Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nine Years Ago Today...

Nine years ago today I went from this:
 to this:

At about 9:30 p.m. on August 31st, 2001, Jared made his grand entrance into the world and I became a mother. And my world has never been the same....

Dave and I have come a long way since those days of being starving students, living in a dumpy student apartment (love the cinder-block walls!), juggling a baby with classes. 

And Jared has come a long way, growing from the cutest baby ever who "ruled the apartment with an iron fist" to a smart, funny nine-year-old (who still wishes he could rule the house with an iron fist...). ;)

Jared is a planner; he always has a new scheme-- whether it be for selling milk in front yard, hosting a museum in his bedroom, having a circus at our house, producing his own "broadway show" or designing the "Hawaii club" in his room with leftover luau stuff. His favorite food is steak ("dad's steak, medium-rare, so it is really juicy"). He wants to be a scientist or an engineer when he grows up. He plays the piano (grudgingly sometimes, but well) and likes to be in charge. He is head of "the spy team" with his friends. He loves to play Wii, read, ride his bike, do math and just be a kid.

It's amazing how fast he has grown up. Is it really already halfway until he leaves home? I want Jared to know that I love him so much! He is a great kid and I am so proud of him and glad to be his mother.

Girls Day Out

My sister left to go home last Wednesday morning (sniff, sniff) from her "come rescue Karen from summer chaos" trip. We had a fantastic time not doing very much at all, but before she left we felt we had to do at least one sight-seeing excursion. So we got a sitter and spent the day with my bestest friend Ranell. We had a fantastic lunch at Pok Pok. My last trip to Pok Pok was with four kids in tow and was (surprisingly?) quite stressful. But this trip was fabulous. We got a bunch of different dishes to share and the most difficult thing was trying to decide which was the most delicious. Amazing coconut curry chicken noodle soup (made with house-pressed coconut milk! Seriously, comfort in a bowl...), spicy green papaya salad with crispy fried pork and cilantro, Phat See Ew with juicy, fat noodles laced with pork and broccoli.... Wow.

We followed our delightful culinary binge with a stroll through the International Rose Test Gardens.
Then we had a relaxing meander around the Japanese Gardens.
Don't you love the random guy in a hat on the left of the picture? He moved to get out of the way, but apparently did not move far enough...
Don't you feel more zen-like just looking at it?

Don't you love the raked swirls surrounding each rock? Like we are islands, sending out ripples to touch each other... (I'm waxing poetic now, aren't I?)
Somewhere along the way it came out that Ranell, who has lived near Portland even longer than I have, has never been to Powell's Books. This was truly a travesty and completely unacceptable, so we resolved to remedy the situation immediately. We finished our day with a jaunt to Powell's, complete with random browsing- although we managed to miss parking in the ghetto Powell's parking garage. (Random book find of the day: "Awkward Family Photos." My favorite is the photo is the one with the caption "Ever wonder what the boy with the clarinet really thinking?") To complete the day we picked up a sweet treat at Mio Gelato across the street. We started the day with great Thai food and finished it with a scoop of Sweet Cream Gelato and Plum Sorbetto. Yum.

I was so sad to see Alisa go- I really need to get some family to move closer than 12 hours away one of these days. But it was great to have her come and rescue me from the "I'm not going to survive all of these kids until school starts" stage of the summer. Love you, Lise!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Wedding Crashers

So to finish off my last post about Seattle with my sis, the whole reason we went to Seattle was so Alisa could go to her friend's wedding reception. She was a bridesmaid and so, for some reason, felt this need to be there so we just made a trip out of it. After our great day at Pike Place Market, we drove to the wedding reception. I was planning on dropping Alisa off and looking for a McDonald's play place to distract the kids, but it so happened that the wedding reception was right next to a park. So Alisa stood at the reception in her bridesmaid dress (which was altered with duct tape and safety pins- another story for another time) while I ended up reading a book while the kids had a great time playing.
But unfortunately, all good things must eventually come to an end. After occasionally requesting snacks and burning through the few I had at lightning speed, the kids started all-out pestering for food. Alisa came out to check on us and heard the kids whining for nourishment as though they had never had a square meal in their lives. She went back and talked to her friend who asked us to come in to the wedding reception and have some food. This was truly kind and gracious of her friend to invite in a woman with four children who were not dressed up in the slightest, but slightly awkward-feeling for me in my capris and flip-flops. But the kids were insistent that they would perish without food, we weren't close to fast food and Alisa wasn't done fulfilling her bridesmaid duties yet, so after giving the older kids a hurried pep talk about how to behave themselves I took a deep breath and went inside.

