Sunday, September 23, 2018

Primitive toilets and lost sleep...........

Next weekend I will embark upon an adventure with my husband, Mountain Man. You see, he typically goes "hunting" around this time of year - sometimes for elk or deer or, in this year's case, grouse. Because his big-game pursuits have yielded less than stellar results (for him, anyway....I tend to cheer for the game!) in previous years. And last year, snow foiled the plans and led to an early departure. So, this year he and his mountain man friends decided they would go grouse hunting in late September.

Mountain Man has taken to calling his hunting adventures "walking in the woods with a gun" because rarely is anything harmed. He enjoys the outdoors, gathering around the campfire, and spending days on end with no plumbing or electricity. I, myself, delight in WiFi and flushing toilets, so I have never joined him in this "hunt". But this year he has convinced me to jump on the bandwagon and spend four days in the great outdoors.

As a result, I have lost an inordinate amount of sleep worrying about the potty situation.

For the past decade or so, I've regularly risen at least once per night to use the bathroom. I stumble in the pitch-black to the familiar cubicle and do my business without worrying about mosquitos biting my bum, a bumbling bear interrupting my bathroom business, or tripping on a root and having a dirt snack. And I'd really like to keep it that way. So, the thought of trekking several hundred yards to the community pit toilet, carrying the TP and hand sanitizer with me so as to signal others that I'm the one using the items missing from the coffee can at the end of the trail, and squatting over a primitive toilet, gives me nightmares.

Mountain Man, bless his heart, has agreed to bring our portable potty seat (basically a camping chair with a hole in it and a velcro cover designed specifically for the purpose of pottying outdoors) and a pop-up cover so I can do my business in our own version of a vinyl outhouse. He says he will dig a deep hole under the camping chair. Which also gives me nightmares - we all know a great number of small animals enjoy living in holes. Maybe not ones with potty business in them, but still. He assures me this portable poop house will be near enough to the minivan that I won't have to trek far in the night, but also far enough away so any errant odors are contained (I plan to bring PooPourri).

We will sleep in our minivan and I've purchased a nifty camping pad with inflatable pillows with which we will make a cozy nest. Mountain Man planned to bring his entire primitive tent set-up but has since reconsidered due to space constraints. We will also need to bring sleeping bags, warm clothing, food for four days, and enough water to drink, wash and cook. I will need to bring many things to entertain me, as there is no WiFi, nor cell service (gasp!) and I may be spending long periods of time alone at the campsite as others go on their "hunts". Sure, I can join Mountain Man whilst trekking through the woods looking for tiny, innocent birds to ambush, but hunting isn't really my thing - I'd rather shoot pictures than bullets, so I will be exploring solo.

Which brings me to other dangers that keep me awake at night. Cougars, for one. Yes, it's extremely rare to even see, much less be attacked by, a cougar, but it's happened in our area twice just this summer so I'm planning to keep my eyes wide open. And perhaps carry a firearm. Also, the woods are the perfect place for crazed killers to prey. Who's to say I won't encounter a serial killer on the trails? Bears enjoy foraging for food in the woods, and I'll technically be in THEIR house so what are the chances one of them will give chase? Honestly, I'll probably just stay safely locked in the minivan, perhaps hiding under the covers in the back with the safety of the tinted windows.

Why am I even going on this trip? For one thing, I love road trips with Mountain Man and this trip takes us almost to Canada on the East side of the mountains so the adventure involves quite a drive. Second, he has promised me picturesque scenery and perhaps some fall foliage photo ops. We also plan to drive by a gorgeous lake I've always wanted to see. He expressed how much he's always wanted my company on one of these trips and I now have the flexibility in my job to join him. And I get to see a side of him I rarely get to witness - his interaction and involvement with his fellow mountain men.

It would be so easy to just say no. To stay home in my warm house and fritter away a weekend doing nothing or lots of things. But I'm all in. Even though I'm super anxious about the whole thing. Four days of no shower, an icky potty, no makeup, no WiFi, lots of alone's enough to put me into a full-blown frenzy. But I aim to embrace it, to disconnect and see where it takes me.

Even though I'm losing sleep over it. To adventure!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wine drunk women and loneliness in middle age..........

I attended a beautiful wedding recently. It was a perfect evening and the festivities were winding down. The bride and groom were getting ready to make their exit when a woman I have met just once came over and sat down next to me.

"Hi! I'm J. I just thought I'd come over here and introduce myself and let you know that I'm the bitch who took your place in book club!"

As introductions go, this was one of the strangest I've ever encountered. I had met this women once before the wedding at a paint night event for the bride. I hadn't even spoken to her, really, beyond the name-only introductions.

For context, the book club this woman was referring to consisted of a small group of six ladies meeting for a book club started by my hairdresser which included my friend, the mother of the bride, her daughter, the bride, a former co-worker friend of mine, and a couple of ladies I only knew by name, J included.

I had not been invited to join this book club, although I had heard about it several years ago, been asked if I was interested, and expressed my interest to join. That invite never came and I barely gave it another thought. And then I found out my close friend was invited in one of those weird "one person knows another person and another person knows a crossover person who knows both people" ways. Although I would surely have been interested in joining - and, by my own account, would have been a hilarious addition to the "club" (haha), I was not invited and I really didn't give it much thought.

I joined another book club for a while. It fizzled out, as those things do. And my life went on.

So, there I was, enjoying a perfectly beautiful wedding, when this woman made this proclamation that knocked me askew.

"Oh?" I responded, giggling nervously, because I was not at all sure where this conversation was going.

She went on to tell me that three years previous, she had met my hairdresser who had asked her to join this book club. For reasons unknown, the club was limited to six women, and while I had apparently been in the running as a member, I was shunned in favor of J. Or at least this is what J told me.

She then went on to say that although she should feel bad for "taking my spot" she really didn't, because, by her account, she "needed it more than me" (her words). She went on to say this four or five more times - how I was "lucky" because I already knew a lot of the members but she had moved to town three years ago, friendless, and how would she have met anyone otherwise? She said it was the greatest group of women she'd been acquainted with, and how she really valued their time together that included girls' weekends.

I listened quietly, and assured her how happy I was for her that she'd made good friends (because the ladies in the book club are really amazing women). I thought the conversation would end there, but she continued to emphasize how she "needed" their friendship more and so she was not really sorry for "taking my place".

