Wednesday, September 9



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Monday, September 7

Umbilical Cords

I can't get the dream out of my mind: two friends, one who wants a(nother) baby but could risk her life, the other who doesn't want children. Me. Life, death and the axis in-between.

It was a mismashed dream of color and chaos. I delivered a baby for the friend who didn't want a child, while dragging the umbilical cord down the hall, still attached to the baby and mother. I was running. Not away, but toward my other friend, who was losing her life because she was pregnant.

Somehow all this life circled around me. I delivered the baby, whispering quietly in my friend's ear, telling her to breathe. She wasn't breathless for the birth of a baby, but for the fact she was having one at all. Covered in icky gunk that comes with a birth, I raced to my friend who was desperately trying to hold onto her own life and her unborn child's. I whispered to her. I knew I could calm her. I knew she'd be okay.

In the end, everyone lived. My friend who wanted a third baby so badly that she'd risk her own life, delivered a baby girl. My friend who never wanted a child also delivered a girl, but remained childless, as she gave her daughter to me. Somehow I knew she'd give her to me. I didn't name her.

Dreams like this creep me out. They come in technicolor to my imagination and stay that way in my mind forever. I wander around in waketime looking at my friend's bellies, double checking that no one is pregnant, at least yet.

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Tuesday, August 18

Thank You!

This note is from our buddy at Sacred Heart Community Center. I can't thank you, my literal and the online communities, and especially Twitter colleagues, for your generous gifts. Sacred Heart delivered, and delivered big, thanks to you.


I wanted to thank you and all of your friends and family for helping to make a difference in our community!

I truly I witnessed a miracle the last two weeks we were way down in donations and ultimately we came out with abundance (loafs and fishes comes to mind)

Click here to see the miracle unfold yesterday.

Thanks again and God Bless,


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Monday, August 3

Sacred Heart Community Center Needs 1000K Backpacks -- now

It is almost time for Pack-a-Back 2009 and we don't have all the supplies that our neighbor children must have for the coming school year. We need your assistance collecting these critical supplies.

Every year, we register 1,500 children for this program. This year, due to the great need in our community, it was with great pleasure that 1,740 children were guaranteed a backpack on August 14th. At a time when state budget cuts have deeply affected children's services, and impoverished children are constantly disregarded, we need your help to achieve this audacious goal!

We will be collecting backpacks and school supplies until Friday, August 7th. Any items can be dropped off at the Sacred Heart donation station , 1381 S 1st St, in San Jose.

Our most critical needs are backpacks, scientific calculators, notebooks, and subject folders. Read our brochure for a full list of what each backpack will contain. Or you can donate directly to Sacred Heart for this campaign.
Any school supply donation or financial donation will directly impact the lives of the children. Your contribution, especially right now, is greatly appreciated.

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Tuesday, July 21

Le Knee in Action!

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Monday, July 20

Most Engaged Brands -- good report

ENGAGEMENTdb: Most Engaged Brands On Social Media -
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Thursday, July 16

The Best Six Years in History

At 8:36 p.m. and 8:37 p.m. respectively, 6 years ago tonight, my son and daughter were born. I went from being me to being Mommy and forever, my life suddenly had meaning.

This picture was taken moments ago, the second, moments ago six years ago.

Dear God and all my angels, thank you for blessing me with the greatest joy anyone could ever know.

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Sunday, July 5

Twice Better F-ing Be a Charm

Knee surgery was Wednesday to fix the one that didn't take. I had a partial menisectomy, which was fine, with the exception of 24 hours later when they thought I had a PE (aka: blood clot in my lungs). Three hours in the emergency room with EKG, Cat-Scan, Echo-gram, blood, IVs, etc. proved no such blood clot, but I was pretty shook up. I'm still a bit shaky from it.

The knee is so-so, but admittedly better than before in meniscus pain and even some areas of range of motion just four days post-op. This surgery is a six-week setback in recovery. I was set to complete physical therapy by the second week of August, now we're somewhere in the mid-Fall.

