My sister is having a reading tomorrow, at Laguna Beach Books, for anyone interested in attending. She’ll be doing a reading from her first novel “People Who Knew Me“, published by St. Martin’s Press, answering questions, and signing books. Oh ya, free wine, too. Event starts at 4pm. Would love to see any of you there!
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, filled with love and laughter.
Photo by the magnificent Tish Carlson, with whom I am indebted to with gratitude.
We’ve been to Disneyland twice with the boys despite swearing that we would never take our kids to Disneyland before they were old enough to ask. That was before we had kids, when we made all sorts of declarations that were based on no experience.
Our neighbors dog got loose the other day and was missing for two days. They were out of town and had hired a dog watcher to watch them. You can imagine the stress this poor girl was under when she came home to only one of the two dogs. To make a long story short, Willy and I ended up locating the dog and to repay us, she asked if we’d like to go to Disneyland (she works there). Because we know the value of the many bucks it costs to get into that joint, we figured it’d be dumb to turn it down. So we went.
We got there early in the morning and before we even made it on the tram, Van biffed it on the stroller and fell face first onto the concrete. It was a fall that made us cringe and elicited that silent cry that transitioned into a full blown try-and-catch-your-breath kinda cry. In that moment, we felt we were doomed for the rest of the day.
But alas, we weren’t. We rode Mr. Toads Wild Ride, the carousel, Pirates in the Caribbean, The Haunted House, and the Jungle Cruise before sitting down for lunch. We didn’t wait more than 10 minutes in any of those lines, which was awesome. The line for the Jungle Cruise was a bit longer and getting Van to move with traffic was like moving a limp sack of potatoes up a hill. We hit up Toon Town after lunch and felt like we just about met our max. We inquired about where we could buy some beer, were told Disneyland is “the happiest place on earth”, and decided we would start heading toward the exit.
That’s when we learned that California Adventure does in fact sell alcohol and much to our surprise, our tickets were good for both parks. So we crossed over, filled our tanks, and lasted – with new found patience – all the way through the light parade.
All in all, a successful trip. And I even managed to put a little video together, which was no easy feat in the midst of switching over computers and all the technological bulls#$! that goes along with that.
A family portrait, once a week, every week in 2015
Willy: Is waiting on a pillow top mattress pad to arrive in the mail from Bed, Bath, & Beyond. When it comes to sleeping, he’s like the princess and the pea.
Hooper: Has been stoked about his recent trip to the dentist, where he acquired some random toy trinkets – a fancy ring that flashes different colors, a mini cell phone, a bouncy ball, to name a few – and has been toting them around in his little plastic dentist’s bag everywhere. He also fell off the sofa while horsing around and put a dent in the wall and a bump on his head.
Van: In true second-child fashion, is completely fearless. He’s been jumping off high surfaces as of late. Around the house, this has meant the sofa as well as the kitchen table. When we pick up Hooper from school, this means climbing up a hill and jumping off a wall that’s taller than he is. It makes my knees hurt watching his landings. He’s also been eyeing all of Hooper’s treasures from the dentist that, at one time, he had too because he too went to the dentist. Though that sneaky brother of his has a way of making his younger brother’s treasures become his own. When Hooper’s at preschool, you better believe Van rocks that fancy plastic ring on his finger.
Me: Somehow I escaped the stomach bug. Someone upstairs must have seen my report card from last year and opted to deal me better cards for the beginning of 2015. Feeling grateful to be healthy and, more-or-less, pain free.
Jimmie: Took a big ol’ fat dump in the house the other day, just when we swore he was getting more manageable. Then yesterday he dumped again in the house just after we had taken him out, ate Hooper’s lunch off the table when Hooper wasn’t looking, ran out the front door and in front of a car going by, and snuck into the neighbor’s house (they always leave their door open) and excitedly peed on their floor. He’s a handful.
