Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Moment of Clarity

Our state's ways and means committee is deciding whether or not to continue funding alternative education, including online learning, which means us.

Our kids are enrolled in Washington Virtual Academy.  We get a variance from our local district and the money is funneled to the Steilacoom School District which is over the Washington Virtual Adademy.

In exchange for our tax dollars, they provide us with curriculum and teacher support.  It costs 1/2 as much to educate a child this way for the state.  I provide the labor of teaching, we provide the building, utilities, etc.

Our state legislators don't like this arrangement much though, and here's why.

They know that if they stop providing this education for us (this public education, funded with taxpayer dollars that we're entitled to), we won't in turn send our children to school.  They won't have to start paying twice as much to educate our children.

Because we'll keep them home.

This they know.

This I know.

Because yesterday morning, I was giving Mark a spelling test, watching him scrunch his face up to try to figure out the next letter in the word.  His bare feet swung under his desk.

At the same time, Emma was on the computer.  She was working on a literature assignment.  She is as careful and as accurate as the day is long.  I watched her expertly navigating through the questions.  Answering correctly, moving on to the next question, tapping her fingers mindlessly on the desk.  So familiar.  My girl.

Next to me, Braeden was toiling away on his math.  He gets algebra on a different level than I do.  He comes up with ways to solve equations that are indecipherable to me but he gets the correct answer so who am I to judge? 

I saw my three children, working away all in the same room.  Our school room sometimes feels like the Titantic on its way down.  It can get messy and chaotic.  But other times, like yesterday morning, it's my favorite spot in the world.

For me, this is where it's at.  This is where my heart is, divided by three.  This is where I've made sacrifices to be and where I'll make sacrifices to stay...whether my tax dollars fund it or not.

This I know.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Yesterday was a scrambling, frazzled sort of day.  I scribbled more and more items on my to do list as the day passed and with each item, had the sinking feeling I wasn't going to get everything done.

Finally, to clear the clouds in my head, I sat down with a colored pen (I love my colored-correcting-school-work pens...I use them for correcting errant to do lists too.)  and rewrote my list on a separate piece of paper (writing = thinking) to prioritize.

For example, make bread was on the list.

I had been fully intending to get bread made.  My children have been complaining that I haven't made it for awhile.  And bread is easy to make.  I've been making it since I was 12.  It takes time though.

There's the rub.

By the time I was finished with my concentrated and all encompassing school morning, there was driving my children to their play practice and then picking them up, then there was driving boys to basketball practice, then there was a RS presidency meeting.

I crossed bread off the list.  I wasn't going to be available for a long enough time span to make it happen.

I think I was muttering to myself while I was coming to grips with the reality of the list.  Braeden, who always Knows, asked, "What's wrong, Mom?"

Without looking up I said, "I have more to do than I can do.  Too much to do."  Then more muttering.

Full of empathy he walked toward me, put his hand on my shoulder.  "Mom," he said kindly, "You don't have to do all that (indicating the list).  Just don't do it all."

"OK," I said, sitting up straight to look in his concerned eyes.  "I won't take you to basketball practice then."

"Oh.  No, I mean, don't do the unimportant things."


Not for the first time, I feel like I owe my mother an apology.  I am pretty sure I had similar conversations with her.  Something like, "Well just don't BE so busy."

When she was busy because of me all along.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Our Olympic Adventure

We had a great time!

Didn't get lost, didn't have to abort the mission and drown our sorrows in IKEA meatballs and lignonberry sauce.

The night before we left, Mark was invited (along with our family) to the Blue and Gold banquet because he's turning eight this year and will be a cub scout soon.  He got a bronze medal there for bean bag throwing (we were proud).  He fell in love with his medal and hasn't taken it off since.

He wore it to Vancouver.

Mark and Adam on the SkyTrain...a good way to maneuver around Vancouver

Contrary to the name, we were mostly underground.  It felt and sounded like the Tube in London.  Except for without the jet lag.