Hard is surgery and knee recovery, but in some ways, the side effects are worse. Sleep is near impossible between pain and the noise from the 24-7 ice machine droning next to my head. Medication makes me tired but not sleepy and sick to my stomach. Somehow I got my sternum bruised or injured during surgery and it hurts like hell. The Spondy I live with normally is on month two of a flare up (imagine constant, non-stop sciatica through the butt and down the legs). There's the lack of exercise, the inability to be an active mom and, currently, the inability to take a fricking shower without fully wrapping my leg in Press-n-Seal food wrap.

It's hard to stave off depression. It's hard to stay Up, happy, interested in the world around me. The kids' birthdays are next week and I've got a deer-in-the-headlights look about me. I've got to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other -- and soon.

For tonight, pain and exhaustion are overwhelming. Fear of blood clots and chest pain are making it downright scary.

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Tuesday, June 30

Knee Update

Had an MRI this morning, found out that the meniscus repair did not take.

I am having surgery tomorrow morning to remove the torn meniscus.

I am sad.

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Sunday, June 28

Thing 2 in a dress her Great-GREAT-Grandmother made

Tuesday, May 26

Open House at School

Open House at School, originally uploaded by Thing Family.

This One's for Me

I've thought a lot about writing in the past couple months -- what to say, how to say it. Can I be cheeky when life is just shit? There are kids dying in Afghanistan, what's a little knee issue, for god sake?

For two decades, writing's been the thing, the way. It started with a diary that I didn't want to lock, because I wanted it to be read. I wrote for money too -- everything from incontinence issues for a home health care magazine to big splashy front cover articles of a leading mag. I learned to move writing from Me writing to You writing. Blogging is the former: 3 Garzas & La Gringa is Me writing, take it or not.

Somewhere in between drug hazes, physical therapy rants and small kidlet updates of the past two months, I realized, it must suck to be a reader right now. There's really not much unless you're me. And then, it's everything. It's my diary that I intentionally left unlocked.

So there you have it. Me not you. And so I go onto my next post, narcissistic on-demand.

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Monday, April 13

Brief Update

Tape is all the rage, originally uploaded by Thing Family.

Saw the doctor today with some of the results from yesterday's Easter Day hospital visit. So far, it's pretty darn good news:

1. My white blood cell count is normal.
2. I have low blood volume (drink, drink, drink water)
3. The strep and staph tests are in the petre dish and so far have NOT shown signs of growth.
4. My fever is hanging out at about 100, much better than a couple days ago.

Next steps are to wait until we get the all-clear on Wednesday for the results: say it with me, "NO STREP, NO STAPH" After that, I'm all clear to go back to recovery as planned.

Saturday, April 11

Another Setback

I am doing everything I'm told: take the meds I'm supposed to take, rest, like down, stretch the hamstrings, do the proper exercises. Tonight, I have a fever. And a (more) swollen knee. We've been on the phone all night with the doctors. No one is sure what's going on, but they are concerned.

I am so scared. I was scared on the hill when I fell. I was scared in the toboggan, I was scared flying home to San Jose in pain meds and children. I was terrified to find out I had blown my ACL and so very upset to learn I was going to lose a big chunk of both meniscui too. I was horrified to find out that I had gotten a bucket handle tear during physical therapy *before* surgery. I was scared when I had an allergic reaction to Celebrex and broke out in hives two days after surgery. I got very scared when I couldn't move after physical therapy four days after surgery. Tonight, I am completely horrified. They are going to do exploratory work tomorrow on Easter to see what I need or whether or not I need to be admitted in the hospital.

I'm really very scared now. I could use a prayer or two.


La Gringa

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Big Toothy Milestone!

My little baby girl lost her first tooth today! For days she'd been pulling and poking at it, showing everyone in sight that she was going to lose a tooth. You could see the "I'm a big girl," look on her face. Last night, at Safeway with La Gringa it popped right out. As the story goes, she showed everyone her toothy grin all the way through the check-out line. Then, politely called back, "Have a GREAT day today!"

This morning, Thing 2 woke up to a gold dollar coin all shiny and beautiful under her pillow. She had written the tooth fairy a letter requesting that the fairy leave the tooth for her to keep, and the fairy obliged.

Coming of age. It's a wild view from here.

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Monday, April 6

"Of Course I'm Not Allergic to Salsa, I am Mexican."

