Friday, June 28, 2013

Two Years Old

He wakes up with a smile on his face, jumping into my arms and immediately asking where Charles and daddy are.  “Darahs?  Dada?”


He has so many words, as long as you can decipher his speech.




He climbs.  Everything.  He jumps off of the back of the couch (strictly forbidden, but he does it anyway, and damn the consequences), he climbs up the stools onto the counter (also forbidden), he gets into his brother’s bed and his own bed unassisted, and he inspires gasps and shocked looks from other mothers at the playground.  “Who’s child is that?” I’ve often heard ask.  “Mine,” I reply.  “He’s fine.”  And he is.  He can climb up and over the playground equipment better than most four-year-olds, his brother included.




He’s so active.  Just like Charles.  He runs and tries to jump and splashes and throws things and plays really hard, all the time.  Everything is a funny, funny game to this kid.


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He has a temper.  Jamie likes to get his way, and gets very upset when he doesn’t.  For instance, when I tell him one popsicle is enough before dinner.  Kid loves popsicles.




He’s awesome.  And he’s ours.  And I am forever grateful.



Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wear What?

Would you like to see what I’m wearing?  Of course you would.  That way, you can tell me I look fabulous, and I can tell me I look fabulous, and then I’ll start to feel fabulous.  I generally find myself much prettier in photos about two weeks after they are taken because, you know, I have AGED SO MUCH in the ensuing two weeks.  I take pretty terrible self-portraits (please, can we not call them “selfies” anymore?  All that word makes me think of is masturbation), so you’ll have to deal with that, but maybe once a week or so we can discuss fashion and you can give me style suggestions.  I need ‘em.


So here is something I wore earlier this week, at Charles’s request.  He likes long dresses a lot.  I don’t know why.




That’s my mirror wall.  I really don’t have a good full-length mirror.  Okay, maybe I need Tony to take these photos, if I’m going to continue this blogging experiment.  Anyhow, the dress was on sale for $8 at Fred Meyer, and I probably had a 10%-off apparel coupon that I used, because there’s one in the paper every week.  Maxi dresses, you know?  They’re comfortable and sit right on that sweet dressy-yet-casual spot that can either mean “I didn’t give a fuck this morning” or “I wanted to look nice but I didn’t want to shave my legs.”  Either way is good for me.  The cropped sweater is from Maurice’s and I got it last summer, so I have no idea what it cost.  Knowing me, it was under $15.  The wine looks like it was probably the bottle of Merlot I made last for over a week, due to my previously-blogged attempt at cutting calories by not enjoying my usual post-children-in-bed glass after 8 pm.  And damn, my boobs look nice.


So here’s a thing about this outfit and many more I own: I haven’t figured out how to wear chunky jewelry.  This seems like the type of outfit that would benefit from a big ol’ necklace in salmon pink or orange or something, but I don’t have one and I nearly always feel like I wouldn’t be able to pull it off.  Thoughts?  Also, what shoes do you wear with a maxi dress?  I wore sandals, but I have giant feet and I felt weird about them all day.  My preference would be bare feet in a long dress, but that only works when I’m at home.  Also, shapewear?  Terrible stuff, but perhaps necessary under a jersey fabric dress.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In Which I Tell You How Much I Weigh

First, hooray for the expansion of human (in this case, gay human) rights.


Second, is it gauche to talk about what I’m doing to get my body to be how I want it to be?  I mean, I’ve talked before about my terrible body image, the mantra I mutter to myself in front of the mirror every day that I can bring my lips to form the words (“You look fabulous.  You are pretty.”), my annoyance with my terrible complexion, and the grueling workouts I endure, but I don’t think I’ve outlined the steps I take when I really want to buckle down and lose five pounds.  Which I want to do right now.  But maybe that’s tacky… like, do you really want to know?  Are you going to be pissed off at me because it’s simple?


I am five-foot-five and weigh 146 pounds, seven more than when I got pregnant with either of my boys.  Of course, I have a bunch more muscle now than I did then.  I am a size six, which you might think is inconsistent with 146 pounds, but you would be wrong.  I’m still pear-shaped, though, which can bump me to a size eight in some form-fitting dresses, at which point I have to add a padded bra to fill out the bodice.


