Thanks for nothing, Gretchen

Gretchen failed her obedience class on Wednesday (and, believe it or not, we practiced!)

Gretchen’s Obedience Evaluation
A Quiz

1. On the recall, when I instructed Gretchen to come to me, did she:
a) Trot towards me quickly and obediently and then sit right where she was supposed to?
b) Walk towards me slowly but accurately?
c) Amble towards me hesitantly, as though she wasn’t sure we’d ever met?

2. On the finish, did she:
a) Circle me quickly and then sit in the proper heel position?
b) Circle around me aimlessly, like a heavily-medicated mental patient?
c) Sit in one position without moving?

3. On the sit-stay exercise, when I said, “Gretchen! Sit!” what did she do next?
a) Sit
b) Look at me as though she wasn’t sure how a stranger like me could know her name.
c) Immediately break the sit and follow me, instantly disqualifying herself.

4. On the stand-for-exam exercise, did she:
a) Stand stock-still as the instructor approached her?
b) Almost made it except for moving just a hair?
c) Wag her nub and indicate that since the instructor is her best friend (apparently), she would go ahead and walk towards the instructor so that they could be together faster?

5. On the heeling part of the evaluation, did she:
a) Heel beautifully at my side, almost as if we were one?
b) Heel in a half-assed manner?
c) Act as though this was her first day out in public and that she had no idea why I was holding a leash that was attached to her neck?

6. On the down-stay exercise, did she:
a) Do it flawlessly and not move a muscle?
b) Get up because the Golden Retriever next to her got up?
c) Sit but not lay down?

Answer key:

1. c
2. b
3. b and c are both technically correct
4. c
5. b and c are both technically correct
6. This was a trick question. The answer is a.

Needless to say, we'll be repeating the same class next session. We'll just sit in the back with the dumbasses, I guess.

Father Has Left The Building

Since a surprising number of people have asked me about this, it is my sad duty to report that Father is now just Daddy. Or sometimes Dada.

My daughter began calling her dad "Father" when she was around 2 1/2. One day she asked me a question and I said, "Go ask your father." So she turned on her heel and said, "Father . . ." Since that day, he was Father. Occasionally I have been called Mother, but I've mostly been simply Mama.

You get a lot of odd looks in public when your child is shouting, "Father! Look at me!" I can only guess what they must be thinking. Wow, those people sure are formal with their titles. At least she never took it any further than she did. I can just imagine her saying, "Excuse me, legal guardian? Please can I may have a fruit snack?"

In June, A moved into the four-year-old room at Kindercare (she turned four in May). You would not think there would be a big difference between three and four, but there is. The four-year-olds get to go on field trips and engage in more activities. Also, I've noticed that the girls are more clique-y. There's a lot of talk related to "so-and-so said she's not my friend anymore!" Although my daughter won't admit it, I'm 99% sure that someone in her class made fun of her for calling her dad Father. She quit cold turkey and started calling him by his new moniker, Daddy.

It's bittersweet, I guess. It had to end sometime, but it was darned cute. It was different. What really made me smile was how good-naturedly other people played along. One time I was in my car with my niece and A wasn't with us. I called A and then handed the phone to my niece so that she could talk to her cousin. I heard my niece say, "Oh, what are you and Father doing today?"

The more sobering part of this tale is the realization that she is now falling under the influence of others, and my own impact on her is shrinking. She knows who Hannah Montana is. She knows that some of her friend at school have dark skin and noses that are different from hers. There are still plenty of other concepts, though, that she simply thinks she knows.

The good news is that her dad and I still have some leverage. We are the only residents in our household, for example, who can reach the fruit snacks.

Otter Pop Day

Since our last otter pop day was such a huge hit, our Ice Cream Day coordinator decided to throw another one. She picked a great day as it was the first day of school so the little siblings had something fun to do and the many moms that just sent their children off to first grade could meet up. We all had fun cooling off in from the hot Arizona sun.

del mar

I feel like since I've been pregnant and sick, I've skipped this part of our summer...Del Mar. Mark, Shad's business partner, rented a place at the beach for the summer so they could start marketing out in the San Diego area. Lucky us, have been direct beneficiaries of the arrangement. IT IS SO MUCH FUN! The boys will work a couple of days out of the Rancho Santa Fe office, while us s just play with the kids, and then the weekend comes where we're all together, including the Dads.

