Thursday, September 23, 2010


When your baby gets to be a year old it's a little bit like awakening from a coma. I guess there are a lot of small milestones after you have a baby: surviving the first day home from the hospital, getting through the first week after your help leaves, making it past the 6-week mark, hitting three months old, starting solid foods, when they start sleeping through the night and so forth. And with each milestone you start to remember things like, "Wait! Life wasn't always the way it has been the past few weeks. I remember what it is like to be able to go more than 2 hours at a time without changing a diaper!" or "I remember what it feels like to have a five-hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep!"

Addy will turn one year old in a few weeks and I'm starting to emerge from that first-year coma-like existence. I've started exercising again. I'm rediscovering personal grooming (well, sort of). I've actually thought about how I look and made a couple of attempts at... (gulp) accessorizing and creating an outfit instead of just throwing on the first pair of jeans and a shirt I can find that doesn't have any obvious barf stains or snot streaks. I noticed that my plants have died (a baby first year rite of passage for me), am grieving for my dehydrated sage and rosemary, and am wondering if I have it in me to give another shot at my herbs without killing them. I've started on the process of slowly weaning Adelyn and feel both frustrated and glad that she still prefers me to a bottle. (It's hard not to love her funny fake-cry/cackle when she realizes that you are going to actually give in and nurse her and the sweet greedy way she chug-chug-chugs when she gets to drink.)

I was out in the front yard weeding a couple Saturdays ago and I realized that almost a year has gone by since she was born. So much of that first year you spend submerged in the day-to-day struggle of just keeping people alive and fed (hopefully you and the baby both). So many other things drop into auto-pilot or fall off the map altogether. You think about all the nights of little sleep, the endless diaper changes and nursing and trying to balance that with the other kids and their needs and there is a feeling of, "Wow! We made it! We actually survived!"

People often describe childbirth as "descending into the valley of the shadow of death." I think that description might just as aptly be applied to the entire first year. Not to say that the first year is terrible or horrendous, because it isn't. It is full of sweet and beautiful moments and experiences that more than make up for the difficult times. But- for me at least- that first year still feels very much like a struggle for survival. As a woman, you put yourself in a place where you are very vulnerable: so much of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy is wrapped up in keeping this little spirit alive and laying the foundation for helping her grow into a healthy, happy adult. Trying to balance this with meeting your own needs and the needs of your husband and other children often feels like an impossible juggling act. It's like taking a deep breath, going under water and praying you have enough breath to carry you through to the other side.

So it's worth celebrating when you come up on the other side and realize that you made it. Not to say that there aren't longer or harder journeys ahead. (I've heard parenting doesn't get easier as your kids grow.) But making it through part intact still counts for something.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I love restaurants. I am lucky that Portland happens to have a particularly fantastic food scene for a city of its size. I say "food scene" because Portland food is not just about restaurants. No, no, no, this is "Keep Portland Weird" Portland. (Incidentally, I saw a "Keep Salem Lame" bumper sticker today. Somehow that just doesn't quite have the same ring to it....) Portland's food scene extends beyond restaurants and markets and into food carts.

This is one of those weird Portland things that I love and find so endearing. Food carts are a huge thing here- there are over 400 of them in the city. And they are not just turf for folks peddling hot dogs or pretzels. No, no, no. Food carts are a way for budding chefs to break out with very little overhead. They have food carts with gourmet desserts, waffle sandwiches, wood-fired pizza, Korean tacos, you name it. You can get some really awesome food from these carts and at very reasonable prices.

