Saturday, February 26, 2011

Snow, Spiderman, Sewing, and the Significance of Being Four

First of all, a big shout out and THANK YOU to the universe for that much needed snow day on Thursday! I have almost forgiven you for inflicting the stomach flu on us and ruining Jack's birthday. Almost. The best part about this snow day was that there actually was some real snow! Our day even looked like this for awhile:

But then it all melted and I ended up going for a run in the sunshine that afternoon. Ah yes, a happy snow day it was. I felt rejuvenated and invigorated after a surprise day off. Sometimes you just need a little sumsum to break your routine and shake things up a bit. Plus, that afternoon I finally had some time to reorganize my sewing space and tuck away a mountain of fabric scraps that had been generously bestowed upon me many weeks ago and had since been gathering dust in the garage.

And in sewing news, I just finished up two Eddie Caps and two pairs of deep pocket pants inspired by this tutorial as birthday gifts for the boys. Jack was willing to pose in his pants and cap, Sawyer was not. I guess maybe he is just too cool for this matchy matchy business. Not me. I am so not too cool for dressing my kids in matching homemade clothes.

I've been hearing a lot lately from people who say they want to learn how to sew. Do it! Chances are you can track down somebody's sewing machine to take out for a spin. Start with something simple, like pajama pants, and you'll see how easy and fulfilling sewing can be. I only know the basics, but I'm willing to try anything (and I have a trusty seam ripper that sees a lot of thread). I have to break my sewing up into mini sessions- thread the machine here, cut fabric there, sew a seam or two, iron a hem, etc. I never sit at the machine and expect to finish something- that's just not how my life works. I usually have a few projects going at a time so that I can squeeze a few steps in here and there whenever I have a few minutes. I binge sew from time to time, especially around Christmas, but most of the time I try to start projects way in advance so that I don't have a looming deadline to stress me out. Sewing should be fun.

Sawyer has been long mesmerized by the phenomenon of Jack sewing. I guess he's heard so many (many, many) times NOT to touch the sewing machine that watching Jack eat the forbidden fruit is fascinating. I finally broke down and busted out the antique Singer and let him go to town. And by going to town I mean that he methodically pulled the thread from the machine and turned all the knobs. And that was that.

Since we had to delay Jack's birthday party by a week, that meant we had extra time to prepare for the festivities. I put Brent in charge of the pinata- and wow! I have always maintained that Brent is a man of mysterious talent. Let's all add professional Spiderman pinata maker to his lengthy list of qualifications.

About the party. We went with the simplified approach. Jack got to invite four friends and I cooked up a big old bunch of pizzas and served the carrot cake. Also, there was plenty of beer. A necessary ingredient for any kid's birthday party, in my book. Even though we kept it relatively low key, I did have a few moments of preparatory stress and a few why-the-hell-am-I-doing-this-again moments when I was up to my elbows in pizza dough and Sawyer let loose with the Foulest Diaper of All Time, that would have surely forced the evacuation of all party guests from our house had it come ten minutes later. Also, we were all tired since Jack woke everyone up at 6:20 that morning to confirm that today was, in fact, The Big Day. (In addition, I had stayed up waaaay too late binge sewing pirate shorts- Shorts? I know. I am usually a season ahead when it comes to the boys' clothes- spring here we come, I guess!) And on top of that, we'd cleaned our house twice at this point in preparation for having it be demolished by a pack of four-year-olds. I do like to maintain the illusion of being neat and tidy. Many of you are totally fooled.

But once Jack's little friends began to arrive and I saw him light up as the common denominator among these small people, I realized that it was all totally worth it. Jack felt special- I could see it in his shining eyes and by the glow of his rosy cheeks. He LOVED having his closest friends surrounding him and they shrieked and ran and jumped and played dress up and ransacked the playroom, pulling every single toy from the shelves and leaving a wake of destruction in their path. At one point they all raced out to the backyard to scream at the tops of their lungs. It was one hell of a party.

As I watched Jack cavorting with his pals, totally in his own element and oblivious to my observation, I saw him for the first time the way another kid might. Jack is funny. He's silly, charismatic, imaginative and enthusiastic. He is happy. He is a good friend.

