the hyphens that define my life

Misrepresentation February 23, 2016

Filed under: Family,Gardening,Life,Work — multihyphenatedme @ 12:07 pm
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Over the holidays I was in a gift shop and found a congratulations card created for new parents. This card, created by Elliot Maxx, a Northwest stand-up comic, states: “The reason parenting is so difficult: The job itself is completely unrelated to the application process.”
Allow me to repeat: The job of parenting is completely unrelated to the application process. Let that soak in for a minute. This hilarious come-to-motherhood fact strikes a chord with me not only because I am a mother of 4 absolutely perfect children, in my day job, I am a recruiter, a headhunter. As a recruiter, I talk about jobs, the application process, job descriptions and qualifications all day long. My children remind me daily that the job of motherhood is completely misrepresented by the application process. A mother’s reality check, a recruiter’s nightmare. Blatant misrepresentation. How is the case of this fraudulent misrepresentation not the lawsuit of the ages?
Let’s all agree, making babies is fun. Fun is not part of most job descriptions nor a requirement for most jobs. There are fun parts of the mom job, but not all parts of the mom job are fun. This jokester card got me thinking, what if we applied for all jobs in our lives in the same “wink wink cuddle cuddle” fashion of becoming moms? For example, I want to be an artist, I want to be a CEO, I want to be an attorney, or, my favorite, I want to be a surgeon. What if we just clapped our hands and clicked our fingers and, as if by magic, in a very short 9 month window of time, the job you declare, any job from artist to surgeon to welder, is yours. Why not? After all, motherhood requires higher education which none of us receive, a lifetime of responsibility with no prerequisites, just a nine month waiting period before you can put your assumed innate maternal skills to work.
Let’s take this train of thought to the next stop. Other than proclaiming, “I want to be a mom!” is there any mom job that I would want other than my own? Do you go around saying, I want to be that kids mom? I don’t. I already have enough chips off the old block, you can keep yours to yourself. There are some moms that do a far better job than I do and I truly admire them. And there are those times on occasion, I will admit, I have said quietly to myself, give me 10 minutes with that kid and this mom will straighten them right out. Fear not, I promise I have not said or thought this about any of your kids.
I digress. Back to the question, is there any other mom job that I want? Mother Teresa? That’s a lot of giving goodness. I am not that good. Mother Goose? Being the imaginary author of fairy tales and nursery rhymes sounds like a good gig. My rhyming skills are weak, definitely don’t ask me to rap. Old Mother Hubbard? I’m not that old and I don’t want to live in shoe, though I do have plenty of children or so it seems some days. The mom job I most appreciate is the super hero of all mothers, Mother Nature.
My kids often ask me what super power I would want to have. As they ramble off a list of super hero powers – flying, telekenisis, xray vision, morphing…, I interrupt and say, every time they ask, growing things. That’s not a super power, they say, and stomp off disgusted with my lameness. Growing things, call it gardening if you wish, is my super power, following Mother Nature’s lead. Plant a seed, give it what it needs – warmth, love, attention, food, shelter – and POW! In true super hero fashion, that seed will grow. Isn’t that motherhood at its finest? Do we offer anything more as moms?
We all learn how to be moms through observing our own mothers, our grandmothers, aunts, moms of friends and, of course, TV moms. The mom we mimic most though is often unrealized and underappreciated. Mother Nature guides us by example. Love and warmth from the sun’s rays, occupying our minds, bodies and spirit with mesmerizing natural beauty. Mother Nature provides food to hunt, fish, gather and grow to feed us and naturally formed shelter to protect us.
As much as Mother Nature gives, she also shares traits of most moms I know. If we children do as we’re told and play nice we are rewarded, the sun shines, the plants grow, all is good in the world. Well behaved children means happy mom. If we misbehave, Mother Nature display the ultimate wrath throw down. Her head spins just like mine, only she unleashes hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms and blizzards. I just lose my mind. Similar wrath in her house and mine, just ask my kids.
Though growing things is my desired super power, I do not meet all of the qualifications required for the Mother Nature job so I won’t apply should the position ever become available. Meeting the qualifications for a job has never stopped me before. I’m not certain I was qualified when [ahem] “applying” each time I became a mom. I often say I have the best job as a recruiter. Truth is, the sweetest job is to be my kids mom.


Be Still My Heart September 12, 2014

My heart has had a rough week.

Learning of my friend’s cancer diagnosis and 9/11 memorials would be enough for most, but no, God knows I’m capable of carrying big, heavy crosses.  That’s why I have so many children, they keep my heart pounding.