A couple shots of Carla, I miss her already // Gotta make use as much as we can of dem rain boots before they grow out of them // Christmas morning and Christmas day // A rare family pic where both of the boys have their eyes closed // Baby Leo at the Andy Warhol exhibit at the MOCA // My grandma’s 85th birthday // Various snapshots of Hoop // The way Willy works in a mid-day nap for himself // A few more of each of the boys // And the sweetest Van I ever did see.
There’s was a period of time, between being a very young adult to now- a mother of two boys- that I didn’t go to the fairs; because who likes long lines, overpriced everything, and hoards and hoards of people? Rhetorical question. But we’ve gone every year since Hooper was old enough to enjoy it; to the LA Fair, the Ventura County Fair, and now, the OC Fair. We go because it’s fun for them.
As we waited in line to park, I glanced over at Willy and said, “Isn’t it crazy that years from now these fairs will be documented in history books?”. I learned all about the world fairs in many of my Humanities courses and each time I see the ferris wheel lit up in the distance, that rush of nostalgia floods my veins and I’m reminded that we are taking part in something that has been around for years and years and years.
And so, we pay the fee to park, wait in the ticket line, purchase overpriced tickets, eat the shitty food that is overpriced too, and spend the day diverting our children’s eyes from things they may be into but we can’t – or don’t want to – afford.
This go around, we didn’t ride any of the rides. It was a bummer because I had built up the excitement for the rides all day. When Hooper woke up from his nap, he said, “We gonna go ride the coasters, mama?”. But the lines were ridiculous and now that Van is big enough to ride to, multiplying the $5-7 fee per ride by two just seemed extreme. Especially when considering that they both cry every time the ride stops and throw a tantrum until they make their way to the front of the line to ride a second time. Ching ching (insert cash register sound). Can I get a collective “not worth it” chant going?
We did fork out the few bucks it cost to see the world’s largest horse (which was male, so insert big cartoon eyes here), as well as the world’s smallest horse and biggest alligator. Can’t say I support parading these poor animals around for people’s amusement, but hey, they all appeared healthy, happy, and cared for. The petting zoo was the highlight. It was free and we spent a long time petting the pigs, donkeys, ducks, chickens, kangaroos, sheep, and other animals I should probably know but I don’t because I’m no longer in the first grade. Oh yes, how could I forget the deer that nearly ate my dress? I had to clean the already-been-chewed deer food off my dress later. Yum.
But far and wide, the highlight was the demolition derby. I had read reviews that weren’t very good but figured the price was fair and thought the boys would enjoy it regardless. It ended up being one of the best shows, ever. We contemplated returning the next evening for the motor home demolition derby. The boys loved it and haven’t stopped talking about it since.
And yet, the best part of the day – for me – was walking to the car with that black and white photo strip in hand. Even if cost six bucks.
I finally decided to buckle down and experiment with the video capabilities on my camera. In the past, I’ve used my iPhone for all my family videos. Any videographers out there wanna show me the ropes? Ha.
A glimpse at how we spent our Memorial Day.
Oh it all started with smiles, it did. Doesn’t it always? Smiles spread from ear to ear created by thoughts of a welcomed change and a promise, to ourselves, of new beginnings.
It’s been rough since my surgery. To this day, my recovery impacts all of us on a daily basis. The thought of starting anew brought with it the same aura that accompanies the start of Spring; an awakening, new birth, calm skies. And we needed that, I think.
They say beginnings are messy but this beginning started like a new season, seamless in it’s transition and without break in routine. We laughed, giggling about how easy it was all happening. After all, it was the first home we looked at and we knew instantly that it was the right fit; the perfect space for our family. And as if one good stroke of luck gives way to another, the first day our home went on the market, an offer – we later accepted – came in.
Like I said, it was an easy beginning.
Slowly, we started preparing. I had our nanny help me clean out each of the closets and we made several trips to the Salvation Army and Goodwill. I listed most of our furniture on Instagram and Craigslist and one by one, as things started leaving our home, the idea of moving became more real.
I’ll spare y’all the lets-not-hire-a-moving-company-because-we-don’t-have-that-much-to-move bologna coupled with losing Sarah on our very last day at the house and say this: hire a moving company. Just do it and don’t ask any questions.
Slowly beds disappeared and were replaced by blow-up mattresses, big boxes took the place of dressers, outdoor toys welcomed the new open space and quickly became indoor toys, and things got – well- messy.
By the time all was said and done, Willy walked over to our neighbor’s house and found her sitting in a chair we had left out in front of our house with a sign that read “free” in scribbled permanent marker; her cigarettes on a little side table that at one time housed our records but ultimately landed in the same pile as the free chair. He handed her $50 to clean up the left behind garbage, mostly wood from neglected projects we had started but not finished. She took the $50 with a grin that would even make the Grinch suspicious and concluded that she’d use the wood during their next camping trip. In the five years we lived there, I’ve never seen the RV leave the driveway.
And just like that, we said goodbye to our first home with a rejected full-sized mattress on the side of the curb visible in the rear view mirror and the scene of Sarah’s accident behind us.
Sometimes it’s the endings that are messy. Here’s to new beginnings…
Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Sarah, this is your story. I love you, girl.
We brought you home just over four years ago. It was Superbowl Sunday and we had no intentions of bringing a dog home that day. We were newly-ish married and couple of months in to trying for our first baby. Willy’s parents were in town as were his brother and my a-couple-years-later-to-be sister-in-law.
I don’t usually share the story of how you came into our lives because it’s not one I’m particularly proud of. But we didn’t walk in to that pet shop with any intention of bringing an animal home. I blame my in-laws (said with a “who, me?” look on my face), who we followed in the pet shop doors.
You were the only boxer in a sea of chiwawas and other little dogs that fit in designer hand bags. And you were absolutely stunning. Even to this day, we’ve only seen a few with your same coloring and even fewer with your same petite size. Sensing that you needed some time away from that glassed-in cage, we brought you out to play. I had on a pair of leather sandals I had bought in Mexico and you nibbled at them non-stop. With your significant underbite (something we’d tease you for numerous times in the years that followed by tucking your lip under your bottom fangs so you looked more-or-less ridiculous) your nibble wasn’t anything more than a tickle and Willy and I both found you amusing.
We left the store and headed home and couldn’t get you off our minds. All that pent up energy, all that beauty. We always talked of getting a dog, eventually; Willy grew up with “Mark” and me with “Casey” and neither of us expected to raise our future children without a four-legged friend. And all that talk of a baby to come made the timing for the addition of a four-legged friend feel more right.
So we called the pet shop. And a few hours later you drove home, curled up in a ball, on my lap. We wondered where all that pent up energy went as you laid so contently there for the entire ride. In time, we would learn that your sweetness could rival your playfulness on any given day.
Two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant with Hooper. I always attributed my luck in getting pregnant so soon to you.
We dealt with kennel cough and giardia, which paled in comparison to the vet bills that would come in the following years. We had you spayed because Bob Barker told us to and when you developed aspiration pneumonia afterward, we saved your life. We were totally unaware how many more times we would save your life in the years to come.
I took you to the dog park often in those early days. You were always the fastest dog in the park. You got slammed in to a tree the first time we ever took you and were checked out about a week later for what the vet was thinking was some weird neurological disorder; I think that was one of the few things that mysteriously disappeared on its own. But still, it was one of the first of what would turn out to me many heath scares.
Shortly before Hooper was born, we hired a dog trainer to help us get you under control. You had so much energy. Even taking you for a walk was difficult. We couldn’t go down the street we coined “squirrel alley” without dislocating a shoulder. And there were many, many of times we ran around the neighborhood like chickens with our heads cut off chasing after you. You loved bolting out that front door. In hindsight, it had more foreshadowing than a Shakespearean play.