I know that he will always remember his fourth birthday- the party, the friendships, the pinata- those snapshot moments are what will replay in his mind as memories throughout his lifetime. I hope he will remember the details: how he and Brent worked tirelessly to get the Spiderman pinata "just right", how his friends greeted him with hugs, kisses, and even some I love yous, how he went to bed that night clutching his new Lego fire truck, and how on this day- the belated day of birthday celebration- he knew just how loved he truly is.

I won't hesitate to remind him.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Jack is Four

A letter to Jack on his fourth birthday.

Dear Jack,

This week you are four and you’ve been proudly announcing this fact to us all week long and reminding us that you are a “very big boy.” Indeed. Four sounds so old to me, but when I look at your sweet little face I can still see the tiny baby that I held in my arms and rocked and nursed for hours and hours and hours. I can never forget those tranquil hours you and I spent together in the rocking chair. Everyone said it would go by quickly. They were right.

This year you have become quite the little athlete. You love to skateboard, especially when Dad swoops you up and you skate down the sidewalk together. You and I went roller skating with a group of middle school students and your determination to make those crazy wheeled boots work was written all over your face- we had to remind you to smile every once in awhile. I think you might be a natural at skiing and you are very proud of the videos Dad took of you on the bunny hill. Your newest endeavor is riding your bike without training wheels. Today I let go and watched you pedal down the sidewalk, precariously balanced on those two wheels. You thought I was still holding you, and I'm going to let you think that for awhile. I'm not ready for you to ride too far ahead of me yet.

You love school and talk obsessively about going to kindergarten. You can’t wait for homework, and you sometimes beg me to make worksheets for you. You love writing and letters and are constantly asking us to spell words for you. I just know you will be a reader and this pleases me immensely. You are smart and you know that you are smart- this can be a lethal combination. I hope you will use your powers for good rather than evil... In addition to cultivating your academic side, you are developing your artistic side and we are often surprised and amazed by what you produce. I think you have an eye for color that you inherited from your dad.

You are very much a boy’s boy. You claim to hate girls and all things girly and pink is now the worst color ever. With Valentine’s Day approaching, you even threatened that if you received any “princess valentines” you would crumple them up and throw them in the trash. We compromised that you would at least wait until you got home from school before throwing any offending valentines away. It turned out that you wanted to keep all of your valentines, pink princesses and all.

You have an amazing memory that I'm pretty sure you get from your uncle Nick. You often correct Dad and me and we are finding that usually you are right. You also have a very strong emotional side (Dad affectionately refers to this as your "crazy side") that, I'm sorry to say, you inherited from me. I hope you will learn to subdue your outbursts over time, or at least learn to save them up for something really big and important like I do.

I am trying to teach you the concept of "go with the flow." You sometimes get so caught up in the plan that you totally freak out if things get hairy and we have to make changes. I had taken your birthday off and planned to spend the day indulging your whims, but the stomach flu had other plans for me and instead we spent the day parked on the couch watching PBS Kids. I could not bear the thought of making dinner and so we dined with friends at Papa's Pizza. I'm pretty sure you thought this was the ultimate birthday. Dad and I gave you a small stuffed Corduroy bear that you've not let out of your sight for days now. You say it is the best toy ever.

You had to practice going with the flow again this weekend when we had to postpone your birthday party with friends because Dad and Sawyer got sick. I guess people with February birthdays need to be flexible with their party plans. (But seriously Universe, wtf?)

Edited to add: That part I said earlier about not letting you go yet? I guess you are not giving me a choice here.

Go, Jack, go!


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Odell Lake, Phase 10, and Jack on Skis

I have mentioned before that Brent is pretty much impossible to shop for. I was really going for the homemade (read: cheap) Christmas gifts this year and as far as I know nobody was too disappointed with the things I produced. But Brent is a tricky one. He's just not that in to rocket ship pajama pants or handmade boy dolls, so my sewing options are fairly limited with this guy. And so I decided to give him a Christmas trip instead.

