Friday, April 24, 2015

Dinner dilemma.

Isn't it crazy that dinnertime comes around EVERY SINGLE DAY? Even when you had a late lunch or the kids are totally engaged in something fun or you just made dinner yesterday. You can almost set a clock by it.

My mom used to tell a story about a friend of ours who sometimes "forgot" to make dinner. Her husband would get home from work and she'd be like, "Oops, I forgot about dinner again! I guess we'll have to go out..." My mom thought it was hilarious. "Who forgets about dinner?!" I thought it was hilarious because my mom was not exactly Suzy Homemaker and we frequently hit up the Taco Bell drive through for dinner (women in glass houses and all that). But I also thought forgetting about dinner was a pretty good strategy if what you really wanted to do was go out.

Now that I'm the grown up and dinnertime is my responsibility, I have a completely different understanding. I bet our friend really did forget about dinner! I do it all the time. Half the time I'm totally on top of it; the other half it sneaks up out of nowhere and bites me on the ass.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Around 4:00 Bill texted me:


Random, yes. But also the hint about dinner! Now I couldn't forget about it. I had a house full of kids and not a house full of taco stuff. Even though I had been to the store almost every day this week...

Thankfully his next text just said he wanted pizza and IPA.


We wuz confused. Dinner has a way of doing that to us sometimes. Because what seems easy in theory - going to get pizza - is usually anything but. We'd have to find a place to park, wait for a table, fight with the boys about not getting soda, spend a bunch of money, and get home later than bedtime. Suddenly cooking at home sounded like a walk in the park.


I went into the kitchen and did that thing where you look at all the random stuff you have and try to turn it into a meal. We had apples and eggs and broccoli and lots of avocados and some salad and...none of it was exactly screaming dinner.

Then I heard a knock at the door and the friendly UPS guy handed me our new toaster oven. Which meant the boys could have veggie corn dogs and avocados and we could have whatever we wanted! Things were suddenly looking up. And by the time Bill got home, the boys had eaten and our cheap, easy, healthy dinner was plated and ready to go.



I made a salad (mixed greens with herbs, avocado, walnuts, dried cherries, and creamy balsamic), warmed up some quinoa/rice (this stuff saves my life all the time - we get boxes of it at Costco), and roasted some broccoli via this recipe in the new toaster oven. It was delish. And so much easier than going out.


Now to figure out what we'll do tonight...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Up a creek without his brother.

The other day Liam asked if we always do fun stuff on Mondays and Wednesdays because those are the days Finn is at school. "And you know," he said. "Sometimes Finn can be a little...difficult."

"Hmmm," I said. "I guess maybe. But I don't really think about it that much. It could just be because those are the days other people are free to do fun things. I think I say yes to plans more than I make them, you know?"

"Yep."

"I think that must be it," I said. "Because Finn's really not like that anymore. He's kind of a big kid now. Right? "


Later that day a friend asked if we wanted to go hike and play in the creek at Beaman Park. On Tuesday. When Liam would be at school. I might normally say no - because trying to take Finn somewhere without Liam is kind of a crapshoot - but I felt like I needed to put my money where my mouth was. (Was that two  gambling expressions in one sentence?! I guess you can take the girl out of Reno but you can't take the Reno out of the girl...)

So we said yes.

The last time we went to Beaman together, Finn wanted me to carry him all the way back to the car after we played in the creek (it was about a mile uphill) and when I said I couldn't because I was carrying a backpack, he screamed at me at the top of his lungs the ENTIRE WALK BACK.

I think I've been avoiding it ever since.

This time we'd be going with a group of kids we hang out with a lot but always with Liam and Finn or just Liam but never with Finn on his own. I had no idea how he'd get along without his wing man. Would he sit on my lap the whole time? Whine and want to go home? Scream at the top of his lungs?



He started out a little hesitant, which is perfectly normal. But after not much time at all, he was in the creek with the rest of the kids, trying out his new rain boots.


After a little while, the kids asked if they could go up creek a bit to explore. Finn wanted to go, too. We said yes and I watched as he wadded off in his little boots, finding the way on his own, with his friends.


When it had been a while since we could see or hear the kids, we walked up the creek to see what they were doing. It was not an easy hike! The water was really rushing in some spots and the whole thing was pretty slippery. When we found the kids, I almost couldn't tell if Finn was with them or not. I kept looking for my little guy - someone much smaller than Finn actually is - but soon I realized he was right there all along. It turns out he really is one of the big kids!



