Tuesday, October 30, 2007

it's the great pumpkin, charlie brown

...and so, to carry on a family tradition, I watched Charlie Brown's Halloween Special tonight with Ari. For those of you "of age", do you remember the holiday "specials"? You know, those holiday-specific cartoons (usually Charlie Brown in nature) that only aired once a year...oh, and The Wizard of Oz at Easter. I think, sometimes, the Smurfs had something...and I think another cartoon may have made the line-up (if you remember any of them, post a comment below - this could be a fun trip down memory lane).

Anyway, I've missed The Great Pumpkin for the last few years. I even taped it one year and never watched it. Sascha doesn't understand/appreciate my tradition so he has no motivation to sit us down in front of the TV (however, he will nag me until I come down and watch "House" with him). So I was bound and determined to watch it with my son this year, while Sascha did the dishes. We made it 20 minutes into the show before Ari climbed into my lap, rubbing his eyes suggestively and burying his face in my shirt with a whimper.

Okay. Time for bed. Now.

Once again, I missed having the entire Charlie Brown experience. Oh well. There's always next year. Maybe we'll even be able to have popcorn.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

one family who refused to evacuate...the dummies

Smoke from the Witch Fire (the one nearest us), taken from our patio at 9am Monday. For more pictures, go to

Hmm, where to begin? It was really (and I mean really) windy Sunday; our virgin introduction to the famed Santa Ana winds . Around noon, I smelled someone's chimney smoke and wondered why on earth someone would be having a cozy fire when it's almost 90 degrees. I went out to the patio to shelter some herbs from the heat and wind and realized that the chimney smoke was obscuring the townhouse across the street. Why is it so smoky? Is there a fire? So we turned on the TV. And discovered that the worst fire season in a long time had begun.

We're new to this whole wildfire thing and weren't really sure how to react. So we didn't, which was probably good...hell, the fires were over 30 miles away. We were concerned for everyone involved, of course, and kept a close eye on the news - had the TV on all day, which solidified a nice TV habit in Ari once again...right after I had broken him of his last one...although, he did get sick of watching the news and flashed the "Done" sign until we turned on PBS for a few minutes.

Monday morning we woke to a lot of smoke and ash...and found our neighbors loading up their cars. Uh-oh. Again, turning to the TV for our fire fix, we found that our area was under mandatory evacuation. Ah, so that's why everyone's packing.

We sit almost exactly on the corner of the evac area so were unsure as to whether we should actually pack up and go (again, fire season newbies...and idiots, as our family members would say). So, we decided to think about it, went to IHOP down the street for breakfast (since I hadn't the foresight to grocery shop over the weekend) and found it full of evacuees from the north/northwest. Rancho Bernardo and Poway, communities 10-15 miles northwest, were on fire (we had looked at homes in this area, it's basically in the city). I was amazed, but most everyone was friendly and open with each other... if stressed and tired. Sadly, we did see one poor family get some bad news while we were there.

The news was informing all that air quality was "moderate to unhealthy" with all the ash and smoke so, still deciding to wait on evacuating, we spent the day inside until it became absolutely necessary to get out (i.e. Ari had cabin fever). So we drove to Pfizer in La Jolla that evening so Sascha could finish up some work. I believe, although my memory is fuzzy now, that the fire was approaching Rancho Santa Fe by then, a luxe community 5-10 miles north/northeast. We had read online that if it reached Rancho Santa Fe, which it was predicted to do, things would be bad...it's heavily wooded. The wind had died down, so we though things should be okay and headed down to very smoky La Jolla (no evac orders there).

On our trip home that night, we decided to pack up the car, check the news every couple hours through the night and be ready to leave within minutes if we had to. We had a couple options of places to go - a friend to the north and Qualcomm Stadium downtown. That night, the fire reached Rancho Santa Fe. And I became increasingly nervous...although Sascha was fine. Huh. But since he was the one getting up through the night, letting me sleep and dream about firefighters rushing us out of the house, I figured I'd go with his interpretation for now. And he was right, it was slowing down, as was the wind, and didn't seem threatening...although evac orders were issued for communities all the way to the ocean.

