Thursday, May 17, 2018

Awesome or scary

Lucien just walked up to me and said, "Hey Mom, I think "Ukraine" sounds like a do-it-yourself crane company, kind of like U-Haul, only no hauling and with cranes....." and then he walked off to continue thinking deep thoughts. I'll be damned if he isn't right. Why did I never think of that before.

The Loosh has also become interested in horror movies recently, a development that could possibly be genetic. I grew up on horror movies. It wasn't exactly my choice, my family just likes them, my brother especially. It may not be normal to grow up with The Shining and The Amityville Horror playing on the regular in your TV room but I must say, it's raised me to anticipate many of life's terrifying calamities, like serial killers and vengeful demons and zombies and killer clowns.

I am just now considering that watching many horror movies as a young person may be a root cause of my terrible adult anxiety. Sorry in advance, son.

I started Lucien on the classics, primarily Hitchcock films. Our first foray into mother-son horror movie nights (while Alex dangled shiny objects in front of Coco in another room because she was pissed off not to be invited to scary movie night) began with The Birds. An hour into the film, Lucien turned to me and yelled, "Mom, WHERE ARE THE GODDAMN BIRDS?" He's got a real potty mouth these days, that one, but I have to agree classic horror movies move agonizingly slow by today's jump scare standards. There were no birds for a long, long time. Then there were lots of birds. Then it was over.

I also took The Loosh to see A Quiet Place in the theater that weekend (as Alex grew increasingly frazzled trying to entertain an increasingly pissed off younger sibling who doesn't like to be left out of anything, ever) and we both agreed that movie is pretty perfect. We've also watched Get Out. Lucien quickly picked up on the racial themes of that movie but I wasn't surprised. He's pretty socially aware, is the kid who said about his sister's Barbie TV show, "You shouldn't be watching this, it's pretty much the complete dismantling of feminism" and Coco responded, "It's not up to boys to decide what is and isn't OK for girls to watch" and I like them both so, so much.



The Fremont troll clutches a VW Bug in one hand and a child in the other.


In keeping with our current family horror theme, we did a "murder mystery dinner" at a friend's house recently. We were all assigned characters beforehand and had to come dressed as our character. My character was a jazz singer/contract killer in 1930s Chicago. Alex was a golfer who wore argyle socks pulled up to his knees. We arrived to many other festively dressed friends and immediately got down to business determining which of us was a cold blooded killer.

I am not an auditory learner so all the information sprung on us in the beginning of the evening did not seep into my consciousness even a little bit. It just went in one ear and out the other, no way I'm keeping all those dates and train schedules and relationship triangles straight. I spent most of the evening whispering to "Silky," the mysterious brothel owner and bootlegger to my right, "What the hell is going on?"

During the course of murder mystery evenings, you have to ask many questions of other players to uncover the killer. You also must ad-lib when people ask you information about yourself you do not want to reveal. I am not great at thinking on the fly, which is why, when asked where I went all those nights I left my jazz singing job early (I was out killing people with my Tommy Gun) I replied, "My mom has been very sick. With leprosy. She has only two toes left" and when asked how I made all my extra money to afford my extravagant evening gowns, I said I sang at birthday parties and bar mitzvahs, picked up the odd babysitting job, and mowed lawns.

As the night went on and I lost the plot more and more, I would usually answer, "I dunno" and occupy myself with errant threads on my dress. I now know I am not good at these kinds of games and bow in respect to friends who were able to weave believable responses on the fly. Though I now suspect they are always lying to me in our daily lives.


In big summer news, this year I will cross an item off my bucket list. To anyone who's met me or read much of this blog, they know I'm a roadtrip enthusiast. I love crafting roadtrip itineraries, the bigger the better. We've done many through the Western United States, one through Costa Rica, and our most recent was through Mexico.

Those were easy trips compared to the most recent endeavor. This year we're doing the granddaddy of them all, the Holy Grail roadtrip for RV owners, the one that makes people hesitate slightly before responding "I don't know if that's awesome or scary" upon hearing our plans. (The answer is "both.")


We are driving to ALASKA.
(the real Alaska, not Roslyn, WA)

This will be my finest success if everything goes well, and my worst failure if we get a flat tire in the middle of the Yukon with nobody around for a hundred miles.

Alex and I have been busy prepping the Winnie B for the trip and unfortunately discovered we have a water leak behind one of the walls. It's likely a cracked pipe, a vexing result of our disastrous frozen winter camping attempt at Sun Peaks back in February. We're scrambling to get it fixed before our planned departure date at the end of June but RV service places are jam packed with people itching to ready their rigs for summer trips. If we can't get it fixed in time... well I'm going to need to process it at length if this trip has to be cancelled.

We are crossing our fingers and moving ahead with plans. I've prepped the children for the Alaskan wilderness adventure by showing them Into The Wild and Grizzly Man. They are now very scared to get anywhere near a car with me at the steering wheel.


And Coco has been dressed as a hot dog for two days.

Yukon. U-kon.
U-con.
It's a do-it-yourself company for murder mystery dinner parties.
MJ

Friday, May 4, 2018

Northern Exposure

We spent a long weekend at Suncadia with friends at the tail end of Spring Break. One of those friends put the wrong kind of soap in the dishwasher, squirted liquid dish soap into it instead of the stuff made for machines. Our friends are a smart and savvy group of people but when we all get together, it gets kind of chaotic and we're often just trying to get through the day without somebody ending up in the ER. "Details" often become "details schmetails."


