Thursday, June 30, 2011

where I'm from

I am from yarn-tied quilts, fat yellow Twinkies and the original 7-11 Big Gulp.
I am from a brown house on a straight square street dotted with round trees like cherry lollipops, warmth turning too warm in sticky August summer afternoons with nothing to do except listen to lawnmowers and traffic drone in the distance.
I am from the Citrus reticulata and the Strelitzia reginae, from hot-house flowers grown in the front yard even though I preferred the mint that peeked up wild behind our garage.
I am from long road trips in the back of a hulking green station wagon and working hands that are never stilled, from Lynda and Boyd and Condie and Knudson.
I am from adoption stories told 'round creaking formica tables and opinions whispered in the wrong ear.
From sure-sure-sure and if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
I am from Mormons, dark-suited missionaries, threadbare pioneers trekking across the wilderness in shirtsleeves. A dark blue book of scripture that continues to change my life. A three-letter acronym that shapes me and colors the lens from which I view the world.
I'm from the Beehive state and the Golden state alike, from Irish-German immigrants and Scots-Danish settlers. Farmers and schoolteachers and accountants. From meatloaf with evaporated milk and chocolate chip cookies, perfectly baked.
From the boys who got up in the icy dawn to milk the cows and slept in a damp basement on shared beds, the girl who worked in her father's meat-processing plant while wearing a Jantzen sweater, the family who tied a whole beef roast into the oven because it shot out of its pan and across the motorhome living room while driving through the twisting roads of coastal Oregon.
I am from a honey-brown cedar chest, the mantel over the fireplace, the giant key hanging on a wall of the house on Raymond Avenue. I am from faded sepia faces staring out from photographs culled from my Grandparents' farmhouse. The faces that tell me, again and again, I am from sacrifice. Their story reminds me, above all, I am blessed. Blessed because of where I'm from.

Inspired by Clueless But Hopeful Mama, who got the template here. If you'd like to write one of your own (and oh--- I wish you would), link in the comments.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

how it is

In the end I decide it's because although I, we, didn't really know them, they knew us, and whenever someone who knows you disappears, you lose one version of yourself. Yourself as you were seen, as you were judged to be. Lover or enemy, mother or friend, those who know us construct us, and their several knowings slant the different facets of our characters like diamond-cutter's tools. Each such loss is a step leading to the grave, where all versions blend and end.

-Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

secrets to long blog absences

I think the secret to being blog absent for a whole week is to come back with interesting stories. Or at least one.

I don't have any interesting stories to tell about last week, unless you count the one where I drove one wheel of our beloved Jeep Jefe off the curb of a terrible gas station and got stuck and had to call AAA and cried on the phone to the AAA dispatch lady, doing my best to convince her that she needed to send a tow truck RIGHT NOW because I was blocking a sidewalk and had a child in the car with me, who, incidentally had very little to do in her car seat because I thought it was going to be a quick trip to the library and the AAA lady turned out to be the nicest woman on the planet and she talked me down and got me to stop crying while we waited for Gary the tow truck driver to come rescue us a scant 20 minutes later all the while various passers-by were stopping and knocking on my window to ask if we needed help, my favorite would-be helper being the lady who laughed and said, "This is something I would do!" and then she offered us snacks. My favorite part of the story, besides the part where beloved Jefe was barely harmed, having landed on the frame - and Gary, tow-truck driver extraordinaire, pulled us back onto land using a little ramp he constructed with wood he carried in his truck---- my favorite favorite part was how Alice described it to Chip on the phone later, saying, in ALL CAPS, as 3-year-olds tend to do, "WE HIT A BIG BUMP, A HUGE BUMP, A GINORNOUS BUMP! BUT JEFE WAS OKAY!"

The other secret to being blog absent for a week is to promise lots of cool stuff to come.

I'm not sure I can really do that.

But I can promise this: more posts all week long. And the week after that. And the week after that.

Really. Truly.

Because BIG BUMPS notwithstanding, I miss you, my beautiful creamy Minions. I really do.

What have you been up to? Any near-miss (or real) car accidents? Tell us all the details. I will be sad if you hold back (or say nothing at all). I want to hear from you.

Monday, June 20, 2011

friday, week in pictures

I'm not sure I really remember much of Friday, except being unbelieveably tired. But I can tell you that we survived the week, we all survived the week, even through Shelby desperately missed her parents - even though Alice really missed having us all to herself - even though Chip seriously missed being able to watch television in our bedroom - and even though Whimsy missed her sanity. WE ALL SURVIVED.