Our family eats well.  We enjoy moderate amounts of dairy and we are all eating gluten (though I have personally cut back on pasta and bread in an effort at calorie reduction).  We don’t eat a lot of processed foods and we rarely eat out – both because of the expense and because my children are holy terrors whom I am unwilling to inflict on the restaurant-going public, unless that restaurant happens to be Five Guys or the local pizza joint.  We get a farm box every week throughout the summer, and our diets are heavy in fruits and vegetables.


But I’m a girl, and as such, I can’t just eat healthy most of the time and hope to stay thin.  When we went to Williamsburg, I basically ate whatever I felt like for a whole week (vacation!) and then didn’t so much curb my appetite when we got home.  My biggest weakness?  Snacking after the kids are in bed.  I had developed rather more of a belly than I like to see and my jeans were feeling a bit tight.


So here’s my weight-loss plan, and it always seems to work for me: don’t eat or drink anything (caloric) after eight and cut back on the alcohol.  No wine and cheese in front of the TV, no ice cream before bed.  Just water or herbal tea.  After a few weeks, the belly blub is mostly gone.  Maybe I’m down to 143 pounds now.  I don’t own a scale, so it’s hard to know.


So yeah, simple.  But also not, because I work out all the time (two workout classes a week, down from three because of summer scheduling conflicts, and at least 15 miles of running each week) and I make every effort to eat small portions at meals and light, healthy snacks throughout the day. 


Other than depriving yourself of chocolate (something I will never, ever do), what do you do to stay thin? 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Your Face Is Gonna Freeze Like That

I am unlikely to get a photo of Charles for the next few years without him making a goofy face:




If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em:


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Monday, June 24, 2013

Treasure Island, Roach Book Reviews

Reading continues apace; I just finished Treasure Island and have been on a Mary Roach bender for a few weeks.  Let’s discuss, shall we?


I read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson primarily because I thought I might like to someday read it to my boys.  And, indeed, I do.  It was an easy read, except for the old English language that cropped up every once in awhile.  If you’re looking to tackle the classics and be able to say you’ve read one of those books that everyone is “supposed” to read, well, this is a great place to start.  It’s adventure!  It’s pirates!  It’s plucky-young-boy-saves-the-day!  And my copy had all of the original artwork by NC Wyeth, which was kind of cool.


Lately I’ve been reading two books by comic science writer Mary Roach.  What’s that?  You’ve never heard of a comic science writer?  Well, Ms. Roach appears to have invented the genre, and a damn fine job she did of it, too.  I was introduced to her writing several years ago when my dream was to become a forensic scientist and my friend Liz bought me the book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.  It’s all about what happens to a body when it is donated to “Medical Science.”  And it’s fascinating.  But the best part is, Roach does not write dry, boring science.  Her books are filled with humorous observations and interesting footnotes; it often seems like she just can’t help herself from commenting on the weird things she sees.  And she purposely writes about weird things.


That said, I just finished Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife and I did not enjoy it as much as her other books – likely because the science surrounding the afterlife is extremely unscientific and squishy.  I learned about experiments on weighing the soul, mediums and their de-bunkers, reincarnation research, and ghosts in white noise.  Nonetheless, there were many funny and fascinating parts.  I am now reading Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void and it is, once again, super interesting.  It’s all about what it’s like to be in space, the strange tests and psychological experiments astronauts undergo before they even get to go into space, and how scientists simulate space on earth.  It’s witty and filled with obscure trivia and really, really well-written.  Next I’m going to read Gulp: Adventures in the Alimentary Canal and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex


So that’s what I’m reading.  How about you?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

And Then He Was Gone

Right after we ran that 10k on Saturday, we went to a parade.  Or rather, we stayed for the parade that immediately followed the race.  Or rather, we went to an amazing brunch at a local restaurant, then watched the parade.


We hunted down the packed street for a patch of sidewalk on which to install the kids so that they could see the floats and fire trucks, when we ran into some friends of ours.  Their 9-year-old and 5-year-old had claimed a patch of curb and happily scooted to make room for our boys.