Last weekend I was bugging Dave to take me to Pok Pok (I've been craving it ever since my fantastic lunch there in August) but he wanted to do something more budget-friendly. So we decided to go food-cart hopping. We decided to hit the late-night pod on Hawthorne. It's basically a bunch of carts in an old parking lot/street corner-- complete with a few covered picnic tables and some string lights to complete the flower-child-carnival atmosphere.
We started with an "appetizer" from Potato Champion -- home of insanely delicious french fries. I've been itching to try their specialty: a Canadian concoction called "poutine." They top French fries with cheese curds and gravy. Let me just tell you, this is not your ordinary gravy. The word conjures images of KFC potato pearls topped with a salty-greasy powder-based sauce. This gravy is from a different planet entirely. Only $4.50 to transport you to french-fry heaven.
We got our main course at a cute new cart called "Pyro Pizza". Aside from having cute "decor", they made gourmet wood-fired pizza in a brick oven in a stinkin' cart! How cool is that! You peek in the side door and there is the brick oven, right in the middle of the trailer.

We ordered a caramelized onion pizza with gorgonzola and parmigiano-reggiano cheese and pistachios. They were out of the onions, so we substituted sausage for the onions and they even took a dollar off, knocking the price down to $6-- for an awesome pizza.

They also featured house-made soda (made with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup) in fun flavors.

We paired our pizza with a Chicken Pot Pie from Whiffies Fried Pies. C'mon, the only way that you could love a place called "Whiffies" more is if they added the words "Fried Pies." Just like the only way you could possibly love pie crust more is by dumping it in a vat of boiling oil. Seriously awesome. (The current pie champion ate 9 pies in 60 minutes. Wow.) Serious calories. Serious yum.
Golden-fried, artery-clogging goodness.
I'm starting to get good at these self-taken pictures.

It was very tempting to get a crepe for dessert (Lemon Curd, Lingonberry and Chevre, anyone?), but we were down to our last $1.50 of cash and didn't want to pay an ATM fee to get more. So we settled on sampling a glass of the Basil Lime soda from Pyro Pizza. It was great- not too sweet. That brought the total for our dinner to about $15.

We still had some time to kill, so after getting lost in Portland trying to find a cupcake cart (which had already closed when we found it) we decided to head somewhere that accepted credit card for dessert. (I'm the one in our relationship who doesn't like to ask for directions. I also have a problem with GPS. I enjoy maps and like to figure out my way around, even if it's more roundabout at first.) So we headed to Pix Patisserie, quite possibly the best dessert in Portland (it's a toss-up with Papa Haydn). We got the Pixie- a concoction involving pistachios, marzipan and raspberry jam- and one of my all-time-favorites: the Shazam. The Shazam is an evil creation of chocolate almond cake, topped by caramel mousse and coated in a wild flare of dark chocolate.
The Pixie, the Shazam, and Raspberry Almond bites.
It's one of those desserts that you take one bite and then just laugh, cry or shake your head in disbelief. It's that good. (Not bad for $6.)

The shop was built from a converted garage, so on nice summer nights they roll up the "wall" of the building to open up to the night air.

So we had a fun night of awesome food, including 3 desserts, for about $25. Now if only we could find an equally delicious way to minimize calories....

Monday, September 20, 2010


While I'm on the topic of the Y, last Friday I decided to try out a Zumba class. In case, you haven't heard of it, "Zumba" is a wildly popular aerobic exercise class based on Latin-style music and dance moves. I love Latin dance, so I thought it might add some fun variety to my workouts. I started with the "Zumba Gold" class- which actually is geared toward the beginner (not a higher level- like it sounds) or "older active adults." (Is that a nice way of saying silver-haired women and post-pregnancy out-of-shapers?)

I showed up for the class, not quite knowing what to expect. The instructor was wearing black cargo capris embroidered with a "Zumba!!" logo, along with a black tank top covered by a red off-the-shoulder top. She spotted a couple of newbies, including me (I guess we were the ones standing uncertainly with an "I have no idea what I am doing here" look on our faces) and gave us the rundown. "The idea behind Zumba is that you are at a nightclub Latin dancing. You see someone across the room with some great moves and you mimic what they are doing." She put a red headband around her wild black curly hair and went to the front of the room. The lights went down to near-darkness and then she started the routines.

