Friday, May 23, 2008

Anatomy of a Garage Sale!

We recently participated in a neighborhood garage sale. It was held on an abnormally hot day (for Seattle, think 90's), which generally makes for a larger crowd. It's an unusual slice of American pie, this garage sale crowd. You wake early for the 9 a.m. start, but as soon as that garage door is lifted, the early-bird shoppers are already circling like buzzards over your discarded wares. These are the veterans - they know what they're looking for and they're in and out in a flash. No browsing, just some fast picking through your still-unpriced items and if they find a treasure, they scoop it up (likely for a bargain price!) and if not, they move swiftly on to the next unlucky soul who dared to open his garage door early.
Then, there are the breed of ladies, aged 50-70 or so, who come in packs. This sisterhood arrives late morning, looking for nothing in particular, but squealing in delight when they spot a used onesie for the new grandbaby. They want for nothing, but take pleasure in the kill when they snatch up an old ice bucket or woven rug. They buy linens, old lamps, dishes, anything that smacks of domesticity, and pay for their purchases with crumpled bills and loose change pulled out of clasp change purses.
The kids are a different breed altogether. They ponder over discarded toys, unloved books and the occasional ratty stuffed animal. Begging their parents for a dollar, they clutch their purchases in sweaty hands and scan every "free" box available for more loot.
Then, there is the lady (man?) who comes late in the afternoon, alone, looking disheveled and grizzled. She paws over each and every item, with nary a nod or hello, then leaves with a grunt.
Men are funny. They are looking for one thing and one thing only - GUY STUFF! This constitutes tools, trailer hitches, bent and rusty car ramps, and the occasional rake. Like the hunters they are, they move in quickly for the kill. If there's no prey about, no motorcycle parts, no old generators, they move on. No browsing.
There are the ones for whom English is not their first language. They always look surprised and delighted when I ask "Quieres una bolsa para sus cosas?" And they always leave with a "Gracias, mi amiga!"
This particular garage sale was no exception. We had the requisite "bake sale". The younger kids always want to sell goods so I found myself late the night before the sale baking cinnamon streusel coffee cake, raspberry scones, peanut butter/chocolate bars and vanilla brownies. I mixed up two batches of lemonade (no, I did not squeeze the lemons!) and the young entrepeneurs went to work. They lasted, wilting in the sun, until mid-day when they left for birthday parties and baseball games. The scones sweated in their plastic wrap and the lemonade warmed to a steamy temperature. Total take: $28.75.
The garage sale was a different story. We netted $153.00. Which is about half of what we usually make. Which left us asking, again, WHY do we do this? Maybe it's not about the money. Maybe, in the end, it's more about the people watching.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Haul Ash!

To commemorate the 28th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helen's, Jeff, Marie (my hairdresser) and I participated in the Haul Ash bike ride on Sunday, May 18. This 42 mile ride meanders along the Burke-Gilman trail, from the Red Hook Brewery in Woodinville to the Red Door tavern in Fremont. Along the way, we saw eagles, beautiful views of Lake Washington (and all those fancy-schmancy houses lining the shore) and a whole side of Woodinville, Bothell, Lake Forest Park, and Seattle that you just can't see from the road. I didn't think I'd make it the whole 42 miles and in fact, had planned to ride ten miles, head back, read the paper in the car, and wait for Jeff and Marie. Boy was I wrong! For one thing, Marie wanted to go the whole way, and it turns out, she was about evenly matched with me as far as bike riding (except that she fell and I didn't!). So, we just decided to go for it and we "let" Jeff ride ahead of us (not wanting to hold him back!). About mile 15, we saw Jeff whiz past us and he turned around and headed back towards Red Door with us. We had a beer (at 10:30 in the morning!) spending one of our two free beer coupons, then hopped on our bikes and headed back. With no food in our stomachs, and a beer on board, the first ten minutes were a little wobbly, but it's amazing how fast you can burn off a beer when you're exercising! Jeff went on ahead again, and Marie and I plugged along, pedaling our way back (albeit a little more difficult this time!). Amazingly, we made it back in less time than the first half, arriving at Red Hook just in time, as Jeff had nabbed us a table AND ordered our lunch for us! Wow, what service! We had California burgers, another beer and headed home. I was really proud of myself for making it (and can't wait to do another ride!) and the real miracle is that I wasn't sore at all the next day. I even went to yoga in the morning and felt fine (ok, part of that might have been my amazing foresight at deciding to ice my butt when I got home! It worked!). And the real bonus - it was a beautiful, sunny, warm day and you can't beat a day like that in Seattle. We wore our post-race T-shirts proudly later that day and we have two new beer glasses for the freezer, and two new water bottles for our bikes. We hauled ASH!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rainy Day!

