Tuesday, December 30

Anthropological Motherhood: How to Conduct Organized Chaos

Day One: (Jack & Bidee)
1. Invite Children to a family slumber party on Christmas Eve. The Anticipation is palpable.
(Leiland & Mr. C)
In fact, feelings run so high, the infamous Booty Dance erupts without warning.
(Booty-Asia & Booty Jack)
For others, the slightest upturn of a modest smile speaks volumes of screaming, festive joy ~ on the inside.
(James & his own cartoon logo customized hat)
2. Allow for technical prep. Brand new ultra-thin cameras in working order. Batteries charged. Automatic focus. Nanas & Papa back home waiting for holiday pictures. Check.
(Trigger-happy Trisha)
3. Feel the thrill witnessing the 2 1/2 year old cousin meeting his 4 week old cousin and holding her for the first time. Listen with glee to his spontaneous celebratory song of 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' repeated endlessly.
Feel hearts bursting with joy
(Ray Baby & Bidee)
as Jack and Baby Mak bask in his sweet crooning ~ and time as we know it in the universe stops.
4. Begin displaying fave foodstuffs registered in advance by each of the adult children and spouses. Feel satisfaction the veggie tray is the most popular attraction.
(photo = pre cheese ball & crackers)

Homemade Chex-Mix just like Granny used to make courtesy of Chef Bi.

5. Admire Leiland's version of the Heisman Trophy pose. Apparently it is an Alpha male challenge posture intended to intimidate the competition.
6. Stand back and give the big boys plenty of room as they begin probably the most competitive hours long round of wii Mario Kart in the civilized world.
(Christian in the zone...)
See Jack feel happily included with the controller that is not plugged-in.
Sportsmanship always a plus; when deserved - high-fives all around.
7. Get Ready for Santa.

Day Two: Christmas Morning
1. Be prepared for anything. Wow! Look what Santa left under the tree!
Raise your hand if you want to open your present . . . ! On your mark, get set . . .

2. Encourage good manners. Showing appreciation for the thoughtfully given gift is just plain good-manners.
Some people are incredibly appreciative. "Prego!"

4. Provide homemade gifts whenever possible. Jack is obviously over-whelmed with his new big boy quilt. Thank you, Mimi!
Some gifts are so apropos they actually magnify one's alter personality. Thank you, Auntie Asia. Now Gotham can rest easy.

(super cool bat utility belt below the bicep pose)
MaKenna is dwarfed by her new non-pink quilt.

(first Christmas as a family of 3)
5. Accept the post-gift opening disaster zone.

(Jack re-programing our hard drive in the background)
6. Embrace the Christmas afternoon puzzle coalition.
7. Provide respite under the tree for sleepy revelers.
8. Manipulate the crowd to be all in one place at one time looking happy.

Christmas 2008 ~ Phoenix, Arizona

Thursday, December 18


It's not just biology, it's Agri-science; and Rachel has enjoyed this extended-length new class very much. In fact, she has enjoyed her freshman semester and the whole High School experience very much so far. Her agri-science teacher invited her to join a flower-arranging class after school once swim team season was finished. Having never expressed an interest in doing anything with flowers before, we laughed inwardly and signed multiple field-trip permission slips. For a six-week class they sure covered a lot of ground. It was serious business right from the start.

There was a regional competition in Prescott. The competition was surprisingly stiff. They had to wear black skirts, hose and shoes with a white blouse and a blazer (provided by the teacher). Not only were they required to construct a flower arrangement appropriate for a specified occasion and complete it within a given budget and time-limit, but the competitors were also expected to answer pretend phone calls from green-house clients who needed assistance.

