Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How I Became an Attention-Seeking Drama Queen

I was born and raised in the small town of Ketchikan, Alaska, where Independence Day was celebrated in grand style. I fondly recall weaving through a forest of grown-ups' legs, making my way to the front of the crowd to watch the 4th of July parade march down Front Street. I stared in open-mouthed wonder at the regalia-draped horses and laughed wildly at the Shriners in their funny hats and tiny cars.

While recently looking through an old family photo album, I discovered some snapshots that document my younger sister's and my participation in the parade. I'd like to believe that our mother entered us into some sort of annual costume contest, but I have a sneaking suspicion that she just liked to dress up her daughters and show them off at the largest and most well-attended event of the year.

Here I am at age 2 portraying a go-go girl. Yes, I said a GO-GO GIRL.

Here I am at age 3 as a slightly dimwitted old-timey girl.
In case you're wondering where you can purchase those elaborate costumes,
The woman possesses mad sewing skillz.

And here I am at age 4, transformed into a mermaid. You can't see my face, but I'm probably sticking out my tongue at that baby onlooker in the snappy yellow jacket and powder blue pants. Again, my mother and her own two hands created those costumes.

That's my mom in the red coat, by the way, who—had TLC been casting back then for Toddlers & Tiaraswould have kicked the butts of the other stage moms. Then taken their names. Then handsewn a sequined gown and put me in it.

And now you know all you need to know about my early childhood. Except for my knee socks. I'm saving that disturbing post for last.

Dinner last night: hearty halibut chowder

Monday, March 26, 2012


Several years ago, I accompanied my mom to her storage unit, where she kept her extra things in cardboard boxes. I nearly collapsed from horror when I noticed that the two sole photo albums containing the only snapshots of my family's early years were sitting in unmonitored heat and humidity. I asked my mom if I could take the albums home with me to try and salvage the faded pictures, and she said, "Eh, why not." My family is not particularly sentimental.

The albums then lay for what? five years, maybe? untouched in my craft closet. I make myself feel better by pointing out that at least the room is temperature-controlled. This past weekend, I finally pulled the books out to look through them.

I had completely forgotten about this picture, taken when I was 9 years old and holding the only puppy we ever owned. He didn't stay long. My younger sister and I loved him dearly, but we were clueless about potty training. Our efforts consisted mainly in screaming, "Oh, no!" when we noticed him peeing on the floor and then rushing him too-late out the door. My parents were both working and didn't have time to deal with the mess, so they disentangled the puppy from my sister's and my grasping clutches and "gave him away." Although we did go on to own other dogs over the years, they were always grown and fully potty-trained when we brought them home.

Looking at my happy face in that picture reminds me how much I loved that little dog and makes me wonder if some small part of me hasn't been waiting all these years for a chance to make up for what my young mind considered my failure to save him.

Baby Lupine is 2 months old and, ahem, definitely not potty-trained . . . buy my children needn't worry. Lupine's here to stay.

Dinner last night: tuna casserole

Exactly one year ago:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rocky Waters

When my eldest daughter was 11, I noticed several girls from her soccer team were wearing Ugg tall boots. I tried not to judge, but found myself feeling a little, well, judgmental toward the girls' mothers. While Ugg boots are warm and perfectly acceptable footwear—especially for Alaskans trudging through winter—they also are very expensive and, let's face it, a status symbol. I couldn't help but think critically of the moms who were slipping their young daughters' feet into a pair of $200 boots.

Karma bites hard. At the beginning of this school year, my 8th grader begged me for a pair of Ugg boots. She had prepared a list of reasons why she needed them, including warmth, versatility, and comfort—but I knew her main motivation for owning a pair was that everyone else was wearing them. I'm not going to elaborate further, other than to say that she was near tears and desperate to fit in.

I almost caved.

Then I put on my best poker face and said, NO. I told her that I thought they were ugly, that I abhor peer pressure, and that I refuse to pay that much money for her still-growing feet. I also brought up the fact that she possessed exactly $200—a sum of money she had been saving from Christmas gifts, birthday cards, and babysitting jobs. If she really wanted a pair of Uggs, she would have to buy them herself.

She thought long and hard about whether she wanted to blow all of her hard-earned cash on one pair of boots. She finally decided to use her own money.

I have to admit that she's been mostly pleased with her decision. She wears the boots often and takes good care of them. I do believe that she appreciates them much more than if I would have purchased them for her. I still struggle, though, with the giving in to peer pressure and the coveting of status symbols.

My daughter recently turned 14, and will enter high school in the fall. I hope that I and my generically-clad feet can help my firstborn navigate the sometimes treacherous journey through teenage fashion.

Dinner last night: halibut tacos

Exactly one year ago:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Perfect Gift for that Special Man in Your Life

My husband celebrates his birthday in a couple of months. I usually forget to buy him anything until the last minute; I want this year to be different, so I'M PLANNING AHEAD. I've been researching online, looking for a quality tool to add to his collection. He's set up a small shop in the garage, and I'd like to find something that he doesn't already own.

I discovered the Wenger 16999 Giant Swiss Army Knife, which comes highly recommended by commenters on Amazon.

You've really got to read some of the reviews. One of my favorites comes from a young woman named Nancy, who gives this product 4 stars and writes:
I received this as a graduation present two weeks ago, and three days ago I was carrying it around downtown, trying to figure out what to do with it, when I was pulled into a dark ally and had a gun pointed at my head. Reacting on instinct, I swung whatever was in my hand at the attacker. That turned out to save my life. The first blow, with the back side of the knife, not only knocked the gun out of his hand but opened up nearly 30 of the attachments. My backswing turned out to be far more vicious. The police are still in awe that I managed to stab someone with a flashlight, screwdriver bit adapter, tweezers, 10mm Hex wrench, can opener, cigar cutter, and three different knives in one blow . . . Thanks, 16999 Swiss Army Knife!

Although the majority of reviews were glowing, a couple made me stop and think about whether or not this item would make a good birthday present. Kibbles awarded it only one star and stated:
It never does anything right! I tried to file my nails and I ended up putting a corkscrew through my hand. I put it in my pocket and it circumcised me. I tried to open a can of beans and it chiseled through the can. I tried tweezing my stubble and it clamped on my tongue . . . 

Hmmm. Self-protection vs. self-mutilation. Maybe I'll keep looking.

Dinner last night: Hawaiian pizza

Exactly two years ago:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Baby and Me

Do you suffer from anxiety? Road rage? Guilt that your house is messy? Try holding a puppy.

My blood pressure has never been lower.

Dinner last night: ricotta/spinach-stuffed ravioli in marinara sauce

Exactly one year ago:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Almost Over

We are about 3 inches away from breaking the snowfall record set back in the 50s. At this point, although I am desperate for spring, I hope we receive one last dump so that this horrendously long and deep winter will be worth it (WINNING RECORD OF ALL TIME, Y'ALL). I'm not sure if the poor moose agree—they're sick of hanging out in our backyard, where the snow is less deep than back in the mountains, but where they have to listen to Daisy barking at them through the window. Okay, okay. The moose couldn't care less, but *I* am sick of them hanging out in our backyard. Shut UP, Daisy!

Dinner last night: warm chicken salad sandwiches, clam chowder

Exactly two years ago:

Friday, March 16, 2012

May the Road Rise to Meet You

St. Patrick's Day is tomorrow. I think. I'd have to go check my calendar to be certain. It's not a holiday that I follow closely. When I was a kid, I usually forgot to wear green and spent the day in a perpetual state of anxiety, worrying that I would be pinched.

Now that I'm grown and able to pinch back, I don't dread St. Patrick's Day as much. In fact, I appreciate the annual reminder to plant seeds in trays and begin thinking about my garden. If I get busy this weekend, I should have some nice starters to transfer into the ground over Memorial Day weekend.

Each year, I tell myself that I should make corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day. Then I forget, and we end up having pizza or something even less Irish for dinner. Speaking of nutrition, I hope you don't use tomorrow as an excuse to overindulge in the drinking of spirits. Do something healthy—take a yoga class. 

Dinner last night: meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, green peas

Exactly two years ago:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

So Much for Spring Break

School is on break this week, and my older daughters are shuffling around the house like zombies, while their younger sisters trail after them like, well, like little zombies. Unggghhh. Arrrrgghh. Mommmmm-eeeeeee. I'm so bored! Really? You're BORED? Why don't you all go outside and play? We have a huge backyard with a trampoline and a playhouse and A SWING SET, for crying out loud!

Never mind.

Who's up for some cocoa and a game of Monopoly?

Dinner last night: chicken enchiladas, Spanish rice, corn

Exactly one year ago:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lupine, Meet Your Grumpy Aunt Daisy

I've been thinking that our dog, Daisy, needs a little companion. I asked my husband what he thought about getting a puppy. I expected a giant snort and overdramatic rolling of the eyes, but the guy surprised me when he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Sure."

An 8-week-old beagle puppy is just about the cutest thing on earth.
Unfortunately, Daisy does not agree with this sentiment and
refuses to acknowledge Lupine's pleas to play with her.

Dog babies are a lot like human babies; they mostly eat, sleep, and poop. Unlike human babies, however, puppies are born with little teeth that they like to sharpen on my earlobes. Our new puppy doesn't nip anybody else's ears—just mine. What's up with that? I am a fragrant flower. Or possibly an aromatic dog biscuit.

So far, Lupine has not had to sleep by herself. The girls are on Spring Break from school, so Little Baby Lupine can nap throughout the day on various family members. She likes to snuggle up against our warm throats, which sounds vaguely menacing, but is actually quite sweet. She fits nicely in the cozy space between our chin and chest, and is lulled to sleep by our heartbeats. My 11-year-old daughter can't bear to hear Lupine whimper in her crate at night and keeps sneaking the little dog into her bed to slumber peacefully next to her.

This puppy is spoiled rotten, is what I'm trying to say.

Dinner last night: Mexican lasagna, garlic bread, corn, green salad

Friday, March 9, 2012

Finally, Swim Lessons

I'm embarrassed to admit this, but my twin daughters have reached the age of 5 without ever taking swim lessons. My first child was a whopping 6 months old when I took her to the YMCA for a Mommy and Me swim class. My second daughter was around 9 months when I enrolled her. (I'm not exaggerating. I read once that infancy provides a tiny window of opportunity when babies instinctively "swim" and it's smart to get them in the pool before they lose their natural ability to hold their breath and use their limbs to propel them through the water, so I had them in the pool before the age of one.) But the twins? The mere thought of trying to wrangle them into swimsuits and usher them through a locker room into the pool area was too exhausting to actually attempt. Forget about trying to get them out of the water and then peeling off wet garments from their skin. I'm too old and frail.

After we spent Christmas break in Hawaii, I realized that I need to teach them how to float properly and to tread water. They've figured out how to hold their breath, dive under, and move like porpoises across the pool. When they come up for air, however, they don't know how to bob in place with their head above water. Time to get some real training.

The twins have completed two lessons now, and they're doing great. More than great. FANTASTIC. They have been waiting so long to learn how to swim correctly that they are listening and obeying and practicing. The problem isn't in the pool . . . it's in the locker room.

My daughters have no sense of personal boundaries, and will walk right up to a lady who is undressing to stare at her turbaned hair. "Cool! How do you do that?"

They'll comment loudly about an elderly woman with a thick middle, "Did you see that lady's tummy?! She's going to have a baby!"

Every naked person is announced to the world with shrieks of "She's NAKED!" Yeah, it's always a good time when my kids run through the ladies' locker room. But I most dread after the girls have showered and dressed and I get to comb their long, wet hair. They cry—no, make that EMIT BLOODCURDLING SCREAMS—as though they're being tortured, begging me to stop. "Please, Mommy! No! NO! NOOOOOOO! It hurts, Mommy! You pull too hard!" These protestations are yelled before I've even begun, so you can imagine the volume of their vocalizations once I actually start pulling a comb through their tresses.

I think the elderly lady who most certainly is not pregnant might secretly enjoy hearing their screams of pain.

Dinner last night: baked chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, green salad

Exactly one year ago:

Exactly two years ago:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Next Time I'm Bringing a Seat Cushion

My 11-year-old daughter started taking ice skating lessons two years ago, and has performed with her class in Christmas shows. After this past December, she decided she would like to try competing. What? Gulp. Despite being a lifelong Alaskan, I've only ever skated a couple times on frozen ponds. All I remember is that my feet hurt. I don't know the foggiest about what's involved in figure skating competitions. This world of ice arenas and sparkly costumes and stone-faced judges sitting all in a row is new and mysterious and scary.

My rear-end fell asleep on the cold, hard bleachers. My stomach hurt as I watched my little girl skate out to the middle of the rink to begin her program. She broke into a big smile as she began performing to a song from one of her favorite musicals, Hairspray.

 She won 2nd place.
Not bad for her first time out.

She's begging us to let her enter a second competition to be held in April. Her teacher wants her to compete on the spiral team, which evidently is different than the spin team (?) A spiral by definition is a circular movement, isn't it? Don't ask me about skating lingo. I'm just the nervous mom with a frozen butt sitting on the sidelines trying not to throw up.

Dinner last night: mac and cheese

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Opposite of Mean Girls

Over the weekend, I schlepped my eldest daughter and several of her friends out into the wintry wilds of Alaska to sled. They were giddy with excitement at spending the day with each other—away from school and their parents and civilization—and I was highly entertained by their actions. Not that I've ever been around a bunch of 13– and 14-year-old boys, but I'm willing to bet that they behave much differently than their female counterparts.

My daughter and her friends are, for lack of a better phrase, downright lovey-dovey. They hold hands as they dance up the hill together. They tell each other how pretty the other is and shout that they love each other and shriek about how much fun they are having.

They happily and without shame pile on top of each other to see how many of them can stay on a toboggan; when they crash, they roll around together laughing hysterically, then pause to lay back and stare at the sky, remarking on the beauty and stillness of the evening air.

This window of innocence and friendship is about to close. These girls will enter high school next year, and priorities will change. But for now, I will cherish their sweet, funny, undying devotion to each other.

Dinner last night: ravioli

Friday, March 2, 2012


If you've ever wondered what it might be like to spot a moose as you're walking up the road, it goes a little something like this:

What is that?

 Oh. It's a moose.


Hey, I never promised excitement. Just moose.

Dinner last night: fettucine alfredo with shrimp

Exactly two years ago:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Snow, Snow, and More Snow

March is often the toughest month for me . . . winter feels awfully long right about now. If you believe in doppelgängers, mine probably lives in Savannah, GA, and is sitting on her porch this very minute—in cute shorts and sandals, sipping lemonade, and sketching her garden ideas in a pretty notebook with a paisley cover—while my nose is pressed up against a frost-covered window pane looking at 10° on the thermometer.

This winter is looking to break some snowfall records. We are buried literally up to our windows in the white stuff.

Did I mention that it's also quite chilly? I'm scared to walk outside.

Mutant icicles might fall on my head.

Dinner last night: lightly-battered cod fillets

Exactly two years ago: