{7QuickTakes}Weekly mishmash: Halloween and the Couch that Smelled of Pee, or Scary Adventures in Potty Training

Hello!  We survived a scary week of Halloween being on a Monday.  It was rough,  and I can imagine even more so for my children’s teachers – having to get through an entire week of dealing with candy-addled youngsters.  I salute you, teachers.  Your courage and fortitude is beyond my capabilities.

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What is scarier than kids hopped up on candy??

Here is what else has been going on around here:

ONE

I realized that I am becoming a Bah-Humbug Halloween mom.  This is so extremely sad because, generally, I love Halloween.  It’s one of my favorite holidays, and not for the whole pseudo-occult-scary-zombies-and-skulls-everywhere reason.  I just like to dress up.  But this year, the day before Halloween, as I was rushing around trying to find all the pumpkin-carving tools and laying down newspaper on the table while trying to remember where I put the battery-operated tea lights, it occurred to me that THIS IS JUST TOO DANG MUCH WORK.  And, of course, the kids are running around in crazy anticipation of things to come (i.e. candy) like wolves who get a whiff of a wounded elk two miles off.  Of course, I suck it up and remember that this holiday is for them, not me, and power through.  But I lament the fact that I can’t seem to find the joy in Halloween any more.  I will need to work on that (and don’t even get me started on Christmas!)

TWO

Hubby and I met 16 years ago at a Halloween party at his college fraternity house.  I was a cowgirl….he was a  – flasher [because what other Halloween costume can you make up with things you already own – a coat and boxer shorts (luckily he was a G-rated flasher)? – excited to try to explain that one to our kids later…] but it always makes the Halloween season special for Hubby and me.  I like to try and go out to eat or something to celebrate our Anniversary of Meeting.  This year, we did something different and went to a sip-and-paint place (you can bring wine in and everyone in attendance gets instruction about how to paint a specific picture).  I had been there once before with my girlfriends, but I was pleasantly surprised how my analytical, science-minded husband really took to the creative experience.  He was really excited about his painting afterwards and talked about the experience for DAYS.  It was really a fun date night.

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He’s a better artist than me…his steps had WAAAAAYYYY more structural integrity than mine.

THREE

Yeah. So…my couch smells like urine.  I am so done with this “potty training” stuff with Spike.  He turns 4 in a month and I am pretty sure he will still be peeing his pants then.  We have tried everything.  Pull-ups are glorified diapers, people.  I have never successfully used them to potty train.  So we are just going the underwear route, along with a “potty timer” so that he has to at least try to use the toilet every 45 minutes.  This works well, except for when ha! Mommy forgets to reset the timer, or, he has the urge to go between timer dings.  Apparently I need to give him VIP-escort to the bathroom whenever I read his mind that peepee is coming, or no cigar.  Grrrrr!  Junior was a pain to potty train as well.  Bellie, on the other hand, was a breeze.  (She was so embarrassed about pooping in her auntie’s bathtub that she instantly decided poop would never again go anywhere but the porcelain throne.)

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Quit your smiling, McQueen! This isn’t fun.

FOUR

I ordered my Christmas cards already!  I am totally on top of things.  Of course, they will still probably not be mailed until the day before Christmas, but it’s the intention that counts, right?

FIVE

That is how many baskets of clean laundry I have in my living room that currently need folding.  Ugh.  Sounds like a Friday Fun-day activity.100_9805

SIX

We are hardly ever out and about after dark around here and the other day I had to run Junior to karate with the other kids in tow.  The sun had gone down and it was getting darker and Spike worriedly asked me if we were still going to be able to find our way home in the dark, or if we were lost.  It genuinely concerned him, and I was glad I could put his mind at ease:-)

SEVEN

I hope everyone remembers to vote on Tuesday!  Hubby and I were having a conversation about the upcoming election and he remarked, “I don’t think the country has ever been more divided in an election before.”  Of course he is not a history major, but I had to remind him of the election of 1860…

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…at least we’re not to the point of secession – at least not yet.  God Save Our Country!

And God bless you all in the coming week!

Be sure to stop by Kelly’s for more fabulous Quick Takes!

 

 

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{7QuickTakes}Weekly mishmash: Vol. 11

Well, here we are approaching the last full week of October!  I can hardly believe it.  Time is flying so quickly.  Linking up with Kelly again for this week’s 7QTs.

~ONE~

My computer is boasting a sticky keyboard this week.  Thanks to Evvie kindly spilling my coffee all over it.  And I am too lazy to unscrew it and take the back off and clean inside it, so I am still using it while having to pressssssssssssssss (see?) really hard on some keys to make them work.  It’s an occupational hazard, I guess.

~TWO~

We went to a local corn maze extravaganza on Friday night.  The kids had a BLAST.  Hubby and I (who are more antisocial homebodies) tried to keep those completely fake smiles plastered in place while freezing our hinies off as the kids insisted on running in four different directions while we we kicked ourselves for not bringing more than one flashlight.

~THREE~

I had the opportunity to volunteer at my older kids’ school on Friday.  Since the public school system in Idaho is so poorly funded, classes like art and music have been cut.  In my town, the elementary schools greatly rely on parent volunteers to teach “FAME” or “Fine Arts Mini-Experience” once monthly so that kids can be exposed to art history and music appreciation.  I have been volunteering with this program for four years and I really enjoy teaching it.  I am always really impressed with how well-mannered and inquisitive the kids are.  One of the major highlights of this lesson (in which the art discussed was Grant Wood’s American Gothic) was showing the kids the different parodies that have been made of the artwork.  I think the overwhelming favorite was a Star Wars-themed one where the farmer traded his pitchfork for a light saber.