Early in the week, I stood outside of our temporary elementary school (our actual school is under complete renovation) waiting for our fourth and fifth graders release.  Our 10 year old fifth grader reached me first with a warning that his younger brother got in big trouble today.  I throw my head back, looking at the sky, and moan FUUUUUUU—-

I’m interrupted.  A fellow 4th grade classmate is telling his mom how my son and another boy (oh good, we’re not in this alone) got in big trouble.  Great, we’re gossip fodder.

Wait, I thought to myself, why, if he’s in so much trouble, didn’t I get a phone call report or summons to the office?

I asked my son to tell me what happened quick before his brother reached us.  Something, something something, he kicked a ball and hit a window.

Cha-ching.  Now I see dollar signs.  Grrrrreat.

Our youngest catches up with us and is calm and cool.  No concerns, no issues, hurray school’s out.  I’m strung out enough at this point to not wait for him to get around to the confession.  I said, “So I hear you got in trouble today.” Shrugs his shoulders, “No, no trouble.”

His brother looks at me, raises his eyebrows and shakes his head no.

“Really,” I asked, “You didn’t get in trouble for kicking a ball at the window.”

“What?!”  he shouts “[my friend] kicked the ball at the window while he was trying to hit me. I was climbing up on the fire escape and was almost on the roof!”

“What were you doing on the fire escape?”

“[My teacher] gave me permission to go out on the fire escape to get a ball, she didn’t know I would climb so high.”  He disclaimed that he didn’t get in trouble for climbing on the fire escape, just for climbing to the top.  Brilliant.  His friend didn’t get in trouble for hitting the window either.

“Just get in the car.”

I really thought that would be the heart-stopper of the week.  No such luck.

My oldest son came home today and said the kid he typically walks home with wasn’t at school today.  “Oh,” I said, “did you walk home alone?” He asks if he can talk to me in the other room and we walk from the kitchen to the living room.  “Remember that strawberry-blond girl you pointed out to me last year,” he questioned looking sheepish.  “She lives down the street and we walked home together.  I got her Kik.”   “Cool,” I played it off like I meant it.

I am not ready for this.  Everybody just slow down.

My collegiate daughter texted me that she saw a video of a woman giving birth today.  She wrote, “You will not be getting grandkids from me.”

Fine, no surprise there.  School is your bae (before anything else), let’s keep it that way.

My 10 year old is the only one that didn’t tread heavily on my heart this week.  Gold star.







Family Meal September 10, 2014

Filed under: Family — multihyphenatedme @ 9:39 pm
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A friend recently commented that our family focuses on meals, instead of just getting something to eat.  A true statement, I’m a three square kinda gal.  I love when my family gathers around the table to share a meal. We’re a good combination, I love to cook, the kids are growing and are eating machines and my husband just loves food. Family meals, at any meal, are my favorite time of day.

Thanks to the internet, I found these family meal facts interesting –

Family dinners are more important than play, story time and other family events in the development of vocabulary of younger children. (Harvard Research, 1996)

Frequent family meals are associated with a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs; with a lower incidence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts; and with better grades in 11 to 18 year olds. (Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 2004)

Adolescent girls who have frequent family meals, and a positive atmosphere during those meals, are less likely to have eating disorders. (University of Minnesota, 2004)

Kids who eat most often with their parents are 40% more likely to say they get mainly A’s and B’s in school than kids who have two or fewer family dinners a week. (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University)


Though three to four family meals per week is recommend, we have family meals five to seven nights a week and there have been some grade issues with the teenagers in our house.  Dang it!  A good meal isn’t the be all end all to good grades? Apparently kids still have to study, want to learn, pay attention and do their homework.

I am convinced the boys have bottomless pits for stomachs, my husband claims their before bedtime snacks are a growing boy thing.  My husband will reminisce about the amount of food he remembers eating while growing up – whole roast chicken or a whole pizza, eat boxes of cereal and gallons of milk, and on and on.  Not an eating disorder but enormous amounts of food….times 3.

Our youngest happens to be the chattiest of the bunch.  I wonder if the correlation between vocabulary development and family dinner also has anything to do with birth order.  We had a full table by the time he joined the party!

Our family meals are always fun and happy.  That’s a bold-faced lie.  We are a family with lots of moods and personalities and likes and dislikes with places to be and people to see.  Sometimes are meals are rushed, fast and furious.  Sometimes somebody is mad at someone or just mad at the world. We all have our favorite foods and foods we would rather not eat.  Schedules make it tough, but meal planning helps. Manners are learned at our table. No TV, no phones, no games, just an opportunity to sit down and eat, talk and connect.

