Monday, December 29, 2008

Sun Peaks

Wow I'm behind. This trip is part of the reason for that, so I don't really have any regrets. On December 14th we packed up the car and the kids and embarked on a six hour drive up to Sun Peaks Resort in Canada. The boys were amazing, and only got a little squirrelly after we'd already been driving for four hours. We really couldn't have asked for better road-trip behavior. The views on the drive up were pretty amazing. I'm a chicken about driving in the snow, but Aaron is all coolness and calm control. He drove, and I took pictures and handed out snacks and coloring supplies. It was so unbelievably cold that we only took Matteas out once, on the warmest day, which was a sweltering 7 degrees. Fahrenheit. Yeah, it was cold. The second you stepped outside, your breath would freeze in your nose. Tiny ice crystals, all up inside your nose. It was disconcerting, but after a while you sort of got used to it. Daddy and Matteas during his fifteen minutes of outdoor time, about to sled down the hill next to the house. Matteas, screaming angrily at Daddy after getting snow sprayed in his face while sledding. Two years ago we had enough snow on the ground in December to sled. Jack loved the slide at the park, so I thought he'd like sledding. I was mistaken. He wouldn't even get on the sled, and freaked out at the sight of anyone else on a sled. We're talking full-on hysterics. No amount of coaxing would get him anywhere near a sled, and he preferred to stay inside whenever it snowed. It's hard to know when to push your kids to work through their fear and when to let them set their own boundaries, but I'm really glad we didn't try to force Jack that winter. It made it that much more rewarding to see him fearlessly tackle the sled run we made next to the house, shooting down the hill at break-neck speeds over and over again. It was one of those distinct moments in parenting when I thought to myself, here is a breakthrough. And it wouldn't be a proper post if it didn't include at least one picture of food. We had some amazing meals; the above shot was from our second night there, when Briana and I made roasted pork tenderloin with wine-poached apples, mashed potatoes and a tomato, cucumber and blue cheese salad. The house came pre-decorated with a fake tree. You can't really tell from this picture, but the tree was about twelve feet tall. The fireplace was gas, and it stayed on pretty much the entire time.
Some views from the living room windows.
It was an absolutely amazing time; Briana and Shane were so generous to share their vacation with us, and the kids got along really well. We made sure to get them outside at least once a day for some sledding time, which helped a lot. Then the couples took turns watching each other's kids so everyone got to log some time on the mountain. Shane taught Briana to snowboard and Aaron took me skiing for the second time, which I'm pleased to report went much better than the first. I attribute my greater success to two things: chiropractic care and the words lean forward. The first time Aaron took me skiing, I hadn't had my back adjusted at all. After skiing with entirely the wrong technique for a few hours, my lower back was so tired that the muscles simply gave up and I would fall over no matter how hard I tried to stay up. This time, my back felt great and was able to give me the support I needed so that when I was finally driven inside it was from cold and not exhaustion. Thank you, Dr. White. The first time Aaron took me skiing, I borrowed boots and skis from my aunt who is a little taller than I am. This time I rented skis, and a little chat I had with the guy fitting my boots was the beginning of a light-bulb moment for me. He was a friendly little French-Canadian guy, and after measuring my feet he had me try on a killer-looking pair of red and silver ski boots(think Star Wars). "Your boots, they feel okay, no?" he asked very Frenchly. "My toes feel kind of pinched," I replied very naively. "Oui," he said patiently, "lean forward." I complied. And felt really stupid as I pressed my shins into the front of the boot and my toes slid back to a place of comfort and control. In my defense, it's a little counter-intuitive to lean that way when you're facing down-hill. Also, skiing feels totally different than it looks. I was under the impression that it would involve a lot of turning with my hips and upper body. Turns out, not so much. It's mostly about which foot your weight is on, and leaning forward. I cannot emphasize enough how useless it is to try to ski without doing this. This time, something clicked and I became ten times the skier I was before. Which isn't really saying much, but I was still happy. Aaron was very patient with me as I took baby steps down the bunny hills before braving the chair lift, which as far as I'm concerned is the scariest part of skiing. Aaron is an amazing skier(he can ski backwards, people) and instead of shooting expertly down the mountain and leaving me in the frozen dust, he kept me company all the way down, patiently giving me non-condescending instructions whenever I needed them. It was a pretty incredible experience to stand at the top of a snow-covered mountain with my husband and then ski all the way down together. My only regret about the trip was that we got home on the 19th, and it cut into my Christmas preparations a bit. If I had packed better I could have taken some things with me to work on, but it seemed a little absurd to take my sewing machine all the way up to Canada.

