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Out with the Old, In with the New

And lo, we have arrived. Twenty fourteen. Which, among other things, means that Josh and I have been engaged for two years now. We should probably add “get married” to our list of things-to-do this year, yes? Yes. Let’s work on that. But that’s not all. I’m still trying to be more intentional about the way I spend my time, and so I like to make some resolutions every year that line up with my free time priorities. Here’s a list of what I’d like to accomplish this year (in addition to matrimonial knot-tying), along with a quick report on how 2013’s resolutions went.

Eat Food

2013 Resolution: Limit ordering take-out to once per week.  I was pretty successful here, at least during the week. The weekends? We still ate out a lot. BUT we were eating in the restaurants rather than taking out. So I totally nailed this one, technically speaking.

2014 Resolution: Resurrect the garden. Josh put in raised gardening beds in 2012, and then we had an unusually unsunny summer and our yield was kind of sad. So we showed the sun who was boss by not bothering to plant anything in 2013. And that year, when we had no seedlings poised to benefit from it, the sun shone and shone and shone all summer long. Because the sun is an asshole. This year, we’ll make some modifications to the beds and try again. We will plant. We will harvest. We. Will. Eat!

Be Green

2013 Resolution: Make a batch of homemade deodorant. Done and done. And it works GREAT. The recipe is here (my most popular post of 2013, so I guess that means you guys like it too). I made one batch, and it lasted me the entire year.

2014 Resolution: Homemade shampoo. In addition to 2013’s homemade deodorant, I starting washing my face with oil. Both changes were wildly successful (and saved money to boot). I already use eco-friendly shampoos, but this is the year I’ll be brave enough to test out some homemade recipes. I’m mentally preparing myself for the terrible hair days ahead – and you should too, since you’ll be subjected to the photodocumentation.

Make Stuff

2013 Resolution: Pick a project and make it. Success! I made some things. Mostly to give to other people for Christmas presents, but that still counts.

2014 Resolution: Make 6 lovely things, at least one of which requires a sewing machine. I don’t have anything specific in mind yet, so I just gave myself a quantity of made items to work toward. I will consider them lovely if I want to show them off when they’re complete. This may not mean that they actually are lovely, but good enough to inspire shouts of “Hey World, look what I made!” should count for something.

Get Out

2013 Resolution: Have one adults-only outing every month. Fail. Fail. Fail. Oh, did I suck at this one. I’m trying to recall how many times Josh and I had something even sort of resembling a date night, and I can only think of two: one in February (a concert) and one in December (a play). I also squeezed in a couple rushed coffee dates with friends, but all in all it was an abysmal year for adult time.

2014 Resolution: One. Adult-only. Outing. Every. Month. I’m just re-upping this one.

Read Books

2013 Resolution: Finish reading two fiction books and one non-fiction book. Nailed it, plus extra credit. Books finished in 2013:  Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

2014 Resolution: Don’t buy any new books. That sort of feels like an anti-resolution, but I have stacks of books I already own that I haven’t read yet. I’m trying to get through that stack before adding to it. I am still perfectly willing to accept new books as gifts, however. Just so we’re clear.

Learn Stuff

 2013 Resolution: Learn to open a bottle of champagne, for chrissakes. This was the first resolution to get marked off my list, since I opened the New Year’s bottle of champagne precisely one minute after 2013 began. I’m pretty certain I’ve since forgotten how to do it, and I’m entirely certain it still makes me shriek because I’m convinced the cork is going to take my eye out. But still, I’m considering this one complete.

2014 Resolution: Participate in a writing workshop. Along the same lines as the champagne, I’d originally resolved to learn to use a drill. But, really, I know how to use one, I just don’t know how to use one well. (My drill holes are always wobbly and drunk looking.) I just need practice, and that’s a lame resolution anyway. Instead: a writer’s workshop. I already signed up for this YEAR-LONG one, before I had time to think too much on it and lose my nerve.

Get Involved

2013 Resolution: Finish my PTA Legislative Chair position off strong. Done. It was a semi-strong finish, at least. And then I started a new term as the Legislative Liaison at Riley’s new school. So there.

2014 Resolution: Bring the kids along. We’ll do some sort of volunteery thing as a family. A beach clean up. A weeding party at a park. Organize donations at West Side Baby. I don’t know exactly what yet. But we’ll figure it out, and do it. All of us.

Raise Citizens

2013 Resolution: Teach Avi new songs and guide Riley through a summer service project.  Done and done. Avi learned most of his new songs at preschool rather than directly from me, but it still counts. And Riley raised and donated over $400 to World Wildlife Fund to help endangered gorillas. Because he’s awesome.

