Wednesday, October 1, 2014

All routine and no aquamarine

Sometimes I fall face first and stiff as a board onto the couch at the end of the day and wonder aloud, my voice muffled by our peanut butter cracker scented couch cushions, "but what did I DO today?" The days are full but I don't feel a whole lot of personal satisfaction at the end of them.  I mostly feel a bit "what?" with a sprinkle of "sh*t" and a pinch of "derp."

It's a little blurred and a little dull.  Lately it's all routine and no salk vaccine.

(I googled "words that rhyme with routine" in the hopes of finding an inspiring match.  I didn't find an inspiring match.  Instead I found words such as wide screen, propylene, slot machine and salk vaccine.  I'm going to run with it.)

I'm good at getting the daily checklist done.  I pay the bills on time, we rarely run out of clean underwear, I fill out ALL THE FORMS (when you have little kids there are billions of forms), and our fridge is cleared of rotten produce regularly (annually, but whatever). If the rental house has a busted dishwasher, I'm all over it.  If Oscar is due for his shots and/or flea medication, done and done. If Bobo hasn't pooped in two months yet again then -- KABLOWIE! -- it's time for another sh*t-inducing warm bath for everyone's favorite lizard.

None of this is particularly bad but none of it is particularly life-giving either.  I'm guessing most people feel this way about their daily lives.  It's a slog, man, the daily grind.  It's all routine and no arithmetic mean.

You've got to break free sometimes and do something radical, something insane.

I think you know where I'm going with this --

You've got to go nuts and learn how to throw pottery on a wheel

I've always wanted to learn how to throw pottery on a wheel.  The movie Ghost likely has something to do with this, though admittedly I would feel uncomfortable if some guy came up behind me while I was sitting in my class and started kissing my neck.  I would be more, "What the hell is wrong with you, guy?" than "Take me on this pottery wheel while I pretend you're Patrick Swayze."

Throwing clay on a wheel is hard.  To make matters more intimidating, there are many people in my class who have years of experience.  They sit down and touch the clay and beautiful things spring forth from their strong and capable hands.  I, however, touch the clay with the grace of a t-rex and usually spin it right off the wheel -- *thunk* -- into the chest of the unfortunate person sitting next to me.  I *dab dab* their shirt delicately with a wet rag and promise to work very hard on the centering step so it doesn't happen again.

There's one woman in the class who's a beginner like me.  We have thus gravitated towards each other and hunker down at neighboring wheels in the far corner.  We can be found back there either muttering a string of the foulest swear words you can imagine or laughing uncontrollably with tears streaming down our faces and flowing down our arms -- which is handy since one must keep one's hands wet when throwing on a wheel.

We're beginners in the far corner throwing wonky looking pottery made with our own tears.  There's something really great and appropriate about that.

My new friend's clay spun off her wheel last week and hit me in the side of the head and it was all downhill from there.  When she accidentally poked a hole right through the side of her wobbly vessel, she proclaimed, "Oh thank God, that's exactly what I wanted it to look like."  When my own jacked-up piece of work couldn't take it anymore and flopped over on itself, I put my arms up and announced, "I think it's obvious I have learned all there is to know here, I'm ready to teach!"

The teacher comes over to us often but there's little she can do to stem the insanity happening in our corner.  Last time she gave us some pointers and said, "It's so frustrating to learn this and I love that you guys are laughing and not giving up."  Then I said, "Well, at least we're not throwing things yet" and received a collective groan from the class.  It was my first public pun and my first collective groan and I feel good about that.

The kids crashed our date night last weekend.  Alex and I were set for a nice dinner at Salty's with a heart-swelling sunset view of downtown across the water.  Our time alone is rare these days and we had much to catch up on.  But then our babysitter didn't show.

After a brief deliberation, we decided to keep our reservation and expand it from 2 people to 4 people.

Hey kid, what are you doing on my date?

It ended up being a good decision.  It was a truly enjoyable family dinner at a nice restaurant and those are hard to come by.  Plus now I know what Coco looks like through a pink balloon --

So this little girl is turning 5 this weekend.  Here she is climbing her aunts' tree and marveling at her feat as only a kid can --

Damn, she's five already. When did that happen?  I often feel I'm missing a large chunk of my kids' childhoods because I've got my head down too much, stuck in the boggy details of daily living.  More often than not it's "Coco, I can't read you a book right now, I've got to get dinner started."  I hate that but in the moment it's fatigue and trying to check the boxes for the day so I can go to bed.

It's the ole paradox of parenting  -- the days last forever but the years go so fast.

I'm going to promise Coco this year will be different.  I WILL read that stupid book I'm sick of for the umpteenth time and feed everyone bologna sandwiches for dinner.  She's not going to stay young and cuddly and thinking I'm awesome for long so I better live it up.

It's all routine and no time machine,

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Stupid City Folk and Unlucky Children

Summer is over so I'm back.  I hope I can reclaim my writing mojo after these months of neglect.  It was a lost summer in terms of blogging and book writing but it was a winner in terms of kids staying up late, dirt and bugs. Oh, and Minecraft.  Lots and lots of Minecraft.