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courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago, artic.edu

~FOUR~

We babysat an 11-month-old baby girl yesterday.  She was sweet, but a big girl!  She was the same size as 21-month-old Evvie, and weighed much the same.  Evvie has always been at the low end of the size spectrum.  She’s growing, just seems to be petite.  It was interesting to watch Evvie interact with a younger baby.  Mostly she was just jealous because I was giving attention to another baby!   The parents sorely needed a break, Hubby works with the dad, and they are new to the area and don’t know a lot of people.  I sometimes forget how vital it is as a new-er mother to have other friends who are also traversing the journey of motherhood along with you.  It sounds like this mom is very lonely for other mom friends.  I am always so happy to recommend MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) to moms looking for that kind of connection.  Just being able to check in a few times a month with other parents who have kids the same ages as yours and who can commiserate with the ups and downs of parenthood along with you is such a blessing.

~FIVE~

I recently had a friend diagnosed with breast cancer.  They caught it early and her prognosis looks good, but she will still be in the throws of chemo for the next several months.  She is young (36) and is married with two young girls.  I have offered to help with whatever she needs, and I know she has many other friends doing the same.  I have never had a friend go through this before, and am unsure what would be the most meaningful way to help.  Any suggestions from anyone who has been there?

~SIX~

One of the best things about having kids get a little older is that you can pass on chores to them that you do not relish doing.  Having Junior clean out my car this weekend was SO AWESOME!  Of course he is not as thorough as I would be, but he vacuumed.  He threw away trash.  He put little trash bags by everyone’s seats to encourage them to throw garbage in there instead of on the floor.  It warms a mother’s heart!

~SEVEN~

I recently discovered Overdrive from my library and have been having so much fun listening to audiobooks while I clean and do the dishes.  It makes those chores go soooooooo much faster.  I recently “read” (listened to?) the Ruby Red trilogy by Kerstin Gier…started out as a read for a book club but then I really got into it, even though I am not usually into the young adult/fantasy genre.  But I absolutely loved the narrator.  I love when you get a good narrator who does all the voices believably.  The three books were a really good listen.  Now I am listening to Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler.

~~~

That’s all folks, Have a lovely week!

 

Asking for what you need and guilt-laden “me time”

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lovely image of Paris courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I have been struggling with two main emotions  challenges stumbling blocks lately.  And they are guilt and my struggle to be assertive.

I struggled with this last month when my in-laws were visiting.  I have been struggling with it this month while I try to plan my upcoming Europe trip, as well as take some much-needed “me time” in the form of my monthly Bunco get-together.  Hubby, understandably, is resistant to the times I spend away from the family.  It places extra burden on him and he really doesn’t get anything concrete in return.  (One could argue a happier, more rested wife, but we’ll get back to that in a minute…)

Things came to a head last week when I was discussing the aforesaid European trip with Hubby, complaining that there wouldn’t be enough time to comfortably see EVERYTHING, and he suddenly said, “I am not sympathetic; I am not supportive of this trip in the first place.”

Wow.

I was thrown for a loop.  Here I am, glibly planning this two week trip for next summer with friends and – heck- we’re almost ready to buy plane tickets, when Hubby suddenly brings to my attention the fact that, ahem, he is not supportive of this trip.  I admit I never really asked permission to take this trip with friends -a trip that I have been saving both my money and airline miles for.  I had, at first, mentioned to Hubby that we take a trip together, just the two of us.  I suggested Alaska, a place Hubby had always wanted to see.  I figured out a little itinerary (Denali! Kenai Fjords! A fishing charter!) and asked my sister if she would be willing to come out to Idaho to watch the kids while we were gone.  I had it all planned, and presented the plan to Hubby on his birthday.

The response was not as I had expected.  He replied that he didn’t want to spend that kind of money, that his idea of an Alaskan trip was much different than my idea of an Alaskan trip (think flying into a remote North Pole-ery location and rustic camping/fishing for a week) and he reminded me that we don’t travel well together.  (Which is true, we have very different traveling styles).  I told him that we had enough airline miles for both of us to fly to Alaska for no cost.  He said, “I’m sure you’d rather go to Europe with those miles.”  And I said, “Yes, actually I would.  Can I go to Europe with those miles if you really really don’t want to do Alaska with me?”  And he said yes.  So I really really thought he was completely OK with me going to Europe next summer.

After the conversation (the one where he said he wasn’t going to support my trip), I was wracked with horrendous amounts of Guilt.  Who was I, thinking that it was completely OK to ditch my young family for a couple of weeks, leaving my poor frazzled husband to deal with them?  Who was I to make my husband take vacation from work to watch the kiddos while I gallivanted around Europe while he was forced to stay home and be stressed out?   Why did I think I deserved that?  What if something happened to the kids while I was gone?  What if something happened to me?  How selfish was that?  How selfish was I?

While I kept trying to make sense of my emotions regarding this I tried to ascertain exactly why Hubby said he was non supportive.  What he had said was he wasn’t supportive of my trip.  What I heard is that he wasn’t supportive of me.  When I asked him to clarify, he said he thought the expense of travel was too great and that he didn’t believe I would be able to save enough money beforehand to finance my trip.  He also was unhappy about having to take work off, using up valuable vacation time that he would rather use for….um, vacation.  He also was worried for my safety, in light of the terrorism that seems to run rampant in Europe these days.  Additionally, and perhaps a little “selfishly” on his part, he was jealous.  When had he gotten to take a two-week trip with his friends?  I reminded him of the cool locations he had traveled to for work (Sweden, for example).  Also, I reminded him that I had tried to get us to plan a trip to Alaska, a #1 bucket-list item on his agenda, but he had declined.

Nevertheless, even after finding out the reasons for my husband’s reluctance to this trip, I still felt guilty.  I assured him I would try even harder to save money.  I would sell stuff I was no longer using on ebay.  I would pare down my spending.  I also assured him I would try to figure out childcare options for while I was gone, perhaps hiring someone or seeing if a family member would come out to provide babysitting.  I can’t do anything about terrorism or crime except to keep alert and stick with my traveling companions, and I told him I would be supportive of any travel scheme he came up with in the future – with or without me.  But the guilt remained.

As a wife and a mother, and especially as a woman of God, we are taught the intrinsic value of sacrifice.  We sacrifice for our spouse.  We sacrifice, especially, for our children.  Our sleep, our time, our energy, our bodies.  We are happy to do it because our families are worth it.  No one wants to be that mom or that wife who selfishly puts her wants ahead of her family’s needs.

So when, if ever, is it OK to say “Time Out!  I need to focus on my needs a little bit.  And they might look like ‘wants’ to you, but believe me, THEY ARE NEEDS!”  Like rest and rejuvenation.  Intellectual and cultural stimulation.  Exercise time.  Heck, a shower!

I guess, ultimately, I don’t want my kids to look back at me during their childhood as a woman who had no identity except that as their mother or their father’s wife.  I want them to see me as a dynamic, interesting, and joyful  woman who sacrificed for them but never forgot to take time out for herself.  I don’t want them to remember me as bitter and frustrated and failing to be a person in my own right.  I also don’t want them to remember me as a woman racked with guilt over following my dreams.

That said, I am forging ahead with the planning for my Europe trip.  I will try to come up with ways to make the time I am gone (and the expense) less painful for Hubby.  I am sure I will continue to struggle with feelings of guilt, but I need to focus on the actual goal which is to create enough joy that I come back to nurture my family even better.  One can’t feel guilty about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

{7 Quick Takes} Thoughts on Hamilton, “pretend school” and memory

Hello, gentle readers…hope your week has been lovely.  Linking up again with Kelly to let you in on what’s been happening around here…

ONE

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I am sort-of behind the times, but just recently discovered and immediately jumped on the Hamilton bandwagon.  I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on Amazon nearly non-stop for a few weeks now, and I love it.

I was a history major in college and I always thought, reading about Alexander Hamilton, “what a stud!” first, but then, “this guy was the epitome of the American Dream”.  He rose from illegitimacy and poverty to become one of the most influential of the Founders.  He had such a fascinating, nuanced life and that’s why this musical really excites me.

