Friday, May 31, 2013


I'm not sure why we keep thinking it's a good idea to go away for long weekends.  It seems like a good idea beforehand but usually ends up a mess of screwed up schedules, screwed up sleep, cranky hungry kids and bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I guess we keep doing it because when we return home (often more tired than when we left) and start looking through the pictures, we usually say things like, "Gosh, that was fun!"

Vacation amnesia sets in quickly and thankfully (usually) leaves the good parts. 

We went back to one of our favorite spots for the long Memorial Day weekend -- the Oregon Coast.   Alex and I have visited the Oregon Coast many times throughout the course of our relationship.  In fact, here's a photo of Alex on the Oregon Coast, on the very beach where we stayed this time, fifteen years ago -- 

Our relationship was in its infancy at that time but I knew he was special, the zany French Canadian with the thick accent who said ridiculous things.

And now, here's a recent picture of Alex on the Oregon Coast --

Not much has changed except Alex looks more batshit crazy now, possibly due to the hoodie/fedora combination.  Plus there's a strange Alex-like kid addition running around screaming behind him.

We rented a first-floor condo right on the beach in Seaside so we could shove the children out the door easily and regularly.  It would have worked well but the weather was not our friend.  While we did have some periods of incredibleness, we also had some rain and some cold and some wind.

As we sat indoors staring outside, Coco tried out her knock-knock jokes.  She's pretty into knock-knock jokes.  They all go like this:

Me:  Who's there?
Coco:  poo poo
Me:  poo poo who?
Coco:  poo poo pee pee

Sometimes she'd mix it up a little --

Me:  Who's there?
Coco:  pee pee
Me:  pee pee who?
Coco:  pee pee and poo poo on your head

I told her the jokes were the worst jokes I'd ever heard but it didn't seem to faze her.  After the hundredth time being told a joke involving some combination of poo poo and pee pee, most of it ending up on someone's head or (god forbid) in their mouth,  I told Alex we had to get out of there, that I couldn't take any more.

Thankfully, we stayed in Seaside, an old beach resort town fully equipped with things like covered tilt-o-whirls and bumper cars.  We made Lucien ride the tilt-o-whirl by himself.  He did not look healthy by the end of it.

Seaside is most famous for being the end of the Lewis and Clark trail.  Seaside is where those two badass explorers (plus badass Sacajawea) finally emerged from the wilderness and dipped their toes into the Pacific Ocean.

They paved the way for many, many timeshare condos

We went to an arcade where, upon her first pull of the wheel at the first game she played, Coco won 1000 tickets.  It took ten minutes for our tickets to fully dispense from the machine, during which time we drew envious gazes and knuckle cracks from all other vacationers.

We decided to get a voucher for our tickets and come back to redeem them the next day.  As we walked back to the condo, I cleaned out my jacket pockets, absentmindedly throwing fistfuls of wrappers and receipts into a boardwalk trash can while looking out over the water.  I realized a millisecond later I'd just tossed the voucher for our tickets, procured not even one minute earlier by a pimply-faced employee who told me to guard it with my life, into a large cement trash can with a bolted-on lid.

I dove into the boardwalk trash can headfirst, trying to wriggle my way under the nasty bolted lid ("I'm small, I can do this!") while Alex lounged on a bench a short distance away, pointed at me and yelled, "homeless, uh-oh!"

I didn't care so much about the tickets, more about how my family was going to react.  They were never, ever going to let me live down the loss.  If I didn't find that voucher, I was going to have to hear about it every single day until the blessed moment I drew final breath.

I eventually fished the receipt out of the garbage using Lucien's new plastic clamming shovel.  Lucien was like, "Mom, why are you using my new shovel to dig through the garbage?" He looked to Alex for explanation but Alex just hugged him and said, "There's something not quite right about her, son, and the sooner you accept it the better."

Success, but I have less respect for myself now

One of my favorite beaches on the Oregon Coast is Cannon Beach.  We planned to spend a full day on Cannon Beach but when we arrived, the wind was so strong we were afraid it was going to blow Coco up into the trees.  We took refuge at a nearby coffee shop and debated what to do.

