Monday, August 31, 2009

Sans the Smalls

My mom and Ed were in town last weekend. They offered to take the kids back to Olympia for a few days and I thought that sounded like a great idea! We have traveled all summer, the kids have been WAY over indulged and they are making my crazy. I know it's my fault for letting them get away with murder. All I can say is, "We need school to start!" That will force us to get back into a routine, get the kids in bed at a decent hour and basically, get our life back.

The kids have gone with my mom before and all has gone well. I think it's been fine this time too but they are a little more unwieldy. Coulter didn't want to eat his Canadian bacon and tomato pizza. Sophia has called home A LOT with minor complaints and Kees, apparently, has been difficult. Tonight my mom called, after making dinner (the pizza) and said, "Coulter is yelling that he doesn't like bacon on his pizza and he hates tomatoes." She really sounded like she was about in tears. I said, "Why are you letting a 5 year old be the boss of you? Tell him he can either eat it or starve." Really, why should the rules be different there? She said, "OK" and hung up.

Sophia is going through a phase. When she is not with me she gets home sick. Fine. She also gets, maybe, manipulative. If things don't go her way, or the way they do at home, she calls. She also likes to call in private so she can tell me things that are going on. I don't like this. I try to tell her that it's different because IT'S DIFFERENT, not bad. I also try to tell her that she needs to get over it. What she wants is for me to come and get her. NO WAY!!! I know that she is safe and having a fine time as long as she's not talking to me. This too shall pass.

And Kees.... I haven't talked to him very much but apparently he's being difficult too. I will say that talking to him on the phone has been interesting. He is using big words and long, totally coherent sentences. While his voice sounds so little, his communication skills are great. It's fun to talk to him and recognise that he is growing up.

So that is how they are doing......

On this side it has been great. The kids left yesterday morning and Bob and I went to a work related party together. It was really nice to meet more people he's working with. When we got home we had to decide what to do with our time. Bob decided he wanted to clean the house. I really wanted to pay bills and catch up on mail. While this is not what most people would want to do with out kids it is exactly what we wanted to do. It felt so good to get all this done and with out kids it was not only easy but almost fun. Paying the bills... Easy! I didn't have to get up to wipe someones butt, get a drink for someone or break up a fight! A job that usually takes a day or two took 4 hours. I was a happy girl.

Later we had planned on going out to dinner. Nope. We decided to order out and stay home to watch a movie. It was a relief. It was so nice to have a clean house, paid bills, no stacks of mail and a quiet house to watch a movie in. Again, it was so easy.

Then today.... Bob went to work and I slept in....way in. I haven't mentioned it but I have been sick. When I got up I took a bath and then came downstairs. I was sitting on the couch and catching up on email. I got an email that asked, "If you could relive a day from last year what would it be and what would you do?" I said that it would probably include good food and possibly some spa time. That made me think, "I should go to a spa!" So I googled, and found a spa in my neighborhood! And, they could get me in. Hooray! SPA DAY!!!! It was terrific. When I got home I took a shower, tossed the ball for the dog and waited for Bob. As soon as he got home we picked a restaurant and went out for dinner. Bluehour....we had a coupon. It was really nice.

After dinner we came home...the house was still clean, it was still quiet and we were still alone. We turned on the TV and enjoyed it all.

Now don't get me wrong...I love my kids but it is nice to get a glimpse of sanity and quiet. They'll be home tomorrow. My mom is ready to send them home. I's exhausting! She often chides me when I say how tired I am or that one or more of my kids is being a butt. I am glad that she can see how frustrating it is so she can understand my EVERYDAY. I have been doing this for almost 9 years, I am tired. Sophia asked me, "Do you like it better when we're not there?" I, of course, said, "No" and I mean it, but some days it is a lot and a mommy needs a break.

Next week school starts. This means that we'll be getting into a routine this week to save us for next week. This kids will go to bed at a decent hour, yay! We'll be back in the groove in no time.

I'll see you tomorrow babies. I look forward to having you home and the craziness back AND I look forward to the next time your daddy and I will have quiet time. Healthy us....healthy you. I need to remember it's a balance. I'm going to bed now and will not have a small person come in. I look forward to sleeping in tomorrow and I will enjoy my last few hours of quiet. I will also look forward to loud babies, a full house and the chance to set them back in their ways. Wish me luck!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kees is FOUR!!!!