Things started well and the kids were reasonably well-behaved and quiet, yet it is impossible to be at any sort of event with Jackson in tow and not feel like you are walking through a field of land mines. "Pink lemonade... please don't spill that on the table cloth. Camryn, you don't need an entire plate of watermelon. Don't make a huge mess of crumbs all over. Please don't do anything to bug your brother, Jared." We managed to get some food down the kids without any major disasters, but Camryn was about to head back for a second full plate of fruit and Jackson was insisting that he wanted more juice, getting careless about how he was holding his cup and getting louder at his protests when Jared did something he didn't like. I sensed the edge of a land mine aand decided that this would be a good time for us to leave.

Jackson was NOT finished with his watermelon and lemonade and as soon as he realized that mom was really serious about leaving the party he started to loudly protest. This quickly evolved into the tantrum of the century. I did manage to get him out the door before he erupted, but it was an outdoor reception so the party-goers could hear his chorus of wails as I buckled him in the car.

So if you happened to be attending a wedding reception outside of Seattle this last weekend and you saw the mom with the screaming child who kicked over the double stroller in full view of the guests, yes that was me. The mom, not the screaming child.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Seattle With My Sis

Last Friday as I wrote my last post I was madly throwing stuff in the car to take the kids to Seattle with my sister Alisa. Alisa was out here for a friend's wedding and needed to be at the reception near Seattle on Saturday evening. So we were brave enough (or stupid enough?) to attempt to do Seattle with 4 kids in tow. We drove up Friday night and stayed at the Silver Cloud Inn (where we stayed for spring break a couple years ago). Jared and Camryn were THRILLED. In their eyes, this place might as well be the Four Seasons, even though we didn't get to swim in the slightly chilly pool this time around. Two words for you: breakfast buffet. Anything that includes hot waffles, greasy sausage links and all the sugary cheap pastries that you can eat is a winner in their book.

We took the hotel shuttle to Pike's Market and had a fun time dinking around enjoying the card tricks and balloon creations of the street entertainers amid Jackson's periodic tantrums that would ensue whenever we went someplace where he couldn't see boats (i.e. pretty much anyplace in Pike's Market besides the waterfront overlook). Apparently going to bed at 10:00 pm and being kept up by siblings who are too excited to sleep doesn't agree with Jackson. Go figure.
Jackson's favorite spot overlooking the waterfront and I-5: Cars and Boats! Jared is sulking because he wants to go back to the market instead of watching boats.

Jackson downing one of scores of fruit snack packages....
Between bribery, balloon animals, a copious quantity of fruit snacks and sheer willpower, we managed to see at least a tiny bit of the market with a great deal of screaming and running over of strangers' toes with the double stroller. (The screaming was from Jackson, not the strangers.) Having thus exhausted ourselves, Alisa and I turned to our other main goal of the day: amazing seafood. We headed to Elliott's Oyster House on the waterfront and scored a waterfront table on the patio where Jackson could watch the boats to his heart's delight.
Jackson: Boats! Boats! Dere's a boat! Jared: Will you let me eat my fish and chips already?
The other kids similarly settled in and got comfortable while Alisa and I pondered which of the fresh seafood offerings to enjoy.
Camryn taking a break after our exhausting sight-seeing.
Catching some rays in Seattle- before mom made her sit up and be polite.

Alisa had never had crab, so we settled on fresh steamed Dungeness crab and Alder Planked Fresh Alaskan Sockeye Salmon with a smoked tomato-onion beurre blanc.
Love me some seafood!

