Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

The boys are in bed (although I hear Noe bouncing a ball off the wall....he is still a couple hours away from sleep I'm afraid).  Asher asked to go to bed as soon as it started to get dark, around 5:30PM.  He didn't want to take a chance that he might be awake when Santa arrived at our house.  I logged onto the Santa tracker to reassure him that Santa was still busy delivering presents to the children of Hamburg, Germany, and there was no chance he would make an appearance before 9PM.  I will take no chance that Asher will be at my bedroom door at 3:30AM begging to open presents!

At 8PM, Asher assembled a plate of cookies and cup of milk for Santa (Actually, it took a couple of tries because Noe kept eating the cookies he put out) and headed for bed.  As I came upstairs from tucking them into their sturdy little bunk bed,  I could hear Asher singing Christmas carols to himself, totally enraptured in the holiday and joy it brings.

I love this time with the boys.  Their imaginations, sweet innocence, and charming earnestness bring enough holiday magic into our little home to completely neutralize the cynicism and crankiness left behind from the adults in the house.

Earlier today we went down to the National Mall to catch the holiday train exhibit at the US Botanical Garden, admire the Christmas tree at the National Capitol, and take in a couple of museums.  This holiday season we also made a gingerbread house, looked at Christmas lights, listened to a holiday concert at the local town center, and attended a special Christmas musical program at church.

There has just been one thing (or rather person) missing amongst all of this merriment.  My partner-in-crime, Easy Ed.  Have I mentioned his work schedule sucks?  Between travel and work, he has been Holiday MIA.  Christmas, both its glory and its never-ending WORK, has been 99% me.   Last weekend, we were able to sneak him out to dinner at our favorite Argentine restaurant and then to the Festival of Lights.  We had a great time together, we felt complete.

Tonight, I will fill the stockings and put out the Santa gifts.  Sometime in the early morning hours Easy Ed will stumble into bed.  Then I will get him up so he can watch the boys open their presents with bleary eyes.  And then he will sleep until he has to go back to work.

It is a strange mix of emotions. On one hand I am truly grateful for all that I have and I know Ed feels the same. The boys are healthy and flourishing within their given potentials, we have great family and friends who love and support us, and providing  Christmas for our family has never stretched us financially.  On the other hand, I am completely and utterly exhausted from our current life situation and crave change.

Ed has had this work schedule for many years and it is the nature of his industry.  At the beginning of our marriage, it wasn't such a big deal.  When the boys were babies, it meant he got to see a lot of them during their waking hours, which was great (not so great for me dealing with night time by myself, but I survived).  Now the boys are in school.  Ed can go days without seeing the boys because he has to leave for work before they are out of school.  Throw in a bit of travel and days can turn into a week.  It isn't the way either of us wanted to raise our kids.

We are on the precipice of a major life change for the better.  It is soooo close to becoming a reality. How wonderful it will be to have him home in the evenings for dinner and bedtime, and then up with the rest of us again.   

I can hear Easy Ed screaming in my ear right now,  "Don't you know you are TEMPTING FATE by writing this, Woman!"  

All I know is that if our Major Life Change does become a reality, I will try my very hardest to never take it for granted.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


When neighborhood kids come to our door and I tell them you are at the playground playing "Asherball," no one raises an eyebrow.  It has become the official sport of the neighborhood.

You always say please and thank you and have so much COMPASSION brimming out of that gangly little body.

When I stumbled downstairs one early morning not long ago, you were finishing up a game of chess with your stuffed bear, Turquoise.  With a straight face, you said, "I won. Turquoise conceded."

You agree with me that at some point, Turquoise the Bear will need to stay home.  Although, to you, college should be that time.  I was thinking more like the third grade.

You have a very interesting concept of how babies are created, which includes a seed in a girl's belly and mental telepathy.  I guess at some point we'll need to clear that up, but not yet.

You play soccer with a big grin on your face.  Actually, you do EVERYTHING with a smile.

You do your very best to be a good boy, and mostly succeed.

You were so excited when Noe called to you by name for the first time!  You remain your brother's biggest cheerleader.

I spend a lot of time on Google as I try to keep up with you.  What?  There is a fifth world ocean?  When did that happen?  Yes, you are right..."APPALACHIAN" does end in -ian!  Umm...I suppose a cloud would be considered a form of gas........  My brain hurts a lot.

You are a light and joy to our little family.  You insist we celebrate every holiday to its fullest.  I promise to do a better Kwanza this year so that you don't have to write in your class journal, "For Kwanza we went to the beach in Santa Monica" again.  Note to self:  Look up exactly how one celebrates Kwanza.
I truly treasure every day with you, my Ashercito.  Even if your questions do make my head hurt.  Happy 8th Birthday!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

We had a nice, relaxing Thanksgiving Holiday.


*Ed had to work on Thanksgiving Day (surprise!), so we ate early in the day.  No food was burned this year.

*On Friday, we woke the boys up early to do the 1-mile Gingerbread Man run at Reston Town Center.
The boys did proud of Noe!  He was all smiles across the finish line and posted a respectable 10 minute mile with very minimal prodding along the course.  With his 0% body fat and endless energy stream, kid could really run if he ever put his mind to it.   We'll keep working on it.   Asher was at the front of the pack, but more whiny about the temperature and hour.  Easy Ed placed in the eight-and-under category.

*Directly from the race, we zoomed off to Charlottesville for some good old US History and bad collegiate pizza.

Photos: (in no particular order...I'm in a hurry!)

Eyes and feet straight ahead!

Only 10ish more years until all THIS begins!  Yikes!

