Monday, December 31, 2012

Kristin's 2012 Review

Facebook wanted to show me my 20 Biggest Moments of 2012, which included a someecard and lunch at Burgerville.  Wow Facebook, you must think I lead quite the life--just a step up from Crazy Cat Lady and the video game store clerk who spends his whole paycheck on the Assassin's Creed series. 

Perhaps I should make a "Biggest Moments" list of my own, those that may have not received the most "likes", but are a better indicator of how I fared in 2012.

1)  My son turned 16.  While it would seem that this was more of a big moment for him, anyone who has a child with a new driver's license and the impulse control of a two-year-old will understand why this is also a big moment for me.

2)  I went on a trip to Minnesota where I met several people who, while I may not be related to by blood, I am proud to say I am part of their family.  And I learned that in the Land of a Thousand Lakes it is perfectly acceptable to wear a life jacket like a diaper.

3)  I voted.  I won't tell you for whom, but I will tell you that I read the voter's pamphlet and watched as much of the debates as I could stomach.  (Okay, I voted for the guy who played French horn with the UW Husky marching band in the Rose Parade.  I'm a sucker for the French horn.)

4)  My older daughter turned 13, thus enabling her to join Facebook and curtailing all the embarrassing stories I usually share about her.

5)  I wrote a blog post that got the biggest response in all my (3) years of writing--361 views!  It didn't hurt that I wrote about a local character who had already won over our entire community.   I simply put into words what everyone else already understood to be true.  But it did make me think that maybe I really should keep writing.

6)  I attended a lot of soccer games, yet only the last few were in wet or cold weather.  It was a good year for soccer parents.

7)  I visited my father in the nursing home and realized that while he's still here, a good part of his personality is lost to me.  However, I also understand that personality lives on in each family memory, in each story my siblings and I tell about growing up as an Alvick.  (And maybe one or two of my character traits.)

8)  I played tourist in downtown Seattle for the day, where I realized I know nothing about art.  Luckily, my 10-year-old daughter does and kindly guided me through the Seattle Art Museum.

9)  I took a trip to Hawaii with my extended family--husband, kids, in-laws, nieces and nephews. Nothing impresses people more than a family of 16 traveling together.  While there I realized that I may have Seasonal Affective Disorder--I was happiest just soaking up the sun on the beach.  And drinking mai tais. ( Maybe I'm actually suffering from Alcohol Affective Disorder.)

10)  Looking back on 2012 I think that I had a pretty good year.  Nothing monumental happened, no life changing events, just a bunch of happy little blips that kept me getting up every day, sometimes even with a smile on my face.  I mean, you can't have lunch at Burgerville every day.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mayan Calendar vs. Zombie Apocalyse

As we head into December, it was inevitable that the whole Mayan calendar/end-of-the-world thing would resurface.  The U.S. government, however, asks that you not even go there.  They say the theory about a deadly comet crash is untrue ("definitely not"). The world will not end on December 21st, so please stop scaring the children.  (And really, what's more frightening:  sudden and irrevocable end of life on earth,  or teetering over the fiscal cliff and having to live out the rest of  your life eating dog food and heating your home with coal, John Boehner telling you "I told you so" all the while?)  Apparently it's not just us Americans playing Chicken Little--the Russian's have jumped on the end-of-the-world band wagon., too.   But they're bringing vodka as part of an apocalyptic kit (which also includes heart medication and a pain reliever).  If the world was ending,  I think a headache would be the least of your worries.  The vodka could come in handy, however.

The whole Mayan calendar craziness has been talked about, blown out of proportion, debunked and then talked about some more.  So let me ask you:  when you get to the last page of your calendar, say December, and you go to see what's happening next month and there are no more pages, what do you do?  Freak out and stockpile the bottled water?  Or go to the office supply store and buy a new calendar?  The Mayans, it's true, were very advanced for an ancient civilization. Besides their calendar making, they developed a writing system and left behind many examples of art work.  But did they have iPhones and their amazing maps?  What about Honey Boo Boo or Walmart?  (Okay, on second thought, perhaps it's best if we just end it right now.)

The U.S. government wants you to forget about the Mayan calendar thing, but they have actively promoted preparing for a zombie apocalypse.  (So let me get this straight--they don't want me to scare my children with the Mayans, but they want me to talk to them about zombies?)  They say that it's all tongue-in-cheek to get people to think about emergency preparedness, but they also said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that its CIA agents were paragons of morality.   

Anyone who's seen the AMC series The Walking Dead could tell you zombies are the things of nightmares.  They are the undead, people!  Out to eat your flesh and infect your children!  The good news is that fear of a zombie apocalypse has spurred gun and ammunition sales.  Good news for the economy!  Bad news if you happen to be shuffling to get your newspaper in the early morning hours and your neighbor is a paranoid gun owner.  (What am I saying?  People don't read the newspaper anymore.  Wait!  I read the newspaper!!  Maybe I should start combing my hair and putting on some makeup before I head to the paper box.)

In times like this we should turn to the words of the immortal poet, Michael Jackson:




  Creatures Crawl In Search Of Blood
  To Terrorize Y'awl's Neighbourhood
  And Whosoever Shall Be Found
  Without The Soul For Getting Down
  Must Stand And Face The Hounds Of Hell





The answer then to our apocalyptic dilemma?  Getting down.

Cue the music and bring on the vodka.



Friday, November 16, 2012

Collect Calls from the Great Beyond


My older daughter and I have become hooked on TLC's show Long Island Medium.  If you've never seen this show, it follows psychic medium Theresa Caput as she acts as intermediary for spirits and their loved ones among the living.  Theresa considers herself a "typical Long Island mom"--if by typical you mean someone with bleached blond hair, nails that should be registered with the FBI and heels that leave her tottering though the show.  Except she talks to dead people. 

I've  always been pretty open to the idea of the paranormal, and I have no problem believing that the Long Island Medium really can receive messages from those who have passed away.  Watching the show, however, I realized that clients always come to her with a specific person they wish to hear from and, surprisingly enough, that's always who shows up to the party.  What if the spirit who came through is someone you didn't want to talk to again, in this world or the next?  What if instead of your sainted mother, Theresa called forth the bully from 3rd grade? ("I'm sensing something about a swirly.")? Or that uncle who got drunk at every family gathering and used racial slurs? ("Oh jeez, the spirit says you should go #@!^ that $%^&* boyfriend of yours.")  Or perhaps someone you've never met?  ("Did you know someone named George Smith?  From Hoboken?  No?  Sorry, wrong number!")  And somehow these spirits always bring messages of forgiveness and closure.  Theresa states before each reading that she only channels positive messages (spoken in a tone which sounds like a disclaimer--"the following psychic reading is for entertainment purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of this station.")  Just once I'd like her to tell the grieving son that his mother thinks he's a schmuck and she never liked that trampy girlfriend of his.  Death cannot possibly make everyone nice and understanding.  I plan to send messages to my children that amount to "I told you so." 

If I was ever haunted by a spirit, I have no doubt in my mind who it would be.  Only my Grandma Mabel was obsessive enough to not let a little thing like death to keep her from getting the last word.  Mabel Antoinette Bakke Alvick was a first generation Norwegian American and she took family very seriously.  She may have been a pain as a parent, and very a difficult mother-in-law, but she was a wonderful grandmother.  Grandma was the one who encouraged me to write.  I know exactly what message Grandma Mabel would bring to me from the Great Beyond:  first she'd call me by the horribly embarrassing nickname she saddled me with, and then she'd hold up one hand, displaying all five fingers.  This was Grandma's way of reminding you to behave--each finger stood for one of her rules:  no drinking, no smoking, no chasing (members of the opposite sex), go to church and write your (grand)parents.  Well Grandma, two out of five ain't bad--which is why I fully expect to be visited one day by the spirit of Grandma Mabel.  "Why haven't you been going to church?  Would it kill you to visit your parents more often?  Why has it been five weeks since you wrote a blog post--do you have cherabook?"  (Some word Grandma made up, I'm sure, or claimed she learned from the Native Americans, meaning an illness that causes laziness).  Grandma's  message will not be one of forgiveness and closure.

When I am done with this mortal life and pass over to the other side,  Grandma Mabel and I are going to cause all sorts of trouble.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mattress Lady

There is a woman who stands on the street corner at the entrance of  our local Costco parking lot with a sign board for a  mattress store.

She is my hero.

