31 October 2009

Death of a Pumpkin

As promised, the Zen Family Theater proudly presents, Death of a Pumpkin ...

So, y'all know we went to the Pumpkin Farm last week. And we rounded up a few smallish specimens.

But, we weren't worried about size. Because we knew we already had a behemouth of a squash at home.

Minion The Elder helped his Papa grow this uber-pumpkin in Papa's garden this summer as part of his activities to earn his Spiral Scouts Gardening Badge.

That one was just too big to carve up, though. So we let the Minions have at it with paint instead. They had a blast.

The smaller pumpkins, though, weren't so lucky. They were dispatched humanely - one quick blow to the cranial stem - and then their squishy innards were removed.

And then the fun began ...

Believe it or not, there's like 4 or 5 more.
(My dad and I went a little overboard.)
But these are my favorites.
They ought to look pretty cool all lit up tonight, don'cha think? :)


29 October 2009

Who Needs Sleep? (Well, You're Never Gonna Get It.)

This post brought to you by a rare bout of Phish-induced insomnia. 

Random Sleep-Related Trivia about ZenMom:

  • I love my bed. Best thing we ever bought.

  • I rarely have insomnia. Usually, I'm asleep within mere moments of my head hitting the pillow. The exceptions? Well, the big one is nights like tonight when The ZenHusband his gone.

  • Coffee doesn't keep me awake. But stress does. I have a really hard time falling asleep when I've got something unresolved on my mind. I replay past coversations, imagine new ones, think through the steps I need to take, think about the steps that got me there ... I just can't stop the hamster wheel in my brain. Usually, the best cure is to get up and write it all down - get it out of my head and onto paper (or my computer screen).

  • Another thing that helps me fall asleep: Starting at my toes, I tighten and relax my muscles one group at a time, working my way up my body. I'm usually asleep by the time I get to my arms.

  • I can't take "sleep aid" drugs. Eff me up. 

  • I sleep on the left side of the bed. Always. One time, we had to switch sides (long story), and I tossed and turned and barely slept all night.

  • I can't sleep on my back. Can't do it. My favorite position to sleep in is on my left side. Preferably with my right leg thrown across my husband. Or a pillow. Whichever is handy.

  • I don't have adenoids. Bear with me - it's sleep-related, I swear. See, I don't have adenoids because, when I was a young teen, I had sleep apnea. Had my adenoids removed to fix that. (Side note: Only time in my life I've ever fainted was in the doctor's office for my post-op visit. Blood loss. Stood up, took three steps, fell foward. Would've busted my face on the floor if the doctor hadn't caught me.)

  • Side effect of having no adenoids: I don't snore. Except when I have a cold. (Don't believe my husband if he tells you any different.)

  • I hate alarm clock sounds. I much prefer to wake up to music. But not a.m. DJs. They're almost as bad as alarm beep-beep-beeps. No, actually, they're usually worse.

  • I don't dream as much as I used to. Or at least I don't remember them. I used to have vivid, detailed, complex dreams. But, since having kids (sleep-deprivation much?), I seem to dream less frequently and less vividly. I kinda miss them.

  • I can go from dead-asleep to awake-and-functional in about 3 minutes with total recall the next morning. How do I know this? I have two kids under 5. You figure it out. My husband, on the other hand, can get up and stumble through the motions of night-emergencies. But he won't remember a damn thing about them in the morning. Is that weird or is it just me?

  • I need more sleep than my husband. It's just a fact. He has an internal alarm clock that goes off at 6:30 a.m. and he really can't stay in bed past 7:30 a.m. at that absolute latest. I have one of those internal alarm clocks, too. But mine is set for 8 a.m. And I'd sleep 'till 9 a.m. most days, if I had the option.
How about you? Have any weird or unusual or interesting sleep-related habits?

26 October 2009

There's a light (over at the Frankenstein place)

We're gathering 'round the virtual campfire at The Real World: Venus vs. Mars this week to tell spoooky stories.

Mine's up today. Here's a sneak peek ...

