Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mumford & Sons, Ugly Foot Syndrome, and Easter Eggs

I have been obsessively listening to this album for the past few weeks.

It makes an especially good running companion as there is some serious emotional energy going on with that guitar. And sometimes I want some serious emotional energy when I am out there braving the elements to squeeze a run into my day. Most of the time I am running with the kids in tow, meaning I am only rocking one earbud and having to acknowledge the occasional chirp, bark, or growl from one of the children. Those runs are okay. It's certainly better than nothing.

But then there are those amazingly awesome and empowering runs where you chase and capture that elusive runner's high. Runs where you become hypnotized by your own breathing, your footfalls on the pavement, and your album du jour. Runs when you realize that you passed the point where you had planned to turn around and so you just keep going. This was my run on Sunday morning, when I snuck out as the kids nibbled chocolates and marveled at the Easter Bunny's generosity. I caught the window of sunlight between rainstorms and my sprightly feet dodged puddles that reflected the technicolors of an almost spring-like sunrise. I felt alive and free and remembered just why I am a runner.

I had been wanting to share Mumford & Sons with my dad, because when an album speaks to me usually he hears it, too. My dad and I are actually a lot alike, and though this chagrined me as a teenager, I've come to appreciate our similar tastes in music and life in general. I'll never forget coming home from school- it must have been the early 90's- and my dad immediately pounced on me wanting to know if I had heard of this awesome band called Nirvana. He had just purchased In Utero. Yeah, that's right, my dad owned a Nirvana album before I did. I still find this a bit humiliating.

Anyway, I was super excited to turn him on to Sigh No More and the opportunity came knocking when we had him over for a birthday dinner last week. I put the album on as ambient background music and waited for his ears to perk up. He would ask me who this was and I would give him a copy of the CD, which he would then fall madly in love with, and I would own the right to claim that I had heard of them first.

As he walked in the door and was enthusiastically greeted/assaulted by the small people, he glanced up nonchalantly at me and said, "Oh, Mumford & Sons. Is this their new album?"

Damn. He is good.

Speaking of my dad and of running segues nicely into our next topic: my feet. I got a pedicure this week! Big deal, you say. But kind of it is a big deal because I had total pedicure anxiety that I was only able to overcome thanks to my wonderful friend Kate. My wonderful friend who always looks so classy and put together that I sometimes want to knock her into a mud puddle just so I can see one of her lustrous little hairs out of place. Just kidding, Kate. (But seriously? Why is your hair always so shiny and your skin so radiant?).

Anyway, back to my feet. They are ugly. I was born with a genetic predisposition for foot ugliness and, just like my eclectic taste in music, we have my dad to thank for this. And then I go and decide to become a runner and if you know anything about runners you know that their feet are super ugly. As in black toenails and dorsal fins made of callous. Yuck. So I have total runner's feet, but that's not the worst of it. My fingers tremble in anticipation of typing the next horrific sentence: You guys, I am an amputee. Yes, it's true, about two years ago I lost a toenail in a tragic visit to the podiatrist. I know, so incredibly gross, right? And so I have suffered the hardship of having incredibly ugly and now permanently disfigured feet in silence for years, but no more! Kate finally convinced me that the pedicurist would not turn me away in disgust after one glance at my mangled feet and I took the plunge into the world of salon foot care. And guess what? She was right. They look amazing! The pedicurist even offered to make me... wait for it... A PROSTHETIC TOENAIL! I had no idea that such a service was available and she went on to tell me that there are LOTS of people like me out there- my fellow toenail amputees of the world! I never even knew they existed. I am not alone.

What, no photos? Hell no, I am not posting pictures of my hideously deformed feet on the internet. But I am sure you will all stare hard next time I wear flip flops.

Back to Easter! I've been reading up on all sorts of ways to get super crafty and earthy by making your own egg dye from turmeric and red onions and blueberries and such. But then I came upon some food coloring and vinegar and that was good enough for me. You just can't be crafty and earthy all the time, you know.

Look at them! They like each other! THEY REALLY LIKE EACH OTHER! It's still so novel and surreal.

The Easter Bunny brought larger-than-life bubble wands which have provided us with a lot of bubble chasing entertainment and has made for some interesting photography, as well.

I call this one Death of a Bubble.

Well, I am going to go drink a beer now and gaze lovingly at my newly beautified feet some more. Cheers!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sew, Eat, Run, Repeat

I made a doll! Isn't she cute?

The pattern is from this book, which is a requisite purchase if you own a needle and thread and have a daughter. There is one (!!) boy doll pattern in the book and I used it for the boys' Christmas dolls. You know, the dolls that they use to whack each other over the head with from time to time when they are not ignoring them and playing with trucks and dirt.

I also made some bread. No shocker here- the recipe is from VCFE (otherwise known as Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, the book I totally geeked out about here). I am liking the acronym because reminds me of MTAOFC it makes me feel like I am a part of the Julie/Julia thing and I don't even have to murder a lobster.

My god, I love that bread. And it's so easy, too. That is, until you get to the part where you take it out of the oven and you are actually supposed to wait until the loaves cool completely before slicing into them in order to achieve perfect crumb. That part kind of sucks.

The kids have had a bad case of cabin fever in the last week or so with this lingering rain and general suckiness. When the little people start to get crazy I sometimes resort to creative approaches to entertainment. Like a can of shaving cream in the bathtub. That was fun!

Have I mentioned that everybody has soccer fever around here lately? I am now the only person in the house who does not have a soccer ball- and that might be a good thing since I am not exactly known for my physical coordination as evidenced by my brief career as a 7th grade basketball player. A career which ended unceremoniously with a culminating score of two points for the entire season. And that was a lucky shot. Ahem.

And so with this soccer epidemic ravaging our household (Brent is playing on two teams right now) it was only a matter of time before Brent would score tickets to see the Portland Timbers, and guess who he took as his date?

Sawyer and I came along for the ride but spend the game time hanging out with adorable Cousin Xavier at his house.

Isn't he sweet? Brent's game attendance and Sawyer's extended nap at Xavier's house allowed me to run a few errands to prepare for Brent's birthday scavenger hunt! Yes, that's right, the kids and I made a scavenger hunt for Brent on his birthday. Dorky, you say? I think not.

We hid bottles of beer from Hopworks around the house with little notes giving Brent clues where to find the next gift. There was special coffee from Stumptown, some t-shirts, and the piece de la resistance: a new pair of work boots. 'Cause yeah. Work boots are super fun and exciting. As I've told you before, Brent is very difficult to shop for.

The scavenger hunt was actually pretty fun and those of you who know Brent well know that he is totally not a scavenger hunt kind of guy. I'll admit that he was skeptical at first, but once he started discovering beers from his favorite brewery scattered around the house, he perked right up and embraced the campiness.

Also, there was a chocolate cake. Everything is better with chocolate cake.

Sawyer nearly ruined the birthday by complaining of a hurt foot and limping around so pathetically that we considered loading everyone (and the cake) into the car and heading for Urgent Care. Brent kept trying to inspect the injured paw and Sawyer kept pulling away protesting with this strange Italian accent that he sometimes develops "Ah don't ah toucha my foot, Daddy!"

Does he hang with the mafia in his spare time? Where does he get this?

Anyway, once we served cake and distracted him, the foot miraculously recovered and I was glad our $25 copay had not been wasted on the splinter I found later when I tucked him into bed.

At this point I'd like to take a moment to give a random shout out to my homeboy, Peter, who totally rules in the way that only a middle school math teacher can. Peter, you rock! I love you, man!

Peter has done a lot for me over the years. He carpooled with me for three years, and let me tell you, you really get to know a person when you carpool with them. I know things about my carpool mates that I wish I didn't. Like who saved their dead mother's underwear, for example. Peter also taught me slope. You know, y=mx+b? That thing you learned in 7th grade math? When I wasn't missing shots on the basketball court, seventh grade me was shedding tears of frustration over slope. Until last year I thought it was some complex mathematical concept known only to uber nerds and 7th grade math teachers, but then Peter taught it to me in about 30 seconds. Because like I said, he totally rocks.

And we also have Peter to thank for my return to running. You guys, I totally fell off the wagon. I stopped running near the end of January and I just couldn't find my groove. And the thing about running is that once you stop doing it, you wonder why the hell you ever did it in the first place because it's cold and rainy outside and I'm tired and oooh look! Chocolate chips! I'll just make some cookies instead! But then along came Peter and his foot kicked my butt in the right direction and now I am back!

I sometimes coerce the kids into the jogging stroller by promising to stop and play at the turnaround spot. They love running over the bridge, visiting the yurt, disappearing into the tall grasses, and throwing rocks in the pond. This time I remembered to bring the camera.

And let's end this totally hodgepodge, non cohesive narrative with a ridiculous picture of Jack in a beer shirt with a pseudo mullet and call it a day.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Can You Put a Price Tag on Your Day Off?

