I realize I haven't made good on my intention to include Halloween-themed photos in my October posts. To make amends, I'm dedicating a whole post to showcasing the Halloween decor around our house.
The front porch. Amazingly, out of all the pumpkins on the front steps, only the large pumpkin and three small pumpkins were purchased. The rest found their way home as take-home treats from the kids's schools and the various parties and events we have attended.
A closeup of the Halloween pumpkin tree on our front porch. These are actually fake styrofoam pumpkins, since real ones would be much too heavy for the "tree", which is actually a branch that fell from one of our birch trees.
The top of our TV console is Skeleton City. The centerpiece is the remote-control sailboat that Alfie got for Fathers' Day; that's actually its permanent display area.
People associate hospitals with a lot of emotions -- helplessness, fear, hope (or hopelessness) -- or sensations -- pain, -- or senses -- bright lights, strong smells. But since I practically grew up in hospitals -- my dad is a doctor -- they actually bring back a lot of happy memories.
I don't remember my own birth, of course, but with twenty-plus cousins we were always at the delivery ward (5th floor) visiting an aunt and a new cousin. We loved running over to the nursery and looking at the cute little babies (although I remember feeling sad and squeamish as we past the little ones in incubators who obviously were starting out in life with a bit of a struggle). I do remember several visits to old relatives with serious illnesses (9th floor), but being so young I never really dwelt on what it really meant. As far as I was concerned, I was happy because I got to eat the pastries that other family members had brought in to offer to visitors.
We loved visiting my dad's office (2nd floor). His secretary always had a kind word and a pencil and paper for me to draw with, and if he was visiting a patient in the hospital we'd get to play in his office with his stethoscope and plastic models of kidneys and hearts. Sometimes -- o treat of treats -- he would give us some money and send us down to the cafeteria for some snacks (we'd always take the back stairs and feel like we were important "insiders" because we knew the back routes). But as we grew older, those office visits often grew long and boring, especially when they fell on weekend afternoons, on the way home from our grandmother's house. Hearing my dad say he had to "Go on Rounds" would always bring out groans from me and my siblings, because it meant we had to sit in the car or play in the parking lot for what seemed like hours.
My personal hospital experiences have involved some pain (or "minor discomfort" as hospital personnel like to say), of course, but all have had positive outcomes. My first hospital stay involved dental surgery, two impacted molars, in my late teens. I had outpatient surgery in my twenties to remove two large moles (I remember being fascinated with the sizzle and smell of my burning flesh as they cauterized my skin -- perhaps the pain meds got me all loopy). And I've been in the maternity ward twice. I suffered through an insanely long and painful labor with The Pea versus a short and painless labor with the twins, but both labors resulted in healthy vaginal births. And my post-labor hospital memories all involve little sleep and lots of love.
The most difficult times I've had at hospitals have been visiting loved ones and watching them suffer. Almost two decades ago, my father had triple bypass surgery; I can still remember watching him in agony after a simple cough strained his stitches and hammered the ribs they had to break in order to get to his heart. A week or so after my twins were born, they had to be readmitted to the hospital due to high bilirubin levels. Even though I knew the newborn jaundice would go away after a short stay under those incubator lights, I was an emotional wreck having to leave them there. And last year, I had to take 3Po to the emergency room after CleanBoy slammed a door on his pinkie finger and broke it. He was a very sleepy, sad and scared little boy and even though the injury wasn't serious, it was still difficult to watch him and not be able to do much to help him.
As far as hospital memories are concerned, I've been very lucky. And I hope it stays that way.
For more on hospitals, click here.
Now that I've run a half-marathon, what's next? Why not try a "run" in the blogging world? I'm not up to NaNoWriMo marathon, so I'm going to attempt the half-marathon of blogging, namely NaBloPoMo. The starting gun goes off on November 1; hopefully I'll cross the finish line on November 30 without too many boring "Today I did this"-type posts.
I own several pink shirts, but this one is one that I'm extra-proud to be wearing. Money alone couldn't buy it -- I had to run 13.1 miles to get it.
And speaking of pink, the image below is quite possibly the most significant and important pink there is -- this symbol of courage, hope, life and love. I saw many runners wearing the pink ribbon in last week's race. My grandmother and aunt have fought -- and beat -- breast cancer, so it has a place in my heart, too. Now go and get that mammogram, ladies!
For more shades of pink, click here.
3Po and CleanBoy are dressed up as Batman and Superman and playing in the hall closet. Presently, 3Po comes running up to his dad, wailing; CleanBoy has accidentally opened the door and hit 3Po's foot.
