Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bed Transitions

The kids’ preschool is closed tomorrow and, of course, Monday, so I’m faced with the prospect of finding something entertaining and exhausting to do with the kids or… well, there really is no other option because I don’t want to look back on the day and see only whiny kids who were dragged to work and the grocery store and spent the majority of their time playing on my phone or watching movies.  So!  The Everett Children’s Museum it is!


In other news, does anyone want to buy a bed?  It’s Charles’s old captain’s bed and we have it listed on craigslist for $200.  I’m willing to negotiate, though, as I would like to get it out of my garage.  Disregard if you don’t live within nearby, obviously, as I am unwilling to coordinate shipping of this solid wood monstrosity to Timbuktu.


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The bunk bed situation is working out well.  I think I must worry about the wrong things, because I’ve had several people ask me how I deal with Jamie getting out of bed now, and I guess I just never thought of it as an issue.  He’s a toddler with a highly-developed sense of mischief.  I always knew he was going to climb out of bed.  Hell, he did it with the crib.  The big difference now is that he’s closer to the floor, so I worry less about him breaking a leg in the act of absconding from his bed.


He gets out of bed and wanders down the hall every night.  Sometimes he sees me and whines for me to pick him up because he wants cuddles, sometimes he sees me and plasters a shit-eating grin across his face and runs away (you think he doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing?  Oh, he does.).  My reaction is always the same: I calmly take him back to bed.  I offer him the choice of sleeping in his crib or his new bed.  If he gets out more than three times, I put him in his crib, and this makes him mad and gives him a consequence (no bed if you continue to get out).  I offer to lie down with him, but he refuses.  Sometimes we parry for ten minutes, sometimes an hour, but I know he’ll eventually stop.  He’ll eventually just go to bed when it’s time.


I reminded Tony last night that we spent weeks snuggling up to Charles in his new, big bed (see photo above) when he was two years old, just to get him to sleep.  This often meant that one of us would fall asleep with him.  For WEEKS.  Not an ideal situation, but you do what you must to make your kids comfortable and your evenings not full of screaming (at least not the angry-toddler kind).  Charles grew out of that and Jamie will grow out of this. 


And really, once they’re asleep, they’re asleep.  Jamie doesn’t wake much in the night anymore and I haven’t heard him trekking down the hallway in the middle of the night at all, so I remain unworried. 


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No one else seems worried, either.


In conclusion, you there, mama who is going crazy with anxiety over moving her toddler from a crib to a bed: cheer up.  It will work out.  You will have to make concessions for awhile, but I promise that you too will eventually be bribing your four-year-old with a Transformer toy if he goes to sleep without a fuss for a whole month.  Hmm, that doesn’t sound so encouraging, does it?  What I mean is, that crib has a weight limit, so you don’t really have a choice and you can’t fully anticipate all the ways in which your kids will drive you bonkers about bedtime, so you might as well just go for it.  I find it helps to stock up on wine and chocolate for all of life’s potentially infuriating changes.




Happy Labor Day, I hope you’re all doing something fun with your families. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Squatchin’ for Beds

Jamie started climbing out of his crib a few weeks ago.  This was new for us, because Charles was never patient enough to figure out how to climb out of his crib.  Or maybe his legs were too heavy to swing up and over the side.  Jamie, though… he’s a thinker.  He considers a problem, finds a solution, and goes for it.  After a mere two nights of walking him back to his crib every five minutes for an hour after bedtime, convincing him that everyone in the world was asleep (except for mom and dad, who were obviously awake and doing dishes or drinking wine on the couch), including the goats and Grandpa Joe (“Goats go nigh-nigh?  Gampa Joe go nigh-nigh?”), we decided that it was past time to move the boys into bunk beds.


So we began a search for solid wood, sturdy, reasonably-priced bunk beds.  It was like looking for Sasquatch.  Glimpses of beds that met those three criteria were rare, the beds themselves elusive.


There are lots of previously-loved Ikea bunk beds for sale on craigslist – they’re cheap, but flimsy.  There are lovely solid wood bunk beds for sale, both new and used, that are not inexpensive.  I scoured listings for a few weeks.  Literally, every day looking at posts and searching, even going so far as to visit my local furniture store to be sticker shocked.  $800 for a bunk bed?  No thank you, these are children, they destroy everything in their path.  You want to know why we can’t have nice things?  Small, smelly humans, that’s why.


Then, a couple of weeks ago, a friend called me about a garage sale on a nearby street that included a set of bunk beds in its wares.  I hurried on over after work and the beds were solid, in decent condition, and… sold already.  I went home and as I was pulling into my driveway, I noticed that our neighbors down the street were having a yard sale and they, too, were selling… wait for it… a set of bunk beds!  I ran over as fast as my cherry-red high heels would allow me and asked the price.  $75.  Sold.  My neighbor’s son and one of the other neighborhood kids moved them over to our yard that evening.  And thus began the comedy of errors.