Monticello Visitors Center

UVA - so fun to be in a college town for a little while!

UVA - gorgeous campus!
This is a good representative photo of Noe at
Monticello (TJ's home)....polite and well-behaved but
not very interested.

This is a good representative photo of Easy Ed at Monticello.
It was probably a tie between him and Asher as far as who loved this place more!

My boys
(Monticello in the background)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Me Part 2: Work

Digging my heels into outside-the-home work over the past three years has taught me a lot about myself and what I want my future to look like.  For instance...

- I think it would be extremely difficult for me to go back to full-time stay-at-home mode now.  I am so much happier, healthier, and more productive with another title besides mom.  Life can get hectic and stressed with so many "plates to keep spinning" but most days it is better.

- I like working autonomy and a flexible schedule (and have a lot of it in my current job) and someday want to own a business or nonprofit, even if it is just a side hustle.   I think I've always known this.

- I also still want to teach.  I don't know how I'm going to reconcile those two goals.

- It's interesting how much I value that flexibility and autonomy.  A year ago I was offered a potentially much higher paying position that would have put me directly back under the company umbrella.  I barely considered the offer...and it wasn't because I didn't have use for the extra money!  I love being able to plan my work schedule around my kids and life most days....even if it means I have to stay up late working some nights.  I don't take for granted how good I have things in this department.

- Work is also the reason why I post twice a month on this blog instead of twice a week like I used to.... it's not very appealing to sit down with my laptop after an entire day of .... sitting down with my laptop.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thoughts on Prepping for Hurricane Sandy

1. I am really bummed that our magnificent autumn colors will pretty much be wiped away (see photo) after this storm passes.  It never lasts long enough.

2.  I am baking like mad.  Wheat bread.  Banana Bread.  Cookies.  It is out of my control.  Much like "nesting" a few days before Asher's birth when I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep until I had scrubbed every inch of our apartment down.  I must control something in this universe so I will bake!

3.  Because our basement is prone to flooding and we haven't been willing to shell out the thousands of dollars necessary to make our house more flood-resistent, we own sand bags. We strategically placed them around our backyard and basement door.  Our next door neighbors, on the other hand, did pay an insane amount to "flood proof" their yard and basement this summer.  This storm should be the ultimate test to see who made the wiser choice.

4.  I am grateful for technology which provides us with relatively accurate forecasts days in advance.   Hundred if not thousands of lives will be saved in this storm alone. Waking up to a monster hurricane in your front window would be terrifying without prior warning.   But knowing a hurricane is probably headed your way a week in advance is a bit unsettling too.  I basically had shopped and prepped on Thursday....forgetting it wasn't coming until Monday.  And then I had to do it all over again this weekend.  It feels like we've been waiting for Sandy to show up for dinner for weeks.

5. I find it ironic that my mom, who is the Goddess of Emergency Preparedness, has never had to touch any of her supplies.  I honestly can't remember the last time her Portland neighborhood even lost power.  Meanwhile, preparedness slackers such as myself and my sister, Katie, in Dallas, Texas, have been dealing with a constant barrage of weather emergencies and all of her goodies would have come in handy.   My sister recently spent a day in her home's "tornado room" with her two young kids while a tornado passed by. Just this year, we've lost our power several times (once for almost a week!) Perhaps someday I'll get my preparedness shista together.

6.  Easy Ed will be spending the duration of the storm in a cushy downtown DC hotel, courtesy of the Post.  I will miss sharing Sandy with him, but I'm glad there is no chance he will have to be out driving in the mayhem.

Wish us lucK!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Me Part 1: Bootcamp

I always post about the boys.  This will be about me.  In fact, I'll make it a series.  The ME series.

Bootcamp.  I've been waking up at 5AM for the past month to attend a bootcamp-type exercise class.  I grew kind-of bored with my running/biking/and occasional yoga routine and I really wasn't improving my speed or conditioning or losing any more weight.  I have friends who have had success with this type of class, so this summer I took a Saturday "try-it-out-for-free"class and I really enjoyed it.

Right now it is a love/hate thing.  I love how I feel immediately after the class (although I often get really sleepy mid-morning).  I love feeling my body get stronger and harder (heard from Asher today: Yeah, don't need to flex your muscles at me any more, you're strong, ok?).  I love being pushed by the instructor (who is more like a coach than a drill sergeant).  It reminds me of playing high school sports which were good times.

On the other hand, when my alarm wakes me up at 5AM, I cry a little.  Sometimes a lot. It is overpriced and I have to DRIVE there....which makes me crazy.  How ridiculous to drive in order to exercise!  But at this point, I couldn't handle the twelve mile roundtrip bike ride on top of that workout!  It is also dark through the entire hour.  I could walk past my instructor and others in the class in the daylight and likely not recognize them.  Often we run along this old railroad-turned-exercise path with our flashlights for part of our workout.  I feel vulnerable in the dark....I'm super afraid I'm going to fall and screw up my knee again or get run over by a bicyclist....or attacked.

And it's been extremely humbling.  I still haven't been able to run a mile below 8:15, which I used to do really easily.  And there is this group that everyone refers to as "the runners."  Most are somewhere between my age and forty-five.  There is one woman who has to be closer to 55 and she is crazy fast. They have been attending daily for years.  They don't talk or smile much because they are too focused on making sure you eat their dirt.  I kind-of hate them, but also want to be one of them.  I thought about it today and I decided that I'm glad they are there.  The last thing I need is to be in a situation where I am the one in the best shape.

But if I ever become a "runner" I will be nicer to the little people.

It is all outdoors.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do come January (brrr....) , but I've decided to take it one month at a time.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Back to School 2012

Asher is in 2nd grade, Noe is in 4th grade (if you couldn't tell)

We are back at it! The start of the new school year has gone well.  I'm loving both Noe and Asher's teachers and their curriculums.  Living in Northern Virginia has its shortcomings, but the top-notch schools make up for a lot.

Portland Trip: All the Rest

We had an epic trip to Portland.  Lots of new adventures mixed in with family and friend time. But it's time to let go and move on.  Here are some of my photo favorites....

At the Oregon Coast with cousins.  My SIL's parents kindly
loaned us their gorgeous beach-front condo.  It was a fun
few days spent on the beach.
The boys finally saw a real mountain up-close and personal (Mt. Hood -
just 45 minute drive from Portland).  We even hiked up to the ski area
and touched the snow!  

On one of our hikes in the Gorge.  After our hot NOVA summer,
it felt so good to wear hoodies throughout the trip!
I had a good time with some of my bffs!  We have known each
other for so long and have been through so much together....
braces, bad breakups, babies and everything in-between!

I am so glad that my boys are getting to know their wonderful
great-grandparents!  On this trip we were able to attend their
70th wedding anniversary party with family!

Playing the bongo drums at the Portland
Zoo the day before we left.   Best zoo trip ever!
Building big sand castles on the beach with Grandma! (Oregon Coast)
Sometimes Uncle Dave has to come over to Grandma's in his police
uniform and police car to make sure everyone is behaving themselves.
Ever since we ran into this giant chess set in
Downtown Portland, Asher has been obsessed with playing chess!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Portland Recap: Grant Park

Asher met his favorite storybook friends at Grant Park in NE Portland.  Although we read aloud some of Beverly Cleary's books in preschool, this summer he devoured the series starring Ramona, Beezus, Henry Huggins and Ribsy on his own.  I love the Portland references dotted throughout Cleary's books and the nostalgia her stories evoke.  Asher thinks Ramona is hilarious (especially in her younger, more precocious years) and he loves reading Henry's adventures.

Asher: Mom, can I have a paper route like Henry when I turn 11 years old?  I can deliver the papers that Papi writes on my bike to all the neighbors.  

Me:  I'm sorry, Honey, but newspapers might not even exist by the time you turn 11 years old.

We even found Klikitat Street!  Asher is ready to move in!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Portland Recap: Portland Children's Museum

Noe in his water element

We spent one of our first days of the trip at the Portland Children's Museum. For River's birthday present, we let him choose an activity and he chose PCM over bowling AND Chuck E Cheese (thank goodness!)

Noe (of course) loved the water room most of all but also enjoyed other activities.  All of the kids really enjoyed the clay room where they got to shape globs of clay into treasures.

Afterwards we headed to Burgerville for burgers and berry shakes (nothing says summer-in-Portland like a marionberry shake!)

Asher is one with the tree
I put Aunti Kelli in charge of all crafts

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I sure love this kid.  I don't write much about him.  At least not as much as I do about Asher.  It is hard for me to share our successes and failures with Noe on this public blog.  This is sacred space in my heart.  I don't want others to judge him on his limitations.  I don't want others to judge me on my limitations as his mother.

I'll try now.

The past summer was pretty great with Noe.  He has been smiling more than ever.  I love his smile, and even when he isn't smiling, he possesses a new level of comfort around us.  He wants to be near us.  He doesn't hide himself in far away rooms to stim anymore.  At least not nearly as often as he used to.  After we have successfully communicated with each other and I start fixing the snack he has asked for, or I open a tight lid to a toy he wants, he smiles really big and does a little happy dance where he giggles, claps and jumps up and down.  Probably not age appropriate, but very cute.   I'm glad that as hard as communication is for him, he can find pleasure in it.

Noe is my newest running partner.  He is a great partner.  He likes to run in the morning, but not too early, like me.  He won't get pregnant on me and quit.  I don't have to hear about his financial or in-law or relationship problems.  He doesn't accidentally slip and tell me that I would look "really amazing" if I just "lost those last 10 lbs."  Instead, we run in perfect silence.  Sometimes we hold hands.  We never pass up a sprinkler or mud puddle in our path.

I love how his mind works.  When I ask Noe to put his pants on after a shower, he will put on his underwear or pajama bottoms, but never both.  I don't think it makes any sense to him why we wear two pant layers.  When the sun got in our eyes while walking the other day, he just turned around and walked backwards.  Problem solved.

As long as he is well-fed and well-rested, Noe is tons of fun.  We play board games like Perfection and Jenga.  He is always first out the door to hike or bike or go to the pool.    He is the only one who will willingly keep me company on a trip to the grocery store.  Our day-long trip to the Portland Zoo last week was especially memorable.  He patiently and attentively looked at every zoo exhibit.  He willingly shared a soda and pretzel with his little brother.  When it was time to leave the geyser that sprayed up water (his favorite) he did not even grunt in disapproval.  Four years ago I would have been chasing him through Washington Park the entire day. Two years ago (or even last year) he would have tantrumed at the water geyser until I threw him over my shoulder and carried him away.  We've come a long way, baby!

I love his new-found sense of humor.  When we went swimming over vacation, I kept throwing Noe into the deep end of water, much to his delight.  After deciding to take a break from our little game, I felt little hands pushing me from behind into the pool water.  Noe had pushed me into the pool!  It was epic!

As my friend Ami wisely observed.... Noe just does what everyone else WANTS to do.  Like sitting down at a strange family's picnic table at the park until they hesitantly but graciously served him a plate of rice and chicken (mommy fail...I thought he was at the splash pad with the other kids), or ripping off his swim trunks to run into the ocean waves, or eating around the layers of cake to get to all the frosting.

When Noe was diagnosed with autism, I can't honestly say this is how I wanted things to turn out seven years later.  I held grand delusions that once we had proper therapies in place, Noe would be able to shed much or all of his autism.  It would have been crushing for me to know back then that as a fourth grader, Noe would still have very limited verbal skills and spend most of his school day in a self-contained autism classroom.

But I don't feel crushed.  He continues to learn and progress with the help of truly talented autism therapy professionals and a caring school community.  They echo what Noe's father and I have always believed.... Noe has a bright future ahead of him.

And I'm pretty thrilled to be along for the ride.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Bad Poem On a Perfect Summer Eve

sound of flip flops and street traffic
we enter the trees towards the neighborhood pool
past the lush, green community garden
I look longingly. Someday....
I will have a fabulous garden plot instead of the scattered containers on the back deck

kids play in the pool
teens in skimpy suits show off on the diving board
new parents and their babies squeal in delight
all to the background symphony of cicada and crickets
while a bright-eyed half moon beams in the purplish sky

I wrangle my boys
wrap towels around their brown narrow bodies
smell the chlorine in their hair
we head back into the trees, where the fireflies have started their evening soire
breathing the fresh, cool air... squeezing every second from the night
'cause it is headed back to 105 in the marrow

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Picking Parties

Last winter, Noe's teacher was working on identifying past, present, future events.  Because it was around President's Day, she had the kids identify US presidents as past, present, and future.  She gave the kids pictures of both Obama and Romney and they had to decide who to put in the 'future president' category.  His teacher said she repeated the activity several times with both choices and EVERY TIME Noe picked Mitt Romney as his future president.

To his liberal-lovin' parents, this revelation was quite upsetting.

Asher still seems undecided.  One recent Saturday afternoon, we found ourselves in Downtown DC waiting for Easy Ed outside of the Washington Post building.  Asher had some time for some research. Which one do you think suits Asher best?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Snippets of Father's Day Wisdom

Conversation between me and Asher earlier this week.  The boys and I had just returned from our Father's Day shopping trip:

Me:  Where should we put Papi's Father's Day present where he won't find it?

Asher:  Hmm...... I know! How about in his bed under the covers?

[Ed has been traveling a lot this month....that is the only reason I can think of as to why this *might* be a good hiding place!]

And this morning.... Asher shows me the Father's Day card he created for Ed and the nice note he included.

Me:  Oh, Asher....that is very thoughtful.  Papi will love it!

Asher:  Mom, whatever you do....don't throw away this card!  [What can I say.... I'm not very sentimental....not much escapes the garbage can.]

Me:  Ok.  Why?

Asher:  (Completely serious) Well, when it's Mother's Day, I am going to just cross out Papi's name and write Mom and then give it to you.  [Apparently Asher isn't very sentimental either]

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Swim Team, Summer Bike Rides and Mystery Poop

Ok, so this is photo is actually from last summer's triathlon.  
 Asher started swim team at a neighborhood pool this summer.  It is a rite of passage for kids growing up in our town to participate in swim team.  It also helps him go to bed early and sleep hard.  I hope to get Noe participating as well in a couple more years (see above about sleeping).  We have some issues with swimming in a straight line and not getting distracted by other things in the pool to work out first.  

I was a little shocked Asher made the team.  During tryouts he belly flopped off the starting block and he still doesn't know his breast stroke from his butterfly.  In fact, usually he does a strange hybrid of the two strokes.  The other day at practice his team was practicing relay races.  Somehow Asher missed his leg and was still calling out asking if it was his turn to go while the rest of his team was huddled on the other side of the pool, wrapping up practice for the evening.

His first swim meet is Saturday.  Last week I ordered his racing suit online.  Yesterday it arrived in the mail. I audibly gasped when I opened the box.  It *might* have fit my sister's cabbage patch doll.  I went back online and checked the sizing chart.  And then I got on the phone and begged Speedo to send me a larger suit before Friday.  I still have no idea what happened..... according to the sizing chart, that is his size!

Practice is every evening at 7PM sharp.  Most nights, the boys and I ride our bikes up to the pool via the Reston Trails.  It is a beautiful ride.  On the way back, the sun is setting, the air feels cool and quiet, and the forest comes alive with deer, fox, and fireflies.  I will miss these rides when practice begins at 8AM after school lets out.

The swim team managers graciously allow Noe to swim in an area of the pool which isn't used for swim team.  It has saved my sanity, because Noe loves to swim and taking him to a pool and not allowing him to swim would be akin to torture.  Leaving him at home is not an option, because Ed is at work. So every evening, I grab a pool chair near Noe's swimming area and relax for the 40 minute practice, knowing both boys are getting more tired by the minute (see above about sleeping).

Last night, Noe had just completed his nightly swim in his designated area when we decided to go to a nearby playground while Asher finished up practice.  As we were leaving the pool area, a team manager mom approached me.  She said the coaches and managers had found poop in the pool near the spot Noe was swimming and would I please notify someone next time he poops in the pool so it can be properly cleaned up?  I told her that I didn't know he had pooped, and I started apologizing profusely.

And then I stopped and thought about it. I remember well the last time Noe pooped in a pool.  It was at a hotel.  It was many years ago, and although he should have known better, he had been plagued with stomach issues on and off throughout that trip. I always take him to the restroom before we go into the pool and he is good about telling me when he needs to go these days.   I checked him for evidence of an accident. Nothing.  I asked him if he pooped in the pool.  "No," he shook his head firmly.