Can I just insert here that while I do not consider myself uncoordinated at all, group aerobic classes have a way of making me feel like a klutz? I took four years of ballroom dance classes when I was in college, including multiple Latin dance classes. But when they teach you ballroom, you and the person modeling the steps face the same direction. In aerobics, for some weird reason, the instructor has to face you and you try to follow what they are doing but mirror image. This produces strange contortions in my brain (not to mention my body). Nonetheless, I was determined to give this a valiant effort. I tried my best to follow the wild shimmies, head swirls and arm lassos of our enthusiastic instructor, but all I could think of when I saw my reflection in the dance studio mirror was: "If I saw someone with moves like this at a nightclub, I would run the other direction. Fast."

But the first song eventually ended and after enthusiastic applause from the more Zumba-ed "active older adults" in the room, we started on our next routine. "Let's Cha-cha!!" she enthusiastically cried. "Oh good," I thought, "Cha-Cha is one thing I DO know how to do already." Maybe all of my semesters of ballroom dance were good for something. Or maybe not. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Cha-Cha, you do a step back, then forward, then take three side steps on the "cha-cha-cha" part of the rhythm. But the tricky part of the Cha-Cha is that the first step starts on the second beat of the measure, not the first like you might expect. So in every single cha-cha class they DRILL into you: START ON BEAT 2!!!! But this was not a ballroom dance class and we started our step on Beat 1. So the entire time my body and mind were screaming at me, "BREAK BACK ON BEAT 2!!!!! Good grief, can't you hear the "Cha-cha-cha" in the music? Stop!! Stop!! You're doing it WRONG!!!!!" (Do I have control issues? Hmmm...)

The class went on. I guess I didn't realize I was such a Latin dance snob. I understand that Zumba is simply a way to get you up off your duff and burning calories in a way that is somewhat entertaining. Nevertheless, I was really internally annoyed that it seemed like the instructor figured that if you just threw enough hip shimmies, arm lassos and booty shakes into a routine that made it "Latin." Latin dance is an art form with complicated moves and precise technique, not just an excuse to wiggle your hips and toss your head around. I am used to Latin dancing in silver high-heeled T-straps with sparkly rhinestones. Trying to "work it" wearing tennis shoes was like trying to be graceful with bricks on your feet. Latin dance snobs of the world unite!!! Get out your sparkly silver Latin sandals and bust a move!!! (Do I have control issues--- or just issues in general?)

I guess I figured out that Zumba wasn't precise enough for my overly uptight brain and not free enough for me to just do what I wanted. No offense to anyone who likes Zumba. Maybe I would have liked it better if I hadn't felt so uncoordinated or had to look at myself in the mirror... Maybe I would like it better with silver sparkly high-heeled sandals. Maybe I'll stick to Pilates....

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Workout... and then another workout

Today, after a brief respite for Adelyn's runny nose, I went back to the YMCA to work out. Having deposited Jackson and Addy in childwatch, I dumped my stuff in a locker, attached my snazzy new blue padlock and went off to work out.

I have a paranoia of forgetting the combination on my lock so I bought a special padlock when I joined the Y that allows you to set your own combination. So I set it to a short code I would easily remember. Beyond that, it was a spiffy blue color. I say was because the spiffy blue lock is no more.

I had allowed extra time at the end of my workout to shower and get ready before I had to get the kids from childwatch. As I started turning the wheel to enter the combination, the lock didn't feel right. The wheel wasn't turning very easily and was sticking a little bit. I entered the combination and pulled, but the lock didn't budge. I gave it another try but no go. I spent about 15 minutes fiddling with my lock KNOWING that I did not forget the combination because I bought a special lock specifically so I could enter my own combination that I wouldn't forget. But no matter how many times I entered the combination, it didn't budge. The girl next to me offered her help, being somewhat good with locks. But she had never seen a lock like mine.

