Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A family of fisherman

Earlier this year, Bill was lost. I had found a passion with food writing that turned into a career - something that took up my free time outside of the family. Bill didn't have much except for a dying love of disc golf. That difference was something that set our home life in a tailspin, creating resentment and stress. So, he started fly fishing this year. It has changed not only our family dynamics, but our life. With every person finding passion, we are one happy bunch. Bill and I have worked out a great schedule that offers us almost perfect balance. He's able to go fly fishing at least twice, if not three times a week. The river is a sanctuary for him - a break from work, a break from family - something that is only his alone. This addition of fly fishing really opened my eyes as to how important individual passion is for every person. And when that passion is gone, the life in someone dies.

Not only has Bill been fly fishing on his own, but he's been off on some cabin trips with friends to fish and has plans for some extravagant fishing trip for himself later next year - South America, possibly. Fortunately, we're in a place where we can do that kind of stuff now. And, as every father hopes to do with his sons one day (I'm sure), Bill has been teaching the boys about fishing here and there. Granted, they are too young right now for fly fishing, but they enjoy hanging out on the river (or pond) and scaring the fish away so nobody catches anything (which really isn't their purpose, but it's what happens). It's fantastic family time.

Winter is upon us and Bill is itching for spring. I am too. I love that he has something that restores his life so much.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Absence makes the family stronger

Over the last year, things have been magnificent. It has been the best year of our lives. Happiness abounds, success grows rapidly for all of us - harmony, love and peace (between the sibling squabbles throughout the day) fills our home from floor to ceiling. We have achieved perfect balance - for the most part - understanding that it takes constant work to keep the scales level.

The major conflict that poisoned our family hasn't been around to infect me with hatred. A while back, Bill and I had another argument about the in-laws. Basically, I will always feel anxiety and rage around them, the open sore festering without them offering a bandage of healing. Before visits, I will become distant and tear up, on edge and very unhappy. Being around them is unpleasant, to say the least. But, this argument was about Bill understanding that this is how I will feel every time, and I understood that he still wanted to the kids to see them. And that was that. With tears brushed aside and both feeling heard, we hugged each other close and got ready for the obligated visit.

The visit was relatively uneventful, but still as unpleasant as ever. The in-laws have taken to the understanding that I am distant and unfriendly with them because of burnt bridges, and because they refuse to make steps towards progress - we aren't on speaking terms. As in, they ignore me as much as I do them. So here we are, at the mall, with them briefly hanging out with the kids for 15-30 minutes with only a few bits of conversation between them and Bill, and I'm on the sidelines because I refuse to be pushed out of my own family.

There have been the obligated phone calls a few times, but over the last few months, I've noticed they haven't happened at all. I don't dare open my mouth to ask why for fear it might change. I actually don't remember the last time the kids had a grandparent phone call. And, the in-laws were here in town for Cousin B's birthday at the beginning of the month. I didn't know about it before hand, and during an after-work conversation with Bill asking about his day, he said that he had lunch with his parents. And that was it. No visit. No phone calls. Nothing.

We couldn't be happier without them. And it shows.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Carter turns 2!

After our summer vacation to Portland, we've decided that it's important to take vacations more often. Bill had the genius idea of going on vacation for the boys' birthdays. Since Carter's birthday was the next one in line, we decided to head down to Colorado Springs for the weekend to celebrate.

It was a nice drive straight down the 25, we booked a decent hotel that was close to a lot of activity. We went to a sports park where Logan and Bill rode go-carts, played video games and mini-golf. The boys had a blast hanging out in a huge indoor sandbox, digging for dinosaur bones. The next day we went to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where they have more giraffes than I've seen in one single zoo. They have treats that you can buy to feed the giraffes and the kids LOVED it. We zipped through the rest, seeing big Grizzly Bears, overlooking the vast open landscape, and riding on carousels built in the early 1900's.

We also went to the Dinosaur Resource Center, where they had a huge T-Rex and massive prehistoric sea turtles (which I'd never seen before). It was a blast and the curators working there were so friendly and helpful with the kids. Logan was having an attitude problem and started to cry because he wanted to run around. He was quickly pulled out of his funk by one of the curators who talked to him about dinosaurs and had all sorts of items in his pockets, like claws and such. It was so fun, we ended up going back again later that day after lunch!

