Valentines and “No”stalgia

Today is the end of an era. The last seasonal party at the kids’ school. I’ve been to 36 of them, and probably been in charge of half of them over the years. I feel super lucky that my flexible schedule has allowed me to be there. But as I’ve found with almost everything this year, the nostalgia I have expected is just not there. I am ready to be done.

In fact, I thought I was missing this one because I couldn’t be there on Friday, which is actually Valentine’s Day, which I had assumed was Party Day.

We hadn’t bought any valentines, and I went so far as to recycle the old shoebox “mailboxes” I’d been holding on to from past kids/past years, (I didn’t want to decorate yet another one) thinking that we were done with Valentine parties.

And then imagine my surprise when I learn that there is no school on Friday, and the party is today! So off went Gus with an undecorated shoe box (he didn’t care either; phew), some very lame Valentines purchased at Target last night, and I’m officially keeping my spot on the slacker mom list.

I remember showing up at Anders’ first class party with a crazy toddler and a baby in a stroller. Total mistake; I should have taken my time. But, there I was, so if I have been to 36 class parties, Gus has been to almost that many.

Gus’ first “real” class party, his kindergarten year, might have been the best day of his life. An ambitious class mom had planned a pancake station (As a former “room parent chair,” I now know that preparing food at school is banned!) so he had eaten pancakes and whipped cream and who knows what else. Then since he was just a half-dayer, we went to Tate’s second grade party, where he ate cookies and frosting and who knows what else. Finally, we went to Anders’ fifth grade party, where he ate ice cream sundaes and soda.

I had to scrape that kid and his sugar high off the ceiling. I have a feeling today will be a little less crazy.

We will no longer Party On. But it was Excellent.

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The Rose Bowl…and the fair…only comes once a year

Cardinal Christmas

My husband and youngest son, Gus, are in LA at the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl today. When I tell people this, their logical question is, “What about the other two boys?”

One of the things our family embraces (and sometimes struggles with, to be honest) is that our three boys are so incredibly different. There is no metric on which we can measure and compare them — which is a blessing. But also not that much that we can agree on activity wise — which can be a blessing if we look at it that way.

Gus obviously loves football, but more than that, he embraces history, especially family history. His dream trip is to Sweden, to see his dad’s heritage. And he adopted a love of Stanford partially because my dad and grandfather both played football there. He’s asked lots of questions and was excited to find an article in the Seattle Times archives online describing an interception my grandpa made against the Huskies in a boring, scoreless game in 1931.

So when tickets became available it seemed natural to take him down to enjoy the excitement and pageantry of Stanford Rose Bowl football.

The other boys reacted with, eh…have fun Gus! Anders would prefer tickets to a premiere Blazers game. Tate would prefer to go to a concert.

So we have learned that we can embrace “to each his own!” The constant struggle for “fair” for each kid looks different every day, every year, and our only goal is that on a continuum, it will all have balanced out.

One of my new year’s resolutions is always to embrace my kids’ differences and celebrate them for the awesome people each one is. And I guess that’s a great way for all of us to look at the world around us, every day. Wishing you a wonderful 2014 full of blessings to you and your families!

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A Whole Month of Boxing Days


Well we’re a day past the official Boxing Day but I’m going through the debris and thinking that really, the whole month of December is Boxing Day for my kids and their quest to crack the code of what’s under the tree.

As readers know, I love to fake out my kids. LOVE IT! They “knew” on some level they were getting the Xbox One because we had talked about it…I needed 100% buy in since that would be the majority of the gifting anyone got…but I still tried to play dumb that they were hard to find.

They have spent the last three weeks shaking things under the tree, so worried that NONE of them felt like an Xbox One. (As though I would put a delicate electronic out to be shaken?)

At one point, Tate even said “There’s no way we’re getting an Xbox One. There’s too much other stuff under this tree.” And I said, “Well maybe I couldn’t find it!” and he goes “Mom, they’re everywhere. There’s no way you COULDN’T have found one!”

But I made them sweat it. They opened everything else, and due to a couple of unplanned surprises, the Xbox One ended up being almost superfluous, but I could tell they were a little bummed when everything was opened and I didn’t do a big “Ta da!!” and bring it out, like I did with the Kinect. Or the phone call from Mickey when we gave them a trip to Disneyland. This year I just moved everyone on to breakfast and then waited till we were lounging to bring it down the stairs and watch the eyes light up.

