Thursday, March 31, 2011

A sign of Spring

A sign of spring! We have had a bit of interspersed sun but everything is pretty wet still. See that moss covered fence behind the daffodils? Most of the wood in our neighborhood looks like that. Nothing ever fully dried out since there is so much tree cover, so moss is growing all over. It's actually quite pretty if you are not the one who has to maintain the wood.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New camera lens and RAIN AGAIN.

Not that I'm complaining about the weather but it is freezing cold and raining today.

Those who are not interested in a play-by-play account of how I got my new lens should just quit reading here: I got my new lens.

In other news, the new camera lens is here! Remember a few weeks ago when I rented those lenses to try out? And I decided on the 50mm 1.4? Well, as soon as I decided to buy it, the price went up about a hundred bucks on Amazon. And stayed there for the next week. After doing a little research, I learned that there are 5 Canon production plants in Northern Japan - you see where I'm going with this? One of them is about 5 miles from the now infamous nuclear reactor that is scaring the bejebus out of all of us. So, earthquake hit, plants halt production, lens price goes up. Make sense? (Note: I am not in any way making light of the disaster in Japan because it slightly impeded my purchase of a camera lens. )

So after much searching and researching (cause that's what I do...) it came down to purchase the lens now, for the original price from a local store, or wait until Christmas time (when lens prices are supposed to go back down) to buy it. Oh there was much nashing of teeth about this one. On one hand, I had a credit at Amazon that I won, but I would have to pay 100 bucks more for the lens and most stores supplying it were out of stock, making the chances of  actually getting one a bit slim. On the other hand if I bought it locally I would have to pay for it but I would still get the original price. I sat on that for a few days and then 2 miraculous thing happened - my ipod broke and I got my check from work.

Can I insert a note here: boo on my ipod breaking. 1 year and 3 months after buying it, the thing is completely broken and out of warranty. Stupid Apple and their expensive, alluring, desirable and breakable products.

I figured I would use my Amazon money for the replacement ipod and get the lens today. So I DID! I could not be happier. I can't wait to take it to Spain and so far I love love love it.

Sorry for the long purchasing post but Peter has had to listen to my agonizing for 2+ weeks now and has been VERY gracious in offering advice and letting me stress about something as fluffy as buying an expensive piece of electronic equipment. Thanks honey for not being as annoyed with me as I probably would have been with you. (Isn't that the honest truth about marriage?) You can talk about bikes all you want to me and I will listen nicely.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Swim Lessons

Mr. T started swim lessons again today and it was fraught with anxiety. He was so nervous. So so nervous. Even though it was the same level he took last time, even though he knew he could do everything they asked. He insisted that I take him to class - which I did even though it meant a morning off of work for me.

And he was fine. He had the same wonderful teacher as last time and she was as excited to see him as he was to see her. He hopped right in the pool and did everything she asked. Peter and I were both relieved. Mr. T is so nervous in the water, both in swim lessons and when he is swimming with us. It kind of ruins his enjoyment of vacations with pools, going out on a boat and family swim trips. I'm not a great swimmer but I'm good enough. Miss E is pretty good, and of course, Peter is great (because he's good at all physical stuff). I want Mr. T to feel that enjoyment as well. Maybe after a few hundred bucks worth of swim lessons he will.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I'm having a love/kind of annoyed relationship with our preschool this year. This is our 4th year there and our last. I love the program, his teacher and even (kind of) the parent teaching. The parent/school drama is getting to be a bit much. None of that affects Mr. T's day to day life there so we are happy overall, and he LOVES his teacher - which in preschool is really important.

Since the beginning of the year, the sand pit has been his favorite place on the playground. Every time they are outside he can be found there with a group of kids, mixing "soup", digging holes and covering them with boards, filling buckets with water and mixing in rocks and sawdust. Today Peter was parent teaching and on this day, this is how Mr. T was making mud. In the washing machine? I don't know.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trucks and Dolls and Everything in Between

This is my little niece, playing with Mr. T's trucks today. And this illustrates one of the very things I love about having both a girl and a boy.

When I was growing  up, I only had a sister and we had tons of "girl" toys - dolls, doll houses, doll clothes, etc. It was all dolls and stuffed animals all the time. And to my parents credit, I don't think that either Honore or I would have ever ASKED for a truck. Or a train set. Or even legos since back then (way back then...) lego's were mostly for boys. Just like I don't think Mr. T would ever ASK for a princess doll or Miss E would ever ask for a race car for her birthday. But, my children do gravitate naturally to their specific gendered toys, for the most part, so our house has both fire trucks and princesses, a bat cave and dolls. And this means that both kids get to play with both things. Miss E loves running the ambulance to calls and Mr. T drives his sisters princess carriage around. Lately I have seen the princess castle and the bat cave set up next to each other as their own little "city". Miss E used to say to me that she liked "boy" stuff and my response is always "there is no boy stuff or girl stuff, only stuff" and she is starting to repeat that to Mr. T.

My niece and her brother are the same - ponies and construction trucks, doll houses and building sets. Sometimes I feel disappointed that as kids get older, toys seem so split more clearly along gender lines but I have found, if you look carefully, that there are fun lego sets that either boys or girls would like, same with building stuff, vehicles and dolls. The thing about having one of each though, is that it doesn't feel forced. I am not handing my daughter a fire truck and telling her to play with it just so she plays with something besides dolls. Instead she and her brother play together all the time and just mix their toys.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


This weekend my sister and her family came to town so they could see a concert in Portland and my parents could babysit. We spent most of the day hanging out at my parents house, me lounging around, the boys watching kids and my sister (a gardener by trade) worked in my mom's yard. Pretty soon Mr. T said that he wanted to go out and "help" Aunt Honore so I let him and of course, my little niece wanted to follow along. They spent about almost an hour out there with her, pulling weeds, looking under rocks and I'm pretty sure Mr. T talked non-stop. But he learned how to use a weeding tool without smashing his fingers in the process! So, I think that's a win.

See that huge bush in front of her? That's a Blueberry bush. An enormous, gorgeous, fruitful blueberry bush that come this spring (summer) will be filled with tons and tons of yummy blueberries. The entire row in front of the house used to be planted with them but my mom keeps ripping them up to put in huckleberries or something else. She's not one to let grass grow under her feet if you know what I mean. That bush though? She's going to have to go through me to take down.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Flying in the Tree

The kids came home today! I made them a special dinner of homemade mac and cheese, asparagus (first organic ones of the spring!) and little doughnut muffins for dessert. They were restless after being in the car so they went outside with Peter to build a fire pit. I have no idea where that came from - the fire pit, not the restlessness.

Miss E climbed high enough in this tree that I couldn't watch. Between her wearing her rain boots, that tree being soaked with water for the last, oh, 6 months and with moss growing all over it, it was a slippery, slimy accident waiting to happen. But, I let my kids climb trees so I spent most of the time in the kitchen trying not to watch. When I came out to snap this picture she yelled "look mama, I'm flying! I've always wanted to fly". And that made all the potential arm and leg breaking worth it. Well, until someone actually breaks an arm or leg. That would suck.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Last Day

This is the kids last full day and Grandma and Grandpa's. They went to the science museum and apparently Miss E got to stand in a bubble. She said it got her hair bubbly when it popped. They are having a great time.

As for me, I am enjoying the quiet. Not just the quietness of the house, but the quietness in my mind as well. There is such luxury in only considering your own needs and schedule as you plan your day. Normally on the days I work, in the morning I outline for Peter what the pick ups and drop offs are for the day, what's for dinner, if he has to cook, what each kid needs to work on/take with them, etc. As I drive to work I mentally calculate where everyone is and make sure I didn't forget to tell Peter something. At the end of the day, I normally feel immense family pressure to be home for dinner. Since we eat at 5, that means I need to leave work at 4:20 which is really hard during tax season. But I do it, without complaint, because I know that is what Peter and the kids need me to do.

Usually my schedule come last in our family. And that truly is fine with me because that is the way it has to be. Peter's job is not flexible. We need him to work OT and attend in-service trainings and all the other necessities that come along with being a firefighter. My job is to keep the family running and work on the side. I am thankful that my parents own their own CPA firm and are willing to employ me on such a willy-nilly basis.

For these few days though, it was quite freeing to just think about me. Get up to a quiet house, drive to work with a quiet mind, work, help my mom, meet a friend for drinks, come home and eat leftovers again. Or chips and salsa. Or anything that I didn't have to cook. It's almost like a glimpse of a life I might have had, if I had made different choices.

I'm so glad I made the choices that I did and that I have the noisy, chaotic, wonderful life that I do. Tomorrow when the kids come home I will eagerly greet them and even will happily handle the trip hangover that they are bound to have the next day. But for now, I have one last day of quiet.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Flying a Kite

The kids had another great day at their Grandparent's house - bike riding, kite flying, playing and having tea. I think there was also trip to the bookstore and perhaps the toy store as well. They are being well taken care of and enjoying every minute of it. : )

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bike Riding with Grandpa Randy

I've been a bit behind on the blogging lately. Let's see if I can catch up....

This Tuesday, my babies left with Peter to go spend a few days with my in-laws. Ok, they're not really babies but if felt a little like it as I watched the car pull away. They drove for 5 hours and then spent the afternoon at their Grandparents house riding bikes, playing outside and drinking lemonade. Grandpa Randy was up for bike riding as long and as often as Miss E wanted to, which made her pretty happy.

And I swear, I washed that dress last night. She picked it out at a consignment store and while it is probably my least favorite item of clothing she owns - see Big Love comment yesterday - she LOVES it and wears it quite often.

Monday, March 21, 2011

World Forestry Center

Is it bad that this outfit makes me think of Big Love?

The kiddos and I went to the World Forestry Center today for our first day of Spring Break. This is one of my favorite museums in Portland because it's almost never crowded but there are still enough fun activities to keep the kids interested. Mr. T rode in the white water raft exhibit for about 30 minutes straight. Miss E, who is now old enough to read some of the display labels, and I had a great time learning about different kinds of wood and forests. This polar bear exhibit was pretty awesome and definitely my favorite of the day. The pictures were incredible and it was accessible for the kids to look at and learn. Miss E, of course, was fixated on the one with blood on his fur as he was eating a whale carcass. The kids are all about blood and poop. That pretty much sums up 4 and 6.

