The days are long, but the years are short.

Today in our home, we've hit a milestone. There are no longer any children here.

Jonathan, my youngest is 18 years old and officially an adult.

I'm so grateful that because I've been blogging for the past 7 years our lives are pretty well documented.

I know everyone has a shoebox or ten full of photos. And I am actually pretty diligent about getting those photos into scrapbooks and telling our stories. Because the time really does go by in the blink of an eye.

Here are my blog posts on December 30th for the past 7 years with their corresponding photos. Can it be possible that so much change has happened right under my very nose?

Also, where did the time go??

December 30th, 2006. Wise Guys.

Jonathan 2006

December 30th, 2007. My Sweet Prince.

Jonathan 2007

December 30th, 2008. The Man Child.

Jonathan 2008

December 30th, 2009. Fourteen.

Jonathan 2009

December 30th, 2010. The Look.

Jonathan 2010

December 30th, 2011. Just Jon.

Jonathan 2011

December 30th, 2012. This guy.

Jonathan 2011

December 30th, 2013. Here's Jonathan Edward Darby today. All grown up and ready to conquer the world.

Jonathan Darby head shot

And yet, this is how I still see him... (December 30th, 1996)

Jonathan Darby at 1

Don't blink, people.

"The days are long, but the years are short." ~Gretchen Rubin

Give Thanks. I mean it.

I'm preparing to host Thanksgiving again this year. Of course, everyone's invited.

I love traditions. But what I love more is making them my own.

I had a vision. I wanted to hang a giant banner that read, "Give Thanks" that would be the first thing you saw when you walked into our freakishly small cottage-like home.

I tried to enlist all the kids to help, but Lucy was busy and Jon was going out and wait a second...when did they get to be "that" age? *sigh*

But my daughter, Amy Kikita was available and willing, but she had one small problem.

"I hate banners, Mom."

Me: "Shut up. I know. We're going to paint the letters and it's going to be fantastic." (Of course, what I meant by "we" was "I really want you to do this, because I have a dozen other things to do," but that's not important right now.)

She was totally on board with the whole painting-the-letters thing, which was awesome.

We bought the wooden letters at the local Hobby Lobby. They're about 9 inches tall. We chose a copper metallic paint because that way it would catch the light a little.

It was a cold day, so after we painted each letter, we set them outside to dry.We spent the day painting and chatting and catching up with life and admiring our work.

Amy painting letters

At one point, she exclaimed, "Mom, you don't have the right letters!"

Wait, what?


Not. Funny.

(Okay, maybe a little bit funny...)

Once the letters were dry, we used our trusty Never-Ending Twine® and attached the letters with staples on the back. Almost immediately we hit a glitch.

Give banner

Shut up. It's not as easy as it looks, okay?

The final signage weighs about 4 lbs. and is about 10 feet across. And it looks spectacular.

Give thanks

I love it so much. I may just leave it up for most of the year. Because, I don't know about you, but I need to be reminded that Giving Thanks should really be, not just an every November occurence, but a good habit to practice every single day.

Thanks, Amy. From the bottom of my heart.

It Can Wait. A (Blackberry) Giveway

{Disclosure: This post is part of a compensated campaign in collaboration with Latina Bloggers Connect and AT&T. I also received the same AT&T "ItCanWait" gift bag that I'm giving away. The opinions are my own.}

I have my phone on me pretty much all the time. I'm guessing it's the same for most of you. That's the world we live in. Life in 2o13 is mostly shared via text. At least in my family.

And my kids? They always have their phones close to them. If they don't, I think they experience phantom-limb syndrome (but that's not important right now). Their smart phones are like appendages.

Darby family

I take photos and I text every single day. So does my family. It's how we communicate with each other. It's how we share life.

But if they're out in the world and they're driving, I absolutely don't want them to respond to any texts. There is not any text response that is worth their safety. It. Can. Wait.