We referred to you often as the “beauty queen” because you were so beautiful, but not that bright. You would have referred to Iraq as “the Iraq”, I’m sure of it. You let your nose lead you, no matter what. You were bit by a rattlesnake on two separate occasions and stung by a bee twice as well, sending you into anaphylatic shock both times. I ran red lights to get you to the best vet in town each time. We saved your life all four times. You spent your first two to three years on antibiotics for various and numerous infections.
You loved the boys and were great with each of them from day one. And when Hooper started eating solids, we quickly discovered the true benefit to having you around. With the exception of spilt, thrown, or spit out blueberries, I’ve never had to clean under the table.
You earned many nicknames and one seemed to morph into the next; “Sarah-berra” became “berras” which became “berra-solnz” which became shortened to “solnz”, and ultimately slightly changed to – what the boys knew you as – “Golnz” (pronounced with the slightest hint of a Spanish accent).
We fell in love with you and we fell hard. And that’s why the end of your story is harder to write. My eyes are teary and that lump just won’t leave the back of my throat.
We started Thursday just like any other day, albeit a later start compliments of daylight savings and with a packed agenda that included packing up our entire home with hopes of being completely moved out by the following day.
I opened the front door to start putting the boys in the car (they were going to spend the day with my parents so we could get the packing done) and you bolted out after a squirrel. Though not entirely uncommon, in the more recent years this behavior has lessened considerably. It was not uncommon for you to hang out, unleashed, in the front yard while the boys played.
You ran clear across the street without any thought or care in the world. I yelled for you to come back and the hysteria in my voice brought Willy out to help. I told Willy how you bolted across the street and would be dead, for sure, had a car been coming. I started putting the boys in the car in between yelling for you to come back and as we both stood there calling from the curb, a minivan started coming. It happened in seconds but when I replay it in my mind, it runs only in slow motion. I turned, after seeing you get hit, knowing I would not be able to emotionally handle seeing the aftermath. Confused, you tried to bite Willy. I yelled a yell that brought neighbors out of their homes. I heard you squealing, in obvious pain and distress. I saw the helplessness and shock on Willy’s face as he fumbled to get the keys to his truck and drive you to the nearest vet.
Before you left, I came over to the side of the truck to see you. Something in me knew that it would be the last time I’d see you alive.
As a nurse I’ve dealt with a lot of people “circling the drain”. I’m called to act fast and act smart often. But when it was my own, I became a coward. My emotion overtook me and it took everything I had in me just to look at you.
You took your last breath in Willy’s arms, on the way to the vet. It’s a part of the story I’ve had to beg and plead for. It’s been difficult for Willy for share and difficult, though necessary in my own healing, to hear.
Willy watched as they tried to revive you and when he couldn’t stand watching what appeared to be a fruitless effort, he asked them to stop. By the time I got there, you laid on a table with a white sheet covering you, your collar with a dog tag in the shape of a bone with a dent in it, at the end of the table on top a paw print the technicians had made out of a piece of clay.
We pulled the white sheet back so we could see your face. You looked so peaceful. No longer fighting, no longer in distress. I stroked my favorite spot, just behind your ear. You were still warm and I wiped the blood from your nose. It was the first time since that accident that I actually felt good about something. I thought it would be hard to see you there, lifeless, but it was incredibly empowering and beautiful and peaceful. The only hard part being that it had to end.
And so we left with your dog tag, your paw imprint, but not you. And that hurt so bad. It still hurts.
People tell you the pain will get better with time, but in that initial shock, you know nothing more than that moment.
We went on with the day because we had to. It felt like the whole world stopped and I cursed those empty boxes for not being able to fucking fill themselves.
It’s taken me a few days to write this because the words don’t always find their way out so easily; they hide in the crevices and slowly start seeping until they more-or-less torment you to give them a voice.
They say everything happens for a reason. It’s taken me a few days to sit on that cliche and think about why this had to happened and I still don’t know the answer. I’ve tormented myself with replaying the situation over and over in my head. Maybe we should have stood in the street as we were calling you so that the car would have seen us? I feel guilty for not doing so. I feel guilty for not living more carefully; guilty for allowing you the freedom of romping in the front yard – something you’ve done hundreds of times, but I’ve learned only takes one time to be a disaster. I curse the man in the minivan for speeding and can’t help but think had he been going slower he would have clearly seen the situation unfolding.
