this one is long, but stick with me...

at the beginning of the year tom made a phone call that effected our whole household, including brooks. we spent many months weathering the storm, trying to manage on our own, when finally he had had enough. i'm not even sure i knew what he was doing, but i am so thankful he made the executive decision. he called the new management at deffenbaugh and asked them if they would pick up our recycling even though we don't use them to pick up our trash. we had been rejected in the past, but tom was willing to give the new ownership a chance to make things right.

we live in merriam, not overland park, and therefore we have the freedom to choose what company we use to pick up our trash. after a few run-ins with the deffenbaugh service men (foul language was used and it almost came to blows) we looked into our other options. most people in the area use the monopolizing company but we noticed a few cans around the neighborhood displaying the simple name "A-1". they were nice big, green, trash cans. clean looking, even for containers of waste. we gave them a call and found that the price was the same, for all intents and purposes, and since the switch we have not been disappointed.

perhaps i've blogged about our local company, our trash man in particular. he's a younger guy who mostly works solo driving the nice white truck around. even the vehicle seems better, i've never noticed it spewing black toxins into the air. the most significant part of the switch, at the time at least, was the personality differences. deffenbaugh workers toss the trash into the back of the truck willy-nilly and don't mind if some of the waste falls on the ground. they assume the homeowner will come out later and pick up the trash that the trash men left. our guy (i wish i could remember his name. kevin, maybe?) "kevin" we'll call him, always picks up trash that gets scattered, although this rarely happens because his truck has the handy claw that lifts the whole can into the truck to optimize dumping. so what, he's a thorough trash man. no, there's more.

we've been using A-1 for at least two, maybe three years. as soon as wyatt was old enough to look out the front windows he would run to see this guy do his job every wednesday morning. and "kevin" would look over to the front windows and wave. that's right, wave and smile at little mesmerized wyatt. it took a long time but wyatt eventually starting waving back.

i'll admit, i'm partial to the mom-n-pop businesses out there, and A-1 is just one of them. i leave goodies out on the trash can for "kevin"; cookies or candy, just something to let him know that his is not a completely thankless job. i leave the same stuff out for postman tom, but he's exceptionally nice too. (i could post about him, he actually plays with yuma. a mailman who is not afraid of dogs.)

but here's where we hit a snag. A-1 does not recycle. since they're so small it's just not in their abilities. so being responsible citizens we stockpiled our recyclables in our garage, being careful to sort them accordingly. plastics, glass, paperboard, newspapers. it quickly became a nightmare, especially when were getting the newspaper EVERY DAY. imagine it, if you can, our one car garage filled with plastic tubs containing trash. yum. the only time it really felt great and worthwhile was when i would pile the 4-runner with the tubs (front seat full, back hatch loaded, bins at the feet of the kids and in between their seats) and we'd haul it off to the center. then wyatt (cass was usually asleep, or occupied with food) would get out and help me dump it in the giant trash cans. this is what it was about, preserving our God-given creation so that wyatt and many generations after him could enjoy it. it's what kept me going, forced me to break down every butter box and yogart tub. and as the kids started singing songs i found one that rolls off their tongues -- jack johnson's "reduce, reuse, recycle." no lie.

and now i feel spoiled because everyday i use something that can be recycled i open up my door to the garage and toss it into this nice green rectangular container. that's right, deffenbaugh has decided that they will pick up our recycling even if we don't use their trash service. and all this luxury for a minimal fee, less than driving to the recycling center 20 minutes away. not to mention the stockpiling. now when i recycle it's a moment of true satisfaction instead of a labor of love. and i find i'm recycling more. i don't debate if it's really worth breaking down the tiny instant pudding box. it's two seconds of my time and one less thing in the landfill.