3Po: Daddy, CleanBoy opened the door on my toe and it huuuuuuurts!
CleanBoy (muttering, half-defiant, half-ashamed): Well, Batman doesn't cry.
Name a great website you would recommend to others.
How about http://www.kidsurplus.com/ for some great deals on children's clothing and toys!
On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 as highest), how often do you dream at night?
Probably a 5; I don't remember my dreams, so I can't be sure.
Did you have a pet as a child? If so, what kind and what was its name?
A German Shepherd named Schultzie. He loved spaghetti and meatballs!
If you had the chance to star in a commercial, what would you choose to advertise?
What is your favorite kind of hard candy?
1 - Hey, it's the Nike Women's Marathon and Half-Marathon! Just getting in was an accomplishment -- it sold out so quickly, none of my other girlfriends managed to get a spot.
2 - I've never run at sunrise before.
3 - It was the perfect day for a run -- cool, sunny, not a trace of fog.
4 - It was most scenic run I've ever been on. I ran past the Bay Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Cliff House, the Pacific Ocean. The clear sunny skies made sure we had spectacular views of everything.
7 - I've never seen so many people running for a cause. Half the runners must have been affiliated with Team in Training. Many of them had names, ribbons or photos on their shirts, of people who inspired them, people they were running for. Maybe people fighting leukemia or people who died fighting it. I saw a shirt that read, "You think running 26.2 miles is hard, try chemotherapy". It was truly inspiring.
8 - I got to carbo-load the night before on pancakes and ice cream without too much guilt.
9 - I got to spend a lovely weekend with my family in San Francisco. We met up with some childhood friends of Alfie's who were on vacation from England, and took them around the city and Sausalito. The kids had a great time and enjoyed sleeping in a hotel on Saturday night.
10 - The perks and freebies were amazing. Free iPod engraving, free massages and manicures and pedicures and makeovers pre and post-race, an oxygen bar after the first Big Hill (I wanted to try all of these but decided not to because the lines were just too long). Energy stations along the way offered water, Gatorade, bananas, oranges and bagels and Luna Bars. After the race, there was more fruit and water, Bear Naked Granola, bagels and Jamba Juice smoothies. The race shirt we got was a cute pink Nike DriFit shirt, not an ordinary white screenprint tshirt that gets relegated to Alfie's nightshirt drawer. The much awaited Ghirardelli Chocolate Mile was something of a disappointment -- I expected a bit more fanfare, and all I saw was a table of chocolate squares -- but hey, chocolate is still chocolate, and I managed to stuff a bunch of dark chocolate squares into my rack pack, to be savored in the days to come.
11 - And then there's the finisher's medal, which is so special it deserves it's own little section. Instead of a clunky piece of metal on a ribbon, finishers receive a sterling silver Tiffany's necklace. Yup, with the blue Tiffany's box and all. Presented to us on a silver platter by a bunch of hunks dressed in tuxedoes. I've never owned anything from Tiffany's, and this is something that no millionaire can buy.
12 - I've run my first half-marathon. I was expecting to run between 4 and 6 miles and walk the rest of the way, but other than my slow shuffles up the hills and some minute-long powerwalks, I ran. Being able to say, "I ran it" is the best perk of all.
13 - My time -- 2:22:25 -- is icing on the cake. Given how much I've been running, I did not honestly expect to finish below 3 hours.
0.1 - Did I mention that Tiffany necklace?
For a mile-by-mile account of the race, check out my post on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.
For more practical things, click here.
It had to happen sooner or later. My house looks like the Halloween fairy threw up all over the place, but my blog was still the same ho-hum-homepage. For weeks I've been enviously checking out blogs that are all decked out for Halloween, such as Hootin Anni's and Bridget's and wishing I could do the same. I knew I wanted to include Halloween-themed photos with each post I put up in October, but Halloween-lover that I am, I wanted to do more. And now, I have!
I don't have the time, knowledge or inclination to mess with my blog template, but fortunately the lovely and talented Gattina has made it easy for me to spook up my homepage --thanks, Gattina, for the great header!
I don't know anything about dogs, so I don't know. I do know that I don't want to be one of those small lap dogs that yip and yap instead of bark, because then my husband wouldn't like me.
Right now, spiders, because I'm in the midst of getting the house all decorated for Halloween.
Salad : Approximately how long does it take you to get ready each morning?
