Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Business or pleasure?


Skippy has to travel for work today. I'm used to it. In fact, I really don't mind it too much. When he travels, the kids and I eat out, raid the dollar store, get off our routine, and generally wreck havoc until he comes home. I dig it.

Now there was a time when he was travelling more than he was home. That was rough. But with the Goog, he's just starting to travel again and let's face it, sometimes a little work-imposed break from your spouse is kind of nice. Because then no one is around to yell at you if you eat an entire half gallon of ice cream and watch Love Actually twice on a Thursday night.

So anyway, I'm in the middle of laundry hell. How my family accumulates so many dirty clothes is honestly beyond me. It boggles the mind. But Skippy is coming home on his lunch to pack and grab the camera and kiss the kids and then he's off, so I need to get it finished.

Where is he going, you might ask? A conference? An upgrade? Some horrible beast of a problem that will require blood, sweat, tears and overtime?


He's going dog sledding. At Whistler. Yes, Whistler in Canada. With the rest of the Western half of the Google. They are going to eat and drink and ski and sled and generally have a fantastic time, thanks to the generosity of their employer while us Google wives sit at home and grouse about the whole damn thing. Then they will come home with beautiful pictures and awesome stories that will make us want to beat them with a snowshoe.

Those guys get all the fun.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Amy, in review

Ok, so I stole this off of my sister Sarah's myspace page. And I know that surveys of any type are like, so totally LAME. But it's Saturday. And it's sleeting outside. And the kids are all playing nicely and there really aren't any hilarious stories to share or righteous political statements I feel like making. And I don't want to do my laundry yet. So here we go.

My story

Hi, my name is: Amy.

But you can call me: Amy, Ame, or in Skippy's case, Babe. At Banana's school they call me Mrs. Webber and I still haven't stopped looking for my mother-in-law over my shoulder when that happens.

Never in my life have I: Had any desire to go Scuba diving. All that water, all around....ugh I'm getting hives.

The one person who can drive me nuts is: Wait, I can only pick one? Um......I'll say either one of my girls when they get on a 20 questions kick and I'm trying to do something really super important like watch Ellen.

My high school was: Oswego High School. Go Drama Department!

When I'm nervous: I eat. And it's usually not something that's good for me. It's a Cinnamon Melt and a Coke from McDonald's or something that will stick to my ass for the next fourteen years. It must be my Italian Grandmother's influence - here you look sick, eat.

The last song I listened to was: That would be I've Got Friends by Garth. It was the last song on his concert that I watched on CBS last night. I know. Shut up.

If I were to get married right now it would be to: This question is moot. I'm already married and I think Skippy might object if I wanted things differently.

My hair is: The bane of my existence. I'm attempting to grow it out for the first time in about seven years and right now I hate it. I'm very tempted to go cut it short again but I'm staying strong. It's just that when I wake up I look like Medusa. Or Don King, take your pick.

When I was 4: I was still the only child. That's before my parents scarred me with siblings. I'm KIDDING. Sort of.

Last Christmas: Was our first one in Oregon. It rocked in an exhausting kind of way.

I should be: Cleaning my fridge. Something in there bit me.

When I look down I see: Chunk. He's playing on the floor next to me and drooling on my sock.

The happiest recent event was: Spending the day with my family in Portland for my birthday. We had a fabulous time. There's a blog about it around here somewhere.

If I were a character on 'Friends': I'd be skinny and I wouldn't hate my hair.

By this time next year: We will hopefully be much closer to buying a house and with luck, we will have a new vehicle.

My current gripe is: That I'm the only one in this house that understands the point of a laundry hamper.

I have a hard time understanding: Everything that's wrong with the world today. That's deep. I'm deep huh?

There's these girls: They are four and five and they are the light of my life.

If I won an award, the first person I would tell would be: Skippy, then my Mom.

I want to buy: A minivan. A house. A maid.

Where do you plan to visit: Sweet Home Chicago baby! And we want to go to the coast this year at some point.

If you spent the night at my house: You'd stay up too late and then you would wake up with pet hair on your jammies but we'd make you a fantastic breakfast to make up for it.

The world could do without: Lots of things. Right now I'll say politics.

Most recent thing someones bought me: I got a crazy haul of birthday presents. A new coat from my Mom that is wonderful and warm, flowers from my husband, and oodles of other stuff. A girlfriend gave me a mug and some candy and a Starbucks card for my birthday, and I just got it last week because my husband forgot it. So thank you Kat! Yvonne also gave me knitting stuff. I'm really super excited about that, I just wish that the instructions weren't written in Swahili. No. They are. Really.

Most recent thing i bought myself: Probably a trashy magazine to read in the tub. Or chocolate. Or Starbucks.

My middle name is: Lynn. Blech.

In the morning I: Curse the school district for dragging me out of bed early and then not having the decency to at LEAST give me a respite with all day Kindergarten.

Last night I was: At my niece's basketball game and then out for pizza with my sister-in-law's family.

There's this guy I know who: Gives the best hugs. Luckily I married him.

