Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Stuff, the Encore

I have spit up stains on both my shoulders. I have not left the house for two days. I am wearing sweat pants and I just picked a piece of candy cane out of my hair.

Christmas is in full swing around here. Brent and I have been pulling some late nights hard at work drinking seasonal beers and watching Downton Abbey. Having a baby has forced us to slow things down around here. Christmas will be simple this year, and I am thinking I like it better this way.

Now that Clementine is getting a bit older (almost 8 weeks already!), I've begun to realize that my maternity leave just might be my only opportunity to visit the boys at their schools. I popped in for Sawyer's preschool class's holiday singalong. There he was, front and center, wearing a reindeer hat and singing and dancing his little heart out. It was just as cute as you think it would be.

The next day I braved freezing rain and ridiculous parking to attend Jack's school assembly. He didn't see me there, standing in the back, trying to keep Clementine from howling along to the music. There were Christmas songs in French, a troupe of ukelele playing 4th graders, and then the entire school jumped to their feet and danced the Macarena.

(The entire school except for my kid, who stood awkwardly with his hands in his pockets and looked like he couldn't wait for it to be over. Don't worry, we've been practicing at home. Sawyer's Macarena is coming along nicely, and Jack's isn't half bad. Predictably, mine still sucks. Kate?)

I couldn't help but notice an armed police officer at the assembly. And I guess he was there to make us all feel safer, but it just made me sad. I've been thinking about those kids in Connecticut a lot. It's hard not to. I sent my kid off to school that morning, just like those parents did. I wonder if they hugged them goodbye. Was anyone angry? Feeling rushed and yelling at their kids? Had I been nice to Jack that morning as I helped hustle him out the door? Did I kiss him and tell him I loved him? Before I had kids I could have heard about this kind of tragedy and simply thought, "Those poor people" and gone on about my day. But having kids has changed me and now I can't not walk around with a heavy heart as we all try to understand this horrible thing. What a fucked up world we live in.

But my kid did come home that afternoon and I hugged him and loved him and reminded myself that this is now and will never be again. Now is, really, all we have.


We humans are a resilient bunch, which is a good thing since we do such atrocious things to one another. I think, though, that I don't want to "get over" this tragedy. I think I want to carry it with me, in a dark corner of my heart like a secret, so that I remember to hug them as they walk out the door each morning. So that I take their hands when we cross the street even when they are old enough to do it on their own. So that I hug and kiss them. So that I always remember to love them.

Jack is in charge of his own presents this year. He made a pair of pink flannel pants for Clementine, but a gift for Sawyer was proving to be more of a challenge. I was trying to help him by asking what he thought Sawyer was into. "Well, he likes Legos. He likes candy." I told him that I didn't think he could afford Legos and reminded him that we'd be making peppermint bark. "I know! He loves One Direction! Let's get him a One Direction CD!" And of course you know that this is the PERFECT gift for my little pop music junkie and just leave it to his big brother to figure it out. I knew Brent could absolutely not tolerate an entire CD of One Direction and so I convinced Jack to make Sawyer a mix of his favorite top 40 hits. It's going to be gawd awful, but Sawyer will LOVE it.

Santa stopped by our house and terrified the children. It was really, really, REALLY hard to keep a straight face for this.


We had another visitor this week... Amberlee! I was excited enough to stay up past my bedtime to surprise her at the airport. Then Clementine was excited enough to wake up in the middle of the night and demand to meet her. Babies sense important people.

This slower paced and simplified Christmas has given us more time to just be with our friends.

Friends who know the perfect gift to bring from Washington DC (yes, that is a Lego White House!). Friends who will gladly make you your first (and possibly only) Irish coffee of the season. Friends who are really more family than friends.

They say that the greatest gift we can give to our children is our time. I think the same can be said of our friends.


So Merry Christmas, friends. Let's have an Irish coffee together. Or brush up on our Macarenas. I will even change out of my sweatpants just for you. Please tell me if I have food stuck in my hair.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Stuff

The first non-rainy Saturday of the season found us loading the family into the family mobile and joyously caroling our way to the Christmas tree farm to find and cut the perfect tree.


Actually we drove 20 minutes with a screaming baby, then briefly lost one of the children at the Christmas tree farm before our failed attempt at a holiday themed family photo shoot. But we did end up with a pretty decent tree.

