Thursday, October 28, 2010

It Seems Like Just Yesterday!

I hope you have been enjoying the wonderful Autumn weather we have been having lately! The leaves are once again becoming more beautiful and the kids had a blast on that blustery day of winds that blew them all around the school yard. It was fun to watch them run around screaming with glee as they tried to catch them and then throw them at each other. This time of year always makes me feel more nurturing, wanting to stuff my kids full of hot chocolate and warm cookies, especially after a rain-drenched soccer practice at 5pm! I have to admit, I’m glad the season is almost over and now have much more respect and understanding for those mega-soccer parents whose primary goal has to be to stay dry and warm as their kids play year-round in the freezing rain! Now that is true commitment! And speaking of true commitment, and/or getting committed, I wanted to revisit one of my favorite topics, our house remodel! I have been reminded a couple of times lately of how long this insanity has really been going on. In fact, I even argued with my neighbor, who has been watching our progress, or at times lack thereof, from across the street, that it's only been a couple of years since we started! Why, it was just yesterday, wasn't it? But then, just yesterday, I had to find the receipt for our "new" washing machine and as I searched through the five pregnant folders stuffed with Home Depot, City of Seattle, Honey Bucket and numerous other contractor and supply receipts, I realized after I got to my last one that I was now in the year labeled 2006! Yes, Rob, you were right, it has been four years... But those of us that have been through any kind of major family remodel understand that like labor, the pain that accompanies the birth of a new child, or new house, is often forgotten in the ensuing years of the parental/homeowner "coma of survival" that becomes our coping strategy to get us through. And that once you commit to the conception, you're basically in it for the rest of your life... And now as I feed my family brinner and leftovers from working, stainless steel appliances, pick up said brinner and leftover remnants and smashed cereal pieces from my tiled floor and happily wipe the spilled milk from my new granite countertops until they glow, I've forgotten almost all the pain and exhaustion that has brought me here to my current utopia. So by popular demand, meaning a friend who asked me to revisit some of my more memorable remodeling moments, I found this old letter I had written in the Fall of 2007, when my kids, and apparently my washer, were much younger. Here goes!: While it’s only Fall outside, this past week has been a bit wintery in our house as yes, can you believe it, we finally got to the stage of drywall in what seems to be our never-ending remodel! Now if you’ve ever experienced the pleasure of living in and through a remodel, then you know that my wintery feeling has nothing to do with a roaring fire and pretty snowflakes, but more like that fine white powder that has managed to make its way into every shoe, toothbrush, frying pan and clothing item in my house, just to name a very few! And if you’ve noticed this same powder on my kids at school in the morning, please just brush them off as I believe we finally just gave up! Now I’m not complaining, because I know what I was getting into (although now I think I may have had some cocktails the day I agreed to this!) but I guess I missed the HGTV episode that talked about the 10 men in my house every day for a week, dropping nails, sawed-off drywall pieces and big globs of goopy “Beadex” onto my floors, in my frying pans (I’m assuming it’s good for our digestion!) and eventually on the bottom of everyone’s shoes or feet to then come to a final resting place in our sheets! Nor did I know that I would have to empty the entire contents of my kitchen (I’m talking refrigerator, microwave, stove, you name it) into a tiny corner of the house, where I was then required to cook dinner, help with homework and in general, lead a “normal” life with three shall we call them, exuberant children, who I have to say have been amazingly resilient throughout this crazy process.  Who cares that Evan writes that we have no walls and electricity in his school writing journal, my 4-year-old daughter still sleeps in a crib, and Luke thinks that living in a house decorated with wooden studs and insulation is how everyone lives, we’ll pay for therapy after we pay this off! And then on Saturday with all the kids home, just when I though it was almost over, my entire house, except for the small section of space mentioned above, gets covered in plastic sheeting for what we thought was the final indoor “snow day” in our lives, the paint sprayer broke and they have to come back tonight to finish. So yes, my house is still covered in plastic sheeting, there is still a fine white powder that I swear I can taste covering almost every surface and our lives are still not back to normal, and you know I say that with a grain of salt!
But, as we are now picking out finishes like tiles and flooring, I know our dream is slowly coming true, and that all of this will be worth it soon(?!) And that one day, we'll look back nostalgically with warped memories at our crazy life that was consumed by both kids and a remodel that never seemed to stop going. And we'll wonder where all the time has gone, since it seems like it was just yesterday...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We're All Just One Cluck Away...

