Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Things That We Can't Control

I am not even sure where to start.

We got back from Hawaii at 4:30 AM on Sunday. At 7:45 on Saturday we had discovered that Emmy was missing, snuck out of the gate in the back yard in the dark just before Ethan got home from work. By the time we hit San Francisco for a layover, we had a call from the Emergency Animal Hospital to let us know she was there, in pieces. She'd been hit by a car and left on the road, where a highscool student scooped her up in a sleeping bag and called the cops who transported her to the hospital. Pretty much her entire back half had been avulsed (i.e. skinned) and her hip was badly displaced, with major damage to all of the tendons and ligaments but, miraculously, no broken bones. Needless to say, Josh was a wreck. This horrific event was the chaser to the news he received in Hawaii that he didn't get his last hope for a fire job in Eugene. Talk about a bad week. I don't know if being in Hawaii was a flagrant dose of salt in the wound of repeated rejection, or a semi-pleasant distraction from the horror of being Josh. Hawaii is his favorite place, so my hope is that the sunshine absorbed at least some of the kick-in-the-gut for him, but we are home in the gray now, and it isn't pretty. Sleepless nights with a whimpering dog in constant pain, trolling craigslist and every contractor he knows for work, and 3.5 teenagers who can't seem to see past their petty issues about being blocked off Facebook and why their chores are the hardest. Keep in mind these kids got to go to hawaii too. How have I raised such self-involved children? Oh yeah, they're children. This self-absorption is precisely why they have parents - to help them realize that life will never be fair, and rarely be about them.

So this is the Lesson Of The Week, or Month, or so far, Year for the Westons: Some things are beyond our control. Sneaky black dogs, Whiny teenagers, lulls in work, the temperature outside. The only thing we have any power to fix sometimes is how we respond to what we are given, or have created, or stumble into. For example...

Only one day while we were in Hawaii was rainy. It was a warm, balmy rain, and even though that day involved a lot of walking and pain for me, there were several moments that I can recollect stopping to taste the bathwater rain and revel in the complete saturation of ocean air with warm water. I loved it. I guess if the entire week had been rainy, which might have gotten old, but the one day was glorious. The alternative to basking in the rain was despising it for "ruining" our plans, which consisted of taking 9 children with 6 adults on a 2 mile walk in the rain to the Waikiki Aquarium, which was pretty cool but less exciting than the penguin/turtle habitat at the Hilton. The walk was hijacked by a cloudburst that one of the babies insisted would ruin her hair, even though she isn't old enough to talk. The majority of the group holed up in the posh lobby of the Waikiki Westin Resort (we keep telling them that they spelled our name wrong), but I had gotten seperated from the group when I "accidentally" turned into a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for an iced coffee, which incidentally was the second best coffee that I had all week. I kind of needed the break in pace anyway, since my uterus was complaining about every pounding step on the sidewalk and my sister in law was leading with a stroller at a speed walk, lest baby's hair get ruined. I did hurry to catch up, but somehow missed the memo that we were blessing the Westin with our rambunctious hoard and I walked right on past, about three blocks. Obviously, being in pain, when I realized everyone had stopped to get out of the downpour, I couldn't handle the thought of all those extra steps back to the Hotel so I just decided to wait in place, which was conveniently a little collection of surf stores like Billabong and RVCA and stuff. See? It's all about your response. When life hands you lemons (in the form of tropical rain) you go shopping! I will say that if I hadn't ended up in BillaBong I might never have found my really cool new hat, so it was all meant to be. My dad had "accidentally" turned into a Ukelele shop that offered free lessons, and was carefully constructing a schedule for us to make it to every free Ukelele lesson on the Island in one day, so he also got disconnected from the group. Sister Susanna bailed on the barbarian hoard to meet up with me at Billabong, and that left my Josh, who was trying to redeem his apparent uselessness to the world through a babysitting penance that would make the Martyrs proud, with my brother and his wife and all 9 kids. In the Westin. Dripping wet. Obviously my brother and sister in law were preoccupied with fixing baby's hair, and that left Josh with the other 8. I don't know if you have met my sisters kids, but you've probably met mine, and I will leave the rest to your imagination. Or not.

