March 29, 2010

A Few Things I Learned This Weekend

I'm back from a little R&R with my sister and mom. Julie turned the big 40 last week, and to celebrate we booked  the weekend in Palm Springs, just us girls, to sit by the pool, relax and of course do a little shopping.
The best part of this vacation was not the peaceful time at the pool but the tear filled laughter we had, usually at each other's expense. It feels good to spend time with family. They know all your imperfections, and of course love you because of them.  
Here are a few things I learned this weekend.
  • My mom has more songs on her iPod than Julie and I combined, or anyone else for that matter...over 800.
  • Some true pleasures in life are worth waiting for. i.e. The Adult Pool.
  • I finally found the one airport I wouldn't mind getting stuck at.
  • The temperature outside is all relative.....just ask the Midwesterners by the pool.
  • When there is an extra 20%  off at the Coach outlet the crowds match the size of Disneyland....and Julie will participate.
  • We thought our Dad was the snorer in the family.....will pack earplugs next time.
  • It IS possible to burn in areas where you thought you applied sunscreen....(Well that I knew, but learned again!)
So today I sit, with patches of sunburned legs, watching the rain clouds roll in, dreaming about our next girl's weekend. It's good to be home to the chaos, but I miss the laughter I shared with my mom and sis.

March 23, 2010

Health Care Reform

So I'm not one to comment on politics....but I feel the need to discuss health care reform. In between Tom and Jerry, and “Must see TV” on Thursdays I did watch a bit of CNN this Sunday. I’m a sucker for historic moments so I figured I should tune in. Frankly, I was a little disappointed. If we're really creating reform here, they missed a few perks in the new plan.

1. A mother will have the right to stay in bed ALL day if she gets sick. (Even on a weekend.)

2. Your healthcare plan will send a robot to your house to rid your child of head lice. (Something no person should ever have to deal with.)

3. A child's dentist will stop giving out those flimsy toys, and pay for 2 years of braces with the saved money.

4. Your pediatrician's office will have two waiting rooms, a well side, and the "other" side.

5. The E.R. waiting room should have chairs placed no less than 6 ft apart. (The exact length of a sneeze.)

6. The waiting time to see your Dr. should be less than 6 minutes if you have a child under 3. (The time it takes for your child to realize the mural on the wall isn't fun anymore.)

Finally since it can’t hurt to ask….Let me put in one more request.

How about a drive-thru ear infection clinic? Just roll down the window, look in my kid's ear and write the prescription for antibiotics. No need to waste time parking, unstrapping the car seat, signing in, taking their temperature, explaining to the nurse why we’re there, waiting for the Dr. to look in the ear and say, “Yep…it’s an ear infection.” Then finally waiting for the prescription, getting back in the car and off to Walgreens to wait some more.

Maybe in my next life I’ll be a lobbyist and try to make some real changes around here!

March 19, 2010

10 Things a Sister Won’t Let You Forget!

On the eve of my sister turning the big 4-0 I dedicate this blog post to her.

10 Things a Sister Won’t Let You Forget!

1. The family pecking order. (Her diamond is just a teeny bit bigger!)

2. She only has to color her hair every 10 weeks vs. my 6.

3. Her Dr. said she needs to gain weight. She can’t fathom 140 lbs. (Hmmm. That’s my weight.)

4. She can blow through an entire book in one weekend. (I fall asleep after the intro.)

5. She stood on the bricks longer in our childhood game called, Who could withstand the pain of 100 degree weather barefoot on bricks. (Note: Neither of us went to Harvard.)

6. She didn’t let me humiliate her by putting my 2 hands and 2 feet in the Four Corners state landmark on our family road trip.

7. She still has the other half to the “Sweet Valley High Book” that we ripped apart like a wishbone. (I never knew how it ended, she never knew how it started.)

8. She can actually READ Hebrew.

9. She still makes better quesadillas.

10. Our dead relatives come to visit her in dreams, but never to me.

Now on to 10 things I LOVE about Julie.

