Monday, October 13, 2014

There is a kitchen in here!

It seems to take about a year and a half after each kid was born to re-emerge. I recall it distinctly with Skadi. Like an awakening where I had to drop those extra 10 lbs that didn't fall off naturally after childbirth. And my house was no longer good enough. It was like the fog of "the baby" lifts. I suspect it is all hormone induced. I was lucky to never suffer post-partum depression - I know people who have - but I think for me it was a post-partum fog.

The fog lifted last month and I have gotten down to business. My wonderful Master bedroom emerged last month and this month I found that I do have a kitchen. In fact, I have a great kitchen!

The goal for the month of October was to deep clean, organize my kitchen. It needed it bad. Two weekends in now and I would put it at 75% complete. I have emptied out the cabinets and moved stuff! I am not a rearranger at all - once a piece of furniture is in place I will nearly never move it. Well only on a rare occasion to clean under it (dare I admit). My mom was a rearranger and to be honest, it drove me nuts growing up.

But I went against my gut, listened to my husband's very rational complaints about the cookbooks located in the far back of the pantry, and I moved them! And I love them now! So rearranging isn't awful!

Most of the rest of the kitchen was just emptied out (4 huge garbage bags just this weekend!) and cleaned and put back. Phew! My pantry is lovely, the cookbook shelf is fabulous. The cleaned off and actually purposed as a desk in the kitchen, is lovely too. The rolling cart of crap has been cleaned off, but purpose yet to be determined. The lazy Susan still needs to be tackled as does the very tip top shelf of my glass cabinet that holds stemware we never use (it has been there since we moved into the house - apparently I don't feel the need to put my martinis in a martini glass).

We are hosting a Halloween party in two weeks and panic set in this weekend. Two weeks to get ready! It is always a huge undertaking that is fun and always appreciated by our friends after the fact. But two weeks is NOT enough time! AB suggested that we quit the deep organizing stuff (as beneficial as it is) and start putting lipstick on the pig in the name of the party.

So yeah. Time to lipstick that pig.

Then the last weekend of the month will be spent recovering our kitchen from the madness and finalizing those last couple kitchen things.

And then there is November. I have two thoughts. Back to the Master Bedroom for Thanksgiving week painting and Master bath pick up (easy) and Master closet purge (ugh). OR - I finish Skadi's quilt. I need to finish her quilt.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The fuzzy line - social engineering

When I was a kid, our neighbor on one side was a grandmother whose granddaughter would visit every summer for a few weeks. I loved when Dani would come to town. We had a special kinship. As I got a bit older, my school friends would come over and we would have a group play. But my mom saw that friendship with Dani waning as the other girls would talk about school happenings, other friends, things that Dani didn't know about. So not all the time, but occasionally, and more towards the end of Dani's stay at her grandmother's each year, my mom would tell my other friends that they couldn't play with us. At first I told my mom it was rude. She told me that they were being rude persisting in talking about things that Dani didn't know about. It took me awhile to get that.

But gasp - she would turn them away! It was about intent though, she wasn't trying to exclude the other girls, she was trying to protect and foster inclusiveness with Dani. But I can see how a mom on the sidelines would have seen this as my mom trying to social engineer my friendships or not be inclusive to their girls.

This morning I read a nice blog post about the social engineering of girl's friendships at that vulnerable time in their lives (mostly tween). The author gave pretty extreme examples - or maybe it is just because my daughter isn't to that point yet that made them seem extreme! (Like a mom sneaking onto a bus and securing seats so one posse of girls could sit together and telling other girls they couldn't sit with them.)

I thought the author made a number of excellent points, but I did quibble a bit when reading. In order to combat the social engineering and to foster an everyone is welcome concept, the author decided to start having large parties, where everyone is invited. Wonderful! Super! I got an inkling that she was aiming at "can't always do that all the time", but she didn't really say it. My impression was that it would go too far against her main point.