Tony measured the beds, and they were too long for the space (the room has a closet-turned-bed-cubby), so he took them apart and reassembled them a little shorter (moved some decorative pieces to the inside, essentially).


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They’re pine beds and a little beat up, so I offered to paint them.  Charles chose green paint, so I sent the boys to the hardware store to pick up some spray paint.  Now, every seasoned spray-painter knows that you must use a spray primer before your color.  But despite my request for several cans of primer, Tony noted that the green spray paint can claimed that no primer was needed.  Spray + Primer In One!  Liars.  I sent the boys back for more primer. 


Then it took me forever to spray paint two coats of kelly green on every surface.  Tony added boards under the beds, we bought another mattress, and last night we attempted to move the beds up to the boys’ room (previously Charles’s room).  But the beds didn’t fit in the hall.


It sort of reminded me of that scene in Austin Powers where he gets the golf cart stuck in an underground tunnel:



There was a point at which we had one of the beds half in our room and half in the hall and we couldn’t figure out how to get it out again.  It’s those moments of breathtaking idiocy that cause you to reevaluate your life choices.  “What were we thinking?  Bunk beds?  How did we get into this mess?  Since I’m stuck in the bedroom and you have access to the kitchen, could you get me a bottle of wine and a snack?”


We eventually, with much sweating, swearing, and bribing of the children to stay out of the way, got the beds into the room, only to find out that in measuring the space, we forgot to take into account the quarter-inch of baseboard around the whole bed-cubby.  To say it was a tight fit is putting it lightly:


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That set of beds is never coming out of there.  After wedging the bottom bunk in, we had to hoist the top bunk over our heads and walk it into the tight space (this is, of course, after they were reassembled).  Then we further wedged the mattresses in and asked the boys to brush their teeth so they could spend a first night in their new beds.  I’ve never seen them get ready for bed so quickly and happily.


They love their new beds, and thank God, because they’re keeping them.


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Jamie got out of bed a few times.  When Tony put him back to bed in his old crib, he screamed, “I want bunk bed!”  I relented after about three minutes (just to let the pain of being relegated to the old crib sink in) and walked him back to his bunk bed.  He looked at me and said, “no!  Top bunk bed!” and I looked at him and said, “crib?”  He crawled right into that bottom bunk and went to sleep without another peep.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Paris Wife

I’ve read a few books lately and they’ve mostly been forgettable – some of them squarely in the “summer beach reads” category of worthless time-passing, some of them I’ve abandoned after giving them the requisite 50 pages (my rule is that any book gets 50 pages and if I can’t get into it by then, I’m out) (the most recent of the abandoned books being a Kindle Special/Daily Deal, whatever, called The Boy in the Suitcase, translated from Danish.  I should have known better, as it combines painful subjects like human trafficking and the abduction of a three-year-old with a main character who is largely dislikeable) – but I’ve been wanting to tell you about one I read for Book Club.  I had to wait until after Book Club to do so, though, so I didn’t show my hand before we’d had our discussion.


Book Club is also “eating, drinking, and gossiping club,” just so you know.


Our selections for this meeting were The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.  I have long loved Hemingway (my brother claims that all women love Hemingway) and I guess I didn’t really have much of a desire to know about him and his life, but what I learned from The Paris Wife did not make me like him very much. 


The Paris Wife reads a bit like a diary of someone who’s life is unimaginably dull… I wondered from the outset how Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s starter wife, ever attracted and held onto such a lively, young artist.  By the end of the novel, of course, she doesn’t attract him anymore.  She’s portrayed as sad, boring, and introspective from the beginning, and yet she maintained friendships with a variety of interesting people in the European art-set in the twenties and even before her marriage had partied with animated friends.  My conclusion?  She wasn’t boring, but Paula McLain portrays her as such.


The other tough part about the book was getting to know Ernest Hemingway in all his faults.  His “artistic temperament” is stereotypical; his needs and whims were the only ones that were important to him, and Hadley meekly went along with each one.  He abused his friends and resents their success, even though he didn’t want to “use” his friendships to get ahead as an author.  He clearly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, albeit in a time when it was neither diagnosed nor treated.


The fun of reading The Paris Wife for me was seeing how characters and places from Hemingway’s real life mirrored characters and places in The Sun Also Rises.  And what a fantastic book that is!  I love the simplified imagery; it’s as if I can see every scene without effort.  The lack of backstories is explained in The Paris Wife as Hemingway develops his writing, and that is interesting to note in Sun as well.  However, no other aspect of The Paris Wife was fun.  It was a dreadful read.