Tanner loves it because Mark and Shar have 3 boys to play with and Dave (Mark's brother) has a 2 year old that's Kate's age. Directly behind the condo is an inlet from the ocean where the kids go fishing and catch crabs, and across the street the other way is a short walk (one block) to the ocean. Mark and Shar have a dog named "Stew" that Tanner and Kate are OBSESSED with and I don't think I can use that word strongly enough. They love that dog.

Dave barbequed each night and it was delectible. The pictures don't do it justice. He grilled sausage, steaks, hot dogs, corn, zuchinni, asparagus, and s'mores with toasted coconut. It was so good.

I have to say, these 3 dads are incredible. They really get down and play with their kiddos. They had races with their kids on their backs down the inlet, taught their boys how to boogie board and swam for endless hours in the pool with all the kids.

As for the pictures...thank Shad. He begged me to take out the camera to take pictures. It's so not fun right now to take pictures. I just don't have the energy to squat down and chase the kids. And then I don't feel like sitting down to edit them or post them. I sound so pathetic, I know. I am actually feeling tremendously better.

Today is my first doctor appt. I'm about 12 weeks along.

Barbie and the *&!%ing Diamond Castle

When the kid and I visited my mom for Thanksgiving last year, there were lots of goodies waiting for my daughter when we got there. My mom bought her a bunch of these-will-never-fit in your-suitcase toys and a couple of books. One of the books was called, "Barbie and the Diamond Castle." Knowing that my daughter loves all things girly, my mom thought it would be fun to read this particular story to A during our visit. Mom even lovingly wrote her granddaughter's name inside the front cover, employing her impeccable cursive penmanship.

Well, little did she know. As it turns out, the book makes no sense. I don't even think hallucinogenic drugs would help my comprehension level on this one. No two pages are related to each other. "I'll be sure to review the book more thoroughly before I buy one next time," said my mother ruefully. She persevered, though, and read the book to the kid.

The book starts out by explaining that these two chicks, who are best friends, live together in a run-down cottage in the middle of the forest. There is no explanation about why they live together or, moreover, why they live in the forest. They like music. The plot gets murkier from there. Something about some adorable puppies that appear out of nowhere, a villain, a prince who inexplicably flies in on a pegasus, a magic mirror with a chick trapped inside, and some sort of double-crossing that takes place. And far, far too many characters for a four-year-old (or her mother) to keep track of.

Every time the book surfaces, I try my best to bury it behind the hundred other books in her bookcase, but she always finds it. It's easy enough to skip pages when you read it to her, though, because doing so does not cause any sort of hole in the plot.

Here is a sample:

Lydia wanted to rule the Diamond Castle, so the other muses had used magic to hide it. Furious, Lydia had played her evil flute and turned the muses to stone.

Melody had escaped with the only key to the castle's hiding place, then hidden herself inside the mirror. And she had not uttered a sound - until she sang with Alexa and Liana.

Unfortunately, Lydia's helper, Slyder, heard Melody's singing and quickly alerted Lydia.

Alexa and Liana knew they had to help Lydia find the Diamond Castle.

"It is hidden near the Seven Stones," Melody told them.

The girls quickly set off on their journey. Along the way, they met two adorable puppies that they named Lily and Sparkles.

They find the puppies in a field of flowers. Oh, and the girls just happen to be wearing floor-length dresses at all times. Seriously, if someone gives your kid this book, put it on eBay immediately.

Fast forward to this week, when A's Godfather gave her a Toys R Us gift card as a belated birthday gift. I suggested to P that he take her to Toys R Us after dinner on Monday and see if they could find Cranium's Hullabaloo game (she played it with her cousin in Virginia and really enjoyed it). Alas, the game is not sold there. Instead, they came back with yet another Disney princess play set (the Polly Pocket-type dolls that wear rubbery dresses and microscopic shoes that do not stay on their feet no matter what) and a DVD. I took one look at the DVD and nearly lost my dinner. It was, of course, "Barbie and the Diamond Castle." Apparently the book was based on a movie (which doesn't really excuse the incomprehensibility thing).

I sure hope nothing . . . happens to either one.

