Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daisy, Ollie . . . Ollie, Daisy.

My mom arrived for a visit. She stepped off the plane with a smile on her face and 7-pound ball of fluff under her arm. Looks like Daisy has a new playmate.

(click arrow to play)

Dinner last night: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, steamed carrots

Exactly one year ago today:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Alaskan Palette

When it comes to decorating, I don't know what my style is. I'm partial to Victorian, but I also like Country. I'm very much drawn to Colonial antiques, but I'm just as in love with the clean lines of Shaker furniture. I've been told that when you don't know how to begin designing a room, start looking through magazines and rip out pictures of what you like; you'll eventually begin to see patterns in your taste. This process hasn't helped me determine my style—unless mish mash is a style—because I've got a clip file full of decor ranging from Traditional to Funky Chicken to Modern Minimalism, but it does help me realize what colors I like.

Blue and white.

I don't know if it's my Finnish blood or the fact that I've grown up in Alaska, but I've always loved the crisp white of clouds and snow contrasted against the peaceful blues of sky and water.

I decided to paint my mudroom accordingly.

The walls are Laura Ashley Powder Blue 3. The doors, trim, and accessories are white. Excuse me. The doors and trim are Thalia. I figured "thalia" must be some sort of beautiful, white flower. Nope. Thalia was a Muse. A white Muse, I guess.

I gave this mobile to my husband a few years ago;
the little boats remind me of the 12 summers he spent commercial fishing.

(Winter Birch by Betsy Bear)
I found this print at an arts and crafts bazaar. Perfect.

I like these sparkly snowflakes, so they stay up year-round.

Dinner last night: chicken and cheese chowder, cornbread

Exactly one year ago today:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Goodday Moon

I'm concerned that my 3-year-old twins may struggle in school. When their science teacher tells them that the moon comes out at night to illuminate our planet and pull the tides this way and that, I'm fairly certain my girls will stand and argue, "LIES! We know perfectly well that it appears in broad daylight to watch over the mountain tops."

The instructor will then watch in horror as my daughters organize an immediate coup, leading their classmates in a march across the desks and out the door to go play under the light of the midday moon.

1:30 in the afternoon

Dinner last night: spare ribs, crispy potatoes, salad

Friday, January 22, 2010

I'm Nothing If Not Honest. And Scrappy!

I am always shocked and awed when another blogger passes on an award to me. So shocked and awed that it takes me several months to respond, especially when the award demands that I reveal personal information about myself. My blogging buddy, Michelle, over at Table for Nine bestowed upon me the Honest Scrap Award, which requires that I list 10 honest things about myself. What more can I tell you that won't drive you screaming from the room? Brutal honesty is not pretty.

1. I enjoy a good nap. Okay, it's more than enjoy. I need a good nap or I will shut down like a dead robot by 5:00 in the evening.

2. My favorite flavor of ice cream is Tillamook's Chocolate Peanut Butter.

3. I have nice feet. Really, they are quite attractive insomuch as feet can be.

4. I won 3rd place in a talent competition with my rendition of Bessie's Boil by Robert Service. It's a long poem delivered in a Cockney accent, but if you read the entire thing, the payoff is hilarious.

5. When I booked and paid for a non-refundable trip to Egypt and Israel, I didn't know I was pregnant with my second child, so I ended up traveling overseas just as I turned 7 months pregnant. Because my coloring is dark, most people assumed I was Egyptian. All kinds of people on the street and in the shops were chatting me up in . . . er, Egyptian? I don't even know what language, frankly. When I crossed the border into Israel I was pulled aside into a private room and searched thoroughly; security wanted to make sure the bump under my maternity shirt was really a baby. Good times.

6. I've never smoked pot. (Do they even call it pot nowadays? I should refer to it as grass just to irritate the teenagers.) I was offered a puff once at an eighth-grade slumber party and a second time at an ELO concert, but I graciously declined. Interestingly enough, not a single drug dealer has approached me since. Not in high school. Not even in college! What's this world coming to?

7. I didn't realize that I was a perfectionist until I read about a technique to help manage one's tendency to keep working and re-working something over and over and over and over and over again until it's perfect: STOP AFTER THE THIRD TIME, even if the project is not perfect. I now try to live by this principle, and it's saved my sanity.