Alex, who tends to be a save-the-day type of guy, said, "Has Lucien ever flown a kite?" and I said "no" and he said "then that's what we're going to do."  We found a kite store and were advised on the proper kite to buy, one that wouldn't be shredded by the gale force winds currently out on the beach.  We chose a blue one that Lucien creatively named "Blue Kite."

When it's as windy as it was that day, it's easy to get your kite up in the air -- you just hold your arm up and the kite is immediately ripped away from your hands.  The force of the wind pulled Lucien across the sand as he held onto his kite string.  Impressively, he didn't lose the kite because he, like his mother, is freakishly strong.

Coco got one, too

As we walked up and down the boardwalk back in Seaside, we noticed this house.  And we immediately began wondering if it was for sale and if we could buy it and if we could fix it because THERE IS OBVIOUSLY SOMETHING WRONG WITH US.  The pull of an old pretty house in desperate need is like a siren's song and we, someday, are going to crash into the damn rocks.

An elderly woman resident heard us speculating and stopped to give us some history.  The house is owned by a very wealthy family in Portland who no longer cares about it.  There are six bedrooms on the top floor and six bedrooms in the basement.  It's hard to tell from the angle of this photo but the house is quite big with a sprawling front sun porch and great architectural details.

She told us from the turn of the century up through the 1920s, '30s and '40s, the family regularly vacationed in Seaside with an entourage of butlers, cooks and servants.  They threw lavish parties back in the day that spilled out into the front yard and down onto the beach.  For some reason the family stopped coming to their cottage decades ago and the house has been slowly dissolving into the ground ever since. 

I have absolutely no point to make about this house.  I just want it on the record this house existed, it was beautiful, and it LIVED, dammit, it LIVED.

It's a miracle this kid still has a scooter since he ditches it every few minutes and wanders off

He could dig in the sand for hours

We went back to the arcade on our last day to redeem our tickets.  After hearing the chorus of whiny voices clamoring for candy and only candy, I made an executive decision -- two gummy candy pizzas, five whoopie cushions and a monkey hat.  The kids protested but, in my defense, the monkey hat was awesome.

Our plan was to stop in Astoria, Oregon on our drive back to Seattle.  It's a great little town and famous for the many movies that have been filmed there -- the best, obviously, according to me, being The Goonies.  The entire movie was filmed on location.  Quite a bit of The Goonies was filmed up the road on Cannon Beach, too, though obviously on a much less windy day or else Corey Feldman would have ended up in the Pacific Ocean.

I wanted to find The Goonies house.  Badly.  The hard driving rain, however, had other plans.  After a quick lunch and a short drive through the town, we were tired and wet and miserable and decided, "Eff it, this isn't fun." We turned for home.

I'm bummed we missed it.  Really bummed.  That movie was one of my very favorites growing up and now that I've introduced it to Lucien, it's on heavy rotation in our family once again.

Wait for us, Goondocks.  Wait for us, Mikey's house.  We'll return to do the Truffle Shuffle outside the gate someday soon.

Andi!  You GOONIE!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Carpe Diem or else

Lucien has glasses now.  He began striking poses like this as soon as we picked them up.  He seemed to understand having glasses of this magnitude immediately turned him into an emo indie rocker.

(It was also "wear your pajamas to school" day.  The glasses/pajamas/rain boots combination seems to point in only one direction -- The Loosh has gone hipster.)

Track is over.  At our final meet, Lucien came in 7th place out of 8 kids in his first race.  I prepared myself to comfort him but he skipped up cheerfully, deposited his 7th place ribbon in my lap and said, "Well at least I beat that really slow kid!" I am thankful Lucien is buoyant and optimistic by nature.

We had to wait a long time for his second race, as is customary in track meet purgatory.  Lucien spent most of that time pawing through my bag (and his friend's mom's bag) for snacks.  We warned both boys that eating too much before a race was a bad idea.  They didn't believe us and continued to inhale Goldfish crackers as if they were the last Goldfish crackers on earth and people were coming to take them.

When the starter pistol fired, both our boys took off running but within a few seconds began clutching their sides with surprised looks on their faces.  They lurched down the track like tiny Quasimodos in sneakers.  I could hear Lucien muttering "Ow ow ow ow ow ow" as he passed at a slow gallop, arms wrapped around his stomach.

His coaches and I laughed so hard we cried.  It was delightful.  Lucien finished 8th out of 8; his similarly stuffed friend barely eked out victory over him in the "full stomach" division.

I tried not to say "I told you so" but failed.  Lucien said, "Mom, it had nothing to do with the eating, my sides just started hurting really bad and I think I need a doctor."  Then we all laughed at him again and he looked hurt and confused.  Character building!

We're currently taking bids for the exterior project we're hoping to complete this summer.   We've met with several contractors and their bids have started to come in.  It's difficult to compare the bids because each contractor has a different idea about what needs to be done and how best to do it. The issue is not just about the bottom line anymore but also who is most likely to know what the hell he's talking about.
First contractor:  "Hardi-plank siding is the only way to go."
Second contractor: "Blasphemy, nothing but the finest fir boards will suit such a house."
Third contractor:  "This house must be sided in unicorn teeth."
Fourth contractor: "We must bulldoze the whole thing to the ground and start over."

We're comparing apples to oranges over here.  How are we going to decide?  Are we going to rely on gut instinct?  Spin a wheel?  Throw a dart? (not at the contractors themselves -- though that would be another way to weed them out, by testing their reflexes.)

I have no idea.  I guess we'll just pick the guy in the middle -- not the guy who thinks he can mix the paint himself in his kitchen to save money nor the guy who thinks the paint must be made of quicksilver and diamond dust.  We'll choose the middle guy, the reasonable guy, then cross our fingers and march bravely forward.

I've been looking at catalogs again.   I think Restoration Hardware is becoming too pretentious for its own good.

For example, this clock.  I liked it quite a bit until I read it was non-functional. 
This giant clock doesn't work but still costs $1100.
That's dumb.
(Unless you're a big fan of 1:50)

A 1920s German Light Bulb Voltage Tester Bar?
What the hell does that mean?
Just relax, Restoration Hardware. 

I admit, this next item is useful if you really want to beat a message over your guests' heads --


Lucien had a really bad day at school recently.  The teacher wrote me a note and said it had been a hard one, that he'd been in trouble all day and seemed really out of sorts.  I sat him down for a heart-to-heart, asked him to put some words to his feelings to explain why it had gone off the rails.

He's quite articulate, my boy.  He started in on his list: he's frustrated because he's having a hard time with reading and feels stupid, one of his friends made fun of him and that made him angry, he's mad at me for being so hard on him lately,  it makes him feel sad and frustrated when I yell at him even though he's trying his best to be good, and he feels so frustrated with how wound up he feels he just wants to scream.

It was a lot of feelings for a little boy.  He let them all out while burying his face in my shoulder and crying.  He felt better afterwards, as do we all after a good vent session.

Then he said, "Mom, I just want to be a good man, like a man people study.  I want them to talk about me.  I want to be a man people only say good things about.  Like Obama*."

*Lucien doesn't realize people say bad things about Presidents because he doesn't have a Facebook account yet.

Anyway, hard times and easy times, good parenting days and bad parenting days, I really love this kid and hope I'm doing it right.

There's one thing I know for sure, my child:
Don't run on a full stomach,

I forgot to mention --
Hammacher Schlemmer thinks you need an ugly nap pod for $16,000.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ode to Banister Abbey

Banister Abbey.  This damn house.

We fell in love with our house at an Open House exactly one year ago.  It lacked a banister and several other important house parts at the time.  We've gotten a lot done but it's far from finished.

Now that I think about it, it's still missing a banister and several other important house parts.  Well damn.

Let's quickly re-focus on how far we've come instead of how far we have to go or else I'm going to hit the bottle at 9 a.m.

Our most recent success concerns the pocket doors leading into the parlor. Our trusty team found, pieced together, refinished and reassembled the many, many pieces of the doors over the past year.  Several pieces were rescued from the garage where they were found stacked in crappy condition.

The refinished and ready-to-install pieces have been on the parlor floor for six months as other projects took precedence and we lost all our contractors.  Contractor Smiley eventually arrived to save the day.  There were piles of Christmas tree needles under the boards when he moved them. 

Anyway, doors.

Doorway before -- at the Open House

Doors now

Let's do that again that was nice.

Doors Before --

Doors Now --

There are very few finished spaces in our home but there are several mostly-finished spaces.  One is the family room.

The family room before, at the Open House --

I cannot put into words the smell of this carpet.  
But I will try -- "wet peeing dog goat"

The family room now --

painting those stripes nearly did me in

Again.  Before --

After --

See that glow to the right, coming from the (previously creepy) closet?

It's a kid reading nook now --

Nice work, Supermodel Neighbor

and there's toy storage in the other closet --

It was a fine idea but toys still end up all over the floor constantly

On to the dining room.
The dining room got a lot worse before it got better.

Dining room before, at Open House --

Dining room during --

We taught the kids a game called "Swiffer Chase and Fight." 
(Coco played in her princess dress, of course)

after all the chaos, here's the dining room today--

still missing baseboards.  we're working on it.

 stenciling that back wall nearly did me in

As for other spaces, we're finally enclosing our laundry area --


This corner on the second floor has not been empty since we moved in.  It has always collected moving boxes or construction equipment or house pieces of some kind.  And yet here it is now --

just trust me, it's a big deal

We are currently taking bids for an exterior project we're hoping to complete this summer.  Thinking about it got me nostalgic for all we've been through with the exterior already.  Here are some incomprehensible photos to illustrate my thoughts --

All that trouble was to turn this...

the questionable front entry when we moved in

...into this

(and also to prevent the front of the house from crumbling into the ground because it was apparently built on mesh and sand.)

Alex and I often wonder: if we'd known then what we know now, would we still have bought it?  Some days the answer is a screaming "NONONONONO" while ripping out fistfuls of hair but the vast majority of days the answer is "hell yeah love this damn thing."  

You are a ridiculous house, Banister Abbey, but you're part of the family now and we will carry on restoring you to incredibleness.

Forever our money pit,

Monday, May 13, 2013

Perfect Love and Monkeys

I saw the sign at left at Lucien's most recent track practice.

Is the City of Seattle being funny or are pot bellied pigs now a common animal to see about town?

If we're going to start banning odd pets from tracks, there are others I would consider before pigs. For example, it would upset me much more to see a pet boa constrictor at the track than a pig.  Also distressing would be tarantulas and/or tigers.

Inversely, there are pets I would like to encourage to come to the track.  For instance -- monkeys.  I would love to see a pet monkey at the track, preferably a Capuchin but I would also welcome a Pygmy Marmoset. 

Seattle Mom invited me to her co-worker's wedding last week.  It was the first gay wedding I've attended since our state legalized gay marriage.  Washington, you make me proud to live in you.

Now that gay marriage is legal, conservative talking heads fret it's a slippery slope -- next it's going to be OK to marry animals!  Alex will be in trouble if that's true because I really like those Capuchin monkeys.

Well hello there, handsome

The wedding was more frustrating and befuddling than most I've attended but it had nothing to do with the fact there were two brides and no grooms.  It had more to do with Car2Go, my heretofore beloved and flawless spontaneous transportation companion.

Seattle Mom and I drove a Car2Go to the wedding.  When we tried to end our trip outside the hall,  the car told us we couldn't end our trip because we were outside acceptable Car2Go boundaries.  That message was especially confusing because we were parked directly behind another Car2Go whose driver had apparently ended his/her trip quite successfully and walked away.

After some parking here and there with no success, I kicked Seattle Mom out of the car -- go see your friend get married, for Pete's sake! -- and continued to drive around and around searching for the elusive acceptable boundary.  I finally found it thanks to a squeaky-voiced Car2Go helpline representative who may or may not have been in the middle of a panic attack.

I ran many blocks in my high heels ("Wear the really high heels!" said Seattle Mom, "There won't be much walking!") but missed the ceremony anyway.  I hear it was beautiful and everybody cried.

At least I made the reception --

As I watched the brides smooth each others gowns and discuss how they shopped for them together, I felt a stab of envy.  How awesome it would have been to plan a wedding with someone who was as excited about "girl" things as I was.  Alex's eyes used to get glassy and a thin line of drool would escape his mouth whenever I talked wedding.  I would say things like, "I don't know whether to go sweetheart, square or strapless" and he would stare at me blankly and say "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Forget the monkey, I want to marry a woman now.  (those talking heads were right....this is how the gay people seduce us into joining their "lifestyle"...)

These brides have been together twenty years.  Even though I don't know them, it was a joy to see them make their commitment as legally binding and inescapable as me and Al's --

Best toast of the evening -- 
"You two are perfect love and I'm sorry it took the world so long to figure it out."  

I chaperoned a first-grade field trip again because I'm a chaperoning fool.  Being the constant chaperone is my contribution at Lucien's school and honestly, I enjoy my time with those kids.

Except for this last time.  I was the only parent who volunteered between two classrooms so there were two teachers, me, and forty-two First-Graders.  I also had Coco.  It was an uncomfortable ratio of adults to troublemakers. 

The idea was to take a nature walk at a nearby park.  The kids carried magnifying glasses and notepads and were tasked with observing and sketching the various trees, animal life and other naturelike things we came across.  It sounded great in theory but once you took into consideration the ledges-and-ravines topography of the park, the steep slopes on either side of the path at times, the lack of adults and the inexplicably stupid choice for my footwear (high wedge sandals, what?), it was a tense outing.

Our initial strict policing of the kids soon gave way to doing the bare minimum required for survival.  We settled for grabbing kids' hands last second to keep them from slipping into ravines and pulling them down from logs and out of shrubbery by their ankles instead of enforcing the unattainable "maintain a single file line at all times" ideal.

Similarly, the strict "use your half-voice" rule soon morphed into three frazzled adults yelling "I SAID USE YOUR HALF-VOICES YOU'RE GOING TO SCARE ALL THE NATURE" while the kids pulled each others hair and accused each other in their "screaming" voices of squashing the caterpillar (nobody squashed the caterpillar, the caterpillar was perfectly fine, I don't know why I was the only one who could see that.)

On our way back to school, I was posted at the end of the line to collect stragglers.  Half the students fell into this category so I was very busy.  I'm happy to report Lucien stuck cheerfully next to his teacher the entire time but I was kind of bummed about it -- he's the one I wanted to spend time with, not the permanently distracted girl whose collar I had to hold onto because she's always looking straight up at the sky.

I'm pretty sure I rounded them all up and got them back to school but it's entirely possible I left one stuck in a tree trunk somewhere.

I had a weird dream last night.  In it, I said to a group of friends, "Oh, so I have sex with one person dressed like a bunny rabbit and now you're calling me a Plushie?"  just as Alex's boss walked into the room.  I've never met Alex's boss, he's a real head honcho, but the "meeting" idea has recently been floated.

Is the meaning of the dream obvious, as in I'm worried about humiliating myself in front of a big kahuna (understandable, I can be an idiot) or is there something else happening in my strange subliminal mind?

(For the record, I'm not a Plushie)

(Unless there's a Capuchin costume?)

(If you want to share your strange dreams now, I wouldn't feel so vulnerable and strange)

I just spent hours putting together some before-and-afters of Banister Abbey and adding them to this post.  It made this post last for millions of years so I decided it was too much.  I'm going to put them up Thursday instead.  A reason to live!

Cheers to perfect love,