May 18, 2015

May those butterflies follow us forever

Eight years ago, we bought a house.

Since it was towards the end of the school year, I saw students in session when I visited the local elementary school to get the paperwork to enroll my oldest son for first grade to start that autumn.

I got happy little butterflies in my stomach when I parked in the school's lot and walked toward the office. I saw gleeful kids playing on the gorgeous playground. What a campus!

A few short months later, I got my son's first-grade teacher assignment, and the next day, I escorted him to his first day of school.

For a very long time, those happy butterflies found me each time I stepped on campus. We were so, so very lucky to have our son attend this amazing school.

Before I knew it, my oldest was in third grade, and my youngest began Kindergarten at the same school as his brother.

And then my oldest son graduated. And went off to middle school, where he was blessed with some amazing teachers.

And now, my youngest son is graduating from elementary school. Simultaneously, my oldest is graduating from middle school.

All of a sudden, both my boys will have new schools, and I won't have an elementary school kid anymore.

We relocated here specifically for the local elementary school. It is stunning that my boys are now moving on. On one hand, I feel the tears creeping into my eyes as I realize just how quickly time has slipped away. But on the other hand, I look at my quickly-growing-up boys and recognize that they are ready for new challenges. I am proud of the young men that they are, and are continuing to become.

Certainly they have plenty of growth still ahead of them, but it is astounding just how far they've come from the little kids they were back when we moved.

Eight years ago, I was eager and excited. I was nervous, but confident. I expected that relocating would be a good idea. But looking back now, I see that our decision to move exceeded my expectations. The questions I had back then... well, I wish the "me of today" could reassure the "me of 8 years ago." It is good. It is very good..

May 15, 2015

Failed Conservation

I got a new car back in February, and so I'm selling my minivan. Usually I sell the old car pretty quickly after obtaining a new one, but this winter/spring has been very busy with illnesses and obligations and the like. And so, the van has sat in my driveway. Of course I haven't wanted to use it, because I didn't want to add more miles on it before selling it.

I was going to be extra-productive this past Tuesday, so decided to take the van for its smog check. But... the battery was dead. So, I got a new battery!

Today I decided to take the van for its smog check. But... because it has a new battery, I must drive it at least 50 miles, and turn it on and off multiple times to reset the computer.

So much for conserving miles!


I live in California, where there is a drought. I am careful when using water, so give only a quick squirt of water while using the kitchen sink disposal. I don't run the water continuously while getting stuck-on food off the dishes before loading the washer.

The pipe became blocked. The plumber explained that I hadn't fully rinsed all the stuff down the drain, so food accumulated. He left the water running for close to an hour to finally clear everything away.

So much for conserving water!

May 14, 2015

Tides Change

I took a walk around my old neighborhood today.

Many of the houses were similar to what they were like when I was growing up, but updated subtly, to keep them current. Others had been expanded noticeably, either blending in nicely to the neighborhood's feel, or seeming a bit garish. Thankfully, most were in the first category. And then of course there were some houses that had fallen into disrepair.

I walked past the house where a man died of a heart attack, but his wife was put on trial for murder because the timing of his death seemed "off." Of course, we kids called it "The Murder House," and would race past it on our walk home.

I walked past homes of kids who I babysat. Of course, those kids and I are now considered essentially the same age, since a decade or two is nothing in adult years. What happened to the nice ones? What happened to the brats?

I walked past the former home of my Kindergarten teacher, who I know passed away a few years back. (I know my fifth, fourth, and third grade teachers have also all died.) I joke that since she taught me her final year before retiring, that it was probably me who drove her to retire. (Yup, I was a handful!)

I glanced quickly at two homes --next to each other-- pausing to note their respective significance, but I turned around before heading up The Big Hill:

For one house, I recalled how the occupants included an ex-Raider. He tried to impress me with his football prizes, but since my uncle also has Superbowl rings and the like, I wasn't all that starstruck. Still, I loved his house, which included an enormous wing just for the kids.

