Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thank goodness it's only once a year....

Christmas post-children really just absolutely kills me. It saps my strength. It makes me crazy. I feel like all I do is spend spend spend and bake bake bake and wrap wrap wrap. When it's all over it takes me days to recover.

It's exhausting.

Our second Oregon Christmas was full of new challenges this year. The big news was the mini-blizzard that hit our area - the Columbia Rive Gorge saw the largest snowfall in over forty years. Kbear got an extra week off from preschool and Banana had late starts until six fresh inches fell on Wednesday and they finally threw in the towel for the last two days before break.

People in Chicago may have scoffed at our measly 18-22 inches of snow (depending on where in the yard you stuck your tape measurer) but let me tell you Midwesterners something; when you get rid of road salt, your whole damn world gets turned upside down. Tree hugging hippies in the Pacific Northwest don't use road salt - they apparently prefer to see how many 360s assorted motorists of all ages can do on their way to the grocery store. And when it snows that much, EVERYONE goes to the grocery store! Then you've got to understand the plowing situation....there isn't one. The entire week that the snow came down, I saw ONE actual snowplow. ONE. The rest of the time I watched people use everything from pickups and four wheelers with plows attached to them to a friggin' BACKHOE in a collective attempt to move the white stuff from our roads and driveways.

And then there was the situation out on the one major interstate that leads through town. It's the only way to get in or out of town in any direction.

CLOSED.

We had no mail service for almost a week. UPS and FedEx took an extended local holiday - the WEEK OF CHRISTMAS. It was horribly frustrating and made me happy that I haven't joined the ranks of hard-core online shoppers just yet, because let me tell you, they were screwed.

It also meant that freight couldn't come in or out of town. And after awhile, Fred Meyer and Safeway both had a very "Children of the Corn" feel to them as supplies dwindled. But December 22nd, here's what you saw if you went to the store.

No baby oranges




No sour cream




And no milk.








Freaky huh? And to this native Chicagoan who knows snow, it was downright bizarre.


But hey, we survived. This year the kiddos had a fantastic Christmas. Santa did what he was supposed to do, and both Grandmas actually respected our request for a scaled back year and gave each munchkin just a few practical fun gifts. Skippy restrained himself quite admirably during his last minute bonanza, and I managed to pull it all together pretty damn beautifully if I do say so myself. Among my personal stash I managed to score some new fuzzy socks courtesy of my kids, an armband for my iPod and a HUGE Itunes card among other goodies from my hubby, and all sorts of other assorted loot. Banana digs her (cheap) MP3 player and Kbear loves her keyboard, although I have a bit of buyer's remorse over that particularly loud gift, especially after the Chunk discovered the power switch. Chunk is happiest on his ride-on firetruck that I discovered has no off switch, and although I love it when my child is happy, someday my sister-in-law will pay ever so dearly for that particular present.

But overall it was a great year. And in the end, I was so happy that Skippy kept me from breaking out the sleds that we had bought for under the tree a few days early - with the snow falling I was dying to give them to the kids before the big day but the wait was so worth it when we took them all up and down the hill a few times. Plus, Dixie managed to take my new favorite family picture.

It was a good year. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Christmas Eve tradition....

Christmas of 2001 (like, totally forever ago) was the first Christmas that I spent out of my parents' home. It was a somewhat surreal experience. I was 23 years old, three months pregnant, and living in sin with Skippy while we sang Jingle Bells and coordinated plans for our I-refuse-to-call-it-a-shotgun-wedding, which was just a little over three weeks away.

Skippy being the sensitive soul that he is (stop laughing) knew that I was feeling out of sorts. At twenty three years old, I was still fully into waking up on Christmas morning in my twin bed at my parents' house, and opening presents all over the family room while mom made her signature blueberry-muffins-from-a-box. It was TRADITION. And I loved it.

So he rolled up his sleeves and endeavored to make my first Christmas out of the 'rents house a smashing success, embracing his mile wide romantic streak (seriously, stop laughing).

He was determined to spoil me. We tackled the mall, drank sparkling cider, and wrapped gifts. Two nights before Christmas, we went out and got the most Charlie Brown-i-est looking tree you'd ever seen from Frank's Nursery in Naperville (alas, no longer in business) and decorated it with white and red lights that we found in the bargain bin at Target - the very same lights that made me almost burst into tears when I went to put them on the tree this year and realized that two strings were now officially half dead. He made every effort to cater to my mood swings, meet my cravings, and hold my hair back when morning sickness struck. He was the poster fiance and Daddy-to-be. And deep down inside, he still worried that I'd find my Christmas lacking. It was the only one we would ever spend as "Skippy and Amy" - by the time the next one rolled around, the bump in my belly would be six months old. And he wanted it to be special.

Somewhere in the craziness, we began a tradition that has survived almost seven years of marriage, four residential addresses, and three kids. We began our Christmas Eve gift exchange.

Skippy absolutely can NOT keep a gift a secret. I mean...he CAN, but he wiggles around like a squirrel on pixie sticks and taunts you from the moment he makes the purchase until the last ribbon comes off on Christmas morning. The man loves to give gifts, and adores coordinating surprises. And as his legal spouse, this has its perks.

That one single child-free Christmas Eve night, we decided that we would each pick one gift for the other to open. This felt like sacrilege to me - immediate family gifts were to be opened on CHRISTMAS DAY AND NO OTHER in mom and dad's house. But it was sweet and romantic and fun to begin a new tradition while we teetered on the cusp of a life and a family together. And as the years have passed, it has become one of my favorite few moments of the holiday season. We always wait until all of the kids are in bed - then it's just the two of us like it was during that first Christmas Eve night. Sometimes we make a few drinks and open gifts by the red and white lights of the tree. Sometimes, we grab them haphazardly a few minutes before midnight while in the midst of baking cookies together or arguing over the consistency of the fudge.

And sometimes, Skippy still manages to outdo himself.

This year inspiration struck my sweet husband. I think he was really striving to do something special to shake me out of my holiday funk. Admittedly, Christmas wasn't as sparkly for me this year, having lost my holiday motivation in my quest to mope about being in a house for a second Christmas that I swore we'd only spend one Christmas in. I didn't do much decorating and I'm still up to my ass in chocolate chips from all of the baking I didn't do. And Skippy being Skippy, with his huge heart and his romantic streak, went out of his way to make me happy.

We arrived home from Laura's Finger Food Festivities around quarter to six on Christmas Eve night. I had my Mother-in-law's favorite potato soup simmering on the stove and Skippy rushed me through a bowl of it, saying only that we had a time constraint that we had to meet.

So feeling somewhat annoyed, I slurped my way through the soup and bread as quickly as I could. My kids were giggly - they weren't in on the surprise but they knew that something was up. My Mother-in-law kept grinning at me. I burned my tongue on the last bite and wondered what would happen next.

A package appeared on the table at my place. It was small, and it was cold. Later I found out that it had been in the fridge. I glanced around at all the smiling faces and unwrapped it while Skippy slipped outside and started up the minivan.

Inside was a bag of apple slices and a note:

Your Instructions:
1. Put on your boots.
2. Put on your hat, gloves, and coat.
3. Put these in your pocket.
4. Get in the van.
5. Don't ask questions.

Totally intriguing right? I quickly followed my directions and slid into the barely-warm passenger seat of the van, next to a grinning husband.

If you know me, you know that I absolutely suck at receiving surprises. Of course I started asking questions and of course, they weren't answered. But after a few moments, a light bulb as bright as the dang old star of Bethlehem went off inside my head.

"YOU ARE TAKING ME TO FRED MEYER!" I squealed.

He raises an eyebrow at me. "Why would I do that? It's Christmas Eve. Fred's is closed Ame."

"BECAUSE THERE IS A HORSE AT FRED MEYER!" Apparently I was trying to shatter the van's windows in my excitement.

Mr. Cool-as-a-cucumber replied, "Why on earth would there be a HORSE at Fred Meyer? It's a grocery store silly!"

