Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ry-Guy Is TWO!


There are many things about the day Ryan was born that I wouldn't mind forgetting (I had major surgery anxiety and c-sections are far from pleasant for me). But there are two distinct memories from that day that I treasure.

Shortly into my c-section, my doctor lifted an object above the windexy-blue c-section drape. The object was covered in white goo. Several rows of deep wrinkles formed above his eyebrows like layers of earth-like strata. He had tiny little eyes that stared right at me. He looked shocked, like a kitten that had just been doused in water. A tiny leg was poking out awkwardly beneath my doctor's hand and it dangled there as if it had no idea what else to do. "Here's your baby!" The doctor announced. Ryan was goopy and wrinkly and probably traumatized. But he was beautiful. And he was mine.

After they cleaned Ryan up, they wrapped him in a hospital-issued swadde blanket covered in a pattern of multi-colored baby footprints. He was wearing a loose knit hat, handmade by some loving, unknown hospital volunteer. A little gift of love from one stranger to another. I could not move. The contents of my lower half were still being pieced back together. But they set him beside me and I suddenly felt complete as if a part of me that I had never known had been suddenly discovered and reattached to my body. I was so proud. I was so in love.

They wheeled the two of us out of the operating room together on one table. Where just one of us had entered, two of us had exited. I just stared at him in awe. So tiny. So perfect. I knew that our lives had just changed forever by adding a fourth person to our family, but I had no idea how.

Today, it has been exactly two years since Ryan was born. I can undoubtedly say that from his very first day on this earth, he has added more joy, more laughter, and more love to our family. He handles his role as a younger brother well and tolerates quit a bit of scolding and bossing from his older brother. But he doles out sass and defiance just as easily as he takes it. When Jacob pinches or pushes Ryan (as will happen from time to time), I never know how he will react. Some days, he will express his views on the unfairness of the world by scrunching up his face in pity and crying to me. Other days, he will roll up his sleeves and push (or kick, or punch) right back. He has the ability to defend himself. He just doesn't always want to do it.

That smile. Ryan's smile is unmistakable. I have never seen a smile quite like his. It can be wide and joyous to the extreme, or it can be a thin piece of string tightly upturned on the ends. Either way, whenever Ryan smiles, there is always the smallest hint of the devil hiding behind his happiness. As sweet and pure as his smile is, it somehow always reminds me of that devious smile that comes across the Grinch's face as he plots the destruction of Christmas.

I mean, look at that smile, even a fancy tux cannot hide it!

"I'm smiling. But I'm plotting."

Because he has an older brother, Ryan gets to try many things well beyond his age. He wants to do everything his big brother can do and will not take no for an answer. He loves to sit on my lap as I pedal Jacob's bike around the yard. He loves to play with his brother's small Legos. He loves to color with markers and hold the scissors. He gives me heart attacks by climbing up onto his brother's top bunk. He loves when I told him up to the zipline at our favorite park.

While Ryan is super adventurous and independent (he insists on doing everything himself in typical toddler fashion), I can't get over how he insists that I be right by his side for everything. He wants to be held so frequently that sometimes I worry that he is missing out on precious developmental time by being glued to my hip. When he wants to be held, he still says, "down" instead of "up." He also says, "hold you" instead of "hold me" which always melts my heart.

Also, Ryan has the most amazing manners. He always says "yes please" and "thank you." I doubt he learned this from my occasional, gentle prodding. To whomever taught my kid such great manners, eternal thanks!

Unlike Jacob at his age, who excelled in occupying himself, Ryan will not be in any room alone no matter how many toys there are. He does not like to play alone. Ryan's philosophy is "if I'm alone, something really cool must be happening somewhere without me." I don't blame him for thinking this. His brother is pretty darn imaginative so he is probably right in thinking that he is missing out on something fun.

Ryan is full of life and smiles. But he is not always fun. He can be very defiant. Sometimes I swear he is out to get me. One thing he frequently does that drives me batty is he will ask for something but when I give it to him he refuses to take it and yells "don't want it!" So I put it away and then he asks for it again. Repeat times three. I will finally give up and put it away. Then even though the highly offending object has been put out of eyesight, he will continue to yell, "Don't want it! Don't want it!" I'm surprised I still have hair.

The other day, Ryan smacked my legs. When I reminded him not to hit. He smiled and said, "I not! I punch!" I'm pretty sure "I'm not!" (always with an exclamation point) is his most frequently uttered phrase right now.