The salmon and vegetables were absolutely fantastic, but the crab was, in Alisa's words, "Life-changing. Really, I'm not sure I knew that food could taste that good." I think it was a successful experience for a first-timer. :)

Don't even think about eating my crab!
We managed to get through the amazing meal, kids and all, with only a moderate re-arrangement of kids meals, an additional order of sliced apples and one lost child. Somehow when we were in the process of shuffling kids through the restroom, Camryn climbed over the railing of the restaurant onto the pier to get one of her kids meal crayons. When she came back we had left (each assuming the other one had her), so she wandered off down the street to find us. Someone found her and she gave them Dave's cell phone number so Dave got the surprising call of "Hi! I'm at the Seattle waterfront and I've found your daughter." He called Alisa who found me (who was still in the bathroom, shuffling kids through and/or changing a diaper) and we were reunited with Camryn. (Just in case you are wondering- from my earlier post about reasonable limits for your child to explore- no, exploring the Seattle waterfront as a seven-year-old isn't on my okay list.)

We made one last attempt at Pike's Market, but once we were away from the view of the boats Jackson reverted to his spirited protests of this infringement on his nautical observation. So I bought some flowers and some frozen Beecher's Mac and Cheese to-go and we headed back to the shuttle stop. But not without picking up some cheesecake at "The Confectional" and some amazing chocolates at The Chocolate Box.

I tried bribing the screaming Jackson with some gelato, but to no avail. You know it's bad when he screams, "No ice cream! No ice cream! No chocolate!" So I contented myself by self-medicating with a truffle or two, knowing that he would be perfectly fine once we were back on the shuttle. ("Bus!! Bus!!")
The Ben Hur: Dark Chocolate, Marzipan and Pecans. Super yum!

I didn't get one of these, but the Nemo truffles were so cute I had to take a picture.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Bright Spot

I meant to write a post about this on Friday when it happened, but I was trying to get out the door to go to Seattle with my sis and four kids.

On Friday afternoon, my sister (who is here visiting for the week) was going to a friend's wedding. I dropped her off and then treated wanted to run some errands while I was in the vicinity. I opted to do Burgerville first and after one look at the drive-through line opted to eat inside. (Did I mention that Walla Walla Sweet Onion Rings are a true guilty pleasure... with a fresh blackberry milkshake?) After the kids had happily eaten their kids meals and gotten a balloon, we got back in the car and went on our way. Apparently the excessive saturated fat intake affected my judgment because I went shopping for groceries at Trader Joe's with all four kids in tow.

Jackson was reasonably behaved for the first five minutes of our shopping excursion, standing in between me and the shopping cart, riding and holding on (yes, I know this is not proper shopping cart protocol, but that is the subject of a different blog post). But then he discovered the cute kid-sized shopping carts and had to push one. Just a quick side note to Trader Joe's-- the kid-size shopping carts are super-adorable but NOT a very practical safe, idea... especially for a child like Jackson. Jackson's glee at having his own shopping cart soon turned into a happy exploration of how many items would fit in the cart basket and delight at using the cart as a battering ram.

I tried to rein Jackson in as much as I could, but a) his shopping cart was much smaller with better handling than mine, b) that kid is fast and c) there is only so far I could chase him before I realized that I had another smaller child perched up in the shopping cart basket that shouldn't be unattended either. (See shopping cart rules from different blog post.) I tried quickly curtail the shopping trip, grabbing a few items and heading for the register, but not before I got the dreaded question from an irate Trader Joe's employee: "Is that little blond boy yours? Will you please try to restrain him before he hurts something or someone." (I'm sorry, lady. Maybe someday you'll have a child like him and then you'll understand....)