July Moms Night Out

We had a very fun night bowling on Friday for MNO. There were lots of laughs, strikes, spares, and gutter balls.

Rockin' Robin

There is a small tree just outside our home office/guest room window. A few weeks ago, we noticed that a robin had constructed a nest in its slender branches. A robin making a nest is not usually noteworthy, except for the fact that in this case she assembled the nest just five feet off the ground (thankfully, she chose a tree outside the fenced part of our yard, which means that the dogs are blissfully unaware of her existence). Also, I think it's pretty late in the season for most birds to be laying eggs but maybe she decided to finish her education before starting a family. Who knows. In any case, it's been interesting to watch her and to wait for the eggs to hatch, since of course such things usually take place high in the treetops, where tiny miracles pass unnoticed by us land-bound bipeds. Periodically, we lift the kid up so she can look in the nest and take a peek at the trademark blue eggs of the robin.

One day, I came home from work and actually thought the mama bird was dead. She was face down in the nest with her tail feathers in the air. I watched her for an eternity and she did not move a muscle. My heart sank, as I thought about a hawk or some other predator having come along and killed her. I saw The Lion King, people! I know about the Circle of Life! But, it turns out I'm a moron and she was just feeding her newly hatched baby.

I took a quick photo of the wee robins when their mom was away. The jury is out on whether they are adorable or hideous. It's a fine line sometimes.

Wild Card Luau

What a fun time we had at the luau today! Our hostess with the mostess decorated the house and had leis for everyone. The kids had fun with the cute craft and running around. They each got to decorate a fish and take it home. Everyone brought something yummy to eat and enjoyed hanging out.

T/Th Playgroup at San Tan

Only a few members made it to our playgroup as the night before we had the huge storm and thought that the spray pad wouldn't be on or that it was flooded. It ended up that the area was dry and clean of debris. We had a great time in the nice cool breeze that morning. Then the misters were turned on and it got VERY muggy! Looking forward to another fun gathering there in the future.

Liar, Liar . . . Dress on Fire

"Mama, I need a new dress." She looked at me expectantly, knowing I wouldn't go down without a fight. She braced herself and put her hands on her hips.

"What's wrong with that one?" I asked her. "It's perfectly fine." She was wearing an adorable fuchsia dress with matching shoes.

"But it doesn't . . . TWIRL!"

We have variations of this debate almost daily. She knows I don't really want her changing her dress unless there is something wrong with the one she's wearing, so oftentimes she'll spill water on herself and then announce that she can't possible wear a wet dress. "I'll dry it with the hair dryer!" I tell her helpfully, which causes her to erupt into an apoplectic rage.

During the most recent episode of the dress-changing debate, I did finally give in and tell her that she could change her dress. Fine, whatever. I love extra laundry. Her list of requirements when it comes to dresses is growing ever longer. She has not worn pants for over a year. First off, the dress has to be a soft cotton knit. If it's denim or corduroy, she won't wear it. "No hard dresses," she tells me. (My mom thinks it would be funny to walk into The Children's Place and ask, "Excuse me, where do you keep your hard dresses?") Second, it can't have any external pockets. Third, it has to be relatively long. And fourth, it has to twirl. I don't think this is going to end until we get to the point where she heads out of the house each day in some voluminous square dancing frock.

But, a girl never knows when she might have the need to twirl. I get that (or at least try my best to play along). So off she went to pull a new dress out of her closet. A few minutes later I was buttoning and tying the back of a flowing sundress. "Where did you put the other dress?" I asked her.

Without hesitation, my daughter looked me in the eyes and said, "I put it down the laundry chute." If by "down the laundry chute" she meant, "left it in a crumpled heap on my bedroom floor," then her statement would be accurate. The situation was fairly cut and dried: she lied. I set the kitchen timer for four minutes and escorted Miss Twirly to the time-out corner, where she burst into tears and screamed as though I'd made her wear overalls or something.

The evening got better, though. We have a rule that you don't have to eat your entire dinner but you do have to try at least one bite of everything. Just one. That same evening, I made a rather innocuous cheese and vegetable casserole. I insisted that the kid try a bite. It didn't even have to be a bite of a green thing, even a potato would do. I gave her several chances. She refused, so I put her to bed early. She put on her Daisy Duck nightgown and climbed into bed without questioning the penalty too much. As the hours ticked by, I felt guilty that she was in her bed flipping through books while the sun shone through a blue sky outside. Despite the guilt, giving an inch just seemed like a bad idea.

