Thursday, January 12, 2017

And we can't even drink the water

It's 45 degrees in Mexico City this morning.  Even when considering Mexico City's sky high elevation, nobody expects anywhere in Mexico to be this chilly -- most of all, apparently and unfortunately, me. The wardrobes I packed for the first week before the movers arrive are more "Spring-like" than "Winter in yo face."

Our apartment doesn't have a heating system so the kids and I are currently wearing all pieces from our Spring-like collections at the same time (my light sweater pairs surprisingly well with my other light sweater and my pajama pants work well as a scarf) and are huddling together under blankets.

I understand why central heating is not common in Mexico City.  It's not often needed.  But for those who know this town, can you suggest a place where I might buy a space heater so I can keep my fingers limber enough to type on winter mornings?  I've heard there's a place called "Liverpool" but I couldn't tell if that person was being truthful or just trying to send me to England so I'd leave them alone. (the person was Alex)

We were happy when we walked into the apartment our arrival night, greeted by cheerful Sergio from the relocation company, exhausted from the travel and looking forward to finally being here after a hectic month of planning. The apartment was in the exact location we wanted with an impressive city view several floors above the worst of the street noise. Best of all, there was a pool above us on the penthouse level, which made the kids' eyes bug out of their heads in disbelieving ecstasy.

The issue began the morning after arrival, a slight smell in the kitchen that made Al and I wrinkle our noses at each other. "What's that?  A whiff of sewer with our coffees?" We passed it off as an inevitable consequence of immense city living, the occasional sniff sniff of something unsavory, and moved on.

A handful of hours later, the stench was near unbearable. Our apartment smelled of raw sewage, as if the shit of one million strangers flowed straight through the living room. We escaped, went outside, walked the neighborhood to clear our heads and nostrils and hoped in our stupid way it would clear up on its own by the time we returned.

It didn't. Or more accurately, it did, but then it didn't.  Over the next couple of days it would clear up for a few hours but would return mid-morning, or around dinner time, dashing our hopes to the ground and making our delicious take-out tamales suddenly unappetizing.

I didn't sleep well with the smell.  My middle-of-the-night awake hours were spent Googling things like, "Will poop smell kill you?" and "How much methane gas does it take before your apartment blows up?" We contacted the relocation company, who were apologetic and promised to send a plumber as soon as possible Monday morning.  But Alex and I could not wait until Monday morning; we would not, could not, survive the smell until Monday morning. We had to become plumbers ourselves and fix it by Saturday afternoon or die.

I researched online and announced, "Alex, the issue is dry p-traps." Alex high-fived me, impressed with my plumbing sleuthing skills, and we proceeded to run every sink, shower, flush every toilet, run all the appliances in an attempt to fill those p-traps and bring those water seals back home to mama.

It didn't work. So we spent most of the next day up at the pool where we could relax and pretend our apartment didn't smell like it enjoyed shitting itself on the regular.

Al and I didn't want to move away from the apartment that checked all the right boxes but were coming to the sad realization we had to. We sat in the kitchen later that night and composed a demanding email -- we needed a relocation to our relocation immediately. It was about then I mentioned in an offhand kind of way that all the appliances in the apartment were brand new, even still had stickers on them.

Alex suddenly grabbed my arm (ouch, damn, dude) and said, "Wait! If they're all brand new, maybe they were installed incorrectly?"


We first attacked the dishwasher, pulled it out from the wall. The smell behind the dishwasher was overwhelming, so bad you no longer saw a future for yourself.  We saw it right away; the dishwasher hose had no seal around it. There was a gaping space all around the hose, nothing blocking sewer fumes from coming back up the pipe and stopping in for a quick "hellooo!" before rushing out one of the many windows we'd left cranked wide open.

We un-installed the dishwasher, wrapped the pipe completely in Saran Wrap and secured it with one of my ponytail hair ties. The smell got better but it wasn't gone.  We were onto something but there was another source.

Lucien and Coco walked down the hall to find Al and I on our hands and knees crawling through the apartment sniffing walls and drains.  Lucien asked, "What are you guys doing?" and Alex said, "We are in control of the situation." The kids looked at each other, nodded, then wandered back to their room. They often seem confident we know exactly what we're doing.  If they only knew the full degree to which we are winging this whole thing.

We followed our noses to the brand new washer/dryer.  Same hose-to-pipe gap ratio with no seal. More Saran Wrap, another ponytail tie.

Suddenly, magically, we could breathe again. The goddamn smell was gone.  We collapsed on the ground, rolled around like happy little puppies because air is wonderful and the kids get to keep their pool.

it's the only thing keeping them cheerful about this move

Sergio came by Monday morning with the plumber to correctly re-install the appliances.  I knew they had arrived because the phone thing on the wall started buzzing but I didn't know what to do with the phone thing to allow them admittance.  I froze at first, then after more buzzing I picked it up and said, "Hola! Hola!" in a confident kind of way but nobody responded.

There are several unmarked buttons on the phone thing so I began pushing them, which resulted in multi-toned high-pitched piercing sounds in my eardrums.

tell me your secrets, phone thing

Soon thereafter, Sergio showed up at our apartment's door with the plumber and the doorman (who would not let them in without my permission and was concerned for my wellbeing when all he heard were multi-toned piercing sounds from his own wall phone thing) and Sergio immediately suggested, "How about I teach you how to use the doorman intercom system now?"

These were welcome gifts given to us by our relocation company -- a bag and a sleep mask.
Judging from the messages, 
I think our relocation company is a real whore.
(or it thinks we're real whores?)

This transition is going to be harder on the kids than I imagined.  Lucien has a mostly chin-up attitude but Coco has cried every night since we arrived.  I heard her crying in the middle of the night a few nights ago so got up and padded down to her room. I held her and agreed that moving is hard, and that I missed home, too. I reassured her the transition time is the hardest and it was going to get easier, and promised her Mommy and Daddy wouldn't have done this if we didn't know she'd be OK.

Then I told her to get it all out, give me the entire list of things she hates about the move. Her list was shockingly long for being in the country only a handful of days. She misses her friends, her teacher, her house, her dog, she hates that she doesn't understand anything anyone says, and the city is too loud, and I'm mean to her when we're walking around our neighborhood (cars are crazy here, sorry honey, gotta keep you close) and then, the grand finale, her voice rose to a high pitch indeed and she cried, "AND WE CAN'T EVEN DRINK THE WATER."