The house next to it --much more modest-- used to house a beautiful couple with their two kids. They were the perfect "yuppies" from the 80's/90's with various toys for both themselves and their kids. They were so kind, and attractive. Their daughter was so very sweet, precocious, and well-behaved. Their son cried a lot, because he was a tiny baby. Alas, the father randomly died of a heart attack. He was very, very young. He was otherwise in fabulous shape, so the news of his passing was a shock.

As I passed more homes, I remembered even more: that's where the masseuse lived, that's where the girl who had major brain surgery lived, and that's where that woman who didn't know what chicken pox was --so exposed her kids to me and my brother-- lived. (She later became a physician. Ha!) That's where that "good girl" lived that my mom always wanted me to be like. That's where the misbehaving boy lived. That's where the author lived. That's where the mechanic lived. That's where Ryan Reynolds lived*, that's where the girl who had the fake Cabbage Patch Kid doll lived, that's where the people we bought the swing set from lived, that's where the guy who later died of testicular cancer lived, that's where my first "boyfriend" lived.

As I approached one particular house, I got excited, because I wondered what it looked like now. Back then, it was the fanciest home of them all. My friend had a heated bubble that went over her swimming pool during nasty weather so that everyone could still swim. They had a big playroom, and in a separate entertainment suite, had walls of Atari games. My family didn't have an Atari, but my grandparents did. My friend had a two-story playhouse in the back yard. And some sections of the home were so fancy the kids weren't allowed in them.

My friend moved around third grade into an even bigger home. But I figured that the people who bought her home in my neighborhood had to have been well-off.

I was disappointed to see on my walk that the original home is now one of those in disrepair.

But I guess tides change.

*= I got in major trouble for pushing my brother off a (small) deck in Ryan Reynolds' back yard. I bet it is a different Ryan Reynolds than you are thinking of.

April 21, 2015

Jury Duty

There were 75 of us potential jurors.

One wore a "Vegan Outreach" shirt, and carried a large bag with vegan sayings on it. I ate my hard-boiled egg as far away from her as I could, since I already heard her exceptionally loud voice striking up conversations with other jurors. Even if this had been one of the eggs from my neighbor's chickens (it wasn't this time), I know the argument that obtaining the chicks in the first place is cruel. A bummer, since I'd love to have chickens in the backyard, both as pets and for yummy delicious eggs. Of course the same argument can be made for growing plants: the seeds we purchase, rather than obtaining from an actual "family" farm, are GMO already.

Another immediately recognized a fellow potential juror. There were several "career" jurors around, it seemed. The lottery is random, and yet it isn't: even the court website suggests "updating" voter registration or address to increase one's chances of being called. And so, was it my recent registration of a new-to-me automobile that flagged me? This potential juror remarked to his friend, "I'll get out of it like I usually do," suddenly switching to stereotypical broken English, "No me-talky de Ingles. No hablo. How-you-say?" He laughed and became fluent again, "I'm not worried. They won't want me." And yet, just minutes later, the judge informed us that the trial would be conducted in Spanish.

Two jurors were late after lunch break: one was present but asked to go to the restroom, seemingly disappearing thereafter. The other tiptoed into the courtroom at exactly the last moment, when the judge was already issuing an official reprimand for the guy in the bathroom. Tiptoe woman was late the next day as well, but fortunately the court was delayed enough to not get her in trouble.

I was juror #21, and then after Juror #8 had a meeting in the Judges Chambers, Juror #13 became #8, and I became #20.

But I wasn't interviewed, because the case was dismissed unexpectedly. "The issue has resolved."

Last time this happened, the judge point-blank told us, "The defendant has changed his plea to 'guilty'."

But between this week's service and the other time I was unexpectedly excused without being interviewed, I had Jury Duty on the same day that Sandy Hook occurred. That case was an alleged gang-related murder situation. I hated that the Defendant was watching me be interviewed. I hated that the Defendent's friends were in the audience, taking note of the potential juror's names. I hated that the victim's familiy was also in the audience, because via social media on our lunch break, I learned of Sandy Hook. That day was fragile. I was very wiped by many types of emotion. Seeing people -- both online and in front of me -- who lost loved ones was not fun.

