Thursday, January 28, 2016

The kid is all right


Lucien turned 10 last week.  Years are weird once kids turn up.  Sometimes they seem to drag on forever but then you look at him one day and he's huge. Then you find yourself wrapped around his growing body singing him the songs you sang him as a baby and begging him never to leave you.

Then he says something muffled like, "Mom, get off me, we're in a movie theater watching Star Wars."  Kid's a mood breaker, for sure.



Lucien was not the easiest baby.  He was not a happy cooing baby. He was a screaming baby.  If he wasn't nursing or sleeping (which he rarely did), he was crying.  It was constant baby crying for nearly six months, which does not do great things for a new mom's psyche.

The doctor couldn't figure out a reason for it; he seemed healthy and pink and strong in all ways.  I changed my diet, did all sorts of anti-gas baby dangling to make sure he wasn't just one huge gas bubble, supplemented with formula for awhile, read him long passages from Chaucer, sang him show tunes.

Nothing helped.  It was the dreaded mysterious colic and all we could do was wait it out.


so wait we did, while attempting to maintain our sanity

I wore him in the baby carrier all day because it was the only way he would sleep.  He demanded constant proximity, constant motion to be soothed.  I slept with him on the couch every night cradled in the crook of my left arm, trying to murmur him to sleep while he glared and waved his tiny fists in jagged jerky air shapes.  I was an "attachment parent" without ever wanting to be an attachment parent.

Below is a famous picture in our family because it illustrates in a small way the state of our minds at the time.  This is in the middle of the night and I'm wearing Lucien and bouncing because he once again woke up angry.  Lucien hated baby swings but he liked when Alex put him in his car seat and swung him back and forth as wide as Al's arm could reach.  Lucien was into BIG range of motion, not small paltry stupid range of motions.

To save Alex's arm, we attempted to replicate the sensation by tying his car seat to our ladder with a length of rope and swinging him back and forth to each other, bleary-eyed and silent. Sometimes Lucien decided that was satisfactory to him but other times he just yelled through the ladder swinging, too.


 Safety first.
Meh, f*ck it, let's strap the baby to the ladder.

I wish I could go back and talk to that me.  I wish I could tell her to stop crying her blubbery tears and get on with it already.  I would tell her he was going to grow up a happy kid, and he was going to love the crap out of her.  He was still, at the age of 10, not going to get embarrassed when she squeezed him in front of his friends.  He was going to say, "I love you Mom" all sleepy-like when she kissed him goodnight in his bed.

I'd tell her he's a great big brother to another opinionated being (a girl this time) who would show up unexpectedly a few years later.  (No way I'd tell her to avoid that bottle of wine that led to the Coco babymaking in Paris, though, because Coco must exist in this world.)

I'd tell her he was going to sleep so well one day, in his own bed in his own room, it would become difficult to get him out of bed in the mornings. Sometimes getting him out of bed would involve bracing her foot against his bedframe and pulling on his legs with all her might while saying things like, "Come ON, get UP."  Younger me wouldn't believe that one, it would feel like a far away unattainable dream.


the kid is all right

I would want younger me to know that 10 years in, he's an individual marching to his own beat for sure, kindhearted and funny and comfortable in his skin.  I would tell her to relax, that she wasn't doing anything wrong and her baby didn't hate her, it's just that some babies need time to accept the fact they're born.



Or maybe I wouldn't say anything at all, because it would alter the journey somehow and change how we all are 10 years later.  Maybe I'd simply say the years with him are going to be worth every sleepless frustrated tear-filled day and leave it at that.  Then I'd smooth her hair, give her a hug, make her a drink.



No hard feelings, little punk.
best thing I ever did
no matter what


10 years down. Keep on trucking, kid, we are big fans,
Mom

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Spanish rice trees

My mom, dad and brother recently visited from Colorado. They couldn't come for real Christmas so instead came in January for fake Christmas. This meant our Christmas season lasted forever and by the time they arrived we were all quite sick of it.

Our Christmas tree was the most pathetic, dried up, shriveled thing you've ever seen by the time they walked in the door. It didn't even look good in the first place so you can imagine the state of it five weeks later.

My dad, a retired lawyer, has been having an ongoing dream for months about a product liability trial.  His dream is impressive in terms of detail and how it picks up where it left off from night to night. In the mornings we greet him with, "Morning, Dad, how's the trial going?"

Aside from Dad's impressive dream skills, the high point of my family's visit was a ride to the gas station in the Winnebago.  I may not be the most entertaining hostess but in my defense, they've been visiting Seattle for 18 years and have seen everything there is to see more than once.  But they've never seen a gas station from a Winnebago.

At the end of that day, Dad said, "Well... today we went to the gas station. That was a pretty exciting day, daughter."  It's likely that was sarcasm but I'll hold out hope I truly opened his world in magical new ways.

That night for dinner I attempted to make a pot roast.  Since we were busy all day (at the gas station), I decided to make it in the slow cooker.  I'd never done a pot roast in a slow cooker before but it seemed straightforward enough.  The only problem was instead of taking six hours as planned, the roast took 10-and-a-half hours to cook.  My pot roast was ready to eat at about 10:30 that night but we'd already eaten the salad and mashed potatoes for dinner, done the dishes, and my parents had gone to bed.

The next day I made them watch Natani at her doggy daycare via the daycare's webcam for a very long time. It is surprisingly riveting television to watch the social dynamics of a pack of dogs. Natani is apparently the town bicycle; she was repeatedly humped by many dogs, most notably a randy Irish Setter and most embarrassingly a tiny Jack Russell Terrier.  Those dogs would not leave her alone.  Mom said it's because Natani is young, cute and blonde.