We explored some surrounding parts by the museum to check out fossil beds and then drove to the Cave Of The Winds. This was AMAZING. The boys had such a great time walking around, but it was a pain in the ass telling them to keep their hands to themselves every single step of the way (you can't touch the cave walls - or anything, really - and you will incur a huge fine if you do). There was a part of the tour where the guide turned off all of the lights. The darkness was suffocating and incredibly uncomfortable. I was holding Carter on my hip and I could feel him rubbing his face because the extreme darkness felt so awkward. We got a family picture in the cave, and Bill keeps it at work on his desk.

On our last day there, we went to the North Pole. What a weird, strange, fun place to have way up in the Rocky Mountains. It's filled with amusement park rides that Logan couldn't get enough of. Carter was a bit more apprehensive, but still had a great time. We ate ice cream and hot dogs, got dizzy, ran around, laughed and even had a moment for the boys to sit on Santa's lap. Carter didn't want to, but sat next to Logan. Logan didn't hesitate to ask for cars and dinosaurs for Christmas.

We drove home and opened Carter's birthday presents. It's so fun with him being two! He had a blast opening books, cars and his Dinosaur Train train set. The next day we had his birthday party with friends - 20 of them - all running around the house eating our traditional, delicious vegan cupcakes with butter cream frosting (that is obviously not vegan).

We had such a fun time celebrating Carter's 2nd birthday on vacation. I hope this is a new tradition that we can keep up with. What a way to create long-lasting family memories!!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A busy summer of fun

When Logan graduated from Primary school and our summer officially started, I thought to myself "what in the hell are we going to do all summer long? What am I going to do with all of this extra time on my hands?" Well, it was more like "Extra time? What was I thinking!?"

Our summer has been extremely busy - in a good way! It was definitely designated as the summer of fun. Now that Logan is back in school (a first-day-of-school post coming soon) and Carter on his own in Toddler preschool classes (and his 2nd birthday post coming too!), I have two hours a week to free write. Wow, two whole hours.

There's a lot to catch up on...

We took a family trip up to Evergreen, Colorado to do some boating and fishing. Bill is into fly fishing BIG TIME after picking it up this summer. All he wants to do is fish and he can't wait until the boys are old enough to tag along with him. While we were up there, we saw a lot of fun animals like Mountain Goats and even drove up Mount Evans (a food post that I wrote on my restaurant blog), where we got stuck at the top of the mountain in a snow storm. Super scary!

Logan took a farm class for a week or so and had a chance to ride a pony - that I had to lead. Now, this was the biggest pony in the class, one hand short of a horse. And it was somewhat temperamental, stopping at it's own will, snorting and the like. It scared the crap out of me, as I'm not a horse person. The mom behind us had a nippy pony and kept getting bit. Thank god we didn't have that one! But Logan loved it all the same.

There were also a lot of times the kids got face paint. There were city festivals and other special functions. This was one of Logan's favorite designs, and it fits his "too cool for everyone" attitude.

We took many trips up to Estes Park this year for fishing and hanging out in the mountains. We even met our long-time blogging buddies Ashley and Paisley for lunch while they were on a summer vacation visit of their own. It was fun to catch up and even funnier that we already knew a whole lot about each other even though this was the first time we met. I love blogging.

There were many nights of running through sprinklers and eating push-pops. Swinging, slides, sandboxes, cars, bubbles and the boys spent a large chunk of time outside. I dread winter because we're all going to go stir-crazy.

Carter got into a lot of trouble, getting into the baking pantry. And everything else he could get his little hands on. He loves Logan so much - it's adorable. He tries to do everything his big brother does and often gets himself into messy predicaments because of it.

I also had a big scare with asthma and have had to keep rescue inhalers on hand. Clearly, I had to use them a lot and Carter knew exactly what they were for. Fortunately, he didn't know how to press down to get to the medication.

We did a lot of family weekend fun time - going on getaways, playing mini-golf, go-carts and more. The boys had a blast and it was great moments for Bill and I as parents to not just take the time to do these things with the kids, but to enjoy it with them. Teaching Logan how to play golf was awesome!

The boys also came along with me on restaurant reviews around town. Such horrible pain to have to eat cookies and tell me what they think. They are used to me taking pictures of their food when we go out and Logan has actually begun to develop his own food opinions - telling me what he thinks. And he's pretty spot on for a 4 year old. Another food critic in the making - or not.

So, that was about half of our summer. There's more to come - like Carter's 2nd birthday, Logan starting karate lessons, and all that. But, unless I can squeeze in a few moments over the weekend, it will have to wait for Monday!