Yesterday was rainy, gray, cloudy, and just generally yucky. Wait, so is today. We keep getting news of "near 90's" weather later this week, but I'm not holding my breath!

So, after a morning appointment, and with Hayley staying home sick with a cold, I returned home to do the mundane tasks of housekeeping. Sometimes it's hard to get motivated to do anything on such a day, so at one point, I even tried to take a nap (no luck!). But I did manage to shave a slice off the laundry mountain, and in doing so, I realized that there was a sort of sweet satisfaction in just folding towels. Somehow, laundry just does that for me - even though I'm faced with an enormous task every day, the satisfaction of washing, drying and folding a load is a nice little accomplishment in an otherwise harried (or unproductive) day. So, I was thinking, is that so wrong? We grow up with these huge expectations of being "successful" but what does that mean, really? Am I successful because I'm spending the lion's share of my time raising four children to be "productive" members of society? And what is productive anyway? The bar has certainly been raised in recent years. Women my age are expected to maintain showroom homes, have exciting and fulfilling careers, raise children with impeccable manners and amazing intelligence, and maybe even take care of an ailing parent. How is anyone supposed to do all of that? I just don't believe you can do it all and do it successfully. Something has to give along the way. So, we have great kids and messy homes. Or great careers and bratty children. Or we don't visit our ailing parents as much as we'd like. Whatever the situation, it's not perfect. Because life is messy and decidedly "not perfect".

As I was folding those towels, I happened to look up on the wall where I have a small calendar pinned. The date was May 2007. One year ago! How is it possible that I have not changed that calendar in a whole year in a room where I spend a good part of every day? What else have I missed in a year that was right in front of my nose? Days meld into weeks which morph into months and before you know it, you have a calendar in your home that hasn't been changed in a year.

So, I was thinking about everything we do in a year. And how high the expectations are, especially where we live. Kids are overscheduled and frazzled. Homework runs up to three hours a night. And on top of that, kids are expected to maintain a schedule of lessons, ranging from music to sports that would make anyone's head spin! In the long run, is it really going to matter if my child played select soccer? Will that make them any more interesting around the dinner table when they're 27, enjoying a glass of wine and good conversation with friends?

I often think about this as I angle a way to "fit in" to these expectations and "norms". Am I crazy that folding a load of freshly laundered towels teeming with the scent of Tide and bleach, gives me a strange satisfaction and feeling of productiveness? Have I become a "productive" member of society, with my part-time job, my four kids, my huge mortgage and the requisite family dog? (Ok, three dogs. Overachiever!) What if what I'm doing IS enough? What if this is my contribution to society? Four kids who stay out of jail, go to college, have decent jobs and get their own huge mortgage someday? And maybe in my "empty nest" years I get a nice little job, or volunteer passion and spend the rest of my days traveling, working and kissing my grandkids? Doesn't sound too bad to me.

In the meantime, I'm going to throw away that calendar on the wall that's a year old. The year is past, and it's not coming back anyway. Nothing to do but forge forward and face another rainy day, and the hope for a sunshine reward at the end of the week!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Anti-Mother's Day!