...and other ditties from the dark side of post surgery

Post surgery with new ACL
I knew that ACL replacement, 80% meniscus removal and a full lateral meniscus repair wasn't going to be pretty. I had heard horror stories of out of control pain. After a lunge exercise during physical therapy sent my knee into a Bucket Handle Tear, I also knew that surgery sounded like a walk in the park compared to the unbearable pain of last weekend.

I can remember asking La Gringa to take photos. I can remember the nurse who was cool enough to tilt the bed up so I wouldn't have a double-chin in the pre-op pics. Then I remember screaming, screaming from a really not so good place inside. The surgery was over. The pain overwhelming.

Six days have gone by since the surgery, with blurs of friends and visitors and family. Blurry is the right word. Mostly I've been nauseous, dizzy and overwhelmed by how much it hurts to take the short walk to the bathroom (on crutches, non-weight bearing). I remember praying for a bed pan and for the pictures in my son's bedroom to stop looking at me. At one point I started what I thought was a seriously artistic collection of iPhone pictures of Saltines. (I'm not kidding).

There is an ice machine that runs constantly through my leg and equal running of La Gringa to Rotten Robbie for ice to put in it. There's a range of motion machine that I am supposed to use four to six hours a day.

Then there are the drugs. So many drugs. Percocet and Ativan. There was also one dose of Celebrex where I broke out in severe hives all over my body after the doctor on-call asked me if I was allergic to salsa. When I told him, "Of course I'm not allergic to salsa,, I'm Mexican," he took that as an all-clear that I am not allergic to "sulfa" drugs. For the record, I am freakishly allergic to sulfa drugs and still Mexican.

Last night, I took myself off everything except Vicodin. I realized that the pain wasn't going to feel better. I wasn't going to feel better. I was going to have to decide to put a stake in the ground and move, however slowly, forward from there so I could look back and prove that I am better.

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Monday, March 30

Pop Went the Weasel

I've been rolling along pretty aggressively in my goal to be as fit as possible before ACL replacement, meniscus clean up surgery. Stationary bike, swimming, weight lifiting... I've been feeling great about my progress. Until Friday.

After finding out from my GP that I'd had a major concussion from the ski accident that had gone undiagnosed (but was reason for my odd behavior, dizziness and headaches), I headed to the gym for two back-to-back workouts.

I was winding down a workout at physical therapy with monitored squats in the afternoon with a therapist. It looked text book, first one went well, second one fine. On the third, my knee collapsed with a loud POP and a pain like I've never have known. I thought I was going to throw up from pain.

Turns out the meniscus floating around in my knee got "incarcerated" in the knee and has completely locked the knee into a bucket handle. It is the most pain I've ever experienced in my life.

Dr. T saw me at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, injected me with some local and tried to manipulate the tissue out. It didn't work. He put in me in a full length brace from my hip to my toes and locked the brace at the position that it was stuck in. This helped control the pain by restraining movement. He also prescribed me some serious drugs.

As of today, I'm completely immobile. No walking (I can't even stand on my right foot), driving, swimming. No going to the bathroom or getting dressed by myself. We have moved into Thing 1's room and have set up a virtual hospital room in there. Losing control is the only thing worse to me than this pain. Having both is crazy talk.

Today is my pre-op appointment. Wednesday is surgery day.

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Friday, March 20

Balancing the Scales

We're starting to settle into Operation Hurt Mama status in our house. It's getting hard to balance the time, the priorities and the needs of the family. @La_Gringa is working double shifts between work-work and picking up the slack for me. I keep saying, "This is not a sprint, it's a marathon," but it's hard not to want to have the same pace as before I tanked it. Face it, I'm as efficient as a stoner at a Grateful Dead concert.

Yesterday was hard, painful, exhausting. Thing 1 found me trying to get down the stairs in tears and asked me if I was dying of cancer. Thing 2 has had relentless nightmares this week. Again, trying to balance these scales for everyone is so unexpectedly difficult.

Normalcy is a blur. Returning to normalcy is my immediate goal.

