Sunday, December 26, 2010

Getting the most out of the season

I can't believe it's the day after Christmas already. For the first time in about two years, I took consecutive days off from work (on purpose and planned ahead!) and did nothing but run around like a mad woman and fight with my family. In other words, I prepared for the holidays.

In the midst of the madness, P and I took a look at each other and realized we were going to miss it all if we didn't slow down and soak it in. Because of custody agreements and crappy logistics, we only get our Boy Wonder every other if we spent this entire past week bickering and stressed...well, guess what? It would be another two years before we got to celebrate with him again. (Oh, gosh, I even hate reading those words.)

So long about Wednesday night, we called a time out. We ate dinner, gave the kids their baths, and loaded everyone up in their pjs into the truck. We stopped off and got hot chocolates from a coffee stand, and we went out in search of adventure. We found crappy light displays, great light displays, living nativity scenes (our personal favorites). We listened to the Christmas music station and we had a contest to see who was the most excited about Christmas. ("Me!" "No, mee!" "Meeeeeeeee!")

By the time Christmas eve rolled around, we were happy and in love with each other and the season again. Which is probably the ONLY reason I didn't freak out and cry when there were no seats at the Episcopal Christmas Eve mass and we had to leave. (Trust me, church is the LAST place you want to feel like you don't fit or belong. I hate it.) Packed back into the truck in our fancy church clothes, I made the off-hand joke that maybe we were a little like the first family thousands of years ago trying to find a place that had some room for them. So we kept going. And we found a church that I used to go to years ago and there was plenty of room and they were happy to see us. The feeling was mutual.

We stayed up late putting together plastic kitchens and basketball hoops and wrapping more presents than I remember buying. As I had just closed my eyes (at least it seemed that way) I heard a tiny voice saying "Mom! Santa came!" It was 3:30 a.m.

By 6:45 a.m., the destruction had hit and the boys were love drunk with new toys and stockings full of chocolate and match box cars. P was exhausted and had blisters on his hand from the 12-hour stint assembling toys. I was comatose and hid underneath my new electric blanket (yes!). My mom took a four-hour nap. But we had made it a beautiful Christmas with a little help and a lot of faith.

Merry Christmas and here's looking forward to an incredible new year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Searching for this year's Christmas Eve-ning

Remember last Christmas Eve?

Well, I'm sure you do, but what I'm specifically referring to is the Christmas Eve traditions post I wrote last year. With shrimp and pajamas in place, sorta, (minus the spiced wine, thanks to the whole pregnancy!), our family is in need of a "movie" that night to distract ourselves from the copious amounts of little shelled sea creatures that will sacrifice themselves for our holiday enjoyment.

My personal favorite is "It's a Wonderful Life," but let's face's in black and white and is a little too introspective to attract the average dweller in my house. We love, love, love the Griswold's "Lampoon Christmas" and after the last couple weeks we've been having around here, well, let's just say maybe we can relate a little more than we should. Ha! But maybe I'm sending the wrong message with that one? (Listen, between the double pink eye infection Boo got himself and the epic meltdowns and face-scratching arguing in these walls, it's enough to want to give up all together and break out the prozac...but we can't. 'Cause that would be cheating ourselves out of the wonder and magic and chaos of the season, right?! That, and we all really like presents around here. Just sayin'.)

Boy Wonder likes "Santa Buddies" and Boo is all about the Caillou Christmas Special (Yuck!). P loves the original "Santa Clause" movie from the 80s and I'm too wrapped around the clothing and hairstyles to let the message sink in much. And me, well, with my penchant for old movies, you can bet I'm usually up late during the holidays watching Turner Classic Movies by myself.

So, if you have a favorite, let me have it. Odd, hard to find, out of date...send them my way. Our Christmas Eve may very well depend on you! (Well, maybe not so much, but at least you might save us from an evening of Santa Buddies and Caillou! Ugh!)

Good luck surviving the last few days of the Christmas crush...we've got a few days left and my to-do list is miles long (including the nagging desire to make these salted caramels! Nums!)


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Seven is a grand number

Just ask Boy Wonder.

Last week he had his birthday and I'm still having a hard time remembering that he's no longer five...let alone SEVEN!

I started the letter-writing tradition last year and figured I'd keep it going as long as he seemed interested in hearing them. So here goes.

Dear D,

Seven!!! I can hardly believe it. Just yesterday I was baking you a dino-cake for your fifth birthday at the museum, and now here you are all grown up and leaving me on the side of the pool while you swim with your friends.

There are no two ways about it, are born to swim. In the past year we've dipped our toes in the proverbial pools of about a million sports and activities and they all stick for about 14.5 minutes before you'd rather stay home and watch cartoons than brave the cold weather. But not with swimming. From the moment we started your first lesson when you were three, swimming has been the one thing you never tire of. And you're good at it, kid. We like to joke that with that stretch torso and long legs, you're bound to put Michael Phelps to shame some day. Could happen...

First grade started off as a challenge. Not really because you weren't prepared, more because it was new people and new experiences that were waiting for you after your trip to Texas this summer. You weren't overly thrilled for me to leave your classroom on the first day and after the SHOVE out the door you gave me on your first day of kindergarten, I have to admit I kind of liked it! But you did fine. You've made some great friends who come over and eat all our food and never want to leave because our house is so, well, animated? Yes... that's a good word for it.

You shine in math, little man. Numbers are kind of like legos and you figure out places to put them and make it work. I'm amazed. You're on the road to reading and it's exciting to watch the wheels turn in that brilliant head of yours.

You're learning that being a big brother isn't always easy and sometimes a toddler is a challenge...especially when you have to let go of the power struggle, despite the fact that you're bigger. It's just what you do, kiddo, and you get it. You're protective of Andrew in a fierce, loyal way. I'll probably never forget the hike we took as a family at the end of the summer and Andrew did what wild, carefree toddlers do...he wandered off the path and into the thick of things. The tears on your face were real and you would not calm down until I had him back within arm's reach and safe from the dreaded Cow Parsnip! But that's you...even at such a young age you think it's your job to keep the ones you love safe and happy.

As you grow, I pray you learn balance...that sometimes your job is just to be a kid and laugh, fart, and get in trouble for putting gum in the dog's fur or something harmless like that (though be warned, you will learn what grounding is sooner or later and if you're anything like me, you'll spend a good portion of 4th through 6th grade under house arrest!)

Six flew by, my love. I see a pattern now, and it's bittersweet. Before long, we'll be packing up your room and shipping you off to college (Texas A&M, hopefully! ha!)...but not yet. You're still the boy who wanders around the house with one boxing glove on and a kitchen spoon tucked into your belt like a weapon...and I love you so much for it.



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Outing Ourselves

I have absolutely no good excuse for ignoring this blog for so long. Truly.

I haven't cured cancer. Haven't polished off another novel. Hell, I haven't even had a good cold to knock me off my feet for a week or so. I've been lazy. There, I said it. L-A-Z-Y.

In the past two months there has been a fantastic jiu jitsu tournament that I did not participate in (more on that later), a one-year super anniversary that me and the man of my dreams have YET to celebrate (ordering take out at 9 p.m. after giving each other the silent treatment all day does NOT count...for either of us...ha!) and a BOATLOAD of first grader activities to squeeze in (including Turkey Bingo at his school tonight...C'mon lucky 0 67!!)

I've also been in hiding. We found out a few weeks ago that M3 (short for "Minion the Third" aka "Baby #3) is due in June. Joyous news, right? We sure think so. We also think that me staying awake between the hours of 1 and 9 p.m. requires an Act of Congress, a miracle enacted by the creator, and some serious willpower. (And those who know me, well, you know that's not my strong suit by any means.)

