Friday, April 25, 2008

Escaping to the Sierras

Ah, relaxation. There is something about a change of scenery that can do wonders for the psyche. We drove up to the cabin this afternoon. It's just three hours away, but it feels like we entered a whole new world. As soon as we leave the highway and get onto Farmington Road, I can feel my entire body relax -- even though we still have another 90 minutes ahead of us. It's just the feeling of disconnecting from the fast pace of the Silicon Valley that comes over me.

It's funny -- it's not like it's an actual vacation. I mean, I still have to do all the same things here that I do at home. I still have to entertain the kids, keep the baby from climbing things/tumbling down the stairs/playing in the toilet, cook for everyone, empty the dishwasher (since my husband's arms are apparently not long enough to stretch from the dishwasher to the cabinets -- or from the sink to the dishwasher, for that matter), do the laundry, make sure that my preschooler wipes and washes hands -- well, you get the picture. But, there is something about being here that makes it all less stressful. Perhaps it's because our cell phones don't work here or that we don't really use the television or that the house is smaller than ours in Redwood City. Maybe it's just that in order to get here, we had to have a clear calendar, and that our only obligations are the most basic ones: to eat, to sleep, to spend time with one another. It could also be the surroundings. They don't call this place Big Trees for nothing. The smell of pine and cedar and fresh air, the humbling vista of trees and mountains, the quiet. It all contributes to an aura of "awayness" that is rejuvenating to the mind, body, and soul.

We'll be going back home on Sunday and plug back into "real life". But until then, we'll enjoy our long walks, time spent together in front of the fire, and leisurely hours of reading. Ah, relaxation.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Going Even a Little Green Is Still Green

Believe it or not, one of the most sensible philosophies about "going green" that I've ever heard came from none other than Alicia Silverstone. That's right, that Alicia Siverstone, as in Cher Horowitz of Clueless fame. In a radio interview last year, she encouraged folks to start going green by making whatever small efforts they could. It doesn't have to be a grand overhaul to your entire life -- you don't need to suddenly trade in your Land Rover for a Prius, give away all your leather shoes, belts, and bags, and start composting in your kitchen. Instead start small: even if we make just one change, we're doing good. She said, and I agree, that so many people feel daunted by all the steps one can take that they don't do anything at all. Folks think that in order to save the environment we have to do it all: stop using plastic bags, recycle everything, bike to work, use natural cleaning agents, etc. But, even if we just do one thing, like using cloth totes for our groceries, we're doing more than we were previously, and it's another step toward saving the planet.

I really like that approach -- it's enabling. And, I think that once you take a single step and incorporate it into your life, it's easy to add new planet-saving practices to your life. Take recycling, for instance. I remember when municipalities all over the U.S. started incorporating recycling programs into their waste management systems. It was so confusing at the time and seemed like such an extra effort. But now it's such a second-nature thing for so many of us. I think that a lot of the efforts to go green can be that way. In our home, we've switched most of our light bulbs over to CFLs, continue to recycle, bring our own re-usable bags to the grocery store, limit our water usage, eat sustainable seafood, have moved toward fewer plastic toys, and have replaced all of our wood-burning fireplaces. I think the most important thing we're doing is trying to impart these values to our daughters.

Between today and the next Earth Day, I am going to try to add a few more habits to our repertoire of planet-saving practices. To make success realistic, I am going to concentrate on just a few things that I think I can reasonably accomplish:

-- Make a greater effort to eat locally grown foods
-- Find non-toxic alternatives to my home cleaners
-- Grow at least two different vegetables at home
-- Cut down my family's meat consumption

Listen, I am definitely not the "greenest" person I know. I'll probably never stop wearing leather. And unless Kate Spade starts using it, you'll likely never catch me in anything hemp. And I love my SUV. But, I can make an effort to save the planet in lots of other ways -- and that's really the whole point. We should all be making some efforts; and as we begin make some changes, we'll find it even easier to make more. You don't have to do it all at once to start making an impact. Hell, you might even find me elbow deep in a compost pile one day. Alicia Silverstone would be so proud.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Mom Vacation

I know, I am probably preaching to the choir here, but I am going to make the statement anyway: all moms need a vacation every now and then. I don’t care if you’re a stay-at-home mom, a work-at-home mom, a work-away-from-home mom, or some combination of all of the above: you need to get away for a while. Why? Well aside from the obvious (you’ll get to sleep in, you’ll have fun, you probably won’t be asked to change any diapers), you’ll return recharged and reinvigorated. And if you can do it with your girlfriends, even better.