I couldn't help it. I started laughing. Coco, after an initial period of indignant shock that her mom was laughing, started laughing too, and then I heard Alex laughing loudly from our bedroom.  It has since become our family's rallying cry.

She ain't even lying.  This was our first purchase as Mexico residents.

Coco woke up crying even harder the next night.  She and Lucien share a room and he was deeply asleep, or so I thought, so I was in a hurry to comfort and quiet her before she woke him.

I whispered, "Coco, baby, you are feeling so sad right now but everything feels harder and lonelier in the middle of the night. I promise things will feel a little better in the morning. Now what's one happy thing we can think about to help us go back to sleep?" and she said, "Nothing, there is nothing, life is completely devoid of joy and I hate you" (she didn't say that but I could read it in her eyes).

I continued. "We had a good time at the pool today and we had a nice lunch at that place where you liked the frijoles and you really enjoyed the carousel at the park today... maybe we can think about one of those things?  What's something that makes you so happy you smile when you think about it?"

There was a beat of silence as Coco thought. She opened her mouth, was about to say something when suddenly Lucien piped up from the other side of the room.... "mah butt cheeks."

Coco laughed so hard I went with it, made her promise that whenever she was down about moving to Mexico-- heck, whenever any of us were down about moving to Mexico -- we were going to think about Lucien's butt cheeks. We agreed that was a good plan of action, even shook on it.

We went to the kids' school two days ago for admissions exams and tours.  They will start school Monday, or maybe not, no idea really, because there are some unanticipated problems that are giving us immense anxiety.  There are also problems with Natani at home; she has become aggressive with our housesitter's dog.  Natani has never been aggressive with any dog, is always the first to flop on her back submissively, so it seems she's having some transition pains of her own.

Sometimes there are so many problems and questions and confusion in a new place, it feels like a weight on your chest and you wonder if you're ever going to breathe normally again, even if your air is now sewage-stink free.

And we can't even drink the water.

....mah butt cheeks,

Saturday, January 7, 2017

I know everything about Mexico now

There comes a moment when you realize you're in over your ex-pat head, that you're about to be more "fish out of water" than "happy." It came surprisingly early for me this time around, much like how your second baby birthing usually goes way faster than your first.

It came this time while sitting in the Denver airport waiting to board our Aeromexico flight to Mexico City. Alex had taken the children to buy junk food so I was left alone for a rare non-distracted minute. That's when I noticed everyone around me was speaking Spanish with great enthusiasm and at seemingly superhuman speed.

I understood nothing; none of them were using the fifty or so basic Spanish words and phrases I know, at least not in ways I could readily understand.  What, none of them needed to say "I like bananas" at that very moment?  I find that hard to believe.

During the flight, our flight attendant spoke only Spanish.  She walked the aisle handing out customs forms at the very moment Alex went to the bathroom so I had to handle the customs forms situation by myself. She tried to hand me just one form so I tried to tell her I needed "mas, mas" and pointed around at, I thought, just Lucien and Coco. Then she said a bunch of stuff I didn't understand so I just nodded, which I tend to do when I'm nervous about a foreign language, and then suddenly I had 100 forms in my lap. I was keeper of all the forms for everybody, everywhere.

Alex returned and said, "what the hell did you do?"  And I said, "Hey, Al, remember this? Ex-pat me is back, baby!"

In that moment, a few truths returned.  Those truths had mellowed and gone soft and rosy around the edges since our return from Paris over five years ago but that familiar, "ohhh dang" feeling brought them back into sharper focus.  This international move isn't going to be all fun and games and glamour and excitement.  It's also going to be hard work and confusion and occasional feelings of "I am absolutely alone in this world."

It ain't my first rodeo and while I'm very happy to be participating in a second rodeo, riding that damn bucking bronco hurts, especially the times you get bucked off and are suddenly on the ground eating mouthfuls of dirt.  It's humbling stuff.

The title of this post is a lie, obviously. I know zero truths about Mexico thus far, only a few anecdotal things such as Carlos is a nice man and our new apartment occasionally smells like raw sewage.

the penthouse pool is incredible but if the plumber can't figure it out,
we're moving soon.
please advise how to break that one to the kids.

But I still know everything I need to know about how it's going to go down in Mexico. I'm going to love parts and hate parts, will have days I'm on top of the world to be here and in love with everything around me and days I wonder incredulously how this country continues to function. Eventually we'll get settled and comfortable, in this case maybe just in time to return to Seattle, and then we'll be sad to be going home so soon.

I will share one thing I absolutely do know as fact so far -- if you come to Mexico City, try to fly in after sunset because flying into Mexico City at night is one of the more jaw-dropping experiences you can have. The city, as the third largest in the world with over 21 million people, just goes on and on forever.  You can't even believe there's no more darkness, only lights and lights and lights.

Coco said it best, her mouth hung wide open as we lowered closer to the ground --"Sh*t, Dad, it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." Alex looked at me pretty firmly then, even though he shared her sentiment.

(I may say "sh*t" occasionally but so does Alex.  It's possible but not proven that one's on me. Thankfully everyone on the flight was still speaking uncomfortably fast Spanish to notice our poor parental modeling.)

I have another post to write soon regarding all sorts of things that have happened since we've arrived. It's mucho mucho stuff and we've only been here a few days.

One of the most important things to know is Lucien and I are trying to learn Spanish together using the Duolingo app. Yo como una manzana. That means I eat an apple; I know that now because I learned the verb "to eat" today.  Right after that, we needed to purchase some clothes hangers so I looked up the Spanish word --"perchas" -- so I could search them online.

I then began following Alex around the apartment saying, "Yo como los perchas."  I thought it was funny, combining my two new words like that, but it drove Alex surprisingly batty. "Why do you keep saying that?? WHY WOULD YOU EAT HANGERS?"  Sometimes that man doesn't understand me.

Bring on the growing pains, we're ready this time, maybe,

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

walk on that suitcase conveyor belt like a treadmill

We left Seattle the day after I had a root canal. I climbed into the Uber on our way to the airport clutching an ice pack to my jaw and bemoaning my once again impeccable timing.

