Thursday, October 10, 2013

This is the kind of messed up stuff my husband is doing in his overly copious amounts of spare time.

Necessity and Mothers and Invention and All That

So, I did have a wee breakdown yesterday.  I don't know if it's hormones or just that I've been working a lot or it's the underlying stress of having a major shift in our lives, but I did cry loudly and snottily for about an hour and then felt tons better.

Now I'm back to having a good attitude about the whole thing, but you wouldn't have wanted to see the swirl of dark thoughts that were going round and round in my head for a while there.  Thankfully, none of them were real.

Anyway, one of the very cool byproducts of being on a much stricter budget is that it encourages us to be creative when we need stuff rather than just going out and buying something new (which I was always pretty quick to do, since I was pretty sure I loved shopping).  What's funny is that I like making stuff a lot more.  

Remember when I used to make stuff?  And how much I liked it?  I had kind of gotten out of the habit, and had forgotten how much I liked it.

Anyway, it's getting cold again now and we needed a little sweater for Sargeant P., but of course didn't want to go buy one.  So...TADA!

Awww, yeah, I made him a HOODIE, yo!  Eric gave me a pair of crappy old pair of sweat pants and I chopped them up and after some seriously hilarious attempts at fitting him I think I got it right.  He looks like Chihuahua Rocky.  It's a little off kilter in this photo.  It covers him up a litle more in real life.  

We also needed a humidifier in our room because there's always this point in Colorado autumns where every last bit of moisture is sucked out of the air faster than a keg gets drained at a fraternity party and it pretty much stays like that until June rolls around again.  Which means you basically wake up with a sore throat every morning and feel a sudden and strange desire to roll around in a vat of Crisco just to ease the taut spread of your skin across the bones.

Anyway, humidifiers can be forty bucks, and that's for the crappy ones, and we had that fountain outside that was just going to get snowed on, so I cleaned it out, pulled it inside, and smacked a Buddha in the middle, and voila!  

No more sore throat in the morning.  It's not putting out mist but just having the bowl in the room seems to help.  Plus, it's pretty, and the gurgle blocks out the sound of E.'s egregious snoring.  Bonus.

Finally, sometimes you just find great shit by the side of the road.  Like this solid wood Crate and Barrel vanity that somehow had stuck out in the trash.  It was covered in drywall dust, but I could see the love in it, so I singlehandedly dragged that heavy fucker into the back of the minivan (thank you, Crossfit), brought it home, cleaned it up, and check it out:

Nice, right?  The top's a little messed up, but everything else looks great.  And then we could move the old chest that was there before up to our room so that E. could have a larger bedside table, which he had been wanting.

Of course, there are things that can't be found or made so easily.  Nolie accidentally broke E's classic guitar last night.  No money can fix that, unfortunately.  I had to turn down some friends' invitations to go out this week, and that smarted a little.  There are some fun winter things we like to do, like skiing, or going to holiday plays, that we probably can't do this year.  That stinks.

Still, that's just stuff, and figuring out creative things to do and make instead feels exciting and interesting.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


I promise soon to post something about how shitty it is to go from having two incomes to one, and how I'm freaked out and want to punch someone in the throat.  Perhaps, someone I'm married to.  But that is not this post.  This post is about gratitude, instead.

One of the interesting byproducts of E. losing his job has been that it has heightened my noticing of everything we have that is free.  Everything that is a gift.  Everything, every experience, every feeling that we just get by virtue of where we have been and where we are now and just dumb luck. 

Let me be clear:  we are nowhere near poverty.  I have amazing benefits at work, and a decent salary and savings that will see us through for a good while before things get really sad (like, losing our house sad).  But all of the frills have been cut, or will have to be cut--eating out, shopping, all of those little monthly expenses that were just "in the noise" before.  Pretty much all mindless spending of any sort, from Starbucks to the grocery store, is going to have to be eliminated or pretty seriously curtailed if we're going to buy E. enough time to explore and figure out what's next for him.

But I feel like it's important to acknowledge the extraordinary safety net we have in place, since so many people don't have a net like ours, and so I'm really just talking about how we're still going to be middle class, just maybe more on the lower end of the middle class spectrum. I say this not to gloat, but to acknowledge how many would truly struggle with basics like food and shelter were they to lose one income.  That is not us, but I feel solidarity with those folks just the same, despite our crazy amounts of privilege.

