Christmas: Cowell Style

So another marathon Christmas is over for us. Oh wait. No it's not. We still have two more Christmases to go: one on Friday night with my family again since Dave and Julie and their girls were up north for the day of, and then (I assume) another get together with all of Nathan's family since Jeff and Heather and John and Jenna and their girls were in Arizona and Texas for the holiday! And then one more....the craziest of all....with the Eatons next Friday. Phew! So, that will make a total of six Christmases for Nathan and me. Is this holiday out of control, or what? I actually like it. It was a little bit harder this year because I didn't get on the ball and buy the presents early, so I got stuck shopping in the week before, but it all worked out.
Our first celebration was on Christmas Eve with just our little family of four. This is our tradition, since it's the only time we have to be alone. We went to the Olde Ship for dinner. We love the atmosphere. I was all excited, but ended up being let down! For one thing, there was no tomato soup. And then - THEN! when I asked for some crackers the waitress brought us Saltines! We began to question how British this British pub really is. When I told her I meant Christmas crackers she apologized and said that they were only giving crackers out to people who ordered the special Christmas dinner. Usually they give them to everyone, and we were seriously disappointed. We weren't jerks about it, we just told our waitress that that was one of the reasons we go there every year, so she snuck us a couple crackers, which was nice, but still doesn't make up for the new rule. We had fun with them anyway, even though they were sans corny jokes this year.

So we took our traditional round of pictures in crowns, pretending to be wise people.

And because Blogger's being weird about the order it uploads pictures, the rest of these are out of order....
After dinner we came home and the boys opened their presents. Micah didn't care all that much, but Judah did. We got him a bike and he was so excited! He just kept saying "Thank you! Thank you so much!" over and over again. We let him take it out for a spin, even though it was late at night. How could we not? There's a picture below somewhere....

Christmas morning was spent sleeping in a little bit (the boys were worn out from the late night before) and then heading for the Cowells' for brunch with Ken and Elly and Brian and Ashlee. Ashlee made ebelskevers (I have no idea how you spell that), which are basically tiny spherical pancakes filled with whatever you feel like putting in them, and I made an egg dish and Elly provided the bacon and juice, and it was delicious! More present opening after that. Jeff and Heather left presents for the boys before they left, and Judah adored the Lightning McQueen rain boots they got him.

In the evening we went to my parents' house for a proper turkey dinner and more presents..... We stayed there for as long as we could, until Micah threatened to self-destruct with exhaustion. Then it was back home for another late bedtime for tired but happy boys.

Here is Micah with the ball that John and Jenna gave him - he loved it! Unfortunately, so did Judah, so they spend some of their time fighting over it.

Judah on his new bike.....
And, just for you, Jaysen, here is a picture of Judah imbibing. I gave him a sip of my cider, and then Nathan spent the rest of dinner telling him that no, he couldn't have another sip. One a year is quite enough. I hope I don't get arrested or disowned for this picture.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


I'm a Believer

I posted this game on my Facebook page, but I wanted to do it again and get different results, so I'm posting it here, too! You should all give it a try, it's hysterical and sometimes strangely accurate...

A. Put your music player on shuffle.
B. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

"Last Dance"
The Cure

"Brothers on a Hotel Bed"
Death Cab for Cutie

"This Must Be the Place I Waited Years to Leave"
Pet Shop Boys

"Come to Me"
Jennifer Knapp

"Secret Smile"

"The Holy Hour"
The Cure

"The Chauffeur"
Duran Duran
(HA! This was so true when I was 16...)

Siouxsie and the Banshees

9. WHAT IS 2 + 2?
"One of These Days"

"Crooked Teeth"
Death Cab for Cutie

The Pogues

"Sweet Lullaby"
Deep Forest

"Almost Full Moon"

"Triple Concerto"
William Orbit

"Folk Song"
The Sundays

"Sexy Plexi"
Jack Johnson

"Music for Boys"
Pet Shop Boys


"Friday I'm in Love"
The Cure

"Not Only Human"
Heather Nova

"Sweet Baby"
Mike Barnet

"Brad and Suzy"
(Yikes! I'm watching my back....)

"Just Say Yes"
The Cure
(Barbara, didn't this come up for you for the answer to #23 too? Weird...)

"Summer Nights"
Christine Brown

Smashing Pumpkins

"Just Like Heaven"
Rockabye Baby

The Cure
(Lot of Cure on this list....)

"Death or Glory"
Social Distortion

"See You Soon"

"I'm a Believer"
The Monkees


Completely discouraged

First the floor under the water heater was rotted out.
And there was no earthquake strapping on it.
And it was leaning at an alarming angle.
And the property manager didn't want to do anything to fix it.
Then the ceiling fan broke.
And got "repaired."
Except now we can't use it on medium or high speeds, or it will fall out of the ceiling and possibly decapitate us all while we eat dinner.
Then we were promised new floors to replace the rotting ones in the bathroom.
And new carpet.
Those promises were made in May.
We're still waiting.
Then the kitchen faucet broke.
Then the dishwasher exploded and flooded our kitchen.
The landlord promised us a new dishwasher.
We're still waiting for that, too.
Last week our heater broke.
The electrician said it's 33 years old and if we call the gas company they will red tag it and turn it off, and the landlord will have to replace it.
Today the water heater smells disturbingly like burnt toast.
I checked the date on the water heater.
It's past due for being replaced, too.

We don't know what to do anymore. We love this condo, the location, the open feel of it, how big it is. We love the neighbors. Mostly. But every time we turn around something is broken, and our landlord is extremely slow on replacing things. A new dishwasher and new floors we can live without. But it's getting colder, and we cannot live without heat or hot water. And we also can't afford to wait until something explodes and brings this place tumbling down. I'm so totally discouraged. And I'm worried that all these repairs will cause our landlord to raise our rent, which we also can't afford. And which would be unfair, because all these repairs needing to be done right now are a result of years of neglect and cheapskate-ness on his part, and are not our fault at all. If you're the praying type, please pray for us. The economy and the season both make this a really bad time for this to happen. And at this point I'm beginning to worry about our safety and health.



We had a really great Thanksgiving this year. Usually we get to celebrate twice, with both of our families, but this year Nathan's parents are out of town, so it was just my family. Dave and Julie hosted at their house, and it was so wonderful. There were 13 adults and 11 children, and food enough for at least twice that! And the food....it was so good. We had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, creamed corn, broccoli salad, jello salad, cranberry sauce, rolls, olives, several kinds of pie, a couple kinds of ice cream, pumpkin chip cookies, and a spice cake. Decadence! After dinner several of us and all the kids took a walk around the neighborhood, then came back and stuffed ourselves with desserts, then pulled out the games. We played Apples to Apples, Sequence, and Trivial Pursuit. Our little family left a little before eight, full, happy, and ready for bed (Judah and Micah, anyway).

This Thanksgiving has seemed especially poignant to me for some reason. Maybe it's because for the first time in my adult life the future seems uncertain. I feel like we're all at the edge of something that's going to change our lives, and not in a good way. There's so much craziness going on in the world right now, and I want to cling to normalcy in a way I never have before because it seems like we won't have it for much longer. I could be wrong. I hope and pray that I am. But this year I'm more thankful than ever for the things that are constant in my life, that I can depend on.

Nathan (always, always)
Our two sons who amaze and amuse me every single day
My parents, whose love I have never ever doubted
My brothers and their beautiful, strong wives who are role models for me
Nathan's family and their many personalities and strengths
Christi, the most faithful, merciful, generous friend I've ever had
All of my other incredible friends
The blessings of shelter, enough to eat, clothes to wear
Our many freedoms


Something I swore I'd never do

When I was growing up, my mom tried to teach me to cross stitch. I didn't like it, and it seemed like something that only people who were hopelessly old-fashioned did. Plus, most of the designs didn't appeal to me: I'm not a cuddly-kittens-in-a-basket, cartoon-pig-whistling-a-song kind of person. And "country" is a style I've never liked, and, to me, cross stitching great works of art just seems ridiculous (we once bought a refrigerator from a lady who had cross stitched a huge copy of the Last Supper - I kid you not. But that's another story).

Last summer I somehow came across a cross stitch of an orange crate label that my mom had started making for my uncle more than 20 years ago and never finished. I needed something new to do, so I thought I'd give it a try. I found that I really liked the process, though I still wasn't big on the finished product. But it was really calming, and actually required more discipline than I'd anticipated: I'm infamous for being a "starter" and not a "finisher." I can't tell you how many unfinished projects I have lying around! But since it was for someone else, I was motivated. I finished the orange crate label, and then found another cross stitch that I liked (a historical sampler, nothing cheesy or "precious" about it) and began that.

