Geek. Pirate. Mom

The Life and Times of Whitney Drake

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011.

(Gimme the ball, gimme the ball, gimme the ball, yeah! Oops. Random Chorus Line flash there. Sorry! At least now you all know what inspired the title -W)

2010. What a year. I made some resolutions, most of which promptly went out the window. Though my main resolution, which was Be Fabulous, did remain… and I am fabulous. I might be a mom in a minivan, but I will still rock my skinny jeans, thigh high boots and an inappropriately smokey eye. Because that’s me.

A lot happened. We went on trips… I went to Glen Ivy with Jerad in January, and wrote a review of my trip. And got a letter from Glen Ivy’s president, which said that they were impressed by my writing- I didn’t just write about what I did, but wrote about the whole experience clearly. I have the letter, which I mean to frame. As silly as it is, it really made me feel like I must be doing something right with my blogging.

I went to Tucson in the spring with my family. We rented a car, we went to the Zoo. We discovered that the Little Kidlet really likes Giraffes. And that the Oldest Kidlet doesn’t like peacocks. Seriously, they freaked him out. And I discovered that the lions I remembered being juveniles were now labeled senior citizens. Which made me feel old. That trip didn’t end so well. On the morning we were leaving, my grandma fell and broke her ankle. The whole trip home we were getting text updates… (She had surgery and has recovered, for those wondering)

For our anniversary, TheBoy and I went to Las Vegas. This was our second trip there for our anniversary, and as with the first, the focus was on food. He spent some time at the pool (and their fitness center), and I went to the day spa. And did I mention that we ate well?

I also bought an ice cream machine, and made lots of ice cream over the summer. I tried not to make huge batches, since I didn’t want the in-laws to worry about gaining a ton of weight over the summer- but boy was that a delicious summer.

It was the year of Scott Pilgrim, quite possibly one of the best and most underrated films out there (and you shouldn’t miss out on the graphic novels, either). Actually, the young critics seemed to like it- but since older critics didn’t, and tried to pass it off as a nerdfest, most people didn’t see it. Which was a mistake. I saw it in theaters four times, each time totally worth it. The crowds were different as could be (I even saw some senior citizens), but everyone walked out with a smile. So, take that boring critics- you totally missed the story.

Fall brought birthdays, and I made this Scott Pilgrim themed cake. Boy was that red. (I learned a valuable lesson about using that much frosting coloring. Too much red and it WILL stain)

My kidlets grew older, the little one turned 3 and the oldest turned 5. Where did the time go? They just keep getting taller and taller, and it seems like in no time at all they’ll be taller than I am. Which isn’t hard. I’m only 5’3″ on a good day.

And also, this year closed with the elephant in the room- the loss of my best friend Jerad. It’s been rough, but having this blog as an outlet has helped considerably. While I haven’t been able to jump back into creative writing yet, it’s been good to know that I can pour out my heart and soul here- and that it’s been relatable to those who read. When I found out about Jerad, I felt alone. But I can honestly say that one of the things to come from this was a reminder of how many friends I do have out there.

The other thing is that I’ve been reminded of how short life is. Which I’ll address in the 2011 part of this blog post. The true close to the year was the holiday season, where I got to spend time with my first best friend (my sister) and my family. We had a wonderful time, and except for the one meltdown… there wasn’t drama to be had. Just a lot of good times, some wonderful food and some amazing memories.

I hope that 2011 brings more of the happy things in life. I had two wonderful spa trips with Jerad, where we laughed, ate good food and relaxed in the sunshine. I ate some amazing meals and met some wonderful wonderful people (though Jerad) and hope to count them as friends in the future. I spent some wonderful time with TheBoy, who has proven that he’s truly my soulmate. Whether it was something little like saying that he’d always felt like a part of a song reminded him of figure skating, after I’d mentioned it… to something big, like not minding at all when conversation turned to something depressing, no matter where we were.

Well, 2011. I know you’re going to bring a few things. I’ll turn 31, and my little guy will probably be starting preschool (seriously- where has the time gone?).

I just bought a slew of stuff for the kitchen, so it should bring some great culinary adventures.

And it’ll bring a lot creatively too. I’ve made plans for 2011, and unlike a silly resolution, these are plans- much harder to wriggle out of.

All the ranty bits.

