It Feels Like Yesterday

Nine years ago today, Dave and I went on our first date. I can't believe it's been that long! According to these people, the appropriate gift for the 9 year anniversary is:

I've added to the pottery

You sure took a nice picture of things I like.

Sadly, it is not awesome flea market finds. It's pottery.

If that doesn't work for you, try this:

The sad Salix Babilonica...

This looks like a nice place to camp. Wouldn't you agree?

It's a willow.

I was hoping that the 9th anniversary was fabric, because then it would justify the boatload I just brought home from JoAnn. But it's not, so I'm kicked to the curb on this one.

Anyway, here are the problems with the suggested items:

1. Dave would not "get" the pottery. He might look at me cross-eyed if I brought home milk pitcher or a plant in a pot and said, "Happy Anniversary." He would say, "I don't get it." He would not understand the "sweet gesture" part of it.

2. We have a very small back yard, so the tree is a definite no-go.

So here I am, back to square one. All that research (3 minutes, y'all) plus a blog post (10 minutes, y'all) for what? Nothing but a couple of laughs. And what's that worth?


Happy Anniversary, Dave!


I Feel Like the Bahamas

I have been an island in the Caribbean for a year-long hurricane season. I got pummeled by grandest and saddest that life offers. Here are some of the storms and bright spots that have passed me in the last calendar year:

November 21: 10 a.m., 6 days before Thanksgiving, and 6 months pregnant, I was fired from a job I'd held with pride for five years.

December 6: 2:21 a.m., my wonderful roommate from my twenty-somethings was killed by a drunk driver.

January 17: 10 a.m., started a new, fairly stressful job working for my father-in-law in an industry I knew nothing about, and was not very interested in.

February 26: 12 p.m., my niece, Mikayla, was born.

March 4: 4:41 a.m., my beautiful son Marcus was born.

April 1: 12:30 p.m., Marcus almost died, and was admitted to the Pediatric ICU and diagnosed with SVT.

...the calm...

September 4: 9 a.m., Marcus was taken to Community Memorial Hospital with blood sugar level of 8 (normal range is 80-140), almost died, and was admitted for a 2 day hospital stay.

October 26: Alexandria turned 3, and Dave turned 39, so we went to Disneyland.

November 12: 10 a.m., met with former employer, attorneys present.

Each day that passes gets me closer to being one year away. Does that make any sense? Whatever. Fortunately, I get to take the good stuff (kids and Disneyland (season pass, y'all!)) with me, while much of it will remain in the memory of my past. So with a few photos, a couple of blog entries, and a new thicker skin, I'm accepting the last 365 days as one long, drawn out learning experience. The storm is past and I'm moving on.

Man, I feel good right now. (don't jinx it...)


My Little Corner of Heaven - An Introduction

I live in Ventura, California, and I love where I live. I think Ventura is the shiz.

If you have ever driven up CA-1, or Route 101, from, say, Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, then you have passed through my little corner of heaven.

I'd like to let everybody in on the awesomeness of this coastal haven by spotlighting my fave-o things in town. Target will not count because Target is everywhere (except Santa Barbara! Ha!).

I'll start with the most obvious...

Main Street.

Main Street at Palm Street

Thanks for the photo, Schaf!

Main Street in Ventura is packed with cute shops, yummy restaurants, and about 822 wine bars (I exaggerate, but not by much). It's charming and historical and stuff, but it's pretty much the people watching that makes it epic. My favorite are the fake homeless punk kids in skinny jeans riding skateboards. Right. Convincing.

Anyway, this is what "charm" looks like.

Shopping in Wonderland

Hey Wink, thanks for the great photo of Zoey's Cafe in El Jardin courtyard!

My favorite place to go on a sunny Saturday after picking up veggies from Farmer's Market is Palermo for coffee and a pastry. Sometimes it's too hot, so one must get a gelatto. Yes please. The gift shop is divine. It's very pricey, but that doesn't take away from it's divinity.

My second favorite place to go is B. on Main. It's a trinket and knick-knack paradise. She has beautiful cups and saucers and plates and linens and jewelry and stationery and handbags. Her shop is gorgeous and inspiring.
Sometimes I just like to stroll up and down the street, peeking in windows and doorways. I like seeing the antique shops and restaurants full of people and possibilities.

I love my little town.

What's your favorite thing about your town?


If I Had...