I finally managed to get to the checkout and start heading for the exit, but that meant tearing Jackson from his beloved miniature shopping cart. So instead of a mini-battering-ram driving two-year-old, I had a kicking-and-screaming-enormous-tear-shedding two-year-old. Luckily Trader Joe's will help you load your groceries, so the checker could drive the cart while I dragged the screaming and crying Jackson out to the car. I spent several minutes wrestling Jackson into his car seat, during which his Burgerville balloon made an escape into the wild blue yonder, which only added to his shrieks and wails. Meanwhile, the checker loaded the groceries and I managed to shrug and smile weakly, "I guess it's naptime, huh?" "Yeah, that's kinda how I feel today," he responded. He finished loading the groceries in the back and headed back to the store while I started loading Addy into her car seat. A moment later he was running back out to my minivan holding a bouquet in his hand. "Happy Friday," he said, handing me the bouquet. "Have a great weekend." I stared at him for a second and then almost burst into tears before managing to say, "Thank you."

It was a really simple gesture, but it touched me deeply. Sometimes when I am out with my kids and they have a tantrum I feel like people look at me as an annoyance at best and a walking freak show at worst. Even when you're doing your best many people don't seem to realize that a child can have a mind and will of his own and there is only so much you can do. Just to know that someone looked at me as a human being having a hard day and not just "the annoying lady with lots of kids and that one blond kid that is always getting into trouble" made such a huge difference. Thank you, Trader Joe's checker! You made my day!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Worth A Thousand Words

Yesterday I found a sort of modern-art found object sculpture created by my children. I, of course, took a picture of their creation which is still enshrined in our front room. The picture kind of sums up my life right now. Being a mom does that to you sometimes....

Stretching the Boundaries

Recently Jared and Camryn have been taking advantage of their newly-honed bike-riding skills. They have taken to riding around our neighborhood, which has brought on the discussion of how far it is okay for them to ride by themselves. We even went so far as to draw a little map of our subdivision and show them which streets were okay and how far was off-limits. This whole concept is something that I've struggled with since I became a mom: How much is an appropriate amount of freedom to give your kids and how closely do they need to be watched? My mom says that when she was a child they got kicked outside to play and roamed for hours and hours without adult supervision (back in the day when that was acceptable). I remember as an older kid going from friend's house to friend's house with a group of kids (as long as they were withing a block or two of our house) and riding my bike around our neighborhood. Yet I still find it hard to square away my responsibility for keeping my children safe -and fears for the crazy world around us- with the need to give my children room to grow and explore (and my physical inability to be in two places at once). 

I know that it's a different world than my parents grew up in- or I grew up in (although sometimes I wonder if now we just know more about all the crazy stuff out there and it really has been there all along). I know you need to be careful, but the only way I can find to physically watch my kids at all times is to keep my kids inside watching TV or playing Wii. In that case, instead of being a bad parent for not watching my kids closely enough, I would be a bad parent for not making sure my kids get enough exercise and letting them watch too much TV. But if I take them outside and watch them the whole time, then I can't make dinner and they end up eating processed junk food and, again, I am a bad parent. There I go, complaining again. I guess sometimes I just feel like it is a catch-22: no matter what you do, you're a bad parent.

But back to bikes. Jared and Camryn went out bike-riding and Jared came back significantly earlier than Camryn did. I asked him if he'd seen her and she hadn't. I started to get worried and was just on the verge of getting everyone in the car to look for her when she finally got home. Camryn said something about riding her back by her friend Aubrey's house. Unfortunately I had specifically told her earlier that she couldn't ride as far as Aubrey's house. Our conversation went like this:

Me to Camryn: "Why did you ride farther on your bike than I said was okay?" 

Camryn: "It was an accident." 

Me: "How can that be an accident? "

Cam: "I accidentally wanted to."

Since then, Jared and Camryn have been better at sticking to our bike-riding limits. Now the problem is how to get Jackson from following them down the street on his big wheel, as fast as his two feet will carry him....

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pics from California: Slip'n'Slide and Jelly Belly Factory

Some pics from our California trip:

Slip-n-sliding on Grandma's lawn.

Jackson riding in Grandma's "bus" on the way to the Jelly Belly Factory. "No! 's not a mo-home! It's a bus!"
Lots of cousin fun in the motorhome.

Preparing for our lesson in jelly bean history.