Today, I’ve been quietly ranting about a few things. So I thought I’d sum them up and put them out there.

President Obama and Michael Vick. I’ve seen Obama’s comments get overblown. What was the president giving kudos to someone for giving a convict a second chance, when most employers won’t… turned into Obama endorsing Michael Vick.

And you know what? I agree with giving Vick a second chance- football is what the man knows, and honestly, the NFL doesn’t really care what someone’s done so long as they can play the game. Do I think he deserves to be called a hero and a role-model? No. But that’s another rant for another day.

Ana Marie Cox, the journo/pundit, basically blasted Obama and said “what do you expect from someone who bought a dog?” I understand only wanting to rescue dogs. Both the dogs my family had when I lived at home were rescues, and both my cats have been kittens I rescued from the street (and immediately had neutered). It seems silly to me to blast someone for buying a dog from a reputable breeder. For whatever reason, the Obamas felt that breed would be best for their family. Kudos to them for going about it the right way- and finding a good breeder and getting Bo from there.

Blast someone who buys a designer dog and thinks it’s a breed (any of those cutesy combos can be found in a shelter) or someone who buys a dog from a pet store even when they know that those animals probably came from puppy mills. Those are lapses of judgement. Just buying a dog doesn’t mean you’re an idiot.

And finally, I’m tired of seeing FML. I get it- I enjoy the site as much as anyone else. I’ve seen it used appropriately… and then I see people using it to describe every tiny little thing they run up against. Which is actually what I’m tired of. It’s the internet version of Chicken Little, I guess.

Phew. I feel much better. Have something to rant about? Leave a comment and get it off your chest!

(New comments are moderated, so that you don’t have to wade through spam)

Not the Christmas I Expected.

Christmas was a day I was both looking forward to and dreading. Not because of family I didn’t want to spend time with, or because I dislike the holiday. I love my family, and love Christmas. But I’ve been followed by a lingering depression following Jerad’s death, and especially lately I’ve had more down moments than I was expecting. So I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

The morning began early, as one might expect. I opened my eyes to find that my oldest son was wide awake. “It’s Christmas,” he whispered. “Let’s wake up [Little Kidlet].” I always loved Christmas at my Grandma’s house. The bedrooms are down a long hallway, and the living room has full length mirrors along one wall. So as you walk down the hallway, you can see the Christmas tree ahead as well as reflected in the mirror.

The boys raced into the living room, and the little one (still tired) hopped up on the couch. My oldest went straight for the stocking and toys under the tree. “What is this?” He looked at my mom. “No, really. What are these doing here? Is this mine?”

Santa brought them a real Buzz Lightyear and Woody. The Oldest Kidlet said that all he wanted from Santa was a real Buzz Lightyear. He was thrilled to see it, and surprisingly wasn’t too upset when his little brother decided that he wanted both toys for himself.

We opened the rest of our presents (I got some tart pans and mini muffin tins!), and after that I went into the kitchen to heat up the menudo my grandmother had brought, as well as make the cornbread mix that I’d bought. (Menudo: my family tradition, Cornbread & Cinnamon Rolls: The Boy’s family tradition) Suddenly, people were coming over and I was jumping right into making Christmas dinner.

I’ll make another post to summarize how that went, but I’ll just say this. The night before I’d said I was going to make the crusts for the mini quiches, and decided against it. That set me running a bit behind, but nobody seemed to mind. My aunts dropped by and helped my mom and me… and we were having fun.

I was a little frazzled, but as soon as I realized that nobody was upset… all that melted away. For the first time since Jerad died, I didn’t feel the weight of grief on me. People asked about him, and later in the night, I shared stories and talked bluntly about the pancreatitis being the reason why I was refusing glasses of wine (I think they were hoping I was pregnant). But I didn’t have to excuse myself afterwards, and find somewhere to be alone. I got to enjoy the company of my family and just enjoy the day.

As people were trickling out, my sister gave me a special gift. Something she’d thought to sneak into my stocking, but thought might not be a good idea. I could see it was a roll of something, and for a moment, I wondered if it was Lifesavers. My dad used to carry around lifesavers and would produce them when I was nervous or when I was sad. But the roll hit my hand with such a weight, and I knew just what it was. A roll of nickels.