I considered calling the manager of the doggy daycare to ask him to give Natani a break from the Humpy McHumpies but Mom said that would tell him too much about me -- namely I have no life and watch my dog on webcam all day.

My sister, Raba, and her wife, Zee, have moved out of Seattle proper and have bought 12 acres on a nearby island complete with a red barn they intend to one day fill with horses.



not too bad.  not too bad at all.


Raba and Zee are now living some sort of idyllic "nobody messes with us" kind of existence.  I don't understand.  You mean nobody rifles through their recycling bins at 1:00 a.m. looking for aluminum cans or steals their garden tools from the front porch when they're left unattended for five minutes?  That kind of life is foreign to the downtown-centric people we are in Banister Abbey.

Speaking of our neighborhood, the Central District currently has a serial bread dumper on the loose. The bread dumper is a 50-ish-year-old male who dumps large amounts of bread daily in a nearby empty lot.  This is upsetting to neighbors because it's attracting racoons and rats.  When approached and asked to stop, the man apparently yells, "FUCK YOU" before running away.  Bread dumping -- must admit that's a new one, even for the C.D.

I digress.  Back to the island my sister now inhabits.  Mom said the island reminded her of the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula because of the fuzzy trees but instead of saying "all the Spanish moss on the trees" Mom said, "all the Spanish rice on the trees."  The hysterics were unbearable as I pictured Spanish rice dripping off trees and plopping onto heads of visitors below.  For those in need of lunch, they could merely tilt their heads back and open their mouths, which would be quite handy.

Mom laughed along too but then looked at me with a frown and said, "you're going to put that in your blog, aren't you." and I said, "YES."  My family knows me better than anybody.

We posed for many photos on the island that, as of this time, has no chronic bread dumping issue --



Glorious siblings

This is Lucien staring down a cargo ship --



This is Coco throwing something into Puget Sound with impressive force --



This one looks like the band got back together --


Soon after it was taken, Lucien fell off the log into the water.  


When my family gets together, we laugh a lot.  One of our favorite things to do is reminisce about the fun we've had over the years, especially on our family vacations.  This time we revisited our summer vacation on Lake Powell, Arizona in the early 90s. We rented a boat on Lake Powell but none of us had driven a boat before and it turns out boats don't always stop when you want them to stop.

We came in too hot on one landing and took off a chunk of the end of the dock.  Later, when it came time to gas up at the boat gas station, we all bailed on my dad.  We jumped out of the boat to avoid the embarrassment we knew was coming.  The attendant called to my Dad, "Stop at pump three, sir" but when Dad couldn't make that happen, the guy yelled, "Stop at Pump Four!" and then "OK, stop at Pump Five!" But Dad just kept going.

If you want to know why I am the way I am, there's no need to look further than these people. They are both the wind beneath my wings and the birthplace of my neuroses.  In other words, they are family just like anyone else's family.  And I am so lucky to have been born into their midst.

You know who doesn't feel lucky to be in this family right now?  Oscar.  Now that he's almost 15 years old and crabby, old man schnauzer hates being groomed so I put it off and put it off until his coat is so matted the groomer has no choice but to shave it all off.  Now he's so cold and has to wear a thick fleece sweater all day long with his diaper.

Since his haircut, he's been following me around sighing deeply.  He really wants me to know he isn't happy about recent events.



The vet tells me he'll help me know when "it's time."
It's not "time" yet.  He's still with us.
So we're going to keep loving you... 
...and in this family, that means laughing at you, old guy.



I'm happy to report,
Dad finally got the hang of that boat.
MJ

Friday, January 15, 2016

There once was a pig in prosser

Its 2016 -- the year I finally do the things and meet the goals.

I'm writing this post in the Winnebego.  There are cleaning ladies inside my home, their monthly visit to deal with our collective grime, so I've moved out to the driveway.  It's a pretty sweet setup.  I can still connect to our wifi, make a cup of coffee, take a nap.  There's also a box of Rice Krispies in the pantry for when I feel like emptying a few fistfuls into my mouth, which will be often, and likely messy.

The Winnie B is my favorite thing even though I've never been afraid of driving a vehicle before and now I'm pretty much scared all the time.  Alex feels the same.  Whichever one of us is driving nervously asks, "Am I between the lines?  Am I between the lines?" repeatedly all the way down the highway. The other usually responds, "Well it looks good to me but that guy just honked at you so....anyone's guess, honey."  My jaw aches from the clenching but it's a terror-tinged euphoria. I am elated to be a member of this elusive subculture, even around the most harrowing of hairpin turns.

Driving something as big as the Winnie B makes you bolder. Before her, I would earnestly try to work it out with someone on our narrow old Seattle neighborhood streets, attempt to find a win-win situation for both of us, do my best to pull over or back up if necessary.  Now my mentality is more of a shrug and a "That person must move or else we sit here until we die."

People are pretty self-interested that way; they realize I can't back up, and also realize I'm going to win if it comes down to metal-on-metal so are usually pretty quick to back the hell up and get out of my way.  They sure don't look happy about it, though.


We took our maiden voyage to the Oregon coast after Christmas and broke the Winnie B our very first night.  We couldn't get the slideout wall to slide out, which meant Alex and I could not properly unfold our sofa bed.  We stood in the dark holding flashlights and staring at the slideout with rain dripping off our hoods.  Best we could manage were a few "Hmm"s because we know absolutely nothing about this vehicle yet.