Here come the happy little bubbles
escaping out the bottom
while we all stand around staring at it.



The adults said "shit" but the kids said "cool."

My search history for our time in Suncadia reads as follows on my iPhone: "wrong soap in dishwasher" followed by "squawking sound coming from refrigerator" followed by "what is Supertramp's greatest hit" and that is a surprisingly good summary of the weekend.

Suncadia is a resort community outside Roslyn, Washington. Roslyn is a textbook "sleepy town" whose claim to fame is being the filming location for the '90s TV show Northern Exposure. The show is supposed to take place in Alaska but that was a TV falsehood, it is downright Washington around here.


There are no moose in Roslyn. The famous shot of the moose in the Northern Exposure opening credits was created, so we're told, by "borrowing" a moose, building a fence around the entire town, and letting the moose wander around. And wander he did, straight past The Roslyn Cafe at one point, a business that still exists, which straight up told the audience they weren't looking at Alaska.

Our group took a few hikes together during our days in Suncadia/Roslyn, including this one where we went offroad and walked 'round and 'round in the forest somewhat disoriented, joking nervously about how no one had come prepared with backpacks, bottles of water, food, that kind of basic hiking survival stuff --


What are we even doing? 
Buncha city people
 wandering around with no trail and no water.

Again, details schmetails. We had been grateful just to get everyone out the door and into cars and accounted for at the trailhead.

It's no joking matter with these people, really, we should have been better prepared. These are the same people with whom we have weathered intense windstorms, terrible injuries and disgusting hot tub rashes. We should be careful when we're together. There is something about the energy we put out into the universe that makes the universe want to do things to us.


Looking at this pic, who can blame it?
We're just begging to be taken down a peg.



It's like The Beatles crossing Abbey Road but more Twilight-y.

Since our older kids are capable babysitters now, we left the mess of kids (or is it a tangle of kids?) at the house with some mac-n-cheese and went out for grown-up dinner in Roslyn.

We went to the town tavern, The Brick, after dinner to play some shuffleboard. The Brick is rumored to be the oldest operating tavern in our state, established in 1889, but we were more impressed with the unabashedly phallic sign out front.


well hello there, fella.

The Brick has a "running water spittoon" still operating in front of the bar stools --


These water-filled floor troughs were originally installed for tobacco spit but soon enough men began using them to relieve themselves pee-wise so they didn't have to get up from their stools. I think it was a wise decision the TV people focused on the moose and left out the piss trough for the Northern Exposure opening credits.


I wonder what gross secondary use they devised for the shuffleboard.
Likely butt exfoliation.

Alex went back to Mexico City for work soon after our Suncadia trip. I took the kids to another area of Washington while he was away, the northern part, where tulip fields bloom like Holland in the Spring. It's quite a draw for the people of our state -- such a draw, in fact, the kids and I had to wait in a car line for over an hour just to pull into the parking lot from the main road We all agreed it was good Alex wasn't with us at that point; he would have lost his damn mind because the man has no patience for sitting still.


The tulip fields are gorgeous, like paintings come to life plus hundreds of tourists. I tried to take nice pictures of my children but they soon made it clear I'm never going to have a normal picture of them ever again.




...for the love of god, children.

Sometimes I would think I had a good one of both of them smiling at the camera only to zoom in and realize Lucien was giving me the middle finger. I am really enjoying the age of 12.


whoomp, there it is.


Unabashedly Phallic would be a good name for a band.
Seems fitting for heavy metal,
but would be funnier for a classical string quartet.
MJ

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A thin layer of drywall dust



There is a thin layer of drywall dust in this house. There is a thin layer of drywall dust on the kitchen counters even though the kitchen is a full floor away from where the drywall is happening. There is a thin layer of drywall dust in our linen closet even with a tightly closed door. There is probably a thin layer of drywall dust up on the roof of the house. There is a thin layer of drywall dust on my soul.

Most impossibly, there is a thin layer of drywall dust in the TV room even though Natani, the crazy desert dog, is always running around in there like a goddamn maniac so makes the settling of dust very difficult. She excels at constant breeze-making.


I think my dog broke.

She sleeps like this sometimes.
She is one crazy goddamn dog.

If it sounds like I'm complaining about the drywall dust, rest assured it is the opposite. This is my happiest of places, fixing up spaces very much in need of fixing up. If I had all the money in the world, I would buy all the houses and fix up all the rooms. I would live with a perpetual thin layer of drywall dust on my clothing and in between my teeth but I would happily show it off by twirling in circles to watch it fly and smiling with a wide open mouth.

Banister Abbey is a labor of love and six years in, we are still laboring. Most of the big decisions have been made for the master bath project and it's going to be a beauty. I am happy with the direction it is taking -- even happier I found a general contractor who doesn't mind I'm sitting on a stool next to him munching popcorn in anticipation while watching the spreading of mortar and the installation of waterproof membranes. It's a vision coming to life before my eyes, with perhaps a few unplanned popcorn kernels embedded in the grout.

I'm going to call my contractor "Peter Gabriel" because I'm listening to one of my favorite Peter Gabriel songs on KEXP right now. He's a keeper, that Peter Gabriel contractor. I've worked with many and he's the only one I would invite to Christmas dinner with my family -- and he would probably get most of the presents under the tree. He is a gentle soul with a keen eye for detail and an impeccable ability to keep it all moving along cheerfully no matter how complicated the project.