Of course by then we were only blocks away and everything was as clear as the three foot icicles hanging off my porch at home. I lowered my voice several octaves and played along, answering "Because the horse at Fred Meyer gives CARRIAGE RIDES!"

And sure enough, there they were in the empty and snow covered parking lot at Freddie's, waiting for us. Skippy treated me to a half hour horse drawn carriage ride around town, with his arm warm around me and cozy blankets over our laps while we admired the miscellaneous holiday decorations everyone had up. People waved from inside their houses, and little kids squealed, "LOOKIT mommy, it's a horse!" and pressed their noses up against car windows as we passed in intersections.

And after our ride, of course we fed our trusty steed his apple slices.

Skippy may rarely get his underwear in the laundry basket. His favorite computer game annoys the hell out of me. He doesn't always help with the dishes and he has a knack for passing along a poopie baby.

But the man knows how to keep a Christmas tradition alive.

Love you babe.

More holiday blogging to come!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's almost that time!



The W Family would like to wish you and yours and very happy, very merry Christmas this year! It would appear that most of us are under some form of cold precipitation, and we apologize to those of you who will be receiving presents and cards late this year due to the suspended mail service out here in Oregon, but you are most absolutely in our thoughts! Be safe and be merry!

With love from Amy, Skippy, Banana, KBear, and Chunk

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How to survive your first Oregon blizzard

Let's get something straight...

We do not (despite what my cousin Erin believes) live completely in the middle of nowhere. I mean, we have next door neighbors on both sides. We have a post office, two grocery stores, two tattoo parlors, a PetCo, Starbucks, and McDonald's WITH a playplace, among many other things.

But after growing up in the Chicago suburbs (where 'burbs means 60 miles away from the city and still sprawling), Oregon has been an adjustment. One of the biggest issues has been the weather. It's weird and different. You think Chicago weather is unpredictable? You ain't seen nuthin' sister.

After the novelty of having to explain the concept of a "heat index" to our new friends wore off, I started working on getting used to the often windy and extreme weather that the Pacific Northwest regularly treats us to. This summer we had several days above 110 degrees. In the spring, it rains. In the fall, it rains. And in the winter, it usually rains and VERY occasionally snows.

When we first moved here, I thought that Oregon was full of wussies because the sparse snow would often immediately close school for the day. I didn't get it. I was used to bundling up and trudging off to school in minus twenty degree winds, feeling my damp hair freeze on my way to the bus stop! Two inches of snow equals no school? What was WRONG with these people?

Then I realized a few things:
1. Oregon has hills. Lots of them.

2. There are very few snowplows, unless you live on a road that is en route to a ski resort.

3. Road salt is a foreign concept to the hippie tree hugging goodness that is Oregon.

As time has passed, the snow issue has become quite a point of contention between Oregon and me. I LOVE snow. I really do. I have fond memories of playing outside in the snow with brother and sister while my Mom watched from the kitchen window (smart lady) and I still remember my Dad taking me to THE BIG SLED HILL in Naperville for a few runs after a good storm. I like to shovel. I really really do. It's good cardio. And last year I thought it was pretty cool here that we could see the grass at our house, covered in nothing but frost and flurries, and then drive a half hour and have snow to our butts on Mt. Hood. That is COOL STUFF.

Cue this year. Our first full winter in Oregon. Apparently, we are currently experiencing THE STORM OF STORMS *cue ominous music* and I've got to tell you, it's caught me off guard ass over teakettle.

We currently have nineteen inches of snow in our front yard. And it's still falling. We are officially under a winter storm warning / blizzard watch until sometime Monday. Friends who live higher up than we do already have FEET of snow piled against their houses. They are literally snowed in, Little House style. Yesterday I almost got into a fight with a lady Black Friday style over the last bag of Nestle Milk Chocolate Morsels at Fred's because let's face it, why use the store brand when you can hit senior citizens over the head with your Cheerios for the last bag of Nestle goodness?

All of this leads me to my latest blog entry, complete with pictures:

How to survive your first Oregon blizzard.

First of all, steal your husband's bitchin' ski hat, as modeled above. You know which one - the one that he simply had to have for the Google ski trip last year. The one that you made fun of for days. Because if there's gonna be a blizzard, you're gonna need a hat.



Next, proceed to check the weather channel's site constantly on both your computer and your phone. Sprint down the hallway shrieking THE SKY IS FALLING (while wearing your hat of course) and inform your husband that you need to run out for candles, flashlight batteries, and Doritos. Throw a slipper at him when he laughs at you about everything except the Doritos.


Brave the roads in your minivan that does NOT have snow tires or four wheel drive and accompany the rest of town to the grocery store. Circle the parking lot at least six times before deciding to go hit the Dutch Brother's hut for coffee because really, who needs food? Get your son a chocolate milk to prevent pure mutiny later on when it's time to be strapped into the shopping cart.


Next, beat up old ladies for chocolate chips (see above) and stock up on bread, milk, and Doritos. And eggs. And flour. And all sorts of stuff that will do you absolutely no good if the power goes out unless you are the Ma Ingalls incarnate.










Go home and stack firewood in the house. Attempt to rescue outside toys from snowdrifts. Laugh at the poor dog when she tries to pee. Make a list of things that you fully intend on baking. Procrastinate baking. Do crafts with your kids (thanks for the kits Nana!) and drink hot chocolate. Make snow angels.











Rest assured that if any homeless degenerates try to barge into your house in search of warmth, you have several large icicles at your disposal for all of your stabbing and beating home defense needs.



And try not to worry about losing power.


After all, you bought flashlights.


And besides...

You can always fire up the grill.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Vacation Bible School and the Mechanical Bull...not your typical Saturday.

And so another weekend flies by in the W household - it seems as if I just settle in to enjoy them and they are over. But hey, things are busy. It's a busy time of year. Saturday alone was jam-packed full of stuff!

Saturday dawned bright and early with a one day "Christmas For Kids" vacation bible school being held at one of the churches in town. Now if you know us at all, you know that we typically don't attend church. In Skippy's case, we outright AVOID church. But we have said from the start that we want to let our kids explore all different beliefs and faiths, so when an opportunity comes up for a little youth ministry (especially around the holidays), we usually take it. Not to mention the added bonus (at least in my mind) of being able to go Christmas shopping with just my two handsome boys and no girlies with a mega case of the Christmas "I Wants."

So it was with a light heart that I dropped the girls off at 9:30, smiling as they skipped off to decorate cookies and sing carols. From there, I went straight downtown to get a haircut - a truly extraordinary event considering my last trim had been in Chicago in July. To say the least, I was badly overdue for some hair TLC. And once my new coif was dry, fuzzy, and stuffed under my awesome blue knit hat, I cruised back up the hill and picked up my big man and my little man and we beat a path to Hood River, 20 miles away and the site of the nearest WalMart.

Apparently, everyone else had the same idea that we did - we ran into various fellow-parents who were also kiddo-free thanks to Vacation Bible School and we got into a minor argument while debating the merits of various sleds for the kids. Chunk be-bopped to the carols being broadcast and Skippy picked out a dashing new Christmas shirt for the party we were attending later in the day. We shopped. We chatted. We had lunch (just me and my boys!) and then we cruised back to town just in time to stash our new purchases in the garage and pick up the girl children, who chattered all the way home about the Christmas star and singing Silent Night until we tossed them all into bed for a quick snooze.

Then just a few hours later, we were heading out the door again - only this time I was wearing make up AND my *good* bra! It was truly a miraculous Christmas miracle - my boobs were where they belonged! Our first stop was Laura's house - Laura my parenting soul mate was braving all three of my children for multiple hours while my husband and I hit the Google Holiday Party. She is a brave soul...or possibly just a huge glutton for punishment. But either way, she was stuck - we had watched one of her munchkins overnight the weekend before and we both felt that one of her kids for 24 hours was about equal to three of my kids for four hours, so it all worked out.

