Sunday, March 31, 2013


The bar was set pretty low for this year's spring break. Anything would be an improvement over last year when I spent hours in the fetal position, muscles exhausted from dry heaving, wondering how a first trimester of pregnancy could possibly be lasting so long. I wish I could go back and tell my pregnant self that it would all be so incredibly worth it, but I guess deep down inside I must have known.

I suspect she will not appreciate her ears as much as we do.

It wouldn't be spring break in Oregon without some rain, but we did see some days of brilliant sunshine. We all survived Jack's first sleepover at our house, despite an evening of overindulgence and musical beds. The boys were kept busy with a couple of playdates. I did a little Easter sewing. We had an afternoon of bowling with friends which turned into a pizza party complete with wine and ice cream and a many more kids than adults.

These kids have all known each other since birth and they interact with the ease and familiarity of cousins. The ringleaders are the flower girls from our wedding, almost all grown up. These boys operate as an amoeba, flowing through the house and backyard in boisterous and sometimes obnoxious mass of lightsabers and chaos. And Clementine, who inevitably finds her place in somebody's lap, is the very last baby in this crew.

We sat around drinking wine and watched some home movies of the kids that included a few frames of younger versions of us, before wedding, before kids.  Brent's hair sure used to be more brown than grey. I see now that my face has grown much more angular, having lost the softness of being twenty something and without any real adult responsibilities.

I also think I probably should have used more sunscreen.

Peering into the window of our old lives made me feel like I've been married for a long time. Sometimes we get too caught up in the what's for dinner?'s  and who is on a time out for hitting who and it's become easy to forget that we were once together just for the sake of being together. For a time it was just us and that was enough.

I half wanted to reach into the screen and shake that babyfaced me by the shoulders and tell her that yes, she would survive grad school. And yes, this guy really was The One. And that one day soon all of her insecurities about the big unknowns would be folded into a life so rich and full of family that she'd feel like she was bursting at the seams on a daily basis. That she would never again know what it's like to feel boredom. That she would forget what it means to be lonely.

Instead I vowed to take my own home movies. And then, miraculously, in the next few days I actually did.

One afternoon this week found us with some cabin fever and so we went on our default excursion to Mt. Pisgah. Naturally we were caught in a rainshower, and of course nobody had a jacket. A sleepy Sawyer wanted to be carried until he found a giant stick, and then he whined the entire rest of the time because his stick was too heavy to drag. Clementine got fussy and needed to be held with her face buried in my neck in order to sleep. Everybody's feet got wet and muddy.

We decided to call it a day and admit defeat. Brent used to get grouchy about these things, but now he just sighs and herds us all back to the parking lot with as much patience as he has left. Once in the car, the sun breaks through the clouds. We pull around the parking lot and Clementine drifts back to sleep, Sawyer's thumb finds his mouth and his eyes begin to droop, Jack plugs into an audiobook. Brent reaches over and takes my hand. He holds it in his lap and runs his thumb across my palm as he has done thousands of times over the past ten years.

A comfortable silence surrounds us as we drive toward the sun.

"So..." Brent turns to me. "What sounds good for dinner?"

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Shower Power

I'm pretty much exhausted these days and so I'm looking to recycle some material here. I am sure that funny and noteworthy things are happening all around me, but I don't have the wherewithal to retain/articulate any of them. Babies. Man. They really should sleep more. Four year olds. Man. They really shouldn't ask so many questions.

So... remember last year when I blogged a pathetic tale about Jack's swimming lessons? I am happy to report that after hours and hours at the pool under the tutelage of many different, varyingly competent teenage professionals AND hundreds of dollars later, Jack can actually kind of swim. Mostly.

And I haven't really minded spending the last year at the pool too much. I have plenty of fond memories of going to my own swimming lessons at Willamalane Pool, coming in from the rain to inhale that warm and sticky chlorinated humidity. The echoes of voices off those cinder block walls in the locker room. Convincing my mom to let me leave my stick straight hair in braids afterwards so that I'd have "curly" hair in the morning.

(In hindsight I have to question her judgement on that one. Giving your kid bangs that start at the crown of her head is bad enough. Letting her think her apres-swim mass of kinked and green hued hair looks anything remotely close to curly is borderline child neglect, IMHO.)

Both boys have been taking swim lessons pretty much every session since last fall. They recently decided that they needed goggles, a la "every other kid in my class has goggles" etc. I suspect that kids in goggles are the bane of all swim teachers' existences, and so I put it off for as long as I could. I'd tell them, sure, we'll get you some goggles and then I'd just let them forget about it until the next time we came to the pool. And then it was like Groundhog's Day. Rinse. Repeat. Encore.