I would love to invite everyone over all the time. But it is not feasible for my house, my family, nor my wallet. There are times I want to have one family over. Or two families over. Or 5. I have made the decisions to limit the number of people invited over for any occasion based upon what I can mentally handle as an introvert, or who we may have things we want to chat about with, or it's our turn to host, or the food I have for dinner will only feed one (or two) more families.

We are planning our annual Halloween party and we are being forced to make cuts. I just don't have the space or the ability to be a good host with an unlimited invite list. And in order to have organized kids games, I can't include everyone my kids want to invite. It sucks. But I have to say, "I am sorry we can't invite her". I wish I had another option, but I am not renting a warehouse.

I wish I was in the mood to open my house all the time. But I am not. And I don't expect my kids to be either. The line has to be drawn and people, including other kids, will at times feel excluded and I am sorry for that. But it is life. My kids have felt excluded at times as well - we have a variety of friends and they by all means should get together without us. It used to bother my kids to hear about it - which they did because kids talk, but we taught them over the years that they don't need to be involved in everything. Just because you weren't included doesn't mean they don't like you, it means there are limits in life, which frankly, is reality. And at their ages, it doesn't seem to bother them so much anymore.

So anyways. I don't think the author's point was that we should include everyone all the time. But I think it bears mentioning that we also shouldn't feel bad about extending invitations to what is only within our reach for whatever reason. I was one of the kids on the outside, I know how it feels, it isn't my intention to do that to another child. I think it is important to distinguish our intents. Are we being hurtful in excluding, if so, we must step back.

So flipping the coin - we have a neighbor two doors up with a daughter Skadi's age. They were in kindergarten together. We speak to them on occasion when out and about, they have set foot in our house. But the girls can't play.

We have new neighbors on one side with a second grade daughter and she and her kindergarten cousin come over regularly and play. On the other side are grandparents with a kindergarten grandson and second grade granddaughter who are also over regularly. Add in another kindergartener two doors down. It is a great afternoon when there are seven kids out running between the four houses. My extrovert daughter thrives.

But down one more house is that family with a 2nd grader who isn't allowed to play. I feel bad for her. She has to see the six kids out running amuck and laughing and squealing. But her mom won't let her out the door to play.

Despite this, I did keep sending my daughter up, "why don't you see if Sarah wants to join in too?" And Skadi goes and knocks on the door and returns solo. I used to send her up once a week. It is more like once a month now.

But recently my daughter came back and said, "Sarah's mom is mean."

I am thinking she is a bit odd (aren't we all) and overprotective and might have some mental issues, but I ask why she is mean?

"Well she just opens the door and yells 'NO!' at me before I can even ask if Sarah can play with us," Skadi tells me.

That pisses me off. Don't yell at my child for trying to be inclusive of all the second grade girls on our street!

So we have quit asking Sarah to play as of this week because I will not force my daughter to interact with an adult who doesn't respect her enough to even be kind. And heaven help me if I ever hear that Sarah "isn't included".

Friday, September 26, 2014

A post about dogs

About 15 months ago we lost our first dog. The dog we bought when AB and I were serious. Together, planning a wedding and ready to take that first step bonding. Not ready for kids, ready for a dog. And we got a fabulous one. We lucked into our Winny when we ran across a batch of puppies called Belgian Shepherds. We were looking for German Shepherds, mostly. We ran home, looked up on the internet what a Belgian Shepherd was, it looked good. So we ran back, paid our $60 for a little black puppy who stole AB's sunglasses and took her home.

Aeowyn turned me into a dog lover. And she was an amazing dog.
Years went by - about 9 or so - and she started to show her age. Hips hurt, she slept a lot. So I decided she needed a sibling and I found one! A rescue. Also supposed to be a Belgian Shepherd - and she may have been 50% Belgian. But more Border Collie looking and acting. Freya. Freya wormed her way into our hearts and became a good dog too - after a little while. A little hyper and crazy, but wow, she loved us. And we loved her. Skadi especially. 