I'll start with a quick update on the kids, just a few anecdotes to illustrate not much has changed, they are still very much themselves.

I asked Lucien to bring me my purse the other day. This is what happened when he handed it over:

Loosh:  "Mom, I found some sticky stuff on the bottom of your purse so I licked it."
Me:  (staring) "Lucien, why would you ever lick a sticky mystery substance off a purse?"
Loosh:  (shrugging) "I figured there's always a chance it's maple syrup!"

He's not technically wrong.  He also doesn't appreciate the overwhelming odds that sticky substance was bar sludge gathered when I sat my purse on a bar floor during our last Moms' Night Out.  

I took Lucien to pick up some wood stain for the house and asked him to help carry the various cans to the car after we'd checked out.  Lucien looked at the cans and suddenly began waving his arms around and yelling in the small store: "Hey everybody!  Help!  Help!  My mom's trying to kill me over here!"

Isn't it wonderful that kid can still take me by surprise?  I whispered, "What the HECK are you DOING?" as all heads swiveled in my direction and beady eyes pointed at my face.  Lucien then pointed at the label on the can of wood stain, put a hand to his heart, and read aloud in a voice befitting the most seasoned of stage actors: "Warning!  Poison! Keep out of reach of children!"  Then he bowed.

Coco is doing well in her new preschool.  She now thinks she can write (false) so every surface in the house is covered in an indecipherable scrawl -- it's like a cross between a Picasso sketch and sanskrit.  I hate it when she hands me a piece of paper covered in the stuff and says happily, "Read it, Mommy!"  I start making stuff up but realize I'm veering wildly off her intended course when the corners of her mouth turn down and her eyes turn hard.  Then she usually grabs the paper from me in a huff and tells me I don't know how to read.

Coco has also begun to address audiences -- gathered several times a day for her meandering ballet and singing shows in our entry hall -- as "Welcome to my show, unicorns and gentlemen."  I asked her what happened to the "ladies" and she shrugged and looked unconcerned.  She did recently tell me she wants to be a unicorn when she grows up so perhaps the two are related.

My annual solo-parent road trip with my two young children happened last month.  I drove them to Denver, where my mom had recently undergone surgery to replace one of her knees with a titanium counterpart.  I felt perhaps I could be of assistance in the aftermath of such major surgery.  Judy may now be part machine but she and Dad could probably use help procuring groceries until she gets her bionic legs under her.

Very few people understand how happy I am to do these road trips with my kids.  Most people tell me it sounds like torture.  It's not even close.  It's a heart-swelling combination of my kids having strange conversations in the backseat, my favorite music blaring loudly, the open road with nobody on it, an incredible view and an 80 mph speed limit, and a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos within arms reach at all times.  How can that be considered torture? It's euphoria!

Have I inspired you to round up some kids (preferably your own) and drive long distances?

This was somewhere in Idaho.  Maybe Utah.  Hard to say.

I like to believe our time in Colorado was helpful or at least uplifting to my recovering Mama but I fear it was mostly exhausting.  Dad and I took the kids to a nearby skate park daily so Mom could rest.  Lucien ran into Coco pretty hard at the skate park at one point, knocking her off her scooter.  He apologized but as he scooted off again he yelled over his shoulder, "Ha! I'm awesome!" Coco dusted herself off, shook her head and muttered, "He's not awesome, he's dumb."

Coco gave all my old Strawberry Shortcake dolls a ride
on the Remington sculpture.
Some are faring better than others.

We took the scenic route home to Seattle via Arches National Park in southern Utah.

We were inside the park well before 7:00 am -- a result of having early riser children and in this case a total plus. Instead of sharing the arches with five million tourists, as usually happens when one visits Arches, we had the arches all to ourselves as the sun rose over them.  The kids and I scrambled around Sand Dune Arch, and up and down under Double Arch, completely alone for the better part of two hours.  It was some of my happiest time on earth so far.

When the first giant tour bus pulled into the parking lot, we left.  
We were no longer willing nor able to share the park with others.  

After returning from our road trip, we immediately packed the car back up to go spend Labor Day weekend with our friends on one of the San Juan Islands.

There were 16 of us scattered about in tents in the yard and the nooks and crannies inside our cottage rental. There was only one bathroom.  It's a damn good thing we're a very close-knit group.


We stumbled across many sleeping men during our long weekend on the island.  We did what anyone would do in our situation -- we messed with 'em.

We decorated this one with meat.

We zipped this one into his sweatshirt.

Bam, rabbit ears, sucker

We made headlines during our island stay, at least the imaginary ones in our minds.  We went for a group hike one day and nearly lost all our kids when they followed each other Pied Piper style towards a cliff. After we'd screamed and gathered them back up again, we were able to laugh and picture the headline we would have generated: "Wow, stupid city folk lose ALL NINE of their children."