I'm thrilled with the surgeon we picked. He's colorful, direct and well-known for his work with athletes. This week he drained my knee (about a cup of pretty fluid) and yesterday put in steroids, which are working great. We got a diagnosis: My ACL and both parts of meniscus are toast. My ACL will have to be completely replaced with that of a cadaver. I've got plenty of bone bruising, contusions, bleeding and strains. You need about 20% meniscus to function, we'll see how it goes after Dr. Thabit gets in and cleans up the garage sale floating around in my knee.

Somewhere in between talking about cadavers and recoveries and the reality of not being able to run long distance again, my surgeon told me I could never be fat. Lovely. He felt the pressure on my knee would be just too much and could cause problems if I didn't stay super fit. I don't plan on being fat, but I didn't like being told I *couldn't* ever get fat. I wanted to slap him and eat a Twinkie.

I figured I'd be a failure at bulimia, so I started using an iPhone app called "Lose it" for caloric/exercise management. I'm not going to try and lose weight, but I have no idea how my highly active body is going to respond to being sedentary. The program, if you have an iPhone, is just amazing, smart, intuitive and right at my pocket. It is going to be key for me over this long haul.

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Wednesday, March 18

I am a Runner.

I am a Runner. I have always been a runner, even dating back to winning my age category in a 5k run around the Forum in L.A. when I was 8. Running is my sanity, my peace, my social life, my pride. As I've aged, my times have improved. My one New Year's Resolution for 2009? Run six 1/2 marathons (one more than last year) and break 2 hours (two minutes faster than my PR).

On Saturday I took a serious fall skiing on our last day in Snowbird. I'd been skiing double black diamonds all week; I fell at the top of a beginner run. I wrecked my knee and tore up my body pretty bad. So, I'm not going to be running 1/2 marathons this year afterall. And, it appears, maybe ever. That's okay by me. It's not okay-okay, but it's okay. I'm alive. I was literally thrown into a reality check of my life, and it's pretty rosey from where I sit (in a wheelchair at the moment).

I'm facing a big knee surgery in the next couple weeks -- my ACL, MCL, meniscus and some other ditties are all blown in my right knee. I can't stand on my knee at all. The pain, for lack of a better word is, exhausting. I took some Vicodin the first two days, but really, who are they kidding, I've got kids and kids with Vicodin is just not smart. Courtney Love, I ain't. But I hurt. All over.

From moment one I've been in a decent mental space about it all. My mom had a premonition about the fall before I had it, my daughter was supposed to have been on the hill with me and wasn't and, finally, I was wearing my helmet (this is my first season wearing it). Considering Natasha Richardson died of an injury to her head the day after my injury, you can only imagine how fortunate I feel. Wear a fucking helmet. Did you hear me?

I'm trying to chronicle my rehabilitation in photos and have a set started on Flickr called

You can follow my recovery there too.

I'm a runner. And a skier. And sometime not so long from now, you'll see me out there doing both. Just watch.

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Thursday, March 5

The Girl Effect

If you read my blog, you know how important women are to me -- moms and grandmothers, best friends, cousins, aunties, and life with a great gaggle of girlfriends (no, not girlfriends) always in my hip pocket.

I thrive on the value of women and their amazing relentless, innovative spirits. Just ask my biotechnology neighbor who quit her job in this recession to raise her daughter (that took six years to conceive) and bakes so well that her scones are sold throughout the country. Right, those women.

If you know me, you know how I feel about raising a son, and, my deep passion for raising a daughter.

I like this video, it ain't brain surgery, but it's a reminder: us girls can change everything.


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Full Mind, Blank Page

I've got a list of posts to write, a photo essay on the boundaries of our school district, the power of what a recession can do for our families, the benefits of Botox...

But somehow, with all this living of life, I'm just simply unable to write it right now. The dishes, they are in the sink like Groundhog Day every two hours and the floors have spots and the kids and the kids and the kids have needs. I can't really write right now.

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Friday, February 13

Thing 1 and the Tickle Monster

Thursday, February 12

A Fear Turned to Fantasy

Before I had kids I got OCD on research: What are the psychological ramifications of a sperm donor child (known versus unknown donors); what are the potential future pitfalls; How much should I put aside for therapy; Is having a sperm donor child a selfish act; morally wrong?