Five minutes -- I get dressed, brush my teeth and wash my face. Mornings are all about everybody else but me -- getting the kids up and dressed, giving them breakfast, making the kids' and Alfie's lunch, getting The Pea to school. My breakfast and shower have to wait till the rush dies down.
Main Course : How many cousins do you have, and are you close to them?
Let me see...... I have 26 first cousins (children of my parents' brothers and sisters), and I've already lost track of how many second cousins I have (children of my parents' first cousins). We have big families in the Philippines! With that many cousins, how can you be close to all of them?
Dessert : Take your initials (first, middle, last) and come up with something else those letters could stand for. (Example: SFO = Sweet Funny Otter)
ALP: A lovely person
For more feasts, click here.
Here's a summary of how I did it (note: summary does not convey the effort/angst/mistakes I went through to get it "just right"):
Wings: Bend wire into desired wing shape. Cover wings with a pair of white pantyhose (you'll need stitch or hot-glue the ends shut). Color wings with fabric paint, diluted with water to get that "sheer" color. Decorate with glitter glue and sew on elastic straps at the back.
Bag: Take a square bag and turn inside out. Stitch a diagonal line from each top corner to the bottom of the bag, right in the middle, so it makes a triangle shape. Turn inside out. Use yellow. orange and white fabric paint to color the bag like a piece of candy corn.
Headband: Wrap antenna pipecleaners around headband to anchor (I twisted 2 pipecleaners together so that the antennae would be stiffer). Make candy corn shapes out of foam and hot-glue to the pipecleaners.
Dress and bootcovers: Buy used costume from Craigslist or Ebay (my sewing and crafting skills do not stretch that far).
Total cost: $7 for dress & bootcovers plus $2 for pantyhose plus $5 for glitter glue; the rest were materials we already had at home. Again, I say, Not Bad!
That is pure joy on their faces. They have been waiting so patiently all week, asking me every day, twice a day, if today was the day that their costumes would arrive in the mail. And today was the day.
The best surprise was that even The Pea's costume arrived today. I wasn't even sure if the woman who sold it to me off Craigslist had even received my check. Truthfully, I wasn't even 100% sure if it was arriving at all -- see Craigslist's rule #1 for avoiding scams . But the woman seemed really nice on her email and even gave me her phone number. And I really, really wanted to get that Candy Corn costume. Fortunately, the woman was alright. I'm glad my fears were just fears. So to the woman who sold me the costume, I'm sorry for doubting you, and thanks for being a good person -- you've made my girl very happy!
Witches fingers and toes sure are smelly, aren't they?
Today was an unbelievably rainy day, so to beat the "Mama, what can I do noooooooow?" syndrome, we practiced making these cute snacks for our upcoming Halloween party. It's super-simple: dip pretzel rods into green melted Wilton's Candymelts, then stick a sliced almond at the tip for a fingernail. I added swirls to look like knuckles, and voila!
The kids had a blast making these. The only problem was, 3Po kept absentmindedly sucking on his pretzel rod while waiting for his turn to dip. It was difficult to convince him that his pretzel would be considered more of a smelly old trick than a sweet treat if he were to dip it and offer it up as a party snack.
For more smelly things, click here.
Appetizer: When was the last time you were surprised?
My daughter's Halloween costume arrived in the mail today; I was pleasantly surprised because I wasn't expecting it until sometime next week.
Soup: Fill in the blanks: My eyes are ______, but I wish they were ____.
My eyes are nearsighted but I wish they were blessed with 20/20 vision.
Salad: If you were a Beanie Baby, what would you look like and what would your name be?
I'm not really into stuffed animals but if I had to choose, I'd probably be Mama the Mouse because my kids would love me and cuddle me anytime.
Main Course: Name two things you consistently do that you consider to be healthy habits.
I eat a good breakfast every morning and walk my daughter to school every day.
Dessert: What brand of toothpaste are you using these days? Do you like it? Why or why not?
I use Crest. As long as the flavor is minty, I don't really care which brand I use.
For more feasts, click here.
I should have known it was too easy. I asked the kids three weeks ago what they wanted to be for Halloween, and the answers were quick and firm: spider (Pea), ghost (CleanBoy), Buzz Lightyear (3Po). No problem. The Pea already has a long black unitard; all I had to do was stuff some black socks with tissue or stockings and sew them on the unitard for legs. We have a white cloth with a hole in the middle that we use when cutting the boys' hair -- perfect for a ghost. And my sister sent us her son's old Buzz Lightyear costume. I thought we'd be all set.