Seattle Dad gathered wood for the bonfire one night and returned with a beautiful thick cross section of a log.  We commended him for the great find.  The next morning we realized he had "gathered," and we had subsequently burned, the piece of wood the next door neighbors used as a step from their backyard down to the beach.  The absence of said log created quite a drop.  That incident spawned our next imaginary headline:  "Elderly woman faceplants attempting beach access when stupid city folk burn her stairs."

Now that I've more or less done a crappy job of wrapping up our summer, it's time to move on.  The first items to address are our wills, or lack thereof.  Alex and I have been without wills all this time and realize it's unacceptable with small children in the picture.

We met with a lawyer to right our wrong.  It's fun to sit in a room with a lawyer and envision how life will be when you die.  Bossy people must love making wills because they can be all, "I'm gonna tell you what to do even after I'm DEAD, HA!"

Al and I decided pretty quickly that Raba and Zee should take the kids if both of us croak before they're grown.  Then the lawyer asked, "What happens if both you and Alex are dead and Raba and Zee are dead?" and we exclaimed, "Dear God!  These are very unlucky children!"

Anywho, I'm back.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

We live!

I didn't intend to take the summer off from the blog but I seem to be doing exactly that.  I don't have any good excuses for doing so.  I haven't jetted off to some remote vacation locale nor have I become Supermom and spent every precious summer moment doing arts and crafts with my kids.  Trust it, I have not come close to doing either of those things.

No, there's just something about this summer that's made me lose the desire to do anything. Part of the issue is our relaxed summer schedule, up an hour later than usual and moseying to the car instead of sprinting because who the hell cares if the kids are late to summer camp.

Part of it is the ever-changing nature of that same relaxed summer schedule.  Every week looks different; there are no more constants. I'm a creature who craves predictability so the shifting schedule has given me an off-balance paranoid vibe. I stare at my calendar often and give myself pep talks. I know I'm about to let something fall through the ever changing cracks and I'm rarely wrong -- so far we've missed speech therapy twice, t-ball practice once, drove to the wrong camp once and left lunches in the fridge at home dozens of times.

The other issue is our new back deck.  I install myself out there in the shade of the morning with a cup of coffee.  My intent is to read the newspaper then stand back up and go about my day.  But once the sun peeks up over the top of the house, it begins to bake me to an uncomfortable degree and I go limpy, newspaper discarded, arms dangling off the sides of the chair, sweat pooling in various places on my body. The sun saps me of energy and strength.  It's a good thing I live in Seattle and only have to deal with that damn thing a handful of months out of the year.

Coco is playing t-ball now.  Four-year-olds playing t-ball is an exercise in confusion and chaos coupled with unbridled joy and random enthusiasm. Parents must be stationed at all bases and must constantly wave their arms and direct the children where to run; otherwise the vast majority skip first base entirely and charge straight ahead to second or what the hell, some direction where there is no base at all.

there are three kids on first base and no one can explain why

My personal favorite is when our entire team runs after a ball hit by the other team and fights over it in a writhing wrestling heap in the middle of the field.  The victor eventually holds the ball high over his/her head with a beaming face, yells, "Look! I got it!"  then inexplicably walks over and hands the ball to the nearest grown-up.  Meanwhile the other team is lapping the bases, usually out of order.

Four-year-old t-ball is a good show all day long yet we parents dread the practices and games.  I can't explain that.

Lucien and Coco both took swimming lessons this summer.  We enrolled in lessons with "The Swim Whisperer," a woman who holds small lessons in private residential pools around the city.  She's a treasure but takes no prisoners.  One kid in Coco's class refused to get in the pool so The Swim Whisperer walked over and just chucked him in.  The message was clear -- The Swim Whisperer doesn't f*ck around.

Good luck my darling

The biggest news of the summer is my sister got married.  Actually she was already married -- that happened months ago in the shotgun chapel saloon girl costume incident -- but this was the official version with friends and family.  I was her "special person" (best I can tell, that's Seattle lesbian wedding code for Maid of Honor) and therefore I had many important duties such as picking up the "gaybies" the morning of the ceremony.  I didn't know what a gaybie was but I was happy to be of assistance.

These are adorable gaybies being rapidly consumed by children  
(They're rainbow-colored mini cupcakes and they're delicious)

It was a beautiful ceremony by the lake.  Raba and Zee are so happy.  We love them both and we love them together.  There can be no other way.

Raba and Zee's joy is palpable; it radiated throughout their wedding, rippled through their guests, and touched us all right in the hearts.  Except for Lucien, that is, because he was too busy.  Unbeknownst to me, Lucien stood behind me -- ME!  THE SPECIAL PERSON! -- at the ceremony and did stuff like this --

Oh my God, this child

Lucien read his quote from Maya Angelou at the ceremony with perfect speed, diction and projection.  He was also 100% himself as usual.  Bravo all around, son, you're an original and a keeper even if you gave me these permanent circles under my eyes.

Here's a picture of one of our more disastrous happenings this summer --

(don't worry, he lives...)

