Went to Whole Foods market to buy some snacks to take to this evening's barbecue party.
My life expectancy as a person living in the USA is about 77 1/2 years. The prevalance of AIDS and other infectious diseases have shortened this woman's life expectancy by as much as 15 years, to just 48 years.
My chances of having AIDS or HIV are nil. It is highly likely that she is infected, because the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is 8.7%. If she lives in South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Zambia or Zimbabwe, her chances are even worse; 20% or more of adults there have AIDS.
Her baby is incredibly lucky to have survived his first year, because infant mortality in Africa is about 10%, or 10 deaths in every hundred babies before they reach a year old. Ours in the USA is 7 deaths per thousand.
But the love that mother has for her baby is no less than the love I have for mine. And this is what breaks my heart. I was moved to tears by American Idol's Idol Gives Back special fundraising event. I turned the TV on to see Melinda Doolittle sing and Chris Richardson get kicked off. Instead I saw incredible images of poverty, both here and in Africa. I saw Simon looking sick, his expression of perpetual boredom wiped from his face. I imagined my children dying of malaria when a $2 tablet could have saved them.
I thought, if every one of the 30 million people that watch Idol gave just $5, and that was matched by contributions from businesses and celebrities and wealthy individulas, think how much we could do to help! So for the first time in my life, I picked up the phone for American Idol.
For more expressions of love, click here.
Having twins is a wonderful blessing, but there is no denying that it is difficult, difficult, difficult, especially in their first year. Seriously, there's always at least one baby crying or feeding or pooping every hour of the day. I was breastfeeding twins and caring for a toddler by myself. My daughter's preschool hours left me some time with "just" the two babies, but I didn't think we could afford any other outside help. I was exhausted, miserable, and almost resentful of my situation.
The only time I had to myself was at night, after all the kids went to bed. I would escape to any store that closed at 9:30 (Michael's, ToysRUs, Cost Plus World Markets) or 10PM (Target, Walmart) and just wander around. When the stores closed, I would return home and surf the internet for hours. My husband could not understand it -- Get some sleep! he would say. How could I explain that after a long day of caring for everyone else's needs but my own, I had this desperate desire for a looong stretch of time by myself, for myself?
Finally, my husband put his foot down and hired a housekeeper to come twice a month. That single act made a huge difference in my outlook and began the process of finding the "Me" in "Mom". With each step I felt more like a person. After breastfeeding stopped, I was able to leave the kids with my husband for longer hours. I joined a gym with childcare. Next came an occasional babysitter. Then last September the boys started preschool two days a week. Six hours of time by myself per week! Me time!
Note that I said Me time, not free time. Those six hours are easily eaten away by tasks done better without kids in tow, such as laundry, cooking or light cleaning, or volunteering at school, or errands like grocery shopping or running to the bank. But it's time alone. And I do manage to set aside some of those six hours to do things I enjoy. Like blogging. Or window shopping. Or having lunch at a cafe and sitting quietly in the sun.
The boys are starting a new preschool in September, and today is their last day at their old preschool. That means it's going to be my last "Me" day for several months. Good-bye to those precious six hours (and I've already spent one of those hours writing this post!). I guess it's back to late-night visits to Target again.
But you know what? That's ok. The kids are a bit older now, and require less attention. I'm really looking forward to spending time with the boys at the park and at the Mommy-and-me classes we'll be taking. I have lots of ideas for projects we can do together at home. I've surfed the internet and filled our calendar with events and outings all over the Bay Area. I'm not going back to being miserable and desperate. All that "Me" time I've taken is paying off -- it's making me a better Mom.
Here it is......ta-daaaa! The culmination of my beginners' cake decorating class. OK, the cake is lopsided (part of it stuck to the pan and I didn't have time to bake another one) and the flowers are all crumbly (I used the wrong type of icing plus I didn't make any larger ones) and the basketweave is too squiggly (no excuse for that one). But I'm happy with my effort.
On a sadder note, today the grandparents returned to England. Lots of tears were shed and the house certainly feels emptier.