My first warning should have been when my date told me our evening was going to be a "surprise". In my experience, surprising me rarely ends well for all parties involved ...

Read more

15 October 2009

You try to scream but terror takes the sound before you make it

October is a rough month for me.

Oh, it's not because October is when things really start to heat up at work. And it's not because the weather starts to turn chilly and I'm a wuss about the cold. It's not even because it's when the deadly Valley fog starts rolling in, making my morning commute a life-threatening activity.

No ... It's the movies.

I love scifi movies, action movies, even a very small handful of whatcha might call "scary movies".

But I HATE "horror movies".

You cannot pay me enough to make me watch movies like Hellraiser or The Ring or The Grudge or The Hills Have Eyes or The Blair Witch Project or those damned ubiquitous Saw movies and the like.

I. Will. Freak. Out.

Urban horror? Slasher flicks? Anything with guys named Freddy or Jason? Fugeddahboutit - I am not watching. I don't even want to see the commercials or trailers for them. And please don't tell me about them.

I am just not constitutionally capable of watching stuff like Paranormal Activity or even The Exorcist.

Do. Not. Want.

The weird thing, though, it that there are "scary" movies that I DO like.

Vampires? Werewolves? Zombies? Space Aliens? ... I'm your gal! All over it!

I love Aliens, Predator, Resident Evil, Evil Dead 2, Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein, Shaun of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Dusk til Dawn, Silver Bullet, An American Werewolf in London, Hellboy, Underworld, Hitchcock movies ... hell, I even like the uber-cheesy ones like Dracula 2000, Doom, Ghosts of Mars, Bats and Bubba Ho-Tep.

And Jason X was the notable exception to my "no Jason or Freddy movies" rule. Because it was all scifi and comedic, so I just closed my eyes during the gory parts.

I even like Stephen King's It - Oh, it scared the bejeesus out of me - but I've still seen it five times. Because it had such a great story and such a life-affirming message under all of the OMFG-it's-a-man-eating-clown.

What's the difference? How is it that I can love Zombieland and hate Saw? Where do I draw the line between "horror" movies and "scary" movies?

I dunno. But it's there. Maybe somebody else can 'splain it to me. In the meantime, I will pass on the "horror" movies ... but you can pass the popcorn, please, for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

What about you? Do you like horror movies? Scary movies? Vampires, weres and zombies, oh my?

* Inspired by DaddyGeekBoy, who is a self-proclaimed scary movie wimp. ;)

08 October 2009

Feels Just Like I'm Falling for the First Time

If I was forced to pick just one "favorite" musical group, it would probably be Barenaked Ladies.

But, being a boring old mom-type person, now ... I hadn't seen them live in more than 10 years - until last night.

It. Was. Awesome.

Just as good - if not better - than I remember.

I honestly can't remember when, exactly, I started listening to BNL. I think it must have been around 1992 (they've been playing together since 1988!) because I know I bought their first full album - Gordon - that year. They've been one of my favorite bands ever since. (Stunt and Maroon being my other two favorite albums.)

BNL is kind of like my musical "comfort food" - I have a whole playlist in my itunes dedicated just to them and it's probably the one I listen to the most.

They are definitely my go-to band for road trip music - yes, I'm the dork driving down the road singing along - and I love to just have them playing in the background when I'm working on the computer or doing stuff around the house.

Of course, when I heard they were playing the Fresno Fair - which is not too far from where we live - I had to get tickets! Bonus: My friend from Sacramento drove down for the night to go with me - it was her first BNL concert!

I loved the music, of course - live performances are always exponentially better than CDs when you are talking about a band like BNL. And we had GREAT seats!

But, I think my favorite thing about BNL in concert is that they make you feel like they are just these guys up on stage having a good ol' time - really loving what they are doing - and just taking you along for the ride.

They joke, they improvise, they play around - they seem to really be having fun! After 20 years of professional music-making, that's pretty damned impressive.

There was one change from the last time I saw them, of course - They were a foursome.