Tuesday morning dawned with almost clear skies, with persnickety thanks to an ocean wind pushing the smoke back...and possibly circling the fire back around. While Sascha rested, I checked the internet and TV and map (our Lethal 3 combo that had gotten us through our decision to not evacuate) and found that the fire was south of Rancho Santa Fe, had jumped a river (it's very dry here) and was working it's way toward the road separating Rancho Santa Fe/Fairbanks Ranch from Solana Beach/Del Mar Heights/Carmel Valley (that's us).

Oh. Okay.

So once again, we became ready to leave...and received a couple more evacuation invites from friends south of us. It was a tense couple of hours (for me - again, Sascha was fine - whatever) but the winds changed and pushed the Witch fire back to the north/northeast, away from us. Permanently, it seems.

The fires are still raging but getting under control somewhat...they are at least partially contained. And areas are still evacuated. Our area has been lifted and people are coming home. Between the largest two fires that hit the county, almost 300,000 acres have been destroyed; approximately 1500 structures (homes, outbuildings, businesses) are gone; 6 people have died (one directly from the fire); 300,000 people have been evacuated along with at least 2500 horses (there's a lot of horses here). Please know that these are not spot-on, I'm not a reporter. These are just the last figures I read. To give you an idea of what's happened out here. It could have been a lot worse. These firefighters have done a bang up job and they're exhausted. But not finished.

It's funny (not haha funny). I came here a couple months ago with the worst attitude toward San Diego. Hell, I still hated it last week...and I'm sure I will in the future at times. However, this city has very much impressed me with how it has greeted this tragedy. People here reached out to each other. The city was organized and knew what it was doing. People worked together and cooperated. There was no blame-game or finger pointing. It was as if they had been through it before (which they have), have learned from it and know that "you just get through it the best you can"...I think I heard a resident say that on the news. And he's right. When push comes to shove, this city isn't what I thought it was. It's a lot more. And I'm actually proud to be a resident. I'm sorry it took this for me to realize that.

So I've learned a couple things about myself - that and what is important to me. Numero Uno: those two goofy Freiwald boys and two silly cats. When it comes to material things...not much made it into our car. Clothes and baby supplies for two days. Sleeping bags and emergency items. Important documents. Our wedding album and four other small albums. Ari's and my baby books. Sentimental (if not valuable) jewelry. A supply of cat food and litter. My laptop. And the quilts my mom and grandma made. That's it. It didn't even fill up the cargo area. I guess when it comes right down to it, life isn't about the stuff. I knew that. However, it was sort of an object lesson over the past couple days.

Okay, signing out. Sascha's unloading our keepsakes and I should probably help.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


It's been rainy here lately (oh blessings!) and Ari has gotten two mornings of use out of this cute little rain slicker, which I could not pass up while browsing through the resale racks almost a year ago. Yes, a year ago...I have nothing, if not forsight. Buy a rain slicker and then move to a desert. Glad I kept it though because I know Grandma Nana is going to love this picture...something about Sascha prancing around in a similar slicker years and years ago :). Now that Ari is walking, we've been going on actual walks...where he walks too. Granted, these are not like the long, butt-busting-for-mamma walks we used to take (unfortunately, and my tush is starting to bear the signs) - the little guy moves a bit slower than I. Here are some pictures of the nature trail near our townhome. If you look closely, you can see that some San Diego trees do change color. We have some beautiful red and yellow leaves here. Some, mind you. This isn't the Midwest.

Unfortunately, fall is my absolute favorite season in Michigan. So I'm a trifle homesick here in SoCal but the lovely rain and cool weather we've been blessed with the past few days has helped buckets. Funny, the people I've met here keep apologizing for the bad weather lately LOL. I just smile and chuckle to myself, the difference in our ideals doesn't really bother me anymore.