The only issue I have with Peter Gabriel is he smiles all the time. He may be delivering bad news but he's smiling and cheerful so at first I'm not sure what's going on. Wait... the electrical inspector won't approve the light fixture I love so much, the one I based the entire bathroom design around, because it's not 500 miles away from the nearest water source? That's bad news, right? But you're smiling so widely, is that actually happy news? I never know when he approaches me smiling if he's about to make my day, break my heart, or just ask me the time.

I am now fixating on the third floor bathroom. We're adding one for guests who stay up there so they don't have to walk through the kids' rooms to access a toilet in the middle of the night. It used to be that, at whatever time, guests had to walk down these steep stairs where my favorite print hangs, the dapper dudes dueling with Nintendo guns --


-- and choose which kid to wake up to use the jack-n-jill bathroom between their rooms --


Choose your door wisely.
Choosing the door means means choosing the kid
who scowls at you the next morning over breakfast
and loves you slightly less.

Third floor needed at least a toilet and a sink. The only option was the long skinny closet that houses the furnace. We can't move the furnace and can't block or cover it for air circulation purposes. We're putting a toilet in there anyway.


That's the furnace lurking
inside the bathroom/closet.

I'm considering embracing the industrial aspect of the space and making it a furnace themed bathroom. Everything gray and white, toilet made out of pipes, super hot at all times. Peter Gabriel Contractor joked he'll bring old sections of pipe and we can suspend them from the ceiling with fishing wire. Anything goes in a furnace bathroom.

I'll finish this post with some Bobo. Bobo the bearded dragon is slowing down. He's lived a happy 12 years, 4 of them with us (still Lucien's favorite birthday present ever and a happy memory, especially the escaped crickets) and that's getting close to all you can expect from a pet beardie. He doesn't move very fast anymore, and sometimes misses the dinner crickets hopping around his tank. He can't climb all the way up his log anymore either, instead sleeps like this, with his little dangly arms down at his sides --



We often assume he's died during the night when we wake up and he looks like this. We approach his tank reverently, holding hands and speaking in hushed voices. As we all cluster around, staring down at him with affection and beginning our eulogies, he wakes with a start and his eyes get super wide and he's like, "GAH!"


And then we're like, "GAH!"
And he's like "OMG!"


And we're like, "YOU'RE ALIVE!"
And he's like, "OF COURSE I AM."


Then we feel happy and walk away as Bobo's eyes go back to normal size and his body relaxes a bit. You can tell he's thinking, "Jesus, there's something wrong with these people."


Sorry, dude. Live on, majestic lizard. 


Insult to injury,
there is also a thin layer of drywall dust on Bobo.
MJ

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Whistler and the magic meatball

Lucien and I bought the game Monopoly while out running errands not long ago. It was an impulse buy -- a fit of nostalgia for me and a desire for world economic domination for him. We have since played it several times, none of the games ever ending and all of them becoming increasingly more frustrating as time plods on. The threats get ugly as we get worn down and crabby after hours of play, threats like, "If you put one more house on that property, I swear to God I'm going to eat a pickle then breathe in your face." (That one was from me. My kids hate pickles.)

I had Coco backed into a corner during one game. I owned 75% of the properties and she was running low on cash but she just kept squeaking by with a determined look on her face for approximately seven more hours until I was so sick of Monopoly, I told her she won on account of her grit and stamina. Now she thinks she's some kind of Monopoly whiz kid. I'd take her down a peg by demanding a rematch but I don't have thirteen more hours to spend playing that stupid game.

We're in the middle of the kids' Spring Breaks and just returned from a week up at Whistler outside Vancouver in beautiful British Columbia. We fell in love with Whistler and briefly dreamed of owning a slopeside condo there until we did a real estate search and discovered even the most basic of slopeside condos run about 1.7 million dollars. A short lived dream indeed, but lovely while it lasted.


Dang, Whistler. 
Well done on the view situation.

Skiing is the weirdest thing. You spend more time sitting on a chairlift than actually skiing, and the equipment is annoyingly cumbersome and unwieldy. Walking in ski boots is one of the least graceful things a person can do. It's a clomp clomp clomp robot walk. Clomp clomp clomp fills the air at a ski resort, people clomp clomp clomping all over the place as if it was a normal thing to do. God forbid you need to go down any stairs -- then you're suddenly sidestepping with a jerky heel/toe like the least graceful dancer descending the grand staircase in the Ziegfeld Follies.

When the awkward walking and the clomp clomp is over, though, a transformation! As soon as you strap on skis, you become the lightest thing on the planet, gliding across the snow and swooping down the slope like a bird. Unless you're like me, then you're swooping around more like a cow. I don't mean I'm big like a cow, more that I'm a bit derpy and people like to push me over when I'm sleeping. 

What? I just wanted to say I can ski but I'm not super graceful on skis. The metaphor went rogue up there. 

There is a gondola at Whistler called the Peak 2 Peak, which joins the two neighbor mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb. The Peak 2 Peak is a Guinness World Record holder for both "highest gondola" and "gondola with the longest span between support poles." I don't think there should be an award for a gondola having fewer support poles. I also think the Peak 2 Peak should be renamed the Shit 2 Pants.


I distracted myself from my fear by taking pictures of my family members, who were also feeling slightly uneasy. Anyone who isn't feeling uneasy dangling from a cable way up there with no support poles is a prime candidate for a Darwin award.



Coco took this picture of us at lunch at an Irish pub.
We agree it's one of the stranger pictures we've taken.