Rachel's moment "on the phone" representing commercial flowerdom went something like this:

Judge: "Hello, I'm calling about a plant I recently purchased from your store."
Ray: "O.K. So what's the problem?"
Judge: "I don't think it's getting enough water."
Ray: "Oh. Is this an indoor plant or an outdoor plant?"
Judge: "I'm pretty sure it's an indoor plant."
Ray: "Are you sure?"
Judge: "Yeah, I'm pretty sure. That's what the tag says."
Ray: "Oh."
Judge: "Well, it's dying. How much water should I put in it each day?"
Ray: "Uh, about a cup."
Judge: "A cup! Every day?"
Ray: "Yeah."
Judge: "Well, If this plant dies, can I get a refund?"
Ray: "What? No - I mean, I don't think so. Maybe you could get half a refund..."
Judge: "Half a refund?"
Ray: "Yes. But it sounds like your plant is still alive..."
Judge: "Yes, it has some green still."
Ray: "Um, so it might come back. Or - maybe you could come down here and get a new plant."
Judge: "Well, I don't want to spend any more money...I already bought this one, and it's dying."
Ray: "But we only have the best!"
Judge: (laughing) "O.K. Thanks. Since I'm getting a new plant, I only want to get it from you, because you understand my problem. Are you sure you're going to be there?"
Ray: (beginning to panic since they were instructed to only be on the phone for a certain amount of time) "Oh, yeah - sure. I get off at closing."
Judge: "What time is that?"
Ray: "7 PM."
Judge: "You're going to be there all day?"
Ray: "Actually, 10:45 AM."
Judge: "Wow."
Ray: "Yes. I'm a very busy woman."

At State, things really went down hill. Not only were they required to identify plants on the
spot, but they had to identify common problems and offer remedies one on one with a Judge. Rachel sat down across the table from a Judge. Between them was a paper. It was divided into illustration boxes depicting plant parts and various ailments. She silently stared at the options. The swirling, black void in her brain was a dizzying inner battle of nothingness. This was an exercise the teacher had utterly failed to prepare them for. Rachel had no clue.

She began to smile. The judge said reassuringly, "It's alright. You can take your time. I won't count you off or anything." The uncontrollable smile had become a grin. Sensing her nervousness, he coaxed her a second time. "Why don't you just tell me what's wrong with these plants and how I can fix it." The grin became a giggle. The judge leaned forward. "Take your time..." he said.

Rachel looked at the illustration of a leaf browning on the edges, and another with little holes all over it. Pointing at one illustration, the judge patiently asked, "So..do you have any ideas?"He was chewing his gum real loud. Rachel wished she had some gum. She wasn't even thinking about the pictures. She was thinking about laughing. Which is what happened next. Finally, in a last-ditch effort for personal dignity, she offered: "It looks like something has been eating them..."
Judge: "Well, yes..that might explain the holes."
Rachel:"You can probably put something on the plants to stop the bugs from eating them.."
Judge: (hopefully) "Like what?"
Rachel: (thinking hard) "A NET! Yeah, a net should work..you know..to keep the bugs out?"
Judge: "Right..anything else?"
Rachel: "There is some sort of spray you can put on plants to kill the bugs."
Judge: "What's that?"
Rachel: "Ummm....well...I don't remember what it's called."
Judge: (staring at Rachel)
Rachel: "Yeah that's all I got."
Judge: (laughing) "Okay, thanks Rachel, have a nice day."
Rachel: (wanting to crawl in a hole and die) "You too!"

The construction part of the competition required making a corsage and a centerpiece. Rachel had been absent the day a corsage was explained in class. Now it was do or die. After clipping her 3 blossoms two short and one long, one of the flowers broke. She spent a lot of time trying to wire the flower. With the clock ticking, and the elastic band refusing to accept placement of her awkward looking corsage, Rachel realized this effort was also all she had.

The final element was creating a centerpiece within the limits of the budget sheet provided. Calculations at last completed, this is what she produced:

New-found feelings of satisfaction and self-worth evaporated with a crash once she realized she had misread her final instructions. Her lovely centerpiece (just shy of 4 inches tall), was supposed to be displayed on a 4 foot tall pedestal. Her teammates, having experienced similar disasters all morning long, petitioned their teacher for immediate escape. No one wanted to wait around for scoring results or the awards ceremony. Panda Express seemed infinitely more appropriate to cap off a stressful State competition.

I propose that the world would be a far better place if more people would adopt the Rachel Philosophy: when faced with the bitter and ultimate unknown ~ take your time, and laugh.

Monday, December 15

How To Carve a JACK o'Lantern & other interesting pursuits

The Daddy demonstrates proper technique. It is very important to proceed with only the best equipment on hand. A sharp blade goes a long way.