We try.  We gather.  We talk.  We eat. We clean up together.  Our ritual works for us.  Our tradition, our practice, of eating meals together is engrained in who we are as a family.

In honor of National Bacon Day, we had BLTA’s (A for Avocado) for dinner tonight.  Not fancy, but the homegrown tomatoes were delicious (except the boys wouldn’t know, they don’t like tomatoes).


Our Year in Review – A Series, Part 1 June 13, 2014

Approximately 355 days ago we moved from Placentia, North Orange County, California to Spokane Washington, 10 days shy of any entire year. We chose Spokane for no state income tax, lower cost of living and better quality of life.  Four seasons, smaller student to teacher ratios in classrooms, higher rated schools, where we could go in 4-6-and 8 hour concentric circles from our front door, and why the hell not all played into how we chose Spokane to be our new home. The past year has had more than a fair share of ups and downs.  This post is Part 1 in a series of my family’s experience of living in Spokane.

School’s out for summer. We survived our first year at Spokane Public Schools.  Coming from a Los Angeles Unified Public School alum, this is a false statement.  Spokane Public Schools have lived up to their reports, reviews and rating.  My kids didn’t survive, my kids flourished. My kids nervously began, seamlessly transitioned and finished strong.  Cheers and many thanks to Placentia-Yorba Linda School District for building a fantastic foundation from which they could build.

Our school year in review provided many comparisons, from my eyes, and my boys perspective, between the two districts:

Spokane:  Doors locked, campus accessible  Placentia-Yorba Linda:  Doors locked, campus locked

S:  Volunteer registration and badges  PYL:  No registration, badges

S:  Parent Teacher Group (PTG)  PYL:  Parent Teacher Association (PTA)

S:  Elementary School start 9 AM release 3 PM, late start Thursday 9:30 AM; Middle School start 8:45 AM release 3:15 PM, late start 9:10 AM   PYL:  Elementary School Start 7:50 AM, release 2:15;  early release Wednesday 1:15 PM

S:  Elementary Student: Teacher ratio  24:1  PYL:  Elementary Student:Teacher ratio  32-34:1

S: Good school lunch – per my 8 year old, a very critical foodie  PYL:  pack lunch most days

S: Music and Art Classes   PYL:  Band an available option for 5th & 6th graders only

S:  Few to no assemblies         PYL:  Countless assemblies and time out of the classroom

S:  Inconsistent field trips (4th grade went to Symphony; 3rd grade no field trip (WTH direct quote again from my 8 year old)         PYL:  Each class participated in 1-2 off campus field trips per year funded by the PTA

S: One big fundraiser   PYL:  One big fundraiser

S:  No Halloween celebration in classroom, Fall Harvest celebration on selected day; after school Monster Mash  PYL:  Halloween with full costume parade

S:  Book Fair is one week after school for parents and supervised children for books for children [gasp]  PYL:  Book Fair is one week each semester, books for teachers and school library

S:  Elementary school allows children to wear flip flops   PYL:  In Southern California, no flip flops for elementary students

S:  Snow day options (none this year!)   PYL:  Furlough days no matter what

S:  2 blocks away   PYL:  3 doors to schools’ back gate

S:  Common Core Practice School         PYL:  Common Core Practice School this year too

S:  Awesome teachers      PYL:  Awesome teachers

S:  Incredible volunteers     PYL:  Incredible volunteers

S:  My children thrived      PYL:  My children thrived

We moved to a new school district and did not experience anything different than what we knew.  The cafeteria is inside, not outside under an awning.  There is a gymnasium, not a black top playground.  From the list above, though flip flops made my eyebrows raise in surprise, the most important items on the list is that with the awesome teachers and incredible volunteers, my children thrived.  My children learned, grew, made friends, and made memories.  Moreover, mo better, they promoted to their respective grade level.  Whew.  Our research paid off and we chose great schools for our children.

Schools out for summer.  Party on.


Mountain Sherpa December 30, 2013

Filed under: Family — multihyphenatedme @ 10:13 pm
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The family suited up before dawn to head out to Silver Mountain today for our first Inland Northwest ski experience. My gear was packed, I was ready, yet I was still on the fence whether to ski or not, unsure of my abilities and lack of desire to roll end over end down the mountain.

Silver Mountain is an hour away, straight east on the freeway.  No mountain roads other than 4th of July Pass on the freeway.  Once you arrive in Kellogg Idaho, a 25 minute gondola ride takes you to the lodge and lifts.

We were cruising along, everything going according to plan, until our middle son got car sick.  Thankfully he gave enough notice so we could pull over and he could barf in the snow on the side of the road.  He has never gotten car sick until we moved here.  Now he has developed the habit of looking out the side window the entire length of the drive and gets sick every time. Every. single. time.