I spent that day packing thinking of the boys often. Suddenly everything felt unsafe to me. It’s during times like this that you urge your loved ones to slow down, to drive safely, to take extra care because suddenly you see just how precious and how fragile and how down right mean life can be. And I couldn’t shake Hooper and Van from my mind. I mean, what if… I can’t even bring myself to write the hypothetical… What I will say is that when my neighbor heard my yells for help, his first thought was our boys…
Someone told me that they once read somewhere that moving is second only to divorce in terms of stress in a relationship. And I totally get that now. There are a lot of things to argue over and a lot of things that need to be done. But sadness filled our home instead. There was no arguing and no bickering and in it’s place were loving moments of embrace. In between filling boxes, we’d hold one another and sob. And so, the sadness took precedence over the stress. And, in a weird way, I am grateful for that.
I think about the fact both Willy and I were there, curbside, to see it happen and how traumatic – for both of us – that was. But I also think about how hard it would have been to have come home and heard from a neighbor. Or I think about my grandma, who is in her 80’s and thinks rules and laws are for the birds, and how she would insist on walking you without a leash saying, “She never runs away when she’s with me“, and how I would have to deal resentment and anger and her with guilt had it happened on her dime. In the end, even though it was traumatic to watch, I’m glad we were with you in your final minutes.
On the brighter side, it feels good to feel. Not only a part of being a live, but actually feeling alive, is allowing tears to run down your face. The taste of those salty tears feed my soul in a way I cannot describe except to say, maybe I needed this sadness. The lady who cares for the elderly couple from across the street came over when she saw me giving some stuff away to the drunk guy in the pickup truck who comes around the day before trash day to scavenge through the filled trash cans. She saw your food and water dish sitting next to a pile of garbage (I had made Willy take it out because every time I walked past it I kept getting the urge to fill it and the thought that filling it would be pointless was causing more tears). She asked if I was getting rid of it and I told her yes and explained what had happened that morning. I started to cry. Through broken english and tears coming from her own eyes, she confessed that she often told the elderly couple how nice of a dog you were and how you protected our boys. We hugged and cried more, together. And, well, maybe I needed that random human connection; a reminder that we all share one another’s sorrows. Sometimes sadness is a blessing; when you’re content and life’s waves are neither big or small, nothing – good or bad – really knocks you off your feet. Again, maybe I needed this sadness.
The last night we spent in our house, you and I spooned. It’s something that happened most nights for a few hours before Willy would kick you out into your own bed but this night was the best cuddle we had ever had. You was under our covers, your head on my pillow next to mine. And though that memory brings tears and sadness to my heart now, and perhaps a little anger for what will no longer be, I trust that in time it is memories like that that will put a smile on my face.
The night we moved, two of our friends came over to help us load boxes into the cars. And, as they were doing so, a dove – with an olive branch, no less – landed on fence just outside the door. When I heard that, Sarah, I knew you were safe and at peace.
You will be in our hearts, always.
It was Valentine’s Day, a day we typically don’t celebrate. Not as a couple, anyway. We have lots of love for one another and our love is rooted deeper in a genuine friendship and we’ve both always considered it a bit silly to dedicate one day – and the same day as everyone else, no less – to express our gratitude for one another. So, when Willy came home with flowers and red vines I looked at him perplexed and awkwardly apologized for not having anything tangible to give him in return.
Then I requested that we go for a drive. Get out. Enjoy what was a beautiful day. And so, we did.
We headed to the canyon, a short 5 minute drive from our home. Hooper fell asleep in the back seat and as we got out to watch the sun set behind the rocky hills, we decided to leave him be. I snapped a couple shots of Willy with Van before asking Willy to place Van in my arms.