I spent 11 months running scenarios, reading research (I kept a huge box of research in my garage until about a year ago), investigating options. I would run an idea for weeks on-end. What if I had a boy? Who would teach him about boxers versus briefs? What if I had a girl? Who would take her to Father/Daughter dances at school?

Both of these topics became reality in the past couple of months. I took my son to Macy's with the giant underwear-clad mannequins and went through them one-by-one, talking about the differences in a snug Willie fit versus a loose Willy fit and whether or not his male family members wore boxer-briefs. The fear I'd had was nothing more than a pack of SpiderMan tighty-whities a pair of stripped boxers.

Perhaps more sensitive for me was the upcoming Father/Daughter dance. When I saw the sign go up at school, I felt my face get hot. Immediately, the Things were asking what it said, and before I could tell them, they read it themselves. I didn't have time to catch my breath or get my much practiced replies about "Father/Daughter" stuff I'd simulated years ago. My daughter was jumping non-stop and blurting out, "I can take Granddad! I can take SuperH! I can take Uncle R! I can take Thing 1!" The entire way home in the car, she weighed which of her men would be the best suited for a Western Ho-Down in the school cafeteria. It was decided before I pulled in the driveway: Granddad, it was.

After so many years of fear -- the kind of cold fear you can't shake -- of how my daughter would tackle these kinds of events, it was her smile popping out of the car that turned my fear to fantasy.

"Mom!," she screamed while jumping and leaping and bouncing out of her cowgirl outfit, "Granddad and I had a BLAST!!!!!!"

Fears turned to fantasies in the hand of my children.

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Wednesday, February 11

Twins Family Tweetup DATE SET Saturday March 28

Book the date! The first-ever Twins Family Tweetup is Saturday, March 28 at 11 a.m.

Bring a sack lunch and your family to Rancho San Antonio Park in Los Altos for a family Tweetup!

Here are the details:

* Meet at the Farm with your kids and a lunch

* Dessert will be provided!

* Lunch starts at 11 a.m., the craziness lasts until the last kid drops (I'm guessing by 1:30)

Meet and hang out with some of Silicon Valley's coolest parents of multiples! RSVP in the comments below so we know who to expect. Can't wait to see you all there!

Please RT!
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Wednesday, February 4

Twins Family Tweetup

Calling all Twitter Twins Parents (Shall we say the TTPs?) for a Tweetup with kidlets at Rancho San Antonio Park in Los Altos. Bring a sack lunch and meet us at the farm for the first-ever Twins Twitter Tweetup.

Comment below with your vote for dates that you prefer. Please RT this post! Any questions, DM me @garzag on Twitter

Sunday, February 22
Saturday, March 7
Sunday, March 8
Saturday, March 28


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Friday, January 30

Making a Break for It

Cost of two bottles of Children's Advil : $18

Cost of new thermometer at 4:45 a.m.: $12

Cost of Urgent Care per child; $20 x 2

Cost of Prescriptions per child: $20 x 2

Cost of bottle of S2 wine to survive kids having Strep Throat: $27.95

Cost of escaping with kids to the beach to blow it all off: Priceless

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Wednesday, January 21

My Name is Lexi

I've got a Starbucks name: Lexi. A lot of folks in my family have a Starbucks name (formerly known in my single days as my bar name), Spike, Fanny, Phyllis. I'm Lexi.

Lexi stands for Lexapro, the antidepressant I've been taking for two years. Better known at the happy pills, the meds, the livesaver, the be-more-of-me drug. I take such a low dosage of Lexapro that Scientologists probably get happier from smelling glue.

I know a frigging truckload of Stay-at-Home-Moms (SAHMS) that take some sort of anti-depressants. I've been thinking a lot about the SAHM culture the past week after four friends all were complaining of the blues.

Now before you start rubbing you play your micro-violin for me or tell me how SAHMs have been around for centuries or how lucky I am, let me tell you one thing: shut up. :) I know how lucky I am, as do my friends who are going through similar struggles. Being fortunate and having the blues are not related. Lucky, wealthy, mentally healthy, HAPPY people get the blues.