The problems continued indoors where we continually popped the fuse on our electrical hookup. Being an RVer involves knowing the electrical draws of everything in your rig and doing math as you turn things on and off to make sure you're not exceeding the amps on your hookup.  We don't know the specific amps of our things yet but have learned a few basic equations.  Heater + several lights = good fun times.  Heater + a couple lights + microwave = lights out, sucker.

As for the water heater, it must use a lot of amps.  Water heater + 0 = only way to go.  That thing should be used on its own as you huddle in the dark and cold without delicious microwaved burritos.


Without the slideout wall, Al and I had to scrap our sofa bed and sleep with the kids.  It was not restful for me because Coco is an aggressive spooner.  I awoke many times to find her leg thrown over my body or her arm wrapped around my neck like that possessed clown doll does to Robbie in Poltergeist.

Even given the winter weather and the tight slideout-less living quarters, we loved being out there in our new home away from home.  Unfortunately, our dog did not share the warm fuzzy feelings.  Natani hated the RV.  She shook the entire time she was inside of it.  When we took her for a walk at the campsite, she refused to get back in.  She planted her legs firmly in the mud outside the door and locked them at the knee, turning her head as far as she could to the side as if to say, "if I don't look at it, maybe it won't exist anymore."

She slipped out of her collar as we wrestled her and then bolted towards the trees.  Thankfully Natani is also a scaredy cat so she didn't get far in the dark Oregon woods.  How sad she must have felt when she realized we were truly the best option.

We took the RV in to the dealer to get the slideout fixed but, of course, the slideout worked fine for them.  It also worked fine for us back at home for awhile but now it isn't working again. I don't see a lot of fun times ahead in terms of dealing with the intermittently problematic slideout.  Please don't make me sleep with Coco again.



This next tale is not for the vegetarians amongst us.  This one goes out to the meat-eaters.  I'm not kidding, vegetarians, get out of here, this will not please you.

Alex and I recently joined with two other families to purchase a pig.  Not a pig like a pet, but a pig to grow on a farm and then eat.

The farm was recommended to us by Seattle Mom's chef cousin.  He said their organic pasture-raised pork was the best pork ever so we pooled money until we had enough to buy a bacon, I mean a pig.  Soon after we signed up for the pig, the farm began sending pictures of our pig -- the live pig, enjoying his life, walking around in the grass and breathing air with a pig smile playing just below his snout.

Why would they do that?  Why would they make us love our pig and look at pictures of him and say "awwww, cute" when they know our plan is to eat him?  We couldn't help but wonder if the farm was actually run by cunning vegetarians.  Did they really want us to eat the pig or was their ultimate goal to make us feel bad enough about wanting to eat the pig that we break down into guilt-ridden sobs and succumb to their vegetarian-bully agenda?

We decided to name our pig "Cuddles" because what the hell, let's make the thing even more tragic by giving it a cute name.  We spoke of Cuddles often as he grew.  They notified us on his butchering date.  They assured us he never felt a thing but still, Cuddles died that day and we all felt sad for that.

Don't underestimate our love of pork, though.  We were trading pork recipes with renewed excitement when another blow came from the butcher -- Cuddles wasn't anywhere near Seattle. Cuddles was waiting for us three-and-a-half hours away in the small town of Prosser, Washington, and the butcher didn't do delivery. It was a detail the chef cousin neglected to mention.  We all agreed it was a pretty big detail to omit.

Anyway, that's how our friend, whom I'll creatively call Seattle Dad, and I came to be crossing the snowy Snoqualmie Pass through the Cascade Mountains on Monday on our way to Prosser, WA.  The rest of our village stayed behind to collect all children from school and get them to music lessons and other assorted activities on time. But Seattle Dad and I were roadtripping all day long.  We're coming for you, Cuddles.

Prosser is a cute town with perhaps a handful of inhabitants.  We stopped in a tavern for lunch before heading to the butcher.  When we walked in the door, the guy standing behind the bar actually said, after scanning us up and down, "You ain't from around here, are you?"  I didn't know people said stuff like that in real life!

Good news was Small-Town-Stereotype Guy made the best burgers we've had in a long time.  Don't get me started on his onion rings.  It may be worth the drive just for lunch again sometime.

We wandered around the corner to the butcher (everything is close by in Prosser) and were confronted by a surreal scene involved animal carcasses hanging from hooks and friendly cleaver-wielding people.  We took some pictures in there but I'm not going to post them.  If any vegetarians have made it this far, I respect that and don't want to push them over the edge.

We drove the 3+ hours back to Seattle (it was a long day) and divvied up the meat on the floor of Seattle Mom and Dad's house --


It looked like a drug deal


It was then we realized they'd forgotten to give us the bacon.  All that trouble for zero bacon?  We decided it was Cuddles from beyond the grave, giving us a final "eff you" before sauntering off to pig heaven.

My family is here visiting.  They're with my sister and sister-in-law today at their new home on a nearby island.  I'm going to write about all of them next time because there is always something noteworthy to mention when they come around.  For example, yesterday we had a conversation contemplating why cows can't milk themselves.

Guess I'll go inside the house now.  I'm getting cold out here.  I'm afraid to turn on the RV heater because our exterior outlet shares a circuit with the outlet the cleaning ladies use for the vacuum cleaner indoors.  I'm not sure there is amp-le power.  Did you get that amp joke?  Pretty bad, I agree.



We'll leave this post with Alex and The Loosh in a go-kart.