I think I learned some lessons, but they're all a bit fuzzy. Hoping for clarity tomorrow, when the Father's Day Festivity Exhaustion has passed.

Until then, I leave you with pictures from last week. I'll let you guess what we did A LOT of. And also to wonder, again, why the heck Alice loves that ratty brown hat so much.






Friday, June 17, 2011

really thursday, really truly

(After my complaining about my bad blog titling yesterday, I finally just went back in and edited all the post titles to reflect the days they were written about. So now this one? Is really about Thursday.)

I called Thursday the day of can't. From the girls it was I can't put my shoes on and I can't go pee by myself and I can't eat that and I can't share and I can't, I can't, I can't.

From me it was I can't believe it's only 10:30 in the morning.

On the docket for Thursday: bead necklaces, finger painting, and driveway chalk drawing. It wasn't so much that I meant to make it such an art-heavy day, but once they were all dirty from the finger painting, I just figured we should go with it and really embrace the mess.

And that's all I've got for Thursday, because I can't keep my eyes open. And I can't say much more than I'm exhausted. And I can't believe that there's just one day to go.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


*Late Thursday night I actually went back in and CHANGED THE TITLES of each post, because it continued to bug me throughout the day. So I guess that solves that.

I realized a little too late (read: Wednesday afternoon) that I should have titled these posts the days that they're written about, instead of the day they're posted on. It would have made more sense. But then again, that is pretty much par for the course of Wednesday (the day that this post is, obviously, ABOUT).

I decided that Wednesday was a lost cause before I made the genius observation about blog titles but after I got a split lip from an ill-timed Alice headbutt. It was also after I managed to spill the contents of a toddler potty on the wall. No really - I'm feeling sick just typing it.


After mopping and scrubbing and bleaching the bathroom within an inch of its life, I told Chip that it wouldn't be a stellar day at home unless I had gotten up close and personal with at least one human byproduct.

That was Wednesday. Between irritating blog post realizations and split lips was the following: a trip out into the wide world (totally innocuous errands), a group effort to make waffles (the girls counted cups of flour and teaspoons of baking powder for their part, along with eating a tremendous number of waffles), and lots of time out on the driveway.

Here's what I know so far: I give them things to look forward to each day, like movies with popcorn and chalk drawing on the driveway and making bead necklaces. I let them both be cranky, within reason; and bossy, within reason; and unreasonable, within reason (if that makes sense). I also know that this is quite possibly the worst time ever, in the history of the universe, to be on a diet. Because 'round about 9pm when the girls are finally asleep and Chip and I are huddled on the couch doing our best not to miss our bedroom (where Shelby is sleeping on the floor)--- the thing I want, above all, is to reward myself with a whole truckload of fatty goodness. It explains why, after the blog epiphany and the pee-on-the-wall and the bloody lip and the general roughness of the day, I consumed TWO corndogs (I'm not proud) with a waffle chaser (maybe a little proud).

Onward and upward, folks. Three days down and two to go.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


A day of few words, Tuesday.

They rode bikes, I was the Catcher in the Asphalt, so to speak--- standing spread-arm across the driveway to turn the girls around and head them back to do another circle. I watched their legs pedal furiously at tiny tricycle wheels.

They watched a movie and ate popcorn. This, I brought to them, in heaping bowl after bowl. Their companionship creates an appetite, it would seem.

They played dress up with skirts and dresses and beads. Accessorized with rainboots and handbags, everything they could carry.

They did their thing, another day of it.

On to tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Chip tells me that I'm doing a good job, maintaining the energy, stepping in to referee the squabbles, and generally keeping them both busy.

Yesterday morning was an exercise in controlled chaos with both girls running full speed up and down the hallway screaming their blessed heads off for a good twenty minutes. I watched from the sidelines, quietly sipping a tall glass of water and marveling over my calm despite any help from prescription drugs or otherwise. This had quieted somewhat by lunchtime, with each of us finding some sense of balance--- but it's been interesting to observe each of the girl's personalities surface. And I'm taking notes in my head, trying to figure out the best ways I can help each of the girls enjoy this week.

But I'm still formulating those thoughts, not ready to talk about them yet - especially when it comes to telling you in a sentence or two who these little beings are: complex and interesting, nuance on top of the slightest hint of shadow.