1. I love how she has raised my nephews into genuinely good kids.

2. I think her artistic talent is truly remarkable.

3. I love her ability and guts to say what she’s really thinking.

4. I love how she makes family a priority.

5. I love when she puts her mind to something she can achieve anything.

6. I love how she manages money.

7. I love her quesadillas with fried turkey. (And yes, they are better than mine.)

8. I love how she LOVES my boys.

9. I love how she can get behind some of my cockamamie ideas. (i.e. camping in Yosemite during the Summer.)

10. I love her organizational skills. (The reason we GOT a campsite at 6:45AM on a Monday morning.)

Happy Birthday to YOU! You’re the best sister a girl could ask for!
I’m done wondering what it would be like to have a brother. You’ve earned your keep!
The picture above says it all. I look UP to you....afterall you ARE 4 years older.


March 17, 2010

Living in a Fantasy Land

It was a perfect Wednesday. 75 degrees, an afternoon ice cream with my blue eyed son, and a visit from some mischievous leprechauns.

The day started by checking the Leprechaun traps in our entryway. (Much better than checking the rat traps in our garage.)

The magic of a 4 ½ year old’s imagination is priceless. Nate’s final words last night before heading to bed, “Mom, don’t forget to set the Leprechaun traps.”

“Don’t worry Nate, I’m on top of it. I really wasn’t, but pulled it together with my last ounce of energy.

Unfortunately those suckers were sneaky. They wore our shoes and left them in a row leading up to the trap, knocked over some furniture and raided the fridge. (Not too much damage though, they heard the resident’s were too tired to clean in up.) All that we found in Trap #1 was an empty Diet Coke can, and a note, “Hee, Hee, can’t catch me.” Keep that in mind if you have Leprechauns coming to dinner. That seems to be their drink of choice.

Trap # 2 had a note as well, and a little something extra for the boys. “Hee, Hee, we’re quick as a flash and off in a dash. The M&M’s are for Nate and Jack, we’ll see you next year…..when we’ll be back!”

Typically Leprechauns leave chocolate gold coins. I think there may have been a shortage this year. They only left some Valentine’s M&M’s. Thank goodness nobody noticed the pink hearts on the package. Maybe next year the Leprechauns will think twice before throwing away the Hanukkah gelt.

I’ve decided that living in a fantasy land one day out of the week is my drug of choice. You forget all your worries and enjoy living in the moment. Sadly, I don’t think March 18th will be as much fun. I might just start making up holidays where we have to trap things. That probably doesn't bode well for the Easter Bunny!

March 16, 2010

ESL Student

I have a great appreciation for learners of a foreign language. It is so challenging to know what you want to say, and can clearly form it in your head, but fall short when trying to articulate it.

I finished 3 years of Spanish in college, but still feel it's not sufficient enough to allow me to communicate,  anywhere publicly that is. I'm certain I would say something like the "pig doesn't have testicles" when I"m trying to ask for directions to a hospital.

I have the utmost respect for individuals who come to our country and enroll in English classes. It's not an easy language to learn, and yet it comes naturally to me. (Although I could use some extra work on spelling.)

So this brings me to the point of my blog post today...we have an ESL student living with us. He's about 3 feet tall, doesn't look remotely Hispanic, but has decided tonight at dinner to begin speaking in Spanish.

I heard him babbling, but figured he was singing his own song. When I finally clued in that Jack was asking for "agua" I realized I might need a refresher course in Spanish. I'm sure there must be a class, Communicating with your ESL Toddler, right? I started wondering how many more words I might have missed. If I had only paid closer attention in college. For all I know he could be fluent, and we're the ones who need to enroll in an SSL class.

Worse case scenario, maybe I can call our nanny and have her translate. Hmm... that probably won't work; I'm sure a call in the middle of night looking for el chupete isn't part of her job description. 

Nuestro pequeño niño crece! (Hopefully I didn't say anything about the pig!)

March 14, 2010

Nathan Scissor Hands

While I was enjoying my nice hot shower, and my few minutes of peace......Nathan Scissor Hands struck again.
Remember the preschool report card last week? The one that said Nathan had developmentally appropriate cutting skills. I would like to revisit that. Would he still get that high rating if he used his "developmentally appropriate" skills in a destructive manner?

