Boxing, part 2 ~ by Sam

So, that was done.

Sort of.  We still had some things we wanted to store.  You see, Kaia is 15.  When she moved in to her bedroom in 2012 (which was actually 6 1/2 years ago, not 5 1/2, as I said in the last post, wasn’t it?), she probably didn’t mind having bins full of things like puppets and American Girl clothes taking up space in her room, but let’s get real.  I, personally, love my American Girl doll, but, at 15, I probably would have needed my shelf space for something other than storing all of the the entire household’s American Girl doll clothes and accessories.  And puppets!  Do you people even know how many puppets we own?  Seriously, we needed to free up that space for things she was actually using on a regular basis (which doesn’t mean we don’t still love our puppets, says the drama teacher inside me).  Besides which, it’s her bedroom.  She should get to keep her stuff in there, instead of stuff that’s kind of community property.  I think, again, in our haste to move, we just never reorganized that shelf after we moved it into her room, and, since she was the youngest, it made some sense for toys to be stored in her room, at the time.  Now, on the other hand…

Well, I needed just a couple more large boxes, so I headed back to Michaels, and, as anticipated, all of the good 80% off boxes were gone.  But I did find two very lovely ones that were 40% off, and that was okay.  I mean, it felt a little splurgy, after the 80% off boxes, but I guess I’ll survive buying boxes at 40% off, just this once.

After all, they are the perfect boxes for treasures.

They fit perfectly into the space I had for them (if you ignore the fact that one overhangs the shelf just slightly), and they were the right size to hold all of our puppets.

When the old bins were empty, I removed the old tags from them, knowing Kaia wouldn’t need them anymore, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to throw them away yet.  Is that silly?  It’s just…it’s the end of an era, isn’t it?  I know, it’s the beginning of an exciting new one, too, as my three little babies, little no more, continue on their journey through life.  Two in college already, and one a sophomore in high school.  You know, I always believed those people when they told me the years would fly, but I didn’t understand how it would feel until I was folding all of the little dress up clothes, having weeded out the ones that were just beyond repair and not worth saving.  I didn’t get it, until I was carefully tucking the matchbox cars into their boxes, and trying to remember their names, making sure the puppets weren’t too crowded, and no one was getting smushed…and I could hear their little voices just like it was yesterday.

“Today, I’m going on an adventure!”

“I’m a pirate, so I need this hook, and I need to get on my pirate ship…”

“Hey, sisters, sisters!  Look at what I found!”

And now it’s quiet.  The boxes are all put away.  Justice is at school tonight.  Shane is not yet home from work.  Hallie, of course, is living on campus this year.  It’s very quiet, except for the faint sound of one voice, not so little now, talking and laughing with a friend on the phone.

Pizza’s ready, so I go to pull it out of the oven, and there on the counter, I see them.

I still haven’t thrown these away.


I’m thinking, maybe, I’ll keep them for a while.  It’s silly, isn’t it?  But then, I’ve always been sentimental.


Little Squirrel ~ by Big Tree

Yesterday marked the first day of classes for both of my college students.

Yeah.  I am now the mother of not one, but ~ count ’em ~ TWO college students.

On the 18th of August, Hallie moved to the dorms at Otis College of Art and Design.

I still feel like I am finding my footing.  Kaia has long schooldays 2 days/week, due to  band practice, and then there will be football games or drill days on Fridays.  I won’t be going to pick up anyone at the bus stop after school.  If Hallie forgets something at home, it’s just a walk across campus ~ and it doesn’t involve me, anyway.  I won’t be running anything to school, or meeting with teachers or administrators, or trying to figure out how to juggle the two back-to-school nights that always seem to fall on the same day ~ one over the hill, one in the Valley.

There’s only one kid to wake, one lunch to pack (yes, we still pack their lunches ~ I know some kids pack their own.  Fight me), one homework progress to check.  I’ve walked away from that one high school for the last time, forever.

I have all this time, and I need to figure out what to do with it.

But, really, enough about me.

This kid. Well, not really a kid, anymore.  This whole entire grown up human.  How did that even happen?

It’s like…one day you’re watching them play in the mud and sing with the Care Bears, and the next day they’re in college.

Seriously ~ didn’t you have pants on your head just a minute ago?  But I know.  I know it’s been years. Some of them have not been so easy, my sweet, and that breaks my heart, but here’s what I know: if you made it through that, whatever life throws at you now, you can handle.  And, you know, if you can’t, call us.  Because it’s not like we won’t help you now that you’re off at college.