I have always had great ability to make already complicated things things even more complicated. Who else needs an emergency root canal the day before they move to Mexico? Who else has such an oddly abnormally stupidly structured tooth, according to the endodontist, that the procedure was going to take twice as long and recovery was going to be more lengthy and painful than for any other normal person?

If they could harness my immense ability to unintentionally complicate all of the things, I could power the world just by walking around and existing.

The bad news was I was in terrible pain the morning we left for the airport; the good news was I was drugged on Vicodin and Valium so I didn't even flinch when one of our suitcases came in over the accepted weight limit at check-in, which necessitated some shuffling of articles between suitcases.  That's something that usually sends me into panic fits because oh no, what if people waiting in line catch a glimpse of my old pile of undies?  (All those people in line are watching in such a situation and hoping for a glimpse of something embarrassing. Trust me, I know people.)

But this time, thanks to the Vitamin V,  I was more, "consider and enjoy all my underwear, people, I really don't ca -- oh oh oh, hey airline person, can I go back there and walk on that suitcase conveyor belt thing like a treadmill?  Because looks like wheeee..."

The movers came to pack our Mexico-bound belongings the same day I had the root canal. They were so friendly and kind as they carefully wrapped our clothing and computers and recently opened Christmas presents because they could tell I was not feeling well (a heating pad pressed over my entire face was their first clue) and I was once again zoned out on Vicodin so unable to make big decisions.

The movers informed me we still had room in our shipment container after they'd packed everything we'd set aside.  They said, "You still got plenty of room in here, ma'am, anything else you'd like to add?' I stared at them with unfocused eyes and mumbled, "Just take whatever you want."

A few long beats of silence followed as the movers glanced at each other in concern until one said, "Umm, I guess we can fill the space with more of your daughter's stuffed animals?" I gave them a thumbs up, said, "I knew you guys would figure it out" and went to sleep with my head down on the kitchen counter.

Coco, up until the very end, continued to slip festive Christmas cards 
under our bedroom door
voicing her feelings about the situation

Seattle Mom had the sweet idea to have a "graduation" party for Lucien on the last day of school before Winter Break. It was his very last day at his elementary school and he was achingly sad about it.

We invited Lucien's favorite classmates and their parents to Chuck's Hop Shop for his "5th Grade Graduation" party.  They brought graduation gifts and signs and a gigantic graduation balloon that, we hear from our housesitter, is nowhere near ready to deflate. That sucker's gonna be floating around Banister Abbey for a long time, perhaps even waiting for us upon our return.

Chuck's Hop Shop is a beer shop in the neighborhood, which may seem an odd choice for a kid's graduation party but it's really not.  We've held birthday parties there, community meetings there, Lucien had his end-of-year soccer team party there. Chuck's is the neighborhood spot; it has over 50 craft beer taps and a rotating schedule of food trucks in the parking lot plus ice cream cones, bags of chips, Pac-Man and board games for kids.  It's a real crowd pleaser.

It meant so much to him that his besties showed up to celebrate him, and to give him a little closure on elementary school -- and I think we can all agree the tangerine IPA was surprisingly good.

While I'm entering an emotional tailspin with that last tale, I might as well share an email I received on the last day of school from a friend who has a daughter in Lucien's class --

"Hey MJ,

This morning as we left for the airport, here's how it went:

Daughter: Mama! I'm bummed out about our class clown leaving us.
Mom: Class clown?
Daughter: Lucien. There are other funny kids in class, but they're sort of malicious. Lucien's just not. He's just fun. Every morning when teacher takes roll call, it goes:

Molly? Here.
Leo? Here.
Micky? Here.
Lucien? Potato.

Mom: What happens then?

Daughter: The teacher laughs every time. It's a really good way to start the day.

MJ, we'll so miss that potato. Best to you all."

I've since been informed Lucien's class has a plan for the first day back to school after break.  The class is going to wait until roll call is finished, during which Lucien's name will inevitably be skipped, then all yell together at the very end, "Lucien? POTATO!!!"

We went Christmas caroling with our crew before Christmas. We were a big group of over 40 people. We hired a teacher from the nearby music school to come play the piano so we could practice beforehand but the practice didn't matter much. We were awful. Who cares, let's hit the streets!

Freebird! Freebird!

Many people enjoy carolers but more than a handful waved us away with panicked expressions, one even giving a frantic cut-the-throat gesture. One woman said she was Jewish so would feel uncomfortable but when we told her we'd also learned the Dreidel Song for just such a situation, she still wasn't into it.

Another guy, when approached and asked if he would like us to carol for him, said, "No thank you, I really have to go to the bathroom" and shut the door. We tried not to feel offended. I mean, the guy really had to go to the bathroom, right?  No one can fault him for that.

We soldiered on in our somewhat unwelcome neighborhood caroling quest.  We hit Chuck's Hop Shop and caroled for the beer drinkers within and also hit the family-owned corner store where we all buy our six-packs and quirky birthday gifts before we head to each other's homes on a regular basis.

One of those hats hanging on the wall was purchased for me by my friend Rusty 
for my 40th birthday party. 
It said "I heart weed."
I still wear it when I want to get people talking. 

I spent Christmas Eve -- pre-root canal, so in even more excruciating pain than post-root canal -- at Seattle Mom's annual Christmas Eve dinner party with a bag of frozen corn I'd fished out of Seattle Mom and Dad's freezer pressed to my face.  Seattle Mom looked at me, as the corn half-thawed on my face and I grimaced at her with red wine-stained teeth, and said, "Honey, that's your corn now."

Christmas Eve knife wielding

Our Christmas Day was speedy because we had a Mexico move to-do list staring us in the face.  We opened presents as quickly as possible then immediately began dismantling the Christmas tree and tearing down the festive holiday decorations decorating Banister Abbey.

I got Alex a "Man Crate" for Christmas that he had to pry open with a crowbar.
He confirmed; it made him feel very manly.

Our Christmas tree was undecorated and lying by the side of the road by 8:00 a.m. on the 26th.  We must have looked like the worst of the worst Scrooges to the dog walkers who wandered by and saw our sad tree on the curb that morning, discarded nearly immediately after the event it was bred to celebrate.  All our decorations were already boxed and back in closets as well, and we had moved on to pulling our warm weather clothes from the closet and shoving them into boxes in preparation for our next life chapter.

