Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lizard Disco

Lucien just turned eight.  It's a number that makes me say "wow" but not yet a number that freaks me out.  My guess is that will come around 10.

Lucien wanted to take a birthday treat to school to share with his classmates.  His teacher said, due to all the food allergies in the class this year, the only "treat" allowed was fruit.  So I sent him to school with a bag of bananas.  Happy Birthday, son, get buckwild.

I'm confused about my own school days, back when our parents were free to send in piles of gluten-filled gut bombs for classroom birthday celebrations.  Were there fewer allergies when I was a kid?  Or were there a bunch of miserable moaning kids on the ground out in the hallway I just didn't notice? 

I'm not making light of food allergies.  I know kids with severe food allergies; if they come into contact with the wrong thing, it could kill them.  It's scary as hell.  I'm just trying to understand how food allergies got so omnipresent that kids now have to blow out birthday candles stuck into browned pieces of pear.

Lucien has wanted a lizard for a long time. Whenever we went to Petco to get something for one of our other animals, Lucien stood transfixed in front of the lizards.  He especially liked the baby bearded dragons because they would always come check him out, pressing their tiny bearded dragon faces against the glass with their heads cocked to the side.

Then the begging would begin and I'd have to remind him of the cold hard truth -- no way we're getting a bearded dragon, those things can live up to 15 years and that's more of a commitment than I'm willing to make to a lizard.

But lizard fate is funny.  A middle-aged bearded dragon dropped into our laps last week when a woman posted on a local parenting listserve that her son was headed to college in the fall and was leaving behind his beloved pet bearded dragon named Bobo.  She wanted Bobo to go to a good home, preferably a home with a kid who would love Bobo as much as her son had.

We went to meet Bobo the next day after school.  The woman who welcomed us was visibly moved; Lucien reminded her so very much of her son at the age of almost-eight.  There were other people interested in Bobo, too, but the woman and her family discussed and decided to tell them to BUZZ OFF.  As soon as they met, it was obvious Bobo belonged with The Loosh.

When Lucien met Bobo

I wanted Bobo to be a surprise for Lucien on his birthday so had to stall for a week.  I hemmed and hawwed and made up all sorts of reasons why we couldn't get Bobo, at least not yet.  It made Lucien crazy to the brink of disowning me as a mother.  He pulled his hair out and cried, "What?? His eyes are too blinky for your liking?  How is that even a thing!?"

The crisis was solved by telling Lucien he had to "earn" Bobo.  He had to take exclusive care of our other pets for one week to prove he was up to the responsibility of caring for Bobo.  It was a pretty brilliant idea; Lucien stopped pestering me AND I no longer had to clean the bird cage. 

The plan may have backfired on our pets, though.  Lucien was so excited to be working towards Bobo he arose early every morning and completed the entire pet care checklist by 6:00 a.m.  Oscar was groggy and confused as Lucien dragged him outside to go to the bathroom and gave him a bath before dawn.  Stella no doubt grew concerned when the kid with the crazed eyes and shaky excited hands changed her water every five minutes.

On Lucien's birthday, while he was at school eating his celebratory banana, my sister Raba met me at Bobo's house to help carry his 50 gallon tank to my car.  Carrying that tank was similar to carrying a Volkswagen -- as in, you know it's going to be heavy in theory but you have no idea what "heavy" means until you're up under the thing.

Bobo's owner had to jump in and help as we descended the steep and uneven concrete stairs outside her house.  All three of us felt it necessary to holler "Careful! Careful!" every few seconds just in case the other two had suffered sudden mental impairment and were about to go all gangbusters with the thing.

It was slow treacherous going made more exciting by the fact we all decided to wear stylish heeled boots that day.  Not the most practical footwear for what we were doing but dang we looked good doing it.

Raba and I were on our own once we got back to our house but after a pep talk, some stretches and some heeled shoe removal, we successfully installed Bobo in the newly redesigned kid room.  I rushed to finish the room last week because I was concerned about the possible effects of paint fumes on bearded dragons.

Kid room before --

Kid and lizard room after --

The look on Lucien's face when he came home from school that day and saw Bobo in the middle of his room was worth all the effort it took to get him there. Even my severely bruised thighs, which had been used several times as a tank resting place until feeling returned to my arms, ached a little less because of all of the happiness.