We put Bobo the Bearded Dragon on a leash and took him outside for a walk.  We thought he would enjoy soaking up the hot sun rays because his previous owners assured us he did indeed enjoy this but he didn't appear to enjoy himself at all.  He froze. If anyone came near him, or made a noise, or a breeze blew across his back, he puffed his beard and emitted a low steady hissing sound.  Our docile little animal had gone native and we were terrified of the little f*cker for a minute there.

I moved very slowly towards the end of the leash, planning to gently lead him back inside where I could put him back in his tank and mark the outing a colossal failure.  Bobo had his own plan, though.  He wasn't going back inside.  He was going to escape from the bastards who tied a piece of string attached to a leather harness around him, which by the way made him look like a lizard who enjoys light bondage.

The second I pulled on the leash to lead him inside, he bolted in the opposite direction towards the street.  He struggled so valiantly against the leash he managed to wiggle his legs out of the leather harness. I watched the harness slip down his body and thought, "Holy hell, if he wiggles all the way out of the thing he's going to make a run for it and when I go after him he's going to bite me."  I panicked and pulled the leash tighter which resulted in the harness portion tightening around Bobo's back legs and tripping him.  He fell on his lizard face.

A few tense moments later, I had a dazed and confused Bobo in my arms and was running him up the stairs.  I dumped him back into the safety of his tank.  Lucien and I took a few deep breaths and looked at each other with wide eyes.  It's unlikely we'll ever take Bobo into the great outdoors again.

Coco has the best view at the Bite of Seattle

Our friends who live in Sweden visited this summer.  They came over for a "quick dinner" because that's all their busy visiting schedule allowed. Our "quick dinner" turned into a very long dinner with a lot of wine and ultimately led to this --

-- inflating bright blue air mattresses on the stair landing and finding clean sheets for the guest room for our friends and their three sons at 11:30 pm.  At this point the kids were maniacally hyper overtired and the adults were even worse behaved.  Impromptu sleepovers are the best; they're the kinds of events where you stumble into your kitchen the morning after, survey the wreckage of plates caked with food and warm glasses of beer still on the table and say sleepily, "Whoa..."  followed by high fives and "Thank God we're still fun."

Then you brew strong coffee and fry up some bacon and eggs before saying goodbye for what will likely be a very long stretch of time.  No matter, we'll still be good friends on the flipside.

As an aside -- all three of those little Swedish boys speak fluent English.  Our friends said that in Sweden, if a child has a parent that speaks another language they have a right to a private language tutor.  Their kids get private English lessons because their dad is a Seattle native, courtesy of the Swedish government.  Damn it, Sweden, why must you do everything so awesome?

Our Swedish friends emailed us upon returning to Sweden and said their middle son has been talking a lot about Lucien.  He said, "Lucien is so lucky.  He has three pets:  a dog, a bird, and a dinosaur."  I didn't mention in my response the "dinosaur" may enjoy light bondage and may hate my guts at the moment.

We had some friends over for dinner on the deck for Alex's birthday.  Alex made it clear he didn't want a birthday cake because he's low-carb these days.  He instead requested a cheese plate for dessert.  Like we used to do in Paris.  I stuck a candle in a delicious French blue and we called it a day.

birthday cheese plate: a new tradition or something dumb that should never be repeated?

I'll be back here before school starts to post some more happenings of the summer.  Unless I don't get around to it.  Thanks to those who emailed to make sure we were OK --that's a glaring sign you've let your blog go a bit, isn't it -- we're all alive and well, just lazy and confused.

I just know I'm supposed to be somewhere right now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Stories, most involving screaming

The end of the school year is chaos.  There's a ceremony or event every day at one of the kids' schools. None of them are very fun and they all seem designed to make parents insane by being either emotionally manipulative (Her "graduation"? What? She's four years old!) or too overwhelming ("Come to the school carnival where a constant stream of screaming kids are going to step on your toes as they run past you. And you have to work at a booth. And it's going to be hell.")

School stuff aside, our general contractor showed up on our driveway recently and started to cry.  His wife of 30 years just left him and now he can barely get out of bed.  It's hard to pressure a guy in a situation like that so our exterior project may never be finished.  We may have to be OK with a half painted house.

(We're giving him some time to regroup and then will gently suggest he focus on his work, that his work will give him strength and pull him through...)

I chaperoned Coco's preschool field trip to a nearby farm a couple weeks ago.  I spent most of the farm visit shielding a little girl from view of the pigs, of which she was inexplicably terrified.  If she happened to look up when my body wasn't blocking her view of said demon pigs, she would start screaming.

 this is how far we had to stand from the pigs

At one point we had to walk past the pig pen and that was a tense moment indeed.  I picked up the little girl, her screams in my ears and her kicky legs landing directly on my kneecaps, and ran past the pigs.  I deposited her safely on the other side of the pig pen in front of a cow who had her nose stuck through the slats of her fence.  The little girl didn't like that cow either so I had to pick her up again and run past the cows.  Rinse and repeat at the goats.