There wasn't much relaxation in Seattle those last couple of weeks, just stress and angst and tooth pain and sad-yet-festive farewell parties and long hugged goodbyes with our dearests. Natani was the worst of the goodbyes for all of us, which was surprising since she makes us batshit crazy on a daily basis.  I guess it's because we know the rest of our people will continue their lives as usual and we'll be in regular contact with them as usual, but there's no question Natani will be posted at our front window daily with a dumbfounded alert kind of "where'd dey go and when dey back? Guys? Guys?"

these two love each other more than anything
their goodbye was awful
we'll be back, sweet crazy dog girl.

We decided to come to Colorado for a week, where we are currently happy and snuggly (and fully recovered from root canals so once again narcotics-free) before making the bigger jump to Mexico City.  It made it more hectic on the Seattle end, the desire to spend a week with my family before leaving the country, but a transition period in beautiful blue sky Colorado was exactly what we needed --

....but it may be too late, minds may be lost for good

Being in Colorado is pure downtime after pure stress.  Now everything's been decided, whatever has been forgotten has been forgotten, our house and animals are in good hands with our superb house/petsitters, and we can say, "Meh, screw it" and go all limpy and soft in the warm Colorado sun while my mom makes my favorite lasagna.

My favorite part of being in Colorado, aside from the beautiful scenery just outside the back door of my parents' house, is watching my mother take half an hour to compose an email.  Things always go wrong for her on computers so she inevitably ends up saying things like, "Well for pete's sake, now everything's suddenly gone bold and it looks like I'm yelling at Bonnie."

I lie in wait to observe moments like that.  They make her who she is, and she is perfect.

I love it here. But the clock is ticking, and our comfortable loving cocoons of both Seattle and Colorado are closing up for now.  It's time to make the next leap.

(dammit, Coco, really?)

See you in Mexico City,

PS.  Before I go for real, a mini ode. Thanks for the daily laughs this week when I needed them badly, Mom and Dad.  You put the truly funny in my attempted funny, and have made me the happy oddball I am today.  You continue to inspire me with your senses of humor, love, mental fortitude, and unwavering cheerful support of all your children and grandchildren.

In the words of my Grandma J, "Well you're just a pleasure to have around...."

I will never look at a Dyson hand dryer
nor count sheep
ever the same again.
A week with them, with their desire to be constantly active, to move, their desire to love everything,
 always changes you for the better.
Hasta luego....

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Adios, Amigos

Look at us, trying so hard to move to Mexico.

If anyone peeks through the windows these days, they'll witness extensive list making. I'm the Hunchback of the Central District, curved over my notepad and computer addressing the myriad of details necessary to get this thing off the ground. You never realize how many details are involved in the daily function of a family home until you have to change them all.

The window peepers would also witness much document scanning. The immigration attorneys need this document, the relocation people need that document, and the school to which we're hoping to gain admittance needs five hundred documents in the next five minutes -- or else adios, amigos.

The only computer in the house that has the proper driver installed for our ancient scanner is my old laptop with the cracked screen.  I tried installing the driver elsewhere and ended up with malware so I gave up and am instead squinting at an old screwed up blinky screen that is doing fascinating things to my eyes.  Now I see blinky blinky everywhere.

In scanning Lucien's file from his current school to send to the school in Mexico, I realize how many head injuries he's sustained so far in his schooling career, most of them incurred on the blacktop of the playground.  It's mind boggling (ha) to see all those head injury reports stacked in one place, all the medical advice over the years such as "keep an eye on him" and "don't let him fall asleep for four days." It's a miracle that kid still knows his own name.

The kids are not thrilled with the Mexico move, though they remain at least partially cheerful and optimistic because that is their natures. I can't blame their reluctance. They are both happy where they are now, each in class with their favorite teachers and surrounded by solid, funny groups of friends they've known since they were all babes. Lucien is especially sad because it means his time at his school ends in less than two weeks; he's a fifth grader now and will be moved on to middle school upon our return.

In truth, for many reasons, this move is a gamble -- and not just because we may get walled into Mexico thanks to Señor Trump --

I'm apprehensive about all the unknowns but am hoping to model an appropriate balance for the kids in their own apprehension; they should know I am also nervous and sad about leaving our familiar, tight-knit community but they will also hopefully learn from me it's OK to take risks and make changes, even when comfort is so damn comforting.

(They can't know exactly how nervous I am, though, because then they'd probably mutiny. I shouldn't have given them those swords for their Halloween costumes.)

I wonder if I sound off balance as I try to address my own conflicted feelings yet remain a strong, reassuring role model: "I'm scared but I'm not scared! Full lives involve risk-taking but agreed, this could be a gigantic mistake! We're gonna make so many new friends from all over the world but I'm definitely gonna cry every day!"

There's also the issue of Natani.  We have a couple responsible and well-liked house/pet sitters willing to take it all on but still, it's not going to be easy to kiss that crazy animal goodbye...

...or maybe it will?  

The desert dog attacking Dad with a viciously wagging tail
during my family's relaxing Thanksgiving holiday in our home.
She just loves so much, she can't hold herself back.

My family was indeed here for Thanksgiving.  My dad is a photographer so set up his nice camera in our front hall to take some long overdue family pictures. 

It's a kiss train with The Loosh wearing his favorite cat t-shirt.
The cat is shooting lightning out of its paws.
The Loosh knows how to Thanksgiving.

Mom said people always have their hands on each other in professionally posed photos so we decided to do that in our post-Thanksgiving photo shoot -- 

I love us.
(Is it just me or does Alex look a little "over" my family?)

Now it's Christmas and what a hectic one it will be.  I hope I remember to buy the kids some presents but honestly, won't they be happier I remembered to cancel The Seattle Times subscription, stocked up on the infrared lightbulbs Bobo needs to stay alive, and managed to get all our prescriptions filled for six plus months after many, many discussions with our insurance company?  Priorities, kids.

We had our Christmas tree delivered by a couple dads and one of their daughters from our school's Christmas tree sale.  They went above and beyond, set it up in my tree stand since Alex is once again down in Mexico, even delivered it alongside a plate of cookies and a quart of eggnog.

