Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Full circle with a twist

One of my favorite things about being a mom is listening to the kids play. I love hearing pretend diabolical plots unfold, personal experiences and issues emerge and creativity blossom. When they get to a certain age it sounds something like this:

"Let's say my name is Fire Ninja because I can fight with fire with my Fire Powers."
"And my name is Ice Ninja because I have Ice Powers."
"Yeah, and I was captured by the bad guys so you have to save me. 'Ice Ninja! I'm over here! The bad guys captured me! Come save me!'"
"And I freed you (you're free), but when I was getting you out of being captured the bad guys captured me and took me over here and put me in a jail made of lava."
"And because it was so hot you couldn't use your Ice Powers, but I can use my Fire Powers (enter verbal sound effect of the Fire Powers), so I saved you and we got away..."

What I especially love is the "and you said" part, followed by the other person actually saying those exact words. But I think the underlying reason I love it is because I did the exact same thing! We even had powers and bad guys and there was almost always lava! Admit it. You did it too.

Like jinxing and rock-paper-scissors, it's one of those things that gets passed on from kid to kid (not parent to child) with very minimal changes.

But the other day as I stepped outside to check on my monkeys I overheard a play conversation between a couple of the neighbor kids:

Sheri, carrying a bag of mini-marshmallows: "And I texted you to ask if you want a snack."
Mike, standing about 20 feet away and responding on a pretend phone: "And I texted you back 'not yet.'"
"And I texted that I'll be over here when you want it."
"And I texted you 'okay.'"

Even re-reading it it makes me chuckle. Naturally play reflects real life, but it's still funny to me. What will parents overhear in a hundred years?

"And I got in my hover car, but the dilithium crystals were gone."
"And you said, 'Now I can't steer my hover car.'"
"Now I can't steer my hover car, and the bad guys are right above us."
"But if you go down you'll fall in the lava."
"So I use my Wind Powers to blow us over the lava."
"And your Wind Powers blow lava on the bad guys so we're safe."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Duo-lly Noted

Dear Po,

I love your movie. I love nearly every single nanosecond of it. Except one part.

Did you really have to go there? Now my boys (especially my 4-year-old) run around the house, yelling, "OH, MY TENDERS!!!" A shot to the gut or face would have sufficed, in my humble opinion.

An Over-Tenderized Mom

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dear Boys,

I realize that particular part of the movie is funny. I also realize that your father nearly needed CPR from laughing so hard the first time or two that he watched it. And I really, really realize that your not-yet-manly parts are vital to you in ways that you have not yet even begun to realize.

I understand that you are boys, and that part of being a boy is--ah...bodily awareness. So are throwing rocks into water and turning anything imaginable into a gun. But I'm very tired of hearing the words 'tenders' and 'weenie' when you are playing. Enough already.

And that goes for you, too, sis.

Your Tender-Hearted, Weenie-Roasting Mother

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My own little zoo...

I was at the park today with my two youngest. I watched a man release the leash of his Jack Russell Terrier just long enough for the dog to terrorize the too-tame city ducks, sending them to wing in a flurry of ducky panic.

Honestly, we were headed to do the same thing, but the dog beat Lee to it by about 45 seconds. In the few moments it took for the dog to clear the grass of ducks, I had an epiphany:

Lee is my Jack Russell Terrier.

He is cute, smart, funny, active, and if he doesn't have a constructive, positive outlet for his energy, he destroys things.

That got me to thinking. What animal personalities would personify my other children?

Alex was the next easiest. He would be a Labrador/Rottweiller mix. I've always mused that he and my sister's golden lab are kindred spirits; he's intelligent, happy, loves to play, loves to please and thrives on a good belly rub--I mean, snuggle. But even as I type this he's upstairs screaming in fury at Lee, which doesn't really exude Labrador. So even though I adore Carl, there's a bit of Rott in there to explain his sometimes fiery temper.

Yeah, I know it's a Retriever. Close enough.

Abby would have to be an African Grey Parrot. She's beautiful--though not flashy, loyal, smarter than the dickens, doesn't perform on command and can tend toward the talkative.

At first I pegged Cora as a kitten: cute, active, quiet, inquisitive...but then I thought better. The adorability, mischievous smarts and quiet activity that teeters precariously between curious learning and plain ol' stinkerhood is more accurately embodied in a Capuchin Monkey.

Wonder what I would be...
(Thanks to bing search for online images.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Weekend in San Juan--Part II: The Bright Side

As promised (though as it turns out it's less regaling, more recounting and rather long):

We've been missing Riah during the weeks ever since he started working up north. He wanted us to come visit & see the beauty that he sees all around him every day, so we did.

