Friday, July 30, 2010

Is This Normal?

As a parent, I often find that I ask myself that question with regard to my kids. Truly I often find myself wondering if what I am doing or what the kids are doing falls within the realm of normal. I sometimes ask myself Am I doing the right thing? What would a sane and rational person do in this situation? Sometimes that helps. Sometimes we just poop on the side of the road and move on.

Jack has been a bit of a turkey (read: little shit) lately. He has become aggressive toward Sawyer and he's even swatted at me a few times (I know! The nerve!). He's particularly bratty when we have people over, which is pretty much all the time these days and it's driving me crazy. Yes, he's three. Yes, he's going to act like a three-year-old. I do know this. But sometimes he seems abnormally bratty. Like maybe he's gifted in the art of brattiness. My TAG brat.

But then, just in the nick of time, some other three-year-olds that we know come along and act aggressively toward their siblings or sass their mamas or refuse their dinners and suddenly Jack doesn't seem so far from the norm after all.

I'm not naming any names here. The three-year-olds in question know who they are. Hey look, it's Jack and Lily at Touch a Truck!

I guess the real question is: is it normal to repeatedly wait in line for fifteen plus minute intervals with cranky three-year-olds and a crazy one-year-old so that the kids can sit in the truck of their choice for thirty seconds before they get hustled on by an angry mob of parents who are waiting in line with their cranky three-year-olds?

I had another moment this last week where I questioned my motivations- to buy the boys matching clothes or not to buy the boys matching clothes. That was the big philosophical dilemma of the week.

I JUST COULDN'T HELP MYSELF! SO STINKIN' CUTE! Will they hate me for this when they are teenagers? Probably. (But I guess it is normal for teenagers to hate their parents for something...)

And finally the fascinating topic of blueberry consumption. Is it normal to hoard blueberries in your freezer? And just how many blueberries is the average American family eating these days? At last count we had nine gallons of blueberries squirrelled away in the deep freeze. We've already been picking twice- would it be weird to go again?

Clearly Sawyer's blueberry eating method would not be classified as normal. No question there.

But just look at those beautiful berries! A person would have to be crazy not to want to eat those blueberries! And see all those green ones? That means there are still plenty of picking days left in the season. I'll even tell you where to go: The Blueberry Patch Farm. But save some for us, okay? Just in case...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Here's the latest from around these parts:

Yep, we are kicking back and savoring this warm summer weather, playing in the pool with the kids, watching the chickens overheat and the garden explode, and then cooling off with beers in hand as the sun goes down. This is my favorite time of the year.

Or is it? Summer is bittersweet for me. I miss my mom. I think about her a lot on these hot summer days, especially when I'm out in the garden. I have these moments when the sun is shining and the kids are being funny or sweet and everything feels so perfect in that moment, and then it's gone so fast because she's not here. So it can never be perfect. And it never will.

I'm still running. This is good because to be honest, four months ago I really wasn't sure if I would stick with it. I have restarted my running career so many times that I am always hesitant to say I'm running again because I know that I can be so flaky. But it seems that I am really running again, so yay me! I've even committed to running a 10k in August with my dad, so I now I had definitely better not get flaky with the running.

While I was running the other morning I was thinking about how a lot of people I know say that they hate running. I totally get that. I hate running, too, for the first mile. So much of running is mental and I usually have some sort of psychological hurdle to overcome in that first mile. Once I pass it I am fine. So I can totally understand why someone who hasn't jumped their hurdle yet would hate running. I've gotten runner's high before and I've definitely hit the wall a few times, but mostly for me it's just that first mile drag that I experience consistently. I just have to push through with the lead in my feet until the sensation passes and them I'm fine- both physically and mentally. It's so weird that your mind can control your body without your consent. I don't even really always know what my hurdles are, but running past that first mile is how I get over them.