babyliviaspennennadoodahtoomanykids
Out of thriftiness or just plain inattention, I had failed to count the diapers we packed for Baby Ava, whom I call baby Livi since she is technically my namesake and I can do whatever I want. I don't know if being at the beach gave her motivation, but before we got half way to the aquarium she had literally peed the ocean into her diaper and I was forced to use the one clean one we had to save the world from drowning. I think I got a hernia just carrying the soggy diaper to the garbage can, which it probably broke. I should stop here and inform you that the reason we had all 8 kids is that my other sister and brother in law, along with my Super Adventurous Mom (I am actually totally proud of her) and Littlest Brother (who is 6'2" and not little) all went parasailing. This is a foolish undertaking in my opinion, since people die parasailing almost every day. Like those sisters in Florida. I would much rather skydive. At least then if you die you REALLY die. Hard. But back to us, the wandering jellyfish of uncontrollable juveniles. Once everybody (except baby with the aversion to precipitation) had decided that it was going to rain all day, they met up with me and Sanna at McDonalds, where we thought we could feed everybody off the dollar menu, which ended up being the $4 menu. So we all ate happy meals since they were $4.79 and came with a gymnast Sponge Bob toy. We made it to the Aquarium, soaking wet, laughing and only a little bit crabby by early afternoon, and saw everything there was to see within about 20 minutes, which is just as long as one can keep my youngest nephew from diving into the seal tank or eating a hermit crab. It was at this point we found out that Parasailing had been rescheduled for the next day, due to inclement weather, and we were ecstatic to host the barbarians once again, but with more diapers. My favorite at the aquarium was the Frog Fish, which has sea monkey hands and is really ugly, but was worth the $78 dollars we spent to get in. Or that's what I will maintain to avoid bitterness. By the time we were done, the sun was out, the rain had stopped, and the kids complained all the way home about being hot. I was in enough pain to justify letting the group (i.e. my josh and 8 kids) go on ahead while my dad and I waited for the rest of the grownups at our happy hour spot, which was conveniently located near 6 Ukelele shops. It's funny to me that this rainy day stands out as one of my favorites. This is probably partially due to the fact I got to shop a little and the fact that I made my Useful Husband ride herd on the kids, so I suffered the least collateral damage, other than the 2,000 lb diaper. But again, life is all about how we respond to things, and while the rain may have ruined Nenna's hair, I think it made the day memorable. And my hair SUPER curly.

I am off today, and get to take poor Emmy to the vet to have drain tubes removed from her incision. It is weird that I am an EMT and this stuff makes me queasy. I think I respond better to human's suffering than dogs. Unfortunately you can't look Emmy in the eye and say "see, this is why we don't play in streets at night when we are small and black" and have it mean anything. To her, this ordeal will always be a horrific, undeserved violation of the protection that we, as her humans, owe her. This is what Josh tortures himself with all day and through the night. But some things, we just can't control. We can only piece it together with as much grace and learning and hope as we can muster. One thing I have learned in my years of guilt driven living is that all of the self-loathing and flaggulation and remorse in the world can't change how things are. In some ways, all of that is an aspect of self-absorption that tries to make the bad situation all about "me" and how awful I am, rather than focusing on the real victim and trying to make it better. I grew up believing that any attention was good attention, even judgement and criticism and the more I drama up my failures the more pats on the head I got from those who were worthy to piously stand over me. I am past all of that now, and I still screw things up bad, but I am usually more interested in fixing them than getting attention for my failures. Usually. I have been working long days since we got back, which is good since my $.50/hr will really help toward the skyrocketing vet bills, but I feel so completely behind on EVERYTHING. Josh is getting the laundry caught up, god bless him, but I need to find an hour or two to unplug and decompress and tie up about a million loose ends, which my frazzled brain can't seem to weave together for anything right now. I think I will start with a shower and pretend that it's warm Hawaiian rain, making my hair curl and my skin clammy and making me stop and think about what is beautiful around me. Or maybe I will just put on my new hat.

me and dad. "resting" (i.e hiding from kids) at the aquarium.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Things That Boys Do...continued

Make their wives carry their bags.

Things About Flying

There's something so magical about the six year old on his first memorable flight. Without question, after carefully examining all of the contents of the seat back pouch in front of him, the most important thing to do is test out every mechanical capability of his seat. Head rest extends and folds in, check. Seat back tilts to 83 degrees exactly, check. Tray table folds down and extends 3.7 inches, check. Underseat compartment in front of him measures 18x20" on the nose. Perfect for his tactical camo backpack. Arm rests up and down, and both fan and overhead light in good working order. Triple check. Lets test the attendant call button just so we're absolutely prepared for any emergency occurring later. Ok. We're good.

Yeah. This guy was sitting in front of Josh for our flight to Hawaii. But instead of six, he was pushing 50. I was relieved that he wasn't in front of me after we reached elevation and he made sure his seat was FULLY reclined. I always get a little claustrophobic with a seat back in my face. But then I realized that Josh had the aisle seat and would be using the ergonomic situation to his advantage every time I needed to go to the bathroom, which is often enough these days even without Starbucks coffee and the anxiety of being cut off by a seatbelt light at any time. I like to use the lavatory every 20 minutes or so in flight to make sure I don't miss the window of availability. And because I like saying lavatory. And because the soap in those tiny bathrooms smells really good. Josh decided it was too difficult to stand up for me to get out every 20 minutes, so oddly enough, he ended up with either my chest or my rear end in his face to squeeze by the leaned back seat in front of him. I'd be annoyed but it might be the most positive attention he gives me all week since I'll soon be competing with an ocean and a million skinny, bikini clad blondes.

Mom packed little adventure bags for the girls for this flight, which is really awesome, or would be, if they were sitting 10 rows back with total strangers. Considering these bags were 80% sugar 15% surface damaging substances (I.e. silly putty and crayons) and 5% pepperoni stick that made the whole plane smell like a smokejumpers socks, I would gladly share the enjoyment of these little surprise bags with someone that I do not know. It is now perfectly clear why mom was so insistent that they open their bags only after departure. She knew that if we had seen the contents previously they might have mysteriously vanished. I will say that I am thankful I am not my sister today, since she the same bags, and three boys half the ages of my kids. At least most of mine have outgrown experimenting with the effects of silly putty on the toupee in the seat in front of them, or testing the permeability of plane windows with crayon wax. I wish you luck Em.

The drink cart is almost here and I heard something about complimentary Mai Tais, so I have my debit card ready.



Friday, January 18, 2013

Things That Boys Do

My Husband has a bag fixation. when we first met, it seemed like an innocent enough fascination with military grade gear bags to carry his, er, gear. Since I have known him, (which just passed the two year mark) he has purchased four of these bags in various sizes, "tactical" colors, and styles, not counting a messenger style one that he vicariously ordered through his last young Paduwan Learner and somehow decided he could live without. His current Youngling gave him justification to order bag #4 by buying bag #1 from him at about 70% of retail. This is a great tactic for rationalizing shopping sprees which I would like to take credit for, but realize Josh was doing via Craigslist long ago. So now, my Adorable Man has three tactical, molle covered gear bags which he uses for a variety of applications, like chasing terrorists (i.e. high school daughters) and saving lives (i.e. fixing blisters) and rigging complex engineering structures (i.e. remodeling bathrooms). Two of these bags somehow got broken straps after said Husband decided to load 50-75 lbs of random junk from around the house into them to go on "workout hikes" up Pilot Butte. I have learned now that whenever the dictionary or my bean bag heat pack go missing, exactly where to look. I explained this to my sister when she was concerned about finding someone to walk to the store in Waikiki for a fridge pack of Pepsi. Josh would be much happier if she requested two fridge packs, but with the family sized ketchup that he will need to survive the week and a few other necessities, his workout should be ok.  He also doubles his gear bags as weapons carriers and briefcases for formal business meetings. On our last visit to Washington, I caught Josh preaching the Gospel of 5.11 Bags to our brother in law, Phil, who listened with wide shining eyes and a hint of drool glistening on his lips. Apparently right away, since it's only been two weeks since then, Phil ordered his own tactical bag for battling bad guys. I guess Phil hasn't discovered that you can also order Velcro military patches online to stick on the outside of your tactical bag and rearrange at will, a pastime that will keep Josh entertained for hours. Lest anyone think I am judging my husband for his bag infatuation, I have tried to correlate Josh's passion for these bags to something in my own life or wardrobe that I have displayed the same conviction for. I would relate it most closely to my fervent belief in Big Star "Liv" Jeans. I have converted many skeptical followers to the glory that is a pair of Liv's , and still wear nothing but. Of course, our pockets don't hold all of the Useful Stuff, but our rears look good, and that's what really matters. And, on a price point, my jeans are generally cheaper than his bags, until you count how many pairs I have. What? I fluctuate in size a lot.


So we are getting ready for a beautiful, fun and family filled trip to Hawaii. 8 days of paradise and children, which sounds slightly terrifying, but I will take the good with the bad. Josh issued the ultimatum that we will NOT be ripped off by airlines charging for checked luggage, so everybody gets only carry ons for the trip. This, in and of itself, it a hardship I find hard to swallow. 8 days in Honolulu is a minimum of 16 outfits, as my friend Shonda pointed out, not to mention at least three different swimsuits, and enough shoes to match all the sundresses. How will all of THAT fit into one carry on??? Josh was fairly certain that by utilizing the attachability of his tactical bags to one another he could pass all three off as one carry on, but when he couldn't lift it, we realized that A) the dictionary needed to stay home and B) the three bag concoction resembling a snow man would probably not fit in that little wire basket that determines the fate of a carry on bag. So he unbuckled them, took out the unnecessary weights, and began repacking. I think it was at this point that it dawned on him that Trauma Shears and a Smith & Wesson were not airplane friendly, and he slowly and painfully removed all of his weapon-like items from all three bags. I am fairly certain I saw a tear of regret sparkling on his cheek as he lovingly stowed his handgun and 6 boxes of ammo away in my underwear drawer, where we keep everything valuable. (This way, in case of fire, the guns AND the Victoria's Secret Lingerie is saved in one frantic grab.) All said and done, Josh came to the sad conclusion that one of his prized bags would have to stay home, since the only thing he really needed to pack was a pair of swim trunks, and it made better sense to put half of my sundresses in his bag to avoid the reality of a piece of checked luggage. I did let him keep his patches on to play with during the flight. Except the pantless female scuba diver pin up girl patch that he INSISTED was thrown in as a bonus freebie from the patch people to one of their best customers. My favorite one is the California Flag Bear patch that Josh got for me but has been "keeping safe" since none of my bags have Velcro patch strips yet. YET.