I can. It's $250.

Let me explain. It all started on Friday afternoon when a friend at work called out an innocent “See you tomorrow!” as we were leaving for the day. Tomorrow? As in Saturday? What?! I quickly realized that I had accidentally deleted a VERY important email telling me I had been accepted to participate in a workshop at the community college which I had applied for weeks ago simply for the fact that it promised a very generous stipend. Oops. And Brent is now back to work at the market on Saturdays, so really, more than oops. More like Oh Sh*t!

I scrambled around and arranged childcare (thank you, Grandma!), breathed a sigh of relief, and then realized that I was a totally sellout who had just traded away precious and valuable time with my kids for some extra spending money. And then the working mom’s guilt arrived and refused to let me rest, keeping me awake by jabbing at my sides every time I rolled over and whispering in my ear as I tossed and turned that night. What kind of a mother chooses to work on her day off instead of spending time with her kids?

Then again, $250 is a lot of money for one day’s work. A lot. Keep in mind I am used to being paid peanuts for what I do. Peanuts I tell you!

And so, rather than spend a lazy Saturday morning at home making waffles for the kids and then venturing out to wander the farmers' market, off I went to learn about GIS in the classroom and evaluate lesson plans and eat a bunch of cookies, swipe hard candies, and steal legal pads. All of those guilty working mom feelings gave way to feelings more along the lines of "Why are they paying me so much money to do this?" And then those thoughts gave way to "Who the hell cares. More cookies!" And so on and so forth. Pretty soon they were calling it a day and letting us leave early and so I arrived home to sunshine and a kitchen full of groceries (again, thanks Grandma!) and two happy kids who seemed completely oblivious to the fact that I had even been gone in the first place.

And yet, I do struggle with the idea that I am trading away my kids' childhood for a paycheck. There just aren't enough hours in the week to do my job well and to parent my kids the way that I want to. I find myself wishing for more hours in the day, for the sunset to linger just a bit longer, for a later bedtime so that I can spend a few more minutes each day with these two little people before they become big people. So was my day off worth $250? I'm not sure that it was.

But I am a fixer and a doer and so I decided that I had to make the absolute most of my Sunday. It needed to be a $250 day, so to speak. And so...

10 minutes of snuggle time with Jack before Sawyer woke up. That's worth at least a dollar a minute. $10.

An easy breakfast of scrambled eggs with fresh spinach and muffins that Grandma made the day before. I drank an extra cup of coffee and nobody threw food. $15.

Sawyer escaped out the back door in his underwear and rain boots to be the first to feed the chickens. The value of uncontrollable laughter: $25.

(Are you wondering about the band aid? It seems to be a Ross family rite of passage to split your forehead open on the brick fireplace.)

Two perfect eggs: $2. None broken by clumsy little hands on the way from the chicken house to the refrigerator: at least another $5.

(What's that? Your kids have clean hands? Good for you.)

A stroll to Fred Meyer for a few things in which nobody whined for treats, no hailstorm assaulted us, and no potty accidents occurred: $25. Sawyer thinks he is potty trained, but I assure you he is not. I did, however, roll the dice and leave the house with him in underwear. 'Cause I eat danger like that for breakfast.

The sun broke through the clouds during naptime and I dug out the last batch of freezer pizza sauce to thaw for dinner. Remember Brent had predicted we'd make it to March? He was close. Homemade pizza sauce and sunshine: $20.

Sewing time is truly priceless, but if I had to put a dollar figure on finishing up an "easy" project that took me waaaaay too long to finish and involved the seam ripper, tears, and a few swear words, I'd say it's close to $50. But maybe that's just me.

Letting the kids delve into a painting project with absolutely no preconceived notions of damage control: at least $20.

Jack painted a turtle. Sawyer painted a... rainbow?

Occupied kids yielding time to plan and prepare a delectable Italian kale and ricotta pizza dinner while sipping a cold Ninkasi Total Domination IPA? I think $30 is a fair price.

Carting kids off to the park to enjoy the last few rays of sunshine while the dough rises: $20. The bike trailer NOT coming loose from my bike this time- at least $50. ALWAYS double check that bike/burley connection, FYI.

My kids playing together at the park. BROTHERLY LOVE! Running, giggling, hugging (!!) and just generally enjoying each others' company. Wow- I never thought I would see this day. $50, easy.

I'm not going to do the math on this one, because really, who cares? My whole point is that we all have to make choices and sometimes we do the right thing and sometimes we screw things up and I guess I am just one mom trying to do the best that I can for my kids with what I have.

