Archive for the ‘Stories of Our Lives’ Category

You would think I would have learned my lesson the day Hayden threw the front door open for the UPS guy to find me sprawled, literally, butt naked on the tile floor in front of him (oh, you didn’t read that post?! Click HERE).  Or maybe when the landscapers all stood outside my window gawking while I dressed (oh, I haven’t shared that one with you yet?  Just wait!).  But no.  Not me.  I am the sort of person who has to make the same mistake and suffer the same humiliation at least a dozen or more times before it occurs to me that maybe I should do things differently.  Like put some blinds on the windows.  Or take the clean laundry out of the mountainous piles in the laundry room and put it in the relative privacy of my closet so I needn’t run past the front door in my birthday suit every time I dress.  You would think.

Now similar to the UPS guy, the guy who delivers our heating oil doesn’t follow a very predictable schedule.  One month he’ll show up as the kids and I are sitting down to lunch, the next we’ll be his last stop of the day.  The trouble  is, I never know exactly when he will show up, and it does actually matter, but not for the reasons you may think.  It’s not that I am trying to coordinate trips to the grocery store or pick ups and drop offs for afternoon kindergarten.  It’s not that I’m going to run to the post office or trying to plan play dates.  Nope.  None of that.

It’s all about showering.  I’ve had a few close calls, a time or two that I’ve had to hit the shower floor and fast because someone has come into the yard while I am in the shower.  But this particular day, I even set the alarm so I would be up and showered long before anyone could show up at our house for deliveries.  Yep, rise and shine at just about the crack of dawn for me.  This time I wasn’t taking any chances!  You see, our master shower has full windows that look out over our side yard and the creek and the woods beyond.  It’s quite lovely and picturesque, and a wonderfully peaceful and scenic atmosphere for bathing.  Except, of course, when a rugged albeit friendly stranger happens to be walking past the windows looking intently at the side of the house for the access door to the oil tanks, which are, of course, located right below the shower windows.

And that, my friends, is exactly who I saw as I opened my eyes after rinsing the suds from my hair and face, elbows at right angles in the air, fully facing the windows.  An astonished red-faced man in work clothes, hauling a giant hose, and looking as though he wished the earth would swallow him whole.  For a moment, as time stood still, we both stood frozen in place as our minds tried desperately to tell our bodies what to do.  And then we both dashed into action, he racing around the corner of the house and I dropping to the floor.  I stayed pressed against the tile until the water ran cold, and I knew I could stall no longer.  I crawled from the shower and tugged my towel from the rack.  Pulling my robe closed, I headed toward the front door, checkbook in hand and pretended that nothing at all out of the ordinary had happened as I swung open the door and greeted the still red-faced and now stammering man.

You would think I would have put blinds up that very day.  You would think.


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I arrived in Kailua/Kona the afternoon after the tsunami did.  Thank God for that.  I should have been on Mauai the night it hit, but another flight attendant asked if I would trade trips with her.  Since her trip was shorter than my own I jumped at the chance to spend more time at home with my boys.  She ended up spending the night with dozens of other evacuated hotel guests crammed into a school bus in a parking lot while the tsunami sirens wailed menacingly throughout the night.  I can only imagine she was kicking herself all night long for the trade.

But what she doesn’t know is that she probably saved me from a full blown panic attack.  Those of you who know me well know that when my oldest son was born I developed a few irrational fears.  One was a fear of flying, or more accurately, of crashing.  Go figure, considering my choice of career.  Another was of being swallowed up by a tsunami.  Actually, it was more specific than that.  It was that I would be trying to outrun a tsunami while carrying my baby.  And then when my second son was born, it was the terror of not being able to run with both a toddler and a baby in my arms, and having one or both of them swept away from me.  Or maybe having to choose between the two of them.  You moms must know what I mean.

In any case, I took six years off from flying, and we very, very rarely went to the beach.  Countless times Patrick would suggest the quick 90 minute road trip to picturesque Cannon Beach, and I would immediately shoot the idea down.  Why play Russian Roulette?  Better to be safe than sorry.  Let’s just turn the sprinklers on and let the kids run through them.  Worst thing I could picture in that scenario was a bee sting, which I felt I could handle.

But then one day I woke up to discover that most of these fears had somehow either dissipated over time, or had just suddenly vanished.  So I recently started back to flying, which I am able to do without giving too much thought to crashing.  I just smother the boys in hugs and kisses before I leave and tell them about a million times that I love them, and I’m so proud of them, and that I am always with them and loving them, even when they can’t see me, and that they are the nicest, smartest, most beautiful and perfect people I have ever known, and on and on until Hayden stops listening and wanders off to find his toys and Addison gets that exasperated look on his face and tells me enough already, we know, we know.

Being back at work pretty much goes hand in hand with going back to the beach, as so many of the places that we fly now are coastal.  So it was a good thing my fear of tsunamis seemed to have diminished.  With the exception of good old Fairbanks, everywhere that I have had a layover has been very near, if not completely, ocean front.

Our van driver took us through Kona, and we were able to see first hand the chaos that a mere foot of water could cause.  Furniture had been pushed through the windows of buildings and out onto the street.  Sidewalks and roads were torn up as though a hundred jackhammers had simultaneously pounded the pavement.  Trees were uprooted.  Debris was in the most unlikely of places.  But it was all so little compared to the devastation that must be Japan.  I cannot even begin to imagine …..

So tomorrow and the next day I will be on Maui.  And now I feel a fear developing in the pit of my stomach, and making its way to the back of my throat.  This time it’s of exploding nuclear plants and the resulting radiation making its way from Japan to the islands.  Irrational, I know, but also a horrible reality for so many as I write this.  I’m keeping quiet about that, though.  Addison already has developed a fascination/fear with the earthquake in Japan and the resulting ‘salami’.

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It happened last night.  It was one of those windy Columbia Gorge nights when the wind whips through the trees and howls a spooky, eerie lullaby to those of us inside, snuggled up in the warmth of our beds.  Against its steady roar and the snores of my three boys, I didn’t have a chance in heck of hearing what was going on in time to do anything to stop it.  There was nothing I could have done.

I could tell as I walked toward the kitchen this morning that something was amiss.  The air felt different.  As I rounded the corner, I stopped in my tracks and squinted at the object on the island.  Something was definitely wrong.  They say that death hangs in the air, but I was feeling the fear of it in the pit of my stomach.  I had to move more closely to get a better look, the fear rising to the back of my throat.  I still couldn’t tell.  I reached out a tentative hand, and pushed the inanimate object on the counter.  Nothing.

Now my arms were hot and heavy as the fear, adrenaline, and guilt began to course through me.  Oh Lord, what have we done?!  How am I going to explain this to Addison?  We skipped the nightly bug hunt last night, and now we had killed Froggie Verde.  He must have died a slow, painful death of starvation, all alone in the night.  I thought I might throw up.

By this time, Hayden was at my knees begging to get up on the counter to see Froggie Verde.  I shook the terrarium some, hoping against all hope that I would suddenly see our tiny little green friend hop back to life.  Again, nothing.  I lifted the lid, and started peeking under leaves, twigs, and branches, expecting to find his poor, lifeless body.  My heart was beating so quickly as I lifted his little pool that I thought it might jump right out of my chest.  Again, nothing.

Now fully frantic, I lifted the whole terrarium and headed to the front porch.  One by one, I emptied every blade of grass, every leaf, every single item.  I looked again on the bottom of the lid.  There was no sign of Froggie Verde.  Anywhere.

“Mommy,”  Addison quietly asked, “Did he go to Heaven?  Is he with Jesus and Thai, and Turtle, and Daddy’s daddy?”

“Honey, I, I just don’t know.  I don’t know what has happened to him, or where he is.”

“He should have left a note.”  Addison said with a quivering lip.  And then, with a burst of smile flashing across his face he said, “I have an idea!  Let’s make posters and put them up all over so someone can find him for us!”

So we are making Missing Posters for Froggie Verde (perhaps we should rename him Houdini) which we will post throughout our house in hopes that someone finds our little friend before he gets stepped on, sat on, or God only knows what else….

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Addison informed us Friday evening of last week that we would be going to the zoo the next morning.  He was completely matter of fact, as though this was something we had all been talking about and planning for weeks.  Patrick says he is going to grow up to be one of those tour directors.  You know, the ones that take our grandparents parents (hey, when did they get so old?) on the guided bus tours through Alaska, or Europe, or wherever.  If he does go in that vocational direction, I have my fingers crossed that he will at least work on a cruise ship.  In the Caribbean.  And be able to get his parents on for free.  In a luxury balcony suite.  With free spa treatments.  And lobster dinners.  And decadent desserts.  Oops, sorry.  There I go again, letting my imagination get away from me.

Ahem.  So back to Addison and our trip to the zoo.

As I was saying, he had our whole day planned out for us, and it didn’t appear that we had any say in the matter.  So Saturday morning, we found ourselves headed into the city to see some wild animals at the zoo.

The Oregon Zoo is beautiful, and they seem to be continually working to improve it.  We’ve had a membership since Addison was a baby, and have enjoyed it in all seasons.  Our favorite time of year to go, though, happens to be in December, for Zoo Lights.  The entire zoo is decorated gaily with Christmas lights and we ride the train through, bundled up in thick layers to ward off the freezing night air.

A couple few years ago, they opened The Great Northwest Exhibit, which includes among several other exhibits, Black Bear Ridge.  It is here that you are almost guaranteed to have spectacular views of several black bear and bobcats in their ‘natural’ habitat.   There is a viewing area in which you may find yourself literally staring into the eyes of a 600 pound black bear, mere inches from your face, separated by a thick sheet of glass (or something).  It is truly astounding.

As soon as we arrived at the zoo, Addison made a dash for the Cascade Canyon Trail, which winds its way through Black Bear Ridge, Eagle Canyon, Cascade Stream and Pond, and ends at the Trillium Creek Family Farm.  Addison was a boy on a mission, I tell you.  He didn’t even glance at the bobcats.  As we passed the magnificent bears, he tugged on my arm.  “Come on, Mom.  Let’s keep going!  Dad!  Hurry up!!!”  And Hayden kept an even pace with his big brother.  They had their minds set on something, and it wasn’t the spectacular bald eagle we could touch if we dared slip our fingers through the mesh of the exhibit.  Or the beavers splashing in the pond, or even the baby ducklings following their mama in the most adorable little line.

“Mom,” Addison said with the thickest exasperation at my apparent lack of speed, “Come on!  We can see bears and cougars at our house any time we want to!  Hurry up!  We want to go sit on the tractor!”

So we had left our home in the country and drove all the way into the big city, just to sit on a tractor.

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Okay, so I guess I’m feeling better today.  A little bit.  Or not much at all.  But I did manage to get dressed, pick Addison up from school, fill the car with gas, and heat a couple of Kids Cuisine meals in the microwave before falling flat on my face from exhaustion.  That’s something, right?

Patrick left this afternoon for his flippin’ rodeo.  I guess you can tell how I feel about that.  Under normal circumstances, I would have been supportive about him going.  This is something that he and his lifelong best friend have done every year for as long as either of them can remember.  It gives him a much needed break (I know this because of how badly I need a break), an opportunity to miss at least the kids, if not me, too, and he gets to cut loose for a few days, all while satisfying that cowboy wannabe itch of his.

But with me feeling like crap, the kids being ornery nearly most of the time lately, and the last minute springing on me of his departure (did you read my last post, The Pain in My Asphalt?), I don’t consider these to be normal circumstances.  Needless to say, I was a bit peeved (that might be a slight understatement).

Regardless of my irritation, I tried being an adult and suggesting what I thought to be some fair compromises.  Could he go next week, instead?  You know, when I should be feeling better?  The rodeo will be over then?  Rats.  I tried reasoning and rationalizing with him.  When that didn’t work, I pulled out my own mother’s trusty sidekick, Guilt.  He is, afterall, Hayden’s favorite, and Hayden can barely make it through the work day in one piece while waiting anxiously to be daddy’s 5 o’clock shadow.   How could he possibly expect him to make it four and a half days?  We would all be miserable.  But no luck with that, either.

So I pulled out the big guns, and threw a mighty temper tantrum.  I cried, I yelled, I said a few too many choice words.  I stomped my foot on the ground, flared my nostrils, and clenched my fists.  I matched Hayden’s two year old tantrums kick for scream, and then some.  But that’s as much as I care to share about that.

For some reason my tantrum didn’t elicit the same response as Hayden’s do — you know, the frantic giving in to any and all demands just to make it stop?  Didn’t happen.  In any case, all I accomplished was feeling like quite an asphalt myself, and as I mentioned earlier, Patrick still went to the rodeo.

But in the end, we did civilly, and almost amicably, reach a compromise that we both could live with.  He is coming back Thursday instead of Friday or Saturday.  And I am free to go to Hawaii with my girlfriends whenever I want.

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After spending roughly the past two weeks alternately caring for the ailing members of my family, I woke up this morning with a sore throat, swollen glands, a headache, runny nose, and a generally bad attitude.  I knew it was coming.  I’ve been feeling it creeping up on me for the past few days, but I had hoped I could outrun it.  Should’ve known, as the only thing I am fast enough to outrun is the slimy snail we once watched cross our driveway in a mere three days.

To make matters worse, today just happens to be the day that our neighborhood road, the one and only way in or out of Livingston Country Estates (the name is the only thing formal about the whole bunch of us), is being repaved.  And this is what I mean when I say, ‘This day is a real pain in my asphalt.”

Let me first just say that talks about repaving our road have been ongoing for the entire 5 1/2 years that we have lived here.  There are only 10 homes on our little hill, but somehow this project has dragged on in negotiations for years.  And wouldn’t you know that once it finally comes to fruition, it has to be on the day I am sick?  Not any of the other roughly 2000 days that I have lived here in relatively good health.  Isn’t that just the story of my life?

You may be reading this and wondering what the big deal is.  Well, the only thing I really want to do today is hide under the covers and snooze the day away.  But that is only possible if I don’t have kids to watch over, which would be the case if the road were currently passable.   Then I would take Addison to kindergarten, drop Hayden off with the sitter, and crawl back into my comfy cozy bed.  But I can’t get past the end of our driveway, and it is about a 12 mile hike to the closest public transportation, which, even in my feverishly delirious state, I am wise enough to know is not an activity to take on with a two and a five year old.

Now I have a friend who has had a similar experience.  She’s the kind of woman who is always turning life’s lemons into lemonade  (I have another friend who always seems to be making lemons out of lemonade, but I digress).  When the city paved her into her driveway, she evaluated the situation, chose the best course of action, and proceeded to rip down her side fence, then just drove her car right through the yard, over the curb, and onto the adjacent road that had not yet been repaved.  This was how desperate she was to not spend another day cooped up in her house with her two little ones (who happen to be exceptionally adorable and well behaved unlike, ahem, excuse me, again, I digress).

I’m just not nearly that motivated.  And besides, instead of ripping down a fence, I’d have to find a chainsaw and take down a dozen or so extremely tall and large fir trees, and I’m really just not feeling up to that today.  So I am forced to stay upright and endure the day as it, and I, sludge on toward 5 o’clock and the promised return of my husband.

It’s not all bad, though.  Addison being the gem that he is, has tried to make me feel better.  I sat at the kitchen table, still dressed in my pajamas and robe, my chin propped in the palm of my hand, my head bobbing precariously as I tried to stay awake, and watched him circle in the pantry for several minutes, muttering to himself, “I know it’s in here somewhere.  Where is it?  Now let’s see…”  Then,  finally, “Oh!  Here it is!  MOM (too, too loud!)!!!  This will make you feel better!”  And then he placed a can of tuna in front of me.  Go figure.

Oh!  And guess what!  My husband just came home several hours early to kiss up to me, because, it seems, he forgot that the rodeo that he wants to go to is this week not next week (this is the first I’ve heard about it, so who gives a flying fig if it was next week, that’s still not enough notice!) and would I mind if he left in the morning and came back Friday or Saturday (which really means late Saturday night)?  Now that’s an ASPHALT!!!

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It’s now time to confess yet another deep, dark, and dirty little secret.  This one will most likely cause quite a few people to snigger behind my back, arch their eyebrows and purse their lips in disapproval.  And here’s the worst part: I don’t care or regret it for a single second.

Cue drum roll please…

I let my kids watch TV, and not just Baby Einstein, Dora the Explorer, or Sid the Science Kid.  They can quote the titles of just about every Phineas and Ferb show on air and –wait for it–(Tee Hee! If you don’t get that joke, you obviously don’t watch enough Disney Channel!) are even down with Dog the Bounty Hunter.  Gasp!

And, brace yourself —  I admit to using the television as a babysitter at some point in time on any given day.   I know, at this point you are thinking it’s my own damn fault if my kids turn out to be a few sandwiches short of a picnic.  What kind of mother knowingly goes against The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children not watch TV?  What kind of mother throws caution to the wind when there are long cited statistics that say that television viewing by children is linked to hyperactivity, lack of focus, and delayed language development?  I guess this kind.

As I’ve said many times before, I am not a domestic diva, and I am not going to win any mother of the year awards.  What I am is a frazzled mommy on the brink of losing her sanity, while desperately trying to successfully raise two little boys and the occasional stepdaughter.   I don’t have the luxury of nearby extended family to lean on, a neighbor across the street to call on, or a babysitter who can drive to rely on.  Television’s all I’ve got!

Despite my plethora of dirty little secrets, I do try really hard to be a good parent to my children.  It’s just that chances are I do it differently than a lot of mothers out there.  Like most, I try to be creative, to be a fairly good role model, and to nurture my childrens’ minds and bodies.  I try to teach them to value others, to accept differences of the people they encounter, to lead by a compassionate, empathetic, loving example.  I try to stimulate their imaginations by reading them stories,  doing crafts, and getting down on the floor to play with them.  They play outside — a lot.  They run, and race, and roll down hills.  They swim, and bike, and ride their scooters to their hearts content.  And they have tons and tons of books.  I’m telling you, they have books galore and we’ve read them all.  Over and over and over.

But here is where I seem to drastically veer off the beaten path.  I also let my kids dance on our furniture, eat food they’ve dropped on the ground (C’mon — even I draw the line at puddles, and don’t let them pick up food that’s been left on the sidewalk by someone else),  stay up past bedtime (uh, okay, they don’t even officially have a bedtime, but I’m working on that one.  Honestly!), eat too much candy, and yes, even watch TV.

How on earth do those of you who don’t plop your kids in front of the Backyardigan’s from time to time get anything done?  How do you make a dent in the mounds of laundry, make an important call, or use the bathroom in private?  You see, even with the assistance of TV, I am extremely lucky if anything can keep the boys attention for more than 30 minutes.  Even when the TV is on, they are actively involved in something else.  They never just sit in front of a show and veg.  They like to play and to move around too much for that.  They are also on the floor racing cars, or at the table coloring, or more likely, pulling all the cushions off the furniture and building forts.  While watching their shows.  So is that really so bad?  I mean it’s not like I just plunk them in front of the TV for hours with no other interaction.

And I have proof that they learn valuable lessons from their TV watching.  Why, just the other day, I heard Addison tell his brother that ‘bleep’ is a four letter word, and not okay to say.  Thanks, Dog, you’ve taught my children well.  I also think they have a stronger aversion to breaking the law than they might have without the tutelage of the Bounty Hunter.  And, long before Addison started at La Escuela, I heard him say, “Vamonos!  Let’s go!”  Thank you for that, Dora or Diego.  I mean, the proof is in the pudding if you consider that my own mother watches very little television, and has spent the past 15 years incorrectly saying “Vamoose” when she is ready to get a move on.  Maybe she would be bilingual by now if she, too, had Dish Network.

So there.  It’s all out there now, and I must say, I feel a little lighter for it.

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