A quick aside: I was one of Jerad’s Nickel People (my children were, too- he gave me a roll of nickels when each of them were born). As the story went, he had once given a nickel to a girl he was obsessed with and trying to break the ice was going to give her a penny for her thoughts. But all he had was a nickel. He would give her a nickel almost whenever he saw her.

It might not have worked to win her over, but it was something he continued to do for people who were special for him. (fin)

I know what a roll of nickels feels like, and I almost expected a wave of sadness. My sister did as well, and gave me a giant hug. And while she held on for quite some time… I didn’t need the hug. Though it was wonderful. It was such a thoughtful gesture on her part, and made me smile.

We also divided a package of Japanese candy (Crunky) that she’d bought for Jerad to try while she was in Japan, and thought that Christmas would be a good time to share it. Which it was. (For the record, Crunky seems to be similar to a Nestle Crunch bar- only it uses a good milk chocolate- not Nestle’s slightly waxy chocolate. But in taste, it reminded us all of the chocolate covered vanilla wafers- but if there was a single layer of the wafer inside.)

People left my grandma’s house, those who were staying went off to bed one by one. There we were, my mom and I, talking about everything and nothing as we always do.

And that’s when it hit me. I’d had a day without grief. Probably the best Christmas gift I could have received.

Christmas is all around!

We made a long and perilous drive to Arizona for the holidays. It was the inaugural road trip with the minivan, and we had to make the drive in the rain. It rained through most of the California portion, and then the rained followed us across the border and up until the last 20 miles of our drive.

We are here, at my grandma’s house and having quite a lovely time. There was a meltdown on my part yesterday, where it sort of turned into this 24 hour comic by Scott Kurtz. But insert best friend in place of parents. I didn’t actually shout it, but that was essentially the subtext. After I was asked for the fifth time “What was wrong?” I snapped.

For the record, when you know that someone has lost someone close to them and is grieving… asking “How are you doing?” is perhaps a bit more appropriate than asking them in a way that doesn’t remind them that there’s something wrong.

But aside from that meltdown (for which I apologized to all present parties and explained what prompted it), it has been a lovely trip.

Tonight we’re going to my aunt’s house in Winterhaven, where the entire neighborhood decorates for Christmas. Lovely displays (often added to yearly) and this will be the first year that I think both boys will really remember it. Then it’s back here, for our Christmas Eve presents (pajamas! A Drake family tradition). And tomorrow’s the big day.

Not only will it be the day that all the presents will be opened, but I’ll be making Christmas dinner along with my mom. It should be fabulous. I’ll make sure there’s a rundown later.

Wishing you all a safe and wonderful holiday. And for those who don’t celebrate Christmas, may you have a safe weekend- since there are loads of crazy people rushing around.

The Mystery of Iwadoo

As most of you know, little kids say strange things. Not just what they actually say, but when they’re trying to perfect their English… you get a lot of funky sounding things that are supposed to be English.

The Little Kidlet, seen here decked out to brave Southern California’s winter, will quite often say a lot of things that I don’t understand. My mom, whom I talk to daily, usually hears me repeat it and try to figure it out. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not.

Which brings me to iwadoo. LK would say it frequently. In the car while I was on the phone, in the living room, in stores… and I just couldn’t figure it out.

Friday, we were listening to the radio and someone had a dedication they played that ended in “I love you.” And my son said “iwadoo.” I love you. I feel silly for not having figured it out earlier- but all those times, he’d been telling my mom, my mother-in-law and myself that he loves us!

Of course, I still haven’t solved the greater family mystery- the Mystery of “Fish Disploded.” Which is a pretty silly mystery, because I am the one who said it. I wasn’t much older than LK when I walked up to my mom and said “fish disploded.” We have no idea what it means, and sadly, both boys haven’t been able to shed any light on it.

It’s been a rough weekend for me. Not because it’s been raining (I love the rain), but for some reason the closer I get to Christmas, the more I feel a certain someone’s absence. TheBoy has been wonderfully understanding, as have my in-laws. I really don’t know what I’d do without them. BlogHer linked my vent about Jerad & other people my age drinking lots of alcohol, which surprised me. I should say that I never write posts thinking that they’ll be linked by BlogHer, or anyone else. I simply write from my heart.

Like what you read, or have something to say? Please leave a comment!

Vent: Watch the Drinking, okay?