There's that song by the Barenaked Ladies that goes, "If I had a million dollars..." and it's pretty funny. But that concept makes me think. What would I do if I had...

...a million dollars? I would take a vacation, get a housekeeper, and get a new car. I would also get my hair cut regularly and invest in some good running shoes. And get the baseboards installed in my house. And get rid of the pink (hey, I said it and it's true) carpeting on my stairs and in our bedrooms. I think that's it. I would pretty much not worry about how to pay bills. That would be nice.

...a private jet? Easy. I'd fly to Boston, the city that some of my favorite people in the world call home.

...a new computer? I would cease to pull my hair out because it would probably be able to hold the internet connection when more than one window is open. OMG, I want to pull my hair out right now. I just did. Clumps. gross.

...a high paying job? Likely stress out a lot more because high paying jobs come with lots of responsibility, and I've already got enough of that with two kids, thank you very much. I don't think I could manage much more.

...my own business? I'd make stationery and baby blankets and quilts and scarves. All manner of handiwork, done by yours truly. I'd do it, and then I'd have arthritis by 40. Eh, I'll just do it on the side.

...a book deal? Offer friendly advice from a former bartender turned mom. That's quite a vociferous combo, right? Yikes!

But, since none of those things have appeared on the horizon, I'll stay happy with the life that is mine.

Night night.


Natalie Recalls Those Bygone Days

Back in the day, I had this thing called...um...time. Yeah, I think that's it. Anyway, this "time" has suddenly become, um, less available. Hence, no posts. I'm sadface for that.

Eternal clock

I don't have time to take photos. I borrowed his.

Anyhoo, here I am, posting and happy and carving out 8 minutes between my kids going to bed and Dave bringing me dinner. I'm happyface for that.

And I miss posting and sharing, BTW. Because I love communicating in all forms. If you have something to say, you should say it, right? I still have a story.
I just don't have any time to share it.

This isn't a pity party, however. This is my real life. And it's not like my life is any crazier than anybody else's, but it's mine and it's crazy and I'm cool with it. And now that Dave is home with my dinner (mmm...broccoli cheese soup and baby it's coooold outside), I'm gonna go.

pumpkin black bean soup

I didn't take this photo.
This person did.



If I Were Awesome

If I were awesome, I would go for a run 5 times a week.

If I were awesome, I would have fresh baked breakfast bread on Sunday mornings.

If I were awesome, my shoes would always be polished.

If I were awesome, I would make my bed every day.

If I were awesome, I would be able to find the USB cable to my camera to download the radical photos from our family trip to Disneyland last weekend.

Alas, for these reasons, I am not awesome. In conclusion, we all lose.

The end.


Facebook Is Proof That God Loves Us and Wants Us to Be Happy

I have a friend (the handsome guy on the left) who was killed in December by a drunk driver. I hadn't talked to him in a long time. Too long. He'd left a message shortly after Alexandria was born, and I never returned it.

Guilt is heavy.

Anyway, I'm friends with his BFF&F&F&F&F (handsome guy on the right) and they just became friends on Facebook. So I sent in a friend request, and guess what? It was accepted...from beyond.

Conclusion: Jason is in Heaven. And they have Facebook.

I miss you, friend.


Natalie Loves Stripes

After escaping the Jolly Jump of Death last weekend, we enjoyed the rest of the Harvest Moon Festival.

I also picked out a few fashion and lifestyle trends, as well. A girl's always got to keep a sharp eye. I'm offering a pre-emptive "You're Welcome" for the awesome tips that follow.

Stripes are the rage for the boys.

Dirt is the rage for the girls.

Tacky is the rage for land yachts.

And bummed is the rage for the poor soul running the Flea Circus.

Now off you go to file those tips away for the season!

Just Kidding

Remember one post ago when I learned to accept the inevitable change in seasons?

Well. My efforts were in vain.

My neck of the woods is 1034 degrees today. In fact, look what we made for breakfast.

breakfast misunderstanding
Actually, we didn't. But she did.
So the lyrics to the song go, "I know I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'..."

Hey, guy who wrote the song, you're wrong.


Winter Is Here. I'll Suck It Up.

Raindrops on roses...Raindrops are falling on my head...I waaaant to know, have you ever felt the rain...

spider web jewels

Thank you for your photo

Seriously. Everybody seems to be so happy that it's raining and whatever. Hi. I live in California for a reason. It doesn't rain. We're famous for our droughts.