Finally we got someone from the front desk to bring a lock cutter. But it was an old rusty lock cutter and even when we had three people applying pressure we still couldn't get it to cut. They finally found another lock cutter that was newer and after getting two people to apply all their might for about 5 minutes we finally cut through it. But then the door to the locker wouldn't open. We had tried pushing against the locker door for leverage and now it was sealed shut. So I had to wait while the Y employee went to grab a screwdriver to pry it open. Finally, after a 40-minute ordeal I got my purse and keys... and not my shower. And my arms were sore even though today was a cardio day....

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I cut my hair. Really cut it. A week and a half ago. While Dave's mom was here visiting.

The entire four years we lived in California I had my hair fairly short, and the four years we've lived in Oregon I've had it fairly long. So I figured it was about time for my quadrennial hairstyle change. So I finally took the plunge: I cut it short and got side bangs too. (That's probably even more shocking- I haven't had bangs since I was 12.)

Exhibit A: Short-ish hair in California from 2002-2006
Camryn and I at the now-defunct "Where the Wild Things Are" exhibit at the Zeum in San Francisco. January 2005.
Okay, this picture was actually taken in Seattle when my sister and I went to the MTNA convention. This was my first time riding in a limo. April 2005.

One more January 2005 picture, just so I can marvel at how skinny I was. And that was after two kids!
Exhibit B: Long-ish hair in Oregon from 2006-2010
October 2007: I was pregnant with Jackson.
March 2008: After Jackson's baby blessing.
January 2009: With Jackson on an airplane coming home from Christmas at Grandma's
December 2009: After Adelyn's baby blessing.
Exhibit C: Short-ish hair again, from 2010-???? (All of these photos were self-taken, so not exactly the best around....)

Rock that short hair!
So I guess I'm good for another four years, at which point I can contemplate a possible switch. :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Whose Brilliant Idea Was This?

Last week the power went out on one side of our family room. The lights wouldn't turn on in the room and nothing plugged into one wall would turn on either. My remarkably manly fix-it husband managed to hunt down the problem and fix it himself. This involved a trip to Home Depot and buying a new circuit breaker (which didn't fix the problem, but that's another story).

Anyway, I was struck by the method of marketing on the circuit breaker.
Who advertises a circuit breaker with a picture of a house burning down? It seems, in my humble opinion, that this isn't the exact image you want associated with your product. But that's just me....

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday Market

Last Saturday was the end of Dave's mom's "Rescue Mission" to help me get organized before school started. It was so sad to see her go. The entire family piled into the car on Saturday morning to take her to the airport. On the way back we decided to stop at the Portland Saturday Market (which happens to be right across the street from the "Portland Rescue Mission"). We parked on the Burnside Bridge next to a homeless man asleep on the sidewalk (which is probably why the spot was open...). Then we piled out the kids and stroller to peruse the wares of Portland's outdoor market.
It was fun browsing the booths, people-watching and seeing the cool stuff for sale: handmade soaps, unique handbags, artsy jewelry, knitted scarves or caps, clothing made out of recycled T-shirts... you name it.

Our favorite booth had a great selection of interesting... headgear.
"William Tell lost his touch?"
She looks way too happy for someone with a saw through her head....
I finally gave in and bought one each for Jared and Camryn to use for their Halloween costumes. We decided to go with a non-violent option (at least as non-violent as an object through the skull can be...) so we went with a cooking theme.
Where did those tongs go anyway?
Can anyone find my pancake turner?
Jared and Camryn wore their "headgear" the rest of the time we were out and got lots of attention and laughs from people around us. By the end of browsing the market, we were hungry, so we stopped for some food. Jackson stuck with a hot dog, Jared and Camryn picked pizza,
while Dave and I got delicious lamb Gyros with Tabbouleh.
Seriously yummy!
We were going to drop by Voodoo Doughnuts for dessert, but the line went around the block. So we opted for "Dutch Tacos" (waffle sandwiches) from Flavour Spot instead.