One moment there was joy sparking between them, their eyes alight and smiles stretched wide. The next minute one was so quiet, thinking hard as she stacked blocks quietly by the table--- the other had escaped onto the stairs, was talking (loudly) to us both, that she "needed a minute, a minute to MYSELF---please do not come up here, DO NOT COME UP HERE". So we didn't. We ate goldfish crackers and waited for signs of life to emerge from the upper level. Eventually Chip coaxed her downstairs with a promise of dinner and a rousing after-dinner game of soccer.

So it went, so it goes, and so it will today.

Wish us luck.

What do you do to balance different personalities?

Monday, June 13, 2011

an introduction to the week

This is day one.

The undertaking: two three-year-olds under my roof, 24-hours-a-day, for a consecutive five days. One of the three-year-olds is mine. The other one belongs to dear friend Kate who is out of town for a work conference.

The plan: it's no secret that I am a bit on the extreme end of "structured". So I'm a little freaked out by this week. It's something like a lesson in chaos, I think, and so I've decided to tackle it by doing the following--- 1. Avoid going out; play outside, play inside, do anything and everything to eliminate the need to shop or gather anything that would require putting me and two strong-willed (albeit adorable) 3-year-olds out in the wild, defenseless; 2. Deep breathing and meditation to keep me nice and mellow; and 3. Lots (and lots and lots and LOTS) of planned activities to keep the inmates happy.

For your enjoyment, I'll share my findings here.

And if you have any suggestions (or survival techniques), please do let me know.

Friday, June 10, 2011

on beauty

My present for Mother's Day was an afternoon out of the house, with Chip watching over Bean. They played with blocks and beads while I got a pedicure.

Pedicures can be such intimate things, I think: having someone, a stranger, wash your feet--- their face at knee level as you tower over them in a big black chair. I closed my eyes as a tiny Asian woman scrubbed each toe, her fingers moving quick in the soapy water. As she reached up my lower leg, she caught sight of a mole on my calf.

It's not something I like very much: a red mole, so strange in it's brightness. I wish for a type of camouflage for it, or the power to wish it away.

I hate trying to shave my legs around it. I've nicked the thing once or twice and if it didn't bleed more than I thought possible--- handfuls of kleenex and a small river of blood in the shower.

A few months ago my doctor removed a few moles, and as she worked I hopefully directed her toward the strange little red one. She pursed her lips when she saw it and said the scientific name which I immediately forgot. These types of moles, she told me, are fierce and annoying and nearly impossible to remove without a lot of trouble: they sit poised directly on top of a blood vessel. Unless there is reason to remove them, like a cancer scare, it's best to leave them be.

So she did.

I continue to be annoyed by it. Embarrassed, even.

- - -

The other day Alice and I were spending time on the driveway, our usual positions when it's afternoon and not raining. She had been riding her tricycle and I was sitting near the grass, leaning on my hands.

In a moment of quiet, I noticed that Alice had abandoned the tricycle and was on hands and knees staring intently at our front walk. She pushed her face close to the concrete, and closer. Then in a split second she was up and running full tilt toward me, calling my name. As she reached my arms she gulped, "Mommy! I'm scared of the ALLIGATOR."

I stood up and took her hand, "Let's go find this alligator, Bean. Show it to me."

So she did: it's small gray armor moving quietly along. A pill bug; sow bug; roley-poley; whatever you call it, it was one of those lumbering across the expanse of our front path.

I told Alice not to be scared, that it was a pill bug. Some people call them roley-poleys, I told her, urging her to look closely at this tiny miracle.

At first she held back, but after a few moments she was laughing at it, wanting to pet it and hold it and keep it for her very own. We did the first two but happily kept Mr. Roley-Poley on the lawn instead of bringing him into our house.

Yesterday afternoon Alice came to me again: this time inside the house, telling me that she was scared. I sensed another ferocious beasty and wasn't disappointed when I found a small black spider on the floor. I quickly squished it in a paper towel.

Alice watched the proceedings and I could see her mind trying to work out the difference: how was a pill bug so unassuming and sweet and a friend --- when the black spider was not? How was one so much more worthy of adoration?

- - -

As the tiny Asian woman washed my feet, I could see her examining the ugly red mole. I wanted to pull my leg from her hand, wanted to ask her to ignore it.

Instead she motioned excitedly to another worker in the shop, a running burst of quick Cantonese then a smile.

She looked up at me then, motioning to the mole, "You know, in my country, this is very good luck. Beautiful. Very very beautiful."

I nodded, unconvinced. But she continued, "No, really. It's such a beautiful thing, a sign of goodness."

I think about beauty, this strange arbitrary concept of what is acceptable and what is not. One culture taught to revere what another culture thinks is just plain weird. And a small gray pill bug still living in vast forest of our grass while a black spider's body sits squished in the kitchen trash.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

things that are making me happy right now

These hands, and for that matter, this chalk.

The perfect antidote for too much time spent indoors. We have big plans for the driveway this summer.

This excellent photo opportunity to get some of the treasure box contents in action! out in the wild!

She smuggled them in her handbag to Sears, and while we were inspecting lawn mowers (a very exciting purchase we couldn't WAIT to make, to replace our old lawnmower that up and died on Saturday)--- Alice got busy emptying her many special treasures on the Sears' Lawn Astroturf.

This goat.

We saw him sunbathing at the zoo on Saturday. We stood over his comatose body for several minutes, just making sure that he wasn't some kind of unfortunate victim of sun stroke or goat stroke or whatever it might be---- I imagined the scene, some kind of zoo ambulance pulling up with a goat stretcher. Luckily it was all for naught: his chest rising and falling in the sunlight. Now I look at the photo and just smile: our goaty friend, taking it easy.

This snow leopard.

More sleeping poses--- what is it about animals taking a snooze?

This girl.

As she was watching the otters, she noticed all the other kids had cameras held up to their faces. Being three-years-old, she did not have a camera.

But that didn't stop her from pretending.

What's making you happy right now?

Monday, June 6, 2011

modern archeology

In my continued study of the 3-year-old child, I have come across the following oddity:


or, as we really think of it: the random box of crap

When she first started throwing stuff into a box to carry it around the house, I tried to put everything away each night. But after a while, I just gave in. Let her throw stuff into the box and love it for all it was worth.

But every once in a while, I like to sneak a peek at the contents.

The question isn't why should one would carry a moon-shaped cookie cutter around in a box. The question is why SHOULDN'T one carry a moon-shaped cookie cutter around in a box.

A gum massager.

Also doubles as a poking device and pretend spoon.

Not that she would ever even eat there, but it's important to carry around a list of all PF Chang's locations in the U.S.

Just because.

Hotel soaps. Can't just have one.

Bottle connecting thingies from Costco.

(I don't understand why they're in the box, but I've been told by Alice that they're essential. And I guess that's true because she don't just have one, she has THREE.)

Perhaps the ugliest man-bracelet ever made.

No, it is not Chip's. (He needs to make sure you know that.)

Hey Alice, what are you doing with these highlighters?

Mommy, they aren't highlighters. They're microphones.

No bubbles, but a wand. She says it's magic.

Two kinds of clothespins.

You never know when you're going to need fabric for itty-bitty sewing projects.

In case anyone needs a travel toothbrush cover, Bean has an extra.

What every girl needs: a teeny tiny book...

...a teeny tiny book with quotes about cats.

A mini rolling pin. For those last minute cookie-making emergencies.

Chip, I think I found your contact lenses.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

a future in fashion


A project I've been working on to catalog Alice's fashion choices for the last several weeks. While I've done the basic dressing of her in most of these pictures, any additions (read: THAT HAT), accessories (read: THOSE SUNGLASSES), and/or additional accoutrements (read: THE BAGS, THE BUDDIES, THOSE BOOTS) are ALL ALICE.

Oh, to have this girl in my life.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

lessons of infinite patience

I've been contemplating infinite patience. When I think of those two words, combined like that, they are capitalized and important: Infinite Patience. A super power, perhaps.

What could a person do with Infinite Patience? She could build lego castles with her 3-year-old from dawn to dusk without complaint. She could answer every question asked of her, never rolling her eyes or stopping short out of irritation. She could respond to her three-year-old's overly tired demands to stop talking, stop talking RIGHT NOW with serenity.

On Monday we drove out to Snoqualmie Falls. Massive in its roar, white water spraying hundreds of feet into the air. We marveled over the volume of water passing over the cliff's edge and stood on the walkway until our faces were wet from the condensation.

Watching the falls, my eyes got lost in the force of it all: the quantity, the overwhelming largeness of the waves of water. When I closed my eyes, I heard nothing but the pounding thrum. Chip pointed to the cliff face, helped me to notice the small spurts of water freely falling, separated from the main body.

I imagined those small spurts of water, miles upstream, quietly collecting as drops of water in tiny running rivulets.

I imagined those small drops of water melting from snow.

I imagined the snow, drifting one flake at a time.

Ice crystals and water molecules, high mountain passes and cascades--- the stuff of Infinite Patience. Something to be learned there: how beauty takes time to collect, how powerful the force it creates because it doesn't rush.