Hemingway is not an uplifting writer.  The Sun Also Rises is not an uplifting book.  But it is a book with substance and a distilled beauty that I appreciate even more having read The Paris WifeThe Paris Wife is not an uplifting book, and is, in my opinion, a badly written one.


I would much preferred to have read Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway’s First Wife by Gioia Diliberto.  Check out this teaser:


“Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway were the golden couple of Paris in the twenties, the center of an expatriate community boasting the likes of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and James and Nora Joyce. In this haunting account of the young Hemingways, Gioia Diliberto explores their passionate courtship, their family life in Paris with baby Bumby, and their thrilling, adventurous relationship—a literary love story scarred by Hadley’s loss of the only copy of Hemingway’s first novel and ultimately destroyed by a devastating ménage à trois on the French Riviera.” 


That sounds much better than The Paris Wife.  Perhaps I will grab it from the library this week…

Monday, August 26, 2013

On Scaling Back & Fixing Up

I made myself sick this summer looking for property on which to build a house.  Not that we’re going to build a house tomorrow, but we thought that it would be a good idea to find the ideal property this summer, while interest rates were low (they’re already much higher… if we had bought in January, we could have really gotten a deal), then we could slowly clear the property and prepare it for building, camp on it for a few summers, and break ground after Tony finishes his Master’s degree in a couple of years.


I was nuts.  And to this day, I do not know if my husband humored me in my irrational pursuit of this dream, all the while knowing that I might eventually abandon it for a more realistic view on our circumstances, or if he was equally taken in by the allure of building our dream house.  Either way, I got over it and Tony didn’t bat an eye at my suggestion that we pull back, regroup, and focus on the house we own rather than the house we don’t.


I woke up one day and realized that, with Tony’s school and the kids’ childcare and my business (small businesses are great… but for a few years, one puts in so much more than one gets out) and the desire to have another child and the knowledge that we really can’t afford to build anything yet and that in fact a loan payment on a piece of property would well and truly overextend us (not to mention a down payment), well, looking for property was just crazy.  And there’s the added stress that we would very much like our kids to be a part of the dual-language program in the school down the street and if we moved, what would that mean?  I could really do without waiving my kids in and out of various school districts for the next 16 years, assuming we even get Charles into the program in the first place which, let me tell you, kindergarten might be a full year away but I am totally freaking out about it now. 


That day, I stopped looking at property.  The next day, we scheduled a new roof to be put on our house, our home, the only place our boys have every lived.  We are replacing fascia and gutters, doorknobs and trim.  We have garden work to do and some interior remodeling and bottom line?  Good enough is just going to have to be good enough for awhile.  Lord knows we have plenty to do here and maybe I’ll even enjoy being here more with it all fixed up and nice.


Being okay with staying where we are doesn’t alleviate the jealousy (my own worst personal demon) and the what-ifs.  Other people I know can afford their dream houses, some of them on only one salary, and yet we are (in my opinion) quite frugal and still struggling.  I am happy for their beautiful spaces that they can design any way they see fit… but I am also sorry for me, in the stupidest, most pitiful way.  I want to design a nice kitchen, too.  I want to have enough storage.  I want nice furniture.  I want a safer street for my kids and dog.  If only we hadn’t bought our house when we did.  What if we had lived in an apartment for those first five years in this town?  We would be in that dream home now.


But then, maybe we wouldn’t have Charles and Jamie and Buster.  And any amount of financial burden and feeling cramped and uncomfortable is worth it for them.


I’ll post photos of what we’ve done soon, more to glorify the work we’ve put into these renovations than anything else.  There’s been a lot of sweat and a little blood, but thankfully, no tears.  Plenty of booze, though, and a rather disgusting amount of chocolate.


Here’s to letting go of dreams when they’re just not right.  Here’s to being hopeful about the future and hopeful that new dreams will grow to fill the void left by the old ones.  Here’s to learning to love what we have and not pine for what we don’t.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ice Cream & Nostalgia

There’s a drive-up “restaurant” in Montesano, WA, that has been there for decades; my dad remembers stopping there for ice cream when he was a kid.  I couldn’t comment on their food items (no one really wants to eat drive-in burgers), but their soft-serve ice cream is some of the best around.  We are usually driving through too close to dinner or during naptime and often do not stop.  But not this time:


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This is a “small” cone.


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So is this one.


There’s something amazing about doing the same things, visiting the same places that your parents did when they were young.  Assuming you like and admire your parents, I guess.  I like to imagine my dad as a kid eating a giant ice cream cone in the streaming metropolis of Montesano (2011 population: 3,692) in the fifties and sixties.  He and mom still stop there on their drives through.


My dad recently found a box of old yearbooks from his and my mom’s high school and college days, along with a journal my dad started in 1975 and wrote in only three times – just long enough to paste the receipt for my mom’s engagement ring inside and write his intentions of proposing in 35-year-old handwriting that was much more script-like and legible then than it is now.  There are photos in the yearbooks of my mom and my dad in high school and a particularly mesmerizing photo of my mom in a big group in college.  She was so beautiful, with her long hair and her bright smile.  Sometimes I think, wow, what I wouldn’t give to have known them then.  But then I think about who I am now compared to who I was in college and really, I don’t think I’m that much different.  Not fundamentally, anyhow.  I would love to be able to hang out with my college-aged parents, be goofy with them, and see who they were when they were learning who they were, but I imagine that at the base, they were the same then as now.  Maybe a little more carefree, ignorant of the trials and troubles that life would throw at them.  But still the people who would become my parents. 


I feel the same about my grandparents… oh, to be able to time travel!  To see what they saw, who they were and how they acted.  But our lot in life is to move forward instead of back.  God willing, I will see my children go off to college.  And once they are safely graduated and have real jobs and maybe even kids of their own, I’ll show them my yearbooks and scrapbooks and they can wonder how awesome it would have been to know me when.  When I was fun.  When I partied.  When I danced on tables and rode mechanical bulls.


Mom and dad, take note: now is the time to start telling me all the stories about how crazy/awesome you were back then.  Because I’m too old to try to outdo you at this point.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

So Here’s What Happened

1.  Tony and Charles took off on Saturday for the Seahawks’ preseason game, at which they had an awesome time



Aaaaand, that will be the last photo for today because I forgot my phone at home because of the sickness and the sleep deprivation and the lateness and… let me back up:


2. We left Sunday for Ilwaco/Long Beach to spend some time with mom and dad and my in-law (just one, the other has moved, which is a long story and very confusing to the children, but they’ll get used to it) and go to the Kite Festival.  Except that we turned around TWICE due to forgotten items and ended up leaving nearly 2 hours later than we anticipated even though we had actually been driving for that entire two hours, resulting in the first bathroom stop actually being in our hometown and also weird sleeping/screaming/ice-cream-rejecting on the long drive.


3. I made a bad joke about being totally lost when we were about five minutes away from my parent’s house that Charles blames on Tony and will NEVER, EVER let him forget.  “Remember when you said we were lost, daddy?  WE WEREN’T LOST.  That was funny.”  At least he sees the humor in it now – for about 30 seconds, until he recognized where we were, I think he was truly alarmed.


4. Charles rode his bike five miles while I ran the same five miles and attempted to keep up with him, resulting in a slightly faster pace that I would have run otherwise.


5.  Tony went fishing with his dad and they DIDN’T CATCH ANYTHING.  There is no justice in the world.


6. Charles and Jamie made kites at the Kite Festival (it’s still happening!  Through this weekend!  You should go if you can, the weather is amazing!) and flew them and ate hot dogs and elephant ears and got sand in their eyes and everyone had a great time.


7.  I made these brownies again, and as I said before, I will never, ever make boxed brownies again ever. 


8.  Charles started to get sick Tuesday night and put himself to sleep at 7:30 pm. 


9.  We drove home yesterday, tired from getting up in the middle of the night with Charles, trying to plan our home improvements and repairs so they don’t break the bank (bathroom paint, bunk beds for the boys, fascia and gutters, patio extension, basement carpet cleaning), and stressed from missing work (there’s always work to do and be done, even when we’re on vacation).


10. Tony took Charles to a softball game (Tony was playing ball, Charles was playing on the playground) and Jamie and I went to Baby Boot Camp last night.  Then I made dinner and tried to keep my two-year-old from driving me batshit crazy with his throwing shoes and his climbing counters and bookshelves and his yelling “no!” all the damn time.  It’s a losing battle.


11.  Charles woke up at 4 am vomiting.  After an hour or two of caring for the sick kiddo, I finally got back to sleep, only to be awakened by Jamie at 7 am.  I forgot my phone at home, so I don’t know if he is still sick, but Charles was still puking when we left (not, like, he-needs-to-be-hospitalized-non-stop-vomiting, just average stomach-flu up-chuck).  Tony is off today and tomorrow and working on the roof and fascia and now, caring for our big boy.


The worst part of vacation is coming back to real-life, isn’t it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Inadvertent Awesome

My husband bought me something truly amazing the other day, and I really don’t think he did it on purpose.  In fact, because he constantly has Man Vision (because he is a man, and cannot turn off Man Vision with regards to things like fashion or housewares or design, except in moments when I clarify things for him), I believe he thought he was buying me something that was actually nice and/or attractive.  But he still wins, because as creepy as this gift is, it is also awesome.

He was at a charity golf tournament last week and there was a silent auction.  In addition to a lovely bath product basket (Man Vision can clearly see that bath products are always a good buy), Tony bid on a coffee basket.  Seems a safe bet, as we both drink coffee, and the money was going to a good cause (I have no idea how much money, but I will admit that my first reaction was too much)… but take a look at the cups that came with the coffee:

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I’m pretty sure they’re plotting my demise.