That was exhausting but the worst part of the field trip was the constant singing of "Frozen" songs from the four little girls packed into my car there and back.  It seems I wasn't the only one suffering; when we got back to school, a fellow chaperone threw open his car door and fell helplessly to the pavement pleading, "If I hear one more "Frozen" song I'm going to lose my mind, please make them stop, please, please."  But they didn't stop, they'll never stop.

Coco had another sleepover with her aunts recently.  She did their nails because Coco is convinced she's good at giving manicures. (She isn't.)  The worst part is when she blots your still-wet nails with a napkin and tells you "It helps them dry faster" when you protest.  Then you have to spend the next week walking around with pieces of napkin stuck to your nails because if you remove her manicure, so help you God, she will glare you to death.

I volunteered to work the Prize Booth at the elementary school carnival last night.   That's a brutal job, especially at the end of the evening when all the kids swarm the prize booth to redeem their tickets for prizes.  I'm well suited to that kind of chaos for some reason (it's because I'm raising Lucien).  I can usually roll with yelling and jostling kids but this event stretched even my limitations.  I lost my voice halfway through and needed water so badly I began grabbing the wrists of friends as they passed and croaking, "water....please..." in a hoarse voice that frightened them.

Alex eventually joined me at the Prize Booth.  If I'm well suited for that kind of work, Alex is born for it.  He immediately morphed into a carnival barker.  He held up crappy toys, declared them the "must-have toy of the carnival" and then held an auction for the hot ticket item when the kids started fighting over a toy they weren't interested in five seconds prior.  Alex cleared the prize table of a lot of crap with his wheeling dealing methods.

Some big news around here is Lucien finally learned how to ride a bike.  He's resisted learning to ride a bike for years, always told me he was happy with his scooter and didn't care about bikes.  I would tell him bikes are faster than scooters but he never believed me.  He would then challenge me to a bike/scooter race down the sidewalk and would always win because he has less concern for smacking into the many pedestrians on that sidewalk than I do.

The turning point was a sleepover at a friend's house.  His friends wanted to ride bikes but Lucien told them he didn't know how.  So his friends -- two on either side of the bike and one standing in front yelling directions and encouragement -- taught him how to ride in about five minutes.  He took off around the block and hasn't gotten off the bike since.

Maybe I can convince his friends to teach Lucien how to tie his shoes, too.  All I get on that is, "Meh, just keep buying me these kinds of shoes" as he points down to his slip-on Vans.

I played a game of chess with Lucien this evening.  I had him cornered and said, "checkmate."  Lucien then grabbed his king and, arm stiff like a windshield wiper, wiped all the remaining pieces off the board while yelling, "Oh my God, my king's gone crazy, what is he doing, I don't know what's going on!"  He then ran out of the room and up the stairs into his bedroom where he locked the king inside a storage bin.  He still claims I haven't won the game.

I texted the chess story to Alex, out for drinks at the time with his old European posse who are in town for a work meeting.  Alex relayed the story to his friends and the German guy responded, "I think that's how the French won all their wars."

Please, Coco, please no more manicures,

Monday, May 19, 2014

The search is over

Stella the parakeet is an excellent mimic and her vocabulary is growing rapidly.  Her favorite phrase to repeat is "pretty birdy!" followed by a low wolf whistle.  It was amusing and pleasant to hear her repeat our words until the day she began repeating them while vigorously humping her favorite mirror.  Then it turned a little weird.

Stella's "Pretty birdy pretty birdy you're such a pretty birdy" is now accompanied by vicious cage shaking as the mirror gets what's coming to it.  If we have visitors over, I try to distract her by waving towels at her cage, "Stella, stop it, my God, you're in the middle of the kitchen and I'm serving appetizers!" but she will not be swayed from her mission of making love to that pretty, pretty birdy.

Lucien has asked lots of questions and I've answered them honestly.  I think it's great for him to have a front row seat to the birds and the bees -- the bird part anyway -- over his cereal bowl in the morning.  The teacher has already called to report Lucien told her, "my bird wants to have sex with herself all the time" but after my explanation we had a good laugh. 

Stella is a true Narcissus. It also appears she's reaching sexual maturity.  It also seems fairly obvious Stella is a male.  We're not changing her name, though.  I don't think she'll care, doubt she'll even notice because she's so busy -- *bang bang bang bang* -- over there. 

Alex and I took part in a scavenger hunt over the weekend.  We were teamed up with dear old friends who live in Tacoma.  Our team name was Panda Lovegods.  We dressed in black and white, chewed on bamboo, dragged a few stuffed pandas around on leashes.  Nobody on the streets gave us a second glance because such antics are par for the course in Seattle.

The scavenger hunt brought out the seething competitive side that exists in all four of us.  We're pretty laid back people in daily living but something happened as soon as the competition began.  Alex was our driver and was so amped up he didn't break just some of the driving rules, he broke ALL the rules as we careened around the city screaming. 

Our friend and teammate, Tacoma Dad, said last year they were paired with a much less competitive couple who, instead of rushing from clue to clue, insisted on moseying.  He said by the end of the evening the woman was crying and begging him to slow down, then telling him he had ruined the entire evening for her and it wasn't fun anymore.  He tried to tell her, "There's no crying in scavenger hunts, hippie!" but it didn't get her to move any faster.