Don't Text and Drive

Which is why I'm on board with AT&T's It Can Wait Campaign. This is serious to me and I believe it should be for all parents. The reason I'm an advocate for this no-texting-while-driving campaign is that I want the day to come when texting and driving becomes as unacceptable as drinking and driving. There. I said it.

Even having the conversation with your kids and loved ones makes a difference. Since the movement was launched in 2009, more than two million no-texting-while-driving pledges have been logged through, social media such as Facebook, and don't text and drive events. And it's working. Attitudes and behaviors are changing and ultimately lives will be saved.

Jon darby att it can wait

There are a few things I want to share with you today before I introduce this giveaway.

AT&T has developed a free app for Android and Blackberry called AT&T DriveMode®. It already has more than 310k unique downloads. 

  • Once downloaded and set up, the app will turn on automatically once your vehicle starts moving 25 miles per hour. Then anyone who tries to text or send email will receive an auto reply message telling them you’re currently driving and will get back to them soon.
  • When the app is turned on, all calls will automatically be sent to voicemail; however, the user can identify up to five numbers that can always be dialed, and 911 calls are always allowed.
  • When setting up the app, the user has the option to select one navigation and one music app that can be accessed while DriveMode is turned on.
  • While enabled, depending on your device, the app also stops incoming sounds for texts, emails and voice calls – so you’re less tempted to grab your phone.
  • The app automatically turns off once the vehicle is going less than 25 miles per hour for 5 minutes and then the user can view the calls, messages and emails as they normally would.

The Blackberry Giveaway

Today's giveaway has been generously donated by Blackberry and sponsored by AT&T.

The "ItCanWait" gift bag includes the following:

  • Blackberry Q10
  • ItCanWait T-shirt
  • ItCanWait thumb rings
  • ItCanWait Non-Woven Big Tote
  • ItCanWait Decals/Spanish
  • ItCanWait Cleaning cloth
  • ItCanWait Silicon snap bracelet
  • Interior Double Side Cling

It can wait gift bag

To enter this drawing for The Blackberry Q10 and the AT&T "ItCanWait" Gift Bag please leave a comment on this post and do the following:

Please leave your comments on this post and I'll choose a winner on Thursday, September 19th, 2013 at 9:00 am PST. (That's 2 entries allowed per person. I'm trusting you to be honest about it.)

IMPORTANT: You must use a legitimate email address to comment and not just a Facebook link. I need to be able to contact the winner.

This post will stay at the top of my blog until September 19th. I encourage you to take the pledge, tell friends and get involved. We're saving lives here, people.

Hurry Up....and wait

My 17 year old son, Jonathan has recently been wanting to pursue a career in acting. I've always enjoyed watching Jon on the stage, but this whole Hollywood thing has some big hurdles to overcome.

So a few months ago he signed up with a casting agency and he's already gotten paid for a couple of background gigs which makes him a working actor. (Of course, he's starving, but that's not important right now.)

I'm writing this from the set of his current job. It's a feature film by a big production company, whose name I can't tell you because I am sworn to secrecy, so lets just call them umm...Fisney.

Jonathan is a featured background player, which means exactly...nothing. He may or may not end up in the final cut of the film by the umm... Dalt Wisney Co.

But he's here. And dressed in a tux. And he's getting paid. And working on his first film with umm...Misney is kind of a big deal.

He's in a short scene with some other high school kids. His call time was early in the day and we basically just spend the day hurrying to get from one place to another and then....waiting.

And waiting,

I'll let you know all the juicy details next year when the film comes out.

Until'll just have to wait.

Hurry Up....and wait

It Can Wait.

{Disclosure: This post is part of a compensated campaign in collaboration with Latina Bloggers Connect and AT&T. The opinions are my own.}

As you know, if you've been reading my blog for a while, I have four (now) grown children. Lucy and Jonathan are both still at home and Jonathan, will be eighteen in December. He won't get his drivers license until then. (I know. Meanest-mom-in-the-whole-wide-world.)