Our family has been busy lately. Ari and my social calendar is filling up. We have playdates now and I have two (count 'em - 2) dates with grownup women tomorrow - one for coffee in the morning and one for dinner (a Moms Night Out event) with a group. Strange, how life changes...in the beginning, you try hard to make friends with girls because boys are gross. Then, you have your girlfriends already so you're trying like mad to make friends with some boys (okay, fine - you're trying to get a boyfriend). Then you get married and have kids and realize you don't have any women friends, at a time when you desparately need them. And so, you're out hunting chicks at playdates and the park. It's a funny kind of dance you do...because you don't want to be friends with just any mom. You don't want the "mommy"...you know, the ones that just live for their kids. You're looking for a little sass and independence in there, too. Maybe someone who accidentally drops the f-bomb when their kids are out of range. You know. Someone like me (although I've vowed to work on cleaning up my language now that Ari's starting to talk), as tacky as that can be.
We're settling in. Slowly. Although, lately I've been battling with the whole how-the-hell-do-I-get-anything-accomplished? demon. Again. It's a battle I never win and never have the sense to simply raise the white flag. Silly me. Some background...our days, like most mothers of little ones, are filled with "minutia"....some people may call it that....other people call it "kid stuff". That's what we do all day. We discover. And we fall and bang heads. Cry. Discover. Follow Mom around and pick things off her dust mop. Discover. Whine to be picked up. We hold and are held. We try to run and fall and bang our head. Again. Walk to the park - SLOWLY. Play, play, play. Nap. Crackers and cheese. Yell at the top of our lungs. I need a hug. So, you get the idea. Ours is not a productive home. And at a time when I'm starting to think of going back to work, with the intense dream of running my own practice - having full knowledge of all the prep, planning and research that entails and having full awareness of my rusty skill set - the lack of productivity at home has me a little panicked. When do I polish my skills? While vaccumming? When do I write my business plan? Answer: after Ari goes to bed and I'm bushed. In all honesty, I should be doing it now when he's napping. However, sharing our lives, here in this blog, with our family seems to take precedent in my heart.

And so....I have been grappling with that. Like I said. Until this morning when I had one of those A-Ha moments. While trying to think of a way to pack all that in (efficiency/productivity/multitasking) and knowing full well that I suck at all of that, a thought occured to me. "Who cares?" And I realized that I was starting to think through the eyes of my child. Efficiency and productivity mean crap to him. He'd much rather wander around the fountain outside Gymboree and wave at the people sweating away in the adult gym next door. They wave back, of course, because he's cute as hell and he knows it. To him, that's a productive day. Discovering flotsam and jetsam on the ground, carrying his "treasure" around and showing it to his Mom every 30 seconds. "See Mom, see what I have?" We try so hard to teach them and show them the way...but sometimes you just have to slow down and learn from your kid. "Yes Ari, I see your treasure, thank you for showing me."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Warning: Long, Catch-Up Post

Ari discovered his hair on the plane.
Well, we're back from quite a successful trip to Iowa. Sascha, Ari and I flew to Omaha last Friday morning; met Paula and Jay (my sister and brother in law) at the airport; and all drove together to Grandma's (Ari's Great Grandma) house in Western Iowa. My Grandpa's 90th birthday celebration was Saturday, Sascha and my siblings flew home again on Sunday and Ari and I stayed until Wednesday. It was a good visit and Ari came through it like a champ despite being around lots of adults that he didn't know (anyone he's been away from for over a month is pretty much a stranger again, to my parents' grief). Towards the end of the visit, Ari was enthusiastically "conversing" with my mom and dad...he liked to sit next to my dad during meals and would smile at him until dad looked up and then flashed the "done" sign over and over again until dad did it back...Ari wasn't finished eating...he just wanted to share that little bit of communication with his grandpa. Apparently, the first few times Ari did this in front of him, Dad was pretty amused so Ari thought that was a good way to connect (grin). The last night we were there, Ari sat on the couch with his grandma and decided he needed to "get" her...so she could tickle him. His "getting" consists of smacking someone on the arm or back and then grinning like mad while waiting to be tickled. Our last morning there, Ari finally warmed up to my Grandma and sat on her lap for a while...even cuddled a bit. We were all thrilled, but none so much as my Grandma. She's one of the most wonderful people I know and I'm so glad Ari had a chance to get to know her lap a little.

As you can probably tell, and as most of you are familiar with, Ari takes a bit to warm up to people...especially family members...however, put him on an airplane full of complete strangers and he'll grin at and flirt with every single one of them (from the safety of our seat). The little stinker. It's kind of painful for our families since we don't see them that often anymore and, when we do, it's only for a few golden days. Sigh. Maybe someday that will be different.

Some Updates

On the health front: we are both officially healthy again, in spite of Ari's runny nose (i.e. the snot-nosed kid). It is so fabulous to have the energy and desire to make it through a day upright. Sascha, God bless him, has managed to avoid decrepit health altogether and "dodged-ducked-dived-and dodged" (trivia question: identify that movie) his way through our flu experience with flying colors.