If I were an animal I'd be a: A mama bear. I like to sleep in the winter, I'll kick your ass if you aren't nice to my kids, and I have a big butt and when I can't find my razor, hairy legs. That was an over-share. But it's a funny one.

A better name for me would be: You know, I think I'm an Amy.

Tomorrow I am: Going to paint two walls in my living room, get a Sunday paper, and go grocery shopping. Is that super duper exciting or what? I may need oxygen. Or at least another Starbucks.

Tonight I am: Going to tape and trim two walls in my living room, make spaghetti with Italian sausage, spinach salad, and bread, do some laundry, give my kids baths, put them to bed, watch a movie, have a bottle...I mean a glass of wine, and then crash.

My birthday is: Over for the year! Now we're gearing up for Skippy's next month.

How would you describe yourself: I'm a walking, talking emotional roller coaster and I'm a damn good Mom.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Woot! They did it again!

Fortune Magazine has once again published their list of the top 100 companies to work for.

For the second year in a row, guess who's on top.

*dramatic drumroll please*

Yes, it's THE GOOGLE. You can read all about it here:

They are some of the coolest geeks I know!

Monday, January 21, 2008

A rambling post-weekend blog

Nothing new to report really. It's just that if I don't update regularly, you all start emailing me asking where the blog is. We had a nice, uneventful weekend. Just kind of hung out, watched football, did eight million loads of laundry, and then pulled two MORE loads out of the bottom of the girls' closet. Then we had a little talk about laundry and closets.

Saturday night we went out to dinner for our anniversary and another couple joined us. I have beautiful daydreamy visions (complete with a fog machine and cheesy music) of quiet, private dinners where it's just Skippy and I, sharing a bottle of wine and spending way too much on some fancy food that we could make at home for a fraction of the price, without a child in sight. Then I realize that for at least the next ten years until my kids are big enough to be on their own for two hours without burning the place down, that's just not going to happen. So instead we asked some friends to come with us and we introduced them to our favorite hippie granola all natural pizza place over in Washington and it was really fun and very yummy. The only bummer was that they had been closed for a holiday hiatus for three weeks so they didn't have everything on hand that they usually do. So that was a little chaotic and unorganized. But the pizza, as always, was stellar. Then we all went out for ice cream.

But anyway, I'm just kind of all over the place today. Skippy and I are in the process of trying to paint the living room. Because we can't live with all white walls all the time anymore. And with us losing money on the midwest house, I think we're going to be in this rental for awhile so we may as well do what we can to spruce it up while we save our pennies. And I'm still digging out from under the laundry.

I figure this is as good a time as any to do an undate on the kids.

Banana is doing great in kindergarten. We're still having some issues with her talking during classtime, but I'm glad she is enjoying herself so much. She is learning to read and she loves taking the bus home in the afternoon. Right now she's very into coloring and drawing and we read almost every night. She is also an awesome big sister. I am very proud of her. On Saturday she was just busting out one question after another about everything from weather to rocks, which resulted in Skippy giving her a crash course in plate tectonics in the car. Her new obsession is helping me in the kitchen. Yesterday she helped me make chicken tortilla soup and she did a fantastic job.

Kbear is a handful these days. If I had to sum her up in one word, it would be FOUR. She's just busy being four, and trying to figure out where she fits in, where she can push us, where she can't, and what she can get away with. She's getting so BIG all of a sudden - both of the girls will be taller than me before I know it. Let's just hope Chunk got the same genes. The Kbear can go from being a bundle of destructive fury to the warmest sweetest little cuddler in about three seconds flat. She is all about make-believe right now. And dress up. And making sure her baby brother doesn't touch her stuff. She's still going to pre-school twice a week and I can't wait for pre-K next year when it gets a little more intense for her because I think she'll really take off.

And the Chunk is just the light of my life. I can't believe his first birthday is looming ahead in the not-so-distant future already. He's nine and a half months old and he's babbling and crawling like a madman. He LOVES sweet potatoes. He LOVES pears. And I can't for the life of me get him to take a bottle or a sippy cup, which is causing me some considerable angst. But he's just a doll. Every day he discovers something new and we just love watching him grow. He adores his big sisters and wants to be wherever they are. And he's already cruising around while holding the furniture. I don't think it will be too long before we see our first steps.

So the kids are good. For the most part, everyone is healthy. Sometimes I can't believe that I had a hand in making these beautiful kids. I sit back and I just watch them when they aren't looking and I see so much beauty and all the potential that they have. My heart just swells.

Then they start throwing Cheerios or they lock the cat in the closet and I realize how much work I still have ahead of me.

Friday, January 18, 2008

And finally, the story of us, part three

So I moved home in the summer of 2000 and settled into life as a grown up. I began working as a technical writer downtown and between visiting my ass of a boyfriend who was still at NIU and taking the train to and from Chicago every day, I didn't have a lot of spare time to sit around wondering what Skippy was up to. I was busy trying to learn to be a responsible adult. In the fall I found myself unexpectantly single again, and after that I really plunged into my work, trying to put NIU behind me.

That December, my bestest girlfriend Jax graduated with her teaching degree. And as my bestest girlfriend, I of course wanted to attend her graduation ceremony. So we spent the weekend bumming around the campus that until recently, had been our home. We saw old friends, hit the bars, and just had fun. Somehow we ended up in Walmart around midnight the night before graduation. Maybe we were feeling nostalgic. Because in DeKalb, Illinois there isn't that much to do in the middle of the night. Except go to Walmart. Jax used to call me to go out and buy new socks. She didn't have a weird fetish, she just hated doing laundry. So who knows, maybe we were reliving our glory days. Sad huh?

And on our way out the door who walks in? Who, you may ask?

Of course. It was Skippy. If I remember correctly, he was making a late night run for cat food - because let me tell ya, nothing spells rekindled romance like meow mix.

So after standing there in shock for a few minutes, we made some uncomfortable small talk and before I realized what was happening, we all ended up back at the same apartment where a couple of other former co-workers were living. For the next two hours Skippy and I kept meeting each other's eyes and I swear all of the resentment and anger was still there, but there was a sadness too. I realized I missed my friend. Best of all, his girlfriend was no where in sight.

The following week I was sitting at my desk procrastinating work by checking my email for the eleventy-billionth time of the day and there it email from Skippy. Basically, it was a hey-I-know-we-haven't-talked-in-forever-but-I-kinda-miss-you-wanna-get-together-for-dinner kind of email. And naturally, I accepted.

Thus began the Skippy and Amy Wednesday night dates. Every Wednesday without fail, he would drive his beat up Chevy Blazer out to meet my train in Fox Valley and we'd go out for dinner. I started to revolve my weeks around Wednesday. I LOVED getting off the train on Wednesday. We'd sit for hours and talk. Before we realized it, we had slipped easily back into our old patterns without missing a beat.

Then one night he noticed that I was quiet while we were on our way back to my parents' house. And let's face it, I'm anything but quiet. We've always been able to talk about anything and everything so my blunt refusal to meet his eyes was probably setting off some pretty big alarm bells. Finally at a red light, he pulled me over across the front bench seat of the Blazer and demanded to know what was wrong.

I turned my face away. Then I buried it in his shoulder. Then I turned and stared out the window and tried to mentally make the Dunkin Donuts at the corner of New York and 59 levitate while I quietly told him that I was pretty sure I was falling in love with him.

I remember his arm tightening around me so clearly. He sighed and my heart fell. After all of these years of back and forth and up and down, this was the part where he'd try to let me down easy. I mentally started taking an inventory of ice cream in my Mom's freezer at home. I wouldn't even need a bowl. Just a big old spoon and a box of tissues.

But instead he softly replied "Thank God. Because I'm falling in love with you."

And that was that. From then on, when we weren't working, we were together. On the weekends I would drive out to DeKalb and during the week we continued our Wednesday night dates. Then he moved even closer to my Mom and Dad's and we took our first vacation together, to Oregon while I was out there working at a new job during the summer. We started to talk about moving in together. We started to talk about getting engaged. And on September 25, 2001, I discovered that I was pregnant. That pretty much sealed the deal.

We were married on January 19, 2002. It has been a wild, turbulent, wonderful, emotional and challenging six years. Six years, three babies, and one cross country move later, I love him more than ever.

And he's still my best friend.

The story of us, part two

You know looking back on it now, I'm reasonably sure that I wasn't even a blip on Skippy's radar that day. I was just another curious face in a big intimidating group of people who for half a year, had already been doing the job that he was about to start. But I sized him up GOOD. I took one good hard long look at his six foot, four inch frame topped by curly hair and some majorly THICK glasses, and pretty much wrote him off. Just another co-worker. No threat. No problem.

And as the weeks wore on, I became accutely aware of how much I DISLIKED him.

He was loud. And he had more dirty jokes in his arsenal than anyone I'd ever met. His residents liked him and he settled right into the RA dinner table with no problems. You'd do rounds on his floor and there he was, sitting at his desk with the door open feverishly working away at some foreign piece of computer code. He'd want to chat, of course. He ALWAYS wanted to chat. But I already despised him. I despised his easy going manner and the way he seemed to be worming his way into what I considered *my* group of friends. When I was on duty, I'd RACE through his floor during rounds so that I wouldn't get stuck talking to him. He was way too nice - no one could possibly be THAT nice. Besides, he was a computer geek. Computer geeks like, so totally weren't my thing. But once he caught on, I swear he made it his mission to antagonize me in any way he could. He's go whizzing by me on his bike while I walked home from class, missing me be mere inches. He'd decide that the night I had a term paper to write was the perfect night to hang Christmas lights in his room. It was like third grade all over again, without the pigtails.

But as the year finally ended and the summer loomed ahead, I got excited about my desicion to stay on campus and work in the conference center. Then I found out that Skippy was staying on as well, as a summer RA.

Seriously? Was God punishing me?