When we arrived, it was decided I would sit with our carsick kid until he recovered and felt well enough to ski.  He had no issues in the gondola ride, though I thought our oldest son was going to join the barf brigade with the rocking motion of the gondola.  When the guys were suiting up, our youngest decided his brand new crash helmet didn’t fit him, even though it totally fit him perfect two days prior when we mounted his GoPro cam to the top of his helmet.  He was in a rage today over not having a helmet.  I thought I’d solve this issue quick by renting a helmet and sending him on his way.  No such luck.  He had himself worked into a tizzy and spent an hour in the lodge with me staring outside (because he didn’t know I had the ipad hidden in my bag) burning his brain with boredom.

Watching his younger brother melt down was motivation for our middle son to have a miraculous recovery and hit the slopes without any rest.  My husband and the two older boys went out with words of caution (but have fun) from me, the Mountain Sherpa, as I patiently waited out our youngest son’s dilemma.  After an hour, he ended up wearing the rental helmet and headed out with his dad and brothers.

My Mountain Sherpa duties included going back and forth to the locker, managing gear, buying hot chocolates, managing kids, ordering food, drinking a Bloody Mary, taking photographs, losing my wallet, finding my wallet (it was in my bag the entire time, silly me [insert husband exasperation and wife triumph here]), writing three blog posts (though I’m too tired to post them all now), getting rentals (the helmet and our oldest son forgot his poles – duh!), returning rentals, paying for tubing time, hiking up and down the bunny hill to videotape our youngest snowboard shredder, and climbing 3 levels of stairs more times than I could count to make this all happen and conversing with anyone wanting to talk.  It’s not easy being a Mountain Sherpa.  The good news is that I didn’t fall down once.

My intuition was correct, the mountain was WAY beyond my skill level. The ski areas are really narrow, I need room for big, wide turns, and really steep.  Yikes! I don’t handle steep well.  The boys totally had fun and had no issues, but prefer wider space.  I think more time spent on this mountain would build a comfort level, but not for me.

Once we conquered car sickness and obnoxious melt down, we put in a full day on the mountain.  We were on the slopes by 9 AM and back on the freeway by 4:30 PM.  We had fun and we are exhausted.  Photos will have to post later.


Ski Production December 29, 2013

Filed under: Family — multihyphenatedme @ 10:09 pm
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Getting a family of five and sometimes six ready for ski season is no easy endeavor.  Growing kids only add to the chaos.

We moved to Spokane for many reasons, one definite reason was the winter activities, namely skiing, that Spokane and surrounding areas offer.

In years past, we made an annual trek to Tahoe-Donner near Lake Tahoe for a week-long family ski adventure.  We opted not to ski at local mountains due to crowds and crappy conditions.  A few hours away, Mammoth Mountain was too expensive and out of our skill level.  Correction, out of my skill level and I’ll include the kids to make me feel better.  We chose to drive 9 hours to Tahoe Donner to ski for its family friendly approach, no crowds, great deals and easy terrain, perfect for us beginners.  Though it was perfect in so many ways, we still had a sizeable cash outlay for a one week “ski season.”

Spokane offers five ski resorts within two hours of our front door, Mt. Spokane; 49 degrees north; Schweitzer, Silver Mountain and Lookout Pass.  Our ski season has instantly expanded from one week to the entire winter season.

We intentionally have not hit the slopes yet, due to school and work schedules, holiday demands and low snowfall.  It has been reported that Spokane is fifteen inches below normal snowfall.  For our first winter, we are thrilled.  There is plenty of snow and ice on the ground and cold temperatures for our first Spokane winter.

With the kids on Winter Break and my husband and I taking vacation days this week, the time to start skiing is now.

Because our ski season has only been one week long in years past and the kids are growing, we have always rented gear for the kids, my husband and I have had skis and boots for years.  This year, with guaranteed use, everyone gets gear.  My husband is DONE renting gear and dealing with that hassle.  He has been on a Craigslist used gear buying mission over the past couple of weeks and scored some incredible deals.  With every purchase, the kids are psyched and ready.  Thankfully, parkas and snow pants still fit from last year.  Everyone received new crash helmets for Christmas as well, so now we’re set.

The kids are going to be in shock when we get to Silver Mountain.

This is Tahoe Donner:

tahoe donner

Easy.  You know this mountain and all of the runs quickly.

Here’s Silver Mountain:

silver mtn

Huge difference.  You have to take a 25 minute gondola ride from the parking lot to the lifts.  Silver Mountain is going to take some getting used too.