Yesterday I was charmed and treated and pampered by my children (ok, they gave me gifts and when I asked them to do chores they said "we have homework"). Today, however, I would like to point out the Anti-Mother's day. What's this you say? It's every day EXCEPT Mother's Day. It's coming downstairs after "my" day to find a half-empty bag of chips spilling out on the kitchen table, a bottle of red liquid (Kool-Aid?) sitting near-full on the table, several paper towels cemented to the counter top, aided by an ice cream scoop full of melted ice cream, miscellaneous sticky spots on the counter top, the sink filled with unrinsed dishes (apples, peanut butter, cereal, there was enough food in there to feed a small country, all swimming lazily around in murky puddles of ick). Dog hair forming tumbleweeds of sorts and rolling down the hallway with the breeze created by a person walking by. My lovely, velvety-soft blankets for the family room (I envisioned the family snuggling under these while watching a movie some Friday night) wadded up on the floor, full of dog hair after being slept on by thankful dogs (what luxury!). Each of my toilets has a pink ring in it, albeit of varying shades (depending on the level of bacteria growing in there? I don't know, I'm no chemist - but my husband is!). There is a wad of hair on or near the top step that's been there for over a week now - it just changes locations depending on who's foot it's been stuck to. I spilled nail polish remover on my bathroom counter and when I wiped it up, a layer of grime attached itself to the towel I was using (how can you not even SEE the dirt until you add water?). I dropped off some conditioner for the kids in their bathroom and, well, I've attached a photo, because while it's not the worst it's ever been, this is what their bathroom looks like MOST of the time! What you can't see in the photo is the underwear turned inside out, still tucked into the jeans, the wrappers from various feminine products strewn about, the odd toothbrush dropped on the floor (once I even found Hayley's headgear on the floor!), and the sprinkles and dustings of various girly makeup products creating a fine mist upon the countertop.

Now, I ask you, what is the solution to this problem? I've begged, cajoled, pleaded, threatened, asked nicely, whined, thrown a fit, ignored, taken away priveleges, demanded and still can't seem to get this "you live in this house, you need to contribute to it's cleanliness" message across. We have chore charts, lists, family meetings. A couple of weeks ago, I decided not to say anything at all, not to mention the mess, nothing. Two weeks went by and the clothes on the bathroom floor grew to dizzying heights. It was like mountain climbing to get to the shower (take some extra water, a flashlight and call me when you arrive safely!). After there was no visible linoeleum left, and one had to literally high-step it across the mounds to reach the toilet, I did hear a few comments such as "wow, there are a lot of clothes on our bathroom floor" and "where are my jeans?" Oh, I was good at this, let me tell you. But I broke. I could only take it so long (and I'm pretty sure one of the children might have been missing for a time). I demanded that they sort the clothes out and bring them into the laundry. There were so many clothes, the hallway had to be utilized to sort them and it took nearly five days to rid the hallway of clothes (keep in mind I have SIX large laundry baskets in the laundry room to hold the various loads - whites, jeans, towels, darks, colors, sheets).

The fact that we could even GO that many days and not need those clothes is testimony to the "too much" syndrome. Perhaps we should pare down to five pairs of underwear each? That might solve the laundry problem, but what about the rest of the house? Popular women's magazines say "dust the baseboards" seasonally. HUH? I have NEVER dusted a baseboard. It's all I can do to dust my shelves in the family room and I'm not ashamed to say I only do that about twice a year. Sure, I Windex the sliding glass door when the dog slobber has rendered it opaque, but there are only so many hours in the day. I'm happy if the kitchen table is wiped off, the chairs are all pushed in and if someone is standing in the doorway, they can only see the "clean" parts of the house. A few vacuum marks on the carpet and I feel like I'm in a showroom home. And if you can walk in my house and smell Pine-Sol instead of wet dog, then it's a red-letter day.

No wonder I'm eating chocolate chips and blogging at two in the afternoon. Happy Anti-Mother's Day!

Strict But Cool, That's How I Rule

The title comes from something I said to the kids whilst we enjoyed lunch at The Rock yesterday for Mother's day. The girls are constantly asking if they can have a My Space or a blog. I keep saying no. What do they need it for? More time on the computer? Please. They spend enough time already. So, they told me I was "strict" and that I needed to lengthen the leash, lest they become "rebellious" later (haha). I reminded them that their friends think I'm the coolest mom, so I might be "strict" but I'm also "cool". I'm happy with that middle ground.

Mother's day was great! I enjoyed Starbucks breakfast in bed, fetched by my husband, then stayed in bed until the kids arrived from their dad's. They came in bearing gifts - from Harrison, a nail set that included everything for a French manicure complete with "jewels" (I did my nails and Hayley called them my "hooker nails"), from Hannah a lovely bath set in pink grapefruit scent (yummy!) that came in a cute pink bag, from Hayley, a decorative sign from Fuego that says "If the Princess ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!" and a pack of gum that says "Does this gum make my ass look fat?" (hysterical! I love that store!). She also got me a box of Godiva chocolates. Arlie made me a darling stained glass hanging at school and a cute card that said "You should relax on Mother's day because you do soooooooooooooooo much housework!" From my wonderful husband, I got a Nikon D60 camera with all the accessories! I am SO excited about it, because I've wanted a really nice camera for so long and it even came with photography classes! I can't wait to try it out (the actual camera was sold out and arrives next week). All in all, a lovely day!