this last month we started getting the paper again. i read an article about recycling and the percentages of waste that go into landfills that can actually be recycled. the article states, "In 2007, the EPA says, Americans produced 254.1 million tons of household trash." what bothered me the most was that by weight 32.7% of that was paper and paperboard. that's packaging, people. cereal boxes, tissue boxes, newspapers, diaper boxes. this is stuff that doesn't even require you to rinse it out. it's the cleanest trash you have. and yet 1/3 of our trash comes from these easy-to-recycle items. it's not like it's glass. you have to hunt down places to take your empty glass bottles. it's not plastic, which usually means it contained something that needs to be washed out so you don't get that icky leftover smell. it's paper. so i keep breaking down and rinsing out in that hopes that maybe one day as wyatt's driving north to the airport he won't be disgusted by the trash that's seeping into the river. maybe.

to read the article click here:


woody allen's "zelig" was not as story driven as i was hoping. or maybe i was just really tired. i actually fell asleep during this movie which means i was exhausted or it wasn't "annie hall". either way i say pass on this one till you've watched everything else. it was filmed like a documentary about a man who transforms, physically, into the people he is with --but only men. with women he's quite charming. when he's hanging out with very overweight men, he turns into an overweight man. he talks with orthodox jews and he grows a beard and he's suddenly wearing black and white. with the chinese he turns into a chinese man. it gets slightly more complicated, but i fell asleep during that part and don't remember much after. there are cameos (of course) by famous people, susan sontag, saul bellow and even charlie chaplan and al capone make appearances. it's creative in a woody allen way, but i still prefer more than one main character with a giant neurosis.

the funniest and yet bothersome part of the movie comes from figuring out why he transforms into these people. mia farrow, as his analyst, discovers it was a defense mechanism from childhood. as a jew he faced a lot of anti-semitism from neighborhood kids and adults. it turns out even his parents blamed him for the anti-semitism. i guess "zelig" is the ultimate expression of assimilation.


An envelope came in the mail about six months ago containing a handwritten note and an article from a magazine. It was an assignment, a writing assignment, something I haven't had in over 6 years: Come up with ten things I’ve learned from being a cook, or cooker, as Wyatt would call me (a good cooker, to be exact). Here’s the first installment of what I’m calling:

10 Lessons from the Kitchen

1. Enjoy the simple things
Tom likes to tell the story about coming home from work one day to find his small son playing with the cheese grater. I'm convinced he finds this funnier than everyone else does, but the truth is, I love my kitchen and all the things I get to play with while I cook. I used to keep the metal, tent-like cheese grater in the bottom pull-out cupboard. At the time this was right at Wyatt's eye level and he would open the doors and pull out the pots and pans and lids. And the grater. Looking back on it, I realize this was not the safest thing in the kitchen for him to play with. It also wasn't the most dangerous. And he never got hurt walking around with it. In fact, I've gotten more hurt grating parmesan cheese with it than Wyatt ever did carrying it around. The cheese grater is actually one of my prized tools in the kitchen. I tend to overdo it on the cheese because, honestly, cheese makes everything better.

Just like the grater, and the cheese that goes into meals, it’s sometimes the uncomplicated things in life that are easiest to enjoy. The kids love playing in the bathtub with old plastic bottles and bubbles. A plain bagel with cream cheese brings me so much satisfaction I could eat one every day. Saying “I love you” to Tom at random times makes him stop and smile so big you’d think I gave him $100.

When I go to Target or some large store that seems to have everything under the sun, I can wander the aisles all day, or at least as long as the kids will let me. Ooh, a bread machine. Cute dresses for spring. And look at all that food. When we get to the toy section the kids get goo-goo eyes and dream about how great their lives would be if only they could have these things. “Maybe I can get that” Wyatt says over and over. And “Baby!” Cassie cries as we go down the pink aisle. I refrain from buying these things for several reasons, but I’m reminded of the most important one when I get home. They love their toys, things they play with every day and things they’ve forgotten they even have. With the sun shining even more these days they spend hours outside, playing in the dirt, riding bikes, shoveling sand around with their buckets and scoops. They forget the toy aisle and all its grandeur and I head to the kitchen and pull out my cheese grater to start dinner.


supper time can be so funny.

tonight i made veggie burritos and cheese quesadillas for the kids. i told wyatt what his food was called and then he told me, pointing to cassie's plate, "it's a cassie-dilla!" no lie. i have never said that before. it may be his first real joke.