He came running into the bathroom with a confession. "Sorry Mommy!"
I know it can't be good when he volunteers an apology.
Of course my first question was, "What happened?" Followed by, "Is Jack o.k.?"
"Oh, he's fine, but I used scissors and cut my bed."
"What do you mean?"(I"m picturing a tiny hole in his comforter or something.)
"Nate, I'll be out of the shower in a minute, I'll talk to you about this then."
Here I was yelling..."Doug....Doug" (Any bit of peace I was experiencing was now gone.)
I quickly dried off and found Doug. I asked him what was going on. His reply, "You need to punish him because I can't stop laughing, and it's not something to laugh about." 

This is what I found.

It's a little hard to tell from the picture, but if you look at the netting on the guard rail, that used to be intact. After Nate's scissor hands got a hold of it, we now have a gaping hole that resembles the side of a tent. Only there is no zipper to close the tent window.
I really wasn't expecting this much damage from Nate. It's a little out of character, so I when I walked in his room I gasped. Laughter came over me too. I think because it was so unexpected.
I walked out of the room because I needed to gain my composure.
When I asked him why he did it, he said he was making a slide and then proceeded to stick his legs through the hole to show me how it worked.
I told him he will now roll off the bed because the guard rail is merely just a rail, no guard.
His response, "I'll just sleep near the wall."
The punishment was a week without his new Star Wars spaceship. He asked me which one, and I tried to describe it as best I could, but the conversation lasted for 5 minutes.
"Is it the one with the Robot Mommy?
"You know, the one with the shooting things Nate. The one we just bought"
"But which one?"
Finally Doug overheard us going back and forth, and shouted, "Ye,s it's the one with the robot."
Thank God, I was living in Star Wars descriptive hell. And now I know that crazy looking figure is a robot. I would have pegged him for a skeleton.

This evening we'll be waiting to the hear the thud come from Nate's room when he rolls through his new "slide". I guess that's one lesson he'll learn the hard way. Literally.

March 12, 2010

The Race for Gold

March 17th. I've never really thought about it before. When I was young, I marched in the St. Patrick's Day parade with my girl scout troop. Sadly though, I hated my brown uniform and I wasn't particularly fond of marching. I am a fan though of corned beef….on rye, more of the Jewish deli style vs. the Irish brisket style.

When I attended college it took on an entirely new meaning. It was really just another excuse to drink beer. They would color it green, and call it an Irish party. After college I took a sabbatical from celebrating March 17th; I’m sure my liver thanked me.

Well now that I'm a parent, it's back! This time the emphasis is on the Leprechaun. Apparently at school they've been discussing the havoc that Leprechauns can wreak. Everyday Nate comes home with a different concern, almost a bit on the obsessive side.

His main concern today was the reminder to close all of our windows. When I asked why, he replied, “So the Leprechauns can't peek inside.” When he put it like that, Leprechauns kind of creep me out.

Yesterday his concern was that we need to create traps in order to catch one. Hmm…. Would that be next to the rat traps, or the squirrel poison?

When I saw him scattering his Chuck E. Cheese tokens, I knew something else was up. “Nate, why are your tokens all over the entryway?”

Apparently, if you create a trail of  "gold" you can lure the little suckers into your trap. And of course if you successfully trap them, then they will lead you to their pot of gold. Oh right…now it’s all coming back to me. I think there should be something about a rainbow in there too. My next question was quickly answered.

“Usually Mom, the pot of gold is at the end of the rainbow.”

Now I remembered why I was always a fan of the rainbow; hopefully it doesn't lead me to a pot of Chuck E. Cheese tokens.

The challenge now is that between March 12th and March 17th, I need to figure out a way to build a Leprechaun trap. It’s inevitable they will arrive, cause a lot of mischief, and it is our job…to trick them.

If anybody has any idea where I can purchase a Leprechaun trap, I’m all ears. I’ve check the “As Seen On TV” site, no such luck. I can only purchase the Belly Burner, a Shiatsu Massage Chair, a Snuggie or the Clapper.

