Monday, September 29, 2008

Completely Self Inflicted

Let's just start with a well-known fact about me: I am not a camper.

I do not like dirt. I do not like sleeping on the ground. I do not like cooking outside, or cold showers, or hauling tons of equipment and supplies. There is little about the entire process that sounds or actually is fun for me.

That being said, months ago (before I found out I was pregnant) I got a crazy notion that we should take a family camping trip to the beach town where I grew up. I had this foggy notion of the kids running and playing in the tide pools where I played at their ages, and had happy visions of the whole family gathered around the campfire making smores. So I booked it, to the surprise of everyone who knows me.

Even more surprising to everyone (including myself) I decided to go through with this adventure. So, last weekend, at 31 weeks pregnant, I found myself sleeping on the ground at Carpinteria State Beach with six children and a giant beast of a dog in a sea of uncontrollable dirt and sand.

I wish you could have seen the looks on the faces of the nice older (childless) couple in the campsite right next to ours as our trailer-toting minivan pulled up and we all piled out. Although they were nothing but nice, I can only imagine what must have been going through their heads. No matter how you paint it, they must have known their peace was over. And it was.

We had a lovely campsite right on the beach where the kids could run back and forth to the waves with no obstruction, and we were right by the bathrooms, too, which is nice when you have a 3 year old.

All in all, it wasn't terrible. There were terrible moments, make no mistake. But overall, it could have been much, much worse. The kids slept through the night (except for a brief moment when the train went by, woke up the dog, and sent him into a whole-tent tour that caused him to step on nearly every child amid great protest, but happily this was short-lived). The weather was great. The kids had tons of fun at the beach and climbing the trees in our campsite. Our dear friends Lori (frequent commenter on this blog) and Michael came by at campfire time to witness the scene. No one threw up.

Nevertheless, I still don't "get" camping. It was SO MUCH WORK to haul everything and set everything up. I am still washing dirt and sand from our things, a full week later. The wonderful moments could have just as easily been had, in my opinion, from a beachside hotel with a nice shower and restaurant (and perhaps a spa?). And the next time I even think about taking an 18 month old camping, please have my head examined. Sleeping in the same tent with the dog was a treat compared with supervising her around a campsite.

At any rate, I'm afraid we will be going back next year, like it or not. The kids loved it and were oblivious to my personal hell (OK, so that's an overstatement, but not by much). Here are some pictures of the kids at the tidepools, by far my favorite time of the trip...

Our campsite:

Just kidding! This must have been where Martha Stewart was camping, just down the row from us. Ours was the sloppy tent next to the cooler with muddy racoon prints all over it in the morning. I should have taken a picture, but I guess I didn't want to recall it later. (Can you believe some people have the time to set up camp like this? I couldn't believe it!)

Well, here's to the great outdoors. As observed from the indoors, that is!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tony's First Day of School

Of course he's 3 weeks into school by now, but I still thought I'd go back and post his first day of school picture.

Tony is at Father Serra's Mission Bell Preschool Tuesday and Thursday mornings and so far he loves it. This is the same school Julia attended last year and I am very pleased with its mellow, loving atmosphere.

Here's to a great year of messy art projects, story time puppets and lots of new friends!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sperm Bank Users Just Ain't What They Used to Be

I was listening to the news this morning when I heard it casually mentioned that a large Los Angeles sperm bank had experienced a complete change in its primary clientele over the last few years.

It seems that, while the bank once catered primarily to infertile couples seeking artificial insemination, it now overwhelmingly served single women and lesbian couples who believed that a man was not necessary in their goal of having a baby (the newstalk folks said this in so many words, not me). Further, they had become very specialized in the donor traits requested by their clients. The customers are apparently quite determined to create designer children, according to their specifications.

As I listened to the "go girls" attitude of the newscasters, I got very sad. Sad for these women, sad for the men that could have been great dads to children they won't know, and sad most of all for the babies that will likely grow up adopting this warped view of the world.

At one time I would have cheered for this ideal. Every woman should have the right to bear her own child, right? And why wouldn't she, given the choice, put together the most optimal set of genes she can find? If she is approaching 40 with no eligible partner in sight, why wait?

However, since becoming a mother I have realized some very important things. First, having and raising a baby is much like a wedding is to marriage. The wedding is one day, but the marriage is the important thing. So it is with children. It is nice to be pregnant and bear your own child, but it is the actual mothering once the child is born that is the real deal. There are so many children who need loving homes, so faced with the very understandable desire of having a baby with no husband to provide one, I hope these women are moved to instead choose adoption.

Second, dads are not disposable. They are not biological means to an end. They are vitally important to the working of a healthy family. I believe that women in our society have become so used to being in control of everything that they are finding it increasingly more difficult to make the compromises necessary for happy marriages. Marriage is all about relinquishing sole control, something I know from experience can be very difficult (I'm a control freak myself)! But the fruits, especially where child rearing is concerned, are bountiful.

Finally, there is no such thing as a designer child. Children are people, organic creatures with flukes, faults and quirks just like us all. Isn't a mother setting herself up to be disappointed when her meant-to-be-perfect child turns out to have a learning disability or a physical flaw? How this thinking contributes to the overall view of our society that people are disposable! This fits right in with the idea that it is fine to abort a child that isn't perfect. Some of the greatest gifts God gives us are children with difficulties, for it is in learning to help, love and accept others as they are that makes us all better people.