Overall, I was prepared. Of course, I made lists: lists of things to eat, lists of things to take to Riah, lists of clothes to take, lists of other things to remember...lots of beautiful, organized, categorized lists. I listed listy. Friday morning dawned early and I got up with it to bake, cook, clean and pack. I posted a picture/word list of things for the children to gather (two pants, 3 pairs of underwear...etc), complete with boxes for each of them to check off when they're done. They love that.

My goal was to pull away at noon, and I would have almost made it, except that the dumb battery was dead. So I ran (literally) to a friend's apartment, borrowed her keys, jumped my van, ran the keys back and was on the road at 12:17. Not bad. The grocery store stop was really, really fast, we skipped the gas stop and kept going. The ferry terminal is just on the other side of Anacortes, and I was confident that we'd make the 2:45 ferry. Cora was screaming because she was sick & tired of being stuck in her seat. Just this side of Anacortes, however, we found out that she really was sick--carsick. Gross. But we were so close to the ferry that I didn't stop; we could clean her up there. (Are you nominating me for the mom-of-the-year award yet?) It turns out that she really was sick & tired, because after she tossed her Lunchable (no cookies) she fell asleep in her muck. Grossity gross.

We pulled in just before 2:15 and I told the lady in the booth that we wanted the 2:45 to San Juan Island. I think she laughed inside when she responded that if I wanted that, I'd need to be here at least an hour early. The next boat was 4:35. You're kidding. One of my children just fell asleep (albeit in her own barf) and you expect me to keep the rest of them contained, quiet and alive while we wait for TWO HOURS?????
Years and years and years ago back in the olden days when I was a teenager, my family took the same ferry to the same island to go whale watching. We ran into the same problem: missed the boat, gotta' wait. We couldn't go outside, though because there was a frigid wind blowing hard. But we could only take so much sitting in the car. My brother, who's always been a little...umm...different...(he's 2 years younger than I) sorta' lost it. The cabin fever and frustration and boredom took control and to this day we laugh at the memory of him climbing up onto the roof of the car and crowing at the birds. It was funny and frightening all at the same time. Fortunately this time the weather was nicer and we didn't have any lapses of sanity.

After we parked in line for the later boat we made our bathroom trips (one was a sprint and a trip, complete with a bloody knee), cleaned up the now-awake Cora, changed her clothes, put her carseat on top of the car to dry in the sun and wind (really intended to get a picture of that...would've been a great photo of the beginning of our adventures) and went to the beach.

The children were of course, asked to stay dry. We only had 2-3 pairs of pants per person for the whole weekend. Cora, evidently didn't get the memo.

pair of pants #2

She did, however, have a great time throwing rocks & sand in the water.

Lee was in heaven, taking his own sweet time walking up the beach throwing rocks. (How I don't have pictures of it is beyond me. I know I took some!)

Alex walked way up the beach on his own, throwing rocks and being himself. (I'm beginning to see a trend here.)

Abby was the only non-rock-thrower in the group, because she had quest: to find sand suitable to build a sand castle. With a little help from yours truly after I'd given up on keeping Cora dry, she achieved her goal.

I tried to get as many good pictures as I could. It's funny, though, how the best ones are the ones that happen with little to no help at all.

Even though I was bummed that we missed time with my sweetheart, I am glad that we had that beach time. It was great. We got back to the car with just enough time to change Cora's clothes again and it was almost time to load, so I forgot to take a picture of the carseat. We were finally off!

I love riding ferries. Even if it's chilly, I love to stand out on the bow, soak in the gorgeous scenery and let the wind blow new life into my soul. My children love ferries, too. They love the wind, the water, the birds, the seats, the vending machines, the bathrooms, the upper deck...everything! I explored a ferry more thoroughly that Friday afternoon that I ever had in my life!

You may notice that in order to preserve pants,I just put her in jammies. She later leaked out of them. Glad I had a 2nd pair.

By the time we docked we were really excited to see Dad. We met up with him and followed him to the trailer that would become our weekend home. (He'd been staying in an old Silver Bullet with two of the other guys that he's working with, but the thing's a dump. Through the church members on the island he found a newer, cleaner trailer to move into, just in time to have us move with him. The family that was using had 4 kids and had been staying in it until their house was finished; they had just moved out of it. It was perfect!) The super-long trailer had a queen-sized sleep number bed in one end, and the other end had been retrofitted with 4 bunkbeds!! The kids loved them.

There was a fire pit outside, a clean hot shower with a tankless water heater...I could live like that while I built a house. The kids helped Dad unload scrap wood from the job site for the fire pit. Way more than we would ever need, but they enjoyed helping.

We didn't dock until 6:00, so bedtime came way, way too late that night. Saturday, however, was fun.

Some of our fun was planned, some wasn't. A neighbor of Riah's from the Silver Bullet (which is a 4-minute walk from the clean trailer) had met the kids Friday night when they went to borrow some salt; she invited them back the next day to feed the cows. As much as I didn't want to share my Riah time with anyone else, she was generous and the kids really had a good time.

On our way to Lime Kiln Park, the best place to watch whales from the shore, we stopped so Riah could treat us to the island's donuts. Little, light, donuts. Oh, wait, no. These are big, heavy, dense buttermilk donuts.

(Quite concidentally, he saw a teenager in the store that he recognized from the church there. He needed someone to jump his car.) The kids shared a ginormous cinnamon roll, which didn't combine well with the curvy roads. Alex started in with his trademark pre-carsick whining and we found a place to turn off real quick. It ended up to be one of the best mid-trip stops that I've ever taken!

The turnout was actually a parking area for a little trail through an area that SJ citizens had bought to preserve the wildflowers.

(That's Victoria in the background.)

"Daddy, Daddy, wait for me!"

We just loved exploring the rocks.

I learned that Abby has inherited her mother's mountain-goat-like proclivity for rock-hopping. Even though she made me nervous and I tried to rein her in, I totally understood the desire to climb higher, race faster and explore further. Totally and completely.

And she tried to climb every single tree that she could.

Later in the day when we actually made it to LK park, we found out that we're about a month early to see the orcas. It was a little disappointing, and the wind was cold, but we still had fun. Riah took the kids down on the rocks below the lighthouse, where Abby accidentally kicked the shell off of one of the hugest barnacles I'd ever seen. I've tried & tried to see the inside of a barnacle to no avail. She did it, but threw the shell in the sea.

Poor Cora. Her nap schedule had been interrupted so many times on this trip. When he was done exploring below the lighthouse rocks, Riah came up and zipped cold Cora into his coat. I'm not sure who likes that more: him or her. Definite symbiosis. He went up to sit at a picnic bench in the sun while I took over explorer patrol. We had fun. I was standing by a tide pool that seemed rather lifeless until I took a closer look.

We saw a fish, snails, limpets, and this guy, plus about 50 of his friends:

When we'd been down long enough that I was sure Riah'd be bored and ready to go, I coaxed the kids back up the steepest rock wall they could find. (They couldn't take the easy way, that would be way too simple!)

Riah was gone.

I didn't panic, nor was I irritated, just a little concerned that we may spend too much time chasing each other in circles. He'd had a really tiring week at work, and sleeping in that dumpy trailer was uncomfortable. I knew he was exhausted, so I figured that he'd gone back to the van to sleep. I herded the kids back up the trail, trying my darnedest to keep them off the rocks and driftwood. (Ever seen anyone chasing chickens? It was like that in slo-mo.) Just around one of the bends I found them.

And it was perfect. You can see that her face is buried in his coat and her little foot is sticking out at his waist. This bench is around bends on either side, so it's shielded a bit from the wind, and Riah told me that he heard at least one person come down the trail, see them and utter a heart-softened, "aw."

You may recall that I mentioned a fire pit. Dinner was a no-brainer.

Cora, it would seem, prefers her smores open-faced. Foreseeing a mess, I conveniently 'forgot' to add the chocolate. Good thing.

We went to bed exhausted and totally content to have finally spent some recreative time together as a family in a part of the world that is breathtakingly beautiful.

Sunday was relaxing. Good because the branch of church members there meet at 8:30! In the morning! Coughs and goo prevented us from staying all 3 hours, so we skipped out after the first meeting. I'm glad. We had a very laid-back day.

After leaving church we drove around and explored just a little bit of Roche Harbor, which has prettier architecture than Friday Harbor, but the views from the west side of the island are unbeatable. It's still weird to me to stand on an island and look south at the Olympics. Can't quite wrap my brain around it. We lured the children back into the car by reminding them excitedly that we were having waffles for lunch! It worked, and they were yummy. That afternoon we took a short walk, watched the kids run in a field and walk along old telephone poles.

At one point in the day I was in the trailer and Riah and the kids came back from wherever they had gone. Abby came in and reported that she saw some animal that looked like a cross between an anteater, wolf and raccoon. I was baffled. Even after I saw it I was baffled. Turns out it was a gray fox.

It rummaged around under the table looking for weenie-roast leftovers until Cora chased it off. She didn't mean to. She just wanted to pet it. Nevermind that it's a wild animal. I was simultaneously amused and freaked out.

The end of our weekend trip came far, far too quickly. At the ferry terminal Riah decided to ride the ferry with us. When we were on our way to the island, he expressed a little disappointment that he was missing the fun that they were having. So he came with us and witnessed the fun that they had this time. And there was plenty of it.

I guess that it wasn't as great an idea as I thought it was, because Lee surmised that since Dad was on the ferry with us, he was coming all the way home, too. We said our good-byes, then heard the call for all walk-on passengers to board. Think of the worst, most dramatic freak-outs that you've ever seen in a movie. Lee's hysterical sobbing and screaming put them all to shame. All I could do was hold him as we watched Riah walk along the sidewalk and out of sight around the bend, mingling our tears. I had to pull over before we were even out of sight of the terminal because he'd unbuckled himself and was walking toward me inside the car. After I cried with him for another few minutes, I got him re-situated and started back down the road. We pulled over in someone's driveway so we could watch Riah's ferry pull out and start back toward the island. It was a beautiful, sad thing to see; the ferry's lights were all on and dusk had definitely fallen. The boat glowed a fluorescent yellow against the grey-green of the water, islands and sky's waning light.

Fatigue and heartbreak are volatile bedfellows. Lee cried and wailed for about 20 minutes, until he was jammied at the gas station and we drove long enough for him to fall asleep. It was sad for me, too, but given the opportunity to do it again, I'd do it in a heartbeat!

It was wonderful having time away from the rigamaroll of home, doing nothing but spending fun time together as a family.

This is one of my new favorite pictures.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Weekend in San Juan--Part I: The Dark Side

Last weekend was great.

I packed up the kids and left Friday to visit Riah on the island where he's been working. We rode the ferry, roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, clambered on rocks, explored tide pools, made waffles, saw beautiful scenery and surprising wildlife. I spent two days holding my hubby's hand and wrapping myself in his arms whenever I saw an opportunity. I always feel warm and secure in his embrace. Like so many good things, it went by way too fast and had to end before any of us were ready.

This isn't the first time that Riah's worked in a location too distant to warrant a daily commute. Last winter he commuted 2+ hours on Friday nights, then left again Sunday night for quite a few weeks. It's not fun, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the better good. (By 'better good' I mean paying the bills.) I tell people that it's not easy, but it's not forever.

So yesterday he decided to ride the ferry back to the mainland with us, then be a walk-on passenger back to the island. It sounded like a good idea because he'd get a kick out of watching the kids on the ferry, plus we'd get an extra hour with him. The part I wasn't expecting was the 'good-bye.'

Lee was really upset (understatement of the year), which triggered the tears that I'd been working so hard to keep oppressed. Mine rolled down my cheeks while I held my sobbing, heartbroken 4-year-old, two sets of eyes fixed on Riah walking down the sidewalk onto the ferry. The screaming and wailing lasted until Lee fell asleep, and this morning he was as chipper as usual. I, however, haven't quite recovered.

Today as I drove around town I felt like I was in a daze. The pink popcorn blossoms, beds of tulips bursting into bloom with daffodils and bluebells, the shetland ponies in the pasture...it's all blah. Even the water in the bay doesn't look nearly as beautiful and shimmery as usual. The wonderful city in which I live lacks today something it had when I left Friday. I drove automatically, wondering what the difference was and I realized what was missing.

I left my heart on San Juan Island. It walked down the sidewalk and boarded the 8:10 ferry from Anacortes.

(I promise to regale you with happier tales of our weekend adventures. For now, however, I just need to have a good cry.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Should I tell them?

So about 20 minutes ago, the kids started playing hide-and-seek.

Abby's got a friend over, and Cora was asleep, so it was the two girls, Alex and Lee. (They actually let him play!) After a couple of go-rounds, it was Lee's turn. He dutifully hid his face in the couch with minimal peeking and counted his own 4-year-old way, then took off to find everyone else.

He's not a very good finder.

He looked all over downstairs, then proceeded upstairs. A couple of minutes later Abby, her friend Sheri and Alex came back down to find new hiding spots. I told them that it's cheating to move your hiding spot, but they did it anyway. Ab & Sheri are in the crowded under-stairs water heater closet; Alex found a cramped little nook by the filing cabinet.

Judging by the amount of time that it's taken for him to come downstairs and by the happy sounds of a wakey baby, Lee got distracted and is happily playing with Cora. So the older kids cheated and are now abandoned in their hiding spots.

Serves 'em right.