Friday, April 29, 2011

The wheels on the bus went round (and round)

Today was a pretty important final for P so I took the day to stay home and take care of Boo AND get the almighty truck up to snuff (a four month expired registration makes driving to work exciting each morning and studded tires that become illegal at midnight!).

By 8 a.m. we were finished and not sure what to do with ourselves. And with Boy Wonder's sad eyes and soulful pleadings to stay home with us for the day...well, I knew we had to do something special if we were going to justify such a day to ourselves.

Remember when I rode the bus from Eagle River (about a 20 mile commute each way, to and from work)? I hated it by the end. But my children are fascinated by city buses and Boo loves to scream "GOOD MORNING, BUS!" as soon as he spots one each morning. Wash, rinse, repeat...each time a bus rolls by our busy street.

A quick trip to ol' secured out route and we packed an "adventure bag" as Boy Wonder calls it. (Snacks, diapers, change of clothes, phone, money, blankie) and we ran to the nearest bus stop, bound for the kid's science museum downtown. It was an amazing adventure we shared and when we got home, Boo and I each took three hour naps while Boy Wonder putzed around!

The photographic evidence speaks for itself...we had one of the best, impromptu days EVAAAR!

Boy Wonder checking the timetables to make sure we'd arrive downtown in precisely 41 minutes. We did...give or take a few.

This is Monkey Steve Nash. He came along in the adventure bag. He rolled in the stroller with Boo, too.

We got downtown before the science museum opened, so we killed time hanging out at the Muffin Man Bakery. We found an Anchorage map and Boy Wonder plotted our current location with his left and and figured the six-block walk it would take to reach the museum.

We finally arrived at the Imaginarium and the first thing they found was the pretend undersea/waterbed thingie. Very scientific when someone else explains it, I promise.What toddler can resist a water table and boats? Not mine, obviously.

Boy Wonder found a self-propelled elevator. About halfway up he realized the amount of work required and promptly returned to solid ground.

A train table replicating the Alaska Railroad trains. Boo loved it, needless to say.

Every first grader needs their picture taken by an inspirational Michael Jordan quote.

And then? Time to make our way back downtown and to the bus terminal. Success!

Here's to more happy adventures this spring/summer....

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dispatch from the trenches of the great Potty Wars II

I doubt it's an accident that I have very few memories from Boy Wonder's potty training days.

I think I've blocked them out on purpose and the reasons are coming back to me now as we try to manhandle Boo through the halls of big boy-ness.

Trying to cajole, force, tempt, shove or in any other way convince this child to do something not on his own agenda is an exercise in futility. Dumping like a big kid, included.

Daycare basically potty trained Boy Wonder for me, and all I had to do was fix the willingness to poo in his undies to complete the process. (Every night at "dump-thirty," I hid his undies and made him walk around in the buff--which he hated. He told me dogs poop on the rugs, not boys, so give him back his Buzz Light year tightie whities. Smart boy, right?)

But this one? This one is on us. And so far, the Boo the Battlefield General seems to be winning. We can stick a monkey on the potty, a lego on the potty, his brother on the potty and while he's appreciative of your effort, don't expect any from his end. It's almost as if the potty seat were made of fire the way he carries on and clings to your arms like a cat hovering above a bathtub of water. Comical, almost, unless you're the one being yanked down to potty level as the kid climbs over the top of your head.

Today we introduced the pull ups and were promptly rejected. It's almost as if he were saying "There's no way this thin, little thing can hold all my whiz, woman." He carried on and on and even tried putting on his own diaper in desperation.

When Daddy got involved, the three of us were in our cramped little water closet and two of us were babbling like goofuses doing anything we could to keep him on the throne just a couple seconds longer.

Eventually, I was forced to take pictures and video of him so he could watch himself "being a big boy"...he's his own number one fan on my phone's camera roll and he can watch himself saying "I'm not a piggy!" at least 20 times in a row before it starts to get old. You can see by the picture above how happy he is...the smile lasted just long enough to be captured before he started fighting us again to get off the dreaded toilet.

Sort of like labor pains and birth horror stories, there's probably a chip in our brains that erases the memories of the tougher battles in raising children. I'm not sure we're winning this battle yet, but at least I have half a dozen pictures and video clips of our family bonding time at the commode.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lightening the load

I promise this is not one of those simpering "what I learned" posts, extolling the virtues of my lenten weeks of social media silence. No, no...certainly nothing like that. Well, maybe a little like that.

In a perfect world, I would come back here and tell that those weeks without twitter and facebook (and up until the end, blogging, too) helped me lose 20 pounds, gave me the inspiration to cure cancer, fixed my financial problems, and helped me solve the major riddles of the universe. Nope. Sorry.

What I did get from it mostly consisted of the afternoon I spent pruning my facebook friends list for people who wouldn't really notice I was gone. Or who don't really contribute much to my sphere of life in general and to whom I have no emotional attachments or memories. Funny how my list dropped from 300+ to a little over 100.


I did get a little insight, however, into how I use my own facebook and that was pretty eye-opening. Apparently, I assumed for these long months that facebook was a vehicle for connecting with others (family, friends, acquaintances) through shared bit$#ing and moaning. Little pithy observations laced with snark, or sad little "woe is Megan" moments that I obviously hoped would garner some sympathy love (or at least a "like" or two.) Back and forth, "wah wah wah."

Being without it for nearly six weeks was educational and looking back now, reminds me a little of my favorite Joyce Meyer's teachings about letting our words dictate our experience (instead of vice versa). Crying, complaining, and moping to anyone who will listen didn't brighten my day. Sharing my day to day struggles and frustrations really served nobody any good, but there I was. Wah wah wah.

So that was the start. I saw just how negative facebook can be. How I contributed to it, and how easily I'd get sucked into other people's drama superficially. ('Cause let's be honest...I might bother to type you a four-second note telling you to buck up, but I'm pretty sure that's where it ended. I probably didn't pray or bother to do something SUBSTANTIAL and tangible to really make things better. Sad, but true.)

On that note, I also saw how useless it really was on a daily basis. How little I contributed to interesting conversations or thought-provoking links that could actually help another person. A pick me up, a new perspective, a dash of good news. Anything other than "OMG I have a headache today" or "Boo hoo! Doctor's appointment tomorrow."

Yawn. Gag. On with it already...

So was the experience what I thought it would be? Not really. I thought the lack of social media would make me more in tune with my homelife. It worked a tiny bit, but that takes a concentrated effort of its own. What did become obvious was how little I take away, and contribute, to things like facebook.

Humbling, really.

So without further ado, I'll post a link to that awesome Joyce Meyer article I mentioned earlier, "You Can Win the Battle in Your Mind."

Call it paying my lesson learned forward. Maybe you'll get something from it. Maybe I'll be better about brightening up my social media usage now and then.

Maybe. :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Work In Progress on a Wednesday

This is a baby blanket I'm knitting for #3...who isn't due for another 9 weeks and that's a really, really good thing because I am not the fastest knitter on the planet. Garter stitch or not, I'm a slow poke.

I mentioned earlier that this lil' bird is going to be swathed in reds, whites, and aquas and so I started this stroller blanket out with the aqua color from Vanna's Choice Baby Yarn.

(Not only am I slow, I am NOT a yarn snob. I can't afford to be, honestly. Yarn is yarn is yarn as far as I'm concerned at this point in my needlework career.)

So in the beginning, I was going to follow this pattern from the Purl Bee. (I *heart* the Purl Bee.)

And I sorta did...kind of. (I've gotten this same blanket all the way to its fourth color on another project...but they are earth tones and I am NOT an earth tone fan. Don't ask why I picked them...I'm pretty sure it was a present for somebody but now I've forgotten who and lost interest in the darn browns and mustard yellows.)

Back to this the original pattern, I believe I was instructed to cast on to 133 sts. I cut that down a bit to 120 for no particular reason other than I was bored at about 115. Ha!

From there, you knit your little heart out in your chosen color until you reach 20 countable rows (about 40 rows worth of knitting all together). Change color. Repeat seven times.

Easy, right?

Well, at about row 12 in the aqua blue, I got bored. And switched to white. After about four rows, I realized I did not want big blocks of blue, white, and berry because it looked a little more French flag-ish than I intended. So the new plan is to alternate 12 rows of the berry color with 4 rows of the white until I get it long enough. Then I'll finish with the 12 rows of aqua and call it a day.


Now here's hoping I can finish the darn thing before the baby graduates from high school...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Everything in its own time. Dang it.

It’s no stretch of the imagination to guess that I’m a little more impatient than most.

In the pre-baby days, I’d preempt my morning coffee with a redbull or other energy shot just to make sure the coffee knew it had a little competition in the “wake this girl up” department and didn’t dawdle. Not the biggest fan of pre-heating ovens. Hate waiting for my car to warm up in the winter for so many, many reasons.

And this weekend, the sidewalks in the neighborhood finally opened up enough for me to walk the dog for a whole HOUR and only get wet shoes once or twice from the massive snowmelt puddles. FREEDOM! Never mind the fact that every block or so, said dog and I have to walk in traffic for a few hundred feet to avoid the six feet of deep ice water…that doesn’t matter. We were out and walking and not slipping on ice! Wahoo!