We embarrassed Lucien our final afternoon in Whistler as we sat in the Crystal Hut at the top of the mountain eating waffles. "Don't Stop Believing" came on the sound system and that's me and Al's jam. We busted our best moves - we sang into air microphones, we played air guitar, we danced the best we could in a crowded cabin surrounded by people eating waffles. In his younger years he would have joined us but Lucien is now at the age where he embarrasses easily. He turned red, slunk down in his chair and said through clenched teeth, "You guys.... everybody..... is...... watching." I feel it's payback for all the times in Paris Lucien made me the center of attention when I most definitely did not want to be. That kid was crazy!


The kids running towards dinner in the village.
Our slopeside condo is there to the left. 
It was a brief, intoxicating, 
very expensive dream.


On our final run down the mountain, the finale of our glorious 2017-2018 ski season, we made a wrong turn and ended up on a run with moguls, a.k.a bumpy enemies. Moguls are like small snow mountains on all sides of you, some so tall you can just barely make out the top of Coco's blond head a few bumps over. They take a certain style of skiing to navigate, a style I've never gotten the hang of, one that requires very bouncy knees and very sharp turns to ski between the bumps. We decided we were going to take the moguls one by one, one turn at a time, slowly, and would get down the hill cautiously and together. 

Coco didn't quite get that memo and just took off straight down, bouncing up and down over the moguls with a dududududud. Her tiny person bounced over the tops of those things with a rattly bounce similar to that of a car driving over many speed bumps in a row at full speed. We were briefly concerned for her safety until the hilarity hit us, she looked so funny, and then we were laughing too hard to see her anymore. Coco bouncing over those things like an out of control rag doll was one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. Lucien laughed so hard he fell over, which is a totally normal thing to do in moguls so he didn't stand out too much. We, the parents, pointing and laughing at our child hurtling towards possible grievous bodily injury may have stood out a little more.

But nobody knows Coco like we know Coco. Coco's strong as hell and Coco's a beast. She made it through the mogul minefield upright, finally falling towards the bottom in a soft non-catastophic fall where she sat and laughed at herself until we'd caught up to her, all of us incredulous she had made it down the run in the most unconventional of mogul skiing ways.


She will shock the hell out of future Olympics
with her trademark mogul style

It was raining hard our final day in Whistler (Spring skiing = weather crapshoot) so we skipped the skiing and looked for indoor fun. The best option was determined to be Escape Whistler, an escape room experience. An escape room is where you get locked in a small room for an hour and the whole room is a giant puzzle. You follow clues and solve riddles and break codes until you either free yourself from the room or fail miserably and must live forever in great shame. 

Given I'm a moderate claustrophobe, it might seem a strange thing for me to agree to do. My family thought so. Lucien joked on the way there that I was going to last five seconds inside the room before I freaked out, crashed through the door leaving a Mom-shaped hole as I yelled "See ya later, suckas!" and disappeared towards the horizon. I must admit I also thought that was the way it was gonna go down.

Our escape room scenario was a ski cabin buried by an avalanche. The production value was high in our tiny room with authentic log cabin walls, rumbling snow sound effects and a crackly fake fire in a potbelly stove. I did not freak out inside the room; it was actually kind of cozy to be in a little cabin full of ski equipment, of which I am very fond despite their cumbersome nature. It was like being surrounded by little old clomp clomp friends.

Coziness aside, that escape room was the hardest damn thing. Alex and I are not really puzzle people. I do not enjoy code breaking and have absolutely no patience for riddles. If someone presents me with a riddle, I am likely to say immediately, "I don't know, just tell me the answer, I'm not getting any younger here." 

We were so confused in that room, we kind of just wandered around and bumped into each other. We had to ask for many clues via walkie-talkie to the staff outside. At one point, we veered so solidly off reality's course, we decided we were supposed to pry off a couple of those authentic log cabin wall pieces using a wrench we'd found in a suitcase. To our credit, we checked with the walkie-talkie people before we began destroying the room. "Are we supposed to pry the boards off the wall?" The reply came quickly and a little panicked, "No, no, please don't do that." 

Keeping everyone on their toes, that's just what we do.

We didn't even come close to "escaping." If the escape room had been a marathon, we maybe made it to mile 7. And that's being generous. The staff reassured our bummed out family that we were not stupid, that in fact the "Buried Cabin" was one of the two hardest rooms they had, with only a 20% success rate. I wish we would have known that earlier. We might have chosen the "abducted by pirates" scenario instead, the beginner level room with a 90% success rate. We probably still would have considered ripping the walls apart, though. 

Bye, Whistler. We loved everything about you except for the Shit 2 Pants gondola. That thing is insane.



In closing, a technology story. Alex is a big fan of the Amazon Echo device, nicknamed "Alexa." We have several Echos around the house. We have one in the kitchen, one in the TV room, and one in the master bedroom. This is too many Alexas, in my opinion.

I hate Alexa. I do not find Alexa helpful. Every time I try to ask her something, she usually tells me she doesn't understand me or she can't help me with that information. I mean come on, Alexa, how hard is it to tell me how many nickles it would take to fill a human stomach? (Lucien had a unit on measurement for homework and we got weird with it.)

Alex sometimes uses his Echo device to search for movies for us to watch at night. He asked Alexa for information on I, Tonya and instead of giving us info about the movie, Alexa said, "OK. Here is your short bedtime story about the magic meatball" and began reading to us from some whacked out kids book. I laughed and laughed but Alex just looked annoyed. He always takes it personally when Alexa lets him down.