My kids
Jonathan, Lucy, Adam, & Amy. My four.

Most of the time, I communicate with all four of them via text. In fact, I prefer it. If they're out in the world (which is pretty much all the time now) they will check in with me daily via text. Of course, I know that's the way they "talk" to their friends and each other. Texting is here to stay. At least in our family.

I stress to them that even if we're in the middle of a text "conversation," which we often are, they absolutely, positively must not text and drive. I've lived long enough to know that not just teenagers, but most people think that they're the invinicible ones. The statistics tell a completely different story.

Texting while driving is involved in 100,000+ vehicle crashes each year, often causing injuries and deaths. Sobering, no? It is for this mami.

I've decided to participate in AT&T's ItCanWait® campaign because I don't think any text is worth dying for. Seriously, anything you have to text, can wait. Anything. AT&T's goal is to save lives. I'm on board with that.

I love my people. (Do you see those faces?) But I promise, no one's feelings will be hurt and nothing catastrophic will happen if they don't respond immediately to that last text message. And truly, I dread that someday there could be a "last text message."

I'll be honest, if I'm driving and I receive a text, I am always tempted to answer immediately. I think it's that Cuban "good manners" thing. It just seems polite to answer when someone speaks to you. But I swear, texting  while driving does not fit into the "polite thing to do" category.

Please, don't text and drive. No text is worth dying for.

AT&T Logo English

I'll be posting more about the ItCanWait® campaign in the coming weeks. In the meantime, this is what you can do to get involved:

I want to keep having these kinds of conversations with my kids. For a very, very long time.

Lucy & mom text

We're Off To See the Wizard

I'm glad I have a forced rest right now. (See the post about the whole stupid foot-in-an-inflatable-cast thing.)

I'm happy to be able to catch up on some photo organization and scrapbooking. In going over my stuff I realized I had never printed the photos from the Spring Musical that my son, Jonathan was in. (Working on the scrapbook now.)

King of the forest

Jon played the Cowardly Lion in his high school production of The Wizard of Oz.

Captured by witch

I was in charge of designing and costuming the show (as usual). And, if you recall, I dolled up a pair of Ruby Slippers that looked pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself. Click here for my step-by-step tutorial on How to Make the Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz. Also, "Dorothy," who just happens to be our next-door neighbor and friend, Tessia, wore the Ruby Slippers at graduation. Made me so proud.

Ruby slippers

This kind of "work" is such a delight for me. It reminds me of the hours I spent as a child dressing Barbie (don't judge). I spent most of the semester frantically searching, begging, borrowing, and stealing every green article of clothing I could get my hands on for the Oz Citizens.


Oz citizens costumes

Of course there were also Munchkins to dress.

Munchkins totally know how to celebrate. "Ding-dong, the witch is dead!"

And witches, bad and good.


And the Wicked Witch of the West's enslaved Winkies. (I didn't know they were called Winkies either, until I started working on this show, but that's not important right now.)


In the stage version of the Wizard of Oz, there are also Talking Crows and Singing Trees (they were actually my favorites, but I'll deny it if you tell the rest of the cast).

Wizard of oz trees

The fantastic makeup was done by some of the talented students, themselves.

Oz friends

And there were Flying Monkeys. Of course.

Flying monkey

My job was basically to "style" the show and make everything and everyone look pretty. It's a lot of hard work and I invested a ton of hours along with an incredible group of parent volunteers.  It was a bit of stress getting the kids to rehearsals and shopping thrift stores and brow-beating my seamstresses.

Why do I do it?

Off to see the wizard

1) Because I think the kids deserve for everything to look amazing if they're going to give their best performances. (Which they totally did.)

2) Because it's usually a family affair with Lucy doing the stage lighting design and cheering on her little brother from up in the sound booth. So, it's a lot of fun for us as a family.

3) Because I get to appreciate Lucy's lighting artistry. The yellow brick road was done with a light. It's called a "gobo" in stage speak. You're impressed now, right?

Yellow brick road gobo

4) But I do all this mostly because of this guy...


Here's Jonathan, as the Cowardly Lion, singing his, "If I Were King of the Forest" song. (Get popcorn.)


5) And because I'm always amazed at just how much courage it takes for him to do this. (See what I did there?)

Lucy & jon

The Birthday Adventure

Lucy's been in Hollywood for the past month. She's doing an Improv Intensive at Improv Olympics West and has been living up there during the week and coming home (briefly!) to do laundry, regroup for a day before she goes back on Sunday afternoon to prepare for the next week.

Yesterday, (Sunday) was her twentieth birthday. (I know. It seems impossible to me, too.) We were a little stuck trying to figure out how to carve time to celebrate. 

Lucy's birthday

So, last week, my friend, Jana and I decided to drive up to visit Lucy mid-week to celebrate her birthday. We took her to dinner at an impossibly trendy place in the LA Arts District. (That just sounds über-trendy, doesn't it?)

But wait. Let me tell you about the LA Arts District.

It's located in what appears to be an abandoned industrial area. Lots of warehouses and chainlink fence and graffiti. Jana had found the restaurant featured on the Design Love Fest Blog and we decided it looked to be worth our time.

It's just that the "neighborhood" (I use that term in the loosest way possible) looked a little, well, "urban." (I am trying to be kind here, therefore the use of the many quotation marks, because really, the more fittingly descriptive word is "sketchy.") Maybe it just depends on the way you drive in?

Lucy & graffiti

But we were on An Adventure.

Eat Drink Americano

Eat Drink Americano • 923 E 3rd St #101  Los Angeles, CA 90012 • (213) 620-0781

Amid the windowless warehouses and empty lots, there were lots of beautiful cars and barely enough parking. We figured that was a really good sign. This, we concluded was one of LA's best kept secrets.

Through the window
I took this photo looking from the outside in to the restaurant. Notice the graffiti-tagged decorative building behind me.

Once inside, the atmosphere, was lovely. Welcoming, relaxed, artistic, but with a bit of an urban edge to it.

Eat drink americano

The beautiful hand-lettered wall seriously took our breath away. (You know I'm a sucker for giant chalkboards, right?)

Americano wall

The food was a little different, definitely delicious and (to my utter delight) served on carving boards. *makes note to self to collect carving boards for her next dinner party*

Americano collage

The service was fantastic. I have nothing but praise for Eat Drink Americano. We will definitely return. With friends. (Just to watch the look on their faces as we make our way to the entrance of the restaurant and take in the "local decor," but that's not important right now.)

Lucy jana & me

They brought my birthday girl homemade peanut butter and dulce de leche ice cream (they saved her the last scoop!) and their "Pull Me Up" - A trifle of coffee and amaretto soaked lady fingers topped with custard and chocolate ganache. (Yes. It was as amazing as it sounds.)

They put a candle in the tiramisu-like confection. And we sang, "Happy Birthday." I may or may not have wiped away a tear or two for the joy of the perfection of the moment.

Lucy's birthday

My girl is 20 years old. She's already experiencing so many new adventures in her life.

I'm just grateful she lets me come along once in a while. Even if I don't quite "get it."

"Which one is the Cuban boy?"

We live about an hour south of Los Angeles, which is nice for us because it's close enough that we can get there if we want to see concerts or shows or even just shop, but we're still far enough away that we're not impacted by LA traffic (or LA crazy, but that's not important right now). So it's a win-win.

Some of Jonathan's friends (homeschooled, remember?) also live around here, but work in LA. By "work," I mean they act in commercials, tv, and movies. They're lovely well-rounded kids and Jon thought he'd like to give it a try.

