Monday, March 31, 2008

Vacation, Defined.

Last week, when we and our band of merry friends took in the view from our house, we saw this:

And when we took in the opposite view, we saw this:

Now we are home and seeing neither. But I suppose that's why it's called "vacation." Another reason why it's called "vacation" is because inside the house there is a full-time chef making chicken mole. Or shrimp with chunks of mango. Or his favorite dessert from his hometown of Guadalajara. Or whatnot.

Other possible reasons:

a) uninterrupted reading time
b) disinterest in Internet (with exception of election news)
c) meditative quality of staring at ocean
d) children who begin to look like mermaids:

e) crazy morning fruit platters:

f) no shoes required
g) appearance of freckles

I must now continue the arduous process of re-entry, dear ones. Unfortunately, this re-entry requires stops at Kinko's, Trader Joe's, Target, and Safeway. Wish me buena suerte.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Loose Ends, Easter Bunnies, Parting Gifts, Etc.

With every year it becomes more difficult to pack for the kids. In fact, at this very moment, I am surrounded by piles and piles and piles of freshly laundered clothes, and I hardly know where to start. There's an argument to be made for letting them pack for themselves, of course, but I have a real fear that we'd arrive at our destination only to find that they'd brought nothing but books and stuffed animals. And the last thing I want to do is spend the first day of vacation running around to buy the things that didn't quite make it into their bags.

Isn't blogging fantastic? Where else can you seriously discuss the miniscule "problems" in your life?

Speaking of miniscule problems, there is one I just crossed off my list: the problem of having no good place to write! Yes, dear ones, the loft space is mine from April 1st until at least the end of August. Ten feet from my desk there's a door that leads to a little roofdeck. On my first day, I'm gonna go out there and perform a special room-of-one's-own dance. Imagine Ed Grimley, but with better pants:

And better hair. Usually.

Let's see...what other loose blog ends must I tie? The talent show! The talent show was smooth like a smooth surface. Hahahahahaha! My only real worry was that Lea might forget the figure eight skipping pattern and burst into tears or something. It happened during the dress rehearsal (no tears, though, just a furrowed brow), and the poor thing had such a hard time falling asleep that night. Here's a not very good picture of the "Unwritten" act:

See? They only look a little terrified. On a completely unrelated note, will you get me these for Easter?:

Thank you!

And with that I am off to an undisclosed location that requires a passport and several light cotton skirts. Be back soon...

But wait! A parting gift:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"Do It Again, And Make IT PERFECT!"

"You heard me! Do it again! And again!"

Yes, ladies and gents, that's how I talk to my kids when they're rehearsing for their talent show.


In about an hour we're heading to the school auditorium so that our eardrums can be caressed by the lilting melodies of Hannah Montana, Ally (?) and AJ, and other people whose names I don't know. Their songs have titles such as, "Like, Whoa," and "Fabulous." We do, however, have one kid doing a White Stripes song, one singing "Money, Money, Money" by ABBA (she throws off a dowdy bathrobe to reveal...a black dress with gold accents!!), and one singing an obscure Styx song. She stands perfectly still, that one, and is endearingly earnest.

Risa, Vida, and Lea are singing Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten," which they have been obsessed with now for the better part of a year. Lea is also in another act with two Kindergarten friends. They'll be singing "Upside Down" which is Jack Johnson's tribute to Curious George. And...I found Curious George t-shirts for them to wear! Makes you want to throw up just a little, doesn't it?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"A More Perfect Union": The Race Speech

This was delivered today in Philadelphia:

Up With The Buhds

There is some crazy warbling bird that has been waking me up far earlier than usual. It's only 6:50, the sun is just half-risen, and here I sit. The other morning Lea crawled into bed with me with no words exchanged. About ten minutes later, she said, "Do you happen to have any earmuffs? That bird is so annoying." But she said "buhd" instead of "bird" because for reasons unknown she speaks with Matt Damon's "Good Will Hunting" accent.