Is there anything more wonderful than a parade for a kid?  Trucks and tractors, flying candy, music and noise and people.  It’s all fun and games until someone gets lost.


Our friend’s 9-year-old was sent to buy strawberry shortcakes across the street.  He ran, as 9-year-olds do.  We could see the shortcake stand, and he’s nine, so no big deal.  But then Charles saw him run across the street and without even so much as a “Mom, I’m going with him,” he jumped up and ran after the 9-year-old.  I was thinking, as I saw him run off, “Shoot.  Now I’m going to have to think up a suitable punishment for running off without asking permission and it has been such a good day up until now.  How do you punish a kid at a parade?”  I had my eyes on him until he got to the train tracks and hesitated.  Probably he lost sight of his friend, and also, a nearby train whistle was blowing.  The train never appeared, but I imagine that some latent sense of self-preservation made Charles hesitate to cross a railroad track when he could hear (and maybe see) a train.


And then he was gone.  I couldn’t see him anymore.  The 9-year-old came back.  I sent Tony to look for Charles while I stayed put and kept an eye on Jamie.  Our friend went to look, too.  Gone.


Right about the time I started to worry a little bit (I do a lot of pre-emptive worrying about EVERYTHING so when real situations happen, I am relatively panic-free), Charles was walked across the street holding the hand of a police officer. 


He was crying so hard.  The kid who panics at the thought of being left behind, for whom the only fruitful threat is that of me leaving without him, was scared to the point of hysteria.  It took quite a while for him to calm down.


This is not a cautionary tale.  I don’t think I was wrong to let Charles go after I saw him do something that was clearly against the rules and I don’t think I was wrong to not immediately go after him.  He has a pretty long leash, and it works for us… most of the time.  No one wants to ever lose their kids somewhere, but we all learned a few valuable lessons in this.  Charles was punished by being scared far more than I could have ever punished him (no ice cream, going home right now because you didn’t follow the rules, or any other thing I could have come up with).  And I learned that I have to repeat the ground rules EVERY time we go somewhere.  You are not to go off on your own: You must always ask permission to go somewhere with other kids; candy at a parade does not count as “candy from strangers” but you still have to ask me before you eat any of it; etc.


The most important thing we all learned, though, was that Charles actually listens to me sometimes.  I have talked to him many times, usually at bedtime or in the bath or some other calm time, about what to do if you get lost: find a police officer or another mommy and tell them your name and that you have lost your mommy.  Charles did just that.  When the police officer talked with me after Charles had calmed down, he said that he saw Charles sort of panicked and turning in circles.  Charles saw him and made a beeline for him and told him, “My name’s Charlie and I can’t find my mommy.”  The officer took him to the edge of the curb and had him scan to see if he could point me out.  The poor kid couldn’t get through the crowd on his own to get his bearings!  I guess that happens when you're only three-and-a-half feet tall.  Charles saw me, pointed to me, and the police officer brought him over.  I felt like world’s worst parent for losing my child, but I was so proud of him for doing the exact right thing.



I told him so, too.  We had a good talk about asking permission, not running away, and what to do if you get lost.  I’m sorry he got lost, I’m sorry he got scared, but I’m not sorry that he probably won’t do it again.  Experience is a good teacher.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Learning Pride



On Saturday, Tony and I ran a 10k with the kids in strollers.  It was a flat course, and only the third 10k I’ve ever run in my life (the other two being The Great Columbia Crossing twice).  I ended with a time of 1:00:46, which means that I did NOT meet my goal of finishing in under an hour.  Next time, I guess.


I do this thing where I focus on the failure, not the win.  I don’t know why.  It’s certainly a part of my personality that has driven me to do better and work harder my whole life, but it doesn’t make for much satisfaction with accomplishments.  I’m getting better, though.


I never give a compliment just to be nice.  They’re always genuine.  And I am a part of organizations (my business, Baby Boot Camp, Rotary, other clubs and groups) that routinely recognize people for their accomplishments, and when I have a part in giving that recognition, it is always genuine.  For example, we recently finished our MOLO challenge, and we were asked to nominate one of the 14 participating moms for a special award.  Many of us, myself included, nominated a woman who was between 5-7 months pregnant during the challenge and continued to run in every class.  She did squats, all the ab work, all the cardio… she was amazing.  I’ve told her how in awe of her I am and how proud of her (on behalf of all mothers) I am, and I meant it. 