Bobo is the coolest animal.  He's docile and likes to be picked up and held.  He loves basking under his basking lamp.  He enjoys being outside in the grass in warmer months.

 He also likes piƱa coladas and getting caught in the rain

We've never had a reptile before so there were some things to get used to.  For instance, as soon as Bobo's basking light turns off (it's on a timer), Bobo immediately flattens himself against the floor and falls into a deep, impenetrable sleep as his body temperature drops.  We thought we'd killed him the first time he did that.

Bobo was fine again the next morning but Oscar the schnauzer was a jittery mess.  He sniffed and pawed and whined all over the kids' room in an attempt to understand what kind of creature had just invaded his territory.  In a spastic fit of nerves, Oscar knocked over Bobo's cricket container.  Dozens of crickets poured out and hopped every which way in joyful freedom.  The Great Cricket Escape of 2014 was unfortunately timed given we were supposed to be in the car headed to school at that very moment.

I screamed for Lucien to help me and he came running.  We grabbed crickets as fast as we could, stuffed them back into their cage and held Oscar at bay with our feet because he was intent on capturing ALL THE CRICKETS NOM NOM NOM with his mouth.  Alex stood in the doorway and laughed until he doubled over. That man's worthless sometimes.

We're pretty sure we got all the crickets back into their cage except the two who hopped under Coco's bed never to be seen again.  God I hope they aren't a male and a female and, if they are, don't find each other irresistibly attractive.

Later that morning, the men working on our house showed up and started messing around with some exterior electrical work.  This involved a few crossed wires and a few tripped fuses.  Bobo's heat lamp was on one of the affected circuits.  When the circuit blew, his lamp turned off so Bobo would flatten himself down and go to sleep.  Then I, worried about the lizard, would re-set the fuse and he'd get back up again.  A few minutes later the circuit would trip again so he would lie down again.  I would run and re-set.  Repeat. 

His first full day of life with us and he was living in some kind of surreal lizard disco.

So Happy Birthday to you, Lucien, our sweet, funny, loud animal-loving boy.  You are a unique individual and a wonderful son and a source of great joy and amusement in our lives.  I never could have imagined all the ways you'd change my life for the better in just eight years. 

 For starters, I never thought I'd see a big lizard in a bed


Friday, January 24, 2014

Little John he always tells the truth

Our family went for a hike together last weekend.  Here's an example of what it's like to be an anxious person out for a hike on a beautiful day; Alex and the kids hiked merrily on after we noticed this sign but I stopped in my tracks, heart racing --


After doing math and realizing we had over 4500 lbs. leeway, I continued to worry about imminent trail collapse for no reason.  You should have seen my wild eyes when a group of people riding horses passed us. I grabbed my babies around their waists and took off into the forest.

How can you enjoy that beautiful waterfall
when you're about to plunge into the abandoned mines below?

Alex works for a BIG COMPANY.  There are several biggies here in Seattle so take your pick and go with it.  I've promised him I'll never discuss his work on the blog so don't ask, I will neither confirm nor deny.

BIG COMPANY holds their annual party every winter.  It's generally something we skip but this year there was a band playing the event with whom I have a long history -- one very delicious Vampire Weekend.

I've been with Vampire Weekend since their first release many years ago.  We broke up for a little while because I reached saturation -- their jaunty syncopated rhythms suddenly made me want to punch myself in the face.  But I'm happy to report, with their newest release that is pretty much the best thing ever, we're back together and it's looking permanent.

You had me back at A-Punk but you're keeping me with Hannah Hunt.

If you ever wondered what an annual party for a BIG COMPANY looks like, here's the answer --

Ice fairy women rollerskating in a boxing ring.   No party's complete without them.

So many people

Acrobats dangling from the ceiling

So many lights 

Motherf*cking igloos

Pictures taken in front of green screens.
We had no idea we were in a cozy lodge

In this one we were going for "bored."

We had fun walking around the gigantic party but then it was time to do what I had to do.  I had to be in front of that stage when Vampire Weekend took it.  Alex doesn't know Vampire Weekend but he was a good sport, tagging along behind me as I cashed in all our free drink tickets then cradled our drinks in my arms in front of the stage, double-fisting those suckers while waiting and waiting because I WILL NOT LOSE MY SPOT.

