Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Little Boy, Big Bed

Just like every typical evening, I snuggled with the boys on the bottom bed as we read our bedtime story. Jacob's long and lanky arm was wrapped around my abdomen and Ryan's chubby fingers pointed excitedly at the illustrations as I flipped the pages of our book. Tonight's book was an ABC book about construction vehicles. As usual, Ryan prematurely tried to turn every page before I had finished reading all the text. And, as usual, this infuriated Jacob who demanded that every single word be read aloud, even though he knows them all by heart.

As Ryan would try to skip ahead, Jacob would snap the page back down. This made Ryan giggle as Jacob's fury doubled. I started to read in double-time in an effort to appease both parties. Just TRY saying "articulated dump truck" three times fast.

After we read stories, Jacob snuck up to his top bunk. Ryan snuggled with his blanky and settled into the pillow on the bottom bunk. He looked so comfortable. "Ryan, time for night-night. Time to go in your crib."

"Naaaaw." ("No") Ryan whined as he slammed his head back onto the pillow in protest.

I picked Ryan up and started to carry him to his crib when he furiously began pointing back at the bottom bunk. And so Ryan graduated to a new phase in his life in typical growing-pain fashion: with me hesitantly agreeing to let him due Big Boy things as his stubbornness and his eagerness to embrace the life of the Big Boy prevailed.

I worried that he might tumble out of bed in the middle of the night so I put some large pillows down on the floor beside him. I wondered if he would abuse his new freedom and lack of jail bars by slipping from bed the moment I walked out the door. But, brushing these concerns aside, I reluctantly let them go and let Ryan lead me through this whole parenting thing.

There are probably a lot of good parenting books out there (I haven't read any so I don't know) but, you know what? I can't imagine that anyone could be a better teacher than my own children. Because each child is different and he or she gives us little cues about their readiness and ability to do new things and/or their needs for a little more comfort and guidance.

Maybe it's a second child syndrome but from birth Ryan has been pushing forward and leading the effort to help me "let go" of him a little bit at a time. I'd personally prefer that he stay my tiny, chubby, fat-footed munchkin his entire life. But he's telling me just the opposite. He's ready to be a big boy, dang it! and he won't have any of this mushy smothering stuff. He wants to experience the world and try new things and figure things out on his own, thank-you-very-much. So, I let him.

Yesterday he was eating a slice of pizza at the park. He dropped it into the bark. I was about to wipe the bark off when he took a bite of the bark-covered pizza and happily continued to play. He was happy because he was feeding himself. And that bark just added some extra texture, after all. Ryan is so happy-go-lucky (most of the time) and so content to do things on his own, that I let him. It doesn't mean that it is always EASY but luckily Ryan gives me the confidence to know that it is RIGHT.

So yeah. He might fall off out of bed in the middle of the night. If that happens, there will be pillows to catch him. But I have to let go and let my children grow at the pace that they are comfortable with. This doesn't mean I can't appease my broken-mommy heart by purchasing some used bedrails off of Craigslist. I mean, I'm still a MOM after all. And he's my BABY.

My tiny baby in a big boy bed.

Those stickers are Jacob's recent contribution to enhancing the d├ęcor of the room, much to my horror. My dad would have killed me if I put stickers on furniture, even if it was MY furniture. But Jacob was so proud of his artwork that I decided it could stay...for a little while...as proof that I let my children be children...and budding artists. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Caribbean-Inspired Chicken BBQ

There are a couple perks to getting up at 5am to work out at the gym. Ironically, it has to do with food. The gym is the only place where I get to watch my two favorite cable channels: the Food Network and HGTV. Watching those shows are a huge treat for me. This makes it a tiny, tiny bit easier to force my butt out of bed in the early hours of the day (even after just 5 hours of sleep).

On Monday morning, I was watching Bobby Flay on the Food Network. He was doing a show on Caribbean grilling, which was an awesome coincidence. We had just purchased a new grill and I was itching to use it. I really wanted a yummy grilled chicken recipe but, because we are very low on funds right now, I had to find a recipe that utilized groceries I already had in the house. Perfectly enough, I had everything on hand to make this amazing chicken recipe-- even the very odd and unusual special ingredient: tamarind paste.

I LOVE cultural and ethnic food adventures and I love to try to make things from scratch. You will often find unusual things in my pantry. I have semolina flour left over from the times I made homemade pasta (amazing!). I have garbanzo bean flour left over from some Indian recipe I tried long ago. I have saffron. I have capers. I have mirin. Sake. All kinds of things.

