Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring Break: The Final Day

The quest for Junior Ranger badges took us to Fort Clatsop on Friday. The rain pounded coming over the coast range and there were several times I had to slow way down and turn the wipers way up. But once we got onto Hwy 101, we were mostly rain free. I even saw a sliver or two of blue sky. 

At Fort Clatsop the boys tried on some replica clothing. Here, Jonah poses as a happy William Clark. Below, Isaac shows us his best, and most serious Merriweather Lewis. (Exploring is serious business.)

We walked around the grounds and looked into the fort. Unfortunately, there were no ranger talks. I guess they reserve that kind of thing for summer, when it's not so cold and damp and there are more people around. 

The boys played hide and seek and actually had a good time. Even the teenager. Which pleased me to no end. 

One friend, upon hearing about some of our Spring Break outings, said I was surely in the running for "Mom of the Year." But here's the thing: all the boys are at the perfect age right now. They are independent enough not to have to be watched every second. They understand that sometimes we have to wait for food, or take long drives, they can entertain themselves when they are bored. Everyone is at the perfect age for this kind of thing. They are easy to take places and I've actually had a lot of fun too.

I'm just glad I can take advantage of this perfect balance before things change. Because they will change, I'm sure of it.

Seaside was our next stop where again, the rain magically held off. I snapped "the picture" I always take when we go to Seaside--the boys sitting on the logs near the sign at the turn around. I was just thinking how fun it would be to put all these pictures side-by-side and see how they boys have grown. Maybe I'll get around to that some day.

But it was cold and super windy. We persevered like the true Oregonians we are. But we didn't go in the water. Because we are NOT crazy Oregonians. (See that couple way far off in the background? They went in the water. Because they are crazy.)

Finally, I got a picture of me. I'm not good at this self-picture taking thing.

On the way home we stopped at Camp 18 for dinner. It's an old logging camp and the grounds are loaded with old logging equipment and history. The restaurant is a stunning log building with a giant center beam that is the biggest in the United states and weighs like 25 tons

The food at the restaurant was a lot more expensive than I remember it being the last time we visited. (Maybe ten years ago?) But fortunately, we were still able to order from the lunch menu. Whew! 

After dinner we walked down to the river and the boys skipped rocks for what felt like FOREVER. I could not lure them away for anything. Isaac finally learned how to skip a rock, which was a good thing considering how much my boys seem to love throwing rocks into water. 

And here's the boys under this fabulously--what's the word--distressed? red train car. It looked really cool and would probably make a fantastic backdrop to some kind of fancy family photo-shoot. But this was the picture I got. The boys are pretending to get run over by the train. You can't see actual train car, but I thought the expression on the boys faces was too good to put the focus on the train instead of them.

Spring Break 2012 is in the books. I think we had a pretty awesome week. I'll have to remind myself that when the credit card bill comes. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More Spring Break Embracing

Another "win" for mom today* and it all started with cleaning the garage. We all chipped in (except Ethan who, by 9:30, had still not eaten breakfast) and got things put away and thrown away and swept up. 

Then it was off to Fizz, a new-fashioned soda fountain on Belmont and NE 34th. The kids loved it. They mix up your soda right in front of you using pure cane sugar syrups and soda water. Jonah and Isaac both got floats: Jonah's is a chocolate peanut butter soda with chocolate ice cream while Isaac had the Blue Raspberry with vanilla ice cream. Ethan and I just had soda. I got a blood orange, which was super yummy, and Ethan got the blue raspberry, which tasted like melted, blue Otter Pop. So, it was delicious. 

The boys browsed the candy section and spent some of their money and made me promise to bring them back soon.

Parking around Fizz was almost non-existent and I felt lucky and a little suspicious to find a spot several blocks away. After all, why was that one spot available? Was there some "tow-away-zone" sign I didn't see? But the car was there when we got back and Ethan and Jonah posed with this flier for me. I only had to remind them about the delicious soda I'd recently purchased for them to get them to comply.

Then it was across the river to Powell's. I had a few books to sell but they only bought two out of six, netting me a whopping $4.20 in store credit. But $4.20 is $4.20. Each of the boys picked out a book, and I picked out a Jell-o cook book. And I couldn't resist the pad of fold and mail stationery. Oh, and I also couldn't resist the reusable Powell's shopping bag. 

Finally we stopped by Voodoo. Ethan was not looking forward to the visit because of the legendary long lines. And because rain was threatening. But when we drove up, not only was there no line in sight, there was also a parking spot right in front. (We waited for the homeless guy to wash his hands in the gutter before getting out of the car.) Eight donuts later, we headed home to our clean garage. 