So why do I brush off compliments and accolades when they’re given to me?


Maybe it’s the nice weather, or maybe it’s because I just had a birthday and people are nice to you on your birthday (and repetition of compliments apparently breeds belief of them in my brain), or maybe it’s just because recognition comes in waves or cycles, but for the past month I have received a lot of recognition and compliments for the things that I do, and it feels really nice.  I was given the Iron Mom award for MOLO because I am tough and work hard.  And I do, and I should be proud of that.  I am proud of that.  I might not be able to do a pull-up (YET), but I am strong and I work hard and I love that about myself.


When we ran this 10k, people gave us high fives as they passed us going the other direction (it was an out-and-back) and said things like “Go family!” and “Nice job!” or “That’s awesome!”  One guy said, as we passed him, “Aw, man!  Passed by strollers again!”  That last, in particular, warmed my heart in a glow of pride.  Not because I wanted to pass people or I wanted that guy to feel badly about his pace, but because that was me.  That was me at every other race I’ve ever run.  I thought I would never be someone to push a stroller and pass other racers.  But now I can, even at a 9:45 pace, and I am proud of myself.


Last night, my Rotary Club gave me an award, and as much as the stupid part of my brain tried to marginalize it by pointing out that 5 other people got the same award, the healthier part of my brain was proud.  Proud that I work hard for an organization that I love, proud that I belong, proud that the others in my club recognize my hard work.


Pride may be one of the seven deadly sins, but its total lack is a real detriment.  I’m learning to be proud of myself.  I am amazing.  If I keep saying it, I’ll begin to believe it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Charles Calls It the Green Lantern Car

When you’re 29 and a bachelor with your own business, one that after five years is finally profitable enough to allow you to live comfortably and with a few splurges (like a car payment) rather than like a pauper with no disposable income, you buy yourself your dream car:




What kind of car is that?  It’s a Lotus-Amelia-Is-Too-Damn-Old-To-Ride-In-It-Elise.  This car does not play nicely with 32-year-old mother with balance issues and a low center of gravity.  It sure looks nice, though. 


Leland is my favorite brother.  He’s my best friend.  He’s always there for me.  He’s fond of saying, “Didn’t I tell you everything would be fine?”  He loves my kids (Jamie just started saying “Eeee-An!” every time he sees Leland or a photo of Leland or we’re even just talking about Leland).  He loves Slayer.  And gargoyles.  And skulls.  And dragons:




…so I made him a dragon cake (rice krispies treat with frosting).  Because as much as he is an awesome brother, I am an awesome sister.


Happy birthday, Leland.  Thanks for pulling me out of your car, because I didn’t really want to stay there forever, and I sure as hell wasn’t getting out under my own steam.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Just Watch This Again and Again Until You Feel Better.

I was awakened this morning by Charles at 6:30, which in and of itself isn’t bad, but I had a terrible headache that slipped toward a migraine within an hour.  Charles was disobedient all morning.  Jamie took off his pajamas and diaper and peed all over me.  Tony came home later than I expected from basketball, which I used as the catalyst for a mini tantrum of my own.  I forgot Jamie’s bag at home, but then I got half a mile away from his school and remembered that I tossed it in the way back of the car, so I had to turn around again.  It’s raining.


Today is the birthday of a dear friend who died in high school.  Some things still hurt a long time later.


Perhaps you need something to soothe you after a rough start to the day, too?  Try this:



Time for me to hang my head out that window and breathe in life.  May the rest of the day be awesome and the weekend be grand!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Our Commercial Debut

About a week ago, I got a call at 8:30 pm (witching hour). 


“Would you and your family come act in a commercial for Skagit Valley tomorrow morning at 7:45?”


Of course we would.


We love our community.  Maybe I don’t say that enough, but I am really, extremely happy we landed where we did. 


It’s beautiful here.  Mountains, rivers, lakes, the Puget Sound, islands, farmland, and only an hour-long drive to get to a giant city (Seattle).  Skagit Valley is much bigger, population-wise, than where I grew up, and the opportunities afforded us in our careers, in raising kids, in education, healthcare, and numerous other aspects of life are so much more abundant.  But it’s also NOT a nameless, faceless city.  There is no rush hour.  There are community parades and street fairs.  There are all-comers track meets.




I think I always knew, in the same way that you know that your heart pumps blood to your organs (like, it works and it’s great, but you don’t ever think about it), that I-5 pumped money into the local economy.  After all, my business relies on I-5 and our proximity to it for shipping forty plus packages a day, not to mention the weekly freight shipment of a pallet or two.  And I knew that Canadians liked to drive down and shop at the Outlet Shoppes (I can’t stand that spelling of ‘shops’) and I’d even heard the statistics of 71,000 cars and trucks going by us on the Interstate every day.  But when the bridge went down, much like having a heart attack, our community fully realized the impact of all those drivers.  Because now they’re not there, driving on I-5, getting off the freeway to eat at IHOP or shop at Costco.  They’re clogging up the county roads and city streets, so even those of us who aren’t using the interstate to get around are experiencing congestion and often deciding to stay home.


In three weeks, just about every restaurant and retailer, from Wal-Mart to the corner convenience stores, has experienced at least a 60% loss of business.  They’re cutting back staff hours and worrying about paying bills.  I know this is true, I’ve talked with many of them.  And the fact is, you can still get to them.  I have done my grocery shopping this week.  I bought paint at the local paint store to redo the trim on our house.  Charles and I are going to make a special trip this weekend so that he can pick out a present for Jamie’s birthday (he wants to get him wooden train tracks for his trains) at the downtown toy store.  I took my brother to the airport shuttle in Burlington (across the other bridge) this morning in what should have been the second busiest part of the day for traffic, right before 9 am (5-6 pm is the busiest).  It’s slower, sure, especially on the main detour routes.  And the congestion causes idiocy (see previous post), but the lack of I-5 is not going to keep us from visiting the berry farms for a flat of fresh, sweet, local strawberries this weekend.  After we run a 10k on Saturday, eat breakfast at a restaurant in our sweaty running clothes, and watch the Berry Dairy Days parade, that is.


We’ll bounce back, because we’re a community, in every sense of the word.  The temporary bridge will be up soon, and maybe things will feel more normal again.  Maybe blood will return to our extremities.  Maybe people who see this commercial will want to come here, despite the traffic.  Because it really is a wonderful place.



Charles, Jamie, and I are in the crosswalk at about 0:25 walking with someone who is not Tony.  I am completely obscured, but Charles and Jamie are not.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Douchebaggery Abounds: A Traffic Rant

With the interstate bridge out, the past three weeks of driving around Mount Vernon and Burlington have been nothing short of frustrating.  There are giant trucks and a whole lotta cars using downtown thoroughfares and residential streets in place of I-5.  Of course, there are also plenty of people who use these same streets to get to the grocery store, pick up kids from school, drive to work, etc.  Imagine, if you would, that 71,000 extra people, each of them with a car or a semi truck, moved into your town and started driving around on the small streets.  Traffic moves very slowly, stoplights are always backed up (especially an oft-used left turn lane that can’t accommodate more than two semi trucks per light), and frankly, people start acting really strangely.


I’d say that driving behavior now falls largely into two categories: those who are more courteous and cautious, allowing people into traffic, paying attention to pedestrians in crosswalks, waving cars in front of them to turn when they are stopped, maintaining a decent following distance, and following the normal rules of the road (you know, like you’re supposed to do); and those who have gone batshit crazy because the detour routes and extra traffic have given them an aneurism in the part of the brain that controls common sense.  These people follow too closely to the car in front of them, speed through school zones, assume that if they can see the light is yellow even if they’re three cars back from the intersection, they can totally still make the light (they can’t), cut in, cut people off, don’t stop for pedestrians, block intersections, and generally act like total asshole drivers.