I feel like, as you head to college I should have some advice, but, you know, I’ve always said, I am the Sergeant Schultz of Parenting: “I know NoThing!” That’s super helpful, I know.

I do know a few things about you.

You are and will always be worthy.
You are smarter than you think you are.
You are incredibly talented and creative.
You are kind.
You are capable.
You are compassionate.
You have a strong sense of what is right.
You are a good person.
You are brave.
You are strong.
You are resourceful.
You are witty and clever
You’re an excellent problem-solver.

When you were small, you used to hold my hands and climb all the way up to my shoulders, telling me you were “Little Squirrel Climbing Big Tree.”

I might not be such a big tree by comparison anymore, as you take flight, ~ because you’d have to be a flying squirrel, wouldn’t you? ~ but I hope you remember where your roots are.  You’ll always have a tree to come home to, my Little Squirrel, no matter where your journey takes you.

I love you so very much, sweetheart.

Here’s to an excellent first year of college, and to the wonderful life it unfolds!

Echoes in the Hall ~ by Sam

Girl walking away 2010
New backpacks: 2010 (l-r) Justice, Hallie, Kaia

I’ve just returned from dropping off Kaia for her first day of 10th grade.  This year’s  picture will have to wait until after school.  We weren’t running late, but we weren’t running early enough to stop and pose for pictures, either.  With or without photo evidence, she’s off to 10th grade, and great things like AP World History, and her second year of Marching Band, in brand new sunshine yellow Chuck Taylors.  Do they still call them Chuck Taylors?  I’m probably dating myself.

It was a quiet morning, with just one kid to get ready and out the door for school, and it occurs to me: this is how it’s going to be now.  Hallie will be moving into the dorms this Saturday, and Justice’s schedule varies, but, really, being almost 21, she gets herself up and out the door to work or school without any help from us.  Honestly, at this point, I’m mostly just company and a ride for Kaia.  She’s pretty self-sufficient.  So, for these next few years, it’s just us.

It was really, really quiet.

It felt like I was learning to do this all over again.  I’m used to juggling many things, both parents up, dodging each other in the kitchen, calling over my shoulder to one kid, and then to another…but…oh…there’s just this one kid.

And one day…there will be only echoes in the hall.

For now, it’s still me and my youngest girl, in the morning, riding to school together.  I’m glad we get that time.  Last night, Shane asked, “You’ll probably want to drive Kaia to school in the morning, won’t you?”  He sounded vaguely hopeful that I might say no, and  it surprised me to realize how important driving her was to me.  Now that we’ve got just this one kid to drive, we will no longer have to “divide and conquer” as we once did, and it’s not like I ever begrudged him those rides to school with Hallie.  I knew I would get the rides home.  Maybe it hadn’t yet occurred to me how fleeting time is.  Maybe, now, as my older children are growing older still and moving on, I am finally beginning to feel that tug, that gradual letting go.  Maybe it’s just harder with the youngest.  The last.  My baby.  It occurs to me now, however, that he hasn’t driven Kaia to school in a very long time, and I am probably going to have to let him (she says, as if she gets to “let him”).  Isn’t that odd?  That I would think of this as a thing that is “mine?”  It’s ridiculous.  Of course, he will drive her some days.

Our mornings aren’t perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes, they are hectic.  Sometimes, I’ve forgotten to wash something that needed to be washed, or we’re scrambling to find a decent lunch to pack.  Sometimes, we are late getting out the door, and she’s eating breakfast in the car on the way to school.  Sometimes, I’ve forgotten to sign something, or she’s forgotten to tell me about something at school, or there’s a disagreement about who forgot to do what.  In short, it’s not all a bed of roses.  Sometimes, we bicker.  Sometimes, we listen to KUSC, covering the display on the dash and challenging ourselves to answer their Great Composer Quiz.  Sometimes, we talk.  Sometimes, we’re just quiet.

Always, the moments are precious.

Because, someday, there will be only echoes in the hall.