The anticipation was delicious.  And then Ezra Koenig came out onto the stage.  He was right there in front of me, slipping into his famous Epiphone Sheraton, as it always should be.

Some live shows I've seen recently were so good, they forever cemented my love for the band but others were so disappointing I haven't listened to the band since (I'm looking at you, Cave Singers, with your snooozefest set list and ten-minute long flute solo).

When a show is good, I enter a euphoric state.  Nothing exists but the music and the dancing and the singing loudly with the people next to you, people who used to be strangers but now are your very close fellow fan friends.  It's bliss when a band sounds the way they should sound and that's the kind of show Vampire Weekend gave -- the very best kind.  I banged my two beers together over my head in lieu of applause because I had no free hands.

Alex isn't as obsessive a music fan as I am but he hung in there, watching me with a bemused expression and saying things like, "Wow you're really in your element right now, aren't you."  I think he was happy I was finally happy with some aspect of his job.  His job is stressful and takes a lot of hours away from our family life.  But his job also just gave me Vampire Weekend so we're going to call a truce for a little while.

When the show was over, Ezra Koenig gave a grin and a nod to the audience then strolled off the stage with his hands in his pockets as if to say, "So I just rocked pretty hard, wonder what I should do to fill the rest of this lovely evening."

Thanks much, V.W.

Leaving the BIG COMPANY party, we stepped out into a Seattle pulsing with excitement. It was the night before the NFC championship game and this city loves its Seahawks.  Everywhere we looked, the 12th man was pumped up and ready --

We had some friends over for the game the next day and they all turned into rabid lunatics.  You could be having a perfectly normal conversation with a person and then all of a sudden they start yelling, "NO, NO, NO!!  WHAT ARE YOU DOING, NO, GODDAMMIT, NO!" and fall to the ground.  Perfectly normal, just watching football.

We collectively moaned and screamed and fist-pumped our Seattle Seahawks all the way to beautiful, exquisite victory.

We're going to the Super Bowl!

The best part is we're going to play the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.  My parents, of course, live in Denver so the trash-talking has already begun.  I just wish I knew what some of it meant.

I hope we're all still family after the game

Lucien turned eight years old this week.  I'll write about that next time, some interesting tales to tell.

I love Lucien the most profoundly when I watch him take off from our car every morning and run into his school.  He grins, his hair flops, his feet, so comically large and paddle-like these days, slap the pavement.  Lucien never walks away from the car, he always runs with that unbridled enthusiasm for life only an eight-year-old boy can have.  It puts a lump in my throat every time and I have to resist calling him back to the car for just one more hug.

I felt that same feeling last weekend when Coco had her first sleepover with Auntie Raba and Auntie Z.  She didn't even look back at me, just went forward to have the greatest night of her life, a night that involved eating spaghetti in her underwear, many unicorn tattoos, and some godawful Barbie movie.

I'm glad my sister lives in Seattle now so my daughter can know her awesomeness up close and personal.  I'm glad Coco has come to love her aunts to the point of delirium.  I'm also glad I'll know where to find her when she runs away from home in ten years.

I give a f*ck about an Oxford comma, Vampire Weekend.

Monday, January 13, 2014

She moves things with her mind

Seattle is an excited city right now.  Once again our Seahawks seem likely contenders for the Super Bowl and the whole town's gone rabid.  I'll readily admit I'm not much of a football fan but it's impossible not to get caught up in the excitement.  When even the bagger at the grocery store packs my groceries with a fist pump and a GO HAWKS, I high-five him and leave the store thinking it's fun to have everyone in the city on the same page about something.

We got a sitter and spent Saturday at a local sports bar with some diehard football fan friends.  Fanatical fans are the best friends with whom to watch football because their enthusiasm and passion are both amusing and contagious.  A couple hours with them and I find myself yelling, "Suck it, ref, you #@&*% m*th#rf#@!" and feeling positively giddy about it.

The Seahawks won which is good because my friends are scary when we lose.  I would have balled up and rolled out the door to avoid interacting with them.