Blissfully child-free, we coasted down the hill to the Civic Auditorium in town. It's hard to feel cool and sexy on a date with your husband when you're in an empty minivan and an empty McDonald's french fry carton keeps bumping into your foot when you turn, but I was really working to persevere. Then after Skippy made fun of my parking job (you try parking with a french fry carton constantly annoying YOU) we made our way up to the ballroom.

Just like the year before, the decorations in the lobby and up the stairs were gorgeous. The smell of food wafted out to meet us at the entrance and my stomach grumbled. The tables were set. You could hear the tinkling of ice in glass as the bar organized itself. The DJ was in place.....

And there was a huge inflatable pool with a mechanical bull set up prominently in one entire corner of the ballroom.

Huh?

Talk about disconcerting. But it was just too much fun for words - just SEEING it there was enough to make me giggle. The thing was HUGE. And the "pool" was just too far over the top forget sawdust on a dirty bar floor - this bull had STYLE! He had even brought his own landing pad!

Thus my second Google Christmas party kicked off. We ate, we drank, we mingled. We entered raffles and admired a brand new baby. We held hands and we ate and drank some more. Skippy played a few hands of blackjack. I socialized with all of our friends.

Then my husband decided he was going to ride the bull.

...

.....

........

Yeah....that didn't last long.

So we ate and drank and socialized some more.

And finally, at the late LATE hour of TEN O'CLOCK (ohhhhh party animals beware) we picked up our sweaty overwound kids from an exhausted Laura and we headed home.

So yeah. Bible School and a Bull. Just a Saturday in W World.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Technology Sucks Sometimes.....

I know, an ironic statement from a woman who pays the bills with Google money, right?

But seriously, I am feeling very anti-technology this week. Here's the deal - last Tuesday, my dryer decided that it was going to stop getting hot, thus not drying any clothes. This minor bump in the road of life has led to several alternative solutions in the quest to keep my family in clean underwear while we wait for our warranty service call:

Solution One: I can wash my laundry here at home and then take it to dry at Laura's house. Laura's house is nice because there is always coffee on, I feel like I can show up in pajama pants, and no one cares if my kids act like rabid monkeys. After all, as mentioned before Laura is my parenting soulmate. The drawback is that I have to work it around school bus pick up, preschool, and nap time. This can be a hassle.

Solution Two: I can wash my laundry here at home and then take it to dry at Charlotte's house. Now Charlotte's house is nice because I go there in the evening after my kids and her kids are in bed and we sit around and play around with picasa and drink strawberry daquris while my laundry dries. The drawback to this is that no matter how genuinely welcoming they are, I feel like I'm encroaching on their evening...and I occassionally wake up with a laundry hangover the next day.

This brings us to Solution Three: I can wash my laundry at home and then take it to the laundramat to dry. I have done this three times this week. This is nice because I can dry everything I have in under a half hour. That is the one and only nice thing about it.

The laundramat is a strange, sad, depressing place.

First of all there's the "laundramat supervisor," who peers over your shoulder while you fold your husband's underwear in between foggy sessions of chainsmoking just outside the door before meticulously vacuuming up all of the lint from the inside and outside of each and every dryer while humming the theme to Days of Our Lives.

And then of course there are your intereting (and often disconcerting) quarter-carrying fellow landramat patrons who either want to talk your ear off or make you feel instantly uneasy while you watch your towels and socks tumble 'round and 'round and count down each and every minute on the timer.

So yeah......having a broken dryer sucks.

Of course, you may be asking yourself why I don't use my clothesline. After all it's been sunny and pleasant here in Oregon considering that it's December. And believe it or not, I've actually utilized it a few times this week for a few blankets. But that's as far as I'll go. For one thing, I don't like my skivvies hanging out there flapping in the breeze for all the world to see. And for another, my name isn't Laura Freaking Ingalls. I have a beautiful shiny blue front loader that simplifies my life. I don't need no dang clothesline.

*sigh*

Then to add insult to injury, on Friday the one and only TV in the house decided to poop out on us. AGAIN. This is the second time in less than 18 months that it's gone kaput. It's like a huge black lemon that intermitedly lets me watch Boston Legal. And NOOOOOO Mr. Customer Service Dude That I Waited Forty Minutes To Talk To, NOOOOO we don't have an extended warranty. Why? WHY? Because my Daddy raised me to believe that they are a ripoff scam and besides, who expects their pretty shiny new TV to crap out twice in a year and a half ANYWAY???????

>Deep Breaths<

So after a long Dora-The-Explorer-free weekend of kiddos playing with legos at 6:15 each morning, today I finally got to talk to a manager who agreed to cover the repair for free. But after that if the dang thing breaks again, we will be the proud owners of a very heavy 42 inch paperweight. Nice huh?

That just about sums it up. No dryer, no TV. My normal evenings filled with watching sitcoms while folding my family's assorted wardrobes are indefinitely on hold. And as if that's not enough, over the weekend my eight year old hair dryer decided that it had blown dry its last head of hair. It's limping along if I'm gentle with it, but I know that it's only a matter of time before it too joins the great appliance junk pile in the sky.

*sigh*

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's three-fifteen in the morning

And I'm wide awake.

I'm dressed. My shoes are on. I have a backpack slung across my shoulders and a blanket draped over my arm.

I'm waiting to see headlights.

Sure enough, Laura's Montero pulls to the curb in front of my house five minutes later. I ease the front door open, slip out of the house, and skip down to hop into her toasty warm vehicle.

It's the day after Thanksgiving. And we're going shopping.

Laura is virtually bouncing in her seat behind the wheel as we make our way across town to pick up a fellow crazy Mommy, our girlfriend Nicole. It's three forty a.m. when we merge onto the freeway and head towards Portland.

Contrary to popular belief, we're not crazy. At least, not in the normal sense. We're just three moms with nine children between us who need to make sure that this coming Christmas is on par with every other Christmas in the past. And with the economy slowly but surely sliding further downhill, finding the deals seemed even more important this year.

As usual, I appoint myself to deer watch duty as Laura navigates the dark highway through the Gorge. It's Nicole's first time shopping on Black Friday, but Laura and I have braved the crowds before. We go over our strategy on the 80 mile trip into the city.

At 4:45 we pull into the Walmart parking lot outside of Wood Village, Oregon. Or rather, we pull into line to pull into the parking lot. The crowd is unreal - bigger than any Black Friday I've ever seen. The adrenaline starts pumping as the three of us join the masses.

We start creeping steadily towards the entrance at 5:03. Before we make it to the door, the first lucky shoppers are already coming out with carts laden with everything from four dollar pajamas to big screen TVs. After what feels like forever the harsh fluorescent lights wash over us and we confront the churning sea of wall-to-wall bodies head on. Clinging to our cart for dear life, we begin to canvass the store, trying not to roll over any one's toes and occasionally getting bumped in the rear by someone who isn't so considerate.

After almost an hour, we throw in the towel. The crowd is just too damn big, and it's starting to get cranky. Even though none of us manage to get everything we were hoping for, we all manage to score some great deals.

And so we check out.

And then we load up.

And ten minutes later, we're in line at Target in time for their six o'clock opening. Further shopping madness ensues before we decide that it's finally time for breakfast. The day feels like it's already been going on forever and it's only eight a.m!

We sit, we eat, and then we head out to do it some more. Fifteen hours from the time Laura picked me up, she drops me off at home just in time to take my kids to the Starlight Parade.




What.A.Day. Just call me Santa.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gobble Gobble, Friends and Loved Ones

(That's Chunk's "Where's the turkey?" face.)

So in case I didn't talk to you today during the FEAST OF EATING, I hope you had a warm, safe, and overall splendid Thanksgiving. We here in the W household had a genuinely fantastic day!