So I've been overjoyed by a year married to the love of my life, endless hours of stepping on and clearing legos and blocks from our floor, swim practices, afternoons volunteering in the classroom during reading labs, and early pregnancy--you know, the part where you just sorta look fat and mushy, but not really pregnant? I'm so there.

My mom arrived this week. Did I mention that yet? We're all excited around here and she even managed to survive the first two mornings of 6 a.m. toddler wake up drills. So far. But she's no morning glory, so I won't be surprised to find her bedroom door padlocked closed from the inside any day this boys are determined to jump on her super airmattress every morning and one of these days, it's going to burst with all three of them on it. And I'll probably laugh. And pee my pants. (It happens. Don't judge.)

My priorities have been right where they were supposed to be, I'm sure, but that also means that my more selfish inclinations (writing, gym time, knitting horrendous scarves) has been minimal, therefore making me a puffy, overtired, miserable tyrant. Can you believe I made it to my anniversary in one piece? Me either!

So there it is...the happenings around the nest from the last 60 or so days, along with a solemn vow not to let that much time pass again before posting. (Be warned, willpower and the ability to keep strict promises...I have bad histories with both!)

With love,


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nothing gold can stay...

"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air. " (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

I took a break from blogging for a minute or two. Partly because my house seems to be one giant petri dish meant solely for breeding rhinovirus carriers, and partly because I had a touch of ennui. Such a pretty word, isn’t it? Ennui. I feel sorta exotic just saying it.

I tried explaining this lame feeling I’ve been carting around to my poor husband and I’m sure I only served to confused the man even more. How can I be absolutely fine on the surface and yet feel so sluggish and down on the inside? The same dork in pajama pants doing the running man at breakfast day in and day out that fights this nagging sadness that looms just around the corner and at the blurred edges in my vision? I don’t get it.

I think the crux of the problem is that I am used to working towards something. At any given moment in my life, you can ask me what I’m into lately and I always have a fire-burning passion about something. MMA, jiu jitsu, knitting, sewing, writing, Warcraft, running, yoga, swimming, baking. Something. And yes, I love all of those activities, but I think I might have burned myself out when the realities of my life as it stands now hit.

Life is busy. And not always in the carpooling to soccer/swim/baseball practice, but in the everyday reality of raising a family, working full-time with one of us in school full-time. It’s nuts. And it leaves precious little time for selfish pursuits. (I know it’s selfish to want to be able to sew for four hours straight, and it’s a notion I’m adjusting to. My boys saved me from my own vanity and self-interest, but I am not an overnight success. A work-in-progress at best!)

Each night at 4-ish when we get home, a part of me sighs heavily, knowing that the longest four hours of the day are about to begin. Between picking up after our morning rush out of the house to doing the daily upkeep chores, to cooking, bathing, and cleaning the wild apes running through the house, I’m done by 8 p.m….and that’s assuming the wild apes actually stay in their beds and sleep and don’t stand screaming for 45 minutes until we can’t stand it anymore and go get them.

But today on the drive in, the leaves are changing. My town is green and gold and full of crisp contrasts in every view, and around here, it doesn’t last. Fall is orange and red, full of pumpkins and chilly evenings, tempered with bright, warm afternoons, and it’s gone all too quickly—replaced by overcast, snow-threatening days and sad, bare trees.

Much like this stage in life, right? Our boys are young and they’re needy and it’s a beautiful time that’s fleeting at best. Perhaps I ought to reconsider my viewpoint and be happy they require so much work, because if I remember my teenaged years correctly, the times coming where they want to be on their own and away from the house.

And what would I do without lunches to pack and babies to bathe? Where would I be without 24-hours of Dragon Tales and Spongebob.

Lost, my friends. I’d be lost.

So here's to folding mountains of laundry and endless bowls of macaroni and cheese… beauty in the small details. Happiness in the everyday...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lessons I wish they didn't have to learn...

We are blessed. Our lives are filled with Elmo and Dragon Tales, Legos and Scooby Doo. Our boys (and family, I suppose) live in a mostly sunshine-filled bubble were everyday is mostly the same glorious experience over and over again. I am so thankful for that.

But we’re moving into an intimidating age with Boy Wonder—one where he’s beginning to sense that everything is not always right with the world, that people aren’t always kind and patient. And that superheros (fictional and real) can’t always save the day for us.

We don’t watch much violent television in our house. Truth be told, Boy Wonder and Boo dominate the channels and they choose either Sprout or Cartoon Network (and even then, it’s usually Chowder, Scooby Doo or Phineas and Ferb.)

But every once in a while, I need to see something, anything, not animated and I turn on the news hour while I’m making dinner. And sometimes our local news is scarier than any horror movie Wes Craven can come up with.

Last Saturday in the small village of Hoonah, Alaska two village police officers were chatting in a parking lot with their families and were gunned down. On the spot. In front of their children and mother. (You can read the heartbreaking story of the village’s police chief’s reactions and remarks here. But keep tissue handy, especially if you dare view the slide show. The officers were larger-than-life, good people that Alaska was privileged to call their own the past four years.)

So when the news is covering the lives of Anthony Wallace and Matthew Tokuoka, it breaks my heart. It’s senseless and violent and so horrendous it shakes your faith in human beings. I’m standing in the kitchen glued to where I stand, dinner boiling over, tears streaming down my face.
My reaction was not lost on my sensitive, all-seeing first grader, who wanted to know what had upset me. What had broken the hearts of all Alaskans...

How do you explain this to someone who stills sees the world in black and white? Where bad guys and good guys meet on epic battlegrounds, where good always prevails and the heros go home to their families every night for dinner.

I included the information about Officers Wallace and Tokuoka for folks to remember them, their families, and the Hoonah Police Department in their thoughts and prayers. I’m sure they could all really use them right now.

I don’t have the answers when Boy Wonder wants to know how such bad things can happen. I try to explain that God’s got it all in control somehow and we’re not ever going to understand, but it’s not our job to worry ourselves into a frenzy over it.

And Boy Wonder, our little “rev” said he was going to pray for the policemen—and did so, right on the spot in his beautiful, simple prayerful way. He asked God to give the policemen who were killed hugs and to help their families stop crying.

Maybe he’s got it down. Maybe Boy Wonder and Boo really need to teach me a little more about blind faith and not losing hope in humanity. But every now and then, I wish my son didn’t need such a highly developed sense of empathy or understanding.

Sometimes I wish the world really was Dragon Tales and Transformers and would stay that way forever…
And to Wallace and Tokuoka, rest in peace. Thank you for your service and your selflesness. You will be missed by an entire state of grateful, heartbroken people.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Crowded Kitchen: Nanny's Ginger Crinkles

My trip to Texas this month was better than I could have imagined. Good times with my dad and my son. Good food. Hella sunshine. A chance to spend time with my Donna Lynn after a five year absence. Sleeping in my old bed.

And note cards? Recipe cards to be exact.

This year I've slowly become fascinated with cooking. And baking, though the results are mixed and vary, depending on whether I accidentally skip over the "baking soda" line in the ingredients.

In my dad's house, I was pawing through the old bookshelf and stumbled across three recipe boxes FULL of my mom's recipes, handwritten on index cards. Here's the thing about finding these...for years, my mom had the most beautiful handwriting. She had such pride in it, that she did her best to pass it on to me, even if it meant making me re-do my sloppy homework. (Oh, how I cursed her then!)

In recent years, since her diagnosis of the brain disease, her ability to write in the neatly rounded print has dwindled, and often times, when she's quickly jotting notes, I have a hard time reading it. But these recipe cards, well, they tell a story. Not only do the contain all the things I grew up eating, they show the progression of a brain disease of sorts, along with highlighting my mother's fascinations--cranberries, biscottis, cranberry biscotti. You see where I am going.

To make a good find even BETTER, one of the boxes I found had a different penmanship all together. Can you tell where this is going? Oh yes, the motherlode of all recipe grandmother, Margaret. Nanny is a woman after my own heart. She devotes precious little space to nonesense like main dishes and vegetables. No, my grandmother gets down with the baking. Muffins. Breads. Biscuits. Cookies. Candy. Pies.

I sat on the phone with my mom on a recent Sunday afternoon reading off the recipes and getting whatever stories went with them. Hermits are Pop's favorite cookies. Penuche is Nanny's favorite candy. Anything with raisins in the recipe was definitely made for Pop. The god-awful sounding things in there like "Cabbage Casserole" and "Minced Clam Lunch" were from an era when Nanny was religiously shedding pounds with Weight Watchers. (Phew!)

Nanny's penmanship is classic cursive they must have taught back in school. It's slanted. It's tightly spaced and feminine. Her s's are perfect. Her f's are elegant. And her recipes? Fantastic.

My mom has made ginger crinkles before. I remember them well, so when I found Nanny's recipe...well, I had to. Consider these my new favorite cookies. And they went well with the boys, too, so I can talk myself into them more often. After all, molasses has a lot of iron, right?

The magic thing about this is that I never grew up close to Nanny. She and Pop always lived on the opposite coast as me, but something happened during that first attempt to cook from her recipe. I learned to trust.

I squinted at the recipe card a few times when I didn't see butter. I saw a whole lot of oil. A lot of the recipes were different than what I'm used to out of today's magazines and recipe Web sites.

"Are you sure?" I asked nobody in particular.

The card was stained and worn. It had obviously been used before, and obviously the results were good if the baker came back to the card time and time again. So I trusted. And I used the nearly one cup of oil. And it was good. Earthy and spicy and crunchy and sweet. So good, I wanted to share Nanny's recipe.

This discovery lit a fire under my butt. I wanted more family recipes. I want them in a book. I want Pam's buckeyes and Dee's peanut butter cookies. I want Cheryl's pie recipes, instructions for my mom's rustic apple tarts, and I want the stories that go with them before nobody wants to tell them anymore. I want my kids and Jeff's kids and Brandy's kids and Justin's kids and Carissa's kids to have this piece of our far-flung, odd, and beautiful family, too.

And I'm working on it, people. :)

Ginger Crinkles

2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 egg
4 T molasses
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 cup sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix oil and sugar thoroughly in large bowl. Add egg and beat well. Stir in molasses. Sift dry ingredients to oil mixture. Make walnut-sized balls and cover in sugar. Put on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool on rack. Store cookies in tightly covered container. Makes about 3 dozen.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The education of me and the meaning of grace

I was getting a bit tired of writing about baking and cooking, even though I'd planned to do a post today about food (and I still might. You never know...)

I figured it had been a while since I did a post with any sort of substance, you know...the stuff friends and family members read to get a sense of what's going on in this corner of the world. I thought about lots of stuff, and really, everything has been overshadowed in the last 23 hours by the fact that my son, Boy Wonder, called another woman "his mom."

I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about it. I ran it past a couple friends last I correct him? Or do I let it go? Do I let the kid call us all whatever he wants. High road? Low road? Off ramp short cut to enlightenment?

I got stuck writing this post, and like I do anytime that I get self-inflicted writer's "goldfish" brain, I cruised around blogs. And cruised.

And I came upon one of my favorite crafty-ish blogs and there was a video about forgiveness and taking God's messages seriously. (I'm not so good at that, you see.) The video is here.

It's about a man who in one awful accident, lost his pregnant wife and two of his four children to a teenaged drunk driver. The video goes on talk about how forgiveness and grace was never NOT an option for this man, Chris Williams and how it has changed not only his life, but every one involved in the horrific accident...including the young man that killed his family. He likened it to how forgiveness and grace is never NOT an option with Jesus Christ either... and it was one of those A-ha moments. (They're rare these days, I guess.)

I admit that I cried when I watched it, and I even forgave the fact that it was a huge ad for the Church of Latter Day Saints at the end...really, the message got through and that's what it's supposed to do, right?

In comparison, my problems are small, my friends, and in the end...anger really isn't an option. When it comes to our children, the high road is really the only road if you want to do it right.

I have two sons. One is blessed and has his parents together all the time. The other has to make do with the reality he was given--based on choices his father and I made. It was never Boy Wonder's choice to live with his heart split across the continent. I'm sure he'll look at Boo someday and feel the smallest bit of envy that everyone he loves is right there under one roof.

My heart caught in my throat when he told me he had to ask "his mom" (the stepmom) to take a picture of his toothless grin, and I won't lie and say it didn't hurt. It stung like hell. But guess what? So does having to up and leave every few months and say good bye and hello four times a year.

Good on you, Boy Wonder, for making the best of this situation and embracing everyone in your life as your family and not some ridiculous label with stipulations and explanations. Moms, dads, brothers, cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles...they come in all shapes and sizes in your life and you are wise enough to see it even when we can't.

So, thank you anonymous Mormon video poster for furthering my education today and getting me to think a little less about me...and a little more about the ones that matter most.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Wednesday Baker: Boule Bread

A few months ago I bought all of the necessary equipment and ingredients for bread, according to the book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day."

Bread and I have a long history. According to local legend, I used to take naps in a laundry basket on the floor of the bakery, Baba A Louis, where my mom worked. Bread is a weakness. It's a blessing. It's something I seek and destroy when in the mood.

Except I've never really been that great at baking it. I manage hockey pucks. The occasional door stop. But never fantastic, earthy bread.

So when I bought this book in the Spring, we were weeks away from moving into Anchorage and I never really got to turn loose in the book. Until now. Until today. The day I deemed Wednesdays as "baking days."

The concept of the book is that artisan bread is actually possible without having an advanced degree in chemistry or fancy equipment. No back-breaking kneading. No nonsense. You mix your ingredients. You let them set overnight. You bake your bread. You eat your bread. Bada-boom...bada-bing.

The Master Recipe makes four 1-pound loaves, so I always halve it.

3 cups lukewarm water
1.5 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1.5 tablespoons kosher or coarse salt
6 cups unsifted all purpose flour.

The book goes on to have you mix the water, the yeast and the salt. Add the flour. Mix very loosely until there's not dry spots. And then...well, that's it. Put it in a container. Leave it in the fridge. Let the yeast work its magic. In the morning, you knead it very lightly. Let it rest. Bake your bread (with the help of a "steam bath") for 30 minutes. And you're done.

The book is amazing and highly recommended...eventually you can work yourself up to making cinnamon rolls and other super fantastic-ness. But for now. The bread.

It had the bakery-guaranteed"skin" that crackled and broke when you tear into it. It's chewy. It's yeasty. It's perfect for a rainy Wednesday in Alaska.

The authors have a site here. Just so happens today they blogged about baking in Tuscany without their normal equipment. Nice, right?

Happy Wednesday!

The Joy of 32

I've had about a week now to walk around with my new identity and it's about as anti-climactic as any birthday has been.