Sure enough -- looks like a Rice Krispie explosion happened in here,
MJ

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Dog Ate the Spirograph

That's our wonky Christmas tree over there.  Our tree's trunk is so crooked it's tied to the wall in hopes it won't fall over.  I'll keep you posted.

Mama's back from her month of writing and not a moment too soon.  Alex was in charge of many things while I was hunkered down in the corner of my favorite coffee shop and some of those things didn't end well. For example, he selected the Christmas tree.

Other things weren't Alex's fault at all; they were the fault of our terrible/wonderful dog, Natani.

Natani destroyed Lucien's glasses when he sat them on the counter and turned his back.  I pulled out his back-up pair of glasses with a firm, "DO NOT set these down on the counter!" He didn't listen, sat them on the counter, so Natani cheerfully destroyed them, too.  Lucien was without glasses for nearly a week and kept running into doorways.

We're not used to big dogs.  We're used to small dogs who can't even dream of getting their paws up on the counter to sniff around for dog contraband.  Our dog trainer recommended spraying her in the face with water whenever we caught her with her paws up on the counter.  That worked for awhile, until the day she found the water sprayer on the counter and ate it.

Natani also demolished a Spirograph set bound for a little girl's birthday party one hour before the party was to begin.  I was writing at the coffee shop so it was up to Alex.  He gathered his wits after a moment of panic and tried the Amazon one-hour delivery service.  It worked.  Less than an hour later a Paris coloring book was delivered to our door. They wrapped it up and were out the door just in time.

A Paris coloring book sounded like a great idea so I bought Coco the same book for Christmas.  I thumbed through it when it arrived and felt instant panicked mortification.  There were several pages of lingerie in the very adult Paris coloring book. One page bras, one page panties, one page bra-and-panty sets, topped with a couple pages of the Red Light District.

We'd wrapped a bra-and-panty spectacular and given it to a six-year-old child -- even worse, a child whose parents I'd never met.

I sent an apologetic email to them, explained the situation -- "our dog ate the Spirograph"-- and assured them we really weren't that weird,  At this time, I still have not heard back from them.



It used to be a mattress

But wait!  There's more!  Natani also recently jumped into our large outdoor planters after a rainstorm and got stuck chest-deep in the mud therein.  I had to pull her out and carry her mud-covered self into the house, straight into the bathroom for a bath.  But Natani is terrified of baths, you see.

She splayed all four of her legs and braced against the sides of the shower door.  I tried dozens of times but she fought hard. I eventually got her into the shower but only after the bathroom and everything in it -- the walls, the mirror, the floor, the sink, me -- was covered in mud.

When I finally emerged from the bathroom an hour later, Coco was standing ashen-faced on the other side of the door.  She said quietly, "Wow, Mommy, you said a lot of bad words." Hey, in my defense, the dog is a maniac!

As for our other dog, Oscar the old guy is still hanging in there.  He has to wear a diaper all day now because his bladder is not even remotely trustworthy.  It's gotten to the point he won't even stop to pee, just keeps walking as it happens, resulting in long pee rivers all over the house. He could not give two f*cks.

I recently bought him some more dog diapers on Amazon and noticed in the "Frequently Bought Together" section of the order page a can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli.  Can someone explain the connection between dog diapers and Chef Boyardee ravioli?  I'll admit I'm intrigued.


She's nuts but we love her so. 
Dogs do that to you.


My writing month went very well.  It felt luxurious to say "no" to everything but writing for a full month.  I was productive, got more done in that month than in the previous four years.  The terrorist attacks in Paris rocked me hard and led me to shelve the project for awhile, at the time I thought possibly forever.  I eventually picked it up again with an even greater desire to share stories about the city and its lovable/quirky inhabitants.  I haven't felt that clear and focused in ages.

Recently I've been referred to a good developmental editor who will hopefully help me shape the thing into something interesting. I hope there's a story to tell in there.  Still thinking of you, Paris.

My laptop was put aside long enough to celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends.  I made the cheesy potatoes and the appetizer plate.  I sliced the hell out of my finger trying to peel jicama.  Don't try to peel jicama; it's a fool's task.  The skin is so thick, so unwieldy, it seemed the jicama was mocking me and my peeler. I got frustrated, reacted hastily. And then I was bleeding.

Thanksgiving began festively with a street brawl outside our friend's house just as we pulled up out front.  Their neighbors have a tricky situation going on.  A woman used to date one of the brothers but now she's dating the other brother so when the family gets together -- say, for Thanksgiving -- things don't go so well.  I called 911, of course, because that's what I do, then stepped gingerly through the angry family dropping f-bombs liberally with my cheesy potatoes and a tentative "Uhh, excuse me? And sorry! And Happy Thanksgiving?"



We love our community.  We always have a good time together but truly outdid ourselves this year. The high point was blaring New Edition's "Cool it Now" during dinner.  We sang the lyrics we all still remember from our youth in between mouthfuls of foodstuffs. The low point was when Coco took an elbow to the face on the trampoline and came indoors bleeding profusely from her gums.

And a final celebratory November event -- we finally bought an RV.  We are now the proud owners of a Winnebago ("The Winnie B" as we're calling her) though we still haven't taken possession of it thanks to a recalled propane line.  Bummer.  We're anxious to begin living "the lifestyle."