But a funny thing happened that summer. We became friends. We started eating lunch together with the same group of people. We found ourselves hanging out when he came over to our building to chat with one of his best buddies, who I worked with. We started watching movies together. Played volleyball. Went to the bars. Hung out. Much to my surprise, I found myself missing him when he wasn't around.

And then out of nowhere, one fateful night we were MORE than friends. I won't go into details, because my Mom reads my blog and that's just weird. So does my grandma for that matter. But suddenly, I was plunged headfirst into actually LIKING Skippy. And I didn't tell a soul. Because how do you admit to your closest friends that just MAYBE, you have a thing for the one guy you spent all year professing to despise? I figured it was a summer fling and that like the summer, it would come to an end.

And sure enough, it did. We spent the next school year in a odd flux between friends and almost friends and not quite friends and more than friends. I had confessed the truth about our fling to my best friend Jacquie, who stared at me in disbelief for a good two minutes and then promptly pulled me out the door and towards margaritas and salvation. But it was over. Done. He had a new girlfriend. And man did she hate me with a passion. I had a new boyfriend who was so totally different from Skippy, and so not right for me in every sense. To complicate matters, we had floors four and five so we literally spent the entire year living right on top of each other. We had a major love-hate thing going on.

But eventually the year ended, and with it came the end of my college carreer. For a variety of reasons, Skippy and I weren't on speaking terms when I left NIU. And for the most part, I wrote it off. I missed him, but it just wasn't meant to be. Besides, he had a girlfriend. I had a boyfriend. And it had just been a fling.


It's STORY TIME again! *wild applause* (Part One)

Travel back in time with me if you will, to Northern Illinois University. Once upon a time (aka, my junior year) I was working as an RA for the second year. RA stands for Resident Assistant - basically the one student who slaves away for unending hours keeping an eye on all of the other crazy college kids on his or her residence hall floor, all in exchange for free room and board and very little pay. RAs are the ones who have to console broken hearts, write up the trouble makers, and always have a supply of free health service condoms outside their door for the residents to pillage. I genuinely loved my job and the people I worked with - being an RA is what introduced me to some of my closest friends and those bonds have only gotten stronger with time.

But anyway, we had a really excellent staff and despite it's quirky little cliques, it was a tight group. After all, when you spend the majority of your time working with the same 20 people instead of going out to the bars and doing beer bongs at the frat houses like any other self-respecting college kid, you kind of develop a bond.

One of our staff members had just left us mid-year to go to a different position within the building. It was an unusual situation, and we were all curious about who the new replacement RA would be. So there we are, sitting in our staff meeting, talking about university business and bulletin boards and all sorts of uber-exciting stuff, and the door opens. Staff meetings are a closed affair, so it could only be one person. Mr. Replacement RA had arrived.

I immediately sized him up. Partly because I was a well respected member of the staff and I took a lot of pride in being one of the people that other staff members came to. I frequently won awards for my programs and attended leadership conferences regularly. In other words, I sat pretty far up on my own high horse. I kicked ass, and at the oh-so-grown-up age of twenty, you'd better believe I knew it. And I wasn't about to let anyone saunter in and usurp my spot.

Now the other reason I sized him up is because admitedly, I was just a tad boy-crazy in college. If I could have had a second major, it would have been the opposite gender. It was dangerous ground, considering that inner-staff dating wasn't exactly encouraged, but I usually didn't let little things like that stop me. It didn't matter in any event, because I could tell right away that he wasn't my type.

He smiled nervously, and then our boss introduced us to Skippy.

More to come - I have to go do some laundry.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I think I'm officially a transplant now

So exactly one year ago today, I woke up in my mother-in-law's house. In Oregon. I had spent the day before saying goodbye to my own mother, who is one of my absolute best friends, wrangling airport security with two kids and three pets, and being hugely, emotionally, pregnant.

It goes without saying that Oregon is significantly different from Illinois. I mean aside from the fact that it's not flat. And there's no corn fields. And you can ski here. I'm a Chicago girl at heart, despite never living in the city itself - when you've spent your entire life within an hour of downtown, it gets into you anyway. I'm a Cubs-loving, Chicago hot dog eating, deep dish pizza loving kind of girl. (And let me just say, the pizza here kind of sucks, but that's a whole 'nother blog.) To me that skyline says HOME and to some extent, it always will. It's where I was born and raised, where a huge portion of my extended family lives, where I went to school, met my husband, fell in love, and forged some of my best frienships. It really *is* "sweet home Chicago" in every sense.

And somehow, I woke up one day and found myself in Oregon. On January 17 of last year, to be exact. Surrounded by hills and mountains and people who thought it was funny when I said "pasta." My husband was five hours away in some little town in the Columbia Gorge, slaving away for Google in between Wii bowling in the rec room and after work, he was trying to get our rental house secured. We weren't sure of too many things - if this had been a wise choice, if our kids were weathering all of the changes okay, or even if *I* was weathering all of the changes okay. It was the middle of winter. Under lead-gray skies, even the mountains failed to raise my spirits much. I was pregnant, scared, and quite literally, a stranger in a strange land. Little did I know then how wonderful it would all turn out to be.

So much has happened in the past year. Our son was born - one of the bright lights of my life. He has changed who I am as a mother, and after some of our past pregnancy issues (I had a very scary ectopic rupture following a miscarriage in between Kbear and Chunk) he is one of the most precious gifts I've ever recieved. I wouldn't be the same without him.

My girls started school. Banana is rockin' the house in Kindergarten and Kbear is absolutely flourishing in preschool. We've gotten involved in dance, soccer, and PTA. We have settled into small-town life. We have wonderful neighbors and fantastic friends. Skippy has a terrific job, working for what is pretty much one of the coolest companies ever. Although I miss our Chicago loved ones terribly, I'm too busy to be lonely. Airplanes are a lovely thing. And I've learned that a little distance can't change true friendships. It makes us treasure our time on the phone and during visits that much more.

A year ago I sat in the car outside our rental house and shivered in the cold. Then I called my best girlfriend Jax and cried and told her that I was pretty sure I was in hillbilly mountain hell, and I didn't know what on earth we had done.

Now, I have so many wonderful friends. I can pop in on Charlotte or Nicole and say hi, or grab dinner with the Google gals, or catch a movie with AmyM. I'm involved in the school and with the community. I can't go ANYWHERE without running into someone I know - which is pleasant as long as I have a bra on and I've brushed my hair. Our mailman knows our name. So does our bank teller. And at the gas station they always have biscuits for Bailey.

My children never get tired of exploring all of the new sights. We road trip regularly and get in some awesome family time doing new things. And in a lot of ways, my husband and I are closer than ever. I understand why we were best friends before we were together - and I realize that he is still without a doubt, my very best friend.

And I'm happy. Truely, genuinely happy.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The best family day EVER!

Yesterday we wrapped up my 30th birthday extravaganza with a day in Portland. It was exactly what I asked for - a day with my family doing something fun. We were literally exhausted when we got home, but in the best way you could imagine.

The day got off to a rough start. Skippy woke up with a pretty bad migraine. The puking kind. Ew. We had initially wanted to be out the door early, but that put the brakes on our plans while we waited to see what his neurons would do. And anyway, when I woke up at 7:15 and realized that my house was silent and all three of my children were still asleep, you can bet your sweet buns I did the mental happy dance and snuggled back down into the sheets for a rare bit of sleeping in on a Saturday.

So once the kids were up around 8:30 (yes, that is sleeping in when you have kids) I herded them out to the car and we took a ride to Safeway, raided the donut case, grabbed a six pack of OJ, got mommy a Starbucks, then grabbed a table and had breakfast together. The idea was to let Skippy get some sleep in a quiet house and hope for the best. To kill some extra time we walked down to PetCo for some kitty litter and picked out some new fish for the girls' aquarium then played with the puppies there for adoption and generally caused havoc all over the store.

When we got home we played the game "how quiet can we be for one hour?" This is not a fun game when you are five or four years old. But somehow we managed and eventually Skippy's head no longer felt like it was stuck in a searing hot vice and we were able to get on with our day.

So we got the hell outta dodge for the afternoon and hit the road for Ptown. It's about an hour's drive to Portland but we were busy the entire way counting waterfalls and rainbows along the gorge. Talk about beautiful. We've had a lot of rain and a lot of snowmelt so the water just runs wherever it can find space - aside from the "regular" waterfalls we always see, I think we saw at least a dozen others - probably close to twenty in all. Add in the three separate rainbows and the girls were in heaven.

Closer to the city we made our first stop at (insert musical fanfare) TARGET! *happy dance* I needed a new stroller. Well *I* didn't need a new stroller, but the Chunk did, and I've had my eye on one there for awhile. It's kind of a souped up umbrella stroller but with trays and a reclining position and a canopy and best of all, a basket on the bottom. Plus, it folds down into a third of the space that my old travel system does in the trunk. This "kingdom for a minivan" thing is no joke people. We squeeze three kids into the backseat of a pontiac grand prix on a regular basis and we need every inch of trunk space we can get for all the other crap that comes along with three kids. Otherwise we'd be strapping Banana to the roof of the car and although I bet all that fresh air would be great, I doubt the bugs in her teeth would do much for personal hygiene. So yay, I got a new stroller. It's awesome.