I mean, take a look at that creepy face:

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You want coffee, don’t you?  Come drink it out of my head.  I promise it won’t harm you.  Hold my ear and drink… thaaaat’s it, drink.  My pretty…

After my initial horror (and unfairly laughing at Tony that he would purchase such a thing – after all, he was trying to do something nice for me, and he truly did not think these were creepy at all), I realized that I will probably drink out of these every Halloween until I die, and probably force a cup on anyone who visits during the Halloween season (it’s a whole month round these parts).  “Here.  Have some coffee.  Drink it out of my grotesque, pale, porcelain, silver-lipped baby cups.  Guaranteed to haunt your dreams for at least a few days.”

Who want’s to come for tea?

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Most Important Part of This Is the Frosting Recipe.

It’s been a tough couple of weeks and I don’t like to complain, but… well, actually, I do.  It’s cathartic.  Tony has been studying late, we’ve had house projects (new roof!) exploded all over the yard and garage (painting fascia in the garage, which I completed just in time for it to rain – so now I can park inside again, but we can’t put it up and I can’t paint what’s already on the house and the unpainted and ugliness and undone-ness of it all causes me stress), and the kids went plum nuts recently. 


I think they’re both going through a growth spurt.


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2T!  Already!


This big kid can climb out of his crib totally unassisted now.  His newfound ability has coincided with him deciding that sleep is for fools, especially if one can get out of one’s crib all by oneself.  The result: mom doesn’t get anything done for an hour after bedtime because mom is continually walking Jamie back to bed and insisting on sleep to varying degrees of success.   I finally won last night when I ran though a litany of animals, stating “the cows are asleep, the dogs are asleep, the chickens are asleep…” etc, etc, until I ran out of animals and I finally said, “And Jamie is going to sleep!”  And he looked at me and said, “Goat go night-night?”  Yes, Jamie.  Goat go night-night.  You go night-night, too, for the millionth time.


And then he climbs out of his bed at 6 am and comes to wake me up.  So add tired to the list of stressors.


Oh, and he’s also getting his two-year molars.  Sheesh.


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This big kid earned a Transformer toy by being responsible and “listening to his body” and not having any accidents for twenty whole days.  Thank God.  On the flip side, Charles is also growing, and it seems to be his style to throw a terrible tantrum every day when he is in the middle of a growth spurt.  The other day he tore his bed apart, because, when he’s angry, Destruction is his middle name (free naming advice: that would be a kick-ass middle name).  When he’s finally asleep every night, I stare at his little boy body that has chubbed up and made him look younger recently, I smell his hair, and marvel at how he can look like such an innocent angel and yet scream so loudly when he’s mad.


There’s stress at work, too, with big projects to bring home and mull over and research every night.  It’s no wonder I’ve been eating my feelings.  It’s a terrible cycle that when I can’t exercise (because Tony’s not home and I can’t just leave the kids alone and go for a run), I eat more.  The other night I made chocolate chip cookie dough frosting (yeeeessss, frosting) and poured myself a glass of wine and then proceeded to stuff my face and take big gulps in between walking Jamie back to bed.


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3/4 C brown sugar, a pinch of salt, 1/2 C softened butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, some chocolate chips, stir until you can fool yourself that you have burned enough calories mixing that you are justified in eating it with a spoon. 




Something wonderful happened yesterday, and that’s that my new jewelry box showed up!  I bought this one on Amazon and I love it.  I finally decided that I was never going to find an all-wood, wall-mount jewelry box that I loved and so I stopped trying.  My inner awkward teenager told me to buy something colorful, so I did.  I always listen to my inner awkward teenager.


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See my Caboodle?  My inner awkward teenager still loves it.


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Oh, it could be bigger.  I have inherited a ton of gaudy, big costume jewelry from my grandmother and not all of it fits.  But now I can find all my good jewelry and I have some space to add more.  I found pieces in the bottom of my little cedar chests that I had completely forgotten about.  No more!  Jewelry organization is mine!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Classics for Littles

Last night was the first time that I read a whole story to Jamie that wasn’t about trains or farm animals and was, you know, long (except for Go Dog, Go, which has been in reading rotation since he was an infant).  We read lots of board books, two-minute trips through Sandra Boynton’s weird world of animals doing silly things, but until yesterday, Jamie has rejected the Dr. Seuss and the P.D. Eastman.  Too long to hold his attention?  I don’t know.  All I know is, we’re back, with stories that I love and could read a million times (have read a million times). 