Alex and I went to the RV dealer last weekend to do our walk-through of the coach.  It took three hours.  The technician pointed out every switch, every button, every gauge, every sewer pipe thingy and gave ominous warnings like, "never ever do that, you could blow up your propane tank."  Alex and I tried to take notes but the amount of information was so voluminous, so overwhelming, by the end we were just staring blankly at the dude and whimpering.  We will therefore, upon taking possession, immediately blow up the propane tank.


she's a beauty



November was so good,
December is bound to be a disappointment.
MJ

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Halloween runs like clockwork

I'm about to disappear for a month.  I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year so if I'm in front of a computer, I'd better be working on the burgeoning Paris book.  The Paris book has been years in the making, written in fits and starts as inspiration strikes. It hasn't worked out so well in the productivity sense so it's time to f*ck inspiration and just hammer the thing out, like birthing a calf but hopefully with less slime.

That should be NaNoWriMo's new slogan:  F*ck inspiration, just hammer it out like birthing a calf.

Before I head off to dominate the month of November, a month that will undoubtedly involve seedy hotels and dark smoky bars and intermittent acid trips (it's possible I'm getting my information on how to be a good writer from the Wikipedia pages of my favorite authors), I'm going to leave this blog on a Halloween party note.

The preparations for our Halloween party become more streamlined every year. This year was the easiest because we hired a caterer. I should hire a caterer for my daily life.  I would like to come downstairs in the morning to find my toast artfully displayed on the table with an array of topping choices.  Plus caterers constantly re-warm everything; my scrambled eggs would never get cold.

The caterer was helpful in that she made food people actually wanted to eat.  I made the disgusting stuff nobody touches, per my usual, and yet my guests did not go hungry. Teamwork.


I made the brain bleed this year


As for the rest of the party, well, the caterer wasn't the only person to make things run like clockwork --


mercy, it's a Clockwork Orange

This year, Halloween was personal.  A Clockwork Orange is the only novel I've read that's made me physically ill.  I read it in college while sitting in a coffee shop. I was drinking a cafe mocha on a rainy Sunday morning, legs up on the chair across from me, stretched out all lazy-like.  All in all, a pretty cozy scene.  

But when I reached the myriad of "ultraviolence" scenes perpetrated by The Droogs early in the story,  I no longer felt cozy.  I felt horrified by the world and its occupants.  The disgust was so overwhelming, I ran to the bathroom and got sick.  I had never been nauseated by words before -- kudos on the powerfully written fiction there, Anthony Burgess.

Thanks to Burgess and his words I still can't catch a whiff of cafe mocha without feeling a pressing need to hurl.*

*It is not lost on me that my aversion to cafe mocha is a type of classical conditioning, similar to what Alex DeLarge undergoes in the novel to be rid of his violent tendencies. But I swear that is where the similarities between us end.

For whatever reason, Alex DeLarge was the first thing that popped into mind when considering a Halloween costume this year.  I enlisted some friends, told them this year it was personal, that I needed their help to exorcise this literary demon from my soul.

I'm glad I have friends loyal enough to follow me down this freaky rabbit hole.  We horrified many partygoers who shrank from us and hid in corners covering their faces.  Looks like I'm not the only person who has a visceral reaction to A Clockwork Orange.

It's also possible I have now classically conditioned some of my friends to have an aversion to me.


The tarot card/crystal ball reader returned this year.  My crystal ball reading involved delving into past lives, two of which appeared.  In the first life I was a swindler who was killed by an angry mob outside a castle.

The psychic reader said past lives only show up in readings to teach us something.  He said my past life was trying to tell me to remain honest and true to myself but that's not the lesson I took away from it; my takeaway was don't swindle, it won't end well, people will beat you.

My second past life was a dud.  He just kind of sat there, didn't do much of interest.  The psychic reader couldn't figure out what to do with him so I said, "Hey, what are you trying to tell me, past life?  Not to be boring?"  I love making funny jokes during psychic readings.

Halloween is the one party of the year where we parents get buckwild and stay up way past midnight. Alex and I awoke the next morning to a house that no longer looked like ours.  It looked like a trash heap.  It smelled like beer.  Several of my Halloween decorations were broken and all of the disposable cameras had been used to the fullest.  I'm cringing thinking about getting them developed.  Good Lord, think of all the butt shots.





Brady and a deflated football ha ha ha




the pumpkin must have read A Clockwork Orange too


We host the Parents Gone Wild edition of Halloween every year; our friends host the family-friendlier pumpkin carving party.  Both events are happily anticipated.  The parents like getting buckwild and the kids like flinging pumpkin guts at each other.


The Loosh carving with the besties he's known since he was a babe.  
They're more siblings than friends the way these kids bicker.

I loved the pumpkin carving party this year because I pilfered some handmade tamales and carried them home in my purse to eat later.  Is that considered swindling?  Because if it is, I am not doing a good job of learning from my past life.


in my defense, tamales are delicious

We got some rough news from the vet recently.  The writing's on the wall regarding our sweet old schnauzer, Oscar.  He's struggling, is already deaf and rapidly going blind.  He falls often and has a hard time standing back up when he does.  But sometimes we catch him running across the yard with his tail wagging.  Sometimes he still cozies up to us and licks our hands.

While it may not be "time" just yet, it's definitely time for us to give him a lot of love, and begin saying our goodbyes, and feed him lots and lots of his favorite thing in the world, grilled salmon.  It's all yours buddy, all the salmon, take it.

The ode I wrote to Oscar several years ago is here.


We love you, old man.  You've been a good, good dog for 14 years.
We'll send you off properly, promise.  


I'm off to hug my crabby old dog then WriMo the hell out of November.
Let's birth that calf.
MJ

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I'm just too young

She's Back
I don't have much time to chat; I'm knee deep in Halloween party preparations.  That's a literal statement because I currently have my stockpile of Halloween decorations stacked in the entryway.

