Thursday, January 28, 2016

The kid is all right

Lucien turned 10 last week.  Years are weird once kids turn up.  Sometimes they seem to drag on forever but then you look at him one day and he's huge. Then you find yourself wrapped around his growing body singing him the songs you sang him as a baby and begging him never to leave you.

Then he says something muffled like, "Mom, get off me, we're in a movie theater watching Star Wars."  Kid's a mood breaker, for sure.

Lucien was not the easiest baby.  He was not a happy cooing baby. He was a screaming baby.  If he wasn't nursing or sleeping (which he rarely did), he was crying.  It was constant baby crying for nearly six months, which does not do great things for a new mom's psyche.

The doctor couldn't figure out a reason for it; he seemed healthy and pink and strong in all ways.  I changed my diet, did all sorts of anti-gas baby dangling to make sure he wasn't just one huge gas bubble, supplemented with formula for awhile, read him long passages from Chaucer, sang him show tunes.

Nothing helped.  It was the dreaded mysterious colic and all we could do was wait it out.

so wait we did, while attempting to maintain our sanity

I wore him in the baby carrier all day because it was the only way he would sleep.  He demanded constant proximity, constant motion to be soothed.  I slept with him on the couch every night cradled in the crook of my left arm, trying to murmur him to sleep while he glared and waved his tiny fists in jagged jerky air shapes.  I was an "attachment parent" without ever wanting to be an attachment parent.

Below is a famous picture in our family because it illustrates in a small way the state of our minds at the time.  This is in the middle of the night and I'm wearing Lucien and bouncing because he once again woke up angry.  Lucien hated baby swings but he liked when Alex put him in his car seat and swung him back and forth as wide as Al's arm could reach.  Lucien was into BIG range of motion, not small paltry stupid range of motions.

To save Alex's arm, we attempted to replicate the sensation by tying his car seat to our ladder with a length of rope and swinging him back and forth to each other, bleary-eyed and silent. Sometimes Lucien decided that was satisfactory to him but other times he just yelled through the ladder swinging, too.

 Safety first.
Meh, f*ck it, let's strap the baby to the ladder.

I wish I could go back and talk to that me.  I wish I could tell her to stop crying her blubbery tears and get on with it already.  I would tell her he was going to grow up a happy kid, and he was going to love the crap out of her.  He was still, at the age of 10, not going to get embarrassed when she squeezed him in front of his friends.  He was going to say, "I love you Mom" all sleepy-like when she kissed him goodnight in his bed.

I'd tell her he's a great big brother to another opinionated being (a girl this time) who would show up unexpectedly a few years later.  (No way I'd tell her to avoid that bottle of wine that led to the Coco babymaking in Paris, though, because Coco must exist in this world.)

I'd tell her he was going to sleep so well one day, in his own bed in his own room, it would become difficult to get him out of bed in the mornings. Sometimes getting him out of bed would involve bracing her foot against his bedframe and pulling on his legs with all her might while saying things like, "Come ON, get UP."  Younger me wouldn't believe that one, it would feel like a far away unattainable dream.

the kid is all right

I would want younger me to know that 10 years in, he's an individual marching to his own beat for sure, kindhearted and funny and comfortable in his skin.  I would tell her to relax, that she wasn't doing anything wrong and her baby didn't hate her, it's just that some babies need time to accept the fact they're born.

Or maybe I wouldn't say anything at all, because it would alter the journey somehow and change how we all are 10 years later.  Maybe I'd simply say the years with him are going to be worth every sleepless frustrated tear-filled day and leave it at that.  Then I'd smooth her hair, give her a hug, make her a drink.

No hard feelings, little punk.
best thing I ever did
no matter what

10 years down. Keep on trucking, kid, we are big fans,

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Spanish rice trees

My mom, dad and brother recently visited from Colorado. They couldn't come for real Christmas so instead came in January for fake Christmas. This meant our Christmas season lasted forever and by the time they arrived we were all quite sick of it.

Our Christmas tree was the most pathetic, dried up, shriveled thing you've ever seen by the time they walked in the door. It didn't even look good in the first place so you can imagine the state of it five weeks later.