Some of the bad-crazy stuff was expected, by me at least.  We’re all in a hurry, we’re all frustrated with the extra traffic, it’s starting to get warm so cars get hot, we’re late, kids are cranky.  But some of the bad-crazy stuff makes me really mad.  A school zone, for Christ’s sake?  You don’t tailgate someone like they’re going so slowly that you’ll be late for your grandma’s last rites in a school zone.  That’s just wrong.  Plus, I bet your grandma isn’t even dying right now, you just think you’re more important than the safety of all those kids on the sidewalk over there.  And gunning it through a yellow light?  In what world is that okay?  Just stop.  At most, you’ll wait five minutes for the light to change if you’re at a super-heavy traffic intersection where the light timers have been changed to accommodate bridge traffic.  Otherwise, two minutes.  You can wait two minutes.  And blocking an intersection?  Just.  Just don’t. 


I worry a bit that some of this terrible driving behavior will stick around even after the temporary bridge span is opened next week and the major traffic is (theoretically) kept on the interstate.  With any luck, police will hand out tickets left and right to those people who persist in acting like complete jerks, but I’m not counting on it.  Since when are there any real consequences for being a douchebag?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Go Fly a Kite

There’s a really sweet 7-year-old who lives at the end of our street and who is ALWAYS playing outside.  I don’t know the story, maybe he likes being outside, maybe his parents tell him to leave the house and go play, maybe it sucks for him to be home.  He plays with Charles a lot, whenever we’re around.  I feel for him – the only other 7-year-old on the street is sort of mean and plays with the “big boys” (13-year-olds) a lot, so this kind-hearted kid settles for hanging out with my 4-year-old.


I don’t quite know what to do about it, or if I should do anything at all.  When Charles has to come inside for dinner, this kid quietly rides his scooter up and down the street until Charles can come out again (or he has to go home for his own, much later dinner).  We’re always doing something, wearing the kids out before bedtime, filling our days with things other than the television (maybe that’s why this boy plays with Charles; many of the other kids watch TV and play video games in the afternoon).  Yesterday, we went to the park to fly kites while dinner was baking (my oven has automatic/timed bake settings).  Should I have asked the neighbor kid’s parents if he could have come with us?  Perhaps.  I probably will next time, because I get the impression that the boy doesn’t get to go many places and do many things.


Sometimes I forget how easy it is to have very simple, very inexpensive, very fun, active family time in the spare hours of the day.  It is worth it to drop everything and play with your kids.  This is quality time.


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I have sixteen photos of increasing silliness.  Kid is a ham.

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Sheer joy.

I highly recommend buying your kids a couple of $15 kites and spending an hour or two each week this summer running around a park.  Exercise, fresh air, parental attention.  It’s the best of what summer has to offer a kid.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Appreciate the Ridiculous

Oh, my kids.  They are often little shitballs of annoying and mess and tired and even though they both seem to be sleeping and eating much better than in the recent past, I am still exhausted most of the time.  But beyond that first cup of delicious coffee in the morning, my boys’ antics are what I look forward to most every day. 


This morning it was gooey kisses, Charles asking to have Jamie in bed with him to snuggle (it ended in screaming tears, of course, it always does), initial skepticism at the oatmeal offering on the table eventually reconciling itself to “I LOVE this breakfast!,” and the three boys showering together (I have only recently been able to have showers alone – the boys are finally sleeping in past 6:30, which often puts them firmly in “daddy shower” time – and Lordy, do these kids need to bathe often).  And then, this:



Yes, he’s towing the blender base around like it was a toy puppy.


It’s important to note that I am the patient parent.  I am not super strict (I like to think I have firm lines that must not be crossed, however) and I do not hover.  I take immense pleasure from observing my children do something entirely unexpected and totally hilarious before I lay down the law and inform them that the blender is not a toy.


It’s a tough road, parenthood.  It’s late nights and early mornings and financial burden and schedules and skinned knees and snotty noses and poopy butts and excessive laundry and exhaustion, but it’s also sheer joy on a daily basis.  As long as you have an appreciation for the ridiculous and can suppress the part of you that wants to shout, “No!  Don’t do that!”

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Come One, Come All

Do you have an All-Comers Track Meet in your town?  You should go.  No, really, you should go. 


All-Comers Track Meets (can we just abbreviate to ACTM for brevity’s sake?)are great for a variety of reasons.  If you’re my husband, for example, they serve to both simultaneously inspire you to dig up your track spikes and attempt the 110-meter hurdles and to discourage you from doing just that, mainly because it’s been ten years since you’ve hurdled and those things are distressingly high.  Or, if you’re me, ACTMs give you a reasonably expansive-yet-bounded environment in which to set your children free to run and chase each other.  Also, packing a picnic for the infield is faaaar easier than cooking dinner.


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PBJs for everyone!


But the best reason is that ACTMs are great for kids.  There’s the fitness and exercise aspect, the big crowds of people thing, competition, doing your best, and exhausting yourself before bedtime.  A win on all fronts.  ACTMs are sort of like a dog park: you socialize your kids and let them off their leashes, without actually setting them free.


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Charles liked to look from side to side while he was running, to make sure he was going faster than the other kids. 


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Tiny hurdles!


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Softball throw


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My boys slept all night long, and are already looking forward to competing again next week.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Good News Is: Two Months of Cake

There are a LOT of birthdays in our family this time of year.  It starts with Loris in early May (usually the same weekend as Mother’s Day), then Aunt Lynda, me, my mom, Leland and Joe (same day, also usually Father’s Day weekend), and then Jamie.  Plus all the friends’ and friends’ kids’ birthdays (there are several).  I’m on a bit of birthday overload.


I usually start looking for gifts on Amazon or Etsy and then buy locally if I can (I often can’t – we don’t have a new bookstore here, for one thing).  If not, Amazon works for me because orders arrive quickly and the destination-based sales tax ensures that Mount Vernon gets some of the money I pay in tax.  Leland’s gift is already here, one for my friend Liz is on the way (ha!  Now you get to wonder for almost a whole month what it is, Liz!), and my mom should get her gift by Monday.  I got her a very special “card game for terrible people” (you know the one) and instructed her to make sure she and her friends have a few drinks before trying it out.  I hope we’ll play over Independence Day, because I can hardly wait to experience the hilarity.


I’ve sought out books for Jamie for his birthday, as I do every year for my kids.  He’s really into trucks and tractors and trains right now and I get so stinkin’ tired of reading the same books again and again every damn day. 


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51DIY0O3bBL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_ 61ETBVd1WOL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_



That should about do it.


The best part of farting around on, though?  All the weird shit for sale there.  I’m often reminded of when we used to get the Oregonian delivered my senior year in college and I would browse the classified section for the strangest things for sale.  Once, I found an ad for a 2500-lb meteor.  Now why would anyone sell that?  Here are my current favorite things on Amazon:



Caffeinated soap.  Yes, please.


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Octopus surprise mug.  Because why not?



Soap dispenser, anyone?



I did not get these for Leland for his birthday, but perhaps I should have.



This is just ridiculous.






To go with your 2500-lb meteor.


The internet is a straaaaange place, y’all.

Monday, June 3, 2013

It’s not that today is Monday, it’s that people are idiots.

You know what?  I love Mondays.  Normally.  I love Mondays because the weekends exhaust me, in a totally good way, and I love Mondays because working fulfills a need in me that child-wrangling and housecleaning and yard work do not, and I love Mondays because it feels like a start, and starting is good.  Fridays are awesome because you’re all like, “Whee!  It’s the weekend!  Pour me a bottle of wine!” and Saturdays are great because you can spend the whole day doing things that don’t really have a timeline and are pretty fulfilling themselves, like making a mirror wall:



{Aside: the mirror wall, which replaced a hodge-podge of framed photos and a knick-knack (sp?) shelf, might be the best thing to happen to my body image in a looong time.  Who knew that randomly catching a view of yourself making dinner in the mirror (that is, after you stop thinking that there is someone else in your house OH MY GOD) and thinking, hmm, I don’t look to bad, actually, would make me feel better about myself overall?}


…and also staying up late to drink G&Ts on the couch with your husband, and Sundays are nice because they are lazy and especially relaxing this time of year because the kids play in the backyard:




… but also stressful because we all need a good night’s sleep and what’s for lunch tomorrow and what time are you getting up for work and are the school bags packed and and and anticipation of the week.  Sundays are the end of the week, not the beginning.  Mondays are the beginning.  On Monday, I am optimistic about the week ahead.  On Monday, I think of all the fun things to come, all the work to be done.  On Monday, I am mostly happy.


But today, today can just go straight to hell.  Oh, the morning was fine, even though I got up early and Tony was already gone to work.  The kids woke up a bit late, I had made Nun’s Puffs and they devoured them.  The weather is nice.  The drive was terrible, but with the bridge out, you’re gonna have that, as my dad would say.  No, the problem is that I have been fighting ever since I walked in the door at the office.  Our payroll service provider is fucking terrible, and the numb-nuts 401k branch of the same provider has me making irrational pleas on the phone with them.  “Please, I’ll chew a finger off if you would just fix this so I can file payroll.  A thumb, then, I’ll chew off a thumb.  Please, what do you need from me?  A dish of my blood?  Anything!”  Oh, we’re in the process of switching providers for both, but these things apparently take DECADES to process.  So now I am locked out of my account online, even though I still have to file payroll there, we are all locked out of making changes to our 401k deductions even though changes are necessary, and NONE of the representatives I talked with on the phone were any help whatsoever.  Companies like this and the people who work for them make me despair of humanity as a whole.  Are there really so many incompetent bozos out there?  Well, yes, I seem to talk to them on the phone all the time.  Are there really companies out there that would, through ignorance or just bad management, make it so hard for their customers to do what the program was designed for them to do?  Apparently, yes.  Let me ask you this: if you had a payroll company, would you schedule routine website maintenance at the beginning of the month, a time when most of your customers submit payroll?  No.  Of course not.  But this company did.


I’m in a sort of “pull my hair out and scream while kicking a wall” mood right now, and I just realized that Tony will be gone all evening for softball.  The bridge situation has made it nearly impossible for him to drive the four miles home from his office before 6:30 pm and he has a double-header almost right after that.  I don’t have a dinner plan, but Charles has been begging to make cookies for a few days, so maybe that will redeem this worst of Mondays.


Cookies, take me away…

Vacation Photo Smorgasbord

I’m a history nerd.  I don’t retain a lot, I’ll admit it, but I once spent four years taking loads of history classes, dissecting reasons for this and that, re-imagining famous battles, wondering about the lives of ordinary and not-so-ordinary people during major historical events, and writing a LOT of papers.  So visiting Jamestown and Yorktown, Virginia, was a big deal to me.  I think Tony would say that Washington, D.C. was his favorite or most inspiring part of the trip, but I would choose Jamestown as the best.  Missing the exhibits at the ongoing archeological dig (where you can see “Jane,” the cannibalism victim!) and the Settlement recreation, well, is simply missing out if you’re going to make the trip to Williamsburg anyway.


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Reproductions of the three boats that carried the first settlers to Jamestown in 1607.  You would not BELIEVE how small they are, and how the human cargo of the settlers were stored for three months.


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As with all the history sites we visited, the guides and employees were enthusiastic about the history of the area, the Settlement, the crossing, and the lives of the original settlers and local Indians.  We, the nerds, spent a lot longer talking to them than most tourists.


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I wear a lot of hats these days to protect my skin.


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This is just my favorite photo.  Heavy is the head that wears the circa 1610 helmet.



The ongoing archeological dig at Jamestown.  This is the cellar/kitchen where “Jane’s” skull and femur – clearly indicating cannibalism – were found.


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Tony’s helping to fire a mortar against the British at Yorktown.


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He’s a different sort of captain, really.


phone 6-3-13 317   George and I, we’re buds.



You can’t spit in Virginia without hitting a Civil War re-enactment.  After all, it is the 175th anniversary.  These are the Union soldiers, demonstrating sharpshooting and then rank and file at Yorktown.



They had a whole Civil War army camp setup there, and the people who hung out in costume to answer questions were really dedicated.  And this is their hobby.  The Civil War surgeon was a real MD and had a ton to say about medicine in the Civil War.  It was fascinating.



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D.C., where it was hot as blazes and we spent as much time as possible in the American History and Air & Space museums.


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I really want to go back.