So that's what I'm going to keep doing this summer- living in the moment with my family, picking blueberries, picnicking in the park, blanching and freezing everything I can from the garden, and lacing up those running shoes when the lump in my throat starts to form.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Oregon Country Fair and Being Eugene

Today I realized that I am living the Eugene stereotype. We went to a teddy bear picnic (good times!) and met up with some friends who met up with some friends who were visiting from the bustling metropolis of Portland (city slickers!) and as I watched my long haired boys frolic around (Sawyer was in tie-dye) to a very Eugene-looking band (long hair, bad jeans) and explained that my husband was working at the Farmer's Market and that we'd just been to the Country Fair, it hit me like a ton of tofu that I am So. Very. Eugene. (My apologies for overusing parentheses in that last sentence.) (ha ha.)

And to think that I spent all of that energy and time during my teenage years trying to distance myself from my parents. Just look at me today. I could rent us all out as your get-to-know-Eugene-family. Out-of-towners could come to our house, I'd serve up some Nancy's yogurt and then we'd all go hike the butte or something. Yep, I am pretty sure that we fit your Eugene family stereotype to a T. Except that we don't smoke pot.

Which apparently is a stereotype about the Oregon Country Fair. In fact somebody recently wrote a letter to the editor about how the Fair isn't for children, what with the rampant drug pushers and lecherous scoundrels lurking about just waiting for the next unsuspecting child to fall victim to the old drugs-in-the-cookies-now-you're-an-addict scam. (Sorry about all of the hyphens here- I'll try to curtail that.)

I laughed when I read that letter, having just been at the Fair and also having attended many Fairs in the past, but I guess that really is what some people think it's all about. People often seem surprised that I go or that I would take my kids and wonder what there is to do. I always find myself at a loss for words when I try to explain what draws me to haul a day's worth of water and sunscreen and kid gear out to Veneta after shelling out $20 for a ticket (!!) and arranging a ride and planning to meet up with people and... well, you get the point. But there's just something about being at the Fair. I can't explain it. Either you get it or you don't. Jack clearly gets it.

Maybe it's the fact that you get to dress up. Maybe it's getting your face painted. Maybe it's the music or the pirates, or the elves, or the blue people on stilts, or the parades, or the food, maybe it's the old friends that come out of the woodwork at this time every year, maybe it's the happiness that pervades the place. I don't know, but I do know this: kids believe in magic and Jack saw some that day.

People come to the Fair to reconnect with the whimsical side of human nature that's often smothered by our daily lives. People come to wear their fairy wings or their devil horns and to adorn their bodies to create whatever alter ego must be hidden during the 9-5 work week. People come to show their kids that sometimes adults like to act silly and that it's okay to be yourself, no matter how weird you are. I love that.

(And we saw no drug users or pushers. Nobody offered us any cookies, drugged or non.)

And I guess that's what I like about living in Eugene. There are no false pretenses. There's no keeping up with the Joneses. In Eugene you just are who you are and you let people be who they want to be.

So yeah, I guess I fit that stereotype. And I'm totally okay with that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Trip to Bend and an Encore Performance of Pooping on the Side of the Road

Yeah, that's right. There was another episode of carside pooping. I don't mean to overshare, really I don't, but who has this kind of luck? It was bad enough to deal with once, but twice in two trips? I may never again leave the house.

But before I enthrall you with tales of my son's bodily functions (as it seems I am wont to do), let me say that our visit to Bend was a lot of fun, a little crazy, and totally worth the chaos that ensued on the return voyage. I hope you are enjoying all of this foreshadowing...

Melanie's boys are roughly the same age as mine, so there was a lot of playing, incoherent screeching, and duking it out over toys. But there was also some male bonding, too.

Thank god for the double strollers. It was great to have all four kids totally contained at the same time. We paraded our way through town and stopped to play at the park for awhile until it got too hot. I know! I know! I complained about the rain for so long and now I am complaining about the heat! Enough already! But still, it was hot.

We thought about going to the public pool, but when the storm clouds started moving in we decided to stay home and fill up the kiddie pool in the backyard. This was probably a good move since I really can't imagine how we would have corralled/supervised all four of the kids at a public pool with deep water and a diving board and a slide. What were we thinking?