Here’s the thing.  There always has to be a thing.  The thing is that I’m scared. Me.  I didn’t learn to ski until I was in my 30’s and speed has never been something I’ve desired.  I liked our old slow and easy mountain. Really, it was a bunny hill, not a mountain.   I have huge ski anxiety right now.  Without saying anything, my husband and boys know I’m afraid.  They’ve seen me ski.  They lap me down the mountain and are back on the lift before I make it down the hill.  I ski s.l.o.w. My kids ask why I even bother to ski.  I can’t answer this question.  I do love being outside, I do love seeing my family having a blast and ripping it up.  I just don’t share their love for speed and lack their athleticism and agility.  Plus, I have further to fall and I don’t like falling.

I mentioned I might take a lesson to get my bearings.  My husband told me (after having paid for years of lessons), “you don’t need a lesson, you know how to ski, you just have to do it.”  Eek.  I want someone to hold my hand and make sure I do what I’m supposed to do.  My husband has two boys skiing and one snow boarding to contend with, he has no time to coddle me.  Plus, my husband has skied for 40 years, skis forward, backward, does tricks and loves bombing the hill.  So I’m skiing solo.  Wah!  I understand the real issue, I’m a control freak.  I like controlling my environment.  Putting me on a sharp edged, waxed slick pair of skis on a down hill slope is not a controlled environment.   I mentioned to my husband that I think cross-country skiing would be better suited for me, and he agreed.  No cross country skiing at Silver.  Sigh.

So far I’ve only committed to skiing in the afternoon, taking the morning to act as the Sherpa at Base Camp to make sure everyone is lined out, having fun and uninjured after their morning ski.  After lunch, maybe I’ll join them.  Maybe I’ll take a lesson.  Maybe I’ll just maintain base camp and bring a book.  Sitting outside in the sun all day with a book has always been my speed. Then again, maybe I’ll ski…wish me luck.


Checking the List December 21, 2013

Filed under: Family — multihyphenatedme @ 11:12 pm
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Tree Decorated – Check

Snow – Check

Winter has arrived – Check (Happy Winter Solstice!)

Gifts Purchased – Check

Donations Made – Check

Cookies Burn – Check

I bought a new timer before this cookie season.  New timer, old timer, it doesn’t matter.  If the operator can’t work the timer, cookies will burn.  The timer is simple enough, enter the minutes desired and press start, the button on the right.  Press the button on the left and the time entered is cleared.  For whatever reason, right and left have alluded me for the past few days and I have cleared the timer more times than I care to mention.  As a result, at least two dozen cookies went straight into the trash, burned, unsalvageable even for my desparados.

Oh well, cookies burn.  Cookie production will end tomorrow once the sugar cut outs are frosted and decorated, a family affair.  A full cookie report will be posted too.

Back to the list:

Enjoy eggnog with rum – half check.

I started to enjoy my eggnog light with rum and a sprinkle of nutmeg tonight while baking and listening to Christmas music and singing along (Happy National Caroling Day to you!) then I got distracted, my drink left unattended.  No worries, only my nine year old likes eggnog and he’s busy playing, my drink is safe.  Somehow in a short window of time, he found my drink and drank the half that remained.  Remember, with rum!  I saw him as he put the glass down and gasped.  He wiped his mouth on the back of his arm and said “Yum, I love eggnog!”  He went downstairs and continued playing while I stood there stunned.  Fantastic.  Let me add to the list:  Get your nine year old buzzed on spiked eggnog – check.

This same child sent me an email recently even though I was less than twenty feet away from him.  His email read:  “Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and other holiday things.  When do we talk? You choose.” I love this boy.  I called him into the living room and we sat on the couch.  The first words out of his mouth, “I know Santa is fake but I won’t tell the others.” He is such a literal old soul.  The question of whether or not Santa is real is tough.  I did what only I thought best to do. We talked about St. Nicholas in the 4th century who, in real life, gave all of his money to the poor and how this began the story of Santa Claus.  Santa Clause is about make-believe and imagination and Christmas magic.  We discussed how believing in Santa makes Christmas more fun.  “I got it Mom, I just wanted you to know.”  We hugged and he ran off to play.  A heartbreaking moment, a loss of innocence.

Santa plays a big role in our house.  Gifts are not put under the tree until the kids are in bed asleep on Christmas Eve.  Cookies and milk and a note are left for Santa in hopes of getting their hearts desire under the tree.   Gifts appear magically and there is huge excitement when they stumble in the room Christmas morning. They don’t have to believe, they just have to play along as long as I still believe.

We’ll see what happens, either we’ll keep on believing or my nine year old and I will just start hitting the rum bottle.