Saturday, January 27, 2018

Things I Learned Traveling to Estonia Last Summer

1. If your kid gets invited on a summer travel adventure, figure out a way to tag along! (I was really just supposed to be the carrier pigeon of this operation, but I managed to get two weeks' worth of travel in before I came back and left Jack to finish the adventure without me.)

2. US playgrounds need to step up their game. Estonian parks and playgrounds are way cooler. Sure, a kid could fall off the Estonian swing and bust his head open, but Estonian kids must be pretty smart 'cause I never saw that happen.

Remember those big wooden hamster wheel things that they used to have at Papa's Pizza before they became "too dangerous" and were removed? At least you could climb out of those things! This one closes you in. I kept waiting for someone to get a nosebleed or take an elbow to the mouth when they all three got in it together, but all these kids got from this toy was a bunch of exercise. (This was actually in Finland.)

I really can't tell you why this one is so much fun, so you'll just have to take my word for it. It's like a pogo stick meets a balancing bridge and YES THAT IS REAL ACTUAL CEMENT THAT A KID COULD FALL ON! (Nobody fell.) The object is to stand up on the middle one which is super bouncy and wobbly. I tried and failed many times. I am actually wondering if something like this could be installed in my backyard. I am telling you, this would be a HIT at parties!

3. The quality of my life is significantly improved if I eat cake every day.


4. I need more cheesemongers in my life. Specifically, I need cheesemongers who want to give me free samples and tell me what cheese pairs best with my wine. Also, I need more wine in my life.

5. I really, really, REALLY love marzipan. Am I the only one who thinks we need handcrafted marzipan painted with all natural fruit and vegetable dyes readily available for our consumption? Look at the marzipan trolls. Marzipan freaking trolls! The Estonians are brilliant.

6. Restaurants with outdoor seating provide blankets in case you get cold. I love this so much. Also, I am pretty convinced that there is no bad food in Estonia. Even the gas station I went to had a little deli with fresh salads, soups, and these little open-faced fish and egg on rye bread sandwiches. For my thoughts on open-faced fish and egg on rye bread sandwiches, see list item #3.

7. An Estonian girls weekend is a heck of a lot different than any girls weekend I've ever been a part of. For starters, they met at a health spa. Now, I certainly can't speak for all Americans, but my experience with girls weekends has been a lot of eating and drinking and sitting around and more eating and drinking and sitting around. Don't get me wrong, I love overindulgence as much as the next American, but spending our days in the sauna, swimming in the sea, and walking into town for lunch and strolling around for hours before heading back to the sauna left me feeling refreshed. And the funny thing about Estonia is that even though I felt like I drank a lot, I never once had even the slightest hangover. 

(I will say, however, that my experience with the Estonian masseuse was somewhat terrifying and I think I will stick to getting massages from someone with whom I can verbally communicate from now on.)

8.  No matter where you are in Estonia you can always find live music. And Estonian children learn to waltz and so everyone (young and old!) waltzes to live music and it is pretty much the sweetest and most amazing thing ever and we should all learn to waltz right away so that we can bring this trend to the US.  Who's with me?

9. I needed this picture to be taken. When my mom was sick and knew she was dying we took one last family vacation to Southern California. It must have been incredibly hard for her to travel at that point (she died a few months later) but she put on a happy face and we went to Disneyland and a Dodgers game and tried to have a family vacation knowing that this was it. The end was near. 

My brother got this idea that he wanted to try rollerblading (this was the summer of '96 and rollerblading in SoCal was going to be pretty rad). Even though she must have been exhausted and I'm sure no medical professional would have authorized this, my mom put on rollerblades and off she skated with my brother. They posed for a photo together.  "This is how I want you to remember me," she said. 

I'm not going anywhere anytime soon, but this photo is how I'd like Jack to remember me.

10. I think I might be a happier and more fulfilled person if I spent my days herding cows and making my own cheese. We would all probably be better off if we ate cucumbers with our breakfast. It is actually pretty hard to jump up on a hay bale.


11.  To travel is always the right decision. (I knew this one already, though.) 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


"I've been thinking about starting the blog up again," I say to Brent.
"You've said this before..." he replies tentatively. He's right. I have said this before.

I think about doing a lot of things. And I always find plenty of excuses for not making those things happen, but I'm pretty sure that I'm not alone.

But isn't that just the beauty of January? The promise of a new year always fills me with fresh, naive optimism. 2018 will be my year! I see my fellow hopefuls out running in the mornings with their new shoes and jaunty strides and I wonder if we will see each other again, mostly because I wonder if I will maintain my newly reimposed early morning running routine.