Monday, October 04, 2010

October seems like a good month to start over

I've been wracked with guilt over the last year or so about this blog, pulling at straws to find the space, the time, the commitment to write regularly like I once had. I feel as though moments of our life have slipped through my fingers, almost forgotten forever. Files of pictures on my desktop wait for editing, wait for a story to be told.

This was the whole reason I started this blog. To make sure we had memories recorded for all time and eternity and generations to come - but mostly for my own selfish reasons of needing a digital memory bank, not wanting to lose precious life moments like I have before. I never wanted my kids to think back on their own childhood, unable to remember a damn thing. But, selfishly again, I never wanted to look back on the second half of my life not remembering a damn thing. 15 years have already been lost forever.

I feel like this space is my heart and soul. This blog is me, my family, our life. I never wrote for an audience, for traffic, for stats (even though I used to obsessively check them). I wrote for me. My love for writing grew in this space. My love for blogging blossomed here. I look back on previous entries from when Logan was a small baby and weep with gratitude that I spent the time to record those memories.

In my absence on this blog, I feel like I've cheated my family. But also, which hurts me more (narcissistically enough), I feel like I've cheated myself.

I suppose this happens to everyone at some point in their life - they lose track, go off the beaten path and return to the straight and narrow. I suppose this happens to every long-term blogger, an ebb and flow of content and time. Some people give up and abandon theirs. I never will, no matter how long my absence is.

But, I think October is a good month to start over.

Logan is back in school and now Carter is, too. While I still blog professionally on my restaurant review blog (which takes up 90% of my writing time), the moments that both boys are in school - two hours a week - I can dedicate writing time to this blog again.

You can expect to read posts on Mondays and Wednesdays. It may take a few weeks to catch up on our summer of fun, but the "what we did today" posts will once again be balanced with those introspective essays I hold dear to my heart.

See you on Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finally free

For two years, I was the President of one of the MOMS Club chapters here in town. At first, it was fun! It was a great way to be involved with my kids' social schedule and connect with other moms in our city. I really loved it, but it didn't last long.

Being in an organization of 50+ women, there is bound to be some drama. In each of the three years that I served on our board, there was some kind of nonsense to deal with. Moms having power trips and becoming playgroup nazi's, moms throwing tantrums because we needed to re-organize playgroups and they were no longer in the same group as their best friends (god forbid they try and make other friends), moms who felt like they needed to email International board members to complain about our chapter, and moms who would complain about anything at the drop of a hat. It got old and tiresome. It drained on me as a person and on my family. I began to dread board meetings and decisions that needed to be made because there was certainly somebody who was going to bitch about something and nobody gave a shit about the effort I put into our chapter.

The straw that broke the camels back for me was during the organization and planning of our annual charitable fundraiser. This year was the biggest, most involved and most successful fundraiser our chapter had ever done. It was a children's fashion show and silent auction to raise money for a non-profit in our city that helped single parents become financially independent and free from government assistance. There were tickets to be sold, items we needed for donation and more work than I ever imagined. It was so successful mostly in part of our Admin VP who put her head down and trudged through the challenges, overcoming obstacles and powering through the drama. She was amazing and it wouldn't have happened without her leadership.

I mentally gave up after people started complaining about it.

What got to me the most was when people were complaining about how they were asked to help sell tickets and promote the event, by a member who is known for her blunt and curt personality. Because they were not asked as they felt entitled, people began to boycott and protest the fundraiser. I wanted to knock some heads together, hoping it would spark some common sense.

"Here you are, bringing your Starbucks coffee to playgroup every week, being a stay-at-home mom, living in a $300,000 home, driving two cars and taking family vacations and you're going to punish single parents and children in our community, WHO HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THEY ARE GOING TO SLEEP THE NEXT NIGHT, just because you don't like how you were asked to help sell tickets????"

I actually said this to people. I wanted to scream at them. I did scold one person pretty harshly. It was the most petty, ridiculous, selfish complaint I'd ever heard from a grown woman.

And I gave up. That was it for me. I was done.

I did a half-assed job for the next few months until my term ended on July 1st. It's been a month since I haven't had to field complaints or go to board meetings to make decisions that people didn't care about. It's been a month of freedom! So much less stress, so much more time to focus on things that are positive in our life. It's been eye-opening, to say the least.

We're still members of the chapter, but I'm not going to hold another position in any organizational aspect. This chapter in our life is closing and I feel like I'm finally free.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

First Family Vacation!