Thankfully, this week's Jury Duty wasn't so delicate. My only problem was accidentally not putting my car in "P" and so freaking out a bit when it wouldn't start (until I realized my mistake.) And of course, I didn't go to the store, so my kids declared their hunger over and over again. But that's nothing remarkable.

March 30, 2015

Stonyfield OP organic high-protein smoothies save the day!

This entire school year has been filled with scratchy throats, upset stomachs, and exhaustion. We've had ER trips for breathing problems, and missed birthday parties. Both my sons have had more school absences than we'd like, and in general we haven't been able to do as much as we'd want because it seems as though someone is always sick.

My youngest son is a competitive gymnast. Unfortunately, his gymnastics season mirrors the prime sickness season. He trains all year to do a quick series of meets from December through March, with only those athletes who qualify attending Championship meets in April and May. The aim for gymnasts his level is to first qualify for the State Championship, and then subsequently qualify for the Regional Championship. (Once he gets to the more advanced levels, he'll have the chance to qualify for the National Championship; but for now, Regionals is the highest he can go.)

Keeping my family healthy is important in general, but is especially critical during the brief gymnastics season. It is so disappointing to not do well at a meet (or miss the competition completely) because of illness, since there are so few meets in any given season.

Meanwhile, Stonyfield asked if I might be interested in trying their OP Organic Protein smoothies. I'm a big fan of their yogurt, and adore smoothies, so it was a natural match. At the start of this month, I received samples of their vanilla and strawberry flavors. I put them in the fridge, and was planning to drink them myself as a quick breakfast-on-the-run.

Stonyfield Organic OP High-Protein Smoothie The OP smoothies pose in my back yard before being consumed.

Well, the very next day my gymnast son fell ill. He skipped school, but didn't skip workout (shhhh!) because he was gearing up for the State Championships. (Luckily, he qualified for States back in December, before the seemingly never-ending string of various bugs started marching around his school.)

Of course he was simultaneously hungry and not-hungry. He couldn't not eat right before a strenuous workout, but he also couldn't consume something that would irritate his stomach while he was already under the weather.

Nearly everything in the fridge was deemed too spicy, or too heavy, or too bland. I wanted him to have some yogurt since I figured the active cultures would be good for his queasy tummy, but he told me he wasn't in the mood for the flavors we had available. I asked if he wanted to try the Stonyfield OP vanilla smoothie and his eyes lit up. I explained it was essentially drinkable yogurt. He was thrilled, and --after a long, satisfying sip-- told me it was delicious.

He quickly depleted the stash that Stonyfield had sent.

"You got to get more of this!" he told me.

Fortunately, I found both the vanilla and strawberry flavors at my local Whole Foods, plus the chocolate OP! I was able to buy a bunch of smoothies, which meant I finally got a chance to try them myself. (Yum!) Although my son loves to just drink them straight, I've found it is fun to add things like strawberries to the strawberry flavor, or banana to the chocolate flavor. Of course they are perfect to just "grab and go," but I've enjoyed adding other ingredients to them as well. During the summer, I think I'll try blending them with a bunch of ice to create slushees - fun!

Stonyfield OP smoothies can be found at Whole Foods I was thrilled to find OP smoothies at my local Whole Foods

This past weekend, as we packed for State Championships, I asked my son what he wanted to bring to the hotel. "Vanilla yogurt smoothies!" was his quick answer. He told me his plan was to drink one before bed and another the next morning before competition. I was pretty thrilled that instead of craving junk food to calm his nerves, he wanted something healthful that could actually power his body in a positive way.

I'm sure you can guess the outcome of the meet: Yes, my son qualified for the Regional competition. (And, he earned 5th place on parallel bars and 6th on pommel.) Despite a very nervous stomach, he was able to digest something nutritious thanks to Stonyfield OP smoothies.

Stonyfield OP smoothies are gymnast-approved! Stonyfield OP smoothies are gymnast-approved!

(I'm guessing we'll have to find a Whole Foods near the Regionals site so he'll be ready for his final meet of the season!)