If you've ever had the opportunity to work from home, you know that it definitely has its benefits... For instance, I can be around for my kids and husband each morning to make four different breakfasts and lunches, judge if my daughter's outfit is appropriate for school on any given day, and gather and deliver to school all completed homework and musical instruments forgotten in the rush of heading out the door so that, God forbid, none of my children are judged as irresponsible. What would that say about me?!

Another benefit of working from home is that instead of having my laundry pile up all week, I can do 1 or 2 loads everyday, making myself a latte' on my home machine before I head back upstairs to my office and and the comforting sounds of our urban neighborhood.

But recently, my quiet sessions of research and emails are now interrupted more often by the clucking of my neighbors' hens! Now I know that chickens are the new "rage" around the country, and a lot of people are keeping them in coops in their postage-stamp backyards because it is more humane, economical, great for the environment or reminds them of growing up on the family farm in Bellingham. But I'm a city girl! I like the sound of the coffee machine firing up at 5am, police and fire sirens, planes flying, dogs barking and the occasional backfiring of a car's engine. The clucking of chickens just doesn't seem to fit in with my urban consciousness! 

Granted, I'm all for cage- and antibiotic-free living and actually try and raise my own family the same way as much as I can... And I agree that it would be nice if like the olden days, you could run down to the market where farmers sold chickens and eggs on the sidewalks for a few pennies each instead of $5 a dozen to ensure that they have lived an overall stress-free life before appearing on our breakfast or "brinner" table (for those of you that don't already know, that's breakfast for dinner on those days that you realize with horror at 5pm that you forgot to take the relaxed mommy of those eggs out of the freezer!) But with all my organic opinions aside, the other aspect of being a neighbor to neighbors that have chickens is that sometimes uncaged means running around the neighborhood! 

Case in point, the other night, "Zen" one of the hens that belongs to our neighbor, was in our back alley. Now it was dark and despite my city-girl crankiness about urban clucking and my darker desire to just leave him out there to fend for himself, I did feel bad. I then realized with growing concern that a car was speeding her way. So I ran towards the headlights and flagged down the young, hip and oblivious girlfriend of my other neighbor in her BMW who looked at me like I was one cluck-away from crazy myself as I asked her to please slow down because there was a chicken crossing the alley!

Then, after the alley was clear of any other city danger, I began to chase Zen around for about 15 minutes, realizing with not much of my own amusement but to the great amusement of my 6-year old daughter, that every time I'd try and herd her one way, she would go another. Feeling now like Daisy on a Hee Haw episode, I finally got close enough, and proceeded to carefully pick her up. Having had no experience in chicken-handling, Zen quickly grew tired of me clumsily clutching her as high in the air as I could and after about a minute of this, she proceeded to get very stressed, despite her namesake, and flapped her wings right in my face before I could ungracefully plop her down in her cage-free cage, the smell of feathers wafting into my nostrils like a musty barnyard or my pre-pubescent boys bedroom at night! 

But in spite my potentially unpopular grumblings and unwanted herding experiences, at this point, I guess I have to admit that I am slowly getting used to the now-growing number of friends and neighbors who have jumped into the proverbial chicken coop. This hit home the other day when I was enjoying the last of the warm October sunshine lounging in my front yard listening to my comforting city sounds as I read my book (another advantage of working from home). 