"How can you be sure it was him?"

"He was the only one swimming in that area."

She had a point, but it just didn't make sense.  Plus, it could have been there before we arrived.

Just then another team mom came out looking embarrassed and said they had tested the alleged poop and it was just tree debris.

Mystery solved.  But a good reminder to me that other moms will be nice to you and tolerant of your child with special needs, but the minute someone thinks they have found a piece of crap sitting on the bottom of the pool, it is your kid they blame first.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Plague on Both Your Houses

Note:  This post doesn't really fit Shakespeare's intended meaning of the phrase, but it sounded like a catchy title.

Ever since our week of mysterious illnesses and diagnoses, there has been some strange shist goin' down at our house.

Plague Exhibit 1.  Last Friday afternoon, while Joe the Contractor was putting down tile in our master bathroom, he discovered some black mold.  Apparently that is a very bad thing and he ordered everyone out of the house immediately.  He wouldn't let us go back in for anything, claiming he was "legally liable" if we got sick.  I drove home from work, picked up my Mexican refugees, and we wandered around Reston until late while masked men removed the mold.  To add to the fun, the DC area was having massive thunderstorms and flash flood warnings.  And was on a tornado watch.

Plague Exhibit 2.  That weekend brought more home improvement mayhem when Joe the Contractor accidentally torched a piece of insulation.  Flames immediately shot up the inside of our bathroom wall.  Fire and ambulance responded.  Neighbors gathered and gossiped.  Joe the Contractor sustained burns after he ripped through drywall trying to put out the fire.  The firemen stormed (OK...that is an exaggeration) checked the attic for smoke.  The fire had been contained.  To be safe, we changed out the batteries in all of our smoke detectors that night.

Plague Exhibit 3.  On Wednesday, the very worst plague of all fell upon us. Dunkin Donuts opened up across the street from our house.  Not down the street and through a large and spacious parking lot.  I am sayin' ACROSS the street.  So close that there are donuts being frosted and sprinkled within 3-point shooting range of my front steps.  And I like me a good cake donut!  The boys and I stopped in late Wednesday night and I was relieved to see their donut selection wasn't so great.  I don't really get East Coasters infatuation with the DD.

Here's hoping this week will bring more bathroom remodeling,  less firetrucks!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Bubble Boys

Last week I had two healthy boys.  Neither had missed a single day of school this year for health reasons.  And then this week happened.

Monday morning Noe presented with a rash on his arms.  It looked like hives, and it was contained, so I just kept an eye on it.  Tuesday morning we had an early dentist appointment.  When I dropped him off at school, I noticed the rash had spread to his neck and face.  I took him home, convinced it was poison ivy.  I began to treat for poison ivy.  Wednesday morning I woke up to this face.  His arms  and hands were also very swollen. I hustled to work and Ed took him to the doctor.  They ran a strep test, which came back positive.  The doctors concluded that he was either a) having a horrible reaction to the strep  b) had scarlet fever  or c) had a combination of poison ivy and strep.  I think I've ruled out poison ivy on my own after a lot of online reading and mom advice.  He is finally recovering and has been a trooper throughout the ordeal.

Thursday afternoon Ed took Asher to a previously scheduled appointment with an allergist.  Asher spent our Portland trip wheezing and trying to catch his breath.  It was scary and I spent most of the trip trying to decide if I should take him to the ER.  He also did this the last time we were in Portland and for part of last spring.  Turns out, he is allergic to EVERYTHING (at least in the environment).  The doctor recommended a number of treatments including allergy medication and inhalers (makes sense) and also a 5-year allergy shot regiment (not so sure).  Still trying to sort it all out.

It was a long, exhausting week.  To top things off, we are renovating BOTH bathrooms which is its own special headache.  This weekend Ed and I are both working.  I am looking forward to a 5AM wakeup call tomorrow to set up a festival booth my company is sponsoring.  Ed is working a long night shift on his 35th birthday.  There is a bright spot somewhere in here.  I'm sure I'll find it tomorrow.  After a nap.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Ed and I had always been of one mind when it came to our future.  We had always agreed what our next step should be and the best way to get there.  I heard other friends complain about how difficult marriage is and I never really got it.  Because, honestly, my marriage had always been the easiest and best thing going in my life.  Easy as Easy Ed.  Bringing the CHILDREN into the mix has at times been difficult and we occasionally have allowed the pressures of parenthood to strain our relationship.  But the majority of the time, Ed and I?  We've been good.

Until this spring.

It became strikingly apparent after I returned back from Portland we weren't seeing eye-to-eye. That when we looked out to the horizon of our future, we were gazing at very different spots.  I endured some quiet, scary days lost in thought.   There was no fighting, just lots of confused looks and a lingering sense of fear.  I was angry and confused and FRIGHTENED.  What if this would stumble us up....and we could never completely recover?  What if.....this was the beginning of the end? 

We are talking.  We are both making compromises that will balance our individual needs and desires, with those of our children.  We will be okay.  In fact, we are already ok again.

Ed puts his family before his career. Always and no questions asked.  He recognizes my own needs and desires as important, and always puts them ahead of his own.  He takes a hands-on 50/50 approach to raising our boys.  Thank goodness, because honestly, I would be on 500 different depression and anti-anxiety medications trying to go this alone.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Asher's Favorite Passover Food (as he calls it) And, honestly, the only Passover food we ever have in the house.