Friday, December 12, 2008

For Grandpa

Last night we took the boys over to the grandparents' house and went on a date. My father-in-law mentioned that it's been a long time since I updated my blog; I have some good posts brewing but it's been pretty busy around here, so in the meantime I thought I'd just share a little bit of what we've been up to. Matteas is obsessed with the fireplace. He loves helping Daddy bring wood inside and then, with Daddy's help, putting it on the fire.
Matteas takes his work very seriously.
Waiting for Daddy to come help...
Focus, focus.
Another thing Matteas takes very seriously is his oral hygiene. He has nightly flossing sessions, also with Daddy.
For his next trick, Matteas will start baking. He likes to put on my oven mitt and rub the oven with it.
They haven't seen Lady and the Tramp; I guess this is the sort of thing that just comes naturally.
One morning before school, Jack said "Mom, I want you to spike my hair up crazy for school!"
It's cozy sock weather, especially since we have tile on our kitchen floor; it's chilly making breakfast in the morning barefoot. One morning I couldn't find my fuzzy purple socks. That is, until I looked under the table. And now, I'm off to pack our snow clothes. Along with every piece of warm clothing we own because we're headed to ski country on Sunday, and the forecast is -20F.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A More Meaningful Christmas

Aaron and I have been talking about ways to make Christmas more meaningful and simultaneously more budget-friendly. To that end, I've been working on beefing up my crafting skills. Something homemade might well come from the heart, but not everyone wants one of those woven loop potholders for Christmas. After reading about the Wal-mart employee who was trampled to death the day after Thanksgiving, my already budget-conscious gift ideas were given new resolve to actually mean something; it seems so anti-Christmas to turn gift giving into something so competitive and nasty. That being said, I think my gift to everyone this year will be to dispense with gift-giving entirely; most people can't afford much this year, and plus I'm really picky. So if you are dying to give me something for Christmas and you find something affordable that you think I'll love, I'd be happy to have it, but if the perfect gift idea eludes you just cross me off your list; if we are good friends it won't ruin our relationship that I don't get a gift from you this year, and if we're not good friends, even the most extravagant gift won't make up for it. I plan on simplifying the gifts I plan to give this year, inspired by some of the best gifts I've received. Personally, I don't like having a bunch of stuff that only comes in handy once or twice a year. I like things that I can use in every day life and think of the person who gave it to me. Soap, candles, hand towels, socks, something edible, a cozy throw blanket; these are the kind of gifts that really speak to me. Everybody needs soap and towels, so it's always nice to receive some extra-lovely versions of necessary things and turn an ordinary task like washing your hands into a pleasure-infused experience. Jack is forever asking me for art projects, so I'm always pleased when I come up with one that he can do all by himself and also do it more than once. One of my recent thrifting scores was a huge piece of beautiful green wool felt, and I've been putting it to good use. Most of the time I find that fabric at Goodwill is outrageously priced, often well above what I'd pay for it at Joann's, but this piece was three yards of wool felt for $3.99. I made Jack a Christmas tree, then cut out some ornaments from the cheaper synthetic felt I had from previous art projects.
I trimmed off the extra inch on the sides; I was still fiddling with my pattern.
This project I am particularly pleased with. I got the idea from(where else?) Soulemama's The Creative Family but since I'd already returned it to the library I made up my own pattern. It would be a great gift for any little artist in your life(I think several of my nieces and nephews will be getting one of these this year), and costs very little to make. Also, it was super easy, and I am an extremely amateur sewer/crafter. I bought Jack a dozen pencils for Christmas, so that's how many slots I made in my roll but obviously it can be made to fit any number of art supplies. I allowed 1 inch for each pocket and factored in a 1/2 seam allowance for each side. Using cotton fabric, measure a piece that is 13 inches wide and 10 inches tall. Fold it in half width wise, so you have a piece that measures 13x5. Press. Fold in the sides and the bottom 1/2 inch and press. Your piece should now measure 12x4 1/2. Cut out a piece of felt that's 12 inches wide and 7 1/2 inches tall. Cut out another piece of felt that's 12 inches wide and 10 1/2 inches tall. Cut a piece of ribbon 24 inches long. Lining up the edges, pin the cotton piece to the taller piece of felt so the folded side of the cotton makes the top of the pockets and sew around the three outside edges of the cotton. Then sew a seam at one inch intervals so that you have twelve pockets that are each one inch wide. Lining up the edges, pin the the shorter piece of felt to the back of the taller piece with pockets. Fold the ribbon in half and insert the folded end 1/2 inch, so that it is sandwiched between the two pieces of felt and lines up with the top of the cotton pockets. Pin in place. Using a 1/8 inch seam allowance, sew around the outside edge of the 12x 7 1/2 piece. I picked up a dozen colored pencils from a local toy shop for $1.90, and I'm guessing I used about .75 cents in materials for a grand total of $2.65. You don't have to use wool felt, you could use any fabric you have but using felt saves you a lot of time because it won't fray and you can leave the sides unfinished. This one's for the grandparents. I call it "Pinky and the Brain." I'm pretty sure they talk about how to take over the world.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving! We had a nice quiet dinner with Aaron's parents and brothers. I had a fairly relaxing day of cooking while Aaron and the boys strung up Christmas lights in the front yard. It felt a little strange to me to have so few people over for Thanksgiving; growing up, Thanksgiving was usually a family reunion which required strategic placement of furniture and food. One year we had so many aunts, uncles and cousins that we had not one but TWO kids tables, one in the dining room next to the "big" table and one spilling out into the hall. I think my favorite part of Thanksgiving when I was young was playing in my parents' huge empty kitchen after dinner; they had a big kitchen table that got moved to the dining room twice a year, once at Thanksgiving and once on Christmas Eve, and the vacancy it left meant the kids had a huge space of linoleum floor to run around and slide on in our socks. Because of that, it doesn't quite feel like Thanksgiving to me unless the furniture is rearranged. We didn't have to move our table which is good because we don't really have anywhere to move it to, and it occurred to me last night that one of the things I'm thankful for is fact that there are so many people in my life that I care about, it would be impossible to gather them all around one table. Especially in my little house.I realized just before setting the table that I didn't really have any decorations planned; I usually just light candles, but Matteas thinks he's Smokey the Bear and takes open flame situations very seriously, so candles were out. I cut some hydrangeas from the front yard and added a little of this and a little of that from our fall decorations around the house.
The living room, three hours before dinner.
The living room, twenty minutes before dinner. The fabulous cleaning and vacuuming job was courtesy of my husband Aaron.
The dining room, three hours before dinner.
And later. You can't see very well in this picture, but Jack is wearing his glasses.
The morning was fairly peaceful; I made this apple galette while sleepy-head Matteas slept in. He woke up just as it went into the oven.
Which was just in time to enjoy the leftover cinnamon-sugar apples.
A culinary triumph: a dairy-free pumpkin pie that was, frankly, amazing. I'll post the recipe later.
The cozy fire Aaron made after dinner which crackled long into the night.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Necessary Beauty

I'm not a person who likes a lot of decoration. At least, not on a daily basis. Come December, I put up lights and make wreaths and light candles like nobody's business, but on a normal day I find I prefer simplicity to embellishment. What looks like decoration to other people looks like clutter to me, and with two busy and curious little boys, decorations are often huge liabilities. However, I appreciate beautiful things, so lately I've tried to incorporate as much beauty as possible into my normal everyday things, rather than having the "useful" stuff be separate from the "decorative" stuff. One of my favorite innovations is the glass bottle I use for dish soap. The valve is a little irritating because the soap is too thick to flow out of it freely so I have to water down my dish soap quite a bit; this turns out to be a huge money-saver, as I've been on the same bottle of lavender dish soap for about six months now. Despite my lack of English heritage, I drink a lot of tea. The little green pot is from my English mother-in-law, and it makes the perfect amount of tea for one; more than one cup, but a little less than two full ones. The pitcher I bought at Ross and the cup at a thrift store. I like small cups with narrow tops so my drink doesn't cool off too quickly. Both of these little cups used to have candles in them. When the candle reached the end of its life, I scraped out as much wax as I could with a knife then used boiling water to get the rest out. The tea container I use to keep baking soda in, and the red quinoa is in a recycle spaghetti jar. This was a delicious canister of hot chocolate; when it was gone I covered it in paper and now I keep paint brushes in it. It's useful, beautiful, and economical; my favorite.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Noah's Ark
Serpent wrapped around an apple. The large bulges on the right are the serpent's eyes. The very picture of temptation.
Every year Christmas seems to come and go in a rush of relatives, friends, dinners and parties, and every year I resolve that next year, I will find a way to make it last. A hunger that I feel goes unmet each year is that I'm never prepared, but somehow Christmas seems to pounce on me when I'm least ready and I find it extraordinarily difficult to disengage from all the busyness and craziness and just be present. Every year, I also resolve that we are going to do our Advent calendar, light candles, and hang ornaments on the Jesse Tree. It never happens, and part of the problem is that we have no Jesse Tree ornaments. Growing up, my family went through several sets; we kids were kind of hard on them. One year my mom bought a bunch of Fimo and had us all make our favorites, and to my knowledge it is still the finest collection of ornaments ever made. Istvan was about four at the time, and his baby Jesus in a manger is to die for. Jack and I started working on our own collection yesterday, and hopefully we'll have enough finished to start hanging them on December 1st. Anyone have any other good ideas for Christmas preparation?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back to Normal

I almost didn't put any pictures from our weekend up because it was NOT very picturesque. These are from last week, showcasing Matteas' favorite perch. He loves to find cars(or blocks or whatever) and drive them along the windowsill; he even makes car noises, something Jack didn't do until much later. I think Matteas seems more advanced to me because he learns from watching Jack. So the weekend. Wasn't so hot. Aaron was going to take a drive down to Gig Harbor to look at a potential project, and he was going to meet Trevor in Tacoma for breakfast. I didn't want to spend Saturday morning alone, so I decided the boys and I should go too. This is not the kind of thing I usually do. First of all, it involved waking up at 7:30 on a Saturday. Secondly, I'm always a little paranoid of being long distances away from home in case anything goes wrong. I used to be really enterprising before I had kids; I've even been known to go on overnight hiking/camping trips and spur-of-the-moment road trips, but that kind of stuff is a little tricky with little ones. Aaron doesn't think so, but I do. I worry about what could go wrong or not having the right stuff a good deal more than is necessary or reasonable. Everyone has their internal struggles. Mine is with worry, mostly in anticipation of the stomach flu. I will go to pretty ridiculous lengths to avoid exposure to anyone who has recently been vomiting, and it occupies most of my worrying space. It's a bit of a handicap. So Saturday morning was an exercise in personal growth for me, and I decided to make it about choosing things based on what I actually wanted instead of what I was afraid might go wrong. We had a bit of a grumpy morning with Matteas, who didn't want to eat breakfast, but we managed to get out the door and on the freeway with relative ease. The hour or so drive passed without incident, Matteas taking a little nap and Jack happily coloring. We met Trevor for breakfast and Matteas was a little clingy. Jack had to be coaxed into eating a decent quantity of eggs, and the last bite proved to be too much. He gagged, and up came all my hard work. Luckily I grabbed his plate and some napkins in time and we kept most of the barf off of him. The voice in the back of my head said that this was not a good sign, but I pressed on. We strapped the boys back in their seats after breakfast and prepared to head out to a piece of land Aaron's looking at. Matteas was very upset about being put in his carseat, and cried and screamed until he threw up all over himself. Aaron thought he was just upset and was possibly inspired by Jack, but he's never made himself throw up before. This is when alarm bells started sounding in my head. We cleaned him up, changed his clothes and headed out once more. Two minutes down the road, more puking, this time without a fit preceding it. It dawned on me that Matteas was actually sick(Jack, however, merely has a sensitive gag reflex). The poor baby threw up every ten minutes for the next hour. We decided, since we were already down there, to check out the property anyway. Between barfing, Matteas was his usual chipper self and insisted on going trekking through the woods without so much as holding my hand. When he'd start to gag, I'd pick him up and lean him over and then he'd be on his way again, pointing and chirping and exploring. The drive home wasn't so bad; I sat next to him with an empty Starbucks cup and LOTS of diaper wipes and managed to catch most of it, but he was still pretty yucky by the time we got home. I always enjoy having nice clean babies, but I have never looked forward to a shower more than I did that afternoon. I usually give the boys baths, but I thought a shower would be more prudent under the circumstances. Matteas just laid on my shoulder while I washed his little body and rinsed all the horrible bile down the drain, replacing the bitter smell it left on his baby skin with lavender baby wash. I nursed him in the shower, thinking that vomiting something is easier on the stomach than vomiting nothing, then stayed in the shower a while, waiting for the milk to come back up. It didn't for a long time. Specifically, until after we'd gotten out of the shower. Luckily we were standing in the kitchen, which has a tile floor so it was easy cleanup. I have a renewed affection for disinfecting wipes; I'm sure they're not environmentally friendly, but the disposability factor is great for cleaning up barf. Fortunately, the incident in the kitchen was the last of it, and everything he ate after that he kept down. I nursed him over the next couple of hours and he got more and more cheerful, so after about three hours of not barfing I gave him some peeled cucumber and cubed ham, which he devoured while breathing heavily. The rest of us have escaped unscathed so far, but even though it's time to change the sheets I've resisted; I figure if I do, that will be the night Jack will come barf in my bed.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Look What We Made

Okay, I know he's my kid and everything, but Jack's drawings really are pretty amazing. He's only three years old, after all. I bought him a set of markers a few days ago and thought about hanging onto them until Christmas, but I couldn't help myself and I have no regrets. That little set of markers has provided hours of creativity for Jack and peace for his Mama, not to mention the priceless works of art I get out of the bargain. The picture above is a dinosaur montage; on the far left, the green dinosaur with the read tail is a T-Rex. Next to him are two blue and green archaeopteryx. On the far right, the black blob with red shooting out is a volcano. The two orange circles towards the bottom are pumpkins(these are seasonally-hip dinosaurs), and at the top, my favorite: a flock of pteradactyls. Last night was one of those crazy evenings where, just as dinner time approached, all hell broke loose. The first incident was Jack finding a bottle of spray cleaner with bleach in it, and using it to try to clean off his dry-erase letter board. All over the living room rug. He also got it on his sweatpants, and was devastated over the resulting discoloration so I'm pretty sure he'll never play with bleach again. I put Matteas in his high chair with some snacks so I could work on dinner, and just as I dumped the bowl of thawing chicken over on the counter sending raw-chicken liquid EVERYWHERE(did I mention I'm a Lysol-obsessed germ freak?) Matteas decided he was NOT interested in his snack, but he WAS interested in screaming and trying to climb out of his high chair. Somehow we survived, and the Chicken Parmesan and Mixed Greens with Lemon Vinaigrette from the Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook got finished. It was almost good enough to soothe my ruffled feathers.