That was before they started changing their minds. First 3Po wanted to be a Ninja Turtle. Then he and CleanBoy started fighting over the lone Buzz costume. I told them they need to decide and stick with it because we need time to find costumes. So now they want to be Power Rangers, green (3Po) and blue (CleanBoy). That wouldn't be too bad except the blue Power Ranger costume currently being sold at the Disney Store is for girls. I've tried bidding on old blue boy Power Ranger costumes twice on eBay, only to be outbid both times. I'm currently trying to convince CleanBoy that Red Power Ranger is just as cool as Blue.
At least Pea's costume is easy, I consoled myself. No such thing. She has decided that a spider is too boyish, and she's afraid her friends might think her spider costume would look weird. She decided she wants to be a guinea pig (like in the Fluffy Easy Reader series). Whaaat???? I don't even know what a guinea pig looks like! Google "guinea pig costume", and the only hits you get are costumes for guinea pigs. She said she would wear orange pajamas, glue a white circle on her front, and paint a white stripe down the middle of her face. She's creative, I'll give her that.
Alfie, wise as ever, suggested she take a deep breath and thumb through some of the Halloween catalogs that seem to make their way to our house this time of year. Now she wants to be a candy corn fairy. Costume Express is the only place I can find it, and it costs $80 for the whole ensemble. I found just one used costume on eBay; again I was outbid. Maybe I'll give her more time to change her mind.
Alfie loves motorcycles. Although I'm not a fan, I've begun to appreciate the beauty in their shining chrome and graceful curves.
Alfie loves watching motorcycle races. Here are some sharp curves on the Laguna Seca racetrack.
Here are some other types of curves you can see on the racetrack (Alfie doesn't mind watching these, either).
For more curves, click here.
Soup: What is one word you don’t like the sound, spelling, or meaning of?
Salad: Do you wear sunglasses when you’re outside? If so, what does your current pair look like?
Dessert: Name a beverage that you enjoy.
For more feasts, click here.
When my kids are hungry and I'm lazy, it's easy to give in to the temptation to drive to the nearest fast-food restaurant -- and sometimes I do. But there are equally good, healthier options -- one of which is Jamba Juice, which my kids absolutely love. I usually grab a 16-oz. smoothie and ask the server to pour some of it into three tiny, kid-size cups. We share a Pizza Protein Bread and Honey Blueberry Pretzel, and presto! Lunch is served. I suppose that's a lot of sugar and carbs, but it's gotta be better than burgers and fries, right?
Again, I'm not affiliated with Jamba in any way, but here's a coupon for a free smoothie:
With locations in 21 states (and one in the Bahamas!), almost anyone can samba and Jamba. Happy (and healthy) slurping!
And more lines...
At least it's better than CleanBoy's view
But seeing Hillary was great
And listening to her was even better
The Pea knows who she wants to vote for
And we got to have a photo with Hillary (well, sort of)
With the memories of our meeting with Elizabeth Edwards fresh in my mind, it was with great excitement and expectation that I boarded the BART train to see Hillary Clinton in Oakland. Wow, another presidential campaign event! In a single weekend! How fun!
It turns out that expectations and reality were two very different things. In all honesty, we would have enjoyed ourselves much more had we known what to expect and been better prepared. To other campaign virgins out there, here are some lessons I learned:
#1. Whatever they might call it, it's a rally.
It was billed as a "family-friendly block party" with music, fun, food and entertainment. In my extreme naivete, I imagined a gigantic festival like the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts, with people strolling around, listening to music on several stages until Hillary came out on the main stage.
Welcome to the real world, bonggamom. The event was a political rally, pure and simple. Basically fourteen thousand people crammed together like sardines, with no room to do anything but stand up, patiently listening to the front acts (music and speeches), but basically waiting over 1 hour for Hillary to speak. Since the event was free and tickets giving closer access to the stage were only $20, I did expect a ton of people (Yes, we were naive, but not stupid). I just didn't expect them to try and fit all those people into a single city block. Maybe a spread-out crowd doesn't look as good on camera?
#2. Arrive early.
We had planned to arrive at least half an hour early so we could stroll around, find a playground for the kids, maybe get ourselves a snack at a food booth before the crowd started coming in (as I said, I was extremely naive). As so often happens when you have kids, the best we managed to do was arrive exactly on time. We found ourselves at the end of a security line, stretching out three or four blocks and growing every second. We spent forty minutes in line before reaching the security tables and entering the closed-off rally area.