I've been a fan of Stonyfield for a long time, as you can tell by the YoGetter badge that's been in my sidebar for years. I love that Stonyfield is always inventing new products that meet their quality standards: organic, no pesticides, no hormones, no antibiotics, and no GMOs. (That's a lot of "no" that adds up to a big "YES.") OP is gluten-free, and is the first organic protein smoothie with 5 live active yogurt cultures and no artificial sweeteners. I love that OP is portable, filling, and tasty in addition to being healthful. Yum!

The products Stonyfield send me are free in exchange for my spreading the word about them. (In this case, Stonyfield sent me a few, and then I bought a whole bunch more on my own dime!) Likewise, I do receive a stipend for my work with them. But, as you readers know, I only mention products that I truly believe in.

March 17, 2015

The Minivan

Ten years ago, I bought a minivan.

While I was on the test drive, the dealer remarked how he and his wife had just gotten out of their minivan years. He seemed really excited, and I found it an interesting tactic to talk about how fabulous it is not to have to drive one, while trying to sell one.

At the time, I had a preschooler and an infant. The "post-minivan years" seemed very far away, indeed. I embraced the need for a minivan. I was excited by my new vehicle. It had all the bells and whistles, and smelled fabulous (of course!)

After time, the intoxicating new-car-leather smell was replaced by various kid smells, and the tan carpet attracted the dirt that I knew it was going to (but my mom insisted tan was the answer, since black would be too hot in the summer!) During the first year of getting a Christmas tree with the van, I stabbed the roof, ripping the fabric. I hit a mailbox. We had various spills of food and other stuff. Still, I loved my minivan. It was comfortable and sure hauled a lot of stuff. I could chaperone field trips and take a bundle of kids (and later basses and cellos for the Orchestra) with no problem. I transported rescued dogs to adoption fairs for awhile, too. (And yeah, that van saw the first-grade class rats, my now-deceased cat Becca, and my new kittens Ace and Echo.) The van took my oldest son to his first day of elementary school, and to his last. It took the family to Disneyland. It took us on other adventures, like to the beach or snow country.

My minivan has served me well.

gold minivan

But I have moved on to a new vehicle, one that fits my needs better, now that my sons are older.

It is time to sell the minivan. And so, I've been finding all the vitals such as the title (of course) and the extra third seat that I never did use.

But where did I store that third seat?

I spent the morning essentially cleaning / rearranging my shed. That's not to say that it is clean and newly-organized --it's not-- but it is in much better condition than when I started. After all, I couldn't tell if the darn seat was in there or not. (I thought maybe I was storing it at my parents' house, or maybe in one of the other sheds.)

Once I found the seat visually, I had to physically get to it.

I had to peel away layers of memorabilia, moving backwards ten years. For each year, I stored a large plastic Ziploc for each of my kids: their schoolwork, a couple pieces of "memory" clothing, ticket stubs, artwork galore, projects. In order to get at the minivan seat, I had to pick up each bag and move it out of the way.

I wasn't prepared to face those years.

I thought I was going out to the shed to yank the seat off a shelf and be done with it. I had no idea that I was jumping into a nostalgic vortex.

Sure, the waterworks will come in full force in a few months when my oldest attends his promotion ceremony from 8th grade to high school, and my youngest bids goodbye to elementary school. (Oh man, I'm going to lose it then: we moved to our current home specifically for that elementary school, and I'll have no kids left there?) But, just seeing the piles of their memories today was a gut punch.

What happened to those tiny kids? You know, those small creatures I had all strapped in their car seats in my minivan?

February 19, 2015

A Strong Woman

I hate that "a strong woman" is really code for "she acts masculine." It is usually a compliment, although get too assertive, and that bitch is so abrasive. aggressive. pushy.

A girl playing with stereotypical boys' toys is applauded, but a girl who takes pride in stereotypical girls' activities is ignored as being one of the herd.

No, all toys shouldn't be pink for girls. But, for the girl who likes pink, isn't that OK that she wants a pink truck instead of a green one?

A parent at my son's gym laughed aloud at his pink shorts, commenting that they were probably once white but caught with a red sock in the washer. Nope. We dyed them pink on purpose!

People openly commented on my son's long hair, and made their approval quite clear once he cut it.