Well, if I'm up this early I might as well make the girls a hot breakfast. Hello Kitty waffles, anyone?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Nesting Ground HQ. Seriously.

It's St. Patrick's Day, so I've been engaging in leprechaun-like shenanigans. And no, I'm not referring to alcohol. You all know your Nesting Ground Mistress cannot partake in spirits lest she become covered in hives and unable to breathe. What I've been doing, dear ones, is looking for a room of my own.

Before we had kids, I used to be able to write at home. It was always neat and quiet and conducive to work. Now, of course, with the addition of our spawn, it is madness. Endearing, homey madness, but madness nevertheless. There is always something that needs to be done: laundry, vacuuming glitter, putting away toys, emptying the dishwasher for the bazillionth time, bills, la-di-da-di-da. The truth is, I actually have time to write now, but I'm always looking out of the corner of my eye at the piled up dishes or the errant recycling, a habit which makes it impossible to write. To make matters worse, it's not as if I get off my butt to do the dishes or corral the recycling; I stay exactly where I am, MOPING. In short, nothing is getting done to my satisfaction in any area of my life.

I've tried the library, as you know. And it often works. But just as often, the books and the people-watching distract my already distract-able self. There's only one solution. If it's not, in fact, the solution, then I'm officially out of excuses and you may punish me as you will. But really, I think a room of my own will do it. That's why tomorrow morning I'm going to check out a little loft space close by. A place I can go for a few hours during the week where, when I arrive, I just sit down and write.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Call for Submissions

Another new project from the mind-bogglingly prolific Cecilia Brainard:

This is a call for submissions of creative nonfiction for an anthology tentatively titled, FINDING GOD. The book will be co-edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and Marily Ysip Orosa and published in the Philippines by Anvil. Contributors will receive copies of the book as compensation for the use of their work.

The manuscript should be approximately 10 pages long, typed, double-spaced (approximately 2,500 words) and should include your contact information on the first page. This can be emailed to or to

You may also send it by air mail to:
Cecilia Brainard
c/o PALH
PO Box 5099
Santa Monica, CA 90409

Our vision is to collect essays (creative nonfiction) that describe one's spiritual journey towards God. We envision the essays to focus on a specific incident that made the writer "find God" or that drew the writer closest to God. We have a preference toward a writing style that uses elements as scene and dialogue. The editors are looking for articles that are lively, specific and visual – articles that address questions such as:

• Have you ever felt abandoned by God or felt your life in shambles, then realized that God was there all along?

• Did you ever have a close encounter with God? How? What circumstances surrounded such an encounter? Describe how such an encounter happened, in specific terms – where, when, how old were you, how did you feel before the encounter, and how did you feel after the encounter? How has your life changed from such an encounter?

• What specific situation was it that made you realize there is a God and that He is close to you?

• Take us on that journey: make us see you and those around you; make us feel what you had felt when you felt abandoned; make us feel what you felt when you discovered God; and make us see how your life has changed after finding God.

Deadline for submission is July 15, 2008. Early submissions are welcome. Please include your bio (approx. 150 words) in people-friendly narrative form, and all contact information (email address, mailing address, telephone number).


ABOUT THE EDITORS: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is the author/editor of 14 books; Marily Ysip Orosa is the publisher of historical coffee table books. Both Cecilia and Marily have won numerous awards for their literary work. They have collaborated on two other anthologies: Behind the Walls: Life of Convent Girls, and the award-winning A La Carte: Food & Fiction, both published by Anvil.

Cecilia has a blog here
Marily has a blog here

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why Sleep Eluded Me The Night of February 29th

How could I forget to tell you this? How could I forget to tell you about The Endlessly Moaning Woman of Bear Valley? She haunts me still, my friends.

She haunts me still.

On our first night, I went to bed at 11:30, but the high altitude situation had transformed me into a coughing, wheezing, stick-straight-haired, dry-eyed, and super thirsty she-beast. As a result, I was up and down a few times, most notably at one in the morning to down an entire bottle of water. An hour later I thought I heard Lea calling for me from the adjoining room. I put my ear to the door, but only heard the static drone of the noisemaker that she's used since she was a baby. Just to be sure, I cracked the door open, only to find all three kids fast asleep. I heard the sound again, and thought it must be an injured Creature Of The Snow. And so I tiptoed to the window and peeked outside expecting to see a limping, possibly bleeding...I don't know...wolf? But there was nothing but snow.

By now, the sound was a clear and rhythmic moaning punctuated by shrill little screams. "Oh, no," thought your Nesting Ground Mistress, blushing in the darkness and miserable in her sleeplessness. "Is it not enough that I'm dehydrated, coughing, and generally miserable? Must I also endure your OBVIOUSLY exaggerated physical pleasure?" In an effort to interrupt the woman's ecstasy—just enough to make her stop screaming, mind you—I stomped on the floor a few times. Her response? A veritable aria.

I'm not one to begrudge a consenting adult her...stuff. However, I believe that consenting adults also have a responsibility not to awaken innocent bysleepers with their madcap frolicking. But never mind. SURELY she would be finished in a moment and then I could go back to sleep. Meanwhile, I returned to bed and attempted to wrap my whole pillow around my head so as to block out the ever more dramatic sound effects. This did not work. Despite the padding I could hear her baying at the moon, her squealing at the ceiling, her hooting, hollering, and hallelujah-ing. I, on the other hand, was praying for mercy. And last...she stopped. I freed my head and was just about to drift off when...she started in again.

I was so tired in the morning. But not—I'm very, very sure—as tired as The Endlessly Moaning Woman of Bear Valley.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

And Then She Was Six

She turned six years old today, but she'll always be our baby (just ask her):

Friday, March 07, 2008

Let Me Count The Ways

So many scintillating happenings in my life. Oh, where to begin?

1) SOFTBALL PRACTICE. Softball practice lasts something like 3,749 hours each Monday, thereby requiring feats of unimaginable culinary speed to ensure a proper dinner on the table. The definition of "proper" becomes more flexible with each passing week.

2) BEAR VALLEY, 2008. This will forever be remembered as the year when—thanks to a chilly, so chilly chilly wind—I overcame my fear of hats and kept my noggin cozy in the snow. My hat (which was, in fact, borrowed from a friend who left the mountain early to help with the Obama campaign in Texas) had a tassle. And while a tassle is NOT a pompom, I still strongly believe I deserve a pat on the back. Or the head.

3) TALENT SHOW. Much to my considerable confusion, all three of my children insist on taking part in their school talent show later this month. As we all know by now, I have an irrational horror of performing karaoke, which makes their gumption all the more mysterious to me. But then again, they are also their father's children, so...

4) THE SNACK SHACK INCIDENT. You no doubt recall my distaste at being forced, in accordance with the rigid laws of youth team sports, to work a 3-hour shift at "The Snack Shack" each softball season. Said shift took place today and, I'm happy to report, I nearly burned the entire place to the ground while working the grill. Happy why? Happy because I doubt I'll ever be asked to work a 3-hour shift at "The Snack Shack" again.

5) THE RED RIBBON BAKESHOP INCIDENT. Imagine my shame when the man behind the counter spoke to me in Pilipino and I had to face the fact, once again, that I do not understand enough of my father's native language to even stumble through a rudimentary retail transaction. Imagine my DOUBLE shame when I realized the man behind the counter was NOT actually speaking to me in Pilipino; he was only asking me—in English—whether I wanted one red ribbon or two. *hangs head*

Told you: s-c-i-n-t-i-l-l-a-t-i-n-g.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Milo For A Day

I am feeling, today, much like Milo at the beginning of The Phantom Tollbooth:

There was once a boy named Milo who didn't know what to do with himself—not just sometimes, but always.

When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he'd bothered. Nothing really interested him—least of all the things that should have.

There's no one obvious reason for this. Just a bunch of tiny irritants, none of which are within my control.