In other news, Arlie competed in her first track meet last Wednesday. She came in first in the 50 yard dash, first in the relay, and second in the ball kick! Wow, three ribbons to bring home on her first meet! I will attempt to attach a photo of this event.

Last Thursday, Harrison received the game ball at his baseball game! He made a beautiful hit along with some good plays and they beat their opponent. Not so much luck with the Mets this weekend! Win some, lose some........

Monday, May 5, 2008

The computer gods love me!

I can't believe I finally got my pictures to upload! Wow! I think I need to change my layout, though. It's kind of weird. So, there are some photos of the latest happenings. The Variety Show went off without a hitch and Harrison did not lisp during his song (we practiced right before to see!). In fact, I got several emails afterward of people saying things like "your son has an amazing voice", "the next American Idol" and "don't make him stop at two minutes next time!" He really won them over. So, that was our Friday and then the weekend involved baseball/softball games. An amazing thing happened, too. The sun came out! I have an actual SUNBURN on my arms from sitting at the baseball game. Granted, it's that uber-sexy "farmer tan" type thing with the distinct "I was wearing a t-shirt" line, but STILL! It's evidence of sun in the Northwest and we were all starting to wonder. Sunday was a glorious day (that sounded a bit religious didn't it, and after all, it was Sunday!). I mentioned while driving to Arlie's game that we never go to church and we really should. I may have said something about "heathen sinners" to which Harrison replied "we're not sinners, we just don't go to church very often." So I said, "I bet you don't even know the Lord's prayer" and he replied (without missing a beat), "I trust in God, I love my country........." - the LITTLE LEAGUE PLEDGE! Lord's prayer indeed. That boy needs some churchin'! Jeff thought it was hysterical and said "Man, I'm right with you, my church is at a baseball diamond too!" That and the local fishin' hole. Speaking of which, Saturday morning Jeff took the kids fishing. Harrison sacrificed his pole to the bottom of the lake and they were unable to fish it out! He was inconsolable ("it was my Lucky Lion fishing pole and I caught my first fish with it!"). Jeff tried to go back and retrieve it, without luck. He did buy him a new pole and presented it to him Sunday morning. But they are still determined to go back and get the "lucky" pole out for posterity's sake. In other news, Jeff spent Sunday night and most of today at Grayland State park again, this time staying in a yurt with some friends and going razor clamming. He caught his limit in 15 minutes (that's one clam a minute!) and brought them home. I'm looking forward to some clam chowder but if you had to watch him clean them.........well, let's just say they are nasty creatures. I like my food all nice and clean and prepped and preferably from a top restaurant or grocery store. I'm not a snob! I'm not! Anyway, since it was Cinco de Mayo, I prepared a Mexican feast for dinner. Ok, I bought salsa, guacamole, chips and chicken tortilla soup at Safeway. But I sprinkled grated cheese on top! And put everything in my cute little dishes from Mexico! Ole! Y tambien, hablo espanol! Adios!

Friday, May 2, 2008


The orzo/turkey soup was crap. It was a Rachel Ray recipe, and frankly, pretty much every one of her recipes I've tried tasted bland and boring! I know Jeff has the hots for her, but her cooking leaves a lot to be desired!

Shocking news - yesterday afternoon it was sunny! Even Harrison said "hearing the lawnmowers running and smelling the outside right now reminds me of a nice, summer day when you just want to go outside with a good book and sit on the porch." Hmmm..........I'm pretty sure he has NEVER sat outside on the porch with a "good book" but I got his point. The ice cream man even came! (When it's above 50 in Seattle, the ice cream man starts making his rounds!).

In other stunning news, I asked Hannah to vacuum yesterday and she did! I mean, without complaining or anything. Red-letter day!

Tonight is the end of the Variety Show that never ends. We're finally running the second half of the show, barring any unforseen circumstances such as an earthquake or knife-wielding terrorist. At this point, I'd take on the terrorist just to get the damn show over with! Harrison is singing tonight. Unfortunately, he will be doing it without the aid of his two front teeth, which were pulled by the dentist on Wednesday. He will be thinging "Thee Will Be Loved" and it's thure to be thpectacular!