The Nest ~ by Sam

Just returned from dropping off Justice for her Senior trip to Yosemite. Hallie spent the night at Makenzie’s, celebrating their birthdays with a few close friends. Kaia slept over at Sea World with her Girl Scout Troop, and will spend the day there. Shane is asleep, after picking up Justice at 3:30 this morning from a day (and Grad Night) at Disneyland/California Adventure. It’s just me, the cats, my birdie friend who sits on the telephone wire over the backyard every morning, a cup of coffee, and my banjo. Not a bad way to spend the morning, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I miss my girls. A few quiet moments here and there are nice, I suppose, but, at the end of the day, I still love the “wild rumpus.”

The older they get, the broader our circle becomes. I like to believe that they are not drifting away from us as they grow, but widening the arc in which they travel around the heart of our family ~ taking all of their awesome, unique energy out in to the world, and bringing more people in to our circle as they go. I know that my world is richer because they are in it. It only seems fair to share them with the rest of the world, even when I want, selfishly, to hold them close.

And now, prophetically, my little birdie friend has flown away, having chosen the perfect moment in my narrative to do so. I know she’ll return, tomorrow, only to fly off once more. Funny how that happens, isn’t it?

A Day in the Life ~ by Sam

And now for something completely different!

Nothing today about saving money, or keeping things low-stress….unless making mac and cheese for dinner counts as low stress.  Just a little slice of life, you might say.  Hang on tight!

What a day! Justice was up all night working on finishing a project. Kaia woke up with a splinter in her finger (we still aren’t exactly sure how that happened). Shane got lunches packed while I tried to help with the splinter. Justice got ready, and I got her out the door (eating breakfast on the way), and then we remembered that she had borrowed something from a teacher for the weekend and needed to return it, so we had to double back. Kaia was still working on that splinter. Got Jus to school. Shane got Hallie to school. (I don’t really know what Hallie did this morning. She had an allergy attack, took her meds, ate breakfast and got to school on time and with all of her homework, so ~ GO, HALLIE!!) Kaia and I continued to work on the splinter. It had broken off in her finger, and she thought there was still a piece in there, but we just could not get it. We poked, we soaked, we coaxed…we gave up, put neosporin and a bandaid on it and got her off to school.

Then, Justice texted. She had forgotten to print up one table. The orange one. Could I print it and drop it off at school? Sure, no problem. Race home, look at the computer….uh…orange table…orange table…a-ha! Orange table! …and another orange table…I printed them both, gathered up everything that was on the surface of the desk and stuffed it all in an envelope. Got it to school and dropped it off, then remembered that the ottoman cover had been stained pink in the wash, and I needed to pick up some of that oxygen bleach stuff that was going to be my last-ditch effort in getting it out.

Then, Justice texted. I didn’t print the right thing. What?? I printed all the orange stuff I saw! Okay. I’ll go home and find it. So…start racing home and ~ ANOTHER text: Nevermind. It’s here. Phew!

Okay. Off to the store. Um…first store doesn’t have it. Screw that. I am buying stuff to make veggie curried chicken salad, and some apples and pears…and peonies. THERE. ALL BETTER. But…I still need the bleach crap. I worked to hard on that ottoman cover to lose it!

Okay. Next store has it. AWESOME. Home. Laundry. Coffee. Pay the health insurance premium for the month. Crap. Time to pick up kids? ALREADY??? Yup.

In to the car. It needs gas. Cool. Gas station right up the road. Pump open, slide my card and…transaction canceled. Wait…what? Try again. No…I said, “Debit.” Fine. Fine. Credit will be fine. No…I don’t want a car wash! Transaction canceled. Are you freaking kidding me??? One more try ~ holy cow! It worked! It took like 10 minutes, but it worked!

On to the freeway ~ FIRETRUCK!! Firetruck? Really? Now?? Okay, okay….yes. Go help people. That’s good. Okay. Back on to the freeway. Off the freeway, and ~ would you believe tow truck? Tow truck. Right at the end of the ramp. Okay. Wait for traffic, wait for traffic, wait for traffic….can you people see my flipping blinker?? Maneuver around tow truck. Cool. On we go. Turn down Chandler Blvd., coming in to the homestretch, and…ambulance. *sigh* Yes, yes, the helping people thing. I am really, truly so grateful for ambulances and the people who operate them. Back on the road and to school without incident. Pick up Hallie and her friend Maya. Start toward our house, where I will be dropping off the girls, and, on the eastbound side of Chandler Blvd., one lane is closed. We are in the other lane (as in everyone, given the lane closure), behind a GARBAGE TRUCK. I am thankful for garbage trucks and the the people who operate them, too. Without them, there would be garbage all over the city, right? So, we drive very slowly down the block, stopping at each and every house. Hello, neighbours!

