May 31, 2008

My tummy, she is sick.

This is pretty much how I looked all day today, except I was in more of a fetal position, and either in bed or on the bathroom floor. I don't know if it was the sushi platter a couple days ago or this stomach virus going around, but DEAR GOD I felt like crap (pun intended). I love my mother and Leslie for listening to me complain about my condition ALL DAY LONG and never letting on that they were bored. Grace didn't seem too concerned, but she did cover me with a blanket while I laid on the floor and watched her unload the contents of the bathroom cabinets. And I don't think she hit me once today.

May 30, 2008

Our great outdoors

Today I did something I haven't done in years. I donned a bikini and laid in the sun. It was that beautiful out, and I am that stupid. Having a back yard again seems to be inducing all sorts of crazy behavior.

Here is Grace after I pointed out that she was possibly as smart as Brady, chewing on bark mulch. It wasn't my sarcasm that made her look this way; she laughed at me. It was just that once she took a bite, there it was in her mouth and what was she to do now?

Grace was so upset by how long it took to grill the burgers (eight minutes?) that she threw herself to the ground and feigned unconsciousness. John made the best burgers I've tasted in a while, but Gigi was spoiled by a Burgerville experience with a friend a while ago, and thought the best part of this meal was the mustard. Ugh.

Still, what a perfect Friday night.

May 27, 2008

I should sleep so soundly.

Yes, I crept into Grace's room and took a picture of her while she slept. WITH A FLASH. She didn't stir. I'll probably be doing this well into her teens.

May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

This is one of my favorite pictures of my father, receiving the Good Conduct Medal, which he makes light of but which I believe is remarkable. He is so young, yet he has such a world-weary look about him. My father was in the Navy during the Vietnam war, an electrical engineer on a nuclear submarine. He was nineteen when he enlisted, and during the next seven years he met and married my mother, my brother was born, and my father's service was involuntarily extended for a year. He was on patrol three months at a time, and my mom took care of my newborn brother in South Carolina, where they were stationed, and where she had neither family nor friends. They never complain about this time in their lives; in fact, they both speak of it fondly. I cannot overstate my admiration for their stoicism. (I inherited none of that. I think it skips a generation, like twins or baldness.)

My father sometimes calls me a pinko, commie, tree-hugging liberal, and I'm okay with that. We spar politically, but I always know he sacrificed far more than I ever will for our country's ideals. Still, I ache for those families who have lost loved ones, temporarily or permanently, to wars waged in the name of oil or vengeance. I may be naive, but I find it incomprehensible that we still address our differences by killing one another. Nonetheless, I admire and am grateful to those who risk their lives for principles with which they may not agree. Yes, I know, this topic is a bit complicated for my little blog, but let me share one fantasy: any acting President who decides war is necessary must select one member of their immediate family to report to active duty; two if it's a "preemptive strike." Can you imagine if Dubya had to send the twins to the Green Zone in Baghdad?

May 25, 2008

Brave little bugger

Most dogs are probably rattled by thunder, fireworks, gunfire and, of course, low-flying military jets. I was so happy when Dutchie was finally deaf enough to be oblivious on the Fourth of July, because she endured WAY more than her share of thunderstorms living in Chicago for eight years. Brady, however, is truly terrified of loud noises. I never knew a dog's tongue could hang so far out of their mouth or that their eyes could become so red. Last night we had a pretty bad thunderstorm, unusual for Portland, and Brady was a mess. But what breaks my heart and makes me love her so much, even though she eats cat poo and dead birds, is that she doesn't hide -- she becomes protective. One Fourth of July when I was about fourteen months pregnant, I stormed downstairs and out of the house to glare at some kids lighting firecrackers on our street, and Brady stuck to me like glue and tried to squeeze out the front door with me. Even though I was heading toward the noise, she would have gone with me. Last night, she positioned herself in front of Grace's bedroom door. How can I not just want to squeeze her until she pops?

May 24, 2008

Can we go to school today?

This is how upset Grace is NOT when I drop her at preschool. In this shot, I'm telling her I love her and trying to get her to acknowledge the fact that I'm leaving by saying, "Bye bye, Mommy" or at least looking at me. But she's clearly moved on, deeply engrossed in which spectacularly cool toy to play with first. I can't compete with this place. We don't have chickens; we don't have a collection of costumes from which to choose; we don't have an endless supply of baby dolls that she can undress and ask, "Are you poopy?" When I pick her up, she must be among the last to leave, and I try to enlist the help of another mom or dad with a child equally reluctant to abandon this paradise. We say something like, "Hey, Grace and Jack, why don't you hold hands and walk out together?" It's worked so far, but it's only a matter of time before she catches on. This morning, Saturday, the first thing she asked was, "Are we going to school today?"

May 22, 2008

I'm having a time out.

This morning Grace woke up around 6:00, babbled happily to her crib full of animals for about half an hour and then started calling for Mommy. I went into her room and said, "Hey, buttercup!" and leaned on the front of her crib. She looked at me and demanded, "I want macaroni!" I laughed and said, "For breakfast?" and she smacked me in the face with her ducky. I turned around, closed the door behind me and now I'm sitting here listening to her cry. If you have any suggestions on how to get my sweet little angel to stop hitting me in the face, please share. Because I DON'T LIKE IT.

