Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November Doings

I'm going to go ahead and call last weekend relaxing, despite the fact that we spent it with a four year-old whose sole purpose in life seems to be to express his disapproval of everything (be it an idea, an object, a person, an observation, a song, or a snack) that crosses his path.

On Saturday we cast a critical eye about the house, rearranging some furniture and making plans for what we'd like to change in the future if large piles of money happen to fall unexpectedly into our laps. In what passes for quality family time around these parts, we spent Saturday evening watching TV. Shaun and I watched the Ducks play Arizona (an incredible game) while the boys watched Star Wars on the portable dvd player within easy fast-forwarding reach.

That was our final evening of laying about on our giant squishy sectional sofa, the suburban denim equivalent of a black hole. On Sunday we sold it on craigslist to a very nice family who live in a restored chicken coop. And we sold our old dining chairs to a girl in North Portland who already had the fabric picked out to recover them. We would have liked to be friends with all the people who bought our stuff. It almost made it worth dealing with all the flaky losers who kept saying they wanted to come see our things but then never did. Ah, craigslist.

If weekends can have opposites, then the weekend before last was indeed last weekend's opposite. Shaun's parents watched the boys while Shaun and I went to Seattle. We stayed at the Red Lion Inn downtown. We had some good cocktails, some dismal cocktails, and lots and lots of frites. We also got our hairs cut at Rudy's Barbershop. I should mention that that was THE FIRST TIME SHAUN HAD HIS HAIR CUT AT A BARBERSHOP. EVER. So that was fun.

We mostly walked around (we could see Pike's Place Market from our hotel room window) and ate, but we did venture out (and venture was the word!) to a little non-profit movie "theater" in the University District to see a newly restored version of Leave Her To Heaven. I give the experience two thumbs up.

We enjoyed our tiny taste of big-city life (it's not every day you watch a drunk guy chuck a can at a passing car and then get immediately swooped in on by the police) but it sure made us appreciate the quiet little beauty of our day-to-day life.

In between the weekends we had the Dennis family over for dinner. They are, in fact, a good deal more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Joy brought two delicious apple pies. The kids (well, at least the six youngest) put on every variation of every hat and costume we own and ran around having a whooping good time. Leo even found the time to draw a most winsome seascape:

So there's a taste of our November so far. I expect the rest to be grand as well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Kids Like Dressing Up Every Bit As Much As I Did...

but somehow that's not as gratifying as I expected it to be. I guess I didn't need to hold on to all those bridesmaid dresses.

It's Been One Year Now...

since Willem had his heart fixed. I took a little walk down memory lane this evening.

God is good.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Older? Check. Wiser? **crickets**

Well, right on the heels of Willem's birthday came mine. Because it is a requirement in our family that we do things in clumps. We have the September/October/November birthdays plus Halloween and Thanksgiving cluster in the fall, and we have another nice little busy time in May with Shaun's birthday, our wedding anniversary, and Mother's Day. And yes, Shaun's birthday inevitably gets short shrift. Sorry, Shaun.

[Off-topic, but on my mind: I'll breathe easier once Thanksgiving is behind me. I have a history of contracting spectacular maladies on Thanksgiving; appendicitis, viral meningitis, and one very memorable case of the flu.]

As for getting older, I have never had much sympathy for the woes of the newly middle-aged. Friends who were turning 40? Young! Aches and pains, wrinkles, a slowing metabolism, hair where you wish it weren't and no hair where you wish it were? It's inevitable--and you know it's coming--so suck it up, people.

MY APOLOGIES, PEOPLE. I get it now. I am sympathetic. Chock full of sympathy, in fact. Despite knowing that I would get exactly one year older every year, I am shocked to find that I am thirty-seven years old and doing all those things that I always thought it was silly for people so young to do; things such as contemplating my mortality and re-evaluating who I am and what I've "achieved." Gah.

And yet, despite my disappointment in myself for caring a fig about aging, I could not help but be anything other than grateful and happy on my birthday. There were cards and gifts and phone calls and birthday serenades from all my nieces and nephews, not to mention a nice lunch out with Shaun's folks and grandma in Portland after church.

But the absolute highlight of the day came when we went to pick Nels and Willem up from Sunday school, where Nels had enthusiastically spread the word that it was my birthday. The class devoted the entire morning to thinking of ways to show me kindness.

When I stuck my head in the door, I was quite surprised to hear, "She's here, she's here!" and then be sung "Happy Birthday" to by a room full of four to six year-olds. I was then given a gift; a "pillow" made out of the backside of a lesson coloring page, stuffed with strips of cut-up paper, and stapled shut around the edges in lieu of stitching. My name was written on it in purple highlighter, along with a drawing of a flower. The grand finale was a birthday cake; they'd raided the church kitchen and made me a layer cake of graham crackers and peanut butter, with pretzel filling. Also, it's hard to tell in the photo, but my name is spelled on the top of the cake in pretzel pieces.