If you want a really cool bag, go here: LA Police Gear, or here: 5.11 Tactical. I don't recommend the gear pants, because they look really dorky with dictionaries in the cargo pockets. But both companies have been great to work with and replaced the bags with strap issues and immediately looked into engineering issues on their bags for people like Josh. They also have tactical stockings with molle strips, which of course I got Josh for all of his Christmas weapons, er, presents from Santa.

Tonight we leave for Hawaii, which involves a three hour trip to Portland that will be completely consumed with conversation about plane crashes and at least three potty stops. If you don't hear from me for awhile, it's because I am either blissing out on the beach, rearranging patches, or saving my nephews from sharks, but I can imagine this trip will give me PLENTY to talk about.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Things That I Am Trying To Do

I can't write long because I have a HUGE list of projects I want to get done today. In reality, I will probably write for as long as I want and the list will disappear back into the nether where it belongs. There have been many hard, terrible things this weekend. Like when the Broncos lost to the Ravens and then the Seahawks followed suit. I will overcome my grief and extend my congratulations to 49er fans on their victory and wish them well. Also this weekend I had a fight with my husband. It must have gone well because he has suddenly become an all around angel and I just want to kiss his face. It was a good fight to have, over Necessary Things that have been put off. Contrary to what Josh thinks, I don't like to fight, but sometimes, being human, I get this idea that it's the only way to really communicate. Maybe I have my family to thank for that. I suppose that there are families out there who lovingly sort things out in Rational Tones. But I would guess that they lack passion and are kind of boring. Or that's what I will tell myself to justify my immature attitudes.

Really, overall, things are good here in the Weston House. I would love to say my pain is getting better because some moments I would swear it is, but then an hour later I am writhing on the couch and snapping at people. I also have the slightest suspicion that the pain is actually spreading to my right side now as well, but to stay consistent in my accusations, I will continue to assert my scientific opinion that it is Emmy's NEED to stand directly on my uterus on all possible occasions that is causing the radiating pain. I think she's attracted to the radioactive heat eminating from my lap area, and makes the most of it.

I have had a lot of thoughts lately at night. Really good, profound thoughts that were decorated with really pretty words and some Excellent Ideas, late at night, after the lights were out. Twice now, I resisted the urge to get out of bed and hammer them out quickly, thinking they were So Good that I would certainly remember them in the morning, but both times they were replaced with really weird dreams which were usually somewhat unpleasant if not completely nightmarish. I will keep trying to recall the Great Thoughts, but I am drawing a blank now.

My work hours are slowing down, which is OK as long as Josh's are picking up, so that there won't be a break in the steady flow of shopping I feel compelled to do. It gives me more time to sit at home and be contemplative (translate: watch Bones) and creative (translate: play iPhone games) and relax (translate: take naps). Actually it's a good time to crank up on eBay selling and try out some of the new recipes I've been drooling over on Pinterest. If they're any good, I will totally let you know.

The challenge I have posed to myself this week, since we're leaving for Hawaii on Saturday, includes several facets:

  1.   don't buy any more groceries. I am experimenting with cooking ONLY what we have on hand. Tonight it's pumpkin beer pot roast, cause I had some flat pumpkin beer, and mashed sweet potatoes and green beans. It will be an adventure. I may have to cheat and buy a little thing of cream since I have only about 1 morning coffee's worth left. Of course I DO have Dutch Bros gift cards...
  2.  lose 30 pounds. This might prove challenging, but I feel like I am off to a good start since I had some incredibly healthy (identified by the horrible taste and color) juice for lunch. (I skipped breakfast by sleeping until 10:30.)
  1.  get a tan. Also challenging, but I may spring for some of that Jergens tanning lotion. If I get over the stripes it gave me last time I applied it incorrectly. 
  2.  find more money. This is kind of fun, because I have to be REALLY creative. Josh has issues the ultimatum that the only money we're spending in Hawaii for 9 days is my paycheck, which this week will be a bountiful $319. Since I figure it will be somewhat difficult to even feed 6 people for 9 days in Hawaii on $319, I am scouring the house for things I can return in order to pad our wad for the trip. So far I have $37 to return at Costco $45 at the Gap and $32 at Target. This does not include a gift card to Old Navy for $18.98 for which I lost the receipt to get a cash return. I also have $16.00 on my Scentsy Debit card that I can cash out. That's an extra $130, plus the $100ish I'll be cashing out of eBay in the next day or two for selling a bunch of jeans and underwear. Weird how the Baltimore Ravens panties got super popular all of a sudden. Too bad I BURNED THEM ALL. Now we're loaded for bear! We can totally afford the dollar menu at the Waikiki McDonalds. Watch out McChicken, here we come!!
  3.  Don't spend any more money. This is clearly the most difficult of all assignments to myself, because right now the clearance at Pendleton (which I just marked another 25% off) is an ADDITIONAL 35% off. Do you have any idea how cheap that stuff is after my employee 25% off of THAT? yeah. Dirt Cheap. D.I.R.T. I have a little pile of stuff that I totally need that equals about $96. To justify that, I went through my ENTIRE wardrobe last night and was ruthless. I now have an eBay pile that would make Sienna Miller wet her pants. I chose her because I like to imagine that we are the same style. Except for the jeans and hoodies. Ok, nevermind. But MacKenzie DID wet her pants when I let her pick some adorable stuff out. Interestingly enough she picked the stuff that probably would have made the most on eBay. And they say I am a bad mother. That is true parental sacrifice right there. I asked Halle if she wanted anything, but she was concerned with the amount of pink in the pile and a bit of lace that was peeking out. She respectfully declined. The unfortunate thing about all of this is that the clearance sale ends while I am in Hawaii and the eBay treasures won't be listed until after. This is where credit cards come in handy, and where it is also a REALLY good thing that I don't have any. Except that one...
On another eBay note, I bought a pair of AMAZING sorel boots, the ones I have been looking for, at the Columbia outlet the other day. They were $54 dollars. If that doesn't make you a little lightheaded, I am not sure if I should bother explaining. These boots are selling on Amazon for $219 right now. Do you see the profit margin here? As soon as I get some capital, my second - no third - job is going to be buying cheap stuff at Columbia and reselling. Why I haven't been doing that is a question related to my lack of capital and/or credit cards.  

OK. I am going to stop for now and go paint Josh's second dresser. It's been messing up my beach themed bathroom for far too long. But first I have to switch the laundry and put that poster in a frame and package eBay panties... I need a slave. Preferably someone fun that likes coffee and gossip and Bones.

Oh yeah! I got Blonde!! 





Monday, January 7, 2013

Things That Oink

It was Nattie's birthday on Saturday, and I decided, at the insistence of some friends and family, to actually make a real birthday cake this year. Or cupcakes as it turned out. I asked Nattie what her favorite was and she said "a surprise" which perfectly coincided with the gently whisperings in my ear from another adult entity about carrot cake. Who wants carrot cake for their birthday? I decided to go out on a limb and give it a whirl. And since Josh is convinced we are destitute after The Holidays, I further decided to make it all from scratch. The only thing we had to buy was red food coloring. I would like to hereby nominate myself for a Good Mom award for Outstanding Effort in the Area of Birthday Dessert Design. If I win this prize, I will give a nod of recognition to my artistic consultant, who also doubles as my boss, and Nattie's best friend for insisting on a pig cake.


You all know I don't like nuts. I did, however, plan to add walnuts like the recipe calls for into the second half of the cupcake batter. I forgot. Oops. Josh was crushed, but was consoled by the added raisins which made Kizzie gag, and in the end, it was all for the best since one of Nattie's friends is allergic to Walnuts. I'll go ahead and credit that little triumph to my stellar intuition. I googled "carrot cake recipe" and actually ended up using the one at the top of the list. I didn't even skip past the sponsored links like I usually do, looking for a "real person" link. I will post the recipe, but also the link to the site, which actually pretty cool. I liked this recipe because it comes from the 40s and anything from the 40s is cool. I have to say, the thought of carrot cake does not make my mouth water. I'd just as soon have an extra slice of garlic bread than a slab of carrot cake, which, as Josh (my carrot cake adoring husband) points out, is egregiously stupid since garlic bread has WAY more calories than Carrot Cake. He knows because he looked it up on his calorie counter app and manipulated the inputs to read that way. (yes, 1/4 ounce of carrot cake does have less than 1/2 loaf of garlic bread. good job, honey.) I made this very basic, traditional recipe with coconut oil, organic flour and sugar, raisins, and of course, no nuts. The website I stole this from is called Just A Pinch, and I will probably use it again.
Best Carrot Cake Ever

2 csugar
1 1/4 coil
4large eggs
2 cflour
2 tspbaking soda
1 Tbspcinnamon
1 tspsalt
3 cgrated carrots
1 cchopped walnuts
FROSTING
12 ozpowdered sugar
23 oz. cream cheese room temp
1 tspvanilla extract
2 Tbsp
butter
2 Tbspmilk

Directions

1
In large bowl, beat sugar and oil. Add eggs and beat well.
I warmed up the coconut oil for easier mixing - and you could maybe reduce it a tiny bit. 
2
 Sift together flour, soda, cinnamon, and salt into egg mixture; mix well; fold in carrots and nuts.
I added a pinch of nutmeg too. Mostly because I was excited to try my new nutmeg grater. 
3
 Place batter in greased 9x13 pan; bake for 45 minutes in a 350 oven. (Check once because of oven variances.)
I baked in cupcake tins for about 15 min? Give or take. You know how well I use timers. 
4
 FROSTING: Beat together powdered sugar, cream cheese, vanilla, butter and milk; (and add red food coloring to desired PINKNESS!) spread on cooled carrot cake.

obviously cream cheese frosting tastes better pink, right?