Ever since that night, as Alex talks to Alexa in our bedroom about setting his alarm for the A.M., I yell behind him, "Hey Alexa, tell me more about that magic meatball" and I'll be damned if Alex still doesn't look annoyed. Come to my side, man, it's so fun to hate that thing.

See ya later, suckas.
*Mom-shaped hole in the door*
MJ

Friday, March 30, 2018

Small Shiny Witch

I'm here giving the "short-n-sweet" blog post a try. This likely means I'll still be working on it two weeks from now and it will be the size of the Encyclopedia Britannica A-Z upon completion. I am what I am.

Lucien is nearing the end of an intense two week tiny home building seminar at school. The kids are building a tiny home and examining whether or not tiny homes are an effective part of the solution for homelessness. When they're not actively working on the tiny home, they're meeting with homeless shelter directors and handing out warm socks to the homeless on downtown streets. I love that he's engaged, interested, and thinking about big complex issues for which there are no easy answers. That's daily life as an adult, kid, might as well practice now.

What I haven't loved about these tiny home building weeks is Lucien's refusal to wear a jacket. Even on the coldest, rainiest days, The Loosh slips into his Converse sneakers, pulls on a thin-ish hoodie over his favorite jeans with giant holes in the knees and calls it good. It offends every shred of maternal instinct I possess. When I attempt to tackle him in the front hallway with a jacket -- "at least wear this, it's raining and you're building a tiny home outside, you fool!" -- he ducks and weaves away from that jacket as if it was made of vegetables.

It seemed a losing battle. Then I received an emailed picture of the tiny home building team from Lucien's teacher. I couldn't find Lucien at first but soon enough deduced he was the one wearing a garbage bag. His teacher, fed up with a cold and sopping wet Lucien day after day, cut arm holes in a garbage bag, made another hole for his head to poke through, and cut a second garbage bag into the shape of a pointy hat. The Loosh looked like a small shiny witch, or perhaps a glossy black Crayola crayon. All I could see of his person were his little eyes peeking out between the layers of garbage bag. His eyes did not appear to be smiling.

The very next morning, Lucien put on a jacket without being asked. And that's why we pay the big bucks for private school.

Moving on from kids to rats. We've got a rat problem in the basement. It's starting to feel like we will always have a rat problem in the basement because it's an issue that has followed us from house to house for years. Those rats can't get enough of us.

I've worked with a few teams of rodent specialists over the years and they all seem to share a few things in common. They sometimes trail off mid sentence to suddenly dive under your house. They often enthusiastically show you their old raccoon bites. And they get really excited about things not usually considered exciting, like rat poop.

The man I had here last week jumped around and clapped his hands and said, "I'm so excited, I found a bunch of poop!" I think he meant it in the context that he may have discovered a potential entry point into our basement but I don't know.... he seemed awfully happy about just the poop itself.

While I'm talking about being a little different... there's another collective group of folks that are also a little different: the audience at a George Clinton concert. A group of us went to see G.C. perform Saturday night because when presented with the opportunity, one should always go see George Clinton. He's a living legend, innovator of funk music with the P-Funk, always decked out in outlandish outfits and technicolor dreadlocks. He is so much cooler than I will ever be.

I see a lot of live music. It is one of my favorite things to do. I've seen all kinds of shows with all kinds of artists, so trust me as a source when I say no audience compares to the variety found in a George Clinton audience. The people are black and white and the entire rainbow of colors; they are very old and very young and every age in between. Some are drag queens, some are not. Some are dressed like Janis Joplin and some look more like Animal from the Muppets. Many seem lucid but many, many others are possibly still enjoying the hallucinogenics from the early 1970s P-Funk heyday.

The few common denominators between attendees resulted in a fascinating yet distracting experience. I think I spent more time looking around at all the different kinds of people standing around me than I did looking at George Clinton -- and he came out wearing some type of rams head headdress so was quite eye-catching. I didn't see George emerge onto the stage because I was too busy looking at the guy next to me thinking, "Damn, that dude is really rocking the Black Panther meets Willy Wonka look."

There is, however, one commonality between a George Clinton audience and any other audience -- and that is the large number of people being dicks and shoving past you to get closer to the stage. It's the similarity that unifies us all -- losing a touch of our humanity for a chance to get marginally closer to a famous person.

We're off for Spring Break next week. Spring Break isn't as crazy as adults as it was back when we were in college, but it is still highly likely Alex will do a keg stand and enter a wet t-shirt contest. The fact that we are skiing and not on a beach will not deter him in the slightest. Go, Al, go.

May we all get as excited about something this week,
as excited as that guy was about finding rat poop,
MJ

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

NPR and ABBA

I have never heard the words, "I heard about it on NPR" as often as I have in the past few weeks. The all-knowing NPR is everywhere these days. Whether someone mentions Al-Shabaab or a new kind of designer cheese made from socks and quinoa, there's an NPR segment for that.

Besides contemplating the fact NPR could be God, we're ripping Banister Abbey apart again. It's fun to peel away the layers of an old house -- counting the layers of renovation in a house old as Banister Abbey is like counting the rings of a tree to determine how old it is. Judging from what we've seen recently, this house is two layers of plaster and three layers of flooring old.

This old house has come a long way since we moved in almost six years ago. I remember the first day we moved into the crumbly thing, how tiny our kids were and how big our plans were. I remember the way it used to smell -- musty and dampy woody with a touch of fried chicken. I remember the playlists I used to listen to as I scraped paint or stained hardwood. I remember living in holey jeans and sweatshirts for weeks on end and meeting the cast of characters of the neighborhood as I sanded numerous things in the front yard.