You can tell me that the rain cleans the dust and such, but I'd be thrilled with...

See? Look how happy I am.


And then I remember how I do love sweaters, though, and scarves and wool socks and fires and hot chocolate and snuggling. And coats and hats and gloves and coming in from the cold to a warm house and soup and warm bread and an old quilt. Mmm. Bread.

OK. I'm OK with this now.

Welcome back, Winter.


I've Got a Message!

Dear Lame, Irresponsible, Lazy Parents,

The air filled entertainment (jolly jump, air slide, etc.) is not a babysitter. If you decide to leave and go get a snack while your kid is "being a kid," please do not be surprised when you return to find me going ballistic because your kid trampled my daughter. If having a child was going to cramp your style that much, you should have brought a snack or considered adoption.

Yes, I said it.


Jump House Sacramento
Madsen Family Photos

Dear Shortsighted Charity Event Organizers,

When a mother approaches you holding her crying child and asks, "Are there any supervisors here? My child was just trampled on the air slide," do not be dismissive and say, "We're just volunteers" and "C'mon, they're kids."

I am not concerned with your pay status. I am concerned that there is too large an area to manage and too many children to supervise for the number of workers available. I am concerned that whomever is in charge did not staff the play area well enough, and that shortcoming is endangering the health and well-being of other children.

I understand they're kids. Kids are generally not known for paying attention and making wise choices. That is why we, the adults, must remain ever vigilant and guide them to make wise choices, for their safety and the safety of those around them. Without parents, teachers, and supervisors, they do things like run into the street, eat paste, and oh, trample other children.

I was a concerned parent holding my scared child, and you dismissed me.

I don't think you were responsible enough for the position you held.



I Just Might Love My Job

I work in a family business. Specifically, it's my family's business,
and working there is a child's dream.

I blow up balloons. I keep it simple. I keep them beautiful.

I make people's day.

the colourfulation of balloons
Look who took this photo!

Please go here to see some beautiful photos. There is one of balloons, about halfway down. It's the one with the couple holding hands. Hi. That's the exact look my shop strives for.

Now tell me, who doesn't love a balloon?


Gentle Prodding

I just finished Catching Fire, the second book in The Hunger Games Trilogy.


I encourage every single person who stumbles onto this post to shut down your computer, leave your house, and go buy or borrow a copy of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Then you will be frantic to read Catching Fire, so you might as well pick that up at the same time. Then, you will find yourself in "a state" because the third book has not yet been released, and we can all wallow in misery together.

Go. Shut off your computer and go.




She's Not Baby Z Any More...

She's Zoey!
She was early and she's tiny and sweet and mellow.
She's my niece.

And I love her.

We're blessed with all these kids!


September's Top 10

Oh no! My stack of books to read is getting taller! Here is my Top 10 List of Books To Read, in order of my desire to read them, #1 being the most desirable. Before I start, I'll let you know that I have a general* policy of balancing each book of fiction with one of non-fiction.

*I say general because I threw that policy out the window when I read The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. What's that? You have/have not read it? It's uber-awesome, as you know/will find out.

Additionally, this list is by no means exhaustive. It's more of a warm-up.

Here goes:

#10 Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty Mohammed Yunus

#9 Water for Elephants
Sarah Gruen

#8 The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education
Craig M. Mullaney

#7 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis

#6 Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
Eric Larson, Tony Goldwyn

#5 The Time Traveller's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger

#4 Escaping North Korea: Defiance and Hope in the World's Most Repressive Country
Mike Kim

#3 The Road
Cormac McCarthy

#2 Under the Banner of Heaven
John Krakauer

Catching Fire
Suzanne Collins

Have you read any of these?

What book are you reading now?

What books are on your to-read list?

What books do you recommend as absolute must-reads?


It's Official Now!

Baby Z is my niece!

That my nieces exist proves the endless capacity for goodness and love that is possible in a human being.

Thank you.

It's Unofficial! I've Got a New Niece!

Here is Baby Z!
She left the hospital yesterday with my sister, brother-in-law, and her birth parents. My sister, brother-in-law, and the baby are staying at a hotel in Arizona and will be visiting the birth parents' families later this week. The final papers just need to be signed.

Her middle name is a combination of my sister's and her birth mother's (like renesmee...?). The teddy bear she's sleeping with is the animal her birth mother slept with every night. They gave her up because they believe in the best life for this child.