Co-founder Steven Page left the group early this year. For most people, Steven was the voice of BNL. But, in reality, he and Ed Robertson pretty much split the singing/songwriting duties for the group.

Still, Page had a really distinctive voice and I wondered how the group would sound without him.

To be honest, during the show last night, I never "missed" Steven even once.

Ed totally rocked the lead vocals! (The notable exceptions being Kevin singing lead to "Sound of Your Voice" and Tyler singing lead on "Alcohol" - both definite high moments of an already awesome show.)

Now - as much as I love all of my "old" BNL music - I'm now finding myself wanting new recordings of these older songs with Ed singing lead! They were great! (By the way, you can download several live shows from the BNL website, didja know?)

Fortunately, I won't have to wait too long for new BNL music, either. They played a few songs from their new album - due out in March - and it sounded great. I can't wait!

What about you? Do you have a favorite band or group you love to see live?

02 October 2009

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.

I'm proud to join Kevin of Always Home and Uncool in his efforts to raise awareness in the blogosphere of juvenile myositis, a rare autoimmune disease his daughter was diagnosed with on this day seven years ago. The day also happens to be his wife's birthday.

This is their story:


Our pediatrician admitted it early on.

The rash on our 2-year-old daughter's cheeks, joints and legs was something he'd never seen before.

The next doctor wouldn't admit to not knowing.

He rattled off the names of several skins conditions -- none of them seemingly worth his time or bedside manner -- then quickly prescribed antibiotics and showed us the door.

The third doctor admitted she didn't know much.

The biopsy of the chunk of skin she had removed from our daughter's knee showed signs of an "allergic reaction" even though we had ruled out every allergy source -- obvious and otherwise -- that we could.

The fourth doctor had barely closed the door behind her when, looking at the limp blonde cherub in my lap, she admitted she had seen this before. At least one too many times before.

She brought in a gaggle of med students. She pointed out each of the physical symptoms in our daughter:

The rash across her face and temples resembling the silhouette of a butterfly.

The purple-brown spots and smears, called heliotrope, on her eyelids.

The reddish alligator-like skin, known as Gottron papules, covering the knuckles of her hands.

The onset of crippling muscle weakness in her legs and upper body.

She then had an assistant bring in a handful of pages photocopied from an old medical textbook. She handed them to my wife, whose birthday it happened to be that day.

This was her gift -- a diagnosis for her little girl.

That was seven years ago -- Oct. 2, 2002 -- the day our daughter was found to have juvenile dermatomyositis, one of a family of rare autoimmune diseases that can have debilitating and even fatal consequences when not treated quickly and effectively.

Our daughter's first year with the disease consisted of surgical procedures, intravenous infusions, staph infections, pulmonary treatments and worry. Her muscles were too weak for her to walk or swallow solid food for several months. When not in the hospital, she sat on our living room couch, propped up by pillows so she wouldn't tip over, as medicine or nourishment dripped from a bag into her body.

Our daughter, Thing 1, Megan, now age 9, remembers little of that today when she dances or sings or plays soccer. All that remain with her are scars, six to be exact, and the array of pills she takes twice a day to help keep the disease at bay.

What would have happened if it took us more than two months and four doctors before we lucked into someone who could piece all the symptoms together? I don't know.

I do know that the fourth doctor, the one who brought in others to see our daughter's condition so they could easily recognize it if they ever had the misfortune to be presented with it again, was a step toward making sure other parents also never have to find out.

That, too, is my purpose today.

It is also my birthday gift to my wife, My Love, Rhonda, for all you have done these past seven years to make others aware of juvenile myositis diseases and help find a cure for them once and for all.

To read more about children and families affected by juvenile myositis diseases, visit Cure JM Foundation at www.curejm.org.

To make a tax-deductible donation toward JM research, go to www.firstgiving.com/rhondaandkevinmckeever or www.curejm.com/team/donations.htm.


* The post title is a quote from H.H. The Dalai Lama. It seemed fitting.