Bring on the belly flops! Yum!

This Week in K-ville

Summer is flying by. My brief burst of enthusiasm for organization has (predictably) waned as I realize that there is a really good reason (four of them, actually) that my house looks the way it does and my level of organization is less-than-stellar. I have replaced my goals for organizing my upstairs and setting up regular schedules with more eminently reachable ones like trying to set a record for how many times we can get Taco Bell for lunch in a single week (we only hit three, but give me some time-- it's a new goal and I'm just warming up...).

Jared and Camryn did Missoula Children's Theater this week and had a fantastic experience. Auditions were Monday, followed by rehearsals every day and two performances on Saturday. We also had one of the directors staying at our house. Jackson and Addy were remarkably patient with all of the driving back and forth to rehearsals. The show yesterday was really cute and both Jared and Camryn did a great job.

Dave's current project at his job continues to build in intensity. I think he may be pushing the threshold of the number of work hours possible per week. We've passed, "Wow, it's 8 pm! You're home early!" and we're on to "I almost wish you were out of town so I could see you more often." :) But he amazingly survives it somehow, and- even more amazingly- so do I. As best I can. What can you do but do your best to make it work? And think longingly forward to his paid sabbatical next year....

Addy figured out how to climb up the stairs. Now if only she knew how to get down them safely.... At this moment she is calling mamamamaaaaaaaa so I guess that is my cue to end this post early. Catch-up on epic summer fun will have to wait for another time.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Excuse of the Day

I figured out my latest excuse: I'm not disorganized, I'm mis-organized. (Meaning that it's not that I can't get my laundry folded-- I just don't really want to so I spend my time doing other things I like better.)

I wanted to share a post from a friend of mine whose twins just turned four months old. She talks about how they are adjusting to twins compared to how they adjusted to their first child (it's actually been easier) and she pretty much encapsulates in her post why having a first child was such a mammoth shock for me.

I like when I get reminders that, no, I'm not the only one who sometimes lets my blissful imaginings of how motherhood should be get in the way of loving what I do, reality and all. Motherhood truly is full of beautiful life-changing moments I wouldn't trade for anything --mixed in with chaos and exhaustion and poop and moments that you can't get away from fast enough. :) I guess that's real life....

Sunday, August 8, 2010

For the Record

I rant enough about my less-than-stellar house-cleaning and my children's mess-making abilities that I thought I should put something down for the record. Yesterday I mopped my entire hardwood floor on my hands and knees. (It is a REALLY big floor... it usually takes me two sittings, er, moppings to get to it all.) Although, now that I say that, the fact that me mopping my entire floor is an event of note is rather more incriminating than otherwise.

Dave went to Korea this week and got back around lunch today. I managed to use this as motivation to get Jared and Camryn in action and we were able to clean the entire main floor of the house before Dave got home. Maybe it was just excitement that daddy was coming home, but Jared and Camryn really sprang into action. They helped with the dishes, I wiped counters and swept, Jared vacummed, Camryn picked up toys and Jackson... well, he supervised. :) Actually Jared and Camryn have emptied and loaded the dishwasher every day this entire week. Some prodding was required, it is true, but still, that isn't bad for a seven-year-old and eight-year-old. And at the end of the day, the main floor was still mostly clean. Not too shabby! (Not too typical, either, but hey- we take what we can get.)

Also, today we finally got a good-sized bike for Jared. We've had too small and too big. This one is just right. He's been able to ride for a while but was still a little uncertain in his abilities. He got some good practice in with dad racing around the block to that point that he feels really confident. Then we took the training wheels off of Camryn's bike (Yes, my children are late bloomers when it comes to bike-riding-- rack up another point in the "No, she's certainly not super-mom" category.) and before the end of the day she was riding around the block by herself.

Meanwhile Addy watched the proceedings from her Exersaucer while Jackson spent the whole afternoon outside on his trike with a huge grin on his face, trying to keep up with Jared on his bike. I don't know if I have ever seen someone happier than that little boy conquering the world on his Big Wheel.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Visit From Jen or "How Many Eateries Can You Cram Into Three Days?"