I read an article years ago -- some special edition of Newsweek or one of those -- about the depression and the stay-at-home-mom. It described the upper-middle class SAHM as one of the most depressed in our society: Get up, get on eliptical, get kids up, throw on clothes passing over the nice ones you used to wear as an executive, go into enclosed garage, get in car, drop kids at school, run errands, pick up kids at school, go home into enclosed garage, make dinner, go to bed. The article described the solitary life that is lived by these women. Relatively no human interaction, no use of their natural senses (smell of a subway, taste of a street vendor's pretzel, touch of a crowded elevator). I've been crawling the web for this study, but have yet to find it. I remember, although not a parent at the time, that story really moved me. If you find it, sent it to me.

Why do so many SAHMS have the blues this time of year? There are too many of us in my small community to warrant it a coincidence. When I looked up the subject on Google, I got a zillion born-again Christians who tell you how great it is to be a SAHM (and inevitably a handful of recipes from making playdough to Wal-Mart dinners). On the other end are the SAHMs that are not in a happy, supportive environment like I am with blog headlines like "Fucked in Brooklyn" Those are the ones that kill me. Oh for god sake. And, if one more blog tells me that laughter is the best medicine...

Upper Middle Class SAHMS like me, are happy, smart, well-adjusted women. We're brainy enough to have playground banter that goes beyond PB&J; we rally our local communities (just ask a certain County Supervisor who met me an a brigade of 100 at the local park when we demanded it fixed); we raise our children with conviction and humility and passion. We're educated and we know how to take care of ourselves, even if it is a $10 copay on a good SSRI.

So what's the deal this time of year? Here's what I think:

* We put it all together for the holidays, we make everything warm and exciting and enticing. Then, come the first week of January, it's all gone.

* We get to have almost a full month of family time -- Thanksgiving through New Year's we get our children, our spouses, our extended families. We get physically hugged more, spoken to, engaged with. Then, come the first week of January, everyone goes back to their lives, school, homes and the touching and warmth is gone.

* We get to have expanded or contracted budgets to accommodate the holidays -- buy different foods at the grocery store, go shopping for gifts and special occasion clothes for our families. Then, come the first week of January, all of us are broke and the fun is gone.

* We get to engage with food that isn't mac & cheese. We make family dishes during the holiday season, splurges, cookies, candies, tamales and cioppino. We get to drink more too (what a holiday without some Cheer?) -- Then, come the first week of January, it's gone and we're left with five extra pounds and a worn-out liver.

* We get to spoil our children with toys and activities and make-your-own gingerbread houses to celebrate the season. We get to give them special treats and stay out late and go on tours of the lights and displays all around town. Then, come the first week of January, the lights are down, it's cold and dark and the fun is gone.

What's the solution? I'm guessing, there isn't one. We, my dear friends, are doing a great job. And as my mom says, most things in life need a 1% course correction, not a sweeping 180-degree turn. I think, for me, knowing that the SAHM blues are valid this time of year is, for the most part, enough for me. And, knowing you're having it too.

Chin up, friends. We've got ninjas to raise.


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A Ninja in my Pocket

"Mom, you can't leave the house without a ninja in your pocket," said my son.

All day I carried a tiny little green ninja in my jean pocket that my son had gotten from a 25-cent vending machine at Tomato Thyme the night before. Every now and again, he'd ask me if I still had my ninja and every time, I'd pull it out of my pants proudly. Yesterday I surprised him, "Got your ninja in your pocket, son?" He grinned when I showed him that I was carrying mine a second day.

Today, he's back at school and I'm missing my ninja. I've got the tiny figurine in my pocket again today. My real ninja reminds me constantly of who I am. I'm a mommy: Purell at-the-ready, recyclable bags and soccer balls rolling around in my trunk, snacks in various stages of consumption in my handbag and a ninja in my pocket. Not a bag gig, if you can get it.

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Wednesday, January 7

You Work Today?

When we decided to put the kids in Two Way Bilingual Immersion (Spanish), we knew things would be different in some ways for our kids in Kindergarten. Most parents I respect in the neighborhood opposed the program at our school -- it made me sad to challenge them with my own beliefs on my children receiving a bilingual education. I listened to every argument from my wise, experienced friends, and, in the end, still supported the program.

I knew, for example, that it was very likely that my children would not be taught to read English until 3rd Grade (Thing 1 is reading now in English on a 2nd grade level and reading Spanish 1 books); we knew that our kids would be put in class with the less fortunate kids; we knew our test scores wouldn't help the school any. Hard decision, to say the least. We went for it.

What we were not expecting were lessons that have taught not just Thing 1 and Thing 2, but have taught me and LaGringa some lessons in humility and grace that everyone could use a shot of every now and again.

Every day when I drop the kids off, one mom asks me, "You Work Today?" and every day, I say, "No," (slightly embarrassed). Every day she says, "Maee-bee-tomorrow," encouraging me. I don't have the nerve to tell her I don't work by choice, that we can afford for me to not work, that I am occasionally "consulting" -- WTF is consulting to her?

Every day I reply, "Are you working today?" And every day she tells me about her night. She cleans office buildings in the middle of the night while her child sleeps with a neighbor. She returns home in time to see him wake, make him breakfast, take him to school. After she drops him, she sleeps for 3 1/2 hours. Then she is there, at the gate waiting for him to get out of school. She walks. No car.

Today I peeled into the school parking lot to drop the Things a bit late. She saw my car and said, "You are working now! You have a CAR?!" Her sincerity brought me to tears. She had believed that because I walk the kids to school that I didn't have a car and, she thought, like her, it was hard to get work with no car. She was thrilled for me.

I watched my girlfriends leave the lot in the Volvos, Lexus SUVs and the beloved Honda Odysseys, en route to the grocery store, gym, yoga, coffee with a girlfriend. This woman looked at me so kindly as she walked back toward home and said, "Now maybe you work today!"

I will work today. I will work on remembering how blessed I am.

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Tuesday, January 6

Project: KidGive

"This feels like I won the championship," Thing 1 told me today as he held the Salvation Army tag he'd pulled from the Christmas tree at the mall. Thing 2 kept showing people in California Pizza Kitchen her tag, telling everyone around her, "There is a 9-year-old girl who isn't going to have Christmas presents and I'm going to get her a real art set!"

Project KidGive is an idea LaGringa and I have been thinking about for awhile. The plan was, like so many other families, to pick a child's name off the Christmas tree at the mall and have the kids earn money themselves to make enough to buy the toy for a child this Christmas.

Project KidGive became the focal point of the kids' days, doing chores, talking/fantasizing/questioning about the child they were so determined to help.

In the end, it took six weeks of cleaning out mommy's car, taking out the trash, folding laundry, being the "light police" by turning off the lights in the house, offering to help neighbors and grandparents.

When it was time, we went and picked out the toys. It took They looked and sampled and price scanned dozens of toys, looking for the most special, coolest, most fun one they could find. At last, they were satisfied and we took the gifts to the mall.

The holiday crazed mall concierge caught on fast when I started coming toward her with two beaming kids, arms laden with presents, handmade notes and drawings that were to go with the gifts. I took photos and cried with pride. Mission accomplished:: The Things worked from their hearts for a stranger in need and for more than a brief moment, got to live the true spirit of Christmas.

How We Did It:

1. We told the kids about the project with great anticipation before we went to the mall to get the Salvation Army tags. That way, they knew what was going on and we didn't spring it on them. I didn't multi-task, I went to the mall for that reason only and I read them every single tag, allowing them to pick them for themselves.

2. We made everything very visual. We posted a progress chart that they could fill in daily. There was an unexpected bonus with this, since we were able to count how much we made for the day and how much was remaining. Good math skills!

3. La Gringa and I praised constantly for their work. We showed visitors their chart. We touted them as givers, we told them they were like Jesus (and they always added: and like Santa!). We didn't confuse household responsibilities with these special chores.

4. We made the goals attainable. This took some work, as I had made the dollar values too low at first (10 cents per chore, on average was way too low). As time went on, we had to get more creative ($3 for reading a book). We made sure there was always room for a chore (30 seconds to run around the house and shut of lights to 15 minutes of putting away laundry).

5. We let them have control over picking their gifts. Gave them the money they'd earned and took the time to drive them to (three!) stores they wanted to investigate for their gifts.

6. We gave them one present on Christmas Eve: it was the same gifts they had earned for the other children. We praised them and talked about their giving, the feeling of giving and reinforced how they had made someone else's Christmas a good one.

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