College v. Heaven.   Asher has naturally posed a lot of questions about death since my Grandpa Razz's passing.  One morning when we were in Portland for my grandpa's funeral, I was out on a run, so Asher cornered my sister Kelli wanting to tell her about my father's death.  So he explained to her why he passed away and then ended with..."But Aunti's ok....because he got to go to college!"  

Oreos.  Noe has been loving Oreos.  I keep them in stock so that his therapists can use them for reinforcement during his therapy sessions, but otherwise leave them in a high cupboard.  Last week, I woke up to noises coming from the kitchen at 2AM.  I turned on the kitchen light to find Noe high up in the kitchen cabinets, licking the frosting middles out of Oreos and tossing aside the cookies.  He had gone through almost an entire package of Oreos by the time I caught him and was high as a kite off of the sugar. I took the crack away from him, tried to clean up the mess and spent the next two hours standing over his bed, trying to get him to fall back asleep.

Swimming.  Noe continues to do well at his swimming lessons.  We have been spending extra time at the pool so that Asher can get ready for swim team this summer.  Last week, I watched Noe swim almost the entire length of the pool....I think he would have made it, but put his feet down just shy of the edge.  I think he could participate in swim team next year if he wouldn't get so distracted in the water and actually cared about swimming fast.  And if I could clear my schedule to help him at each practice.  We'll keep working on it.  Our indoor pool has a slide, which Noe simultaneously loves and is terrified of.  He climbs the stairs to the top of the slide giggly and giddy, but then proceeds to inch his way down the slide on his butt.  It is really cute and makes me laugh!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Remembering Grandpa Razz

As Ed posted a couple weeks back, my Grandpa Razz passed away.  Asher and I made a quick trip back to Portland for the funeral services.

I was asked to collect and read memories from family and friends at his service.  I ended with my own memories.  I could have talked about Grandpa and what he meant to me all day and into the night, but there were many others with things to say, so I tried to keep my memories brief.  This is what I wrote:

"For me, memories of Grandpa are intertwined with my childhood:

a fridge full of Alpenrose milk and ice cream (I still dream about those little cartons of swiss chocolate milk)

Grandpa loading up all the grandkids into his car to go to the Organ Grinder for games and music and pizza

eating ice cream bars in Grandpa's backyard on hot summer days

dipping chocolates at Christmas time.  It was always such a privilege to be invited over to help him!  Plus the added bonus of getting to lick the cast of chocolate off of your hands when you were finished. 

Blazer games....especially my first Blazer game ever.  I was a huge Magic Johnson fan so he saved the Laker game for me.  He took me down court side to see the players warm up so I could get a good look at MJ.  He bought me a Blazer t-shirt to wear to school the next day.  It might have been the best night thus far in my nine years of living.

Grandpa sent me the best care packages when I was away at BYU for college.  Once, he even mailed me some Olive Garden breadsticks because he knew how much I loved them!

After my father passed away, Grandpa took on some of the roles of a second father to me and my siblings.  For example, when I moved down to Eugene to attend grad school at U of O, he and my Grandpa Mattson borrowed a trailer and hauled my stuff down to Eugene for me before I realized I might need some help.  I think my roommate was a little shocked that I had hired two men in their seventies as movers!

My sister Kelli commented to me yesterday that Grandpa simply loved his life as few others seem to.  I think that it was because he had achieved a wealth few others do.  He had the love and absolute adoration of his family and many, many friends.  He had a talent for serving others and derived great happiness from this service. Grandpa is truly one of the greatest blessings of my life.  I would give up quite a bit to be able to walk into my grandparent's house one last time, to feel their hugs and kisses and hear their warm welcomes!  To smell Grandpa's roses growing in the side yard, and inhale the delicious scents coming from his kitchen.  To look through pictures of their latest trip over the background buzz of a Blazer game.  To hear him answer his phone, RIP CITY one last time."

I miss him like crazy!

Monday, April 16, 2012

spring break roadie

The mantra of our six-day road trip south started out as "We can always just drive home if we're miserable." By the second day of the trip it had changed to "Let's quit our jobs and hit the road for good!"

We had a great time on this trip. We spent three nights down at Emerald Isle (southern tip of the Outerbanks) and two nights in Charleston, SC. Here is my road trip top 10 (in no particular order):

1. Whole Shells. Growing up near the Oregon Coast, I always thought finding whole shells along the beach was a myth invented by Hollywood. But they really exist, at least in the Carolinas! It was so much fun to go shell hunting. The shorelines would literally be overflowing with intact, beautiful shells. Sometimes I would pick one up and think, this must have been bought at a store and then dropped by the North Carolina Dept of Tourism! We brought some home to keep...I wish I would have brought enough to fill my entire house with them!

2. Southern Food. We ate hush puppies and grits for the first time. Ed ate a lot of oysters and crabs and such 'cause that is his thing. We found this place in Charleston called the Glass Onion with amazing southern comfort delights. I want to drive all the way back for more cornbread and deviled eggs, please.....and mashed potatoes and collard greens.....yum!

3. Dolphins. I had no idea we would see dolphins on this trip. We first spotted a few in the water on the ferry back from Shakelford Banks. We saw more on the Charleston Waterfront. When we went to Folly Beach (near Charleston) there were three dolphins playing within a few feet of us in the water. Spectacular. We were told they hang out in the area until July when the water gets too warm.
i missed getting a shot of the dolphins, but got a cute one of Noe

4. Historic Charleston. Charleston was so beautiful that I was *almost* convinced that the Civil War really was "a war of northern aggression," as they like to claim. How could this beautiful place have ended up on the wrong side of history? It reminded me a bit of Georgetown, but with palm trees. I couldn't keep my eyes off the beautiful houses and churches. There was a lot of Easter preparation going on at the churches. We walked through the old cemeteries at the Catholic churches and snuck into a beautiful stained-glass sanctuary at a Presbyterian church. I would have loved to attend Easter Services there.

