Friday, December 18, 2009

I will miss you. I will

That's Leonard Cohen with his hat in hand too.
For an entirely different reason, I'd imagine.

I come to you with hat in hand. I have no excuses for not writing. No good ones, anyway. I'm just sort of harried and grouchy, rushing around buying gifts and finishing up stories and filling out unemployment forms and playing Wurdle on my iPhone (I've mentioned my new iPhone, right) and trying to work off my gut in time for my 40th (it's not looking good).

But I think about you, I do. Every time my kids say something wonderful I think about you, and every time they are horrible wretches I think about you too. But here's the thing: I need a little vacay. I need to write some fiction and wrap some presents and maybe, just maybe, steal a little guilt-free down time.

from HERE

And then I will be back. I will begin 2010 full of vim and vigor. I'll be a blogging fool.

Until then, I hope you are happy and warm and busy in a good way. I hope you have a chance to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas Special and please, please, whatever you do, don't save all the wrapping until Christmas Eve. Beacause I love you too much to see you hurt yourself like that.

xoxo Samantha

Friday, December 11, 2009

You too can kill a chicken

Right after we got our chickens the Mister met another San Francisco couple interested in raising poultry and invited them over to see our little operation. We later sold them all our chick equipment and lo and behold, they became urban chicken farmers too, complete with small blond children and a chicken chronicling blog. I like to say we started something (even the Tipsy Baker learned from us!). The Mister likes to say they are on the ride.

Then today, he gets this email:

I hope you are well! Sorry it has been a while since we checked in. Our flock of four chicks have grown into a happy little family. They are almost three months old now. They live outside in their coop and we move them around the yard in a little play pen. Here is a link to a family blog I started (but have neglected for many weeks!):

I'm writing today because one of our birds, Timmy (E. must have been prescient in her naming of the bird), has started to crow. Turns out he is a very handsome rooster. We could take him back to Half Moon Bay Feed and Fuel and they will turn him into soup. We also thought of you both.

Any chance you are interested in harvesting another bird? It is going to be a bit hard for me, as I'm quite attached to Timmy (he is really quite handsome), but I would rather he ends up in the soup pot of friends, than strangers.

If one chicken killin' experience was enough for you and you'd rather pass, I understand!

Hope you are your family are well! perhaps we can get together and swap chicken stories after the holidays.

Followers of this blog know we've entered this territory before. And while I cannot tell you how happy I am to be the go-to family for backyard chicken slaughtering, and as much as chicken and dumplings would really hit the spot right now, we're just not sure we can do this one.

Our problem is our lack of slaughter buddies (the Mister's friends are not available for throat slitting and feather pulling on such short notice and I need to be out of the house with the twins so they don't witness our gruesome bloodletting). So, wanna help? Like tomorrow? Watch THIS to see if you're man enough and then let me know. The dignity of Timmy's death lies in your hands.

P.S. The Mister wants me to add that he's no expert and that you may absolutely NOT make fun of him if he squeals like a little girl.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

See? I can smell the roses

Ten things I'm excited about right now:

1.) The Renegade Craft Fair (I'm a huge sucker for felt)

2.) Taking the kids to see the Nutcracker

4.) The Fantastic Mr. Fox (I love you, Wes Anderson)

5.) Our new whole-grains-and-veggies commitment (last night: bulgar wheat, tonight: pearl barley, tomorrow: who knows?)

6.) My new iPhone (my precious...)

8.) Reading about this marriage in the NYT Magazine, especially because I once, many years ago, had a huge crush on the husband

9.) Going to see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Miranda

10.) The day the Mister shaves his annual Christmas beard

Monday, November 30, 2009

My life list

Buy this photo HERE

Maggie over at Mighty Girl is famous for her life list and she is encouraging us all to make our own. I've made a lot of lists in my day, but I tend to work on a year-by-year basis. A LIFE list? Like the REALLY BIG THINGS? It's a bit intimidating. But, here goes. And I fully reserve the right to add, edit and change my mind.

