Saturday, September 24, 2011


We bought Jack a new bike this week. In the interest of frugality, we had hoped to squeak by with the old bike until birthday time rolls around. After watching Jack furiously pedal twenty times harder than the rest of us to keep our leisurely pace on a recent family bike ride, however, we started shopping around for the upgrade. New bike for Jack = new bike for Sawyer. Everybody wins.
Cycles. Wheels. Spinning. I watch as my kids go tearing down the sidewalk on their new bikes, each one experiencing the thrill of speed and independence. I stare at those little blond boys and listen to their gleeful shouts and the obnoxious sound of their bike horns, neon orange safety flags flapping along behind them. Look both ways! Watch for cars! I half jog along in the wake of their enthusiasm and breathe in the moment. This moment right now. It's fall and change is in the air. But change is always in the air when your kids are young.

Maybe it's my upcoming birthday that has me feeling introspective. 35 years old, thank you very much. And also the cycle of the seasons and another school year and one gigantic step closer to kindergarten and t-ball and sleepovers and jumping that new bike off the curb. These babies of mine are really more like kids now. I am pedaling as fast as I can to keep up.

Food. It's kind of an obsession these days. These cool, crisp mornings serve as a daily reminder: Make that pesto. Cook down more tomatoes. Blanche those ears of corn. Get started on that applesauce. I now know that whatever we do won't be enough. The tricky part is being okay with that. For now, the massive production continues with late night chopping and boiling and sterilizing and taking last minute trips to the store for more lids.

Speaking of last minute, I think impromptu birthday/dinner parties are my new favorite type of entertaining. Low expectations, no time to clean the house beforehand, no complex entrees. That's my kind of party. Also, cake pops? Do you know about cake pops? Cake pops make any party cool.

Did somebody forget my cake pop?

The tight circle of friends is what makes it easy to cycle back into work mode each fall. I spend my days with people I love and admire. Our kids are growing up together. We are each other's people. We laugh a lot, too.

I am a fan of the late summer wedding. One last hurrah before the rain comes. The kids and I spent an evening with my cousin Dave and Emily as they joined their hands in the circle of love that creates a family.

Love begins.

Love endures.

Love is silly.

Sometimes love comes in the form of chocolate cake.

Lovely things often come in threes.

And this one, well, I guess for some of us love is like corn on the cob on a summer's evening, the promise of chocolate cake, and being surrounded by the people who think you are the most awesomely amazing two-year-old ever.

And they are right, those people. Especially on your new wheels.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Too Cool for School

I recently became mildly obsessed with making these cute and super easy lunch and snack bags. I am forever stashing away scraps of fabrics that really should be tossed out because they are too small for most projects, but now they have a purpose! Snack bags! Oh yes indeed, I am excited about these snack bags!

Also, pants! I really really really wanted to love these pants because I adore every single thing on the Made website and the idea of flat front trouser type pants for my boys made me really happy. But sadly, I must report, that after two attempts I believe I am incapable of making those flat fronts truly flat. Oh well. (I do like the knee pads, though.)

New pants, snack bags, that's right: it's preschool time! And this year we decided to send Sawyer along with Jack and YES they are in the same class and YES we did already apologize to the teacher for that one. And NO we are not cutting Sawyer's hair. EVER. Apparently.

Jack is the big man on campus, having attended the preschool last year, but this has been totally new territory for Sawyer. He's super excited about the whole thing and will tell anyone who is willing to listen all about "mine preschool" (he is kind of a Deutchlander at times) and circle time and naps and soccer and I keep hearing him singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" under his breath, which I assume is a preschool song since it's not in our household music repertoire which consists mostly of off-key versions of "Love Potion Number 9" and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame".

And just what will Brent be doing with all of his kid-free time? Will he be polishing the china, watching soap operas, and ironing the bedsheets? Nope. It's back to school time for Brent, as well.

It's really too bad that the summer harvest bounty has to coincide with my return to work. It's hard to find the motivation to tackle flat after flat of tomatoes when you've spent the entire day educating the future of our country. But we will have enough pizza sauce, dammit. Even if I have to stay up past my bedtime to make it happen.