Our house is usually thoroughly decorated by the 1st of October but it's taking me longer to organize this year because of life and its numerous commitments and stresses. We therefore shuffle through scattered severed fingers and fake spider webs in the hall the way one would shuffle through crisp brightly-colored Autumn leaves on a park trail.

I've realized I can no longer decorate the outside of my house for Halloween, which has deflated my enthusiasm somewhat.  Last week I placed fake tombstones in their usual location in the yard but returned thirty seconds later to find my gleeful desert mutt Natani chewing through them with rapturous joy. It was a welcome present from the mommy to her dog child and she thanked me for it with many styrofoam-laden kisses.

My dog trainer comes frequently so, believe it or not, things are calming slightly on the dog front. My dog trainer is so intimidating that when she tells Natani to "sit" our whole family sits.  I've never seen her smile.  She told me once I'm being "a pushover, a total pansy" when it comes to the dog.  It's true but it hurt my feelings all the same.

There has not been a dull moment with this dog since the kids and I grabbed her out of the desert. For instance, she likes to chase bees but the recent day she finally caught one was the day we realized she has a serious bee allergy.  Her face puffed, her skin turned red, her eyes swelled, she gave up on life  --


her face is not supposed to look like that
but congrats, dog, you finally caught one of the little f*ckers


A dose of vet-directed Benadryl knocked her out cold but she still scratched at her face constantly in her sleep --


She recovered and has gone back to chasing bees.  Dogs can be stupid.

We've done quite a bit of hiking this fall.  We went to Mount Rainier with some friends and rented a cozy cabin with a fireplace, a dart board, and a hot tub.  Add a few bottles of wine, as we most assuredly did, and you have a recipe for either fun or tragedy.  Ours went the "fun" route but that was pure luck.

Mount Rainier is one of my favorite places to hike because I dislike "tree hiking." After five minutes of walking through trees, trees, more trees, I'm bored out of my mind.  I would rather hike through a parking lot because at least you won't get your boots muddy AND you can play the license plate game.

But Mount Rainier offers wide-open trails and subsequent wide-open views of the volcano towering above.  I will never tire of hiking there because it often looks like this --



However, when it's socked in by clouds, you get something more like this --


We did the fireman carry with Lucien when he got grumpy
which was often
because he did not believe we were on a volcano



Smile, son, I swear it's right behind us

We are lucky Mount Rainier is only a couple hours away.  We will return when weather conditions are more favorable and less likely to tick off the children.

Coco turned 6 and chose to have her birthday party at the gymnastics academy.  She paired her favorite sparkly blue gymnastics leotard with pink fringed Minnetonka boots.  I have always thought gymnastics paired well with cultural appropriation and am thrilled to discover she feels the same.


that's my girl

I can get mushy here and discuss the rapid growth of my children and how it both delights and depresses me.  Coco's age is mystifying; her current argumentative attitude suggests a much older person yet her huggable adorable self reminds me of the baby she once was.  I want to both reprimand her for sassing me and squeeze her face while babbling baby talk.  Sometimes I vacillate rapidly between the two;  it's a confusing time for both of us.

My feelings for Lucien are no different.  He holds my hand less frequently now and has begun rolling his damn eyes at his parents, how dare he!  He also now wears the same size shoe as me.  I don't want him to grow up, don't want him to stop cuddling with me on the couch, don't want him to leave me, ever, yet I can't wait for him to grow out of his current rain boots because they're cool and mine have recently sprung a leak.

Children aside, I also recently had dinner with President Barack Obama.

I attended a fundraiser for Senator Patty Murray and President Obama was the "special guest."  We have supported Patty Murray for years with our votes but we attended her fundraiser to see and hear the President.  She probably understood he was the bigger draw and didn't take offense.




If your politics differ, I hope you can still feel happy for me -- I'm a diehard liberal and a fangirl when it comes to Obama.  My besties feel much the same. We texted each other pictures of our possible wardrobe selections for the event beforehand and voted on each others options.  We've never done that before.

I ended up at the nurse's union table because my friends are affiliated.  I am not a nurse.  It's a long story how I wound up in that chair but they welcomed me with open arms and I'm filled with gratitude for the opportunity to join them for the event.

One of the women at the table was introduced as "the bookeeper" but I heard "the goalkeeper" and then imagined people in the nurse's union fighting each other in grueling sports matches during their lunch breaks.  I bet I'm not wrong!

Obama was great, though for me it's unlikely he'd be anything else.  We all know he's an incredible orator.  He was inspiring.  He was funny.  He also looks tired.  I do not envy him his job, what a thankless tedious thing it is.


We rushed forward and tried to shake his hand as he left the room.  "The goalkeeper" at our table scored a handshake but we all missed.  That's OK, I'm not sure I wanted the Secret Service guys looking at me like that.  Their jobs are also tough.

Alex and I are still shopping for an RV.  We can't decide on the model.  We want something small, super compact, yet able to sleep four people.  It's harder than we imagined.  There is nothing that's perfect, nothing that checks all the boxes, and as of now we can't agree on which boxes can remain unchecked.

In the meantime we will continue to attend RV shows and shrug at each other.  The kids will continue to get bored and say things like, "Oh my God, another RV show?"  It's a huge purchase and we will not commit until we are sure so just relax, kids.


This one's amazing but it's four feet longer than I'm willing to go 
since I'll be maneuvering it by myself much of the time around the Western U.S. 
Help me.  