The Life List
Participate in a group art project
Have a goat
Spend Thanksgiving serving food to people in need
Raft through the Grand Canyon with my family
Take my kids to Yosemite
Write an honest novel that makes me proud
Learn to apply glamorous liquid eye makeup
Stay in one of those floating homes in India
Eat at the French Laundry
See Willie Nelson in concert
Sail through the Caribbean
Rent a house in Morocco for at least a month

from HERE

Take a tour of the White House while there is a president I like living there
Watch some big wave surfing in person
Sing karaoke with real passion and gusto in front of a lot of my friends
Take my kids to Buddhist family camp at Karme Choling
Go to one of those places where the water is electric blue and perfectly calm
Learn to surf, even a little

Buy this photo HERE

Meet Michelle Obama
Start a tradition for just my daughter and me
Answer the Proust Questionnaire in the back of Vanity Fair
Attend a taping of Saturday Night Live
Take my step-father to see the Giants win the World Series
Throw a fancy, catered party
Start a collective office space for writers
Go to Savannah, Georgia
See a grizzly bear in the wild
Live in a house with fruit trees in the backyard

you can buy this HERE

Throw a kid craft party for no special reason
Take someone in
Discover my real hair color
Be perfectly coiffed from my toes to my hair for one day
Attend a black tie awards ceremony (National Book Awards would be nice)
Get tipsy with Ellen Degeneres
Impress the Mister with my athletic prowess
Surprise the kids with a giant birthday cake when it's not their birthday
Attend the Canne Film Festival
Make a movie out of all the video we've taken of the kids

Now tell me some of yours.


It's been an age. Thanksgiving came and went and I didn't even get to do one of those "what I am grateful for" posts.

Instead I cut both kids hair (an epic battle never to be repeated), wrote a "family beach towns" article for a travel magazine, ate oysters at Tomales Bay Oyster Company (Number 18. Check) and tried to make peace with my mind, which jumps around like a panicked squirrel these days, unable to focus on anything before darting off all wild eyed and nervous to store some nuts.

It's like this: I will think of something I want to tell the mister and by the time I get into the room where he is, like, say 1.4 seconds later, I've not only forgotten what it was I wanted to tell him, but I've completely forgotten I planned on saying anything at all. So then I start sorting clothes until the cookies catch my eye. Then I eat cookies until I realize the phone receiver should really be cleaned out with a toothpick. Then I clean the phone receiver until I remember that I haven't seen my red scarf in a while. Then I go looking for my red scarf....
You get the picture.

This is disturbing for three reasons:
1. I am too young to be losing my mind
2. I never really get anything done
3. I sound like Erma Bombeck (next I am going to be telling menopause jokes and elbow waddle anecdotes)

Only part of it can be attributed to overload. Yes, I have a lot of stuff stored in there (how many calories in and egg? 90. Annie Lamott's first book? Hard Laughter. Best coconut rice in San Francisco? Mandalay. Renegade Craft Fair? December 19. ) And my mental to do list is like a flotilla of random and unrelated flotsam and jetsam, but lots of people have a lot on their minds and manage to remember their thoughts for more than a fleeting second. But I...I, um, yeah...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Smashing things is anger management too

He will crush you

I just took an online parenting survey to help out with some Harvard child development research and, man, some of those questions made me feel like a real weasel. "I have never felt like smashing something in anger." Um, false. "I never get irritated when people express opinions different from my own." Yeah, false again. "If I thought I could sneak into a movie without paying I would do it." Well, yes, probably. I mean, I think so. I should try that, come to think of it.

My question is this: is there really a person on the planet who has never felt like smashing something in anger? Really? Never?

I bet even the Dali Lama has had his moments. He's having a bad day and then he gets his robes caught in an escalator and one of his monks laughs and then he spills his green tea all over his crotch right before he has to go on stage with Richard Gere and he knows everyone is going to thinks he's getting old and incontinent, and then someone raises their hand during the q&a portion of the program and asks a rambling question implying that he is really naive and not doing all he can to save the world and he's, like, totally jet lagged and celibate and he hasn't had time to meditate in days and, you know, it's just finally too much for one man to take. And somewhere in his huge and peaceful heart he feels like smashing something. You can't tell me he doesn't.