It wasn't long before I became aware of being surrounded by Zen and her two sister hens congregating under our beloved Japanese Maple tree, walking around in circles and making that other sound they make that is more like purring for a chicken, I guess. So what's a true now-converted city girl to do? I simply said "hello" and went back to my book, chuckling at what any sane, hip, BMW-driving girl would consider an absurd reaction to what has now become a natural part of our Seattle life. I don't know, maybe we are all just one cluck away...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is It Ever Enough?

Despite the beautiful and unseasonably warm weather we've been having lately, a daily glance at the calendar is making me giddily and/or painfully aware, depending on the moment, that the holidays are right around the corner.

So as I was looking back at some of my older letters, (this was how we communicated before Facebook, emails and blog posts, in case you were wondering!) I came across a letter I had written when the kids were younger and the house remodel had just begun (yes, that was almost 4 years ago and yes, we are almost done, but that's another post!) on a subject that seems to be ageless and maybe even more relevant today as we all continue to try and tighten our budgets in order to get the most out of our financial resources. 

So I thought I'd go ahead and post it for those of you that either a) have or have had young children, b) have no closet or storage space for all the "stuff" that goes along with young children, c) have remodeled, are remodeling or dare to think of remodeling (!) 
c) love the holidays, d) hate shopping, d) love shopping or e) worry whether you and/or your kids have enough stuff! So here is my letter from circa 2005:

This year, we decided to cut back on the number of gifts we give to the kids for many different reasons including the reality that between having an older urban home with no closets and the clutter of our remodel (yes, I step over 2x4s to do the day’s laundry) storage space for more “stuff” is at a premium. 

In fact, we’ve slowly crept into our neighbors unused basement in addition to a rented storage shed and still don’t have enough room! So in another one of those “I can’t believe I live like this” confessions, I have to sadly admit that at this point our backyard resembles something more out of Sanford and Son than Home and Garden! 

The other reason is the fact that with the accumulation of old and new (kids and toys!) over the past 5 years, they don’t even seem to know or play with half the things they have already. And while we and all the grandparents buy gifts with the best intentions, pulling every single canned good out of the cupboards, beating each other over the head with a balloon and unwinding the roll of toilet paper all over the bathroom will always win over the $50 Parents magazine activity station for fun factor ratings!! 

And somehow it is inevitable that any toy we attempt to place out of circulation either temporarily or permanently is precisely the same toy that they remember out of the blue the next day and decide that they can’t live without. If you don't believe in thought telepathy, there is nothing like your child asking you about something at precisely the moment after you thought of something that you decided you shouldn't mention or that you hoped they forgot; it is a bit supernatural when it happens!

Yet inevitably, I will still walk around the mall, Target or Costco, overwhelmed almost to a state of senselessness by all the assorted boxes, bright colors and seemingly fashionable, new clothing. And I as I walk around watching shoppers load up their carts with items I don't have, I slowly get lured into thinking, “Do my children have enough?“, “Am I giving them all the things the other kids have that they need to learn and grow?” and “Wow, look at all this cool, new stuff we need!”  

And so I continue in this now agitated state, determined to focus on the 10 necessary items I came to buy, fighting with all my might the urge to throw something else in the cart that would add to my kids' intelligence quotients, their wardrobe, my wardrobe, our waistlines, and finally to the unbelievable amount of cardboard we seem to recycle each week. 

But it’s a tough battle, and while I try and teach my children to count their blessings when the “green-eyed monster” calls, I have to continually remind myself of the same lesson. Case in point, having gone to Costco the other day for canned goods and coffee, I came home with a 3-foot long sausage, a 5 gallon tub of animal crackers, 3 really soft and cozy blankets for our rec room, 2 Lego sets that were supposed to be for Christmas but somehow ended up being given to the boys because they've been really "good" lately, and a black rain jacket I was convinced I needed since I only had 7 jackets, none of which were just right for the specifically misty kind of rain we were having...

And so it goes, solid marketing and consumerism at its best. Good or bad, it's what helps make our country tick, so who am I to resist? As long as we recycle all those boxes, we're all just doing our share...