8. I know all the lyrics to Hotel California. Don't ask me how or why. I don't even particularly like that song, but if I ever gather enough nerve to sing karaoke, I'll pick Hotel California and rock the house.

9. The other day, my 11-year-old daughter accused me of being prideful about my height. It's true. I'm 5'10, and don't you forget it.

10. Why do magazine articles insist that clothes reveal a lot about a person? The only thing that clothes reveal to me about a fashionable, beautifully-dressed woman is that she has a lot of money and/or time to shop.

I must forward the Honest Scrap Award to 7 bloggers, so like a soulless criminal I'm choosing my victims at random from my Followers list on the sidebar:

Perhaps to annoy all of you, Michelle also sent me the Circle of Friends award, which requires me to write some more about myself: 5 things that I love. Goes without saying that I love God, country, and family, so here is the rest:

2. A full-body massage. Performed by a certified masseuse at a day spa, thank you very much.

3. Warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of cold milk.

5. Rock-y worship music.

This friendly award must be forwarded to 5 bloggers . . . aaaaand . . . drum roll, please . . . the fickle finger of fate chooses:
Quadmama at Buried in Laundry

Finally, there's Joey over at Big Teeth and Clouds. She awarded me the loverly Heartfelt Blogger Award. Thank you so much! This is my favorite accolade of all because I am not required to write anything but the name of the blogger to whom I'm awarding it: Mistika from Elashry Casa who, although communicating in her second language of English, writes directly from her heart.

Dinner last night: chicken enchiladas, refried beans, corn

Exactly one year ago today:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The World Would Be a Better Place

I've got this mental list floating around in my head, "Things Every Person Should Do Once a Day." At the top of this list is 1) Hold a Baby. Not a fussy baby. The baby would have to be happy or sleeping. I understand that everyone's busy busy busy, so I'd only require 3 minutes. I've calculated that 3 minutes would provide the perfect amount of time for a person to calm his or her heart rate, take a deep breath to inhale the lovely scent of a baby's head, and then experience an almost immediate improvement in his or her attitude. Just imagine how serene people would be if every day upon arriving at the office, they clocked in, turned to the receptionist, who would hand them a freshly-bathed cooing baby, and then gently jiggled the infant for 3 minutes before starting the work day? Wal-Mart already has greeters in place at their front entrances; how hard would it be for them to stick a couple of babies in an extra cart to hand out to people to hold for 3 minutes before they started shopping?

Second on my list is 2) Stroke a Beagle's Ear. If you've never felt a beagle's ears, you're in for a treat. I don't know what they're made of, but it is the softest material on earth. Softer than the softest fleece blanket. I made this point recently to some dinner guests. We were all sitting around in the living room having dessert when I noticed my 9-year-old daughter petting Daisy's ears. In that slightly loud, strained voice of mine that I use when I'm trying to be the center of attention, I said, "Man, beagles' ears are soooo soft, aren't they?" Everyone nodded, and quietly um-hmmed in agreement. I went on, "What I wouldn't do for a blanket made out of beagle ears. Now that would be one soft blanket." Silence. I kid you not, forks hung in mid-air as people's hands froze halfway between their open mouths and their plates of pie balanced on their laps. I heard a sniffle from my right and turned to see tears welling up in the eyes of my friend's 10-year-old little girl. My peripheral vision caught a slight movement to my left; my daughter was pulling Daisy closer to her in a protective embrace. They all thought I was some kind of depraved Cruella De Vil. "Heh, heh," I laughed weakly. "That didn't come out right."

My point is, if you don't own a beagle, go find one right now and pet her ears! You'll feel lots better.

Dinner last night: chicken pot pie, green salad

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cold Winter Night

January, February, and March are the deepest, darkest months of life here in the frozen north, so Alaskans have come up with all kinds of fun activities and festivals to help stave off cabin fever and major bouts of depression.

Florida may have its fancy sand sculpture competitions and Wisconsinites may carve life-sized replicas of the Green Bay Packers out of cheese—okay, I don't know if that's true, but it's what I would do if I lived in Wisconsin—but Alaskans sure know how to make a block of ice look pretty.

Last night, we all bundled up and trudged through these trees to look at this year's batch of ice sculptures.

The girls' favorite was this pair of dogs, which I suspect were keeping an eye out for a mad beagle named Daisy who might bark loudly at them.

I was more partial to the abstract sculptures.

We all appreciated this patriotic display.

The ice sculptures border a small skating rink,
so my husband and 9-year-old daughter laced up
and chased each other through the night.

I did some chasing of my own . . . after my 3-year old twin daughters, who were determined to run under the ropes "protecting" each display and climb onto the ice sculptures, while screaming "Look at me!"

Dinner last night: chicken parmesan, spaghetti

Exactly one year ago today:

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Alaskan Experience

Whether they live in a Bush village, a small town, or the big city, Alaskan kids share one thing in common: the heater vent.

There's nothing like toasty forced air to warm your toes on a chilly winter morning. My sister and I had only one option—a big grate on the floor that covered the furnace ducting below. We'd stand on it like innocent Marilyn Monroes, letting the warm air billow up under our nightgowns. My children benefit from a more opulent lifestyle; our house has a small heater vent in each room, and the girls have chosen the cozy corner in the kitchen as their favorite spot.

Sitting on the warm heater vent,
singing my ABCs to Mommy
while she makes breakfast.

Dinner last night: homemade chicken noodle soup, crescent rolls

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Word of Warning

I love age 2, because you can excuse your toddler's most egregious behavior with a shrug and the phrase, "Terrible twos . . ." Most people will understand and overlook all manner of tantrums, mess, and screaming when the perpetrator is 2 years old.

But what happens when twins turn 3? How do I get people to forgive my daughters' naughtiness now?

One girl loves to shriek, "You STINKY!" at any and every person she meets.

The other sheds big crocodile tears and sobs, "You MEAN . . . " whenever she doesn't get her way.

Both girls think it's hilarious to shout, "Poopy butt!!" in public, and when I glare at them with the ol' stink eye, they lower their gaze and state demurely, "We say poopy BOTTOM, Mommy. Poopy BOTTOM."

We are eagerly anticipating a visit from my mother. She should be arriving in a couple of weeks, which gives me plenty of time to prepare the guest room, but not nearly enough time to break my daughters' offensive habits.

Sorry, Mom.

Dinner last night: baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green salad

Exactly one year ago today:

Monday, January 11, 2010

You Might Be an Old Person If . . .

you look at your driver's license picture and realize it's the best photo you've taken in years . . . you shake your fist at the neighbor kids and yell at them to get off your lawn . . . you can't watch a movie without falling asleep . . . Okay, okay. Jeff Foxworthy I am not.

They say that comedy comes from pain, and if that's true, old people are the funniest humans on the planet. Anyone who's ever visited the elderly knows how much of their conversation centers around their most recent physical ailments. They catalogue their aches and pains. They describe in detail their latest visit to the doctor, hospital, and/or surgical suite. Hours fly by as a group of senior citizens enjoy a hearty debate regarding the side effects of cholesterol medication. May the good Lord protect you if you're a politician trying to mess with their insurance.

I first noticed the correlation between "age" and "health concerns as the main topic of conversation" when my husband and I were passing through Washington state. We'd made a side trip to Spokane to visit his relatives and were staying at his grandparents' house. The couple of nights we spent there felt like a couple of months as we sat on the couch, a muted Wheel of Fortune playing in the background, receiving an update on the health of not only his grandparents, but all of their friends.

I realize as I write this how snotty I must sound, so let me assure you that my husband and I are quite possibly the most respectful people you're ever going to meet. Even though we didn't know any of the folks about whom they were talking, we listened to Grandma and Grandpa's tales of medical malpractice, nodded our heads, and asked questions. In short, we forced ourselves to care about Thelma's kidney stones and Bert Sr.'s gangrenous toe. And you know what? For the rest of their lives, my husband's grandparents spoke fondly of us. They thought we were the nicest kids, and thoroughly enjoyed our short time together. That visit forged a strong bond between us.

So what's my point? My back hurts. I bent over to sweep a mess into the dustpan and my lower muscles went into spasm. I screamed and dropped to the floor in agony. I had to go to the doctor! She gave me a muscle relaxer called Flexeril, which caused me to spend most of the weekend laid out on the sofa falling in and out of a coma. Speaking of laid out, have I told you how my father had both knees replaced last year? Pull up a chair. This is going to take a while . . .

Dinner last night: Flexeril, water

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Birds and the Bees. And Beagles.

My husband recently brought home a beagle puppy, and after we'd had Daisy almost 2 months, I figured I should call the vet to set an appointment for getting her "fixed." The dog, not the vet. However, the night before Daisy was scheduled for her pre-op labwork, I came down with a stomach flu and had to postpone. After I recovered, I got distracted with life, and set the dog's "fixing" on the backburner. What's the rush anyway? She's not even 10 months old and it's the middle of winter. I'm pretty sure dogs don't mate until they're much older and only in the springtime. We've got plenty of time.

The week before Christmas, my 9-year-old daughter comes running to me all concerned. Mom! Daisy's bleeding! What? I examine the dog thoroughly, which is fun, but can see nothing other than a pinkish tinge around her pee-pee thing. It probably wasn't even blood. Everything's fine.

That little scare, which I proved completely baseless via my knowledgeable analysis of beagle parts, reminds me that I probably should re-schedule the vet appointment, just so everything's taken care of before spring arrives. I could probably wait another year before our dog is old enough to reproduce, but better safe than sorry I always say.

I score an opening in the vet's schedule three days before Christmas and drag Daisy in for her labwork, which goes relatively quickly and painlessly. Although, of course, they couldn't retrieve a fecal sample because she was "cleaned out at the moment," so Kim, would you be so kind as to collect a FRESH FECAL SAMPLE in this here vial and bring it back? Oh, sure, no problem. Remember, Kim, it can't be frozen, it has to be FRESH. Yes, I understand. A FRESH FECAL SAMPLE. Yeah, yeah, I've got it. Now will you stop using the words FRESH and FECAL before I throw up?

As I'm gathering my things, the lab technician asks nonchalantly, By the way, is Daisy about ready to start her heat cycle? I play dumb and mumble, "I don't know. How can you tell?" The lab tech grabs Daisy, whips her over onto her back, grabs her little pee-pee thing, and squeezes it. A drop of blood comes out. Looks like she's going into heat. We'll have to wait until she's finished before fixing her. Oh, no, she din-n't.

So how long does this heat process last? A couple days? The lab tech laughs cheerfully, Oh, no, no, no. Two to three weeks. What the candy cane? You've got to be kidding me. I've overnight guests coming for Christmas. And a house full of family and friends showing up for dinner. The last thing I need is a baying, bleeding beagle joining in the merriment.

Visions of Night of the Dead dance 'round my head, except instead of zombies moving across the yard toward my isolated farmhouse, I'm picturing lust-fueled male dogs of every size and breed throwing themselves against the French doors, trying to break the panes of glass so they can get inside and reach innocent, bleeding Daisy. With my Christmas guests gaping in horror.

Long story, short: vets recommend spaying or neutering your pet any time after 6 months of age. If you don't heed that recommendation, you're stuck with a beagle in heat for a good three weeks. Also? FRESH FECAL SAMPLE.

Dinner last night: white chili, cornbread

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

. . . And Many More!

My dad was one of those poor kids whose birthday was always overshadowed by the holidays. Not only was he born on January 5, less than 2 weeks after Christmas and mere days after New Year's, but he was the baby of the family. After putting up with the six rowdy children who came before him, you know his parents probably threw him a broken yoyo they found in the corner and muttered, "Happy Birthday, kid. Knock yourself out."

Well, not today! On this Fifth of January, in the Year of Our Lord 2010, I issue a decree to the Internet: 'Tis Spike's Birthday . . . Celebrate One and All! Let There Be Cake! And Gifts Aplenty! Champagne Shall Flow Like Water, and All Shall Sing in Honor of this Glorious Event—the Birth of Our Dear Fellow! May He Live a Long and Wondrous Life, Full of Health, Wealth, and Happiness! Hear! Hear!

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Who knew that these two would grow up to become such good friends? While life experiences over the years have shaped my father into a wise and dashing man of adventure, I'm rather disappointed to realize that I haven't changed much at all from this picture . . . I'm still fat, cranky, and drooling.

Dinner last night: sour cream enchiladas, refried beans, corn

Exactly one year ago today:

Monday, January 4, 2010

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

My eldest daughter is into soccer big-time. Don't ask me how it happened. I vaguely remember signing her up for a summer rec program when she was 4 years old. Why? I couldn't tell you. I had never watched a soccer game in my life, let alone played the sport myself. It must have been my husband. I probably wanted to sign her up for T-ball or beachcombing and missed the deadline, so my husband likely suggested soccer as a good outdoor activity to encourage running and kicking. It's his fault. He's got only himself to blame for her all-consuming love of futbol and the resulting poverty from forking over the big bucks to finance her soccer career.

What was I trying to say? Oh, right. My point is that you just never know what your child is going to love to do in life. My firstborn seemed to find her path early on. My 9-year-old is trickier. She's tried a lot of different things. She's liked a lot of different things. But she absolutely hates being told what to do. While she adores dancing around the house, making up routines and performing for us in the living room, she chafes at being forced to stand at a ballet barre. She loves to draw and paint and color, but can't abide sitting in a classroom to create something that's been assigned. She would live year-round in a swimming pool if she could, pretending that she were a mermaid, but she groans and complains if a coach asks her to swim laps. I could go on and on, but I think you're getting the picture. She's one of those free-spirited, artistic types who needs a lot of unstructured time to play.

So you could have knocked me over with a feather when she started insisting that she needs ice skating lessons.

For whatever reason, the ice skating rink recently has become a popular destination for class field trips and friends' birthday parties. We've only got a million frozen ponds and lakes outside that cost zero cents to use, but our precious babies have to skate inside where it's nice and warm and requires $3.00 admission. Why, when I was a kid, I strapped on tin cans to my shoes and skated 5 miles on icy roads in a raging blizzard to school . . . wait a minute . . . what was I talking about? Oh, yes. I was pointing out that it didn't matter that her peers have been playing hockey or participating in figure skating competitions for years, my daughter—who has inherited her father's no fear gene—hit the ice in rented skates and decided that she, too, will skate backwards, spin, and balance on one leg. Which she did without falling even once.

She came off the ice with a huge smile on her face and one mission in life: to learn how to figure skate properly. I took her request with a grain of salt, mumbling, "We'll see . . , " knowing full well that if I distracted her with a cookie-baking session or a game of Clue, she'd forget all about her dreams of triple axels and salchows. Well, whaddyaknow. She's been pestering me on a daily basis since before Christmas to please, PLEASE sign her up for lessons. I reminded her that she'd be in a class with a teacher who will make her practice. Her eyes lit up at that. "Yes! I know, Mom! I was skating around a class in the middle of the rink, listening in on what they were saying!"

Alright, alright, kid. You've convinced me.

You start lessons on Saturday, 10:15 sharp.

Until then, I'll be at the computer Googling for ideas on how to get my 3-year-old twins to come out of their shells. I worry that they're too introverted and fearful.


Dinner last night: chow mein noodles, Mongolian beef

Friday, January 1, 2010

Bright Future

My husband bought a bunch of fireworks back in 1999, intending to celebrate the arrival of 2000 in style. I can't remember why I wasn't a supportive wife when it came to bombs bursting in air . . . wait . . . it's coming back to me . . . now I remember. We had a toddler who wasn't even 2 years old and I was not about to let her anywhere near flames. I also was pregnant with our second child, so there was no way I could stay up until midnight to ring in the new year, even if I wasn't a big grouch who refused to stand out in the freezing cold waving a sparkler while my toddler's hair caught on fire.

My sad husband packed the fireworks away with the hopes that he might be able to use them the following 4th of July. That holiday passed by unnoticed—our baby had just arrived, so I'm sure we were walking around in a fog of sleep deprivation—and one year melted into the next, with that forgotten bin of glorious fireworks growing older and lonelier out in the garage. Ten long years crawled by. Would their ancient incendiary devices even work any more? My husband was determined to find out last night.

Oh, yeah, baby!

Woo hoo!

My dad is so cool!
He lets me play with sparklers!
What's wrong, Mommy? Your face looks all tense and white.

Dinner last night: baked potatoes with Tex Mex topping