If you want to to feel like a weasel (or, what do I know, maybe you're an angel) you can take the survey yourself right HERE. Good luck.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bless this mess

Since I seem to like airing a certain amount of dirty laundry online, I thought I'd share with you what my house looks like after three days of single-parenting (the Mister is on a very bromantic hiking trip until 5PM today).

I used to get so irritated at my mother's poor housecleaning when I was a kid. I would mop the kitchen floor and wipe down the oven doors just to satisfy my own standards of clean (oddly, laundry didn't concern me and instead of washing my clothes, I took to dousing them in Jean Nate and going to school smelling like a molding citrus).

But now I have a little more sympathy. In order to keep this place clean, cleaning is literally ALL I would be able to do. And frankly, washing the sippy cups, and cleaning up the wooden train parts, and folding the laundry, and vacuuming up the sand, and sweeping the crumbs, and putting the books away gets old real fast.
So, here you go, a before and after. Boy, will I be happy to see the Mister (and not just for his superior dish washing skills).

The house as it is normally (or a little better than usual)

living room

Our bedroom

The bathroom

The house after three days of going it alone.

The living room

living room (with diapers)

Our bedroom (Maggie peed on the sheets 48 hours ago and I haven't changed them yet)

The bathroom (why pick up the bath toys
when you're just going to get them all out again tomorrow?

The hall (sadly, you cannot see the grime on the rug)

The kitchen (this is looking pretty good, actually.
I recycled the paper and put the oatmeal bowls in the sink)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Riddle Me This

Our preschool does not allow "superhero" play. You can be a superhero (capes, super powers, and jet packs are okey-dokey, but you can't run around reenacting the last episode of Spiderman or shooting people). But that doesn't keep my kids from being very interested in the idea of super heroes ("they save people") and, even more intriguing, bad guys.

Today they were asking me about bad guys on the way home from school. I was trying for the life of me to remember what was so terrible about the Penguin (was it the scary waddle?), until I thought to ask them to tell me about bad guys they know. And here, for all you struggling comic book writers out there, is a list of the best bad guy names ever, courtesy of Oliver and Maggie. We want royalties.

1. Elias Battle (he'll lure you with promises of honey but then he'll "take your honey bunches")
2. Tiger Roseshoe (same thing, but with ice cream cones)
3. Horesey Tatorsey (not exactly sure, but he does have guns and a mean laugh)

Monday, November 16, 2009

I am woman, hear me dither endlessly

I just had my 80-minute Healing Hiker's massage (nyam, nyam) and although I do hate to leave my Four Seasons suite, I miss my family and am looking forward to a little three-year-old action. Plus, this desert air is murder on my lips; they feel like bark.

Flying over the Grand Canyon

Flying over the Grand Canyon

While I was off hiking the Grand Canyon and kayaking the Salt River and climbing the Praying Monk and dining on seared scallops with butternut squash ravioli, my kids were kind of missing me. Maggie especially.

The Mister told me this morning that she woke up at 1am last night crying and saying, "I need someone to talk to. I miss mommy." I know. The heart. It hurts.

I've always been a firm believer in taking a break. Being away from the kids for a few days always felt like a good thing, a much-needed refueling for me. But as my friend Vida pointed out to me long ago, your kids don't care about your success or your career or whether or not you need to refuel. They don't even care if you ever publish a novel. They just want you to be soft and loving and available.

This is the rub of motherhood, I suppose, the place where your sense of who you want to be and your sense of who you should be stand across from one another glaring and whispering cruelly. One says, "You cannot make anyone else happy unless you yourself are happy and fulfilled." The other one says, "Shut up you selfish twat and make me a pie."

