Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Aniversary, Birthday, And Some Hipster Jokes

This weekend, my husband and I celebrated our nine year elopmentaversary AND I celebrated my 32nd birthday!

May 28, 2007- we ran away to Chicago and eloped without telling a single soul, except for Judge Laurie from chicagoweddingjudge.com. Then we hoped on the el with a photographer and took random pictures throughout my favorite big city.

The weekend celebrating started Saturday when we loaded up the van with bikes, kids, carseats, and overnight bags for everyone and drove out to Bainbridge Island where we dropped our kids off at my parents' house for the night. My husband and I rushed to catch the ferry to Seattle and then drove out to Bothel where we checked into the McMenamin's Anderson School hotel. Basically, its an old high school that they renovated into a hotel. And it's AWESOME!

At first I had my doubts. When I heard "renovated school" and "hotel," I pictured a college dorm room with shared bathrooms (barf!). I have this little obsession with hotels. They are my favorite thing in the entire world. I love everything about them- bleach scented bed sheets, crisp white pillows, the sound that the blackout curtains make when you draw them shut for bedtime (or "bedtime" wink, wink), room service that's too expensive to actually use, individual soaps that you get to open new each day(!!!), little notecards with hotel logos on them, even those pathetic mini hairdryers that are attached to the wall and only have one blow dry speed- "slow AF." See, I told you I'm obsessed.

Given my love for all things hotel, I was concerned that staying in a renovated school would turn my "trapped in a school overnight with nothing to eat but cafeteria ketchup packets" nightmare into a reality simply not live up to my love-for-hotel expectations. I was beyond pleasantly surprised. I was wowed! First of all, the rooms are adorable! The ceilings have all kinds of cool, funky chandeliers (not that I ever had an occasion to be looking up at the ceiling on my anniversary night, psssh!). The bathrooms are fancy and modern. Just two doors down from us was the "Principle's Office" where hot tea and coffee was served almost around the clock. There was an indoor heated (and I mean REALLY heated, not like the "heated" gym pool that is practically inviting you to pee down your own leg for warmth -- oh is that only me then?) saltwater pool. The old cafeteria was remodeled into a restaurant. There was also a funky bar with pool tables and outdoor seating and food service underneath heat lamps. They seriously thought of everything. The place was perfect!

Sadly, I didn't snap a SINGLE picture of the hotel or it's amazing accommodations (but if you're ever near Seattle- look it up!) except for this picture of me using the door post thingy as an impromptu stripper pole. Because I'm classy like that. And because I'm a super mature, 30+ year old ATTORNEY and mother of three. Duh, peeps.

After we checked into our room (and after I did my obligatory DIVE onto the hotel bed to inhale all that wondrous bleachy-sheet smells), we grabbed our bikes and headed out for the Sammamish River Trail, which conveniently enough leads straight to Red Hook Brewery, a whisky distillery, Chateu St. Michelle, Columbia Winery, and numerous cellars and tasting rooms. It was the perfect northwest anniversary date adventure! Renovated school. Bikes along a river trail. Breweries. My skinny jeans. We were just two flannel shirts and one wax mustache short of achieving Hipster Level. Gross.

We rode the pleasant 4 miles into Woodinville, which was accessible entirely by river trail, wearing our trusty rain jackets like good Seattlites and ducked into Red Hook Brewery just in time for some rain drops to fall from the sky. We ordered our first of many rounds of alcoholic beverages and then set out to plan our winery-hopping adventure. Except. EXCEPT! ALL the wineries were closed. ALL of them. They had all closed at 5pm. WHAT? 5pm on a SATURDAY? Our library is open later than that. What the HUH?! (Yes, I have memorized our library hours. No, I swear on my ironic, kitten face purse that I'm not a hipster!).

Well, there went our ENTIRE evening of anniversary plans. But I was too buzzed off my one glass of pinot grigio  (pronounced: pin-aut grig-gee-oo) and too excited to be out with my favorite person doing random stuff on bikes to even care. So we stumbled (for me that would be literally) into a tasting room and ordered the fanciest sounding thing on the menu, Melange Blanc, which actually happened to be everyone's white wine leftovers mixed together in a fancy bottle (think: mixing all the soda fountain drinks at the McDonalds, except with white wine). But it still contained alcohol so it was still highly acceptable to me. So good, we took some for the road:

OMG. Who's the wino? [laughs nervously and backs away]

Our next stop was Purple CafĂ© in Woodinville, selected because it was the closest thing that was both open AND served real food. We laughed and reminisced over an avocado BLT and bacon-cheeseburger. And more wine, of course. Then we mounted our bikes again and road back to the hotel in a gloriously satisfied, beaming stupor, amid the beauty of the nature unraveling before us. Or at least before me (wink, wink):

Amazingly, I felt great the next morning. We must have biked off all our alcohol. And were reunited with our kids. I always feel a mixture of anxious excitement and wistful reluctance whenever we return to the land of parenthood after a really fun date night. It's a confusing but, I guess, appropriate mix of feelings.

We had all Sunday to recover (and do ten loads of children's laundry) and then had more exciting biking plans for Monday, which was both memorial day holiday AND my 32nd birthday. This time, we loaded up the two youngest in the bike trailer, with Jacob riding between us, and headed south to Tacoma for birthday breakfast donuts at Pao's Donut and Coffee Shop.

This, of course, required biking over the steep Tacoma Narrows Bridge. And lots of water brakes.

The ride would have been a little bit nicer if I hadn't been pulling 60 pounds of toddler and preschooler behind me. My husband rode behind and gave me supportive pushes every now and then. He offered to pull the boys, but I really wanted to earn my donuts. Especially after all the wine I consumed on Saturday. Eventually I had to give up and give him a turn up one of the steep parts. As much as I like earning my donuts, I like having my legs attached to my body just as much.

Man pulling bike trailer with 2 kids. Is there ANYTHING sexier?! [The answer is Batman. Always Batman.]

We rode through a little memorial celebration at one of the parks and then, huffing and puffing and beginning to question whether donuts were worth 4 miles of uphill biking, we arrived at Pao's donut shop! Only to find that it was..... CLOSED. Ha ha! What did we learn? No one has any consideration for the drinking or eating needs of bikers.

Luckily Safeway was only three blocks away and carried a variety of (what I chose to believe to be) just as yummy donuts. The kids were satisfied. And I was happy to be basking in everyone's company. There's nothing I love more than family outings. Even though our family outings are full of screaming, and crying, and yelling, and swearing, and shouting "shut up and have fun DAMMIT."

Happy Birthday to me! I survived another year!

Donut-dribble anyone?


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Adventures Along I-90

Last week I took the kids on a mini road trip to Spokane to attend my Opa's funeral. My husband had a presentation he couldn't get out of. Like the crazy person that I am, I decided a road trip with three kids on my own would be a fantastic idea. I decided to take the opportunity to turn the road trip into an adventure. I wasn't sure how the kids would feel, but decided that I didn't particularly care and that we were going to HAVE SOME FUN DAMMIT!

I have amazing memories of traveling to Spokane. Growing up, we made the trip on numerous occasions to visit either my grandparents (who moved there later in my "childhood") or to visit some of our favorite cousins. The trip itself was never fun. Never mind, I take that back. The first HOUR of the trip was always fun. Our snack containers were still full of yummy treats, our backpacks were filled with fun activities (coloring books, reading books, car games), we were freshly burrowed into little nests made of our blankets and pillows, and we were excited to be on the road and on the way to visit the best cousins ever. That part was THE BEST. It was the next four hours that killed us (the fighting, the numb limbs from being contorted into weird sleeping positions, the depressingly empty snack containers, the numerous potty breaks, the car sickness, the bickering parents, and the boredom). My parents were always in a rush to get to the destination as soon as possible. There were very little stops along the way.

I decided I wanted to do car trips differently. We weren't going to rush through. We were going to stop for all the adventures along the way. I love sightseeing and exploring and walking and hiking and just generally being out in the world and seeing new things (no matter how mundane) even if it means wandering without purpose. For me, the wandering IS the purpose. I hope I can instill a love for whimsical exploring in my children. Don't get me wrong. My intentions are purely selfish. I need some exploring buddies!

So I packed up the kids and we filled our snack containers (!) and we headed out to explore all the things that I had never seen before (or had only seen once) despite the fact that I had travelled the route more times than I can even count. I was at the helm and that meant we were doing things my way, the best way (i.e.- stopping at every roadside attraction and to refill our snack containers at every opportunity).

Although all the stops added about two hours to our travel time, the trip went by fast and was fun in itself. Breaking the distance into little legs made all the difference.

Our first stop was the Ginkgo Petrified Forest. Ok, I lied. Our actual first stop was Ellensburg for a Dairy Queen lunch. At the door of the DQ, Jacob started to take off his pants. When I asked what he was doing, he pointed to a sign that said "Shirts and shoes required" and informed me that he obviously didn't have to wear pants. Dear DQ, some friendly and free legal advice: you might want to clarify your sign for your very literal costumers.

Back to the Ginkgo Petrified Forest. Once upon a time, roughly a bajillion years ago, some forest was covered in volcano shit. The volcano shit hardened, covered a bunch of trees, and turned them to stone. The stones were hidden for millions of years. Then a big ol' glacier sweated all over the place, exposing the rocky trees. The rocky trees were discovered in the 1930s, commoditized, and turned into little pieces of tree rock that you can conveniently purchase at a Gem Shop right next to little bottles of shark teeth during hour three of your five (or seven) hour road trip to Spokane. But you can't buy the petrified wood souvenirs until you pose next to random (and slightly creepy) statutes of dinosaurs. Or so I told my children.

Dinosaur statutes are totally the most natural thing to see at a petrified wood Gem Shop. Amirite? For documentation sake, I bribed the big kids into doing dinosaur poses. Jon, on the other hand, was no fool. No amount of dum dum sucker promises could convince him to look like a complete idiot.

In the parking lot, we saw these animals that Ryan declared to be cows.

And then I made everyone pose near a bluff overlooking the Columbia River. You know, the Columbia River. It's the one named after Columbia Crest wine.

Jon's face kills me in this picture.

We found some legit petroglyphs carved by the Wanapum Indians. You know, petroglyphs. The great-great-great-great (x10) ancestor of the emoji. How did the Wanapum people even communicate without a smiling poop emoji?!

Yay! Seeing ancient stuff!

Our next stop (my personal favorite!) was the Wild Horse Monument. This is a sculpture of 15 teeny tiny horses charging a bluff, which is conveniently located on a.... (drumroll)....bluff! From the road, they do not look very impressive and the kids were NOT excited to stop here. Especially when they saw that this attraction would require hiking. I parked the party van, strapped Jon to my back, and marched adventurously forward with Jacob and Ryan underfoot.

Until I had a stranger take our picture about 100 feet later and realized mid-pose that my van trunk was wide open and that I had to lumber all the way back to the van to close it. After I closed the trunk door (literally a minute later), I turned around and saw that the kids were here:

There were two paths up the bluff. One was a short, steep path. The other was a long, zig-zagging path. All the other adventurers recommended that I take the longer path, especially since I had a 27 pound baby on my back. But, thanks to my children, I didn't have to sit and make a decision. They were already nearly halfway up the steep bluff. The other adventurers looked on in doubt and horror as I raced forward to join them in my skinny jeans and boatshoes. My scared-of-everything four year old not only climbed up the steep path, he did it all by himself!


I was so proud of him when we got to the top. And he had the biggest smile on his face. He marched proudly onward with a new sense of courage and invincibility. Go Ryan! Wait. No. Stop. Stop Ryan! You can't conquer the world just yet. I need you to be my little Ryan. Come back and cling to my legs one more time.

At least I still have Jon (who will wear diapers and sleep in a crib until he's seven because I'll be in denial)

As we climbed the bluff, the teeny tiny horses grew and grew until they were life-sized monuments covered in bad-ass, bored teenage, road-tripper graffiti. So bad-ass, right?

The view was incredible!

And I would have enjoyed it had I not been mourning the fact that I just did a steep hike and it didn't even get recorded on my Fitbit because my Fitbit had lost its charge. So basically, it didn't even happen. So what was the whole point anyway? Pure tragedy.

I had to snap this lovely picture of my oldest son doing a booty dance on the cliff's edge. Which pretty much eradicated any doubts I had that he was really mine.

Babies- nature's strength training weights since the beginning of time.
On the way back down the bluff we did take the long, gradual path because I'm not a fan of face plants. I walked behind Ryan who stopped every five feet to pick up a rock for his (until today, non-existent) rock collection and then requested that I carry all his "treasures" for him. Because, you know, he was tired from being so brave and all that. Sure kid. It's not like I already have a small child on my back or anything. Go ahead and fill my pockets with useless rocks why don't you?

One last view!

That was it for our adventures on the way TO Spokane. Jon screamed the final hour of our trip for no apparent reason. I kept reaching one hand back to hand him snacks over his car seat in an effort to appease or quiet him. It wasn't until we arrived at our hotel and I found that his entire car seat was filled to the brim with cheese puff crumbs, broken goldfish, and smashed granola bars that I realized he hadn't eaten a single morsel. Lo and behold, two days of crying and an urgent care trip later, we learned that he had an ear infection.

The kids cleaned up pretty nicely for the funeral. Then there was a whirlwind of pool swimming, procuring meals for boys who are hungry every 2 hours, visiting family, visiting urgent care, and making (unintentionally) barefoot trips to Rite Aid for swim diapers and chocolate. Then we set back out for the road.

On the trip home, our first destination was another scenic bluff overlooking the Columbia River.

Here are the boys and Jon's beloved Blankie. Blankie was dragged against every bit of surface on which Jon walked and was so covered in dirt by the time we got home that it was a completely different color.

Brave explorers!

 My littlest dude was trying so hard to keep up with his big bros but his little legs just kept conspiring against him. It's hard to be the baby sometimes.

Boy Totem Pole

And our final stop (aside from the many gas stations for pee breaks and Diet Dr. Pepper refills), was back at the Ginkgo state park where we bypassed the Gem Shop and actually hiked the remnants of the forest. Although there was a rattlesnake sign and a chance we would not get back to the car before dark, I was most terrified about the fact that I had parked without the appropriate state park pass, thereby living each moment in the suffocating throes of panic over the possibility of getting a parking ticket. What can I say. I live for danger!
Hiking, and hunting for petrified tree stumps (omg, tree rock stumps....SO EXCITING!). The boys ran ahead while I scanned the road below for perilous parking enforcement officers.

Jon helped me scout from the backpack.


We hiked for about 40 minutes over the lush, green landscape:

Sidenote: Jacob is wearing headphones. No, they are not plugged into anything. He said they made his ears feel comfortable. Yes, he is awesome.
We headed rattlesnakes warning signs.

And saw a vicious, ferocious gardner snake of some sort. Can you spot the terrible creature hiding in the rocks? No? EXACTLY! That's exactly my point! That's why they are so scary!

We continued to hike until the fear of a parking ticket grew so great that I could no longer live under the weight of its clutches. We walked back to the car 20 pounds of random rock "treasures" heavier and ready to finally set sail for home so we could give stench-emitting Blankie a good wash.

P.S. My Fitbit was fully charged this time! And I surpassed my daily step goal. Therefore I actually EARNED the three handfuls of cheese puffs that I consumed on the ride home (and was likely going to consume anyway).

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Goodbye Opa

My grandfather passed away last week. He checked into the hospital Thursday night with heart issues and was told it was the end. He passed the next day, in the hospital surrounded by family. I was not able to make it out to say goodbye to him one last time. But I have great memories from my last visit with him in March.

In March I flew out to his city to defend a deposition. I was on the fence a great deal about whether I should stay with my grandparents or even let them know I would be in town. I love them both. But I was kind of looking forward to being put up in a hotel with a little kids-free down time. And I remembered visits with my grandparents as being a little bit exhausting (especially for an introvert who values being alone, without any conversation). In recent past visits, my grandparents would bicker. And I had a hard time understanding my grandfather (we call him Opa, which is "grandpa" in German). He liked to talk and always had hours of stories to share with anyone who met the qualification of having at least one ear. He led a fascinating life (jumped out of airplanes, participating in reparation peace talks, translated and authored books about Germans who survived mass genocide) and his stories reflected that.

He also liked to tell jokes. His sense of humor rivaled his story telling. It was quirky and would probably make most people groan. He re-invented lyrics to popular songs including Christmas songs. A staunch conservative, he taught me many things that after much political exploration and critical self-examination, I now value to be true and steadfast (to the horror of my very liberal husband). He LOVED political jokes and, for the sake of a good laugh, he was never afraid to parody or mock anyone. Unfortunately due to his mumbling, I often couldn't understand either his stories or his jokes. All I could do was smile and attempt to laugh at the appropriate times. Most of the time I would fail miserably and laugh at a pause only to discover that the joke wasn't over and the punch line had not yet been told (he probably thought I was a lunatic).

Luckily (in hindsight), I decided to stay with them back in March. It was only a quick visit. I arrived at 6:30pm and left bright and early for my deposition the next morning. But it was a perfect visit. I witnessed that my grandparents had developed a special bond in recent years. The bickering was gone and was replaced by sweet, caring gestures. My Opa worried over how to get my Oma to her cribbage game the next day. My Oma had posted several notes around the house reminding Opa of important things such as a note on the front door that read "Don't Leave Without Your Teeth!"

My Oma had pinched and saved up her small weekly allowance so that she could treat me to dinner at Applebees that night (don't worry, I insisted on treating THEM). They helped each other pick their meals and appetizers, each knowing the other's likes and dislikes too well. That evening, they retired to their bed at the same time. I woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and, through their open bedroom door, found them cuddled up next to each other. The image brought me smiles then. It brings me tears now. I can't help but wonder if my Opa sensed that his time was coming.

My Oma and Opa treated me like royalty the entire night. They were so interested in my life and my family and my work. I tried hard to live up to their expectations and thoughtfully picked through my adventures for their entertainment. Most importantly, that night before bed, I got a final opportunity to hear my Opa's stories. At my prompting, he told me once again about life on the farm, living through the great dust bowl, and jumping out of airplanes. As I said goodbye to Opa, it never crossed my mind that it could be the last time I'd see him. As with most things, I'm guilt of under-appreciating and taking for granted the people in my life. We always assume we have plenty of time. We always assume things and people will be where we last leave them.

Now my Opa is gone. And that hug we shared hovered over his front door mat is the last memory I will ever have of him. The last time I will touch him and bring some happiness to his day. I'm so thankful for that memory. I'm so thankful I didn't give into the selfish temptation to just sneak in and out of town for work.

My Opa's funeral was Tuesday. My husband had an important work presentation and wasn't able to join us. So I packed up the mini van and led my kids on a five hour car ride to attend the funeral. When I learned my Opa passed away, I didn't cry at all. His death didn't seem real. The message was just meaningless words communicated to me from a hundred miles away. I really only saw Opa once every other year and, to my surprise, his death didn't seem to have a significant immediate effect. It wasn't until I was seated in the pews of my Opa's Catholic Church, surrounded by aunts and uncles, the lyrics to "On Eagles Wings" filling my senses, that it really hit me that he was gone.

Looking back, it seems a little inappropriate to have taken a family picture at my Opa's funeral mass. But it was also a joyous celebration of his life, his legacy, and all that he had accomplished. So I think he would forgive me.

After the funeral, as my uncles gave their eulogy speeches I learned there were parts of my Opa that I never knew. Stories that he had never told. Chapters of his history that were never shared. It's amazing how you can know someone your entire life and still not know all the significant aspects of them. That people are so much more than just the sum of your interactions. So much more than what you can see of them from your perspective.

The funeral and the speeches were beautiful. But a sadness fell on me. Not just from the loss of my Opa. But from the realization that someday, we will all just be a eulogy told by a loved one. One day I will be gone and all that will remain of my life are memories held by friends and families and a two-minute speech summarizing my life's efforts. What would people say about me? Would I be satisfied with all that my life had born? If not, what can I do right now and every day moving forward to change that?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Fulfillment & The De-evolution of Ambition

I've been feeling very introspective lately. The other day, I was driving home from a post-work run and as I was pulling into my driveway an interesting thought hit me. (Running is when I do my best thinking. I love to hit the road and let my mind wander freely. It's my best therapy.) It suddenly hit me that this is perhaps the first time in my life that I haven't been waiting for the next thing to happen. There are no unchecked boxes on my great big "to-do" list of life. There are no "next-step" goals looming on the horizon. By age 31 (ok, ALMOST 32), I've done all that I'd set out for myself to do.

  • Undergrad- check
  • Law school- check
  • Married- check
  • Established in my profession- check
  • Steady job/income- check
  • House- check
  • Kids- check
Perhaps I'm too simple. Or, perhaps I'm simply not creative enough to set my sights higher. I mean, my list of accomplished goals isn't really anything special or ambitious. You don't see "find a cure for cancer" on there, or "travel to outer-space" or "become elected to a public office."  My goals were pretty cookie cutter.

My high school self would be appalled to see this list. In high school, I wanted to travel to a third world country, establish my own nonprofit, and save starving and homeless children. In high school, I wanted to Make A Difference. I wanted to save the world. Now.... I just want to save enough for retirement and watch my kids grow into adult hood. But you know what? I'm ok with that. I'm totally fine living on deflated ambition. And you know what else? I'm happy. Really, really happy.

When I was younger, I thought I would need to do great things to feel fulfilled. I thought happiness was complicated and only triggered by a long list of impressive accomplishments. I thought purpose had to be grandiose and large-scale. And then I had kids. And gazing into their little eyes was all it took to make me feel whole. My profession also does this to some extent. Having a career I love gives me a daily sense of purpose of accomplishment that my children don't necessarily provide. However, nothing has made me feel whole and satisfied on the much deeper, "meaning of life" level than being Everything to three little boys.

Nothing can compete with watching your preschooler's gaze skip over a room full of people to sing a Mother's Day song directly to you (and only you) from stage. (#25, singing RIGHT TO ME).

On a day to day basis, nothing fancy or elaborate or grandiose happens as a parent. But there's no other circumstance in your life where just your presence evokes exuberance and elation. The other week I showed up for Run A Mile Day at Jacob's school. His eyes lit up when he saw me and he even interrupted a preciously rare game of recess soccer to hang out with me. 

Happiness is as simple as sharing a one-on-one coffee date with one of your littles. Even when he steals your pastries.

Or a Mother's Day breakfast followed by a family trip to Home Depot to play with window blinds:

 Or the frantically hilarious freak-out that comes with remembering that it is "Dress Like a Bug" day at preschool five minutes before you are supposed to leave the house and all you have is tinfoil and an empty, greasy pizza box.

Or sharing in life's little pleasures....for example, a giant box of cheese puffs.

Watching your child succeed at something they enjoy after hours and hours of practice and determination.

And yes, even the random public meltdowns are precious. Because they're kind of hilarious. And you secretly wish you could get away with throwing yourself on the floor when the grocery store is out of your favorite candy (cough, COWTALES, cough).

Home Depot tantrum

Walgreens Tantrum

Dentist parking lot tantrum

While I really did enjoy my twenties, I spent a great deal of time focusing on doing all the stuff that I needed to do to get me to a state of Responsible Adulthood. After the whole saving the world thing didn't work out, I realized that what I truly wanted out of life was all the traditional things- education, husband, kids, house, career. Each time a new goal was accomplished, my sights narrowed in on the next one. And eventually, all that got me here: an almost 32 year old with three kids, a job that I enjoy in a profession that I love, a happy marriage to my best friend, and a house comfortable enough to fit all of us.

I get to do life with my best friend!

For the first time ever, there isn't The Next Thing. I'm settled and satisfied. Which should be the end of story right? But of course, it's not. Now comes the introspection and self doubt. Now comes the "That can't be it, right?" and the "Am I supposed to want more?" and "Well, what would that even be?" and "But is it OK if there IS nothing else?" and "Am I OK with nothing else?" Part of me feels a deep relief. I've accomplished the things that I thought I needed in my life. I can relax now. It's all downhill from here. The rat race is over! And I am truly, truly happy. Really!
But. There's also a nagging little tickle that pops into my head every now and then as if to feel me out and pose a very ambiguous but poignant, "So????" And I don't know how to respond. Heck, I don't even know what the question is. "So what?!" my internal dialogue shouts back. "I have three sleeping children, a warm couch, and a bag of M&Ms. What more could I possibly want?"
For now......absolutely nothing!