I volunteered for a 4th Grade field trip yesterday.  It was an all-day field trip to a corn maze an hour outside of Seattle grown in the shape of Washington State.  The paths through it are the highways of Washington, marked with street signs and all, and there are landmarks built within with placards detailing the stories of Washington's towns, tribes, and significant events.  In theory, it's cool.

But when you're in charge of a group of 4th graders whose job it is to navigate the Washington State map you're given and told to find six towns/landmarks and answer questions about those very things before you can leave the maze, it becomes torturous.  The worst part was chaperones were not allowed to intervene.  If the kids made a wrong decision in their navigation, we had to let them make it.

That worked fine for the first couple sights because it was in the name of education and autonomy and skill-building.  I was able to hold my tongue.  But an hour in with four sights left to find, shit got real.  I'm only slightly ashamed to say I yelled, "WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU GO NORTH ON I-5 WHEN WE'RE TRYING TO GET TO OLYMPIA?"  because we'd been in there a long time and I was getting hungry.

I may not be the most mature chaperone but they have to love me anyway because I volunteer to go on all these damn things.

I blew off some steam that evening after the field trip by attending a concert by one of my favorite bands, Beirut.  I was tired, though, so didn't fight my way to the front.  Instead Al and I chose a wall we could sit against until the band took the stage, and when they appeared we could stand up but lean heavily against it when necessary to keep us upright.




Anyone surprised I love this band?  They're from Santa Fe with a heavy mariachi influence.



Sign me up, Santa Fe.  Indeed.

I'm off to finally Halloween the crap out of my house,
MJ

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Renounce your foreign princes

Our summer was nearly neverending because our teachers went on strike.  They were on strike for good reasons and we supported them -- go teachers, get 'er done, we love you, etc. etc. -- but what was coming out of my lips did not necessarily match what was happening in my head.  My head was more "please school now please school now please school."

After an extra week of summer, the strike was settled.  My kids are now happily back in the classroom and I feel like revisiting some significant summer happenings.  Don't worry, I'm finished talking about the road trip. The dog story was the climax of that tale.

Speaking of Natani, let's play a game.  It's called "Find the Dog" --


She truly believes I cannot see her under there.
She goes there when she's done something awful, which is often.
She is wide-eyed and surprised when I "find" her.
She thinks I am a Magic Lady.


The kids took more swim lessons over the summer, which was exciting because I got unexpected beer --


The best part of this photo is not the beer
It's the yellow frog pool float in the background
screaming its silent panicked frog scream

Our swim teacher holds swim lessons in private backyard pools all over the city.  There aren't many private pools in Seattle so you usually end up in the backyard of a very wealthy person. This particular wealthy person was the first we've encountered to offer beer to the parents.  In his world, swim lesson time = party time.

In other big news, Alex is now an American citizen. 


Rejoice, Americans, he's all ours.


The U.S. Naturalization ceremony is solemn and emotional because there are newly naturalized Americans crying all over the place.  Many people fight hard to get here and stay here. To them, the day they become a United States citizen is the culmination of a long-pursued dream.  It's beautiful to witness.

But to our family, it's more a technicality than a life-changing event. Alex has lived and worked here legally for over 15 years.  The official American status wasn't going to change much in our daily lives.  Plus Alex is Canadian, which is already like being American only less aggressive.

Our more relaxed approach to citizenship allowed us to sit back and embrace the humor of the event. Alex raised his eyebrows at me when part of the pledge asked the new Americans to renounce their allegiance to "foreign princes."  We also made the newbies promise to take up arms and fight for their new country if necessary.  I enjoyed picturing the 92-year old Ukrainian woman, who could not stand without the help of an aide, holding a machine gun.  Maybe she can at least toss a grenade or two.

U.S.A.!  U.S.A.!


That's Alex, second row back near the column,
pissing off Canadian Princes by renouncing them

We had an AMERICA! themed dinner celebration that night with some friends.  They brought Alex American-themed presents like a pair of American flag flip-flops and a six-pack of Bud Light.  We grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, made mac-n-cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, potato salad, apple pie.  I even suspended fruit in jello -- that's being a true American -- and sent everyone home with a Hostess Ding Dong party favor.

Welcome to my country, Alex.  Our food is not healthy but our hearts are full of love.




Alex and I spent a weekend solo in Portland for the MusicFest Northwest music festival.  Portland is lovable in a pretentious hipster kind of way. One young woman brought a bag of knitting to The Helio Sequence show and knit through the entire set.  Another woman seated next to me at the Beirut show wore a prairie style dress complete with casually askew tied bonnet.

One woman stopped me as I walked past to tell me she loved the fabric of my shorts.  I said "thanks" and she said, "Did you make them?" I replied "Nope, I can't sew, I bought them" and immediately lost her respect.  Her mouth turned down a little and she turned away from me without another word. Only in Portland is the default -- and the preferable -- that you made your clothes instead of buying them.

The next time someone told me they loved my shorts (they are unarguably amazing shorts with a teal and orange Birds of Paradise pattern) I didn't wait for her to ask, just immediately said I made them.  The woman brightened and said, "Well yeah, sure, right on."  I'm a fast learner, you see.


I also told them I wove my own hat
out of vegan straw
on a loom used by my great grandmother
who was gluten-free before it was cool
and was a fan of that one band before they went mainstream


I convinced Alex to stand in front of the stage for over an hour to secure a front row position for The Tallest Man on Earth.  It was Alex's first time in "The Front" at a music festival and he soon discovered how tense it can be as people jockeyed and jostled into position.  People were so nasty standing in front of that stage, I'm starting to think the "making-your-own-clothes" and coy Laura Ingalls get-ups are brilliant covers for how brutal those Portland people truly are.