Then a few months ago in May we lost her suddenly to a surprise case of hemolytic anemia. We tried to save her, but it didn't take. For 4 months we were without a dog. We knew we couldn't get a puppy before going to Alaska for two weeks. And we had actually found an adorable little fawn colored Belgian Tervuren (which is later what we found out Winny was). But we couldn't commit and she ended up finding another home. 

We started looking for dogs and were stunned at how difficult it was. Granted we had a very narrow set of specifications - but we suffered a number of disappointments on our path. I could go on and on about the path we were on that was incredibly annoying. But that isn't what this post is about.

AB and I one night decided to give up the search for a dog. It wasn't meant to be. The right dog will find us. We were tired of people who were asinine about their so called "rescue organizations" and the need to conform to someone else's belief on what a good dog family looked like. (That would be, one without children, mostly.) Oh yes, I wasn't going there, steering back...

We had given it up. AB really wanted a puppy. I didn't. And I was the one who was going to be stuck with the large portion of dog care (or so I believed and still believe). A toddler and a puppy sounded utterly miserable.

Then I saw him and fell in love immediately.

And AB warned me - no way is it going to happen! So I put an application in since it was just another opportunity for someone to reject us.

A blonde German Shepherd. Friendly with young children, cats, house trained, learning to walk on a leash, kennel trained, a true rescue as he was believed to be abandoned and hit by a car, but better now. He was perfect.

And so he visited and he seemed alright. A bit attached to the Foster, but whatever. I saw it. I saw Winny in his eyes. We needed him.

And so the next day she brought him and dropped him off. For good. And with some Xanax.

And that first night AB and I sat there going WTF. "Trooper" was hyped up - the kids were afraid of him. The cat thought the devil himself had arrived. The dog stood on the top my freaking computer desk. I thought he was going to sail out the big picture window actually. He cried. He barked. And his foster didn't answer her e-mails. We presumed because it was the first time she had any sleep in weeks. I cried. What have I done to our family? AB said that tomorrow we would see how it went and evaluate it then all calm-like. I promised to never ever find another rescue dog ever. Ever.

The next morning wasn't much better. I packed my work stuff up, dried my red eyes and went into work. And left the spaz dog with my husband. I whined to a few colleagues and they all encouraged me to give it a little while - it's only been a day!

AB and I talked on the phone, he took the dog to a vet and got Prozac and a sedative. A local shepherd expert met him at the vet and offered her assistance and repeatedly urged him not to give up. We may be this dog's last chance. AB told her we didn't want him to get all attached to us only to pass him off to someone else. She didn't care about that - presumably because there wouldn't be another family on his list. It was about then that we found out he had gone to a foster who rejected him with a few hours claiming aggression towards the husband. If we, as experienced shepherd owners, couldn't make it work. He was done.

Now there is some pressure!

Then this happened.

And she declared that she loved him with all her heart and vowed to protect him for ever and ever and ever and never let anything bad happen to him again.

And we softened.

Then we went to the coast. And things went splendidly. A different dog suddenly emerged. There was no cat to harrass (and the cat got a break from spaz boy). And all of us fell in love.

Oh and he proved his desperate need to be with us at all times by swimming out to follow us in the row boat. That  was a short row. (Winny used to follow us on land.)

He is learning to walk on a leash, has had a bit of training, still thinks the cat is the most curious thing in the world, has some annoying habits that need to be broken.

He would lay down his life for every single member of our family. He is the first one to try to respond when Silas cries. He loves morning walks.

He is now our Odin.

September - 80% Done

It always feels so good when the goals start coming together. A bit addictive! I love seeing progress. I have to try to avoid tunnel vision though. I get this at work too. The “Got.To.Finish.It.Even.If.It.Kills.Me”mentality. Baby is crying and clinging, but got to finish this room! No. Stop. Go pick up the baby and sit down with him, feed him. At work it is, stop typing, stand up, grab bag, go and meet the bus so that kids aren’t standing alone in the house, eating. Eating chocolate and everything bad for them.
Last weekend I pounded on the Master bedroom hard. I scraped crap out of the corners. I started on one side – mine – and worked my way around the room. Huge bag of trash generated. A box and two bags of stuff for Goodwill. Laundry done. AB helped me empty out under the bed and we put the frame back under our mattress which elevates it about 8” higher than it was. (And got the frame out of storage under the bed.) AB built our bed and I wanted it tall. He made it tall. Then I birthed Silas and freaked out – our bed can’t be that tall! And logistics with the cosleeper made it next to impossible to have the bed that tall. So we took the frame out and it was normal height. But now it is tall again! And I love it!
The Master Bedroom is 80% complete now. It doesn’t include the Master bath, which has minor issues. Or the closet – which has bigger issues. I may be able to do the final 20% and tackle the Master Bath this weekend. Except Skadi has her final acting class for the month, which includes a presentation. Then her cousin is coming over to play. (Hey yeah, so she has a COUSIN who lives in the same town as we do and is her same age. Ok, so cousin like three times removed or something like that and that she just met for the first time over Labor Day, but cool!) I want to go to Michael’s, and PetSmart and Target and get groceries and then Skadi could use shoes (boots) other than her Keen sandals for the fall. Then Leif has soccer. And then I have this crazy idea of surprising the kids and going to Shakey’s after soccer because I love their pizza and the kids love the game room and Silas can scream and hardly anyone will notice and I wouldn’t have to pick up.
I will at least get the last 20% done, hopefully convince AB to rent a Rug Doctor and clean the carpet in there. And I maybe will get to the bathroom, maybe not. I got home today and AB had started on the garage. And not just a clean of the garage but like massive reorganization. And I am excited. So I may abandon the Master Bath pick up for the garage.
Next month my goal is the kitchen. Now reason would state that my Master bedroom is all cleaned and organized that I should paint it. Because I want the Master bedroom painted. But the issue is that I don’t feel like doing it. I don’t feel like taping it off, draping everything and painting and doing all the edges. And I don’t really feel as though the month of October is the time to be stuffing myself inside a smelly room. And I haven’t convinced my husband of paint colors.
So hello kitchen!
Actually I need that bad before fall baking/cooking fun and our annual Halloween party. So starting next weekend, the first weekend in October, my kitchen is going to undergo a massive dumping and re-orging so as to confuse everyone in my house about where things will go.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Return to Goals!

Our summer camping trips are winding down now. Back to school. The kids activities are all swinging up and our weekends are back to being spent at the soccer field. A new one for us, Skadi has decided that she is interested in acting and she now has Saturday classes at the local children's theater. I hate to admit how well this new activity appears to fit her and I hope that she might find her niche.

I am very much looking forward to the cooler weather, to fall arriving and to weekends in the home where I can get things accomplished. I have high hopes for the house, but also realize I should scale back my expectations. Silas is at that stage where he is keeping us exceptionally busy and isn't terribly interested in organizing.

To this end, I have decided it is time to return to my Goals! Monthly Goals should suit me fine for the next 4 months. And conveniently it is the first weekend in September now. It's GO time!

September Goal - Declutter and purge the Master Bedroom and the Playroom. Come up with a plan for the Master Bedroom.

It is a perfect opportunity to purge because I have gone through my daughter's closet and drawers and we have two big bags of hand me downs. I have a friend who invited me to toss some baby items in with her stuff for a Church baby gear sale and another friend who is having a garage sale and I can toss a few items in there without the big huge scary obligation of a garage sale at my house. All this does mean that I have to get a move on.

Master: This weekend all the crap that has accumulated in the Master bedroom needs to be purged. I have clothes that don't fit in one stack, a box of baby stuff for Goodwill, baskets of camping clothes... the list goes on and is embarrassingly long. In the long term I would like to come up with a plan for the Master bedroom. Ideally we would rip out the nasty carpet - reality is that it will just be cleaned well. I would love to start thinking about colors and have some ideas in mind. Something for the walls? Well I never just go and buy things for my walls, they have to speak to me. Apparently nothing has ever spoken to me about my Master. And last - storage. I need somewhere to put the stacks of stuff. I am thinking shelves or something at the foot of our bed. Ideally, I would have a fabulous storage bench with seats on top for under our big window. But alas, I think it is a dream.

Playroom: Oh my goodness I need something that works in this room. I also would love doors right about now. And my kids need a change in attitude about picking up after themselves in there. And I need to break the new dog (Odin) of stealing stuffed animals from this wide open room, hauling them downstairs and chewing on them. And I need to break the cat of doing nasty stinky things to the Barbie dolls. I was the lucky one who put about what seemed like 830 Barbies and their clothes into the washing machine two night ago and ran it twice. The cat is "Lucky" he has 9 lives. He may have used one up Wednesday night.

So the playroom just needs to be picked up. The set of shelves and fabric bins I bought needs to be assembled. And I have stacks and stacks of my sewing and cross stitch stuff in bins and buckets. While that system is keeping that stuff away from the wrath of Lucky's rear end, it is an ugly stack. I have a perfect little alcove in there that needs shelves. I could have a built in shelving unit with not too much investment...

That's it. That's my September goal! I need to think about October still. It may involve ripping these crazy shrubs out in my backyard. The ornamental ones that are ultra-ugly unless trimmed. And they are never trimmed. And I will be da____ if I am going to pay someone to come in and prune bushes that I don't even like. So... how do I kill and remove bushes anyways?

Sunday, August 10, 2014


We spent our second week in Anchorage relaxing and hanging with family in Anchorage. Lots of low key fun.

Silas thought grandma and grandpa had some awesome toys.

They live in an awesome location as well.

Skadi's big purchase in Alaska - her dad bought her a pocket knife.

Pirate ship on the lake that grandpa lives on.

Waiting for a table at Moose's Tooth - yummy pizza!

Silas mastered the four wheeler.

Alaska Zoo - always a must do - but pretty run down.

One of my fascinations is the moose wandering Anchorage. This mama had a calf behind her.

Downtown Anchorage - hanging out for a bit.

Hans and I escapted for a long awaited dinner out together at the Double Musky. We have tried for years to get in and for a variety of reasons have always been thwarted. The Alaska version of Cajun.

After the Double Musky we stopped at Beluga Point (where I have never seen a beluga), and built a little fire on the beech.

One of the highlights for the kids - panning for gold at the Indian Valley Mine. We found a few flakes and Leif found a nice garnet.

Hike after the mining at Alyeska - the lowest elevation ski area.

Silas and Hannah

There's something up on that trail!

Don't worry, Leif will save his sister.

Two young bull moose.

The tree with a big butt.

The last night in Anchorage - the sky put a show on for my husband who didn't want to leave. Someday we will make our home here. It may be as soon as 5 years, it may be once Leif and Skadi graduate from high school and we have a 12 year old left in the house. Or it may be when we are empty nesters. It's hard to give up two good jobs in hand and mine affording me the flexibility I want to spend time with the kids and do the work I enjoy.

Insert picture of black bear - here.

We got up the next morning and I was outside in the driveway with the kids. They had (for days) been out riding the little four wheelers up and down the driveway. For some reason this morning I was out with Skadi, Silas and cousin Wesley. Skadi very non-chalantly says, "oh look there is a black bear there!"

Sure enough there was a black bear at the top of the driveway - Skadi says he was about 10 feet from her when he walked out of the forest. Only moderate panicking from me as I scootched all three kids in the front door and cursed that I had left my camera on the counter. I was able to mark one thing off my list new this time around - black bear in the wild. In my own head I collect wildlife sightings - I have seen brown bears, black bear, eagles, and moose in he wild in Alaska. I need to mark off polar bear and musk oxen. Thought the polar bear I hope to see from afar - Hans was able to see one before he left working on the North Slope.

Everyone's Favorites:

Skadi - "Going to the water park. Seeing a bear very close."

Leif - "Going for a long walk with Dad on the beach."

Silas - The four wheelers at grandpa's.

Hans - The octopus experience and fishing.

April - "Seeing wildlife and walking on the beach."

Saturday, August 02, 2014

North to Alaska - Part 2

So we headed from Homer towards Soldotna, which is a sleepy little town for 9 months of the year. Then it turns into an absolute madhouse during the summer as people swarm the Kenai River in order to slay salmon. And we were there right in the midst of it all. Of course we missed the peak of the run by a few days it sounds like, but we are skilled and didn't leave empty handed.

The first night we were there I finally managed to make it down to the river about 11pm. I pulled in the first salmon. Then Hans hit the biggest and finally landed our third - making "the most". Then it was dark and we crawled our way up to the cabin for bed.

Sun is setting about 11:30pm on the Kenai River.

Skadi is the type of kid that always finds a friend to play with. I envy her this. At the fish camp was no exception. She happened upon another little girl and the two played and played and played. This freed up Hans, my MIL and I to alternate with caring for Silas amd Leif to either fish or read depending on his mood. The child plowed through some serious book volumes on this trip.

So Hans and his mom spent a fair bit of time fishing and were skunked. Hans finally tired of this treachery and went to care for Silas. I took over the pole. Salmon on and in. It must have been a fluke. Then I caught another and for the trip we were now 3-2.

Hans and I have a very equal relationship - we aren't terribly competitive and if I am better than him at something it isn't a dig deal. All that goes out the window with fishing.

I knew we were now stuck there until Hans pulled in at least one more fish and quite possibly 2 - so that he could win.

His determination won out and he and Leif pulled in one fish - fulfilling one of our huge goals to have our nearly 10 year old feel the strength of these fish on the end of your line. Then he pulled in fish #7 to secure the lead for the trip.

 Coming down the path carrying his prize.

 Fishy kisses!
We wrapped up our Soldotna experience having restocked our groceries, frozen our 7 fish and saw a few moose. We enjoyed fishing at a fish camp as opposed to fishing in the public access areas where Hans and I have fished for the many years before. The shoulder to shoulder fishing just isn't fun - nor is it without safety concerns - we saw a man with a big old fish hook in his cheek at one point. Yikes!
We set out for Seward, Alaska to meet up with my FIL and his wife! One of my favorite places on earth. I have only been to Seward once before - about 18 years prior I suspect in 1996. I was anxious to take the kids to the Sea Life Center and to just have some time in a beautiful place.
Downtown Seward

Iditarod Mile 0

And imagine, they even have a nice park to play in!

The Sea Life Center - Silas loved the sea lion.
I missed it for unspeakable reasons (sigh), but Hans took the kids and grandpa paid a small fortune for the Octopus Experience at the Alaska Sea Life Center. An hour up close and very personal with an 80 lb octopus. Hans still ranks this as one of his top favorite things we did during the two weeks. He has footage of the octopus crawling up his arms and the kids feeding it shrimp. Apparently Skadi was a bit freaked out by it, but finally came around.

Skadi outside the Seavey dog sled experience. We were going to do it - Skadi was DYING to hold the sled dog puppies and was begging to pick one out to bring home. - but logistics just weren't working in our favor. And then we found it that it wasn't actually going to be Dallas Seavey to take us out. And Leif's interest then waned too.

We went to Lovell Point and hung out on the beach a bit.

Photobombed by my oldest.

Our girl with the fireweed. Love. 

Family of five selfie. Do you know how hard this is?

About 18 years ago Hans and I went to hike Exit Glacier. We had a great time wandering around the glacier and crawling inside the little side caverns.

Not anymore. Not only do you not get close enough to touch the glacier, but you would never walk into a side cavern. The glacier has receded an incredible amount.

Leif at Exit Glacier

Hans, my FIL, me, Leif, Skadi and Silas' Viking hat...

Sweet brother and sister.

Exit from afar.

 Two moose - a mama and a baby - on a side road after we took a wrong turn.
This wraps up a week out on the Kenai peninsula. After seeing the moose we made the trek back to the big city of Anchorage for the second week of our vacation.