I know what I am talking about here. This past weekend, I spent two days in Los Cabos with 12 girlfriends. A friend of mine is turning 40, and for her birthday present, her husband rented a fabulous villa at Pedregal and told her to invite some friends to come celebrate with her (thank you Bob and Jenn!). So on Friday morning we all met at SFO and started our weekend of fun. Twelve of us were moms with kids ranging in age from seven months to nine years old. We spent the weekend talking, eating, drinking, getting massages, and lounging by the pool. And that’s it. There was no agenda. There were no schedules. You know what else there was none of? Here’s a brief list:

1. no diaper changing

2. no cutting up anyone’s food

3. no tantrums

4. no whining

5. no negotiations at mealtimes

6. no throwing of food from high chairs/boosters/stokke chairs

7. no arguing over toys

8. no begging anyone to get dressed/get undressed/get in the stroller/(insert mind-numbing activity here)

9. no biting/hair pulling/pinching/pushing

10. no middle-of-the-night wake ups

Certainly not an exhaustive list, but you get the picture. And do you know what’s good about traveling with other moms? They automatically know what needs to be done, and they do it without being asked. When I woke up in the morning, someone had already started coffee and set out the pastries. Another mom was getting started on making eggs for everyone. When meals were done, someone would clean the dishes, load, and actually run the dishwasher! When the beach towels started to pile up around the pool, someone gathered them, neatly folded them, and put them aside. And no one needed to be asked to do it -- it was like each of us had 12 wives! If you can look past the misogyny, you can begin to wonder if perhaps those polygamists were on to something! (Please, don’t flame me – I was only joking).

But the best part of the weekend was the time spent just talking with my friends. We reminisced about old times, shared stories about our kids, dished about our husbands, cackled about sex, and empathized about deranged in-laws. Connecting with girlfriends is such an important part of a woman’s life. Hell, Sex in the City was a show entirely built around that premise. I would posit that as we hit our mid-30s and 40s, and get more deeply involved in work and family, we need these connections even more. I mean, think about the rise of “mommy blogging” – it’s another way for us to connect with other women in a technologically advanced and often isolating world. Sometimes you just need the support of your girlfriends; there are times when your friends can empathize and understand you in ways that your husband or partner can’t.

And because I had such a wonderful time, when I returned on Sunday evening, I was happy to be home. My get-away was just 48 hours, but it was enough to fill up my “mommy gas tank” with patience, stamina, and goodwill. It’s now Wednesday, and I still feel refreshed and rejuvenated. I don’t know how long the “afterglow” will last, but while it remains I find myself much less irritable and much more pleasant. I have now gone three days without wanting to jab a sharp stick into my eye or step into rush hour traffic. Dare I say it: I’ve come back a better mommy and wife.

And so, I feel the need to preach the gospel of the “mom vacation.” It’s something we should all get to do once in a while. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get away – you just need to get away. Even if you spend a single night at your local airport hotel, it’s a night away from all of your responsibilities. And trying to find the time amidst the kids’ schedules isn’t an excuse. Two of the moms on my trip have children with severe disabilities that require seven-day-a-week therapies. No one needed to get away more than these moms. And you know what? They figured out how to do it (without having to hire extra help – the husbands stepped up). Your family won’t go into a tailspin if you leave for a day or two. Just grab a girlfriend, go away for a night, bring some trashy magazines, and you’re good to go. Enjoy yourself. You deserve it.

Adapted from original post at Silicon Valley Moms Blog

Thursday, April 10, 2008

An Education for All of Us

There is a great discussion going on over at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog (and sister sites) right now about education -- including my own post ;) I have been researching schools for S for a while now, but getting other moms' points of view on public vs private vs homeschooling has been enlightening. I am realizing that there are more factors to education choices than I had considered. It's worth checking out...

Monday, April 07, 2008

My Daughter, the Panhandler

Yesterday the girls and I ran to the mall for a few minutes to pick up a couple of items. Living in one of the most affluent areas of the country, our local mall is pretty upscale, as you might imagine. Just to give you a sense, recent new tenants to the mall include Burberry, Cartier, Frette, and Louis Vuitton. So, panhandling isn't a sight you would expect to find there. In fact, in the nine years I've lived here, I've never once seen it at the Stanford Shopping Center -- until now.

Outside Neiman Marcus is a fountain that is a huge attraction for the kids. It features a sculpture of frolicking frogs, and as is the custom, kids throw coins into its basin. We recently taught S how to do this, and she of course, loves to pitch money in there. So, while we were there we walked by the fountain and S asked if I had any coins. I checked my wallet, and there wasn't even a penny to be found. My change purse was empty, empty, empty -- not even any lint in there. While I was putting my wallet back in my purse, before I even realized what was happening, she ran up to the fountain, found a man doling out pennies to his young son, and asked him for one!

All I could hear was, "Can I have one?" The very nice man didn't skip a beat: he just reached down and handed her a coin. Meanwhile, I was trotting over there protesting, "S, you can't do that. You can't just ask people for money." I went over and apologized to him, but he was very kind and understanding. Thank you, Kind Stranger, for being so gracious to my kid and me.

I was definitely embarrassed, but the irony wasn't lost on me. There I was wearing my expensive watch and holding the keys to my luxury vehicle while my daughter begged for money in front of Neiman Marcus. If she's going to panhandle, she should at least learn how to play an instrument for money...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

We're All Class Here

Sofia had her first "big girl" swim class yesterday (meaning she had her first lesson without me in the pool with her). Before we left I decided to take a quick video of her. As she was dancing around for me, she passed some gas. Classy.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Size 12 Cup Holder

This is what happens when you leave your Cole Haans laying around on the family room rug.