By this time, of course, there was no hope of getting a good spot. Even with our $20 "VIP" tickets, the place was already so crowded that we barely managed to secure a crappy, faraway, squished-between-the-loudspeakers-and-the-lights view of the stage (which turned to no view at all once all the banners and posters were in the air).
#3. Do not bring your kids. Ever.
They said kids welcome, family-friendly. I wasn't expecting a bouncy house and crafts, but I did imagine some space to run around, ice cream vendors, perhaps a playground nearby. What I got was my children having to stand up in a sea of adults (claustrophobia, anyone?), loudspeakers blaring, for over an hour, with only a pen, paper, and three sheets of stickers to keep them amused.
My twin 3-year-olds in particular had no idea why they were there, no idea what to do and no idea how long it would last. When I hoisted one of them onto my shoulder, I was immediately reprimanded by a woman behind me who complained that she could no longer see. Wanting to be accommodating, I dutifully lowered him onto the ground where all he could see was legs and feet. After thirty minutes or so, he could no longer take it so we escaped to a spot with less people and absolutely no view of the stage whatsoever. But there was still the hunger (did I mention no food vendors?) and the boredom and the noise to contend with. Some choice quotes that he managed to scream into my ear:
Mama, I can feel my heart beating in my throat! (in response to the heavy bass)
Mama, I want to take the train home now!
Mama, this is never going to end!
Mama, I'm going to be here foreeeeeveeeer!
We weren't the only ones. All around I could see families who had fallen for the "Kids welcome" line. At best they were asleep in their parents' aching arms or slumped on the sidewalk with a bored expression, at worst they were having tantrums or panic attacks like my son. I suppose it was sort of a blessing to the adults around that no-one could hear them scream.
#4. Leave early. Especially if you did not follow Lesson 3.
That was the one thing we did right -- about three-quarters of the way through Clinton's speech, after we had had a chance to snap some photos, shoot some videos, wave our placards and cheer with the crowd, we began our retreat. We were still able to hear the rest of her speech as we moved to the back of the crowd, towards the train station, and we were able to beat the outgoing crowd. And our hungry, tired and sleep kids were able to get to bed a bit earlier.
#5. Do not underestimate the power of a great speaker or a huge crowd.
You'd think that under the circumstances -- after waiting so long, standing so close together that it felt like the Tokyo subway during rush hour -- tempers would be flaring. But the mood was generally upbeat. Everyone seemed content to wait patiently for Hillary to speak, ready to wave their banners and cheer. And the front acts were good, I'll give them that -- church choirs, singer Nya Jade, and political luminaries like Gavin Newsom, Barbara Lee, and Dianne Feinstein. The only people who looked disgruntled were the stressed-out parents and the anal woman behind me.
And Hillary herself did not disappoint. The woman certainly knows how to work the crowd. Edwards supporter that I am, I found myself cheering with the crowd. Her speaking points were so clear and concise that even my six-year-old daughter remembers what she said (On the way to school this morning, she raved, "Mama, she wants to end global warming! She wants the government to help sick people! And she'll be a good president because learned her lessons from her husband who used to be president! Can I vote for her?") At one point, she mistakenly referred to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom as "Governor Newsom". Laughter, cheers. Quick and witty as ever, she quipped, "That's what he told me to say; I guess I can see why." The crowd absolutely lapped it up.
Which brings me to my last lesson.....#6. Rallies can be fun!
Despite the difficulties we encountered, we're still glad we went and we'd do it again. Most of the difficulties we encountered came about because of our inexperience; next time we'll know better. We got to see Hillary Clinton, even though we had to squint to see her. We got to take her photo, even though the closest we came to her was having our photo taken with a lifesize cardboard replica of her. We got to listen to her and gather information that will help us make an informed decision next year.
Even though I've decided that children under ten don't belong at an event like this, it wasn't a total disaster. My six-year-old daughter was excited that she got to see and hear a potential woman president. My three-year-old son enjoyed rolling up his free Clinton poster to make a sword. Even his traumatized twin enjoyed raising his poster and waving it along with the rest of the crowd. And since ice-cream cones or funnel cakes were nowhere in sight, we treated them to the campaign button of their choice. And they are still raving about that train ride.
If anything, it made me appreciate even more the opportunity that I've had to meet Elizabeth Edwards with such a small group; how many people get a chance to do that without paying thousands of dollars? The experience leaves me raring to see the other candidates; preferrably at a more intimate gathering like the Edwards event (cmon, read out invite and meet with us!), but we'll settle for a huge rally like this Clinton event if that's what it takes. Just remind me to call a babysitter, okay?
Cross posted on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog