Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pack of Wolves

I took a break from blogging last week to deal with an emergency situation; Coco's preschool made the out-of-the-blue decision to shutter its doors next year.  This may not seem like an "emergency" in your typical "someone's bleeding over here" sense but when you consider next year is her CRUCIAL PRE-K YEAR and most Pre-K programs are already full for Fall, we were Code Red.

The late decision left our preschool's families scrambling to find a spot for their kid's CRUCIAL PRE-K YEAR.  If parents don't handle the CRUCIAL PRE-K YEAR properly, it can be disastrous to their child's future.  There is an adult on a therapist's couch right now processing an overwhelming list of troubles.  The therapist is going to ask any minute, "Where did you go for Pre-K?" and if the patient responds, "I didn't really do a Pre-K program, just a play-based preschool for a couple years," the therapist will throw down his/her pen and say, "Well then there's not much I can do for you."

Crucial stuff, these schooling decisions made for four-year-olds.  I'm pretty sure at the age of four I was eating paste on my parents' asbestos-laden linoleum floor but no matter, times have changed, Pre-K now determines everything. 

We all got on phones immediately to beg for spaces in programs across the city.  Most schools no longer had spots but those that did were quite specific as to what they were looking for because the gender/age ratio in a Pre-K classroom is apparently of utmost importance.  "We're looking for an older girl," or "we have a spot for a younger boy" or "we're looking for a hermaphrodite, with a summer birthday, about three feet tall, who can yodel."

All our preschool's parents descended upon the same schools for visits and suddenly friends were rivals jockeying for position, eyeing each other suspiciously, and overhearing other parents brag to admissions their child was born in Paris (I admit nothing).

Even if you don't buy into the idea our kids' lives are made or broken at the age of four, it's difficult not to get swept up in the mania of emergency Pre-K admissions.  It feels like running with a pack of wolves.  It's pressure-filled and exciting and kind of scary and you're looking over your shoulder thinking, "Oh my gosh, look at me, I'm in the middle of this pack of wolves!"

If you fall behind, you'll get trampled but even worse, your child will end up doing their CRUCIAL PRE-K YEAR at a now-defunct gas station led by a suspected felon named Bruise. 

I had my sights set on one school in particular for Coco.  On the day of our visit, the kids were busy painting scenery for the annual play to be performed later that evening. One tiny girl came up to me and told me she was a cat in the play and would I like to hear her lines?  I said "yes" and was utterly delighted when she followed me around meowing for the next five minutes.

Coco went for a trial run the next day to determine if she was a good fit for the school.  It was the audition of her four-year-old life.  As I sent her into the classroom, I smoothed her hair.  What?  Since when was Coco's hair ever smoothed and, if it wasn't, when have I ever cared?  Running with the wolves did funny things to me. I gently shoved her into the room and sent up a silent prayer she didn't choose that day to start smearing feces on walls. 

She didn't.  She was cheerful easygoing Coco and was offered the "older girl" spot the next day.  We're now secure in our knowledge we've made her life awesome forever, and our work here is done.

Coco is firmly in a horse phase so Alex took her to see Cavalia, the fancy Cirque du Soleil-meets-horse mashup of a show, over the weekend.  I helped him by writing turn-by-turn directions to the Cavalia tent in Redmond and attaching them to the dashboard of the car.  He proved himself Alex by ignoring those directions completely and getting lost somewhere in Bellevue. 

This is not your typical guy-won't-ask-for-directions tale.  It's more serious than that.  Alex doesn't consider directions because he firmly believes if he just gets into the car, the car will take him where he wants to go.  Directions are not a sign of weakness to him, they just don't matter.

Things tend to work out for Al and his aimless meandering "following his gut" driving because he has a detail-loving directions person (me) at home to talk him through.  If he didn't have me, I'm not sure what would become of Alex every time he got into the car.  He'd end up in Idaho when he was aiming for Costco, whistling and unconcerned it was taking longer than expected.

The Loosh recently told me he doesn't think he's good at singing but he's REALLY good at humming, so maybe I could find a humming competition in which to register him?  He's serious about it, lays in his bed at night and practices the same bars over and over again to get the hum pitch just right.  That kid is coming dangerously close to pulverizing my heart.