We went to a friend's house for dinner Friday night.  After dinner, our children invited us to what most parents dread at such neighborhood dinner events -- "a show."  

I have two rules about shows performed by my kids: 1) the show has to be well rehearsed beforehand and 2) it has to have a story with a beginning, middle and end.  It may seem harsh to impose these criteria upon our young children but life is too short to sit through yet another hour-long skit with kids pushing each other, saying "you go first" and giggling nervously. There's just no entertainment value there.

Our kids generally obey my skit rules and as a result we've seen some fairly decent productions at our get-togethers.  This time, however, things went off the rails. 

 What.  the hell.  is this.  hot.  mess.

Alex stepped in to save what was left of the skit portion of our evening.  He performed a piece he wrote himself entitled, "How To Write An Awesome Resume."  Our friend's daughter accompanied him on her synthesizer and the kids danced.  It wasn't just good exercise; they received valuable life advice that will hopefully land them their first jobs someday. 

The most recent project I'm tackling at home is the kids' room.  I wanted the kids involved in the creative process so I spread out a million paint chips on the dining table and told them each to choose a color to paint their side of the room.  They pounced on the pile, held up their chosen paint chips with big smiles and then I thought "Oh no, I've made a terrible mistake." 

Their chosen colors were electric blue and a pukey yellowish-green. Not only have my children proven to have zero knowledge of the color wheel, but also that they unable to work together to make something not hideous. 

I don't have a choice in the matter now, I have only one option  -- I'm going to buy completely different colors and tell the kids colors look way different on the walls than they do on paint chips.

I made another mistake in my design of the children's room in that I went to IKEA by myself to buy bookshelves.  Some of those IKEA furniture boxes weigh seven times my body weight but I forgot about that until I found myself face-to-face with the IKEA self-service warehouse.

The self-service warehouse is an area usually swarming with employees in blue shirts but this time I found myself alone in a sea of cardboard boxes that could crush me if I made any careless moves.  I was eventually able to slide all necessary boxes of the IKTHORP LANKAS BOMKE or whatever it's called bookshelf (only in IKEA does one dot one's "a"s) onto my flat cart.  Halfway through I had to partially undress in the aisle because sweat had seeped through my favorite Anthropologie cowlneck.

Getting the boxes into the car was another matter.  I called upon my catapult and lever knowledge and finally, after using pivot points and the weight of the box against itself like a ninja, I flipped it end over end until it miraculously landed in the back of my car. 

Alex helped me unload the boxes back at home.  As we wrestled the fiberboard beast into the house, Alex asked, "How the hell did you do this by yourself??" to which I replied, "my will is strong" and he said, "I swear you move things with your mind." 

Go, Seahawks, go!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Happy Wife Happy Life

Happy 2014!  Hope you all had good mornings at the gym and you haven't yelled at your kids in 48 hours and your diets are thus far looking very promising.

My parents and brother came to Seattle for Christmas this year. The weather was cold and gray during their visit, the neighborhood fireworks on New Years Eve kept them awake much of the night, and all of them caught colds thanks to my germ-ridden kids.  They may never return.

The arrival of my parents and brother was a surprise for Lucien and Coco. I spent the weeks before Christmas moping around the house, sighing and lamenting the fact I wouldn't see my parents for the holidays this year.  I thought laying it on thick beforehand would heighten the joy when the kids saw Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle Bala standing on the front porch Christmas morning.  I stopped my charade when Lucien began rolling his eyes and yelling in frustration, "Geez, Mom, just invite them next time!!"

Mom, Dad and Bala appeared on our doorstep that morning wearing Santa hats.  The kids opened the door and bam! -- fistfuls of fake snow thrown in their faces. 

The situation didn't compute for the kids even after they realized who was behind the snow assault. They were dumbfounded and seemed slightly perturbed we'd gotten the best of them. 

Much transpired this holiday season.  For one thing, I discovered a man camped in the Honey Bucket in our driveway.  I'm not sure what life circumstances led that man to possibly spend the night in our construction crew's port-a-potty but I think we can assume they aren't good.

The time for sympathy came later.  But in that moment, he freaked me right the hell out.  I heard a rustling sound inside the Honey Bucket when I took out the recycling that morning.  After jumping a mile straight up in the air, I picked up a stick and poked the Honey Bucket.  I didn't necessarily think the stick would help me in any confrontation situation, I just felt strongly about not touching the Honey Bucket with my hand.

I yelled something like, "Is there somebody in the Honey Bucket?" Nobody answered but the rustling stopped.  Emboldened by the fact no one had yet jumped out to fight me, I yelled in a deeper voice, with much bravado, "You gotta go now, person in the Honey Bucket over there" and ran back inside to watch from the safety of a window.  The man eventually left and we are now locking the Honey Bucket when the crew isn't working on the house.

This was my first year hosting my entire family for Christmas so much of December was spent making lists and calculating how many days in advance I could make food items without serving everyone old and moldy food.  My personality demands I get as much out of the way as possible so I don't lose my sh*t on the actual holiday.  That's why I'm grateful for the miraculous yet terrifying properties of corn syrup -- it allows me to bake the pecan pie a worrisome number of days/weeks/months/years in advance.

The Christmas meal went quite well except I overcooked the Brussels sprouts.  I also threw the carrots in the garbage when no one was looking because they cooked down to an embarrassingly small portion.  I knew laughter would erupt and fingers would point if I placed what appeared to be one carrot in the center of the table and told everyone to share it.

Anyway, I made cinnamon rolls from scratch and who cares about vegetables when you have cinnamon rolls.

My sister recently married her girlfriend, Z, at the Shotgun Wedding Chapel in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle.  There were costumes involved.  I wasn't invited to the wedding but it's not because Raba and Z don't like me.  It's because it was supposed to be a secret, a way to quickly make the thing legal for insurance and tax purposes, months before the party we're having for the happy event next summer.

It turns out Raba and Z can't keep secrets very well so we all found out about it right away and then we saw the pictures and were like, "Raba, why are you dressed like a saloon girl and sitting on top of a piano?" 

Anyway, we all feel immense joy for the two of them.  Z has integrated flawlessly well into our family.  She's kind and warm and helpful and thoughtful.  She also tends to sit back and be cool when the rest of us begin talking loudly and incessantly over the top of each other.  Lord knows we've needed one of her kind in this family a long, long time.

 As a sign of welcome, our tribe presented the newcomer a fuzzy blanket.

I bought Raba and Z some "Happy Wife, Happy Life" dish towels for Christmas.  That adage must be harder to live by when there are two wives involved.  They may have to draw straws to decide who gets to be the happy one on any given day.  My Al has never fully embraced the wisdom of "Happy Wife, Happy Life."  When I mention it, he says, "Why?" and I'm like, "WHY DO YOU HAVE TO QUESTION EVERYTHING?"

I love having my parents around.  I wish they would move to Seattle but they hate Seattle weather so it's not likely unless I can convince them "gray" equals "happy."

 Coco adores them all

 Me and my beautiful mama
 Mom is very enthusiastic about the Space Needle
Our beloved pet praying mantis, Mantisy, died a few days after Christmas. We knew the end was approaching weeks ago because she began moving very slowly and sometimes fell over for no reason. We felt a little better when Alex pointed out we should feel good about ourselves because very few praying mantises get to die of old age, but were still desperately sad each time she flailed in vain trying to catch her food or stumbled over her own gangly insect legs.

I was late picking Coco up from preschool one day because I thought Mantisy was dying at that very moment and I wanted her to hear my voice and know she wasn't alone.  I explained to the teacher I was late because I was accompanying a praying mantis into death.  The whole incident likely earned Coco an asterisk next to her name on the class roster. 

The day Mantisy finally collapsed and didn't get back up, we all felt shockingly sad about it.

Lucien made a coffin for her out of Play-doh

So now it's 2014 and life goes on.  My parents and brother have returned to their Colorado blue skies and well-rested schedules.  Al, the kids and I began 2014 by burning Christmas trees with our friends on Alki Beach.

We were not the only group on the beach with the idea.  Several members of the group next to us stripped down to sequined hot pants and dove into frigid Puget Sound.  When they emerged from the water, they stood on the beach naked and guzzled whiskey.  They certainly gave us some good ideas for next year.

Happy wife, Happy life 4-ever,