May 20, 2008

May 19, 2008

Home improvement revisited.

Last time we moved, Grace was nine months old and I was still nursing her in the wee hours. I was TIRED, and it seemed to take forever to get the house in order, much less make it look pretty. This time one of the first things I tackled was hanging some art, because it's so sad to look at a bunch of naked walls. Speaking of naked, the next order of business is to cover the windows upstairs, because I do not want to subject my new neighbors to my pale, post-winter immodesty. (In our last home, the man across from us was gay, so I didn't much care, but I'll bet he installed those expensive shutters, not just out of good taste, but also so he wouldn't have to see my junk every time I went running from the shower to check on Grace.) So tonight I hung drapes in the bedroom and it was so much easier because of a couple of things:

The single most important tool my father insisted I must have, and for which I silently thank him every time I use them. Needle-nose pliers are perfect for everything from extracting a booger from Grace's nose to extracting a Phillips screw with a stripped head to extracting jewelry out of drains. If a girlfriend called and said, "I'm seeing this guy and he's a stallion in the sack, but he snores like a chainsaw," I would reply, "Do you have any needle-nose pliers?"

A gadget I mentioned in passing that Dad remembered on my last birthday: the LASER LEVER/STUD FINDER. This thing is so frickin' cool. Gone are the days when I say, "Gigi, give Mommy the level" and she stops chewing on the ancient plastic thingie I've been using for years to make sure everything is at right angles. (Yes, she knows what a level is; she is my daughter.)

May 17, 2008

So today happened. Feeling chatty.

The point of buying a "green" house, as I understand it, is to spend as much money as possible on a relatively small home, and to protect the environment in several ways: construction materials are renewable or recycled; alternative energy sources are used in the building process; the home is sealed up tight as a drum to conserve energy; and the place is virtually free of the dreaded VOCs (volatile organic compounds). I met the builder -- the man who actually built the house, as opposed to the developer, a job I'm pretty sure guarantees one an especially steamy place in hell -- and he assured me this was one of the tightest houses he had ever built. I could tell he took pride in his work; when I showed up unannounced he was sweeping the bamboo floors and cursing realtors for not taking their shoes off when they showed houses. He told me this was the first time he had met someone who would live in one of his homes, and he spent a while showing me the features that made this one exceptional. I loved him and wanted to give him a big hug of gratitude. So I ask you, HOW IS THIS TRAVESTY POSSIBLE? If I haven't mentioned it before, I hate ants in a way that makes me worry about my karma, causes me to ponder how many little ant lives I've taken and how I will pay for it in my next life. Maybe I'll come back as a developer during a real estate slump.

This one woke up at five this morning, which allowed me to see a spectacular sunrise from my bedroom window. But that friggin' sun just kept rising until it was mid-90s and, while not quite Chicago hot, it was still pretty miserable. You see, when you buy a green house and commit to "reducing your carbon footprint" (I have no idea what that means), you eschew air conditioning and feel superior to all those weaklings who value their own comfort more than the health of Mother Earth. I'm on the fence about this one. I can handle the heat, but Grace's and Brady's discomfort today made me wonder -- could a little AC do more damage than all the giant trucks crisscrossing the country so we can enjoy kiwi year-round? I'll do my bit, but it is SO TIME for the real threats to the environment to be acknowledged and addressed. Even if that means we can't have fresh pineapple in November.

May 16, 2008

Are we what we eat?

My food fantasy: Grace and I walk hand in hand each day to New Seasons to see what's fresh that I might transform into a healthy, tasty dinner. (Yes, I know I should go to the farmers' market, but that involves getting up early on a Saturday morning and jostling through a crush of neo-hippies with babies in slings and dogs in tow. That is so not my scene, man.) I used to plan dinner parties that required hours, even days, of preparation and were intended to impress more than anything. I think I achieved near perfection once, with a truly delicious meal that went off without a hitch. It was an empty victory. I think the women (whom I didn't know well) regarded me as a bit of a nut job, and had they not been so cool, they probably would have figured I was just showing off. (I'm glad they didn't hold it against me, because we became good friends.) Anyway, one night we had a couple of neighbors over, spur of the moment. I pan seared some nice steaks, and someone made mashed potatoes and someone else sauteed some spinach and we opened a bottle of yummy wine and sat down to eat. It was so casual and easy, and after a few minutes, J. Po grinned and said, "I'm so happy right now." Now THAT was perfect. I still like to cook occasionally, and I love going out, but sometimes it feels like such an effort to get enough food into my body each day. (I blame Grace, because when I was nursing it really was almost impossible to keep myself fed adequately, and now I have to make sure SHE doesn't starve, or end up with scurvy.)

My food reality: this is as close as I've come to a "food pill." And you know what? Grace loves these.

May 15, 2008

Why wait?

My mom was telling me the other day that if they ever finished weeding, pruning, edging and basically detailing their huge yard, she could finally plant some flowers. Because I'm such a contrary little pisher, I said, "Why not just plant flowers now? Why does everything have to be perfect first?" That bit me in the ass, though, because I realized I do exactly the same thing. I almost never buy fresh-cut flowers unless my house is clean and in order. I like to think I run a pretty tight ship (a contractor once asked me if I'd been in the military), but it's rare for the ENTIRE house to be clean at once. So the other day I decided to live dangerously and indulge in some daisies, even though the house seems to have an endless supply of construction dust flying from every pore. Crazy, right? As far as I can tell, the world hasn't stopped spinning, and my windowsill looks pretty. Dusty, but pretty.

May 14, 2008

Did I ever tell you about my purple heart?

Grace made this at pre-school for Mother's Day. Again, I may be biased, but I think she's showing some real artistic inclinations. It made me cry.

Here is the castle-like abode where such budding genius is nurtured. Today Grace got to pet baby chicks that hatched just yesterday. I cannot exaggerate how much she DID NOT want to come home with me. I don't blame her.

May 13, 2008

Should we go to the park, Mommy?

She asks this in all earnestness, even though it's rainy and cold. The "should we" cracks me up. Actually, we probably should just bundle up and go. We're both a little stir crazy.

May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

These are some of my favorite pictures of my mom, then and now. Thanks for putting up with me (then and now). I love you, Mom.

My brother Ed's first steps at my grandparents' house in Connecticut.

Always a beach lover.

Looking like quite the movie star.

Looking like quite the happy grandma.

Another generation of beachcombers!

May 10, 2008

Yard yard yard yard YARD!

For a few years after we adopted Brady, she had the run of the house, a big backyard, and almost daily trips to the dog park, usually with canine friends. Then along came Grace, and as if that weren't insult enough, we moved to a house with no yard. She was a good sport about it, but I'm sure she wondered why things had gone so horribly awry. Today Mick and Brian finished fencing in our new little backyard, and Brady finally got to run free in her very own space. She gets cruising pretty fast, and it was obvious she wasn't familiar with the perimeter, because she ran into the fence a few times. But boy, oh boy, was she a happy camper.

What goes through her head with life's various ups and downs? Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep, so I snuggle and pet her until she's a furry puddle of contentment. These moments must seem so random, I imagine her wondering, "What did I do to deserve this? What did I do?"

May 8, 2008

Grace is a big fan of fans.

And this one is worthy of her admiration, if you ask me. Hip, curvaceous and made of bamboo, of course.

It would be even better if we could figure out how to turn it on.

May 7, 2008

Life is good.

A brief glance in my direction.
"I love you."
"Yuvs you too, Mommy."

It's all worth it.

May 5, 2008

Is this normal?

Friday afternoon I picked up Grace from her first day at her new preschool. For starters, it's a miracle she got in. There was an unexpected opening, and they needed girls. (They don't anticipate any more openings until Summer '09.) And the school? Kid utopia. More on that later, but let me just say that Grace petted chickens.

We drove the four minutes home through our pretty new neighborhood to find our next door neighbor sitting on a blanket on her front lawn with her almost-nine-month-old daughter. We chatted for quite a while and hit if off. Not once did she ask me if I planned to pull some weeds or cut the grass. All night I kept reminding myself, This is how normal people behave.

Last night they had us over for cocktails and a barbecue. It was a beautiful night, and Grace made herself right at home, splashing in their fountain and then running around the backyard squealing. Splash, run, squeal; splash, run, squeal, until the front of her little summer dress was soaked. (She also saw one of the dogs rolling in the grass, and incorporated that into her routine.) I fed the baby while S. and D. prepared dinner, and then we all ate and drank until the sun went down and it was too cold to stay outside. Again, it had been so long since we enjoyed something as simple as a backyard barbecue with friends that I came home and lay in bed reminding myself that we had a life like this before we moved into the NEIGHBORHOOD FROM HELL. The only difference is that Grace is now part of it, and she adds a new dimension of wonder and joy to the simple pleasure of spending time with fun people.

I've been lazy with the camera, but here's the view from my office window. I had honestly forgotten the beauty of Portland's trees. I'm having a love affair, and it's with this totally cool city and its warm (yet equally cool) inhabitants.

May 2, 2008

Lovin' the new digs.

Here's the view from one of the windows in our master bedroom, facing east. Note the snow-capped mountains in the distance (way back there on the left, under the giant power lines). You know, I bet if they'd cut down those friggin' trees, we'd be able to see Mt. Hood.

And this is my favorite part of the entire house. The floor to ceiling mosaic tiles, combined with the simple shelf (which was left curved when cut from the log) -- I could curl up on the couch and stare at it for hours. Or minutes, anyway, if Grace is awake.

May 1, 2008

I can't believe I've lived without this.

I may have mentioned that one of the things that attracted us to the new house was its green status -- it was built using environmentally friendly materials, renewable energy, it's Energy Star Certified, etc. More on that later. But check THIS out.

I have no idea what this feature has to do with being green, but as if that weren't impressive enough, here is the decal instructing us on how to flush. I'm going to peel it off and label the buttons "#1" and "#2".