It is also helpful to prepare for any eventuality. (Participants are situated in the kitchen, where food and juice are readily available). And at least one assailant is wearing combat fatigues.
After initial excursion through the epithelial,
gross-out is often an immediate reaction.

Extraction of the superficial and basal flesh is achieved only with careful and focused exertion.
A pumpkin-load of reproductive organs are a pesky, sticky, and fascinating hindrance.

Third: The cavity finally excavated, some element of success is perceived though not completely understood.
Fourth: Replacing the skull-cap is second only to the joy of wearing the fresh splatter-pattern on your face.
Pumpkin-lust now fully awakened, the subject is thoroughly committed to the slaughter of an even larger, more formidible specimen.
A traditional follow-up to the carving operation involves indulging innocent children's fantasies with colorful, cute costumes of recognizable and beloved characters from classic children's literature or young children's entertainment entities.

One's backpack should always have the necessities, as - well, you can see here.

Always high on the list of seasonal delights, is a visit to the petting zoo.

Jack is thrilled with the tactile experience of clutching a squirming, squealing piglet. The fact that his beautiful mommy is likewise clutching him is a precious irony completely lost on him.

A literal blue Bucket o'Chicks is probably the best of the best in a full day's agenda. (Get a load of the pansy-fireman get up - sheeesh. That poor kid is almost as embarrassed to be seen in public as the girl in the sissy Snow White outfit held in her dada's arms to the left...)

Failing to provide the Sleep Disorders Clinic with any reliable data, JACK concludes a long day's tutorial with nothing less than cosmic aplomb.

Nite-nite, Jack.

*this post is the result of a surprise photo folder I somehow missed viewing when the action was current!

Thursday, December 4


Dear KTAR Phoenix

It was fairly routine, your invitation to a press conference at a prominent valley law firm this afternoon. You didn't give it much thought, after all, the leading news story today was a dog mauling. Blood is good. News is all about competition. And entertainment. So today's official announcement of another law suit against the city didn't seem to merit sending your top reporter. Too bad.

When your representative made her grand entrance, she was unaware of the invisible ones. Clad in a low-cut, too-tight dress and knee-high boots, she casually picked up her press kit envelope and found a seat in the front row. Tripods in place, t.v. cameras secured, reporters seated comfortably with notepads at the ready; there was very little attention to the grisly bulletin board display of crash scene photos placed next to the smiling faces of people who are no longer with us.
Asia ^ the demolished bus stop to the right of her image

There were exchanges of pleasantries and hellos between media colleagues, and a little sense of impatience as they waited for the press conference to begin. We who were not seen could see all of this.
A tall, distinguished man entered the room and stood behind all the media microphones at the podium. He was Dick Treon. We knew him.

He began his presentation on behalf of the Ahmad family, whose 24 year old son and brother was killed in a high-speed police chase one year ago tomorrow. We listened in sickened silence to a truly obscene aspect of the case: the bank robber's measly $13,000 was marked with an electronic tracking device which effortlessly alerted the authorities to his whereabouts. In addition to multiple unmarked vehicles, a police helicopter also followed the suspect from the sky. The first street chase was aborted once the thief began driving recklessly. This action follows policy. What does not follow policy or logic, was the renewal of the chase many miles and several cities later. The second chase attracted a literal glut of some 20 police vehicles.

A beautiful twin sister spoke of her missing other half, his humor, his goodness, his innocence. She couldn't stop looking at the pictures on the wall. The family was asked to leave the room. We watched video clips of the last nano-seconds of the chase, mercifully edited to avoid the moment of impact, but the effect was violently disturbing anyway.

Many of the invisible ones began silently weeping, but one gave a little sob out loud. She was my daughter. One of the cameras whirled around to sweep for the source of the painful sound.

Then there was another sound, the harsh sound of your reporter, asking the most idiotic question. The answer was concise and articulated in simple terms. Her question was moot. However, she obsessed with it, and continued to harp 4 more times if the perpetrator had not 'committed suicide' by crashing head-on at 110 mph to Alex Ahmad's car as the city claims. The fact that 4 different law enforcement agencies were engaging in a second chase against their own policy and against the logic of waiting for the electronic beacon to guide them to the suspect when he finally stopped and put his feet up - was not important to your stylish reporter. Money was. She made a comment about the dollar amount of the law suit. Mr. Treon said what the invisibles knew; it wasn't the money. It was only the means by which the public could frighten the arrogance of the police to stop the slaughter of innocent people. Something had to interrupt their cowboy testosterone pursuit reaction to a minor bank robbery, or a stolen truck.

