Sunday, December 22, 2013

DIY Elf and Yoga with the Swans

A very important package arrived in the mail this week. Yep, that's right, Santa sent us our own Elf on the Shelf. Now, the keen eye might detect a resemblance between this elf and some dolls I have made in the past, but my children do not have keen eyes yet, so it's all good. (If you are curious, about DIY Elves on the Shelves, take a look here for inspiration.)

I realize that the Elf on the Shelf craze probably peaked two Christmases ago, but I am usually slow to embrace current trends and so I'm perpetually running a few years behind everyone else. So now I have an Elf on the Shelf, own several pairs of skinny jeans, and have decided to try hot yoga.

Deciding to try something and actually trying it are two different things in my world. Recently I have tentatively stuck my big toe into the vast ocean that is yoga, but following along to yoga DVDs while wearing pajamas in my living room was getting old fast. So when my friend Kate found a Groupon for hot yoga classes, I was all about it, in spite of my limitations when it comes to following directions and any sort of organized movement. The thing about Kate, besides her perfect hair, is that she makes anything possible. I think the proof of this lies in the fact that I've made it this far through teaching sixth grade... Also, she has this obscenely adorable baby:

Anyway, adding to this quickly spiraling cycle of awesomeness was the fact that my friend Alexa teaches at the yoga studio! And in addition to knowing my deficiencies/challenges (both physical and otherwise), Alexa is a crazy talented teacher, which is exactly what I needed. It would take some crazy talent to get a gangly klutz like me doing hot yoga in a room full of strangers, that's for sure.

More holiday merriment while I build intrigue for the story of my first yoga class.

Kate and I committed to a class on Sunday morning. On Saturday she texted me reminding me that I should be hydrating. I was hydrating all right, but not in the way I should have been. There was wine, then some pear cider followed by beer. What can I say? I had seven kids in my house making candy sleighs, these were dark times. 

I wasn't sure what I should wear until I remembered that I had actual yoga pants that I had purchased years ago and had worn for a variety of purposes, but never for actual yoga. Perfect, I thought.

Kate arrived to pick me up bright and early and we equipped ourselves with water bottles (I was cramming for finals with the hydration at this point) and I walked to the closet to grab us some towels.

"Oh, we don't need to bring towels," Kate confidently informed me. And because Kate knows everything, my yoga pants and I followed her out the door sans towels.

We arrived and checked in for our class, immediately feeling intimidated by our classmates. Alexa tried to put as at ease, explaining that there were plenty of other newbs in the class that day. "Did you see her?" Kate whispered at me as we unrolled our borrowed mats at the back of the room, gesturing at one of the other first-timers. "She's like 6 feet tall and a professional athlete!"

The room was HOT. I sort of couldn't breath as Kate and I waited for class to start and whispered to each other about whether or not it was okay to be whispering. The humidity was rolling over us in waves and the smell of tea tree oil hung pleasantly in the air. As someone who is chronically cold, I was actually enjoying the warmth, though it would have been nice to be able to breathe.

Class started and Alexa went fast. I was downward dogging and sun saluting and planking my way right along just fine for about five minutes. Then the directions started getting kind of confusing. Something about my left "peace fingers" and the inside of my right knee and pushing my feet into the ground and extending my back... forehead to the what? I twisted myself up into a pretzel and hoped I was doing okay. They have you looking into a mirror the whole time, which I suppose would help most people, but for me that just made the whole left/right thing more of a challenge. I was a sweaty mess, teetering on some extremity and praying I wouldn't topple over and send us all down like dominoes. And then I make the mistake of looking over at Kate. She is a swan, serenely stretching across the mat in total synchronicity with the rest of the flock. Meanwhile I am playing a game of solitary Twister.

Time goes on. We contort ourselves into frogs and trees. I am a warrior. Sweat drips into my eyes and mouth. I start to really wish I had a fucking towel. The swan sweats gracefully beside me floating her feet and extending her arms as if she has rehearsed this choreography before. I am now sweating so much that I contemplate taking off my yoga pants. Would that be weird? What underwear am I wearing? Am I delirious? 

75 minutes later it's all over. I am a wet noodle as the swan and I gather our things. The room is definitely not smelling like tea tree oil at this point. I realize that hot yoga reminds me a lot of natural childbirth. 

I came home to unsigned Christmas cards, two pairs of boys' pajamas that apparently aren't going to sew themselves, a Christmas Eve dinner menu to plan, a missing stocking to locate, and an Elf who can't seem to keep himself out of trouble. 

But if I can survive hot yoga, I'm sure Christmas 2013 will be a piece of cake.

PS: Kate, you bring the towels next time, k?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Saved by the Snow

I came home from work last Thursday with a ridiculous to-do list.There were so many things going on: crepe making supplies to purchase for my French class, Christmas card photos to order, pies to assemble for my friend Peter who had graciously agreed to let me raffle off the privilege of throwing a pie in his face to my sixth graders, my knock-off Elf on the Shelf sewing project (more on that later) to finish, Christmas jammies to begin, an Egypt unit to plan, a loved one in the hospital to visit, the advent calendar to stuff, a zombie party to mentally prepare for, and, oh shit, what was I supposed to bring to the staff Christmas party on Friday? Etc.

"Mom, can I sew a pillow?"
"What are we having for dinner?"
"Did anyone feed the dog today?"

You get the picture.

Sometimes I can roll with all of this. Some days I am checking items off my list and taking names. Often I am amazed at what I can actually get done in a day.

But on Thursday it was all too much. There was a lot of talk about potential winter weather that night, and so I rolled the dice and banked on a snow day for Friday. In other words, I did NOTHING on Thursday night. Not one single thing. Well, I did have a beer and put my feet up, of course, but I did not touch any of those pressing items on my to-do list.

And on Friday we woke up to this:

We thought we scored with a three day weekend. I finished the elf and planned for Egypt. Brent ordered the Christmas card photos. The parties were canceled. Clementine joined me for yoga meltdown.

As the weekend wore on, I entertained the idea that I might not be going back to work on Monday. Little did I know...

Brent and the boys discovered the perfect sledding hill in our neighborhood. Since the rules don't apply around here when it snows, it was also the perfect off-leash dog park...

By Sunday we realized that the snow wasn't going anywhere. I was feeling itchy to get the Christmas tree up and so Brent and the boys walked down the road and found one at a local lot. They pulled it home on a sled.

School was canceled on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We filled our days with sledding and playdates, movies and popcorn, the Nutcracker and pizza with friends, legos and Christmas books by the fire, and Uno and cookies.

I think I will have to go back to work tomorrow. We finished up all of Jack's homework for the week while decorating sugar cookies tonight, Jubelale in hand, Christmas songs on Pandora. Our washing machine froze during the storm and I've just about made it through the seven loads of laundry that had piled up.

The Egypt unit is totally fucked. The crepes and pie throwing can wait.

My loved one is on the mend in the hospital across town.

Friday, I'm ready! I've totally got this.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend

For the past four years it has been our Thanksgiving tradition to spend the long weekend at the beach. This year was different because my dad and Mary couldn't join us. We thought about staying home and having Thanksgiving in Eugene, but my dad insisted that we go. 

Once we arrived at the beach house and the kids tumbled out of the car into the sunshine, I knew that my dad had been right to send us. We all needed this.

You never know what kind of weather you'll get on the Oregon coast in November. For once, Sawyer's shorts and teeshirt combo was the right choice.

In 37 years I had never once been in charge of the Thanksgiving meal. We've usually done non-traditional fare like pizza or salmon, but last year Mary made cornish game hen and Jack talked about eating the drumstick for weeks afterwards. This year he requested a Thanksgiving dinner "like you see in the movies."


So the vegetarian was in charge of cooking a turkey, but as Brent pointed out, with the internet anything is possible. He was right. There was some initial confusion with the neck and the gizzards and the tying of the legs and tucking of the wings, but we managed to pull it off. I am pretty proud of my first turkey, even if I didn't eat any of it...