(And now I'm reminded of Angel and Dorita and my giant chip-n-dip. I haven't seen Angel and Dorita in years. I hope they're doing just fine and still cracking each other up somewhere.)

Life is once again loud and full of contractors. I've missed the mess. I've missed the design process, and the planning, and the running around town ordering of things. I've missed slightly less the contractors at the door early in the AM before I've tamed my bedhead, and the flat tires that happen when contractors drop nails in the driveway but we've gotta take the bad with the good.

The project this time is the master bathroom. Alex and I have never had a master bathroom. It's been six years of a roughed-in plywood shell. It's looked like this since the day we moved in --



And now, after a few weeks of progress, it looks like this! --


House progress is sometimes so slow it appears to be moving backwards.


Hey, did you know it's possible to spend an entire day looking at sconces? It starts innocently enough with a split second, "I have a minute now to look at some sconces" and then BAM, it's seven hours later, you have 243 tabs open on your laptop, your eyes are crossed, and yet somehow you still don't have any sconces.

While we're tearing things apart, we're also adding a tiny half bath to the third floor (no claustrophes shall pee in there, trust it) and laying some flooring in an unfinished attic space to make room for storage. There will eventually be an access point to the storage from the third floor but for now it's all up and down a ladder.

We sent The Loosh up that ladder into the attic and told him it was going to be his new bedroom. He legit looked nervous until our contractor couldn't keep his poker face anymore and started to laugh. Our softie contractor ruined our fun.



Coco and I took an entire Sunday for a mama/daughter day. Sometimes you just need some one-on-one with the Coco girl. Because she used to be this high and now she's this high.



Our mom/daughter date involved Mamma Mia at the 5th Avenue Theatre. Coco and I have seen the movie together dozens of times, it's one of our favorites, so don't worry, she was not even remotely bothered by the fact Sophie's dad could be any one of three delightful men. Coco is learning at an early age that a woman's sexuality is her own to do with as she pleases -- and that ABBA wrote tunes that infect your brain like a parasite.

At the end of the show, Donna and her friends come out for one final performance of ABBA's greatest hits. This is the time when the entire audience is supposed to jump up and start dancing. We were in the lame balcony and no one stood up so Coco and I took it upon ourselves to get the dancing started. I jumped up and Coco jumped up and we danced and motioned to everyone else to get up and dance and then everyone stood up and danced, hopefully because we were so inspiring but more likely because they couldn't see around us anymore.

The elderly couple sitting next to us, whom I thought were kind of annoyed by us, turned to me at the end of the show. The man touched my arm, motioned at Coco and said, "Your daughter is always going to remember you got up and danced with her like that." He was a little teary-eyed as he said he missed his daughter now she's all grown up with a family of her own in California. And that's how I ended up crying at Mamma Mia and hugging a stranger even while still humming "Waterloo."

(I just turned to Coco and said, "Hey, remember when we got up and danced at Mamma Mia?" and she looked confused and said, "Huh?" Oh well, so much for that.)

We joined some friends for skiing up at Sun Peaks, British Columbia for mid-winter break. We took the Winnie B, which was a big mistake. Sometimes we don't think quite right. If we had taken even five measly minutes to think it over -- SHOULD we take the RV across snowy mountain passes in sub zero weather and camp in a parking lot? -- I think we might have reached a different conclusion. Sometimes we just plow ahead, kind of blindly optimistic, and it's just so dumb.

Winnie B's windshield got a couple dings when semis flew past us and kicked up the gravel on the roads, and her water line froze, which is going to be a costly repair, and it was so cold up in Canada the propane couldn't kick on properly. We woke up at 4:00 a.m. that first night with outside temps approaching -20 degrees Fahrenheit and no heat source.

And yes, it's happened before, the too-cold-for-propane-to-work thing, but we apparently don't like to learn lessons. Alex and I stumbled over each other that night with no heat, looked at each other with wide eyes and just kept repeating, "This is so bad, this is so bad, this is SO BAD."

In moments like those, even though I am a middle aged woman, I feel like a child again. I'm like, "Why did anyone think it was a good idea to put me in charge of ANYTHING? Why am I responsible for LIVES of CHILDREN? This is just a bad idea, people."

We ended up ditching the Winnie B in a remote parking lot and getting a hotel room.


This is where we left her.
It was such a bad idea.

The good news is that even though temps never got higher than 0 degrees Fahrenheit, so stupid cold as to be laughable, the skiing was gorgeous. We took lots of breaks inside and drank lots of coffee and hot chocolate and even though we sometimes couldn't feel our fingers, we loved the place. We're going back someday when it's warmer. Like, a lot warmer.


So cold. So. Cold.



But look at how pretty it is. You are forgiven, Sun Peaks, a million times, you are forgiven --


And to the blog commenter who recently told me to get on with it already, take this here blog off life support by posting shorter posts more frequently, THANK YOU. You hit the nail on the head with needing to take the pressure off myself. I go so long between blog posts now, I get overwhelmed when I think about writing one. There's just too much ground to cover so the result is inaction, then feeling guilty, then rolling up into a ball and grieving my sweet little blog. I don't want my blog to die. We've been through so much together.

I'm going to resurrect this sucker. Writing more frequently but shorter, that's the way back to blog mojo. I heard about it on NPR a couple weeks ago so it must be true.