On the What's-Ari-Up-To-Now front: The bugger is a walking crazy man. He's even attempted running after watching a 3 year old do it in a parking lot one evening...the running attempt isn't quite as successful when Mom's not holding his hand. We've been going to Gymboree http://www.gymboreeclasses.com/b2c/customer/programIndex.jsp for a few weeks now and, though I was skeptical at first, Ari has SO enjoyed his time there. His coordination and self-confidence has increased by leaps and bounds from the climbing, exploring, playing and being around other kids. He's getting used to coming and going there and doesn't throw a fit every time we leave now. He's started saying "this, that, there, mumma, daddy, yum yum"...of course, it's all in that baby-way (i.e. "dis-n-dis-n-dat-n-dis" while "reading" me a book or showing me a toy). I'm pretty sure he said "daddy" the other day...it just came out "tchatchy" while reaching for Sascha. "Mommy" is mumumum and we always say "nyum-nyum-nyum" while we eat. Speaking of eating...wow, what a different kid. While in Iowa, he absolutely inhaled food. Pretty much anything as long as it came off of my plate and did NOT come out of a baby food jar. Spoons and forks are making it into his mouth with amazing accuracy and less and less food winds up on the floor (thank God). He does like to "wash" the table when he's pretty much finished eating...that's when the leftover food ends up on the floor. Oh well. Other things - he brushes his teeth and hair, puts things away, kisses his books and toys and daddy's tummy (it's a funny thing). I'll sum it up there as I think only the grandparents are still reading at this point...everyone else, I totally understand if you've decided to jump ship.

On the relocation front: Since I have more energy now, I feel a little better about being here. I'm meeting a fellow Ann Arbor transplant spouse for coffee next week and I met a nice mom at our library's story hour last week...her son practically crawled into my lap so I guess she had to be nice to me after that :). She hooked me up with a couple groups she's involved with - Hip Mamas of San Diego and Del Mar Toddlers. Both have play groups and I think Mom's Night Out/In. We'll see how that goes but I'm feeling more optimistic than I have in past weeks. Sascha still points out other moms when we're at the park...for example, "she's cute, do you think you'd like her?" ....or, after Ari and I have been at Gymboree, "did anyone try to pick you up? any nice moms?" (you notice, he doesn't mention the dads). It's sweet how he wants me to get some mom action but sometimes I always feel as if I need to look pretty or work on my pick-up lines. It'll take time. And that's okay. It's easier to not know anyone when Ari's balanced and happy (as he is this week, we'll see how things go next week). I'm still looking at this San Diego thing as a two-year commitment. A little sabbatical in paradise before heading back to the Midwest. Who knows? Maybe it'll someday feel like home. Time will tell. And I'm cool with that.

*FYI - the walking video is now in the post below*

Thursday, October 4, 2007

red letter day

...that is what it has been. Ari is walking! I was working in the kitchen while he played in the living room this morning and heard him coming through the doorway with a giggle. I turned around and there he was, walking, not crawling. Now, that's not an entirely new thing. He's been walking up to 10 steps on his own for a couple days. However, this morning he walked through the kitchen door as if he had been a toddler forever, grinning like crazy. Sat down and proceeded to stand up on his own (that was a first), walk further, sit down again, get up again, etc. etc. until he had covered the entire kitchen. He giggled the entire time, he was so pleased with himself. It probably helped that I was cheering him on like crazy...

He also managed to scoop his oatmeal onto his spoon by himself today and take a few very accurate bites. It's so funny how he knows he's done something special...he gets this little lopsided smile and his eyes tilt up at me as if to say, "hey, ma, ya checkin' this out?" Funny little man.

I'll sum this post up by apologizing for the lack of material lately. It's taken me a while to recover from the flu, still coughing like crazy and losing my voice, and both I and the Little Man have had some rough days...him with whining and me with homesickness. I pledged, since my last rant, to not write here unless I was in a somewhat good mood...hence, several days can go by :). I'd better cut this short, bed calls. Oh, and for those of you who watch the news...no, we did not get caught in the La Jolla landslide...we can't afford to live near La Jolla...but thank you for caring about us. It is a little ironic, though...hmm, not sure "ironic" is the correct word. That same hillside slid down the mountain (along with several homes) around 50 years ago. The city encouraged the residents not to rebuild as that mountain is prone to this condition. Yet, there it is...million dollar homes on a foundation of sand.