Monday, July 30, 2012

Gone Fishin'

Do you ever go out of your way to make some super awesome plans for your kids and then they ruin it all by being total a-holes? No? Well then, go read some feel good mommy blog instead. Yes? Tell you more so that we can commiserate over our parenting failures?

The funny thing about lugging a camera around with you at all times is that you have documentation of all of your events, not just the good ones. And when you slink home, exhausted and defeated, muttering to your spouse about how you will never EVER attempt to do something nice for your ungrateful monkey children again, you will probably forget that you took a bunch of pictures that day. The next morning you might remember to look at your pictures and you will see that the camera's perspective is quite different from your own. In other words, THE PICTURES LIE! 

Here's an example: We took the kids for an evening walk, followed by a trip to Sweet Life for dessert, and a dip in the hot tub at sunset. Sounds nice, doesn't it? 

Look at these photos! This could be a blog post about brotherly love!

About finding the simple joys in exploring nature as a family!

Or there might be some metaphor about the sun setting and us entering a new chapter of our lives or something like that.

But NO! What the pictures do not show you is that the kids spent a good part of our walk whining about being hot and wanting to be carried and refusing to wear shoes (??) and bickering with each other about sticks. And then we had to practically drag them kicking and screaming back to the car because NO YOU CANNOT THROW ANOTHER ROCK OFF THE BRIDGE BECAUSE YOU HAVE ALREADY THROWN FIVE THOUSAND ROCKS OFF THE BRIDGE AND WE ARE ALL TIRED AND HOT AND READY FOR DESSERT. Dammit.

One car ride across town where people complained about the radio station and the windows being up (they wanted them down) and then complained about them being down (they wanted them up) and Brent and I made many, many, MANY threats about going home and going STRAIGHT TO BED. And at one point I realized that they were totally on to us and our idle threats because we ALWAYS threaten to go home and go STRAIGHT TO BED and then we never do. This is because Brent and I are selfish and want to go to Sweet Life for a little gelato instead of putting whiny and overtired kids STRAIGHT TO BED. I am no fool. I know this is not how you are supposed to parent your kids, but sometimes you just gotta have that gelato.

Not pictured: Sawyer loudly demanding bites from everybody's gelato instead of eating his own. Jack stuffing a gigantic cookie sandwich into his mouth before Sawyer could start harassing him for a bite. Sawyer repeating bits of conversation at full volume from a couple sitting next to us who were clearly on an already awkward first date.

Also not pictured: Parents attempting to relax in the hot tub while monkey children splash water in our faces, kick us repeatedly, and fight over the floaty thermometer thingy.

So much for an evening of family fun. Clearly we are masochists, because Brent and I then hatched a plan to take the kids fishing the next day. Wait. Did I say I was no fool earlier? Scratch that.

Doesn't he look angelic on the boat?

Ha. So you know Brent is pretty into fly fishing and I try to be supportive (mostly) in this endeavor, especially on the rare occasions that this hobby actually yields an actual fish. The kids have not had much fishing experience because Brent (wisely) uses his fishing time as his alone time. Or at least his time away from me and the monkey children.

The novelty of the boat bought us some time on the river, but the kids had their greedy little hearts set on holding the long-coveted fishing pole. And Brent had his greedy little heart set on catching a fish. The fish were jumping all right. We could see them flip flopping all around us, mocking us as Brent spent OVER AN HOUR trying different flies and rowing and dropping anchor and claiming that we'd be catching our fish really soon guys! When Brent gets focused on something it is pretty hard to distract him. And so he remained blissfully unaware of the kids fighting over the snacks, Jack stuck on repeat saying how bored he was, Sawyer attempting to climb overboard, Jack threatening to jump overboard, and me (in a very desperate moment) thinking of throwing them both overboard. Just gotta find the right fly, guys, and we'll be catching those fish!

Not pictured: My nearly hysterical mini-breakdown in which I demanded to be let OFF THIS BOAT RIGHT NOW UNLESS YOU HAND THE FISHING POLE TO ONE OF THE MONKEY CHILDREN! And Brent was like "Whut?" and then I pulled myself together enough to suggest that maybe (JUST MAYBE!) the kids would like to take a turn fishing and NOBODY CARES if we get any fish at the point. IT'S ABOUT THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION, BRENT.

And then look what happened:

We had fun. And then we got pizza on the way home, because we had no fish to eat. But that's okay. Pizza is cool, too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Just Sawyer

We shipped Jack off to summer day camp and that left me with a week of just Sawyer. Brent was looking around our bedroom the other day and noticed that we have a lot of our firstborn's memorabilia on display, but nothing really from little brother. And when I sat down and thought about it, I realized that this week of summer camp was Sawyer's only chance in his short lifetime to be the only kid.

And so I took him out for sushi.

And not just any sushi. Conveyer belt sushi!

He liked the fish eggs in particular and I speak from experience when I tell you that it is impossible to keep those tiny little eggs from adhering to all touchable surfaces within a three-year-old's reach. And no matter how many napkins you use and even if you carry your egg-faced child into the bathroom for a quick scrubdown after the meal, you will still be finding fish eggs stuck to his or her body for days to come. Ick.

Sawyer is what you might call a "spirited" child. You might also say that he's rather "busy." But if we cut through all of that euphemism crap and get real, I think you'll see that Sawyer is really just his own person with his own, often very strange, agenda.

Middle children of the world, do not be offended when I tell you that he is a classic middle child.

Hanging out solo with my little guy for a week was a lot of fun- we went to the thrift stores with my friend Doris (who is a professional thrift store shopper) and played with grimy toys and brawled with equally grimy unattended children. We had a breakfast date where Sawyer entertained/horrified us by dipping his bacon into whipped butter.  Sawyer wore Jack's shoes, rode in his carseat, and played with his toys. I figured he'd be livin' it up as the big man around the house, but each day as three o'clock approached, he would begin to mope around.

"What's wrong, buddy?" I would ask.
"I miss Jack. I'm ready to go pick him up now," he would reply.

I am pretty sure Jack has never missed Sawyer. Ever.

So, about this summer camp- it was through Jack's kindergarten and it was Le Monde Enchante de Merlin so it was all about knights and castles and swords and whatnot. I could have been an active parent and pitched in some volunteer hours so I would know more about what they did, but I decided not to set the bar too high for myself in terms of elementary school involvement. The camp was 9-3 every day with a field trip to the beach for sandcastle building on Friday. As I was packing up his gear for the first day, I started to get a bit nervous about sending him off for so much camp. We had never done anything like this before and I just wasn't sure how it would all go down. Would he be cool with me just dropping him off?

Turns out he was. And I am so glad we did this because now I feel like we are ready for kindergarten. Never in a million years did I think I would be that sentimental sappy mom who gets all teared up on the first day of kindergarten, but as the Big Day approaches and these pregnancy hormones keep rising, I have to admit that I was kind of freaking out about it all. So thanks, Jack, for helping me be as cool as you are about this whole kindergarten thing.

(How does he have the patience for this?)

So anyway, I've been trying a bit harder to acknowledge Sawyer for his.. uh.. uniqueness and... uh... his contributions to our family. He is really good at husking corn.

And quite talented at eating blueberries.

Jack filled half a bucket by himself. Sawyer's bucket was empty, but his tummy was full.

My lefty middle child. You are pretty cool, too. Thanks for reminding me of that this week.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Confessions of a Granola Eating, Salsa Making, Nudist Tolerating, Clothes Drying, Hippie Mom

In the past few weeks I have heard the following statements:

"I consider you to be a granola muffin sort of mom.."


"Well, I just figured because you're such a hippie like that."

Hmmm. I am a mom and boy do I love muffins! (Wondering what to do with your zucchini this summer? Might I suggest these?) I also made some tasty granola just last week. But am I really a hippie? Observe:

Do hippies let their kids do this?

Or how about this?

A little known fact about my kids in the car. I let them listen to top 40 pop music. You know, all that annoying crap that sounds exactly the same and gets stuck in your head after the second listening? My kids love that. They know who Justin Bieber is and Sawyer can't get enough of One Direction. They can sing along to "Call Me Maybe." Hippies would be all about the Beatles and Woody Guthrie, I think. Brent HATES this music with a passion and will try to drown out the kids' whining by blasting NPR. I simply flip the dial to 104.7 and everybody is suddenly bopping and singing along to "Payphone." (Not that they even know what a payphone is- how archaic! But thankfully I've noticed that they do not pay attention to the lyrics at all. Yet.)

 During one of my first years of teaching I had a.. ahem... let's say memorable student who came from a no TV family. He had the intelligence of an ivy leaguer but the social skills of a potato. He had no frame of reference for popular culture, which limits your middle school social interactions substantially. This caused me to reevaluate my anti TV policy with my own kids. Maybe a little screen time and pop music is good for us on occasion. I even let the kids watch the televised International Hot Dog Eating Competition on the 4th, which did prove to be a mistake because Jack has challenged me to eating contests every day since. But still, hippies don't even eat hot dogs. (Some of you are going to call me out on this because you know I would NEVER eat a hot dog. But I would let my kids eat hot dogs. Maybe. If they were the gourmet ones with no nitrates. And there was nothing else to eat...)

Speaking of food, I made some fresh garden salsa last week. I can't find the recipe I loosely followed, but it was simply a bunch of chopped tomatoes, a diced sweet onion, garlic, cilantro, the juice from a lime, and salt and pepper. Jack hates tomatoes with a passion (I know!), but Sawyer was all about it.

We have a seasonal frog infestation at our house, which sounds like it would be fun, except that these little guys hide out in our deck chairs. I just know one day I'll get up and find a squished frog stuck to my butt. Anytime somebody tries to have a seat on our deck one or both kids will scream, "CHECK FOR FROGS!" It's kind of unnerving.

I do have to admit that we are a pants optional house much of the time. Does that make me a hippie?

(Does this picture make you think twice about checking out books from the public library? It should.)

We have spent the last two weeks at Amazon Pool for morning swimming lessons, picnic lunch, and then afternoon swims. It has been fun for the kids, but exhausting for me. The good news is that I have renewed faith in Jack's ability to swim! I think he might be getting it. Finally.

Sawyer disappeared the other afternoon and I found him sacked out in the front yard. I think it was the coolest place he could find to take a nap.

This is why I can never be on time to anything. As I was getting dressed, Sawyer was getting ready for football. Or so he says. I think that a true hippie would have just walked out the door with their kid looking like this. I at least attempted to scrub most of it off.

Brent is building the kids an elevated playhouse in the backyard. In the meantime, it makes a nice support beam for my clothesline.

I think I have had exactly two garden strawberries in the past four years. These kids just plow right through them. Good thing for the farm. I've done a batch of jam and stocked away a few gallons in the freezer for smoothies. Still, there is something about picking them warm from the sunshine in your own garden. Which is why, I suppose, the kids cannot stop eating them.

I am pretty sure my attempt to convince you that I am not a hippie has backfired. My kids are practically PETA activists when it comes to our frog colony, Sawyer reads his library books in the nude, I have a perpetual summer clothesline, and I can wax philosophical about garden strawberries. Damn. Maybe being a granola muffin hippie mom isn't so bad after all.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Weekend Away

Well, I guess it's summer. While most of the country is sizzling away in a frying pan of sunshine, we have still been donning our hoodies and watching in awe as our kids jump fearlessly into frigid swimming pools and brave icy sprinklers at the water park. Sigh. At least the fire rings are good for warmth and marshmallows.

I guess I haven't been posting much because I guess we haven't been doing much. Which is not really true, because we have been busy. We've just been busy relaxing. The nausea and fatigue of this pregnancy has forced me to slow down a bit this summer and I am finding that that is not necessarily a bad thing. We've been spending our days at the park or the pool or with friends. My house is usually a mess and I'm way behind in my annual summer food preservation. I haven't sewn anything since Christmas. And, as it turns out, that's just fine.

A bunch of girls and I snuck away from our families and careers and internships to spend a long weekend celebrating my friend Emily who is getting married this summer.

Much food was consumed.

And some wine. Yep, I even had a glass. Relax, I was literally surrounded by doctors.

And some rainy walks on the beach. This is summertime in Oregon after all.

And more food. One of the reasons Emily and I became friends long ago on another continent was our mutual love of food. Some things never change.

The sun did eventually come out.

And set.

And it was cold enough in the evenings to serve brownies and wine by the fireside. Cozy.

I have to confess that I always feel at least a twinge of guilt whenever I leave the kids behind to go and do something just-for-me fun. The first night away is always the worst- I feel kind of like you felt the first time you slept away at summer camp. I guess it's like homesickness for my kids. But after a day or two of sleeping in and reading on the couch and chatting with friends, I feel right at home. It's good to get away.

Sometimes when I am meeting new people, as I was on this trip, I find that I don't seem to have much more to talk about than my kids. Sure, I have a career and some interests, but so much of my life revolves around parenthood that it's easy to lose focus of all that other stuff. Which is why, I suppose, having friends who span many periods of one's life is so important. Being with Emily reminds me of a completely different life that I once lived- one that involved European travel and leisure, French ski chalets, half marathons, wine tours, chocolate and pastry consumption, and so much independence. I now marvel at the fact that I once lived exclusively for me. Long ago I stayed out late and slept until noon. I ate when I was hungry. I took a nap if I got tired. I went somewhere or did something for no reason other than I felt like it.

I like to think that I fully appreciated my year abroad, that I recognized its significance in the great scheme of my life. I seized the opportunities to travel as they came my way, I tried every new food that was offered to me (even the weird meat bread stuff that old French people eat), I somehow managed to earn all of the credits I was supposed to (though how I passed 17th Century French Opera is still a mystery...), I "grew as a person" and "learned about myself" and gained a new, more globalized perspective and all that mumbo jumbo that you are expected to do when you study abroad. But there were also times when I felt very alone and wondered just where my life could possibly be going... And I think this is also something Emily and I shared during that period of time.

So now, years and years later, as I sip wine and nibble a brownie and listen as she tells her closest friends about her wedding dress, I think of my boys who must surely be sleeping at this late hour, this tiny girl who grows inside me, and I smile to think of the small hands Emily will someday hold.