My auto-sensing windshield wipers when they encounter the aggressive mist that Seattle calls rain:
0:00 Oh, I see you've got a little something on your windshield, let me get that for you (whick)
0:15 Hey, you've got a little something there again. let me just get that (whick)
0:30 Ha ha, you've got a little something there again, let me get that (whick)
1:00 Wow, this just keeps happening, doesn't it? I'm just gonna keep going here if that's okay with you (whick whick)
1:30 Still going, ha ha (whick whick)
2:00 THE DROPLETS, THEY KEEP COMING. ENGAGE MONSOON MODE (WHICKWHICKWHICKWHICK)
2:30 MONSOON MODE (WHICKWHICKWHICKWHICK)
2:45 (me) You know we're in the garage now, right?
3:00 (the wipers) YOU NEVER CAN TELL WHEN A DROPLET WILL COME OUT OF NOWHERE. YOU NEVER CAN TELL (WHICKWHICKWHICKWHICK)
Other times I turn the car on when the windshield is completely covered in water and the wipers just sit there. YOU NEVER CAN TELL.
Housework. I have a sort of defeatist relationship with it. No matter how much of it I do, there's always more to be done. I always feel inadequate. I know in my head that when I go over to a friend's disheveled house, I'm not judging them, but I still expect that if I were to let anyone into my house, they'd find me wanting. I generally go into the weekend thinking, "Okay, here's a list of all of the errands that I need to run and all of the crap I need to get done around the house," and I generally exit the weekend feeling like a bit of a failure because the house is generally worse than when it started.
This weekend, my plan was that we would go camping, but I didn't get the logistics sorted, so rather than trying to slam a plan together at the last minute, I said, "Well, since we were planning to be camping, we weren't planning on getting anything done around the house anyway, so let's just stay here and do stuff that we wouldn't normally be able to fit in around the stuff that needs to get done." So yesterday we went to Northwest Trek, and before we left, I threw in a load of laundry. I don't know if it was the most important load, but the (pre-sorted) basket was full, and it was a sanitary cycle, and I threw it in so that the long long wash cycle would happen while we were gone anyway rather than while we were waiting for it to finish. When we got home, I took the dishes out of the dishwasher and put another load in, and I noticed something.
What I noticed was that my attitude towards getting these things done was, "Yay! I wasn't on the hook to get anything done, because we were supposed to be camping anyway, but I just got this done so I'm doing a good job!" Usually I would look at the sink and think something like, "Ugh. I want to get all of the dishes out of the sink, but even after I load the dishwasher, there'll be a bunch left, and it'll NEVER END," but this weekend, my baseline expectations were exceeded just by chipping away at the problem. When I kicked the dishwasher off, I was happy and excited about exceeding my own expectations and motivated to do it again when the load ended.
There have been weekends before where we had a really fun weekend and got nothing done, but I came out of the weekend feeling sort of guilty about all of the useful things I COULD have done. This weekend made me want to find a way to adjust my baseline expectations about how utilitarian my weekends should be.
Recently I was going through notebooks in my office, and I found the one where I came back from the iBoo's 2 yr old wellness check and started scrawling down every word I'd ever heard her utter in the hopes that I hadn't lied to the doctor when I told her that the iBoo had a vocabulary of at least 50 words.
Apparently I learned nothing from that experience.
So yesterday was the IchiRow's 2 yr old wellness check. He's still huge, and he's still healthy, but I still came home and was worried about whether I'd lied about the 50 word vocabulary. I scrawled away on my list... Mommy, Daddy, Yaiiyi, cat, fishy... "What are you doing?" the iBoo asked.
"Well, I'm trying to write down all of the words I can think of that I've heard the IchiRow say to make sure there are 50 of them." I continued to scrawl on my list... want, milk, down... The iBoo decided it was time to intervene.
"IchiRow, can you say "bamboo?" He said bamboo, Mommy, write down "bamboo." He knows that word now. IchiRow, can you say "pig?" Mommy, write pig down too."
"I don't think that's supposed to be how this works, iBoo," I said. "I think these are supposed to be words that he knows the meaning of and can use, not just words he can say."
She rolled her eyes dramatically and turned to the IchiRow. "IchiRow, do you know what a pig is?"
"Oink oink oink," he responded.
"See?" she said as she gestured at him triumphantly. "Pig. Write it."
I think she'll go far in this world. Also, the IchiRow knows "pig" now. The jury's still out on "bamboo."
Another epic trip is officially in the bag, during which time our kitchen apparently existed in some sort of weird suspended animation state. I'm not even kidding.
We got home late (LATE) Sunday night, and because we were still on East Coast time, we bounced right out of bed Monday morning to head to work. "Uh oh," HRH said, "do I need to go to the store and get milk?" I told him to check what was in the fridge first. He came back upstairs a few minutes later with a gallon jug of milk and a concerned expression on his face. "The date says it's still good. And I don't *think* it smells weird... here, sniff." We agreed that the milk seemed good, and that we would test this theory by feeding it to the kids and hoping for the best. I mean... the long horizon on the expiration dates *is* one of the reasons I started buying organic milk, so that's cool, right?