at one point tom asked, "who's tooting?" since there were mysterious noises coming from the other end of the table. wyatt was quick to point the blame and his accusation proved correct as cassie let out THE LONGEST toot in the world. can it even be called a toot at that point? it was a record-breaking fart. and she thought it was hilarious. okay, we all thought it was hilarious.

ahh, the joys of supper. good thing i didn't give her any beans.
things i've discovered in the last week or so:

the kids prefer to have their photos taken together, standing side by side.

transfering cassie into wyatt's room, in an uncontaining bed, my prove to be the biggest adventure of our lives.

cassie has developed her verbal skills quite rapidly, yet she still lacks the physical growth that we saw in wyatt at her age. it just goes to show you that their brains focus on either the physical or verbal world. wyatt didn't communicate like cass does at 2, but he could climb up on the bed and jump like a monkey.

if the first day of spring doesn't really show up on friday i will scream.

i enjoy wyatt's thomas the train track as much as he does. well, maybe not quite as much, but really love the challenge of the making it fit with the switches and the super awesome train-wash.

when you're 2 and 3, nothing beats being naked. no matter what the situation it always makes them happy.

i have a boy and i have a girl. the gender differences, though blurred at times, are quite apparent in our daily lives. it's so fun.


sleep has become a frustrating thing for me now. last night was one of the worst nights and perhaps some of you can sympathize. tom went to work around 9 and friends left around 9:30 so i got in bed, posted, read a bit and then went to "sleep". which means i tossed and turned all night. not having tom there creates a weird sensation in my sleep.

we have a king-sized bed so we really don't notice each other much, but for some reason knowing he's not there and then wondering when he will be there causes unrest in my head. he didn't get home till almost 5am which means i got two hours of restful sleep.

maybe it's the light i left on for him in the living room. maybe it's the bladder infection (confirmed today with very "convincing numbers" according to the nurse). maybe it's the pregnancy. all i know is i'm not looking forward to this night job, but i'll just try and be thankful he has a job at all.

tonight's movie: zelig, with mia farrow and woody allen. i'm hoping the pain meds will kick in and i'll be able to relax and soon SOON i will be a normally functioning human being. in the meantime, i will say that i'm looking forward to having the stomach for some homemade bagels, courtesy of susan simon. amazing, isn't she? now if only she'd post...


cola beans and coffee

i do have days where i feel like i'm on the up-and-up. the sun is shining, i wake up with energy, the kids are cheery and i'm ready for the day. those days are usually closely followed by days of exhaustion and sickness. it's a cycle i'm ready to get out of. i'm willing to jump off if i know i'll land safely. i'm trying weird things to feel better, all of them experiments to see what works: sucking on slices of cola beans from africa; chewing crystalized ginger; starting my day with a cup of black coffee (you'd be amazed at how many days this has actually helped); not eating; eating all the time. i can't find a pattern that works.

for instance: sunday, monday and tuesday were days of shear busyness, cooking food and making costumes for purim events. i did alright those three days and ended up with some great food and cute costumes (photos to follow shortly). but i woke up this morning, begrudgingly, with a headache, a queasy stomach and what feels like a bladder infection. after mustering up the energy to change diapers and feed the kids i emptied the dishwasher and folded some clothes. then off to the coffee shop with lauren and maeret, where i consumed a small mocha and an asiago bagel with cream cheese. 10am. feeling a lot better. who can say if it's the food or the friends. we stayed there for a long time, then rushed home for lunch and naps for the kids. while they slept and tom stayed home i went to whole foods and hy-vee. came home, hung out with maasen and ate a sandwich. 4 pm. i felt good during that in between time but once i sat down to eat i thought to myself, i could go to bed right now. 4:30pm. uh-oh. unload groceries, make dinner, feed the family, have people over, yikes, i'm spent. and the headache makes another appearance and the bladder is still angry. so why am i writing? go to bed, leah! get some sleep so tomorrow you'll wake up smiling. because we all know tom isn't going to get up, he may have just gone to bed...

good night.

right after i shower...


