Sunday, January 18, 2015


In our family I am famous for dragging us all out on ill-fated excursions in the name of family fun. But when it's your birthday and you're turning 38 and you really already have everything you want, I think it's okay to make some demands. Like a day trip to Clear Lake. And some family fun.

As I have mentioned before, Brent is not overly fond of taking the kids fishing. This is not without reason, but again with the it's-MY-birthdays and here we were:

Clear Lake is, ahem, very clear. It's also very quiet. Or at least it was, until we arrived and crammed five people into a small boat and... wait, why the hell were the boys armed with slingshots? Anyway, there was this heron sunning himself nearby as we attempted to fish. This heron was like an avian Buddha, peacefully meditating on a log as the boys screeched with excitement and haphazardly threw lines into the water. No fish were foolish enough to be anywhere near us at this point, but no matter. It's all about the experience, right?

After a bit of time, I became aware that this heron absolutely did not give one single shit about us, which was awesome. I loved that bird.

Jack and Sawyer were determined to hike around the lake on a quest for lava rocks. This meant that the boys formed their own search party while the girls meandered along behind. But I always knew just where they were because man those kids' voices sure carry through a silent forest.

And then Clementine turned two. People kept asking her what she wanted for her birthday. "Cake!" she chirped again and again.

Suddenly it was Halloween and I realized that no one wanted a homemade costume. "I'm going to be a soccer zombie," Jack informed me.

"I'll be a.. um.. I guess I'll be a regular zombie," Sawyer added uncertainly.

I dug the puppy suit out of the dress up box, Brent applied zombie make up and wound tattoos, everyone found their pumpkin buckets, and that was that. 

There was a part of me that missed laboring over some elaborate get up that would be worn once, smeared with chocolate, and then thrown carelessly into the dress up box void.  

And then there was the heron in me who did not give a shit.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Taste of Summer

Last week I discovered a forgotten jar of raspberry jam in the freezer. I brought it out and let it thaw in front of the wood stove. Then I cracked it open and we ate it by the spoonful and for a second it was summer once again.

It's been cold. My legs are pasty white and I'm tired of eating grocery store lettuce. The days are too short. And while there are millions of reasons to become a teacher, January ain't one of them.

Here are some forgotten camping photos. For a second, let's let it be summer once again.

Wickiup Reservoir with my friend Emily and her family. This is where Sawyer had his first taste of the Sea Biscuit as I watched white knuckled from the relative safety of the speeding boat. "Faster! Faster!" he shrieked. I swallowed bile and forced myself to look away as his small body flew perilously into the air with every bump through the boat's wake. I steadied my breath and tried to smile at his joy, well aware that this moment forebodes much of what is to come with this wild child.

Sunsets rendered us breathless and speechless. Campers were hypnotically drawn to the water's edge, iPhones in hand, hoping to capture this iconic summer camping moment.

And in August, our friends Steve and Lisa generously offered us the use of their tent trailer for our annual trek to Manzanita. This sort of felt like cheating for a second, and then it rained and my compromised camping morals were quickly put aside.

We were sandwiched in between RVs and it was a long, cold walk to the bathrooms. But there were hot showers and a playground and our kids disappeared into the herd and played until we came to collect them at dusk.

And, of course, there was the beach. If there is one place in this world that truly grounds me and revitalizes my spirit, it is the Oregon coast.

Alas, here we are in January. And yet, there are those glorious moments when the sun shines and the wind calms and we seek the comforting embrace of blue skies and warm rays from above. Children are released from the confines of LEGOs and books and they run like wild horses into whatever wide open spaces we can find.


These days are the bites of raspberry freezer jam that remind us how close to the sun we always are. January, you're not so bad after all.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Quick Trip to the Coast

A well-intentioned, older family friend recently shook her head across the noise of my family and clucked at me, "I just don't know how you do it!" 

I have a hard time responding to this without getting defensive. Yeah, I get it. We are loud. We leave a trail of crumbs behind us. We fill a room with bubbles of energy until it overflows and suds cascade down the walls, drowning people who aren't used to our level of being. It's messy. We're often late. We have about a million questions a day. Someone is always hungry. And heaven forbid you should try to have an actual adult conversation with me right smack in the middle of all this.

Sometimes I feel like I need to justify us or make excuses for my kids and their kid ways. And then I catch myself.

"Are you sure you want to spend your vacation trapped in a beach house with my crazy family?" I asked Amberlee, my rock star seismologist friend who is Very Important and travels the world imparting her knowledge of all things related to earthquakes and fracking and other seismic events. 

"Yes, I'm sure. I love your crazy family," was her quick reply.

And damn it if we didn't have the best time, braving the Oregon coast at its foggiest to take the kids up Cape Perpetua. Cooking for a crowd and shaking sand from small boots and ushering everyone off to bed well past the appointed hour.

And my kids can be jerks to each other. There were some tears. A bit of seven-year-old (extra super early) pre-teen angst. It was loud and chaotic and I never once felt anything but happy.

(Brent has been on the quest to make the perfect margarita. He is close!)

There were no clucks of disapproval or raised eyebrows. My kids were kids, and everyone was just fine with that.

So the next time someone tells me that they "just don't know how I do it," I will resist the urge to look them in the eye and fire back, "Well, I don't know how you don't!" Instead I will smile. And I will take a moment to breathe in the crumbs and snot and noise and chaos. I will remember that there are many people who "love my crazy family."

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Happened

At four am the sound of little feet padding down the hallway roused me from my Christmas Eve sleep. "Who is it?" Brent groaned, but we both knew who the culprit was. 

I corralled Sawyer into our bed and Brent took refuge in the bunkbeds and there was lots of shushing and hissed whispers about going back to sleep and it being THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. 

I tossed around a bit, hoping the cardboard I'd leaned up outside to cover the boys' window would not provoke suspicion at daylight. It had been a long morning in the kitchen as the boys and I made peppermint bark and jam thumbprint cookies and completed the first few steps of the cinnamon rolls

We hastily arranged a "playdate" at Doug and Mary's house while Brent and Nick raced against the sunset to assemble The Biggest Christmas Present of All Time. I sewed buttons on pajamas and Clementine slept fitfully, seemingly aware of the energy in the house and eager to be a part of it.

While Brent and Nick continued to toil in the backyard, the kids and I attended a Christmas Eve children's service. My own religious beliefs are hazy at best, but an hour of music, light, peace and joy felt like the right place for us to be.

The rendezvous point was dinner:

Once the children were nestled all snug in their beds, we adults fought the urge to stay up late into the night, sipping beers by the fire, wrapping the last few gifts, and savoring the excitement of knowing that in only a few hours Christmas morning would happen.

The four am wakeup call was thwarted and we managed to stay in our beds until seven. Suddenly the house came alive as the coffee maker gurgled and someone plugged in the Christmas tree. Brent's mom and grandma, who had been waiting outside for signs of life, bustled in the door. The fire was rekindled and the oven preheated. Jack and Sawyer emptied their stockings and Clementine stood in awe of it all. Once she discovered her Hello Kitty slippers and an entire bag of goldfish in her stocking, everything else was forgotten.

I learned a few things about Christmas this year: it really does pay to plan ahead. I spent the week before Christmas sewing those Christmas jammies instead of spending time with my family. I made an emergency trek to Joann's (fucking Joann's!) on December 22nd when it became painfully obvious that Simplicity 3669's version of a size six would fit like a half shirt on my five-year-old. Thankfully Butterick 5586 was there to save the day with its reasonable collar and sleeve instructions and appropriate sizing. Whew. For Clementine's top, I used this tutorial.

I also learned that our advent calendar works better when it's filled with things to do rather than things to have.

My kids don't miss candy if I forget to put it in their stockings.

They would have been just as happy with half of the presents they received.

I am a fan of rum-spiked eggnog.

I really should make those cinnamon rolls more than just once a year.

After breakfast we all sat around, coffee cups in hand and Christmas wrapping underfoot. "Did you have a merry Christmas? Did you get what you were hoping for?" There were grunts of assent as LEGOS structures were built and remote controlled dinosaurs terrorized our ankles.

"It looks like you missed one," I said casually, pulling a Christmas Story Red Rider BB gun holiday moment. "What's this?" A small box was retrieved from behind the tree which set off a new round of shrieks and giggles. Inside this small box was a clue. That clue led to another clue and so on. I do love a good scavenger hunt. And finally...


The aftermath included naps for all of the adults. Nick slid in and out of consciousness, cramming himself comically onto our shorter couch.

Some outtakes from our Christmas card photo shoot:

I'm always a little sad when it's over. "Mom, why can't Christmas be every day?" Sawyer has asked about a million times.

All that trampolining is exhausting. At least now we can all catch up on our sleep.