Kees' actual birthday was on Wednesday. This totally worked in the kid's favor. On Wednesday we went to Chuck E. Cheese. I hate Chuck E. Cheese for the most part. It's loud, the pizza is nasty, most of them are, let's say, less than clean and it's generally not what I would call a good time. When we go we go to the one in Vancouver. It's not the closest but it's the cleanest Chuck E. Cheese (CEC) I have ever been to. Almost every time I have been there I have seen some teenager up in the tubes with some sort of cleaner and rags.

We went all out, or as "out" as you can go at a CEC. I got pizza, drinks for everyone and an all you can eat salad. We all know this means one person eats salad and then the next guy goes. For what you pay for a crappy pizza I do not feel the least bit guilty for that. They owe me a salad after what they serve as "pizza." I also got a beer. That helped a lot with my attitude about the outing. I also got LOTS of tokens. We started with 100 and then I got another 100. They couldn't have been happier if they had won the lottery. They played, had a piece of "pizza" on the fly and wore them selves out. We got some prizes or junk as I call it. Oh happy day. And that was just the "day of" celebration.

All week long he has known that there would be a party on the weekend. He walked around singing "Happy Birthday to You" all week.

Today was his birthday party. I invited a few kids from the neighborhood along with their parents. But first, let me go back a few days.

I went to Fred Meyer on Tuesday to order his cake, a MONSTER TRUCK CAKE. I have ordered monster truck cakes for the past few years.....they DISCONTINUED their monster truck cakes. Dang it! I ordered a plain ole cake and figured I'd decorate it myself. After thinking about it I decided to just make one my self.

The cake that I like to make is a Guinness Stout Dark Chocolate Cake and is good! I'll tell you that it includes, 4 cups of sugar, a pound of butter, 1+ cups of sour cream, 2 cups of heavy whip cream, and a pound of semi sweet chocolate and a few other things. PLUS....I doubled the recipe. We needed a big sheet cake for decorating. I made the cake and then had to refrigerate it over night. I split it so we could put frosting in the middle and then froze it so I could manipulate it if I needed to. I then made the 4 pounds of frosting...I am not joking, it weighed 4 pounds! So last night I frosted the cake and started decorating. I made a grand stand out of cake and put Jelly Bellies in as people. My brother Rex and his wife Tina helped me decorate. We all really got in to it. We made flags, dirt, flying trucks, and then the best idea of all..... the Jelly Bellies needed faces. Oh we laughed and then started drawing faces on them. They were the funniest part of the deal. It was great fun. It took about 3 hours but we made a hell of a cake. And it weighed about 15 pounds! AWESOME!!!

This morning when the kids saw the cake they could hardly keep their hands off of it. Kees didn't understand why he couldn't drive his trucks on it. And of course, we all laughed at the faces.

The party started at noon. We made lunch for everyone. The kids played. It was pretty free form. Next we got to eat the cake. It really is good. Then gifts. Kees' eyes were the size of saucers. Man it was cute. At this age when a kid gives a gift they help the reciever open it and then show them the cool stuff it does. It's pretty funny. Then about was over. The kids played with the new toys and Bob and I cleaned up.

So Kees scored. He got a family night at CEC and then a full on party on Saturday. I am beat and glad it's over. It was really fun preparing and especially fun decorating the cake. Happy birthday my baby. I hope you had fun too.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Why is it that the TV turns kids into total butts? Our kids don't watch much TV so when they get their time it's a big deal. I am glad they look forward to it because it means they aren't watching too much. Their TV time is an occasional week night, it is on Saturday and Sunday mornings and now and again we have a movie night. And it's a REALLY big deal when we order pizza and all watch and eat in front of the TV.

This morning (Sunday) was a day where the kids could watch TV. Bob usually gets up really early so he helps them with the TV. They aren't allowed to watch before they ask and they aren't allowed to ask if we are asleep. Bob said last night that he wanted to sleep in. I (tried) honored that request. This morning I was the first to get up. They boys had climbed into bed with us (Sophia is at her grandparent's house) so I told them to leave the room and I would be out in a minute. "Daddy is sleeping. Be quiet." I collected my clothing so I could get dressed downstairs, I combed my hair and brushed my teeth. In the 2 minutes that it took me to do that the boys came into the room 3 times. Each time I guided them out saying, "Do not come in here Daddy is sleeping." And each time it was with increasing frustration and anger.

When I emerged from my room I was REALLY mad. I had asked for 2 minutes and they couldn't wait. The BIG emergency was...... They had 2 cars that they were fighting over. This has been an issue before, see "We Only Have ONE Special Car." Come on guys, really? Can you not fight for 2 minutes? We have hundreds of cars and really? You have to have the same ones? Yes they were fighting over 2 cars. Coulter had 'em, Kees wanted 'em. I immediately directed them downstairs where we could talk about what had just happened.

I sat them down on the couch and gave them a talking to that ended with, "You lost TV because you didn't do what I asked." Tears....screaming.....crying and a whole lot of "THAT'S NOT FAIR" when on. Really? Not fair? After a few minutes they calmed down so we could finish our discussion. I told them if they could play nicely in the basement for a half hour they could have some TV. This meant no fighting, no taking cars from the other guy, no yelling. They agreed. If they violated any of the agreement the time would start over. They agreed to that too.

So off they went to the basement. They weren't thrilled but they were agreeable. They played for almost an hour. They forgot about TV. That is how it should be. When they did remember they came and asked for the TV and I turned it on. They even agreed on what to watch. Terrific!

After their show ended they became total terrors AGAIN!

I am not sure what TV does to kids but it is really no good. Some of our best weeks are the ones where I announce, "No TV for the whole week." They always are resistant, the first hour is a pain because they complain and whine but after that they are fine. When they get up in the morning they don't even ask because they know what the answer will be. AND if they pester me about it I tack on TV-less days. They don't pester me often. They sleep in because they know there is no TV. When they sleep in, I get to sleep in. That is a win, win. When they do get up they start playing, they use their imagination and they tend to get along.

Why do kids get so grumpy after a TV session? Is it because they haven't been using their imagination? I am trying to figure this out. Maybe when they're engrossed in the TV watching experience they become so mentally lazy that they can't figure out what to do when the entertainment or stimulus is turned off. It is totally indulgent and when it's off they still want to be indulged but no one else in their life is going to indulge them like the TV. That must be it. I'll admit that the TV is a quick, easy and initially cheep babysitter but I find that I pay the price later so I am very aware of the penalty when I do it. What's even worse is if Bob lets the kids watch TV too much and then I have to break them of it. Then I don't even get the benefit of the little bit of time off. Now that, that is no fair.

There is so much to do that doesn't involve staring at the idiot box. And as I sit here blogging, my little boys are playing cars in the basement. They've been down there for an hour and there hasn't been one nasty word between them. To the contrary, they're laughing. They know TV is done for the day. So I am sticking to the "less is more" motto as far as the TV goes. Less idiot box = more imagination and laughter. Now that I can stick to.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Happy Place....

Some people go to Disneyland, others go to the Turks and Caicos or Hawaii, I go to Decatur Island. And I don't just mean physically go there. I mean when I go to the "happy place" in my head, I picture sitting on the lawn and staring out toward the bay. Just like in the picture above. It's not only the bay in MY picture, no no no. The toes that were just painted by a kid at their "spa", there are toys strewn all over the lawn, magazines every where and half of them more then a year old, there are kids running around doing whatever they want, the sun is out and I have a diet coke in my hand. That is my happy place. It makes me smile just writing about it. Our family was lucky enough to be in our happy place all last week!

Yes, it was another amazing week in the San Juans on Decatur Island. When we arrived there was another group that had been at the cabin all week. Rumor has it that there were 29 people in all. The only reason that this matters is that the water is really limited there. Limited to the point that we only shower every 3 days or so and only flush when someone goes #2. So we were a little nervous about water when we arrived. It was nice to meet some of the people that I had heard about over the years. At least they were nice people that had used the water...;-)

The first afternoon was spent filling the refrigerator with all our food, unloading toys from their bins and deciding what bed to sleep in for the week. Decisions, decisions.... Then a BIG CAMPFIRE, smores and bed for the kids. I got to stay up a bit since I am a grown up.

The boys, I mean the daddies, turn into little boys on the island. Their "jobs" include the following.....
1) Collecting wood on the south beach and hauling it in the old truck or Jeep. This year it was the Jeep.
2) Going out in the boat to drop the crab pots.
3) Going out in the boat to collect the crabs.
4) Take the kids to play golf.
5) Dishes
6) Smashing cans
They were great this year (as always). The best thing is they did the dishes with out being prompted. It was amazing. They, of course do more things over the course of the week but those tasks are their "must dos."

On our first full day on the island the boys decided that we needed a new, bigger, better flag pole and we needed it immediately. Shannon's dad had moved a piece of drift wood down the beach that would be the perfect pole. Yes, this 45' piece of drift wood would be the perfect pole but how in the hell could we get it to stand on end? Ah, we don't have a crane on the island. Actually I don't have one at home either. This did not seem to slow the boys down or dampen their spirits. They had a plan, it was keeping them busy and until they asked for help the women were not getting involved. A couple hours in they needed help. They were going to lift the pole and Shannon and I were going to put a one pole support under it. Now I had to use my brain. Nope, we aren't doing that, it is dangerous. "What is to keep the pole from falling left or right?" The boys hadn't considered that. Yes, the women were now involved. I won't bore you with details but an "A" frame support, a tripod support, 4 women, 2 men and an hour later the end was about 20' in the air. We were using our inner Ancient Egyptian engineer to the max. At this point a guy moseys up the beach and says, "Whacha doin'?" We explain. He says, "I've got some rope.....I'll be right back." He's got giant rope! Now Mike climbs out on the pole to secure the lifting rope and the guide ropes. Again, it doesn't look safe but it's the island. We attach the lifting rope to the Jeep that is about 75' up the hill. Now there is lots of yelling, I am driving, the boys are guiding and holy cow IT GOES UP! Yippie!!! We couldn't believe that it worked! We now have the largest flag pole on the island and are wondering why we didn't put an airplane blinker on the top when we had the chance. Taking the ropes off of the top is going to be a challenge but the flag pole is up. And that is day 2.

I can't tell you exactly what happened on the other days because they all blend together. It's always that way. There was playing on the pirate ship. The pirate ship is made out of drift wood and is on the South Beach. There's an old dude on the island that builds stuff out of drift wood. Very cool. The big girls (the 8 year olds) learned to kayak so that took a lot of their time. They also liked to catch fish in little nets. My little boys played really nicely together for the whole week. That made me really happy. They babysitters, Clara and Mackenzie, facilitated play for all the kids and played a bit themselves. The moms cooked, sat in the sun, chatted and watched all the action. And the daddies did their daily tasks, napped, played with the kids and relaxed (after the flag pole was up). It's all good.

There are only a few things that create big excitement each day. One is watching the Island Express and the Paraclete come in. These are the 2 services that boat people to and from the island. First we see a boat coming into the bay from a great distance. We all note, "Hey, here comes a boat." Then the next part...."I think it's the Island Express." We all confer, wait a minute and then we decide what boat it is. Then when the boat arrives we all try to determine who it is and what they're here for. I know this doesn't sound very exciting but really, when you are moving at the island's pace this is entertainment. It's awesome. And it's REALLY exciting when someone you know is arriving. Then we're watching for the boat at a specific time. Ohhhh, ahhhhh....

Another exciting thing.....the store. The "store" is really giving a lot of credit to the place. They have some ice cream bars, some soda and a few other things. It's like a 7-11 that has run out of almost everything. None the less, a trip to the store always incites excitement. The kids love the place. It's about a mile from the beach but knowing there is ice cream and candy at the end of the walk makes it all worth the trek. We usually ride in the Rattle Bang, it's an old truck, but this year it was broken. The kids did "drive" (on daddy's lap) the Jeep up there a couple times. The store is only open Wed - Sun. Coulter was wondering, "Why is the ice cream store only open when it's cold out?" This year that was true.

And the school. There is a one room school house on the island. It is an actual public school with 3 students last year, and maybe 5 next year. This trip the building was open. We got to go in and talk to the teacher and check out the space. This was big excitement. Sophia Shannon was with Shannon and I on the way to the store one day. When she reported that she had seen the inside of the school, my Sophia was really jealous. We had to walk home from the store (she rode in the Jeep there) so she could also see the inside of the school. There are swings, a slide and monkey bars at the school too. Yes, this is another exciting thing on the island.

AND on Saturday there is a farmers market. Oh man, we can hardly wait everyone will be there! Saturday comes and we check out the action at the market. I got some vinegar and plum/ginger jelly. There were home made pot holders, old books, hand made cards etc. It was great fun to be there. So cute, quaint.

One night we had movie night. Spy Kids. It is really fun. We all get our sleeping bags and most of us have a small person on us. The big benefit to having your own small person is they keep you warm. We all cozy up and enjoy.

Then there is the food. We have crab almost every night. There is nothing finer than fresh crab around the outdoor table (big spool). I plan my meals for months. Nothing really elaborate but it's always good. We all put in good effort on the food.

This year we had visitors too. On Thursday Mike's cousin and her husband came over to the island from Lopez where they live in a yurt. They arrived via kayak. Seriously, it doesn't get much more "island" then that. Mike's cousin brought a bounty from their garden....beautiful and fresh. And Clara's parents, Greg and Rebecca, came over on the Island Express. You can imagine how exciting it was waiting for the boat that day! Greg and Rebecca have been hearing about our adventures on the island for 5 years and just had to come see what it was all about. They had been on Orcas all week so this was the perfect opportunity. We had a big party. Actually it was the same as every night just bigger. We all had crab and lots of other food. It was fun to show them around and what had been planned to be a one night stay turned into 2 nights. They loved it. Greg walked around the whole island playing his fiddle. Some woman down the beach asked Shannon and I, "Did you see the guy walking around playing the violin?" She had the, he's a little nutty, tone in her voice. We just said, "yeah." We thought it was fun to have our own entertainer.

In between all our excitement we read, nap, paint our toes, paint other people's toes, snack, nap, walk to South Beach, swing and plan for the next day. It is a wonderful experience every year. I love that it's pretty much the same every year even the being short of water part. It makes you respectful of the water and you make a bath or shower really count, you really appreciate it when it's your turn.

I like thinking back over the past 10 years and reflecting on what we've done there. I love that some art work I did 4 years ago on the one rainy day I have ever experienced there is still on the front door. I so appreciate that the Shannons and Sparks have shared their slice of heaven with us. I look forward to planning another adventure there next year or when ever we go next. The planning and dreaming about the island is half the fun.

So that is MY happy place. I look forward to physically going there again in the future and I plan on visiting the island a hundred times in my head over the the next year.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Goodness Gracious

What a summer we have had. It didn't really strike me until a friend came over and said, "Aren't you ready for the kids to go back to school?" I said, "Honestly, this (being August 11th) seems like the first real day of summer for us." And this was true! We have been home 15 days this summer. Crazy! Now we are home for the duration. I can't tell you if this has been the right way to do it or not but I can tell you this has been fun. I wouldn't have traded it for anything.

The Georgia / Bahamas trip was wonderful. We enjoyed travelling as a family, our sitters were great and family time was terrific. Who could imagine 95 consistently in June when in Exactly, so we went to the Bahamas. Then we went straight to the Oregon Coast....always delightful and relaxing. San Francisco.... so great to get there on my own and know that we can do it, we enjoyed time in the city and I was able to handle that too and our friends the Slacks facilitated our total good time.....Wonderful. And then ohhh... the unfamiliar week at home and then.... Then the San Juans....terrific as always. We love our friends there, we love the island and we really love the steady, similar routine. It's so relaxed and familiar that we get off the boat and fall straight into island we never left. God, I love that place. And now we're at home.

Portland in the summer is magical. Why do we leave? It's so great here. Our park has all kinds of stuff going on. Every day there is the wading pool, arts and crafts table and play ground. The park people also provide tennis racquets, balls, basket balls, badminton sets and so on. There are also games (board games), grip (?), that stringy, plastic stuff and so on. It's awesome.....why do I leave? But we still do.

Already I am planning next summer. I have an offer from my aunt and uncle to stay at their place in Atlanta. It sounds easy to say "no" until you know that this is a BIG town house in Atlanta's fancy part of town, the Brookhaven Country Club. It's a really nice club, restaurant, tennis courts and golf club. It's hard to say "no" and I don't think we will. If we do that all our friends can visit us and I don't have to drive all over hell and back. That sounds nice. I would also get see people I haven't seen for ages. We'll see.

The Bahamas.....As long as my friends are there it will always be tempting. I love them and so miss them. The Bahamas are fun but it is always my friends that I miss for sure.

So after all that... Watching "Hotel for Dogs" in the park was magical. They set up at 5. By 6:30 we were out there with drinks, dogs, chairs and such. It was awesome. They had a really BAD Elvis impersonator before the show. Funnily enough, the people in front of us left when Elvis left the park. Really? That dude was awful. They must have been family. Sophia is watching a blond, Labrador and won $20 for looking like her dog. It's our friend's dog. My girl, look like a dog? ....lucky dog.

The show was fine.... Actually one I hadn't seen, cool. We had beer, wine, snacks, chairs and blankets for our time there. Of course had I needed a bicycle pump or a hammer I would have had that too, ah, did I mention, this was across the street from our house? Bob packed like we'd be gone for a week. We were gone for 2 hours and that didn't include potty breaks at home.

So now we're home. I haven't blogged about the San Juans yet.....I will. When we are there, it is so relaxed that I can hardly move let alone write. I have to write about it though because no one would believe what happens there if I didn't document it.

The weekend will be busy. Friday is a party at a friend's house. Saturday, a party at our house and next week, CAMP FOR ALL KIDS!!! Quiet time for momma!!!! Yeehaw....

More when I have time. I feel badly that I have missed more then a week of blogging but I have been having fun and minimal connection to the net....that is my excuse. Much love, relaxation and ...whatever else you need.