(Can't say the same for the house. Or the goldfish bowl.)

Now I just have to figure out what to do tomorrow.

*Yesterday we spent three and a half hours at John's Incredible Pizza.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Embracing Spring Break

I have Spring Break ideas. Big ideas. Ideas that two of the boys are pretty darn excited about. However, one child remains unconvinced of my brilliance and the ultimate awesomeness of my Spring Break plan. One child wants to spend Spring Break in an arcade eating pizza until all his and my money has run out.

Jonah conquers his fear of heights and climbs to the top of the look-out tower

Hey you stupid hippies! Get off my lawn!

So we left that one child at home while the rest of us visited Fort Vancouver National Monument today.

You can tell just by looking at this picture we had an awesome time. What gives it away? Well, the sky was blue for one thing. Jonah was given an iron forged hook that he watched a wonderful volunteer blacksmith make. It made his whole week! We were super glad to have some friends along for our first-day-of-spring-break adventure.

After Fort Vancouver, the adventure took us to Mac! Mac & Cheesery. Yep, a whole restaurant dedicated to macaroni and cheese. It was an adventure, but disappointing. One reason was they didn't have the poutine mac and cheese I'd heard so much about. Another reason was because the deep fried mac and cheese balls they served us were jalapeno when I'd specifically asked for plain. But the main reason--the nail in the coffin, so to speak--was the fact that it took one hour to get our meal. One hour and we were the only people in the whole restaurant.

Three different reasons were given for the lateness: the printer was broken (no, I'm not joking, this was an actual reason they gave us), there was a miscommunication in the kitchen, and the dishwasher had gone home and when they finally finished our meal, there were no clean plates to put it on.

(My favorite comment from my friend's daughter: how can a dishwasher go home? It's a dishwasher, not a person. Her mom explained that dishwashers were sometimes people too.)

Anyway, the mac and cheese was fine and it was fun to try something new.

Ethan was very interested in the flint and steel fire start Isaac purchased at the gift shop and quickly got to work trying to start a fire. I provided marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate, but, by that time, it had started to rain, so we had microwave s'mores.

We ended the day by watching Hugo, which was wonderful. I loved it almost more than the book. It was very well done and Ethan's declaration of "that was a good movie," was the perfect, if not very late, end to the first day of Spring Break.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

R-E-S-P-E-C-T (Find Out What It Means To Me)

I've been holding off on this post for a week, but I can suppress myself no longer. Something must be said. But it must be said to parents, and I fear I will come off as accusatory or—heaven forbid—holier than thou. This is not my intent.

Think of this post as a call to action. For action must be taken quickly if we are to save all of humanity. Because our very humanity is at stake; the part that makes us think of others before ourselves, that makes us kind and pleasant to be around. It's the very notion that we share this planet, these cities and towns, our streets and yes, even our elementary school auditoriums.

And it's the auditoriums I would like to address.

Last week the fourth graders of Jacob Wismer Elementary school performed their yearly concert: a mash-up of singing, dancing and instrumentals led by our dedicated music teacher, Mrs. Phillips. They'd worked hard. Jonah was so excited he wore his black clothes to school every day that week in preparation, so he'd be ready for his native american feather dance.

I'm not an etiquette expert, but my understanding is when someone wants to perform something for you, you show respect and pay attention. Additionally, you show respect for those around you by not talking through the performance, not standing up and blocking other's views, and not allowing your children to run wild.

None of these acts of respect happened at the fourth grade performance.

I realize this was a family friendly event, but what better place to teach children how to show respect? Not only did many parents fail to hold their kids to a standard of respect, they, themselves, set examples of disrespect. I was horrified. Plus, I couldn't catch more than a fleeting glimpse of Jonah through the miniature screen of some lady's digital camera two rows ahead of me. (She was holding it high above her head to get the best pictures.)

So I ask, where has our respect for each other gone? How have we become so self-obsessed? When did we stop thinking about our "neighbor?"

I don't mean to go into histrionics, but this type of attitude could destroy us. (And I'm fully prepared to blame it on reality TV, but that's another post.)

I need help raising my boys. When I tell Ethan, who has a non-contagious, allergy-related cough, that he needs to sit on the aisle so he can step into the hallway if he needs to cough so as not to disturb those around him, and SIX  adults talk at regular volume non-stop directly behind us, what is he supposed to think?

When my eight-year-old can't see because someone standing up in front of him, but I make him sit so he won't block the view of the person behind him, how is he supposed to react?

We need to support each other in our efforts to raise the next generation of thinking, responsible, compassionate, honest adults. It's hard. Especially when kids see the adults around them exhibiting none of these traits.

Let's all rise to a higher standard of respect for each other. Let's be the village our kids can look to for how they should act. We're not perfect and we will make mistakes, but if we're all helping each other, it will be much easier, and we'll all be much more successful.

And for the love of Pete, if someone wants to show you something they've practiced and perfected and are proud of, shut up and watch. Clap when they are done. Show a little respect.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More Stuff I Made From Pinterest

Here's the most recent round up of Pinterest wins and losses. I'm not spending as much time on Pinterest, but I'm still enjoying the great meal and dessert ideas.

Two Timing Pasta - Very easy, very tasty, but in a I-just-dumped-two-jars-of-sauce-on-cooked-pasta kind of way. To be fair, there's cheese in here too. I think everyone liked it except Isaac.*

I have most of the ingredients to make this yummy looking strawberry lemonade cake but have been to two stores and can't find strawberry cake mix or lemon Kool Aid. I've purchased both of these products in the past and know they exist. And I really, really want to make this cake. Nothing is more frustrating than having to look for hard-to-find ingredients.

Grilled Pesto Tomato Mozzerella sandwiches - Super yum. Had these grilled sandwiches for dinner tonight with a bowl of tomato soup on the side and everyone approved. Except Isaac who had to have his tomato taken out. (Heathen!) FYI, I did not make fresh pesto because I'm not crazy. And I used fresh mozzarella . . . in that I bought the package from the store today.

Hello Beet Cake! Yes my friends, it's a chocolate cake made with beets. Sound strange? Well, have you ever heard of carrot cake? Of course you have. Beet cake is not much different. There is a slight beet taste in the cake and icing (which by the way, is that not the most beautifully colored icing you've ever seen?) but the main taste is chocolate and cream cheese. And it's super moist. Everyone eventually liked it. Except Isaac.

Baked Potato Soup - Easy, since I didn't have to peel the potatoes. But oh my. Five pounds is a lot of taters to chop up. And, with a whole brick of cream cheese in this soup, it just felt a little heavy to me. Yummy to be sure, and I think everyone did like it—even Isaac—but this will probably only be a sometimes soup.

Spinach and Artichoke Baked Pasta - Not very many people liked this. I think Robert and I were the only ones. But we really, really liked it and I think the fact that the kids didn't care for it and that there was more for us, was even better.

Mounds Brownies - Speaking of not being able to find an ingredient, do you know how long it took me to find unsweetened coconut? Months! I finally found it where I'd looked for it a million times; sitting there with the Bob's Red Mill products in the health food section. The bag of unsweetened coconut was like, "What? I've been right here the whole time. What's your problem?" Anyway, the brownie layer is a mix and the frosting layer is from a can and the coconut is just mixed with a can of sweetened condensed milk. So they were easy, but tasted a little processed. Next time I'll probably substitute home made brownies and do everything else the same.

Breakfast Wreath - Quick and easy and, according to all three kiddos, the best dinner ever. (We have breakfast for dinner sometimes.)

When I saw the picture of this Lemon Dessert I thought it was more of a lemon curd filling. But it's just lemon pudding. And Cool Whip. I was not super impressed. Everyone tolerated it.

Calzone Rolls - Another best dinner ever, according to the kids. Fun and easy and quick. But I wasn't too sure about the bread part. I bought a loaf of french bread dough in the refrigerated tube. It was a little difficult to work with.

I've definitely found some meal ideas and desserts that will become part of my regular repertoire. Pinterest, you haven't lost me yet.

*you might start to notice a trend.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Here's What Crazy Looks Like: Part Two

It's time for another crazy-check. This time, I'm shining the crazy spotlight directly on myself.

That's right. I'm crazy.

Seventeen days ago, I decided it would be a swell idea to do Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred DVD six days a week for thirty days. My biggest motivation was indeed wanting to be shredded. In other words, I felt like I needed a kick-start after a winter of dedicated snacking and practically non-existent exercising. 

The funny thing about my body is it doesn't respond to this calorie vs. exercise imbalance right away. It waits for habits to form. Everything seems perfectly fine for a while, and then, all of a sudden, it's like the dryer has shrunk every item of clothing I own. It's depressing.

I'd tried to start the 30 Day Shred exercise program in January, but every time the slightest inconvenience came up, I'd ditch it. I wanted this time to be different.

Long story short, I met up with a few friends who also wanted their exercise routines to be different. We decided to keep each other accountable for our health goals. A Facebook Group was organized, a meeting was held, smoothies were consumed. We were pumped!

But 30 Day Shred, six days a week? Insane. I don't know what I was thinking.

Well, I do know what I was thinking. It said 30 days right in the title. I thought that was what I was supposed to do. Thirty days. In a row. It's crazy.

I will complete my goal, if only because my self-imposed consequence for missing a day is a 4.5 mile walk/jog, which includes a long stretch of road with nary a side walk or bike lane in sight and plenty of big ol', fast moving city buses.

But that doesn't mean I don't wish for a time machine. I'd go back and pledge FIVE days a week. Or maybe four. It's half-way through my crazy, self-imposed challenge and I'm so exhausted I can't even muster the energy to get excited about the progress.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

No Screen, Saliva and Ping-Pong

Last week we all gave up screen. My screen fast was limited due to my dependence on email for communication, work and so forth. But I did swear off TV, Facebook, and online Scrabble. The kids, on the other hand, went 100% screen free. Most of the time.

Monday - Sunny. The kids played outside, Jonah saw a robin's nest, they turned the train table into a ping-pong table and played until bedtime. After I sank into a warm, well-deserved bubble bath, the kids got out of bed, and played some more. There was screaming, yelling, and jumping about. And somehow, a Lego X-Wing Fighter cockpit roof filled with at least a tablespoon of spit.

Tuesday - Rainy. Train table ping-pong reprise, this time with friends. Ethan enforces dictatorship-like rule over who gets to play whom. Surprise: he plays almost all the games.

Wednesday - Snowy. I cheat and get on Facebook. The kids are suspicious. Isaac complains of boredom, but then, in an unexpected twist, takes my advice and actually reads a book.

Thursday - Snow, sun, rain, etc. The full-sized, real ping-pong table is set up in the garage. Games continue. Ethan asks if we can move it indoors, up to the playroom. Permanently. I tell him I'll think about it. I have not had to pick up a Wii remote or turn a computer off for four whole days and am loving it. I cheat on Facebook again. Ethan remembers at 10pm he has a math test the next day and requires several YouTube videos from Khan Academy.

Friday - Sun, rain. Garage ping-pong before school and after school. I can hear the fighting, the yelling, the screaming and crying all the way upstairs in my bedroom. I log into Facebook and leave the following status update: The screaming and yelling coming from the garage has convinced me that the ping pong table will never, ever, not in a million years be moved inside to the playroom.

Saturday - Rain. Now my only goal is to not let the kids see me on Facebook. They beg for a six-day No Screen Week based on the fact they are pretty sure I've been on Facebook multiple times. I don't give in, despite my guilt. Jonah attempts to set up the 600 pound, giant ping-pong table himself so that he doesn't have to play under Ethan's inflexible rule. The table breaks. Ethan freaks out--his kingdom overthrown.

Sunday - Sun. The boys take a walk after church and come home with handfuls of colorful, plastic pellets from air soft guns which they transfer to zip lock bags. There is an attempt to play Risk. A fort is built. Backyard hoops are shot. Chocolate peanut butter chip cookies are made. I want No Screen Week to become No Screen Month (with my sneaky Facebook looking to continue on the down low, of course), but I've already pushed my luck far enough. The boys are already charging their DS's so they'll be ready to go first thing Monday morning.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Here's What I Think

Rush Limbaugh is a jerk.

A very nice, LG, front loading washing machine shouldn't break after two years.

People need to knock it off with their sense of entitlement.

And while we're at it, let's all stop being victims too.

Let's support and help each other instead of tearing each other down just so we can feel better about ourselves. We're stronger together.

Let boys be boys. Let girls be girls. Down with gender neutral.

Love letters are better than Hallmark.

If the weatherman says it's going to snow, it should snow.

Let's bring integrity back.

The Cheesecake Factory: It's not that great people.

Admit your mistakes, take responsibility for them. Don't blame them on someone else.

It's easier to fear than to understand.

Just because someone has different ideas than you doesn't make them a bad person. It just makes them a different person than you.

Forgiveness could change the world.

When it comes right down to it, we are all more alike than different.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Saturday Outing

All week I'd planned to take the kids to the new Portland Temple visitor's center on Saturday. I imagined the sweet faces of my boys walking the temple grounds, their inquisitive minds exploring the visitor's center, and a little trip to Deseret Book afterwards.

However, two boys flatly refused to go with me today.

Really! It's a full week of no screen and they'd rather sit home and do who-knows-what than go on a fun outing with their mom. (Yes, as a matter of fact I do feel like chopped liver.)

But my baby boy stuck by me. Mostly because he was getting his first set of scriptures in anticipation of his eighth birthday and his baptism. So it was just Isaac and me and I decided to make it an outing he would not forget. One that he could use to rub in the face of his brothers, should the impulse strike him. So I threw in Target for a birthday present scout-out and Wendy's for lunch. (That will teach those boys to snub me.)

As it turned out, it was completely awesome to spend some one on one time with Isaac. I got to hear lovely musings like this:

"I'd like to live in an apartment above the library because then I wouldn't have to wait like three or four minutes to go to the library. I could be the first one there."

There were other gems which I wish I could have written down, but alas, I was driving. Besides, Isaac was suspicious enough of my writing madly the above at the red light. I told him sometimes when a good writing idea comes, you have to write it quick before you forget.

We loved the visitor's center. Isaac loved the interactive displays and took them very seriously. They had a little semi-enclosed seating area where you could watch the various videos from the "I'm a Mormon" campaign. The "remote" was an iPad, so Isaac had no problem watching three of those videos right in a row. (I love a unicycle-riding physicist!)

We walked around the temple and into the atrium. Isaac loved it and said he didn't want to leave. Which surprised me because on the way to the temple, he assured me he didn't want to stay very long. I actually had to prod him a little to get back to the car.

The rest of the morning was kind of a series of money spending stops, but we had a good time.

And I encouraged him to let his brothers know how much fun we'd had. He said he didn't want to do that though, because then there would be more sad people.

"More sad people?" I asked. "What do you mean?"

"Well, you're already sad they didn't come, and if I tell them we had a really good time, they will be sad they missed out."

Where did this kid come from?

Friday, March 2, 2012

First Lines Redux

Once again, I ask for your feedback on novel first lines.

Which book would you choose to read based on the following first lines:

1. The moment she saw the young man walking down the darkened hall  toward her, twirling his walking stick, Finley Jayne knew she'd be unemployed before the sun rose.

2. I am seven years old. My father takes me to a witch burning.

3. Ruth Ackroyd was in the garden checking the rhubarb when the RAF Spitfire accidentally shot her chimney pot to bits.

4. She could not remember a time when she had not known the story; she had grown up knowing it.

5. I wait. They keep us in the dark for so long that we lose sense of our eyelids.

6. "Margaret called today."
    Dr. Hemler shifts in his chair. "And did you speak with her?"
    I shake my head and blow on my hands. His office is always so cold.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Twice Makes Tradition

Today is not my birthday, but last month, when it was my birthday, the kids had a day off from school. I made myself a cake, which had to be held together with bamboo skewers because the top layer kept sliding off (but the apricot filling was delish, so totally worth the mess) and there was nary a scrap of wrapping paper in sight.

But it was okay because 1) I'm a low maintenance kind of gal and don't need a big to-do 2) because my kids were sweet to me the whole day and even unloaded the dishwasher and 3) because Robert told me my gift was Jim Gaffigan tickets (I just have to wait until September to go). So I'm not complaining at all.

However, last year on my birthday I had an amazing day doing fun Portland things by myself. So I scheduled myself another Portland day this year.

I started off with a cut and color (my first professional hair color) with highlights at Yamane Salon. I had a groupon, so I could justify the cost. I think I got the fresh-out-of-beauty-school gal, because while her skills were a-okay, she was s-u-p-e-r-s-l-o-w. Does it normally take 2 and a half hours for a cut and color?

Slow was okay because the whole day was mine. Well, the whole day until 3:15.

After the cut and color and highlights, I walked over to my new favorite clothing store, Sloan Boutique. It's boutique clothes, without boutique prices. I found an awesome shawl sweater on sale, and a short sleeved mustard colored layering top. I almost bought a crazy, owl cuff bracelet, but talked myself out of it at the last minute. Now I'm having second thoughts.

In order to be awesome, I had to wear my purple flats and so my feet were freezing as I walked the streets of NW Portland. Actually, all of me was freezing. So there was really no question when I passed Moonstruck Chocolate that I had to step in and get a dark Mayan hot chocolate.

I sipped the chocolate while I made my way over to Ken's Artisan Bakery. I was going to get a treat to-go, but at the last minute, decided I would get lunch. I ordered a croque monsieur and sat down and read Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale while I ate and finished my hot chocolate. And, I might add, Midnight in Austenland was nearly as yummy as the croque monsieur.

Ken's croque monsieur

I finished the awesome morning slash afternoon with a drive home through Forest Park and over the West Hills. There was plenty of snow on the ground up on Skyline and the white snow, green fern and mossy trees were so beautiful. The drive was the perfect ending to a perfectly lovely day.

I love Portland.