Nels was pleased as punch with himself, and I was happy to see him so happy to make me happy. A very memorable birthday, indeed.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Hoo boy. As you can see, this year we went with standard-issue, store-bought costumes that look so flammable that I feared for the boys' lives whenever they got within ten feet of a lit jack o'lantern.

Willem had been begging for several weeks to be a skeleton, and Nels wanted to be a Star Wars character. Good old Darth was the only Star Wars character available whose integrity had not been compromised by the prequels. I do have some standards.

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I agreed to let the boys go downtown for trick-or-treating on the Wednesday before Halloween. My plan was to ignore the event, but Nels's school really talked it up (thanks a lot, teach) and I momentarily took leave of my senses and said, "OK, let's go!"

Our downtown is REALLY SMALL, with only one main drag, and the place was wall-to-wall children. It was enough to make my chest tighten with anxiety even without my accompanying foot-dragging mouth-breathers. We had to stand in lines on the sidewalk just to get to the next store where I would have to tell my boys for the millionth time to hold out their buckets already. I won't say any more about it except to say NEVER AGAIN. NEVER. EVER. AGAIN. Next year I'll take them out for an ice-cream sundae instead.

On Halloween proper we got serious and Shaun and the boys carved the perfect pumpkin that Grandma brought us from her garden.

My boys really love Halloween. But wow, I'd never realized how much socialization is required for a proper trick-or-treating outing. Every little step I'd always taken for granted needed to be gone over in explicit detail. Over. And over. And over. And over.

We briefed the boys before every house, and still they had to be prompted through each interaction. They would truly just stand in the open doorway and stare as though they were wishing to be hugged and then invited in and then adopted forever.

OK, walk up to the door. Ring the doorbell. Stand back! You're too close, they won't be able to open the door! Say 'trick-or treat'! Oh PLEASE stop staring and say 'trick or treat'! Now what do you say? Thank you! Say thank you. OK, guys, turn away from the door. Turn away. Stop staring. Turn around. Time to head out. Really, guys, stop staring.

I'll leave it up to you to imagine how much of that we actually had to say out loud. More of it than you might think.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Willem turned four almost two weeks ago. Where do I start with this kid? How about with the salute he gave me after we sang to him and I placed his birthday cake in front of him:

And that's Willem for you. Even when he's not talking, his life is one long running commentary; a salute, a thumbs-up, a high five.

Willem wants to be the boss of the world. And he's starting at home. He always has to have the last word, and his habitual attempts at a power grab have led to some truly ridiculous exchanges:

"Good night, Willem. I love you. Have a good sleep. See you in the morning." I pull the door almost shut.

"Mom! Say 'I love you.''"

"I DID say I love you."

"Say 'I love you!'"

"I already did, and you know I love you. No more talking."

"Say it, mom! Say 'I love you!'"

"Say 'I LOVE YOU!'"



Willem loves to pretend. In one morning at home he was:

a robot
a chef
a pirate
a kitty
a dog
and an old guy.

In that order.

Willem puts on "naughty" in much the same way that he puts on any of his other personas. He throws strangely dispassionate tantrums; in pursuit, I think, of having the upper hand. The other day he was rolling around on the rug, screeching in fits and starts.

"Have you EVER gotten what you wanted by throwing a fit?" I asked him. He stopped and rolled over to look at me.


"Then why do you keep doing it?"

He just looked at me blankly, gave a half-hearted shriek or two, and got up to do something else. Alas, the conversation had no lasting impact. He perseveres. And just when I'm about to tear my hair out, we have a conversation like this:

"Do you want me to drop you off here with the teacher, or do you want me to park and walk you in to school?"

"I want you to take me in. Because I love you and your hair is so soft."

Willem tells me thank you, unprompted, all the time. Thank you for the dinner, Mommy. Thank you for cleaning the house, Mommy. Thank you for my shirt, Mommy. He's full of compliments, sometimes even when he's not about to ask me for something.

Willem watches the scary parts of Iron Giant while Nels covers his eyes and then tells his brother when it's safe to look.

Willem makes you shake your head and say, "that kid." His body language is idiosyncratic and completely charming. He captures the attention of almost everyone we meet. I feel like I have some sort of insight into Nels's personality, because it's similar in many ways to mine. But Willem's (perhaps also because of his younger age) is more of a mystery. I can't wait to see how it shakes out.