to Trader Joe’s shelves. The day of my discovery marked the day that I was officially named “the Pumpkin Lady” at the Trader Joe’s down the street from my work. I was that woman; the one who checks out with the contents of the entire shelf in her cart. Yep, that was me. That stuff is so good and the fact that it is a seasonal item is a crime, so Mommy shamelessly stocked up.

At the beginning of the month Ryder caught a cold and lost his voice. Though at times that loss was pretty darn convenient, I simultaneously felt for the little man. Poor kid. Needless to say, his voice returned after a few days. And it made up for the days of silence we had had… Did someone say “Terrible Two’s”? Add some molars coming through and his desperate need to be in control of everything and you have tantrums and very tumultuous days…oy…

When Kai was his age, he was obsessed with stacking cups. OBSESSED. This month Ryder really got into the stacking as well and though his obsession was definitely shorter lived than Kai’s, his excitement was not any less entertaining:

The rest of October was filled with day trips with the boys:

Travel Town,

we met Buddy at the Los Angeles Zoo,

a day at the Museum of Natural History where we met up with Kai’s friend Taylor. Lots of fun there: while Kai and Taylor rebuilt the T-Rex skeleton,

Ryder felt the need to explore the display cabinets and take a closer look at the creatures on display.

When the boys witnessed a T-Rex birth a human,

they asked their dinosaur questions, while Mommy wondered which part of evolution she lacked understanding of. The Mammoths were a point of interest to which Kai & Ryder returned several times.

The colder days were spent at home coloring,

while one of the warmer days this “little” fella made Mommy jump out of her skin.

One afternoon, much to Mommy’s delight, Kai decided he wanted to play tennis in the backyard. 7 hits of 10 was a pretty darn good score. The dog LOVED Kai’s enthusiasm for the sport and hopes for a continuation of the learning process.

To add a little bit of variety to the daily routine, David and I had a new driveway put in. After 7 years of crappy asphalt, we finally got the look that actually says “us”, not only in style, but also because now we can park both cars on the driveway!! How freakin’ cool?!?! Yes, I am excited about my driveway! Can’t you tell?

Of course I cooked, baked, experimented in the kitchen and came up with some awesome yummyness. The highlight of it all: the cupcake of all cupcakes. “Divine” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Chocolate cupcake filled with sea salt caramel, topped with chocolate frosting and chocolate chip and sea salt brittle.

To recap: chocolate, caramel and sea salt. Pure perfection and bliss.

October wouldn’t be October without a visit to the pumpkin patch.

The Harvest Festival at Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark is our go-to place. Love it and this year was no different. Lots of laughter, giggles, and cuteness.

Once the perfect pumpkins were acquired, the carving took place at our friends Michael & Nina’s house. A fun-filled afternoon with lots of great designs, wine and a ton of fun.

As Halloween approached Kai joined me in the kitchen to partake in the baking projects. Halloween cookies were baked, decorated and quality control was under strict surveillance of Mr. Pastry Chef himself.

Both boys ate and ate and ate. Anything they could get their hands on. One of the phases: the water melon phase.

½ water melon per day – between the two of them.

Outside of Kai’s school is a grassy area that separates the entrance from the parking lot. It has become tradition to play chase after school. Either with classmates, friends from other classes, or Mommy. Or…all of the above. One afternoon, in the midst of his play, Kai came running up to me and said: “I need a hug and a kiss Mommy.” Hug and kiss take place. He looks at me and says “I missed you Mommy”. Kiss and off he goes to play again. Me: MELT.

The boys are starting to really get along better and better. We have truly moved on from the “who is this baby who steals my toys?” to “here’s someone I can play with (and he doubles as a ‘partner in crime’) – cool!” Their relationship is a roller coaster going from playing nicely, to fighting not-so-nicely, to moments that are just too quiet (too quiet is not a good thing when you have 2 boys), to the sounds I love the most:

The month ended on a high-note: Halloween was celebrated with a Halloween Parade at school. As expected, it was a day way too warm to dress your child in any costume, but weeks ago Kai had decided that “Kai is going to be a fireman, Ryder is going to be a fireman, Papa is going to be a fireman and Mama is going to be a fireman.”

So, to school we went. Kai & Ryder both dressed as firemen – my outfit awaited me for the evening:

The parade was filled with cuteness among the girls and cool-ness among the boys.

Trick-or-Treating at night was fun too.

Candy, candy, candy. Upon our return home, Mommy quickly and un-noticeably to any other members of her family, sifted through the candy and picked out the candy that she deemed not-suitable for the kids. These were added to the bowl of candy to hand out and inspired by all the neighbors who so generously gave him candy, Kai was delighted to return the favor and LOVED putting candy in everyone’s buckets as they stopped by his house. (All the while announcing that he was “A FIREMAN!!!”)


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