Serena, is this the water fountain where you and Barry got engaged?

5. The Lighthouse.

I was all pumped up about exploring lighthouses on this trip. So when we saw signs for a hiking trail that was supposed to lead to a historic lighthouse, we jumped out of the car and hiked. This is as far as we got. I decided against the mile swim.

6. Wild Horses at Shakelford Banks.

Look behind Asher and you will see the "wild" horses

One day, we took a ferry out to a small island that was home to dozens of wild horses, left by the Spaniards back in the day. I was expecting groups of them to randomly run past us as we walked the island, 'cause they're wild, right? But we actually had to hunt for them by following the horse poop. We finally found a group quietly eating grass. Ever since television and the Internet came along, I guess wild horses aren't as active as they used to be!

7. Mini Golfing. Dude. The South does their mini golfing right. At Emerald Isle, we took our very own train to the first hole. There were cascading waterfalls and no clowns or cheap windmills. The boys got into it (although Noe preferred to kick his ball into the hole if we didn't watch him). I had a great time because I was with my cute little threesome.....I could skip the golfing. And golfing also deserves a mention because it cost us $36 for 18 holes. Yes, you read that correctly. For that much, I was expecting a high-five from Tiger Woods for my holes-in-one.

8. Car Talk. Ed and I had so many great talks on this trip. Mostly when we were held hostage along long stretches of highway. Since most of our conversations take place on Facebook chat or are prefaced with the phrase...."You have exactly three minutes to talk before I have to go to X" these days, to have long stretches of conversation was pretty fabulous. We learned that we are both in our thirties now and have two children, among other things...

9. Piggly Wiggly. This is a real grocery store! I always thought it was a place that people invented to make fun of Southern folk. An' I seen it with my very own eyes!

10. Technology. Finally, a special shout out to the iPads and other new-fangled technology contraptions that helped make the long drive a pleasant experience for all.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Rip City Rhapsody

One of the hardest things about living on the East Coast the last 10 years has been being away from extended family. I know this has been particularly difficult for Jen, who still had all four grandparents when we moved to New York in 2002. Inevitably, health problems would creep up and it wouldn't be so easy to get back to say goodbye or pay our respects.

On the other hand, you cherish those times you got to see them that much more. And every once in a while, you get a memory that you will never forget.

I would put my last significant visit with Jen's paternal grandfather (Razz as everyone called him) in both of those categories.

We went to Portland last April for spring break, and by then we were well aware of Grandpa Razz's declining health. His wife had died a year earlier after a long struggle, and he had slowly gotten weaker in the ensuing months. By this point, he was living with Jen's aunt and being taken care of.

Even though I knew him for a fraction of the time Jen knew him, I still have many wonderful memories. He had been extremely generous to my parents when I got married. Even though there was an obvious language barrier, Razz was determined to show my parents a good time and have them not pay for any of it. That was him in a nutshell: His kindness transcended cultures.

But any conversation about Razz can't occur without mention of the Portland Trail Blazers. He had been a season ticket holder pretty much from the start of the franchise, when they played in the old Memorial Coliseum. He was on hand for Game 6 of the 1977 Finals, he lived through the Rip City years, he even hung in there during the Jail Blazers Era after they moved to the Rose Garden. He probably had his heart broken during Game 7 of the 2000 conference finals.

(I say "probably" because I NEVER brought it up. I knew better, especially as a Lakers fan. I remember during a particularly feisty Lakers-Blazers regular season game years ago, Jen called over to his house and he answered the phone by saying "KILL THE REFS!")

I always enjoyed looking at his old Blazers stuff and hearing about his hilarious brushes with old Blazers players (the Billy Ray Bates story is a classic).

So knowing all this, I noticed our vacation was going to coincide with the start of the NBA playoffs and lo and behold, Portland was in it. They were a long-shot to go all the way, but at least they would have a first-round series. So I figured what better way to spend time with Grandpa Razz than to go over and watch the games with him?

By this point, things were looking up for the Blazers.

The Blazers played Dallas that series, and they lost the first two games to the Mavericks, both of which I watched with him. I skipped Game 3, which they won, and was back at his side for Game 4, which was on a Saturday afternoon, the day before Easter. It was a gorgeous spring day in Portland, the kind where you feel you could reach out and touch Mt. Hood because it looked so pristine.

And by the third quarter, the Blazers were down by 23 points. I was starting to think I was the jinx.

They had shaved the deficit to 18 points by the start of the fourth quarter but they still looked terrible. Then, Brandon Roy happened. If you're any kind of NBA fan, you remember the game:

I couldn't believe what we were watching. Grandpa Razz was as excited as he could be, chuckling at the Blazers' good fortune. By the last two minutes, the rest of the family that was around ran in to see the finish and we were making quite a scene. And when Jason Terry's desperation three-pointer fell short, it was pandemonium. I turned to Grandpa and told him: "We got a series!" He laughed, happily.

It was all I could say before running off to the restroom and breaking down and crying.

I know it's just a game and I'm not even a Blazers fan, but that wasn't why I got so emotional. It was because I realized right then that this was probably the last time I'd ever see him (we were flying back to D.C. two days later). The fact it happened during an insane Blazers playoff game made it a happy memory. But it was certainly bittersweet.