With the holiday season in full swing, I’ve seen posts and tweets from people saying that they’re going to drink to get through it all. And friends talking about spending the weekend drunk, or bragging about how much they drank at a party.

It makes me angry. It makes me want to shake them. I’ve never been much of a drinker anyways, but right now… alcohol is the last thing I want crossing my lips.

Why? My best friend’s death was basically caused by alcohol. While obviously, this is a private matter, I’m sharing this because I think it’s important for anyone my age and younger to know… and to think about what they’re doing.

When Jerad turned 21, he started drinking. With the Disney crowd, with the theater crowd… and he was good at it. I remember in 2002, when we left Disney, he was in my living room with a friend of mine- splitting a 750 ml bottle of whatever was cheapest. Nightly.

At my wedding in 2004, he drank. But never to the point where he seemed drunk. In hindsight, I should have realized how dangerous that was. Then sometime in late 2004 or in 2005, I got a phone call from him. He was in the hospital with acute pancreatitis. How bad was it? He said that the doctor had given him 50/50 odds of survival. He waited until it got to 75/25 before calling me, because he didn’t want to worry me. To say I was upset was an understatement. But he left the hospital, vowing not to drink- since the doctor said that any alcohol could kill him.

The years passed, and while he didn’t have more than one or two mixed drinks that were light on alcohol in my presence, I knew that he was going out with other groups of friends to places where alcohol was present. To karaoke bars and to Jungle Cruise Skipper meetups at pubs. He assured me he hadn’t had more than a couple drinks, but I’ve been told that wasn’t the case.

I’m not sure why he didn’t listen to the doctor. Maybe it’s because he knew he was only 31 and to some degree we all think we’re invincible.

But he wasn’t. I don’t play the what-if game. It’s cruel and makes you wonder if you could have changed anything to save the person you lost… but really, if he’d believed what the doctor said, he might be here today.

I know that the holidays are rough. But please be careful and don’t overdo it. I’m not saying that everyone should stop drinking entirely… but overdoing it isn’t the answer, either. Just that it’s good to remember that nobody’s invincible.

Pictures!

One of our friends, Michelle Hoffman, is a photographer (Meesh Designs Photography) and just last week did a session with all of us. We got back the CD and I thought I’d share a couple of my favorite pictures with you all (as well as giving her a plug, because I really do love her work). We’re giving pictures of our family to well, family for Christmas right now- so I didn’t include those pictures, since I don’t want to spoil the surprise!

I love this one because it really shows how much the boys love each other. I know I mention it from time to time, but they really are each other’s best friend- and it shows.

At Downtown Disney, the LEGO store has a giant Woody from Toy Story. I think the little guy could have stared at the back of it for hours.

And this because it makes me laugh. I believe that the caption for this picture should be OLDEST KIDLET (middle name included), YOU GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW.

Like what you read, or just have something to say? Feel free to leave a comment!

Surprise! It was a Christmas Program.

Today was the Oldest Kidlet’s Christmas Program. For a couple weeks now he’s been singing songs I didn’t quite recognize, and telling me daily about how excited he was that he sang in chapel every day. But he wouldn’t tell me anything about the program itself. “It’s a surprise.”

Right, surprise.

I learned that a classmate of his was a camel. Another was in the Angel Choir. And another was supposed to be a shepherd, but I think she was sick. But really, nothing about what he was doing in it.

As it turns out, he was just singing. But he had a wonderful time doing it. I learned two important things- if it’s drizzling, they’ll open up the chapel early, so it’s best to sit out in the cold rather than killing time in the car if you want to make sure you get seats up front. Also, the Paparazzi outside some hip club have nothing on parents during a preschool Christmas program. As the kids walked in, parents were standing in the aisles to try to tape them and get pictures. The pastor had to tell them a few times to sit down.

I wound up on the wrong side of the chapel, so I spent most of my time looking around some woman’s head to try to see my son. But he sang, did his dances, and smiled the whole time. After everyone returned to the classroom, he looked at me and smiled. “They clapped, Mom! We must have been great.”