This woman, who I have nicknamed  "Mattress Lady",  takes her job seriously.   And when I say seriously, I mean she gives her all to being a walking (dancing and swinging) billboard.  She's out there on that corner all the time (no one else dares to try to fill Mattress Lady's shoes)--so much so, if we don't see her for a couple days we start to worry.  She's working  in hot weather and cold, sunshine and rain.  She always has her headphones in and is dancing to the beat, swinging her sign board back and forth to the tune, with a smile on her face and waving to the cars as they go by.

I don't know what they're paying her, but I'm sure it's not enough because Mattress Lady rocks.

I have never seen anyone do what would seem to be a boring, un-fulfilling job with such enthusiasm.  I really don't know how she does it--I can't even stand in line at Costco without feeling my life slipping away.  Mattress Lady, a 60-ish woman in mom jeans, ball cap and tennis shoes, however, seems like she's auditioning for  "American Idol."

There are a few other companies that pay people to hold sign boards just down the street from Mattress Lady's corner.  There's the guy who dresses up like the Statue of Liberty during tax time, looking uncomfortable and embarrassed; the sullen 20-something that holds the guitar shaped sign for some pizza place; and the teenager with the sign for the local gun range, who is either texting or talking to her scraggly-looking friends the whole time.  I couldn't even tell you the name of the companies they represent.  They just don't have the joie de vivre, the je ne sais quoi, the toe-tappin', hip-swinging, work ethic that the Mattress Lady brings to her sign holding.  Amateurs.

The Mattress Lady has become such a fixture in our community that she was invited to the high school's Homecoming Pep Assembly last year and one of my daughter's teachers dressed up with a sign board and head phones for Halloween.  We recognize a true original when we see it.

Often times at that same corner, across the street, there is a young couple  (late teens, early twenties) with a cardboard sign begging for money.  They usually take turns standing there with the sign that claims they are living in their car and need money for food.  Now, I don't know the real story behind this couple, maybe while one stands with the sign the other is out looking for work.  Maybe there was abuse at home, maybe they have psychological issues that keep them form helping themselves.  All I know is they picked the wrong corner to look helpless.  There, right across the street, is a woman old enough to be their mother, busting her behind every day, giving all her energy and enthusiasm, while they ask for a hand out.  I can't help but wonder what she thinks of them. 

So all hail to the Mattress Lady, may your days be sunny and your sign board be light.  Thank you for reminding me that any job can be fun, if you just have the right attitude...and some good music.

Friday, September 21, 2012

46 Things I've Learned by 47

Today is my 47th birthday and to celebrate I am going to share with you my vast array of (somewhat useless) knowledge.  It may seem like a long list, but it's not particularly deep, so let's put your speed reading skills to the test and see what Kristin's learned:

1. You simply cannot rush a two-year-old.

2.  You can believe only that which can be proved by science, or you can believe that miracles happen. (And I can tell you which one will make you happier.)

3. Only hit someone if you are willing to be hit back, with the knowledge that they may hit harder than you do.

4. Life without chocolate isn't worth living.

5. Dogs are messy, but kind of cool.

6. Do not expect your spouse to be perfect, because that's never going to happen.  And they would be really annoying if they were.

7. On the seventh day God gave us coffee and it was good.

8. Everyone has a story to tell--sometimes you just have to ask the right questions.

9.  Having children changes your life in ways you'd never imagine.  Like spending too much money on sports equipment to spend your weekend sitting in the cold rain watching 10-years-olds chase a ball around...And think it was worth it.

10.  Your parents really did try to do the best they could.

11.  Sometimes being right is not the most important thing.

12.  Truth really is stranger than fiction.  (So much so, I sometimes prefer fiction.)

13.  Always hang up on someone who tells you they're not trying to sell you something.  (But always say "No, thank you" first--manners are important.)

14.  Manners are important.

15.  Babies are pretty amazing.

16.  Dental hygiene is important...And cheaper than dental surgery.

17.  Teachers should be the highest paid profession.

18.  You are not as important as you think.  But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

19.  No matter how many mistakes you've both made, your mom loves you.  A lot.

20.  Once past the age of 9 your children will not be impressed by anything you do.  Don't let it bother you.

21.  After the age of 39 your children will realize you've done some pretty amazing things.  Be ready to greet their admiration with humility.

22.  If you find a man who thinks you're sexy in your sweats, marry him.

23.  Laundry is a never ending cycle.  (You get it?  "Cycle"?)

24.  You're really not as smart as you think you are--be prepared to keep learning.

25.  47-year-old women think they have it all together.  They don't, they're just making it up as they go along, just like everyone else.

26.  You really do get more bees with honey than vinegar.

27.  Anyone who does not believe in God (or some other supreme being) when they look at a newborn just isn't paying attention.

28.  The lighting in fitting rooms is just cruel and should have some sort of federal mandate to be more flattering.

29.  46 is a big number...Who's bright idea was this, anyway?

30.  Life doesn't start making any sort of sense until your 30's.  Do the best you can until then.

31.  Reading really is fundamental. Everything is harder without good reading skills. Plus, loving to read means you'll never be bored.

32.  Never have more children than you have car windows.  (Thank you, Erma Bombeck!)

33.  Either you can drive in the snow or you cannot.  Find out which it is and act accordingly.

34.  Children can sense your weaknesses, so it's best to confess them up front, i.e.:  "I don't really know where plastic comes from and I'm scared of driving in the snow."

35.  Don't bother lying about your age.  Your appearance is what it is--attaching a lower number to it won't change anything.

36.  Always try to listen to the other side of issue with an open mind.  Even if it turns out to be bat-shit crazy, at least you'll know what you're dealing with. 

37.  Cleanliness is overrated.  As long as your house is clean enough to ward off illness, the rest is just cosmetic.

38.  Do not be afraid to say no--to your children, your spouse, your friends and family.  Sometimes it should be all about you.

39.  Get to know your neighbors.  Again, even if they're crazy, this would be good information to have.

40.  The world is a great big place with lots of different kind of people--get out into it whenever you can.

41. Mud puddles are underrated. 

42.  Celebrate occasions--your birthday, the 1st day of school, St Patrick's Day. The rest of the year can be business as usual, your birthday should be special.

43.  Young children and old people are the most fun to hang out with.  They have no hidden agenda, nothing to prove and just enjoy life as it comes.  Spend some time with them whenever possible.

44.  Politicians come and go.  You really should keep friends and family around for more than four years.

45.   Pretty much anything in life can be funny, if you look at it just right...and squint your eyes and tilt your head just so...(See there? It's funny, isn't it?)

46.  List of things learned are overrated. I'm just making this stuff up.

Phew!  We all made it!  You did read all of them, didn't you?  Don't skip #20 or #33, they're important!  That's okay, I'll wait while you go back.................................................................

Alright, thanks for getting through them all with me.  We'll just have to wait and see what year #47 teaches me.  (I hope it's not calculus.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dreaming in Numbers

Last week I had a dream I was back in high school math (did I say dream? I meant nightmare), only I was married to my husband, Ed, who was in the class with me.  The teacher was my daughter Olivia's 4th grade teacher and she wanted me to finish some big math project before the end of the class (even though I'd been out of the room most of the day--probably making copies for her).

I didn't want to do this project because it was one of those that had lots of steps and are supposed to help you learn the basics (even though you may already understand it).
I tried to tell the teacher I didn't have all the stuff I needed to finish the project, hoping she'd let me just skip it ('cause it was high school math, and I'm grown up and married, and she's my daughter's 4th grade teacher who I had done a lot of volunteer work for, including cutting out 600 paper apples with the die cut machine).  Instead she said "That's okay, all the markers and counters are over there so you can finish".

Sigh.

really didn't want to do this project, as I'd already passed both 4th grade math and high school math.  It was going to take too long and it was almost the end of the day and end of the school year.  And Ed was already done.  (If you're married in high school, can you just do one set of homework?  Washington is a community property state, after all.)

It was at this point that I started waking up.  I was still in that half-conscious zone, where if it had been a real nightmare I'd still be freaked out and my heart would be pounding.  But instead the solution to my math problem came to me (as if in a dream, or half out of a dream):  multiplication!  All I had to do was multiply the numbers to solve the problem and then I'd be done with it!

I'd forgotten about this dream until I ran into Olivia's teacher yesterday at the store and told her about my dream, much to Olivia's embarrassment.