Which is a lot. I have a lot. Whether or not somebody pays me $250, I have a lot.

Monday, April 4, 2011

On Hot Wheels and Swiss Chard

Being the mom of two boys is a challenge sometimes.

We seem to be entering a new phase of family play in our house: the Hot Wheels Era.

Now let me preface this story by reiterating that we try really really really hard to minimize the kids’ consumerism because if we can teach them that having a bunch of stuff does not make you happy, I think we’ll be able to cross a pretty big item off our parenting list. I’m not sure that this can be done, but we are certainly giving it the ole college try.

But sometimes you just need to upgrade your toys, and hopefully our newfound fascination with neon orange tracks and tiny racecars means we can give the train tracks a rest for awhile. Hopefully. I’m so over Thomas and his cheeky little engine buddies. Also, I cannot build a decent train track to save my life and it is a humbling experience to watch Jack erect an elaborate bridge or correct my obvious and na├»ve structural errors.

And so to the toy store we went! Except that Brent was out bringing home the (veggie) bacon, so to speak, therefore the big Hot Wheels Purchase was left to yours truly. The one person in the house who has absolutely NO FREAKING CLUE about any of this racetrack business. The one person in the house who cannot successfully build a train track. But off I went with two VERY excited kids in tow.

We arrived to find a variety of options. Hot Wheels vs. Matchbox? Loops? Zip lines? Special cars for each set? Ramps? Gravity drops? I was seriously out of my element.

Brent had anticipated this exact scenario and he knew that I would be unable to complete this important transaction without some guidance and so, the night before, he and Jack had shopped online and provided me with specific instructions for the purchase.

But that set wasn’t there. Or maybe it was and I was just so overwhelmed by options or distracted by Sawyer’s repeated pressing of EVERY SINGLE noisemaking toy in the entire store. And it was dinner time. Everyone, myself included, was starting to get hungry and cranky. I started to panic! I had made it this far! We could not leave the store without our Hot Wheels.

I decided that I needed the help of a professional and so I pressed the nearest employee call button and a few moments later a bookish and slightly greasy teenaged boy arrived to assist me. I professed my Hot Wheels ignorance and relied on his expertise to guide me through what was becoming a very complicated shopping trip. Lucky for me, this kid was a self-proclaimed Hot Wheels Freak and held us captive with stories from his own childhood about rigging the gravity drop above the staircase and shooting cars out of the window and I started to glaze over while Jack stood wide eyed, completely riveted by the story. At last we broke free from that walk down memory lane and juggled boxes of tracks and loops and jumps and something called “the Blaster” while heading for the cash register. $28 later I walked out the door with two ecstatic kids and a bad feeling about my role in the assembly of this racetrack.

Because really? Sometimes I’d rather be hosting a tea party or cutting paper dolls or playing dress up or braiding hair. Sometimes I’d like to see some pink in my house and have more than two cute patterns to choose from at the fabric store.

But I don’t. And as it turned out, I had nothing to worry about with the Hot Wheels assembly- by the time I located the instructions for attaching the track pieces, Jack had already intuitively figured it out. And when Brent arrived home it was obvious that I had made the right calls at the toy store because he got right down to business turning our living room into a gigantic Hot Wheels racetrack and for a few seconds I think he forgot that these toys were for the kids.

I am, however, the one who masterminded this sweet jump off the picnic table. I am telling you, these are some epic crashes!

And yet, there are time when I wonder who will read Anne of Green Gables with me and who will cry appropriately about the significance of a dress with puffy sleeves?

These boys seem to be all boy, despite my best efforts. Sure, we bake and sew and color and I try as hard as I possibly can to include them in the things I love to do...

But when they are left to their own devices, their true colors shine through and it's clear that they would rather excavate the dirt pile and play bamboo sword fight than make fairy houses or bake pretend cupcakes.

Boys will be boys, I suppose. And so I guess I just learn to love the Hot Wheels, too.

This weekend marked the first farmers' market and I hustled down to the opening to claim my spinach and swiss chard before it all got snatched up by eager shoppers. The market is so incredibly photogenic and I wished for my camera so many times while I was shopping, but then realized that with two kids, an enormous head of chard, butter lettuce, spinach, and a loaf of seeded sourdough, I had no hands left for photography. So take my word for it.

Also not pictured, this season's first batch of swiss chard pizza. Because we ate it hot out of the oven and burned the roofs of our mouths and it never once occurred to me to stop and take a picture.