Now, I am certain to have offended some people with this rant and I do apologize for that. I will openly acknowledge that it is easy to speak emphatically about this from where I sit. I have clearly never experienced infertility and I am blessed with the happiest marriage I can imagine. I cannot understand firsthand the motivations those not in my situation. However, it is precisely because I understand how amazingly wonderful the road to traditional parenthood can be that I wish it for everyone. But in order for more people to experience it, we as a society have to change some basic attitudes about entitlement.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Animals Are Running The Zoo

The moment I knew this for sure came this morning while I was trying to unload and reload the dishwasher.

18 month old Isabella climbed into the drawer I had just filled with clean plastic kid cups, stripped off her diaper and decisively peed, deftly splashing every single cup and covering the entire bottom of the drawer. Then she looked at me and smiled wickedly.

Yes, I have lost all control. (And the dishes still aren't done.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Worst Thing He Can Imagine

There is a wonderful Mexican grocery store near us called Vallarta. We love to shop there and eat at the taqueria inside. A few months ago Vallarta moved to a brand new store and they had a huge grand opening celebration. We all went after church for Mexican pastry and admired the new store, ate some free samples and especially enjoyed the roaming Mariachi band. The kids talked about this grand opening for weeks and always wanted to stop by after church to see if the Mariachis were still there.

A few days ago while driving home from school we were passed by 14 (we counted) racing police cars, all in a row with their lights flashing. Clearly they were on their way to a major crime scene. A few blocks later we saw them all, congregated in the new Vallarta parking lot.

Sam shouted, "Oh no! They killed the Mariachi Band!"

I am still laughing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I was filling my car up today when a man approached me with a gas can and asked if I could help him out with a few gallons of gas.

Usually, I am flustered by people asking me for handouts. I am always torn when I see a hungry-looking person asking for money. However, one look at this well-fed, well-enough groomed man with his nice enough car parked nearby was all I needed to deny him guilt-free.

I explained that our family, too, was having a hard time meeting our budget with the increased gas prices and that we are all in the same boat here, so sorry I couldn't help him. He not-so-cleverly countered with the fact that all sorts of nice people have been willing to help out those who couldn't afford gas. I sweetly replied that it was wonderful that others could find a way to help but that he would not be getting any help from me.

Hours later, I am still mulling over his nerve. If he can afford a car, he can afford gas! A car is a luxury, not a necessity like food or shelter. Ever heard of a bus? Seriously! Yes, gas prices are obscene, yes it is difficult to continue driving without making adjustments in other areas of life. I get that. Why? Because I am living it and dealing with it myself! I am doing without things I'd rather have to make room for the increased gas bills. So why can't he?!

Good thing I'm pregnant and cranky and saw this for what it was right away, because another day, another time, I might have been fool enough to participate in this craziness out of politeness. And then I would have been kicking myself for weeks. See? These hormones are good for something besides growing babies!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Saturday Sport Report

Well, we made it through the first of many Saturdays to come with two soccer games and a football game to navigate. And here are the results (drum roll please...):

Game #1: Sam and the Blue Dragons meet their first challengers, winning 2-1. Sam starts as goalie and nothing gets past him. Hooray!

Game #2: Julia and her Pink Panthers face the formidable Crazy Carrots. They take a severe beating but, luckily, at her age level, no one is counting! Julia did a great job of stealing the ball and moving it down the field, but has a little work to do on actually getting it into the goal. Can you say shank in soccer?! Seriously, she did very well and had a lot of fun, so it was wonderful to watch her.

Game #3: Joey and his Rebels take on the dreaded Jets. They fought a good fight but finally succumbed 13-7. Boy, was that a good game, though. I was on my feet, screaming so much that I thought I would go hoarse. Football is so much fun to watch! The Jets lived up to their reputation and were unbelievably fast, but they also hit better than we expected. The quote of the day came from Joey who, after the game, said, "I don't know what our coach was talking about. They hit pretty hard."

The Jets must have been surprised by our team, particularly our defense who held them to a lot less points than they thought they should have. Last Saturday they routed their opponents 56-0, so our boys should be very proud of their efforts. The Rebels truly played brilliantly, with great play fakes, interceptions and solid passes (the running game did NOT get by the Jets--they were like a stone wall). Even our hard-as-nails coach, who wanted to beat the Jets more than anything, let the boys know that he was so proud of how they played that he couldn't find the words to express it, so there were absolutely no hanging heads or frowns walking off the field today. All in all, it was a great experience for the players and the crowd.

I have no doubt that we will face the Jets again in the championships and, hopefully, we will have a different result then.

I will certainly need the next six days to recover from today. What a marathon! Only 11 more weeks of this and then I will relax by having a baby. She is due the day after the last game is to be played. For once, I hope I'm not early!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Facing the Giants... I Mean, The Jets

Tomorrow, Joey's football team (the Rebels) plays the toughest team in the league: the Jets. In honor of this match up, we watched Facing the Giants for tonight's family movie.

If you have not seen this movie, watch it!

This is a fantastic story of an underdog football team that goes all the way to the State Championship once the players and coach place their trust in God. It is truly inspirational and fun to watch too. A few moments of cheesy acting aside, it is a true must-see.

After last Saturday's opening scrimmage when the Rebels positively creamed the Roadrunners, I hope the boys are not cocky going into tomorrow's game. From what I can tell, the Jets are faster overall than our boys, but they don't hit as hard. So, if the Rebels defense can knock 'em down before they start running, we stand a chance to beat last year's champs in our first match up.

Keep your fingers crossed, and GO REBELS!