Meow meow meow meow,

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


I spent this past weekend with some ladies in a rental house on Whidbey Island to celebrate Seattle Mom's 40th birthday.  When one of our own hits a milestone, we drop kick parental responsibility to our husbands and hit the road.

Our rental house was spacious but we still had to share beds.  Seattle Mom #2 was lucky enough to share a bed with me.  I did not spoon her as threatened but I did throw a ton of covers on her in the middle of the night when I kicked them off because holy hell, our room was an inferno cursed with a defective heating unit.

There are many ways to pass the time when you're spending a weekend with girlfriends on an island -- surprisingly far more than just sitting on the couch covered in blankets and drinking wine, though we put a fair amount of time into that endeavor as well.

For example, we enjoyed the nearby public beach --

all 20 feet of it

And we tested our fear of heights on a tall wobbly bridge --

We also tried to light the flameless candles in our rental house with a lighter, only realizing there was an "ON" switch on the bottom after we scorched the insides and Seattle Mom swore "I'm gonna light this goddamn candle if it kills me."  It didn't go that far, thankfully.

There's something about taking photos on Pacific Northwest beaches that makes every group shot look like the band just got back together -- 

The band got back together

The band disbanded briefly for a solo project

 The band got back together

Now the band's being dicks to each other and trying to knock each other off logs

probably drugs

Our first evening was spent drinking wine on the deck.  Seattle Mom told a story of her Girl Scout camping days and how she used to get so scared she would call out for her camp counselor -- inexplicably named "Buttons" -- in the middle of the night.  For the rest of our Whidbey Island weekend, a solo cry of "BUTTONS!  BUTTONS!!" could be heard regularly.  The rest of us would stop whatever we were doing and mimic the call in response.  We were like a pack of wolves with a new inside joke.

I was responsible for bringing Saturday morning brunch.  I made a beautiful spinach and sausage strata the day before and brought the cooler out of my scary basement for the strata's transportation to the island.  The cooler made it into the car but, once we were nicely settled in on the island, I realized the strata had not.

I didn't realize the strata was missing until late that first night, after much wine had been consumed and everyone was headed for bed.  For a moment I went insane with confusion.  I spun around in the kitchen, insisted I PACKED THE STRATA and enlisted help finding it and getting it into the fridge right away because eggs.  

That's how Seattle Mom came to be on her hands and knees under the sink reporting, "It isn't under here" and Seattle Mom #2 confirmed the strata wasn't in the dishwasher while Seattle Mom #3 checked the bathrooms.  Seattle Mom #4 bundled up and went outside to dig though the car, something she truly enjoyed because of all the rain.

They wanted to believe I had brought the strata and not just an empty cooler to Whidbey Island but eventually they gave up and went to bed, leaving me alone in the kitchen to mutter to myself and check the garbage can just one more time. 

I finally texted Alex and asked if there was a strata in the refrigerator at home.  He responded, "Yes!  Thank you so much!"  Alex had discovered the strata and thought he had the most thoughtful wife in the history of wives.  I had to fess up that it wasn't meant for him because I didn't want to set unattainable standards for myself in the future.

Observe this true Pacific Northwestern specimen.  
When she wants to read a book outside, she reads a book outside.

One thing I did remember to bring to Whidbey Island -- and perhaps the reason I forgot breakfast because this was the true the star of the show -- was the penis cake.  I'm not sure I can show pictures of the penis cake here because it was a very realistic penis cake.  Perhaps if I pixelate -- 

 that'll do

I ordered the penis cake earlier in the week from The Erotic Bakery in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle.  If you're looking for someone to sculpt realistic looking body parts out of fondant, they're your people.

After perusing the website I decided to go with the "Erect Penis with Bow" model because nothing says "Happy 40th, dear friend" like a festooned member.  The guy who took the order over the phone asked me what color I wanted the skin of the penis, the color of the hair, color of the bow, whether or not I wanted a piercing through the penis or something unfortunately called "c*m icing" squirted all over the top. 

As we discussed the merits of "c*m icing" and debated whether or not it would render the entire cake unappetizing, I told him he had a very strange job.  He agreed and then oh, how we laughed.