Things To Talk About

I have a lot of things I want to say. I feel like maybe I should make a list first so I don't forget them all while I am saying the first one. Except it's too late and I already have. I am not sure who I should blame for my short term memory loss but I do blame them, whoever they are that is responsible.

First: it was pointed out to me that I failed to commend Halle for her heroic effort at her very first timed Nordic Ski competition, in which she place 3rd overall. For anyone who doesn't know, my daughter Halle is a badass (sorry Mom, but it's appropriate). Most of you already know that since you watched me develop her from a sweet, soft, innocent little doll faced child into the analytical, eccentric, fixating tomboy that she is. Actually Halle came out grunting like a cute little baby monster, and when she started imitating the movements of a barn owl at age two, I knew she was special. Halle never played princesses or dolls or house or dress up. Ok, she played dress up, and here is the proof:

Halle is the one on the right. She was never without her purple hat and red cape.

But aside from the occasional emotional meltdown, Halle has been the closest thing to a son that I will ever have. Except for Ethan, but that's a whole different story. Since Halle was a tiny baby she was the easiest thing to care for. Sleeping was her main occupation as an infant, and still is as a 16 year old. She could sleep 12 hours a day and still be functional. I think maybe it was because she was growing at about a rate of 6 feet a year and it was exhausting work, doing all that eating. We've called her Hollow Leg Hal because she always has room for seconds, and thirds, and puts any man I've ever known to shame with her ability to pack it away. The one thing you can say for Halle is that when she decides to do something, she is ALL in. Whether it is arranging rubber farm animals by species and genus on the running board of a bouncy horse, or designing the ultimate wizarding wand for an unsuspecting best friend, she will not be dissuaded from her task until it is accomplished to perfection. Halle never does anything halfway - Except her chores. Halle started cross country running last year and loved it. I think her long legs make the trek an easy lope for her, where I would be panting and scrambling just to survive a 5K job. Since Nordic Skiing started in November, it's pretty much been all she can talk about, think about, dream about. She found a niche, and she is in love. Maybe more so than we have ever seen her or will see her again. I guess we'd better learn to embrace her chosen mate. I tried cross country skiing once. I went with my uncle and cousin who were quite experienced. I was probably 15 and a lot like MacKenzie. I wore my aunt's boots which were at least 1.5 sizes too small and they took me on a seven mile loop at Mt. Spokane. Obviously I swore I would never be duped into such lunacy again. I am pretty sure I got gangrene in the blisters I wore into my ankles that day. Josh likes almost any kind of hard work in the snow, especially if he can wear a heavy medical pack and impress a bunch of people, so he's been happy to sign up as the resident medic/dad at local practices. I have yet to brave the cold to stand and cheer for Halle, but somehow it seemed like enough that we drove 18 hours in two days to pick her up from her dad's three days early so she could make her Nordic team sleepover, wax party, and first race last weekend. Josh did all of the driving so it was totally worth it, of course. I was able to sleep between bouts of complaining and latte stops. Nordic Skiing is the newest in a long line of driving intensive undertakings that we have joined in with our oldest child. Desperately concerned for her future success, she is taking the shotgun approach to high school, thinking if she does everything, she will be good enough at something to make it in the world. What Halle hasn't figured out yet is that she is good at EVERYTHING she does. Partly because she works hard and partly because she is a talented kid. And I haven't even started on her art and writing. Don't think I am not proud of my quirky, slightly nerdy kid. I programmed her to this weirdness half intentionally, replacing baby dolls with dinosaurs and pink frills with overalls. She is tough, smart, silly and beautiful. I have no fears for her future. Every turn will be bright. A third place ribbon is awesome, but we all know it's just her first run. 

Ok. Saying all of that took so long that I definitely can't remember the other things. I'll get back to you.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Things That AREN'T New

It started off as a good day. I had won almost limitless Good Mom points for the surprise 13th birthday party I threw yesterday for Natalee that was a raging success, and even the mountain of Bad Mom strikes I got for the guilt trips about never throwing an Awesome Party for my other kids couldn't cancel out the radness of a cross town, retail scavenger hunt, complete with mochas and holiday socks and mini shopping spree at Claire's. Today, even as I tripped over sleeping bags and unidentifiable teenage bodies, and I rushed through apparently twice as much french toast as a herd of 13 year old girls would eat (did I miss an eating disorder memo here?), and didn't get to wash my hair before work because Halle had to get dropped off for ski practice, I was still humming merrily though my nearly debilitating pain about What a Good Job we had done surprising her and how maybe I could win my parenting merit badge someday after all.