These days everything is double edged, every happy thing is also a little sad, so their commitment to us and to our school made me teary, which probably confused them terribly. Transitions blow.  Leaving what you love blows. But it's also exciting and awesome!  Help me.

The near future holds much change; we're hoping to be in Mexico City by the new year, which feels like only a handful of hours away. I'm not sure how long we'll be gone, at least six months, likely a little longer, and we'll be in touch after that.

Oh yes I'll be in touch, blog, in fact may be more present than ever.  If the Paris years taught me anything, it's that I won't know many people down there and will make an ass of myself on the regular.  Much processing, and for me that means writing, will ensue.

Seattle friends, this one's for you -- come playoffs, I may be a very lonely 12th Woman but promise to sport my blue and green every game just like this --

I am going to fit right in as usual

You all still have permission to come into my house, as we've always done in playoffs past, and Rusty, you better sit in your special seat so we win.  Seahawks 4-ever.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The guy on the other side of the door

So that really happened.  Hillary was defeated by a bigoted, rapey can of Fanta.

We watched the election results with a big group of friends.  It began as a supremely festive evening. There were hugs, high fives, some shadow boxing in corners as we got pumped to watch history happen, and to show our children that love wins and civil rights, inclusion, and being qualified for a job matter.

There was a photo booth area
with goofy USA props.
Look at my friend's daughter in her pantsuit.
We were so excited.  

My dad designed and made this sign.
My family is awesome.

Blame it on our Seattle liberal bubble but wow, did we ever believe the wrong thing about our country.  We believed people had seen through him by then, seen him as a con man with an obvious personality disorder, as a shitty businessman who didn't pay his bills and somehow managed to bankrupt casinos. Casinos! Now there's something that's truly rigged, and in favor of the owners.  How do you even screw that up.

We believed people had seen him as a thin-skinned explosive poorly tempered man prone to Twitter fights at 2 a.m. when someone dared criticize him, as someone who openly disparaged women, multiple minority groups, people with disabilities, the families of fallen hero soldiers.... I could go on and on and on, that's the worst part, and so depressing.

We would never elect such an obviously selfish, hateful person with zero knowledge of government to the highest office in the land.  Right?

As results started coming in, it appeared we had done exactly that.  The enthusiasm drained out of the room and a stunned silence settled.  There were several laptops busted out at the dining room table as we tried to find additional information and make sense of what was happening. Every once in awhile, someone who'd done the math piped up to announce which states Hillary still needed to win. The numbers weren't promising.

Then there were heads in hands, a lot of tears, some toasts made to uncertain futures, and heavy heavy drinking.

As we packed up to head home in a state of numb denial and despair, I went to our friends' fridge, scooped a bunch of their beers into my purse and muttered to no one in particular, "I'm gonna need these later."  My friend walked into his kitchen and asked flatly, "MJ, why are you stealing all our beer" to which I replied, "It's a Trump America now, I do what I want, b*tch."  Polite society had devolved just that quickly.  Scary stuff.

Reading the news these days raises my blood pressure to dangerous new highs. To deal with this, I've decided we're in pressing need of a new area rug for our dining room. Instead of constantly refreshing news websites every thirty seconds and trying hard not to hit things, I'm spending those hours perusing area rugs online. We don't really need a new area rug but please, don't tell myself that, I need a break from the rage and the fear.

Ooh, that's a pretty one

Last night I was awakened at 3:30 a.m. by Natani barking downstairs.  Lucien soon appeared in my doorway to tell me he heard the recycling bins being moved outside.  This has happened several times before; it's always a posse of raccoons raiding our garbage and compost cans and being general nuisances.

Natani continued to bark downstairs. I sighed and threw back the covers, told Lucien to go back to bed. I had to get downstairs and quiet Natani before she woke Alex and Coco, too.

As I entered the kitchen, I noticed Natani had added a new sound -- an angry, seething, guttural growl in between her barks.  Something was really, really, really pissing her off.  I gave her a soothing pat, told her to calm down, and pulled aside the curtains that cover the back patio doors to see what had worked her into such a lather.

My heart stopped as I stood face to face with a man on the other side of the glass who was pushing on the door as hard as he could.  He stopped for a second, looked at me, then continued to push on the door.

Adrenaline is an incredible thing.  My fight-or-flight activated and my body said, "fight right now, RIGHT NOW." I lunged towards him, began punching the door frame as hard as I could (fascinating choice, body) and screaming at him to stop, to go away, that there was no way I was letting him break into my house.

As I punched the door, I assumed he would turn and flee but he didn't move.  He stood there, stared at me, then said sadly in a slurred voice from the other side of the door, "Calm down. Why are you so mad at me?" He then resumed pushing on the door, only this time I noticed he was having a hard time keeping his footing.

I calmed down a little, stopped punching the door and realized with some relief he was really not an imminent threat. This was not an armed robber nor serial killer.  This was an eff'd up guy with bleary sad unfocused eyes, obviously under the influence of something powerful and confused as hell as to where he was.

It was about that time I heard a crashing sound come from the staircase.  Alex had taken a sleeping pill much earlier that evening because he had to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a flight.  He had slept deeply through Natani barking and Lucien and I conversing in our room but had been awakened by me screaming at someone to go away downstairs.

He ran from the bedroom in a groggy Ambien daze and soon crashed down the stairs, losing his footing entirely the last several few.  Poor Al was also under the influence of something powerful, and also quite confused, but he tried hard to be of assistance in my time of need.

I ran back upstairs to grab my phone as Alex tried to reason with the guy, who was refusing to leave our back porch, through the door. I called 911 and two officers arrived within minutes. They were gentle with the man, led him off our porch then sat with him on the front curb for almost two hours as he sobered up.  They gave him water and covered him with a jacket when it began to rain. Then, after making many phone calls and giving him a few sobriety tests, they put him in a taxi bound for, we hope, better things for him.

Alex left to catch his Uber to the airport while the man and police were still sitting out front. He walked up to the man and said, "You really scared us. That was not OK," and the man covered his face and said, "I'm so so sorry."

My hand is pretty screwed up from punching that door but at least it's not broken. With my swollen hand and bruised and abraded knuckles, it looks like I recently started a street fight or, more likely for me, a bar brawl.  I'm gonna wear my purple hand like a badge of badassery for a few days and see if anybody gives me a wider berth.  Nobody needs to know my fight was with a door.