(I decided against the icing.  It seemed one step too too far.)

The penis cake made it to Whidbey in one piece.  We made the mistake of hiding it in the cupboard instead of immediately in the refrigerator so the penis got too warm and began bending to the right.  I called out, panicked, over my shoulder, "You guys, it's listing, it's listing!" as the other ladies distracted Seattle Mom outside so we could move it into the fridge.  That thing was very high maintenance and difficult to manage.

It was worth it for the reveal, though.  She was like, "Ohhhh... pretty cake......OH MY GOD."

 the cake is happy to see you, too, Seattle Mom

Our dear husbands held down the forts back at home so we could lead our lives of debauchery.  The men kept the kids alive and got them to the numerous birthday parties scheduled for the weekend. I'm sure they could have accomplished this without the lengthy lists of instructions and drawn diagrams we left them, but why take that chance?

It's a magical strata and found it's way through the wormhole from Whidbey Island to my kitchen counter.
It's the only explanation.

Thank you, husbands.
And happy birthday, Seattle Mom.  You rock our world.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Yo from the Hoh

To the naked ear, visiting a rainforest in the Pacific Northwest in February may sound akin to showering naked outdoors at the North Pole.  It's actually much more enjoyable than that, thanks to can-do attitudes and the miraculous properties of Gore-Tex.

The kids were most excited for the ferry portion of the trip.  That is, until Lucien looked outside and nervously remarked the boat alongside the ferry had a large machine gun protruding from the bow.  It was a U.S. Coast Guard boat and it accompanied our ferry across Puget Sound with a man in black standing ready at his large boat gun.

Alex and I tried to make light of it and explain it in a way that wouldn't terrify the children -- "They're protecting us in case terrorists come flying at us on super stealth sonic boats and try to blow us up but don't worry that probably won't happen" -- but inside we were slightly unnerved.  We wondered what the Coast Guard knew that we didn't know (probably quite a lot) and prayed to be quickly delivered from our marked ship. 

We survived the ferry and drove several hours to our cute rental house in the middle of downtown Forks, Washington.  Forks used to be a sleepy little lumber town in the middle of nowhere but is now known worldwide for something less staid -- it's the setting for the vampire-loving Twilight series.

As a result, things have changed in Forks since my last visit ten years ago.  There are many Twilight themed shops and Twilight themed B&B's.  Would you prefer "Edward's Room" or "Jacob's Room?"  You cannot have them both, foolish traveler, you must pick a side.

There's now a Twilight Tour upon which you can visit "Bella's House" and "The Cullen House."  "Bella's Truck" sits outside the market where she worked and there's a parking space reserved for Dr. Cullen at the local hospital.  Forks has plenty of parking so it's not upsetting to the locals one spot sits unused, waiting for a man (vampire) to come to work who does not actually exist.

It's a bit depressing, watching the previously humble Forks milk its brief fame with such obvious pandering to a rabid fanbase.  Enterprising shopkeepers would be foolish not to take advantage, of course, but I still miss the old vampire-and-werewolf-free Forks.

Alex is not dazzled by Twilight

I read the Twilight series when we lived in Paris. Coco was a tiny baby so I would be up at all hours of the night with her.  Twilight was my friend during that time; it was fun enough to make the sleepless nights with Coco on the couch bearable but fluffy enough not to require much thought.  It was exactly what I needed.

Because of my knowledge of the series, I became a very important tour guide for my family.  When we crossed the clearly marked "Treaty Line" I explained to Alex that was the line the vampires and werewolves drew to mark their territories.  I told him the story of "The Cold Ones" as we stood on the Quileute tribe's beaches in La Push.  I located where Bella cliff dived thanks to the Twilight Tour map I'd grabbed at the greasy spoon diner that morning at breakfast. 

Alex listened thoughtfully then said things like, "I get it; the Quileute tribe turned into werewolves and they are the natural enemies of vampires. I understand why that would be so."  I suspected he was making fun of me but knew for sure when he said with a dreamy look on his face and wistful tone to his voice, "I'm so glad you know the rich history of these lands.  I feel I understand the tribe so much better now."