It is OK for girls to aspire to do "boy things." What a strong woman for being just as important as a man!

It is not OK for boys to do "girl things," because that's a demotion.


I worked in a preschool co-op when my oldest son was a toddler. There was this one little boy who adored the play kitchen. As soon as his grandmother was out of sight each morning, he'd go to the plastic stove and oven, and laugh as he whipped up imaginary cakes and omelettes.

One day, he decided to stay in the play kitchen during a time when usually the kids are reading books. The grandmother came to pick him up, and was furious. She usually saw him reading a book. She asked why we "forced" her grandson into the kitchen, muttering something about liberals under her breath.

When the grandmother dropped him off the next day, she directed him to the trucks. He started to toddle towards the kitchen. She grabbed him roughly and put him near the trucks. He was crying and crying. PLAY WITH THESE. The grandmother wondered aloud whether perhaps he was just too upset that day to remain at school. But, we insisted that he'd be fine once she left, and reassured her that if he was truly inconsolable, we'd call her. Finally, the grandmother left.

But a few minutes later, she went to the window outside the preschool to watch her grandson. By then, he was in the kitchen (of course!) She made horrific faces to show just how disappointed she was that he was playing there. Not surprisingly, he started to cry again.

The grandmother ran back to the preschool and announced that she would take him home.

We explained that he was completely content until she started making faces outside the window.

"Oh, I thought that was a two-way mirror," she told us angrily, not even understanding the idiocy of her statement.

That boy is now around fifteen years old. I wonder if he was allowed to learn to cook?


My son told me that one of his friends is breaking up with his girlfriend today.

The conversation we had about it was tough for me, because I totally saw things from my son's friend's point of view about how needy and guilt-trippy his soon-to-be-ex is. And yet, I also wanted to defend the female perspective, and give him a little insight as to why she might have behaved as she did.

"I suppose he should explain what went wrong," my son reasoned. I agreed, telling him that to validate her feelings while also explaining how it made him feel would be a good choice. Open communication, and all that.

But teenagers aren't the posterfolk for "logic."

Still, I heard traditional roles being played out. The whole concept that a clingy girl might "go crazy" or that he was "whipped" by her. (And they don't mean 50 Shades; they mean manipulative. "Don't do that or I'll break up with you!") Those sneaky ladies.


On dates I would eat quickly and eat heartily. I didn't want to be seen as one of those women who picked at her salad. Men hate it when woman eat tiny portions, right?, or do they secretly love it because they flatter themselves that a woman cares to be skinny for him?

I changed myself in many ways to not appear too needy, too clingy. I changed myself to fit his interests, because I didn't want to be demanding or difficult.

I lost myself.

I became neither a strong woman nor a strong woman.

January 15, 2015

For a Million Dollars

My son asked me if I'd eat worms for a million dollars.

Yup, I suppose I would.

My son asked me if I'd stare into the sun for five minutes for a billion dollars.

No, not without a shield of some sort.

A billion dollars is a lot of money.

Yeah, but my vision is precious to me.

Yeah, I agree.

Would you stare into the sun for a billion dollars?

I thought about other things I wouldn't do for a billion dollars, or even a million dollars. I wouldn't want to be isolated from my family. I wouldn't want to lose any of my senses. I wouldn't want to lose my mental or physical heath. I wouldn't want to be disfigured in any way. I wouldn't want to be permanently overweight.

I thought about how superficial some of my thoughts were. (Really Kari, you wouldn't agree to be fat forever for a billion dollars?) but of course some of my answers showed that I value others, which I suppose is "honorable." (For example, I wouldn't hurt someone for money. That is probably why I am not rich, since so many "successful" people purposely squash down others to stand on their shoulders.)

Our conversation was supposed to be kind of funny, but I've thought about it for days afterwards. After all, what I value does shape my behavior and how I choose to spend my time. When presented with an opportunity (or a demand) I have to consider, "Is this really worth it?" And on the flip side, what do I value intellectually that I'm not paying enough attention to in the real world?

January 12, 2015

6 Tacos

After school and before gymnastics, my son and I went to a Mexican restaurant to grab some "to-go" food.

I ordered six shrimp tacos for us to share.

About eight minutes later, we received our tacos, and walked out to the car. Once inside, I discovered only three tacos in our container. My son and I froze for a moment: we were right on time for gymnastics, taking into consideration the time it would take to eat the tacos. We couldn't afford another eight minute (or so) wait.

But we only had half our order.

Did Tacos save us from a car accident?

We went back in. "Um, I ordered six tacos, but there are only three here."

"Yes, I know," was the interesting response the cashier gave me.

As we waited for our tacos, it occurred to me that "seis" and "tres" sound pretty similar. I had indeed paid for six, but perhaps the person actually making the tacos misheard, and thought I had ordered three?

As we drove towards the gym after receiving our delicious-but-delayed order, my son funneled the food into his mouth as quickly as possible. We knew we'd be late, which was a bummer.

A couple minutes later, we saw a horrific accident. A car was completely turned over, and shattered glass covered all lanes. It was a fairly fresh collision and the police had just arrived on the scene.

I can't say for sure how many minutes prior that accident had occurred, but I would guess 8-10 minutes, just about the time we would have been passing through had we received all six tacos the first time.

December 31, 2014

It must be a New Year

Last night I had one of those stereotypical anxiety dreams: the college one.

Per usual, it was an end-of-the-semester situation where I had somehow neglected to go to class all semester. How could I possibly receive passing marks? In this case, it was the intended penultimate semester of my college career, so I was trying to figure out how I could possibly schedule my final semester in such a way to make up for the sins of the current semester and graduate on time.

But how?

In my dream, I had been sick all autumn. Indeed, in "real life" I've been getting nasty colds on repeat. (I'd like to think I saved myself from something much worse by getting my flu vaccination, but the season has been pretty brutal.) My motivation to attend class or to study was super-low, which is unlike my personality back when I actually was in college.

And yet, I was excited. In a way, knowing that I had books to read and new classes to sign up for was a fun new beginning. Even with the college anxiety dreams that involve me having no idea where the registrar is located (yes, I know, it is all online now,) I still love the idea of a fresh beginning.

The two things that still haunt me in my dreams: if I can't graduate on time, then that's extra money we have to spend, and how can I stay away from my kids for yet another semester?

It is funny how pieces of "reality" sneak into dreams: In nearly all of my college-type dreams, I am in college on the East Coast while my family lives on the West Coast. Yikes! In one dream, I'm offered a prestigious position... in New York. But of course my family is here, in California.

When I wake up, there is always a relief that yes, I did in fact graduate, and didn't flunk out while doing so, but also a let-down, that yeah... I'm "just a mom" here in California. I'm not embarking on any new adventures. I'm not learning any new things. Or will I? After all, a new year is brewing, which is a perfect time to re-evaluate what is going on in my life.

My family is definitely growing and evolving:

My husband has a new job. His new beginning is exciting and will hopefully affect the whole family in a positive way.

My older son had an interesting start to the school year, as he had emergency surgery on only the second day of attending classes. He missed much of the "introductory" stuff. So, he had to do a real life "catch up" before successfully getting fabulous grades. (I'm so proud of him!) He is growing up fast. We've already gone to the first orientation meeting for high school. Eek! And yet, I know he is ready. He has matured so much in just the last couple years, and it astonishes me. It is cliche, but I'm truly surprised at how quickly his childhood has whizzed by. I'm holding on to every moment, and yet I'm also glad for his independence.

My younger son had the first meet of his gymnastics season at the start of December (it went well - whew!) but he has several more meets coming up: this is both exciting and nerve-wracking, since he's hoping to gain new skills and to do well competitively! Last season he had difficulty with Sever's Disease, but we didn't know it was Sever's, or we would have successfully "solved" it. Now, he has a stretching and soaking protocol that he follows to reduce the pain. Still, I get nervous about injuries, and of course pray that he does his best during meets (since I see what he's capable of during workout, and of course want him to do the same when the judges are watching!)

I'm hoping for a great 2015 -- for my family, for my friends... and for me.

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