Turkey Day began like it always does - with the parade. While the kiddos and I sat on the couch in our PJs watching the Buzz Lightyear balloon float across the screen followed by a much-too-obviously lip-syncing Miley Cyrus, Skippy wrestled his 20 pound bird into the oven, slathered in white wine garlic butter and ready to roast throughout the afternoon.

The kids and I stayed warm and snug in a nest a blankets until close to the end of the parade, when a truly blissful holiday event took place - all of my children took naps at the same time. This miraculous and heavenly event gave me the opportunity to run to the grocery store for (only) the forty second time this week before attempting to find an available copy of Wal-E somewhere around town. Defeated on the movie front, I did at least manage to make it back home with the last necessary ingredients for our Thanksgiving Day Feast.

Skippy and I puttered around the house until sometime in the early afternoon when our kiddos roused themselves from their assorted beds and we all shared a snack while we enjoyed another Thanksgiving tradition - watching the Dog Show. We LOOOOOOVE the dog show in the W house. Skippy and I debate the merits of all of the pooches and the kids laugh at me while I watch each and every commercial despite the glory of the DVR. I am completely and irrevocably addicted to dog commercials. Skippy calls it "The Amy Demographic" - if a commercial has a dog in it I immediately love it, no questions asked.

The bonanza of four legged fur kept us busy for most of the afternoon. Then around three the bird came out to rest on top of the stove and a bunch of wonderful-smelling side dishes went in to heat up. Green bean casserole (blech) bubbled alongside an old OHS Drama Club staple, cheesy potato casserole while we all changed into our dinner duds and started ferrying stuff out to the car.


And at four p.m. sharp, we drove up the hill to share dinner with some very dear friends, the B Family. Katy and Aaron were gracious hosts, Kat had a beautifully elegant table set, and we all enjoyed spending a few hours eating and visiting with each other while we sipped on apple cranberry cider and found extra room for dessert. The highlight of the evening (other than Skippy's unreal turkey) was when we asked all of the kids to share what they were thankful for. My girls were fairly predictable - friends, school, mom and dad. But bless the little B man, who without hesitation announced his never ending thanks for a world that included Bon Jovi music to dance to.

Before we knew it, the kiddos wound down and it was time to head home. The munchkins were in bed by eight and Skippy and I were left to reflect on what a wonderful day it had been before I caved in and crashed early along with the kids.

It really was a perfect day. We've been through a lot in our (almost) seven year marriage but on days like Thanksgiving, I reflect on how far we've come and I think that we are stronger than ever. My children are the greatest blessing I could ever ask for. And on Thanksgiving, it's easy to let go of the bad stuff because I feel so especially thankful for all of the good. I can only hope that your day was as nice as mine!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Did you know?

My Kbear turned FIVE! Five....that's slowly but surely moving out of little kid territory and into big kid land. Five means that she can go to Kindergarten. Five means that when someone asks her how old she is, this is the last year she'll only use one hand to show them.

Five is a big girl.

Kbear's birthday rocked this year. I am so proud of the party we put together. In between all of the stress over Chunker's surgery I wasn't sure I could pull it off but in the end, it was fabulous.

A few months ago, I asked K what kind of birthday party she wanted. I had already decided that I would take the plunge and invite all of her pre-school classmates - usually I just pull together a list of all of our adult friends, with kids and without and we go from there. But everyone is busy with the holidays coming, and I thought it would be fun to let K decide who came.

It was....an adventure. LOL



Anyway, Kbear had asked for a "Puppy and Kitty" party. And during our brainstorming session, she had an epiphany that only a four year old would have - "Let's get presents for kitties and doggies, Mom!"

I was intrigued. With Christmas right around the corner, complete with it's influx of STUFF, I certainly knew that the last thing we needed was more toys for me to trip over in the middle of the night, but I wasn't sure how to turn the concept into a party. Finally, the light bulb came on.

On Sunday (the day before Chunk's hospital visit), we welcomed all of Kbear's friends to "Dr. K's Pet Clinic" and had a blast. We had asked each guest to bring their favorite "stuffed animal pet" for a check up and instead of gifts for the birthday girl, we asked each family to contribute something that the local animal shelter could use. The response was absolutely awesome - I was blown away by every one's generosity.



This year I decided not to even contemplate having a dozen kids at my house. We reserved a community room in town and it was the best move I've ever made, birthday party wise. When our mini-guests arrived, we had name tags ready for them that signified them as "Guest Vets" for the day. We read the book "I Want to be a Vet" and then sent them on their way - The kids made collars for their pets out of paper and stickers, they colored pictures for the animal shelter, and we had an exam station set up - complete with charts and checklists for each pet, measuring tapes, a scale, gauze, and an assortment of toy doctor odds and ends. We all snacked on "rabbit food" (a veggie tray), "Lizard dip" (spinach dip and crackers), and "Kitty Kat Crunchies (pretzels).

The kids played "bandage the puppy" where they wrapped each other up in toilet paper and then they raced to see who could push kitty jingle bells across their room first - using only their noses! We had a cake shaped like a bone (courtesy of the forever-creative Skippy) and ice cream and orange soda.

We had 14 kids in attendance, and it was loud and crazy and fun. I think that K had a fantastic time. And when it was all over, we had a TON of stuff for the animal shelter. Many of K's friends were sweet enough to include stickers or small gift cards or five bucks in her card as well, so she still got a little bit of loot but the majority of her haul was for the animal shelter. It was a blast.



Her party was on Sunday. Monday was Chunk's whirlwind day at the hospital, and then Tuesday, K got the spotlight again when we celebrated her actual birthday. After we dropped off all of her shelter donations (much to the overwhelming delight of the staff) we had lunch at Google and then she had her hair cut. She requested spaghetti for dinner, we opened presents from family, and then we ate cupcakes.

The two days combined to make a memorable and fun herald to my little (big) girl's fifth birthday. We can't thank her friends enough for helping us pull it off with their wonderful contributions, but most importantly, my kid had a great time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

THE CHUNK UPDATE

I seriously needed 24 hours to recover from yesterday. Twenty four hours that included at least ten hours of sleep (I got eight) and at least four advil (I took six).

It was without a doubt one of the longest and most stressful overly emotional days of my parenting career. This is the stuff they don't talk to you about before you have kids - moments like the one when they wheel your baby's metal hospital crib away from you towards the operating room.

I cried, of course. I do that. I'm a crier. But Skippy told me that all things considered, I did very well. Thank goodness he was there to keep me under control. He is the reason I was a pudding-like mess instead of a plain old puddle of snot. And in the midst of all of the emotional angst, I gained a new appreciation for the overall health of my kids. Some people there have been through hell, and I have so much admiration for them, although I know that they are just doing what they have to do. This was our first visit to a children's hospital, and the chances were excellent that it would be our only one. Some of these people consider it a second home, and even though your heart breaks for them, you feel so blessed.

But anyway, here's how it all went down at Emanuel Children's yesterday.

We hit the road at about 5:40. We needed to check in at 7:30, and it's a long dark drive through the Gorge before sunrise. Skippy took the wheel while I self appointed myself to deer duty, much to my husband's annoyance. But seriously, not too long ago he took out not one Bambi, and not two Bambis, but THREE so I wasn't taking any chances, since he appears to be some sort of cosmic deer magnet. Luckily, traffic was heavier and it was no longer mating season, so I guess the combination of cars and the lack of hormones kept the deer snug in the woods doing whatever deer do. For his part, Chunk seemed puzzled about the entire endeavor, but pleased to be spending some one on one time with mom and dad. He chattered at us for the first bit of the trip and then settled into his seat to watch the scenery go by (and presumably to help me watch for deer, of course).

We checked in on time at the hospital (a major feat for us, we are notoriously late) and for the next few hours we proceeded to bounce between Chunk's room (shared with three other cribs), pre-op preparations, and the kids' playroom. He looked adorable in his hospital-issue jammies and he was in high spirits, but I couldn't quite shake the butterflies in my stomach. And then suddenly, they were ready for him.

When we brought him back to his room for his first doses of medicine, he was absolutely WOUND from the lack of sleep and the excitement of the morning. But we got him to lie down and he impressed the nurses with his stellar medicine-taking skills - Chunk takes meds better than any baby I've ever seen. They told us that within the next five to ten minutes, the liquid valium would kick in and he would start to get woozy. At that point, we accompanied him and his crib down to the waiting area for surgery, kind of a crib holding pattern if you will.

This was when I started to struggle. I knew that they would be coming to get him, and I knew that I'd have to let them. This was for the GOOD of my baby, no matter how much I hated the thought of them putting that big plastic mask over his face and then sticking stuff down his throat. Skippy kept on calmly reassuring me that we were doing everything right, and that everything would be fine. We distracted ourselves with amusement when Chunk's meds kicked in full time and you could tell he was seeing three sets of mommies and daddies instead of one. By the time his surgical team arrived, Chunk was resting comfortably in his crib counting ceiling tiles or possibly doing calculus in his head.

And just like that, they wheeled him away and we were ushered to the waiting room. The assured us that the meds would keep the baby from remembering much of anything - even leaving us, but I think I'll always remember that one single split second when I wanted to jump up, yank his crib rail down, and sprint away with him while yelling "MINE!!!"

I fidgeted in the waiting room. They told us that it would be about 45 minutes. So when our surgeon showed up after only 30 minutes, my initial thought was pure panic. He must have seen it in my eyes, because he very quickly flashed us a big smile and said that "sometimes, you find what you're looking for pretty quickly."

The verdict: A "mushy trachea" Obviously, that's not a medical term, but that's the way it was explained to us. Basically, when Chunk's windpipe developed, the cartilage down near the bottom never firmed up as fully as it should have. As a result, it's not as strong or as dense as it should be and when he breathes, sometimes the air gets pushed through there and that's when we hear that wheezy rattling noise. To further validate me, the doctor went on to say that the reason Chunk seems to get hit so hard whenever he gets sick is that it's much easier for that area to get swollen or irritated whenever he catches a bug, and that's what produces that horribly croupy cough and the more intense illnesses.

The good news (hell, the GREAT news) is that all of this is something that he should outgrow by the time he is three. Four years old, tops. If he DOESN'T outgrow it, we may have to do it all over again, but it doesn't sound like that's likely. Basically, short of the surgeon coming out and telling us that there was absolutely nothing wrong, this was the best possible outcome AND now we know exactly what the issue is, and how to deal with it more proactively when Chunk gets sick while we wait and see if he outgrows it all together.

Naturally, we were thrilled and relieved with all of this news. We settled back into our chairs to wait until they came to grab us after Chunk woke up. I was antsy. I wanted to see my baby. Little did I know how rough it was going to get!

An hour later, they finally came to retrieve us. The nurse cautioned me that he was still very much out of it, but I really wasn't prepared for how awful it was. The poor boy was sweaty and disoriented, with his wrist all bandaged up around an IV and half-open, tired eyes. I stroked his matted hair away from his face and tried to soothe him, and he broke my heart when he barely croaked out a "maaaaaa" for me.

Then he realized his IV was still in and he decided that he had absolutely had enough of this hospital crap. He got.........mad.

No, to say he got mad really doesn't do justice to it. He became somewhat possessed by the devil. Basically, they had given him some pretty neat feel-good medicine and he had taken a nap and then woken up feeling like crap with the worst sore throat of his life and a needle stuck in his hand. Face it, you'd be pissed off too.

We weren't really prepared for how bad that part would be. Back in his room, Chunk proceeded to throw himself around his crib like a mini sumo wrestler who had just been told that the all you can eat buffet was closed for the night. Our nurse arrived in our room, appraised the situation in about four seconds, and quickly moved in to take out the IV. An for the next hour, we did all we could to calm him down. You couldn't touch him. You couldn't hold him. You couldn't even LOOK at him without sending him into a renewed baby-rage. It was insanely and horribly awful.

Finally, he worked it all out (or detoxed, whatever you prefer) and he fell asleep. When he woke up, he was ready for apple juice, a fresh diaper, and we hit the road for home.

Today he did extremely well. His fever is gone, his IV site looks great, and his voice has lost most of his hoarseness. If he was a little bit more cuddly than usual, I can't say I blame him. We celebrated Kbear's birthday with a quiet night at home and he went to bed without a peep until I came in here to blog. As I sit, he's peering at me over the crib rail, occasionally sharing some deep thought with me, and I simply don't have the heart to lay him back down just yet.

I am just so happy that he is healthy, and that it's over. Validation is not a bad thing after having two doctors blow us off shortly after Chunk was born, but mostly I'm just thrilled that we got good news, and grateful to the wonderful staff at Emanuel for taking such good care of my little man.

Kendall's birthday blog will be up tomorrow. For now, someone needs to go to SLEEP!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mini Update

We've been on the go since 5:15 this morning. I am TIRED.

We are home and all is well. We got some answers, and it's all good news.

An update is coming but right now, my baby and my couch are both calling my name, one figuritivly and one literally!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm staying busy

This week has been hectic for me. I've been trying to keep busy, mostly with housecleaning and catching up on laundry. I tell myself it's because I want a clean house for the weekend, when my mother-in-law comes up for Kbear's birthday, but a lot of it is just fluff...I know that she doesn't care about the state of my house. When she's here I have to chase her away from the washing machine. Really, I'm staying busy because I'm stressed out about next Monday.

As usual, I'm stressed out about other things too. I'm a worrier. It's a crappy habit that I got from my Dad, and I'll probably be trying to break it for the rest of my life. There's just so much going on! Banana's family tree project is due next week and we are a bit behind on our work. But really, I know that we'll get it done. I'm stressed because Kbear's birthday party is on Sunday, and I have no idea what to expect. I'm stressed because my husband is out of town. And because I'm tired of the rain and I want to mow my grass one last time this year. And because I'm trying to get laundry done and clean my house around three small children who constantly seem determined to mess it up right behind me. Dog hair. Dog hair stresses me out. I love my dog, but GOD, the hair...I could build a small poodle.

But really, underneath it all I am stressed out because next Monday we have to bring our baby boy in to one of the children's hospitals in Portland to see if we can find out why the munchkin has been such a noisy, wheezy breather for his entire little life.

A little background on our Chunker - he was born slightly ahead of schedule but otherwise healthy, aside from the fact that he is LOUD. When he was a newborn we would lay in bed and listen to him wheeze and gurgle from his bassinet a few feet away. Our first two doctors told us that some babies are just noisy and that he would outgrow it. Then he started getting sick. And forget the usual round of baby ear aches and runny noses - Chunker gets croup and chest infections regularly, and was treated for both pneumonia and hospitalized for RSV last year. It just seems to hit him really hard in the upper chest region. Our current ped took one look at him and asked me, "Does he always sound like that?" Before I knew it, we had a referral to an ENT specialist in Portland and my baby was being scheduled for a bronchoscopy and a larynxoscopy. Big words = nervous Mama.

Now as any parent knows, the internet is a strange beast. And by the internet, of course I mean Google. (As if any other search engine would do!) When you need the phone number for the Chinese restaurant in town, it's great. I use it all the time to check the weather, catch up on news, and find recipes when I need a new way to make chicken breasts. But when you want to get some basic information about a medical procedure, Dr. Google can be a scary and often all-too-knowledgeable source of facts and figures.

If Skippy were here, he'd fix me with a stern eye and tell me to get the hell off of the computer. A few days ago my Mom told me that it was no good to worry about something you couldn't know anything about until it's on top of you. They would both be right. And yet, I Google. I tell myself I want to be prepared for every possibility. This is my BABY that we are talking about. They are going to take him away from me and knock him out and stick a camera down his throat and I'm sorry but as a mama bear, that is scary.