We cross country skiied:

You competed against your partner and I hate to brag...but I beat Emma.  Just so you know.

Our kids were brilliant on the bobsled:


Well, I'm sure they would have been if it hadn't been stationary.

We watched some live coverage on the big screen:

And interacted with interactive media:

Mark is an all or nothing sort of kid. Not too far into our adventure, Mark got tired and cold and ready to go home.  My dad (also Mark) was always the first one done having fun before the rest of us on family outings.  (Which is the nice way of saying he got cranky.)

I think my Mark has more capacity for crankiness than my dad Mark.

I told him, "You remind me of Grandpa Dahl."

He said, "The difference is, when Grandpa Dahl wants to go home, he has the keys to his car."

True, true.

I bargained with Mark that I'd buy him a cup of hot chocolate if he'd cheer up.  He agreed so I bought him hot chocolate.  A $4 cup of hot chocolate.  A $4 cup of hot chocolate that was worth every cent because it had the desired effect.

this kid loves to kiss cheeks...luckily his teen-aged brother doesn't mind

We rode the ferry to North Vancouver...mostly just for the adventure.

It was pretty and relaxing.

Here I am pictured with my flame (and the Olympic flame).

There were lots of photo opportunities.  Holding the torch was my favorite, I think.




We were outside the stadium when Canada played Russia in a hockey match? game?  Those Canadians love their hockey.

When Canada scored, you could not only hear the reverberations in your bones, but in your soul.  

This is as close as we got to the action but it was exciting, even for someone that doesn't know if it's called a match or a game.

There were sights to see and interesting art everywhere.  I liked these paper lanterns that were drawn by kids:

We had several more venues on our list that we didn't make it to.  We could have happily spent more time there, but we ran out of steam.

The End.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why I Love It: Proximity

Today we're making a run for the border.

We're heading to Vancouver to see the sights of the Olympics.  We are armed with passports, Visa ("the only card accepted at the Olympic games"), a loose itinerary and a plan B.

We've never been to Vancouver (beginning with our honeymoon) without getting slightly lost along the way.

If it doesn't work, if we can't get to where we want to get, we'll go with plan B.

IKEA.  We'll even qualify for the United States discount (also known as exchange rate which is really not all that great right now...but still).

Full report tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Every once in awhile, Emma tells me she wishes she had a sister.  She wonders if we can adopt a girl her age.

This makes me feel terrible.

While I strongly believe our family is the right size for us and while I know there are no guarantees that even if I'd had 10 children it would mean a sister for her, I still feel like I've failed her.

Because I have sisters.

But then, yesterday, I saw this picture on Jennifer's blog.  (By the way, when your brothers get married it is a quick and easy and wonderful way to get a sister...)

This picture of niece Savannah:

Reminded me of this picture of Emma:


And also these pictures:



Where there was water, there was Emma wanting to be in it.  (It's still that way.)

The picture reminded me that Emma has cousins.

Oh, does that girl have cousins.













And cousins are a little bit like sisters.

Except without the hair pulling.

Monday, February 22, 2010


There are no guarantees.

Except there are some.

I know my boys will turn on every single light downstairs when they wake up in the morning, even if sun is streaming brightly through the windows (they secretly receive kickbacks from the utility company).

Also, every day I will receive more emails from businesses than people (which is sad).

There are some things that aren't guarantees, but I really hope they're true.

Like I hoped that on Saturday the 5 dozen eggs that were balanced on six gallons of milk in my Costco cart wouldn't topple onto the American-Flag-Congratulations-Jason-Eagle-Court-Of-Honor cake that I was picking up.

There was a lot of hope going on there.

I also hope I get comments on my blog (there's a very thinly veiled hint).  I may, or I may not.

But I hope.

Then there are things I can guarantee will not happen.

I know I won't win $10,000 if I participate in the survey on my Jack in the Box receipt so I never try.