We decided to try the "S'mores" waffle sandwich (made with Nutella and marshmallow fluff) and the "Lemon Pie" waffle (Lemon Curd and whipped cream- super yum!).
Now that's my kind of breakfast!
All in all, we had a fantastic time enjoying the beautiful weather and delicious food.
Jackson's grin kind of sums it all up.
Or we could have spent the Saturday morning like we typically do....  Nah!
Super Mario Wii

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Slight Oversight

I was scanning my blog and I realized that my "family picture" is short one child. But Adelyn hasn't been around that long-- oh wait, never mind. She's almost a year old. Oops. New goal: Add a family picture that includes Addy to my blog before she turns a year old.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Jared's Birthday

I wrote a birthday tribute post to Jared, but never posted pictures of his actual birthday. We just had a small family celebration but Jared was really excited to open presents and have cake and did I mention open presents?

I made a "Tiger Cake"- a recipe I clipped from the Oregonian ages ago (made with extra-virgin olive oil and pepper- yes, olive oil)- and homemade mint-chocolate-chip ice cream for his family celebration. It was yum-o-licious, if I do say so myself.
 Kind of like marbled pound cake with a bite (Tiger Cake, a bite... get it? ha ha). Jared agreed wholeheartedly.
Dave's mom flew out for a visit to save me from my summer chaos and help me get organized before school started. She arrived on Jared's birthday, just in time to join us for our celebration.
Jared blowing out his candles:
It's hard to believe that my baby is nine- well maybe not that hard to believe....
Happy Birthday, Jared!

First Day of School

Can you believe it? I am actually posting about something on the day it happened! Hold your applause, please. Okay fine, applaud away. It may not happen again any time soon.

Today was Jared and Camryn's first day of school. Jared is starting 4th grade and Camryn is entering 2nd grade.

After a whole summer of no alarm clocks, it's back to the 6:45 wake-up. I am not a morning person, so this is a bit tortuous for me. Jared and Camryn, however, woke up to their alarms, got dressed and were eating their breakfast when I came down to help them with their lunches.

Then it was out the door to catch the bus.
It's hard to believe that they are growing up so fast. I'm always a bit nervous for the first day of school. Will they have good teachers? Will they make good friends and get along with the other kids? It always worries me as a control freak to have my kids out of my immediate control for such a big chunk of their lives. And I have mixed emotions about school. Part of me is so sad to have the kids gone for such a big part of the day again. But there is just as big (if not bigger) part of me that is jumping for joy at the prospect of having more quiet, fewer mess-makers and less sibling arguing for part of the day as well.

This year is a landmark for me too, since fourth grade was the last year that I attended school (until college). I was home-schooled from fourth grade through high school. People who find out that I was home-schooled usually ask me why I don't home-school my own children. It's because I don't want them to grow up to be social outcasts like me. ;) Just kidding. In all seriousness, I really loved being home-schooled and had a great experience. I always planned on home-schooling my kids, right up until Jared was 4 and 3/4 years old. Home-schooling didn't seem like a good option for us at the time, so we decided to give public school a try. We've been very lucky that it has worked well for us so far. The kids have had good teachers, made good friends and made good academic progress. But it took me a long time to get over feeling guilty that I wasn't doing enough for my kids' education or measuring up to what my mother did for me. The conclusion that I finally came to is that parents are the ones who are ultimately responsible for their child's education. They may choose to "farm out" some of the job to schools, tutors, teachers, coaches or others, but the parent is the one who needs to make sure that the child is getting what he or she needs. And I do teach them at home. But I don't think it's a bad thing for them to learn from other people as well. And hopefully if public school ever ends up not working well for them, I will be in tune enough to see this and find another alternative that does work. End of long tangent.

Meanwhile, Jackson and Addy are settling in to having the house to themselves for a while. I think Jackson is adjusting better to having "Jare-Camryn" gone than last year. Having Addy to hang out with certainly helps. Today they spent the morning dumping half a box of wipes.
I guess it's nice to have a sidekick. Especially one who looks up to you who wants to learn all of your tricks.
One of these days I'm going to have to try chucking some diapers across the room to see if it's as much fun as it looks.