This morning, I went into the boys' room, flicked on the lights, and exclaimed, "It's someone's birthday! Guess whose birthday it is?!" Ryan beamed from ear to ear and answered, "Ryan!" I just love when he calls himself by his own name. Jacob and I kept telling Ryan "Happy Birthday!" all morning. He absolutely loved it and giggled each time. After work, we went to the park (so I could run off the cake and icecream we were about to consume). Then we stopped by the store to pick up oil for the car which has been leaking like crazy (my husband is gone for the rest of the week which means I'm being trusted with all things car-maintenance and I'm not sure how I feel about that). At the store I let each kid pick out a special candy to act as ice cream topping. To my disgust, Jacob picked gummy hamburger patties and Ryan picked sour patch kids...not the ideal vanilla ice cream topper.

Then we finally got home at 7:30 and celebrated properly with one giant slice of cake (thanks to Safeway's bakery- every working mom's savior), vanilla ice cream, and candles. Basically, I sugared the kids up right before bed. I think it worked out in my favor though because they crashed and quickly zonked out.

Yep, everyone gets candles. Because, why not?

"I did it!"

And then repeat. x6.

I can't believe my sweet and sassy boy is already two. He's such a little man now. Sigh.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Shenanigans

We are loving these extra hours of daylight that come with spring. While we've had a rough start to spring up here in the Pacific Northwest (this year we broke the rainfall record for March and there was a horrible and tragic landslide that took the lives of at least 33 - bodies still being recovered), there have been a couple beautiful days as well.

Today was one such day. As I stepped outside this morning with two kids in tow (and a million bags), I stopped, smelled the familiar freshness of spring that seemed to fill the air overnight as if to promise that the densely settled winter was finally lifting (like a guest who had long overstayed his welcome and was beginning to smell). I put on my sunglasses (oh how I missed those) and just smiled. It's amazing how a little change in season can make a big difference.

At my desk, I worked furiously on my second intense summary judgment motion in two weeks. I barely looked up from my computer. My days have been like this lately, with motion after motion. And I couldn't love it more. There is nothing in the world that I love more than preparing motions or responses to motions. At one point, I stopped to look out the window at the beautiful rays of sun peering through the mini-forest outside my window (yay, rural counties!), and for the first time since I started my new job (which I LOVE), I briefly entertained a longing to be home with my kids instead of at work. I imagined all the fun things stay-at-home moms get to enjoy with their children on nice weather days. Then reality hit me and I remembered from maternity leave that it's not all fun and games...but still... the freedom to come and go instead of being chained to a desk is so illusory.

After work, I picked up the kids at 5:30. We arrived at the house at 6:00. And we were off again by 6:15. We stopped by our most recently-discovered and much-loved Lions Park where I pushed the kids in the jogger for five miles. Jacob only sat in the jogger for half my run. The other half, he ran and played with the other kids. I mean...who can resist a zipline (that I somehow managed to break--oops)?!

Five miles with 70+ extra pounds. I'm running for FOUR here :) That means I get four times the ice cream!

I've been running a lot lately, averaging about 5 miles, four to five times a week. I'm finally at the point where it's not ALL painful and I'm actually beginning to see results and feel so much stronger. If there is anything I miss from my college days, it's the strength and power of my super athletic cross country body, from my muscular legs, strong lungs, lean frame, and my coveted 53 beats/minute heart rate. Someday, I hope to get there again (if I stop throwing out my back)...

After my run, I let the kids play. Ryan and Jacob raced me to the playground and back. There were whales to climb. Slides to slide. And that wonderful zipline (before I broke it). It felt so great to fill our lungs with fresh air, feel the setting sun warm our faces, and hear the crunch of grass underfoot. Spring, I love you.

We got home late at 8:00 (usually bedtime) and enjoyed some pizza. Then we ended our amazing day with ice cream topped with strawberry slices. I tucked the kids into bed and left as they curled up on the floor (where Ryan sleeps) and read stories together. This is a newly discovered phenomenon. Last week, I snuck into the kids' room after bedtime, expecting to find them asleep. Instead, I found two kids curled up together on the floor reading books together by flashlight. I was so touched that I didn't even mind that it was way (WAY) past their bedtime.