I sat next two a family where the son (and brother- they signed his older sisters out of their classes to see him in the program) was one of the wisemen. The oldest one asked me lots of questions. About my Flip camera, about how old my son was, and if he had a part. When I said that he didn’t, she said “Oh, he’s just part of the chorus? Not that it isn’t important. It is. There can’t be parts for everyone.” I tried not to laugh at that. Honestly, I’m relieved that he didn’t have a big part. He’s a bit of a worrier and a perfectionist- so while he’s a ham, he would have been freaking out about it. As it was, he was a little nervous at the idea that people would be watching him. But obviously, once they clapped, he relaxed.

There was one thing that cracked me up. They used existing songs and gave them new lyrics. Most of them were standard kid fare, but one of them was the Ballad of Davy Crockett. I’m not sure what they changed the lyrics because I was hearing “King of the Wild Frontier” when they were singing about Baby Jesus being born here, or something. I’m sure the camera picked up on my giggling. (The girls next to me had no idea about the Davy Crockett song, which makes me sad)

Friday is the preschool Christmas party as well as his last day of school for the calendar year. Is it wrong that I’m dreading having him home for two weeks? You see, every day he isn’t in school, he spends it asking when he CAN go back to school. Seriously! I’ve never seen a kid who loved school this much. Well, since me, at least. But I was a bookworm from the start.

The little one will fall silent again- which is a shame. He’s said some delightfully stuff this week that wasn’t “that’s mine” or “Santa.” I dropped something and he said, “That’s too bad.” He opened the fridge to see that there was no carton in there of his milk and ran to the backdoor (we have another fridge in the garage that’s filled with his milk) and he shouted, “Mommy, want milk! NEEED milk!” And of course, “Zorro, that my food.” Not to mention that he’s started to sing along with all sorts of Christmas songs. If you ever need the last two words of every line in a song sung? He’s your guy.

Grief is weird.

Yesterday was a lovely memorial for Jerad at a park at an area overlooking a lake. With the exception of everyone singing ‘Amazing Grace’ I’m sure it would have been just what he would have liked. (And about Amazing Grace, Jerad- while we were remembering you, the song was meant to help those of us who believe in God. That’s all, no disrespect intended. These things are meant for those of us left behind. To everyone else, yeah, I addressed part of my blog to him.)

I saw lots of familiar faces, and wish I’d been seeing them under different circumstances. I also got to meet a few people whom I’d only chatted with over Facebook. (I also felt really short. There were some exceptionally tall men there)

I felt so much happier being around people who loved Jerad- I’m somewhere in the angry phase of grief. While I’m not taking it out on anyone else, I go from missing him to being furious with him for downplaying how much physical pain he’d been in or for saying he’d put off going to the doctor until after his finals.

I worry that I came off as being a little too chirpy. And the truth is that I’m pretty put together during the day- which is odd, since I drive by a cemetery at least two times a day. But at the end of the day, when the kids are in bed and I’m by myself? That’s when I usually fall apart. The morning isn’t very easy either. I wake up and there’s that second where I feel like everything’s fine- and then it all hits me. I remember that he’s gone, and it takes me a bit to get out of that haze.

The PTC takes their whining beyond TV…

Hilariously, the Parents Television Council has decided to ignore the Television part of their name and condemn the MPAA for changing the rating for Blue Valentine from an NC-17 to R.

Even funnier, they condemmed the move for a movie that they admitted they hadn’t seen, and said that it shows that the MPAA is corrupt for allowing the filmmakers to petition.

Newsflash, that’s how the MPAA has always operated. They watch the movie, and then filmmakers can petition to get the ratings altered. Sometimes this is accomplished with some minor edits- and sometimes, it just takes a good argument to point out that the ruling was unfair to begin with.

Blue Valentine was never going to be a movie that was going to be viewed by many teens. As it is, the only thing that the rating was going to do was effectively bar it from even getting a limited release in movie theater chains.

Now, the MPAA itself is a bit of a joke. They’re primarily concerned with sex, and not with violence. Their ratings are often uneven. Take a love scene. Put two women in it, and it’ll get an R rating. Put a man and a woman in it, and it might get an NC-17 rating. But have two men? There’s no way they might ever give it an R. But start lopping off limbs, and it’s rare that they’ll push it beyond an R.

Not that I like to give the Parents Television Council much attention- to me, they’re the equivalent of PETA and Westboro Church. None of the groups actually DO anything other than say ridiculous things to get media attention. This seemed like an excellent example of why we should ignore them- since apparently all they do is wave their arms and say “won’t someone please think of the children!”

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