This 48 was as awesome as the last one was terrible. We were all happy as we sat down to dinner tonight, chatting about the museum and their upcoming trip to their Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Grilled Cheese Bus

So I've been doing the whole "48" thing for 6 years now. And while I will willingly throw out the first, say, 3 years when I had babies, that still leaves 3 years to figure it out. The one thing I have learned, the one most important thing to passing those 2 days with happiness and sanity is PLANNING. Even if it's jotting out the night before Peter leaves what we are eating for dinner each night or thinking through each day regarding activities and obligations, it counts. Every single time I head into one with no planning it bites me in the butt. But still, it happens. The 48 we just came off of had no planning and the kids fought and I was stressed and annoyed.

Today is the start of another 48 and yes, I have planned. I have activities for each day (especially important since it's spring break), meal ideas, and I know what house cleaning and errands need to get done. As a result, I feel less stressed and the kids feel less stressed.

Our activity today was to head to a children's bookstore and look at books, then we walked down to the Grilled Cheese Bus to have lunch. The kids loved the Grilled Cheese Bus - I mean, there's dance music, you get to eat on a bus (a real old school bus!) and they have grilled cheese (with bacon or about 7 million other things if you so desire). What's not to love?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Very Sweetest Day

This was Peter's 1 day home this week. Sandwiched in between 48's and scheduled right before he whisks the kids away for spring break he had this one day at home. And it was the nicest day we have all had in awhile.

The kids have been going all Lord-of-the-flies for the last 2 days so, instead of doing a family activity like we normally would have tried to do, I suggested divide and conquer and oh, it worked out perfectly. Peter took Mr. T bike riding to get used to his new training wheels while I cleaned the fridge and Miss E sat in the kitchen writing stories. Then Mr. T came home for rest time and Peter and Miss E left on their bikes, headed for the school playground. She spent all her time showing him the 8 million things that are "forbidden" on the Kindergarten playground and doing them all for "demonstration" purposes.

I ordered my camera lens (price finally dropped!) and Peter got his Ween ticket. It felt a little like someone's birthday.

The sun was shining. It was cold, but the sun was shining. Everyone was in a good mood.

In the late afternoon, we dropped the kids off at my parents (a rare treat during tax season) and Peter and I headed downtown for a walk around and dinner. It was lovely. So so lovely. And to top it off, I got a few things I needed for Spain at a travel store and had lasagna with sun dried tomatoes.

The only thing I didn't do? Take pictures! So, the one above is from my dear husband's camera phone, since he's all fancy and actually has a camera phone.

Friday, March 18, 2011


A short list for today:

It's the last day of a 48 and Miss E's first day of Spring Break. We ran errands while Mr. T was at school.

Tomorrow Peter will be home and then he is off for another 48.

The kids both swear they don't want to do any camps this summer yet have been bickering constantly and complaining that they are bored when we are at home.

I don't think the weather is helping anyone. I don't mind the rain, it's just everything being wet. There is moss growing on our car. Actual moss. Growing on our car. And this is a car that gets driven every day and when Peter is at work, it's parked in the bay. But still. Moss.

On Tuesday, Peter is taking the kids to see his parents for four days. I am staying behind to work but I am going to miss them so much. I can't imagine coming home from work 3 nights in a row to a house that only has a dog in it. I have some friends lined up to see but still, it seems like it will be lonely. Maybe refreshing. We'll see.

The flower in the picture is a hellebore and they are my favorites. They are on of the few flowers that will easily grow in our yard under all those huge fir trees and require very little maintenance.

As soon as I decided which camera lens to order, the price went up on Amazon. Since I have to buy it on Amazon (due to gift card prize) I am now waiting, checking my cart 2 or 3 times a day to see when the price will go back down. So. Impatient.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Happy St. Patrick's Day to You

I looked over our calendar today are did some counting. Here's what I came up with: 14 and 16. In February, Peter and I spent 14 nights sleeping under the same roof. In March, it will be 16. Ouch. No wonder I am feeling like I never see him. This separation is mostly due to his work, with some OT thrown in, and a few trips that we each have taken. Mostly though, I feel like the fire department and I are a divorced couple that have shared custody.

Don't get me wrong, I am usually OK with having some nights alone. I mean, you kind of have to be to be married to a firefighter. Sometimes, I like having the whole bed to myself and watching whatever crap I want to watch on TV. Before we had kids, I enjoyed the occasional evening of eating nothing but cereal for dinner. I am also grateful for the overtime. What a blessing that we have that sort of a chance to make extra money and that Peter is always willing to work it. And it's great that the kids are old enough now that we can each take weekend trips away with our friends and not have it be too big of a deal. But. There comes a point where you look at the calendar and realize you are spending less than half your nights with your husband that it starts to seem like a bit much.

This morning I was in a bit of a funk (see entire previous week) but after Mr. T and I dropped Miss E off at school, we headed up to a friends house to hang out with her and her son and oh, what a difference a simple visit with a friend can make.  We chatted, the boys played, her little boy D showed Mr. T how to pay Kinect for the first time and they spread yarn all over the house to trap either the dog or something else, I'm not sure. It all felt very rejuvenating.

For me, besides the holiday schedule, the loneliness can be the hardest part of this lifestyle. And I am a person who likes to spend a bit of time alone. But some nights, after the kids go to bed, I kind of wish someone was around.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Note from Miss E

Oh my dear Miss E. Last night she took a flying leap onto her bed which resulted in her knocking her head against the upper wooden bar at the same time that she whacked her shin against the lower wooden bar. Really really hard. Hard enough that when I heard the crash and thump I went running even before the tears started - and that rarely happens anymore. She cried and cried and I was a little concerned over the head bump until she told me her shin hurt worse than her head. She cried some more. She didn't want a band-aid, inexplicably because that would "hurt coming off" and everything including the air that touched her shin hurt. And I have no doubt it did. She will probably have a huge bruise over the next few days.

By this time, it was bedtime. So I gave her some Tylenol, got her tucked in bed and turned out the lights and sat with her for a bit. Still crying. I tried talking to her about what Mr. T and I did that morning and she was still crying. At this point she was just so tired that it was almost like she couldn't turn it off. So I went to get my special stuffed rabbit from my childhood and gave it to her. His name is Wooga and he is our designated "sick friend". My mom had a stuffed bear that she let my sister and I sleep with when we were sick and it always made me feel better. I gave Wooga to Miss E and she immediately cuddled him and went to sleep.

This evening, when I came home from work, she gave me this card that she made in Kindergarten today. It had an envelope and she cut it like a snowflake to make it pretty. The front of it says "To Mommy" and inside "Thank you for helping me last night when I hurt my head and my ankle (she means shin). It really hurt" and then the picture on the bottom is her crying in her bed. Isn't that so sweet? Not that she got hurt of course, but that she would think to make me a card to say thank you. I swear, sometimes she can be the most difficult, stubborn, obstinate and independent kid but at the same time she is the most empathetic, loving, kind, smart and interesting soul. The apple doesn't really fall too far from the tree.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dancing at the Mall

Mr. T loves to dance. Just like he almost always has a smile in his heart, he too has a song in his heart. He can frequently be seen boogying in the grocery store, in our living room or anyplace where there is music. This morning we were running errands (and trying to find errant Bat Cave furniture which is a WHOLE other story) and had to stop at the mall to return something. We were there before the stores opened so it wasn't too crowded and I think there was music playing because all of a sudden he was doing all kinds of crazy ballet/theatrical dancing right there in front of Macy's. And having a great time. And being very serious about the whole thing.

I love that kid.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Little Architects and their Imperfect Mama

Mr. T built this today all by himself. Pretty cool huh? Out of all the toys we have bought our kids (and others have bought them) in the last 6 years this set of Magna-Tiles is in the top 5 in terms of years of use, creativity and popularity in our house. It's key that you get the 100 piece set though, they are more expensive but the smaller sets just don't have enough pieces for the kids to really get into building something with. 

Today is continuing my streak of being off my game and I am not handling things well. No, it has not been pretty around here.

Here's how went: Woke up late, lost my keys, fought with Peter, made a mistake at work, got off at wrong train station on way home.

Here's how I dealt with that all: Drank too much coffee, ate too many mini-Butterfingers (the bowl is right next to my freakin desk!), sent sarcastic and angry texts to my spouse, ordered a pair of ridiculously expensive boots.

Here's what I didn't do: exercise, act like an adult, eat a healthy lunch, focus on work, or drink any water.

I actually told Peter NOT to pick me up from the train station because I was going to walk the 2 miles home, in the rain, because F him. How that is spiting him somehow, I can't really figure out right now but it was. Then I had to call him at the last minute because I got off the train and didn't know WHERE I was and even then I STILL was considering walking home just to spite him (again, WHY exactly that hurts him I'm not sure). Then when I did call him, of course he graciously came and got me right away.

Maturity, thy name is not Sarah.

(Not today at least)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

50mm 1.4 - You're a Winner!

So it came down to this - the last lens I tried out.  The perfect length, the perfect f stop or aperture or whatever the heck you call that number. This picture was taken in our house (which is darkish in the winter due to being surrounded by trees) and the kids were flat out wrestling, moving, rolling and jumping. Being able to get this shot without using a flash in any semblance of focus is far above where my current lenses can go. I'm ordering this lens as soon as possible.

I have been seriously off my game lately and I'm not sure why. I don't know if I'm getting sick, or if everyone else is off their game and that's throwing me or if it's the migraine meds but I have not felt myself this weekend. Last night I couldn't fall asleep and I was just laying there in the dark awash with anxiety, not just about one thing but with my brain jumping from one thing to another.

Anxiety about radiation, what it would feel like to be trapped in an earthquake, what it would feel like to be trapped in an earthquake with your kids, falling in icy water, riding in airplane, and riding in a plane without Peter. Anxiety about some family issues and worry about people whom I love. Then I started on the what ifs:

What if something happens while I'm in Spain? To the kids? To Peter? To me?

What if I'm on the trail and something happens, and I'm days away from an airport?

What if one of our pets dies while I'm gone?

What if the plane crashes?

What if the kids miss me too much and it's hard for them?

What if it's too much for Peter to take care of them by himself for 2 weeks?

What if I have an anxiety attack on the plane? What if I throw up on the plane?

Do you think I'm carrying a bit of stress about my trip to Spain? Yeah, me too. For 2 hours, I lay in the dark with my brain racing, thought after thought of all the things I am worried about or that could happen. And then I had the simple thought "we will deal with it". If any of these things happen, we will deal with it.  Just like everything else. We will deal with what comes our way with grace, even if it's vomiting on a plane due to anxiety. Ok, I'm not really so sure how that could be handled with much grace, but everything else.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

85mm 1.8, I kind of like you

My sister and her family stopped by this morning on their way out of town and the kids got to play with their cousins for a bit. I have been feeling crummy for most of the weekend so it was nice to have some company today while Peter was at work. This picture is my darling niece. Doesn't she look just like Miss E? The 4 kids had so much fun playing together. I love that they all love each other so much.

Another awesome thing about kids before I get to the lens, is that Miss E has been cooking breakfast! On the weekends, she can now get up at 7, get bowls of yogurt and granola for herself and Mr. T and turn on the TV. She even knows that they are only allowed to watch channel 10 (public television) and can change it to that channel. Then she can make toast if they are both still hungry. All this (plus the fact that our house is so small I can kind of hear them the whole time) allows me, and Peter if he's home, to sleep in until 8 on the weekends. A whole extra hour! If someone had told me when I was getting up 3 or 4 times a night with a 1-year-old Miss E that she would someday not only be sleeping through the night but getting up to fix breakfast for herself and her brother I would have thought they were crazy. But here we are. I tell you, all ages are great, but there is a definite sweet spot with the 4 and 6 year olds.

Now for the 85mm 1.8 lens. If you know things about photography, please ignore the rest of this. For the rest of you who know little (like me) I have learned a few things this weekend. The 85 number in front of the mm measures how far away you need to be to take a picture. If you are outside, big numbers could be great. If you live in a tiny house, 85mm is still a bit much. I found myself continuously backing up today while taking pictures of the kids. I think outdoors though, this lens would be awesome. The pictures turned out great and even in the low light of the house, with the kids moving around, they turned out crisp and in focus for the most part. I'm not sure this is the lens I'm going to get right now, but it's something I can see myself realistically owning in the future.

Friday, March 11, 2011

100mm 2.8 Macro, You're Outta My League

My lovely sister, in her work gear. 

I actually know next to nothing about cameras. I mean,  I love photography but have pretty much no working technical knowledge about it. I bought a Digital SLR a few years ago, hoping that if I put a good camera on auto, I would somehow come out with fantastic pictures. Well, I have learned a few things since then – like that the auto feature is not a professional photographer.

Currently, I am shopping for a new lens (thanks to my lucky Amazon winnings) and have rented 3 this weekend to try out. I'm going to try one each day and hopefully by Monday I will have made a choice. 

Today, it's the 100mm 2.8 Macro. I really have no business touching the same camera that this lens is on. It is the most fancy pants lens I’m trying out and while it’s not the caviar of lenses by any means, it's a nice leans. Maybe equivalent to a nice local organic salad with goat cheese medallions. My kit lens is a lettuce salad from the bag. Just for a random food analogy. 

The pictures the lens took are beautiful. Clear and crisp and the macro feature is really nice. I could see using it a lot in the spring/summer when the kids are outside and I want to get good close ups without getting right next to their faces. The thing is, this lens has a few other features that I really don't know how to use, and what I mainly want is something to take pictures inside the house with when the light is bad in the winter. The 100 mm is a bit much for taking pictures inside a tiny house. Plus the lens itself is pretty big and heavy. So, while I would love to have something like this someday, today is not that day. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dinner Date with Miss E

This afternoon was Miss E's final kindergarten parent-teacher conference (where exactly did this year go by the way...). Let me just say that the highest praise you can hear for your child from their teacher is "she reminds me of me when I was a little kid". Oh yes. My heart was warm and I left there feeling an overwhelming sense of pride and happiness with my little girl.

Then I got home. My in-laws had stopped by on their way to visit some friends and Miss E was kind of in a tizzy. She doesn't love unplanned things and her reaction to the stress is to be rude and mean to all around her. So as I am trying to talk to my in laws, she is yelling at me to tell her about her conference, being rude to her brother and generally displaying the manners of a 2 year old. It was a bit disappointing to say the least but she and I left to go to gymnastics class, we talked about it and it was done with (for now). 

Kids. Isn't that the way it goes? One minute you could not be more proud, the next not so much.

Anyhoo....after class we headed into Portland to pick up the 3 lovely camera lenses I am renting for the weekend. I'm getting a new one but have no idea what they are like so I'm renting the top three contenders to try them out. We picked them up and then she and I went out to dinner.

And this ended up being the most wonderful time. Miss E kept saying that this was the "fanciest restaurant" she had ever been to. Even though the service was "Portland-slow" (slow but with no real reason it should be) she waited patiently and we chatted for about 2 hours straight. About school, what kinds of food she likes, her friends, what first grade will be like, my trip to Spain, adventures she wants to have.... about everything.  I'm so glad that I didn't let the manners slip earlier in the day ruin our dinner. I was about to cancel as a consequence for the behavior and according to most parenting books I should have but then we would have missed out on this great bonding experience. Plus, I know my daughter and a great evening out with just her and I will do more to improve her behavior than any punishment would.  And it gave me great joy. Joy to see her ordering for herself. Talking to the waiter. Trying all my food even though she is usually super picky. Just joy in being there and enjoying my kid. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spring is coming

It's not here yet. Not by a long shot. But I can feel it. Every morning when I go to get the paper, the air feels a little bit softer, warmer. There are a few more birds singing. The sky seems a bit brighter and everything has a little bit of a fresher feel. There are more tight little bundles of green pushing their way up through the muck. It's still cold and truthfully, we have months before things are consistently warm and dry or anything resembling a sandal is being worn. But it's coming.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It's not all Firefighters

You see that guy in the picture? Well, we are looking at his crotch and legs only but it's a guy and guess what - he's not a firefighter! And the kids thought he was awesome! Well, Mr. T thought he was awesome, Miss E thought the dog was awesome because it peed first thing when she met it. Yep, a dog peed and it was the first thing Miss E told me when I asked her how her day was.

Back to that guy, he's actually a police officer and that's his adorable police dog. While I was at work today, Peter took the kids to a fire safety fair (you know, because we can't get enough of that stuff...) and Mr. T wore his turnouts again (making this day 2 with a threat to wear them to school tomorrow). At the fair the kids met this cute little puppy dog, got their faces painted and got to climb out a fake window of the fire safety house. They also brought home fire goody bags because apparently we don't have enough fire coloring books, plastic helmets, tattoos and rulers. A good time was had by all - well, them. I was at work which I'm not sure I would call a "good" time.

Speaking of a good time that doesn't involve fires, I won a prize! A real honest-to-goodness prize from Amazon. Apparently, in December if you ordered a magazine subscription you were entered to win a $1,000 gift card from Amazon. I ordered a magazine subscription for my boss to give to his brother (it's a weird job) and I won! Who knew a subscription to Maxim could reap such bounty? Peter and I have had a ton of fun talking about what we should get with it. We don't really NEED anything but at the same time, if I wasn't careful I could spend it all in a day. So far we have ordered the extra camera battery, some flower decals for Miss E's wall, a car seat for our 2nd car and some sneakers to replace my pair with no rubber on the bottom. Crazy big spenders, I know.  We are talking about eventually maybe getting a Wii for the family and I would like a new camera lens and Peter wants a few recording things but we are unsure of all of that. It's fun to talk about it though. What an unexpected bounty.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Last Fire Station Tour

I could also file this post under 'are you kidding me?'.

This morning was the fire station tour for Mr. T. It is Mr. T's last year in preschool and hence, the last fire station tour that Peter will be giving for either of the kid's classes. And it's for Mr. T, who loves firefighters, fire engines, fire trucks, fire stations and rescue crap more than anything in the world. And it's the only tour Peter has done at his home station for the kids. It was a BIG DEAL. So big of a deal, that Peter didn't even come home this morning after his 48, instead he stayed at the station to get everything ready. He really wanted it to be the biggest, baddest fire station tour ever.

As I was getting the kids ready at home and grabbing all my stuff, I had a fleeting thought that MAYBE I should bring our back up camera, the little point and shoot, you know, in case the battery (of which we have only 1) went out on the good camera. But then I figured the battery was probably fine and rushed on to do other things. Fast forward to us arriving at the station, talking to the on-duty crew, getting ready for the tour, I flip on my camera and guess what - battery needs charging. I almost cried. I know it's not that big of a deal, but this is so important to both Peter and Mr. T and I wanted to have pictures of it! I sheepishly tell Peter, he grabs the video camera and shows me how to shoot stills with it and I end up using that.

The pictures were terrible, grainy and yucky but they did capture the moment. This was one of my favorites. Mr. T wore his turnouts all day long but as part of the tour Peter gets dressed in his to show the kids what firefighters look like all dressed up. Mr. T was his little helper, handing him each piece of his uniform, his mask, and his hood. The cutest thing was that they were both so proud of each other! It was just darling.

Despite the debacle of the photography, it was a fantastic morning, and one they both will remember.

And this evening, I ordered a 2nd battery for our camera. Lesson learned.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Miss E and the Engine

Sunday night, Sunday night. Even though Peter was working this weekend it ended up being pretty good. I wasn't feeling well (thank you migraines and cramps) so the kids ended up watching a little more TV than I liked and eating a little more junk than I wanted but there was no yelling, only one instance of tears, I didn't feel stressed out and the kids were happy. That's about all I can wish for.

Friday night for movie night we watched Harriet the Spy. That night, as I was checking on the kids before I went to bed, I found a note in Miss E's room next to a bag. It said (with her spelling):

I've ben work'en
Hard all nite
To Mommy
From E
Lots of love to you
Spy kite

And there was an arrow pointing to a bag next to it, in which she had assembled a full spy kit, including magnifying glass, note pad, a pencil and a key ring. Apparently she got up after lights out and put all that together. I grabbed one of my special notecards and wrote her a quick note saying that I loved it and put it on top of her spy kit for her to find in the morning.

Well, Saturday morning came, we had errands to run at Target and I told her she could pick out a notebook just like Harriet's if she wanted to. It took 15 minutes of her looking at the 2 shelves of notebooks for her to pick this blue one with flowers on it. Since then she has probably written 20 pages of notes in it.

Today at the fire station, I let her wander around by herself "spying". She has wanted to go off on her own for awhile now (since she was 2 actually) but it's hard for me to find safe opportunities for her to be really independent. The new fire station is HUGE and has all kinds of corridors and stairwells and doors so it feels like a big deal for her to be able to wander around by herself. But at the same time,  I know everyone who is there, the station is locked and I know she knows what is dangerous so it feels safe to me.

She spent a good portion of our visit today wandering around, taking notes, playing in the weight room and just generally having a great time by herself. Mr. T and Peter stuffed goody bags for his class's field trip there tomorrow and I sat for a bit. I think we all felt rejuvenated by the end.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Another 48 begins

Today was the start of another 48. I have to say, the weekend 48's in the winter are the hardest for me. The key to these for me is going in organized. The kids and I discuss a day or two before what we are going to do - both fun stuff and work- and what we are going to eat. I find this way, everyone knows what to expect and I feel more on top of things.

This 48 our list looked like this:

Pizza, 4 cheese pasta with broccoli
Breakfast: Raspberry chocolate chip pancakes and blueberry muffins (I like to cook on the weekends)
Some sort of lime dessert

1 hour on treadmill
Clean pit (laundry room)
Change sheets
Do laundry
Get bins for storage- Target
Homework/extra math work
Give Ginger a bath
Pick up mail
Pay bills
Check library account
Clean out closets
Research Madrid hotels - 20 minutes

Fun Stuff:
Movies - 2:55 Sat Gnomeo and Juliet
Fire station  - Sunday morning
Shrinkeydinks - house

Once I make the list, I get out the recipes and make a grocery list if we need anything. And then, I kind of use the list as a guideline. If it gets done, great. If not, well, that's how it goes. I actually got quite a bit of this done today and the kids had a blast at Target this morning and the movie this afternoon. It was Mr. T's first 3D movie ever and I couldn't resist getting a picture of him in those cute glasses. He loved it. And no, he did not eat that entire bag of fruit candy, I actually brought little tupperware cups and the kids split half the bag. They thought it was a huge treat.

I'm hopeful that tomorrow will be as productive and smooth as today was, but if it's not then so be it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

What I worry about

This morning, Peter and I went out to breakfast for our (somewhat) regular weekly date. We don't have/can't afford babysitters so we try and go out one morning a week while the kids are at school. Fancy, I know. We like to really go all out on the romance thing. This morning we were idly chatting about work and he brought up that another firefighter had been diagnosed with a tumor.

Now here is a little secret - I almost never worry about him dying in a fire. I mean, sure, I do have fears of that sometimes, usually more fears that he will get hurt via an explosion, roof collapse or floor collapse. But most often, I worry about the long term things. Cancer. Hearing loss. Back injuries. These are the things that you see when you look at the leave roster for his department. His department is big, over 300 line personnel, and firefighters talk and gossip amongst themselves a little bit like teenage girls do so you hear all the news. And the news currently is tumors, hearing loss and back injuries. This is  being seen at the national level as well.

And I worry about it. About all the exhaust he has breathed. The hours he has spent next to a rumbling engine. The toxins and chemicals he has breathed in and come into contact with. All the heavy patients, ladders and hoses he has lifted. Really, these are things that only time will reveal as problems but I can say there have a been a good number of young, seemingly healthy firefighters who have been diagnosed with cancer.  Who are seeing doctors regarding hearing loss. Who have had to take over a month of leave for a back injury sustained on one call from lifting one patient.

At the same time, I have to commend his department. They are keenly aware of and committed to their firefighters health and safety. They have an incredible wellness program and the new station that Peter works in was designed for it's environmental safety. No more standing in the bay next to an idling engine, no more toxic cleaners. They are continually reviewing their safety policies and techniques to make things better.

But still I worry. What if he hurts his back? What if he breaks a leg? How much exhaust is too much? What exactly is burning in that car fire? What disease does that patient have? Trust me, nothing will cool your blood more than having your husband come home and say "Honey, I had to fill out an exposure report yesterday".  The possibilities are endless once my mind gets going. Then I have to let it go. Either things will be fine or they won't. We will deal with whatever comes our way.

When I meet someone new and they find out my husband is a firefighter, often one of the first questions I get is "don't you worry that he will die in a fire" and usually I say "yes" because oddly enough that is the polite answer. But the truth is, there is a long list of realistically awful things that I secretly worry about happening to him before that.

(Now I am knocking on wood)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Playdates and Cameras

Mr. T had a playdate this morning that he INSISTED I stay the whole time at. Even though he didn't need me there. Even though I had a ton of other stuff to do and even though it was a bit awkward for the other mom and I to sit there chit chatting when I'm sure SHE had a ton of other stuff to do. But it was the only way he would agree to this playdate for some reason so I assented. And then he didn't talk to me for the entire time we were there. And he had such a good time that he threw a fit upon leaving and insisted that we go over there to play again or have his friend over to our house. 

After we left and got Miss E from school, we headed to a camera shop to see about getting my sensor cleaned. Lately, I think my pictures have been getting worse or at least they are not the crisp quality I would like them to be so my plan was 1) get the sensor cleaned and 2) have a professional look at my lenses and tell me which new one to buy. Seems simple huh? 

Except I didn't factor in my ignorance on the entire issue. The lady looked at my camera and my lenses and surprise, the sensor is perfectly clean and the lenses are fine. The quality of pictures I am getting is as good as my camera and those lenses are going to produce. So basically, the problem is me. I actually have to LEARN how to use my camera and not just rely on auto. Dammit. 

Then she started to talk to me about lenses. She was very nice and tried really hard to explain what the different kinds were and what the numbers meant and I was not getting it at all. Surprise and dammit again, I am actually going to have to learn something about lenses before I plunk $300 plus down on one. Dang. I was really hoping there was a magic lens that someone would tell me to buy and as soon as I put it on my camera all my pictures would come out crisp and beautiful. It really would be so much easier that way.

On my current reading list is Digital SLR for Dummies.

As long as we are talking reading, here's what the family is working on:

Me: Jane Eyre, One Big Happy Family by Rebecca Walker and The Long Walk by Stephen King
Peter: All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Miss E: A variety of learn to read books and Harriet the Spy
Mr. T: Chocolate Fever (do you remember that book? I loved it as a kid)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Girl and her cat

I think my picture quality is getting worse instead of improving at this year goes on. Ugh. This is Miss E and our lush of a cat Tangerine. He has figured out that she is the only person in the house who will let him sleep on her bed so he takes full advantage and she lets him. I think it's kind of cute.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Math and a smidgen of politics

Yesterday, I volunteered to help in Miss E's classroom. During the math section I was helping the kids who needed a little extra help and after they had done the first problem I looked up and Miss E was sitting at the carpet reading book. I kind of looked at her with my "what are you doing" face and she looked at me and very clearly said "I'm done." OH. And she was doing the hardest sheet of problems. Then I thought back to all the math worksheets that I have seen coming home, not one of them with a wrong answer or eraser mark on them. Oh.

Her teacher and I briefly chatted about the wide variety of levels in the class and how Miss E was beyond Kindergarten math. Ok then. So I got home and started thinking about it and didn't know what to do. I mean, with books you just read harder and harder books but with math? I don't know. Subtraction? Harder addition? Multiplication? I sent her teacher an e-mail asking what's next and she replied that it would be great if Miss E started on vertical addition (that's the school term for one number stacked on top of another).

Today at work I found a home school website and printed off a bunch of math worksheets and when I got home, explained how to do it to her. And she was off. She did a bunch of worksheets and was so proud of herself.  I love the look she gets on her face when she does something hard. There is such a joy and sense of accomplishment. That is just priceless to me. Next we are on to vertical subtraction and then learning the multiplication tables. She knows how to multiply but only with the "easy" numbers - 1,2, some 3's, 5 and 10.

Ahem. Now to get a little political for a moment. I usually don't do that here because my close family and friends range from uber-conservative right wing Christians to super-liberal left-wing Democrats. Peter and I tend to fall much more on the left, but really try and be respectful of all angles. However. At this point I have to say WTF about a few issues.

First off, while I do respect in some tiny way the Supreme Court allowing church members to protest at funerals ONLY because of free speech issues, I have to ask - how do those people sleep at night? Going to the funeral of a soldier and holding up signs that say 'Thank God for dead soldiers' and many many worse things all in the name of your church? How could a church be so obviously hate-filled? It is absolutely and completely appalling to me. Not surprising, but appalling in it's audacity. Usually I think religious hate is much more subtle.

Secondly, when the heck did we start blaming teachers, firefighters and other civil servants for the economics ills of our society? How about bankers, stock managers and money managers? Does anyone really think teachers are making too much money? Yes, civil servants have good health plans and decent (not fantastic, but decent) retirement plans. You know what they don't get? Huge yearly bonuses, huge pay raises for performance, profit sharing or stock options. Do you really want a firefighter who is 70 coming to your house to rescue you? No? Well, let's have a plan where they can retire a little younger than that. And in the meantime, until bank owners are taking furlough days and defending their benefit packages, let's not make the civil servants go all out defending theirs shall we?

Last, and then I will get off my soap box, let's not cut funding for Planned Parenthood. They don't use federal funding for abortions (although I think they should be able to) but they do use it for contraception, and health care for low income folks. It's a good program. Really.

OK, off the soap box and this is probably the last time this year I will rant on the blog about politics : ) It