The kids and I spend our Saturdays in a constant state of waiting for P to finish school and then to finish coaching in the afternoons. It gets tedious. In the winter, when there’s no choice, we stay in our pajamas most of the day and get pale and creepy looking from lack of sunshine and exercise. It’s true. By 3 p.m. I freak out and realize we have not had a whiff of fresh air in nearly 24 hours and invent an excuse to go to the grocery store just to blow our carefully laid out budget.

But come mid-April, the sun finds its way out and melts 8-foot snow packs in one afternoon. It brings to light all the garbage tossed on the lawns over the past six months and it accentuates our near-albino Alaskan complexions. It brings the funky stench of soggy, half rotten earth that wafts on the wind and assaults your senses, until you’re looking around like mad trying to find the pile of doo the neighbor dog left for you to step in. No worries. It’s not dog doo, it’s the aroma of Alaskan melt. Breathe it in!

And we act.

Mostly we act too soon, but a few frozen boots and socks later, we don’t really care. Mostly. Until laundry day, anyway. We buy sidewalk chalk, haul out the bikes, the construction toys, the kites. Everything. All at once. All on my front lawn. And we play until our noses are red and our fingers hurt, because, darnit, there’s sun out and the thermometer is above freezing!!

So this weekend, we head out to the coastal trail for a Saturday afternoon adventure on Scooter and Stroller. We bring our bubbles, our helmets, our snacks, our drinks and we find the park is FULL of other sun-seekers. Good on you, people! Nevermind that the lake is still froze as we walk past; surely the ocean has broken up and is back to normal.


Then again, surely....not.

By the time we leave the little lagoon park and make our way to the honest-to-goodness trail by the ocean, we’re shanghaied by two to three inches of slushy snow that will not let Scooter nor Stroller pass through with any ease. Darnit! We head back to the lagoon area and putz around, checking out the four feet of water that actually is moving and we talk to the six half-frozen ducks crazy enough to cut their Florida vacations short by a week or two. (Yes, poor dudes looked half frozen and cranky. They missed the shuffle board, most likely.)

On the drive home, a little cold but still thrilled from all the sun and movement, Boy Wonder announces to me that spring is not here yet. That spring will probably never get here, and by the time that it does get here, it will already be summer.

And in that one statement, Boy Wonder has just cracked the code of the Great Alaskan Spring Mystery. You can’t rush it. You can’t force the snowy trails to hurry up or the grass to go from trodden-on muck brown to vibrant green. Can’t clear the mud holes in the yard before they are ready, or pull the frozen lawn gnomes out of the dead veggie patch before the ground is ready to give them up.

And by the time Nature gets the memo, we’re headlong into 24 straight hours of sunlight and a month called June.

Alaska: 1. My impatience: 0.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Between the covers: April/May

I can not tell you how this fantasy/historical/sci-fi ish novel ended up in my grubby paws. Mostly it's from the HBO commercial for the series now out (and we don't have HBO *sniff*!)

But I picked it up. I investigated the author--he's pretty rad. And I began reading. And it's not the most straight forward and you have to row your boat pretty hard against a current of shifting POVS...but WOW. The man can weave a tale, he can create a world that is at the same time fascinating AND will make you grateful you can walk to the neighborhood Starbucks for a triple-shot, no whip, Caramel Macchiato.

Suffice to say I wouldn't last very long in Winterfell...(hell, a number of his characters don't, either!) but it's a great book and I'm grateful to HBO marketing and too much TV for showing me the way.

Oh, and George R. R. Martin. Totally grateful for him, too!

Friday, April 15, 2011

On Distance

Friday's Writing Prompt from the Gypsy Mama.

Ready? Go...

"On Distance"

I've always failed at distance.

Given enough room to run, and my legs and my heart would sprint for the wide open spaces of loneliness and I wouldn't quit running until I found it. Distance has meant and end to many things in my life..."out of sight out of mind" was more than so cliched words of wisdom, it was a living, breathing demon that ruined every flavor of relationship and dream I had.

There've been plenty of times when distance meant physical space, but many more times when it mean to quiet between two people--something else I've never been very adept at. In the quiet my demons would sing louder and drown out any sort of peace or appreciation.

But now I am grown and you are here.

We pass like ships sometimes and because of where we are in life, I don't have access to you every second like I'd like. And you've taught me that's ok. I don't need to fill every second of solitude and quiet with mindless chatter and I don't need you four feet from me to remind me how special you are and how lucky I am that we're in this together.

Now distance is the quiet when you are studying and I am writing and we are in our own little parallel words, being ourselves and being together. Distance is wondering how you are doing and that exciting flash of anticipation the boys and I feel when we realize you're due home any second for supper. Distance expands and contracts, it is the tide that sends us out into the world to be who we are, and pulls us back together when it is time to be "us." Beautiful, us.

Distance, the long and short of it, means breathing space and cherished breath. Distance is no longer a death is a daily reminder to be grateful and to have care with one another. An opportunity for grace in a world where it is desperately needed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mid-week Links!: Tutorial Envy

I have a list of sewing/knitting/nesting awesomeness that only seems to grow...never shrinks.

That, lemme add to the list.

This week's tutorials that have me drooling and eyeballing my sad little sewing machine:

1. Upcycled Bath Mat at Mamacraft

2. Scalloped Edge Baby Blanket at Zaaberry

3. Fat Quarter Napkins at All Things Shea

4. Mini Bookshelf Quilt at Don't Call Me Betsy

5. Patchwork Coasters (Ideal for the new mug rug craze, perhaps?) at Craft Snob

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In case of emergency...

...take a big a#@ hammer and smash those silly little rules and expectations we force upon ourselves.

It was one of those days.

It started out normal and sorta just twisted and turned its way around into long, sorta emotional and annoying. Nothing bad, really, just a big ol' pileup of fatigue, frustration, and mundane daily routines...topped with a dash of 30 weeks pregnant.

I stood in the shower and didn't want to come out at one point.

The toddler (who doesn't understand the concept of "mommy time"...or closed doors for that matter) stood at the corner of the tub with the curtain pulled back and sprayed the plant water bottle at me while I did my best to shoo him away. (It didn't work.) The first grader didn't want much to do with me. Or dinner. Or anything not on his very own "to do" list. The husband snarked at the idea of chicken pot pie before he left for the night...but in his defense it was only after I'd done the same.

Who on earth wants to make chicken pot pie after a day like this? Despite my planning and my lists and my calendars...every once in a while, I want to pull my hair out and shake up our lives a little bit. Even if it's only with a happy meal or two.

Day in and day out, I've learned to live by lists, schedules, concrete expectations of when such and such should happen, what to do if it doesn't, what we're eating, what we're keeps me (in particular) afloat during our crazybusyblurry weeks. But sometimes it really chaps my hide and the old me starts bubbling up from within, demanding rebellion and excitement and the chance to ignore the "shoulds" and the "need to's"..

So tonight, the boys and I invented the "pajama dinner dash" and cured Mama's mix of cabin fever and slight immaturity. We took our showers/baths/hybrid mix of the two and got in our pajamas. We walked right past the kitchen. Past the empty pots and pans and the cold oven. We got in my adorable little truck "Danny Boy" and we drove straight to the golden arches. Yes, I hate relying on happy meals. Yes, I know what damage I did to my kids' arteries tonight. No, I'm not sure I'm really digesting the guilt from it at the moment.

We drove past the neighborhood parks and looked for signs that the ice was melting off the lakes and that the city might be considering their annual clean up in the coming days. (From what we discerned, the lake thaws are still a few weeks to a month out...but the clean ups?? Already started!)

We came home. I had a small milkshake for dinner and the boys stayed up a half hour late with Mama watching the biggest loser (oh, the irony!). It was such a far cry from our rigid bed time and dinner routines that we were all a little lost at first...but loafing on the couch while Coach Bop cracks the whip has a way of easing the conscience.

News flash: I'm not Superwoman. I'm sorta soft around the middle. I cry easy somedays. And there are times when I foolishly feel constrained by my own expectations. You know what else? It's nothing a little cruise around the sunset-washed neighborhood and a vanilla milkshake can't cure.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Taking to the skies...

Here's a simple fact: kites make me happy. Verra, verra happy.

Colorful. Free. Suspended mid-air. Defying gravity and that a@#hole wind just off the mountain range...

Officially, a kite is a "tethered aircraft." Now if that doesn't make you feel sorta dangerous and official, I don't know what will... And don't get me started on the Asian tradition of "kite fighting." Aerial MMA???? Yes, please!

They fascinate me. I daydream about owning a flock of them and setting them to the skies all at once. A big, bright menagerie of dragonflies, phoenixes, lumpy weird boxes, and long streaming tales. And a cupcake. It's true, I saw a cupcake kite once and I WANT ONE!