So we signed up with an agency and boom! next thing I know we're filling out Coogan Account paperwork and getting a minor's work permit (he's still only 17) and have a date set to go up to LA for him to be a background actor on a new tv show coming up this summer on Nickelodeon.

Nick on sunset

The Nick on Sunset studios are impossible to miss with their bright, stylized graphics and of course, the giant, NICKELODEON ON SUNSET sign.

His instructions included a "what to wear" sheet for the scene he was in, and being my son, he chose to wear red. (Mom win!)

We got quite the education in the hurry-up-and-wait-world of Hollywood. Also, I was in über-touristy heaven that we could see the iconic Hollywood sign directly out the window from the studio waiting area. (I know. Shut up.)

Hollywood sign

And we learned that "Craft Services" is really just Hollywood speak for "The Donut Table."

Craft services

Also that when the red light is on, filming is in progress.

Red light on

The parents of all the "background talent" had to sit in a waiting area on the worst-most-uncomfortable-chairs-ever-designed-by-man for hours as they kept trying to get the scene right. In the particular episode they were filming, there was a dog. (I'll pause for a moment while you take in that tidbit of information.)

Got it? Okay, then. It takes a lo-o-o-ng time to get each scene just right anyway, but, the dog...

The dog was, of course, trained, but well, he was a DOG, so it took them hours (and hours) to film a 42 minute episode.

We parents got to quietly watch them do take after take on a large monitor just outside the studio doors with the ominous red light warning us to BE QUIET (or die). And we were forbidden from taking photos of the scene unfolding (over and over again) on the screen. (Also, I need to tell you right here that I showed a remarkably high amount of self-restraint by not yelling "That's my boy!" every time Jon got a bit of screen time, but that's not important right now.)

Jon and I had a great day. As it turns out, he got to be on-screen a lot during the scene he was in. He's one of the patrons of a Robot Cafe in the Episode with The Dog. (I'd give you more details, but then I'd have to kill you.)

The show is called Sam & Cat and you can watch it on Nickelodeon at 8/7 Central.

Sam & cat

 Jon will be playing The Handsome Cuban Boy in the Background Wearing the Red Shirt.

This Guy.

Every year when birthdays come along, I pause and reflect. My own birthday doesn't bother me much, but the birthdays of my kids make me physically feel the rotation of the earth. It moves so crazy-fast!

My son, Adam, is 27 years old today.

Adam & me

I suppose I could tell you about all the great ways he's grown into the man he is today. (And he has.)

Adam 2

But, honestly, as his mom, the first thing that comes to mind is how he can still shoot me that "surely you can't stay mad at me" look. And it works. Just like it did when he was a little guy.

Adam 1

He still has the ability to make me laugh when he says, "Hi, mom!" It's just the way he says it that hasn't changed in all these years. He might as well be 10 years old and jumping into the car when I picked him up from school.


I can still predict many times how he will react to something, or exactly what he will say.  I can tell by the sound of his voice if he is happy, or in pain. Because I've been listening (really listening) to those inflections in his voice for the past 27 years.

As much as I love the many wonderful qualities this guy has developed as he's grown up, it's the little ways that he's remained the same that make this mother's heart melt. I love so much that he and I have forged a real relationship that's been tried by fire and survived.

I appreciate his tenacity, his sense of humor, his tender heart. Ironically, those are the very same things that I appreciated about six year old Adam.

Happy Birthday, my son.


Live long, and prosper.

Adam h

And may God continue to bless you this day and every day.

“May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.” ~Irish proverb

"If you build it..."

I'm a sucker for lifestyle magazines. You know the ones where everyone is super well-dressed and chatting and dining in gorgeous surroundings? Sucker. Me.

I'm the one who tears pages out of said magazines and puts them into an idea file. That's right, Pinterest, I was way ahead of your time.

I'm not casting aspersions on Pinterest in any way. I love it almost too much, but I really, really love to have the glossy pictures to look at and dream over. (Note: You are welcome to track my obsession follow my boards on Pinterest. Thankyouverymuch.)