Still, I don't know if she really got it. "Do you know why I put you to bed early?" I asked.

She looked up from the copy of Everyone Poops that she was reading. "Because it's bedtime?"

Did I make the right parenting decision? I guess I'll never know. The good news is that the nightgown she was wearing . . . it twirls.

Mom and Tot Lunch

There were only three families at Chuck E Cheese today with everyone on vacations, taking summer school, or having other fun plans. We still had a great time though eating together, playing games, and going on some rides. While some of the kids LOVED seeing Chuck E Cheese when he came out...others not so much. :) Looking forward to the next Mom and Tot lunch.

The stopping day

I got a call from my stad today. I was a little startled because he doesn't call me too often. Not because he doesn't love me (he does) or because I'm not his favorite (I'm sure I am), but because he generally thinks that when my mom calls me, that counts as him calling me. So I was a little surprised to see his number come up on my Caller ID earlier.

When I answered, he casually asked me what I was up to. So, I filled him in on the glamour that is my life. I did a charity bike tour this morning and then watered what passes for a garden in my back yard. In the back of my mind I was a little worried. Was something wrong with my grandma? With him? Had he found my old "Thriller" album in the basement and wanted to let me know that it is now worth a bajillion dollars?

"I stopped drinking twenty years ago today," he told me. "You were one of the reasons I stopped, so I just wanted to thank you for that." I felt tears forming behind my eyes. I congratulated him and told him I was so happy he'd made it.

You see, twenty years ago our family was a bit of a train wreck. Pop was an alcoholic but we didn't seem to know what to do about it. My mother had reached her breaking point and had begun to think of creating a life for herself that did not include her husband, though she loved him beyond all measure. A few years ago, my grandma (my stad's mom) said to me, "I never knew how bad things had gotten at your house." When you live with an alcoholic, you don't exactly advertise it to the neighbors. I didn't turn to a classmate in my Sociology 101 class and say, "Hey, did I mention that my family is imploding?"

We wanted everyone to view Pop the way they always had. He was the guy who had taken on a ready-made family when he was just 21 years old, who dropped all of us "ladies" off at the front door when we went to a restaurant. He was the jovial dad who called all of my male friends "big guy" (even if they weren't). He was the friendly man who knew everyone, and treated them all kindly. "Hey man, how're you doing?" he would say to the busboy at Anita's, our family's favorite restaurant. He drove us (or sometimes flew us) to Myrtle Beach in the summer and always made sure we had the time of our lives. He kept a change jar on his dresser and you could take a scoop when you needed it (you have no idea how much I miss that change jar).

But, he was also the guy who stayed out too late and, since we only had one car, prevented us from getting groceries. The one who sometimes said things we knew he didn't mean.

What I said to my stad that summer day was nothing overly profound or earth-shattering. I was 19, a college freshman. As I recall, it had been a particularly bad day in our home. That evening, I came up the stairs from my bedroom and found him sitting on the couch. "You have to stop," I told him matter-of-factly. And, all at once, he did. He didn't go to AA or seek treatment as far as I can recall. He simply gave it up. Maybe I just happened to catch him at the precise moment he needed to hear it. Maybe drinking just wasn't any fun anymore. Whatever it was, he turned that corner and never went back.

In time, our family healed itself from within and came out stronger on the other side. It's hard to believe twenty years have passed. When I hear my daughter squeal, "Granddaddy!" and then watch her jump into his arms, I am as grateful as ever for the stopping day.

Congratulations, Pop. I love you.

American Idol Live Tour

Totally. Freaking. Awesome. We loved it. It was so different than other concerts we've been too, because I felt like I knew them and where they came from. Like when Michael got up to sing, I thought, "this guy is an oil rigger with a wife and daughter" etc, etc.

My favorite performer, suprisingly, was Matt Geraud (the Justin Timberlake look-alike that wore a hat and was sort of jazzy on the piano). Anyhow, he was incredible. Way more entertaining than the rest of the contestants. If he goes on tour, Shad and I would buy his tickets in a heartbeat.