I booked us a cabin at the Shelter Cove Resort at Odell Lake. After you finish my last demand (that you read Lonesome Dove, in case you have forgotten), you MUST consider a trip to this place. Or at least you should. Or maybe you might want to. Okay, I'll quit making demands, but really, this place totally rules and you're about to see why...

Admittedly, the weather was less than ideal. We were hoping for fresh snow but we settled for dirty, frozen over snow with a side of icy rain. But that didn't stop us from sledding. I am kind of a wuss, so I figured I'd be leaving the sledding up to the man of the house, but once I built up the nerve to slide down an icy hill on my butt, I found that it was actually quite enjoyable.

I was totally relieved to find that the cabin was warm and homey and just what I had hoped for. You know when you are the one who makes all of the arrangements and then you have to get kind of nervous upon your arrival because what if it totally sucks? And then everyone is disappointed? And then you kind of feel like it's your fault? (Maybe that's just me.)

We spent plenty of cozy time hunkered down in the cabin resting up between skiing, sledding, wandering and exploring the snow tunnels. And Brent and I played some serious Phase-10. I know I have mentioned this card game before, but seriously people, I think some of you still have not played Phase-10 yet. And that is just terrible.

Phase-10 is the one game that actually brings out my competitive side. I am not one for sports (don't ever throw a ball at me! I have a debilitating fear of balls being thrown at me that can be traced back to 7th grade dodgeball. My fear of balls really limits my participation in sports, although I do love me some badminton and bowling is pretty fun). Also, I just usually don't care about sportsmanship and teamwork and winning and glory and all that. But Phase-10 is my game. I don't care who you are, I will kick your ass at Phase-10. Repeatedly. Just ask Brent.

Jack had his heart absolutely set on skiing. We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we arrived at Willamette Pass and rented the smallest pair of skis they had. I figured we'd drag him up the bunny slope, he'd fall a few times, we'd console him with a hot chocolate in the lodge, and then we'd be on our way.
I was wrong. Jack skied all morning until we made him take a break for lunch. Then he and Brent went back for more while Sawyer and I took naps at the cabin (I TOOK A NAP!!?!) and ended up closing down the place. You can see a video clip from the afternoon here:

And if you have some time to kill, go here for the extended version (please note that is not my shrill voice in the background-I was back in the cabin at this point blissfully snoozing the afternoon away...)

Our last day was the sunny day. Naturally.

Brent hit the slopes for a quick snowboarding session, while I attempted to keep the children happy and amused. We hung out at the base of the mountain hoping to catch a glimpse of Dad in action. When we saw him coming down toward us, we all jumped up and down, waving like lunatics and I snapped more than a few photos. And then we realized that it wasn't him. Oops. So at least one snowboarder at Willamette Pass that day knows my little secret: sometimes I am a bit crazy.

For the record, you can no longer sled on the hill across the highway from the ski slope. I learned this after dragging two sleds, both children, and the coats and gloves of both children who had decided they were too hot across the highway and up the hill. I was beet red and sweating like a pig by the time I realized that, in fact, the signs indicating that this was a "No Snowplay Zone" meant that the entire hill was off limits for sledding. And so I decided to stop and catch my breath (and shed a few layers- it was pretty warm that day) and sure enough, along comes a very officious looking older gentleman who scolded me for allowing my children to play in such a dangerous area. Note the precipitous drop in question:

And he didn't even offer to help me haul two crestfallen would-be sledders back across the road. Oh well, you can't win them all.

Unless, of course, we are talking Phase-10.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lonesome Dove and Rodents in the Toilet

I am a pretty big reader. I pretty much always have a book or two going at any given time. I get stressed out if I am in between books or am having a hard time getting into a new read. I also can't sleep if I haven't read at least a few pages, which is fine when I am at home but means that I am compelled to pack a headlamp for camping trips so that I can get my nightly fix.

But even I was daunted by the weighty tome that is Lonesome Dove and I let the novel sit idly on my bookshelf for months after my birthday. It was a gift from Amberlee, whose book recommendations have never disappointed me, and yet I was intimidated by the girth of this novel. Also, a western? Not necessarily my genre of choice- hell, I'd never even read a Louis L'Amour. But then one night I picked it up and started to read page one. Page one of 944 pages, that is. After that one page, however, I was hooked. I loved this book. All 944 pages of it.