My dad, a retired lawyer, has been having an ongoing dream for months about a product liability trial.  His dream is impressive in terms of detail and how it picks up where it left off from night to night. In the mornings we greet him with, "Morning, Dad, how's the trial going?"

Aside from Dad's impressive dream skills, the high point of my family's visit was a ride to the gas station in the Winnebago.  I may not be the most entertaining hostess but in my defense, they've been visiting Seattle for 18 years and have seen everything there is to see more than once.  But they've never seen a gas station from a Winnebago.

At the end of that day, Dad said, "Well... today we went to the gas station. That was a pretty exciting day, daughter."  It's likely that was sarcasm but I'll hold out hope I truly opened his world in magical new ways.

That night for dinner I attempted to make a pot roast.  Since we were busy all day (at the gas station), I decided to make it in the slow cooker.  I'd never done a pot roast in a slow cooker before but it seemed straightforward enough.  The only problem was instead of taking six hours as planned, the roast took 10-and-a-half hours to cook.  My pot roast was ready to eat at about 10:30 that night but we'd already eaten the salad and mashed potatoes for dinner, done the dishes, and my parents had gone to bed.

The next day I made them watch Natani at her doggy daycare via the daycare's webcam for a very long time. It is surprisingly riveting television to watch the social dynamics of a pack of dogs. Natani is apparently the town bicycle; she was repeatedly humped by many dogs, most notably a randy Irish Setter and most embarrassingly a tiny Jack Russell Terrier.  Those dogs would not leave her alone.  Mom said it's because Natani is young, cute and blonde.

I considered calling the manager of the doggy daycare to ask him to give Natani a break from the Humpy McHumpies but Mom said that would tell him too much about me -- namely I have no life and watch my dog on webcam all day.

My sister, Raba, and her wife, Zee, have moved out of Seattle proper and have bought 12 acres on a nearby island complete with a red barn they intend to one day fill with horses.

not too bad.  not too bad at all.

Raba and Zee are now living some sort of idyllic "nobody messes with us" kind of existence.  I don't understand.  You mean nobody rifles through their recycling bins at 1:00 a.m. looking for aluminum cans or steals their garden tools from the front porch when they're left unattended for five minutes?  That kind of life is foreign to the downtown-centric people we are in Banister Abbey.

Speaking of our neighborhood, the Central District currently has a serial bread dumper on the loose. The bread dumper is a 50-ish-year-old male who dumps large amounts of bread daily in a nearby empty lot.  This is upsetting to neighbors because it's attracting racoons and rats.  When approached and asked to stop, the man apparently yells, "FUCK YOU" before running away.  Bread dumping -- must admit that's a new one, even for the C.D.

I digress.  Back to the island my sister now inhabits.  Mom said the island reminded her of the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula because of the fuzzy trees but instead of saying "all the Spanish moss on the trees" Mom said, "all the Spanish rice on the trees."  The hysterics were unbearable as I pictured Spanish rice dripping off trees and plopping onto heads of visitors below.  For those in need of lunch, they could merely tilt their heads back and open their mouths, which would be quite handy.

Mom laughed along too but then looked at me with a frown and said, "you're going to put that in your blog, aren't you." and I said, "YES."  My family knows me better than anybody.

We posed for many photos on the island that, as of this time, has no chronic bread dumping issue --

Glorious siblings

This is Lucien staring down a cargo ship --

This is Coco throwing something into Puget Sound with impressive force --

This one looks like the band got back together --

Soon after it was taken, Lucien fell off the log into the water.  

When my family gets together, we laugh a lot.  One of our favorite things to do is reminisce about the fun we've had over the years, especially on our family vacations.  This time we revisited our summer vacation on Lake Powell, Arizona in the early 90s. We rented a boat on Lake Powell but none of us had driven a boat before and it turns out boats don't always stop when you want them to stop.

We came in too hot on one landing and took off a chunk of the end of the dock.  Later, when it came time to gas up at the boat gas station, we all bailed on my dad.  We jumped out of the boat to avoid the embarrassment we knew was coming.  The attendant called to my Dad, "Stop at pump three, sir" but when Dad couldn't make that happen, the guy yelled, "Stop at Pump Four!" and then "OK, stop at Pump Five!" But Dad just kept going.