Our next stop was the highlight of our day (as if Target wasn't enough!): OMSI - the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Talk about a kickass place. I can't believe we haven't been there before. We had sooooooo much fun. It is one of the most hands-on educational museums I have ever seen. Upstairs they have a "Science Playground" for little kids and we played there for at least an hour with sand, computers, water, blocks, you name it - they even had a little area for the Chunk with a floor-level fish tank, ball pit, and all sorts of baby stuff. Then we explored the Earth Science hall where the girls put their hands through a tornado, played with the infrared screen (Skippy liked that too), and had a blast on the orbit tables seeing how things fly through space....come to think of it Skippy liked THAT too! But we saved the best hall for last - the turbine hall. In there they were able to make windmills, water rockets, and sailboats, and they loved taking dixie cups and cutting them into different shapes to see how they would "fly" over the huge turbines. We played in the earthquake house, experimented with little nerf balls and all the different ways to use air to shoot them all over the place, and finally had to pull Skippy away from the table where you had to see if you could build an 18 inch lego tower that would support a playground ball "water tower" in an earthquake. We did so much more but I can't even begin to cover it all. Suffice it to say that we were worn OUT when we left. But thankfully, we can go back anytime we want - after doing the math when we first arrived, we realized we only have to go to OMSI three times this year to pay for a full family membership and since my wonderful godmother sent us some extra Christmas money for just such an adventure, we decided to go for it and now we have unlimited OMSI visits for a year - we already can't wait to go back when they bring the dinosaur exhibit and it's something that all of our out-of-town-company will love.

Here's some OMSI highlights, Banana preparing to blast off, Chunk playing with blocks, and Kbear with her beautiful butterfly computer painting...

So after we finally closed the place down at 5:30 we all piled back into the car and headed out of the city and over to Gresham for dinner. Our next-door-neighbors gave us a Red Lobster gift certificate for Christmas and we decided that my birthday weekend was as good a time as any to use it. As much as I like living in the middle of nowhere, I do regularly mourn the fact that we have no good chain restaurants in this town. I like supporting the Mom and Pop places as much as the next guy, but every so often you just want to go somewhere and open up the same old regular menu that thousands of other customers in hundreds of other locations have opened before you. It's a nostalgic thing, in a "where everybody knows your name" kind of way. So we stuffed ourselves silly. Seriously. It was soooooo good. We were talking about our day at the museum and when I asked my girls if they had fun, Banana exclaimed that it was the BEST DAY OF HER LIFE. Now THAT, is high praise my friends. High praise indeed.

After we rolled ourselves out the restaurant door, we made two more quick stops - Kohl's (drool), and then back to Target (double drool) and finally at long last we hit the road for home at ten. Our backseat promptly turned into a worn out pile of snoring monkeys and Skippy and I had a nice chat the whole way home.

It really WAS the best day ever.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The day after.

Thirty isn't as exciting when it's NOT your birthday. But then again, it's not all that bad either. Everyone keeps on telling me that your thirties are the time when you stop sweating the small stuff - Skippy would probably say it's about damn time. So here's to a great year.

Yesterday was a really nice day. We had lunch at Google, hung around the house, took naps, and made a cake. The doorbell rang ALL day. First a package came for me - it was from LL Bean and my Mama and inside was a fabulous new winter coat, just right for my new Oregon mountain woman persona. The next time it rang was for another deliver - this one of the biggest and most beautiful arrangement of a dozen roses I have EVER seen. My husband rocks. The damn things are half as big and I am and they are just gorgeous. He's a doll. Then later we got our new Wii Sports. Which wasn't for my birthday - it was actually to replace the one that Chunk decided to use to aid him in crawling around my hardwood living room floor. So even though it wasn't for my birthday I was way excited because we have missed our Wii bowling. Then Skippy schooled me in tennis. That part wasn't so fun.

Anyway, we went out for dinner at one of our favorite Mexican spots, which was fun. I wasn't too thrileld when they plopped the big sombraro on my head to sing "Happy Birthday, cha cha cha" but the kids loved it and Skippy was mighty tickled too. Then we came home and had cake and watched a new Grey's Anatomy and it was just a fabulous birthday all around. Tomorrow we're spending the day as a family in Portland and I can't wait for that either!

On a different note, one of my new year's resolutions was to be more aware of the things I eat. I saw this today and almost passed out. How many have YOU eaten?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Happy birthday to ME!!!!!

First of all, look at my little pastry chefs. Are they cute or what?

So when I wasn't looking, my birthday snuck up on me and I turned thirty.

Ok......seriously who am I kidding right? I've been obsessing over the calendar all year.

But anyway, thirty feels good. I'm not old. I mean I've got three gorgeous healthy kids, a wonderful marriage (going on six years in a week or so!) and overall, a pretty great life. Had ups, had downs, and in general, just hanging out.

Lots of people have asked me what we're doing to celebrate. The bummer about a January Thursday birthday is that your options are limited. So I think tonight we're going out to dinner (Skippy offered to cook but he has to work and then that means dishes), and then on Saturday we're going to go have a family day in Portland - hit OMSI, Powell's books, and who knows what else. There will definitley be a trip to Target in there - that alone makes it a spectacular birthday!

So anyway, today the kids and I are making a cake, but right now we've got to run - they are having prime rib for lunch at the Google just for ME!

Ok, not really just for me, but we are running up there for prime rib with Skippy! Lots of love!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Snow day!

HA! Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice....

Remember the last time it snowed and like a big old dummy I assumed that we still had school because after all, it was only like an inch of snow and I hustled my kids out the door and up the hill? Only to find out that there WAS no school?

Well last night we got about two inches of snow and TODAY like a smart mommy I checked the radio first. Sure enough, two inches of Oregon snow = no school!

Kids are outside making a snowman. Or trying to make a snowman. Chunk has legos. I'm going to build a fire. It's a movie day!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

In which I write my first movie review....

This past Saturday night, I did something I have never done before. It was a strange and somewhat eye-opening experience.

I went to a movie by myself.

I was all set to feel all self conscious about it - I mean the only women who go to movies by themselves are middle age chicks with bad home dye jobs and six cats, right?

So completely WRONG.

It was great. No sharing my popcorn. No sitting there wondering if the person next to me can hear me crunching on my M&Ms. No armrest issues. Just me, tucked away into a theater chair, passing some "me-time."

Anyway, I decided to see Juno. It was absolutely excellent. Very funny, very different, and very real. I thought that Ellen Page did a fantastic job. It looks like she has done mostly TV stuff to this point, but watch out! She was funny and deadpan and emotional and vulnerable and adorable. Jennifer Garner was also great - I think that people are used to seeing her in strong kickass female roles like Alias, but in this she spent a good portion of the movie teetering on an emotional ledge - you were torn between feeling pity and wanting to give her a good hard "get with it girlfriend" slap. She made me cry at the end. I was surprised to see Allison Janney as well (of The West Wing) but only because I haven't seen her in anything in quite some time. She was excellent. And Jason Bateman was also well cast, giving us just the right mix of attractive and sexy and emotionally cripled butthead. Despite a little too much "teen speak" (which made me realize that I am OLD), I laughed my butt off and at the end I even cried.

It was a lot of fun. I absolutely hate buying DVDs for anyone but the kids because we buy them and we're all excited because "It was such a GREAT movie!" and then we rarely watch them. But I think I would buy this one. AND watch it.

Not a bad night out for thirteen bucks - with popcorn.

Friday, January 4, 2008

So I'm going to tell you a story.....

It's about this dream I had not too long ago. If you're already heard it, be quiet and sit with the other kids criss-cross-applesauce, and listen anyway. I have an emotional need to blog about this today.

Back in March, when my son came into the world, as soon as he got his first breath he promptly screamed his head off and turned a healthy shade of maroon This was after two days of hellacious labor, followed by a stressful moment when we discovered that the cord wrapped twice around his neck. He was loud and wrinkly and looked just like his daddy. Despite this, I still thought he was perfect and fell instantly in love with him.

When the baby blues set in (as they inevitably did) I found myself missing my Dad something fierce. I missed my Mom too, because we lived in the same state when the girls were born and having a baby when you are away from the Mom you are super close too kind of sucks, but my Dad and I weren't anywhere near living in the same state any more - hell we weren't even in the same plane of existance anymore. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day that my Dad died.

This hurt. It really weighed heavily on me that he wasn't here to see my son. When he died it was hard enough to come to terms with the fact that he wouldn't be here to watch my girls grow up, but to completely miss the entire life of one of my children....that's hard. It's unfair. Sometimes I still kind of feel like stomping my foot at the universe and putting it in time out over the whole darn thing. But that's the way it is.

So anyway, one night when the Chunk was a few weeks old, I went to bed and promptly fell into that deep and exhausted yet ready for anything sleep that only a mother can understand. And I had this dream....

I was walking down a hospital corridor. It wasn't the local hospital here where Chunk was born - it was actually the one back in Illinois where Banana was born, where my mom works now and where my Dad had the majority of his treatment. Where we said good-bye. I was alone except for the sleeping baby in my arms.

I turned into a room and there they were - my Mom and my Dad. They were sitting side-by-side in those hospital issued chairs - the ones that are there for visitors in every hospital in the country - they are usually some shade of pink or teal and they inevitably are off balance.

I saw them both clearly. My Dad looked so good. Better yet, he looked healthy. And even after all this time, I can tell you exactly what he was wearing in the dream - his old worn out weekend jeans, a navy blue tshirt, and his grey hoodie sweatshirt - standard Dad weekend wear for working in the yard or doing some project around the house. He had just had a haircut. He had stubble on his face - Dad was just starting to go grey back then and you really noticed it when he didn't shave. My Mom always thought it was handsome. The hoodie was well worn and the jeans had holes in them, just like I remember. The strange part about all of this is that *I* could see my Dad but my Mom couldn't. She knew he was there, but she couldn't see him.

Now naturally, I reached out for my Dad. I mean, I hadn't seen him in ages, let alone a healthy version of him. But my hand passed right through him. I remember in my dream that he looked so sad then. He never said a word, but the sadness on his face was unmistakeable. Then he started to point to the baby.

It took me a bit, but after a minute I realized that he wanted to see the Chunk. So I leaned down and pulled the blanket away and showed my dad his grandson. Although he never spoke to me, he started nodding his head and smiling. He was so happy. In that moment in the dream, I felt amazing. I knew how much he loved me and how much he loved the baby.

I turned to my Mom and smiled. When I turned back to my Dad, he was gone.