So we turned on the sprinkler, filled up the pool, had dinner on the deck and let the kids play. It was great- they chased each other around with the lawn mower, slid down the slide headfirst into the pool, devoured corn on the cob, peed in the trees together, shared popsicles, and Jack and Peter bonded the way that only three-year-olds can.

Melanie and I were thrilled that the kids were entertaining themselves so well, so we celebrated with a round of happy hour beers. We were toasting ourselves and our backyard water park ingenuity as we kicked back in the deck chairs and sipped our drinks. Oh it was a lovely time, that hour or so before the mud making began.

It all started with a cup of water from the pool that somebody dumped into a large planter on the deck. Suddenly Jack, Peter, and Sawyer were pooling their collective resources to create a gigantic batch of mud, which they referred to as "monkey soupy". I guess you have to be three to get it. So the mud making started and at first it was funny, as in "Oh look, the kids are making mud." "Oh yeah, how funny. Can I get you another beer?". But soon enough it turned into full on mud mayhem and then it got to the point where the thought of cleaning them up was so daunting that we actually encouraged the mud making so as to prolong the inevitable outcome. Eventually it got dark and we had no choice but to hose them down and put them to bed.

Melanie and I stayed up late and sat under the stars for a long time that night. When I eventually made it to bed I crashed hard. Sometime during the night I thought I heard something that sounded vaguely like puking coming from Sawyer's crib. But he didn't cry out so I rolled over and went back to sleep. The next morning he woke up covered in barf, limp, feverish, and generally pathetic. Melanie and I decided that the best thing for me to do would be to pack up and head home immediately, lest this plague of vomiting strike down the entire crew. Can you even imagine four puking kids?

So I tried to keep Sawyer outside as he heaved and I frantically loaded up the car. We said a quick goodbye and then got on the road. Sawyer immediately fell asleep and Jack was playing quietly with his laptop when I saw a sign that read "Event Ahead. Expect Delays." Sure enough the traffic came to a dead halt between Bend and Sisters. We crept along at a snail's pace.

Traffic was bumper to bumper, but the scenery was incredible. The pastures, the horses, the mountains. Central Oregon is a beautiful place. I snapped a few photos of the landscape as I waited for the line of cars to move forward.

Shortly after this photo opportunity, Jack informed me that he needed to poop. I started to laugh. Surely you jest! We were sandwiched between two cars and there was literally no shoulder for me to pull over onto because the road is basically lined with these pastoral ranch type homes. I told him that he had to wait. He began to squirm. Then he started to cry. What was I supposed to do? Here's what I did:

I pulled over as far as I could and put my hazards on. I pulled Jack out of the car and yanked his pants off and essentially let him poop in somebody's front yard with about a mile of traffic watching. This was not one of my finer moments as a human being.

The deed done, I loaded Jack back into the car and turned off my hazards. And guess what? Traffic was starting to slowly inch along and the a-holes behind me wouldn't let me back in. Can you believe it? And they of all people had had a front row seat for what I had just had to do! What the hell is wrong with people?

Finally I got back on the road just in time for Sawyer to wake up and puke all over himself. Did I stop? No. I just kept on driving with a vomit covered baby all the way through Sisters and past that damn quilt show (really? all that traffic for a quilt show??) and all the way home. The temperature rose and so did the stench, but I drove on without stopping until I reached our house. I don't think I've ever been so happy to pull into our driveway.

But then I was locked out! I had to climb in through the window! And then later that day my phone died! And then three days later Brent and I both got the stomach flu! (Incidentally, Sawyer made a miraculous recovery and was back to his usual antics by that afternoon.)

Did I mention that I might have some bad luck? If this is karma, I wonder what I did...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Chapter Two

When I'm in Chico I feel home. I've never lived there, but I've spent plenty of time there and let's face it, they have great beer.

But seriously, I do love to go to Chico. My aunt and uncle's house is the only house from my childhood that is still around. I love that house. I remember playing in the dirt when they were getting their underground sprinklers put in (how long ago was that??), I remember my cousin Jesse's Michael Jackson poster and being afraid of the video for "Thriller", I remember riding my bike around that cul-de-sac with the neighbor kids, I remember my Aunt Bobbi with her plug in video camera. I really love that house. And my aunt and uncle and cousins are all totally awesome. Does your family drop everything to have cocktails every day at 5? Well, mine does.

Warning: Nekkid baybee ahead!

Bobbi and Jeff have the Ultimate Grandparents Backyard with toys and pools and popsicles and A Fan That Blows Mist At You (!!). It was a little slice of heaven. If only Sawyer could have figured out how to hold and eat his popsicle without freezing his poor little hand.

And who is crazy enough to take three small children to a restaurant for lunch? Good thing we were the only customers in the place and we just so happened to know the server...

Oh Jack! He is just so quirky. Sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or scream. He got it in his head that he needed a scuba diver set for all of our trips to the pool. I blame Quentin for this, because allegedly he brought a snorkel and mask to preschool for Sharing one day and so now of course a snorkel and mask set is the hot ticket item of the season. So I broke down and bought the kid some pool gear including the coveted snorkel/mask combo plus some sweet crab goggles and inflatable water wings. Did he use all of this new gear for some underwater adventures in the pool? No. Instead he spent approximately one hour switching from mask to snorkel to goggles to goggles with mask to snorkel with mask to goggles with snorkel to HEY MOM CAN I WEAR THE GOGGLES AND SNORKEL AND MASK AT THE SAME TIME?

These kids drive me to drinking. Good thing it was close to five o'clock.

Chico has a really fun park and once it cooled down to a chilly 90 degrees we got to spend some time there. The park has this kind of medieval/castle sort of theme going on (someone explain this to me, please) and I remember going there when we were kids. It's so weird how everything shrinks as you get older 'cause I'm pretty sure that park was Disneyland sized when I was younger.

Then we busted out the BOB strollers and trekked around Chico State for awhile. We attempted to picnic and then just let the kids run around like crazy people. It's what they do best.

It's funny how my kids don't want to play in their own sandbox anymore, but somebody else's sandbox, now that's a different story. (Note Tim gardening in the background. What a champ!)

So overall the trip was a huge success. I was especially apprehensive about our sleeping arrangements, but it all ended up working out just fine. Jack is absolutely terrible about going to bed. This is my fault because I rocked him and nursed him to sleep for the first fourteen months of his life until I saw the light and finally put him in his own damn crib to go to bed on his own already. He has always fought going to bed and I know it's because of how I did the sleep thing. But you can't tell a new mother how to put her kid to bed and I just did what seemed right at the time. I know better now. Sawyer, on the other hand, who cried for the first four months of his life and had to learn how to sleep on his own will pull his blanky out of the crib and curl up on the floor waiting for someone to come along and put him to bed.

So Sawyer slept in a pack and play and Jack and I shared a queen sized bed together. I had to lie down with him each night until he fell asleep, which was kind of annoying because all I wanted to do was hang out with Lauren with all of the kids asleep and the faster I wanted him to fall asleep, the longer it took. Also, he squirms around and kicks a lot during the night. Family bed = not for me.

But we all managed to sleep and this experience furthered my conviction that Brent and I need to take back a part of the house that is rightfully ours (the third bedroom) and move the boys into a shared room.

The ride home was pretty miserable. I was sad to leave and it's always anticlimactic (adj.: not exciting, dull, disappointing- you're welcome, PB!) to come back home after a long anticipated trip to see loved ones. I was out of the enthusiasm needed to make a trip like this fun and had no more novelty toys or snacks to give. So we muscled through with the help of a mini DVD player and some Bob The Builder episodes. We stopped for a picnic lunch in Yreka and were almost attacked by a gaggle (?) of gigantic geese. The internet had promised a miniature gold mining town and we did stumble upon a pathetic set of ramshackle buildings purporting to be blacksmith shops and a trading post. Sawyer did not seem to mind the internet's deception.