Anyway, all the FREE and amazing joyful things!  Sure, I am still overcome occasionally with wee bouts of sadness and panic when I realize how conscious I have to be now about money.  It can be a pain.  But mostly, I'm like Maria twirling in the Alps, hands outstretched in amazement at the surrounding beauty. Like walking the dogs off leash at the junior high nearby: Milo's big, dopey, loping gait and Peanut's low quick pounces.  Sometimes he gets going so fast his hind legs can't slow down and he does an endo!  I mean, how amazing is that?  You can't see it and feel sad, I guarantee it.  The grass is so green from all the rain, it's starting to feel cool out, and I'm pretty sure there is nothing more beautiful than sunsets in the Rocky Mountains.  The girls chatter and do cartwheels in the grass, and I have such a feeling of well-being.  It helps to knock the fear on its ass.

There is the feeling of overwhelming gratitude when we leave the local library with a huge canvas bag stuffed positively full of books.  We get home and I brew a coffee and we snuggle up on the couches or in our rooms and we just read for hours.  It's got to be one of the best things in the world.

There's the top deck.  Granted, the kids and dogs can't really be out there because there is no railing.  I probably shouldn't be out there with my extreme klutziness.  But we have a little table and umbrella, and a burbling fountain, and the huge branches of the cherry tree form a canopy over the rest.  It's extraordinary out there, really.

And then, jeez, there's just the spillover goods.  All the books we own but haven't read, all the tv shows we can stream for free, all the crafts we have supplies for, all the athletic equipment we own and could use more of.  We're good cooks and can make delicious food for pretty cheap.  I'm cleaning my own house again for the first time in over a year, and I'm even enjoying that, seeing my "objects" again, and rearranging them, and seeing what we really want to keep and what we don't.

Above all:  each other, and you.  Potlucks at each others' houses, phone calls, hugs, laughs, bottles of cheap wine.  You help me to overcome my sadness and fear and longing.  You're supporting E. with ideas and love, too.  We're so grateful.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


The good news is that E. had been miserable in that job for years, and now he gets a chance to figure out what he'd rather do or be instead, and that's a chance that everyone should have.

The good news is that we're in good shape in a lot of's not 2008, at the beginning of a nasty recession.  We have great health insurance.  I have a good job, that I love, in a lot of ways.  Above all, we're all healthy and love each other hugely, our house isn't flooded, and mostly our day to day lives won't change too much.  Not for a while.

The good news is that our day to day full court press will ease a bit.  We have a lot of negotiating to do in the days ahead about who will do what and how and when, but the treadmill has definitely slowed.  I admit to more than a little feeling of relief.

I'm not sure what the bad news is.  Money, maybe.  But not for a while.  The fact that there's no railing on that stupid effing deck and won't be for a good long time, most likely.  We're less robust, less resilient, financially, certainly.  Lord, don't let other shoes drop.

And small stuff:  That I won't get to eat out with you all as much?  That we'll have to clean our own house?  No more Boden dresses for a bit?  Hard to complain about all that.

Oh, I get swept up in anxiety now and then--waves of the jitters come and go.  I have a little blues here and there.  I'm curious and watchful and feel a little like I'm moving in slow motion.  I'm trying to make some meaning out of things but we're just not there yet.  N. reminds me to stay away from the catastrophies in my head and to just focus on the moment.

So I'm doing that.  I walk to work and notice:  the air is cool, I am breathing in and out, the sun is shining.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Half of us left for San Diego yesterday.  It doesn't happen very often, where one of us takes one kid on a trip, but it's happened a few times, and when I'm the one left at home, I have these twin, dueling reactions.  On the one hand, sheer giddiness at having half the responsibility, 1/3 the people to contend with, 1/3 the housekeeping and noise and interaction (because I'm an introvert, as you know).  It feels like...true and total and absolute and liberating FREEDOM!  My God, I could do anything.  Because, really, living with just one kid, who is pretty grown-up and self-sufficient, is super-close to living by yourself.  You just have some very sweet, very easygoing company.  Still, I shiver to think about what it might be like someday if E. actually took both girls some where.  I honestly think I would combust.

I remake the bed with our softest sheets and our comfiest comforter.  I vacuum.  I set the temperature of the house TO WHATEVER I WANT, meaning I open all the windows or run the swamp cooler or the fake fireplace and nobody is skulking around, rubbing their arms and whispering about how cold it is (because some of us don't have hormones that fluctuate like the stock market, and our temperatures are always stable).  I take a bite of cheese right off the block, without cutting it first.  Addie and I eat giant ice cream sundaes and stay up late watching truly terrible reality tv shows (Dance Moms, because it makes me look so nice) and we take long baths and smear nice-smelling lotions on and nobody wrinkles their noses and I paint my nails and nobody fake-coughs at the smell.

But then, the tv and lights go out and the rain is falling softly while much of my state is flooding and it would be very nice to have someone's familiar body next to me, heating things up and to murmur about the day with and to maybe even slightly snore a little just to cut the silence.  And in the morning, when it's somehow dark all of a sudden, to bring me coffee in bed and to cut my gloomy grumpiness with their never-ending morning cheerfulness, and to have the bustle of making lunches and filling backpacks and loud kisses goodbye.

They will be home soon, and I will for just a minute look back longingly at the quiet tidiness of their absence, but mostly I will be very, very glad they have returned.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cranberry Bean Soup

In yet more evidence that I get to work with some very cool people, at one of the conferences I attended last spring, there was a panel on food politics and communication, and one of the presenters there handed out seeds from her garden.  There were only a few of us at the panel (it was on the last day) so I greedily packed away a bunch in ziplocs and then promptly forgot about them until July.

Give me a break.  I wasn't home much this summer.

Anyway, I lazily threw them out into our neglected beds--we decided not to put much energy into gardening this summer, what with all the deck-building and traveling and droughtness going on.  But lo and behold, we had several gorgeous stalks of Red Amaranth come up, have munched on some delicious cantaloupe, which we barely managed to beat the squirrels to, and picked a Butternut Squash this weekend.  Pretty cool for zero effort and cost, yes?

That butternut squash was something of an affront to my person, though, I gotta say.  I mean, that is like October food, and we're barely out of August.  It sat on the counter all weekend, not quite ripe, daring me to make something autumnal with it.

Still, Monday night is soup night, and as I was flipping through my very favorite cookbook, I found this recipe for Cranberry Bean Soup.  And it was so delicious it almost melted me and E's faces off.  I especially like that it incorporates butternut squash in an interesting way, rather than a broil-it-and-stick-it-in-the-blender way, like most other squash soups.  Much too fall-ish for this heat, I say.

Oh my God, I know.  It's Good Housekeeping, for Christ's sake, rather than some shishi hipster joint you have on your bookcase.  But seriously, this is our go-to cookbook.  There is almost no recipe in here I don't like, and most of the recipes feature ingredients we have lying around the house, and they are pleasing to many of our picky eaters.  And we got it for $5 impulse buy at B&N.  You could probably scoop it for $.99 used right now, I bet, on Amazon.  Don't delay.

Description:  Chilean-style soup, blah, blah, blah.  I substituted black beans for cranberry beans (cuz I'm not running to the store for that)--still delicious, and we also didn't have jalapenos so I just dumped some hot sauce in.  Innovate, people!

4t olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (because who the hell would eat the peel)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1t ground cumin
1 3/4 cups veggie broth
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1.5 pounds fresh cranberry beans (or a can of whatever beans you have lying around)
1t salt
1t sugar
1 1/4 cups loosely packed basil leaves, chopped (or a 1/2 cup of whatever's left in your pot after raiding it all summer)
2 1/4c water
2 cups corn kernels cut from cobs (about 4 medium ears; I suppose you could use frozen, but I did happen to have fresh lying around, and let me tell you I think it absolutely makes the soup)

1.  In your big pot, heat 2t oil over medium heat until hot.  Add squash and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes.  Transfer squash mixture to bowl.
2.  In same big pot, heat 2t oil over medium heat, add garlic, jalapeño, and cumin and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Stir in broth, tomatoes, beans, salt, sugar, squash mixture, 1/4 c basil, and water; heat to boiling over high heat.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 30 minutes (if you used canned beans, 15 minutes will do it and still cook the squash nicely).
3.  Stir in corn; heat to boiling over high heat.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 5 minutes longer. Stir in remaining 1 cup chopped basil.
4.  Eat the fuck out of that shit.

Okay, sorry.  That sort of vulgarity isn't necessary.  It's just that my face hurts from all the delicious melting off that happened.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Summer Memories

The forecasters say today is supposed to be our last day of 90-degree weather, and I hope they're right, because it is just weird to start school when it is still hot enough for sweat to pool in the small of your back and the sunlight to be so damned blinding.  

While I love the start of fall--the cooler temperatures, the augur of change, the chance to trade in flip-flops for a while--I found myself a bit nostalgic for summer today.  Who wouldn't be?

A gift from Africa.
Starting backwards here, but okay:  the first day of second and fourth grades.
A Colorado evening.
At Lyons Folk Festival, one of our most beloved summer rituals.

Hiking Two Ponds Nature Reserve.
Turning 7!
 Basil.  On everything.
Life on the cul-de-sac.
Saying goodbye to old friends.  So hard.

Hiking in Evergreen.  If you look closely, you can see a mama elk under the tree there.  Addie picked the spot for us based on an outdoor camp she went to this summer. 
Nolie's last day of first grade.

Walking the boys in Van Bibber, which has miraculously stayed green almost all summer.
On the new deck with Grambie.
Chilling out with Peanut and reading on one of our many rainy afternoons this summer.

Family Potluck

Phew!  These last three weeks were a lot more hectic than I expected.  But I just kept reminding myself that we were all back in school and that this kind of year is always crazy and that we would all be okay.

As you well know, I tend to revert to complainer mode when I'm feeling things are spinning out of control, and I've been doing plenty of that.  But there's also been some interesting soul searching going on, regarding our future, and what's next, and how we want our lives to look moving forward.

There have also been some moments of exquisite gratitude.  Have I told you that one way we manage the kookiness of being working parents is to have a meal schedule?  Yep:  Monday is soup and sandwich night, Tuesday is pasta night, Wednesday is make-your-own-pizza night, Thursday is Mexican night, Friday night we eat out, and Saturday is open (whatever we feel like eating, or often we have plans).  It's a good system, but with some flexibility built in, and we all like it.

But I think Sunday night is really all of our favorites.  We call it family potluck night, and it's an awesome way for us to mark the end of the old week and the beginning of the new; to get the kids involved in preparing meals; to eat up random odds and ends hanging around the kitchen; and to really just be together in a very simple, lovely way.

It's pretty straightforward:  everyone just brings something to the table, loosely coordinated, and according to one's ability.  Tonight, Nolie cut up some fruits and vegetables and arranged them on a platter; Addie diced and mixed mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil from our garden to put in the pasta that Eric made; and I diced up some going-mushy tomatoes and broiled nearly-moldy bread for bruschetta.  The girls set the table, Nolie made placecards, and we lit some candles.  The cool thing is doing dinner like this frees each of us up to try something new, or to combine things in new ways, and the girls have serious buy-in at dinner.

I hope you're having a happy Sunday!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ready for School

Man, I like this.  I agree with all of it.  Except for maybe the toilet and comedy one.

From I Miss You When I Blink:

Q: If something is hard to do, is that a reason not to do it?
A: Nope. That’s a reason to be extra proud after we’ve done it.

Q: What if we’re afraid we won’t be good at something?

A: Don't think about being good at it. Think of it as trying something new.

Q: Do we choose to do something or not do something because we worry people will talk about us?

A: No. People will always talk. We can at least give them something interesting to talk about.

Q: Do we have to be the best at everything?

A: Nope.

Q: Do we have to do our best at everything?
A: Yes. Always.

Q: Even math?
A: Even math.

Q: Do we ever do something that will hurt someone else?
A: No.

Q: Do we ever take or break something belonging to someone else?

A: No.

Q: If we do, by accident or on purpose, harm someone else’s body, feelings, or property, what’s the first and most important thing to say?
A: I’m sorry.

Q: What do we do if we see someone who has nobody to play with, sit with, or talk to?
A: Play with them. Sit with them. Talk to them.

Q: What do we say to every teacher and staff person we see?

A: Thank you.

Q: Do we ever make fun of our own sibling at school?

A: No. Save that for home. Just kidding.

Q: Do we tell the truth?
A: Yes.

Q: Do we do anything on purpose that could result in our own serious injury?
A: No.

Q: Does every single thing that pops into our head need to be said out loud at the moment we think it?

A: Dude, seriously. No.

Q: Do we say or do something just because we heard it on TV, saw it on YouTube, or read it in a book?
A: No. This is real life.

Q: What about cutting holes in our school clothes with scissors like that time ONE OF YOU CAME HOME WITHOUT THE LEGS OF YOUR PANTS -- is that a good idea?
A: No.

Q: Do we do anything AT ALL involving comedy and a toilet?
A: No.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Nolie, 7

Can you believe this kid is 7 already?

She and Addie made this "outfit" from scraps in my dress-up bin, in case you couldn't tell, and then took pictures of all the outfits and accessories they created and made a catalogue.

I'm part proud of this and part mortified.  You know, because I have at times been addicted to catalogues, and clearly that has translated a little.

Nolie:   I don't quite know what to say about her, because like always, and like with these birthday posts always, you'll just never get a full sense of the cosmic, maddening brilliance that is her, the tremendous, almost spooky sense of empathy she has, for instance, from a few paragraphs written off the cuff.

She is probably the most strong willed person I have ever met, and also one of the most gentle.

She is so much better, physically, than she was a year ago.  Her hair is full and she has grown almost an inch since April (E. measures them on birthdays and at the New Year, and for a long time, her marks were so close together as to suggest no difference, and the term "failure to thrive," usually applied to newborns, came to my mind often).  She has lost one tooth on her own, without having to have it pulled, and another is loose.  She loves soccer, movie nights, dancing, singing, playdates, cuddles, and reading.

She turns phrases like an adult, often to endearing or hilarious results.  But you laugh at your peril.  She requires above all to be taken seirously.

She refuses to learn how to ride her bike without her training wheels.  Both my kids have been slow on the uptake with the bikes.

She is still anxious and shy when meeting new people and in new situations, but it takes her five minutes to warm up and then she talks and talks and talks and makes best friends with everyone.

She still adores stuffed animals.  When given the choice, she will always buy the stuffed animal.

She is easily hurt.  Easily offended.  Easily embarrassed.  Still easily angered, though nowhere near as bad as last fall.

She is fiercely loyal.  When she wants to be.

We were rafting the Salmon River this summer, and she turned to our guide and told him he had longer armpit hair than her daddy.  She asks why I wear so much lipstick (I didn't think I did).  When I told her her words sometimes hurt my feelings, she immediately began telling me I "look younger than my years."  She is not afraid to call them like she sees them, and also totally happy to blow smoke when she thinks she should.

When one of us is gone, whether at work, or on a trip, or just running to the grocery store, she is just not right until that person is back.  I think she experiences our family as one unit, almost in a physical sense, and when one is gone, she finds it difficult to breathe or concentrate or be happy.  This deep connection with others, in my opinion, will be her greatest strength and her greatest burden.

I adore her and am inspired by her and am maddened on occasion by her.  I can't understand where she came from or who she will be.  She's just a gift of the most precious kind, and I feel so blessed to have her in my life.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Slides

Today was the first day back at work in a meetings-in-the-office-all-day sort of way.  I was sort of dreading it, but am also sort of tired of the endless travel and unstructuredness of the days, and was maybe out of sorts at first.  It ended up being a lovely, easy day, and I was reminded that I very often like my work, and how lucky that makes me.

And I was also struck with some premature nostalgia for the summer, which is almost already all gone:


Universal Studios
Waiting in line for the Despicable Me ride

With Fuffikins

In Sweden
The Bob Marley Room, Delft

The Netherlands
Big tooth lost, on a paddle boat in the middle of Redfish Lake.

The Sawtooths

Payette Lake

Ponderosa Pines, Magic

Tomorrow, I'm off to Logan Canyon for a writing spurt with the Hive.  Last trip for a while; I'm so grateful for everything that made these trips possible this summer, and am also so grateful that soon it will be time to be home, and to give myself over to the rhythms of fall and family as we return to school and routine.

Monday, July 22, 2013

More Signs

This is an actual, serious sign.  But I'm posting it, because by the time you figured out what the hell it means, the giant flood that is going to engulf all of the Netherlands, including you and your family, would have already swallowed you up.
Dogs say different things in different languages, but I'm pretty sure this is the universal dog-word for, "Yay!  I'm pooping on your lawn!"

Because fashion is an adventure sport.