And so, Brent, I am thinking about starting up the blog again. Here's why:

There are too many days where the sun is shining and I forget to notice it. There are too many times when a Sunday afternoon trip to the park seems like an inconvenience until I remember that a Sunday afternoon trip to the park is the perfect reminder that Sunday afternoons should be spent on a bike or on a swing or at a park or ANYWHERE but home folding laundry. 

Blogging helps me remember that.

And I'm worried that I'll forget all of the funny stories that make childhood so ridiculous and fucking magical at the same time. Like the time one of our chickens had a mysterious hurt foot and lay dying in the hen house (fun fact- unless you are a chicken- chickens cannot balance on one foot and will die quickly once they become immobile) and Clementine's heart just about burst with sadness. "Oh, Mom, we have to help her!" she cried. 

For ten days I hauled that bird out of the henhouse and coaxed her to eat and drink and showed her how to balance with her wing. I praised and encouraged her but also employed some tough love. I'm sure the neighbors assume I am insane. 

One day when I came home from work, Clementine greeted me at the door. "She can walk again! We fixed the chicken!"

Also, I really like to make things. Like Buche de Noel cakes:

Blogging helps me remember some of our more random holiday traditions.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I frame my thinking. Taking pictures has always helped me to really see the beautiful moments that compose my life. 

But mostly I want to blog again because I want us to remember what 2018 was like. I spent a good part of Christmas Eve poring through our old family albums at my dad's house.  Here was my childhood, sandwiched into dusty old books and binders.

This blog is my children's childhood.

I've grown tired of hearing myself make the same excuse for not doing the things I want to do: I don't have enough time. 

I've grown tired of talking to my friends about how busy we all are and how there's not enough time to hang out.

Sawyer prattles on about school as we drive to piano practice. I am thinking about what we will have for dinner but I catch something about growth mindset. 

"And so my group tells me, 'You're not bad at reading in French, you're just not good at it yet.'"

Hmmm. Some rusty wheels have begun to spin.

First, let's give a shout out to his teacher for teaching the whole child (in addition to math and reading!) and now let's see if we can apply this hippie shit to the real world.

So, maybe I do have enough hours in my day, I just haven't figured out how to use them yet?

Time will tell. I have my running clothes set out for tomorrow morning. I am thinking of ideas for another blog post. 

And let's close this by acknowledging that if Kate Klein can move her entire family to the other side of the world and teach full time while navigating the complexities of life in China AND update her blog twice in one week (!!) perhaps it's time for me to stop the bullshit excuses and start writing again.

Kate, this one is for you. XOXO

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Jack's Mother's Day card included a poem thanking me for the things I do: make dinner, drive him around, play basketball with him. These little glimpses into how my kids see me are at times comical and at times humbling. I had no idea he appreciated my basketball playing so much.

I'm thirty eight years old and I've now lived half my life without my mom. My memories grow fuzzier with every year that passes and all of the new memories I'm storing. I remember that she wore a blue bathrobe that always had kleenex in the pockets. She used hand lotion religiously. She and I decided that sandwiches always taste better if someone else makes them, so we always made them for each other. When I was in high school she would come home on her lunch breaks during the summer and we would watch Days of Our Lives and eat cottage cheese. She had beautiful feet.

My brother and I were theatrically afraid of bees. When they got trapped in our house, she would assume an alter ego (De-Bee!) and wield two flyswatters to valiantly slay the offending insects.

She never played basketball with me. I am also fairly certain that she and her friends did not waste their time questioning their ability to mother us. I'm pretty sure that they just woke up in their Pinterest-free worlds and got the hell to work doing whatever felt right. I imagine that defining yourself as a mother back then was a lot simpler than it is today. But I'll never get to hear her thoughts on this.

I have friends who free-range, I have friends who helicopter. I have friends who push and friends who nudge gently. I drive my kids around from activity to activity a lot more than I'd like to. I wish my kids would eat more vegetables. I compare myself to strangers on the internet and catch myself feeling superior or inadequate. I wonder what my kids will remember about me.

 I wear a purple bathrobe with kleenex in the pockets. It's a good thing too, because my eyes well up when my kids present me with my Mother's Day cards. Some of it is simply sappy sentimentality (I get this from my mom), but with each Mother's Day comes a familiar empty pang that gets swallowed into the happy tears.

Today we went hiking.

Yes, earbuds. Earbuds!

And then, of course, I played basketball with Jack.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Day

"I'm taking tomorrow off," I announce to my sixth-graders.

"What are they making you do this time?" they wonder, accustomed to my many professional development endeavors and my subsequent episodes of "Guys, let's try something new that I learned about in a teacher training!"

"It's personal day. I'm taking the day off just for me," I explain, expecting them to wonder what in the world could possibly be more exciting than spending the day talking about the Aztecs or examples of foreshadowing in our current novel.

Instead they surprise me. "Good for you," they say. "You deserve it."