This year's hunt led us to parks, laundromats, a mambo dance lesson, and a karaoke bar where we were forced to perform Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer."  It's tough to get the crowd on your side when you're singing "The Boxer." They all stood there, bored, arms crossed like "Who are these clowns with pandas on leashes singing a snoozefest song in the middle of our party?" 

And why is the one guy dressed like the Hamburglar?

One stop had us throwing darts at balloons in a park.  There may have been one errant dart accidentally thrown at a dude on a bike but thankfully he didn't get hurt.  As an aside, is it legal to throw darts in public parks?  Because it shouldn't be.

My favorite task was reproducing the Miro painting currently hanging outside the Seattle Art Museum --

The art museum is where we pulled ahead of the other teams thanks to exquisite teamwork.  Tacoma Mom drew the shapes, the rest of us intertwined our arms at odd angles and climbed over each others backs to get them colored in. We were like a writhing ball of pythons clutching markers.  A group of tourists took pictures of us.  "It's true, Seattle people are so odd!" they may be telling friends back in Saint Louis right now.

At the second to last stop, things got rough.  The clue handed to us at the pitstop was a bag of fortune cookies.  As we ran to our car, which was parked in front of a fire hydrant obviously because anything to win, I opened my fortune cookie, pulled out the fortune and popped the cookie into my mouth.  I couldn't help it; fortune cookies are delicious.

Suddenly Tacoma Dad said, "Guys, there are two pieces of paper in the cookies! Find both of them!" and my heart sank.  "Uh-oh," I thought looking down at the solo piece of paper in my lap, "I'm pretty sure I'm eating a clue."

Indeed I was.  I fished the second piece of paper out of my mouth but it was no longer legible.  We hoped to figure out the clue using just the other three but those clues put together read, "GO....TO....PIER..."  and Tacoma Dad yelled, "Dammit, MJ, you ate the pier number!" We all agreed it was the most important piece to the puzzle and a most unfortunate circumstance.

We got back on track but then things got worse. We really botched it at our last stop after having been in first place for a long, long time.  In a catastrophic misinterpretation (with just a touch of laziness), we gave the tickets we were supposed to use for ourselves on Seattle's Great Wheel to a passing couple.  They were crabby people and in retrospect probably did not deserve our gift --

It's a long story.
We were wrong.

Immediately after it happened we received a phone call from the organizers telling us even though we were in first place and technically were finished, we were going to finish as "incomplete" because we hadn't completed our final task.  Our dream of victory was dashed, it was over. 

We walked back to the car (parked in a "police vehicle only" spot obviously) with heads hung low.  We are all buoyant by nature, however, so soon decided we won in our hearts and were the best scavenger hunt team ever.  Then we went to a bar to kill time while waiting for the other loser teams to finish.  We took pictures of the animal puppets we obtained earlier in the evening drinking beer because what else are you going to do with them?

We're going to do the hunt again next year, only this time I'm not going to eat any clues and we're going to make sure we don't do any wrong things.

Alex dozed off to sleep next to me later that night -- but suddenly he sat bolt upright in bed and said with a hint of panic to his voice, "Are you sure it's OK to leave the car here???!!!"  I smoothed his hair and spoke soothingly, "It's OK, baby, it's's over....go back to sleep....hush....hush....."

Competitive scavenger hunting does things to people,

Monday, May 12, 2014

Four-way purgatory and hobos under the porch

When the weather improves in Seattle, life for those of us in cars happens at 10 mph.  The drive to and from the kids' schools takes twice as long because everyone in the city has decided to make their way to work entirely outdoors.  No car nor bus shall block the sun from touching their pasty pale skin.

Pedestrians and bikes and skateboards and dogs on long leashes jump out from every corner.  People in cars inch forward at four-way stops waiting for the crush of pedestrians to cross, then wait for more straggling pedestrians to cross, then wait for the bike to get out of the way, the one with the rider who ignored the four-way stop and careened through the intersection with a serious case of bicycle privilege.

It makes four-way stops nearly impossible to get through.  All the cars have been waiting for so long nobody remembers whose turn it is anymore.  Then begins the courtesy waving -- "You go.  No, you go.  No, really, please, you go.  No you, I insist, please."  After many rounds of waving all the cars lurch forward at the same time only to stop with a screech of brakes when everybody notices everybody else is moving too.  Then there's another round of crossing pedestrians followed by another round of waving.

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest, where everybody refuses to go first when there's the possibility to let somebody else go first.  It's a miracle any of us ever get anywhere.

We had a good Mother's Day.  Alex and the kids made me breakfast then Alex went upstairs to catch up on some work, leaving me alone with two kids and a necessary grocery store run.  I couldn't help but think something had gone wrong with my Mother's Day as I pushed the cart through the grocery store -- filled almost exclusively with men and their young children -- and listened to my two kids fight over dumb things such as the best Tic-Tac flavor.  (ORANGE!  STRAWBERRY!  ORANGE!  STRAWBERRY!)  One man chuckled as he passed me and said, "Oh no, what are YOU doing here today?" and I replied, "I'm wondering the same thing."