Of course it was awesome to see Adam, and he was the reason we bought the tickets to begin with, but he was sort of disappointing. Maybe we were expecting too much, maybe we were too tired by the time he came on, who knows.

Lil' Rounds, who annoyed the heck out of me on the show, was really good. She finally went the whole R&B route and sounded awesome. She did Beyonce's "Put a Ring on it" which was one of my favorites all night.

Allison is another one we'd go see in concert, she was great. She was just like she was on the show, looked right at home on stage rocking out. She covered Pink's "So What" and Shad loved it.

I am so getting old though. At about 8:30pm, was when my yawning started and it was all I could do to stay awake the whole concert. I even drank 2 cokes (not my normal choice of beverage) to try and stay awake. I'm hoping the exhaustion is just from being pregnant and I'm not that boring of a 29 year old. = )

kate's new dress

Brittney's Baby (Catching Up on the DVR)

Did you see the episode (actually a two-parter) of Dr. Phil about the pregnant teen (Brittney) who didn't know what to do? I don't know if it was a repeat or not. Dr. Phil has been regurgitating old episodes all summer.

I watched both episodes last night, as I was catching up on all the shows that piled up on the DVR while I was on vacation. Speaking of the DVR, I know we've only been seeing other since January, but I really think it's true love. I'd have it cremated with me when I die except that I think Time Warner Cable would frown on that. We did have one little spat when I got back from vacation, though. It stopped recording when it got full, which was a bummer because I really wanted to see what Ruby is up to. I also watched the episode of Intervention where Bret finally got sober and then . . . died of esophageal cancer. I cried my mascara right off when his son said, "he died a dad - not an alcoholic." I still have an episode of Obsessed to watch as well, so that I can be reminded that, at the end of the day, I'm probably downright normal. Did you see the one about the lady who was terrified of pooping? Yowza.

But back to Brittney. Brittney became pregnant at 15 and her parents were understandably upset. Dr. Phil sat Brittney down with three young women who had made three different choices when they became pregnant (say what you will about Dr P, but I thought this was an excellent approach). Each was at peace with her decision. One chose abortion, one chose adoption, and one chose to parent. Brittney knew right off the bat that abortion wasn't the right choice for her. So that left her with two options. When the girl who chose adoption was speaking, I liked that she said, "I didn't give away my baby. I made a plan for him." I know I'm always kvetching about this, but the term "give up for adoption" drives me batty. No child should go through life thinking that someone gave him away or gave up on him. She also listened to the young woman who chose to parent. Many, many teens do choose to parent, with varying levels of success. A lot depends on how much family support they get.

In the second episode, Brittney revealed that she had chosen adoption for her baby. I have to confess that I felt there was a good chance she might change her mind. Dr. Phil also introduced Brittney to a woman who'd endured FIVE failed adoptions. I know of stories like hers, and this is a major reason why P and I have not pursued another adoption. Even if we had the money, the emotional risk is very, very high. By bringing her into the picture, perhaps it helped make Brittney aware of the full import of her decision. Adoptive parents are painfully aware that birthparents have the legal right to change their minds, but that doesn't make it any less wrenching.

In the postscript after the show, it was revealed that Brittney did indeed make (and carry out) an adoption plan for the baby. She seemed at peace with her decision, though I think her parents were still struggling a lot. I felt buoyed by Brittney's courage. Just when you want to shake your fist at all the world's teenagers and carry on about those young upstarts . . . you remember that Olympic gymnasts are bringing home gold medals at 13. And then you remember that your mom was a teenager when you were born and well, maybe you don't know what you are talking about after all.

For Amy

Amy has been begging for videos. The kids get shy when I videotape them, so this was the best I could do. I tried to get Kate to say "yes" since you love the way she says it (that's why I kept asking her yes/no questions). Tanner said he would do it later. We love you Amy!!!

Photography 101 with Caitlin Domanico

Welcome back to our series on *EDITING*. All mini-tutorials are for using Google's program, Picasa.

Today we will be discussing fill Light.

Sometimes you take the perfect picture, upload it onto your computer, and realize, "it's just a little too dark". Here's where fill light comes in. Load your photo into Picasa. Click fill light. Adjust the slider until you get the desired level.

I guarantee this one will keep you occupied!