zorba the greek

i didn't have any expectations for this movie. i assume awards from the academy meant more in 1964 than they do today, so that seemed to bode well. it won for best cinematography, supporting actress, and art direction. it was also nominated for best picture, actor, director and writing.

that said, it was entertaining. it started off unclear and slow but the two main characters quickly developed into an odd couple style pairing, with zorba living life to the fullest and basil being more timid about doing anything, especially living his life. zorba's free-spirited lifestyle takes over most of the movie, but he also has a way of demanding that fun be had. his character is developed enough that he doesn't just seem like a loose canon.

along with basil's more melancholy attitude is a darker sub-plot involving a young widow and the men of the town in crete. i don't want to divulge too much information but at one point i could only stare and repeat, "what?!" tom asked from the other room if i needed to turn off the movie. this subplot makes my head spin and confuses me to no end, so if you have any insight please email me, or post a comment.

this one dark angle changes the feeling of the movie for me, and yet i enjoyed the story and the characters and especially the setting. it's a good story of living life to the fullest with a good caution that goes along with it. check it out from your local library.


tom is starting a new painting gig this week and it means he's working nights. i've decided to use this time (approximately 6pm to 1am) to watch some movies. picking out movies for tom is like picking out anything else for tom, impossible, so it's nice to have some freedom here. part of tom's movie watching problem is that he doesn't necessarily like movies. he would rather watch a soccer game or ku. and that's fine, because i like watching those too, but only so much. on our honeymoon he humored me and we watched about 20 movies in our condo in canada, but since then he's become pickier about what we watch. mostly documentaries and true stories. in the last few weeks we watched "schindler's list", "munich", and "defiance". talk about uplifting.

the movies that are slated for this week or the next are "zorba the greek" winner of 3 academy awards, woody allen's "zelig", and "the young philadelphians" starring the great paul newman. i'm looking forward to seeing these old movies, classics that any good movie-watcher should know. stay tuned...


i wrote too soon...wyatt threw up at 3 after complaining that his stomach hurt. awesome. here we go again...
i'm not the only one throwing up in our house, but i wish i was. actually, cassie is no longer vomiting but had enough of that to last us her lifetime. it wasn't massive amounts, at least not after the first episode, but it happened so frequently that i'm exhausted by it. and the icing on the cake was the diarrhea that followed. but it seems that all has cleard and i'm the only one with a queasey stomach again.

honestly the hardest struggle of her being sick was the food situation. poor wyatt was on a bland food diet too while cass was sick, which meant waffles that papa made and oatmeal. surprisingly he wasn't too upset. they both laid around a lot, watched "jonah: a veggie tales movie" and bob the builder. the rentals were only partially successful because they came from the library and they skipped a bit. it wsa worth it though because after watching bob the builder they started saying, "reduce, reuse, recycle."

i talked through what that means with wyatt and i think he got it a bit. we used to take all of our recycling to the center since the trash company we use doesn't do recycling and the other company that does pick up recycling wouldn't do so without doing our trash. we didn't feel like switching for undisclosed reasons. anyway, wyatt knows about throwing aluminum and glass in large trash cans where they crash loudly. now, however, we are in the lap of luxury, or so it seems, because the "other" trash company has decided to pick up our recycling for a ridiculously low price. now every week a truck comes by and picks up our bin of recyclcables. we don't have to separate them or anything. it's a dream come true.

what else is going on in the blake household? i know all of this is terribly interesting...

wyatt says cassie is "the best sharer of all" which is pretty true, but leaves something to be desired in his patience.

cassie talks on her phones like an adult. she holds it between her shoulder and head, no hands style, and makes arrangements for the day.

wyatt still thinks we're going to have another little girl (we have a sonogram in a month or so).

cassie is sitting in the booster seat and wyatt has moved to a normal chair, and normal silverware. so far so good.

cass has been a cuddlebug for over two weeks and will sit with us for long periods of time, just being held. she'll even go to our bed and just lay down by herself. she apparently needs her alone time.

both of them are talking a lot which makes it so much easier for us. they communicate with each other which proves most helpful instead of just getting frustrated with each other.

things are always changing in the home, but right now i would take a week of good health and sunshine. for all of us. that means you too.