I'm worried for these Leprechauns. They need to be quick, and more importantly they need the intellect to outsmart a 4 year old.

All That Really Matters

tGif - With a strong emphasis on the G today.  It's been a crazy week. Actually it's not that different from my typical week, but for some reason this one seemed exceptionally busy.
It was in large part due to meetings outside of work. I've noticed that when my daily routine has a few extra outside committments thrown in, it sucks twice as much energy from me.
And it's not just me.... I've actually heard Nathan asking if it's the weekend yet too?
Just when you feel you are part Gumby, and stretched to the see the light.
The light for me this week was Nathan's parent teacher conference.

As you know, a baby doesn't come with a manual. (I think it has something do with printing costs.) Each child is unique, and I like to say Nathan is an overachiever in the unique category.  Since we've pretty much been winging it these past 4 1/2 years, we've been crossing our fingers that something is going well.

When you sit down in the teacher's office and they hand you a sheet that decribes your child's social, emotional, language, and motor development skills you think, "Well, here it is, OUR report card. Have we been helping Nathan to develop his unique personality in a way that he's not labeled the serial killer of the class room? (Of course I'm being overly dramatic, I haven't seen him pull apart any bugs yet, so I'm 99% sure we can check that off our list.)

Here are a few of the highlights:
  • Nathan loves building with a variety of materials. (Yes, I saw this today when I had to take apart a fort two stories high built with chairs, a piano, two yoga mats, and a few Star Wars characters!)
  • He shares materials and includes others in his play with a smile. (Glad to hear that - he includes his brother too, but I'm certain it's not with that same sweet smile.)
  • Nathan loves having jobs in the classroom and helps clean up toys and materials. He is a great sweeper. (Well at least our child labor is starting to pay off.)
  • Nathan shares stories and relates experiences with friends and teachers. (This makes me a bit nervous...which stories?)
  • Nathan has made great progress writing the letters of his name and drawing people. ( He recently drew a picture of our family. He's in it of course. But I'm 8 months pregnant with Jack. Funny since Jack is almost two years old. I'm sure a psychologist would have a field day with that one.)
  • Nathan has developmentally appropriate cutting skills. (Sure....I've seen the evidence with 350 tiny pieces of cut up paper on the carpet.....some not even visible to the human eye.)
But really the one skill that made my whole week was the simple line. "Nathan is kind and considerate to his classmates." If nothing else was going as planned this week, this one phrase gives me hope. It shows that our last 4 1/2 years may have been difficult at times, but we are helping to raise a good person. And in the end...that's all that really matters.

March 10, 2010


We signed Nate up for some extra lessons at a Learning Center near our house. Don't worry, we haven't started scouting colleges yet, but we decided he needs a little extra help with his A,B,C's.
Since his ears work better for the teachers than they do for us, we thought this might be the best approach.

Last Friday was his first day. I was a little nervous based on the evaluation experience a few weeks prior. Luckily we had graduated from full sobs, to light tears. Today, being his second day, he had zero tears. Things were looking up.
The center works on a variety of skills, mainly letter recognition, and sounds in an attempt to give him pre-reading skills. Lately, I've been bribing him with a new toy in order to get him to cooperate for a variety of tests. Apparently just the thought of a new Star Wars lego toy can work magic.

Since he wouldn't let me leave his side in the one hour tutoring session, I sat through the lesson. It's actually very interesting to watch your child get tested, and how he responds to questions you think he knows the answer to, or even better the answers you are CONVINCED he wouldn't get. At other times it can be painful to watch. It's very repetitive. "What is this letter.....D? What sound does it make....duh? (No pun intended.) Then they move on to other activities and come back to the D ten minutes later. "What letter is this????? What sound does it make? When you hear the hesitation in his voice it's hard not to shout, "It's a D!" D....D.....D.....D.

So today when the hour was up, of course Nate tried to hit me up for a toy. My bank account can't keep up with his "learning activities". I figued I would substitute one addiction for the other.
"Let's get some ice cream!'
"Sure, Mom. Can I have Vanilla?"