When I went to make dinner last night, the iBoo wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. "Oh no," I said, "we didn't get any bread! I think we'll have to make you something else..." She pointed out that there was, in fact, some bread in the pantry, and asked if I would please at least check before I threw it out. I rolled my eyes and checked the bread.... and I found it to be fresh and moist and totally mold free. That freaked me out more than the milk, but I decided to roll with it and produced a sandwich, thereby saving dinner.
When we went to eat our dinner, I took the pre vacation baby kale out of the fridge and found it to be fresh and green and not at all wilty. I threw the seemingly fine kale out and opened the fresh bag we'd gotten from the store... my weird-o-meter was totally overloaded.
Maybe I should toast the bread and see if it reveals any supernatural images that I could sell on eBay. I don't think that would surprise me at this point.
When I was in high school, my mom found this dressing at Whole Foods that I would get cravings for. I'd eat huge bowls of salad just to be a vehicle for the dressing. I don't remember much about it other than it was made with canola oil and it was addictive.
When I lived in Austin, I had a similar relationship with Sisters' SASS (Season All Stuff Sauce) Sesame Garlic dressing. After I moved to Seattle, there was a while where I could buy 6-packs of it from Amazon, secure in the knowledge that there were plenty of Austin expats here for me to distribute it to, but after a while that went away. For a while, I would ask the people who were going back to Austin to import bottles for me, but eventually that seemed like too much effort.
Since then, I've been bouncing from dressing to dressing. Brianna's ginger mandarin has been a pretty good stand in, but it's got a lot of sugar in it and it doesn't drive me to eat salads unexpectedly. So yesterday, I was at Safeway, and there was a woman there giving out samples of spinach coated in these dressing/marinade/dips by Tessemae's. I'd gotten some of their Southwest Ranch a couple of weeks ago, and it was pretty good, so I tried the other flavors. They were all pretty good until I got to the Soy Ginger. As soon as I tasted it, my hand shot out and grabbed a bottle. HRH laughed at me. He'd tasted it first, and he'd said to himself, "As soon as Jenna tastes that, it's going in the basket." Apparently he knows a thing or two about me.
I really like it. I'm telling you this as I power through my second bowl of baby kale soaked in this stuff. No sugar, not a lot of sodium, big flavor. I don't often wax rhapsodic about dressing (about once a decade, apparently), but I am now devoted to this stuff. Do yourself a favor. Go try it.
The Borg has a lot of great (somewhat eroded) benefits, one of which is membership at an incredibly posh fitness club that was, I believe, originally designed for the Seattle SuperSonics. I rarely went there. It's close to work. It's incredibly nice. They offer a lot of services. I found it hard to engage. It was too much like going all the way back to work in the evening, and most of the class schedules seemed oriented toward either a mom who had a lot of time in the afternoon or toward a woman with no kids. I don't know if that's true, but it's how it seemed any time I looked at the schedule of stuff I'd be interested in Also, everything I was interested in cost extra.
This year, we made a bold move during benefits enrollment and tossed out Club Posh and opted for a family membership at the YMCA. The iBoo is in swimming lessons there, and she's flourishing to a degree that she never did at Club Posh. I think it's partially because they just expect more of her, so she gives more. I think it's also partially because the learning pool is 4 feet deep rather than 2.5 ft, so she can't screw around as much, and she also doesn't have an easy out, which is just stand up whenever it seems hard. She's also taking ballet there now, and she's amazed at how one place can offer both ballet AND swimming. I plan to avail myself of my friend Misty's Aqua Zumba lessons there, too, as soon as we get our logistical crap together.
In addition to the mechanics of the classes, the people at the Bellevue Y are just genuinely friendly. The Club Posh people were friendly enough as long as you were paying them for a class, but the Y people are friendly and remember your name for no reason other than it's just friendly. They've also got programs like Tuesday morning walks, where each Tuesday they choose a different neighborhood point of interest and walk 5 miles and then grab lunch. Makes me want to turn 40 just so I can qualify to go. I'm really energized by their offerings.
And so one of the lifeguards at the iBoo's swimming lesson recruited me as a fundraiser. They have a community fund that they use to offer programs to people who might not otherwise be able to afford it. He recruited me at the "I promise to mention it to my friends" level, which I will continue to do. I'm actually really impressed by the diversity of offerings that they have at the Y, and I would encourage you to look into your local Y's programs. And also, since I'm (semi) officially a fundraiser, I'd encourage you to look at the programs and think about how they might be of benefit to the community around you, and how you might contribute. And if you're here in Seattle and you want to find out more about what the Y has to offer, let me know. I've got like four 3 day guest passes, so you could check it out for FREE.
Just before the holidays, I went and volunteered at Northwest Harvest, a Washington hunger relief agency. I did it as part of a team event that I organized. I'd never been there before, and what I really wanted to do was go build trails for the Mountains to Sound Greenway, but it was getting late in the year and a bunch of people didn't want to get wet or cold, so I called Northwest Harvest.
It was really satisfying.