Seattle Moxie Forever!
MJ

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bumpy Enemies


Have you ever had a day of skiing so bad, you cut the day short after two shockingly miserable runs, then just sat in the lodge with a beer and a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos in your hands, put your head down on the table and laughed incredulously into the void? If not, I will share a bit about how that might go.

The roads were slick up into the mountains on our recent ski day; a big dumping of snow had many people frantic to hit the slopes but in their haste, they instead spun out on Snoqualmie Pass. We, thankfully, did not spin, but that was the last thing to go right.

There were ominous whispers in the wind as Coco tried to put her ski boot on at the car but lost her balance and planted her socked foot directly in a foot of snow. It got worse when we boarded the chairlift and it stopped for a lengthy amount of time while we dangled fifty feet in the air. I fought rising panic when the chair just.... well, it just didn't move, dammit. And then it didn't move some more. And then some more.

I silently and desperately ran through rescue scenarios. How were they going to get us down from all the way up here? Do they have cherry pickers mounted on snow cats at the ready? Were we going to have to bungee? Would we have to jump down onto inflatable bouncy things and if so, how long would it take to inflate those things and wouldn't they just slide down the mountain anyway? Alex cheerfully chatted with the kids to distract them from the fact Mom had suddenly gone silent, wide-eyed and white knuckled. Mom had gone to her unhappy place.

The chair began blessed movement again after nine agonizing minutes of non movement. I began to breathe again, though my relief was short lived. After we dismounted from the chair and started getting PUMPED for skiing, we realized there was no easy way down. We had unknowingly jumped onto a chair that serviced only black runs, which are for experts, and one blue run (intermediate) that was so steep, it is my opinion it should be labeled blackish-blue, kind of like the color of a really bad and violently inflicted bruise.

My kids have the skills for the easiest green runs only. They are very much beginners, still skiing without poles and using wide snowplow stances to master their balance. They do not remotely have the skill sets nor confidence to tackle a blackish-blue, especially one with a fresh dumping of snow that was thick, deep, and quickly being shaped into moguls -- a.k.a. bumpy enemies.

Coco said flatly, "No, I am not doing this" as we stared down the steep slope from the top and I said without any confidence in my heart, "You can do it, we'll do it together, one turn at a time, nice and slow." I took one very slow, wide, careful turn in front of her to demonstrate how we were going to get down. She attempted the same, panicked in the middle, picked up speed, and face planted in the snow. And then she was crying and refusing to move any more.

I got a little crabby with her after many minutes of her sitting, crying, and pounding the snow. She was not reacting to my rational, "Coco, you've got to move, we have to get down somehow, we have no choice" and instead just shook her head "no" with her mouth set in a grim line.

I tried teaching her how to sidestep down the slope but the moguls (bumpy enemies) prevented it. I eventually convinced her to stand up and give it another go -- pretty much by threatening to maim all her stuffed animals at home if she didn't move -- but after a couple more turn attempts and a couple more hard falls, Coco was done. She took off her skis in the deep snow and left them in a pile as she stomped down the mountain -- though with the steep pitch she occasionally fell forward onto her chest and slid a few feet. I skied awkwardly behind her, holding her skis in one hand and my poles in the other and staying as close to her as possible to protect her from skiers and snowboarders rocketing down the slope from above. They could anticipate avoiding me, but no one would expect a small angry girl on foot.

It took us 45 minutes to get down that slope, made longer than it needed to be because she stopped every few feet to turn around and yell, "I'M NEVER SKIING AGAIN." My patience stretched to the breaking point and my enjoyment of skiing at a complete standstill, I yelled back, "GREAT, NEITHER AM I!"

Ahhh, making family memories!

Lucien fared better, at least he kept his skis on, and Alex got him down the mountain fairly intact despite a handful of confidence rattling falls. We breathed heavily at the bottom, where we were met by our good friend German Dad and his son, one of Lucien's best friends. We had all eagerly anticipated a day of skiing together the day before but in the moment, we all just kind of looked at each other in horror and wished we'd taken up another winter hobby.

I had to get Coco over to another area of the mountain where we could access some green runs. Everyone else was winded by that first terrible run, too, so decided they would join for a breather and a regroup on easier terrain. Unfortunately, the only way to get to the other part of the mountain was to traverse straight across a couple runs then take off our skis and walk twenty feet uphill to a pass-through.

It was like a little game of Frogger as the six of us skittered straight across the slope between downhill skiers and snowboarders. Then Lucien lost his balance and fell into a deep snowbank where he could not free himself. What a shitshow.

The chairlift for the green runs did not improve our rapidly deteriorating spirits. It was crowded and full of beginners, which is never an efficient nor easy scenario. There were people slipping and sliding everywhere, challenged with keeping their skis under them even when standing still. The woman in front of me in line just suddenly fell over to the side. She was standing there one moment then, with no explanation or seeming disturbance, she was suddenly on the ground. Her three family members standing to her left just turned, looked down at her, and returned to facing forward. They didn't say a word to her.

The woman tried and tried to stand but her skis kept getting jumbled. I leaned forward and helped her get her skis parallel, then told her to plant her pole in the snow and push up from it, and she would pop right up. She didn't pop, instead she slid sideways into her teenage daughter who just looked ticked off and said, "JESUS, MOM!" with an angry face. That poor lady, on the ground, embarrassed, and with total dick kids to boot.

I tried to help her a few more times but finally suggested she just take off her skis, stand up, and put them back on again. And that's what she did. From her face, I could tell she was never going to ski again -- which now made three of us.