It just sorta is. The day came. And it sorta went. (But not without some FANTASTIC birthday love from my facebook family out there. THANK YOU!)

(I'm pretty sure the most exciting birthday so far has been 25...the year I was allowed to rent a car! 21 doesn't really count...because, honestly, who hadn't been drinking since the day they arrived on their college campus? But rental cars...well, there was one place you couldn't cheat.)

My husband had flowers for me. Boo had an Elmo balloon that he shared with me, and there were two cakes and lots of princess-themed partyware. I love my husband, have I mentioned that lately?

It was low-key and when it came time to figure out the birthday gift, the practical nature of 32 became very apparent when I asked my husband not to buy me a fancy espresso machine and to let me purchase a new vacuum instead. (The horror!!)

A fu*&ing vacuum, you say?

Yes, dear reader. Our floor was nasty, what can I say? (It sorta reminded me of that Mother's Day back in 1986 when I had my dad buy an iron for my mom so I could sign the card. She laughed then and I didn't get it. Oh, but I get it now...)

Clean floors aside, 32 seems like a magic number to me. It seems to be the nice, well-rounded age I've earned after a few long years of struggle. Fighting against myself, against an ex, against jobs that went nowhere, against rash behavior just because I could. Fight fight fight, strife strife strife. No longer. This is a well-earned age where my phsycial and mental scars tell the story of me becoming me.

32 seems to be the year when I am no longer my own worst enemy, where I have built an incredible foundation around me with friends and family who want the best for me and are no longer afraid to speak up when I'm wrong (though I rarely am, so watch yourself.)

This past week has been like many others in my life. Some good news, some bad. Some drama. Some worries. But here's the thing, at 32 (and beyond, right?) you bend the problem to your solution. At 22, you bend yourself to the problem and try to claw your way out of a hole. That's my take anyway.

At 32 I've become a master at triaging my life. Sure, the electric bill might be late, but the car insurance and the gas is paid, so two outta three ain't bad. Yeah, I might get short with P if we're both lacking sleep...but have you seen Houswives of New Jersey lately? We seem pretty damn normal compared to those fools, and that's a fantastic place to start.

So happy belated 32nd to me...the first of many, many more. I hope, anyway...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The return of something great

Thomas the Tank Engine has returned to our lives this summer. Some of the tracks and most of the engines that Boy Wonder collected between ages 2 and 5 survived the move to Anchorage only to be saved from obscurity in the garage by Boo himself.

Though we don't quite have the language down (he screams "NO!" and hands you a piece of broken track when he wants you to fix it. A sad consequence from the afternoon we spent playing together...I'd build the track, he'd destroy it. I'd tell him "No!" over and over again and repair it. Somehow screaming "NO!!" at his dad with two pieces of tracks is supposed to mean "Hello, Father. Can you please fix this for me? Thank you."

We're working on it.

I missed Thomas and his friends. Boy Wonder and I used to watch those DVDs on endless loops and it was such a treat when we found the more rare episodes that George Carlin narrated. Yes!

He's also discovered plain old blocks. The kid loves them. It's a magic age where the bling-bling lights of battery-operated toys hold no interest to him (nor does the television) and all the kid wants to do is build piles and knock them down. It's a grand summer.

And MEEMAWS. I can't forget "meemaws."

Meemaws are magical creatures. Maybe it's because mama might have a bit of that Texas twang when she says "pillow" but meemaws seem to be any plush or comfy item in our living room that Boo wants to claim for his own and snuggle on top of. If you find yourself over at our house in the near future, beware. He might spot the pillow you're sitting near and come by and snatch it, yelling "My meemaw!" You've been warned.

Toddlers are magical, tiring creatures. How could I have forgotten this so quickly?

In other blackbird news, the fight is off. I know, I know, you're heartbroken, right? Haha. Didn't think so. The stars didn't align for this one and it seems that I am a much different person at 32 than I was at 27. But that's the whole point, right? (And thank goodnes...I'm not sure I was much to shake a stick at in my 20s...I was kind self-absorbed and pushy. Just sayin'.)

Oh, and I rescue Boy Wonder August 12. I bet you're just as excited as I am. :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

MMA and the meaning of life

"They sicken of the calm, who know the storm."
(Dorothy Parker)

My Fairtex gloves are getting old. Nearing five years, and in MMA glove-life, that’s seriously past your prime and nearing the walker-stage of life. But I love these gloves. More than I love my “undefeated” Sprawl shorts. My blue, 4-ounce companions have won with me, they’ve lost with me. They’ve been to hell and back during that one trip to Las Vegas in 2007—and in all the subsequent changes in my life in the past four years, I’ve managed to NOT lose them.

Which is saying a lot if you know me.

They’ve been getting more use lately…especially since I sought out, and got, a fight in August. And so it begins…

People think I’m crazy, and for lots of reasons, I’m pretty sure they’re right. Why on earth would I want to fight after a four-year hiatus? What’s in it for me? It’s not as if Dana White is going to call with a UFC contract just waiting for my signature…and I’m certain that at 31 years old, that’s not my life’s dream, anyway.

So why now? Why after brain surgery and babies and a happily-ever after marriage? What’s left to prove?


Fear is a funny thing. It gives nothing, and seems to take everything. I’ve got a great poker face, but by nature, I’m a fearful person.

Fear of commitment. Fear of conflict. Fear of failing. Fear of people touching the inside of my elbows (true story.) Fear of letting the people I love down. Fear of failing my sons. Fear of always dreaming and never doing. Fear of talking the talk, but never walking the walk.

It’s true. My life so far has been a study in how to address fear in a way that let’s you live your life without limits. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I fail. But at the basis of the crazier things I do in my life, it’s always about identifying some sort of fear and facing it.

I started MMA on a whim in 2006 when I walked into Gracie Barra Alaska. I had a different last name back then that I’ve since returned to its rightful owner (thank god!), and I had no concept of what I wanted out of the sport. I just knew I wanted to give it a try.

Those early days of training were recorded in a story I wrote for the Anchorage Daily News a few weeks before my second fight. You can read the article here. I know, it’s a random location and that story was printed in the STRANGEST places thanks to modern wire news services…I got e-mails from Alabama, Ghana, East London, and the swamps of Florida. Oh, and Sitka, Alaska, too! (Hello, Sitka!)

It was a whirlwind time for me. The ride was fun and all of a sudden, I had a profile on Sherdog, Fight Girls…even MMA (Hahahah! “Babe”….who woulda thought?) I made lots of friends on MySpace that I’d never ever met in real life. I got to go on radio shows at 6 in the morning and sound ridiculous because I was half-asleep.

In October 2006, I entered a four-woman tournament to vie for the women’s belt. I won one of my fights against Mae Osborne. And then….well, I lost. I got hammered and in between rounds, I couldn’t take anymore. My coach tossed in the towel for me. The championship was well-won by a girl who trained her ass off and beat the hell out of me. We became friends and occasional training partners after that. Funny how life happens, right?

Anyway, I took time off and was offered a chance to fight in Las Vegas in early 2007. Against someone way bigger, way tougher, with way more experience. My team was supportive, but I could tell by the look in their eyes, they felt like they were watching a “dead girl walking.”

Hell, when I got to Vegas and saw her, I knew what the outcome would be. She was HUGE. Her shoulders were half the distance of a football field and she had more muscles than Mr. Olympia himself.

But guess what? I got on that plane and showed up anyway. The lead up to the fight with Erin Toughill was an exercise in facing your demons. To me, she was every excuse I’d ever given for not following through with something.

It’s too tough. I can’t do it. She’s too big. I’m too inexperienced. Why should I bother?”

Fear. I was there to battle my fear, win or lose.

I showed up in Las Vegas ready to give it hell and take as big of a piece of her with me as I could. I had no illusions.

God, on the other plan, had other ideas. Two days before the fight the Nevada Athletic Commission called me and told me to go home, back to Alaska. I had a brain aneurism. Game over.

Stunned silence, right? Totally my reaction, too.

I found a doctor that could do a surgery that would require them cracking open my skull like a coconut. I scheduled it. And postponed it. And postponed it some more. And hedged. And hemmed and hawed.

Let’s face it folks, I was scared. What if I didn’t wake up? What if I couldn’t remember my son’s name? What if my motor skills were jacked? Wasn’t a 2 percent chance of it rupturing (increasing 2 percent each year I was alive) a pretty low number? Couldn’t I just ignore it?

But, taking lessons learned from MMA and training, on February 12, 2008, I faced my fear and had brain surgery. The recovery was slow and I lost most of my hair a few weeks out (with no warning from the damn doctor…thanks a lot for that one, dick!) but eventually, it was all over and I had a nice, shiny new brain.

In the time between then and now, I got married to the man of my dreams, my big man started school, our second son joined the party, and I jumped into the deep end of life when I turned 30. None occurred in that particular order, but you get the idea. I spent the past four years living.

But MMA never left me and each summer I’d bug P about “just one more fight…c’mon! Just one more. Pleeeease!”

He finally relented this summer, based on two assumptions:

1) I wouldn’t get dragged back into the drama that usually follows MMA fighters and their careers. I was doing it this summer because Boy Wonder was with his dad—but we all understand the fact that when Fall returns, it’s all about family again. (Fighters have a real “all about me” thing going on right before fights. No kidding.
2) More babies! Yep. It’s true. We want a whole team and I’d be content to fight this summer and go back to the whole beached-whale thing next year. (Seriously, it’s not cute. I’m not a glowing, happy preggo.I’m King Kong.)

Don’t get me wrong…each second up until that “DING DING” sound that comes from outer space to start the fight, I’m terrified. I want to pee my pants. I want to crawl over the cage and join my friends at a table for a beer—I want to do anything BUT fight. But it’s a beast I overcome, one long, neverending second at a time.

The journey you take from training hours and hours each week to the fight itself is long and it’s awful and it’s full of frustrations and anger—but it’s definitely a vision quest.

One that can’t be replicated.

How you react when the cards are stacked against you and you’re out of breath and can’t think straight—it’s a priceless gift the fight game gives you. You learn more about yourself in one round then you ever will by over thinking yourself and pondering “the big questions”.

And fear. Truth be told, you learn to kick it’s ass. And that right there is worth every piece of sh^% second I spend getting punched in the face and knocked around by my teammates.

So there you have it. I’m not crazy for wanting to fight..I consider it a part of me. And whether I never fight again after August 11, I’ll never be far from the sport and I’ll never be the same because of it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

SharkBaby and the Night of the Living Dead

No, seriously.

Last night poor Boo and I went to war against an unseen enemy and the casualty? Sleep. It didn't have a chance in hell.

Currently, our 16-month old sweet baby is cutting tooth #4,765. That officially classifies him as a shark, right?

I swear the kid has five rows of teeth popping through. And we've felt every single one of those nasties from inception all the way through the raw, gum ravaging end. I think Boo just has to think about teeth (or a mouth, or sleep) and he starts to drool and the hacking cough returns.

The night went something like this:

11 p.m.: Ahhhhh. Mom takes a Melatonin and starts to feel fantastic. And sleepy. And....*#$%$...was that just the baby I heard? Get up. Resettle the baby. Administer pain relief. Administer Baby Vicks for the hellacious cough. Return to bed.

11:23 p.m.: Again? What now? Give baby back the bottle. Tuck him in. Night night, Boobear.

Midnight: No, seriously. Go to sleep kid. Here's your bottle. Sleepy sleepy, k?

1 a.m.: This isn't funny Boo. You better have a gaping chest wound in there. No? Here's your bottle. Go to bed.

1: 34 a.m.: No, no, no, no! Resettle baby. Tuck him in. Promise him his brother's toys if he'll just stay asleep. He can have his bed if it would do the trick...

2 a.m.: I. Hate. My. Life. I love this baby, but I hate my life right now. Take the damn bottle, kid. Hell, take my car keys and drive yourself around the neighborhood at this point, if you'll just let me close my eyes for more than 27 minutes at time.

2:17 a.m.: C'mon... I just laid back down...this baby is doing it on purpose, I swear. He hears me sigh in sweet relief and jumps back up to see if my reaction time is still on point. He's got a stopwatch hiding underneath the blanket and he's charting my progress...

2: 39 a.m.: Dear God, I'll go to church every Sunday if you'll just...

3:07 a.m.: Fragal;alkjda;sldfkjeowelkafna;lsdkjfakl;gj;l....

3:30 a.m.: By this point, I'm in tears and playing possum, lying as still as I can, while he fusses in the next room, hoping in vain that either he'll give up or I'll just fall asleep and it won't matter anyway. P is sympathetic to my over-the-top pity party and gets up, resettles him and the kid sleeps until 9 a.m. (WTF?!?!?)

I quit.

No, I mean it.

Boo and I can be friends again once all his teeth come in, but until then, I'm holding a grudge.

That's a lie. I got up this morning to the world's sweetest baby, complete with a pirate hat and a big toothy grin. It's nature's way of ensuring the survival of these little buggers, isn't it? So damn cute...

I don't remember what Boy Wonder's story was when he was breaking teeth--but I guarantee it is nothing compared to what Boo goes through, as I will never, ever, ever forget this experience (or the other 4,000 teeth pains).

I'm also going to store this in the memory bank for future guilt-inducing uses when the kid is old enough to fall for it. Just watch me...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Like a stranger in a familiar town

Somedays, when I feel like being really cruel to myself, I browse photos of tropical islands. I look at my pictures from Vegas and the California beaches I visited a few years ago. I look at pictures from my best friend's Facebook profile and dream of finally getting to Italy to visit her and my "nephews." I crack open the Barcelona travel guide I bought for a book I was writing last summer. I paste pictures of Scottish castles as my background on my desktop.

I dream about vacations. I ponder what I'd do with two weeks off and a bank account that didn't threaten mutiny every freakin' three weeks. (Seriously, it's getting old, Alaska USA.)

I mope. I shrug. Whatever, right?

Well, here's a little story about how my husband and Boo opened my eyes this weekend.

Anchorage was beyond beautiful. It was cloudless, sunny days that hovered in the 70s. We'd do our normal morning routine, and when Boo would wake up from nap #1, we'd go. Go go go. Grocery store, Gracie Barra, didn't matter.

On Sunday, we ended up at the Downtown Market. It was empty, compared to the shoulder-to-shoulder nonesense you normally deal with. Everybody was fishing. Everybody was camping. Everybody was, in short, not at the market.

We tried to find Boo one of those bucket hats popular with sunworshippers, but the kid has a man-sized head that hovers between child and grown up. The only toddler sized hats were pink, and we love our child too much to subject him to that sort of treatement.

We love fair food. Love love love it. And althought it's not a fair, per se, the market has that "food row" that smacks of being at a summer fair. Unlike my patient husband, I am unable to walk down one side and up the other before making my selection. I was ready to drop all my money on the grilled corn guy (and his neighbor, Mr. Funnel Cake), but ultimately held out for three more stalls and bought up a plate of fried catfish and hush puppies, complete with Frank's Hot Sauce. Ooohhhhheeeeeee. It was fantastic. (Boo loved Catfish! Boo loved Catfish!)

P got some corn fritters and honey butter and if I thought it might have worked, I would have shoved him off the bench and eaten his lunch, too. 'Cept he's bigger and stronger and better at jiu-jitsu than me. Just sayin'.

When we'd seen all that we could see at the market, I wasn't ready to pile back in to the car yet, so we hoofed around downtown Anchorage. A cruise ship has started docking in Anchorage once or twice a month for the first time in nine years, so there were plenty of middle-aged, fanny-pack and matching T-shirt wearing couples on the streets. Oh, and bums, too. I had to give a holler to my old bus-riding homies in case they wanted to forget the crazy, coffee-wielding chick from the 102 Express. Hi, guys!
Crossing the street, P found a trillion dollar bill. Yes, you heard correctly, One Trillion Dollars (forget that it was some relgious was a TRILLION, baby!). I will no longer be reporting to work at 8 a.m. every morning. You can forward all mail to the Bahamas. Thankeeverramuch.

We found the Alaska Cake Studio as we randomly passed by. Hello. Cupcakes in the window? I am so there.

P got a peanut butter brownie. I got a lemon-lavendar cupcake. (Have you ever heard of one of those before? Me either. It was amazing.)

Boo liked both. I think he liked my frosting best of all, 'cause we sure fought over the yellow, delicious stuff.

So while we sat there in the little bakery, with tourists milling in and out with salted caramels and margarita cupcakes, it struck me. The three of us had just spent the last two hours as Anchorage tourists. We saw downtown through their eyes. We explored new stores. We ate obnoxious fair food and paid way too much for it and we were happy to do it!

Spending less than $35, I got an afternoon with my husband (and one son!) that I'll smile about for months to come.

Sitting there with P and with Boo in his little man stroller, it hit me. I don't have to go far to feel like I'm getting away from it all. I just need the right frame of mind, a little adventure in the spirit, and the right company.

Consider me schooled, World.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's time we say so long, for now...

Can you believe that Boy Wonder’s kindergarten adventure is over ?

It seems like last week when we were dropping him off at school and sending him into the wide, unknown world of school. My "baby" left for Texas last weekend, so I’m starting to feel a little like Demeter, who had to send her child into the bowels of hell once a year. (No, seriously, I can relate.)

So in honor of one adventure ending, and his annual adventure beginning, I’d like to share

“Kindergarten: A Scrap-blog.”

First day.
As much as I wished he’d cry and beg me not to go, he actually looked a little embarrassed that I was hanging out in the hallway with all the other parents. He knew two kids in his class from church and the local playground, so as far as he was concerned, he had a lunch and he had some friends—he was good to go. I was bummed out on the ride into work that day, thinking this was the beginning of the end. My little boy was a “real boy” now in that Pinnochio sort of way…the strings would be harder to pull as he became his own little person.

Taking the Show on the Road

My fears that he didn’t need me anymore were for nothing. I met him and his class at the fine arts center downtown and he couldn’t wait to introduce me to everyone he saw. (It’s sort of his thing. He likes to make connections between people and he wants his enthusiasm to be YOUR enthusiasm). We sat in the darkened theater with about a million other kids from across the school district and I decided right then and there that I really loved elementary school and that I should never have been so impatient to leave.

Watch this, Kobe!
Can you believe I coached kiddie basketball? Me? The girl who can’t hit the rim to save her life? Lisa Leslie I am not, but I still managed to get six kids through 18 games with minimal tears and hurt feelings. We even got a few baskets, and though we weren’t officially scoring, I’m pretty sure we won most of our matches. Just sayin’. Dominic wasn’t much of a shooter. Or a dribbler. But the man could rebound like the scrappiest alley cat and he lived for snack breaks and Capri Suns. He was the one who came up with our team name “The Rhinos” (along with his little buddies). They learned sportsmanship, teamwork, and how to have fun. I learned that I’m not the biggest fan of most other parents in the sports world. True story. P had to teach Boy Wonder what to do when people crowded your space. My suggestion to poke their eyes out obviously wasn’t going to work…

Trick or Treatin'.
No, it wasn’t his first Halloween, but it was his first Halloween CARNIVAL at his official school. We packed up the family, dressed the kids as a shadow ninja and a lion and hit the town. Boy Wonder and P braved the haunted maze and came out with relatively few wounds to show for it. Maybe a couple of fake webs stuck to them, but no worse for the wear.

Winning the school art contest
Did you know our little man could draw? Sure enough. In the fall, his school held a contest for all the students to design a bookmark for the city library. And our man Boy Wonder beat out the ENTIRE school. He got a T-shirt with his design on it, a chance to bask in the spotlight at the front of a school assembly and one proud mama in the audience. He also won first place in the food art sculpture contest with a huge clay chocolate chip cookie that we cut a big bite out of. We skipped the science fair out of sheer protest—I was annoyed that fizzy volcanoes had to include some sort of hypothesis to test. I’ve got one for you: Fizzy volcanoes are COOL. Test that one…

Yellow Days are Sad Days
As the year got rolling, Boy Wonder began to learn about consequences. His teacher had a rating system for their days and every afternoon, he’d have a colored stamp on his folder letting us know how it went. Green was good, Blue was fantastic. Yellow was not so good. Red was principal’s office-material. We did our best to let the first few yellows slide, but when they started showing up a little more frequently, he started seeing his after-school cartoon watching disappear. I hate being the bad guy with him, because honestly, he’s probably one of the sweetest humans on the planet (he and his brother are), but that’s the whole parent thing in a nutshell, isn’t it? It was a crash course in actions and consequences for the child and his parents alike.

“Can Sam come over and play?”
He started (somewhat) talking to his friends on the phone this year. It was mostly “Dude….dude….DUDE! Wanna come to my house, dude? Awesome!” But still, there he was, asking to call his buddy Sam. With it came the failed attempt at a sleep over I wrote about a few months back, but mostly it was afternoons at a buddy’s house (or ours) with snacks, the WII, and a mountain of legos.

I Double-Dog Dare You
It wouldn’t be a complete scrap-blog without mentioning the ol’ Flick incident, would it? Inspired by the 24 hours of “A Christmas Story” on TBS, Boy Wonder stuck his tongue to a pole on the frozen playground and hilarity ensued. I saw a mom at the last field trip and somehow that came up. She said her kindergartner came home and told the family all about it. Boy Wonder is famous!

Kindergarten winds down
This past month has been a whirlwind of moving across town (way way way across town), field trips to the zoo with Team Wolverine, Field Day to celebrate the end of school, and preparing for the long journey to Texas. As Boy Wonder said his good byes on that last day, he was mobbed by his classmates and I was quick-thinking enough to keep my camera handy. I can’t explain the genuineness of this age—they really are that sad to see a buddy go. Boy Wonder posed with his teacher and it hit me. As bummed as I was that he’d grown up enough to enter kindergarten, I was having trouble fighting back the tears now that he’d OUTGROWN it and was leaving it behind.

But that’s how it goes isn’t it? I sat back and watched Boy Wonder win his sack race and remembered the day my best friend in 4th grade and I won the three-legged race at our own field day. I remember the epic catch I made in sixth grade to win our class the kickball game. Time is our biggest enemy and our greatest ally. Without it, I’d never get the chance to be the proud mama bear of one Boy Wonder and I’d forever be stuck in that awkward, bony-kneed, mullet-wearing phase I was so fond of in the late 80s. (I’ve still never forgiven you for those god-awful haircuts the first 11 years of my life, Mom. Just so you know!)