First of all, it felt like doing something for a really worthy organization. The orientation that they give you at the beginning emphasizes the dignity of the people who will be getting this food, and the focus they put on the nutritional content of the food they provide. They said, "We want to provide them with food that we'd be happy to feed our own families." They also don't require you to show proof of desperation. They figure if you've humbled yourself to the point of asking for help for your family, they don't need to add to that. And it carries through into how they tell you to pack the food in the box so that the people getting it can see neatly organized packages and not a jumbled mess of cast-offs. They put a lot of thought and care into their mission.
Then there was the actual work itself. There are a bunch of different jobs that they have divided up in a sort of assembly line. My job was box packer. I took the sealed bags of oats, wrapped their tails around them (the ends tucked neatly underneath), and I packed them, 16 per box, and slid the box down to the sealers. It was extremely satisfying to the part of me that really enjoys alphabetizing books, making 4 neat little layers of 4 bags of oats in each box. Then the supervisor came around and told all of the boxers to pack 17 bags per box. I kept making my neat little boxes of 16 bags and then gnashing my teeth as I placed the 17th bag in.
Our shift ended when we ran out of oats. I wasn't ready for it to be over. Then the Boeing engineer from the table next door said, "Oh! I should just throw these bags into your box instead!" and then he TOSSED his oat bags into my neatly organized box, all helter skelter. I about had a tiny aneurism. Instead, I waited til no one was looking and then hurriedly took his bags out, re-wrapped them, and placed them NEATLY back into my box. Boeing guys. Hmph.
But I loved it, and I'd like to go back monthly. I think it's best with a group of 4 or so people you know, because the banter during the menial tasks was really fulfilling as well. Let me know if you'd like to join me.
Some years ago, a friend of mine (who has twin boys, it should perhaps be noted) related to me the story of the boys' 12 month well-baby check, at which the doctor said, "Congratulations. You've now moved out of life support mode and into suicide prevention mode." At the time I thought it was funny. Now I realize that it means they not only need to be protected from doing the things that will cause themselves grievous bodily injury, but also that the parents must be wary of over-enthusiastically banging their heads into the wall.
We had a slightly different experience at the IchiRow's 18 month well-baby appointment. The doctor looked at him and said, "He's right on track fro an average three years old. That means that you have a special child-proofing challenge ahead of you, since he can reach everything a three year old can reach. Also, people will expect more mature behavior from him than he's capable of. When you take him into social situations, you might just lead off by dropping a comment like, "And can you believe he's not even two yet?" just to set the stage." I haven't been *that* worried about it because the iBoo was always really good about staying out of things that she's supposed to stay out of. The IchiRow, however, is into EVERYTHING. He's obsessed with unraveling dental floss. He finds toothbrushes sitting around and chews on them. He will empty any Kleenex box he gets his hands on in 5 seconds flat. I still don't know where my watch is. We find odd socks all over the house (and if you catch him carrying one around, you might be able to get him to play fetch with it). The other day, I caught him dipping his purloined toothbrush in the toilet and brushing his teeth with it. Today, I found him in the shower stall I'd just exited licking water off of the floor.
He. Is. In. To. EVERYTHING.
After a morning of such interventions, I looked over and saw him with an entire roll of toilet paper unspooled around him. "ICHIROW! NO!" I bellowed. Then I stomped downstairs.
"So have we entered the suicide prevention stage now?" HRH asked.
"No," I said, "we've entered the toiletry conservation stage."
When I went back upstairs, he had the whole wad of unraveled toilet paper in his hand, and he offered it to me with great contrition. He's a good kid. But you've been warned: If we come to your house, guard well your toiletries, lest they become spoils of a tiny incomprehensible war.
I've said before that it seems like places that are beautiful during the day are marked by a complete lack of presence at night, and that places that are beautiful at night tend to be marked by a distinct lack of beauty during the day. New York isn't like that. During the day, what you can see is amazing architecture. As the sun starts to wane and the shadows lengthen, you can see the incredible detail in the architectural accents. And once the sun is gone, you get an amazing light show. It's beautiful from beginning to end.
As I walked around with Todd and Heather, I realized that I must be an intense pain in the ass to walk around such a city with... every quarter block or so, something else would catch my eye and YET ANOTHER unannounced stop would occur while I fished out my camera and snapped a photo. I had assumed that the highlight of the trip would be seeing Kinky Boots and meeting up with friends. All of that was a highlight, and was amazing. I was gratified to discover on this trip that I've somehow managed to be the type of person who other people would be excited to see after 1 year, or 2 years, or 15 years, or 20 years, or 26 years, and I'm humbly grateful for that. But all of that wasn't the only highlight, because what I did each day, what I immersed myself in for this trip was walking around and absorbing the city, for 8 hours a day. Walking around, and just taking pictures of whatever caught my eye. It was probably one of the most fulfilling vacations I've ever been on, even if I was a pain in the ass.
This morning as we drove up to day care, the iBoo said, "It's a beautiful day! Look, the sun is inside the clouds and it's shining out. That's beautiful, right?" I imagine she has the capacity to grow up to be a pain in the ass, too. At least she'll come by it naturally.