At a point in the conversation, my husband, who I had turned my back on to speak to this woman, could sense the conversation with this wine-drunk woman was dragging on, so he retrieved three bottles of "send off" bubbles and offered us each a bottle, indicating it was time to move on to saying goodbye to the couple. Still, she prattled on.

I finally stood up to make my way to the "send-off" line and lost her in the crowd somewhere. We blew the bubbles, said goodbye and I hustled my family to the car for the long ride home, spent from hearing how much I didn't "need" friends.

I didn't speak of the conversation at first, and my husband later told me he wasn't able to hear any of what she was saying to me, only that he noticed I was a captive audience, however unwilling a participant. When we returned home, we were exhausted and went to bed.

The following morning, I relayed the whole story to my husband. Normally, he is not all that interested in girlish gossip, but after I finished he said, "What was the point of that conversation except to make you feel bad?"

And he had a point. The conversation DID make me feel bad, but not because she "took my spot" in the book club. It made me feel awful because she assumed, without knowing one thing about me, that I didn't need friends as much as she did. And I had to wonder why she thought that. Why she assumed I had so many friends that she could feel justified in taking mine.

Because it's not true.

I realize no one "owns" their friends - friends are to be shared. Certainly many people have varied and unconnected friend groups from different walks of life. But what J didn't know is that I was right smack in the middle of an emotional crisis about exactly that - friends!

At 50, I find myself less connected with multiple groups of other parents raising kids who become our friends. I've had dance mom friends, sports mom friends, school mom friends, neighborhood mom friends. Friendships that have come and gone, changed and morphed over the years. I've had friends I've seen every day and friends I see rarely but still feel very connected to.

As my kids have grown, and I no longer have those groups, my friends have changed. My work doesn't lend itself to making friends easily - as a substitute teacher, I am not part of a staff that regularly work together. Certainly I am friendly with a great many teachers and staff at the schools where I work, but that friendship stays within the walls of the school.

My social connections outside of work are very few. I've settled into a work/home mode that has me spending much of my free time with just my husband or my husband and grown kids. I suppose that's natural - we're all growing up together and as our families branch out and connect in other places, our friendships and lifestyle changes.

My husband is most definitely my best friend, and, lucky for me, he's pretty fun to be with. We have grand adventures and small moments and I know he is there for me at all times. That friend you can call at 4 a.m. no matter what? I don't have that, but I can always wake my husband up.

I've never really gone on a girls' weekend. I spent one night in a hotel with three friends once when my kids were much younger. The hotel was in the next town, 15 minutes away, and while it was lots of fun, it wasn't a long weekend of girl time and making memories. I know people who do girls' weekends regularly. That just isn't my history. And while it sounds like fun, it also sounds like sharing a hotel room with someone other than my own family and, frankly, I like to keep my snoring to myself and sleep in peace. My introverted side says I'm perfectly ok with not straying far from my safe nest at home unless I have a close family member by my side. My lonelier side says I wish I had friends who wanted to spend a weekend with me.

I have one friend who absolutely wins the gold medal in keeping a tiny group of us connected. By tiny I mean three. What started as a very large group of moms and babies who met weekly for playdates has dwindled down to three 50-something woman with grown children who still meet up fairly regularly for coffee. That coffee date regularly lasts four hours and we are never surprised by how fast the time flies when we are together. This friend is amazing at remembering, every few weeks, to text us with a reminder that it's been a while and could we meet for coffee or dinner and drinks soon? And we do. And it's like no time has passed at all. Thank goodness for that friend.

But a certain level of loneliness has creeped into my life and I'm finding myself caught in a conundrum of making peace with it and just loving my home life (I do!) and wanting to keep making friends and connections. Is it ever too late to make lifelong friends?

Recently, someone posted on a Facebook community page about how hard it is to make friends. Hundreds of people from all walks of life and all ages responded in kind - it IS so hard to make friends. Many said people are generally friendly but don't seem to want to make deeper connections. In this introverted world, that is not completely surprising. We work hard, have busy lives, and our free time is precious (and far too limited). It's no wonder that we just want to flop on the couch when we get home, take off the bra and do nothing. Going out requires effort. Showing up requires work.

But we also long to be connected - I remember days of having a playgroup, Bunco group, and a book club all while juggling after-school lessons, homework, attending whatever the latest "party" was (baskets, stamps, scrapbooking) and the general chaos of raising kids. It's no wonder those social obligations started to feel like work. I've often joked that I just want to start "club" - no book, game, multi-level marketing ploy or other factor to make it feel like an obligation. Just "club" - where everyone is welcome, you bring food and drink, and you just eat, talk and connect until you're tired and go home. Why do we need structure to form friendships?

So, while I'd like to pass off my conversation with J as just a wine-drunk woman making small talk, I can't stop thinking about why a woman would want to tell another woman something for the sole purpose of making her feel awful. It just doesn't compute.

We are all worthy of friendship. What I've learned is that sometimes you have to look in other places. As your life changes and grows, so do your personal connections. Sometimes you find a great friendship in the least expected place. Sometimes you will go through a very lonely, isolating time. Sometimes you have to start over.

But at the very least, I've always made it my goal to be inclusive and to give people a chance. Sure, I'm not going to like everyone and I'm absolutely certain many people will not like me. But I often get comments from social media about how much "fun" my life is and how awesome my family is. And it IS awesome. But it is lonely, far too often. I thank God every day that I have my amazing kids and sweet husband to keep me going because some days it's hard. I used to have a tribe and now I have a very small group of friends whom I see far too infrequently. I've always valued quality over quantity - growing up attending a new school each year really teaches you the value of that! So, for those few, I am grateful.

But I know I'm not alone. I know there are so many, like me, who feel unconnected or unsteady in their connections. If that's you, reach out. I can always use new friends. And I hate for anyone to feel left out. If you see my online presence and think "Hey, she looks like a fun person to hang out with!" just message me and say that! I know how isolating it can be at this stage of life. And I would never want to assume you have enough friends to sustain you. You never know what someone is going through.

Finally, if you are wine-drunk at a wedding, you might want to stop talking. You will never know the consequences of your words. You probably won't even remember them. But someone will. And they'll write a blog about it. Be nice.

Friday, May 18, 2018

And another one.............

Yet another school shooting made headlines today with reports of 8-10 dead. We have become so numb as a nation, as a people, that we do absolutely nothing and just wait for the next tragedy to happen. It goes like this: 1. Thoughts and prayers, 2. No changes, 3. We sit and wait for the next child to be shot.

In the meantime, we hold drills and teach our kids what to do - as if anyone really knows what to do - because when it comes down to it, no one can be fully prepared. Who knows who will decide to bring a gun to school? Where will they enter the building? Where will YOU be when the shooting starts? You can prepare all day long but when it actually happens, you will be vulnerable. And you might be next.

As an educator, I'm familiar with drills - lock down, safe inside, active shooter. We have earthquake drills and fire drills. And preparation is a good thing. When my own children were at school during a scary earthquake, their preparation helped them be calm, exit the building in an orderly fashion, and assemble in an outside area to be accounted for. My 5-year-old even counted the students in her class and reported to her teacher that all were present before they exited. Preparation is wonderful for natural disasters. But a school shooting is not a natural disaster.

Last week I taught kindergarten. I was told there would be a lock down drill and the time it would take place. We were allowed to inform the students and encouraged to discuss actions we could take in the event a "bad person" got into our classroom. Of course, active 5- and 6-year-old imaginations ran wild and more than one child said they would "ninja kick" the bad guy, or perhaps hide in the ceiling tiles and drop down on the unsuspecting villain. I had to tell them that our "villain" was not like the ones on TV and that we would want to avoid being close enough to "ninja kick" anyone.

One boy observed that if we scattered about the room, each holding a wooden block, we could bombard the intruder from all sides and confuse him while others ran. Another child talked about how her mother taught her to be completely silent while hiding. Other children noted multiple exits in the room and wondered if they could throw a chair through the window to escape, if necessary.

As the time of the drill crept closer, I could sense the agitation. The students knew it would be shortly after recess so when they came in, hot and sweaty from running in the sunshine on a beautiful Northwest afternoon, one child turned off the lights and another ran to close the blinds. "Not yet!" I advised, "Remember we have to be doing our normal routine so we can practice getting into lock down mode quickly."

So, we sat at the carpet and began to read a story when the announcement came over the intercom. The students popped up with nervous energy but many caught themselves and forced their little feet to walk, not run, to hide in closets or the bathroom. Someone turned off the lights and the blinds were closed. The door was already locked. Children scattered and crammed their tiny bodies into coat closets while I ushered the majority to the bathroom where we could crouch behind a locked door.

In the pitch black, I could see no one and had no idea of knowing who exactly was in the room with me and who had tucked into the closets. My voice was a steady stream of the quietest "shhhh" I could manage for the children who just could not be silent, no matter how hard they tried (and they tried hard!) I could hear the closet doors popping open, soft whispers, the doors closing quietly. I heard a hand pull on the outside classroom door - hard. And we waited for what seemed like an eternity but was less than ten minutes.

When the all clear was sounded and we spilled out, blinking, into the bright light of the classroom (one of the closet dwellers had been quick to turn on the lights), we gathered at the rug again. We talked about what we did right (we stayed as quiet as possible) and what went wrong (we decided the closets were bad hiding places because if a door popped open and a bad guy was there, the kids could not escape). We again discussed our roles - run, hide, fight. There was some more ninja talk.

But mostly there was a knowledge and a preparedness that no child in kindergarten should have to be privy to. These kids live in a world where the unthinkable happens all the time. No longer is it something that happens to "someone else" or in "other places". Every day we have to consider that we might have an active shooter and know that it will be virtually impossible to save everyone (or anyone). And so we practice, and we hope that we never need to hide in the dark.

And then we read a cheerful story because 5- and 6-year-olds are incredibly resilient and have short attention spans but they are ready for anything. Even the unthinkable.

Santa Fe High School May 18, 2018

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Monday-est Tuesday.........

Let me tell you a story. Yesterday, I had a "procedure" done on my foot. Ok, I had warts frozen off. Yes, I'd rather have pretty feet than have the pedicure ladies look at me sideways every time they use the cheese grater on my feet. I've tried to get rid of them for years - all the over the counter stuff, the duct tape, everything. Finally I'd had it and went to a podiatrist (who was really strange, by the way, but that's another post). He said he needed to freeze them each at least 40 sprays so it took a while. And he stressed several times how painful it would be and that there "is simply no pain-free way to get rid of warts." He also stated that some go away on their own but that "at your age" it was unlikely. At my age, indeed!

The procedure itself was relatively pain-free but a few hours later, it was obvious what he meant when he said (time and again) how painful it would be. I'm SO glad I didn't have any jobs scheduled this week beyond the one I did yesterday, because by this morning, I could not stand on my foot at all. I already had a haircut scheduled today with my curly-hair specialist so there was no way I was going to miss that. I hobbled on the side of my foot, took a shower, got ready, and limped downstairs to put the dog in the kennel.

And that's when it happened - my back went out! I guess walking on the side of my foot torqued my back in such a way that when I bent over to lock the kennel I felt the tell-tale searing pain of a back that was unhappy with my gait. Arrows of pain shot across my lower back and I assumed the ever-so-careful walk of a person afraid to incite pain by moving. Or breathing. I headed to the car with an ice pack for my back - I'm nothing if not a multi-tasker.

I left in plenty of time to grab a coffee on my way, but when I pulled away from the coffee stand with my iced mocha and muffin treat, I realized they gave me the wrong muffin! I actually stopped at another coffee stand on the way hoping to acquire my favorite muffin but they didn't have that flavor so I settled for a chocolate-chip muffin and headed to the freeway.

As I crested the overpass, I saw a huge backup on the freeway and my GPS changed to a bright red line for miles. Undaunted, I took an alternate route and arrived 10 minutes late. I missed the entrance to the parking garage and had to drive past the salon to turn around. Seeing a face in the window I gave a quick "Sorry I'm late, I'll be there in a sec" guilty wave, only to realized the face belonged to a mannequin. I waved to a doll head!

The parking garage was full so I had to park a distance away. I did my best quick hobble/limp/skip to get to the salon and began my litany of excuses (all legitimate!). My hairdresser did her magic with my hair and my curls were restored to their natural beauty (ha!).

All I wanted at this point was to be home where I could put my extremely sore foot up, and ice my back. But I had a wicked craving for Puffcorn. This is a junky food that comes in a bag for $2. It resembles Pirate's Booty but has the distinctive orange Cheeto dust on it. It has no nutritional value and it's delicious. My mom introduced this treat to me a few months ago when I visited her in Boise and now I've consumed at least two bags. It's not hard to eat an entire bag in one sitting, and that goes against everything I believe in eating reasonably. I'm not even a fan of anything "chip" like most of the time, but as with all my cravings, if I just let this one run it's course, soon I will tire of it and I won't care about it again. Years ago my sister introduced me to Little Debbie Nutty bars and it was hit and miss there for a bit but I kicked that addiction and I don't even think about them anymore.

Anyway. I really wanted a bag of Puffcorn so I stopped at the local Safeway. My daughter had procured a bag of this crack a few days before at a Safeway so I thought certainly they would have it. Against my better judgment, and my current level of pain, I hopped into Safeway and limped up and down the chip aisle no less than four times before accepting the fact that my beloved Puffcorn was not to be. Dejected, I left the store. To add insult to injury, there was something sticky on the shopping cart and it got all over my hands! I'm super glad I keep a large bottle of hand sanitizer in my car because I doused my hands when I got in the car. Gross.

I emailed my husband about my day so far, and he generously offered to stop at a different store on the way home, on his bike, to pick up my treat. Now, that is a selfless man. But I decided to text my daughter because I looked it up online and the internet said Puffcorn could be purchased at Target. Knowing she would pass a Target on the way home, I figured she could just stop in and pick some up for me. Along with Ben and Jerry's Coffee Toffee crunch ice cream because by now my craving was having a craving. You know how it happens.

Well. Not only did Target not have the Puffcorn but they didn't have the ice cream either. Let me stop here and say that I do not need either of these treats. In fact, my life would be so much better if I never consumed anything with carbs in it for the next 50 years. But I wanted to eat my feelings (as I do) and I couldn't find the Tylenol so I figured it might subdue the pain. Hey, it could have been crack or copious amounts of wine. We all have our drug.

When I got home, I packed some grapes and crackers for a snack and took them and a large glass of water upstairs to tuck into bed with an ice pack and watch Forensic Files. But I couldn't make the TV work. Stupid thing. I found four remotes and by trial and error I made a combination of two of them work and I finally got to watch some true crime before I fell blissfully asleep for two pain-free hours. But then I woke up. And I still wanted Puffcorn but my daughter arrived home with a consolation prize of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and I didn't even eat one because it's not what I wanted and I have some self-control. Sort of.

At any rate, I did not get my treats today. But Jeff did make me a cake. Before you get all sappy about what a great guy he is, let me tell you the back story. My eldest daughter made me a delicious cake on Mother's day (two days ago) using a few baking hacks I told her about. The cake turned out wonderful and I declared that NO ONE was to eat any more of it because the last two slices were for me, goddammit, because I'm the mom and it was for mother's day. And no one argued with me. But my husband, who has absolutely no control over his chocolate addiction, and who had already consumed a large piece of cake WITH ice cream earlier in the evening, felt he needed a nightcap and cut himself a slice of cake before bed. And in the morning, when he went downstairs, that last piece of cake called to him and he shoved it in his face while standing over the sink, without even thinking of me, or the fact that the last piece of ANYTHING sweet and good in this house is automatically mine and everyone knows it. So, when I packed my lunch the next day, all happy that I had cake to look forward to, you know, to break up the day with 20-some kindergartners, I was devastated to see the cake plate standing empty. You better believe I texted him in ALL CAPS and gave him the what-for about stealing MY cake.

So, he made a new cake out of pure guilt and it was delectable. Probably because it was a guilt cake, but still. My foot still feels like tiny knives are stabbing it when I put any pressure on it, and my back is still jacked-up. I know I need to rest and heal and that's about the hardest thing for me to do. I am not accustomed to lying still. I've had no less than five teachers text me today asking if I can work for them this week. I'm busy, dammit, and I need to be functional. But I'm forced to slow down and it's going to drive me nuts.

Also, I ordered six bags of Puffcorn from Walmart. They arrive Friday. Bless the internet.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Happy Mother's Day!

It's coming! That one day a year when mothers are revered, showered with gifts and flowers and perhaps treated to a special meal. Mother's day is a lovely sentiment but not nearly enough of a celebration of what will, far and away, be the hardest job you've ever had (and loved). Mothering is not for the weak and it doesn't end in 18 years. Mothering is a lifelong commitment, a job with duties you can not even imagine you will be strong enough to endure. But you will.

Parts of mothering will not be beautiful or sweet or conjure images of a Madonna and child, bathed in soft light, gazing at each other lovingly. No, parts of it will tear you in half and make you cry tears you didn't even know you had and make you question your worth and the very decision to bring a human into this world.

Parts of mothering will make you laugh with a joy you didn't know could happen, and you will marvel at the wonder of this creature you created - so smart, so beautiful, so perfect. HOW did you get so lucky? You really won the jackpot with this one. This one puts all other tiny humans to shame.

Parts of mothering will leave you exhausted with a tired so bone-deep you can't even imagine sleeping it off. How did you ever survive on so little sleep? How do you get things done? And why don't those little ones nap long enough? And then one day you will lay down to take a nap and wake, discombobulated, with a slight panic that you missed something or left someone unattended and you will realize that there are no small ones to care for anymore and you can nap whenever you damn well please.

Parts of mothering will leave you scratching your head in confusion about the decisions your young ones make, and why they don't just take your sage advice when you've lived a good amount of life, already, darn it, and you KNOW things. You will watch them make costly mistakes with love, life and finances and you will try hard not to say "I told you so" but you'll whisper in anyway, because you DID.

Parts of mothering will make you wish you never obtained a driver's license. Because you will drive and drive and drive and you will be so sick of driving. You will have rules about eating in the car and by the end of baseball season, your floorboards will be strewn with stale french fries and the empty carcasses of Gatorade bottles. You will stow extra makeup, wipes, snacks and blankets in the car such that by the end of your youngest child's last year in high school, your car will become a fully-stocked second home, complete with emergency kit, extra water, and enough reusable shopping bags to create a suitable outdoor tent, should the need arise.

Parts of mothering will make you wonder who you ever were before becoming a mom, and find yourself hesitating when asked about your hobbies, because you're not sure arranging a PTA luncheon or or spending hours on the phone booking orthodontist appointments count as "hobbies". You will sign up for a photography class but miss half of them because it's spring and that means there are dozens of "end of the year" activities, concerts, parties and events where kids receive cheap plastic trophies. And you will attend because you're the mom.

Parts of mothering will make you wish you'd gone to nursing school, or at least taken a decent psychology class, so you could tell the difference between "I don't feel good" and appendicitis. You'll err on the side of your preference to go to yoga and send the kid to school, only to have the nurse call you while you are in downward dog to say your child is running a fever. And you will skip savasana and rush to the school and feel like a shit mom because you thought he was standing in front of the stove again and faking a fever.

Parts of mothering, especially when you have more than one child, will have you forgetting that child at soccer camp, after-school activities, and possibly Target if they have the audacity to wander off when you are in the middle of checking things off a list in between a sibling's dentist appointment and the marimba concert at school that evening. You will receive a frantic text and you will text back "in the checkout line" when you are really at coffee with your friend and it's hour three. And the youth will survive.

Parts of mothering will have you reaching for a glass of wine once the baby has finally, blessedly, gone to sleep and you have exactly 14 minutes of "me time" before you fall asleep on the couch. And the next thing you know, the baby is awake and she's 23 and you're meeting her for happy hour and the two of you down two margaritas each and stumble off into the sunshine because she's a lightweight and you're a lightweight and when did that happen? But you will laugh and say "Are you drunk?" and you will have a designated driver because you're both responsible that way.

Parts of mothering will have you basking in pride at the way your kids have grown up and grown into their own authentic beings, despite and because of your parenting. They will have jobs and responsibilities and their own residence. And at first you'll wish you had grandkids because you just can't bear the fact that they aren't little anymore and you NEED to squeeze a squishy baby.  But then you will realize you really want grandkids because you can't bear not to see the world through a child's eyes and you yearn for that sense of wonder again. And perhaps it's because you never really grew up yourself, despite the fact that you bore and raised multiple humans to adulthood. Maybe you just want to color again and blow bubbles, and have a reason to sit in the fire engine at the summer festival. And that's ok.

Parts of mothering will define you and become you and you will realize that although you never asked for much of the strife and pain that goes along with the job, you also never expected rewards so deep and love so sincere.

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Grayland Beach 2018

I started this blog after a trip to Grayland Beach on the Washington coast in 2008! This marks ten years of blogging and my 978th post. I don't have many followers and I don't post regularly, but I love my little blog and the memories it holds for me.

This past weekend we took another trip to Grayland beach to go clamming. The campground was full so we booked an Airbnb. I was bummed about the campground being full but here in WA state, if you don't book your campground several months in advance, you can pretty much forget about going camping. We have only used our travel trailer once in the past two years and are contemplating selling it. For one thing, it's a rare event when more than two of us are available, it's hard to book a camping spot, and I think at age 50 I deserve a flushing toilet on my adventures. So, we will see....

However, if you do visit Grayland, the state park campground is among the best we've booked. Clean restrooms and showers, and sites right on the beach with a bluff to protect from the wind. Definitely worth the stay when you can find a spot. Yurts, too, with sites that include hook-ups so if you go with a non-camping family, they can stay in the yurt while you enjoy your RV.

The house we rented had 48 positive reviews on Airbnb, plus the host was a Superhost (you can't achieve that status with negative reviews) so I booked it eagerly. When we arrived, we passed a few houses, oohing and ahhing over how cute they were. And then we arrived at a bedraggled house with worn siding, just screaming for a paint job. Sure enough, the address matched our reservation. Sigh.

Fartwater Cottage

The inside of the house was not too bad - it was decorated with an eclectic mix of antiques and unique items that made wandering through it feel like a museum visit. The kitchen and its appliances were many years old, and I felt like I should wear a hazmat suit when standing in front of the ancient microwave. But it was cozy enough, and clean enough and it was only for two nights. Although our bed faced a wall decorated with a giant goat's head that stared at me all night.

Totes MacGoats

The biggest drawback was that the house is on a well so the water smelled horrible! It's really hard to feel clean when you are washing in water that smells like a fart. We brushed our teeth with bottled water and I didn't shower all weekend. I could barely stand washing my hands! I dubbed the place "Fartwater Cottage" and included that on my private review to the owner. Luckily she had a sense of humor and thanked us for being good sports.

Jeff was the only one who did any actual clamming. The first day, Hannah and I accompanied him, along with Junie B the wonder pup, and we walked around for hours spotting exactly zero clam "shows". Jeff did manage to unearth one clam - ONE. So, basically clamming is dumb. The next day he went out alone and managed to get a limit - which is 15 clams. 15! So much work, digging in cold sand up to your armpits. Hannah and I stayed at the cabin, enjoying the sun, so we didn't have to walk around aimlessly on the beach hunting for the elusive clam. Plus, I think Jeff works better alone.

So much work........

But the beach is pretty cool. 

While enjoying the back yard and its giant brick fireplace, we decided to let Junie off the leash and just see how she would do. She was so good! She stuck close to the yard, while exploring, and came back when we called. Until she didn't. Distracted by Jeff's drone flying, we lost track of her. After a brief panic, we found her across the street, chasing a horse in his pasture. Bad dog! The poor horse was traumatized. We packed up and left shortly after that - didn't want to confront the horse owner!

The brick fireplace - so cool! 

Jeff was excited to make clam chowder so the following night, he started slicing up the bacon that went into the recipe. I spoke to him and he glanced up, effectively slicing off the end of his finger! He blames me for talking. After the fray of inspecting the wound, running it under cool water and watching it bleed profusely, while also hunting for first aid supplies, I thought to wonder where the tip of his finger went. I picked up the knife and, sure enough, the chunk of his finger was still neatly stuck to the blade! SO GROSS! I rinsed it down the drain - no sense saving it as it was too small to stitch back on (I think?). As a result of the bloodshed, I got the dubious honor of making dinner (until Jeff took over, bleeding finger be damned).

The thing is? The clam chowder was good, but none of us is even that excited about clam chowder. So, is clamming really worth it? I guess it was fun to get out of town and spend two days using water that smelled of flatulence. We watched two movies (Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO - both very good!). And we got to relax and nap, both things high on my favorites list. So, ten years later, I'd say Grayland beach is still one of my favorite spots in WA. Just be sure to book your campsite in January!

Look at this sunset! 

Look at all those clammers! 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Somebody should do something...........

On February 14, 2018, Nicholas Cruz gunned down 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. School shootings have become so commonplace that they become old news after a couple of days. First, there's the outrage and heartbreak and demands made on lawmakers, our country's leaders, and armchair psychologists on Facebook ranting about everything from poor parenting to the absolute ban on assault rifles, to better mental health background checks. And then the dust settles and we wait for the next one. The brutal slaughter of twenty (TWENTY!) six year olds and six adult educators at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 brought a wave of policy-changers to the surface, some of whom are still fighting today, and yet very little has been done to make sweeping changes in the way our country handles and manages firearms, the mentally ill, and the total disregard to human life where large monetary donations are involved.

So, you might be shouting from the rooftops "CHANGE NOW!" but that will only get you so far. You can, SHOULD, keep fighting for changes at the very top levels of our government, but what about starting small? What about starting in your own home, perhaps even in your own being, to make changes so small they may seem insignificant at first, but the ripple effect will astound you? If you knew that you had the power to make very real, significant changes that would add up to fewer acts of violence, would you do it?


First, let's stop putting our kids in front of screens for hours on end. "But, I don't!" you protest. Do you really know how long your child is exposed to screens and media in a given day? Have you ever actually documented it? How about how much time you spend looking at your phone instead of paying true attention to people?  I think you would be surprised. Yes, even you. And me. I recently taught a 5th grade class (these are ten-year-old children) and over 50% of the class admitted to watching TV or using other technology for up to six hours a day. If they get off school at 4 p.m. that's a steady diet of screens until 10 p.m. Not only is that shocking, but a reasonable bedtime  for a 10-year-old, who likely has to wake up by 7 a.m. is 9 p.m. Not to mention time for homework, dinner, talking to family members, unstructured play, and having a bedtime routine.

Screens and media include TV watching, computer and tablet use, and, according to the children I've taught, prolific video-gaming. Children as young as six have reported that they play Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, two violent games that have age ratings ranging from Mature (17+) to R (18+). These games display violent, realistic images of killing people. Some even have parental settings to turn of the "blood and gore" and yet, the name of the game is still killing other people. How about we start by adhering to the ratings of video games and not allowing our impressionable six year olds to play violent games that ignore the permanence of death?


We live in a busy, busy society where families are often away from their homes 10+ hours a day. We no longer have the time or energy for family dinners, reading bedtime stories or just hanging out with no time constraints or agenda on a regular basis. But these things are proven to be crucial for building up well-balanced children. Children need time to think, process and be heard, all of which take significantly more time for the younger crowd. Adults have perfected the fast-paced, clipped conversation and the transfer of information via text messaging, email and video chat over face-to-face interaction. But children need time. They need significant pauses in order to process information and face-to-face interaction is crucial. Kids are not able to sort the nuances of emotion through digital means - they need to read faces, body language and visual cues in order to effectively communicate. "Car-talk" is often touted as a great way to communicate with a teenager - parent and child are in close proximity but not looking at each other often which promotes a feeling of security for the teen. But young children need to LOOK at you and be seen. Instead of sending them off to occupy themselves in front of a screen while you "get stuff done", you could involve them in the most mundane of daily chores and they will reap benefits just by interacting with you.


Perhaps without even meaning to, we've put children at the center of the universe and they know it! Most busy parents can count driving to countless lessons, traveling with select sports teams, and squeezing in an elaborate family vacation during school breaks as a large portion of how they spend their time. We give participation trophies and have switched from a punitive to rewards-based style of discipline in our schools. Of course, there are some positive benefits to this (no one wants to get their knuckles rapped by an ancient teacher-nun), but when a child ONLY behaves based on the reward waiting, we have a problem. Often, when I'm teaching, at the end of the day, I ask the students to "pick up ten items off the floor" in order to tidy the classroom. Sometimes we play a game of "secret scrap" where I identify a particular piece of trash and the child that scoops it up and deposits it in the trash can earns a small incentive. But other times when I ask them to do it just for the sole purpose of tidying up their space, I'm met with "But, what will we get?" My answer "The satisfaction of knowing that you contributed to making the classroom a better place" is often met with sighs and inactivity. Who wants to pick up trash if you're not getting a reward? We can combat this by involving our children in service projects from the earliest age. I sometimes volunteer with an organization that gives showers to the homeless on weekends. We serve lunch and package up "to go" snacks for the clients. This organization welcomes ALL ages, and we've brought children as young as five to help serve. One little kindergarten helper was thrilled to offer juice choices to the clients and we had an excellent opportunity to discuss why and how some people are less fortunate than others. Doing for others, without reward, is a crucial life lesson that should be encouraged from the time a child is a toddler.


This one seems so obvious, but when was the last time you were kind, genuinely kind, to another person? Most of us like to think we are kind on a daily basis, but are you really? With all the business in life, it's hard to find time to eat healthy, work out, take care of a family, work, read, engage in social activities, keep up on social media and sleep much less take time to act kindly toward another person. But some of the most heartwarming acts of kindness I've received have been a random Facebook message saying I'm a good mom, or that my family's antics make someone laugh. It doesn't have to be elaborate (but it can be). I set a goal to do 50 random acts of kindness in honor of my 50th birthday this past year and I'm sorry to say I have only done two or three and it's been two months since I turned 50. Clearly I need to step up my game, but some of the ways I've chosen to display kindness are: buying coffee for someone (either spontaneously or as a pay-it-forward in a drive-through; I've done both), sending an encouraging message to someone, surprising someone with a small, unexpected gift (for a holiday or just because), and offering a genuine offer of help to people I know (or don't know except through a Facebook group). We can teach our kids to make this a daily part of their lives. Often, as my kids were growing up, I would receive a love note on my desk or a small, unexpected gift when they returned from an outing. These were the "keepers" in life - the things I can keep and look back on and remember nothing but kindness.


As a teacher, I can tell you that respect for authority is an antiquated concept. In some ways, this is a good thing - we've taught our children to question authority for their own safety and to promote change. But, unchecked, this can create a hostile and difficult situation. In teaching such, we have forgotten to teach mutual respect. It's so important for children to know that respect goes both ways - and relatively simple to demonstrate it. Let's say your teenager has a screaming meltdown over cleaning her room, yet has plans to go to the mall with friends later. If you state that in order for her to earn something from you (the ride to the mall), you need respectful behavior from her (calmly cleaning her room), then you have set up reasonable guidelines. If she refuses to hold up her end of the deal, you refuse to hold up yours. ALL actions have consequences but in order to shield our kids from disappointment and embarrassment we give in and appease. As a result, our kids learn about empty threats and inaction. Parents lie for their kids and direct their anger at teachers for a poor grade, or a discipline issue. If your child sees you screaming at their teacher, how can you expect them to respect her? This spills over into social media as well. We all have differing views and we feel strongly about them. As a result entire lives have been changed and destroyed by something as simple as a social media post. Who would have thought, ten or twenty years ago that we would have so much power with a keyboard or that lives would, quite literally, be lost over a few keystrokes? And it's not just cyberbullying. It's adults berating each other over political posts, or "unfriending" over a difference in parenting. As hard as it is to bite your tongue and just let it go, these small actions are huge when it comes to teaching mutual respect.


So much has been shouted about better mental health checks in regards to purchasing firearms. The real problem here, is that when ELSE do we demand mental health checks? Mental health IS health - just like our brains are in our heads, and our teeth reside there too, we need health coverage that covers the WHOLE PERSON, not just parts of their bodies. Health insurance should cover everything and not need to be supplemented by "mental health coverage" or "dental coverage". My family has had an abundance of mental health situations that have shaped and formed us to be more aware of mental health overall and spot the signs of depression and anxiety in our friends and family. Years ago, we didn't have mental health insurance - we had health insurance but no coverage for seeing a psychologist or receiving therapy. At the time, that was a need in my family and I was beyond frustrated because no coverage meant no action and things only spiraled downward. Many years after that, we recognized the signs of severe anxiety and depression in our daughter and were able to seek out (and have covered) treatment at a children's hospital. In fact, in the year that followed, two more of our children received treatment for depression at hospitals and today, there are no outward signs or scars that might tell a prospective gun seller NOT to sell a firearm to my children. In fact, all of my children function quite well as socially responsible, compassionate, well-rounded adults and any one of them could, if they chose, purchase a firearm today. Should they? I have no reservations about them harming themselves or others AT THE MOMENT. But what if they get caught in the depths of depression again? What if a new wave of despair rolls over them at any given time, catching them off-guard and putting them in harm's way because they were able to easily purchase a firearm? Of course, no one can predict the future, but had my children shown warning signs, posted concerning rants on social media, talked to people about harming themselves or others, I would have acted. Because I DID act, when I saw posts that concerned me, questioning the value of their lives and expressing thoughts about not residing here on Earth. I DID act and I got them the help they needed. And I am NOT ashamed and I am unconcerned about "what other people think" because my only concern is and was the health and safety of my children. I have reached out to other parents when their children were in crisis, have assisted in finding programs and treatment for them, and when their parents didn't listen or were too concerned about the stigma of poor mental health, I tried to be a friend to them. My husband and I even started our own support group, because, although we were not experts (and owned up to it) we knew we could provide a safe place for people to talk about the oft-ignored shaky mental health of our young people. We should, NEED to be checking up on the mental health of our kids, our students, and all of the people we come in contact with regularly. No one should have to be ashamed of talking about their most frightening thoughts. We need to make this the norm and if we see something, we need to report it. To parents, educators, doctors, anyone who will listen. It's so easy to chalk up mood and behavior changes in young people to "typical" but it is NOT typical for your child to spend all waking hours in their room, to sleep all day, to drastically change their behavior, dress or appearance suddenly, to show a renewed interest in dark or violent things, or to become secretive. Don't stand by and wait. Push in (gently) and get the answers you need. NEVER make your child feel like anything they say or do will dissolve your love for them. And don't dismiss young children; many mental illnesses begin at a surprisingly early age.


Teaching tolerance has become closer to mainstream than ever. But we have a long way to go. It's hard to believe that issues such as racial intolerance are still alive and well today, but examples of it are everywhere. And race is only one issue. I teach in public school where we have many families with LGBTQ parents, transgender children, and every type of family definable. I have a married, gay daughter and a gay son. You'd think tolerance was bred in me, but you would be wrong. When I was young, I was taught there were "right" ways and "wrong" ways for people and families to be. Divorced parents were common, but still "weird". Biracial families and children - also common, but "odd". And being gay? That wasn't even an option. I used slurs and made jokes just like my peers. I honestly had no idea, as a sixth-grader, that I was promoting hate. It just wasn't discussed. Fast forward to my own children coming of age, and my house was filled with kids who were gay, lesbian, or questioning. Biracial kids spent the night. Heck, we even opened our home to a biracial young woman who we'd known since she was seven, and she is as much a part of our family as my own children. Good for us, right? Not exactly. As a person who grew up in a generation where tolerance was NOT generally taught (yes, I knew enough not to stare at the person in a wheelchair, but I was not encouraged to talk to them), I had to go through some growing pains. Now, I find it hard to believe that my tolerance was ever different, but I can admit that it wasn't always as high as it is now. And now, well, I believe to the core of my being that every person has the right to live their genuine life, whatever that may be. I don't have to embrace it as my own, but I can definitely be tolerant and respectful. How awful to not be allowed the same treatment as another human being! We are all living, breathing, loving and getting through this life and we struggle and hurt just like the next person. The least we can do is lift each other up and make that struggle a tiny bit easier.

So, you think someone should do something? How about you? You can do all of these things TODAY in your own home. Should you continue to fight and push your efforts towards safer laws and checks? Absolutely. But in the meantime, instead of begrudging the slow progress or shouting about reform with no real plan, try doing what you can to just be a decent human being, every single day; reach out to help others, educate yourself on issues you don't know much about, foster mutual respect and understanding, discuss rather than shout, and don't let the busy-ness of life get in the way of real connections and memories with the people you love. Go outside. Explore. Talk. Eat. Play. Change. The answer is within us. We will never eradicate violence entirely, but we are ultimately responsible for the factors that put it into action. What can YOU do?

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 - A Year in Pictures

2017. What a year! While the world (well, the United States, anyway) went to hell in a handbasket and things seemed to revert to the 1950's, we plugged along and actually had a pretty great year, despite the insanity all around us. Here is a synopsis of our year in pictures!


Harrison had his 18th birthday, making all four of our kids officially "adults"! Where did the time go? 

We took a trip to NYC to watch Harrison perform at Carnegie Hall with his choir. What an amazing and fun trip it was! 

Harrison played Victor Winslow in "13 Past Midnight" - his final play at Bothell High School


Arlie had her 19th birthday! 

We took a trip to Newport, CA for a conference Jeff had, and then drove to Oceanside to see Grandma Jo.

We had a snow day! 

We traveled to Boise, ID for M-L's midwinter break from teaching and Jeff joined for a long weekend. 

We went to McCall, ID for a long weekend, visiting our friends Phil and Danielle Custer and experiencing our first ice fishing! 

Also in McCall, we tried kick sleds for the first time! 


We took a snowy trip to Winthrop, WA for their annual hot-air balloon festival! 

It was amazing to see all the colorful balloons against the winter sky. 

Junie B graduated from obedience classes. Good dog!

We attended the annual Cascade Mountain Man show at the fairgrounds, and Jeff was in full "uniform"! 


Jeff and I took a bow-making class and crafted our own bows and arrows from vine maple and feathers! 

Me trying out my quick bow. 

We took a trip to San Francisco for Jeff's ACS conference and Hannah came along! 

We went to see the tulips in Skagit Valley!

We took a few senior pics of Harrison. 

We went on the first hike of the season - Lord Hill Park, with Junie B. I'm sporting my handmade leather bag - a gift from Jeff! 

We took a super fun trip to Seabrook, WA - an idyllic little town on the WA coast with our friend Ananya. We stayed in a cute house, went clamming, walking on the beach, hiking, painting ceramics and more! 


We said goodbye to our cat, Benjie, who was suffering from a urinary tract disorder. It was a very sad day! 

Harrison and Alec went to Prom! 

Junie B celebrated her first birthday with treats from the local pet store. 

We took a fun camping trip (first time we've had the camper out in two years!) to Cape Disappointment where Jeff channeled his inner Lewis (or is it Clark?)

Harrison went back to his elementary school roots and played marimba for a fundraising concert. 

We went to Cottage Lake for Memorial Day and enjoyed kayaking and paddle boarding with Rylie and others! 

Harrison performed in his final musical - Young Frankenstein - where he played Dr. Frederick Frankenstein! 


We had a 50's themed bridal shower for Hayley! 

Harrison won an award at the senior memories assembly! 

Harrison and Alec performed in Senior Showcase - the final drama production! 

Harrison graduated from high school! We have successfully raised all four kids to graduation - and on to college! 

We took Harrison and Alec to see Cabaret! 

We went to Pride in Seattle! 

It was a wild and crazy day! 


We took a trip to Pacific City, OR to celebrate Jeff's birthday, the 4th of July, and celebrate Heather's health after her double-lung transplant in Nov. 2016. It was a fun family time! 

Family on the beach at Pacific City, OR

The Pellows came to town to get ready for the big wedding! Here they are kayaking during the week before the wedding. 

We went to Mukilteo Beach after more family came into town for the wedding - the Foxes, and Flower and David. So much fun having family in town! 

Hayley and Megan got married!!! It was a gorgeous wedding - look at those beautiful cupcakes and cake made by our neighbor, Lori Trammel. 

The newlyweds at the beautiful venue - The Farm and Swan's Trail in Snohomish, WA

It was quite the crowd! 

Happily ever after! 

Still was a long month! 

We kayaked with good friends, Janet and Dan Church. 

We traveled to Boise to attend Aubrey and Zack's baby shower - waiting for baby Fenna! 

We attended the big boys' birthday party - Kaden turned 10 and Jackson turned 7! 

We took Junie B kayaking on Lake Lowell

Junie B got the royal treatment at the historic Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City, OR - pet-friendly! 

We took a day trip to Mt. Rainier! (We were traveling for ten days while our hardwood floors were being refinished and new ones installed)

We had a spa night in a hotel in Yakima, WA


We went to the 40th birthday party for our friend Kristy Kelsey - Hannah's nanny family that have become good friends. 

Hannah celebrated her 22nd birthday! We went to The Rock with the Bedells! 

Harrison and his band Bushwhack played their final set on Aug. 9 (also Hannah's birthday). They played together for five years at Jam Academy Music School. What a run! 

We fed the homeless with Shower to the People. 

We went to the beach and had ice cream. 

We went blueberry picking with cute babies! 

And we went blueberry picking again with Hannah and her nanny kids Ryder and Makena. 

We traveled to Spokane, WA to see Jeff's dad after his heart surgery. 

Jeff rode his bike for two days with Obliteride, to raise money for cancer. 

We watched the solar eclipse! 

Nice glasses! 


We went to Bend, OR with the Kelseys and others for a fun Labor Day weekend. The whole crew made it - love this pic of all the people I adore. 

We floated the river and there were some rapids! Super fun! 

Jeff and I traveled to Oceanside, CA again to help Grandma Jo after a hospitalization. Jeff stayed five days and I stayed a total of ten days helping grandma. We stayed in a condo on the ocean. 

Jeff and Grandma Jo - besties! 

Here we are under the pier at Oceanside. 

We went to the Eagles/Doobie Brothers concert at Safeco Field. I wore my Doobie Brothers shirt from 1987! 

We went to Molly Moons - a lot! 


I got a tattoo! And Hell froze over. :) 

We went to the pumpkin patch with all the kids (adults, whatever). 

We got a great family picture! 

Jeff and I traveled to Loveland and Colorado Springs, CO for a conference and our friend Janet went with us. We had a great time hanging out, exploring the sculpture park, visiting Garden of the Gods (twice!), visiting Natalie at college, catching up with old friends, and going to a wild west museum. 

The kids carved pumpkins in our absence. We got home the day before Halloween. 


We had Thanksgiving dinner with our favorite young adults. 

We made Junie B wear pajamas. 


We got a haunted doll that created all sorts of bad luck for us including a big flood from the washer leaking, a flat tire, an unexplained crash in the night, and the dog and cat acting so weird around her. We mailed her away to a friend who wanted her, despite her obvious evil spirit. We still need to sage the house. No more old dolls. #creepy

After we dried the house out and had industrial fans going for seven days, we were able to deck the halls and for the first time ever I bought new matching stockings. 

We went to the gingerbread house exhibit at the City Centre - so cool! 

We went to Jeff's 1920's themed holiday party at the Seattle Sheraton. Marcia and Deven flew in for my 50th birthday and attended with us. Such a fun night! 

I had my 50th birthday! The kids threw me an amazing party with lots of food, friends - and, clearly, drink! 

We took the whole family to Leavenworth to play in the snow and see the lights. 

I fulfilled my birthday wish of filling 50 stockings for the homeless and distributing them to patrons at Shower to the People. 

Here's my stocking crew! 

We spent Christmas with the best people on Earth! 

Hannah and I went to see The Nutcracker

Santa came! 

We got a picture of all of us - such a rare treasure! 

The kids at Lights of Christmas - still celebrating even after Christmas. Ashley was here for ten days and we squeezed in all the holiday fun we could. 

We rang in the new year with a redneck party. Everyone brought $10 worth of food and drink from the gas station convenience store. Here, Hayley and Jeff recreate their versions of "redneck" from the past and present. 

Happy New Year! Can't wait to see what 2018 has in store!