I hope Donald Trump is like that guy on the other side of the door.  At first scary, unpredictable, worst case scenarios swarming your brain in a sweaty hysterical fit of terror, but once you realize what he's truly got going on, which turns out ain't a whole lot, he turns into something manageable.

I hope, anyway.  I've got to keep some sort of optimism going through these next handful of years. That and a steady supply of alcohol.  And an area rug.  The area rug is probably the most important thing.

I read recently that Donald Trump's presidency is likely to be a golden age of activism in America. From what I've witnessed in Seattle so far, that could be true.  People are organizing, talking to neighbors, forming groups. The previously apathetic have turned mobile and active, at least so far. Here's hoping we can keep it up for the long run, not settle back into complacency and a feeling of powerlessness, and can effectively hold off the guy on the other side of the door.

Why are we so mad at you?
Should be obvious.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Brushes with greatness

What a strange time to be American.

There are lots of tense, anxious people milling about my life.  My favorite timesuck, Facebook, no longer serves as the pleasant brain numbing diversion it used to be.  It is instead a swirling outraged cesspool of fighting people. I'll admit I dove into fights more often than I wanted to, unable to keep my fingers off the keys as the steam blew out my ears. I blame it on my Aries nature. Damn fire signs can't resist a good blood boiling fight even though we regret it nearly immediately afterwards.

For the record, I'm with her.  And not in a "lesser of two evils" kind of way.  I firmly, adamantly, 100% believe in Hillary Clinton and her suitability for and commitment to the role of President.  She is awesome with a near lifetime of experience and has dealt with a ton of shit, as most women have.

Bonus -- she is made of steel, as a President, male or female, should be and is not prone to Twitter fights at 2:00a.m if she gets her feelings hurt.

I can say those words, that I support Hillary Clinton, but some things speak volumes more than words ever could.  For instance, I am such a fervent supporter of Hillary Clinton, I donned an ugly pantsuit to go hear her speak at Seattle's Paramount Theatre.

Many friends and family members have politely mentioned my pantsuit, purchased off Ebay from a woman named Laverne in Missouri, may not be my size nor style.  The pickins were slim on Ebay, people, and I know pantsuits aren't my thing, but you definitely can't question that I'M SUPER WITH HER.

The ladies and I were popular at the Hillary event.  We assumed there would be many pantsuits yet we were the only ones.  Many approached and asked if they could take our picture, including the people running Patty Murray's senate re-election campaign, which was very exciting indeed because we love Senator Murray, too.

It could have been the pantsuits that made us stand out, sure, but it also could have been the fact we were the only ones pounding beers in the Paramount lobby before noon. We nasty women were PUMPED and wearing PANTSUITS.

Hillary walked onto that stage like a rock star to a theatre full of lifelong fans.  It must have been nice for her to stop in Seattle, to know that she was not going to have to sway us in any way, that we've been with her from the beginning in our happy liberal enclave.


This will all be over tomorrow, though we live with the dreadful thought nothing is truly "over" and that this is merely a sign of angry and scary things to come.  Like I said, weird time to be an American.

It was one of our finest moments, Seattle Mom.
In our pantsuits, storm bearing down upon the city, 
holding our "Yes we can" signs in front of two very lonely Trump supporters, 
and "I'M WITH HER" emblazoned upon the marquee. 

If you thought Hillary was the only greatness I've brushed up against lately, in the words of Donald Trump -- "WROOONG."

A couple of the ladies and I signed up for Kam Chancellor's bootcamp.  Kam Chancellor is one of our favorite Seattle Seahawks, a member of our Superbowl winning Legion of Boom. You've probably already assumed (correctly) we signed up more to meet Kam Chancellor than exercise.  Exercise is hard.

Kam is a great player and reputedly an all around nice person.  Kam wants to start his own gym in Seattle so he and his trainer have been holding bootcamps all over the city to drum up a following. I'm not sure what made us think we could keep up with a professional football player and his trainer in a workout kind of way but it made sense at the time.

I texted Supermodel Neighbor, who is the biggest Seahawks fan I know, the news, thinking he'd be excited for me.  "I'm going to work out with Kam Chancellor!" I wrote with many exclamation points.  He texted back, "Ha ha ha ha what were you thinking?  You're gonna die."

My friends are not always the most supportive but they are quite honest and don't seem to believe in me too much.

Long story short, I didn't die.  Even better than not dying -- Kam Chancellor hugged me when I introduced myself at the beginning of the session.  It made me swoon a little bit because he is a very tall and handsome man with an incredible smile.  While the ladies and I listened to his intro speech, Seattle Mom leaned over and whispered, "Oooh, no wedding ring!" as if we actually had a shot at dating the guy.

Yet suddenly in that moment, we all believed we did.

Kam came around and gave pointers while we worked out.  He hollered at me to grab my ankles during an abdominal exercise (no way, buddy) and told me to keep my butt up during my planking circuit.  He's such a flirt.

You had to pay extra money to get a picture with Kam afterwards and we are cheap so the best I could do was stage this Kam photobomb with two of the ladies as he walked through the gym --

It's enough.  We were there and he's our favorite strong safety

There was one more brush with greatness that week though it wasn't mine, it was Alex's.  Alex traveled up to Toronto for his work where he met Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.  I'm not allowed to talk about Alex's work on the blog but we made an exception for this one as long as I "keep it vague."  No problem, I'm vague all the time -- for just one example, my myriad of friends all named "Seattle Mom."

Alex couldn't wait to tell me Justin Trudeau is super charming, as if it was going to be a surprise.  We have several pictures of Alex with Trudeau and there's video of Trudeau saying, "Merci, Alex" after Alex's introduction, which made Alex swoon a little bit because Justin Trudeau is also a very tall and handsome man with an incredible smile.

Alex works too hard.  But his job does come with occasional perks.

I had to do what I had to do to be able to post this pic.
It's a spooky little thing now but it proves it happened.

I held my annual Halloween party a.k.a "the parents with babysitters gone wild party."  It was the biggest one I've thrown so far, and was also the most fun because I finally got the playlist right so people danced until their costumes fell apart.

There were many celebrities to be found at the party.  There was Hillary, of course, getting grabbed by the pussy, of course, by Donald Trump --

(actually two Trumps, though one Trump was losing his hair.  It was quite late by this time so people were becoming a little unkempt) 

John Travolta and Uma Thurman were there reprising their Vince and Mia roles from Pulp Fiction --

that's me and Al in our debut "couples" costume.  It's usually not our thing
but how do you turn down a Pulp Fiction idea.
PS.  That syringe in my heart hurt like a bitch.

And my personal favorite, Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne.  
No surprise, these two Halloween superstar friends bring it every year.

This next one is not a VIP in the world but he was a VIP in our hearts, at least for a brief time. A storm hit Seattle not too long ago and right as it began, as the wind began whipping stuff around the neighborhood, the kids and I found an injured bird in our front yard.  We debated what to do and ended up shuffling the bird to a protected corner of the house shielded from the wind.  We gave him a little of Stella's parakeet seed and hoped for the best.  We also named him Bob.

Bob survived the night then hung around for a few days in the front yard in that corner.  We kept Natani on a leash so she wouldn't eat him, which upset her greatly because she wanted to eat him very badly.  A couple days later, he was gone.

We hoped he had recovered from his injury and flown off instead of being eaten by a raccoon but we weren't sure until he showed up on the front porch the next day and sat there for hours staring at our front door.  Bob was alive!  And Bob wanted more seed. Bob liked Stella's seed very much.  We gave him a little bit more seed and he flew off.  He was back again the next morning for breakfast.


This went on for a couple more days until Bob was suddenly wracked with gastrointestinal distress.  He had explosive diarrhea all over our front porch several times then flew off, never to return.  Parakeet seed may not agree with pigeon systems, or whatever kind of bird Bob was.  We're not sure if we killed him with our parakeet seed or just gave him a bad enough stomachache he thought, "F*ck those people" and bailed.

Hope you're well, Bob.  Our intentions were good, I swear.

OK, I'm off to be American, which at this point means quivering and counting the seconds until tomorrow is over.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Everything but the kitchen sink

This is a kitchen sink post and a long one at that. I'm throwing everything in this one, none of it connected and none of it relevant to the news of the day.  Thank God for that; nobody wants to further discuss the news of the day because wow, what a shitshow.  

So school's back in session. My kids are older and wiser, their fresh little smiley faces heading out the door for a great new school year.  A friend on Facebook circulated the following article to help us "prepare healthy lunches!" for the new school year.  Brimming with back-to-school energy and enthusiasm, I clicked on the link.  I found the article immensely helpful.  (It's hard to tell in writing but that last sentence was sarcasm at its most exaggerated.)

As I stand late at night in the kitchen packing the following day's lunches, I conjure the following phrases: "Hudson has always loved Asian flavors" and "Maca is a Peruvian superfood; look for it in powdered form at health food stores" and my personal favorite, "The slightly sweet addition of mirin, a small amount of sugar, and (optional) dashi broth, transforms eggs in the most comforting of ways."

I then send a couple quick faux apologies up to my kids asleep in their beds and toss a couple stale bagels, devoid of cream cheese because we're out again, into their lunchboxes.

Maybe I should try packing lunches like Goop suggests just one time. It wouldn't be for health reasons; it would be more for entertainment. I like to picture Lucien's face should he crack open his lunch to find a Japanese sweet omelet and some lemon tamari dipping sauce for his pickled vegetables.  I can hear the incredulous "WHAT THE HELL, MOM......what is this pretentious crap......well, at least the eggs are comforting with that sweet addition of mirin."

I'm not entirely immune. I will admit to getting sucked into a tiny bit of parental overkill.  Coco recently had a birthday and requested a circus party.  I booked a party at SANCA, our local School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (we got it all in Seattle, trust it) and vowed to "keep it simple."  I was not going to bake anything, cook anything.  I was going to buy a tray of cupcakes, a few bags of pretzels, maybe some juice boxes if I was feeling generous.  Have some fun, throw a few bags of popcorn at them, get it done, that was the plan.

Then Coco said quietly, "Oh. I was hoping for a real birthday cake" and something immediately switched inside me.  Of course she needed a real birthday cake!  Yes!  Baking and lots of it!  Now!

I'm weird like that, can be very all-or-nothing.  I'm either in front leading the parade or I'm hiding in the corner hissing at people.  Hanging out in the middle doesn't last long for me so I went from "I'm not baking a damn thing and they can deal with it" to "I'm gonna bake the best birthday cake that girl has ever seen, it's gonna blow her dang mind" in a matter of seconds.

The next events were as follows, in chronological order --

*Log on to Pinterest*
*Search for a circus cake*
*Regret logging on to Pinterest*
*Feel bad about myself*

Well way to go, Lucas, lucky you.
PS. The number on top tells me Lucas is turning 1.
He is never going to remember this cake
which tells me you are not baking this cake for Lucas at all.

What is a Hezry?
Do you think they just mis-spelled Henry, accidentally flipped the "N" on its side?
 I like to think they did -- less perfect.
(Hez(n)ry, by the way, is also turning 1, though this cake seems more reasonable)

what fresh hell is this.

Pinterest is full of overachievers. I quickly abandoned Pinterest and instead Googled "easy birthday cake recipes" where I stumbled across the rainbow cake idea.  Perfect.  I threw myself into its creation.  A rainbow cake is a six layer cake, each layer a different color of the rainbow.  It took a long time. There was fondant and sprinkles involved. I was sweating profusely by the end.

It ended up being the tallest cake in existence because I didn't shave down my layers sufficiently.  It tipped over halfway through the cutting and serving, no longer able to stand on its own.  It was a top heavy rainbow sonofabitch.

But Coco was happy.  And I do love to see my Coco girl happy.

Speaking of Coco, we're a little concerned.  Alex took Coco to a video arcade recently that had one of those claw machines -- the machines that are rigged to rarely, if ever, let you win anything.  Still, she tried.  And tried.

Coco had been given a set amount of money to use at the arcade and it was dwindling quickly.  Alex tried to reason with her, explained the claws are intentionally weak-springed so they don't hold onto toys very well and suggested maybe it was time to try another game. She stopped speaking to Alex after that, stopped making eye contact, just kept pumping quarters into the claw game.  I soon thereafter received a text that said, "Help. Coco is like a degenerate gambler."

She came home with a stuffed animal she won from the claw game and a smug smile on her face. Coco has an iron will -- which should bode well for her, except that sometimes she can also be unreasonable.    

Speaking of gambling, Alex and I went to Snoqualmie Casino awhile ago with a couple friends.  We are not casino people but thought it would be fun to try something different. Even better, we decided to take the casino bus from Seattle instead of driving.  We pictured the casino bus as being a fun time -- champagne flowing and upbeat music playing for festive bus riders and whatnot. The casino bus was a total party in our minds.

The casino bus is not a total party.  It is the opposite.  The casino bus is a silent, kind of depressing thing full of mostly elderly people, half of whom are asleep.

The casino itself was also not fun.  After our initial shocked gasps at all the smoking happening inside the casino (it's on a Native American reservation so they make their own smoking rules) we promptly bought a pack of cigarettes, giggling like teenagers giddy with rule breaking.  None of us have smoked a cigarette in years so we all immediately coughed up a lung and took turns saying, "Oh my god, this is so gross."  We tossed the pack but still -- rebels!

Alex very quickly lost a lot of money at the blackjack table so he retreated to the corner with us where we played nickle slots and drank alcohol until it was time to grab the bus back to Seattle.  If you think the casino bus is depressing on the way to the casino, just wait until the trip back home. That is one silent bummer of a loser bus.

Here are more happenings in the past few months I never wrote about.  It's a lengthy list, forgive me, but I feel compelled to document these things, even if just in a crappy iPhone photo way.

The kids and I met this guy walking his pet lizard on a leash in South Lake Union --

it was not a fast walk for man and lizard, more an aimless mosey

We went on our annual camping trip with our friends, no wind storm this time --

Then we went camping with our friends again --

North Cascades National Park, by the way, is stunning

We played euchre at night by a lantern covered in a beanie hat --

One evening, Bobo fell asleep like this as I was putting Lucien to bed. We laughed at him pretty hard; he was barely hanging onto that log, just look at his little legs --

By morning, he had fallen off but was still asleep.
Bearded dragons are the chillest of animals

I learned how to play mahjong with the ladies--

and now I am hooked

We still have a sweet and funny though frustrating dog --

Natani the Navajo dog is not allowed on the couch
but she likes being on the couch very much
and sneaks up onto it at every opportunity.

We had a back-to-school party at our house involving a ukulele band --

We ate tacos, sang along, later had a water balloon fight in the yard  
We called it the back to school taco-lele party
and it was glorious.

Our friend Seattle Dad wore this amazing hat that one time --

Yep, I'm still going.  I still have more.

I went up to the top of Smith Tower for the third time, for the last Tower Sessions concert. The Tower Sessions are private concerts, held once a month in the apartment at the top of historical Smith Tower --

I will miss this concert series.  
I will miss the music but will miss most of all climbing all those ladders
and spiral staircases and catwalks 
to get to the very top.  

Below is a picture of the gorgeous Smith Tower, completed in 1914.  It was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River until the 1930's when something taller was built in Kansas, I think  --

The stunning private "lighthouse"apartment at Smith Tower is the pyramid shape at the top.  It's owned by a tiny dynamo of a woman named Petra and her children, and is where the concert series was held.  The glowing glass ball at the very very tippy top is where we were for these next couple pictures. It's a long way to climb and a small hole to squeeze through to get up into the glass globe but if you can make it, it's worth the effort --

My inlaws were recently here for a visit.  My mother-in-law had a birthday during their stay and we celebrated by inviting some friends for dinner, including a messy though delicious guest named Dungeness Crab, which we ripped apart like the disgusting animals we are.  I love the taste of crab but the process of eating it can be unsettling.

Alex and I took off for a few days while my in-laws took care of the kid wrangling.  We took the RV over to Port Townsend, a picturesque Victorian town on the Olympic Peninsula.

We stayed in a mini castle at nearby Fort Worden.  The "castle" was an odd place.  It was once a single family home with a single bedroom so we were the only ones in it for the night.  As soon as we entered, I said, "This place feels weird." Later, as we walked around the grounds outside the castle, I said, "It feels like someone's watching us, do you see anybody?"  Alex concurred, said he felt a little twitchy and tense himself.

On a whim, I looked up the castle on my phone --

You betcha it's haunted!  
Or so say some people. 
It was not a great night of sleep.

We spent one night in the castle then switched to the nearby Fort Worden campground on the beach where we promptly locked our keys inside the RV.  The tow truck driver our insurance company sent as part of our roadside assistance package couldn't jimmy the window enough to get the wedge thing and the metal thing in to pop the lock.

The tow truck driver scratched his head and mentioned he knew a guy who was "good with locks" in town.  It's not as shady as it sounded at first -- the lock guy is a retired police detective who now works part time as a locksmith.  He was also one of the most cheerful guys I've ever had the pleasure of coming across; he looked a bit like John Denver with that round shiny face and big smile.

Smiley John Denver Lock Guy got into our RV in less than ten seconds using a pair of tweezers and a tiny pick.  We did not give him our home address.  He seemed very nice but still, not taking any chances there.

Fort Worden as a whole is kind of an eerie place.  It's an old fort abandoned after WWII and turned into a state park, and is mostly empty now that we're headed into the off season. Although eerie, it's a cool place. You can stay in the old barracks and officers' homes at Fort Worden, and have a nice meal and a drink in the old jail.

If it looks vaguely familiar, Fort Worden is also where An Officer and a Gentleman was filmed -- and now we're all thinking about a beautiful shirtless young Richard Gere.  At least I know I am.

OK, I think I'm done now.  That was a lot of catching up.  As for our Mexico City news, it's more complicated than not complicated.  As of right now, there are no openings in the international schools but there "may" be openings in the near future.  This makes it very difficult to plan.

Applications are filed with a handful of schools and now we wait.  If the schools come through, we're gone in the new year, perhaps with very little advance notice.  If they don't come through, sorry, Seattle suckers, you're stuck with us.  Or at least you're stuck with me and the kids and you'll see Alex every other weekend.  Ouch.

All righty, off to tackle those homemade sushi roll lunches,