It’s been over four months since I’ve held either of my boys. And, more times than not, I’ve found that my need to hold them coupled with my inability to do so has been an unwelcome lesson in patience; when they are not cooperating or when they’re throwing tantrums or when they decide that climbing off their beds is more fun than climbing into their beds or when they get hurt and look to me to comfort them and I can do nothing. When Willy placed Van in my arms, I expected squirming and a full-fledged protest of confinement. What I got was my youngest son, my baby, in my arms. All to myself. His head on my chest, even if for just a moment.
We got back in the car after the sun went down. Hooper was still asleep in the back sleep, dreaming dreams of french fries or firemen- I’m sure. And as we drove away, I told Willy that that moment and the photo that captured it was the best gift I could have received.
The flowers died and the licorice got eaten, but this right here, these images – these memories – will always live on.
Today, I’m feeling grateful for my family.
A portrait of my family, once a week, every week in 2014
Van: Wants to be just like his brother
Hooper: Loves jumping off rocks and throwing sticks into water
Willy: Misses the Christmas break from work
Me: Wants to make up for lost time
Click here to check out the series, in its entirety
The boys’ shirts are c/o our friends over at The Be Kind Movement. You can follow along on
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their instagram, where they have loads of giveaways and special deals.
A portrait of my family, once a week, every week in 2014
Van: I’m pretty sure if he could open the refrigerator, all the food would be gone
Hooper: Raisin fiend
Willy: Took me on a date where I had breakfast for lunch (my favorite)
Me: Trying to get used to life without my back brace
Click here to check out the series, in its entirety
A portrait of my family, once a week, every week in 2014
And so the New Year has begun. Those of you that follow me on instagram know that our New Year has gotten off to a shaky start. I was discharged from the hospital yesterday after being admitted the day prior with dehydration following an episode of passing out while on the toilet at home. Once again, Willy was there to catch my fall – thank goodness he had gotten up with me – and an ambulance came to transfer me to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning while the boys were still sleeping. It was a scary ordeal for him and a draining go-ahead-and-kick-me-while-I’m-down episode for me. I’m feeling much better at the moment now that the stomach bug seems to have run it’s course.
For a moment, I thought I might miss the first post of my new 52 week project. Talk about catastrophes, a? Anyway, my plan for this project is to rotate subjects between all four of us. I’m starting with the boys because you don’t want to see Willy’s stressed out face or my pale post-barfing puffy face, I can assure you.
Are you participating in a 52 week portrait series? If so, leave me a link in the comment section; I love to check out other’s projects.
Click here to check out my 52 week project from 2013.
Our poor ornament-less tree because ornaments with a 17 month old is a joke // Both boys stopped opening their stockings when they got to the candy, which happened to be the first thing they both pulled out. I opened the rest of their stockings for them // Opening presents. A family that picks their nose together stays together // We hosted brunch but my lovely sister and mom pretty much took over the kitchen (two thumbs up) // The shopping cart is the new point of contention. Hooper seems to be a hobo in training // We said goodbye to family and played with new toys, namely the bitchin’ kitchen (compliments of my sister) // We opted to drive down to the beach to get out of the house and catch the sunset. It was beautiful and absolutely perfect. Ignore how stiff I look, I’m workin’ on it // Christmas dinner is overrated. We drove down Ventura and stopped for what ended up being mediocre pizza. It was a perfect day. Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas as well!
That night Van boogied to the tunes on the juke box, the men sipped on whiskey and the women on wine, and Hooper ruined (we let him) a game of cut-throat.
I’ll be back tomorrow with some photos from our Christmas day. If you have links to your own holiday posts, please leave them in the comment section below!
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a Christmas Tree in Southern California is always a little under-whelming, in my opinion. I mean, if walking down aisle after aisle of Christmas trees in your mall’s parking lot in 80 degree weather is your thing, then please forgive me. Something about the fake snow blown on to the trees made me yearn for some real cold weather; they kind where you need some hot cocoa to warm your hands just as bad as you need it to warm your belly. I’m longing to see my own breath in front of me and it’s just not happening this year.