And... lucky, lucky, I have tamarind paste. One of my favorite Indian recipes is tamarind chicken. Tamarind is such an amazingly tart flavor. It's so unique. But I never knew what else to do with it. So, it's been sitting in my cupboard, just waiting for a creative moment.

Well, thank you Bobby Flay! He featured this amazing (seriously, amazing!) BBQ chicken recipe on his show. The key is definitely in the secret sauce. It mixed the tartness of tamarind with the tang of orange juice. The sauce is incredible! He used it for dipping chicken wings, but because I always have some Costco chicken breasts on hand, I used those instead.

This is my version of his recipe....this is seriously a man pleaser!

Caribbean-Inspired Chicken BBQ

Chicken Breasts:
  • Two large chicken breasts, pounded flat into uniform thickness between two pieces of parchment paper
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground chili pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
The Secret Sauce:
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup tamarind concentrate/paste (purchase at an Asian food store or online)
  • 1-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1. After pounding the chicken flat (you can also use wings as Bobby did), brush the chicken with canola oil. Combine the spices and coat the chicken generously on both sides.

2. Grill the chicken on both sides. (Even the spice-rubbed chicken is amazing on its own!).

3. Combine all sauce ingredients except the vinegar in a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of water. Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer until it thickens up (about 15 mins).
Remove from heat and take out the ginger slices. Whisk in the vinegar and keep warm.

Serve the chicken with the sauce poured on top or on the side for dipping.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Trying to "Make Time" Is Awfully Similar To A Ponzi Scheme

Lately my days have been going by so fast that I have absolutely no idea where my time goes. It's like my days have a gigantic hole in their pocket and time just mysteriously seeps out. This is true while I'm sitting in my desk at the office (What? It's three o'clock and I've spent all day at my desk, how come my to-do list is only 1/4 of the way done and I can only account for 3 billable hours...ok, who stole my billable hours?!). It is equally true on the days I work from my mom's basement.

I come by with the kids, sneak down to the basement to work, and before I know it, it's 5:30 p.m., time to whisk the kids home to prepare dinner. I always look forward to my days at home and imagine that I will have so much extra time (saved from not commuting as much) to spend with my two handsome boys. Lately, I've been feeling as if I don't see enough of them and it's starting to get me down. A lot. But somehow, by the time I pack them into the car, drive 40 minutes home, prepare dinner, and we finally eat together as a familt at 8 p.m., it's time for them to go to bed already and I've spent my entire evening doing chores, dinner, and catching up that I've hardly spent any time with them. Well, not quality time anyway.

I keep wringing my hands in frustration. This "working from home" business was supposed to give me more time with my kids. So far, it just gives me more time to do chores and run a household. But when I'm actually at home, as opposed to at the office all day, I can't escape the chores. I have no excuse for not doing them. Instead of making my kids pull the least dirty clothing from the dirty laundry basket as I might have done a time or two out of desperation before I worked from home, I now feel compelled to actually do the laundry so that my kids don't smell or look like that dirty kid from Peanuts.

Today, I let the kids stay up 30 minutes late so that we could read stories and play ball out in the yard. I enjoyed them so much! Jacob has become so great at inventing games and creating complex make-believe plots. He wore two gold stickers with the letter "J" on his forehead all day today, proclaiming that he was the newest Power Ranger.

I know for a fact that I put a lot of responsibility on Jacob, purely out of necessity due to my lack of time. We have such high expectations for him every morning and every night as we rely on him to help us get out the door or ready for the next day. Sometimes I feel bad about that and hope that I'm not forcing him to grow up too soon. He's only four but we expect him to help pack the diaper bag, help make his own breakfast, etc. He even washed all the silverware in the sink after dinner tonight (no dishwasher) AFTER clearing the table. I swear that kid is four going on seven. And then, just in time to remind me that he has no problem being a kid, he will do something like bend over, place his hand on each butt cheek, and pretend to talk out of his butt.

As we played ball outside, Ryan showed off his kicking skills and was content to run around the periphery of my ballgame with Jacob. As long as we included him occassionally by chasing and throwing the ball at him, he was a happy camper. He joined us in a game of catch, proving his hand-eye coordination to be far better than I could ever hope mine to be!

We also played with some toy animals. Ryan only knows two animal sounds: the panting that a dog makes and roaring. He thinks everything roars and it absolutely cracks me up, especially when he will pick up a giraffe or cat or horse and "RAAAAAAWR!" His roars aren't normal roars either, they are old smoker, hacking up a lung type of roars. Also, he just got into this lovely habit of giggling uncontrollably after he farts. When he sees that we are giggling back at him, he purposefully tries to fart some more. Unfortunately, this happens at the dinner table. Ahh... such a boy! I love that kid so incredibly much.

So, tonight, while BBQing a coconut spiced marinated pork loin (thanks Bobby Flay!), I "made" some special time with my two little men. That time, of course, had to be taken away from other necessary things. Poor sticky, smelly Ryan got a baby wipe "sponge" bath two minutes before bed. Jacob had to sleep on his mattress without bedsheet (but with the plastic protective sheet) because I never found the time to do laundry...yes, he peed the bed, again!

Someday, I will have all the time in the world to do laundry and make beds. If my kids ever look back on their childhood and wonder why they had to learn the laundry "smell" test at age four or wonder why they so frequently got to camp on the floor because mommy never had time to wash their pee-covered bedsheets, I'll just lay it out in black and white: "Kids, I had to chose which way I was going to permanently damage you which would necessitate your years and years of therapy. The choice was to ruin you from never giving you attention, or ruin you from forcing you to live unsanitary lives. Clearly, I chose the latter and, yes, you are welcome."

Maybe I should start setting up some funds now. You know, to pay for therapy for their future hoarding habits and sofa cushion eating disorders.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Happiness Amidst A Shitstorm

I'm stuck in a weird place right now. There are so many things that I should be happy about and yet I find myself obsessing over all the negative things. It boils down to the fact that I'm extremely frustrated about my work and life situation. It's all a jumbled mess with no easy solution. 

Where I live, there are absolutely no jobs in the type of law that I practice (or any jobs at all). I cannot change where I live because our mortgage is 40% underwater. Our 950 sq. ft. house is too tiny for our family of four but we can't afford the remodel that we have planned. My commute is horrible (because I cannot work where I live, see above). I can't change careers because I sunk way too much money in my ridiculously expensive education. Even if I could change careers (I seriously think about it every day), I am not qualified to do anything outside of law except for entry level jobs (I've looked!). I make up for my long commute by not working full time. But... you know... less work equals money. It's a perfect storm of shit.

BUT, I'm a naturally optimistic person and I truly believe everything works out in the end. While these things bother me from time to time, I don't fear them. I'm ever hopeful and strong and my outward happiness is genuine despite this perfect storm. While these worries and frustrations surface often, I acknowledge my frustration, let myself vent, and then move on. I just keep telling myself that, while my life would be easier if things were different, I have the capacity for complete happiness right now, just the way things are. External things and situations don't bring us happiness. And even though I'm frustrated and things bring me down, I'm still Happy. You know, Happy with the capital "H." This isn't obtained through objects, or money, or even from having everything you think you need. It's something you create from whatever you do have.

And, in that regard, I have just enough. 

For starters, I have these:

And this guy:

I live in the Pacific Northwest--one of the most beautiful places on earth:
I have awesome friends to enjoy things with...for example, chartered boats, adult beverages, and mediocre booty dancing skills:

Yep, I'M steering this whole Happiness business.

If you spend your life being miserable about things that cannot (for the time being) be changed, you will be miserable forever.

And that's my philosophically cheesy post of the week.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Crying At The Office

I planned to stay late at work today because we are all swamped and low on staff. Instead, I left “early” at 5:30 p.m., crying and almost running out of the office.

My boss had a little outburst over something that happened. I sat there in my desk trying to figure out what to say that would make my boss stop yelling and walk out of my office. Everything I said made the outburst worst. I finally said, “I made a mistake, OK! I will fix it right away!” As I said this, tears began to well up in my eyes.  A couple blinks later and there were streams pouring down my cheeks. I could feel myself sweating. After my boss walked away, I desperately tried to wipe my sweaty forehead and dry my eyes with my sweater sleeve, without success (yeah, ew!). My tears came more quickly. I picked up my bags, and walked ran-walked out of the office.

As I walked to the ferry, my boss called. I ignored him. He called again. I decided to answer. He apologized profusely, admitted to over-reacting, and begged for forgiveness. I forgave him quickly and also apologized. But in my head, what was I apologizing for? Maybe for my “mistake” I guess but also for crying. As I hung up, I was angry with myself. I shouldn’t apologize for my emotional reaction. My boss’s emotion reaction was far worse and my response was a legitimate expression of my feelings of frustration for his outburst.
I used to think that crying at work was the most horrible thing a woman could do. I used to think that crying at work was a sign of weekness, of inferiority, of a woman not being able to “handle” the pressure of litigation. I have never seen nor heard of a man crying at the office for a work-related reason. But I had seen women do it. Mostly women who always brought their domestic problems to the office and who had a reputation for over-reacting easily.

In the past three years (since graduating from law school), I can recall crying specifically five times. Each time stands out in my mind. The first two times, I closed my office door and silently cried in my office because I was working late and missing my baby. My tears, thankfully, went unnoticed. The last two times were both at my current office as a reaction to an outburst from my boss from something I did or did not do.

Part of me feels embarrassed and ashamed about the times I've cried at the office. Our former receptionist used to cry at work all the time. She was always reacting emotionally to everything. I did not respect her for this. I thought she over-reacted to the smallest things and was way too sensitive. And again, I thought, if a man were in her place, would he cry? This is why people hate to hire women! They have to deal with crazy emotional over-reactions.

But lately, I’ve changed my mind. I’ve decided that crying can be a legitimate emotional reaction to some incidents at the work place. In some circumstances, it is a natural response to cry (especially when you are being berated unreasonably, when you are being personally attacked or criticized, when prompted by someone else’s emotional over-reaction). While I think other reactions may be more effective than crying, it is impossible for some people not to cry in certain circumstances. It’s human. We are human. And all humans process emotions differently.
Why should we be forced to stifled our natural emotions? Even though I’ve never seen a man cry at the office, I’ve seen men (and other women) engage in other emotional reactions. I’ve seen them get mad, yell, and scream.  These are no more appropriate or less distracting than crying. They may be more harmful and disruptive in fact.
And still, there is a line. There is a point where expressing emotion in the office (no matter what kind that may be) is not professional. But....I guess I'm learning that crying can have a place as long as people are respectful.
Tips I've learned:
1. Remove yourself from the tear-inducing environment as soon as possible, if in a meeting and it is appropriate, excuse yourself respectfully.
2. Find a quiet place where you won't distract others where you can reflect and finish crying if necessary (sometimes it just feels good to get it all out and let it run its course!)
3. DO NOT make any decision, draft any pleading, or write any letter while under the influence of strong emotion... or you may make quick enemies!
4. As soon as the tears are under control, suck it up, get to business and tackle what needs to be done or fixed.
5. Don't apologize for crying! If you caused a disruption or made a mistake, you might consider apologizing for that but not for crying!
6. If you are in a position where you are crying at work a lot, it might be time to reflect whether there is a larger cause. Do you keep making mistakes? Is someone else being unreasonable/a tyrant? Are you unhappy with your job situation? Are you emotionally trigger happy? Is there an underlying cause for your tears (a problem at home) that is really the cause? Maybe you need to tackle some bigger/underlying issues going on in your life or reassess your work situation?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Days Like This

I've been robbed....of half my weekend!

I'm on day four of some evil virus. I thought I had a residual of whatever evil virus Jake had last weekend-- a 102+ degree fever and body aches. On Thursday, I was full of hubris because I only had a little congestion and a scratchy throat. "I never get full-blown sick. It's my special mommy power." I bragged to someone at work.

Saturday morning, I felt a little crummy but not too bad. "The best way to fight a virus and boost immunity is to go for a run. It's the best medicine!" So, with the mild virus, I ran 5 mile intervals at 7:30 minute pace. I felt so bad ass. "Ha, see. I'm not really sick!"

I actually DID feel much better after my run. So much so, that I joined my husband and friend at a local brewfest. Literally, a half mile walk from our house. Sometimes, cool things do happen in Bremerton (Sir Mix A lot coined the phrase "Bremelo" to refer to large and unattractive women who live in my city...my friend and I consider ourselves to be "Bremelite," the upper echelon of the Bremelos.). I cautiously limited my beer intake to four samples.

Drinking in the streets....legally!
Today is a different story. Hear that sound? That's the sound of me eating my arrogant words! The sickness has descended upon me in full force. But, you know, a mother is not allowed to have a sick day. And for that, today very much sucked.

Jacob woke up at 12:30 am last night. I found him puking his guts out onto his bed. A bed that had fresh sheets on it for the first time in days after he peed his bed earlier this week (we've been SO busy that neither of us had time to simply do a load of laundry this week!). So, Murphy's Law. Yeah, we're well acquainted. Ryan, of course, woke up and began to scream. We moved Jacob to the couch and gave him a puke bucket and finally got the kids to bed much later.

Both kids woke up crying again at 6:30 a.m. Jacob had peed the couch despite the fact that he was wearing a pull-up (happens at least three time a week). Oh. My. God. His bed wetting is getting ridiculous.

Ryan was absolutely crabby all day, despite two long naps. He woke up from each nap even crabbier than when he went down. My patience was tested to the limit, and definitely snapped on several occasions. Jacob was also miserable. He kept demanding food because he was starving. I had to keep denying him food until I knew he could stomach some saltines. Even though I was feverish and suffering from general malaise and a horrible low back ache (couldn't even lift the wet clothes into the dryer without extreme pain!), I had so much to do. Lunches for the week. Laundry. Dinner for the week. Caring for the kids. Tidying up the shitstorm of our house. Holding a crabby, whinny Ryan while doing all the above.

I tried to rest on my bed once and both kids followed me into the room. Jacob kept tossing and turning next to me and fighting with Ryan. Ryan kept throwing things at both of our faces, falling off the bed, and bonking me in the face. I quickly gave up on a nap.

Somehow I was able to make all the lunches for the week (variations of chicken meatballs and quinoa tabbouleh/quinoa salad) and dinner (grilled chicken with lemon-oregano sauce), without sneezing on everything or collapsing from feverishness and fog-brain. I did sneeze onto one chicken breast, which I promptly rinsed and baked the heck out of. I will be sure to eat that special one.

Ryan was getting so restless in the house that I took him for a quick romp outside, even though I felt like Death's cousin. Ryan enjoyed it.. for ten minutes and then he got cranky again. He kicked. He threw. He lost his ball in the bushes.

This is the lawn that my husband has spent the past ten months on. Here is the before/after. It used to be very lumpy, uneven, and very unpleasant.

I was so happy to finally see a child running carefree across the lawn! Once we put up a fence, it will be even more inviting (and to hide our neighbor's horrific half-assed attempt at a fence, to her credit, she is a 70 year old woman who still works and likely never acquired any carpentry skills- we've offered to help with her fence...she never accepted...).

Ryan is so tiny, it makes our yard look huge.

Later, as I was doing a very pathetic attempt to tidy-up, I found Ryan like this:

An entire box of baking soda. All over the floor. When I found him, he was patting it happily, as if it was sand, throwing fistfuls into my running shoes, and tossing more fistfuls into the air, like white powder bombs. That was fun. To clean. And just an hour earlier, he dropped one of our favorite mason jar glasses, shattering it all over the floor.

The entire day, my husband was busy doing outside chores around the house. Thank goodness someone does them! And despite all of our hardwork (however feeble my own attempts were), we still have a dirtier house now than when we awoke this morning. There are more dishes in the sink than there were when I went to bed (even though I did two loads by HAND). There are two loads of laundry that need to be folded. And my house looks like a warzone.

How does this happen?!

But at least my kids are sleeping peacefully and I am FINALLY horizontal on my bed in the fetal position, being sick and miserable in peace. As crummy as I feel, I kind of like having a fever, as long as I don't have any other symptoms. I hate all other kinds of sickness, but a fever, I can totally do. It gives me an excuse to wrap up in blankets, feel completely swaddled in internal heat (I'm always cold!), and put my feet up and watch TV/read a book. However, I'm finding that now I have kids, this is never possible. Especially on days like this. The total exhaustion and muscle soreness also reminds me of that awesome feeling I would get after a good cross country race. Where your body is so drained that you have absolutely nothing left to give. The feeling itself kind of sucks, but the familiarity and the muscle memory that feeling brings is kind of comforting, in a weird way.

And now I get to think about returning to work tomorrow to finish something with an important and impending deadline.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Just Plain Rude

One of our personal injury cases has turned into an insurance bad faith case seemingly overnight. This makes me happy. I love insurance bad faith almost as much as I love insurance coverage. Although a lot of other projects have been waiting in my work queue, I fervently drafted a letter to an opposing counsel on the bad faith case. I was very proud of my three page, persuasive letter which was brimming with legal authority and thoughtful analysis.

My boss gave me good feedback and told me I was starting to sound like "Attorney X," a notorious bad faith attorney in our area. Looking back, I took way too much pride in that compliment. My letter was addressed to a partner at a Big Law firm. A couple days later, opposing counsel responded to my letter. Except he did not address his response to me. He addressed it to one of the male partners in the firm. What? MY name was on that letter. Why would he respond to someone else? I was pissed. I turned down the opportunity to made a snarky comment in a follow-up letter. I almost wish I had. But that's not really my style.

I don't consider myself to be a shining proponent of feminism. Obviously, I'm not against women being considered and treated as equals in the work place. I'm just not very militant about it. I wouldn't turn down a male coworker's offer to help me nail a frame on my office wall or help me carry a heavy box. I think chivalry is awesome, not anti-feminist. I don't necessarily buy into the argument that women across the board earn less than male counterparts in the same circumstances (I may be incorrect in my thinking but I just don't have very high regard for the statistics and "studies" out there - in general I always take statistics with a grain of salt). I don't think being considered a "nice" person is a bad thing for a lawyer (not necessarily a feminist issue but more women tend to be labeled as "nice" or "gentle" than men, in my opinion).

BUT. BUT. Even if I will never win a gold medal for my work in advancing the plight of women in this country, I still hate when male chauvinism creeps into the work place. If I do good work, I want it to be recognized and acknowledged as MY work. And even if I'm not a partner and even if I don't have as much experience as my opponents, I would hope they would have enough respect for me as a human to deal with me directly rather than completely bypass me for a higher-up.

End. Rant.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hectic Yet Hallowed

We've only been home from our Crystal Mountain vacation for two days (part II of that trip to come later this week) but so much has happened since then. The drama started Saturday after we arrived home. My husband took Jacob to hand wash our car, a task that Jacob usually loves. But when they arrived home, my husband reported that Jacob had complained of a side ache and sat in the car the entire time.

Hmmm. A side ache? I suddenly remembered that he had complained of a side ache this morning while we were walking around the mountain summit. So, I did what every fiber of my experienced-mommy being told me not to do: I looked to Google. I just wanted to be sure I could recognize the symptoms of appendicitis if need be. According to Google, side aches and fevers were top of the list. "Phew, until he shows signs of a fever, we're golden. This is easy," I thought.

I sat next to Jacob on the couch and handed him his Special Doggy (beloved stuffed animal that has clocked more mileage than most children). My hand brushed against his leg. His skin felt as hot as sun-scorched pavement. Uh oh. I grabbed the thermometer and took his temp. The thermometer hit 102 and I didn't even wait for it to finish reading. I jumped up, grabbed Jacob, and sprinted for Urgent Care. As I drove, my poor baby wasted miserably away in the hot back seat. Visions of ruptured appendices danced through my head.

Just my luck, Urgent Care was closed. We turned around and headed for the ER. Except this time, visions of $300+ hospital bills danced in my head. We walked into the ER waiting room and...waited for our room. We finally got a room and waited some more. Then we gave a pee sample (Jacob's, not mine!) and waited some more.

When I had just about given up hope, a handsome young doctor in freshly-pressed blue scrubs popped his sexy little head into our room. He smiled, ruffled Jacob's hair, and I did everything possible not to melt into the floor. At that precise moment, and for the very first time since leaving the house, I was suddenly aware of the fact that I was wearing a one-size-too-big Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle t-shirt, dirty cut-off shorts, and gardening shoes. All concerns regarding imminent ruptured appendices gave way to total mortification.

Dr. Handsome also turned out to be Dr. Bedside Manner. He told Jacob he loved his crocs and then asked if they could trade shoes. He asked Jacob about his Spiderman t-shirt with genuine interest. Damn, his interest feigning skills were amazing. He asked Jacob if he had any owies. Jacob began to recount every single owie he had in the past three years.

"Cat scratched me right here one time." (yes, we call our cat, "Cat."). "And I scraped my knee right here when I was riding my bike. And one time I had bumps all over my arm. And one time I hit my head here and when I was sleeping in my bed a spider bit me right here...." It was a long intake session. After patiently entertaining Jacob's history of ailments, Dr. Handsome got down to business. He examined Jacob's stomach, asked a few questions, and literally 40 second later we got our verdict: just The Virus.

What? Three hours of ER waiting (and likely a $300+ bill) just to have a doctor take 40 second to determine it's just The Virus? If the doctor hadn't been so dreamy, the trip would not have been worth it! I filled Jacob up with a Motrin cocktail and sent him to bed.

I spent Sunday doing two jumbo loads of children's laundry (the worst kind- so many tiny articles of clothing in one load!) and one load of my own laundry. I folded both loads of children laundry in a record five minutes. Sure, my folding was more like stacking and none of the socks have pairs...but for the first time in a year, I did all my laundry from start to finish (sorting, washing, drying, folding, putting away) on the SAME DAY. Miracles, yay!

While Jacob recovered from The Virus and my husband did back-breaking work in the yard, I took Ryan to the gym with me. He went to Childwatch while I did four miles of interval running and lunges with weights (trying to lose the stubborn last five pounds if it kills me- RRRG, I've officially accepted the fact that they will not disappear from just thinking about losing them while simultaneously stress eating chocolate). As always, when I picked Ryan up from Childwatch, his face erupted into his gap-toothed grin and he started screaming happily, "Mama, mama, mama!" from across the room. That is, by far, my favorite sound on earth.

After running errands (and buying way too many yummy and also healthy snacks to go with my already long Costco shopping list. New faves are freeze dried fruit, chicken meatballs, and quinoa couscous salad), I took the boys down to the park.

Ryan brought his snacks to the park and was much more interested in carrying them around, spilling them, and picking them up than actually playing on the big toy. I did manage to convince him to go down the slide a couple times.

At one point, Ryan was walking around the park carrying a hot dog. He tripped, fell, and dropped the hot dog in the bark. As he stood up with the hot dog in hand, he realized he had bark stuck to his palms, he dropped the hot dog to wipe his hands together only to angrily discover that the hot dog was back in the bark. As he bent to pick it up, he fell once again, picked up the hot dog, dropped the hot dog to wipe his hands, and the cycle continued until he finally gave up on his barky hands and ate the barky hot dog instead.

Trying out big brother's scooter.

Drunk walking

This morning, heading to my mom's house (after another four mile interval run- I'm on a roll!), Jacob smacked Ryan in the face with a rolled up piece of paper. I scolded Jacob, made him apologize and then told him I was very angry about what he did. Jacob was quiet for a second, looked at me in the rear-view mirror, and said solemnly, "Mommy, you're not mad because I don't see any steam coming out of your ears." This, ladies and gentlemen is what Too Many Cartoons looks like!

On the way home this evening, I stopped by the grocery store with both kids. As we walked through the produce aisle, Ryan let out a throaty growl, "RRRRR!" I had never heard him make that sound before and it caught me off guard. He did it again and then pointed to the seafood aisle. I pushed the cart in the direction he was pointing until we were next to the display of live crabs. "RRRR!" He repeated pointing to the crabs. Jacob and I busted out laughing. "Silly baby!" Jacob screeched, "crabs don't growl!" I guess we need to work more on our animal sounds... Ryan grinned as we continued to erupt into laughter.

While Ryan may not impress with his animal sounds, the kid is smarter than I give him credit for. This evening the boys were playing in my room as I was picking out yoga pants (let's see, THESE ratty yoga pants or THESE ratty yoga pants? so many options!). Ryan threw a snack wrapper on the floor. "Ryan, put your wrapper in the garbage can." I directed, paying more attention to deciding which pair of yoga pants smelled worse, than to the plight of the wrapper. Later, I walked into the kitchen and found Ryan's wrapper sitting on top of the garbage can lid. I hadn't actually expected him to understand my command and then follow it. Next lesson: how to open the garbage can lid.

My favorite command that Ryan follows is when I tell him it's time to change his diaper. If he is in a cooperative mood, he will grab a diaper, plunk his butt on the living room floor, and lay down to wait for me. I really need to harness this command-following behavior before he turns two....

Later this evening, I told Jacob to brush his teeth. Ryan started to say "shhh! shhh! shhh!" I looked at him funny, clearly not understanding what he was trying to say. Desperately, he repeated it over and over, on the verge of throwing a tantrum, "shhh! shh! shhh!" he cried. He finally toddled down the hall and pointed to the closed bathroom door. I opened the door for him and he pointed to his toothbrush, "shhhh! shhh! shhh!"

"Oh, brush teeth?!" I asked and handed him his toothbrush. He smiled and grabbed it from me with his chubby little hands. "Shhhh" was his way of saying "brush!" I resisted the urge to pick him up and crush him in a tight squeeze. A minute later, after brushing all of his seven teeth, I told Ryan to put his trooth bush away. He walked into the bathroom, set it down on the counter, and toddled right back to me. Gah! Slow death by cuteness!

Jacob and I settled down for the evening by playing a quiet game of Zingo (one of our favorite children's "board" games, I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone!) before bed. Then I tucked my two sweet babies into their beds and kissed their heads. The soft hum of their bedroom fan complemented the muted dimness of the early evening as night settled into their rooms. As I slowly closed their door, it felt as if I were closing the portal of a peaceful third dimension. I stood in the hallway just outside the door and let out a sigh, a heavy sigh filled with a mixture of relief and adoration.

Suddenly, an unexpected bomb of mommy-sentiment hit me in the face. For a brief second, I pushed aside thoughts of the dirty dishes in the sink, the toys strewn across the floor, the bags and lunches to be packed for the next day, and the two work assignments I had promised to complete this evening. I thought one thing only: These are the precious childhood years that are so transient and yet so precious. These are the moments I'm supposed to treasure.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Amateur Mountaineers: Day 1

We are enjoying our last day of a wonderful four day weekend! At work we were told that the office would be closed Friday but we were welcome to come in if we wanted. Ha! Saiyonara suckers!

Sitting at my desk on Wednesday and inspired by my co-workers plans of a hiking adventure, I feverishly began to pull together plans of our own. In 30 mins, we went from having no plans to having reservations at a mountain condo rental two hours away and a long list of weekend activities.

Before we left on Friday morning, I hit up the gym for a five mile run, having momentarily forgotten that we were going to be hiking for the rest of the day. On my way home, an hour before we were set to leave, my sister sent me a text asking what our plans were for the day. Five minutes later, we had a fifth hiker on our team!

We stayed at Crystal Mountain. Its primary attraction is a ski resort in the winter. During the summer, it boasts numerous hiking trails, magnificent views of Mount Rainier, and a brand new gondola that soars you to the summit. Our condo for the night was just a five minute walk from all the activity, had an 87 degree heated pool, a gas fireplace (luxury for us!), and heated floors in the bathroom and kitchen!

If you go hiking, I highly recommend you bring along your favorite Aunt. Makes picture taking much better :)

After we unpacked, we hit the trails, slightly unsure how the rest of the day would go with a four-year old in tow. We had never been hiking before and had no idea what to expect. We started out on the "easy" path and were told by a group of hikers coming down that the trail was intense, that there were snow drifts, and wide rivers to forge, and no easy slopes or flat spots. Yikes! With very low expectations, we decided to just go as far as we could and then turn around.

We kept going. And going. And going. The crazy "wide rivers" were only two steps across:

Fording the "rivers"

The snow "drifts" were easy to navigate:

And we found the slope to be manageable 80% of the time. Jacob walked the entire way! Ryan enjoyed the view from his backpack and my husband and I took turns carrying him around. Walking up a trail with a 25 pound backpack sure feels a lot like doing squats!

Since the trip was going surprisingly well, we decided to go the lake which was at the end of the trail. The views were amazing. I had forgotten how beautiful life is when you are away from the city. I kept telling myself that I could totally live in the mountains, with the fresh running mountain streams, the majestic views, the crunch of the trail beneath your feet, the proximity of unmarked trails, the feeling of adventure. As long as there is a clean condo/hotel with a warm shower and a fully stocked kitchen, I could get used to this!

We had a map that helped us navigate our trail and keep up on the "easy" hike. I was exceptionally proud of my map reading skills and was put in charge of navigating. As we neared the lake, we heard an odd growling sound from up the mountain a little ways. We all looked at each other with the same questions written across our faces, "What was that?!" "You heard that too?" "Are there bears up here?"

We didn't want to find out what the source of the growl was so we began to RUN (as fast as a group of amateur hikers with a four-year old in tow and chubby toddler strapped to the navigator's back could run) away from the sound and toward our lake destination. In our run, the fearless navigator may have turned the map the wrong direction. As the trees cleared and we braced ourselves for a spectacular lake view, we came across this instead:

A ski chair lift. Oooops. Regardless, we took advantage of the unique photo-ops.

And then decided to give up on the lake and hike down the paved trail back to the condo.

Although we all enjoyed the hike, we were thankful to walk into our warm condo and crash on the nearest flat surface. All in all, we had hiked 4 miles! I was amazed at how well Jacob had done. We only carried him on our backs for ten minutes of the entire 2.5 hour trip.

The big boys braved the pool (the water was warm but the air was NOT!), while the girls grilled up some hot dogs.

Then we all re-convened at the kitchen table and enjoyed our "campfire" meal. Next was popcorn and a movie as we all bunkered down for the night. We  may have unnecessarily turned on the heated kitchen floor and gas fireplace...just because we could!