The beginner chairlift line was not well managed nor marked so quickly devolved into chaos. It was a two-person chair but often six people shuffled forward shoulder-to-shoulder then all just kind of fought it out at the actual boarding platform. Alex, German Dad, the kids and I ended up far from each other as the mishmash of the line continued to mishmash. Coco and I went up first. As we were whisked away on the chair, I saw Lucien and his friend were about six people behind us, and Alex and German Dad about ten people behind them.

Coco crash landed getting off the chair so I picked her up, brushed her off, and said, "OK, you ready to ski for real? This one will be fun!" I could tell she wasn't convinced because she was crying again.

Halfway down the slope, as I skied behind Coco, I heard a voice yelling my name from up on the chairlift. It was German Dad and he was alone. Why was he alone? He looked as confused as I did.

He yelled down something like, "Hey, MJ, wait for me, I think something went wrong." I yelled back, "Why are you alone? Where's Alex?" and he said, "I don't know." Then I said "Where's your son?"and he said, "I have no idea." Incredible how everyone had gotten lost and separated somewhere between the chairlift and the top of a short beginner hill. "So.....where's Lucien?" I yelled and he said, "I think he got kicked out of the chairlift line."

For fuck's sake, people, skiing is not this hard!!!

I skied down quickly to find Lucien alone and fuming at the bottom. The operator had told him his lift ticket was not valid (it was) so pulled him out of line. Alex was stomping around somewhere demanding to speak to a manager about the ticket situation. German Dad and German Dad's Kid eventually found each other on the green run and made their way down to us. Lucien was so embarrassed and so angry by then, he announced he was done and was going to the lodge to eat a hot dog. I had to admit it sounded pretty good.

The Dads and I literally dragged the kids to the lodge because it involved yet another uphill traverse. We each had a kid hold onto the ends of our poles as we pushed uphill on our skis, pulling kids behind us as if we were well trained sled dogs. We may not have done much skiing that day but we got a really good workout dragging kids all over the place and carrying their equipment down steep slopes and fishing them out of snowbanks.

German Dad was pulling Lucien up that hill when Lucien lost his grip on the ski poles. The Loosh began to slide backwards, to which he yelled with what was intended to be rage, "Oh! and now I'm going backwards! Exactly how I planned!" Then he fell over and while lying in the snow, stuck his fist straight up in the air and yelled, "AWESOME!"

Lucien said all these things in anger but frankly, that's when things started to get funny for us adults. We tucked our chins into our chests and started laughing, that kind of laugh you don't want anyone to see (your very mad kids) but can't keep inside any longer. Sometimes it reaches a point of absolute absurdity and that's when it gets fun again.

German Dad and Alex shuffled off to the chairlift to do a few runs together, trying hard to salvage something from our shitty day, while I secretly giggled my way to a table in the cafeteria. The kids' spirits rose as I promised them hot dogs but plummeted again when we learned there was a water line problem in the cafeteria so there was no food.

I bought 500 bags of junk food of all shapes and sizes and a round of beers for the adults, which were very much appreciated when German Dad and Alex staggered in soaking wet about fifteen minutes later. The snow had turned to heavy drippy snow-rain while they were on the chairlift and Alex's "waterproof" jacket had failed him. He was drenched and shivering and could no longer feel his body. So we sat him on a heater and I bought another round of beers.


I call this one "dazed misery."
(photo courtesy of German Dad)

German Dad began giggling again as we sat across from our grumpy babies and said, "Gosh, this day was so great, I'm having a hard time choosing my favorite part!" The giggles soon overcame us adults, which was especially hard for Alex because his face was frozen. The kids got angry at our laughter, said, "I can't believe you guys are laughing at this right now, we hate you, you ruined our weekend!" We knew we should have kept the laughter on the downlow.


Grumpy babies
but the beer was friendly
(photo by German Dad)

Alex and I decided to turn our day passes into season passes that day. We stood in line at guest services and had our pictures taken on our way out, and we now all have laminated passes permanently affixed to our ski jackets. You may wonder why we did that after our worst day of skiing in recent memory and we certainly wondered why we were doing it in the moment, too.

The short answer is a greater force was compelling us. We are skiers at heart. Skiers strap slippery boards onto their feet and head straight down mountains; they are not a sane nor rational people. Terrible ski days will not keep true skiers away for long. Just don't tell the kids we're going back, and often.



Subject change. Did you know all Amazon boxes are labeled with numbers on the sides designating the size and shape of the box? I didn't know that until my parents picked up a new box number identifying hobby. They know them all and like to call out a box's number from a distance. Once when they were at my house, they said, "Wow, a 1AB, we've never seen that one before." It also tickled them immensely to say, "MJ, you got a 1B4 coming in the mail with Lucien's gift inside."

Lucien received a 1B4 from Colorado because he recently turned 12. Every day he looks more grown up and pushes away from us just a tiny bit more. He's still letting me squeeze him when we're on the couch watching a movie, though, and he still runs his ideas past me and asks my opinions. He's gonna have to find his way without me someday but I secretly wish I could hang onto his ankles and drag along behind him forever. He's always going to be my little dude.


The Loosh is funny, clever and quick-witted beyond his now-12 years. Some of his quips are approaching legendary status in our friend community and are repeated often. He added to his reputation recently when a friend said, "I prefer white rice to brown rice" and Lucien said, "That's rice-ist."

And you should have seen his face when he found out that annual ski pass was one of his presents!

Until next time,
it is likely,
I will continue to ruin my children's weekends.
MJ