I know there are no guarantees about the weather.  I always take a jacket.

Jennifer, years ago, gave me a recipe for some pumpkin/spice/chocolate chip cookies.

She told me that the person who gave her the recipe told her that they're a Weight Watcher recipe.

Can she guarantee it?

Is that something I can absolutely trust?  Hope for?  Absolutely shouldn't rely on?

I'm counting on you, Jennifer.

Because to me "Weight Watcher recipe" is code for "Eat all you want, Thelma."

Last night, after the cookies came out of the oven, I was obliged to eat them, one after another.  Because they're so wonderful hot from the oven, warm and soft and oozing with melted chocolate.

Then this morning I had several more for breakfast because they're so wonderful after they've cooled.  Still soft.  The chocolate is firm again.  And who doesn't like biting into a previously melted but then cooled chocolate chip?  Completely different than a regular chocolate chip.

And I would know.

So here's the recipe.  In addition to good, they're amazingly easy to prepare.

And here's hoping they're actually good for you.  Health food.  Sort of like celery (with no peanut butter or dip).

The Recipe:

spice cake mix
15 oz can of pumpkin
1 c chocolate chips

Mix and drop onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 325 for 20-25 minutes.

Seriously that's all.

You're welcome.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Little Jedi Kissing His Mom

Last night Emma went to a play with her grandma (as part of her birthday present).  Adam and Braeden were camping in the mountains (in the snow).

Nothing makes me happy to be a girl like not camping in the snow.  With 12 and 13 year old boys.

So Mark and I were the only ones home and I asked him out on a date.

Before the date I was browsing online for a purse.  Which is another matter entirely.  I like purses I see on people and I hate purses I see in stores.  And the lining is ripping out of my trusty backpack/purse and I'm rethinking the whole backpack/purse thing anyway.  Any ideas?

Anyway, Mark snapped a picture of me:


Then another:

When he saw the second picture, he said, "How cute.  A little Jedi kissing his mom."

Then I decided to take the camera on the date.

Because cameras are entertaining.

We ate at The Blazing Onion which I adore for the sweet potato fries. 

Sweet potato fries make my short list of best food in the world.

At places like The Blazing Onion, I try to sit myself so I'm facing the TV screens showing sporting events because Adam finds it hard to resist the siren song of sports on TV and I want him looking at ME instead of the TV screen when I'm telling him all of the important things stored in my brain.

Mark maneuvered around me and sat himself in the spot facing the TV (he's quick, that one).  He had a hard time keeping his eyes off the hockey game.

He even explained the finer points of hockey to me:  every player has a puck and they hit this thing with sticks and they're all skiing...or skating, I guess.

Our next stop was an elementary school to watch Mark's best buddy, Gavin, play in a basketball game.


Since Mark's inconsiderate mother wouldn't let him sit by Gavin during the game, she gave him the camera to keep him occupied.
He took about 40 pictures and most of them look like this:

When we got home, Mark and I climbed under the covers and I read to him from a book about Greek mythology because you can hardly be Braeden and Emma's little brother and not be interested in Greek mythology.

I kissed my little Jedi and said goodnight.

He said, "Are you going to bed too?"

I told him no because I was going to iron shirts.

It can't always be glamorous third grade basketball games when you're the mom.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Note to Self: Buy More Band-aids

Mark's favorite pose:  Uncle Rico

Yesterday Mark was riding his friend Gavin's scooter (inadvisable) with shorts on (inadvisable).  He crashed and came home with spectacularly scraped knees.

While I was cleaning him up, I told him he was being very brave.  He said, "I ran all the way home and didn't even cry until I saw Braeden."  (Braeden = safe harbor)

After he was bandaged up and amply kissed and hugged, I sent him on his way.

Later I heard a panic stricken voice calling, "Mom!"  It was the same voice Mark used when he was stuck behind his bed on two different occasions this last week.  The solid oak captain style beds our boys use weigh more or less 123 tons.