So now it’s time for Boy Wonder to go and soak up some summer sun. He’ll come back a little taller, a little tanner and his mama’s very own first grader.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Team Wolverine and the Alaska Zoo

(Note: I have acutal, real, live pictures of "Team Wolverine" and our adventures and will upload them tonight. Promise!)

This week I had the privilege to trek through the Alaska zoo with a crew of five kindergarten boys. Yes, that’s right, FIVE of them.

Talk about ants-in-the-pants, HEY YOU STOP RUNNINGANDGETOFFATHATFENCE nonstop action. It was a trip. And a treasure.

Boy Wonder was so proud that I was chaperoning, that he had to introduce me to every single kindergartner he could see. And some of the first graders, too. Not to mention, he tried to introduce me to some kids that didn’t even go to his school. Talk about a social kid. (I wonder if he’s going to be that excited when P and I show up to chaperone his first middle school dance? Hahahaha!)

There was no way in Hades I was going to be able to bark out commands to each antsy, fidgety boy in my group fast enough to keep them from being eaten by the grizzly bears or pecked to death by the horned owl, so before we set out, I named them “Team Penguin”—only to have the lame group next to us call themselves penguins. Lame! We ran through a list that included Team Duck, Team Dinosaur, Team Lemon (seriously, who’s kid was that??), and even Team Elephant, which I flatly REFUSED to entertain for one MOMENT, and finally “Team Wolverine.” (There was also a Team Polar Bear and the copycats, Team Penguin. A couple groups of girls didn’t get into the naming thing, and preferred to be the Princess Squad. Ha!)

Our first area was the “rescue” area, full of ravens (yay!) and owls (yay! yay!) some eagles (golden and red), a raccoon, some foxes (arctic and red) and finally a skunk. (Really? A skunk?) I was provided with an information sheet for each animal, and the only thing the kids wanted to know was where the animals were born. Which mostly wasn’t provided (except for the raccoon, who was born in El Paso, Texas. Same as Boy Wonder. Who thinks they might have been born at the same hospital, and now wants me to look and see if, in fact, they were both born at Las Palmas.) I doubt it , Boy Wonder, but I can look into it if it’s that important to you.

We wandered down to the tiger enclosure and found the tiger brothers both asleep. Same with the grizzly bears. One boy, Caleb, thought they looked “hung over.” I asked how he’d know what that looks like and he told me he heard it on Cartoon Network once. (I hate you, Cartoon Network.)
We heard an incessant yapping and I thought maybe the old neighbor lady’s dog had followed me somehow to Anchorage, but finally saw the coyote being a real whiner in the center of his cage. Boy Wonder’s best buddy, Sam, told me that it was “probably just pissed off.”
“He’s what?” I asked, needing clarification. That wasn’t what I thought it was, was it?
“Pissed off, Megan. He’s pissed off.”

“Oh, right Sam. Might not want to offer that explanation to Mrs. Ives, though. Could land you a yellow day, buddy.”

By the tenth animal cage we passed, we decided that Tuesdays were really “Nap Day” at the Alaska Zoo. Even the Dall Sheep were sleeping, and those things never sleep. Sleeping river otters, sleeping moose, sleeping caribou, sleeping camels, sleeping Tibetan yaks. My wolverines were getting impatient.

To keep Team Wolverine awake, we tromped across the bridge as loud as we could to scare up the troll from the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” (a story they’d read the week before and we’d just seen sleeping “Billy Goats”). I got dirty looks from the other chaperones, but I aimed my troll gun at them and pulled the trigger—the universal “Scarface” warning to “mind yer own biziness, eh?”

Our tromping then turned into “Troll Hunting” with a few snipers, some gunners in the rear, and a team scout. (Not to worry, I rotated our leader/scout after each animal exhibit, so the whole troop got to lead the men to troll battle.)

The big hit was the “water” exhibits. We saw seals peeing in the water (true, and gross, story), otters sleeping (surprise, surprise!) and Polar Bears chewing on tires and a white bucket. The water exhibits had upstairs and downstairs (underwater) views and by the time I got through lifting five boys multiple times from each vantage point, I felt buff like Jillian Michaels.

Hidden in the back, behind the polar bears and beside the sleeping lynx, was our buddy, the Wolverine. Not only was our namesake awake, he was OCD. That little animal ran the same lap circuit around his cage the entire 20 minutes we stood there admiring him. Every once in a while, he’d change his course and run next to the bars in front of us to give us a better view, but the guy never quit running. It was impressive, almost as impressive as the boys’ favorite wolverine fact: an adult wolverine is strong enough (and mean enough!) to take down a full-grown moose.
Was the moose placed across the trail from the wolverine on purpose, then? Is that sort of like sticking a mirror in front of a fighting fish’s bowl and letting it charge itself?

The finale was worth the 2+ hours of pulling boys off exhibits and out of trash cans. The wolf exhibit had a sibling set of six wolves (three brothers and three sisters) that romped and “wrassled” in front of us. As we were turning to leave, the pack gathered about four feet from Team Wolverine and began howling as loud as they could. I’ve never seen something so amazing in my life and I doubt I ever will again. It gave me chills. To show solidarity, my own wolverine pack joined in the chorus and I snapped away with my camera like a fiend. Moments like that don’t repeat themselves and I’ll carry the image of “my” boys singing with the wolf brothers as long as I live.

So there it is. Kindergarten comes to a close in a few weeks and I got to top it off with the “trip” of a lifetime. Here’s hoping you find your own “wolfsong” moment this week.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Little Apartment that Could (But Can't Anymore)

Believe it or not, I get really nervous about change.

Oh, sure, I can dye my hair bright red at the drop of a hat or add $500 worth of tattoo ink to my skin, but when it’s time to dive into something that shakes up everything about the way we live, I get sentimental.

We’re moving next week. And, lordy, I am so so happy. But before this house became a nightmare, before the crazy lady upstairs and before the landlords let it slip into slum-dom, this house was something special to me at a point when I really needed.

I feel like reminisching a bit as we begin pulling pictures off the walls and taping up boxes.

Adventures on Young Drive:

A little more than three years ago this month, I was lost. I was on my own for the first time in a long, long time and I was scared. I had a crummy job that paid peanuts, but I had my son and I had my freedom. And you had a vacancy. Amazing how things work out like that.

When I shuttled the first box of dishes through thefront door, and rounded the kitchen wall, I was in awe. My very first kitchen with my very own dishes that I didn’t have to defend or “put up with.” I could put saints all over your wall just because I wanted to. There was no dishwasher, but I was happy to do our dishes by hand because they were, in fact, just ours. Me and the Boy Wonder. For the first time in a long, long time (maybe ever?) I was driving the ship and responsible for every single moving part--every bill, every dollar...everything. My responsiblity. And man, did it feel good. (Ok, so since then, I've come to realize it's not ALWAYS so fantastic to be responsible for everything, but at that point, I thought it was pretty freaking cool.)

I bought new furniture because I had none. In the divorce, I gave up everything just to keep the one thing I wanted—me. I remember the day the movers showed up five hours late with my new couches and the new bunkbed with a slide for Boy Wonder. Those guys took another three hours, at least, trying to build that stupid bed and on the first trip down the slide, Boy Wonder (he was three years old at the time) crashed when his feet got stuck on the metal, sending him flying into the wall. He called it a “bad bed!” and avoided that slide for about a month. He stayed with his father every other week for a while there, and when it was just me alone in that house, I felt at peace. I had my space. I had my freedom. And while I didn’t have my son for 7 days at a time, I knew he’d be back soon enough.