I decided to stop talking about Twilight after that.  I made one exception as I walked behind Coco and Alex in the rainforest.  Coco has a hard time keeping pants up thanks to her lack of hips and resistance to belts, and as they slipped further and further down I said, "Now THAT'S a New Moon" and then laughed hard all by myself.

The Hoh Rainforest is not at all related to Twilight.  It's also one of the few temperate rain forests in North America and is exquisite in its uniqueness. It is no exaggeration to say we were the only car in the parking lot.  The Hoh Rainforest in February is not a hotspot destination.

It should be.  I've been to the Hoh before but this visit was my favorite because we were all alone.  It made the rainforest that much more magically spooky.

We encountered an ethical dilemma in our aloneness.  There was no one posted at the ranger station to collect payment, only a sign requesting we drop our entrance fee in the box outside the visitor center.  Alex and I grinned at each other -- it was a teachable moment!  We were going to teach our children about being honest, and doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.

We marched to the box at the visitor center, grabbed an envelope and began our loud and proud speech about personal responsibility.  We pulled our wallets out, squinted at the bills inside, then glanced quickly at each other in alarm.  We had only $10 cash between us. The entrance fee was $15. And those kids were watching us like tiny hawks.

Alex and I began muttering back and forth through clenched and smiling teeth.  "Just shove the cash in fast, maybe they won't notice," said Alex.  So I did. 

We should have known that wasn't going to work.  Lucien sees all and Lucien knows all.

"That's ten dollars, where's the rest?"
"Well, son, it's all we have."
"Well then we can't go in, right?"
"Well... actually we can."
"You said we have to pay!  You said the parks need the money!
"We can support the parks in other ways, such as placing garbage in proper waste receptacles."
 "You have to leave them your credit card number!"
"Oh hell no, son, you're trippin'."
"You said we have to pay the fee, even if there's no one around.  But that's not the fee!"
"You're making us uncomfortable."
"We have to write them an IOU!  You guys! Why are you walking away?!"

We should stop trying to teach valuable lessons and just hope for the best as usual.

At one point while walking through the lush, deliciously fresh rainforest, we decided to go slightly off-road to get down to the water.  Alex slid down the steep muddy semi-trail first, then turned and urged Coco, "Jump!  I'll catch you!"  She jumped because she trusts her Daddy with her whole heart.  Alex caught her fine but her weight threw him off balance so they both went down hard in the mud and slid the rest of the way down the hill.

Coco was so stunned she didn't even cry.  By the time she considered crying, Lucien and I were laughing so hard a small smile appeared at her lips until it took over her entire face. She seemed proud to walk the rest of the day in her mud-encrusted clothing.

I shouldn't have been so quick to laugh at them; on our way back up that hill I slipped and my hand landed in a pile of elk poop. It's cool, I was wearing gloves.

If a tree falls in the rainforest and no one is around, does Lucien still make a sound?
Yes. Many.

The Olympic Peninsula coastal beaches, similar to the rainforest, are at their most incredible when you're the only ones on them.


Coco was knocked over by a rogue wave and landed in the raging surf at the first beach we visited.  That's how she ended up back in the car ten minutes after arrival, pantsless, eating peanuts and reading The Complete Idiot's Guide to RVing.

I was very tense about Lucien also falling into the waves but Alex advised me to be more Buddhist about it and picture Lucien already wet.  It worked.  Lucien fell down soon thereafter and it didn't bother me at all.

Those two tiny figures in the distance above are Alex and Lucien running towards a sea lion we spotted just offshore.  As they stood watching, the sea lion lunged up and out of the water and caught a seagull straight out of the air.  Lucien screamed.  He now knows nature is heartless and untrustworthy.

Our Olympic Peninsula trip was awesome but it certainly wasn't perfect.  There were some squabbles between the kids, some disagreements between the children and their parents.  Lucien may have told us he wanted a new Mom and Dad because we were mean.  At one point during a tense stand-off, I said, "Lucien, are you really listening to me right now?  Because it kind of sounds like you're just humming The Imperial March from Star Wars while glaring at a spot somewhere over my head."

Family trips are family trips, after all.   During the frazzled times they don't feel like they're worth it but then you get home and look over your pictures and realize they were SO WORTH IT.

The ferry of doom pulls back into Seattle without incident 

Team Edward forever,