Yes, it worked. No more $25 lego packs, a $2 kids scoop is definitely in my budget.
Then he said, "I want it in a cone." Mom, Can you say, cone?"

Well, there you have it. Our money is being well spent. At least he gets the concept of repetition!

P.S. On a totally unrelated topic, if you've been following my blog you'll remember we purchased a butterfly kit online. Here's the update. The catepillars are dead on somebody else's doorstep. I checked on the package, and it says it was delivered two weeks ago. package here, so either somebody is enjoying our little science experiment or they are in for a surprise when they open the package with five dead bugs. I'm working on getting the matter resolved. Will keep you posted. Not off to a good start! (Especially for the catepillars.)

March 8, 2010

The Simple Life

Oh.... the attitude of a 4 1/2 year old. Every night at dinner the rules change.
"Mommy, I don't like chicken nuggets anymore because they have things in them".
Well, that's unfortunate because it was the main staple in your diet. Now you are down to peanut jelly.
Everything is announced with a rule, tonight seemed extra judicous.
I typically answer, "That's fine, then you'll just be hungry."
He promptly replys, "No don't say that anymore, or else I"m going to tell on you."
I was actually curious who he would tell, but I didn't feel like going there. I was too busy cleaning up blueberrys from the other patron.
It's hard to have a serious conversation with him when he's slouched in his chair wearing my oversized sunglasses.

His final words.
"I'm just going to eat corn."
"Ok, great. I've read being corn fed is better for you anyway. I can check that off my list.

Next up, bathtime where the rules start all over again.
"Jack you can't sit near the spout, that's my spot."

If only life were as simple as eating corn for my main entree, and worrying who would sit near the spout in the tub......I miss being 4 1/2.

March 7, 2010


It finally came time to get Jack's hair cut again. Because his first haircut was such a pleasant experience, (heavy sarcasm) I've been putting off #2 for almost a year. When I realized I could put his hair in a small pony tail, I figured I better clean up his biker image.
I met a lady on the airplane a few weeks ago that told me about a new kid's salon near our house. I made a note to read the newspaper more. It's sad when I have to get on an airplane to hear about our local news. Then again, my main form of entertainment comes while watching Phineas and Ferb on the Disney channel. 
So I said,"Ferb...I know what we're going to do today!" Clearly I need to get out more because I'm quoting lines from episodes. At least Nate got my joke though.
I called Snip-Its; unfortunately, they don't take appointments on weekends.
Well then....this could get interesting. Jack does really well with unlimited amounts of free time in stores, or any enclosed space for that matter, but I decided to rip off the band-aid.

When we arrived I was pleasantly surprised. It looked like a mini Toon Town. There was a prize machine, a train table, and about 5 flat screen TV's with a different movie on each. The receptionist said there would be a 20 minute wait, which didn't seem that bad. I think I like this place already.

The "client" didn't seem to agree.  

He did however like the train table, the prize machine and of course the apple flavored lollipop at the end.
We will be back!

March 5, 2010

Some Unanswered Questions

How is it that Doug can't find the Ketchup in the front of the fridge, but Jack can find the one buried popsicle in the freezer?

Why is it that Nate answers, "I don't know" to the Eye Dr's. color test, but then can name every chair's color in the waiting room? (Even the purples ones.)

Why are my sheets the perfect temperature and my bed the perfect firmness right at the moment I hear Jack wake up?

Why is it that the umbrella I've been lugging around for weeks in dry weather is mysteriously missing from my purse the day of the downpour?

How can Nate get fully dressed in his Pediatrician's office with no prompting, but can't put his clothes on at home even if the house were burning down?

How is that Doug doesn't hit any "traffic" the night I cook spaghetti for dinner?

What happens to my Costco card between each visit? (And why do I have to renew my membership each time?)

How is it that Tivo can't seem to record "The Office" but has 30 episodes of unwatched Combat Warriors.

And of course the hardest one to answer...."Why did Dr. Seuss die? "

These are just a subset of the many questions that never get answered in the Willbanks's home. Except for the last one of course. My simple answer to Nate. "Because he was old".