Topic next Thursday: converting to black and white

Until then, happy shooting!

I'm back

Well, in a nutshell, I had 2 sisters come out for a total of 10 days, then we went to Utah for a family reunion, Shad flew home, while the kids and I headed up to Idaho to hang with my sister and her kids for 2 weeks. The whole time I've been sick and feeling really crappy. And in the mean time we found out that my little sister has cancer. So basically, I haven't felt like blogging much.

So, yes. My little sister Amy, who is only 24, was officially diagnosed was Hodgkins Lymphoma. A form of cancer that attacks your lymph nodes. She's had the symptoms for 4+ years, but didn't realize it until her spleen was attacked with cancer and grew to the size of a watermelon. When they took it out, it was full of cancer. She's in stage 3b and has already started chemo. She will lose all of her hair within 2 weeks. I didn't believe it when I first heard it. I thought, the doctors have just got to be wrong. It's taken me a couple of weeks to sink in, and I don't think I'm fully there yet. The good news is, that it's a very treatable cancer with an extremely high survival rate. And obviously she's fighter. She's been fighting cancer now for years unknowingly. She was one of the sisters who came out for 10 days early in the month (before all of this surfaced. Here is a of her with Kate and another with my other sister and myself.

She's an amazing . She is so sensitive to other people's needs and puts 150% of herself into loving the people around her. She is amazingly talented...made slip-covers (with no pattern) for her couches, made her whole bedroom set, recovered furniture, re-finished furniture, sews her own clothes, etc. I love her like crazy.

Here are some pictures of the Lamm family reunion:

My sister Rebecca's, beautiful family:

Fourth of July pics...(the strawberries are from Rebecca's garden!):

The that Tanner fell madly in love with at my sister's house (not a relation...a cousin of a cousin...sounds bad I know, but it's all through in-laws). The poor was chased and smothered by Tanner for 2 weeks. She was really sweet to him.

To change the subject, our A/C is broken. It is currently 6pm and 106 degrees outside (but it has been reaching 114 degrees mid-day). The A/C person can't come until Friday. I hope we don't die.

Otter Pop Day

What a fun location we had for our Otter Pop Day. A bunch of us had a great time at the new Layton Lake Splash Pad. There were tons of water features and areas for the young kids to enjoy and other areas for the older kids. The two main attractions were the water car and the water guns. We can't wait to go back soon!

Having fun at the splash pad!

Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) at Calvary Fellowship Church

What is MOPS?
  • MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers, an international organization that exists to encourage mothers who have children newborn – Kindergarten.
  • It’s a place where moms have the opportunity to make new friends, share experiences, laugh together, and learn trusted principles pertaining to womanhood, marriage and parenting. MOPS also provides opportunities for social outings geared specifically for preschool aged children and their mothers.
  • MOPS recognizes that the years from infancy through kindergarten are foundational in a mother-child relationship and are filled with unique needs.
  • MOPS groups gather throughout the United States, Canada, and numerous other countries to meet the needs of more than 100,000 women each year! The women you meet at your local MOPS meeting may not all be of the same age, background or lifestyle, but they’re all in the same season of life with a shared desire to be the best mother they can be.

How do I Join?

If you are interested in joining this incredible support network of women, there are a few things to take note of:

  • Calvary Fellowship Church MOPS meets the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays, September – May.
  • Meetings begin at 9:30am and end at 11:15am. Children can be left in the care of the Wonderworks program at 9:15am.
  • An annual fee of $25.00 registration fee is required that goes to MOPS International. This secures your membership and entitles you to a one-year subscription to MOMS SENSE a bi-monthly magazine and the book “ Life on Plant Mom : A down to earth guide to your changing relationships” by Lisa T. Bergren. The Calvary Fellowships Church MOPS group also has a fall & spring semester dues that cover the meeting expenses. The dues are $42.00 for the fall (6 meetings) and $56.00 for the spring ( 8 meetings ).
  • Scholarships are available, so don’t let the cost hinder you from participating! We exist for the community of moms around us, and we want to include everyone we can!

To register or learn more about Calvary Fellowship Church (CFC) MOPS contact one of our coordinators, Sharon Fleet or Rachel Fair at or visit our church website.

REGISTRATION is now open!

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