The sad truth, however, is that I am a lousy kite flier...right up there with Charlie Brown, and at least ol' Chuck had the tree to blame for his troubles. I have wrecked, tangled, and shredded beautiful blue birds and ferocious supervillains alike. I seem to spare no character and no level of complexity in my kite trashing. It's a gift, really. One that's incredibly hard to reconcile against the immense LOVE I have for the damn things. Flimsy little harbingers of heartbreak, they are.

Despite my inability to fly a good kite, I never let a spring or summer pass without buying the obligatory cheap kite from the local discount store and hauling my family outside for an afternoon of running in mad circles and craning our necks back in hopes of catching some good air.

I have folders upon folders on my desktop of Boy Wonder as a toddler and preschooler out in the great wide somewhere with a kite and a string. (I was a single mama at that point and somehow managed to make ends meet with $55 in the bank for two weeks. Kites were economical entertainment! They made up for the endless dinners of hotdogs and mac and cheese...)

Even Boo, who got his very own kite kit yesterday, carries it around and demands for it to be excited is he for his own flying lessons.

With an engineering student in the house, along with a first grader with an engineer in training's thirst for building and creating, and a toddler who refuses to be left out, I'm determined to track down supplies and make our own kites this spring.

I started here, at popular mechanics. I started here, but I didn't last long. A box kite. Sounds great, right? Well, until said engineering student is available full time to help with the project, this one is out of my hands. At least until I can identify what all the materials on the list even are... But you should definitely try it if you're feeling froggy!

Other sites for kite building can be found here:
Stay tuned. We'll invent the baddest of the bad kites around the nest and post a tutorial for all you like minded "tethered aviators" out there. To the skies!!!!

So what's your love affair with springtime? Kites? Bikes? Kites tied to bikes? Wheeeeee!

even with a shoe full of slush...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Rhythm of days...

I thought about titling this post "traveling light" in honor of the recent spring cleaning madness in our playroom, in my cube at work, and most recently, of my friends' list on FB (whoa, that was exhilarating!)

But there's so much more to it than that. So much going on and at the same time, so little going on thanks to the weather. My boys are probably inches from fed up after being cooped up in the house with the snow/freeze/thaw cycle that's torturing us this week. I know I am.

Spring in Alaska can best be described in one word: ugly. You got it, U-G-L-Y and it takes a concentrated force of will not to become ugly and bedraggled and mean yourself when the scenery looks like this most of the days.

Then I figure, it must be hard to shed months and months of snowpile. Nearly impossible to do it with any sort of grace or beauty. Sorta like us, right? I've spent a year accumulating phsycial and emotional baggage...the shedding of said baggage ain't gonna be pretty and it sure ain't gonna be quick! So good on you, dear Alaska, for trudging through the spring cleaning of your landscape...

Inside the house, we've been on the hunt for inspiration. Inspiration to step away from the television, to enjoy the few hours we have together at play. To create.

Boo and I spent a few hours last week cutting out flash cards, both for him and for Boy Wonder. Give the boy a cup full of laminated picture cards and he goes hog wild. Boy Wonder and I invented "Story Makers" this week and it's become our favorite Monday/Wednesday post-dinner tradition. Lots of notecards cut into smaller pieces with all sorts of words...fairy tale elements, verbs, fantasy creatures, mundane objects. You named it, we put it on a card. After dinner we all sit around the couch and pull a card or two (yes, even Boo gets cards!). From there, we invent a lop-sided, mismatched, amazing story of our own that usually involves a young prince or two battling sharks before bedtime, only to be rescued by the brave knight on a spaceship. And then the beautiful good witch bakes them all cookies and lets them stay up past bedtime.

My family amazes me with their creativity and sheer sense of fun when we do these. I see the wheels turning in Boy Wonder's head as he tries to one up his last contribution and when his stories show up in his artwork in the following days, I know we are on to a great thing. Something television isn't offering him... You know what else he's developing a taste for? Shel Silverstein. Could I be any prouder?????????

In other news as we move a week or two into the last trimester, I've spent way too many minutes stalking Etsy and looking for baby girl inspiration. I was sure I was going to be a pink/brown fan, but it turns out I'm not. Funny how that happens. Fell in love with and am pursuing with reckless abandon the new red/white/aqua theme (yes, I realize it's not all THAT feminine, but so what?!?). Oh, and a gnome quilt made by fantidesigns. How I heart that quilt.

Three months or so to go...lots to do. So get on with the snowmelt Alaska...Mama needs her brainpower and inspiration back!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Homesick Texan

Happens every spring.

Or when I think about Salt Lick barbecue, Lake Austin, and Threadgills.

How I miss the bluebonnets...

Here's a food blog by the official "Homesick Texan." She makes me happy.

Happy like a longhorn moo cow in a field of blue...*sigh*