It seems like whenever I leave for work, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly there is an influx of woeful texts about crabby children and minor household catastrophes and how Aspen won't get off Pottermoore so Halle can do her homework, which apparently consists of three hours of Facebook and an intense round of some role playing game I have never heard of. I would like to interject here, that on the day in question, which is today, incidentally, that the girls were not parentless. Josh was home pretty much all day, doing countless loads of laundry that involved racing the girls to the washing machine between loads, and cooking pinto beans according to my recipe WITHOUT burning them. He's pretty much a stud.

I think the Bad Things that were happening at home today were magnified by many things, such as two weeks spent at DAD's house, which is nothing more than a sugar fueled, sleepless duration of as much awkward and random socialization as can be forced on 4 kids in a Christmas Break. Send four girls to spend time with a) disconnected and troubled biological father, b) super-enabling and guilt driven grandmother and c) a mini cultish place full of weirdos and a few innocent bystanders, and you get four confused, exhausted and basically snotty kids with misdirected sympathies and misplaced moral standards.

The aura of peace and tranquil positivity was also dampened by a series of flu bugs that would put Kevin Bacon to shame with their interconnectivity. Who needs seven degrees when I can trace this (the second) virus (without insinuating origin) from Bend, to Marble, to Olympia, to Spokane, and by now to Nashville, Washington DC and Pennsylvania. It's one thing to share friendly holiday germs with family. You kind of come to expect that when somebody ALWAYS has a snot nosed kid or husband running around. But the holiday cheer of passing the flu onto random passerbyers and realizing that YOU helped start the epidemic that is ravaging Maryland is somehow deeply satisfying. I have made an impact CONTINENTALLY! I have boosted the economy in sales of Kleenex and NyQuil, and connected millions of strangers to each other WAY more efficiently and intimately, biologically even, than Kevin bacon ever did!

Another exacerbating factor to consider for the entropy we were facing at home is the fact that it is January. With the exception of January 1st, the entire month of January is bleak, cold and desolate. We are broke from Holiday Overdoing-it, the bills are three times their normal amount because "Halle" left the space heater on the whole time we were gone, and work is slim. After the glorious rush of New Years optimism and joyfulness, we are faced with the hard truth that another year has begun and we have to do it all.over.again. Like right now. Turns out, you still have to take the garbage out on Thursdays in 2013 or you'll have overflowing cans for another week. Turns out that the puppy poop on the back porch and the mountain of laundry didn't suddenly vanish at midnight 12/31/12. Oh yeah, and the car is still running rough, and somebody STILL needs to go to the dentist, and you guessed it, I am still in pain. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I just wanted to come home from my grueling (4 hour) work day and curl up in sweatpants. All of the elements were right. Josh made amazing fajitas. I found a (mostly) clean pair of sweatpants. I almost made it to the couch. But WHAM!!! chore time hit with a fury unlike anything that a scorned woman has ever seen. I am not even sure what happened, but by the time the dust settled, Kizzie was doing Halle's chore, Halle was doing Aspen's chore, and Aspen was innocently MIA with her unfinished plate of onions. Josh started helping do Aspen's chore then disappeared downstairs to pout over a basket of laundry, and Nattie somehow squeaked by, messing around on the computer the entire time, until Halle finished cleaning the kitchen halfway and tried to remove her physically from Facebook, which, as we all know, is a scientific impossibility. All of this transpired with quite a bit of yelling, huffing and puffing, whining, stomping, a few tears and ultimately, me losing all my glorious good mom points when I unplugged the girls computer from everything and carried off the hard drive. Josh got mad at me for getting mad at him for getting mad at the kids for getting mad at him and after I got mad at him for getting mad at me for all of that I got mad at the kids, just for the heck of it and he started acting much nicer because I was REALLY mad. He even offered me wine. But I am not drinking. For a minute.

Now I am in my sweatpants on the couch, waiting for some wine, Kizzie is playing nicely with the dogs, which should give you some indication of how serious the situation was, since Kizzie won't play with dogs unless her life depends on it. Josh is wearing his itchy Pendleton shirt just to make me happy and Halle went to bed with a headache. Aspen and Natalee are still trying to figure out how to make the computer work without a hard drive.

I am going to watch a movie. I am on the fence between a gangster flick with fedoras and a lot of shooting or a mushy tear jerker. Hmmm. PMS much?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Things That Are New

For the life of me, I wasn't going to say anything today. Or anytime this week for that matter. It's not that there aren't things to say or it wouldn't be a good idea, but I've developed kind of a bad attitude, and was more or less throwing a fit. I think I had resolved that I needed to quit whining in front of the world, and until I have something new and fresh and positive to say, I should just shut my big self-centered yap. But sitting here, on New Years Day, January 1st, 2013, I was convicted by the typewritten words of my Grandma Stecker, who, in spite of pain and frustration and a million reasons to give up, somehow found the time a reason to pound into tightly squeezed lines, all of the little details of her life. Because those words reach beyond her earthly departure in 1987 and tell me what kind of a woman my Grandma was, I feel compelled to give words to my days. I suppose for some people this seems like a meaningless waste of time, but for me, I love to hear her sometimes pain-filled voice talk about me as a tiny girl, and understand that who I am is in some way because of who she was. This is powerful to me, and if my words even live past me for a few months, maybe somebody will hear something that resonates and gives them a laugh.

