Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mary in a bell

This is a preschool field trip I recently chaperoned.  We used the city bus to get there and back because we love the environment at fancy preschool.  Yee-haw.  

We may love the environment but we chaperones don't love the anxiety and logistics involved in putting 20 kids on a city bus already full of people and getting all 20 back off again.  I had a nightmare the evening before the field trip and you guessed it, I left my entire group up in there somewhere.  As of my waking, they hadn't been heard from since.

Yes, we preschoolers may love the environment but I'm not sure our fellow riders loved us an equal amount.  That was evidenced by the face of the one guy who got pinned in the back corner.  His expression turned from genuine friendly smile into frozen mask of terror as tiny kids piled all around him and asked his name repeatedly.

It's Lucien and a gigantic snake.  Just be cool. 

Let's talk holiday.  Christmas is my favorite holiday but it's gotten harder.  Christmas as a kid was about twirling in circles in new holiday dresses and sucking on candy canes. Now it's about sitting bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night nursing the panicked thought, "I forgot to put the speech therapist on the thank-you holiday gift list!"

(I then go downstairs and write her name on the list immediately, lest I forget to purchase an Amazon gift card for the woman who made my unintelligible daughter somewhat intelligible.)

I miss being young at Christmas.  Gone are the days of lying under the Christmas tree with my brother, staring up into the branches at the lights and giggling. We had large-bulbed brightly colored lights on our tree back in the early 80s, not the chic tiny white lights of today.  Those giant hot lights could burn your nose off if your face got too close so lying under the tree was flirting with danger.  In addition to the potential injury, the lights blinked maniacally giving our living room the constant feel of a disco.  It was a 1980s Christmas and it was glorious.

My mom was often baking things.  She probably felt the same way I feel now when I'm trapped in the kitchen baking things.  Had I understood back then that Christmas could be stressful, that it was often an agonizing month-long preparation purgatory, my six-year-old self surely would have helped Mom or at least patted her on the back reassuringly.

Or maybe not, because I was busy.  I was busy grabbing Mary, the blessed mother of the baby Jesus, from our nativity set, sticking her head inside a bell-shaped Christmas tree ornament and declaring her "under the hair dryer at the beauty salon."  Mary was more often dangling from that "dryer" than resting in the manger with her newborn son.  My mom suspected this activity was sacrilegious but Mary's head fit so perfectly inside that bell there's no way it was wrong.

In other holiday news, Thanksgiving happened.  My parents flew in to join my sister Raba and sister-in-law Zee at our table. It was a warm and happy time but we missed my sweet brother who couldn't get the time off work to make the trip. He probably misses simpler holiday times, too.

We added a stray to our family Thanksgiving, a French man from Alex's work who had never experienced Thanksgiving before.  French Man is outgoing, warm, excited to sample everything Seattle has to offer.  He smiles all the time.  He bounces up and down a little when he talks.   His hugs are like being enveloped by a psychotically happy octopus (How can he have so many arms?). He's such an enthusiastically positive force for good, Alex once said, "It's like he's not French at all!"

(our stereotypes are expressed with the greatest affection and we miss you, French people...)

French Man's presence at Thanksgiving upped the ante.  I would normally have foregone many traditional staples for more contemporary options but instead felt the need to stick with the oldies, most of which sound unpalatable to foreigners.  Pumpkin pie?  Cranberry sauce?  Potatoes covered in so much brown sugar and butter they should be classified as dessert?   Crunchy curly things on the green beans, what?

I expected at the very least some hesitation but French Man dove into everything and pronounced it "amazing!" and "incredible!"  I wonder if there's anything I could have thrown his way that would have broken his can-do spirit.  Maybe Jello with suspended sliced bananas?  Easy Cheese on Ritz crackers?  Marshmallow Fluff eaten out of the jar with a spoon?  I'll have to invite him again to try these things and will report back.

I forgot to take pictures at Thanksgiving but here are a couple of Mom tickling Coco's feet --

Speaking of French people, Alex and I attended the Beaujolais Nouveau event, sponsored by the French-American Chamber of Commerce, a couple weeks ago.  It was a fancy event held on the top floor of our tallest building downtown.  It was an impressive location for a wine that's widely agreed to be awful.

Thankfully there were other things to drink besides the B.N.   I accepted a glass of rosĂ© from the roving servers when we arrived and immediately said, "Alex, we've got to ask the bartender for the name of this wine, it's incredible."  Alex walked away to do just that and returned a few minutes later with a kindly Frenchman who kissed my hand and said, "I hear you like my wine, Madame."  I asked Alex to get the name of the wine and he returned with the winemaker.  It was well played, Al.  

The Beaujolais Nouveau fĂȘte was full of "somebodies," a few of whom I didn't like.  Once they've reached "somebody" status, some people stop being authentic and start being schmoozy to an uncomfortable degree.  They should also lay off the tanning beds because it's Seattle in winter and they're orange.

Orange folks aside, the view of my city was awesome

Most of the people I met were great.  I made a new friend at our table when he leaned over and asked, "Why are you sitting there laughing all by yourself?"  I was indeed laughing all by myself because two elderly people had begun dancing right next to my chair.  It would have been a sweet moment but for the nature of the Serge Gainsbourg song to which they were dancing.  Alex is a fan of Serge so I know most of his songs, including the English translation of his oft-salacious lyrics.

I'm pretty sure those sweet silver-haired people aren't as familiar with Serge as I am.  I leaned over to my new friend and said, "Do you think they know they're dancing to a song about doing it in the butt?"

I'll be under the tree if anyone asks.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dammit Karen

Alex and I were invited to a going-away dinner for one of his co-workers Saturday night.  Al told me the send-off was for a small group of people, just a couple others besides us, and that it was "a pretty casual thing."  I asked him if it was jeans casual and he said "probably, this is Seattle after all."

Seattle or not, I don't feel right wearing jeans to a dinner party so I wore my favorite dress but casual-ized it with a funky frayed cropped cardigan and clompy Seattle style boots.

We arrived at a giant house on a hill with a view for miles to find an extravagantly set table for 26 people and a handful of caterers in the kitchen.  Servers immediately descended upon me and offered a glass of champagne and some dainty spinach/cheese ball things.

After a quick panicked appraisal of the situation including the hostess's elegant cocktail dress, I whipped off my weird tacky sweater and flung it into the corner.  I also quickly got rid of my clunky boots, declaring I was "one of those people who believes it proper to remove one's shoes upon entry." (I'm not that person at all, I love my shoes)  Thankfully my tights were a lovely warm cinnamon color and were also blissfully hole-free, a condition in which most of my tights do not find themselves.

I shot Alex a sidelong stinkeye.  We've been together a long time so he knew exactly what I meant.  "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm not a detail person!" he hissed in my ear as he glanced frantically around the room and mentally evaluated his own wardrobe choices.

Not only was the dinner much fancier than anticipated but some of the "big guns" from the company were invited.  I'd heard the names before but had never met the people behind them.  Alex used to toss sleeplessly the night before giving presentations to these names and now I was about to meet them in my stocking feet.  I made a mental note never to listen to Alex's words again because they are false.

It was all ado about nothing, as are most things I get worked up about.  One guy did show up in jeans (this is Seattle after all) so I put my sweater back on because dang I was cold.  I met a woman who grew up in Detroit, a neighboring city to my hometown of Toledo, and now we're friends.  "The big guns" were no different from the underlings -- friendly, easy to talk to, good senses of humor.  Not once did I get nervous and blurt, "How much money do you have, money person?"

It was a success even though I felt dumb with no shoes and spent a crazy amount of time talking to a Civil War buff.  I was just faking it with that guy, I really don't know much about General Lee.

Sunday was glorious here in Seattle: clear, sunny, crisp, cold. We left our house in the morning with only a vague notion of what we were trying to accomplish then bounced around from place to place until we ended up back home.  Aimless days are usually the best days.

Playing Uno under the watchful eye of the Tabasco sauce

Ziplining into her brother

throwing rocks into the lake

Dad kid pile

a cheap haircut and an old school arcade

I'm snack parent at Coco's preschool this week and that's no laughing matter.  I must provide a full week of healthy snacks for 20 kids.  Each day's snack must include one protein, one carbohydrate and one fruit or vegetable.  Also, snacks cannot be repeated two weeks in a row. I have no idea why they can't be repeated but based on my experience, it's a rule designed to flush out the weak from the strong.

Your snack "menu" must be filled out the week before and submitted for approval.  Filling out my snack plan took an inordinate amount of time because I would think, "I'll bring pretzels for the carb on Tuesday" but then I would flip back to the week before mine in the snack menu book and "DAMMIT, KAREN!"  Karen had brought pretzels the week before my week so pretzels were no longer an option, they were dead to me. 

"OK....so...I'll bring pita chips then...." 
*flip flip* 

Rinse and repeat with Goldfish crackers.

My snacks got obscure after that -- flax seed smoothies and salami wrapped breadsticks and hard boiled eggs dipped in strawberry coulis.  Karen sure as hell didn't do any of this, HA, I thought as I scribbled my snack plan furiously in the snack plan book.  

I'm getting carried away but all I'm trying to say is being snack parent is a weighty responsibility.  I awoke early this morning to chop up dozens of colorful bell peppers, portion out ham slices and count my rice crackers because it's just a big damn deal.  

We were hustling out of the house after my snack preparations when I took pity on our dog -- he's an old guy now, is deaf and has to wear a dog diaper at night -- and agreed he could ride with us in the car that morning.  But as soon as I opened the fence gate to shoo him into the car, Oscar, that idiot animal, took off down the street.  I yelled, "Oscar!  Oscar!"  as I ran after him clutching my cup of coffee and my snack bag full of prepared delicious goodness for 20 preschoolers.

Did I mention Oscar's deaf now?  He was so happy to be free.  He was oblivious, tail wagging, couldn't hear my frantic screaming.  For just a second he thought everything was right in the world and he was a young dog again.  Then he stopped to pee on a tree and Lucien pounced on him.  He looked up at us so hurt and confused.  He didn't understand our flailing arms and angry faces.  

We dragged him back to the car.  I opened the passenger side and he attempted to jump up on the seat.  Old guy he is, he got stuck halfway between the ground and the seat and dangled there whining until I grabbed him around the belly.  In grabbing him, however, my coffee, which was now clutched under an arm to load the dog, tipped at a precarious angle.

I saw what was going to happen before it happened yet I was powerless to stop it.  The coffee cascaded in a lovely arc straight into my meticulously prepared snack bag.  What didn't hit the insides of the bag ran down my dog's back , soaked my white gloves, and dripped down the front of my beloved red and white houndstooth coat.

 oh animal

Oscar was fine but was no longer welcome in the car that morning.  He was placed back inside the house.  I blotted the contents of the snack bag best I could.  The crackers were unscathed in their plastic container but the ham and bell peppers didn't fare as well.  I considered confessing as I handed the snack bag to the teachers with a cheerful smile but I knew they would make me re-do all that chopping and I didn't have the strength.  

To review, I served 20 preschoolers a healthy snack with one protein, one carb, one vegetable, and a healthy sprinkling of caffeine.  It should be an interesting day over there today.

Karen most definitely did not do that. HA!

Monday, November 10, 2014

No dice, pumpkin spice

Halloween is over so I can have a life again until next week when I start prepping for Thanksgiving. I will then have a brief life again until Christmas preparations begin, which will be alarmingly soon after the Thanksgiving meal has been consumed.

My grocery shopping for our annual Halloween party revealed America's perplexing obsession with all things pumpkin flavored and pumpkin scented.  There were pumpkin waffles, pumpkin lip balm, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin marshmallows.  I didn't investigate too thoroughly but I wonder how far it goes. I wonder if there are pumpkin flavored hot dogs.  I wonder if there are pumpkin scented suppositories, to remind you of Grandma's pumpkin pie when you take your butt medicine.

We need to get a hold of ourselves because if you truly cut open a pumpkin and take a sniff of the insides, or god forbid taste them, the experience will be more akin to day-old cat vomit than the deliciously warm and comfy scent those marketing geniuses have concocted.

Banister Abbey Parents Gone Wild Halloween 2014 was the best one yet.  It was the year I finally bought my own beer tap.  It was also the year I made sure to set our fire extinguisher on the counter before the party began.  I love my friends but they are definitely capable of burning down my house so it's best to have that thing handy.

I made the worms again

We had over 50 people this year, more than we've ever had before, and they were all enthusiastic, fully costumed, fully on board.  I dressed as Elvis Costello and didn't set my guitar down all night.  I couldn't.  My costume became nebulous without the guitar, something between a Blues Brother and a 1940s era hit man.  I smacked a lot of friends in their chests and shoulders with my guitar as I walked through the party but I think it was worth it to uphold my vision.

It's two Elvises and two White Stripes

Alex was a giraffe --

Animal costumes were popular this year
but what is up with that eagle cow?

A tarot card reader sat in the TV room and gave readings all night, some of which were life changing and had people crying on their way out of the room.  (That could have been the booze, though; too much of the hard stuff seems to have the same effect.) Our friends reported the tarot reader was amazing and right on point, minus the one lackluster review from a wife whose husband had just been told to come out of the closet.

Whoops.  I hope they don't come to the party next year costumed as a divorced couple.

has your life changed yet, Seattle Mom?

The final revelers left near 2:00 a.m. after one guest yelled, "You guys, seriously, MJ calls 911 all the time.  Believe me, she will call 911 on her own party if we don't leave."  I then placed the phone back down gently, grateful someone knew me so well, and understood who I am, at my core.

Here are my kids on actual Halloween, with a Victorian ghost up top --

the only holiday that doesn't take itself seriously

exhibit A: my boy is a piece of bacon

As for other recent events, Coco had a starring role in her preschool's class play.  The play was based on an ancient theme, one that has plagued mankind for ages -- Coco had grown a pumpkin that was too big and she couldn't figure out how to get it off the vine.

One by one the other kids came by with helpful suggestions. There was a lot of tugging on the pumpkin -- a little melodramatically overacted, if you ask me.  After the 15th round of tugging and pulling and shrugging of tiny shoulders, Alex leaned over to me and whispered, "Someone give these kids a decent hacksaw and we're done here."

At the end they decided if they all pulled together they could get the pumpkin off the vine.  I guess it's necessary to suspend one's disbelief when watching a preschool play because I don't think even 20 tiny kids pulling together could rip a pumpkin the size of a Volkswagen off a 12-inch diameter vine.

I hit a parked car a couple days ago.  That was the start of a bad day.  Drop-off in front of Lucien's school is always a mess.  Parents are supposed to drive north down the street in front of the school to drop off their kids but there's always some dumb parent trying to come south.  You have to move over as far as you can to let the stupid idiot through. I moved over as far as I could which, I now know, was too far.  I pushed the limits of what was possible according to the parked truck I broadsided.

Lucien, helpful little soul he is, started yelling from the backseat, "OH MY GOD MOM STOP! STOP!  YOU'RE HITTING THAT CAR, MOM, YOU'RE HITTING THAT CAR" to which I replied through clenched teeth yet at full volume (I'm amazing) "I'M AWARE I'M HITTING A CAR RIGHT NOW, LUCIEN, THANK YOU."  The crumply crunchy screechy sound was my first clue, how about you, son?  What was your first indication the morning had gone to hell?

I left a note on the truck, not only because it was the right thing to do but because I knew Lucien would be running his mouth about it all day at school.  If I hit-and-runned it, it would take mere seconds for the school to track down the culprit thanks to the wise guy in 3rd grade.  I have no morals, really.

The truck guy hasn't called yet so fingers crossed he likes the modifications I've made to his vehicle.  Mine looks much worse, by far.  The entire side is torn up.  I may not get it fixed because it makes me feel kind of badass, gives me a little street cred, makes people fear me.

I returned from the school drop-off debacle to find Supermodel Neighbor (he's here working on the house again, both kids now believe him to be an uncle) pacing the house.  He told me he couldn't find his jacket, which he wouldn't worry about too much except his wallet was in the front pocket.  We'd gone out the night before to a friend's stand-up comedy competition (so fun).  We both remember him wearing his jacket home; it had been raining and we'd run to the car with jackets over our heads.  It had to be in the house somewhere, there was no other option.

So we ransacked it.  We tore it apart room by room all the while muttering it didn't make any sense. Then we went outside to search the car, which is when Supermodel Neighbor saw the torn-up side of my vehicle.  "What the hell....?"  he said and I said,  "Oh yeah, I hit a truck earlier,"  Then he opened the passenger side door and recoiled in horror, "WHAT THE HELL...?"  "Oh yeah." I said, "I forgot, Oscar (my dog) also threw up in the car this morning.  I should probably clean that up."

Supermodel Neighbor looked at me funny then, like he wanted to get in his car and drive back to Portland at that point but couldn't.  Because I had his wallet somewhere.

On a whim I called Alex to ask him if he had, for some unimaginable reason, taken Supermodel Neighbor's jacket to work.  And of course he had.  He was trying to return it to a Halloween Party reveler at work who had forgotten his jacket at our house thanks to the too-strong but delicious "Rosemary's Baby" punch.  Alex saw a strange jacket thrown over the back of a chair that morning, grabbed it and and hopped on his bike, whistling, believing he was doing a very good thing indeed.

The wallet was still in the pocket even after its ride to Corporate America.  I breathed easily again until I went to pick up Coco at school and stepped in a giant pile of dog poop -- dog must have been the size of a rhino -- right outside the school's front door.  A friend, who had been in touch with me via text all morning and knew of my struggles, witnessed this.  She went back inside the building and gathered up Coco's things while whispering to her and smoothing her hair, "Now be a good girl for Mommy, she's a mess today."

In good news, my pottery wheel instructor told me I was "a natural born potter."  I'll hold onto that nugget of goodness as I jettison my favorite pair of shoes towards the curb because I am never getting the dog sh*t out of all those crevices on the bottom.

That's mine in a nutshell.  How's yours?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

baaaaad business

Our annual adults-only Banister Abbey Halloween party is happening in a week and a half.  The weeks leading up to this event are tense ones in our house, especially for the children.  Lucien and Coco come home from long days at school only to be confronted by objects like these:

The kids are also fed things like this for dinner while I stand over them and ask, "Do these look like bloody severed fingers to you?"

Why aren't you guys eating?

The kids have been awfully jumpy lately.

I hired a tarot card reader for this year's party.  It was the first time I'd interviewed a tarot card reader and I had no idea what to ask.  I figured my opening question should be, "Are you full of sh*t?" hoping the fakes and crackpots would then hang their heads in shame, shuffle their feet and mumble, "Dang, you got me."  It seemed as good a place to start as any.

I didn't end up asking that.  Instead, as I sipped my grande americano at my favorite Starbucks, I was treated to a fascinating history of the tarot and how it works for this gentleman in particular.  He seemed completely sane and passionate about his tarot work.  And bonus -- he can talk to trees!  That was welcome news; I've got an Alder out back that's been reclusive lately and I'd like to know what's bugging it.

In my search for Halloween party entertainment, I also talked to a numerologist who gave me a reading over the phone.  He pegged me, was right on the nose in his assessment of who I am as a person, yet I still don't believe in numerology.  It shouldn't have surprised him when I didn't hire him -- he had just told me five minutes earlier I was a born cynic and very difficult to sway.

In other news, this is what Lucien chose to wear for his school picture day --

the bowtie really takes it over the top

And I made a bowl-like object in my pottery class --

And Supermodel Neighbor has saved the day regarding the continuing work on Banister Abbey.  He may live in Portland now but he has heeded my long distance plea for help several times and remains my most loyal and unbroken contractor.  (I've broken several other contractors, you see, and have no idea where they've scampered off to because they're very good hiders.)

For weeks now my house has smelled like wood stain and bacon -- wood stain because Supermodel Neighbor and I have conditioned/dyed/stained/sealed several new doors and miles of new wood trim, and bacon because it's delicious.

Here's a couple before and afters to celebrate this fumey period in our lives.  The kitchen has always bothered me because everything is new.  The previous owner left no hint of the original character of the kitchen when he remodeled it.  So we decided to fake the character.  Thanks to Supermodel Neighbor's knowledge and his continued gentle redirection of MJ when she bought the wrong product (often), I learned brand new wood can instill old character when finished properly.



The previous owner also installed cheap hollow-core doors all over the place.  We are one-by-one taking those down and replacing them with five-panel fir doors, as the gods intended it to be in houses as old as Banister Abbey.



It's good to have loyal unbreakable friends in the carpentry business.

The Seahawks played last weekend.  It didn't end well.

Alex and I, for reasons we don't understand other than we're pretty random, ended up at an Ethiopian sports bar for the game.  We were the only non-Ethiopians in the place.  The air was thick with accents and the smell of Ethiopian food.  Al and I have never been the only white people in a bar before.  Nobody seemed to give much of a rip about the whiteness in their midst so we happily settled in for the long haul and ordered some of that Ethiopian spongy bread smothered in lamb and onions.

It's not what I would consider "bar food" but I'm not Ethiopian so what the hell do I know.

The game was abysmal and depressing but the company was good.  One man sitting next to us was such a fanatical Seahawks fan he could not sit still.  Whenever the Hawks eff'd up (often) he began pacing back and forth next to our table, wringing his hands and shouting, "That's just baaaad business!  That's just baaaaad business!"

Also, when the Seahawks challenged a catch made by the Cowboys -- it was obviously a legitimate catch and was a dumb thing to challenge -- the guy paced around waving his arms and  yelling, "Awwww no! That was a love-ly catch, a love-ly catch."

I now use both these phrases, much to Alex's delight, often and repetitively and loudly.

Al:   "MJ, I can't find my wallet."
MJ:  "That's just baaad business!  That's just baaad business!"

Al:   "MJ, can you help me lift this heavy cabinet that has fallen on me and crushed my spleen?"
MJ:   "That was a love-ly catch... a love-ly catch!"

Al:  "MJ, should we diversify our stock portfolio?"
MJ:  "That's just baaad business!  That's just baaad business!"
Al:  "Really?  Perhaps you're right.  Let's just keep all our money in that one stock."
MJ:  "Uh-oh."

I'm very busy, have to get back to curating my Halloween party playlist and perfecting bloody fingers and entrails and various other disgusting things nobody's going to eat because I am truly that good.

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.