Every child should come into the world with this much love.

You know, I'm pro-choice, but I'm becoming less so every day.


Good Things To Come

I might be getting another niece!

My wonderful sister and her wonderful husband were picked by a beautiful young couple to be the adoptive parents of their daughter. Mommy's water broke today, and off Jen and Kev flew to Arizona. The baby was born this evening, healthy and gorgeous and ready for life.

Please say a prayer for everyone. For V and A, the birth parents, that they make the best decision for their baby. For my sister and my brother-in-law, that they have the strength to endure any outcome of this hopeful situation. And for Baby Z, that she is blessed with the best parents to guide her through her life.

Hopefully, photos will follow...


I've Got A Message!

Dear Summer,

I have so many things to thank you for.

Home grown tomatoes.

Sunflowers at sunrise.

Morning on the patio.

The canopy of Sycamore leaves.

Evenings at the fair.
Have fun in the southern hemisphere. I can't wait for you to come back.


My Hiatus

About 2 weeks ago, I took a hiatus from, well, good posts. I posted a photo of lightbulbs and another of a really creepy alien. I wasn't really "all there." Here's why.

Marcus nearly died when he was a month old, and I wrote about it on my first post. We'd been doing great until August 31, when Dave asked me at 7:30 in the morning, "Does Marcus look right to you?"

My eyes flew open to see my boy, my baby, unable to track (follow movement with his eyes) and slack faced. He looked gray. Suddenly, the world seemed to move in fast forward.

Siezure. Ambulance. Emergency room. Hypoglycemic shock.

Healthy people have a blood sugar level somewhere between 80 and 140. Marcus's had dropped to 8. The nurses said he should have died.

Loaded up on a shot of dextrose and a dextrose drip, Marcus perked up in about a minute.

Thirty minutes later, he fell asleep. The little guy was exhausted.

So were we.

Marcus stayed in the hospital for 2 nights, and I stayed with him. We brought toys for him and movies for us.

We knew he was ready to go when he set off the hospital's baby Lo-Jack system twice and pulled off his oxygen meter three times.

Shell shocked and slightly paranoid, Dave and I arrived home with a happy, healthy baby. We now check his blood sugar four times a day. We're convincing ourselves that this was a fluke.

With each hospitalization, I've gained even more respect for parents of sick children. All the fight that the parents conjure up for their children doesn't mean a thing because as parents, sometimes we're powerless to protect. So once again, I'm reminded that each day with my kids is a gift.

I will not waste it.


I've Got a Message!

Dear People Who Lived In My House Before Me,

Why did you decide to plant an aggressive, invasive vine between the two sides of the fence?

I can't get it out without tearing down the fence.

I hate you.



Summer Story

The air was like soup. Hot, steamy soup. It was 8000 degrees outside. OK, I might be exaggerating a little, but not by much.
Anyway, that was the day that we decided to leave the comfortable air-conditioned confines of my parent's house and go to...

The Baseball Game!

Dave is that lucky guy who gets to go to awesome events for work. So, we had to get there early so he could work for about 6 minutes, and then we tailgated. We had an kickin' little set up and I got to sit and read for about an hour.

Hey kids, off to your left you'll see a dork.

Wait. I believe I just admitted my dorkiness by confessing that I read while tailgating at a baseball game.

Moving on.

Our tailgating neighbors were veterans. They made bacon wrapped jalapeno and cheddar stuffed hot dogs. Dave drooled.

They shared.

He was not impressed.

Shoulda' used jack...

Kind of gross.

But he ate the rest.

Hi baseball game tailgating neighbors! You're on my blog!

The entrance to Angel Stadium is very cool. There are these two giant red hats that frame a baseball diamond pattern in the bricks. This season, the pitcher's mound is covered with a memorial to Nick Adenhart, our young pitcher who was killed by a drunk driver the night of his brilliant Major League debut. He is loved.

And missed.

And remembered.

The smell of the grass as I walk through the tunnel always fills me with joy and the anticipation of a great game, a great play, a home run, a win.

Dave and I have always kept score.

We alternate innings.

We were particularly happy this game because we were sans kids, which meant that we could stay and keep score for the entire game. We were kind of sad because nobody around us kept score. We think it's a dying art. Here's a great story about a kid who kept score.

That's my story about going to the baseball game on the night it was almost 8000 degrees and there was no air conditioning but I love Dave and we had fun.