As you can tell, we were not exactly prepared for a creek hike. His outfit had to keep evolving as the day went on, as he slipped in the creek or got cold, and by the time we were on our way home, he was full naked.




As we drove home and he asked question after question ("How did the Earth get made? How did the very first person happen?") I felt so enamored with my little big kid. And so happy that this fun day happened to be on his day home.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Best laid plans.

A while back a few friends and I had a great idea. A mom and kids mid-week campout. We'd avoid peak time at the camp ground, the kids would have lots built in playmates (and the most fun time EVER!) and we could divide the work and hang out all night around a campfire.

Win, win, win!

We found dates that worked for everyone (no small feat) and booked a couple sites. Everything was falling into place.

Except the weather.

The forecast called for rain, thunderstorms and more rain. We were bummed. The kids were, too. But who wants to camp in the rain?

Not this girl scout.

We had no choice but to call it.

Except at the very last minute the mom with the biggest backyard suggested we move it to her house. We could put up our tents, cook dinner over a fire and make s'mores. And if the weather really was as bad as predicted, we'd just move inside for a big sleepover.

New plan!

We were so stoked.


On the day of the campout, it rained off and on but we were undeterred. We packed and shopped and set up tents and picked up all the kids from their various activities and got right down to the important business of camping. I'm not going to lie. It was pretty epic.


The kids ran around playing some sacrificing game I think Liam came up with (no idea - but it kept them ALL busy and happy which is pretty cool considering they range in age from four to fourteen). We cooked hotdogs over the fire, told stories, drank wine out of plastic cups and laughed like a pack of hyenas.

When it got dark, we realized we'd never made our beds so my friend and I strapped on headlamps and started blowing up air mattresses. I'm not sure why but I found this absolutely hilarious. I guess I don't wear a headlamp very often.


Anyway, as I was doubled over cackling (instead of helping), Finn came up to me with a pack of graham crackers in one hand and an uncooked s'more in the other hand (his marshmallow was stuck on a little branch he found...) and said, "Can you help me? I don't know how to make s'mores."


I almost died from the cuteness. (And almost blinded him with my headlamp.)


I wish I had more photos to share but the truth is it was pretty much raining the whole night. It was a light rain - not much more than a drizzle, really - but it still did the trick. By the time the s'mores were eaten, we were all wet. Like the kind of wet you might not notice until you looked at the person next to you (by headlamp!) and realized they looked like they just took a shower with their clothes on.

As we sat around watching the fire, I think we all separately started thinking about bedtime, realizing what a racket it was going to be with a bunch of wet kids and wet sleeping bags and wet everything. Someone suggested we could just call it a night and go home. And just like that a new plan was formed.

The kids were bummed. We were, too. But now that we knew a mid-week camp out was possible (and super duper fun) we knew we could easily do it again another time. Preferably on a night that wasn't so wet and muddy. But really, even with the lousy weather, we had totally had an experience. A mid-week campout! And even though the whole thing only lasted four hours, I know we made some memories to last a lifetime.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Love wins.

Last week at the park, something happened.

I was sitting outside on the grass with a few friends and a couple of their daughters (the rest of our kids were inside the community center at Chess Club) when we noticed a young woman pulling things out of the trunk of her car and throwing them on the ground.

"Oooh," said one of my friends. "Someone just got dumped."

My back was to the parking lot but I turned around for a quick peek. Sure enough. There must have been six pairs of sneakers. A whole pile of clothes. Probably a toothbrush. It looked exactly like that scene in all the movies. Get out of my life and take your stupid stuff with you!

I kept my back to the car and waited for the play-by-play thinking, "Dang. He must have really messed up if she's gonna leave his stuff at the park..."

Suddenly a guy came from the basketball court and started walking toward the car.

"Do you think that's the guy?"

"It looks like..."

One of my friends had already stood up. I sat, back to the parking lot, watching everyone watch what was about to unfold. I didn't take my eyes off my friend's daughter (she's 13). Her eyes were as big as saucers, unblinking, narrating everything she saw.

"The girl is getting in her car. I think he's - he's opening the door! What is she- He just hit her!"

At that I turned around and saw, from inside the car, fists flying. Before I could even register what was happening, two of my friends had walked up to the car to help the girl. One was on the phone with 911 giving physical descriptions of the guy and the car and the license plate number. Another friend had also called the police and was now directing them to the park.

My first (and only) reaction? Putting my arms around my friend's daughter and holding her as she cried.

"It's awful," I said, rocking her softly. "So awful..." It was the first time either of us had seen something like this. Shocking is an understatement.

When she settled down and we took a deep breath and looked around, the car and the couple were gone (apparently the girl had driven away with the guy). Moments later, the police arrived. As everyone continued taking care of business, filling out police reports, checking in on Chess Club, telling the director of the community center what had happened, confronting the guy who was picking his friend's stuff up in the parking lot, I hung out with the kids and we tried to make sense of what had just happened.

"Why would she go with him? Do you think this has happened before?"

"I don't know. Maybe?"

"It will probably just keep happening..."

"Well," I said. "Maybe today was different. I think if I was that girl and I looked up and saw two strong women I didn't even know holding out their hands to help me, and several other people concerned about me and wanting to help, it might make me think a little differently about myself. Maybe she didn't know she deserved better before. Maybe no one ever made her feel like she did. But this? This would have changed that for me. Like if someone who didn't even know me could care about me that much, maybe I could too."

"Maybe."

"I hope so..."

A couple days later, I was in the waiting room at my doctor's office (strep throat...) and read an article in Native Magazine that bolstered my hope. It was about the amazing work Thistle Farms is doing to turn life around for women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction.

Their bottom line? Love wins.

The takeaway for me was the same one I had in the park just days before. If no one has ever shown you how precious and valuable you are, how would you know? And if that's all it takes? Wow. That's pretty incredible.

Because it's something ALL of us can do.

Although, that's not to say it's easy. As the one who chooses "freeze" every time a fight or flight situation occurs, I'm the first to say reaching out a hand is much easier said than done. But love wins in different ways, right? Maybe I'm just more cut out for the hugging and trying to make sense of things. Maybe that's something too.

Maybe?

I hope so.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter weekend

Since we don't go to church and have no family in town, our Easter is not very traditional. It's fun, don't get me wrong, just sort of unpredictable.





If you had asked me a week ago what we were doing for Easter, I would have had no idea. But by Thursday or Friday, plans were starting to take shape. A crawfish boil, an Easter egg hunt with friends, dying eggs at home and, of course, our annual backyard photo shoot with the little stuffed bunny we've had since Liam's first Easter.

This is not the boys' favorite tradition in the world but the show must go on. It wouldn't be a tradition if we stopped doing it! At first I really wasn't sure if I'd be able to talk them into it or not so I took advantage of an early morning wrestle mania sesh on my bed and just sort of tossed the bunny into the frame. I figured, if nothing else, at least the tradition could continue.


But fortunately, a bit later in the day, they decided a few photos in the backyard would be worth a little Easter candy. Which is probably exactly how we've kept up with this tradition all these years. Bribery.




Whatever works, right?





Like pizza for Easter dinner. Playing in the parked van most of the afternoon. And painting on the front porch. It may not seem very Eastery but for us, this year, it felt just right.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Asbestos Awareness Week.

Last week I watched Killing Cancer, a Vice documentary about some of the extraordinary new treatments showing promise in the fight against cancer. It was incredible to see what some of the amazing scientific minds in this world are capable of coming up with and the whole story was very optimistic and uplifting.

Bill walked in on me watching it and had to look away. "I don't know how you can watch stuff like this," he said. "It's so depressing."

"Babe, it's cancer. Not Alzheimer's. Cancer is something that happens to other people. It's not even on my radar..."

The universe must have heard how stupid I sounded because within days it was all up in my face. And once I took off my deeply tinted rose colored glasses, I realized cancer is, indeed, all around me.

At the park a couple days later one of my homeschool mom friends shared the story of her very recent battle (and victory!) against breast cancer. At happy hour with a few ladies the next night I sat with the woman who owns the children's book store in our neighborhood (she was the first person ever to carry my books) and discovered she was going through cancer treatment for the second time this year (first a tumor on her back, now one in her lung).

Once the blinders came off I remembered so many other stories. The hilarious lady I know whose breast cancer came back after a couple years of remission and is currently in the thick of chemotherapy. The two good friends who lost their moms to cancer last year (one had battled breast cancer for YEARS; one had more recently been diagnosed with lung cancer). My aunt who overcame Lymphoma after spending so much of my childhood sick and fighting. My other aunt who kicked breast cancer to the curb with with such style and grace I couldn't help but wonder if it was really all that bad.

In this midst of all this, I received an email from a Mesothelioma survivor who asked if I would help share her story for Asbestos Awareness Week.

Yes. Yes I would.


Heather Von St. James was diagnosed with Mesothelioma when her daughter Lily was just three months old. Imagine being a first time mother, smack in the middle of the fourth trimester, and having a bomb like that dropped in your lap.

Cancer.

Mesothelioma.

Asbestos exposure.

15 months to live.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure that occurs in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and heart. Every year, 3,000 people are diagnosed with this aggressive disease. Of those, only a small percentage will live to celebrate 5 years of survival. Most will lose the fight within a year.

Heather never worked with asbestos but was exposed to enough of it as a child to become ill decades later. Her father worked in construction and she loved to wear his dusty work coat when she played outside. It was only after her diagnosis that she realized the dust she spent so much time playing in was actually asbestos.


At the age of 36 she was diagnosed with Pleural Mesothelioma and decided to undergo a drastic surgical procedure to remove the affected lung, the lining of her chest (pleura), portions of the covering of her heart (pericardium), and her diaphragm. The surgery was a success and nine years later she is a beacon of hope for those diagnosed with Mesothelioma and a wonderfully positive force of good.



Thank you for sharing your story with us, Heather, and for reminding me that there's nothing wrong with rose colored glasses as long as they're paired with a healthy dose of awareness. Cancer is here, there and everywhere. But so often it doesn't have to be. At least a third of diagnosed cases are fully preventable. FULLY PREVENTABLE! That's why awareness is so important. If you know the risks - exposure to asbestos and other known carcinogens, tobacco use, unhealthy diet and lifestyle - you can significantly decrease your chance of getting cancer.


Please take a moment to share Heather's story and inform yourself on the potential risk factors in your life. From awareness grows hope.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kid-free weekend: totally worth the trouble.

This weekend, Bill and I spent two whole kid-free days and nights at a cabin overlooking the Ohio River. It was so peaceful and refreshing and fun. Funny to think it almost didn't happen...



My sister had offered to watch the boys in exchange for us watching her son so we knew we had some kid-free time coming up. The trouble was, we weren't sure what to do with it.

We sat down several times to make a plan. Just to cross it off the to-do list, you know? But it was way too hard to figure out.

"What do you want to do?"

"Ummmm. I'm not sure. You?"

"We could take the boys to Louisville and then just come home for the weekend?" Bill suggested.

"But I'm always home," I complained. "What about a hotel?"

"I'm sick of hotels."

"Hmm."

"I have lots of miles. Do you want to fly somewhere?"

"But where?"

It was pretty pathetic. Even when we pretended there were no obstacles - not money or time or anything! - we still couldn't figure out what to do. Things either sounded so fun we wanted the boys to come too or not exciting enough to seem worthwhile.

We were this close to just staying with the kids at my sister's house (not a bad back up plan) but at the last minute I found a cabin about an hour outside Louisville that had a hot tub (our only search criteria) and was available for the dates we needed. Even though we wondered if it would be scary being all alone in the woods, we manned up and booked the cabin.

I am so glad we did.

We basically spent the whole time in the hot tub watching birds, waving at barges (which is hilarious because they're super slow), listening to the trees and the wind chime, talking, not talking and catching snowflakes. We played cards. We listened to music loud. We did whatever we wanted loud. It was like a different world.

The cabin had a whole stack of guest books people had written in over the years. It gave us such reverence for the space and made us even more appreciative of our little home away from home. I loved reading all the stories of what brought people to the cabin - birthdays, family reunions, a 60th anniversary, a romantic getaway before another deployment to Iraq, a girls' trip that sounded full of adventure, drawings, poetry, you name it.



There were people of all ages and all walks of life represented in those little books. But there was definitely a common thread. Everyone talked about how great it was to step away from everyday life to connect with the ones they love. To spend quality time just being together. I couldn't agree more.

Even though I wasn't aware that we needed quality time to connect (don't we do that every night?!), there was something special about being so intentional. Taking the time, making an effort, spending some money - it turned our weekend into an experience. One I'm grateful to have had with the one I love.