Confession: we did not actually sit down to Thanksgiving dinner until almost 8:30, but all those hours of turkey roasting led to a pretty rockin' kitchen dance party which I'm hoping we'll incorporate as a new Thanksgiving tradition in the years to come.

Especially since more calories burned dancing before dinner means a bigger piece of pumpkin cheesecake for dessert.

Nick and I have been on this Yoga Meltdown kick which involves us flopping around the living room, toppling over onto each other, and cursing at Jillian Michaels while sweating our asses off.
Sawyer chants half-hearted words of encouragement at us from his vantage point on the couch and occasionally joins us for downward dog. I thought all his enthusiasm for our success was charming until he informed us that he really wants us to get to level two so he can watch Jillian in her blue sports bra.

I am hoping to get myself back into shape before Christmas so I can totally binge on holiday food. Thank you, Jillian Michaels, for making my pigging out dreams a reality. Probably not what you had in mind when you launched your line of yoga videos, but oh well.

One more night of Phase-10, a hot tub under a blanket of stars, growler fills from the Yachats Farm Store, Nick's famous Bloody Marys, frisbee on the beach, sand between our toes, and overindulging the kids so that we can have some quality adult conversation.

This weekend was not exactly what we were expecting, but I guess when life hands you a turkey, you should just go right ahead a make Thanksgiving dinner. Or something like that.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Upside Down

There have been so many highs and lows in our lives lately that I don't even know where to begin. We have been experiencing a serious health crisis in our extended family for the past week which has wedged some perspective into our busy days.

Life is full of surprise early Christmas presents.

And soccer friends turned basketball buddies. We've juggled siblings on narrow wooden benches while these tiny people attempt to hurl the ball into the basket. When someone actually makes a basket, the whole crowd cheers no matter which team you're rooting for.

Clementine doesn't care if the typewriter was for the boys.


Of all of Brent's hobbies over the years, I like his bread baking the best.

And amid all of the typing and hoops and bread loaves there is the nagging thought that your life can be turned upside down at any moment. Thankfully we have people we love to turn it right side up again.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Two days before Halloween I realized that we hadn't made it to the pumpkin patch. It was a sunny Monday afternoon and I must have caught Brent in a moment of weakness because he actually seemed excited about hauling the kids out to Lone Pine.

We had never done the corn maze before, and to be honest, I thought it would be boring. But the kids raced ahead of us, shouting directions to each other, shrieking at dead ends, and trampling through mud and fallen corn stalks while we hung back, following their lead. It was peaceful in that corn maze as the sun passed quickly overhead, illuminating the brilliant fall colors around us before sinking quietly into the horizon.

We could have just stayed home, I kept thinking. I could be folding laundry or making dinner right now.  Instead we stayed later than we should have, basking in that perfectly autumn sunset and then had to scramble to get to Sawyer's school for a Halloween party. Once there, the kids scarfed up a bunch of candy since we hadn't made it home for dinner. We came home starving and past bedtime, but it was totally worth it.

Halloween 2013. We are so totally outnumbered by the kids.

But at least we have this guy.

And then there was the annual Play in the Rain Day at Mount Pisgah (we have been four times and it has never once rained). I texted a friend to see if she and her kids would be there. Our exchange went something like this:

Me: Are you guys going to Pisgah today?
Friend: Yes! But first to the Laboratory for the Bloody Mary bar. Join us?

Approximately ten minutes pass before I see this reply. I can't hear my phone over the howling of simultaneous time outs and babbling baby. Everyone is still in their pajamas. Brent is hiding in the backyard under the pretense of doing yardwork.

Me: Kids are too crazy. Don't think we're gonna make it.

And this is where I realize that it really does take a village to raise children. It takes a village because what my friend texted me next was a quick slap upside the head that pretty much saved the day.

Friend: NOOOOOO! You must leave the house! I promise it will all be better if you just LEAVE THE HOUSE. I will buy you a Bloody Mary...

Thank you, village.

Were my kids still crazy when we got to the restaurant? Yes.
Was the Bloody Mary bar everything I had hoped it would be? Yes. And more. Bacon?

 I could have stayed home to fold laundry. Thank god I have my priorities straight.