We go to the library every few weeks to stock up on more books.  I had a collection from my own childhood of Dr. Seuss and P.D. Eastman and The Berenstain Bears.  If you’re looking for great books for your kids and haven’t yet read all of those, head to your local library.  They’re timeless and interesting to kids and adults.  I have also picked up random books from the shelves and found that Charles loves all the Jonathan London Froggy books, the Babar books by Jean de Brunhoff (these are LONG, and isn’t it amazing to see your child’s interest held by a long book?), and most recently, the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel and the Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish.


Classic books are classic for a reason – they fun, silly, they involve children, and their plots or morals or jokes are always relevant.  The new Berenstain Bears?  Terrible.  But the really old ones, done in verse, or the ones that are an involved story with lessons for both children and parents, are fantastic.


We let Charles read pretty much whatever he wants, and that’s how we ended up owning about 20 Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man books (easy readers bought in six-packs for $9.99 at Costco), but the novelty wears off pretty quickly and he gravitates back to the stories that are less… action, I guess, and more substance. 


What are your favorites?  We are headed back to the library soon, and I badly want to get something new (to them).  What amazing books am I forgetting?



In an effort to make things more comment-friendly, I’m going to remove the CAPTCHA requirement for comments… we’ll see how much spam I get.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tomato Pie

I am blessed with an abundance of tomatoes this year, both on my tomato plant and from our farm box (a surprise every week!).  I don’t can (yet), so I’ve been coming up with new and interesting ways to use all my produce every week.  This recipe is not new, nor is it really one of mine.  My French mom made this just about every other week when I was living in Nantes, and I’ve always adored it.  One pie is almost not enough for my family, now that the boys are getting bigger.  It’s vegetarian, so I usually serve it with a side of Italian meatballs, which the boys eat plain and on which I drizzle this stuff.  Easy peasy!


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Tomato Pie


First, whip up your favorite pie crust or use one of the uncooked pie crusts you can buy at the grocery store, and bake it.  I usually do mine at 450-degrees for 15 minutes, covered in foil and topped with pie weights.


Next, slice up and seed several ripe tomatoes and one of those one-pound mozzarella cheese balls (I prefer Frigo).  This recipe doesn’t work as well when you use fresh mozzarella because of all the water, so just go for the regular kind.  Also, step into your backyard and marvel at how well your basil plant is growing outside (and ignore the little voice in your head that says it will surely die this winter), and pick yourself some basil leaves.  The amount of tomatoes and basil you use depends more on how large your pie pan is than anything else.


Layer cheese over the pie crust, then tomatoes, then basil.  Drizzle with some olive oil (the regular kind, not the spicy kind linked above) and shake a bit of salt and pepper over the pie, if you like that sort of thing.


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Next, top with more cheese (a phrase that instantly makes any recipe a good recipe in my book).  Pop the whole thing in the oven and bake at 375-degrees for 20 minutes or until the cheese is gooey.


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Serve it in slices like a pie.  Drizzle your spicy olive oil on top (if you want, I won’t judge your wussy palette if you don’t like spicy things) and pair with meatballs and a nice Cabernet.


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This would also be great as a side dish to, say, Chicken Parmesan or any other Italian-inspired main dish.



Thursday, August 8, 2013

Summer Sun for Everyone

Some people are blessed to not just withstand the heat of summer, but thrive in it.  They brown up, wear their hair down and their skirts long, and never look like they’re sweating.  I am not one of these people.  I get red, from sun or heat, I wear hats and my hair gets sweaty and sticks out in weird ways because of the hats, and when my clothing starts to cling, I pull my shirt away from my chest and flap air into it… the same thing my mom does and which used to drive me nuts because SO EMBARRASSING, MOM!


My lovely boys have inherited my sweaty redness in the heat.  They don’t seem to care that they mostly look like ripe, wet tomatoes, and they really don’t care that a half-mile walk to the park or a day at a baseball game will make their mom look like a wilted spinach salad (I haven’t had lunch yet, please excuse the food imagery).


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We went to “see” the Bellingham Bells baseball game this past weekend on Family Day, so the kids played in the bouncy house and Charles got his face painted.  No one watched the game.


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He’s NightWing, by the way, which is an odd superhero to attach to, but it appears to be his favorite right now.


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I know the season’s almost over, but in my never-ending quest to share with other parents the great, kid-friendly outings we do, I will tell you that farm-team baseball is really fun.  Kids get to run the bases, the tickets and the food are cheap, and there are often events for families.  We don’t sit in the stands, just on a blanket.  You could even bring your own food to save some cash.  I think we’ll try to make it to more games next summer.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mom Hangover

Last night, at 10:15 PM, I was cleaning poop off of the wall in bathroom and trying to control my temper.  I failed.  Charles would NOT get back into bed, he would NOT put a clean nighttime diaper on, he would NOT listen to any directive given.  I did all the things that I do when I get really tired and frustrated (I was REALLY tired and frustrated) and that I know shouldn’t do: I swatted him on his bare ass, causing him to howl and wake up his sleeping brother; I told him I didn’t care what he did as long as he let me go to bed (of course I care); I told him that I was done being “mom” for the night (when I say that, and I try not to, he thinks I mean that I don’t want to be his mom anymore and so he cries); and I walked out the door and onto the porch as he followed me, screaming at the top of his lungs, “no Mommy, don’t go away!”