March 3, 2010

Preschool vs. College Applications

We decided to put Nate in a Young Fives program next year rather than send him to Kindergarten. Since he's a summer birthday and the school system has become so competitive we thought it would be best to give him an extra year before throwing him to the wolves, i.e. Kindergarten.

His current preschool has an afternoon program four days a week. I really like his preschool but the afternoon schedule isn't ideal, so the issue became where should we send him next year?

Let me set the landscape for you. There are about 30 preschools in the Bay area in and around our house. Not every preschool has a Young Fives program, and typically if they do the class size is about 12 kids max. So out of those 30, there were only 5 with Young Fives that we considered. Now keep in mind this is for next September....apparently 4 out of those 5 schools had a waiting list already. What???? Did they sign them up when they were born? The sad reality is that a few of them probably did. The jist of it was that I was already behind in the process. I needed to up my game, and then it all came back to me.

This Preschool application process is not that different than applying to college.
1. You make your Top Choice list. You're "A" schools so to speak. They are probably a pipe dream but you might as well try.
2. Then you make your Safety school list. The ones where you are guaranteed to get in.
3. You gather the applications....and your non refundable deposits. (It was an expensive week.)
4. You fill out your applications. (There was a direct correlation between the A schools, and the amount of information needed for your child. I was just waiting for the question, "What do you think your child's major will be?"
5. You drop them in the mail and wait......You wait with all the other prospective preschoolers hoping that your child has enough extra curriculur activities and redeaming qualities to be accepted.
6. You check the mailbox. Did it come? NO
7. Then it comes....My first response. It was addressed to Nathan Willbanks...and it was thick!
7. Hmm should YOU open it, or have someone else open it? I looked around, nobody else was home...well nobody that could read. It was up to me.

Dear Parents,
We are pleased to inform you that your child has been accepted into our Young Fives program.....blah blah blah. You stopped reading after the word ACCEPTED.

8. Yahoo, we did it! We got in to our A school. Now where's my welcome packet? I need more info, like my room assignment, who's in my graduationg class, and of course the meal plan.
9. I told a few people because I just couldn't contain myself, none of which was the person that would be attending. (I figured we would wait to break the news.)
10. The last line of the letter reads, "To guarantee your spot for next year, you will need to enclose the necessary documents or else my "early admission" would be canceled." Wow the pressure!

And then you think....hmm was there any other school that I wanted more...should I wait out the two weeks?

My inner voice said, "Nah, go with your gut. This was your top choice. If you sign now, maybe you'll be guaranteed a spot in a good dorm....."

We only need to wait 12 more years to go through this process again. I think it gives me just enough time to put him on some waiting lists!

March 1, 2010

Off My Axis

All day I kept thinking, there aren't enough hours in the day. I made a list a mile long, and by 2pm hadn't even made a dent. This was pretty unusual for me. Typically I can crank out a list by 8AM, and have 90% done by noon. I was running low on energy. I tried some extra caffeine at lunch, I think that just led to a headache.
Then I got home and turned on the news. Let's see if I missed any more 8.8 earthquakes. For the five minutes that I have to watch the news, I need the Cliff Notes version. Just give me the recap of the major events, and I'll be on my way.

Today Nate was asleep when I got home so I had a few extra minutes to listen to the World events. Brian Williams was talking about the magnitude of the recent Chilean earthquake. "To put it in perspective," he said, "the quake was so big it literally knocked the earth off it's axis and shortened the day by a few millionths of a second."

Well there you have it. Thank God I turned on the news, it's not just me, the whole world was off it's axis! And now I have the excuse I need. Everything will NOT get done, because the day was shorter.  I'm sure in that millionth of a second I could have:
  • Returned 25 emails
  • Created a website
  • Written a Sales training course
  • Planned an event
  • Approved a Purchase Order
  • Submitted my Expense Report
  • Paid 5 bills
  • Returned 6 calls
  • Gone grocery shopping
  • Edited 5 chapter in a book
But for now, I'll rest well knowing that some things are literally out of my control. i.e. plate tectonics.

P.S. I did find time for a run though. At least I got my endorphins for the day.