And so I sleep in (relatively speaking), and surprise the kids with waffles for breakfast. (From a box. They still count. Waffles are waffles.) The sun shines and Clementine and I go for a run. We cut through the park because I see clouds in the distance and Clementine has brought her doll who apparently wants to go down the slide. An older man is walking a yellow lab off leash. The dog is as thrilled by us as we are by him and jumps up on passers by with Bad Dog Marley enthusiasm. The man apologizes, but we smile because we are just happy to be off leash, too.

Clementine's doll belonged to my grandma. She used her for making American Girl type clothing and she's one of the many items I inherited when she died. At first I put her up on Clementine's shelf, but then I decided that dolls were meant to be played with and loved. So the doll is with us at the park and she's missing some pretty important parts of her American Girl wardrobe, but no one seems to mind and so we go down the slide.

I pick up trash from teenagers and I wonder who picked up the trash I left behind in the park when I was a teenager.

Photography is mostly unrelated.

Brent and I are so used to the divide and conquer routine that we almost miss the opportunity to pick Sawyer up from school together. We go out for crepes and coffee. We pick up a few beers for later. Sawyer is holding on to some birthday money and so he buys himself a new water bottle and then spends the rest of the day hydrating. Clementine has $5 and buys a tube of chapstick. She reapplies this approximately 200 times in the next few hours.

When Jack gets home we play basketball. Clementine pedals around the block. The boys jump on the trampoline and I laugh so hard at Brent's antics that I get a side ache. I wonder how he bounces with such elasticity and I feel envy. I sneak in a quick yoga session.

Sawyer has his first soccer game and he scores the first goal. Dark clouds roll in and threaten us, but no rain falls.

We get pizza for dinner and watch Back to the Future III.

I write this post and then it takes three weeks to publish it. I don't know if I'm too busy living to write about living or ir maybe I've run out of things to say. All I know is that I did deserve that day off three weeks ago and I'm glad I took it.

Beautiful things are happening around me every day. Maybe tomorrow I will pick up the camera again.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Ski Weekend That Wasn't

Jack turned eight over President's Day weekend. I feel obligated to mourn his fleeting childhood and feel twinges of grief as he outgrows his favorite shirt before my very eyes. I could pontificate about how quickly it all goes by. I could pull myself back into those hazy, milky newborn days and gasp as I'm jolted back into reality by all of those candles on that cake.

We move forward. Life barrels at us full speed and there's not much time to look back. My family is changing, we're evolving from a family with little kids to a family with big and little kids. I'm the mom of an eight-year-old. Woah.

I've held babies and rocked babies and changed babies and burped babies for a long time. My hips find that comfortable and familiar sideways sway whenever I hold a friend's baby. I absentmindedly ruffle toddler hair and cup my hand over sharp coffee table edges as friends' babies navigate treacherous living room arrangements. These eight years have forever changed me and how I move through the world.

Jack is a real person now. He makes jokes and is trying out sarcasm. He shows me how to use our DVD player and reads this blog over my shoulder. He begs to stay up late and challenges us to Phase-10. He makes a mistake and my mom-eyes see tears of frustration well up, but in a moment he swallows them down and holds his own. He recently discovered Calvin and Hobbes. He has an opinion about everything. He is perfecting his layup in our driveway. He is very much his eight-year-old self.

Sometimes I see a slight pucker in his mouth and I remember nursing him. In a way this seems awkward now, but if I close my eyes I feel myself sitting in the rocking chair, damp blond curls sticking to the inside of my arm, sweet grunts and soft humming fill my ears. Eight years isn't really that long, when you think about it.

Our weekend of skiing turned out to be a weekend of sunshine. A few quick trips into Bend for beers and coffee. No snow. No skis.

And then we all got in in our heads to climb Black Butte.

It's not the most kid-friendly hike you will ever take. There was some serious cajoling to get Sawyer up and down the mountain on this three hour voyage. Jack blazed the trail without complaint, while Clementine alternated between slowing picking her way through every rock and pine cone and hitching a ride on Brent's back.

Small, medium, and large.

(There is just something about being with my brother that lends itself to ridiculous photo opportunities. I hope my kids will appreciate each other this much when they are grown.)

(I actually paid them a dollar each to pose for this photo. Money well spent, I believe.)

We gave him a sticker/activity book for his birthday, then surprised him later that night with one more present. "But you guys already got me that sticker book!" he exclaimed. "You didn't have to get me anything else."

(Oh yes we did. Tickets to see the Portland Trailblazers- his favorite basketball team!)

We threw a simple birthday party for Jack at a park on a sunny day. He hugged each of his friends as he opened their gifts.

I want to remember those moments as well as I remember the hours spent in that rocking chair. This is Jack as an eight-year-old and this is just as awesome.

Eight candles. Eight years. Eight million more things to look forward to.