Alex, despite his claustrophobia and general disinterest in music festivals, was a trooper.  He held his ground and we threw elbows together, beating rabid Portlanders back until The Tallest Man on Earth took the stage.  We were so close to him we could look straight up his nose.  He played the best set of the weekend so it was worth the hassle and general snottiness of our fellow concert goers.


Speaking of rabid and out of control people, our annual "last hurrah of summer " weekend happened again on Guemes Island with the usual suspects.  We were 20 people in all, tents pitched on the beachfront lawn of a friend's property, refrigerator stocked, coolers full.  We were all set for relaxation and easy living. Nature, however, had other plans.

Our annual hike up Mount Guemes began nicely enough.  We saw the dark clouds approaching when we reached the top -- word on the island was a windstorm was headed our way -- so began our descent very soon after our ascent.


that sky looks all kinds of pissed off

Almost immediately, the trees towering above began swaying like drunkards on a dance floor.  The sounds of creaking wood and breaking branches from a hundred feet up are not welcome when you're on a heavily forested trail, trust it.

I was hustling down the trail with Seattle Mom and Seattle Mom 2 when we heard a loud *crack* overhead.  Seattle Mom and I took a leap backwards, Seattle Mom 2 a leap forwards just in time -- a large branch from way up yonder crashed onto the path between us.  We stood in shocked silence for a beat until Seattle Mom yelled "Let's get the f*ck out of here" and we began to run.

Our group had spread out on the mile-long path on the way down.  No one knew for certain where their kids were, or where anyone was for that matter.  We just yelled through the forest to MOVE IT, PEOPLE, MOVE IT and hoped like hell everyone hustled.  The relief was palpable when the last kid, the last Dad, the last Mom tumbled out of the forest onto the road below.  We were still in danger but at least we were in danger all huddled together in one big wide-eyed group.

We funneled everyone into cars and took off for our cabin.  We didn't make it more than a couple hundred feet before we encountered a giant tree down across the road.  We then gunned our caravan of cars in the opposite direction and sh*t -- another tree down, this time lying on what appeared to be a power line.

It's interesting to see how people you love respond in a crisis.  Some get anxious and frantic, some get quiet and focused, some get deer-in-the-headlights, some rock themselves quietly in corners and talk to themselves, some get pissed off, some decide it's hilarious and an opportunity to party (I'm looking at you there, Seattle Dad).

No matter our instinctive reactions, we all pulled our sh*t together enough to convince the kids "everything's fine! So fun and exciting!" and eventually made it around the downed tree on the power line (some locals coming from the other direction threw rocks at it, touched it, licked it, whatever their machismo directed them to do to determine there was no power, then nudged the tree slightly out of the way with their pick-up truck) only to get stuck farther down the road by yet another big downed tree.

We surrendered and decided to park on the road near the water -- no trees, for the love of god, no trees -- to wait for help to arrive.  It was a relief to be away from those wildly swaying death bombs but only slightly more relaxing to be fully exposed to the windstorm.  It rocked our cars hard; I passed the time trying to guess which friend would tip over first.


I'm betting on you, Seattle Dad

One Mom stayed back at camp that morning because she wasn't feeling well.  She wanted a nice quiet leisurely morning, a hot shower, a nap in an attempt to cure herself of her ills. WELL TOO BAD, SEATTLE MOM.

We instead got text after text from her saying our tents had collapsed and were blowing down the beach and she was trying her best to keep them in the area by throwing lawn chairs on top of them. The situation was dire and she was in need of backup.  We explained the tree situation, told her to do her best, that we understood if she couldn't save everything, and mentally prepared ourselves for the loss of all our stuff.


She sent this photo and said, "Guys, this is happening right now!"
And we were like, "that is actually kind of hilarious."

Eventually the island emergency crews arrived with chainsaws and bulldozers and got to work on the trees.  Our tents were no longer where we left them when we got back to camp but they hadn't wandered too far away. Our family's tent had blown into a thorny bush. The resulting bent poles and giant holes ripped in the sides rendered it useless forevermore but at least we were reunited with the stuff inside.  We thought we'd lost you forever, favorite camping lantern.

The brutal winds continued for hours. We dragged the remains of the tents into the garage.



(Fun fact: Al, Lucien, Coco and I slept on top of all that stuff in the garage that night.  
There was nowhere else for us to go.)


Then we sat on the back porch of the cottage, drank margaritas, hugged each other and watched a speedboat anchored offshore capsize.  You can't take your eyes off a capsizing boat, it's pathetic yet majestic as it tips bow-up, then slides slowly down into the water.

The winds eventually died down.  The sunset was amazing.  We were happy to be together.



All 20 concur; this was not our most relaxing weekend together.  
But it was perhaps one of the more memorable. 



We'll see you next year, Guemes Island.  
Please don't pull that crap again.


I forgot to mention something earlier about Alex's swearing-in naturalization ceremony day.  Coco went to a Jump Start program for Kindergarten that morning so couldn't attend the ceremony with us. Alex kissed her goodbye as she headed out the door and said, "Good luck at Jump Start, Coco" and she replied, solemnly, both hands on his shoulders, "Good luck being American, Daddy".



Speaking of which...
I'm sorry I ate one of your American Flag flip-flops, Human Dad.
I'm glad you can't see me.
OH MY GOSH, SHE FOUND ME AGAIN HOW DOES SHE DO IT


Neverending summer has finally ended,
MJ