Every year I laugh because they don’t seem to catch on that I wrap everything in a big box…so nothing looks or feels like clothes, books or video games. And if it’s something small, like Tate’s iPod last year, I wrap it in multiple boxes — since it was just one thing, he needed the thrill of opening tons of boxes!

And when they open the package they always go “Macy’s?” or “Point Reyes Cheese?” even though it’s just a random box I have repurposed.

When they were little, I would always wrap a box of Legos as a decoy Lego set. So then they would assume that whichever Wise Men’s name was on that package, it HAD to be Tate.

I like to think the whole guessing and opening process just makes the morning that much more fun.

And I hope they will pass it on to their kids, because the truth is I got this from my mom. She had the crazy box collection that kept us guessing. And she had a dark sense of humor for Christmas presents. In our family, the kids would get a phone in their room as a reward for a good report card the first trimester of high school.

Well, one of my siblings did not “make the grade,” and didn’t get a phone. That person was SO excited to see an AT&T bag under the tree Christmas morning, thinking surely he/she was getting the unearned phone as a gift. Excitement turned to tears, when he/she opened the bag and it was a chocolate phone from See’s Candy. So mean, but so very funny!

I loved reading about others’ giftiness on Facebook. Someone who gave new odometers so their kids would run out to put them on and found brand new bikes. Some scavenger hunts. My brother in law put his name on my nephew’s shoes and had him open them while he ran to check the bacon. My nephew was like, “Oh. I like your new shoes, dad.” (the ones he had picked out). Surprise! They were for my nephew.

Giving is so much more fun than receiving especially when you make the giving part of the fun!


PS: Has anyone seen the Secret Life of Walter Mitty? It was unexpectedly delightful and I would highly recommend it and there’s a super creative gift giving that goes awry in there!

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You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out! Christmas Traditions

Christmas 1

Christmas is all about traditions.

One of the traditions that I love the most is that we don’t try too hard to do something traditional. If it takes, great, but I don’t drag my kids around to do things they (and I) don’t particularly want to.

Some families “always” go to Zoolights or The Singing Christmas Tree. So, years ago, one of my friends and I thought it would be fun to try to start a tradition of going someplace with our families.

But, as one activity after another failed or fizzled, we realized that the tradition was turning into…what adventure can we undertake THIS year?

  • Zoolights: Cold and blustery
  • The Grotto: Ditto
  • Polar Express: Once is enough.
  • Pioneer Square: Did I mention cold and blustery?
  • Portland Raceway Lights: Eh, not very interactive
  • Peacock Lane: Gave this a try last night. It was ok; but not something that will become a must do.

I am very sad I hadn’t planned last night’s event with my friend. The “eh”-ness of it, combined with a restaurant debacle that included us being turned away from three different places, would have fit right in with our “traditions” of years past!

My little boys are pretty good about doing traditional things. We cut the tree at the same forest; we listen to Christmas music in the car; we bake and decorate 4 kinds of cookies (always the same….tradition!); we read the Christmas books; we check out the NORAD Santa Tracker; we pick another family or cause to shop for as a family.

And we decorate of course. But this year my oldest gave up one of our traditions.

Years ago, my husband bought me a Snow Village church, one of those lighted building things that were all the rage in the 90s, not realizing the collectible nature of it. He had just bought it because it had the same name as the church where we were married.

I am 100% ANTI collection but my mom who is a major collection nut, seized on Snow Village and started gifting me 4 to 5 houses a year. The collection got big, fast.

Snow Village and little kids doesn’t really mix, but my oldest has always had a thing for lights, so Snow Village became his thing. We would go to Sleigh Bells every year and choose a new “something,” not a new house since two tables was my outside limit, but some sort of accessory. Over the years we acquired trash trucks, police cars and snow forts – all kinds of boy stuff.  Even I can admit that despite my dislike of collections, it was very beautiful glowing in our front window.

But this year, he didn’t feel like putting it up and I didn’t feel like putting it up so it has stayed boxed. I miss it, but didn’t have the energy to pull it all out just for tradition sake.

But my kids’ most favorite tradition, hands down, is one that came about by accident. The year of the “big snow,” lots of churches curtailed their Christmas Eve services, and so we decided to go to a big mega church close by that was keeping their early services.

