Thursday, July 28, 2011

Definitions Time - Bejeezus

Me: "Leif, you scare the bejesus out of me sometimes!"

Leif: "You have Jesus's in you that are leaving?"

Me: "No, bejesus."

Leif: "What is that?"

Me: "Ummm... ummm... ummm..."

Leif: "Is it like your taste buds?"

Me: "Ok sure, like your taste buds."

Leif: "I am going to scare your taste buds out of you!!"

Coach Nuclear Mom?

I am always pushing my poor husband to coach sports teams. He actually does pretty well at it and despite his complaining I am SURE that he enjoys it.

Now that we have two children that are team sports ages it is hard to balance the obligations that team sports bring. It is easier when only one child wants to play a sport, but when they both want to... just scary.

With the YMCA sports, I like that the practices and games during the summer are actually during the week leaving weekends open. However, there is a huge demand for teams and always wait lists for the sports. You often end up taking what you can get as a parent. Two kids and you are potentially looking at 4 nights of sports a week!

Now if you are a volunteer coach... things loosen up substantially!

This was my thought. AB coaches Leif's soccer team, I coach Skadi's and between us we coordinate the practices and games. This has actually worked out quite successfully and we ended up with a number of other siblings on our teams as well as parents who have suddenly clung to us with frequent statements and e-mails of "let's do this again, let us know when you are coaching other teams!"

But can I just say that I am just not a natural coach?

Nope. Really not.

Of course my age group (3-4 year olds) makes my role feel substantially more like "preschool teacher" or "cat herder" or "zoo keeper" than "coach".

My husband gets to maintain the coach title. Not me.

Luckily I went into this with an enthusiastic co-coach who has not only picked up my slack but run with it and has had incredible commitment to the team and quite possibly more natural preschool teacher/cat herder/zoo keeper in him than I do.

I have complained a few times about parents on sports teams and I am quite sure that at least on one occasion, my husband was viewed as "one of those parents".

One more week left and really it was fun. Do it again? Unlikely. I am happy to think that my son is getting to the age and ability that his next coach needs to be someone with more than recreational commitment, which means that AB is already talking about coaching Skadi's team. Which means I should be off the hook, right??

Here are my issues...

First off I suck at Arts and Crafts and cutey things. What does this have to do with soccer? In baseball the coach (also a kindergarten teacher...) had cute little foam seat pads for the kids to sit on and every time she brought snacks it had pencils and ribbons and fancy name writing. Little pails for the kids all decorated at the end of the season.

Me? I have intentions... but I secretly comfort myself knowing that the baseball pail is lying at the bottom of he toy box stripped of its decorations...

The parents. Seriously parents. I am not your babysitter. When your child quits running off the field for the play area? That's when you get to sit in your comfy chair in the shade sipping whatever beverage of choice you might have in your Sigg. Yes, I know, my daughter is as bad as everyone else at kicking and chasing the ball 100 yards off the field... but I am out there to chase her! When I invite the parents out on the field to help steer their kids, I am serious. As in "get out here now".

Commitments. Just my feelings I suppose, but when you commit to bringing snack, being at a game, or any other plans for the team, I expect there to be some carry through. Because really, a game without snacks at the end just really, really sucks for the kids. I gave you my cell and e-mail for a reason.

I had one parent this time around with children on each my husband's and my team. She couldn't get her children out on the field. After trying for 5 minutes each night, two nights in a row, she stated to her kids, "ok, you can either go out on the field or we can go get ice cream instead, your choice".

Umm gee, what would you choose? Any surprise that neither of the kids attended more than those two nights? But of course she signed up for snacks... for both teams... which now I get to cover... while she enjoys her ice cream...

Anyways... no it wasn't all bad. I met some terrific and fun kids. I practiced my preschool teacher skills just in case this whole Ph.D. scientist thing doesn't work out. I got out and ran with the kids. I held lots of hands on the field and was the recipient of many "flowers" from the field from my kids. I got lots of hugs. I got to play the role of "monkey bars" for the kids. My kids got to win (frequently thanks to one little Beckham on my team).

Naw, it wasn't all bad. Afterall, its making it an experience for the kids.

(Maybe my tags should be a hint... when I type "Coach" in I get "purse"...)


Me: "Leif this afternoon when Auntie Melissa gave you a gift, I wasn't happy with the way you said, 'oh, I hope it is a Wii game!' That is impolite and can make the other person feel bad."

Leif: (Looking at me blankly.) "But I liked the book a lot mom!"

Me: "I know. But ok, think of it this way, if you drew me a special picture and wrapped it up and gave it to me because you knew I would like it and I said, 'oh, I hope it is a diamond ring!' How would you feel?"

Leif: "Bad."

Me: "See what I mean. You can hurt someone's feelings by assuming the gift is something that it isn't."

Leif: "But what if it was a drawing of a diamond ring?"


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Well Uff-Da

This morning the phone rang. It was one of my uncles. I don't hear from my mom's brothers except in times of crises. I knew what the phone call was about. As did my sister who received a similar call and immediately assumed the worst.

My 87 year old grandmother, Shirley Jeanne Perchert Walker, passed away last night.

Over the last year my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimers, moved into a full time care facility, had three major surgeries (broken femur, blood infection and colon resection) and we all knew we were losing her both mentally and physically.

My grandmother was born in 1923 in Cooperstown, North Dakota to Hanna and Albert Perchert. She had two older brothers: Dale and Albert Jr (Bud) (both deceased when I was in my teens and early 20's). Copperstown was a very, very small Norwegian farming community where she claimed being related to half the town. She grew up on a farm through the Great Depression where as she put it, they didn't have much, but they had food. They did better than much of the rest of the US during this time. My great grandmother had three younger children later - Charles (Chucky), Naomi and Bonnie - all of whom are still living.

While my grandmother was in high school she also taught school and once graduated she went to teach full time "until she found a husband". About that time, my great grandparents decided to give up the farming life and took the younger three children to the Bay area. My uncle Dale took over the farm and remained close with my grandmother. Uncle Bud moved to California and I am in contact with his daughter Mickey on a somewhat regular basis. The younger siblings I only knew in passing. I got to know Chucky when we lived in Reno and he lived and worked nearby.

After a year or so of teaching high school my grandmother decided to enroll in the Army Nurse Cadet program and she was sent to Spokane, WA for her training at Deaconess Hospital.

As I grew older my grandmother would tell me how they were "the wild bunch" at Deaconess and how she and her roommate had one of the only rooms with a window and they used to sneak their girlfriends in and out of the room to meet the soldiers stationed at the base up near Spokane.

My grandmother spent time in LaGrande, OR doing her nurses training as well. She was nearing the day to be shipped overseas when the announcement came that the war was over.

My grandmother packed up and moved to Seattle, WA where she worked in a hospital. She took up flirting with an ambulance driver who relieved the elevator operator for his lunch. My grandmother tells of making excuses to ride up and down the elevator to be with the man who was nearly 15 years her senior.

The story between Seattle to Casper, WY is foggy. She at one point admitted to me that she left Seattle for Casper when she was pregnant (unmarried) and didn't know what to do. The man she had met in the elevator wasn't sure what he wanted to do and was not supportive of the pregnancy. She up and left and arrived in Casper, WY and moved in with a girl she knew from nurses training, started working at the local hospital and started attending the Seventh Day Adventist church.

A few months Eugene Lemuel Walker showed up. There was a wedding. And a few months later my uncle David was born.

My grandfather was born in backwoods Arkansas to a native American woman named Rose Hawk in the early part of the century. He managed to attend school through the second grade.

He had done odd jobs throughout his life to this point and decided that he would attend barber school. The school requested his transcript and he lied, telling them the school burnt down. He went to barber school, opened a barber shop in downtown Casper where he worked as long as his health allowed him. During the last 10 years of his life he was largely confined to the house and struggled with heart and lung problems and not to mention diabetes. He passed away in 1985.

Jeanne and Eugene had four children; David, Michael, Barbara and Robert. It was a volatile family life with alcoholism and lots of yelling. My grandparents had warm, but hard hearts. I used to play Yahtzee with my grandmother, we would sit at the kitchen table and she had this old yellow plastic cup she would roll her dice with. And she would shake and shake that cup. Then my grandfather would start yelling, "think you need to roll those God-damned any louder?" And my grandmother would grin. And her next turn she would shake them even louder and longer. Then my grandfather would start cussing under his breath. When someone bought my grandmother a padded dice cup it was supposed to heal the marriage.

My Yahtzee experiences I expect were only the tip of the iceburg with their 40-some year marriage, but said so much about those 40 years.

My grandmother worked nights as a nurse at the hospital and my grandfather was a barber.

In 1972 her first grandchild was born. That would be me.

I spent days with my grandmother while my mom attended the community college to get her AA degree. My grandmother and I were fast friends. Best of buddies. I spent loads of time at her house growing up. We had all our holidays together. She was my Bonka.

My grandmother was never one to smooth things over. She didn't hide her feelings or thoughts. And many people were hurt from this. Many family members. My grandmother told me one day, "people try to pretend like it isn't true, but your first is always your favorite. My first child was my favorite and my first grandchild was my favorite." She didn't have to say this, we all knew it was true, unfortunately. She tuned out with my little sister and her oldest son could do no wrong, but the other three struggled to live up despite one going to medical school and one becoming a small business owner of a contract research lab doing research for the giant firms. In this regard, I feel sorry for my grandmother, because she failed to look beyond her feelings to discover the beauty of the other children and adults in the family. I worked so hard to make up for her shortcomings with my sister, but I was hiding nothing from her.

I find it interesting that my sister was the one that was really thoroughly left on the sidelines with regards to my grandmother, but in the last year, my sister is the one who saw her most as she went to the home and visited her regularly in every hospital. I want to say I would have done the same thing in her shoes... but I admit I have not taken those steps with my father's mom.

My grandmother was a bull in the china shop. She was an excellent nurse and retired a few years after my grandfather died. She held her achievements as a nurse close to her heart. One of her favorite possessions, which is now in my possession, was her years of service pins from the hospital. When the hospital started putting computers at the stations, she switched from nursing to serving as a Pink Lady and she was incredibly proud of her volunteer service and built her hours of service with pride.

My grandmother took my sister and I on our first plane ride when I was in the 4th grade and my sister in 1st grade to North Dakota to meet her extended family. When I was 13, she took us to Disneyland. And when we moved to Colorado she drove the 4 hours up and back on I-25 regularly to be there for every major event.

My grandmother was one of my biggest advocates. When I was a little girl I said that I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up, she replied, "no, you don't want to be a nurse, you will be a doctor". When I decided to go to grad school instead of medical school she was not happy with me.

She lived in her home (in one of the worst parts of Casper, which I should also blog about how they bought this home) until she was 85 years old. Two years ago we convinced her to go and live with David in Denver, he needed her as his health was declining. Everyone hoped it would be to their mutual benefit. As she lived there, David started realizing how poor off she really was. Her mental capacity was declining rapidly and as a consequence of this her finances needed serious interference.

Shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with mild Alzheimers about the same time my mother was diagnosed with liver cancer. This became a very difficult time for the both of them. My mom still harbored a lot of animosity that had never played out between she and my grandmother and tried to balance it with the fact that she was fighting for her life and still felt that she needed her mom to be there. My grandmother started having animosity because my mom wasn't there, she wasn't the one stepping up to help care for her and in her Alzheimers state, was not realizing that there were other things at play here. A liftime of difficult communication was coming to head.

My grandmother was eventually moved from my uncles house when he finally admitted he could not care for her, into an assisted living home where she had her own apartment. This was short lived when it was realized by the assisted living personnel that she needed substantially more than they could offer her, particularly after she broke her leg. She was moved into nursing home and quickly forgot about thoughts of going home.

We all went up to Casper and cleaned out her house - ok, some more than others cleaned - I went up and went through items taking a few boxfuls of things. The house sold a few months later.

Her health started rapidly declining, but she spoke regularly about how she loved the home, how good to her the staff was, and such. This was amazing to me, I never thought she would be happy with such a living situation. What angels.

Last week I received an e-mail from my uncle indicating that once again she was in the hospital and had undergone emergency surgery to remove a portion of her colon that had died. I spoke to her on the phone and it was so difficult to understand her, but her regular humor was still there.

I decided to make plans to go see her in the next 6-8 weeks, once she got out of the hospital. Unfortunately that wasn't to be. The last time I saw her was the day the kids, AB and I went to see her before celebrating my mom's life. We explained the situation that she had passed away and I held her tiny bony frame as she sobbed that it should have been her. Then as typical with Alzheimers patients, the minute lunch was mentioned she was off on a new topic and quickly forgot. Then during lunch she asked, "so how is your mother doing?"

I have many many funny and happy stories of my grandmother. She was one of my biggest fans and me one of hers. While I am sad that she has departed, I am happy that it was quiet, in her sleep, that she was lucky enough to have 87 years under her belt, had lived through so many fantastic times and accomplished so much for a woman in her lifetime (attaining her bachelor's degree in science). Living without memories is no way to live. She is truly in a better place now.

Friday, July 08, 2011

4th of July at the Cabin

Strolling the beach.

Every trip to Shelton has to have a trip to see Cecil.

The neighborhood friendly Harbor seal has gotten awfully used to us. He doesn't budge when we paddle up right next to him. Seriously, *I* was the one getting freaked out here.

Skadi was determined to catch fish for dinner.

But she only kept turning up these jellyfish.

The kids were freaked out by them, but AB notsomuch.


Ok, this guy, we will be freaked out a bit by. He was a BIG jellyfish. Nets out of the water.

Where did my baby girl go?

Missing, one baby girl. Seems to have been replaced by a big girl.

Best Purchase Ever

The past few years AB and I have debated and studied RVs. (Yes, my 16 year old self is so laughing at me right now.) We finally honed in on a travel trailer and after another year or so decided what we wanted... queen bed (preferably with a separation wall), bunks and preferably four seasons since we had hopes at the time of using it year round... or at least 3 seasons of the year. This May we happened upon a lesser known brand at a great price (similar to what we were going to pay for a used version) and pounced.

We worried... were we going to suffer buyer's regret? Will we really use it? Will we LIKE it?

Four trips out later and we are sold. We love it. We use it. And no buyer's regret.

The step stool is there for the kids to access the bunk. Bathroom behind the door.

Leif gets the top bunk and loves it. Skadi is less enthused with the bunks for some reason. I am wondering if she isn't a bit clautrophobic. But after a few trips out and her waking and screaming all throughout the nights we gave in and put her on the fold out sofa. It pretty much never gets folded in actually as the kids like it out and it is more comfortable that way.

Yep, we are all quite sold on our new purchase. We enjoy having the place to sleep indoors, the heater when needed and the AC when needed. So far we have mostly dry camped, which has its own learning curve. But we have it pretty well mastered so far. The generator that AB purchased gives us an extra bit of insurance.

But best of all it has enabled trips that created memories for the kids like the ones below:

Leif's Rainbow Salmon... or Trout... whichever it is...

Still Leif's rainbow trout... but Skadi wanted a picture holding it.

Hiking and playing with the slugs.

More fishing...

Everyone loves fishing.

Even "Girl Grover" loves fishing!

Thursday, July 07, 2011



How can it be July already? Do I ask this every month? Why do the months just keep going faster and faster?

So my June goals were pretty much a complete bust. But I am going to blame money there.

I wanted to find something to organize my jewelry. I found a cute jewelry hanger to mount on the wall, went to go buy it and found out it was no longer in stock. And the thing is I want a wall hanging one. I have some long necklaces and I don’t want to devote the counter space. Wall mount only.

This caveat has made procuring the right system difficult. I actually found a few, but they were freaky expensive. Like $140 expensive. And I just have a horrible time committing about what I would spend on a good pair of shoes for some wire thing to hang my jewelry by. I may just resort to an 8 pack box of those Command hooks and keep my earring system as is – as in little votive holders next to my bed and on my bathroom counter. Or at least until I find something new and acceptable.

My quilt is pretty much ready to go to the long arm shop. Except that committing $200 to this endeavor, while easier to swallow than the $140 jewelry holder, is just not as pressing for some reason. I have it ready to go… and when I have an extra $200 sitting around… it will be first on deck. (And umm no, this having an extra $200 sitting around does NOT happen regularly.)

So July. Hello July.

July is going to be my month of not spending ANYTHING on my monthly goals. Yes, I have become freaky about spending money. I am tired of it. I mean, I want the stuff that results from it, but I am tired of not having it.

We have been gone – out camping usually – about every other weekend since early May. Yay us! We are using our trailer and loving it. Happy days! Except that those weekends at home are all about recovery. Mountains of laundry, groceries, fitting in everything else basically.

Our next trip isn’t until July 29th when we head back over to the cabin so the kids can hang with their Boston cousins for a weekend.

Three whole weekends! Three whole weekends with no soccer (soccer is during the week in the summer), no swimming lessons, no excuses. And on one of them – no AB! He is going to Minnesota for a friend’s wedding and we decided that in the goal of saving money, that he would venture on his own. That gives me a whole weekend of not compromising! Of course it also gives me a whole weekend of single parenting…

With busy weekends and soccer two nights a week, I have fallen seriously behind in getting stuff done around the house. I have flat surfaces with just stacks of papers to be sorted, filed, shredded, tossed, etc. I have piles to go to Goodwill. I have piles of stuff to think about listing for sale. The kids’ closets are rapidly descending somewhere ugly. And my daughter’s hair accessory drawers has taken on a life of their own. Oh and did I mention I have a guest room? Yeah, it is hidden somewhere behind a stack of stuff.


And planning for the future. I want to get some plans for our outdoor kitchen/patio going (maybe even contacting an architect for some ideas… if I can get AB on board there). I want to start thinking about this fall’s project – hardwood flooring in the front office and dining room (along with paint).

July is all about taking control of the clutter and planning for the remaining half year.

Foodie Inspirations

One of my old issues of Bon Appetit (it is an older issue as I have no time to read it anymore it seems) had a section on defining food moments. What, in your lifetime, was your defining food moment or moments? That point where food became more than just sustenance? Where food became intriguing? What helped you define yourself further from being a mere consumer?

Ok, so those last three are my spin on the question since in Bon Appetit it was posed to a bunch of chefs. And I am not a chef – but I think the question is still relevant.

I was always a horribly picky child. Horribly. I rarely tried anything new and I preferred bland food. I ate mild salsa. And I dipped my chip carefully so as to not get any chunks on my chip, then I would shake it so I didn’t get too much salsa. Seriously.

Wow have I come a long way.

I recall a few food defining moments…

The first one that pops to mind was when I started dating a guy in my freshman year of college. He had a bit of hippy to him and had worked in kitchens throughout Northern Colorado. In that nearly two years we dated, he taught me to cook. Really cook, as in not food preparation for mere sustenance. We ate at some fabulous restaurants and cooked great food and used it as an excuse to gather with friends.

When we were first starting to date he took me to El Chapultapec in downtown Denver and we ordered green chili. I was still picky, but despite my fear, I wasn’t going to let it show.

I took one bite of my steaming bowlful of green chili in front of me and I started to cry. It burned. It hit my tastebuds. It paralyzed my taste buds. I gagged. I gulped water. I cried some more.

And then I went back for more.

It was delicious and had flavors I never knew existed.

I am positive I permanently maimed my taste buds that evening. But it was a good thing.

My second food defining moment was when I was new in my job out of grad school. AB and I were invited to go have Thanksgiving dinner with one of my managers. It was one of the first times that we either weren’t traveling to Colorado to be with my family, or weren’t hosting ourselves. We felt a bit out of sorts about eating at someone else’s house for Thanksgiving, but we embraced it.

Dinner was very traditional and good. But everyone was so excited for dessert – pie! I knew I could embrace this. I love pie. Pie is my family’s way of doing dessert. I had eaten pie since I was a child and there is NO other way to finish up Thanksgiving dinner. Pie is what Thanksgiving is all about to me. I could care less about turkey usually. But pie? Yum. So when the manager told me a week in advance that pie was their centerpiece for the meal, I knew this would go over well.

Once there though, my perceptions changed. Then I was a bit horrified.

My hosts pulled out a few boxes out of the freezer and tossed frozen pies into the oven.

They pulled the pies out later and everyone ooh’d and aah’d over the pies.

I tried not to turn up my nose. I took a piece.

Then I went home and vowed to learn to make pie crust. To this point I had accepted that I was not a pie crust maker and relied on eating my mom’s pies. Only occasionally attempting pie myself and dealing with the fact that I had tough ugly crusts.

A year or so later I had mastered pie crust and resolved to never ever ever be forced to eat frozen box pies for Thanksgiving dinner ever again.

My pie crusts may not be pretty, but I can crank the pies out with ease.

The perils of a child's increased awareness of his surroundings...

The setting: Leif and I in some skuzzy male/female gas station bathroom on the way back from the coast. Normally I let him go in by himself, but I hesitated here and went in with him.

Leif: “Look mom, you can buy stuff in here!” (Pointing to the questionable dispenser on the wall.)

Me: “Yep.”

Leif: “It costs 50 cents mom.”

Me: “Yep.”

Leif: “It looks like it is a fun game mom, see it says ‘Fun’ on it!”

Me: “Oh yeah, I bet it is a lot of fun.”

Leif: “Do you have 50 cents mom? I want one of those games.”

Me: “No.”

Leif: “But it says it is fun mom.”

Me: “Those are just for adults.”

Leif: “Why would they put fun games to buy in the bathrooms that are just for adults mom? That just doesn’t make sense.”

Me: “Nope, it doesn’t make any sense at all, you are right. Let’s hurry and go.”