For the first year and a half, I didn’t own much by way of a cable or entertainment. I had an old-fashioned TV that had a VCR deck in it, and when I moved in, the previous tenant had somehow left two VHS tapes behind—“Phenomena” and “The Sound of Music.” At that time, I’d just found out about my brain aneurysm a few weeks before, so I had absolutely NO desire to watch “Phenomena,” despite how great of a movie it was.

So each night I’d lie on the world’s most uncomfortable futon (Boy Wonder got the new bed, not me), with boxes upon boxes of unpacked knickknacks, and eat dinner with Julie Andrews. Every night. For weeks at a time. I’d never seen the movie before and now it’s one of my favorites. For a while there, I felt just how Frauline Maria felt—in between two worlds, trying to find her place.
My landlords were my close friends. I was extremely close with the other residents and getting out and exploring the wild Eagle River nightlife (I’m kidding here), helped move me forward at a time when I just wanted to hide away for a few months’ longer.

Times changed. They always do and they always should. Neighbors moved on. The landlords sold the place off.

At the same time, P (and eventually Boo) filled that void that missing in our lives. And this perfect-fitting, insulating home that I’d loved now was overcrowded and costing us both a lot of money with the long commute. We had more laundry than we could keep up with and always running out of quarters. We inherited a neighbor who makes us crazy. Dogs that charged us whenever we stepped outside.

Our lives are moving in a direction where we need to be closer to Anchorage. Our friends are there. Our jobs our there. Education is there. Life is there.

We’d lost hope for finding a decent, safe place that we could make a home in the city until some good friends of ours came to our rescue. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? In 2007, I was just about out of hope that I’d ever find a place for Boy Wonder and myself that I could afford that would make us happy when the housing fairy waved her magic wand at us. Happened again in 2010. A beautiful place with three bedrooms, a washer, a dryer, a dishwasher. A place to start up new and make a home.

I couldn’t be happier, and in a way, I owe a big part of it to that little apartment on Young Drive that gave me that second chance to start over.

Farewell, little abode… and hello, Anchorage!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Balance and organization: And other lies we once believed

You know what?

Parenthood is tough.

You know what else?

Anyone who attempts it in addition to any other sort of activity is crazy with a capital CR. Just sayin'.

I’ve been chasing this dream of the perfect, balanced life for years since Boy Wonder was born. It was tough enough when it was just him and I, but add in the missing, crucial elements of P and Boo to our life? A couple careers and a full-time education? Kindergarten? Enriching activities? The desire to do some enriching activities of our own?

Ohmigod, I think P and I are headed for a loony bin.

Lemme add some horror to this fantasy fiction: we don’t own a dishwasher. Or a washer/dryer. We fight the beast of chaos four quarters at a time and with stank-ass drying towels taking up our counters at all times.

But fear not. Our lives are not in peril and I’ve yet to have the school call to complain that Boy Wonder smelled funny.

Along the way, I think we’ve developed a method to make the best of what we’ve got—and I’m pretty sure we’ve given up perfection. I think I tossed that out with some dirty diapers about ten months ago.

1. We embrace the beast. Her name is Gigantor and she consists of mismatched socks, stained bibs, mama’s work pants, and P’s jiu-jitsu shirts. Some days we can beat Gigantor into submission, only to find her cousin, Huge-appatamus (consisting of stacks of folded clean clothes) waiting for us on our bed at 10 p.m., just as we’re trying to pass out. Huge-appatamus gets moved to the floor (temporarily, of course!) and within a day, dirty underwear gets mixed in and we can’t tell what’s clean and it all gets transferred to the dirty stack, where Gigantor is waiting with open dirty-towel arms. We know the cruel cycle and we embrace it now.

2. Our baby looks like a million bucks when he leaves the house. His older brother will look straight GQ. There’s a good chance, however, that their parents might look like vagrants. Boo will have matching socks, a coordinated hoodie to match his Polo jeans, and gel in his hair. His nose will be wiped and there will be no remnants of lunch left on his face. Dominic will have on a Hurley shirt and brand new Nikes. He’ll even get a spritz of Guess cologne and a stick of mint gum to make sure he’s “so fresh and so clean, clean.” P, however, will still be wearing yesterday’s sweat pants. His new, clean shirt will have a piece of peanut butter bagel stuck to it from Boo’s breakfast. I will have crusties in my eyes and last night’s make up on. I will wipe the bottom of the mascara from beneath my eye and hope it passes for smudged, smoky eyeliner. It usually won’t.

3. If we are busy, or if we just don’t feel like it, we will ignore the dishes until there are no spoons left. Then we will panic and steal one of the baby’s safety spoons to eat our ice cream with until one of us caves and tackles the dishes with a nasty scowl on our face.

4. We will have a long list of things we want done each day, only to pass out, face down, on this list and drool on it. Sorry, list. You were conceived with the best of intentions, but you’ll likely get tossed in the over-full trashcan. Right next to the electric bill we didn’t notice. It’ll be ok. The disconnect notice usually gives you a 24-hour grace period, right?

5. When we are going somewhere fun, the last five minutes before we leave will probably be panic-filled and one parent will likely not be speaking to the other one. The conversation will go down something like this: He: “Did you pack the diaper bag?” She: “Exactly when was I supposed to do that? I was getting them dressed. Did you pack the diaper bag?” He: “Yeah, right in between feeding the dog, putting the dishes away, and finding the lost blanket.” She: “Yeah, well I was busy finding the left shoe and pulling the baby’s hands out of the toilet again because SOMEBODY left the damn door open…” Silence ensues for the first six miles down the road. Luckily, all is soon forgotten once Boo overturns his bag of cheerios on the floor of Mommy’s beloved truck. Scraping up crushed cereal products together has a real bonding effect on a married couple. True story.

6. We forgo fighting for sleep. Truly. I’m sure there are times P would like to get to the bottom of why I can never screw caps back on the milk or OJ. I’d love to know why he can’t toss his clothes into the dirty clothes right before he gets into bed. But you know what? We haven’t had eight straight hours of sleep in 14 months and we’re not gonna jeopardize the precious few minutes we do get sorting out the gory details.

7. We acknowledge the fact that sometimes our kids don't get the memo. There are days when P needs to study. I work on deadlines. And sometimes, more often that we'd like, our kids just don't give a damn. There are owwies to kiss and Wii games to load and babies to squish. Our priorties don't always match up and P and I have learned to sometimes throw in the towel for a minute or two. We can blame them later in life for our unrealized dreams if we need to. :)

7. Bottom line: “good enough” really is good enough at this point. Despite the fact that I’d like to take a lit match to our unorganized house much of the time, we manage to keep our priorities straight enough on a daily basis not to waste our blessings. At the end of the day, we know our kids won’t be young for very long, so we tiptoe around the roadside Lego bombs, we use broken laundry baskets as impromptu baby gates, we leave peanut butter and jelly smears on the counter for a couple hours, and we get down on the floor and we play with our kids. We drive them 45 miles for a swim lesson. We pack too many toys in their diaper bags and bring the damn Nintendo DS with us wherever we go, despite how loud Boy Wonder likes to play it. We swallow our pride and ask the boss for the morning off to go see “Stone Soup” with the kindergarten class. We’re mildly surprised when we get it with a blessing to boot.

We think the universe conspires, once in a while, to remind us how great everything really is.

Life is good, my friends, life is good.