Plus, the hip-hop?  That’s pretty darn revolutionary for a Broadway show about an 18th Century Federalist.  It could have been a tired, classical story about an interesting guy, but Lin-Manuel Miranda does such great things with his writing that it makes the early days of America fresh and exciting.  And relatable.  Which is a complaint I think a lot of young people have about the study of history.

(Why do I  have to learn about this?  What does it matter to me?  These people in the past are nothing like me, they have nothing in common with me.)

Miranda took it a step further and cast people of all ethnic backgrounds as the central (historically Anglo-Saxon/white) characters.  And it is brilliant.  The story transcends race and gender and solidifies the fact that no matter our backgrounds or ethnicity, ALL AMERICANS have a right to the heritage of our nation.  And that is just fabulous.

Plus, the music is super-catchy.  If you haven’t, I encourage you to check out the soundtrack (even if you’re not a musical fan…this one might change your mind!).  If you’re waiting to see it on Broadway, it is probably going to be a long wait – it’s basically sold out into 2018!

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Alexander Hamilton (left) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (right) as Alexander Hamilton

TWO

The older two started school Aug 28th.  I had to laugh at Bellie (1st grade) when she came home after that first day.  It was an excited, breathless, stream of consciousness about eating lunch at school and riding the bus with her brother and seeing her friends and she loves her teacher and she got to help in the library and she used her new pencils and she loves her teacher did she tell me she loves her teacher?  And Junior (4th grade) came home and grunted “fine” when I asked him how his first day was.  Haha, the difference between boys and girls.  (Or 1st and 4th grade?)

THREE

I attempted to begin homeschooling my preschooler on Tuesday.  I had tried to get him excited about the prospect (We did not enroll him in “away from home” preschool this fall because A) at almost 4 he is showing a stubborn lack of interest in being potty-trained and B) I really don’t want to have to shuttle anyone back and forth to a 2-hour preschool when it takes me 1 hour round-trip  to get there.  This is my one year to be free from that!).  Anyhow, I told Spike that I was going to teach him at home.  He responded, “I get to go to pretend school?  Yay!”  Initially, I thought, that’s cool he calls it “pretend”, I know it is real, and it will be awesome.  Well, it turns out he really thought we were only going to “pretend” we were at school.  I barely got through the morning prayer and the pledge before he got sidetracked and started throwing a fit about playing with his Lego car.  I tried to lovingly refocus him, I attempted to move onto something I thought he would enjoy (coloring), I finally resorted to giving him a time-out.  He sat on the steps screaming, “I hate pretend school!  I don’t want to do pretend school any more!”  So I decided we would probably just take a break for the day.  I don’t want him completely hating it if I push it on him.  I vow to try it again next week.  I will keep trying for a bit but if it appears he is just not ready, perhaps he might not be.  I will keep you updated.

FOUR

The baby has some weird skin thing going on.  It looks like a rash or maybe psoriasis, is mostly on her chin and around her eye.  It looks very dry and red and patchy.  The only thing I can think of is it appeared around the time the kids were doing swimming lessons last month.  So perhaps a reaction to the chlorine or something?  It has been a couple of weeks since we’ve been swimming, though, so I don’t know what is going on.  Junior had some weird eczema around that age that eventually subsided, but this appears different.  I hate skin conditions in kids…one thing can look very much like another thing.  Something serious that needs treatment can appear just like something else that only needs to be washed with a gentle soap and moisturized.  It could be a reaction to some kind of detergent or it could be an allergy to some kind of food.  In that case, it can take months to figure it out while removing and adding stimuli to the child’s life.  Gaaah.  At least it doesn’t seem itchy or bothersome to Evvie.  She just looks somewhat ghastly.

FIVE

Our garden is overflowing and I couldn’t be more irritated.  I know that sounds totally awful, but it is true.  I love the idea of gardening.  I like having fresh herbs and lettuce to pick when I am making a salad or cooking and need just a little bit of parsley instead of running to the store.  But…but…even when you plant just one, little, teeny zucchini plant you somehow wind up with 5,634,592 zucchinis that you need to figure out what the heck to do with!  I have at least 3 friends who begrudgingly took one or two to make zucchini bread.  Hubby’s been cubing it and sautee-ing it with butter and Parmesan cheese (yummy actually, but not when you have it served for every meal for every day for a month!)

We have tomatoes and plums and really hard, not delicious pears strewn all over my counter.  The fruit is not so bad: the kids eat it constantly.  Unfortunately, those children still in diapers (I’m looking at you, Mr. I Hate Pretend School) tend to bless me with delightful pants to change after consuming all of that fiber.  Hubby was raised with the Depression-Era mindset (I am pretty sure he is actually a vampire who grew up in the 30’s) that you use EVERY LAST available piece of food for SOMETHING, no matter how ugly it is, how full of worms it may happen to be (yeah, our apples didn’t do so well this year), or how bad it tastes.  If it is not rotting or full of mold, you better dang well figure out some way to cook it, freeze it, or preserve it.  Of course, since Hubby is at work all day, this generally gets “intended” my way….and I honestly have tons of things I would rather be doing.  Hence the resentment over my bounteous garden.  I am blessed.

SIX

I have to go to the library today.  My kids love the library.  I love the library.  But I hate going with my kids to the library.

SEVEN

I am reading this fascinating (although a little technical) book: Permanent Present Tense: The Incredible Life of the Amnesic Patient, H.M. by Suzanne Corkin (2013).

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I became interested in this subject because a new nonfiction book about the same thing was recently published:

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My library hasn’t acquired this new book yet (Patient H.M. by Luke Dittrich, who is the grandson of the brain surgeon who operated on H.M.) but a search led me to the other one.

Permanent Present Tense tells the story of Henry Molaison, a 27-year-old epileptic who underwent an experimental surgery in 1953 to remove part of his brain in order to relieve his seizures.  It seemed to work somewhat, but tragically included the added side-effect of Henry never being able to create any long-term memories.  His life really was in “permanent present tense” as he forgot everything after about 30 seconds.

As a result, for the next half-century, Henry agreed to be studied by neurologists to discover the intricacies and nuances of the brain.

Fascinatingly, only Henry’s long-term memory of things after his surgery was affected.  He could remember things from before, and his intelligence and personality remained the same.

Henry passed away in 2008, before that, he was only referred to in scientific circles as “Patient H.M.”  He contributed greatly to our understanding of how the brain works, most importantly memory.

I have always been very fascinated with the brain and the history of how brain injuries and mental illness have been treated.  In the first part of the 20th Century, lobotomies were considered appropriate and acceptable treatment for a wide range of conditions, among them depression and schizophrenia.  They were used, with some success, on patients with epilepsy, but up until recently doctors were not sure precisely which areas of the brain were able to be removed or damaged to yield results without damaging other brain functions (such as memory).

I’m only about half-way through but am engrossed.  I feel devastated for Henry and his family to have to have enriched science and medicine through their loss, but it really did open up a whole knew era of understanding about the brain.  Alternately, the book calls into question the lengths we as a society are willing to experiment on human “guinea pigs”(drug trials, for example) to further our goals to find treatment for disease.

Oregon: Part Deux

Continuing with our exciting Oregon coast report…

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One of them was terrified by the waves, the other three were enraptured by the wet sand.

THE OCEAN

We reached the Pacific at the northern part of the state, near Seaside, and drove to Del Rey Beach.  We were able to drive right out onto the sand.  It was fairly overcast, but still warm enough (the kids said) to run into the surf fully clothed!?!?  I don’t know if 64 degrees F is my idea of swimming weather, but they had great fun.  Just being able to play in the sand was a fabulous experience for them.

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Sand Angels are JUST like snow angels, just a little bit grittier.

Evvie HATED the waves!  She wouldn’t let me put her down for about an hour.  And then when I did, she just ran around screaming.  Eventually, though, she figured out that sand is kind-of fun to play with and she got in on the action, too.

It was fun to see the little jellyfish washed up by the waves.  They looked just like little bubbles on the sand.  We also saw a few different types of crabs, and different species of seagulls (which I didn’t realize existed – I thought they were all alike).

FORT STEVENS STATE PARK

We camped here two nights.  It was a super-nice campground with awesome bike trails that were easy for kids.  The first night we went to see the Peter Iredale shipwreck that was nearby.  We had watched the movie Goonies just before leaving on our trip, so the kids were really curious about where the pirate ship was with all the gold.  And also a little nervous about those sneaky bad guys and the skeletons.

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At the beach with the Peter Iredale.  No pirates in sight!

ASTORIA

What a gorgeous town!  I wish we could have spent more time there, but we really only had time to visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits, which were all about the coast’s relationship with fishing and shipping and exploration.  They also had a great exhibit for the kids about the Coast Guard and how they rescue people.  The kids got to climb in the rescue rafts and even try on a survival suit which would keep you warm and toasty if you were to spend a long time in frigid water.

We drove by the Old Jail that features in the opening scenes of Goonies.  It is now the Oregon Film Museum.  I hope that next time we’ll have time to stop and visit!

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Loved the rainforest!  The ferns were my favorites.

ECOLA STATE PARK AND VIEW OF HAYSTACK ROCK

We finally found a place to park with our little trailer near the overlook for Cannon Beach.  We had heard the tide pools down at Indian Beach in Ecola State Park were pretty good, so we thought a short hike down to the beach would be an OK proposition.  (Apparently the parking lot down at Indian Beach was full).  So we started pushing our stroller up the trail until we realized that the trail followed a narrow cliff-drop-off on one side.  Our stroller was too big and I didn’t relish the idea of the kids (or me) falling down the precipice to the rocky shore cliffs.  So we turned around.  We would look for tide pools elsewhere.  The walk up until that point was really pretty.  And the view of Haystack rock was gorgeous from the picnic area.

TILLAMOOK CHEESE FACTORY

This was a super-fun stop a few miles down the coast.  We get Tillamook dairy products in Idaho, and it was really fun to see where they make and package them for distribution!

While there, we got ice cream (Huckleberry is my favorite flavor!) and did a free self-guided tour of their cheese plant.  We all found it really interesting.

This video can give you a little glimpse of what we learned.

SEA LION CAVES Florence, OR

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The sea lions were cool, the kids enjoyed the cave…a little spendy, but worth it for us.

HECETA HEAD LIGHTHOUSE

I think this was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.  After we went to visit the Sea Lion caves in the morning, we drove a short way north to the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint.

We just spent the whole afternoon there, had a picnic, and then the kids played in the sand and we wandered in the surf, looking in the tide pools.  Very relaxing!

Well, it took me long enough to finish this post!  Only a few months later…ha!

Oregon {With Pictures!}

Last month we took our first *real* family vacation.  Our trips up until this point consisted of camping weekends and journeys east to visit family in the Midwest.  I decided it was high time we went somewhere that didn’t involve sleeping on the floor at my sister-in-law’s or worrying about whether my kids were extorting too much candy from Grandma.

We settled on Oregon.  It’s close, yet far and different enough from Idaho to be “exotic”.  I wanted the kids to see the ocean.  Hubby wanted to save money by camping.  So we traveled the fabled Columbia River route, traveled by scions such as Lewis & Clark and the Oregon Trail pioneers.  Here are some highlights:

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We like to pretend we are hard-core with t-shirts.

EBR-1: Atomic City, Idaho

En route to Oregon, we stopped at the very first nuclear reactor that has since been decommissioned and turned into a museum.  (Don’t worry, the radiation levels remaining in the building are so low to as not be considered unhealthy for visitors)  It was in operation from 1951 to 1964 and is left largely the same as it was when they moved to a new facility.  They make it fun for the kids to learn about nuclear energy (and what Daddy’s work is all about).

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I always knew the kids were mad scientists…

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In the real world, they usually don’t let kids sit on top of nuclear reactors

The kiddos had fun pretending operate the reactor in the control room, walking on the cell where the nuclear reactor used to be, and seeing how “hot” (radioactive) material was handled with robotic arms through an insulated cell.

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One of the young owls sitting perched outside the museum. Spike said, “They’re scary. I’m freakin’ out!”

Probably the most memorable was seeing a pair of young owlings sitting on the abandoned fighter jet reactor in the parking lot.  They were very still, just looking at us.  I don’t think I have ever seen an owl that close before.

Farewell Bend, Oregon

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Wagon ruts

Just across the border into Oregon is Farewell Bend State Park.  It is a really pretty location, on the banks of the Snake River.  It is known for being the point where the Oregon Trail pioneers said “farewell” to the Snake River (which winds north from here) as their continued their journey west.  You can still see the wagon tracks in the nearby hills.

National Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City, Oregon

I probably date myself a little, but remember that old floppy disk computer game, Oregon Trail?  I loved that game.  Well, this museum is where you learn the reality of what the game was based upon.  They do a good job of helping to re-create the hardships and decisions those emigrants went through to reach the “Eden” of western Oregon.  I left the Center feeling knowing I wouldn’t have had what it took to survive and thrive on the nineteenth century Oregon Trail. Especially since we had only been camping one night and I was already wishing we were staying in hotels!

Bonneville Lock & Dam on the Columbia River

I had wanted to see the Bonneville Dam ever since learning about it in a college history course.  It was initially a New-Deal project that created thousands of jobs.  Now it powers thousands of homes through hydroelectricity.  We were able to tour a powerhouse to learn how it all works, which was cool, but the highlight for Hubby and the kids was the fish ladder.  You are able to view it from above and also from below (through windows) to see how the Pacific salmon and other fish are able to navigate the dam safely to swim upriver.

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Spike and Bellie smell roses, the Bonneville spillway in the background.

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Giant turbines

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Follow the power signs to see where it gets harnessed!

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The fish ladder

Old Columbia River Highway and Waterfalls

We took this road, reading that it was “the scenic route”, which was definitely true, but traffic was so awful I am not sure it was worth it!  Granted, it was a Sunday and there seemed to be lots of weekend Portland visitors, but the road itself is insanely narrow and we had a larger truck with camper insert as well as a trailer, and it was very nerve-wracking for Hubby.  The route is through a gorgeous rain-forest and is dotted with waterfalls every few miles.  We wanted to stop and see one of the more famous ones, Multomah Falls, but there was no safe place to park.  People were parked down the road for a mile or two and walking on the shoulder while cars on the two lane road were trying to avoid hitting pedestrians as well as fellow motorists.  There were NO RVs and there is no way we could have found a place to park with our small trailer.  So we just kept driving.  At one point we were stopped for at least half an hour because pedestrians kept crossing at a crosswalk with no break.  Bottom line: it was pretty, but if we did it again it would be on a weekday morning and we would leave the trailer at the hotel.

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Latourell Falls.  Not as tall, not as impressive, but we found a place to park!

Willamette Valley west of Portland

The highway we took to the coast was littered with fruit stands and pick-your-own flower gardens.  The fertile Willamette valley was where those Oregon Trail pioneers were headed.  There is a long growing season and rich soil.  We stopped at a cut-your-own flower farm and the kids all helped pick the flowers of their choice.  We wound up with a lovely bouquet that became our “camp flowers” throughout the rest of the trip.  We stuck them in a gallon water bottle and proudly put them on our picnic table at each camping site.  We felt so fancy.  Next time Hubby and I will get a babysitter and check out some of the Willamette valley wineries.  Not as well-known as Napa or Sonoma (but just as good) the area has hundreds of small vineyards.

Well, that was the first half of the trip….I will separate this post into two to avoid the length of a short novel!  Stay tuned for more adventures in Oregon!

 

{7 Quick Takes} Weekly Mismash, Vol. 9

A day late on these, but better late than never, right?

Linking up with Kelly et al again…

{ONE}

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Helping me clean the bathroom before Grandma & Grandpa get here.

My in-laws are here.  This is always a little bit tough for me.  I am just so used to my own routine, my own way of doing things and it is challenging to have visitors who come in and “move my cheese” so to speak.  They are good people and they love my kids.  And since my father is no longer around and my mom doesn’t isn’t super-involved with the whole grandmother thing, I appreciate that my children have the regular opportunity to get to know their paternal grandparents.  We live so far away from family that we are not able to see our relatives very often.  I really need to focus on the good, rewarding things about their visit and downplay the frustrations.  Nevertheless, it is hard!

{TWO}

School starts here in a little over a week.  I will have a fourth and first-grader this year.  Where does the time go?  I feel like my summer went way too fast, but we actually did A LOT this vacation.  Of course I always intent to accomplish more – like work inch by inch throughout my storage room decluttering.  Ha, with a curious toddler and boisterous older kids…like that is a realistic goal!

{THREE}

I am going to attempt to do home school preschool for Spike this year.  He could technically go to real-live-preschool because he is three but….*he is not potty trained*.  That, and I have a strong aversion to driving the 1 hour round-trip to a brick and mortar preschool twice a week.  So I am going to see what I can do at home.  I am excited but worried that I will lose my motivation right away.  I attempted the same with piano lessons for my older two and never went more than two weeks!

{FOUR}

And while we’re talking about piano lessons, I should mention I am going to try to jump on the homeschool piano lesson bandwagon again.  I figure if I confess this here, you all might keep me accountable to actually setting a time and sticking to it.  I’ll let you know how both teaching endeavors go.

{FIVE}

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Love. This. Mystery.  Broadchurch starring David Tennant is my new favorite Netflix show.  It is a BBC drama-mystery (surprise surprise…I love me some British television) but I just think it is so well-done.  I finished watching the second season and I think both the acting and the writing are superb.  Obviously the content is somewhat disturbing (especially for me, as a mother) in dealing with the murder of a teenage boy, but the complex emotions and relationships between a community are presented so realistically and grittily that I truly was gripped.

{SIX}

Visiting the set of Antiques Roadshow Salt Lake last weekend was fun but we waited in line a long time.  I went to the actual event with Bellie.  I’ll admit, there weren’t many kids there (and, hey, there weren’t many in the under 50 crowd either!) but she did really well.  My great-grandmother’s pocket watch turned out to actually be worth less than I thought it would be, but the appraiser was super-nice and made a point of telling Bellie how lucky she was that one day if she was very lucky, this priceless family treasure (that, monetarily wasn’t worth very much but who cares?)would someday be hers.  I thought it was cute that he involved her in the appraisal.  But no, we did not get selected to appear on camera.  Unless they decide we are cool enough to feature in the “Feedback Booth” section at the end.  Will keep you posted on that one!

{SEVEN}

My baby girl said her first real sentence last week!  She’s barely 19 months old, so I figure that’s pretty OK.  Her big brother fell asleep in the car and she said, “He is seepy”.  Which, aside from the fact she needs to work a little on her enunciation, I believe counts!  I am just loving this age.  She can repeat most of the words we say, although Grandma and Grandpa haven’t been in the same room when she’s said their names.  Both sound kind-of like “Gumpa”…

HAVE a GREAT week!

{7 Quick Takes} Weekly Mishmash, Vol. 8

Hello all!  I am feeling better, after starting a new, supplemental medication…I am feeling more like myself.  I am hoping this will prove to be sustainable for the long-term.

This week has been crazy, per usual!  Join Kelly et al with the link up for more craziness, awesomeness, and excitement!

{ONE}

Swimming!

The kids started swim lessons this week.  I actually only signed Bellie and Spike up for class, Evvie and Junior and I just hang out in another pool while the lessons take place.  Like most children, mine love water and the pool has been one of the most fun activities they have had all summer!

{TWO}

Olympics viewing!

We have a tradition of watching the Olympics as a family, and Junior (especially) is really intrigued.  We are having a blast watching swimming  (and Michael Phelps again making history) and gymnastics. Going to see the Olympics in person someday is definitely on my bucket list.  Hubby and I honeymooned in Greece two months prior to the Athens Olympics in 2004, which was close, but hopefully we can actually attend some events at one in the future!  Ultimately, we aren’t a very “sportive” family, we don’t watch much football or baseball or basketball on TV, but we are really impressed by the historic precedence of the Games and athletic ability of all the athletes.

{THREE}

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Meet Joshua the Bunny, the newest addition to our family!  We adopted Joshua (or “Josh” as the kids call him) from a local rabbit rescue in June.  He is just the sweetest guy, so good with all of the kiddos and really friendly and cuddly.  We had been a rabbit-less household for several years, following the death of 10-year-old Cosimo in 2012.  Cosimo, a little white and brown-spotted dwarf rabbit of some sort, and I had been companions since I got him as a singleton in Duluth, Minnesota when I was young and thought defying the landlord to keep a pet in my apartment despite the rule that NO PETS were ALLOWED made me a rebel.  Cosimo got caught under the radiator one day and we thought he was going to be stuck under there forever, but luckily Hubby (before he was Hubby) came to my rescue and rescued the bunny.  [This is how I knew it was True Love.]

Anyhow, we are all really enjoying Joshua and hope he is having a great time acclimating to our home!

{FOUR}

Da Kilt

I was looking through boxes of keepsakes my mom had saved and discovered a trove of baby and toddler dresses from my youth (cue 1980s music).  Luckily, I think some of the dresses can be seen as “vintage chic” now and Evvie will be able to wear them.  Including this completely awesome kilt ensemble that my parents brought back from a trip to Scotland for me in 1982.  (That’s me pretending to be a Scottish lassie above).  It is still in excellent shape and I am so happy that Evvie will be able to wear it soon!

{FIVE}

100_9366The $60.00 Fire Pit

So, one of the things I had really been wanting was a fire pit so we could sit out in the evenings and just relax.  In June, resourceful Hubby made my dreams a reality by creating this fire pit using mostly stuff we had just lying around and the borrowed skid-steer of a friend for earth-moving.  Ultimately, it only wound up costing us $60 for a welded, forest-service style fire ring.  We have some landscaping to do in terms of plants and mulching, but I am just glad that for now we just have a place to roast marshmallows and drink hot cocoa on cool summer nights.

{SIX}

100_9365Sometimes your oldest son’s bike helmet is missing.  And sometimes, just sometimes, you find it in the fridge next to the beer.

{SEVEN}

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I am heading to Antiques Roadshow Salt Lake City on Saturday!  Super Duper Excited!  (I am a PBS nerd…no other excuse)  I applied for tickets back this spring and they are awarded on a lottery basis…and I was randomly selected.  Obviously not everyone who attends ends up being taped for the show, but ticket-holders do get to have two antique items appraised for free with the Antiques Roadshow team of experts.  I am bringing an antique Elgin pocket watch from 1902 that belonged to my great-great-grandmother.  Hubby wants me to take his 1969 vinyl commemorative recording of the Armstong moon landing.  I am such an history and antique nerd so this should be just like Christmas!

K, all, hope you have a great week!

Depression taking over my life

OK, so I clearly haven’t been on here for awhile.  I have been busy, true, but I wouldn’t be completely honest with you if I didn’t admit that I have been having quite some time keeping the negativity at bay.  There have been a few days-long stretches where I could barely get out of bed.  And I blame myself and heap oodles of self-hatred my way, saying that I should try harder and that I need to ignore my feelings and just be there for my children and my husband.  I feel guilty and awful most of the time, paired with debilitating anxiety.  Hubby, although he tries extremely hard to be understanding and supportive, is understandably frustrated and overwhelmed with dealing with our crazy household (the kids don’t stop) as well as a spouse who wants to check out most of the time.

I don’t exactly know what set it off.  I am feeling overwhelmed with the task of housekeeping and motherhood right now.  I am tired of barely keeping up with the mess and the needs of five other creatures (eight, if you include the pets).  I am exhausted with not being enough.  I crave the delicious feeling of accomplishment – of feeling pride in a job well-done and the satisfaction of being competent at a task.  Motherhood doesn’t offer this emotion….not really, anyhow.  The task of raising a child is never done.  Even when they are adults – they could screw up badly and, as a parent, you will always wonder if that failure of theirs is somehow tied to your failure to feed them organic meat.

When I was younger, unmarried and childless, I was an organizational freak.  I loved having everything neat and tidy, everything in its place.  I thrived on making my space beautiful and having my decor reflect who I was and what I loved.  I think that is why, now that I am part of a household with young children, I become so discouraged with the state of my surroundings.  These surroundings are messy.  They are dirty.  They are disorderly.  They are ugly.  I could spend every second following my children around, yelling at them to pick up, to not take that out, to leave my stuff alone, but that would still probably not achieve my desired goal: to have a beautiful and orderly and calm place to call home 24/7.

Readers will argue that having a home-design-magazine-worthy home is a silly goal while being a SAHM to youngin’s – that they are only young once, and energy and time should be spent playing with them instead of worrying about the amount of mess they make.  I would agree.  But perfectionism and depression are filled with a font of irrational thoughts that don’t make sense and obsessively spin around in your mind making you feel that there really is no point and you might as well give up.

So, this last month I really have.  I have dropped the ball on housework, I have let the kids watch day-long marathons of Netflix, and I have essentially checked out.  Occasionally I have been able to summon enough gumption to cook dinner or do laundry.  I still run the kids to lessons and play-dates and if any of my friends ask I am doing JUST FINE.  But I am locked in a gloom that is very difficult to shake.

We took a family vacation last week and I was able to get outside of myself and just be for a few days, which was nice.  But coming back home was hard, getting back to real life was hard.

I go through something with my medication every two years or so where the normal dosage suddenly just doesn’t cut it anymore.  So I am starting a supplemental medication along with my normal prescription.  I am hoping that there is an improvement.  Generally, I have always felt that before the positive thinking and self-care suggestions my doctor and psychologist have suggested can kick in, there needs to be a biological “jump start” in the form of drugs in order to to be able to move forward.  And I feel like the current dosage is no longer cutting it.  I worry that by the time I am 60 I will be taking such an inordinately large dosage of psychotropic prescription drugs that I will no longer, chemically, be me.  Or that after so many years of taking antidepressants my brain will be severely damaged or I will develop a giant, inoperable tumor thanks to the miracle drugs that have gotten me out of bed and into the land of the living for 40 years.  But I suppose it will have been worth it.  Not living under a constant, debilitating cloud of depression is worth it.  I think.

So that’s what has been going on.  I am hoping to check in more often going forward.  I am hoping I will have happier, more sunny things to write about next time.  I know I will be fine, the sky is not falling, and life is actually beautiful.  I know all of that.  I just need a little help (and prayers) getting to the point where I can really feel it, too.

Thanks.

{7Quick Takes} Weekly mishmash Vol. 7

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Just trying to keep the summer from getting away from me…

I’m having a tough time with Summer.  I always tend to start out the summer vacation with great gusto (“Let’s paint!  And go to the library!”), but end up in a puddle of motivation loss by about day 3.  I think the kids seem to sense that they are treading on emotionally-fragile Mommy ground (with their mother one ridiculous kid-bickering-argument away from GOING INSANE) and it only serves to ramp up their noncompliance with the rules and their inability to help with housework.  Gaaaaaah!  Anyhow, here’s what’s been going on at Crazy Town:

ONE.

Massive Monster Meltdown on Monday (how’s that for alliteration?).  We got to town for Bellie’s t-ball game and she suddenly gasps and announces, “I forgot my shoes!”  To be fair, I had reminded her to grab her mitt and water bottle, but, silly me…forgot to remind her about bringing shoes.  (And six-year-olds have a lot on their minds so I should never assume shoes are a given)  Now, I know a parent with a more “tough love” approach would have just said, “sad” and made her play the game in her stocking feet, but we had a little bit of time to kill so I ran to Walmart and grabbed some cheaply made slip-on Frozen sneakers off the shelf.100_9233

Shoes?  We don’t need no stinkin’ shoes!

Trying to get out of there instantaneously, I was pushing that shopping cart like a bat out of hell and making my way to the register without pausing for anything.  The 3-year-old, Spike, had other plans.  For some reason every single Paw Patrol-themed item Walmart had for sale was on an end-cap at the exact height of my preschooler.  And, being a preschooler, he wanted every single item.  So, I arrived at the check-out with said preschooler under my arm while he proceeded to kick and scream “I WANT IT ALL!!!”

After paying (which is not the easiest feat while wrestling a 35-pound tornado and a baby who is trying to press the buttons on the credit card machine) and congratulating myself for getting the purchased shoes and kids to the car, I attempted to buckle Spike into his booster.  He wasn’t having it.  He wasn’t having it so much that I am pretty sure I almost popped a blood vessel from yelling at him (not my proudest moment).  Bellie had about 5 minutes to get back to her game, and I finally was able to wedge Spike into his seat and buckle him.  Victory.

Not so fast, momma.  We begin to exit the Walmart parking lot and Spike has unbuckled himself and proceeds to thrash around and scream, “I don’t want to be strapped!  I don’t want to!”  So I come to an abrupt halt on the side of the road (I am pretty sure the drivers behind me were shooting me CMD looks – “Crazy mini-van driver”) and, my patience wearing very thin, I swatted Spike’s behind, threw him back in his booster and strapped him again.

Two seconds down the road later, the little monster is unbuckled again.  We repeat the previous paragraph.  Except this time I am screaming, “YOU NEED TO STAY BUCKLED IN YOUR SEAT OR YOU. WILL. DIE!!!!!!  IF WE GET IN AN ACCIDENT YOU WILL FLY THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD AND YOU WILL DIE!!!!!!  HORRIBLE HORRIBLE THINGS WILL HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU DON’T STAY STRAPPED AND YOU.WILL. DIE!!!!!”  I have gone completely off the rails this time and we are in a residential neighborhood and I am pretty sure people are on their phones calling Child Protection or the Behavioral Health Center and telling them a mom in a minivan is losing her mind and could you send somebody quick, perhaps with tranquilizers?

Well, this scares Spike into a stupor (although I don’t think he has much of a concept of life or death or flying through the windshield but I think the kid is terrified that he has made his mommy absolutely unhinged) and we proceed to the game in silence.  The other kids are also maintaining a shocked quietude but probably thinking, “I’m glad I’m not the one who ticked Mom off.”

I hope Bellie learned her lesson about not forgetting her shoes next time.

TWO.

After that disastrous day, I took Junior and Bellie to the circus that was in town.  (As in, a professional circus.  Not the circus that is my home.) I hadn’t been to a circus since I was a kid myself and it was fun.  The kids really enjoyed it.  They perform it outside at a racecourse in town, and the most hilarious thing happened during one of the acts.  There was an animal trick show with a camel, two horses, and two miniature ponies.  All was going well until the ponies decided, “Heck, we’re tired of this performing-for-treats stuff.  We want to fulfill our dreams of being racehorses.” And they broke free from their ring and started hoofing it down the track.  They made it almost all the way around before a couple of handlers thwarted their thoroughbred dreams and wrangled them back to where they belonged.  But it was very entertaining.

THREE.

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Yay!  We spotted some more animal feces!

The whole family went for a hike last weekend.  It was nice, but at the beginning Bellie and Spike were complaining about being tired and not wanting to walk.  The incentive I came up with?  Poop.  I told them to keep an eye out for horse or elk poop on the trail.  I am proud to report that this was the motivation that kept them going.

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It’s always a good idea to stop, kick off your shoes, and take a break half-way through a grueling 10-minute hike.

FOUR.

Potty-training is stupid.  This is what the 3-year-old says and I am inclined to agree with him.

FIVE.

Brexit.  I am intrigued by this.  I don’t know if it is good or bad, but if the pound stays down I am kinda wishing I was going to England this year.  Needless to say, being a nerdy historian, seeing echoes of the isolationism that happened prior to WWI.  Just curious to see where this all leads…

SIX.

I am pretty sure that if I could find someone to grocery shop and cook for me I would probably be in a state of bliss most of the time.

SEVEN.

Someone in here is poopy so I should probably go figure that out.

 

Have a great week!100_9260