Drop the girls at home, race to Justice’s school, to find her approaching our usual pick-up spot just as I pull up. First thing that has gone right all day (besides the bleach thing, I guess). She hops in, and we zoom off to pick up Kaia, late. Find her, find her lunchbox, and run to the car. She changes in to painting clothes in her seatbelt, while I drive. She’s crafty. Drop her off at another elementary school, where her Girl Scout Troop is painting a mural. Drive home. Justice falls asleep in the car.

Unload the car (including rousing Justice and sending her inside), load up Kaia’s trumpet, pick up Maya (whose mom is the Girl Scout Troop Leader, and is at the elementary school with Kaia and the rest of the girl scouts), and head off to drop off one kid and pick up another. Bicyclist runs a stop sign in front of me. Luckily, I saw her. Holy cow. Continue down the road. Train. Luckily, a short commuter train. Things are looking up. Get to the school, drop off Maya, pick up Kaia, who is covered in paint, and race over to a trumpet lesson, planning to get a cup of coffee as soon as I drop her off. get caught up in a conversation, instead, which is actually awesome, because, on a day like today, it was really nice to talk about something other than the day I was having. So, we talk music and education, and, before I know it, the lesson is over. We’re done. We can coast through the rest of the day. Cup of coffee for me. Ice cream for the kids.

Arrive home (with ice cream) to find Justice still asleep and Hallie working on homework.

Took a few moments to write this, and now I am off to make some macaroni and cheese for the kids for dinner. Assuming I can convince myself to get off the sofa. Kaia was lobbying for ice cream for dinner. I gotta tell you, that idea is sounding better by the minute…No, no…I’ll make macaroni and cheese.  Did you know it’s almost as easy to make it homemade as it is to cook the boxed kind.  Just boil and drain macaroni, add cheese, milk, butter, a little salt…stir to melt (heat a little if you have to).  There ya go.  Mac and cheese!  Okay.  Enough lollygagging! Time to get busy.


Let Them Eat Cake…er…um…ICE CREAM! ~ by Sam

Okay, I don’t usually dole out unsolicited parenting advice, but this one goes so far toward the “low stress” part of our plan, that I am going to throw it out in to the world.  Here goes:

Sometimes, when your kids ask if they can have ice cream for dinner, just say, “Yes.”  Really.  Mind you, not ALWAYS, but I really feel it’s fine, once in a while.  There are ways to make it a slightly less unhealthy choice.  We like Trader Joe’s Frozen Vanilla Fat Free Greek Yogurt.  As Kaia says, “It’s a little more sour that regular ice cream, but it just…works.”  It also contains more protein than ice cream, as well as some active cultures, so that’s awesome, from a health standpoint.  Offer toppings like fruit (we had bananas and cherries tonight), natural peanut butter, graham crackers, granola, and nuts, as well as a few chocolate chips, and maybe a little chocolate sauce.  They can use the graham crackers to make “ice cream sandwiches,” crumble them into the ice cream, or eat them on the side.  

Tonight, Kaia made an ice cream sandwich by spreading graham crackers with peanut butter, then adding a few chocolate chips and some frozen yogurt. She had a banana on the side.  Justice topped the ice cream in her bowl with peanut butter, chocolate sauce, walnuts and sliced bananas (not sure if she used the graham crackers at all).  Hallie made a banana split with cherries, nuts and chocolate chips on top.  

This isn’t a new idea.  About once a year, in the Fall, my mom used to make apple pie for dinner.  I loved it.  Warm apple pie with milk poured over it ~ yum!  And look, it’s apples, bread (crust…yeah, I know, it’s greasy), milk.  I mean, it’s not that bad.  Think of Bill Cosby and his chocolate cake.  (If you don’t know about Bill Cosby and his chocolate cake, go straight to YouTube and search “Bill Cosby Chocolate Cake.”)  Once in a while, embrace the silly, be that parent who says, “Yes,” and put those smiles in the bank, so you can withdraw them from your vault on a tough parenting day.  

Sure, there’s a lot of sugar, but, if you don’t serve it at every meal, every day, and you make healthy food choices most of the time, I see no reason not to let them eat cake…or pie…or ice cream.  

At out house right now, bellies are full and everyone’s happy ~ and that is absolutely priceless on a Friday night, at the end of a very hectic week.