In June before we left for California, Dave's sister Jen came out for a long anticipated visit. (She's only been telling me she would come hang out with me for, oh, four years now.) :) Jen came into town for a friend's wedding, but we were able to squeeze in three fantastic trips to Portland: two with kids, and one sans kiddos.

Day 1: We piled all six of us out of the car to get sandwiches at Bunk, earning stares from all of the hipsters eating there with the ruckus we created. We wisely got take-out and headed to the waterfront to eat our delicious sandwiches.
The kids heeded my warnings to stay out of the warning fountain for oh, about three and half minutes.
Then they got completely drenched and enjoyed themselves fabulously doing so.
We headed to the car with three of the four kids completely soaked and no towels to be had. I had the kids strip down to their underwear and wrap themselves in a couple of spare baby blankets in the back seat. Which would have been just fine except... that I had forgotten we needed to pick up Jen's friend Sheri (who would also be staying at our house) on the way home as well. Oops. Can we say, "Welcome to my circus!"? So poor Sheri had the exciting experience of riding in the backseat between two half-naked wet children of mine. (Incidentally, I hadn't connected that Sheri was not just a random friend of Jen's, but is actually the daughter of my mom's college best friend/roommate. I knew her as a kid and have memories of going on vacation to their house... small world!)

Day 2: Our second trip involved a variation of our Portland "Grand Tour." We started the day by grabbing some delicious lunch at little t american baker. Almost as an afterthought at the end, Jen bought a loaf of "Sally Lunn" bread (because I had made a comment that I bought it once on vacation in Williamsburg when I was 13 and loved it). It was insanely good. A major discovery! For the main attraction, we hit the Portland Classical Chinese Gardens. (Thank you, free library cultural passes!)
Jared and Camryn really enjoyed the pictorial scavenger hunt for kids. Addy, on the other hand, wasn't so enamored with the place. (She was actually fine most of the time. I think she needed a diaper change in this picture.)
I loved the elaborate architecture and even more elaborate names and descriptions. How about "The Celestial Pathway to the Hall of Permeating Fragrance"? Hmmm... maybe I should rename my upstairs hallway "The not-so-celestial path over unfolded laundry to the bathroom of permeating odor." Nah, it loses something in translation.
Don't we look thrilled to be here?
After enjoying our view of The Tower of Cosmic Reflections and taking off our shoes to try walking barefoot on the carefully mosaic-ed stones, we decided to quell our hunger at that, er, uh, venerable Portland landmark, Voodoo Doughnuts. We got bubble yum doughnuts for the kids, a Memphis Mafia and an ODB- it's covered in crushed Oreo's, peanut butter and chocolate. Yum!
Jen sampling "Memphis Mafia": a banana fritter covered in chocolate, peanut butter and chocolate chips.
We then took the kids to the playground at Washington Park and worked off our sugar rush.

We then took all four kids to Pok Pok for dinner. Yes, it was one of the braver things I've ever attempted. But we did it and we all survived and my kids even behaved reasonably well (Note: My kids can be bribed and Pok Pok had lime-ade, so all was well.)
Jen with Addy at Pok Pok thinking, "How the heck did we end up in this tiny restaurant with four kids even if we are outside on a patio table?"     
Day 3: Our trip to Portland sans kiddos was much less, er, exciting but every bit as fun. We had a fantastic lunch at Andina of Peruvian tapas.
Jen and I smiling benevolently over our awesome lunch with a random man in the background outside the window.
Exotic truffles and a caramel-filled cookie. Need I say more?
 We whiled away the afternoon at a consignment store where Jen found an amazing dress for $13 bucks and at a store with awesome vintage household decor. We finished the afternoon with a small snack at Papa Haydn.
Two words for you: Papa Haydn. That's right. Come to papa.

Okay, maybe it wasn't small or a snack, but it was insanely delicious and a fantastic end to a fantastic day. Sadly, we were only able to squeeze in eight Portland eateries in three days, but I guess that means that Jen will have to come visit again. :)