(I could write an entire blog post about my feelings concerning those beds but it wouldn't make them any less bulky and behemoth.)

If I have all three of my strapping kids on my side, we can inch the beds along but it took Adam both times to free Mark.  (Incidentally, Adam could have made it look harder while he was doing help our self esteem.)

It turned out Mark was not trapped.  He limped into my room, dragging one leg, the leg with the band-aid barely hanging on.

"My band-aid's coming off."

I shepherded him into the bathroom for more first aid, and questions.

"What happened?"I asked.

To which he answered, "Look, it's bleeding again!"

"Did you pull off your band-aid?"

"No, but I was jumping off my bed..."


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ads: A Rant

I'm addicted to watching the Olympics.

Luckily they only come around every two years because they are engrossing...and dangerous to my sleep.  We rarely watch TV (in favor of Hulu) so I haven't watched many commercials in the past few years.

Until now.  With the Olympics.

And commericals bug me.

Last night I saw one for Muckleshoot Casino, a local Indian Reservation casino.  With apparent winnings from the casino, a husband and wife each bought each other a flat screen TV. 

The final scene of the commercial shows them, jubilantly sitting side by side in recliners.  The wife proclaims that they no longer have to fight over the remote.  They fist bump and the camera pans to show them watching their side by side big screen TVs.

This leaves me with a lot of questions:

1-do they have a one room house?
2-did they consider returning one of the TVs?
3- does the volume of their spouse's TV distract? 
4- are all winners at Muckleshoot idiots?

Fortunately NBC came back with Shaun White on the half pipe so I could move on from my musings.

Stupid things bug me though.

Like this advertisement I saw in a magazine:

It's an ad for the stain resistant properties of this furniture.

Are you kidding me?

Look at the expression on the little girl's face.  Someone this cavalier with an ice cream cone should not be on a couch.

And look at the mom.  That is an expression reserved for someone who just surprised you with bringing in an unexpected birthday cake or balloon bouquet, not a dumped ice cream cone.

Ice cream isn't pleasant to clean off linoleum.  I doubt these couches make it any more fun.

Finally, Shaun White, Lindsay Vonn and Shani Davis are going to have to win a lot more gold medals to recover us from the hit to our national pride that American cheese inflicted.

American Cheese?


I can picture the invention of American cheese.

Inventor 1:  Ew.  Try this.

Inventor 2: Yeah, that's nasty.  What should we call it?

Inventor 1:  Cheese?

Inventor 2 (shrugging):  Sure, why not.

Inventor 1:  But what kind of cheese?

Inventor 2 (with a sneer, because he hates Americans):  How about American Cheese?

Inventor 1 (with scheming tented fingers because he hates Americans too):  Great idea!

Sadly these two inventors went on to invent Wonder bread and now there's anti-American sentiment in the world.

(Wonder bread:  named because it makes you wonder why it's called bread?)

OK, my rant is over.  I can officially get on with my life...until tonight when I'll be back to watching the Olympics...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shocked and Surprised

I shouldn't be surprised.

I really shouldn't.

She's taller than all of her friends.

And some of Braeden's.

She does school work above her grade level.

And most of the time Adam and I forget that she's not the same age as Braeden...they seem like twins.

I'm never surprised when I get a year older.

But my little girl is eleven today.

And I'm astonished.

My little girl.

Once my sister Olivia said that every time Marianne or I wail and gnash our teeth over our children's behavior, that the children inherited those traits from her.

Olivia was a challenge to raise (and my parents did very well).

But I am delighted in the ways that Emma is like her aunt.

Emma is strong and funny and creative and stubborn and obstinate and kind much like my Olivia.  

Emma's talents astound me sometimes.

My inability to affect change in her resolute personality astounds me sometimes.

But she's my girl.  A piece of my heart, walking around, making me laugh, writing stories and being dramatic.

I can't believe my good fortune.


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