We were approached by the organizer, the Palo Alto Area Mills College Club, some months ago. Despite some initial misgivings and moments of despair, we did it because it's for a good cause and a good incentive for us to fix up the house. Today I realized there are other benefits to opening your house up to perfect strangers:
* The organizers gave us a lovely flower arrangement.
* We got to gawk at four other houses for free. One sumptously-decorated house with charming little knick-knacks certainly made me feel like ours was quite plain in comparison -- but then, as my mother-in-law reminded me, there is no way we could decorate our house like that with little kids anyway.
* Looking at the other houses gave me a chance to see what other little touches they threw in to make their houses look awesome (ahhhh... flowers in the bathroom, must buy a bunch for tomorrow..... ooooh, their bedding is so nice, gotta make a late-night trip to Target for some throw pillows!).
Once upon a time, there was a pretty little house with just one thing wrong with it: a set of front steps that had grown older and more chipped and more bedraggled with time.
One day, the man of the house decided to do something about it. He called in his trusted master builder. There were many steps involved, and not much time. After three hours in Home Depot, they were ready to begin.
He encased the original steps in new wood.
He put a fresh coat of white primer paint onto them.
He put on two coats of green paint. Nothing stopped him; he worked like a madman through the blistering heat and pouring rain.
Finally, the steps were finished.
The very next day, hundreds of people trekked through the house, all hoping to view some Charming Cottages. They all saw the steps with their very first glimpse of the house. They all trod on those steps to enter. They all raved over the fine craftsmanship and beautiful colors, but no-one mentioned the steps in particular, because they looked like they had always been part of the house. That's just how master builder wanted it. As far as he was concerned, his job was done.
(This post is dedicated to Dar. Heartfelt thanks for our beautiful steps; you know how much this means to us.)
Finally, Sanjaya has been voted off American Idol. Everyone can rest easy now. Funny, I've been tearing my hair out week after week as Sanjaya was voted safe, and now that he's gone, I can't help feeling sorry for the kid. After all, he's only seventeen, so young to be enduring such harsh criticism. So Sanjaya, no hard feelings, and good luck to you. Now go off and finish high school, sign up with the Disney Channel, become an MTV veejay, or a hula dancer or whatever. As for the rest of the Idol contestants: Let the real games begin!
So I was surprised to find not one, but two wines that I can honestly say I love, during our trip to Napa Valley last weekend. I thought I'd be playing with the kids at the winery parking lots while my husband and in-laws sampled vino after vino, but there I was, swirling and sipping and thoroughly enjoying myself. Both wines are from Sterling Vineyards, a lovely winery at the top of a hill.
The first is their 2005 Pinot Gris, which I thought was lovely and crisp, almost like a sparkling wine, when served nicely chilled. You might find it sweet after the first sip, but try it again after eating a chocolate truffle, and believe me, you'll be amazed at the change -- it gains a "kick" and tastes more like a dry white.
Next is their 2005 Malvasia Bianca. I had never heard of this varietal before but thoroughly enjoyed sipping this sweet, sweet dessert wine. The wine server made a special point to remind us to sniff our wine, swirl it then sniff again to fully appreciate the wonderful aromas.
We also visited Stag's Leap Cellars and the Rutherford Hill Winery during this trip, but Sterling was the clear winner for me. So this brings to a grand total of four, the number of alcoholic drinks that this wine enthusiast has enjoyed in recent years.
Of course, my all-time favorite, grand champion alcoholic treat still remains the Winter Cabernet dark chocolate truffle from Anette's Truffles. Anyone passing by the town of Napa needs to drop by their First Street shop to pick up a box of these decadent goodies. They're pretty generous with the free samples, so even if you don't care for wine truffles (huh?!), I'm sure you'll find something you like.
Happy sampling, everyone!
I couldn't quite catch it with a single shot, but we could actually see the whole arc of BOTH rainbows.....
....... and where did these rainbows end, you ask.......
........ why, at the pot of gold, of course -- the local WalMart!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you heard it here first: when he's not playing Dr. Gregory House on TV, Hugh Laurie destresses and avoids his hordes of fans by retreating into his secret identity -- My husband. Tabloids, take note!