If you want to know why I am the way I am, there's no need to look further than these people. They are both the wind beneath my wings and the birthplace of my neuroses.  In other words, they are family just like anyone else's family.  And I am so lucky to have been born into their midst.

You know who doesn't feel lucky to be in this family right now?  Oscar.  Now that he's almost 15 years old and crabby, old man schnauzer hates being groomed so I put it off and put it off until his coat is so matted the groomer has no choice but to shave it all off.  Now he's so cold and has to wear a thick fleece sweater all day long with his diaper.

Since his haircut, he's been following me around sighing deeply.  He really wants me to know he isn't happy about recent events.

The vet tells me he'll help me know when "it's time."
It's not "time" yet.  He's still with us.
So we're going to keep loving you... 
...and in this family, that means laughing at you, old guy.

I'm happy to report,
Dad finally got the hang of that boat.

Friday, January 15, 2016

There once was a pig in prosser

Its 2016 -- the year I finally do the things and meet the goals.

I'm writing this post in the Winnebego.  There are cleaning ladies inside my home, their monthly visit to deal with our collective grime, so I've moved out to the driveway.  It's a pretty sweet setup.  I can still connect to our wifi, make a cup of coffee, take a nap.  There's also a box of Rice Krispies in the pantry for when I feel like emptying a few fistfuls into my mouth, which will be often, and likely messy.

The Winnie B is my favorite thing even though I've never been afraid of driving a vehicle before and now I'm pretty much scared all the time.  Alex feels the same.  Whichever one of us is driving nervously asks, "Am I between the lines?  Am I between the lines?" repeatedly all the way down the highway. The other usually responds, "Well it looks good to me but that guy just honked at you so....anyone's guess, honey."  My jaw aches from the clenching but it's a terror-tinged euphoria. I am elated to be a member of this elusive subculture, even around the most harrowing of hairpin turns.

Driving something as big as the Winnie B makes you bolder. Before her, I would earnestly try to work it out with someone on our narrow old Seattle neighborhood streets, attempt to find a win-win situation for both of us, do my best to pull over or back up if necessary.  Now my mentality is more of a shrug and a "That person must move or else we sit here until we die."

People are pretty self-interested that way; they realize I can't back up, and also realize I'm going to win if it comes down to metal-on-metal so are usually pretty quick to back the hell up and get out of my way.  They sure don't look happy about it, though.

We took our maiden voyage to the Oregon coast after Christmas and broke the Winnie B our very first night.  We couldn't get the slideout wall to slide out, which meant Alex and I could not properly unfold our sofa bed.  We stood in the dark holding flashlights and staring at the slideout with rain dripping off our hoods.  Best we could manage were a few "Hmm"s because we know absolutely nothing about this vehicle yet.

The problems continued indoors where we continually popped the fuse on our electrical hookup. Being an RVer involves knowing the electrical draws of everything in your rig and doing math as you turn things on and off to make sure you're not exceeding the amps on your hookup.  We don't know the specific amps of our things yet but have learned a few basic equations.  Heater + several lights = good fun times.  Heater + a couple lights + microwave = lights out, sucker.

As for the water heater, it must use a lot of amps.  Water heater + 0 = only way to go.  That thing should be used on its own as you huddle in the dark and cold without delicious microwaved burritos.

Without the slideout wall, Al and I had to scrap our sofa bed and sleep with the kids.  It was not restful for me because Coco is an aggressive spooner.  I awoke many times to find her leg thrown over my body or her arm wrapped around my neck like that possessed clown doll does to Robbie in Poltergeist.

Even given the winter weather and the tight slideout-less living quarters, we loved being out there in our new home away from home.  Unfortunately, our dog did not share the warm fuzzy feelings.  Natani hated the RV.  She shook the entire time she was inside of it.  When we took her for a walk at the campsite, she refused to get back in.  She planted her legs firmly in the mud outside the door and locked them at the knee, turning her head as far as she could to the side as if to say, "if I don't look at it, maybe it won't exist anymore."

She slipped out of her collar as we wrestled her and then bolted towards the trees.  Thankfully Natani is also a scaredy cat so she didn't get far in the dark Oregon woods.  How sad she must have felt when she realized we were truly the best option.

We took the RV in to the dealer to get the slideout fixed but, of course, the slideout worked fine for them.  It also worked fine for us back at home for awhile but now it isn't working again. I don't see a lot of fun times ahead in terms of dealing with the intermittently problematic slideout.  Please don't make me sleep with Coco again.

This next tale is not for the vegetarians amongst us.  This one goes out to the meat-eaters.  I'm not kidding, vegetarians, get out of here, this will not please you.

Alex and I recently joined with two other families to purchase a pig.  Not a pig like a pet, but a pig to grow on a farm and then eat.

The farm was recommended to us by Seattle Mom's chef cousin.  He said their organic pasture-raised pork was the best pork ever so we pooled money until we had enough to buy a bacon, I mean a pig.  Soon after we signed up for the pig, the farm began sending pictures of our pig -- the live pig, enjoying his life, walking around in the grass and breathing air with a pig smile playing just below his snout.

Why would they do that?  Why would they make us love our pig and look at pictures of him and say "awwww, cute" when they know our plan is to eat him?  We couldn't help but wonder if the farm was actually run by cunning vegetarians.  Did they really want us to eat the pig or was their ultimate goal to make us feel bad enough about wanting to eat the pig that we break down into guilt-ridden sobs and succumb to their vegetarian-bully agenda?

We decided to name our pig "Cuddles" because what the hell, let's make the thing even more tragic by giving it a cute name.  We spoke of Cuddles often as he grew.  They notified us on his butchering date.  They assured us he never felt a thing but still, Cuddles died that day and we all felt sad for that.

Don't underestimate our love of pork, though.  We were trading pork recipes with renewed excitement when another blow came from the butcher -- Cuddles wasn't anywhere near Seattle. Cuddles was waiting for us three-and-a-half hours away in the small town of Prosser, Washington, and the butcher didn't do delivery. It was a detail the chef cousin neglected to mention.  We all agreed it was a pretty big detail to omit.

Anyway, that's how our friend, whom I'll creatively call Seattle Dad, and I came to be crossing the snowy Snoqualmie Pass through the Cascade Mountains on Monday on our way to Prosser, WA.  The rest of our village stayed behind to collect all children from school and get them to music lessons and other assorted activities on time. But Seattle Dad and I were roadtripping all day long.  We're coming for you, Cuddles.

Prosser is a cute town with perhaps a handful of inhabitants.  We stopped in a tavern for lunch before heading to the butcher.  When we walked in the door, the guy standing behind the bar actually said, after scanning us up and down, "You ain't from around here, are you?"  I didn't know people said stuff like that in real life!

Good news was Small-Town-Stereotype Guy made the best burgers we've had in a long time.  Don't get me started on his onion rings.  It may be worth the drive just for lunch again sometime.

We wandered around the corner to the butcher (everything is close by in Prosser) and were confronted by a surreal scene involved animal carcasses hanging from hooks and friendly cleaver-wielding people.  We took some pictures in there but I'm not going to post them.  If any vegetarians have made it this far, I respect that and don't want to push them over the edge.

We drove the 3+ hours back to Seattle (it was a long day) and divvied up the meat on the floor of Seattle Mom and Dad's house --

It looked like a drug deal

It was then we realized they'd forgotten to give us the bacon.  All that trouble for zero bacon?  We decided it was Cuddles from beyond the grave, giving us a final "eff you" before sauntering off to pig heaven.

My family is here visiting.  They're with my sister and sister-in-law today at their new home on a nearby island.  I'm going to write about all of them next time because there is always something noteworthy to mention when they come around.  For example, yesterday we had a conversation contemplating why cows can't milk themselves.

Guess I'll go inside the house now.  I'm getting cold out here.  I'm afraid to turn on the RV heater because our exterior outlet shares a circuit with the outlet the cleaning ladies use for the vacuum cleaner indoors.  I'm not sure there is amp-le power.  Did you get that amp joke?  Pretty bad, I agree.

We'll leave this post with Alex and The Loosh in a go-kart.

Sure enough -- looks like a Rice Krispie explosion happened in here,