Back to my infatuation with lifestyle magazine layouts. I think my favorite photos always include a group of happy people sharing a meal together. There's something so inviting about a crisp, white tablecloth and an abundant table settting. If all this happiness happens outdoors, I'm practically delirious. *insert a longing sigh here*

So, I've been working on my Summer Manifesto (I promise to write about this really soon) and one of the items on it was that I wanted to serve a meal outdoors at least once a week. Ambitious, I know. But if there's one thing I also know for sure, it's that unless I'm proactive about doing some of the things I dream about, and formally write them down, they tend to stay right there in Marta's Perfect Life Fantasy File.

I've been dreaming for years now about a big, long farmhouse table that seats at least 10 or 12. Like this one:

Pb table
NOTE: This in NOT a photo of my home. This is from the PB catalog. It's priced at $1,899. (Isn't it fabulous, though?)

Our house is, of course, freakishly small cottage-like and a table of this size wouldn't fit. But wouldn't it be a wonderful thing to have a table like this outdoors?

"We can make it ourselves!" I say this with as much enthusiasm as I can muster, because of course, we both know that when I say, "we," I really mean, "you." (This logic seems to work on my husband most days. Nod your head if you agree, please.)

The reason I know that this beauty can be made is that my good friend, Jana, has a couple of tables like this that her husband built. She was the one who turned me on to the genius of Ana White and Knock-off-Wood and her Free and Easy DIY furniture plans.

That's me, going all Fangirl on Ana White when I met her a few years ago at Blogalicious in Miami. Also, she is a beautiful, gracious and very down-to-earth lady.

So, The Farmhouse Table...

We're talking about my Dream Farmhouse Table over dinner a few weeks ago. Technically, I was just fantasizing out loud about it, (but that's not important right now) and my daughter, Lucy, who has been building sets and creating stage magic in college for the last couple of years, speaks up...

"If you have the plans, we* can build it, mom." (*we meaning her and The Beau.)

I have the plans. I know about Ana White and her DIY magic. (I am winning.)

Lucy and The Beau dutifully went off to the local Home Depot with the list of supplies and for $143.00 and change came back with everything needed to build the $1,899. farmhouse table. (I'm seriously winning here.)

And they started building.

The DIY Farmhouse Table

Farmhouse table 2

It seemed to come together almost effortlessly. Let me insert a caveat here: It seemed to come together effortlessly for people who know how to build stuff, which they do. They're quite the formidable team, in fact. But that's not important right now, either.

Farmhouse table 1

Farmhouse table drilling

There was clamping and drilling and hammering and all sorts of happy building noises. They started the table around 2:00 pm and finished around 7:00 pm.

Dancing on the table
Here's Lucy tap-dancing on the table to show off it's sturdiness.

And there was much celebrating and over-sharing on Instagram and Facebook. (Shut up. I know.)

The farmhouse table

I waited until it got dark to feed them. 1) Because they still had to clean up and all that. 2) I wanted The Full Effect of the table and the candles and the lights and the flags.  3) It was quite a feast and it was totally magical. 4) I think the food actually tasted better outdoors.

Dinner on the farmhouse table

There will be many, many more outdoor meals this summer. And I'm well on my way to fulfilling the items on my Summer Manifesto. 

I have to say right here that I am supremely blessed to live with such an amazing collection of talented people that I get to call my family. They are not only encouraging, but also enthusiastic about all my crazy projects.

Kudos to Lucy and The Beau (he's still a little new to this group and a bit shy about having his picture shared so publicly, so I'm going to respect that...for now) who both worked so remarkably hard to make my wish come true. Thanks, guys.

Did I mention I lead a charmed life?

Finished farmhouse table

“If you build it, he will come.” ~Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams

“If you build it, I will cook. A lot.” ~ Marta Darby