Al's workload is intense, no doubt about it, but sometimes I think he makes up "work" so he can get out of taking the kids to the grocery store.  He's a really smart man, wouldn't surprise me.

We had friends over for Mother's Day dinner.  Our friends sunned themselves on the back deck while Alex and I prepared the food.  All our kids played together in the yard.  It was a glorious evening.

Suddenly, Lucien ran up onto the deck and yelled, "You guys, there's a hobo under the porch!"

Now, I've mentioned before our family's issue with the hobo spider, which is the poisonous spider we have to deal with here in Seattle, the very spider we found in our house last year.  Our family is therefore more aware of and paranoid about the hobo spider than most Seattle residents. Our confused visitors, who were not familiar with the spider, instead understood Lucien to be telling them there was a homeless person under the porch.

They jumped up in concern, "Wait... WHO'S under your porch?" Lucien didn't answer, only babbled on with flustered excitement, "You know what? Mom and I discovered a hobo can live for two weeks without food when we captured one last year."

My friends love me, this I know, but for just one brief second, before I came outside and explained, they likely wondered if they really knew me at all.  They also probably made plans to get themselves and their children out of my house as quickly as possible.  Because I was obviously a psychopath who starves homeless people for sport.

The blog may suffer in the coming months because I am working on the Paris book and am having a hard time making time for both.  I want to thank those of you who stuck with me for the duration of the Paris blog because as I read it all over again, I realize how crappy a lot of that writing was.  I was definitely too attached to the exclamation point.  I promise I'll make it up to you! and make it! better! this time around.

You better believe I crush hobos,

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ski legs

What's the first thing you think of when you hear the words "Spring Break"?

That's right -- Oregon!

We spent the week of Spring Break skiing Mount Bachelor outside Bend, Oregon.  The most important thing to know about Mount Bachelor, aside from the fact it's a gorgeous volcano with great spring skiing conditions, is every Mount Bachelor employee has a different answer to any question you might ask.  The key is to keep asking people until you get the answer you want.

For instance, after asking if we could rent our package-deal equipment earlier than anticipated, one employee replied, "No way, step back, rule breaker," another said, "I have no idea" and continued staring dreamily into space but the third said, "You bet!  Come on over and let's get you suited up." And that's what we did.

Alex and I no longer own ski equipment so we had to rent, which is always a bummer.  Ski rental equipment is the worst.  The skis are never well waxed, which will sometimes give you the sensation of skiing through glue and rubber bands.  Your eyes may widen with concern when the dreadlocked white man behind the rental counter hands you your rental poles.  "Did you just put those through a wood chipper?" you'll ask but the real question is, are they really still poles?  Or are they now just a loosely attached collection of dings, dents, and scratches?

You'll envision all the people who have held those poles before you and obviously wiped out in spectacular fashion.  You will hope the fault lies in the crappy abilities of the skiers themselves and not bad pole juju.

Ski boots by their nature are never going to be comfortwear.  They're heavy and bulky and give you the grace and ease of movement of a Transformer.  The omniprescent sound in a ski resort is the *clunk clunk clunk* as people sidestep down staircases made intentionally wide to accommodate a skier's comically limited maneuverability.

That's all awkward enough but the difficulties are magnified in rental boots.  You might as well shove your foot into a cement block that is both way too rigid yet always loose.  The boot buckles will be worn and tired and no longer serious about their jobs; they will weakly grasp the other side of your boot but will regularly bust open when they can't take it anymore. By lunch you will have bruises on your tibias.

I haven't skied in a handful of years and much has changed.  For instance, skis are now short.  When the adorable (adorable!) rental guy from Santiago, Chile, handed me my skis, I looked at him suspiciously and asked, "That's it?  Where's the rest of 'em?"  They looked like kid skis -- except once I saw my kids' skis I realized they'd gotten shorter, too, and are now approximately the same length as pencils.

He laughed and said, "How long has it been since you skied?" I said it had been a long time, since back when ski lengths were normal.  He told me I would love the new length because it makes it so easy to turn I would barely need my poles.  I said, "good, because I don't have a whole lot of faith in those mangled things."

I assembled myself.  As I *clunk clunk clunk*ed my way out the door, I looked over my shoulder at adorable Chile guy and called, "I can't wait to try out my magic skis!"  Then, not looking where I was going, I ran into a pole in the middle of the room and had to stand there for a minute rubbing the side of my head.  Adorable Chile guy waved and looked encouraging but he was probably thinking, "She seems nice. I should go visit her in the hospital later when she inevitably winds up there."

Other than the skis, skiing remains much the same as I remember.  The chairlift ride is thrilling as your legs dangle high in the air.  The sound of the chairlift is the same --a vibrating hum, accompanied by a rubbery squeaky squeaky when you pass through the wheels of a support pole.  Dismount is still a challenge as you navigate around the newbies who just bit the dust in front of you.