We are important to each other, us human beings, and for all of the crazy, negative, horrible wrecks of human beings out there, we pull together with the dearest ones to us and we make life worth living for each other. The last few weeks have been a little rough, since I am an enormous baby, and even though I make a conscious effort to not give my pain energy, there it is, consuming me anyway, and dictating not just my life but the lives of the people I love. This is insanely frustrating, especially for someone like me who would much rather be eating the glory of being the World's caretaker, entertaining and amusing and lighthearted and gay, and I have become the millstone 'round the World's neck, dragging everyone down to the depths of my own limitations. I don't want to, but they love me, some of these weirdos, and they hang in with me, in spite of extreme boredom, mild frustration and I am sure, some repressed impatience.

My husband, God Bless him, has picked up the slack for me, as I have worked every day just enough hours to render me incapacitated for accomplishing anything else. I have done less laundry and cooked less real food lately than I usually do in a summer when I am gone. He cooks for me, and cleans up after the trail of mess I leave lying throughout the hours, sometimes hardly able to get my boots off, and leaving my work clothes in a pile near the closest available sweatpants. He runs after won-ton soup in 8 degree weather, even after calculating the thousands of dollars I spent Christmas Shopping for myself. He rubs my feet with peppermint lotion and says he loves me, even though I give him absolutely no reason to. He caters to my dining whims, my shopping whims, my bizarrely irrational justifications for fiscal irresponsibility with a patient roll of his eyes and a careful watch on the bank account balance. And with a sigh, he trudges off to work he hates to make sure there's enough in there to cover my next trip to Victoria's Secret.com. He puts up with episodes of Bones and The Walking Dead and has even consented to video game dates with me in the near future. Forget his dreams of snowboarding next to his ├╝ber cute little wife or a blond in golf skirts and visors... He is a good man.

Today is the first day of a new year. A year that I plan to make better than the last for the man I love, the kids I love and the life I love. I am resolved to give back to the friends, new and old, who have given to me, sympathy, compassion, understanding, flexibility, forgiveness... I am determined to know my girls better, love them harder and put effort into them that I quit offering years ago when I was overwhelmed and self absorbed. I am excited to get better. To MAKE myself better, by whatever means necessary, and become the strength for others that they have been for me. I want to become the wife that my husband deserves, that can bring him the happiness he brings me. These are my resolutions. And then on top of that, I have a slew of superficial plans for this Lucky 13 year. Like losing 20 pounds to start - I am hoping that my diseased uterus will account for at least a few of these when they finally drag it out of me - is that cheating?? I plan on getting myself, and in consequence, my family, healthier and happier in our lifestyle. I have struggled with finding a balance between overkill resolve and an unreasonable diet plan, and total abandon to my hedonist whims. I have settled on a comfortable plan of attack that is not legalistic, but pares away the unnecessary and un-beneficial frills in our diet and lifestyle. Deprivation always results in overindulgence for me, so I plan to avoid both.

More than anything, my resolve for 2013 is to make good choices, in my actions, attitudes and responses. To be love to my friends and family. To be honesty and integrity. To question the necessity, benefit and consequence of everything I say and do. To be the same person to every person, all of the time. To extend grace, give the benefit of the doubt, but operate in circumspect wisdom in all things. In short, maybe I am finally ready to grow up.

Nah.

But Tigger can reign in his blundering antics, and Peter Pan can put off some of his self absorption. That is all it takes. In my darkest times, Captain Hook's overhanging doom "old, alone and done for" echoes in my head as the ultimate failure in life. To avoid this, maybe I won't grow up, but I will balance the zeal and joy of with a listening ear and humility.

There is joy even in pain. And happiness even in struggle. There is no need to be consumed with sadness and wallow in the truth that hurt hurts. I am tired, but I am hopeful. I am loved, I am so richly blessed.  Even though we know that eventually our road will lead us to an end, the not knowing of that end is exciting in and of itself. Once I prayed for the peace of a dark rest after death. Now, the fear of death that drove me to salvation as a child is evolving into a mild and patient curiosity to see what is on the other side of this adventure. Not that 2013 holds any threat of an end to me, but being able to see EVERY end as a beginning and every death as a new start, I am thrilled to welcome a new year as the last one is laid to rest. Every good thing is only good because we know what bad is. Even with the waves, it's hard to imagine life getting better than 2012, but somehow, I know it will.

Happy New Year, y'all. Let's get after it!!