Monday, July 30, 2007

Here The Trail Smelled Like Butterscotch

I'd like to hit you right off the bat with a Mark Trail-esque factoid: Did you know that Ponderosa Pines are said to smell like butterscotch? Butterscotch Schnopps, actually, (in my opinion) but they totally do.

My husband and I got away this weekend. It was the second getaway this year. AND it was my birthday. Me? Beyond lucky.

I turned 35, placing me in a whole new age bracket. Still, I feel nineteen most of the time. Not a good thing, I'm just sayin'.....

We went to Bend, camping the first night, staying the second at McMenamin's Old St. Francis School. We visited Painted Hills and Paulina Peak and trekked down into a Lava cave. We saw Waitress and ate out and bathed in side by side clawfoot bathtubs. I kid you not. Here's a picture to prove it.It was only a little creepy to have the two girls who the room was named after watching us bathe from where they'd been painted on the wall.

Bend's downtown is thriving and charmed the pants off me. My husband had to ask me to stop saying how cute it was because I'd unknowingly gone overboard with the oohing and aahing. But when we walked down to Drake Park even in the dark the lazy, calm water made all well with the world.
The kids had a great weekend with my mom. They mainly couldn't wait for us to get home so they could have a piece of the Pineapple Upside Down Cake that they'd made, a 3 and 5 candle waiting in the center of it for my wish.

You know it was a good weekend when it's Monday and you're still remembering. We were totally in need of such smiles, found together, in faraway lands. I'll leave you with a few cool shots..... One of the paths through a 3 million year old hill at Painted Hills.
The exit from the Lava River Cave.

A cool juniper tree at our campground. (Another great smelling tree).

Friday, July 20, 2007

Meghann and Jooge Circa 2004

Andy, the aforementioned brother, brought his, "Special Lady Friend," (fiance) to visit for the second half of his journey this week. We got to spend some time together bonding while getting pedicures.

Meghann is a really great match for Andy. Whereas he is more loud and front and center stage, she sits back and watches and listens, giving laughter or rolling her eyes when appropriate. She herself commands the stage as a dancer, poised, graceful, talented. Around the kids she is equally loved, giving them great attention, laughing at all the funny expressions coming out of their mouths. She brings them great presents. She worked for Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader so this time when she came the kids each got signs with their names on them like the ones here that she got to make for the show. How rich is that?

She went with me to Jooge's first dance class. There were a few obnoxious moms in the waiting room, one whose nose was pressed up against the glass and whose words about her three-year-old, ("Oh, what is she doing, we practiced that!) were, uh, slightly scary. I was glad to hear Meghann say that she would put her kids in dance but that she was urked by that lady.

She will be a great addition to our family. We love you Meghann! Happy Birthday!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

This Week One of My Favorite People Became One of Their Favorite People

My youngest brother Andy (coming from faraway L.A.) stayed with us this week for several days. He bonded big time with the girls. They jumped and climbed all over him. Jooge has not giggled so much ever. Avery instantly warmed up to him. He left for a few days and it was all they could talk about. "Where's Uncle Andy?" "When's Uncle Andy coming back?"

Andy is a great guy: tall, handsome, and hilarious. He brings the room nearly to tears with a funny walk or a dorky dance move. He wears clever t-shirts (the one in this picture he picked out from Threadless and it has a picture of a red bike under the Alamo) and hip tennis shoes and always a baseball cap, bill facing forward. He listens, he admires, he compliments, he trusts, he values, he gives, he cares.

We had some good times together this visit, getting coffee at our neighborhood coffee joint, picking berries with preschool friends, hanging out in the backyard playing basketball or watching the kids frolick in the sprinkler. He pulled the wagon when we went to the park. When we hit the evening farmers market for food he got up and boggied with the Jooge. We sat at the kitchen table and stuck endless foamies on endless sheets of construction paper, played goofy games with the microphone that records your voice, drove around, our backdrop Helen Reddy and Mickey Rooney singing songs from Pete's Dragon. We could have been eating rocks together and it would have been a good time.

My kids just loved having him here, just about as much as I did. I was so sad today when he and his fiance left, deep down in sad and I couldn't help but cry, just like I always do when he leaves. Jooge felt sad too and we hugged and she said, "I'm gonna miss our boy."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'm One Proud Ma

The Jooge has been quite surprising lately. Four is definitely fitting differently than three, in a very good way.

We've been plugging away reading a chapter of "Little House On The Prairie" here and there. Reading that book is highly recommended if you'd like to positively influence your child's behavior. She has listened as Pa corrects Laura and Laura responds with a, "Yes, Pa." During some of her recent naughty moments, my response has been to let her know that Charles and Caroline Ingalls never would have let Laura do that. She has started to ask me to call her Laura. (Sometimes it's "Mary" because she knows she is older) and if I ask her to do something (after I call her Laura,) her response is usually, "Yes, Ma." I take a double take and gasp, but love every second of her sudden respectful turn. It is truly rich!

Another breakthrough has been happening with the whole eating thing. She's a very picky eater and we have definitely catered to her, offering only what we know she will eat, instead of what everyone eats. I know, I know, it's really terrible. So we decided to follow the advice of a great book and just put the food down in front of her, reminding her that we get to choose what goes on her plate and she gets to choose what she eats. She really freaked out when the burger was placed on her usually naked bun. (Freaked out is kind of putting it mildly). It was really hard not to respond, we just kind of ate and felt convicted that it was clearly important she had more experiences with new foods on her plate. She has since tried a few things that she never would have tried, so it's worth it and we need to keep it up.

Last week she had her teeth cleaned. She wanted me to come into the room so Avery and I did. I sat in the corner and read a magazine while she climbed into the seat. She had brought her Pink Palace Poodle and they did a great job involving the poodle in the whole experience. But when it came time to get her teeth polished by the little spinney brush, she was having none of that. As I watched the whole exchange between Jooge and the hygienist, I felt my blood pressure rising. The hygienist was persistent but gentle about it. She was trying to just get Jooge to hold the brush, or to hold the suction device. By some sort of divine intervention, Jooge eventually softened and realized the tools weren't scary, and the next thing I know she's letting the gal clean her teeth. Angels began singing to the highest heights. It was a true miracle.

I'm feeling really proud of her bravery, her good choices, her transformation. And in the way of the Ingalls, she has one heck of a shiny penny coming her way.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Allergins and Toxins and Chemicals Oh My

Remember the movie, "Incredible Shrinking Woman?" That was a family fave back in the 70's. In it, Lily Tomlin plays a mom who begins to shrink and discovers that the products she is using around her home are the cause. I've been checking out Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep cosmetics database where I have been learning about the products I use and how their ingredients are linked to all sorts of lovely things like cancer, allergies and immunotoxicity to name a few. It's scary.

I started by looking at sunscreens and learning that the one I slathered on the kids and complained about being totally greazy had a hazard rating of 8 based on the contents. I found one made by California Baby in a convenient stick form that has great safety ratings and will still block the sun for the kids. I also invested in low hazard bug repellent because we are due to be camping up a storm quite soon. Did I pay more than I might have when I bought our sunscreen the first time around? Yes, but only because I bought multiple sticks. It's not more expensive and it's available online and I'm going to use it if it's safer for my kids.

But then I thought, what about everything else? There's deoderant, lotion, shampoo, make-up, purfume......the list goes on and on. I started to check out the products I use and found that my purfume only has a hazard rating of 3 out of 10, not bad, but my shampoo has a 7 rating. I'm trying not to dive into the deep end about this but it's still freaking me out. I am glad there's a resource to make consumers aware, and I believe that it is a credible resource. The scariest reality is that we know how these products can impact us, but the long term effects at this point are unclear. So we know that there is scary stuff in our products and we know that kids have more sensitive systems because they are younger. We just don't know the effects of the combination of products we use over time.

In the meantime I continue to wash my hair with hazardous shampoo running the risk of shrinking.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Building It So They Will Come

This morning we made a bird feeder. The project caught my eye because it used everyday items (an empty plastic bottle and two wooden spoons) in a new way. The spoons (two stuck through a few inches apart and at different angles) are cleverly designed as resting places for the birdseed to spill out onto and for a bird to stop on as well. It was an easy project, even screwing the little screw into the top of the bottle lid was easy once I pounded a little hole into it with a nail. While I did MOST of the work, the kids helped poke the spoons in and pour the birdseed. Once hung, they were very interested in it. Jooge put some chairs out for she and her sister to sit and wait for the birds. In that way it has lent itself to an awareness of the birds because now they are wondering where they are and thinking about what they might be doing when ordinarily it wouldn't even cross their minds. It will be a thrill if we spot any birds stopping by and snacking.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Inspired by Explosions in the Background

I've been thinking a lot about blogging lately, namely the blogs I like, why I like them and how I aspire to blog similarly. There are a whole host of blogs with capes, ("Super blogs" if you will,) that I visit regularly and yet fail to link to here. I've listed a few of the "big daddies," all women who are favorite writers and who have this blog thing down. But there are so many more of you.

Blogs are so reflective of their writers. The tone, the content, even the design. The author and their life and essence come through regardless of the code names they give to their special people. I wonder what comes through in mine. At the same time, I think wondering what comes through makes me sort of self-absorbed in a way that I don't want to be. I think when I first even thought about having a blog, I had a perception that people who had blogs were all about themselves and why didn't they just shut up and keep it in their diary? The thing is, I don't take the time to write in my journal anymore. I have to accept that I am now one of the self-absorbed ones, feeling my life is important enough to document so that others can read. Self-absorbed is one way to describe bloggers, but now I have a more broad perspective on what it means to write a blog and it means so much more than just self-absorption.

Ironically, though my blog is all about me, I don't reveal too much. I was thinking about why this is and all I can figure out is that I am talking about more than just myself. I'm talking about my great partner and the two precious beings who are the most important thing in the world to me. It's precious stuff and each and every detail is inside me but I don't let it all out. I keep it close. No doubt the grandparents want less craft project run-downs and more, "What cute things Avery said today," or more, "Julia's amazing feats."

I share minimally and I like to keep it light. My "RUMMY" post was really hard to put out there because when I feel crappy and when I'm doing a crappy job at being a mom or a human, I don't like to admit it. So many bloggers though who I LOVE are really good at putting that side of themselves out there, at being vulnerable and real and multifaceted. There's a part of me that edits myself and only allows a "pretty picture" to emerge. My brother actually called and left me a message recently complimenting the pretty picture I painted. I like that I refreshed him, as has always been my role, it seems, but similarly, I think I want to write the rotten and let it all be there on the screen for someone to digest and accept and above all else relate to. I love it when bloggers do that because when I read along I can relate and it makes me feel so much better. Just as it makes me feel great when I read a satisfying post that was light and positive. We all feel both ways at different times.

It is also my way to keep it brief. It is the rusher in me doing this, the person who rarely sits for sitting's sake, conversing with my children at the table and doing nothing more. Me? I sit down with them at the breakfast table talking on the phone, telling them to drink their milk, making a list, and in my head rehearsing the day's events. When I cut it short, I am thinking of my audience. I am being an enabler, saying, "Okay, you can be done now, wouldn't want to keep you long," but before I'm finished. The audience will come along for the ride if they want, my job is just to put it out there. I certainly go the distance on the posts I really want to read. Will you stick with me when I have more to say? I must give you (ten readers :O) this opportunity.

I am also a perfectionist. It would kill you to know how often I edit my posts before I punch the little orange button. And why? Who. Cares? In the fourth grade, this girl told me that people didn't want to be my friend because I was so perfect. At the time her words hurt so badly, but that girl, whose face I can see but whose name doesn't register, was clueing me into a lifelong lesson that I continue to learn. The desire to be perfect sometimes situates me into a lonely place because the people who are imperfect can't relate. They want to have faults alongside someone who has faults. OR, they want someone to look up to, and if you're portraying "perfection" people want to idealize you and in idealizing you there's no intimacy, no closeness.

There is a flip side to this. I have a friend who I really admire because she is very creative, accomplished, popular, confident, and she never seems to shrink inside herself or be small for others' sakes. She shines and she doesn't apologize for shining. I want to be like this. When someone tells me I'm great I don't want to feel bad for being great. Marianne Williamson said it best:"It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.” True. Dat.

No, a blog isn't just a blog. (Obviously here it has segued into a major therapy session). I seek to leave you with something of substance so that in letting it all out, I am letting you in. Through motherhood, life, blogging, I want to emerge ugly and gorgeous all at once, yet for the most part unapologetic, patient, truthful. This is how the gifted bloggers of the world emerge for me, wearing their capes and flying confidently through their posts. I care to be all of this, and yet I don't want to give a rats ass either. Hearty ambitions. Hearty ambitions, indeed.

Words looking up to fireworks, copying their booms and pops on this lovely 4th of July evening. Come back to see the effects of putting the flame to my fuse.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tumble Bugs

Around here we're beating the heat with some indoor creativity. We made tumble bugs. Again I have Family Fun to thank for the idea. Pictured here is a swarm of tumble bugs making their way down the ramp.