The kids loved the rock band/laser light show Christmas carols, though that’s not really my style — but it’s big and we don’t have to fight for a seat like at our regular church so we continue to go on Christmas Eve.

When we got home, I realized we hadn’t been to the store in days so we ate frozen pizza and watched “A Christmas Story” since church had been so early that it wasn’t time for bed.

And guess what has stuck as their favorite tradition? Yep, pizza and a movie on Christmas Eve. It’s probably not what I would pick, but I’ve realized you can’t pick traditions. They pick you.

Merry Christmas to all and I hope everyone enjoys their traditions and no one shoots their eye out!

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Alone, but not lonely

All summer I have been dying to write here. Dying to. And haven’t had any time. Which is good I guess… People are paying me to write, and my kids have been running a billion different directions and I’ve had the blessing of being with them on more adventures than I could have imagined.

But today I am here, in my house, for the weekend, alone, because the others have set off on a final summer adventure with a two-night backpacking trip.

Not really alone. Anders is here. The only way he would go backpacking is, as one of my husband’s friends said once, “If it was downhill to a Four Seasons.” But he doesn’t count because he will sleep all day, find some friends (if anyone’s around) and I’ll never see him until he wants me to take him out to eat which I will happily do.

The last time I was in my house for more than a few hours “alone” was when Gus was one. And the funny thing is that I honestly felt like I was alone, even though I had a ONE YEAR OLD. Which most people consider a lot of work. But compared to having a one AND a three AND a six it was like pure heaven.

My husband’s family has a beach house we used to visit every year and though it’s lots of fun and I love the particular beach town it’s in, it was anything but a vacation for me – I was overwhelmed by the pressures of group living with my three occasionally quirky kids and the constant vigilance required to keep a toddler safe in a house that had a spiral staircase, a woodburning stove (with a HATCHET next to it that would mysteriously reappear every time I moved it) and endless choking hazards that only the mother of a toddler can see. Since I knew I wasn’t the draw in the family, I decided that Gus and I would sit that one out.

I didn’t tell one person I was alone because I didn’t want to be tempted to make plans. Instead I spent the entire three days cleaning out every cabinet, drawer and closet in the house with Gus’ adorable help. And it hasn’t been done since, I might add. No one could believe that’s how I chose to spend my time alone but I loved every minute of it.

Since I find myself in the same situation I know I should do the clean-out thing again. And I have a few hot areas that I will tackle but mostly I am going to work.  And it is going to feel so good to just cross things off the list.

Here’s what I’ve done already:

  • Made a to-do list (like my FAVORITE thing to do!)
  • Sent six invoices
  • Sorted each kid’s “end of year” school work that’s worth saving (less every year!) and threw it into their personal box
  • Completed four loads of laundry
  • Supervised a clean out of the boys’ shoe and sock baskets
  • Pulled everything questionable out of my closet and threw away things like a pair of white nylons (really?), work out clothes that were too gross for even me to wear – and I don’t have high standards for work out clothes – and my “in case I gain 10 lbs” clothes. Then I agonized over all my expensive work clothes before putting most of them back even though I’ll probably never wear them and I know they should go.

I plan to read outside. And go running. I want to tackle the picture project but it’s overwhelming. And I think I’ve find someone who’d like to have a glass of wine with me.

But mostly I am going to revel in the joy of being productive and getting the year started off right.

What would you do if you had three days to yourself?

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How Exercise is like Heroin

I know what you’re thinking: I am going to talk about how much of a high I get from exercise.

Ha! Fooled you! I Actually the truth is that I just spent the last two weeks experiencing the fact that if you go cold turkey, you can’t immediately start back at the level where you were.

I hate to compare myself to a heroin addict, but that’s what happened to me after taking 3 weeks off from exercise. My tolerance dipped and I almost died when trying to get back into it.

I am a quasi celeb watcher so had taken note of the death of Finn from Glee to a heroin overdose. Usually I don’t think too much about overdosing celebrities — I mean, it’s sad, but also pretty stupid and wasteful — but somehow this one really made me sad. Part of it was I never really got Finn and kind of felt sorry for him. Let’s face it: He didn’t have leading man characteristics. He wasn’t really all that talented, and he wasn’t really all that handsome (not that I go around rating 20somethings, but  you know what I mean). I’m sure he was a nice kid though. Anyway, sorry Finn. RIP.