I was so worried that with the 3.5 year age gap between Ryan and Jacob, they would never have much in common. But they are learning how to play together lately and every time I witness this, it's like a giant hug for my heart.

Other fun things brought to you by spring:

Redecorating: I've been wanting to paint a picture for the kids' room for about a year now. With the extra daylight, I finally found the motivation!

Growing bellies: 10 weeks. Ok, not much to see here yet. I feel poochy but I'm actually down 4 pounds. Must be the running and the lack of appetite brought to you by all-day-sickness!

Making pizzas

Eating corn (the special Ryan method).

Beach and park adventures.

And plenty of birthdays to celebrate!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Wrong Side Of The Mountain (Part 1 of My First Trial)

For a week I have been hearing all about him. "You will love working with him." "He is the best trial attorney in this state." "He is so much fun!" "The guy's a genius."

When I finally show up at the front desk, the receptionist calls him. She announces my presence and, after hanging up, she directs me to sit. I sit and try so hard to will the worries and nerves from my body. I feel sharply dressed for casual Friday in my dark denim jeans, soft pale pink blouse, and smart black blazer. I feel a strong need to make a great first impression, but somehow I suspect I'm being frivolous and my wardrobe choice will go un-noticed.

He opens the door. I do not see the tall, slim frame that I had expected, that I had imagined. His face is not friendly, his eyes are not shining with charm. He asks how he can help me. He does not recognize my name. I finally explain, "my boss said you were willing to train me and give me some trial experience." Finally, it seems to click in his mind, unapologetically he tells me he is not good with names and summons me to follow him.

We walk down cavernous halls, turning left, then right, then left, left again. I'm already lost. He waves me into his office. It is small, crammed with books and file cabinets. He instructs me to have a seat pointing to a large, overstuffed leather chair in the corner. It's the only thing indulgent about his office. As I glide onto the cool leather, I imagine that many witnesses, perhaps even victims, have sat here before me.

"Why are you here?" He begins.

I don't quite understand. My boss sent a detailed email, on which I was cc'ed, explaining how she would love if he could help me get more trial experience. I wonder if he is looking for a literal answer or if he is simply probing me.

As I attempt to explain, my voice trails off, as if his very presence and steady gaze were squeezing the air from my throat.

"Tell me about yourself." His next question is not much easier. I begin to feel like this is an interview. That I have to prove myself. That I am not worthy to train with the best. No doubt, he probably has a million cases to get to. I feel like a beggar. A pesky fly. I am probably more trouble to him than it is worth.

I hate this question. How do you sum up 29 years of life experience, hopes and fears, successes and failures, passions and personality in response to one simple question. I begin to anger, which thankfully does not show behind my nervousness. It's all I can do to keep my hands from shaking, my eyes from narrowing in terror. Instinctively I want to run my hands through my parted hair. I resist the urge.

Getting to know someone should be a collaborative effort. He is taking the easy path and putting all the burden on me. I did not prepare for an interview. I remember my boss assuring me that I will have a lot of fun working for him. I feel like I met the wrong person.

I provide a clumsy and inadequate answer to his question. He asks several follow up questions. Such as "What did you do at X firm." When I tell him I did tort litigation, he quips, "and what does that mean?" Is he treating me like a witness on the stand? I already feel like I have failed.

He gives me a spiel about trying cases. How you have to put on a show. Be deliberate about everything you do. Create a personality that will keep the jury entertained while also making them think that you are the most prepared person in the room. Exude confidence. Be forceful. That is not what I do, clearly I have already shown him this flaw of mine in our brief 5 minute meeting.

He hands me a trial notebook. "This is what a trial notebook looks like. You have to have all the information at your fingertips. You never know what will come up. You never know what the judge will ask you. You have to plan in advance how you will get all your evidence before the jury. Know the evidence rules." With that, he hands me a gigantic evidence rule book. I decide not to tell him that Evidence was my lowest grade in law school. To mask my terror, I just smile.

"Be careful about smiling in court." He continues. "You don't want the jury to think you are flirting with them. Women who are friendly in court often have a hard time reaching women jurors."

I let me smile collapse on itself.

Next he hands me a case file. "Here is your case. Trial is set for the beginning of next month. Create a trial notebook like the one I showed you. Then come back and we will practice."

Is it too late to back out? I can't try a case. I know NOTHING about criminal law. I am a civil litigator. (And I mean litigator in a loose sense: drafting pleadings, issuing discovery, and the occasional discovery motion in front of a judge.)We finish our session.

"It was nice to meet you," I say, trying to be pleasant. I'm determined to win this man over. I'm determined, despite my deeply-rooted terror, to succeed.

"You don't know that just yet," he responds quickly and waves me out of his office. He shuts the door. I'm alone in the cavernous, maze-like hall. My arms, now loaded full of cases and books. I relax and my body starts to shake intensely, so fiercely like a mad dog finally let loose from a cage. I take a wrong turn. I wander the hall, searching for an exit sign. "He could have at least shown me out!" I'm angry but mostly at myself. Why can't I be more easy going and confident. Why can't I at least fake it? I better learn before my trial.

My mind trips on those words. "My trial." Even though I'm out of that room, I'm not safe. I realize that I'm going to have to come back here, to this uncomfortable and unknown place to do something uncomfortable and unknown. As I walk farther and farther into the labyrinth, I feel lost in more sense than one. I want to cry. I want to go home. I want to not have to think about trials. Or court. Or jurors. Or my shortcomings. Shyness has always been a disability for me. It's limitations and burdens never felt so staggering as they did in that hallways.

Somehow I make it out. I find a glimmer of outdoor light around a corner. I then turn to find a door. I step out and sigh. The air is fresh. In typical Pacific Northwest fashion, it smells slightly of rain, sweet but heavy in the air, and the start of budding leaves. I know I face a mountain. But I've faced many before. LSAT tests. Oral arguments in legal writing class. Taking my first deposition. Arguing my first summary judgment motion (just last year). I stumbled through all those things. But I survived. And I came out the other side a little stronger, a little tougher, and a little more experienced.

I know it will be painful. And hard. And scary. But I have hope knowing that with the passage of time,  four short weeks actually, I will be on the other side of this mountain. I will still be standing. And I will be relieved.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Wherein The Gravity Of The Situation Sets In

Oh. Em. Gee.

Sometimes, being a working mom with two kids is really hard. Not just hard....painful. Like having your wisdom teeth pulled kind of painful. Or having 10 paper cuts on your lip. Or the one time you go to the grocery store looking like a creature from the swamp (who am I kidding, that's every time!), and the guy in line in front of you is incredibly hot and he gives you a look like, "oh, a street urchin" and you want to reply to his unimpressed glances by saying, "no, I swear, I really look good when I try...I promise. Just yesterday a 45 year old man at Red Robin couldn't keep his eyes off me!" Then you realize you will be turning 30 this year and you already regularly shop at the grocery store wearing yoga pants and a baseball hat just like all those OTHER moms you swore you would never know, the kind that simply have given up. Yeah, that kind of painful.

Tonight, I was grilling corn, boiling potatoes, and cooking pork chops all at the same time, when a smell erupted from the living room. Ryan had pooped. Third time since we arrived home an hour earlier. I stepped away from all three cooking items to change his diaper. While I was changing his diaper, I was trying to keep him from wriggling away and I was also handling a temper tantrum from Jacob who was pouting because Ryan was holding the TV remote.

After things were...managed (but not quite settled), I returned to the kitchen to watch as the buttermilk in my gravy was curdling before my very eyes. I dumped it out to start from scratch when I could smell burning coming from the grill, with the gravy pan still in my hand, I rushed out to salvage the corn. As I passed the living room Ryan was kicking Jacob (who had stolen back the remote) and Jacob was screaming in return. Right at that moment, I looked at my life and thought, "How the hell are we going to have a third kid?" (Tonight was my husband's gym night, which is why I was fending for myself).

Between a five year old's stubborn insolence and a two year old's violent tantrums, how are two working parents going to handle a newborn?! Some days, I'm so rushed in the morning, I forget to put on deodorant. Some days, I'm so exhausted at night that I lay on my bed to rest my back and wake up seven hours later. That would be a rare full night of sleep (most nights, I only get 5.5 hours). Some days, I'm so frustrated with my children that I gleefully entertain the thought of creating a child'sized jail cell in our basement. Today, I was so exhausted that as I was standing at the gas pump, I totally forgot my phone number for two whole, long minutes. Then I forgot how to put gas in my car and ended up spraying gasoline all over my shoes and my (better believe it!) yoga pants. At least I had the common sense NOT to blast my seat warmers on the way home. I don't know how I would explain the spontaneous combustion of my gasoline soaked butt to an insurance agent.

Today at my office desk, I was knee deep in a complex motion and just had my ear yelled off by a very angry opposing counsel. Then a miracle happened. My OB's office number appeared across my cell phone. They were answering a voicemail I had left earlier about some weird symptoms I had been having. The lady on the other end offered me a proposition, "Your symptoms are generally harmless. But to put your mind at ease we can have you come in to do a check on your thyroid."

I thought about the long motion in front of me. "Will this involve taking my blood?"

"Yes, we'll have you come down and we'll take a vial or two of blood. It's really simple."

Hmmm. Sit in front of my computer while employment law causes caverns of my brain to implode inside my head as my inbox fills up with threatening emails from opposing counsel or sit in a quiet room at my OB's office while they poke my arm with needles? It was not a hard decision. I told them I would be right there.

I arrived at the office and was taken to the back room. And for the next 10 minutes, I was the center of attention. It was all about me. Wow, when was the last time everything was all about me? I mentioned that I was a fainter (which is true but I've learned that if you say this, you get special treatment) so they nurse took me to a quiet room in the back with a giant, overstuffed leather recliner. I sprawled out on that chair as if I were a queen at a day spa. The nurse brought me crackers and a juice box (for my blood sugar, wink). I sipped that juice box as if it were a fancy umbrella drink and munched those crackers delicately as if they were mini cream cheese sandwiches or asparagus wrapped in a fine prosciutto.

I took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling, and enjoyed the peace and quiet as I felt a sharp prick in my arm. The pain of the prink lingered much longer than I had anticipated as the nurse filled not one, but two, vials of my blood. And then, all too suddenly, it was over. "You're good to go," the nurse said.

"That's it?" I asked, trying to mask my disappointment. "That was fast. Are you sure you don't need anything else while I'm here? Can I do a glucose test? Do you need to give me a rubella shot?" Whatever the price of admission for ten more minutes in that chair, I would have gladly paid it. When it was clear that there was no convincing the nurse, I popped up out of the chair and went on my way. Back to reality. I would have gladly been pricked ten more times if it meant resting in that quiet room and reclining in that comfy chair just a little longer.

So yeah, I'm slightly over whelmed at times. Luckily, while no day is 100% good, no day is 100% bad either. Even hard days are interspersed with shining little moments that make you swell with pride, that fill your eyes with happy tears, that make you bust a ligament from laughing too hard.

Like when your two year old eats his corn like this:

Or when your five year old sings you a song that he made up.

Or when your baby eats a sandwich like a big boy.

Moments filled with cuddles.

And bonding.

And silliness.

And, yes, even bath tub popsicle time.

Those little moments are the rich fuel that keeps me going through all the moments of frustration and exhaustion. They are so powerful that suddenly, everything is forgotten. Clenched fists and tight jaws turn into hugs and smiles. The strongest anger is flattened in a second. It's hard to stay mad. The innocence and uninhibited play of children evokes a power that is greater than any grudge or negative emotion. A child can make you smile even through the the most haggard exhaustion. What a power to wield, especially coming from such a unwitting and unaware master.

Still, I'm not naive. I know with a third child, the hard moments are going to get harder, and much harder. But I take comfort knowing that the happy moments will, no doubt, get happier. The love will continue to overflow. And I know that while routines will change, and work loads will shift, and emotions may get crazy, we can handle it. We will take it just the way we handle things now: one day at a time (and with a boatload of ice cream sandwiches and very strong margaritas).

Still, I'll never pass up a moment to give blood at a doctor's office. If it means a brief escape from the craziness of life.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Gifts of Pregnancy

Pregnancy is the gift that keeps on giving. It gives and gives for nine months. Stretch marks, morning sickness, heartburn, insomnia. Then after nine months (let's be real, more like ten), it gives you the grand finale, mother-of-all gifts: a tiny shrieking human that shits and spits uncontrollably and demands your attention 24/7 with no regard to the needs of others for whom you will likely end up paying tuition (or bail).

Oh yeah. Did I mention that tiny shrieking, pooping, spitting human would be damn cute? That makes up for it, right?

Even though this is my third pregnancy, there are many things about pregnancy that I had forgotten (thanks to another fine gift, the gift of mommy-amnesia).

1. Poop. I said it. Poop. POOP (I live with three boys). It's on every pregnant mother's mind. Because when you are pregnant, every single poop, right down to the smallest bunny-sized turd, is a victory. And hell no....I am not ashamed of doing victory dances in the bathroom.

2. Boobs. OMG, boobs! I'm not shy. I'm going to come out and say it, I LOVE boobs. My entire life, I have been plagued by boob-famine, thanks to my eleven-year-old-boy shaped body. But when those pregnancy lines appears, it's like...boob-ageddon! It's raining boobs! All you need are boobs! Boobapalooza! Sometimes, I'll be sitting at my desk at work and I'll suddenly feel my chest and think in amazement, "boobs!" Then I just cross my fingers that my boss is not walking past my door watching me grope myself.

3. Morning sickness. HA! What a joke. Nothing "morning" about it. With all three of my pregnancies my nausea will strike at any moment, without warning and without any pattern. Yum, I'm licking all the cream cheese off this fantastic bagel one moment. The next, BAM! Sickness. And I'm suddenly laying on the floor with a half-creamed bagel stuck to my forehead.

4. Magic wands. Sorry, these are not "good" magic wands. Ha ha, did you actually think there was something POSITIVE about the first trimester? These magic wands are awkwardly long, cold, covered in goo and will be used against you by a trained professional. Did I mention, this magic wand will be inserted roughly up your girl parts so a complete stranger can see what your insides look like? No foreplay. (P.S., If you ever hear the words "vaginal ultrasound," you should run away.)

5. Iron deficiencies. Hang on, let me recover a moment. I just used a big word. Phew. Ok. You know those goats up in the mountain that spontaneously pass out and fall to the ground? That will be you, unless you take your iron. Yes, a pregnant woman has a lot in common with the beloved fainting goat. You just look less cute when you do it. Oh and be forewarned, iron pills = no poo for days and days and days. (See No. 1).

6. Weight. What's the big deal? Weight is merely mass times gravity. It doesn't define us. If we lived on the moon we would weigh 1/6 of what we weigh on earth. (I'm not fat, I am just currently experiencing an abundance of gravitational forces.) I don't know about everyone else, but when I'm pregnant, I oscillate between: (1) OMG, I'm pregnant. LICENSE TO EAT. I'm going to eat everything. Doritos, check! Honey buns, check! Pretzels dipped in mustard, check, check, check! See this bulge? That's all baby. Oh these love handles? just gravitated towards my hips. AND (2) OMG, I'm pregnant. I cannot show until I'm 18 weeks so that I don't have to tell my boss. Will not get fat this early. Will not! Baby is the size of a freaking cherry, why am I so lumpy?! Do not give in to The Cravings!

So yeah, life is fun right now.

I figured that I had better document all these things and do all the women a favor who are currently under the heavy influence of mommy-amnesia and need a good reminder about the wondrous gifts of pregnancy. You're so very welcome!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Planes, Trains,* and BBQ: Our Tennessee Adventure

Our trip to Tennessee was interesting. It was my first time in the South (other than a week I spent in Alabama for Space Camp in high school but that doesn't count because I spent almost all my time in a mock space shuttle- coolest experience of my life!). So the South is.....different.

Getting ready for airplane rides (and according to signage, "beer ahead!").

Waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. Also: sammiches!

It blew me away how polite everyone is. Like genuinely polite. In Seattle, we are passive aggressively polite. We say things we don't really mean just for the sake of appearing nice. In Tennessee, complete random strangers will pass you on the sidewalk and ask, "how is your day?" And they will actually wait for you to respond! The first time it happened, I can't lie, my knee-jerk reaction was "what do you want?" In Seattle, the only strangers who ask you about your day are panhandlers and over-aggressive college age Green Peace volunteers who lure you in with platitudes only to ask you to sign your life away (and make you feel guilty when you refuse... "can you spare one minute for the starving babies in Uganda?"). So that was nice.

Also, everyone call you either "sir" or "ma'am." The first time someone called me ma'am, I wanted to shout, "seriously, do I look like a ma'am?!" To me, a ma'am is a fifty plus year old woman with grey hair and failing memory. But in Tennessee, people of all ages will call you ma'am. Even people older than you will call you ma'am. After a while, I kind of got used to it. In fact, I kind of grew fond of it-- a verbal manifestation of the politeness all around.

For our trip, we flew into Memphis and immediately drove to Nashville (3+ hour drive with traffic) where we stayed for two nights. We then drove back to Memphis in time for my sister's wedding. I have to say that, compared to the Pacific Northwest, Tennessee was not much to look at. I had been really excited about spotting the Mississippi river (Mark Twain!) but I was kind of disappointed to discover that it was brown and mucky looking.

At the end of winter, there are no leaves on any of the trees in Tennessee. This is in stark contrast to the flourishing green of the pine needles everywhere you turn in Washington State. The ground was flat everywhere. Unlike Washington, there were no majestic mountains around every corner to take your breath away on a surprisingly clear day. Everything was brown: the trees, the river, the grass. I'm spoiled to live in Seattle, a metropolis of color ranging from pink sunsets behind purple mountains over deep blue water to crisp green forests surrounding white-peaked dormant volcanos to the rich blue and green of the salty Puget Sound. Yes. I am spoiled. Puget Sound has ruined most of the United States for me.

Although I was ready to take on new culinary adventures in Tennessee, I decided that I was not a huge fan of southern food. The bbq was good. But I really only need to eat pulled pork once a year. The fried chicken was good. But I just don't eat a lot of fried chicken. Huge fan of hushpuppies. Not so much a huge fan of collard greens or fried catfish or okra.

I remained adventurous and didn't let my lame palate spoil the trip but for the last night in Tennessee, I convinced my husband to take us to an Italian restaurant. I'm ashamed to say that that Italian meal was my favorite and most memorable meal in Tennessee. I sat there and savored every bite of the rosemary bread with olive oil dipping. I finally got my hands on a real actual salad, complete with tomatoes and gorgonzola cheese and savory balsamic dressing. OMG. I never thought I would have felt so close to heaven eating a plate full of leaves.....but I wanted to die right on my plate and pass into the afterlife. The crunchy pizza topped with rich sauce, cheese, and sausage was soul soaring. I had never in my life been so excited to eat something other than items of food coated in fat or bbq sauce. After enjoying my Italian food so much, I felt really guilty. Like I had cheated on the South. But, nonetheless, that meal will forever live in infamy.

In non-food related adventures, we visited the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville. It was pretty cool. At least I assume it was pretty cool. While my husband was perusing (ever so slowly!) the exhibits, I was wrangling, shepherding, and chasing two children who preferred to run around the maze of a museum.

Enjoying music in the Johnny Cash Museum

Sent to baby jail for running through the exhibits

Ryan very much enjoyed this museum...can't you tell.

The second day in Nashville, we decided to reward the kids' almost-patience by taking them to an indoor trampoline park. 50,000 square feet of indoor trampolines. They were in heaven. Jacob spent most of the time jumping or swinging into a giant foam pit. Ryan was content to keep it simple by jumping straight up and down on the trampolines (and landing on his butt). That place was so much fun. If I hadn't been experiencing intense all-day sickness, I would have jumped my heart out too.

Back in Memphis we visited the Civil Rights Museum. Well, we TRIED to visit. Most of it was closed for renovations. At least we got to see where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and marvel at the outside of the motel where he had been staying that very night. I'll say this about the South, it's very cool to walk the ground where so much history has occurred. Parts of the Civil War were fought on the land we walked! Can't say THAT for Washington State.

MLK was shot at the balcony of the Lorraine Motel (precise location marked by a wreath)

One day we spent exploring downtown Memphis and walked down Beale Street (home of the blues, I think?). We passed several old school shops with soda fountains and dime candy. We stopped to use their bathroom and get warm and the kids were lured in by hot chocolate. So I let my husband continue down the street while we parked our buns at the soda fountain eating Lemonheads.

Obligatory pose with the Elvis.

Ryan enjoys floors.
It's awesome being a kid when your dad carries you everywhere.
Also visited in Tennessee: amazing Children's Museum of Memphis (a MUST SEE for anyone with kids), Graceland (Elvis' home and also a MUST SEE), and the Grand Ol' Opry (over-rated and way too expensive - we chose not to go in).

Outside the Grand Ol' Opry.

My sister got married on the Saturday of our trip. The wedding was small and intimate and beautiful. Wow. Southern boys can dance. All us rhythm-lacking, foot-stepping white folk watched from the side of the dance floor as we were schooled and put to shame. This did not stop me from shaking my booty in ridiculous fashion to Robin Thicke. My sister was so very happy and I was so very happy for her. After spending 12 hours getting pretty and setting up and posing for photos and being a bridesmaid and making a speech and chasing children around a nature preserve, I was glad to walk into the hotel room and collapse on a bed at the end of the day.

As I mentioned before the kids were absolutely amazing during our travel including four airplane trips, a delayed flight on the last leg of our journey home, and two 3+ hour road trips. I was so very proud. Especially because their good behavior required very little bribery.

The kids' favorite part of the entire trip occurred during our 2 hour wait for our delayed flight home. They spent the entire two hours riding moving sidewalks up and down the airport. And by riding, I mean laying on their tummies (surfing), sitting on their butts (driving cars), and trying to walk backwards (Jacob). I only allowed this behavior because there were no people around us and because it was keeping them incredibly quiet and occupied. Not to mention it was pretty funny (don't worry, I was carefully supervising).

Ryan discovered that he is very fond of airplanes. He could not stop talking about riding in an airplane for days afterwards.

As adventurous as our trip was... there really is no place like home. Seriously. My house was such a mess when we got back. Laundry everywhere. Luggage littering the hallways. Toys sprawled everywhere. I had never seen a place like it (except maybe on an episode of Hoarders).

*My post title did not lie. We did in fact see trains. I convinced my husband to follow signs for a Railroad Museum which turned out to be one tiny room full of model trains and no actual, real trains, must to the kids (and my!) disappointment.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Little Weekend That Could

Jacob is officially registered for kindergarten for fall. AHHH! He's so excited. And I'm so excited for him. Luckily, our school district has free all day kindergarten which will make our lives a little easier. I hope kindergarten teachers have enough patience and understanding to handle six year old boys who would rather be running around outside than sitting in a desk for an entire, full school day.

We are trying to get into a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) school that has a Montessori program. I don't know much about Montessori but I hear good things. And they require uniforms. I am very excited about this. I wish all public schools required uniforms.

This week was rough for me. I'm still recovering from my thrown out back- it's been brutal. I move slowly. I can't lift anything. I struggle to bend over to do necessary things like dishes, and wiping counters, and picking things up off the floor. This makes me very angry because I was just getting back into a regular running routine. Between my back and my all-day sickness, I feel like I haven't been the best mom. It was a nice sunny spring day and I felt too crummy to even take the kids to the park. As a result, they were cooped up inside all day, getting on each other's (and our) last nerves. There was more yelling than there should have been.

Silver lining re: all-day sickness....I've lost about four pounds. But don't worry, I'm sure to make it all up soon enough.

But this didn't stop Jacob from being awesome and Ryan from being adorable. Jacob passed the next level of his swim class. He was the only one of his class to move on to the next level. He is now an eel! When the instructor asked the kids to jump into the deep end and swim 15 feet out and back, Jacob nervously sat on the edge of the pool and slowly slid into the deep end. But he swam farther than he was required to do (overachiever!). Later today, Jacob told us that if we have a girl baby, we should name her Zoran. If we have a boy baby, we should name him Ryzan. I told him I would submit those named to the Naming Committee.

The adorableness of Ryan is just too difficult to put into words. It isn't anything in particular that he does, it's simply HOW he does things that has my husband and I catching each other's glances as if to say, "isn't he so freaking adorable?!" He insists on doing everything Jacob does. He also wants to do everything himself. From putting on his pants, to brushing his teeth. "I do it self," is a phrase we hear frequently. When my husband came inside today from working on his new motorcycle (ugh, don't ask), Ryan met him at the door and said repeatedly, "cycle too loud! Cycle too loud, daddy." When something startles Ryan, he will say very calmly in the most matter-of-fact and unconcerned voice, "care [scare] me. That 'care me."

So...hopefully next week will be better and we will actually leave the house. In fact, I'm planning an epic outing for the near future. I just discovered a museum nearby that has a dinosaur skeleton on display! I've lived here my whole life and never knew there was a dinosaur skeleton in all of Washington State, much less in my backyard. Jacob has been begging to see a dinosaur skeleton and I was afraid we would have to wait for a trip to Chicago before we could make that happen. (Living in Chicago, I took for granted that Sue the dinosaur was within miles of my apartment. I didn't realize that most people don't have easy access to full-scale T-rex fossils.) So, as soon as work slows down, I'm using all the comp-time I've earned to make a Thursday (free day!) trip to the museum to bring Jacob face to face with a dinosaur. I may be just as excited as he is....