In my deepest heart of hearts, I genuinely believe that everything will be just fine. The doctor is going to come out and tell us that our kid is just noisy, he'll outgrow it, and that as soon as he wakes up we can take him home. I KNOW that is what will happen.

But underneath all of that, I can't shake that small twinge in the pit of my stomach. I worry. I think that once you become a mother, worrying becomes an integral part of who you are. I try not to let it control me. Most of the time I succeed. But tonight, sitting here typing away while my son wheezes just a few feet away....I worry.

We are not the most religious people. We don't attend church. Most of the time we seem to find ourselves with more questions than answers. But we believe in SOMETHING. Something that is inherently good. We are raising our children to have open minds so that they can form their own opinions as they grow. But that doesn't mean we can't use your good thoughts, well wishes, and prayers.

I'm going to try to make it back to the computer this weekend to tell you all about Kbear's birthday party - it is going to rock the house. But just in case that has to wait until next week, please keep our boy in your thoughts. We will update just as soon as we can, and I'm sure it will be good news.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Land of the free

On Monday Banana bounded off the bus with extra flair and excitedly informed me that she had no school the next day, because it was "Veterinarian's Day."

After I swallowed a chuckle that would have surely embarrassed her, prompting a series of eye rolls and "Moooo-oooom" groans, I tactfully corrected my girl, explaining that the following day was VETERAN'S day - a day when we take special notice of all of the men and women who have fought in wars and kept us all safe and free.

She thought about this, (Banana is my deep thinker) while Kbear piped up from her booster seat, "Being free means like....getting to drive wherever you want right? And being allowed to buy whatever you want at the grocery store, right Mama?"

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. In a way, I suppose she wasn't too far off.

Anyway, today was Veteran's Day. I personally took a private moment to think about the people in my life, and in Skippy's, who have fought for our country. But in general this year's Vet's Day seemed somehow more poignant, perhaps because of the recent election -- the changing of the guard so to speak.

Late this morning I met up with my girlfriend Laura. Laura has three boys. She is a saint and she makes me feel so.damn.normal. As a fellow Mom, she is one of my true parenting soul mates. We parked at "The Place With The Golden Arches That Must Not be Named" and claimed some curb space next to an elderly couple and their pomeranian to watch our very small town's very small parade.

It lasted about eight minutes.

Seriously, it was the local police, some of our local veteran's, a couple of horses, and of course, the fire truck. At first, I was somewhat disenchanted. I guess I had been expecting more.

But then, I noticed the older lady that we were sharing the sidewalk with...the one sitting next to the man wearing the peaked hat that signified his service.

She was crying.

Not just looking teary eyed, but full-on shoulder shaking, wiping her eyes and sniffling crying.

And then I took a new look at my kids, and at Laura's kids. They were waving and jumping up and down and I heard Brianna saying "Thank you! Thank you!" to those wonderful brave old men going by.

I took a new look at the parade. It was a good parade. A GREAT parade even.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Wait....what? Halloween?

Oh yeah. I promised pictures didn't I? Sadly, this year's Halloween does not represent my finest picture-taking moments. Pathetically, that shot right there is one of the best I got all day, where Banana is missing part of her costume, Kbear looks exhausted, and Chunk is eating a sucker that he stealthily unwrapped while people watching. But hell, they still look cute.

Well shoot, what can I say? Things got busy. And I got sick. And people, I NEVER get sick. I'm the one who takes care of everyone ELSE when they get sick. So when the icky karma bug finally gets a hold of me, it chomps down hard. I must say however, that Skippy is a kickass nursemaid.


So Halloween came and went. I am really rather disappointed in myself this year because I just didn't take the pictures like I normally do. And I was insanely proud of the costumes that I made for the kids so really, what gives?

Honestly, I'm not sure. All I know is that by the time it was trick-or-treat time, I was already beat and it took everything in me to take the kiddos out around town until it was Dad's turn to take over. And holy crap did they bring in some mad crazy loot. We (I mean THEY) are still eating it. Thankfully, we are starting to get to the whoppers and smarties and other crud that no one really eats, so this weekend I'm pitching whatever is left in the bowl. Although I must say, it has come in handy for getting the girls to keep their room cleaned up!

After last year's costume making extravaganza, I swore I would never EVER put myself through that velcro hell again. But as September waned into October, the glue gun started to call my name from the dusty depths of the craft closet. And finally, I gave in.


Banana was a kitty cat this year.

Easiest.costume.EVER.

She wore black tights, a leopard print skirt, a leopard print leotard (both fabulous hand-me-downs from my Aunt Jane) and a black long sleeved t-shirt. I bought her a set of fuzzy ears and a tail but kept back the bow tie - I wasn't dressing a damn play-boy bunny for goodness' sake. Skippy painted whiskers on her face and she was ready to go. Way simple and way cute. Unfortunately I never got a good picture of her - all I have is one that I took that morning at school when I went to see her receive "The Fantastic Friend" award. By the time she got home on the bus that afternoon, she had realized that her ears were long forgotten at school, but we soldiered on. So forgive the horrible picture quality, just admire my cute cat!





Kbear's costume required a little bit more creativity this year. One night in Walgreen's, she spied a "fairy" costume on the rack. It wasn't really much of anything - just a frilly white dress with wings. But she WAAAANTED it. Mean mommy that I am, I said no - after all, it wasn't really ANYTHING.

A few days later I was back in Walgreens and I saw the dang costume again. This time it was marked down to ten bucks. So being the mean-yet-soft-pushover mommy that I am, I bought it for her. The next day we spread it out on the coffee table and I asked her what she thought it could be.

My little costume genius pondered for a few minutes before blurting out "A snowflake fairy!!!"

So just like that, we ran off to the Dollar Store. The one and only perk to retail stores dragging out the Christmas cack in August is that you can spend a few bucks and make your kid into a totally adorable snowflake. She loved that she "was all sparklies" and everyone we saw thought it was adorable. I sewed snowflakes on the sleeves of an old white shirt, made her a garland out of an old headband, and sewed a big foam flake in her front. DONE. And PERFECT.




That left the Chunker. Or as we constantly call him, "The Stinker" The only logical costume was of course, a skunk.

In case you haven't noticed, I have a complete and utter inability to sew. It's actually quite embarrassing. Someday I am going to learn. My crafty goddess girlfriend Charlotte can sew anything. But me.....I've got a glue gun.

So we took a little black sweat suit and a little winter hat, added in some felt and some fake fur, and worked some magic. Then, because I wanted a tail that he could sit in a stroller with, we went the "no-sew fleece blanket" route. When all was said and done, I realized that I could have saved myself a lot of stress and emotional angst, because he would have been stinkin' cute no matter WHAT I did.



And that was that. Hours of glue-gun burned hands and needle-pricked fingertips. We went trick or treating. We went for pizza. We went for MORE trick or treating. We carved pumpkins. And then we collapsed. It was a GOOD day.

I think next year I'll buy costumes.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

All Hollow's Eve....Eve

Ok. It's a little after eleven. I've gone through two dozen tissues, half a box of sudafed, and a 2 liter of 7-up in an effort to stave off the sinus infection that has been keeping me from finishing the kids' Halloween costumes.

Tonight we carved pumpkins. Always messy, always fun.

And let me tell you, I may not sew like my craft-goddess girlfriend Charlotte but I am a mean someofabitch with a glue gun in my hand. Although if I had a nickel for every time I burned myself this past week....well let's just say the kids' college funds would be secured.



Anyway...

1 Skunk Costume - check
1 Kitty Costume - check
1 Snowflake Costume - check
2 teacher treat bags - check
12 pre-school treat bags so that my kid is cool - check



1 tired mommy.........check

Happy Halloween kids! Costume pictures to come!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

How to have fun on a fall day

First of all, let me say that I do indeed remember that I have three kids. My husband has reminded me of this fact several times since my last blog entry. Here's the thing; I blogged about my firstborn and then got sidetracked by not only her, but also by her younger counterparts in crime, monkey2 and monkey3 so trust me, it's not that I've suddenly plunged myself mentally into the world of having an only child, it's just that the little ankle biters won't stop climbing the walls every time I turn my back for a few seconds. I can't remember the last time I peed alone, let alone got enough time to do justice to a blog entry. In fact, as I sit, Chunk is pacing his crib yelling at me and playing every parent's most hated game "I drop it you get it." But trust me, I have plenty to tell you about my Kbear and my Chunker...when I get around to it.