But then one day Sawyer and I were out shopping and he spied a pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles goggles for $3.99 and I knew the jig was up. And damn, who knew that those kids would get that excited about swim goggles? That night we were running late to swim lessons and so I didn't have time to adjust the straps or anything and just sent the kids into the water with their new goggles stretched awkwardly onto their faces. Jack took his off within a few minutes of his lesson, but Sawyer's stayed on the whole time. He emerged from the pool thirty minutes later with completely fogged up and water logged goggles. I pulled them off his eyes and released a small flood of pool water down his cheeks. "Mom, I really love my new goggles," he grinned.

So, I'd say our time at the pool has been a success. Jack can side breathe, he can dive, his backstroke is coming along nicely, and his cannonball off the diving board usually earns some applause from the audience.

Sawyer can paddle around with the noodle, he reluctantly jumps off the diving board into his teacher's arms, and it's been months since he's fallen off the learner's platform. Success in the pool is relative.


But there has been one little hitch: the locker room. Most nights I take the boys to swimming and Clementine comes along for the ride while Brent stays home and makes dinner. This means I am in charge of showering the kids after their lessons. There's a big sign outside the ladies' room about boys over five using the family changing rooms, but that means standing around for 10+ minutes with shivering, purple lipped kids and possibly a crying baby while you wait for one to open up. And even if you are lucky enough to finally get into one of those family changing rooms, it's cramped and muggy, every bench seems suspect of germs and suspicious liquids, and I've discovered I'm not so good at balancing a carseated baby on one hip while simultaneously shampooing someone else's hair.

So I blatantly ignore those laminated rules and drag my boys into the ladies' locker room to shower and change among the ladies, which actually works okay most of the time. There has been a lot of preteaching about not staring, giving people privacy, washing your boy parts quickly, etc. Unfortunately this last session coincided with a water aerobics class and the water aerobics ladies hit the showers each night about 30 seconds before we did. They are nice, sweet older ladies who smile at my boys, coo over Clementine, and then congregate in the showers to talk about the books they are reading and the quilts they are sewing. Nice, sweet older ladies who peel off those swimsuits right there in front of God and everybody and continue to prattle on about books and quilts, mercifully oblivious to the fact that my boys' jaws have hit those shower floors and no amount of redirecting on my part can get them to remember the no staring rule.

So that's been a bit rough.

But at least nobody's hair is turning green.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Party Time

We have this friend who throws these amazing, totally over the top, wildly outlandish birthday parties for her kids. My kids will FREAK OUT whenever one of these invitations arrives by mail and Jack has been known to sequester himself away with these invitations so that he can caress the paper and memorize all of the details and then question us repeatedly about how many days, hours, and minutes are left in his countdown to the big event. And who can blame him? These parties are the closest things to Disneyland that my kids have ever experienced. Everyone is invited. No details are overlooked, and you know you're going to go home with a gigantic haul of party favors.

But me? I am barely hanging on by a thread. I think I might accidentally present myself as someone who is capable of pulling off a creative and cool birthday party, but this is sadly not the case. We make it through Christmas and then it's birthday season.  And two parties within three weeks is too much for me. I just can't do it. Goodie bags and party favors and thematic decor? I hate that shit.

If only my kids could have those effortlessly festive summer birthdays. We could throw a BBQ, spend the afternoon at the pool, go to a park.. Hell, we could just go totally retro and just have kids come to our house for cake and ice cream. But no, our winter house has a maximum capacity of about 8 people otherwise we are all sitting on each others' laps. Hosting a February or March party means standing awkwardly against a wall trying to flatten ourselves so that the whirlwind of kids can pass by without contact. Yelling to the person standing two feet away from you over the shrieking gaggle of partying children. I got a headache just typing that last sentence.

I did make the executive decision that our birthday banner needed an upgrade. Despite our best efforts to raise them in a utopian character-free cave, my kids are all about action figures and commercial decor. Mom's sewing + Star Wars fabric = compromise. Clementine woke me up at 5am so that I could finish our new Star Wars banner in time for the birthdays.

Sawyer's birthday would be easy. He really only has one friend and all he wanted was a trip to the arcade for some pinball and cupcakes. We extended his party to include dinner out and frozen yogurt with friends, mostly because I didn't feel like cooking that night.

I wonder if I will ever have a picture of one of my kids blowing out the birthday candles NOT surrounded by beer glasses. I doubt it.

Jack's party was going to be the challenge. You will recall that Jack was a total punk on his actual birthday and pretty much ruined our weekend in Sunriver. So I think it would have been totally fair to skip the friend party and chalk the whole thing up as a valuable life lesson, something along the lines of don't fuck with Mom and Dad. But then I was at a silent auction fundraiser and I lowballed a gift certificate for a kid's party at Kick City, our local indoor soccer field, and I won!

I have been deliberately keeping a low profile at Jack's school since I want them to think that I am incompetent so they don't ask me to room parent or run a table at a rummage sale or count laps at a jog-a-thon or anything like that. It's actually been pretty easy to take a backseat and leave the driving to all of those SAHMs who have perfect teeth, limitless enthusiasm, and timeshares in Cabo. And I figure they are doing a fine job organizing the class parties and chaperoning the field trips so why mess with a good thing? But this also means that I don't know the other parents, and so when Jack was concocting his guest list for the soccer birthday party, I realized that I would need to somehow maintain my illusion of incompetence when it comes to classroom volunteer activities while simultaneously assuring them that future playdates at my house would be just fine under my supervision.

(Not that anyone should want to come to a playdate at our house. Jack's friend was over today and he came out to the living room announcing, "I think Jack needs to take a nap.")

I am happy to tell you that the party was a success! They came, a coach led a lengthy loosely-soccer-related set of activities while the grown ups poured beers, we handed each kid a juice box and a cupcake, there was a blizzard of wrapping paper and balloons, then everybody went home.

Jack requested a snack spread of yogurt covered pretzels, Cheetos (I bought the "natural" kind because compromise), and grapes.

Little did we know that Grandpa Curt's parked motorcycle would be the highlight of the afternoon. Next year everybody gets their birthday party in a parking lot.

Birthday in a parking lot? Mother, please. I'll be having the neon-pink-super-princess-ballerina-build-a-bear-tea-party.

At least I'll have the summer to prepare.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Campin' at Belknap

We had a much better week around here, thankyouverymuch. There was some of this:

And then there was this:

And for some reason everybody decided they had to wash their bikes with the squirt gun. So yeah. Fun times.

So, enough about those kids. Let's talk about MEEEEE!

I've been in a carpool for the past six years. Carpool members may come and go, but the importance of carpool in my life always stays the same. You would think that the act of getting into a car with other people to go to a common destination would be no big deal, but there's a zen to carpool. It's a lifestyle, really.  My current carpool is pretty solid. We've laughed, we've cried, we've ordered and consumed roughly 5000 coffees, one time we even killed a cat. The 'pool is a big part of my life.

My carpoolmates are both relatively close to retirement. This pains me, but they are good sports and don't talk too much about it in my presence. However, sometimes they talk about things like PERS or RVs and campin' because, well, that's what you do when you get to a certain age.

I have mixed feelings about camping. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about the great outdoors and partaking in nature's bounty and all that. I can handle roughing it- I grew up camping. My dad once drove our family into the Baja desert on an ambitious family camping vacation, most of which I have blocked from my mind because I was 14 and family vacations can often be scarring for the teenage crowd... I do remember that it was rocky and dusty and flat. Instead of white sand beaches, palm trees and surfers we were greeted by frigid water, wide open spaces, and wind storms.

My dad was determined to continue our odyssey, despite the fact that no one else seemed to be having a good time. (My mom put on a brave face, but I distinctly remember being crammed into the back of an Isuzu Trooper with my nausea prone brother praying to GOD that my walkman, my final link to teenage society and popular culture, would not run out of batteries). One night our camp was ransacked by wild dogs. (Wild dogs who were Mexican wild dogs and so they stole only the cheese and tortillas from our cooler. ANYWAY.)

It rained a buckets on us and one day we had been driving in the downpour for hours upon hours along this little ribbon of a highway. I think it had been at least a few hours since another car had passed us and the sun was beginning to set. The thought of setting up camp in the rain was almost too much for me to bear (what can I say, I was 14. It was a melodramatic year.). Suddenly we saw this huge, sprawling resort on the horizon. My mom turned to my dad and calmly stated, "We are staying there tonight." He was smart enough not to argue and we spent one glorious vacation-like night in this fancy Mexican resort. My brother will remind me that we watched "Nuns on the Run" and drank Orange Fanta. For that night only, our Mexican camping vacation was a success.

The Mexico trip didn't sour me on camping, I actually (miraculously) still like to pitch a tent, build a fire and bask in the great outdoors. But these kids have really thrown a wrench into our camping over the past six years. I hate it when people wax philosophical about camping and kids and how you just go out and do all the things that you did before you have kids and blah blah blah. The reality is that NO, you don't go backpacking with your kids because your kids have WAY TOO MUCH SHIT to put into a backpack AND even if you did cram everything that you'd need for them into a backpack, those little punks won't carry their own backpacks and so you're the jackass hauling your backpack, your kid, and his backpack into the woods.* And that's no fun.

Also, laundry. Need I say more?

Nope. Camping with kids is like tofu. It's its own thing.

*We have totally been those jackasses. It sucked.

If only there was a way to camp with your kids without having to actually camp... If only I knew someone with all of their camping gear conveniently stored in a recreational vehicle...

Enter my carpool. And an invitation to "camp" for the day at Belknap hot springs. Oh hell yes.

Best vacation I've had in awhile. And I didn't even have to carry anyone's backpack.