I felt my heart swell and my soul sing in Oregon; one of the most amazing and beautiful stretches of land in our Country.

With both boys growing and becoming more independent, they are easier to travel with, thus us deciding it was time to take our first family vacation. Portland was the first place I wanted to go after living there for a number of years and immediately falling in love with the scenery. On the plus side, my sisters still live there and the boys hadn't yet met their cousins. So it was sure to be a fun trip for all.

On the drive to the airport, we were filled with anticipation and excitement. The boys were all about it and got their groove on in the back seat.

Our flight out there wasn't very fun, though. Logan was an awesome travel companion, set with his videos on the lap top and various activities to keep him entertained. Carter, however, was that crying baby on the plane. He actually started his hysterics in the airport while we were checking in. We were waiting in a huge line that moved slowly and Carter was screaming bloody murder the entire time. Being a seasoned mom, I was not bothered, nor flustered or angry that he wouldn't calm down. I'm callous to the worst terrible-two's tantrums imaginable.

Knowing that he was tired, there was no consoling him and my repeated attempts to shoosh him were futile. I just waited to him to conk out. That didn't stop some of the other people in line who thought they could calm him better than I. I just looked at them and shrugged my shoulders as they tried to unsuccessfully charm him. After taking off, he cried for another 10 minutes and passed out cold.

We stayed in Seaside which ended up being pretty cold. The first night we settled into the hotel room and then drove to the beach. Logan walked along the shore, experiencing the ocean for the first time. He immediately loved it. After years of not hearing the sound of the ocean, it was shockingly loud, yet comforting at the same time. It was an interesting realization that the sound is not gentle but amazingly powerful. I loved and missed it so much.

Later that night we drove up on to the beach at watched the sunset from our car. The beach was speckled with headlights from cars doing the same thing. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

The next morning we went straight to Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock. There were tide pools to explore and sea creatures to show the boys. It's a protected area so there were environmental specialists there to educate the public about the rock. They had binoculars and telescopes set up for people to bird watch and they gathered animals from the tide pools for kids to get up close and personal with. We watched a Bald Eagle grab a Puffin from the rock and fly away.

We spent most of the morning walking along the beach barefoot, getting soaked in the ocean waves, and enjoying every minute we could. It was pure bliss and some of the happiest family memories we share. Later that day we fed the seals at the aquarium and looked at huge, aggressive octopus.

The next day we drove down the coast to Tillamook. Driving along side the vast blue ocean with the road hugged by lush green forest, I was choked up and teary from the gorgeousness of it all. We stopped at Cape Mears Lighthouse that had recently suffered some damage to vandals, but the area was amazing, nonetheless.

Sadly, we weren't able to check out the top of the Lighthouse, but we did walk around and looked at the Octopus tree before heading to the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

The cheese factory was the lamest tour ever. They weren't even making any cheese while we were there. But, we did stay for lunch and I ate some delicious clam chowder and a milkshake. Tillamook makes a damn good ice cream.

The next day was Saturday, where we spent the day at Saturday's Market with my sister J and brother-in-law C. We browsed the tents for interesting finds, eating sugary elephant ears and Logan got to hang out at the carnival for the Rose Festival. He rode rides and played in ball pits with Bill. They shared some father-son time while I walked Carter around in his stroller to sleep. He also got a snazzy new shirt from his Aunt and Uncle because he spilled grape juice all over the one he was wearing.

We spent our 11th wedding anniversary at the zoo, in the rain, jumping in puddles and mesmerized by the dinosaur exhibit. Both boys are obsessed and loved every scary minute of that part of our day. Logan knows quite a bit more than we were aware of! He's totally into carnivores because they are "killing dinosaurs". Such a boy.

We played at The Children's Museum and also the Science and Discovery Center, where we met up with my other sister R and her kids, cousins that Logan and Carter have never really met. They all had fun splashing in tubs of water and playing in imaginary forests.

We drove over to the Columbia River Gorge with brilliant green mountains spotted with graceful waterfalls. We ate ice cream in Hood river and watched Kite Boarders. On the way back, we stopped at Multnoma Falls, powerful and gorgeous, with campfire smells drifting through the warm summer evening air filled with soft fluffs from the cottonwood trees. A summer snowstorm.

This week vacation, our first family vacation, was filled with some of the best memories that I will never forget. What a way to begin a family vacation trend! We plan to go on a winter vacation and I'm sure it will be just as magical.