So for now, enjoy this brief and informative blog, How to have fun on a fall day.


Start your day off with a healthy breakfast. As you know, they (whoever "they" are) say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That's what your Mom tells you anyhow.

And if it's a special day with fun activities planned, you may want to treat yourself to breakfast out with friends. To keep busy while you wait for your scrambled eggs, build a tower with creamer cups - this gets chuckles out of all the old folks.

Then you want to go out in search of some family friendly fall activities. On this particular day, we decided to go enjoy an apple harvest celebration in Hood River, Oregon with some friends. We found lots of fun stuff to do. Suggestions include the following:






You should definitely climb on a tractor. It will make you feel big and strong and way cool.





And you can also climb on hay bales with your friends. In our case, we also climbed on trees. (But we didn't get a picture because Mommy was too busy yelling "GET OUT OF THAT TREE BEFORE THE FARMER GETS MAD!")





But most importantly, if you get a chance then without a doubt, you should hug a pumpkin.









Now if you get really REALLY lucky, and it's a super special day, then you may be able to do something else that is really neat and cool and fun -- you can make your own apple cider.

Making your own cider is seriously neat. First, you and your daddy need to select your apples. About ten pounds makes half a gallon of cider. It's best to use a mix of apples and that way your cider isn't too sweet or too tart. As Goldilocks would say, "It's just right."








After you pick your apples, you have to wash them. You can do this while your daddy signs the waiver at the register that says that if your farm fresh unpasturized cider makes you sick, you won't sue the farmer. The washing part is way important, even if the water is freezing and makes your hands cold. You can get your friends to help.







Then the nice guys who work at the farm will press your apples. They put them into a big wooden bin that is attached to a complicated doohicky neat-o old fashioned apple press and they start to grind them up. While they are doing this, you should double check that your pitcher is in place to catch your cider.








If the cider guys offer you a chance to turn the big wheel that grinds up the apples, you should totally try it. It's really hard but very cool. After you get it to go around once time (this takes about five minutes) you should probably let your Daddy do the rest of the work.







When the apples are all chunked up, the cider guy will put them into a different part of the apple press and then a big round weight will press down on them, squeezing out the cider. After that, you get to try it and it tastes soooo good - even better than what you can buy at the store - even if you do have to sign a waiver to get it! We made a half gallon of apple cider and one of apple/pear cider and we have had it with dinner and with breakfast - it's really yummy! Mommy likes hers warmed up but we like it anytime. So if you ever get the chance to try it out, you really should make your own apple cider. Banana and Kbear approve of this fall fun activity wholeheartedly.




Now as if that's not enough, there are lots of other things you can do to have fun in the fall. We've spent the last few weekends working hard to find them. You can gather leaves for crafts and you can help mommy stack firewood. You can work on your Halloween costume. And you can do other stuff too.




You can ride in a train made out of barrels, towed by a crazy teenager on a four wheeler. You have no idea what "redneck train" means or why mommy and daddy think it's so dang funny, but it's a good time.







You can hold chicks. Chicks are soft and cute and cuddly and they like to be snuggled.



Or you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. After all, winter will be here before we know it. So you need to get in every last bike ride, trip to the park, and hour spent playing outside that you can. We had our first frost last week, and pretty soon it will SNOW!

The very very VERY best way to have fun on a fall day, is to have fun with your family.






You can see all of our pictures from this autumn by cutting and pasting this link into your browser!
http://picasaweb.google.com/freckledmama/AwesomeAutumn2008#

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Let's talk about my kids! Kid one: Banana

Banana bounces down the steps of the shiny yellow bus that has once again delivered her safely back home from her charter school two towns over. She looks tired - the trip home takes an hour - but as I watch her walk towards the van in my rear view mirror, I know that there's more to it. I know my kid. My firstborn. My big girl.

The van door slides open with a resounding thunk and she climbs in with a smile for Chunk, who yells out "SIS-TAH" in delight and then she excitedly shows me a small plastic baggie in her hand - "I found a four leaf clover at recess Mom!" she cries. And sure enough, there it is, nestled in her hand like a lucky little treasure.

"Very cool." I tell her as her seat belt clicks and I pull away from the curb towards home. "What else did you do today?"

This is all part of our routine. Every day Banana has to tell us three things that happened at school. They cannot involve what was served for breakfast, lunch, or fruit break. They can't be about friends or recess - they need to be about what she learned while she was away from me for the nine hours that I entrusted her education to the public system.


She worries her lower lip with her teeth. I wonder if she'll confess the deed that I already know about, thanks to an email from her teacher earlier in the day. But no, not just yet.

"Well...." she hems and haws "I wrote about my clover in writing workshop and I sketched a picture of it. Do you know what that means Mom?"

I allow that I do indeed know what sketching is. I sketch a mean stick figure myself on occasion.

"What else?" I press my daughter.

"Um........" she fidgets "I got picked to draw the cover on our next class story."

"That is way awesome Banana" I tell her, genuinely enthusiastic - since moving to the new school, she has had many more artistic opportunities than she was given at the old one, and she is a pretty talented little budding artist. "Did anything else happen?" I ask her, giving her one last out.

And sure enough, she takes it. "Mama, something bad kind of happened at school."

"Oh?" I prompt

"Yeah....um.....don't be mad....but I kinda got a blue card."


So there it is. The horrible truth. My kid lost her "green card" for the first time this year. It's all part of keeping 140 kids in order - every day each student begins with a green card. A fresh slate if you will. But any staff member can issue a discipline card at any time for various infractions including cussing or disrespecting a teacher or another student. After green, you get blue. After blue, you're in increasingly deeper dog doo.

So the truth is out. She breathes a huge sigh of relief and waits for my reaction.

"Well, what did you get the blue card for, honey?" I ask.

You may be asking yourself about now - what on earth did she do? Did she swear? I mean let's face it, mama talks like a sailor. Did she get into a fight? Throw rocks? Disrespect a teacher?

Nope.

She got caught playing with a stray cat on the playground. A cat that she had been asked leave alone more than once. So my daughter the humanitarian and up and coming star veterinarian got a blue card. As a result, she will miss the "green card party" at the end of the month AND she had to sweat out my reaction all afternoon and throughout that long bus ride home.

Now if you know me, you know that this isn't a big deal. Concerning most things, Skippy and I are actually pretty strict but when you get right down to it, the kid was petting a cat. According to my Mom, this is because her father pets everything on four legs that comes his way. And she could be on to something. But as I (teasingly) told her, I have to let him do that so that he doesn't pet anything on TWO legs. But I jest. I really do. And I even understand the reason for the blue card - she failed to heed previous warnings. But seriously, it's not like she assaulted a fellow first grader. And the fact that she confessed it to me speaks volumes about her character and made me very proud of her honesty.

Banana is really a pretty awesome kid. She is completely over-sensitive just like her mother, but she has a kickass sense of humor that is all Dad. She also has more empathy in her little six year old body than most grown-ups I know - she was the answer to a prayer when my Dad was sick because when everyone else in the world wanted to fuss at him, she knew that Papa just needed a hug. I rely on her a lot to help me with the other two - maybe too much, a throwback to helping my Mom with my own brother and sister, but she never complains...much. She stands up for herself. She is a good friend. She does tend to embellish the occasional story, but hey no kid is perfect and we're working on it.

She is my first baby. She was the first to reach out one tiny hand to wrap around my finger in a vice-like grip, like she'd never ever let go. She was our guinea pig baby - the one you give formula too when you wanted to breastfeed because your breasts refuse to cooperate. The one you tried to put on a schedule before you realized how stupid that was. The one who was subjected to every Baby Einstein video ever released, given only educational toys, and fed only homemade baby food. And she bore it all with good grace. And when you get right down to it, she made me a mother. She brought her father and I together.

Her first word was cookie. She is a daddy's girl unless he teases her and then she comes running to mom. She is a daredevil to the point where I need to be medicated. She is a phenomenal big sister. Banana was only 17 months old when Kbear was born and she looked at that tiny bundle in confusion before she looked at me and understood that she had a new friend for life. And when the Chunker came home, no little girl was ever so gentle or so in love with a new baby brother.

She is one of a select few people that I live for. She's the reason I drag my butt out of bed at 5:45 every morning so that she can go to a better school. I run her to soccer and to birthday parties and pick her up after drama club. I bake 80 cupcakes for her birthday so that Skippy can arrange the perfect "cupcake rainbow" at her request.

When Banana was born, she changed my whole world. And I am thankful to her, every day.

Even if she did get a blue card.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another weekend bites the dust

It usually happens around Tuesday night. After the normal running around to accomplish soccer practice and dinner, baths and pajamas, teeth brushing, bedtime reading, kissing, hugging, and one-more-drink-of-water getting...that's when it hits. Right around that time, I start to yearn for the weekend.

And so, I slog through pre-school pick up on Wednesdays, throw together a snack that will compete with all of the other mommies at MOPS on Thursday, keep the house in groceries and the kitties in litter and the toilet scrubbed, and then finally at long last, I greet Friday with a cheerful optimism tinged with exhaustion. The weekend. It's arrived.

And then it all goes to hell in a hand basket.

Seriously man, having kids is tough work. Having kids who have a social life? That's even harder!



I mean, first of all, there was no school on Friday. Some crap about Oregon teachers needing a day to enrich themselves. I want to know when I get a day to enrich MYSELF. Then again I don't have 30 kids. I only have three. And they wipe the floor with me on a regular basis - I know you're thinking that the darling four year old in that picture can't possibly be naughty but trust me - sometimes the devil inhabits that child. So I had three kids bouncing around who were completely and totally off of their normal routine. Fun stuff huh?

It gets better.


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Ok. To be completely honest, I just sat here for five full minutes trying to remember what we did on Friday. I know that I kinda cleaned up my house. I know that my mother-in-law was in town.....but the rest is kinda a blur.

WAIT! We went apple picking! DUH! How could I forget apple picking? I mean, how can I forget spending two hours keeping an 18 month old off of ladders, petting goats, and filling a metal bucket with 25 pounds of apples for fifteen bucks? SERIOUSLY. My brain totally just fried temporarily.

Let's start over - on Friday we went apple picking - by we I mean my mother-in-law (MIL) and my kids and myself. It was fun in that sweaty hectic way that having fun with kids seems to entail. After the cranky orchard lady with the crazy eyes showed us where we could pick, we had a blast taking pictures, keeping track of Chunk (I was irrationally terrified that I would lose him in the several-hundred acre orchard and subsequently in the Oregon wilderness) and helping the girls fill our bucket with galas, jonagolds, and golden delicious apples. Then we stopped at Packer's Farm for giant cookies (five for five, baby) and detoured through the pumpkin patch before heading home to collapse.


So that was fun. And exhausting. I got some awesome pictures of the kids, which can be seen here: http://picasaweb.google.com/freckledmama/AwesomeAutumn2008#

After apples we came home and met up with Skippy and made my famous potato soup before we crashed for the evening. And while we were finally going to bed, we wistfully commented that maybe the kids would let us sleep in a bit on Saturday. And miracle of miracles, they totally did!





At 8:30 on Saturday morning, I was up and ready to go (I told you they let us sleep in). Our entire morning revolved around getting everyone up and out and ready for a birthday party we were invited to at one for some friends' five year old twin boys. This necessitated a trip to the store with the girls, where I paced the aisles, called Charlotte and my Mom with questions concerning what on earth to buy for five year old twins boys before finally settling on hot wheels tracks. (My apologies to Nicole if she is now stepping on hot wheels everywhere she goes.) And then we shot back home and after a flurry of wrapping and ribbons and bows and clothes on the kids and a clean diaper on the Chunk, we headed out to the park and had a rockin afternoon with the birthday boys.

As you can see, Skippy especially had fun. (I realize that the sarcasm doesn't transfer to print very well, but I know you can feel it - this is me rolling my eyes) And once the cake was cut and the gifts unwrapped, it was time to load up and head back home once again. Amazingly, back at home everyone took naps. Except me and Banana. We went down to Charlotte's house where she (quite gracefully) played emergency seamstress for me, using industrial strength thread (or perhaps twenty pound test fishing line, I'm not sure) to secure yet another button to yet another pair of Skippy's shorts -- note to self, no more Target shorts, there is a reason they were on sale.

And let's get something straight. It's not that I can't sew on a button. Because I totally can. But it takes me an hour, two failed attempts, and a bottle of tequila. So it's safer to go let the craft goddess that is my girlfriend Char do the dirty work. Plus it gives us girls a chance to dish, which is important, because that's when we realized a magical coincidence - by some mysterious aligning of the cosmos, we both had babysitters lined up for the coming evening!

Not too long after that, dinner plans were made that involved not only us, but another pair of good friends who were also miraculously kiddo-free for a few hours. So I took a shower, put on my GOOD bra, and went out and noshed on Mexican food, margaritas, and wonderful conversation that revolved around everything from politics to parenting to retelling painful college stories. Unfortunately, curfew comes early for those of us with munchkins - by nine o'clock Skippy and I were wandering around Hollywood Video, determined to bring the movie theatre home with us. *Side note, we watched 21 with Kevin Spacey - good flick if you haven't seen it*

And much too quickly, it was Sunday. Today dawned bright an early around seven. I heard Skippy rustling in his closet squirrel-style while he packed for his next trip out of town. I heard the girls fighting over the remote. I heard the Chunker singing Maaaa-maaaaa from his crib. The dog barked. One of the cats parked itself against my face and purred. And for a brief, beautiful moment, I pulled the covers over my head and pretended I was a single chick. Then I got up and started my day in the real world.

Kbear and my MIL Dixie took airport duty and buzzed around Ptown for a bit after dropping Skippy off safely. That left Banana, Chunker and I behind contemplating the only-somewhat messy house. And then we did what any responsible people do on Sunday morning - we picked up our Sunday paper and went out to breakfast. Then we spent approximately twenty six dollars in quarters vacuuming out the minivan, feeding at least a full bag of pretzels, several stray M&Ms, four crayons, and one baby sock to the bowels of the SUPERVAC before we headed home to gear up for soccer Sunday.

Soccer was rockin' today. The weather was gorgeous, the parents were in rare form, and the girls were showing off because they knew Grammy was watching. Neither of my girls scored a goal this week HOWEVER, no one scored for the other team like Kbear did last week either so we'll consider it a successful Sunday of soccer. Then my husband's mother took pity on me and took us out to an early dinner. We came home. We did baths. We did books. We did teeth brushing. My husband called to tell me he was finally safe on the ground in Atlanta. And finally, I got them all sleeping.

So that's it. That was my relaxing weekend that I waited all week for. Every little second of it was spent on the run in one way or another. And now, I'm tired.

Someday I know that I will be sitting in my rocking chair with knitting in my lap (because someday I fully intend to finally learn to knit) and I'll be feeling a little bit melancholy because I don't have anything to do, anywhere to go, or anyone to see. Except of course for Skippy, who even in his old age will be somewhere in our big rambling house playing computer games and neglecting the dishes that I asked him to wash. Someday my weekends will blur completely in with my weekdays. And I'll wonder where it all went. I know that as crazy as it all is, someday I'll miss this terribly.

But right now? Dude, right now I need a nap.