Someone just kill me now.


The kid is wonderful but he drives me batty.  I’m exhausted by 7 PM and I usually have another three or four hours of work and wind-down time to go.  Tony has been heading back to the office after dinner lately, so we can’t even tag-team brushing teeth and bedtime stories, never mind presenting a nice show of force when Charles gets out of bed at all hours.  I’ve been painting fascia at night after the kids go to bed, but lately I’ve had to stop, set down the brush, and take my gloves off to wipe a butt (I honestly don’t mind that, better than cleaning it up elsewhere) or provide a spoonful of peanut butter for the child who has been eating all day but has now stayed up late enough to be hungry yet again.


The worst is how much I hate myself for being so strung-out and short-tempered.  I normally would not react so badly to the late-night tantrum as I did last night, but I was just so destroyed from such a long day.  And I’m pretty sure I still had a load of laundry to fold at that point.  Charles does not react well to me getting angry or flustered, and he certainly does not react well to my coping mechanism, which is just to walk away from the situation.  I know that he was such a jerkface last night because he was tired, too.  But how does a parent make a strong, tall, willful, fifty-five pound four-year-old go to bed if he really doesn’t want to?  I’m losing my control over him.


These are the times when I miss Tony the most.  He’s such a great balance to me – we’re a great balance to each other.  Our parenting styles work well together to corral our children and they respond very well to him in areas where I fail to get through.  When he’s not there, I often think, “How, in God’s name, would I ever do this alone?”  I often implore Tony not to die because I honestly don’t think I could raise these kids without him.


But you know what the worst of it is (besides the black circles under my eyes today, I mean; they’re pretty terrible)?  The kids are so different when it’s just Tony to put them to bed that I am sure he never thinks the same about me.  The kids are monsters with me when it comes to bedtime but will acquiesce to their father’s wishes without a hardly a protest.


I didn’t drink yesterday, but I have a Mom Hangover today.  Headache, tired eyes, pervading sense of guilt.  I tried to set myself and Charles back on a good path by ditching work for a couple of hours and joining his preschool at the Fair this morning.  I think we’re cool now.


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“Amo polluelos!”


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“Y tu tambien, Mama.  Te amo.”


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Here’s hoping things go better tonight.

Monday, August 5, 2013


When Jamie was in the bath last night I noticed a terrible bruise on his arm.  “What could that be?” I thought.  It was a weird ring on his upper arm and looked like whatever caused it was painful.


And then I knew because, of course, I had signed the injury report at daycare: he was bitten.  In fact, he has been bitten several times at school by the biter in the toddler room.  Poor baby of mine.


When I was a new mom (I still feel like a new mom), I was involved with a MOPs group.  I felt like a fraud because I worked, and all the moms there didn’t, and because my faith is a bit different, I think, than most others.  Oh, sure, we’re all different in our faith, but for me, I enjoy church service because of how much I learn and how rooted in history and science and research our pastor’s sermons are.  We are often called to think for ourselves, not just blindly follow what is preached (and, as such, I believe that God and evolution are BOTH real and true and not mutually exclusive).  I will probably never get involved in a Bible study or small group.  I don’t enjoy it, and I feel like my relationship with God is my own business.  I love the ways in which our church gives back to the community, and I like meeting new people, but I am unlikely to be involved in some of the more outspoken ways.  You know, the ways that make the rest of us, if we’re insecure in ourselves, feel bad about our choices.  Like, I am somehow worth less if I don’t say Grace before every meal. 


But you know what?  It’s not true, not at all.  Some of us feel called to proselytize, and that’s fine.  I don’t want to hear it, not really, but that’s fine if that’s your choice.  Some of us are compelled to work and have our children grow up with caretakers other than ourselves, and that’s fine, too.  I am setting a strong example for my children – one which shows that women have value as business owners and can financially contribute to their families and that makes me happy.  Some of us don’t say Grace at meals, and that’s fine, as well.  It is not a comment about my faith, merely a comment about my preferences.  Besides, there’s no right way to do things.  There’s no right way to be a parent, no right way to have a relationship with God, no right way to structure your family, no right number of children (everything from 0 to Duggar family is acceptable), no right way to dress, no right amount of TV to watch.  There are only choices, and we all have to live with our own.


So anyway, when I was a new mom of a (let’s walk down memory lane a bit here, shall we?) colicky, sleepless, constantly-eating, giant, energetic one-year-old I regularly attended a meeting of church-going moms of preschoolers who were outspoken about their faith and the fact that they stay home with their kids and either home school them or enroll them at the Christian school.  That doesn’t sound like me, but I was starved for mom friends and looking for anyone who could identify with my life and help me through those first few months and years.  At one meeting, one of the moms was called to pick up her kid from the care center.  She came back, baby in hand, with an ice pack held to his cheek.  Because “one of the other kids” (I think you can see where this is going) bit him.  And so everyone looked around to find the biter’s mom, but no other mom was called to get her kid, so I guess the biter was effectively isolated and quarantined, or whatever.  But I am not joking, even though we all knew that someone, someone sitting in that room, was the parent of the biter, several moms made all sorts of mean-spirited comments about the terrible parenting that leads to biting.


The biter was Charles.  And when all the moms walked to the care center after MOPs was over to pick up our kids, one of the care workers pointed and, loudly enough for everyone to hear, said, “that was the boy who bit the other one.  On the face.” 


I was mortified.  Of course I was a terrible parent.  Of course I wasn’t fit to have children.  Shit, I had to work for a living and I didn’t even want to stay home and I had no desire to home school or send my kids to the Christian school, what was wrong with me?


Charles was a tactile baby, and he bit a lot.  But it didn’t last.  He began to understand that biting hurt the other kids.  He got all his teeth so his mouth didn’t hurt anymore.  He stopped biting, but I’ve felt compelled ever since to reassure moms whose kids I see biting that, oh!  My Charles bit other kids, too!  And he’s not a sociopath!  And he doesn’t bite anymore!  And you’re not a bad mom!


I’m not in MOPs anymore, largely because I didn’t feel like I belonged.  Other than me, it was a big group of moms were were exactly the same: stay-at-home, home school or Christian school, talk a lot about faith and judge others based on faith, somewhat mean-spirited toward outsiders, watch Christian video series comparing being a mother to having lots of purses for different outfits (yeah, the video series got a bit wacko).  I am still friends with some of the women I met there, though, so maybe it was sort of a group-think situation.  The last straw for me was when I was excitedly telling the moms at my table about the dual-language program at a nearby elementary school and how we hope to enroll Charles in the program and one of them actually said, “Aren’t you worried about him hanging out with all the Mexican kids?”


I’m not joking.


I should have gotten up and walked away, but I was just stunned.


I really didn’t start this post thinking that I would write about hypocrisy.  I began it as a story of grace: grace for the child who bit mine, grace for the parents of the biter because I know what they’re going through.  They probably feel ten times as terrible as I do seeing my baby’s bruised arm.  They’re probably wondering how in the world they’ll be able to get their fourteen-month-old to stop biting other kids.  They’re probably thinking that they’re terrible parents or that they’re raising a monster.  I know I did.  But it will get better, and their child will grow out of biting and be just fine.  I wish I knew who they were so I could tell them.


It actually (and crazily) took me another year to quit MOPs.  It took me a long time to both learn to give myself grace as a parent and to realize that it’s okay to quit things if they’re not right.  MOPs wasn’t right for me.  I am a good mom, regardless of the biting or the willful disobedience or any of the other myriad challenges my children present that others don’t.  My choices, they are mine, and I am happy with them.

Friday, August 2, 2013

My Mood Mirrors the Weather

We woke up this morning to rain, which meant this:


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I know.  I can’t believe how cute he is, either.


But also, the rain… Tony started ripping shingles off of our roof yesterday, guys.  Oh, maybe you could say something like, “look at a weather forecast before you destroy what protects your house from the rain, for fuck’s sake” but that would be unkind.  And unhelpful.  It’s August, this is the first rain we’ve had in weeks, and these are the days we have to do this roof project.  No other days.  These days.  So poor Tony was out first thing this morning spreading tarps over the exposed roof.


And I?  Well, I was an emotional wreck last night.  I had the longest working day in recent memory yesterday, and it was stressful.  So many decisions are coming up, and they all are associated with some pretty hefty risk and one choice precludes another.  So.  I have to put on big girl panties and decide what I want and I don’t want to do that.  Because I am not independently wealthy, but because I am trying to become independently wealthy, I find that my dreams are mutually exclusive and damn if it isn’t hard to give up your dreams.  All in all, yesterday was the breaking point, but I’ve been leading up to it with increasing stress for weeks.


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I’ll be shopping for some more bottles of wine today… strangely, my stash has been depleted over the past two weeks.  Coincidence?  I think not.


Today is a better day, as it usually is after you cry yourself to sleep over the stress and frustration and looming decisions in life, and I think things are again looking up.  It helps to have perspective: my children are adorable, my house probably won’t smell this bad forever, I can buy more wine.  The decisions I make in the coming months will affect my whole life, but isn’t that always true?