At last we arrived in cold, rainy Eugene. We were all exhausted and the car was completely trashed (Lauren- Brent was out there vacuuming away the next day!). Jack has been on snack and Bob The Builder detox for the past week, Sawyer screams every time we get near the car, and I am JUST SO CRAZY that tomorrow I am loading them up once again and driving to see my friend Melanie in Bend.

I hear they have good beer there. I'm going to need one.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Chico: The First Chapter

Well, I've gotten it down to about 25 pictures so I guess the retelling of my trip to California will be a two-parter. Besides, you could not possibly handle 25 pictures in a row of the three cutest kids EVER who are so cute and doing such cute things that your brain just might explode from all of the cuteness if you tried to see them all in one sitting. I'm just sayin' the kids were pretty cute together. Also, by some crazy fluke, I pretty much only have pictures of the kids. I know, crazy.

So, the road trip down. It was okay. I had an agenda that included a lot of stops and some secret presents and some sugar filled treats. Plus I was fresh with enthusiasm and eagerness to reach my destination so we even got an early start. Yes, an early start! Be impressed. It was impressive. Jack and I talked about random things and we listened to a lot of music and it turns out that both kids really like Death Cab for Cutie, which I find funny, and is a refreshing change from Bob Marley and Jack Johnson, which have been Jack's favorites for oh say a year now. I stopped at Lithia Park in Ashland and we had a picnic and the kids did some wading, which was nice because I could feel the temperature rising. Before I knew it two hours had passed and it was time to get back on the road. I surprised Jack with a toy laptop and he was ecstatic.

Driving over the passes really sucked. I felt like I was in some sort of mortal combat with wily truckers and hairpin curves in the road. So naturally I responded appropriately when I felt the urge to photograph Mount Shasta while driving. I also sent a few texts from the road. Judge not lest ye be judged.

The highlight of our passage through the Siskiyous and Shastas was Jack's sudden revelation that he had to poop RIGHT NOW NO I CANNOT WAIT STOP THE CAR! I pulled off at the sign marked "Scenic Viewpoint" and Jack did the deed right then and there on the side of the road. Scenic indeed.

Both kids fell asleep before we descended into Redding and the real heat wave hit like a swift slug in the stomach. I could see the temperature rising on the thermostat and in the rear view mirror I watched the kids turn rosy and their hair dampened right before my eyes. The car was like a swamp and it just kept getting hotter. My legs were glued to the leather seat. As luck would have it, the kids both woke up with about 45 minutes to spare and spent the last leg of the journey whining pitifully in the backseat. It was as if the heat had sucked away their will to protest. By the time we hit Chico the thermostat read 105.

Upon our arrival we were greeted by my aunt Bobbi, my cousin Lauren, her boyfriend Tim, and Lauren's daughter Audrey. Oh, and an air conditioned house and plenty of cold beer, too. Tim and Sawyer hit it off immediately. Jack and Audrey bonded over their shared love for meerkats and swimming pools. I had plenty of time to visit with Bobbi and Lauren, which was exactly what I needed. Five days in a house with a one year old, a two year old, and a three year old was quite the experience, but it was all really, really fun. Jack and Sawyer were thrilled to be somewhere new and to play with someone else's toys (the talking tea set was by far the favorite, most squabbled over toy of the week) and Audrey was thrilled to have two other little people staying at her house and playing with her and her toys.

Audrey is the sweetest little girl. As the mom of two boys I find that little girls are often like little enigmas to me. They seem so dainty and thoughtful compared to my two little goons. Audrey is plenty silly, but she's also got a certain seriousness to her that makes her seem like an old soul. She is so totally bonded to Lauren and it took her awhile to warm up to me, but let me tell you, when she let me pick her up and snuggle her and she gave me Eskimo kisses my heart absolutely melted on the floor. I love this little girl.

Coming up next: how I managed to get everyone to sleep, why my Chico family totally rocks, too many more pictures of the kids, and the uneventful yet hellishly long return trip. Stay tuned.