2014 Resolution: Have the kids complete one Good Citizen Deed each week. This has been a trickier project to put together than I anticipated, but I’m giving the kids 52 assignments to complete throughout the year. The assignments vary from simple (pick out a can of food at the grocery store to donate to the food bank) to more involved (research a topic important to your community and write a letter to your state reps about it). All of Avi’s are pretty simple since, you know, he’s only 3.

Be Well

2013 Resolution: Complete three workouts/week. Didn’t happen. Me and exercise just aren’t getting along regularly right now. I squeeze it in when I can. I know it’s important for my physical health. But you know what? So is sleep. And on those rare days that I have a little extra time to spare, sleep wins. Moving on.

2014 Resolution: Go to the doctor(s) and write one day/week. I haven’t been to the doctor in a long time. I’m overdue for a pap, breast exam, glaucoma screen (family history there), glasses that actually correct my eyesight. And the dentist? Haven’t been there in over a decade. Don’t give me that look. I’ve had the shit shitty shittiest insurance that only medical emergencies have been dealt with. But now? Obamacare, yo. I can finally afford this. And for my mental health, I vow to get myself away from children once a week for some focused writing. Wish me luck on that one. I’ll need it.

Life List

2013 Resolution: Go to the dentist. Nope. No money. Shit insurance. We’ve covered this.

2014 Resolution: Give new life to an old piece of furniture. I have piles of old furniture in the basement that I refuse to sell/donate/take to the dump, because I am convinced I can rehabilitate them. This is the year that I try, at least once.

Lighten Up

2013 Resolution: Ride in the Fremont Solstice Parade. Yeah, the naked part.  I did it! I did it! I did it! It was fun. You should do it too.

2014 Resolution: Yell less. Like, waaaaaaay less. This one’s for you, Avi.

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This post’s song: Best Year by Elk and Boar

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Spoiler Alert: There is No Actual Point to This Post

The family and I visited the Hoh Rain Forest earlier this year (full post on that camping trip here), and one of my favorite parts was reading the signs that pointed out sights worth seeing. Signs are not usually my favorite part of any trip, but these ones struck me as particularly silly.

Side note: I didn’t take any photos of these signs myself on the trip, and so on writing this post I headed to Flickr sure that I would find a plethora of photos taken by people who found the signs just as amusing as did I. That was not the case. I found two pictures. Two. People! Why do you not share my sense of humor?!

In particular, there was one along the route in and out of the campground that said “Big Spruce Tree” and for some reason I couldn’t resist reading the sign out loud every time we drove past. And then, one day, this happened:

Me: “Big Spruce Tree!”

Josh: “It kind of sounds like that should be an anagram for Bruce Springsteen.”

And that made me giggle all the more, and start singing Springsteen songs. It took me MONTHS to get I’m on Fire out of my head after that trip.

And now it’s December, and there are festive lots springing up all over the city advertising their own big spruce trees, and so I once again find myself giggling and incessantly singing.

Hey little girl, is your daddy home…

And that’s why gigantic evergreens remind me of The Boss. The end.

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Coffee

Tall Cuppa Sanity, Please

I am sitting in a coffee shop. Aside from the little boy playing at the train table behind me, I am surrounded by adults. And that little boy? He isn’t mine.

It is such a rare treat to be without one or both of the kids. So rare to type uninterrupted for more than 90 seconds. So rare, in fact, that I’m having trouble functioning. I don’t know how to be anymore if I am not constantly (and quite literally) pulled in several different directions at once. I keep pausing what I’m doing to look around me expectantly, like hey, universe, shouldn’t someone be bugging me right about now? Why is no one bugging me? Have you forgotten me, universe?

It has gotten bad these past few months. I’ve had next to zero opportunities to get a break for one reason or another. And the breaks I have taken have been to attend PTA meetings or to head to the grocery store. I have become increasingly short-tempered and, to be perfectly honest, downright bitchy to my kids as a result. My patience wears thin. My sanity wears thin.

Coffee

So this? This unassuming cup in a (mostly) child-free cafe? This is not a cup of coffee. This is a cup of therapy. Straight up.

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Hoh Rain Forest

I took my man to a Ho(h) for his birthday

Hoh Rain Forest

Taking the family on a road trip to experience Washington’s Hoh Rain Forest has been on my Life List for a while. And going camping was on my Summer Staycation to-do list. Combine the two? Duh.

My man turned 38 on August 22nd and my toddler turned 3 on August 28th. This gave me the perfect excuse to plan a celebratory camping trip for the weekend sandwiched between the two momentous days. Though it was mostly for The Man (who desperately needed to get away from work for a while), the trip also marked the very first camping trip for our youngest. It was a lovely shared birthday present for them both, if I do say so myself.

Day One

After a late start, we spent most of our first day in the car. It’s a long drive from Seattle, whether you take a ferry or drive around. (One must cross Puget Sound – or drive around its southern tip – in oder to access the Olypmic Penninsula, home of the Hoh.) We pulled into the campground around 6:00, set up camp, ate some dinner, and strolled along the banks of the Hoh River. The park hosted a lecture in the campground’s outdoor ampitheater later that night, which we enjoyed while caterpillars crawled over us and bats swooped overhead.

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His very first camping snack!

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Day Two

We got rained on (it is a rain forest, after all). But it didn’t rain hard and, for the most part, the tree canopy kept us pretty dry. Our picnic table and all of our chairs stayed too wet to sit on for the rest of the night, though, so our second evening included a lot of standing. A lot. Well, my second evening did. My oldest retreated to the car with a flashlight to read a book while The Man spent half an hour or so trying to get our toddler to sleep in the tent. Their legs got breaks; mine stood in the rain keeping watch over a sputtering fire.

It was during this period of the night that I threw my book into the flames. Not on purpose, mind you. It had been set lovingly under the picnic table to stay dry… along with the wood pile. You can see where this is going. I picked up the book in my right hand, and sorted through the wood with my left until I found a suitable piece. Finding it, I propped it in my right arm while my left hand placed all the rejected logs back into the pile. Then, my left hand grabbed the chosen log from my right arm and arranged it with care into the fire. Then I stood up. I dropped both arms to my sides. And that’s when my book landed in the fire. Immediately, a flame slithered beneath it and emerged on the other side, its snake’s tongue licking hungrily at the fanned upper corner. I stared at it, stunned, and shouted (but only in my head, in deference to my hopefully sleeping toddler): “Aaaaaah! Gatsby!” For a moment I was frozen with indecision, but I couldn’t stand the thought of becoming a book-burning fascist, so I did what any freedom-loving (slightly tipsy) anarchist would do: I reached into the fire pit with my bare hands, grabbed the book, and flung it to safety. Foot raised, I stood poised to stomp out the flames. Except there were none. The book landed with a anticlimactic “whump” on the wet dirt and then just sat there, bored and apathetic. Once I was sure there were no flames hiding amongst the pages, I picked up the book and inspected it. Not a mark on it. And that, my friends, is the sign of a true classic.

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The Great Gatsby at home and unscathed

Day two also included a pretty awe-inspiring hike:

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Day Three

We needed ice, so we headed into Forks. And, since we’d already gone that far, we drove a little further to La Push for a day on the beach. Though it was nice and only partly cloudy further inland, La Push was shrouded in a heavy fog.

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It wasn’t cold, though, and there were surfers to watch and crabs to point at and enormous drift wood to trip on. And, by the time we were heading back to camp, the fog had lifted just enough to give a glimpse of the sea stacks.

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On the drive back to the campground, we spotted a moose on the side of the road. (And by “spotted” I mean we had to slam on the brakes to keep from rear-ending the drivers in front of us who parked their cars IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD in order to hop out and take pictures.) Back at the campground, three deer came crashing out of the woods across from our site. And then another one about 1o minutes later. And then another one 20 minutes after that.

We had a divine fire that night and stayed up late drinking hot cocoa and wine and whisper-giggling.

Day Four

Time to go home. We packed up and drove out of the park wishing we had one more day (at least!) to spend hiking through the forest. It was a gorgeous day, and none of us was quite ready for the trip to be over. Catching glimpses through the trees of crashing surf, we passed several beach trailheads along the 101 until finally we could no longer resist the urge to pull over for one last exploration before heading home for real. This is “Beach 1” (very picturesque name, no?) at Kalaloch:

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And then we made our way back home to the real world. But not before stopping to lunch in Aberdeen, hometown of my son’s favorite band leader, Mr. Kurt Cobain.

I can’t speak for the rest of the family, but I think the trip was a glorious way to bid the summer months adieu – and to celebrate a couple birthdays while we were at it.

Know Before You Go:

  • There are no reservations. All sites are first come, first serve. There are three “loops” in the campground (A, B, and C loops) with a total of 88 sites. I’m not sure that our experience was typical (we were there kind of late in the season), but here’s what we found: when we arrived on Thursday evening (around 6:00ish), there were only three sites left open in C Loop; not sure about the other loops, but from what we could see they were all pretty full. Several sites opened up Friday morning, but were mostly full by about 4:00 that afternoon. I’m pretty sure there were a few people who didn’t get spots on Friday. Several spots opened up again Saturday morning, and the campground did not fill up that night.
  • It costs $15 for a typical vehicle to enter the park (one-time fee good for 7 days) and $12/night for a campsite.
  • Head to C Loop for the best campsites. This loop is the most woodsy, with several large and secluded spots to choose from. Specifically, check out spots 78, 82, 84, and 86. (The earlier photo of our campsite is spot #86.) Eighty-four and 86 don’t have much privacy from each other, but they’re large and otherwise secluded; they’d make a great joint site for two families to share.
  • Both A Loop and C Loop have river-side spots. A Loop is almost entirely meadow (read: you will be in direct view of all your “neighbors”), while C Loop’s river-side spots are more wooded. B Loop has some large and secluded sites (including one with a HUGE spruce), but almost all the good spots are within earshot or sight-line of the poo-station (where RVs dump their respective loads).
  • You don’t need a Discover Pass, but many of the campgrounds just outside of the park do require one – so it might be a good idea to get one just in case the park’s campsite is full and you find yourself in need of a plan B.
  • There are bathrooms, but no showers.
  • There is no cell service.
  • Firewood is for sale in the campground (B Loop) for $5/bundle. A bundle should last you one night, depending on how early you start your fire and how late you stay up.
  • The park’s Visitor Center and trailheads are within walking distance of the campground. Permits for backwoods camping off the Hoh River Trail are available in the Visitor Center.

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Rain

No matter what

If I’m to be totally honest, summer is kind of kicking our butts. That’s what happens when one person quits her job and the other person has a variable income based on commissions. Sometimes, the commissions aren’t there. Sometimes, despite grueling hours that don’t stop when he comes home or when he eats dinner or even when he crawls into bed at night, sometimes the commissions remain stubbornly just out of reach. For months. And months. And then a few months more just to make sure you’re really getting the point. Sometimes the boys don’t get hair cuts even though ears are covered and bangs are over eyes in unintentional ’70s shags. Sometimes fans are shut off even on the hottest days to save a bit of electricity. Sometimes day trips get cancelled because there’s not enough gas in the car and even if there was, the ferry would be too expensive. Sometimes dress shirts have to stay an extra couple weeks at the cleaners and staid business casual is forced to get more creative. Sometimes all the groceries go on credit.

Sometimes. Not always. But sometimes. And this summer has been one of those times.

It’s not dire, mind you. Our bills are being paid. No one is going hungry (thanks, MasterCard!).

This is not the kind of post where I’m feeling down or sorry for myself. This is not the kind of post where I’m trying to convince myself that things don’t totally suck, the kind of post where I’m trying to talk the way I want to feel even though I don’t really believe a word I’m saying. This is the kind of post where I’m announcing to the world that I’m broke and things aren’t working out the way I’d planned and life is still utterly amazing. The birds are chirping. My kids are giggling. I am in love with a man who loves me back; who, after nine years of pseudo-relationship followed by long-distance relationship followed by actual relationship, still kissed me for real when he left for work this morning.

But things are tight.

Which brings me to my point. My modest list of Summer Staycation to-dos? Uh, yeah. Not playing out quite the way I’d hoped. Aquarium? Zoo? Great Wheel? Ferry rides? Too rich for our summertime blood. Train to Portland? Ha!

But. BUT. There is always a bright side, isn’t there? And right now, the (literal) bright side is the incredibly sunshiney weather. The rain has dried up right along with the commissions, and we have spent a glorious broke-ass summer enjoying Seattle’s outside parts.

This is what I did yesterday:

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while the kids were doing this:

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We have gone skinny dipping in the back yard:

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Danced barefoot ballets at the park:

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Gotten water in our eyes at the spray park:

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Held high-stakes slide races:

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Thrown rocks at sticks:

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Emerged intact from a salmon’s butt:

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Built wildly unstable sand castles:

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People, we have even pooped in big boy potties. (More on that later, because what is a personal blog for if not talking about poop.)

And we jumped in puddles that one day it rained:

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Because we are having fun no matter what the weather does. No matter what the finances do. No matter what plans need to be rearranged or forgotten altogether. I am spending the entire summer playing with my kids. And a life full of these kids with this man is good. No matter what.

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