It's a place where I feel particularly judged. I get a lot of raised eyebrows and disapproving comments disguised at declarative sentences. Things like, "Wow, you are so lucky. I could never leave my kids for five days." Or, "I just feel like I've lost a limb when I'm away from my little darlings." Comments that simultaneously fill me with guilt and murderous rage (I'm not even going to discuss the sexist double-standard here. Fathers, as we know, are pretty much free to come and go as they please).

I don't know what the solution is. I miss my kids and it pains me to know that they miss me. But I doubt very much that the next time someone offers me a free trip to, well, anywhere, I am likely to turn it down. Traveling is one of the great joys of my life. Free traveling is one of the great bargains of my life.

I am almost certain I am not doing my children any permanent damage by leaving them with their loving and capable father for a few days here and there. What that bilious combination of guilt, freedom, joy, sadness and self-recrimination is doing to my own psyche, however, I cannot say.

I could say this picture is about being on the edge
of something, but really I just want to show you again what a badass I can be

Friday, November 13, 2009

I did this today

Be the only girl in the group who makes it to the top of the Praying Monk? Check.

Happy weekend. May you summit a few things.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why you should always put on a little lipgloss before getting on a plane

This photo has nearly nothing to do with the post.
I'm just fascinated by its origins.
Who bought him that shirt? Creepy Uncle Orlan?

There I was, minding my own business with the latest Us Weekly (Angelina is such a bitch!) when someone two seats away from me perks up and says, "Samantha?" And who should be seated with me in row 17 on US Airways flight 14 from SFO to Phoenix, but Heath H., the boy I thought I would surely die of love for at age of 14. He was the first boy my age to get a hairy chest.

Poor Heath. There was a time in 9th grade when I called his house every evening. Every evening. I could practically hear his sister rolling her eyes as she shouted, "Heeath." Not that I cared what she thought; my love trumped all other impulses, like dignity and self-restraint, for example.

Once he got on the phone I would open with "Hi." Then I would sit there silently all tied up with desire and self-consciousness, totally unable to think of anything else to say.

But he was so nice to me. He never asked me to stop calling. He never said one mean thing to me. Instead he sat on the other end of the phone trying his best to make conversation and get the hell on with his life without hurting my feelings.

Once, he invited me over to dinner and made me frozen pizza and a salad with large hunks of carrot that crunched excruciatingly as I chewed. I was almost too nervous to breathe. It was our first and last date.

When I saw him today he was still so nice. And I was still so awkward and twitchy. I think I have residual embarrassment about my extreme lack of cool back in the day. It's been 24 years since I masticated those excruciating carrot hunks in the presence of Heath H. and yet it doesn't take more than a second to transform me back into that horribly self-conscious girl neurotically wiping her nose of phantom boogers and robotically repeating "that's cool" like it were some sort of mantra.

Hello, 1984. It's been a while.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Business of Being Born

My kids have already asked me what God is (not an easy question for a Jewish/Buddhist/Super-secular girl like me to answer), what it means when you die, and how babies get into their mommy's tummies in the first place (well, it happens when they are very, very, very tiny).

Yesterday, they finally thought to ask how babies get out of their mommy's tummies. Aha! An easy one.

Except that when you explain the birth process to a three year old they totally think you are lying. Oliver just looked at me with smiling apprehension and said, "Nahh." Maggie said, "Oh, yeah, they turn into pee pee and come out your vagina," in a voice meant to convey that while I was indeed hilarious, she could not be so easily fooled.
After a second attempt to convince them I wasn't kidding, I figured out that it was pointless and let them draw their own conclusions. Someday they will know the ugly truth about so many things.

Besides, that's not how they were born.

They were born under blinding lights, attended by masked men bearing scalpels. They were tugged from my body by gloved hands. The first people to hold them were nurses we will never know. They were whisked away to beeping incubators while I lay strapped down and prone and unconscious and the Mister stood pacing furiously outside an OR he had no access to. I didn't get to see them for ten hours. It left us all feeling powerless and incapable and totally blindsided.