You MUST read this book. Do not fear the number of pages. You will wish for more, I promise you. (And yes, I know that there is a sequel (and a prequel!) but I am kind of a purist and need to cleanse my palate before I can even think about reading them.)

And it turns out that the whole shoot 'em up cowboy business is all very riveting- the whiskey drinking, the saloons, the card cheats, the horse thieves, the Mexican bandits, even the whores. Man, I could not get enough of this book. I kind of fell in love with those dirty old cowboys- they were so brave and yet so tender. Vicious and yet seductive. I could go on, but Brent might get jealous. Those cowboys were hot, let's leave it at that. Also, I found their use of the word "dern" to be endearing.

I polished off the book in about a week and a half. Then we watched the epic four hour Hollywoodized version, which was lackluster following my sultry love affair with the book, but still worth a watch. But I will warn you that the movie cowboys are not nearly as sexy as the imaginary cowboys, so if sexy cowboys are what you are looking for, I suggest you read the book instead.

While Gus and Call were fighting off the vaqueros and chasing Blue Duck, Brent was waging some warfare of his own around these parts. The Great Rodent Infestation of 2011 arrived at our doorstep last week. It is painful for me to recount this tale as it transpires in a location that should remain unmentioned. But for the sake of our narrative, I will mention the unmentionables. Okay, here goes. Brent found a mouse IN MY UNDERWEAR DRAWER! Living among my unmentionables! A rodent with my panties! The horror! The horror!

You should know that Brent takes any sort of pest invasion very personally. We have some sordid history with rodents that I'll get to in a minute, but in order to fully relate the following events, you need to picture Brent as angry as a cowboy who just lost half his cattle herd in a sandstorm. He laid the traps and then we waited. And waited. And waited. And it soon became clear that we were not dealing with your average mouse here. And then there was the night when I came home late after a little wine soiree with some pals to find an irate Brent barricading off parts of the house wielding a weapon of sorts (broom and dustpan?) and swearing a blue streak. He did not use the word "dern".

Eventually three mice were captured and executed and I believe we may have quelled the rodent uprising. For now, at least. Battles may be won, but we all know that the war is never over. In fact, we've been embroiled in the conflict between man and rodent for many, many years now.

It all began on a rainy February night. It was not just any rainy night, it had been a week or so of torrential downpour resulting in flooding and general sogginess. It seemed like it might never stop, I remember that clearly. Brent and I were hunkered down for the evening in our little house on Jefferson Street- I was probably reading, he was probably... well, who knows what Brent was doing. The possibilities are endless here, he's a pretty random guy. An odd splashing sound disrupted our quiet work and Brent moved toward the back of the house to investigate. Once it was determined that the noise was being emitted from the bathroom vicinity, I went into full panic mode and followed my bizarre human instinct to climb up onto my desk and quake with fear. Brent, my gallant cowboy, strode fearlessly into the bathroom and discovered a RAT IN THE TOILET! A RAT IN THE TOILET! (I am fighting the urge to climb up onto my desk even now as I type these dreadful words!) As he colorfully announced his finding (again, he did not use the word "dern") I let out a scream that was blood curdling enough to send the rodent scurrying back into the depths of hell from which it came. And then my brave cowboy flushed. And flushed. And flushed some more.

To say that I was traumatized by this event would be a gross understatement. I never used that toilet again without a ceremonial preflush.

And then I did the dumbest thing possible. I googled "rat in the toilet" and found out that it's actually really common to find rodents, snakes, baby alligators, you name it in your home sewage system. Especially when it's been raining a lot and the ground become saturated which brings the sewer levels up closer to the pipes and STOP! ENOUGH!

LALALALALA HAPPY PLACE LALALALALA. Look! Jack knows how to use an iPhone better than I do!

And just what is it about Thomas and his Friends that makes them irresistible to toddlers? And why do they cost so much?


See, the rat in the toilet story makes the mouse in the underwear drawer story seem like no big deal.

Kind of.