For more more secret identities, click here.
I would have blogged about this last night, but after the party we were absolutely exhausted. I think I came down with a cold just hours after it ended, and today I'm sick in bed. Planning and executing the party was more tiring than I thought. I know it's corny to say this, but Love got me through it! (and a little bit of adrenaline).
Love is planning out all the birthday activities with your daughter (read ballet books, watch a ballet video, decorate crowns and cookies, play ballet games and just dance!) and enjoying the time you spend planning it together.
Love is figuring out a way to give your daughter the party of her dreams on a budget, even though it means scouring party stores for sales, hot-gluing your fingers together when making fairy wands by yourself and messing with Adobe Photoshop for hours to stick little girls' heads onto ballerina's bodies for some awesome ballet photos.
Love is turning your kitchen into a ballet wonderland while she's at school, so that when she returns, the sight of it all makes her face light up and takes her breath away.
Love is dressing up in a leotard, tights and tutu skirt even though you feel a bit silly, because your daughter wanted you to be a ballerina for the party as well.
Love is playing Pass The Slipper and Statue Dance and seeing the 7 ballerinas wiggle their hips to the tune of Van Morrison's Star of the County Down and Shakira's Hips Don't Lie.
Love is letting your little brother be a ballerino and decorate a crown if he wants to and letting him play Pass The Slipper even if he's a bit slow. Love is putting up with his whining and letting him open your birthday present and play with it because you understand he wishes it was his party too.
Love is sitting down to a pink table under a pink canopy with ballet plates and cups and napkins and eating yummy food, most of it pink (cupcakes, ice cream, strawberries, pink lemonade, ham sandwiches, and veggie chips).
Love is 7 ballerinas and 2 ballerinos screaming and singing dancing and having the time of their lives.
Love is hearing a guest say, "This is the best party ever!". Even better, love is hearing your daughter say, "This is the best party ever!".
So, what do you think?
For Catholics and other Christians, Easter has nothing to do with bunnies and eggs and chicks anyway, it's about Jesus and the Resurrection. So removing the religious connotation (the word "Easter") from activities that are completely non-religious would actually make sense. Oh the other hand, Conservative Christians say that by removing the "Easter" in "Easter Bunny", people are taking PC to absurd heights. They also have a point... but then to be consistent, why are they all bothered over this Chocolate Jesus? Are they outraged because Jesus was depicted in chocolate or because he doesn't have his loincloth covering up the naughty bits? Are they demanding that Cosimo Cavallaro be more PC?
Happy Springtime everyone!
This week's Photo Hunters Theme is clean.
Since I'm in the baby photos part of my photo archives, I decided to go with one of the Pea's early bath photos. She looks a bit overwhelmed, but she really did enjoy it. Perhaps I took this just after I started the Jacuzzi tub. She has always loved bubble baths but the noise of the jacuzzi always scared her.
April 5, 2001, Thursday, approx. 3PM: I'm already 5 days late and fed up with being pregnant. On March 19, I was 1cm dilated and on my due date, March 31, I was almost 2cm, so I was sure it wouldn't be long. Indian food, long walks and sex have not helped to bring upon labor. I secretly resent every woman who ever gave birth early or on time. Walking home from Ace Hardware with my in-laws, I begin to feel "twinges" that come and go, like regular menstrual cramps. Hmmmm.... wonder if this is it?
April 6, 2001, Friday, approx. 1AM: OK, it's going to be a sleepless night. Contractions are keeping me awake because they are starting to hurt. I envy my husband sleeping beside me (he claims I woke him up with my moaning at each contraction but I know better --I heard him snoring).
April 6, 4AM: Contractions are 4 minutes apart. We start to think about calling the doctor.
- Is it difficult to find a mom on the playground who had a first child before turning 30?
- Do you feel like an uneducated parent if you have a college degree but don't have a doctorate/medical/law/business/any graduate degree?
- Did your kids learn their alphabet, not via Sesame Street, but through typing out the letters on Microsoft Word?
- Do the Toyota Priuses and BMW X5's outnumber the Toyota Camrys and Ford Focuses in your neighborhood street?
- Do three or more children in your son's preschool class have parents who are .com or Google millionaires?
- Do you feel like you're feeding your kids junk food if your kids' lunch is peanut butter sandwiches on white bread from Safeway instead of organic whole wheat bread from Whole Foods?
- And does your child's preschool gently remind you that peanut butter is banned from school but soynut butter is a delicious, nutritious and acceptable substitute?
- Do your kids enjoy hummus and carrots for lunch, blue cheese for snack, sushi for dinner and gelato for dessert?
If so, have I got the blog for you! Whether you want to commiserate with your fellow San Francisco Bay Area parents, read about life in this strange microcosm or just want to laugh at the real and imagined peeves of parents around here, get on over to my other blog, the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, celebrating its first birthday today! Snarky, snippy, thoughtful and true, written by the coolest bunch of moms I know, it's the most successful one-year-old I know (except for Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, but then she didn't have to work as hard to get where she is today).
Thanks for getting me hooked on blogging, SV Moms, and happy birthday -- you rock!
Here are the boys "going up the mountain", as they put it. By the time we arrived at Soda Springs, all the little kids' skis had been rented out, but they were quite happy to ride the "magic carpet" up the little slope and walk back down.
The whole experience was really enjoyable. The 40-minute tour (no photos, unfortunately) was interesting to kids and adults alike. We walked right above the jellybean production line and got to see how the beans are made, sorted and packed. The tour ended (not surprisingly) right at the souvenir store where visitors could sample any flavor of jellybean and buy all kinds of Jelly Belly merchandise, including Belly Flops, the JB rejects that local farmers sometimes buy for their pigs. They're still completely edible, honest!
When I hear the words "Deepest, Darkest...." , I can only think of one thing: chocolate! My whole family loves chocolate, and my husband is a confirmed chocoholic, especially dark chocolate (or plain chocolate as they say in England). And with all these studies touting the benefits of the antioxidants in dark chocolate, his chocolate fix has become almost a guilt-free pleasure. At least the way he eats it is ok: just one square of deep, silky dark chocolate per day. Just a 1/2 inch square. I don't know how he does it, I can't stop till I eat the whole bar.
Anyway, just for fun, I thought I'd share with everyone some of our family's favorite chocolate treats. Before I start, it must be noted that we are not gourmet chocolate connoisseurs. No doubt serious critics would laugh at this list; it's just the stuff we find the yummiest.
Presenting the Bongga Awards for Best Chocolate:
Best all-around chocolate maker: Cadbury's chocolate -- but it must be genuine English chocolate because Cadbury's chocolate made in the US actually wins our award for worst chocolate!
Best drugstore chocolate candy: There are so many, it's hard to say!!! It would have to be a tie between Cadbury's Turkish Delight, Nestle Aero, Galaxy, Ritter Sport dark chocolate hazelnut, and of course, good ol' Twix! Honorable mention goes to Trader Joe's for making a great economy sized and priced slab of chocolate.
Best chocolate ice cream: Haagen Dazs. Runner-up, Dreyer's.
Best chocolate truffle: Champagne truffles and port truffles from Anette's chocolates . Runner-up, Champagne truffles from Joseph Schmidt.
Best chocolate baked treat: Mrs. Fields (or any moist, chewy) chocolate chip cookie. Runners-up, any chocolate-covered biscuit such as McVitie's plain chocolate Digestives, plain chocolate Hobnobs, or Cadbury's fingers (again, it must be genuine English Cadbury's!).
Best guilt-free chocolate treat: Melted strawberries dipped in dark chocolate. Runners-up, Jello sugar-free chocolate pudding or sugar-free/ fat-free Fudgsicle pops.
Mmmm.... all this talk of chocolate has made me want to drive over to the nearest British foods store! So tell me, what's your favorite deep, dark chocolate indulgence?
For more things deep and dark, click here.