Eventually, I composed myself and said goodbye, gave him a big hug and told him I loved him. The look on his face will resonate with me forever. He was clearly touched, even got a little choked up and then he said, "I love you, too."

Grandpa Razz passed away Friday night, nearly 12 months after that last happy afternoon together. Jen broke the news to me this morning. I'm sure she and her family will do his memory far greater justice than I ever can (see the video tribute below, for example).

But as we begin to grieve, I wanted to remember that beautiful spring day back in Portland.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cherry Blossom Festival: Then and Now

When we moved to the DC area in early spring of 2006, one of our first outings was the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Tidal Basin. The picture above says a lot about our life then..... no one is looking at the camera, no one knows exactly what is going on, lots of forced grins by Mom and Dad.

I can't deny is much easier and ordered six years later....

with two happy boys.

It was a magical morning. The blooms were at their peak, the weather was gorgeous, and we were there early enough in the morning to practically have the place to ourselves. We took our time through the Jefferson and FDR Memorials, enjoying the view from all angles (including the angles involving hanging from trees).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

10 Years Later...

Full disclosure: I wrote this right after the Oscars last month when it was fresh on my mind. But the Oscars I refer to here happened in late March that year, so it still felt timely. Enjoy!

The Oscars telecast is usually prime time for the celebrity obsessed. Between the pomp and circumstance, what the actors are wearing and the red carpet, it's a pop culture overload.

For our household, the Oscars brings back memories of an important moment in our lives that happened 10 years ago. And it had nothing to do with movies. And it was a moment in which I was very under-dressed for any red carpet.

I was in New York City during the 2002 Oscars, getting ready for a copy editing tryout at The New York Times. My time at The Oregonian was running out and I needed to figure out what to do next. I was also a newlywed, having married Jen the previous August. Meanwhile, Jen was in the stretch run of her MBA program at the University of Oregon, commuting twice a week down to Eugene from Portland for classes.

It was a stressful, uncertain time.

And this copy editing tryout was not exactly going to be easy. They say that the New York Times copy desk has a lower acceptance rate than Harvard, and with good reason. Copy editors are a newspaper's quality control and The New York Times prides itself on being the best in all aspects of its operation.

The fact I had even earned a trip to New York was actually a promising sign. And Neil Amdur, the sports editor, was an advocate of mine from my days when I worked as a summer intern there during college. But the fact was, I still had to show I was good enough when it came time for the actual tryout.

So as I was watching the Oscars with an old college friend, watching Halle Berry and Denzel Washington win awards, watching Woody Allen's heartfelt plea to the Academy to keep filming in New York (remember, we were only six months removed from 9/11), this was weighing on my mind.

I knew it was a fork in the road moment in our lives, certainly in my career. If I got this job, we'd be embarking on an adventure all the way across the country and I'd be taking an important step professionally. If I didn't, we'd be closer to family and Jen had a job lined up after graduation, but my career would be stalled (I didn't have a Plan B).

As I was telling a colleague last week, what makes the Times' tryout so difficult isn't so much the editing of stories, but the critique session the next day. You sit in a small office with a no-nonsense editor who hectors you for even the smallest thing. You are on the defensive from the get-go, and I've met many fine editors who came away from that experience very drained. One particular memory that still stands out for me: This editor getting on this compact exercise machine as she deliberately read this very long sentence that I did not make shorter. Her point was that it was too long a sentence for someone who was somewhat distracted to try to read.

(As embarrassing as that felt in the moment, it was a lesson I still refer to today. I've substituted "person on exercise machine" for "person reading on mobile device on the subway" whenever I need to make that point.)

Of course, I survived the tryout and two weeks later I got the call.

In the years since, me and Jen have gone through a lot of adventures on the East Coast, as she eloquently pointed out in her recent post. And in spite of some obstacles in our lives, particularly with Noe, there are really no regrets to speak of. I was looking back at my journal from that time in our lives and I found this passage from the day after I received the job offer from The Times:

"I think of how we are now, young and on the cusp of the rest of our lives. We've got our whole life ahead of us, not yet burdened by the weight of what's ahead and full of hope. It's a nice feeling, and it's also so fleeting."

Sounds about right, especially the part about it being fleeting. Time certainly flies, but when you have a life partner like Jen, the nice feelings don't necessarily end.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ding, Ding!!!

That is the sound of our 10 year East Coast alarm going off.

This spring marks Year 10 of East Coast living (four years in NYC followed by six in the DC area). Our original five-year plan quickly turned into a ten-year plan, and the extra time here has been well spent. Ed and I have both enjoyed great working opportunities, we have found wonderful therapies and services for Noe, and it has been fun to live in places where life moves fast and things happen.

When we first arrived in NYC, the streets were still reeling from the shock of 9.11 and every street corner had its personal armed National Guardsperson. We survived the Great NYC Summer Blackout of 2003, took our second child home from the hospital by subway, ran into Mayor Bloomberg at our neighborhood park, witnessed an assault outside our apartment door. I feel like we had an authentic NYC experience.

In DC, we purchased our first home, laid low through the Great Recession, saw first-hand the Obama Inauguration and the celebration on the streets after Osama bin Laden's capture and death.

It is time to come home. I want to see big green trees and volcanic peaks again. I want "going out" to constitute putting on shorts, grabbing a bike, and finding a good food cart. I want to see my nieces and nephews grow up, and to just be a part of my own family again. I want to throw away my makeup! I want my boys to know their grandparents apart from occasional visits. I want the rain to sound the rhythm of my days once again. I don't want to miss anymore important events in the lives of my family and good friends.

We don't have any imminent plans to move back, but we're working on it. Ding, ding!!!