And then Jeff approached me with a new project. He'd found a program that converts a photo to a cross stitch pattern and wanted me to cross stitch a picture from his wedding to give to Heather for their first anniversary. I was excited because it looked really challenging. It was. Here's the pattern, based on a close-up of the picture above:

And here's a closer look:

Just the pattern itself was amazing! I took it on, almost lost my eyesight completing it :) and wound up having a lot of fun. It's all in shades of black and white: 13,300 stitches' worth. I loved doing it, even though I spent a lot of time sighing over how many times the needle had to be re-threaded, often times for just one or two stitches. And here's the end result:


The joys and pains of renting

Bad news: We discover a leak and lots of mold under our kitchen sink a couple weeks ago.
Good news: We're renting, so we call our landlord and he has a guy call us and arrange to come fix it.
Bad news: He's not a plumber, he's a handyman.
Good news: We don't have to pay for it, so whatever.
Bad news: He diagnoses the problem and says he needs to get materials and pre-payment for the materials, so he'll be back in a week to fix it.
Good news: We still don't have to pay....
Bad news: The next Saturday he calls at 9:40 and says he's running "a little late." He doesn't get here til noon.
Good news: He fixes the sink!! And cleans out the mold and replaces the rotten wood.
Bad news: Soon after he leaves, we discover that the faucet's not installed correctly and the pipes are STILL leaking.
Good news: We still don't have to pay to have him come back.....
Bad news: I run the dishwasher today. Apparently, the handyman didn't hook up the new garbage disposal and the dishwasher line correctly, and all our counters, the window, the kitchen rug, the kitchen floor, and the carpet outside the kitchen get SOAKED when the lines back up and spew water all over the place. Two baskets get drenched, the toaster is wet, we have to throw away two bags of bread, a bag of tortillas, and our phone. Hopefully my heirloom sewing bag is not ruined, but it will no doubt be stained forever.
Good news: (**crickets chirp**)
Bad news: THE SAME GUY is coming back to fix the sink again. Groan.


Inflammatory topic: consider yourself warned

For those of you still reading, you know that my blog is usually light, funny (I hope), somewhat self-deprecating. I don't write here to bring myself down, or others. But this issue has been on my mind for so long now, and today it totally smacked me between the eyes. So here I go.....this is your last warning to get out. It's probably gonna get pretty offensive if you don't share my views.

Reasons Slavery was an Abomination
1. It declared that one group (blacks) was less human than another (whites)
2. It stated that an entire group of people was the property of another group
3. It allowed slave owners to murder another person with no repercussions
4. It implied that a group of people was solely here for the convenience of another group, and
could be sold or killed when they became an inconvenience
5. It denied a group of people their basic rights as humans: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness
6. It left a whole group of people without a voice

These are just a (very) few of the reasons slavery was such a hideous practice, such a shameful part of our past as a nation. I think that you all would agree with this, along with most of the people in this country. Here's the part you won't get people to agree with.

Reasons Abortion is an Abomination
1. It declares that one group (unborn babies) is less human than another (grown women)
2. It states that an entire group of people is the property of another group
3. It allows pregnant women to murder another person with no repercussions
4. It implies that a group of people is solely here for the convenience of another group, and
can be killed when they become an inconvenience
5. It denies a group of people their basic rights as human: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness
6. It leaves a whole group of people without a voice

Is this comparison full of holes? I don't think so. Every part of it is true. The pro-choice contingent argues that a fetus is not alive. How do they define alive? A fetus has a heartbeat at 22 days, measurable brain waves at six weeks after conception. Most women, especially women not expecting to get pregnant, will only be beginning to suspect that they're pregnant at the 22 day mark. So: if it has a heartbeat, let alone brainwaves, it's alive, right?

So why are we denying rights to a whole group of people? Mostly, it's for the convenience of the mother. The pro-choicers can cry about rape and incest and threat to the mother's life all they want, but statistics will tell you that those situations account for less than 2% of abortions, even when you include aborting a child because of physical abnormality. And even that percentage is high, because the number of abortions with rape given as the reason don't match up to the number of rapes reported in the US each year, and the probability of pregnancy from those rapes. It's complicated, you can see the research here. So, what people are basically saying is that they want to have sex, which can always result in pregnancy no matter what kind of birth control you're using, and not have to suffer the consequences. And society has done nothing but foster this kind of irresponsibility.

I am so, so tired of hearing the pro-choice women scream, "No one has any right to tell me what to do with my genitals/womb/uterus!" I agree. But we DO have the right to tell someone what they can and can't do with someone else's life. This issue does NOT hinge on the rights of the mother at all. It hinges on the rights on an entirely separate person. If women are screaming so loudly that they're responsible for their own reproductive organs, then they should BE responsible. DON'T have sex if you're not ready to bear a child. It's not that hard of a syllogism: IF you have sex, THEN you may get pregnant. If you don't have sex, guess what? The chances of becoming pregnant are nil. If you're so opposed to getting pregnant that you'd be willing to kill another person to avoid it, take the easy way out and don't put yourself in a situation where you'll get pregnant. But that action involves self-control, something that most people in this country are sadly lacking.

Let's take it to extremes. What if I get pregnant and I'm not ready to have a child, but I want YOUR child to pay for my mistake? Would you let me kill your child? Would anyone? Would anyone even let me kill an orphan with no parents to care whether it lives or dies? No. That's where the principle comes in. You can't kill a child that's outside the womb, even one that ostensibly no one cares about. If you do, the government steps in and you're in for life. Why can you kill one that's in the womb? Here's another: Lyle and Erik Menendez (remember them?) murdered their parents because it had become inconvenient for them to have their parents living. Was that okay? Under abortion reasons, that's acceptable. So why can someone murder an unborn baby when it's inconvenient, but not an inconvenient parent/child/lover/sibling?

Talk about brainwashed. The pro-choicers call us brainwashed, religious fanatics, uncaring holier-than-thous. This is not a religious issue, in the least. It's an issue of denying human rights to what is undeniably a human. There is nothing uncaring about standing up for a group of innocent people who cannot stand up for themselves. And brainwashed? I don't think there's a better example of brainwashing than half of a country being convinced, successfully, that a baby whose heartbeat you can see and hear, whose movements you can feel, is not alive.

I heard a story today, told by a nurse who worked in a large hospital. She said that in the hospital there were many abortions performed, some of them late term, and sometimes the baby survived the abortion. If this happened, the baby was taken to the soiled utilities room, where, amidst the blood- and urine- and feces-soaked linens, the biohazard waste, and a urinal in the corner, he or she was placed on a shelf and left to breathe its last, alone in a vile place, when, with a little care (or a decent mother), he or she could have lived. Can anyone, in good conscience, tell you that that is not one of the worst atrocities they've ever heard of?

I'll leave you with one more chilling statistic: about 90% of unborn babies that are diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted, with the government's blessing. So what they're saying is that one group can be deemed inferior, less human, less deserving of life than another group. I think I've heard that idea before, from another dynamic, persuasive leader: his name was Hitler.


Camp Malabucha 2008

Don't ask where the name came from, no one really knows. It's just a funny word that stuck.

Last weekend was our annual camping trip to Pismo Beach with Nathan's family. This was my eighth trip with the fam, the first one being in 1998. I missed 1999 and 2000 because Nathan and I were broken up, then joined back in for the 2001 trip and we've gone every year since except for last year, when Micah was born. Camp was awesome this year, and we had our biggest group ever. From left to right, above, we are: John, Rachel, Jenna, Naomi, Elly, Jeff, Micah, me, Heather, Judah, Nathan, Eszter, Sophia, Ashlee, Ken, Brian, and Josiah.

We finally had to resort to two campsites this year, but it worked out really well. We had so much space! And with that many kids, that was a very good thing.......
Judah and Eszter had a ton of fun together, running all over the place and telling each other what to do.
Judah spent a lot of time kicking dirt around, much to the annoyance of the family. We had to designate a dirt kicking area just for him, far away from where the rest of us hung out.
We walked over the dunes a couple of times to the beach, where we collected tons of sand dollars and clam shells. The water was freezing! But felt great, since the first two days we were there were sunny and hot.
Nathan displaying his mussels and muscles.
This may have been the only time Micah touched the ground the whole trip! He wanted to crawl, but there were just too many things he would have eaten, the worst of which would have been the hundreds of eucalyptus berries lying around.
Clam chowder in a bread bowl from Splash Cafe: the reason we go to Pismo.
Judah, acting like a little punk at Splash.
The first night in camp Ashlee and I had to make a run to Target because Nathan and I forgot to bring our pillows. While there, we explored the clearance section and found a couple of wooden puzzles for Judah and Eszter. They were a big hit and kept them entertained for quite a while.
On Friday, I experienced one of those heart-stopping moments that no mother ever wants to go through. I was on a walk with Nathan, Jeff, Judah, Eszter, and Micah, and we had stopped to sit on some logs for a minute. Judah and Eszter ran off to play with Jeff. A minute later we heard Jeff yell something and I looked over toward them and saw my child standing paralyzed in the middle of a swarm of wasps. Let me tell you, that feeling is nothing I ever want to feel again. I froze, Nathan, fortunately, didn't. None of us can quite remember the exact sequence of events, but we were all running and the wasps just kept following. Nathan wound up with Jude, Jeff had Eszter, and I had Micah. Somehow, I wound up running with Judah for a little ways, but Nathan had him most of the time and we eventually got back to camp where the kids went into the motorhome and Jeff and Nathan and I stayed outside killing wasps. Jeff got stung seven or eight times, Judah got four, I got two, and Eszter got one. Fortunately, the stings turned out not to be serious, but it was pretty traumatic. Judah and Eszter were both pretty well shaken up, and after Judah finally stopped crying he fell fast asleep on Nathan's lap, something he never ever does. It all ended well, but it was pretty scary.
I had to throw in a picture of our campfire, one of my very favorite things about camping. I loved the evenings, after the boys were in bed (they both slept great in our tent) and we all sat around laughing and telling stories.
Breakfast at the kids' table.....
.....and at the adults' table. I love camp food! There's a place in Pismo called Old West Cinnamon Rolls, and their rolls are to die for. We got them for breakfast two of the mornings we were there. I would be in serious trouble if I lived anywhere near there.
This stump formed one of the boundaries of our site, and the kids loved it. It played various roles over the weekend: car, rocket ship, fishing dock. Oh, and also it was Judah's pouting spot, as in this picture. But he looked so cute sitting there that I didn't mind the pouting so much.
Saturday and Sunday were overcast, and I loved the foggy beach. It looked endless.
Our tent city: our tent is on the far left, then Bri and Ash's, then Ken and Elly's motor home, then John and Jenna's tent, and then Jeff and Heather's.
On our way out of Pismo we went with Brian and Ashlee to the spot where we take our traditional picture every year. We hope to have a whole collection of many years someday. After this picture we jumped in the car for the long drive home.....Nathan and I have agreed that this was one of our favorite years at Pismo.


Time for a change

Because it's fall, and this is what I do in the fall.


Re-discovering an old friend

On the day Nathan and I got married we left the reception and headed straight for Santa Monica. Once there, we walked over to Third Street to have dinner and relax after a beautiful but somewhat stressful day. We decided on Trastavere, and as we were walking down the street to the restaurant we spotted a kiosk selling some interesting and really original jewelry. We stopped to look, and Nathan told me to pick something out for myself. I chose a moonstone bracelet that night, and every year since then we've visited the Antiqua kiosk, where Nathan buys me a piece of jewelry for our anniversary. It's a tradition that I love and look forward to every year. This year, alas, we couldn't find the kiosk. And the mall at the end of the Promenade is pretty much gutted at the moment, so Antiqua's permanent mall location wasn't available either. So a couple of weeks later we took a trip to their main store on Pico in LA. After looking at some necklaces that were surprisingly expensive (compared to the reasonable prices at the kiosk) I settled on an old looking locket on a long chain.

I decided to put a picture of Nathan in one side of the locket and a picture of Judah and Micah in the other side, but found I didn't have any pictures I'd be happy using. So to take the pictures I wanted I resurrected my old camera, the one my dad loaned (gave?) me years ago. It's a 1976 Minolta, and I haven't used it really since I got a digital camera. It's completely manual, which means that action shots are kind of out of the question, but the advantage is that when you press the button, the shutter opens immediately, not a second later, like on a digital.

I got the pictures developed yesterday and remembered instantly why I love that camera so much. The digital I have is a really good camera, though it's not professional quality, and it takes good pictures, but my old camera...... There's just something about it. I don't know if the pictures will look that special on a computer screen, but the prints are amazing. Here are some of the shots from our "photo shoot" a couple days ago.

And here's one I took of Judah at Little Corona del Mar two years ago with the same camera. It's our favorite picture of Judah ever.