The kids and I tried our hands at homemade granola this week. Why have I never tried this before? So easy and so delicious. Probably kinda healthy, too. Here's what we did:

3 cups oatmeal
1 cup chopped nuts (I had walnuts)
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup light (in flavor) olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup maple syrup*

Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and heat the oven to 300. Mix ingredients and press onto cookie sheet to 1/2 inch thickness. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate, then bake for 20 more. That's it. Store in an airtight container and use within a week.
*I used 1/4 cup but Brent thought it could have been sweeter. So maybe add more syrup? Your call.

Speaking of work, this is my seventh year (somebody please tell me how this happened? Also, I have a four and a half year old? Wtf?) and things are getting a tad on the stale side. So I decided that I would try to reinvent myself this year so that I could become more of a cool teacher. Go ahead and laugh when I tell you that this is harder than you might think. For starters, I am not cool by nature, so we're working against some powerful natural forces here. Secondly, it's exhausting to try to stay current with the youth of today because they are just so damn fickle and usually by the time I figure out something cool it's already on its way out. Nevertheless I decided to rebrand myself and that involved learning about Lady Gaga and contemplating the appropriateness of skinny jeans on a 34 year old mother of two and creating a brand spankin' new intro powerpoint for the first day of school.

Have you ever tried to condense your life into a few powerpoint slides? It's kind of a humbling experience. Just who am I? I needed to sent a powerful message to my students with this one: I am your teacher and I am also cool. This would be tricky.

(Lesson one: the oxymoron!)

Except that when I started putting together the pieces of my life in that powerpoint it became painfully obvious that the things I like, the things I'm into, the things that I do that make me who I am, are all decidedly NOT cool. Especially not to teenagers.

I like to sew.
I like to cook.
I like to clean my house.
I get really excited about freezer corn.
I eat a lot of cookies.
I ride my bike. (That one might be cool?)
I make snack bags and then take pictures of them.
Sometimes I run.
I have a husband, two kids, a dog, some chickens, and a mortgage.
I recently discovered the joy of homemade granola.

Hmm. Maybe I should take out the part about the snack bags. Would that make me sound cooler?

Remember when being really nerdy became cool for awhile? I might just have to wait for that one to come around again.

In the meantime, I have snack bags to make and tomatoes to slice and cookies to bake and Lady Gaga songs to listen to. There's a lot of work to be done around here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Long Weekend

Labor Day weekend is kind of the anti-holiday of all holidays for teachers. I mean sure you get the long weekend, in theory, but there are always a million things to do in preparation for The First Day. I was up to my eyeballs in unfinished bulletin boards, unsharpened pencils, unopened curriculum binders, and all of the other parts of my job description that become the bane of my early September existence.

Any upstanding, sensible teacher will work nose to the grindstone right on through that holiday. A dedicated professional educator will lovingly staple up a bulletin board masterpiece, alphabetize her silent reading books, and make thoughtful seating charts. A good teacher will meticulously plan EACH and EVERY detail for that crucial first week of school even if it means working late into the evening and hoping that the custodians haven't locked you inside.

I went to the beach.

Cousin Xavier came, too.

Did you know that Brent is actually a real life surfer dude? Neither did I. After six years of marriage he continues to surprise me.

It was your textbook perfect beach day. Not an Oregon coast day, mind you, but an actual beach day. As in sunshine and warm temperatures and bikinis and swimming and sunscreen rather than your typical menu of raincoats and wind and sea foam blowing in your face.

The kids ran and splashed and explored for hours and hours. Brent surfed for hours and hours. And I just kind of hung out and was really happy not to be putting up my bulletin boards.

Sawyer was out as soon as he hit the car seat.

We camped at Nehalem State Park, just south of Manzanita. It was Nick's birthday and he and Mishaun met us there for a night of campfire, s'mores, and snuggles with nephews.

And did I get a single picture of the birthday boy? Nope. But I have about fifty shots of the kids eating s'mores, so I guess that counts for something.

Sometimes when look through the pictures trying to decide which ones to post I marvel at the number of kid photos. Really, these boys of mine see the camera lens often. This trip was no exception- just how many pictures of my kids running on the beach do I need? Apparently a lot. But I think it's okay that the kids are in every shot because this trip, just like all our trips, was really about those kids. Spending time with a cousin, watching Dad as he rides that perfect wave, celebrating a birthday with Uncle Nick. In fact, if it weren't for these kids and those memories I'm always wanting them to be making, I just might be tempted to stay behind on Labor Day weekend and tie up all of those tedious work-related loose ends.

But let's face it, those bulletin boards could wait. A perfect day at the beach could not.