"holding my kids" after their birth

Their birth was one of the most awful experiences I've ever had, and to this day I feel like weeping every time I think about it. When you tell people this, that you had a bad birth, they try to make you feel better by saying, "But you got two healthy, beautiful children." This is true. We did get two healthy and beautiful children. And for this I am more grateful than I can possibly ever express. It is a blessing and good grace that boggles the minds, and that, frankly, makes me a little nervous.

This is no way to first see the world

But the fact remains that their birth and all its attending medical intervention and bullying has left me with a bit of sadness and shame I am not quite sure how to shake.

It's been three-and-a-half years and the pure envy I feel for women who have those empowering, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar births is nearly unbearable.

And here's the thing: I know I would have been good at it. Under other circumstances, with a less complicated pregnancy, I would have gotten my wool-clad midwife to light some candles, sunk down in the birthing tub, and pushed those babies out like Ina May Gaskin herself. I would have worn braids. And planted the placentas under magnolia and olive trees.

Ok, maybe not the placenta part. But afterbirth fertilizer or not, it would have been, I think, a better beginning for all of us if it could have been a little closer to how God intended. Alas.

If you are a pro-vagina, groovy mom like me, you will probably have the same love/hate relationship with this movie that I do. I can't even watch the trailer without crying.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"I have to think these things up, you know"

The kids and I spent the weekend with my mom, helping her do things like open jars and wash dishes because she had surgery on her thumb and her arm is wrapped up like a burrito, a giant, gauzy, arm-y burrito.

The weekend has been an opportunity to take over and secretly throw away some of the papers my mother passively collects. So far a bunch of coupons for carpet cleaning, a stack of 30 or so catalogues for cheap crap (singing Christmas bath mat anyone?), and a pile of brightly colored pamphlets about Honduras she picked up at some political rally have met their fate in the recycling bin.

I dutifully kept the newsletters from every non-profit she's ever given money to, and made a neat pile of the remaining 143 mail order catalogues (self-warming toilet seat anyone?)

My fever to sort through her junk mail started last night, after we watched Grey Gardens and I started to get a creepy feeling. My mother is about a 100 cats and as many marbles away from being even close to Big Edie. But still, a stack of expired coupons and a collection of old real estate listings is a slippery slope. Pretty soon we could be wearing old sweaters on our heads, sharing a tub of melted ice cream and throwing our cat food cans in the fireplace. I'm just saying.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Date night. And, he paid!

I think I’m going to blame my absence on the mountain of mini Snickers I’ve been buried under since Halloween. My goodness, but it’s easy to take candy from small children. You just put it on a high shelf and they forget about it within 12 hours. Meanwhile, you toss and turn in a frenzied lust for Kit-Kats for a full week. One of the many benefits of maturity.

There was also a visit from my dad (number 39? Check!), a massive fight about fighting with the Mister, and, um, I don’t know. One minute you’re folding five loads of laundry in front of So You Think You Can Dance and the next minute it’s Friday and you haven’t blogged in an age.

That's Oliver ringing the Hyde & Powell cable car bell. Ask him about it. He's happy to talk about it.

But I’m back.

And I want to tell you about our date night last night. We used to be really good at this. Once a month we’d schedule a day date, hire a babysitter for 8 hours, and try something fun. I read somewhere that the key to dating your spouse is not simply going out together, but trying new things, actually having interesting experiences. You know, so you can have something to talk about over the dinner table the other 29 days of the month.

We hiked a lot on our dates, once we biked around Angel Island. We went to museums, had martini-soaked lunches. It was fun. But somewhere along the way—right around the whole stop working/preschool shift—we stopped dating and started arguing and communicating via our shared Google calendar.

So last night we had our first date in a while and, because we needed some serious kindling, we decided to do something spontaneous. We went to a dance performance by a dance company we had never heard of. Just like that, we looked at the event listings and bought tickets.

I have So You Think You Can Dance to thank for the Mister’s newfound interest in performing arts. He actually says things like, “Technically it was good but there was no real feeling or connection between them.” Swear to God.

But he didn't say that about the Printz Dance Project because it turns out we really like the Printz Dance Project.

If you live around San Francisco, you should consider going to see them this weekend. Because, eh hem, something about watching all those lean bodies (and one fat one I couldn't take my eyes off) leaping and sweating, really puts you in a good mood. If you know what I mean. Wink. Wink.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Eighth Habit

It's sort of amazing how capable the Mister is considering he keeps all his to do lists on little scraps of paper—the torn edge of a newspaper will do—that he tucks into various pockets. At any given time there are at least three of them going at once.

I just saw one of his lists (it was in the back pocket of his jeans) and one of the items says, "make moonshine." First chickens, now moonshine. We are going to start punctuating our sentences with "coot coot" pretty soon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Feel the burn

For much of my life I poo-pooed exercise. My single foray into team sports was in 8th grade when I played basketball for half a season, traveling around rural Vermont in the freezing school bus so that I could sit on the bench and cheer on the astonishingly popular Leah of the long wavy hair.

I hate riding bikes (scary!). I'm not much of a swimmer. In fact, I spent many of my young adult years exhaling cigarette smoke and making fun of people shallow enough to sweat on purpose.

Don't get me wrong, I did a little Jane Fonda back in the day. And I could skate backwards like nobody's business in elementary school. For a while there in middle school I was quite the jazz dancer (I was in a dance troupe called the Kicky Birds). But in total, my athletic life doesn't add up to much.

Which is why my sudden religious-like devotion to the joys and benefits of exercise is so weird. It started about two years ago when I was feeling depressed. Like, the Golden-Gate-Bridge-is-looking-pretty-good depressed. I went to a therapist for a while. She was a tiny Lithuanian who kept saying, "You seem ok to me," and suggesting I get rid of my dog.

Since that wasn't exactly perking me up, I decided to look into antidepressants. But then the idea of going on antidepressants made me so depressed I decided to just suck it up and take the advice of all those annoyingly perky people who bounce around from foot to foot in their wicking fabrics talking about endorphins.

Long story long, I signed up for boot camp, got a free wicking shirt, and felt much better. And although I still don't believe in wearing running shoes unless you are actually running somewhere, and many of my muscles are still hidden under my muffin top, I have been like all gym-y ever since. I have been known to grunt while lifting weights. I've spun. Me!

I mention it only because sometimes the answers are so simple.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Me + the Taliban = one degree of separation

David Rohdes, the New York Times journalist kidnapped by the Taliban and held for more than nine months, is married to the Mister's cousin, Kristen. They had been married two months when he was captured. Oof!
We have never met him and we had no idea he had even been kidnapped until he was released (they were keeping it a secret to avoid publicity that might put him in danger).
THIS is the six-part, first-person story of what happened. Aside from the pure drama of the story, I found it to be one of the most compelling and telling stories I've read on the whole Taliban/Al-Queda/Afghanistan/Pakistan thing. It's complicated stuff. And bleak. But this made me understand it all a little bit more. And it made me thankful for good journalists.
You should read it. You'll probably cry.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick

from HERE

First, let me just remind you of how much I love comments. Comments are better than brownies or endless fields of mustard in bloom. Better than airshows. Better than shoes you buy at Nordstrom Rack because they are so cheap. They are better than being stopped by a stranger and told you look like Kate Winslet. They are better than making every green light and better than those new 100 calorie York Peppermint candy bars.

They are not better than trips to Venice or the way the tummy skin of my kids feels. They are not better than renting a house in Stinson for the weekend and cooking dinner with a bunch of friends. They are not better than this conversation I had with Oliver on the way to school this morning. Still, keep 'em coming.

What school does Georgia go to?

She goes to big kid school. She's a second grader.

What's a second grader?

When you are six you are a first grader, when you are seven you are a second grader, when you are eight...

And I know another important one that is sharp! A cheese grater!

I blame the Mister for what is obviously a genetic trait toward puns.

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