That's about the time the baby woke me up. I can remember laying there in bed listening to the quiet house and thinking that never in my life had I experienced a dream like that - so vivid and so easy to remember, down to each little detail - those torn up jeans and that old grey hoodie. I had a little cry then, and went to rock the baby.

So tomorrow will mark another year that I look at the calendar with a feeling of profound sadness. It was July of 2004 when Mom and Dad told us that he had esophageal cancer. It was January of 2005 when we lost him. Six months of sickness and emotional hell and hope and saying goodbye. I need to keep talking about it - it helps me realize everything that I still have from him - aside from his temper and his tendancy to worry about everyone and everything. I didn't want to write another sad story like the one that happened while I was Christmas shopping this year. This isn't to make anyone feel sad, or to make anyone cry. I wanted something more than that - something that I could re-read tomorrow that would remind me that he's still with me - that he sees my beautiful kids and he knows that I'm happy. I hope he's proud of me. I know he loves me.

I miss him. And I love him so much.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I haven't blogged since....LAST YEAR!!!

Ok, I know I'm awful. I never even got back to the computer to catch up on Christmas. In a nutshell, it was pretty great. Exhausting. But great. I really thought I had gotten ahead of the ball on my wrapping but apparently that wasn't the case since Skippy and I stayed up until after two in the morning getting stuff under the tree.

This whole shopping early thing gets me in trouble. Because I start early, which is great. Then I kind of fall off the wagon (or sleigh) so to speak and by the time I get it all back together I've forgotten what I've bought and I go totally overboard. This year I spent almost an hour looking for a bag of stuff that I had hidden and then forgotten about until about 1:30 in the morning Christmas Eve night.

But all in all, Christmas Eve was a busy but quiet affair. Skippy and I took turns taking the kids out to do some last minute shopping. We helped the kids wrap some gifts. I called my grandparent's house (where I have spent almost every Christmas Eve of my 29 years) and had a mild breakdown when I heard my Mom's voice. And then we had fun sprinting into Safeway at 5:55 that evening because here in middle-of-nowhere Oregon they close the doors EARLY on Christmas Eve and don't open them again until December 26th. And at 5:30 on Christmas eve I realized we had exactly four diapers left and that Safeway was the only place still open and that they closed at six. Not to mention the produce conspiracy where some wayward Safeway employee set me up to bring home parsley instead of cilantro for Skippy's famous tacos -- because *I* know what cilantro looks like dammit.

Then we got home from dinner, gave the kids their new Christmas Eve jammies, put out cookies for Santa and carrots for reindeer, and got the little monkeys into bed. Then we wrapped. And wrapped. And wrapped some more. And I had a large glass of Bailey's Irish Cream and wrapped a little more.

Christmas Day started at 7:30. Not too bad really. I mean, I felt like it was the freaking Armaggeadon after staying up wrapping but really, they could have been up much earlier so I consider myself lucky. The girls were excited. The baby was baffled. Skippy and I were bleary-eyed but ready to do battle with the three thousand twisty ties that evil toy companies use to secure everything into their evil packages.

How is it that it takes less than one hour to UNwrap what it took me four hours TO wrap? How is that fair? Next year I'm wrapping everything in a big frickin' sheet. It'll be like one of those magician tablecloth tricks - TA DA! DONE. Anyway....

Kbear's doctor kit and Banana's Ice Pen My Little Pony were huge Santa presents. Bitty Babies from Nana were a huge hit. Movies from Mom and Dad were greatly appreciated. The Vtech game system from Aunt Carla was very exciting, although they didn't quite understand what it was while it was all still in the box. All in all, it was a fabulous Christmas for kiddos. Poor Chunk opened one present and promptly got vastly overwhelmed by all of the excitement.

In grown-up news, my Skippy did so well this year! Among other treats, I got an iPod (which I have been asking for FOREVER) and an absolutely beautiful Irish cross necklace that he had friends of ours pick up when they went to Ireland this past fall. In keeping with tradition, I also got a new bear for my collection from Big Sky Carvers - we bought our first one together about six years ago and he's given me one every year since. This year it's the "Bear Two Step" and it's significance is that they are doing the "we sold our house and moved to Oregon happy dance." I love it.

And finally once all of the paper and bows and ribbon was stuffed into big black garbage bags and Christmas breakfast was in our bellies, we ran around like crazy little elves cleaning up the house for company. Skippy made the merry Christmas out of steak and chicken tacos (A W Family tradition) and we had two couples over to share dinner with us - it was loud and hot and wonderful to have a house full of friends and the food was rockin'. Snow fell outside all afternoon and it was just a really nice day. And let me just say that I must be an easy girl to please - I think Char and Trav gave me one of my favorite Christmas presents EVER when Trav fixed my garbage disposal! LOL

Before we knew it, it was over. Hard to believe really. Our first Christmas in Oregon was done and ready to be blogged about and filed away in our memory banks.

I'll get to New Year's Eve a little later today and get some pictures up ASAP - right now I have to go - the Chunk is trying to eat his sister's puzzle pieces.