A woman who was one of us, suddenly became visible. She spoke out loud. She began telling her story of how a 27 mile police chase that began in Gold Canyon ended in their engine block in Superior. Her broken neck and broken body and her husband's broken body were the price for a stolen car. We didn't hear her story though, because on an unspoken signal, the cameramen were packing up their equipment. Reporters closed their notebooks, stood and began to leave, chatting with each other. The woman continued talking, nearly invisible once again. We were stunned.

One voice flew out from the back. It was a young voice, charged with emotion, a suitable emphasis to her hand poking the air above her. "Are you done?!" she said. "You are so rude! You're leaving?! That's it?"

Conversation stopped. Several cameras spun around. Faces turned - surprised. I said, "Is this the standard protocol - some arbitrary decision that you are all finished while a woman - a survivor - is telling her story?! These are real people! This is the story, too!" David spoke up. The cameras approached us, and a few reporters seemed genuinely bewildered at our hurt. But this was not the case with your reporter, KTAR. She knew something we obviously didn't. She remained where she was, at the front of the room, her hand now in the air in the proverbial 'stop' signal, her voice raised much too loud as she shot a very disrespectful, "with all due respect -" aimed at my 19 year old daughter, one of the crime victims, the one mentioned by name during Treon's presentation. One that had survived.

Asia and bodyguard

Asia cut her off, "NO! YOU be quiet! You HAD your turn!" KTAR turned on a spiked heel and stomped out of the room, safely removed from the invisibles who dared break with holy tradition of muteness. "I'd like my leg back - " Asia continued. She gestured to the camera. "You can look at it. I don't care," and looking up again to the whole room of a dissolving press conference she said forcefully, "but what happened to me is nothing compared to losing someone. People died, here!" A few reporters were now trying to apologize. They wanted to explain that "we" were not customarily "available" to the press. "So why are we here?!" Asia would not be stopped. The three of us hammered what diminished press corps still remained. I wanted to shame them into opening their eyes to all the invisibles in their midst. We demanded they never conduct a press conference the same again.

Only 3 reporters humbled themselves, they assured us they did indeed want to acknowledge us, to see us after all. One especially was aware. We were finally exposed ~ and the force of this acceptance was overwhelming to the husband of the first woman. He hugged my little girl, and sobbed openly in her arms, a husky frame shaking as if his heart would break. He tried but could not describe feelings that were too painful to express. His name was Robert. I promised him we would pray for him. It was a room of pain, but also of relief.

Jeanne, Asia, Dick Treon, Christina - a fighting team

A young man approached me. He wanted to touch me, to hug, to shake my hand, to thank us for speaking up. He was married to Alex Ahmad's older sister. She was the next person to hug me. There was something important happening in our emotional circles of touching other human beings we did not know. But it seems in moments like these, we can learn what we need to know about others in a very short amount of time. I could feel - in my chest - that Mr. Richard Treon was a very good person. We were all part of an effort to call the police to accountability, that the emblem on their cruiser doors 'to protect and serve' would actually be honored one fine day. In a post 9-11 world, this is an unpopular crusade. We very much want to support those who are supposed to protect us, because there are scarier things out there. But today a very young, very scarred girl stood up to the establishment and defined being humane.

Into the camera, into the microphones, she summed up the press, the police department and the city officials: "...they should do the right thing." When asked if she felt a sense of justice for herself, she answered that she was grateful. Grateful to firemen, paramedics, those who fought for her, and the surgeons. "Has anyone apologized to you?" Mr. Camacho asked gently. Asia looked him in the eye and replied solemnly, "The only one who ever said they were sorry, was Archie Ruiz." (perpetrator, at the sentencing)

I would have liked to ask Ms. KTAR when she lost her passion for journalism. A career that used to symbolize a trust with, and a service to the public. I would have, but she already got her story. It was about the money. Sandra Haros, shame on you. You are exposed.