Our first run was painful -- my form was weak and my unhappy rental boots barely hanging in there.  I can't say I noticed an ease of turning on my mini skis but it's been so long, I can't remember what it felt like to turn before.  As slightly awkward as that first run was,  both Alex and I were hooked on skiing again by the time we reached the bottom.  Alex got immediately back in line for the chairlift and called over his shoulder, "I forgot how much fun this is!"  Our next runs showed quickly improving forms and increased confidence. We were soon skiing like the wind, as we were both raised to do.

I'm standing on top of a volcano!  YEEAAAH

Alex and I, as in all areas of our lives, have very different styles when it comes to skiing.  I like to stop several times during the course of a run.  I rest my legs, look around, watch other skiers, appreciate the view.  Alex, however, has a mission and that is to WIN and BEAT THE MOUNTAIN.  He skis down a mountain like if he doesn't beat some arbitrary time record, the mountain is going to be taken away from him.  Then he's immediately in line again, while I'm still halfway up counting the snowflakes on the front of my jacket and giggling alone.

Alex and I weren't always so different.  The years have changed us both, in that we're each becoming stronger caricatures of what have always been our core selves.  It usually works well, having our strengths lie in different areas, but when it comes to skiing it just means we get separated a lot.  I'd ski down to a fork in the slope and be stymied -- "Well which way did he go?  Why the hell didn't he stop?" -- then I'd shrug, continue on my way and call his cell phone when I reached the bottom.  He would inevitably be on the other side of the mountain so we would take a few runs solo, work our way towards the middle, meet again, high five.

That's actually a great summary of our marriage in general -- we're on the same mountain but each doing our own thing, and sometimes we meet up for what inevitably become our favorite runs.

The weather was incredible, the snow soft, the crowds minimal.  My happy place became the sunny bar terrace where I would have a beer at the end of the day and watch my kids finish their lessons on the bunny slope.  Coco got so frustrated by her repeated falls she sometimes stayed face down on the snow and pounded it with her tiny fists for awhile.  It's OK, girl, we've all been there.

Our final day of skiing was a different weather story.  It was foggy followed by sleet and snow with zero visibility on the mountain.  Alex and I did a few runs in complete whiteout conditions.  I skied on Al's heels, stared at his back and yelled, "Don't you dare take off without me again!" The darkish blob of his jacket was the only object keeping me anchored to the earth.

We would still get back on the chairlift after each wet, miserable, scary run.  To love skiing is to be gripped with an irrational fervor.  We would suggest another run hoping conditions had improved up top (they hadn't).  We hunkered down on the chairlift with our faces tucked into our jackets to avoid being pelted with the sharp ice chips flying out of the sky.  We would then make our way slowly down the run using our gut instincts or, in a pinch, echolocation.

The kids are really the best part of our ski vacation.  We started with two kids afraid of skiing and left with two skiers.  Lucien, especially, has taken a shine to it and improved dramatically in his few days on skis.  He's now overconfident and trash talking, "Oh yeah? You think you can ski?  You can't ski, I can ski. Watch this and weep, sucker!" *fall* 

We stopped in Portland for a night before coming home to Seattle.  Portland is still Portland -- delightfully weird and filled to the brim with hipsters. While perusing the open air market, we overheard people say head-scratching Portland things like --

 "I hand painted the design on this t-shirt.  I wanted it to be like a man, but also like a fish.  And I wanted him to wear a tie.  It's a classy fish man." 

and from the sleepy-voiced man wearing knee-high socks and sandals --

"I knit these socks myself from vegan fiber."  

The latter comment begs the question.... vegan fiber?  I get it's not wool, but aren't other basic fibers vegan?  Like cotton?  Have I stumbled into an episode of Portlandia?

 delightful wares for sale in Portland

In a spontaneous happy turn of events, Alex agreed to entertain the kids for the evening so I could go out with Supermodel Neighbor, my beautiful man friend who moved from Seattle to Portland last year.  In an even happier turn of events, he brought along two of his friends who are also male models.  I went out with three male models.  Nothing to complain about there.

All three are quick to point out they don't do much modeling anymore and it's not how they define themselves.  That's totally true and I respect that, but I'm still going to call them male models because it makes my life seem more glamorous and exciting than it is (she says as she packs the banana into the dinosaur lunch box).

Our night out in Portland involved a performance by Michael Hurley, a seventy-something-year-old folk singer I've seen perform before, also with Supermodel Neighbor, back in Seattle. There were many beers.  In the later hours we craved late-night junk food and found it in the form of fries covered in cheese and Russian dressing. It was not my favorite combination.

going out with male models can make you feel short

The conversation was boozy and may or may not have included me agreeing to be a surrogate for their experimental three-man-made baby.  There was also some speculation as to how many cows a person could eat in a year.  Also lots of talk of pork.  Bottom line -- if you have the opportunity to go out with three male models, you should do so.  If you want to find some, you'll be able to identify them in the wild by their knit beanies.

Go, Coco, Go

Returning from vacation sucks,