And what message should I take from this dream?  If you're a grown up you get to skip a lot of the boring steps?  Math isn't fun? Or multiplication will save your ass every time.



(I'd like to dedicate this dream to John Scieszka's Math Curse, which perfectly describes my relationship to all things numeral .)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

An Ounce of Prevention

Lady parts are back in the headlines again, their magical properties,  proper manners and property rights.  Pro Life and Pro Choice can be argued endlessly and never agreed upon by more than two people on any given day, much less the days leading up to a presidential election.

I know a thing or two about Lady Parts, having been a proud owner these many years.  I have used my magic for both good and evil and have a little something to say on the matter.

When it comes down to Right to Choose versus Anti-Abortion, there are more than two sides to the debate.  Everyone has a story, a different set of circumstances and none of it is black and white.  Here I am, an educated middle-class woman with a liberal democrat ideology and a host of friends who say we must have the right to choose.

But what if we don't get to choose?

Once upon a time, I was a happily married mother of one, planning to add to our family with another bundle of joy. I saw my doctor, I took the vitamins, I peed on the stick.  Happy, happy, joy, joy--it was positive, I was pregnant.  Then at eight weeks I began bleeding and miscarried.  To me this was a child I'd lost.  A planned for, dreamed about, wanted baby.  At eight weeks, with no heart beat and no chance of survival, this was still a child.  I cried, I grieved, I blamed myself. Eventually I went on to produce two more healthy children, but my miscarriage has colored how I view this issue. 

Can I say that it's okay to abort a fetus at eight weeks because it feels no pain, has no mental cognition, no finger prints, no rights?  I think of the child I lost and cannot say for sure, cannot know when life really begins or even when it ends.  That is my set of circumstances, my opinion, my personal feelings.

On the other hand, the thought of someone as out of touch with what goes on in my uterus as Todd Akin telling me what I can and cannot do with that magical organ makes my blood boil.  This is not the price of gas, the rules of the road, or Roberts Rules of Order.  This is my life, my uterus and my own damn business. 

I choose to believe the Anti-Abortion groups really think they are preserving innocent lives when they picket Planned Parenthood and try to pass broad legislation on reproductive rights.  I may be giving some of them more credit than they deserve, but I think of the child I might have had and realize they might not be able to see past the word "baby," either.

The male politicians with a limited understanding of basic human biology, the teenage girl who feels betrayed and trapped by her own body, the Christian groups who feel it is their divine duty to protect us from ourselves and the mother who can't afford another mouth to feed will never agree.  Too many different view points, backgrounds and circumstances.  Doctors can study it until the end of time and still not be able to pinpoint when life begins and a cluster of cells becomes a human being.  It seems this is one of those things only God can know--when we reach those pearly gates and He explains it all to us, it will all seem so obvious--but for now perhaps it's time to let it go.  Give this decision making process over to the woman, her doctor and her god.

Yet, there are still unwanted, ill-timed and dangerous pregnancies occurring.  Perhaps we're all going at this argument from the wrong end.  Maybe instead of fighting over what to do or not to do about unwanted pregnancies, we could put that energy into helping women prevent these pregnancies to begin with.  Support Planned Parenthood instead of bombing it, help those women find decent jobs and reliable child care instead of hurling insults at them.  And, yes, there is still the birth control issue to get through--who pays for it, who can use it, is my church-run hospital legally obligated to provide it--but think about how much time and money has been put into the abortion debate.  Divide this number by 100 and we could still have this problem solved before Todd Akin concedes the senate race.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 


Friday, August 10, 2012

Post Apocalyptic Soccer Mom

It recently occurred to me that with my husband coaching our middle child's team, our oldest with a new driver's license and our youngest turning in her cleats, I could go this entire soccer season with out attending a single practice.  For those of you who have not experienced youth sports, you may not realize the significance of this.  (And I'm sure there are a few die-hard team parents out there who would think this bad thing--how can I connect with my child without team sports?)  And while it may be the end of an era, please consider this:  while you're watching your kid do drills in the rain, after a long day at work, and having grabbed some greasy fast food for dinner, I will be at home, in a quiet house, enjoying a hot dinner and maybe a TV show. I will have my life back, if only temporarily.  I have had a kid in team sports for ten years now, with nine years of soccer, and five of those years I had all three kids in soccer. 

Consider this word problem:  Kristin has three kids playing soccer and their practices are all on the same nights, at two separate fields and three different times. Kristin must feed all three children before she leaves the house.  Her husband often isn't done working until one hour after the first practice starts. How far into soccer season before Kristin loses her sanity?

Whatever will I do with all this free time on my hands?  I feel like the lady on the Swiffer commercial who suddenly has time to read, now that she has the special duster (except, of course, I don't dust).  Then I realized there might be a niche for a professional soccer mom.  I could take your kid to practice, making sure he remembers his shin guards, be in charge of the snack schedule, provide an endless supply  of clean soccer socks and keep track of where the next game is.  Meanwhile, you can be relaxing at home, unwinding with a nice glass of wine.  (This has always been my gripe with my kids' extra curricular activities--no adult beverages with dinner, as drunken soccer moms are frowned upon.)

I must confess I have already broken my Zero Tolerance on Practices. My daughter had her first practice of the season and I came by for the second half of practice (after having taking the youngest to swimming lessons--so much for my adult beverage with dinner).  I wanted to see who was on the team this year and visit with the other parents.  I suppose there will be a few more practices that my husband can't make it to on time and I will be called back into duty, but this reminds me that someday I will not need soccer balls and extra shin pads in the back of my stinky minivan.  One day I really will have my life back and then what will I do? 

I will be enjoying an adult beverage with my dinner and reading my book in peace.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Vampires in the Basement

Lon Chaney as the Phantom


Last night I had a dream that we had a vampire living in our basement.  (We, of course, do not have a basement, but apparently the sleeping mind is not concerned with details.)  This was not the Twilight/Robert Pattinson type vampire, but more of the old school, Lon Chaney variety (think Phantom of the Opera).  I believe he even appeared in black and white, while the rest of the dream was in glorious technicolor. 
He's so dreamy..;)
The problem in the dream wasn't that the vampire was living in our basement, but that he was sneaking in his undead girlfriend.  And she was taking extended hot showers in our bathroom (apparently my subliminal brain believes the undead to be a bit chilly), therefore keeping the rightful owner (me) from using the facilities.

Next our vampire tenant invited his family over to hang out--his parents and grandparents were bats, naturally.  "Great", I thought, "now we have bats in the basement.  At least they won't be hogging the bathroom."

I awoke from this dream to the realization that I had a very full bladder.  Evidently this long and slightly weird dream was my body's way of telling me to get up and go pee.

As I thought about this dream later, I wondered if I could fit it all into a Facebook post, but decided a quick blog was needed to do it justice.  After all, a subconscious mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Too Good to Be True


I haven't written anything in quite awhile, but every time I think I should sit down and whip out something, I grow very sleepy.  Too many early mornings and not enough napping seem to be zapping my creative energy.  Maybe that's it, I thought.  Maybe I don't have anything else to say. 

But then, as if answering my cries in the wilderness (of unincorporated Snohomish county), God bequeathed unto me the miracle I'd been waiting for--infomercials.

My husband has been leaving the house by 5:30, and being the good little wifey, I've been rising early with him (that and the dogs bark incessantly after he leaves). With nothing much to do that early (I learned the hard way that my brain is not capable of work before 7am), I turn on the TV, but all that's on are infomercials .  Every time I tune into one I start out skeptical-- I don't care which aging star you hire to hawk your exercise program, I'm not buying.  (Is Chuck Norris really still alive/!)  But there's nothing else on so I sometimes pause and watch a few extra minutes--and that's when they reel me in. Cindy Crawford says the secret beautiful skin is melons grown in an undisclosed location in the south of France!  Maybe I can have rock hard abs and make a $100,000 a year from the privacy of my own home! At first they seem all smarmy, but after 10 minutes I'm a believer. How does this happen?

The Contour Ab Belt is a product that seems beyond ridiculous, like something you'd order from the back of a comic book (along with your xray glasses). This is a belt you wear around your midsection that sends electrical impulses through your muscles, thereby working your abdominal muscles for you. The pulsating belt will give me six-pack abs while I watch TV, iron, or stroll on the beach.   I noticed the fine print as it quickly flashed across the bottom of the screen, in print too minuscule for the human eye (luckily mine are bionic, or I have reading glasses...whatever).  In order to reach the results seen on TV, I would need to eat right and exercise.  Hold the phone--I thought this was the answer to my prayers!  I want to get in rock hard shape without all the fuss and muss, all for a $14.95, 30 day trial. (I noticed they never said what you pay after the 30 days--or I became too disillusioned before they got to that part.)  If I can't trust the Contour Ab Belt, who can I trust?!

The 6 Week Body Makeover promises to let you re-sculpt your body--all you have to do is draw a picture of the body you want over the body you have and you too can achieve your dreams. (Mine would include long thin legs and a curvaceous bust line)  At first I thought this was just another crazy weight loss scheme, but this one actually seems sensible.  You eat regular food and you exercise, all according to the personalized plan they sell you for six easy payments of $19.95.  I listened to the many testimonials from satisfies customers, but was disappointed by the disclaimer:  "Your results will vary depending on compliance, starting weight and other factors."  Other factors? Such as the phase of the moon or whether you break up with your boyfriend in those six weeks?  I can have my results vary for free, thank you very much.

My favorite by far is the Psychic Source.  Now I have nothing against psychics--while not a true believer, you only have to watch "Long Island Medium" to lose your skepticism.  Of course there is the problem of doing a psychic reading over the phone--what if I have static on my line?  Will they misread me and recommend the wrong lottery numbers?  This particular company promotes many types of services, from Pet Psychic ("Now hold the phone up to Fluffy's ear") to Lost Objects ("Madam Fortenza, where did I leave my keys?").  And your first call is only $10 for the first 10 minutes!  Then they flashed the disclaimer and broke my little psychic heart:  "Readings are for entertainment only."  Man, disappointed again!

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit to once ordering something from an infomercial.  It was a Pilate's DVD that came with some sort of exercise hoop.  Unfortunately the DVD did not show any exercise routines, but only what I could look forward to if I ordered the rest of the DVD set.  And they never told me what I supposed to do with that stupid hoop.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Four Wise Men

It's Father's Day and time to remember all the wonderful dads in our lives. My ideas of  life, parenthood and happiness have been influenced by four men that I have watched in their roles of father/grandfather.  I learned a lot from each of them and count myself lucky to have had them in my life.

Roy Alvick was a first generation Norwegian American, with bright blue eyes and a quiet demeanor.  He was the father of only one son, my wonderful dad, but the grandfather to five active kids. Our grandmother was known to dominate the conversation, but if you could get Grandpa alone he always had something interesting to say.  He could always be depended on to listen closely to what his grand kids had to say, asking thoughtful questions with no sense of hurry.  Grandpa was one of the smartest men I've ever known, though most people might not know the depth of his intelligence by the lack of his words.  He was present at every important event of my life and cried at my wedding.  He lived to be 100 years old and had his wits about until the end. Grandpa taught me it's just as important to listen as it is to talk.

Grandpa Don was my mother's father.  He had a deep laugh, a big belly and smoked a pipe.  He'd spent his life working as a logger, fishing, and writing poetry.  He had three daughters (one who died as a young woman), but ended up with 11 grandchildren.  He was the pied piper of grandfathers--us grand kids would happily follow him wherever he went.  Grandpa Don used to have us pile into his old stinky truck and go up back roads, down to the waterfront of his hometown, or anywhere he needed to go that day.  Sometimes, if we were out in the country, he'd let us sit on the back tail gate, swinging our legs over the dusty road (as long as we promised not to tell Grandma or our mother).  Grandpa Don taught me that kids don't need trips to Disneyland or expensive gifts to know they're loved, they just need your presence and your attention.

My father, Bud Alvick, is indeed a man among men.  He started his career as a math teacher, moved into a position in school administration and eventually became an elementary school principal.  Dad was always a people person and had a way with kids, especially his own  We didn't have a lot of money growing up and our house was filled to the brim with five kids, two parents, a dog, and various pet rats/mice/hamsters.  Dad treated me, the youngest and probably whiniest child, as if I was something special.  He never asked me to be more like my brother, to excel at anything I didn't have a passion for, or to be anyone but who I was.  He taught me who I am is all I need to be and that the men in my life should treat me with respect and admiration.

My husband, Ed, lost his own father to cancer just months before we met.  Although I'd never had a chance to meet his dad,  I got the impression that he'd had set a pretty high standard in Ed's mind of what it meant to be a father.  Our first child was a boy followed by our older daughter three years later.  I could tell he thought this second child would be more mine than his.  He looked forward to taking our son hunting and fishing--what would he do with a little girl?  These days our two girls have their daddy wrapped around their fingers and he happily takes them wherever they ask to go.  "Hunger Games" movies and art galleries may not have been what he had in mind when he started out on the road to fatherhood, but he is happy to make the trip.  My husband has taught me that sometimes what you never expected in life turns out to be exactly what you always wanted.

Happy Father's Day, everyone!





Thursday, June 14, 2012

Headlines

While scanning the online news I begin to think the writers are either National Enquirer alumni or Masters of the Obvious.  I realize the headlines for internet news sources are over exaggerated to pull you in, but sometimes they have very little to do with the actual story.  The following are some of those that caught my eye, the weird and the wonderful, the obvious and the obnoxious.


The Most Common Running Injuries And How To Avoid Them 

Well, I thought, walk.  And avoid scissors.


Kim Kardashian: I've Learned to Appreciate My Private Life 

My first thought on seeing this was:  so have millions of men on the internet, late at night, with only one hand on the keyboard.  Kim has been taking a beating lately for things she's said while being followed around day and night by a TV camera.  Apparently she announced that "Indian food is disgusting."  If you or I said this, in the circle of our friends, most would just think we don't like Indian food.  Kim announcing it on national TV was like declaring war on anyone of Indian heritage.  It was the foot-in-mouth moment we've all experienced, but then we're not being paid millions of dollars to be followed around by a TV camera.  (Wait, we're not are we?)


Gun Range Offers Children's Birthday Parties

Hmm, it beats Chuckie Cheese.


Turbulent Tykes Torture Other Travelers 

Okay, I would not have gone with the painfully awkward alliteration.   ("Weary Writer Wrings Words from Week-old Tale of Whiny Whippersnapper")  A child and his father were asked to leave a plane before take off because the child wouldn't sit in the seat belt.  This writer's solution?  Kid-free flights.  Apparently said-writer was never a child herself (or has ever had  the pleasure of traveling to Las Vegas with a bachlorette party or a group of 20-something "men" hoping to get lucky).


Star Refused to Shave Legs as a Kid

WTH???  It was Kristen Stewart and she was 13.  How is this interesting to anyone who is not a complete stalker?  But then I wondered if the real reason Bella didn't marry Jacob is because she's his long-lost werewolf sister.  Then I realize I've spent way too much time thinking about this.


10 Simple Ways to Lighten Up and Let Life Flow

AOL's Health News always has an article like this:  "5 Ways to Be Happier at Work," "Ten Easy Steps to Make Love Last, "3 Things That No One Is Interested In Reading About."  Number 10 in the actual article is  "Smile at strangers."  Umm...?!?  Smiling at strangers will undoubtedly lead to a creeper following you home, in which case you will probably not lighten up.


400,000 Toothpicks Stolen

Why would someone want 400,000 toothpicks?  I tried googling "what to do with toothpicks" and none of the listings had any more than 5 ideas (and that still leaves you with like 399, 995 toothpicks).  One use was plugging a hole in a garden hose--not very imaginative if you ask me.  Turns out this was an inside job--at the toothpick factory (?!?)--and the guy was selling them at a flea market.  Also not very imaginative (and I can't think very lucrative, unless of course you're in the martini business).


I know I spend way too much time thinking about this stuff (so you don't have to!), but I am amazed by what passes for news (or news-like articles).  A couple of these were taken from the "Weird News" listings, but most were just regular news stories.  As they say, you just can't make this shit up.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

But Is It Art?

Over the weekend we took a family trip to Seattle, only about a 45 minute drive, but a place we forget is so close.  I lived in Seattle in my younger days, moving to what I think of as Rural Suburbia once I "settled down", a place where you can tell your kids to go play in the street and not be considered a bad parent.  I am as about as far from Cultural Urban Chic as you can get and still have running water.

During our jaunt to the Big City, our youngest asked that we go to the art museum.  Being the youngest, she doesn't often get a say in what we do, so I made it a point to drag my husband and reluctant teenage son along to soak up some art.  I'll admit, I felt a little out of place, a little Beverly Hillbilly-ish.  The first exhibit I saw when we walked up the stairs was this:  pieces of cardboard boxes, glued together and hanging on the wall.




I am not proud to say I burst out laughing, surprised by what they considered art.  It reminded me of the projects my kids used to create with used paper towel tubes and empty milk jugs.

This was the most head scratching display, but there were other pieces that left me wondering if I just didn't get it:  a painting done in textured white acrylic (I whispered to my daughter that it was a polar bear in a snow storm), a piece of brass with glass attached that looked like a shelf, and what resembled a large packing crate.  At this point a was feeling a little embarrassed, like they were going to find out I didn't know what any of this was supposed to be and ask me to leave (this was not helped by the antics of husband and teenage son).  But there were several things that I liked--cars hanging from the ceiling, paintings of the Pacific Northwest from the late 1800's, and a haunting troop of masked Africans that seemed frozen in time.  My daughter seemed to be enjoying herself, and they didn't have a lot of people there, so we wandered at our leisure (son and husband lagging behind), pausing at what interested us and skipping by what we didn't get. 


The Webster dictionary defines art as "the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also: works so produced."  But I just keep thinking about that cardboard creation.  Is something that looks like it took no more skill than a preschooler possesses, having just mastered scissors, be considered art?  In the children's book, Olivia by Ian Falconer, the title character goes to a museum and sees a painting that looks like someone flung paint at a canvas.  "I just don't get it," she says.  When I read this book to my older daughter, who was 5 at the time, she told me she  "got it"--it was leaves.  And sure enough, the picture was taken from a Jackson Pollock painting called Autumn Rhythm #30.

So, I'm thinking about art.  If cardboard and polar bears in snow storms are good enough, why not something from a few local artists in their early periods.   I like to call this exhibit "Pictures for Mommy:  A Mixed Medium Medley"

In this first work, our artist is using glitter crayons and water color paint to depict the princess at night.


This painter has a bold choice of colors at a young age (in tempera paint on butcher paper).






 And our last contributor has a solid concept of what an elephant can do.




Later we were talking about our trip to the art museum,  joking about the cardboard art.  My youngest patiently explained it wasn't just cardboard-- if we'd looked a little closer we'd have seen that there were fish and a bird and...

Oh, crud, I'd totally missed that.  My photo here doesn't show all the pieces, but the first one could be a bird and the next one does have a rabbit-like quality.  Apparently I could not see the forest for the trees, or the art work for the cardboard.

Out-classed by a grade schooler.  Again.




Saturday, May 26, 2012

Questions for Kimberly

A new week, a new set of answers.  This time we hear from Kimberly, a fellow blogger who started me on my 11 questions/ 11 answers quest.  Kimberly's blog, www.kimberlyemerson.com, proclaims that reading is dangerous--it leads to thinking.  Oh yes, she has something interesting to say.

1. Favorite book from childhood?

So many to choose from! When I was little, The Monster at the End of This Book. (Grover kicks Elmo's furry red butt). When I got to chapter books, Mystery of the Musical Umbrella by Friedrick Feld. After I got a little older, most anything by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (The Egypt Game, The Famous Stanley Kidnapping Case, and especially Black and Blue Magic). Oh, and ESPECIALLY The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin. I just read that one over again, and I'm glad to say I enjoyed it just as much as an adult.


2. TV show you're embarrassed to admit you watch?

I haven't watched it lately, but probably King of the Hill. I'm drawn to it with a mix of fascination and horror.


3. What are you reading now?

Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie. I love mysteries, and sometimes I feel the need to go back to the classics.


4. Favorite subject in school?

Drama. I love acting, and it was fun to pretend to be someone whose personality was totally different from mine (or was what I secretly wanted mine to be). Of the core classes, English. I was good at math, but it was boring.

5. Most interesting trip?

Probably my first trip to New Orleans, in my early twenties. I had no idea of all the history there. With the different food, accent, and sometimes even language, it comes the closest to being another world, while still inside my own country.

6. If you had to save one thing from a house fire, what would it be and why?

I'd save my cat first, but she's not really a thing, so I'll say my photo albums. Cliche, yes, but they are reminders of really good memories....unless of course I had some really GOOD chocolate in the house. Then I might have to re-prioritize. Good chocolate should never be wasted. (Kidding - sort of.)

7. If you could have any job, without constrictions of education or salary, what would it be?

In a perfect world, I'd get paid to do my writing. If it has to be a job that I get a salary for, I pick chocolate taster for Moonstruck Chocolates. That way, I wouldn't have to take out a third mortgage in order to buy some.


8. Weirdest memory from childhood?

I guess there was no large-item-trash pick-up in our neighborhood, because when we wanted to get rid of a lot of stuff or a big thing, we drove it to the dump. There was a Foster Freeze right near it. We didn't eat out a whole lot when I was a kid because money was tight (my parents were teachers), but we usually stopped at the Foster Freeze on the way to or coming back from the dump. So we were the only kids in town who said, "Hooray, we're going to the dump!"

9. One thing most people don't know about you?

For some reason, the sight of barnacles, on a boat or anything else, makes me nauseous. I loved the first Pirates of the Caribbean, but I could barely keep my popcorn down through 2 & 3.



For the record, I did send Kimberly 11 questions, but she only answered 9.  What, no nick name?  Kimmy or Kimber, maybe?  I do hereby christen you K-Em.  And as for how Kimberly knows me, we found each other's blogs through our mutual friend, Angela (who has yet to answer my questions and better get on it lickety-split young lady, or I'll make something up).

Thank you, Kimberly!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Eleven Questions for my Friend Greg

I asked several bloggers, friends and family eleven questions and today I got my first response from my friend, Greg.  As I warned you all, this is being posted on my blog, so nothing you don't want a potential employer, wife or mother to see!

1. Favorite book from childhood?That would have to be Dr. Seuss books in general. Don't know if I have a specific favorite, though the Grinch was way cool.


2. TV show you're embarrassed to admit you watch?
I don't watch much TV unless it's futbol. Over the years I've enjoyed watching Teletubbies, Sex & the City, Sponge Bob Squarepants, and South Park, to name a few. Of those I'd have to say Sex & the City would be most embarrassing.

3. What are you reading now?Nothing at the moment. Last read Fledgling by Octavia Butler. Soon, however, it will be Red Shirts. I pre-ordered the ebook (not from Amasauron).

4. Favorite subject in school?History.


5. Most interesting trip?Mongolia, '93.


6. If you had to save one thing from a house fire, what would it be and why?
Barring my family (in which case I'd die, because I would try to save everyone), it would be my soccer ball. Or my yoyo. The wooden one.


7. If you could have any job, without constrictions of education or salary, what would it be?
I would teach history or be a game developer/producer. If I were 18 again, it would be as an attacking midfielder for FC Barcelona.

 

8. Weirdest memory from childhood?
I was 2 or 3 and we lived in an apartment complex. I was standing at the open backdoor of a neighbor's apartment, which led to the kitchen through an entry area with closet. A woman (German with blonde hair) was offering me cookies or something. She was smiling and looked extremely friendly. Her son, who was a little older than me, was standing in the closet, hidden from his Mom's view and was also smiling at me. He liked to bite. I ran back home in fear.

 
9. One thing most people don't know about you?
An ancestor from 5 generations back was a priest on Guam who had 6 kids with his housekeeper. I guess that makes me a quarter unholy bastard.

10. Nickname?
Froggie (from Guam).

11. How do you know me?
We both worked at Elliott Bay Book Co. back in the 90s.



Thank you, Greg!  (Just so you know, you're weird childhood memory is creeping me out. And a yoyo?)

You know you want to answer my questions...C'mon, it's not hard...Greg did it...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Eleven More Questions


I answered eleven questions about myself in my blog, baring the most intimate details of my soul, so now it's my turn to pose the questions.  I'm not sure I know eleven bloggers,  so I decided to include friends and family in my interrogations.  I chose my interview-ees in part because I thought they'd have some interesting answers, as well as who would be more likely to answer.  Full sentences, grammar or correct punctuation is not necessary (but we all have spell check!). Please, Please, PLEASE send me details of your fascinating lives!  (Or hum drum, whatever.)

1.  Favorite book from childhood?
2.  TV show you're embarrassed to admit you watch?
3.  What are you reading now?
4.  Favorite subject in school?
5.  Most interesting trip?
6.  If you had to save one thing from a house fire, what would it be and why?
7.  If you could have any job, without constrictions of education or salary, what would it be?
8.  Weirdest memory from childhood?
9.  One thing most people don't know about you?
10.  Nickname?
11.  How do you know me?

I've emailed this to several people, but I'd love to hear from anyone else who has something to share with the rest of the class.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Detachment Parenting: Creating an Adult From Scratch

We've all seen the Time magazine cover, showing the hot mom nursing the way-too-old-looking-preschooler.  Yes, they are trying to sell magazines by making Attachment Parenting look like a naughty secret, but if you read the article it's only slightly weird. Much of it I have probably done once or twice with my own kids (except the nursing the preschooler part), but I never considered it to be my parenting style.  I follow something I like to call Detachment Parenting, wherein I teach my child to exist without me while simultaneously keeping my sanity.  It's sounds radical, I know, and I'm sure Time will be contacting me soon for a cover story.  You, my lucky reader, will get the inside scoop of how I plan to raise three children into adults without every getting a visit from CPS.

When my oldest was an infant I would bring him into the bathroom while I showered or needed a potty break--what if he started to cry?  When the second came along, I would leave the door open a crack so I could hear them--I did have bionic mother hearing, after all.  Once number three came along, I figured they'd all survive the 15 minutes I needed to feel human again.  Soon they were old enough to make their way to the bathroom door, pounding on it incessantly and asking unintelligible questions,  and I was forced to institute the "Three B Rule".  They were only allowed to interrupt me in the bathroom if someone was barfing, something was burning or there was blood.  I am happy to report that they are all still alive.  Lesson learned:  not everything is an emergency.

Taking young children along to events they don't include a playground or singing Muppet characters can be a trying event for both parents and kids.  When my three were little I'd always pack toys and snacks to keep them occupied.  Once they got older, they had to bring their own entertainment: a book, DSi, Barbie or crayons, packed by them, in their own bag that they carried.  Being the younger sibling dragged along to a sporting event seemed to be a recipe for whining.  I tell my kids that while I know they're not enjoying themselves, their complaining is not going to make time go faster, it's just going to irritate their mother.  They will just have to suffer in silence.  Lesson learned:  sometimes you're going to be bored--bring a good book or suck it up.

Bedtime at our house is sacred (well for me, anyway). The oldest child gets to stay up the latest, but forfeits television rights after a certain hour.  When it is bedtime, it is bedtime. On weekends and during school vacations my kids are allowed to stay up just a little later and then they must adjourn to their rooms where they can stay up as late as they want, as long as I don't hear them  The youngest must be in her bed, but can be reading or playing her DSi or whatever--quietly.   Mommy is off the clock and will no longer be granting any requests for snacks, answering questions about who my favorite Twilight character is, or helping with homework projects that should have been started hours ago.  Lesson learned:  Mommy needs a break...or good sleep habits are important, or whatever.

Don't get me wrong--I think it's important that kids know you'll always be there for them.. I nursed each of my kids to the age of one, came when they cried, stayed up with them when they were sick, read them each their own bedtime story (until they asked me to stop), attended every tee ball game, band concert and karate practice time would allow.  My kids always come first, but they need to realize that the rest of the world may not see it that way. Lesson learned:  Mom will always be there for them when they need me, but they are going have to learn to stand on their own two feet.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Respect the Van

My car is midnight blue with a 240-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine, a marvel of modern Japanese technology...complete with eight cup holders and seating for seven.  Yes, I drive an eight year old Honda minivan that is usually full of goldfish cracker crumbs and smelly soccer socks.

After careful scientific studies (and a whole lot of my very biased opinion), I have come to the conclusion that other motorists have zero respect for minivan drivers.  This is something I always suspected--it seemed I was getting cut off a lot in traffic, cars pulling in front of me, shooting out of driveways instead of waiting the two seconds it would take for me to pass by.  I began to feel that I must have a sign on the front of my car that read "Go Ahead, I'll Wait."  Or maybe "Don't Worry About That Turn Signal, I Have ESP." 

I didn't really think about it while driving our spare car--a Toyota 4Runner--, but when I picked up the van from the shop and was driving it home people were speeding around me on the freeway like I was a grandma in an Oldsmobile doing 45 mph in the fast lane.  The following day I was cut off twice, both times I was lucky I was looking or I would have been walking home...on crutches...with a bruised hand after having punched the idiot who insisted on pulling in front of me when I was doing 40 mph in a 35 mph zone.

I am tired of being the responsible driver, but I also value my life so I watch out for the kamikaze drivers and continue to wonder if it's me or my vehichle.  Is there something I could do to make my van more menacing?  A skull detail and some flames?  How about a bumper sticker containing a few choice 4 letter words?  Maybe a few dents and a side mirror hanging off--I know I always give those kind of vehicles a wide berth.  Maybe I should swerve more.

The other day I took the van back in for one last service and was driving our 4Runner through the grocery store parking lot, when from the corner of my eye I saw a flash of yellow.  Thank goodness for reliable brakes, because I narrowly missed the older gentleman on a bicycle, riding hell bent through the parking lot trying to pass in front of me.  That's right, I was cut off by a senior citizen...On a bike.

Crud.  Maybe it's just me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Eleven Things

I was recently tagged in a blog about writers asking other blog writers about their blog writing (whew, say that three times fast).  Kind of a literary chain letter, if you will, but in this case no one has a better chance at the lottery or will risk losing their job.  Instead we answer 11 questions about ourselves and then ask 11 more questions of others.  So here is my "All You Ever Wanted to Know About Kristin Alvick Graf" in eleven easy questions

When I was growing up I wanted to be just like Jerry Lewis. I used to watch all the movies he was in with Dean Martin--on a black and white TV with rabbit ears and a knob you turned to change the channel--and thought he was hysterical. Now when I see those same movies I'm not sure what I found so funny. But I do like to occasionally yell "Lady! Hey Lady!" in my loudest, nasally voice (if only to embarrass my children).

If I could choose someone to write a song in my honor it would be Bonnie Raitt. Bonnie understands what it is to be an aging woman while maintaining your cool, tough chick demeanor. I'd give 'em something to talk about.

What am I really proud of being good at? The only skill that comes to mind is being able to sew.  Yes, I could make my own clothes if I had to, but I like to do my part to stimulate the economy (and Old Navy might worry about me if I didn't at least check in with them every once in a while).

If I won a $10,000 airline gift card, the first place I'd go is Italy. Italy appeals to me because it has a Mediterranean climate while being culturally rich. And the men are beautiful.

With $10,000 it would be first class all the way.

My oldest piece of clothing is a t-shirt I got on my honeymoon in Cancun 18 years ago.  Sometimes I look at it and marvel at where I was then as compared to who I am now.  Of course, I'd do it all again, but I'd spend less time arguing about dirty socks and more time travelling. 

I started writing this blog two years ago when I gave up Facebook for lent.  Unable to post my "witty" quips and humorous observations, I turned to blogging to pass the time.  Blogging is just like a really long status update, afterall.  With spell check.

I usually write at night after the kids have gone to bed and the house is quiet.  It's hard to concentrate when every two minutes someone walks into the room complaining about a sibling or asking for a ride somewhere.  All my blogs would be about how demanding and nerve wracking children are.  Once they're asleep it's easier to remember their good qualities, too.  When I finish a piece I usually want to post it right away, but have learned that I will spend all night tossing and turning, thinking about other ways to phrase what I've just written.  I need a cooling off period, kind of like buying a gun.

I never read poetry--for some reason I just can't get into it.  Unless it's Shel Silverstein, who I love with something akin to idolatry.   (Although my Grandpa Don wrote poetry and even did a piece about my father's phone in the bathroom.)  I just recently stumbled into Kate Atkinson's work, who is shelved with the mysteries of our local library. I don't normally read mysteries, but I am loving these.  I also finished the Hunger Games trilogy, because my daughter made me (and who quizzes me daily about my favorite characters and scenes).  I know you're all dying to know:  Team Peeta.

My favorite ordinary moment of the day is when the two older kids and my husband have left in the morning and it's not yet time for my youngest to get up.  The house is in a momentary lull and I don't yet have to start the business of my day.  I get another cup of coffee, check my emails, go onto Facebook and take a deep breath before the rest of the morning comes crashing through.  Ten minutes is all it is, but it's all mine.

The nicest thing any one's ever to said to me was when I was seven months pregnant with my youngest.  A woman I didn't know told me I didn't look pregnant from behind.  There is no nicer thing to say to a pregnant woman than she doesn't look like a beached whale who is about to explode.

So there you have it:  all you wanted to know about me, but were waiting for Kimberley to ask.  Now it's my turn to pose the questions...hmmm..."Have you, or anyone you know, seen John Edward's sex tape?"

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Good News/ Bad News

Some days it seems that everywhere I turn there's more bad news and I can't take another story about a missing child, school shooting, or economic down turn.  There are several websites which focus on only good news:  miracle babies, heroic rescues and video after video of cute animals being unbelievably adorable.  Unfortunately, these sites are incredibly boring.  What is good news without a little bad news to spice it up?  So here, for your perusal, is my offering of a little yin and yang, a little bad with the good.

It was announced that John Edwards' sex tape will not be released to anyone anytime soon. This is indeed very good news.  It was decided that the video of him doing the wild thing with his mistress has no bearing on his upcoming criminal trial.  The bad news is the fact that such a tape ever existed.  Ewww--the thought alone gives me nightmares.  (Did his hair get messed up?  Was there a sound track?  I'm suddenly not feeling very well.)

The movie adaptation of the "Hunger Games" book has opened with a resounding success. World famous movie reviewer and seventh grader at Lakewood Middle School, Abbie Graf, having seen the movie opening weekend with her devoted mother and again the second weekend with her English class (escorted by her loving father) gave it two thumbs up and dubbed it her "favorite movie ever."  The bad news is these parents will now be barraged with endless discussion of movie vs. book, Peeta vs. Gale, et cetera and so forth.  (Also in the bad news arena:  several movie goers apparently tweeted their disappointment that the character of Rue was played by an African American girl.  This leads me to the conclusion that racists need to work on their reading comprehension, as well as their world view.)

A new study suggests that people who eat chocolate have a lower body mass index than those who don't.  Chocolate makes you skinny!  This is the kind of story that people like me dream of--right up there with winning the lottery or getting your own flying unicorn.  It seems dark chocolate may contain enough antioxidants to help balance your metabolism and a treat that is high in calories may produce a feeling of fullness sooner, thus causing you to stop eating.  The bad news is I and every other chocolate lover will undoubtedly use this as an excuse to overindulge.  Too much of a good thing is bad news.

My spend son will be turning 16 in a couple weeks and will be getting his driver's license. This is good news, as I'll have one less kid that needs to be carted around. No more waiting in a cold, dark parking lot when soccer practice runs late, no more trying to figure out how to get three kids to three different places at the same time. What will I do with all my free time? The bad news is now I'll have to invest way too much energy worrying if he got to practice safely, why he's so late getting home, and wondering if he's lying in a ditch somewhere.

As with the idea of yin and yang, the secret to a sane life is balance.  Lots of horrible things happen in our world every day, but lots of wonderful things take place, too.  Hold tight to the good stuff and try not to let the bad stuff weigh you down.  Some days I am clinging to the fantasy chocolate diet and my dream of a flying unicorn for dear life.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What Happens in Vegas

 My husband and I are planning our yearly anniversary trip to Las Vegas and I am positively giddy.  I'm not much of a gambler and my drunken revelry days are long behind me, but I love Las Vegas.  They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I wouldn't mind sneaking some of it home with me.

The first thing I'd cram into my carry on would be the sunshine, of course.  While the rest of the country is experiencing an unusually warm spring, we here in the Pacific Northwest are suffering through endless rounds of snow mixed with rain mixed with sleet mixed with hail mixed with crappy weather.  Even my kids have had enough of snow days.  I've been in Las Vegas in December when it was less than warm, and I'm sure I'd melt about mid-August, but late April/early May weather is positively heavenly. 

Next on my list of souvenirs would be clean towels with just a phone call, no grocery shopping and the whole host of people there to accommodate my every wish.  Yes, I know they're just doing their job (and may well complain about me when they go home at night), but there is nothing lovelier than having a whole city (okay, hotel strip) willing to take on all those pesky chores I drudge through everyday in my real life.  To the maid who replaces the toilet paper roll, the waiter who whisks away my dirty dishes and the janitor who vacuums the casino carpets I'd just like to say:  I love you.

Another Vegas aspect I'd enjoy taking home with me is getting to spend a few precious days of not being a mom.  I love my kids, I really do, but sometimes even the Virgin Mary needed a break. ("Jesus Christ, will you just clean your room?!") The Las Vegas Tourism Board has been trying to hype their city as family friendly, but I'd sooner spend my vacation at a glue factory than bring my kids to Las Vegas with me.  There may very well be all sorts of activities for the under 21 crowd, but I like to think of Las Vegas as a Disneyland for grown ups.  No responsibilities, no one complaining they don't have any clean socks (again!) and no bickering siblings.  Las Vegas is all about me, me, me.  (Okay, maybe my husband, too, but I know they really set it all up for me.)

While I'm looking forward to our trip, I find the closer it gets the less patience I have with my everyday life.  Oh Las Vegas, how will I get through the next month without you?  Can you Fed Ex me some 8o degree weather?  (And maybe a cabana boy with a fruity drink? )

Monday, March 5, 2012

Home Cooking

Let's face it:  my husband did not marry me for my cooking.  I will freely admit that I don't like to cook, I hate going to the grocery store and will quickly skip over any and all cooking shows on TV.  When I first went away to college and had to feed myself, lack of funds and little experience were responsible for such culinary masterpieces as "Mexican Surprise" and "Asian Surprise."  (The only difference between the two was chili powder or soy sauce in my Top Ramen.)  

My husband told me when we first started dating that he knew how to cook. I thought that, and love, would see us through. Unfortunately knowing how and doing are two different things.

When our oldest was in kindergarten his class created a "cookbook" as a Mother's Day gift, a recipe compilation, as dictated by 5-year-olds, of their favorite homemade foods.  My son's contribution was "Honey Toast":  toast the bread, add honey.  This, apparently, was his mother's signature dish.

Last summer our microwave broke and my husband was afraid the kids would starve. Luckily I learned you can cook frozen chicken nuggets in the oven, too.

The other night I was making dinner for my family and congratulating myself that it didn't involve fluorescent orange cheese-flavored powder or any ingredients that would need a chemist to decipher. 
I got to thinking, as I chopped and boiled (and did not use the microwave, thank you very much), how my mother still cooks certain foods when I visit because she knows they are my favorite.  What dishes, I wondered, would my kids recall fondly from their childhood (I mean, besides honey toast)?

There are a few things that I have learned to cook successfully on a regular basis.  My son will happily eat my lasagna any day of the week, a recipe I got from my father.  I think of this as "Norwegian Lasagna", as it calls for cottage cheese instead of something as exotic as ricotta; and my father is Norwegian.  Lasagna is one of the few dishes all three kids will eat without complaint, rolling of eyeballs, or muttering "Again?" with shear disgust.

My older daughter likes my recipe for chicken and black bean enchiladas, which I found in one of those "5 Ingredients or Less", ""One Pot Suppers", "Even You Can't Screw This Up" cookbooks.  Chicken (cooked in the microwave, of course), canned black beans, a can of green chiles, cheese and sour cream rolled up in a tortilla.  They were right, I can't screw it up.

My youngest has more unique taste buds--perhaps the only child to ever utter the phrase "Yum, broccoli!"  She won't eat cereal with milk on it, doesn't like hot chocolate, and has never eaten jelly with her peanut butter.  While her favorite dinners would include salmon and cooked peas (ewww), I know the one recipe she will cherish from her childhood:  Chocolate Chip Pie.

(Right now, all my siblings are smiling and nodding--Oh yeah, Chocolate Chip Pie!)

Chocolate Chip Pie is a treat that my grandmother used to make for us when we were little.  We thought this was Grandma Mabel's secret recipe:  Cool Whip, marshmallows and chocolate chips in a graham cracker crust.  As adults we each got a copy of it written out in our grandmother's handwriting and it is something I treasure.  A few years ago, however, I found the exact same recipe on the back of a graham cracker box.  I choose to believe Nabisco stole it from Grandma Mabel.

While my lack of cooking skills may have instilled less than perfect eating habits in my children (frozen waffles can be served for dinner), I like to think where I have failed, they will choose to succeed.  My grandchildren will perhaps dine on homemade stew and Chicken Parmesan on a regular basis.  And I will happily invite myself to dinner, bringing the Chocolate Chip Pie for dessert, of course.

Friday, February 24, 2012

And on the Third Day...

Three days ago I gave up Facebook for Lent.  This should be easy, I shouldn't be dependent on an internet social network, I can go 40 days without knowing who "likes" who or what.  But it's not, I am and I'm just a little curious.

For me, Facebook is a quick check-in with friends and family.  I spend a lot of time at the computer each day, so it's easy, between entering invoices or paying bills, to log into to Facebook and see what everyone's up to.  It reminds me of my college days when I shared a house with four other women and spontaneous group study breaks took place in the kitchen over a pot of cheap coffee.  You're still up?  Did you finish that paper?  What are your plans for the weekend?

The past couple of days have been mostly about breaking this habit.  Sometimes I find myself bored and restless, looking for something online to entertain me.  Yesterday I actually clicked on the article titled "Kourtney K Reveals Sex of Her Baby."  Yes, I have sunk that low.

But on the positive side, I have had bouts of increased productivity, undistracted by status updates or the new "Timeline."  Wednesday I completed all the paperwork needed for both our personal and company income taxes--this usual takes me several days, what with questions for the accountant and finding the right paperwork.  Done!  Yesterday I drove all the paperwork to the CPA, went grocery shopping, came home to complete the health insurance updates, paid bills and completed invoices. 

Then I found out Kourtney Kardashian is having a little girl.

Only 37 more days to go...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

You Can't Make Me

"You can't make me", the four words most likely to drive a parent to drink.  Some children seem to come out of the womb with these words forming in their mouths, just waiting for the muscle control to make it intelligible.  My son is just such a child.  By the age of two we had to try all sorts of tricks to get him in the tub, putting pajamas on required stickers, and getting him to eat anything but peanut butter resorted to out right falsehoods. (I once told him the fish sticks were french fries--it worked for the first four bites.  I considered it a success.)

Now that my children are older (and taller than me), the dreaded phrase has taken on new meaning.  They are right--I can't really make them do anything; not physically anyway.  So I have had to resort to more devious tactics, akin to psychological warfare.

My son, now a sophomore in high school, has played soccer for years and years, and seemed to really enjoy playing on the school team last year.  Now, one week before the beginning of the season, he's announced he no longer wants to play.  Had he been busy with challenging classes and other sports up until now, I could understand, but he's been sitting on the couch playing Xbox and pulling C's in two classes.  I am not feeling very understanding.

It could be that he's decided he really no longer has a passion for the game and wants to spend his energy elsewhere (I just hope it's not getting the high score on Xbox "Modern Warfare").  He says he'd like to go out for track, instead.  But I suspect a large part of this is his "you can't make me" personality.  He likes to say things that he knows will push his parents right over the edge and then turn around and act like it never happened.

Which ever it may be, I have given him an ultimatum:  pick a sport, get a part-time job, or work like h*ll and get straight A's.  His father and I are pretty sure it won't be the last option.

My soon-to-be teenage daughter is proving to be much more pliable.  After a tough couple months with a hard-to-please, quick-to-yell band teacher, she had told us she wasn't going to do band in 8th grade.  The tension in class just wasn't worth it, so she and her best friend had decided to pick a different elective next year.  Again, it's hard to watch them just drop something they're good at and, up until now, have enjoyed.  So I broke out my rah-rah, when-the-going-gets-tough speech and laid it on thick to her and her friend.  I explained that if they wanted to be in band in high school (the high school music teacher is wonderful and the band goes to Disneyland), it wasn't a good idea to take a year off.  I told my daughter if she really, really hated, I'd let her quit, but asked her to think long and hard about it first.

Oh, I am good. 

A few days ago I asked her what she'd decided.  She said she and her friend agreed to stick it out another year with the difficult teacher so they'd be ready for high school.  "Oh," I said, "I changed your mind!"  No, it turns out her friend talked her into it.  Well, at least I'm very persuasive to other people's children.

A week will tell what my son has decided is or isn't his new passion.  Honestly, I really don't care.  As long as it's not Xbox.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Calculus

Our state governor just signed a bill legalizing gay marriage in Washington state, making some people happy and others very, very angry.  The whole thing leaves me a little perplexed.  If the people fighting for gay marriage really knew what marriage was like, would they be fighting so hard for it?  Why are those other people angry?  Do they need a law guaranteeing their right to marry?  (Wait, they already have that).  What the heck is going on here?  To help me understand this conundrum I will take the situation step by step and see if I can't figure it out.

It seems those fighting for gay marriage want to be able to marry the people they love.  Hmm, seems reasonable.  It seems homosexuals are people who get up every morning, go to work, pay taxes, and want to know that if the person they love gets in a horrible car accident,  they will be allowed in the hospital room to say goodbye.  So we have established that gay people work and love and die. ( Hey, just like straight people!)

For the record that I am pro-marriage.  When done right, marriage can be a very good thing.  I am also pro-sex.  Again, when done right, it can be a very, very good thing.  Apparently the stumbling block for some people is the "same" part.  I have to be honest and admit that I cannot fathom marrying someone of my own sex.  Living with a woman would drive me crazy (I don't know how my husband does it).  I really don't get the whole homosexuality thing, but I realize one thing:

Just because I don't understand something does not make it wrong.

Take, for example, calculus--I just never understood it (Imaginary numbers?  What?!).  Be that as it may, many people assure me that it really does exist. It's not just something they decided to try out because it was "cool." I also don't understand why God gave men nipples or why He lets little children die of cancer, but I trust He knows what he's doing. He made some people gay and some people straight.  I don't have to understand it--I just accept it and move on.

Many of those angry over this issue argue homosexuality is forbidden by the bible.  I don't know how many you have read the bible, but it is chock full of all sorts of things we're not supposed to do that plenty of church-going Christians do every day.  Putting aside the very obvious political candidate who has broken at least two of the Ten Commandments, all good Christians should refrain from eating pork (Leviticus 11), getting tattoos (Leviticus 19:28) or live in glass houses. (Or was that throw stones?)
Some say that allowing homosexuals to marry will threaten the institution of marriage. I am currently serving time in that institution and I don't feel threatened at all. This might change if another man wanted to marry my husband, but otherwise I feel pretty safe.  (Actually I'd feel pretty safe anyway--my husband doesn't understand calculus, either.  And he's used to my cooking.)

It seems to me that some people react with fear and anger to things they don't understand.  If they can't fit a something into the framework of their own lives (or holy books), they think that thing is wrong.  What they don't realize is that it's just calculus and no one else understands it, either.  It's just time to accept it and move on.

QED

(Thank you to the website http://www.11points.com/Books/11_Things_The_Bible_Bans,_But_You_Do_Anyway)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Where Have All the Republicans Gone?

As part of my new self improvement regime, I have decided that just because I can't understand someone else's viewpoint, doesn't mean they're crazy. (Okay, the people on "Toddlers and Tiaras" are crazy, but that's a given.) When it comes to politics, I tend to lean toward the liberal Democrat side, all touchy-feely and give people affordable health care mumbo-jumbo. I am, however, ready to accept that Republicans are people, too, and might just have some ideas worth listening to. The Republican presidential primaries (hereby known as the "Three Ring Circus") is not making it easy on me. Stuttering debaters, womanizing pizza moguls, and the Comb Over who will not go away all give me nightmares. I really want to stay open minded, but give me something to work with, people!

In trying to see it from a Republican's perspective, I imagine they are mighty embarrassed by this parade of not-quite-front-runners. I'm sure in person, and in their own corner of the country, these candidates are interesting people and dynamic leaders. They probably seemed like a good idea at the time (kind of like that silly Snuggie you ordered last year). But put them through a little scrutiny and suddenly every pimple they've ever had (and that one time they screamed at their kids in the grocery store) seems like a threat to national security.

That being said, it's beginning to seem like the Republican Party is randomly throwing out candidates, hoping one will stick. As it stands today, it seems that the two front runners are Newt Gingrich, who many in his own party (and several of his wives) admit they have no faith in, and Mitt "Anyone But Mitt" Romney. If the Republicans can't even get behind a candidate, how can they expect me to?

While I have not exactly been up-to-date on my church attendance, I think this may be the time to squeeze in a few Hail Marys and perhaps a confession. We could all use a prayer about now, because these people are crazy.