We NEVER get family photos taken, and while usually I am happier behind the lens, every once in awhile it's good to cram everybody together and try to coax simultaneous smiles from your children. You know, for the sake of posterity.

Take one. Jack! What the hell are you doing?

Take 2. Dad is on to you. Knock that shit off.


Take 4. Oh fuck it. Nevermind.

So yeah. Christmas cards. They might be late this year. But let's focus on the positive! The tree is nice and fragrant and full of Christmas spirit and all that. Also, it has not fallen over yet, so that's a plus.

Guys, get in front of the tree for a picture! What the? I don't even. Grrr. Sigh.

But I do love this picture because, well,  way to capture the moment, Brent. The dishwasher is always running. A kid is always blurring his way past me. The living room is always trashed. My pants are always falling down.

I bought Sawyer these shorts at a thrift store for $1.50. They are gigantic on him and it is December, but that doesn't stop him from trying to wear them every day.

We let the kids decorate the tree by clustering every single ornament at eye level and then Brent and I adjusted things once they were in bed. As we meticulously rearranged the tree over pints of Sleigher, I began to notice that we seem to own a lot of odd and downright ugly Christmas ornaments. Also, I am pretty sure my mom saved every single ornament that my brother and I ever made and let me tell you, artistes we are not. What to do with all of these non-tree worthy ornaments?

I started to put them back into the boxes and then I stopped. I have saved a lot of my mom's things. Some of it is sentimental and important, but some of it is just stuff.  And even though it was valuable to her, I have my own kids' ornaments to save now. The truth is, no matter how many boxes of dusty memorabilia I hoard in the attic, it won't bring her back. I can close my eyes and remember the sound of her voice and the smell of the perfume she wore when she went out dancing with my dad.  No hand painted ceramic stocking ornament that I made in 1986 is going to change that. And so I let go. I cleaned out that box of ornaments with the enthusiasm of spring cleaning. It felt good.

I didn't stop there. While Brent took the kids up to Lake Creek to see the salmon jumping the fish ladder, I cleared out the closets, heaped a gigantic pile of clothes on the kitchen table for donation, and bagged up just about anything in our house that hasn't been used for the past year.

I paused when I came across our collection of board games. Some were easy to toss, too complicated, missing pieces, too many pieces, etc. But then I got to the Sorry game. We've always played Sorry as long as I can remember and I was in possession of my family's original game. The box was long ago broken, repaired with duct tape, and then broken again. The plastic player pieces went missing longer ago than I can remember and have been replaced by beheaded Parcheesi men. I am sure the deck is missing cards. But my family spent countless hours playing this game, splitting sevens and cursing those backwards fours. On the day my mom died, Nick and I played this game over and over and over again simply because we did not know what else to do with ourselves.

I read somewhere that you should photograph items that are sentimental before you give them away.

But then at the last minute, as Brent loaded the car for the Goodwill run, I just couldn't do it. I don't know why, but I just had to keep that game.

(Can you guess what I found in the depths of the hallway closet?? My fucking passport. OF COURSE. FML.)

Okay, one more try, guys! Let's all practice for our Christmas card photo shoot!

Getting closer. Just have to get you out of those Halloween shirts and then well be... wait! What are you doing? NO! Stop that right now, you guys!

At least Clementine finds them amusing. For now.

Cleaning out your closets and hauling away some of your emotional baggage is a good way to start the holiday season. I now have room in my life for a new tradition: Christmas candy! Mary and her sister Susy taught me the Wagner Family Super Secret Candy Recipe. It was an honor.


There will be a bit of nostalgia this Christmas season. The holidays are always sad when someone is missing, no matter how long it has been. But this year I'll also be making fondant and dipping chocolates and making room on the tree for my kids' ugly handmade ornaments.

And playing Sorry.
And getting a presentable Christmas card photo.

That one might take awhile.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Before we start talking turkey over here, I first want to tell you about the Great Lasagna Battle of 2012 which took place in our house last week. Despite the fact that all of the best-selling parenting books, all of the feel-good mommy blogs, and just about anyone you meet will tell you not to make an issue with your kids and food, I take exception to the small, non-cooking, picky eater who lives with us.

Jack hates both soup and pasta. This is a problem because we practically live on pasta during the summer and soup during the winter. This is also a problem because he is stubborn when it comes to food and I am equally stubborn when it comes to food. He once refused to eat broccoli for a year. A YEAR! And do you know what I did? I just kept on putting it in front of him day after day, month after month, you get the idea, until one day he decided he liked broccoli again and life was good.

Until I made a lasagna. Now, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I am a fairly decent cook and I make a damn fine lasagna. In our house the rule is that you eat as many bites as your age. So Jack had to eat 5 bites of lasagna to be done with dinner. Or else.

And here's where we screwed up. You've heard that threat about saving it for breakfast, right? That idle threat that sends fear deep into the heart of lasagna-hating kids everywhere? Well, we dropped it, The mother of all dinnertime threats. 

I figured it was a done deal. Jack is a fairly intelligent kid, he would surely realize the error of his ways and the unyielding authority of his parents and finish those five bites post haste.

Except that he didn't. He crossed his arms and scowled at his plate. "Fine then," he grumbled and we sent him off to bed. At this point I was feeling a weird mix of guilt (what kind of a parent sends their kid to bed hungry?) and triumph (come breakfast time, victory will be mine!).

Can you guess what happened next? While we all broke fast over granola and yogurt and toast and fruit, Jack glowered at his plate of cold lasagna and continued his hunger strike. What's both funny and sad about this story is that this took place on a Friday, the day when Jack goes a half day to school and they don't serve lunch. I wanted to cave at this point and pour the kid some Cheerios. So did Brent, but we were in too deep! There was no turning back!

And so we sent our hungry kid to school. I wondered if he would report our neglect to his teacher. Would she side with him and offer him a granola bar and a trip to the guidance counselor? To complicate things even further, we had arranged for Jack's friend Quentin to come home with him after school and to stay for dinner. Would Quentin go home to report that Jack's parents don't let him eat?

I decided to overcompensate. I made cookies. Isn't that what good moms do when their kids have playdates? 

By the time Jack got home from school, he was pale and cranky. He glanced half-heartedly at the plate of lasagna. He kept complaining about how tired he was as Sawyer and Quentin snacked on cookies and commandeered the playhouse. He cried. He flopped on the floor.

And then I gave up. I just couldn't take it anymore! He was too pathetic.

He did eat those five bites of lasagna. I fed them to him like a mama bird and alternated with bites of carrot cake cookies. And then he perked right up and asked for a turkey sandwich. And then he wanted a string cheese. And he ate three pieces of pizza for dinner. That kid was hungry.

So, what did we learn from this episode? Well, I'm sure Jack learned that his mom is a sucker for hypoglycemic meltdowns. Hell, I learned that I am a sucker for hypoglycemic meltdowns. I also learned that not every moment is a teachable moment. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat and move on. After all, it's only lasagna.

So, moving on! Sawyer is a big brother. He takes this role quite seriously.

We had our third annual Thanksgiving trip to the beach. My brother joined us and kept the kids busy with rousing games like "Let's Pull Sawyer's Arms Out of Their Sockets" (pictured below) and "Beach Sweeper" in which he chased and knocked down the kids with those gigantic seaweed kelp whip thingies. (Anyone know the official name for these? I would like to sound all scientific and stuff when I am telling you about this awesome game.)

Some traditions are worth keeping. This was our third non-traditional Thanksgiving feast. There was no turkey, no mashed potatoes, no stuffing, no green bean casserole, and NO PUMPKIN PIE. Our menu included salmon, maple roasted veggies, squash and potato gratin, an avocado and apple salad, wild rice with chanterelles, and A PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE! Oh. My. God. Screw you, pumpkin pie. There's a new sheriff in town.

The weather was somewhat cooperative. We had some rain, some shine, some wind, and some warm. We walked on the beach, we played board games, we napped, we read, we went to the Rogue Brewery, we ate and drank and were merry. It was fabulous.

Jack found Brent's old Gameboy in the closet. Since he is pretty sure Santa is bringing him an Xbox for Christmas, and we are pretty sure he is not, I think we'll let him keep the Gameboy until the novelty wears off. Or the batteries die.

I know that Thanksgiving related blogging typically includes at least some mention of gratitude. I am grateful. I am thankful. Life is full right now.

And now it's time to start planning the Christmas menu!

(Brent claims he is already tired of the Christmas music. How is that even possible?)

Just for Jack, we will NOT be serving lasagna. Or pasta. Or soup. But he is still not getting that Xbox.
(Maybe there will be some AA batteries in his stocking for that stupid Gameboy, though. I just might have to admit defeat once again.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Pilot

First of all, THANK YOU to those of you who so kindly inquired about my postpartum depression. I am fine! Well, as fine as I usually am. I just had my usual short lived bout with some weird anxiety crazies caused by my lady hormones being thrown out of whack, but now I am over it.

Whew! Back to happily staring at new baby for hours at a time.

The funny thing about PPD is that, for me, it really has nothing to do with feeling sad or depressed but instead makes me feel super weird and I stress out about things that are completely stupid/out of my control/both. Like the new car.

Brent decided awhile back that we needed a new car. I was all about making it work with the Volvo and was optimistic about putting three car seats across the backseat, but Brent (the car seat putter inner) was more of a skeptic. And then when the Volvo started spewing plumes of black smoke, he pulled the Safety of the Children card and convinced me to start shopping. You see, the Volvo has been a bloodthirsty moneysucker for as long as we've had it. WE HATE THAT CAR. But since it was paid off, we put up with it and its variety of thousand dollar trips to the mechanic for this and that and what the hell is that? It's going to cost how much?! Anyway, "we" started shopping around. And by this I mean Brent started obsessively trolling Craigslist and driving by dealerships and test driving things that were WAY out of our price range and then bribing the kids not to tell me.

And then, a mere two days after Clementine was born, Brent found The One. The deal! The car of all cars! And like a hunter stalking his prey, he moved in quickly for the kill.

The dealership tried to screw us over, as dealerships are wont to do, but Brent fought the good fight and wheeled and dealed and played hardball and after 48 hours of hassle and red tape and intense haggling, the car was ours!

Except when he got it home and I saw it for the first time, I couldn't help but notice how much it looked like an SUV.

"It's not an SUV," Brent informed me. "It's a crossover SUV."
"What does that even mean?" I wondered.
"I don't know."

So I now drive an SUV. And although I don't begrudge anyone else for driving their SUVs, I have to say that I'm really not an SUV driving person. I eat organic vegetables! I am concerned about air pollution! I am aware of my carbon footprint! I should be driving a Prius, for chrissake. But again with the three car seats. You just can't win.

The idea of driving around this gas guzzling people mover pretty much freaked me out. And I now realize that it was mostly those postpartum hormone crazies, but I sort of had a mini identity crisis over this car. It was hard enough becoming a soccer mom, but now I am an SUV driving soccer mom. It's a lot to take in when you are already teetering on the brink of postpartum sanity and you recently turned 36 and haven't realized that HELLO! You are a soccer mom! Nobody cares what kind of car you drive. It's a young person's world and you are old. Get over yourself!


Also, this is my first ever non-shitty car and when you've lived a lifetime with nothing but shitty cars, you begin to drive your shitty cars with pride and sort of wear this ownership as a badge of honor. I still don't quite feel like me in such a decidedly non-shitty car. I guess I am kind of a martyr like that.

The good news is that my PPD weirdness didn't last for long and now I am all screw you Mother Earth! I have gas to guzzle and soccer games to drive to in my not shitty car!

Just kidding. But I do have to say that it's nice having that second row of seating because it means that the big kids can squabble and kick the seats all they want because I'm waaaay up front now. Ha ha, suckers! Enjoy the backseat. (Also, air conditioning! Hell yeah!)

Some of you are like Enough whiny narrative about you and your first world problems. Show me pictures of the BAYBEE! 

And I am sorry to report that this is the only picture of Clementine from the week. When you are the third kid, that's just the way it goes.

With neither one of us working right now, there is a lot of family time to be had. I am finding that I love the noise and commotion and energy of the bigger family. I'm not so excited about all the laundry the little people produce, but when I think about how much fun these three will have growing up together, I know it will all be worth it.

And so, identity crises notwithstanding, life is good. We are happy and healthy and we can all fit into one non-shitty car. Oh, and my thrift store shopping habit yielded a Pokemon Monopoly game that kept Brent and Jack busy for the entire weekend.

Not related:
Sawyer: "Mom, our new baby is so awesome!"

Also not related:
Jack: "Mom, can I pet the baby?"

I confess that I have no conclusion. But I promise more baby pictures next time.