Anyway, I was reading that one of the reasons that people OD after rehab is that they have lost their tolerance and then when they relapse, they tend to take the same dose as they had taken when they stopped, which their body isn’t used to.

And I can attest that it is the same with exercise after taking three weeks off! I told myself that I wouldn’t worry about working out while I was gone — I know some people like to exercise on vacation and I could have but eh, it’s kind of nice to take a break.

In exchange for not feeling guilty while I was gone, I would exercise every single day I was home in July (which was a total of 15). So today, on July 31, I am completing my final day. Once I finish this call, off I will go. Maybe I’ll even listen to my vast catalog of covers by the Glee kids.

(True confession: I missed two days. One when my husband made me stay up WAY TOO LATE one night enjoying a lovely summer evening on our patio and once when I was so kidded-out that I couldn’t drag my running shoes on even though I knew I should. I will say that having my goal made it harder to resist. Last Saturday I came home from a long day of baseball and an irritating stop at the mall and STILL went running, and it was only because of this plan.)

The moral of my story: Don’t give up your drug of choice and expect to jump back in at the same level. It can be lethal.

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Something old….something new.

Something old….something new.

So I think I have been confusing people, and I ended up with an unexpected hour this morning because my conference call ran over and I missed kickboxing. (I am usually 10 minutes late, but I would have been 15 minutes so I bagged the whole thing. Sorry, arms. You are as good as you’re gonna get.)

Thought I’d throw down a little back story.

Several years ago, when I was organized, I realized we didn’t have a copy of our marriage license and that might be a good thing to have. So I sent a request and $40 to Orange County Vital Records. And got back a form saying we weren’t on file.

Huh. Maybe it was LA County. Sent THEM $40. Same letter (no one sent my money back, by the way.)

So I called. They couldn’t help me. I got frustrated and gave up. Wouldn’t you?

Fast forward to a couple months ago and husband is refinancing our mortgage and comes home and says they need our license and he couldn’t find it. And he IS a mortgage banker and has access to a ton of wacky databases. (That fake name you’re using? They will find it.)

So I say, that is SO Weird! Remember I looked for it too?!!

We know that we DID have a wedding and remember signing it. So apparently it never got actually turned in. And of course, that was 1993 when computers weren’t as solid as they are now, so who knows what happened to it?

We decide we need to get one….health, death, (refinancing) yada blah blah. Coincidentally we are going to Las Vegas for my birthday. Perfect! A LV wedding!

So we’re telling this story at a dinner and my friends are like “NO! WE SHOULD HAVE A WEDDING!” And we order another bottle of wine and start planning it.

The next day I’m all…really? Did you mean it? And they are 100% on board. My friend with a lovely backyard wants to host. Her wonderful husband has graciously been persuaded to officiate. There’s ONE day all summer that it worked with all our calendars. It’s on!

So I start telling people and I find that people are excited. It’s fun! It’s funny! It’s the ultimate theme party.

And then the inevitable dress question. For 20 years, I have been moving that darn dry cleaning box around from house to house (7 of them). Thinking…who is going to wear this monstrosity?! Well!! ME as it turns out!

I had the big unboxing a month or so ago. It is Princess Bride 90s era bling.

And then I decided that ‘all brides’ have two dresses these days. The monstrosity and the sassy cocktail dress. So I ordered a wide variety of white dresses….sent links around the country…had some people over for a fashion show…solicited opinions. And landed on THE dress.

Gus asks if he can wear a tuxedo. Why of course sweetie, I say, not realizing that renting him a tuxedo costs more than my sassy cocktail dress. But then I tell him he might not make it because he has a tournament that weekend and I know he doesn’t want to miss it.

You know what my “I-love-baseball-more-than-anything” sweetie says to me? “Well I would miss the game to be at your wedding.” Melt. And fortunately as the schedule works out, he can do both games that morning and STILL tux up in time!

The weather is smiling on us, which is good because there was no rain back up plan.

The one thing missing from my special day is my Cali friends. I had many, many sweet offers to fly up, but I didn’t want them all to incur expense, hassle and miss Father’s Day. So, the show will go on without them this time. 

Something old: my husband and my dress. Something new: my other dress and my Oregon friends.

And that is why I’m getting married tomorrow!

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