Sunday, December 7, 2014

She Wants to Lead - The Glamorous Life

When I was in first or second grade, I bought my parents the best, most valuable, anniversary present I could imagine - a hunk of fur. Actually, I think it was a whole pelt from a small rabbit. I bought it on the black top market from a skinny blonde kid named Blake in my class for $2. God only knows where he got and even more of a mystery is what my parents must have thought receiving it. Disappointingly, they don't seem to recall.

Fast forward two years and my Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous preconceptions were still going strong; so when I saw a real, kid-sized rabbit fur coat at the local J.C. Penny, I could hardly imagine such luxury was within reach. I remember running my hands over it and taking in every bit of its heavenly softness.

Needless to say, receiving it for Christmas that year, blew my mind. Check out how I'm posed in this Christmas morning picture - that sassy hip and head tilt really conveys the glamor and the attitude. It says, "I'm in a weedy back yard right now with my aunt but I could easily be on a yacht." (Also check out my poor dopey brother - so happy and content with his random car watch).

Unfortunately, while it may have made me a starlet in my mind, the fur coat made me a pariah on the playground. Not many third graders are wearing fur coats and they especially weren't wearing them in rural Gilroy. In addition to the snotty comments, I also had to run constantly at recess or risk having some jealous brat pull out a chunk of my fur. Screaming, "Stop! This is very expensive!" didn't seem to help.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Scrabble Is For Lovers

WordFeud is basically online Scrabble that you can play with friends or strangers. For years, Jacob has had an account and at times he'll have 8 - 10 games going at a time. Sometimes he and the random opponent will engage in chit chat, mostly just to compliment each other on a word well played. But there is a bizarre phenomenon in the WordFeud world and it is "Gay Sexting Guy." Numerous (I'm not exaggerating - NUMEROUS) times Jacob's been boldly proposition by gentlemen who are clearly interested in taking your grandmother's Scrabble to the next level. What I find most bizarre is that these propositions is that they are based off of a thumbnail picture that is literally the size of my index fingernail.
Could Jacob have accidentally set his profile to indicate that in addition to playing Scrabble, he's also willing to drive across the country to have sex with anyone? This would make sense to me if these were all players from Portland but the players are paired at random and could live anywhere.

Last night we met a new archetype: "Guy Who Does Speed and then Plays Scrabble." Listed below is the transcript of their chat. The tension and frustration in his opponent's chats is palpable! Keep in mind that a player has up to three days in WordFeud to play a word before the game is forfeited. As of this writing, Jacob had still not taken his turn.

6:32 Guy: playing
6:50 Guy: playing
6:51 Jacob: what did that mean? am I going too slow?
6:52 Guy: making sure you are still playing that all...
6:52 Jacob: Oh, okay. I'm a little slow sometimes.
6:54 Guy: wooooo nice...
6:54 Guy: big time
6:54 Jacob: TY
7:24 Guy: Playing
7:37 Guy: go
8:26 Guy:giving considered. Losing
8:35 Guy: Go man....give up I win
8:37 Guy: Do a pass...
8:39 Guy: Go....go
8:40 Guy: Okay...I won...If you don't have a word...pass then
8:41 Guy: I have a word...if not I won
8:42 Guy: Technically. I win if you can't claim a word
8:44  Guy: Ok...thank you for the good game..I won

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Lately Vaughn has been super into American Ninja Warrior, a show that is basically just people competing to best each other's time in obstacle courses of varying degrees of difficulty. You have to be 21 years old to be on the show, but that hasn't stopped Vaughn from starting early training and he gets frustrated when we won't construct a replica of the 16 foot 'warped wall' or other elements featured on the courses.

Enter parkour. Although it's been around for a while and, like our Instagram accounts, we're several years behind the peak, I thought this might be a way to get him to stop literally climbing our walls and hanging off his door.

Vaughn makes it look easy
Revolution Parkour in Beaverton offered a sweet 'free class for new students' deal so I signed all three of us up for a beginning parkour class on Saturday morning. As we pulled into the parking lot and saw groups of kids getting dropped off by parents in mini-vans it hit me -we could potentially be the only adults in the class. I shared this with Jacob who said, "Yeah, and the best part will be all the other parents will be sitting and watching us."

As it turned out, we WERE the only adults among the kids - 17 kids in fact - ranging in age from about 9 to 12. The only other female in the class was probably 11 and she sidled up to me about ten minutes in and decided that we were going to stick together the entire time until I found myself actively trying to lose her. She and a "almost 13" year old boy seemed to take turns stalking me with alternating praise and constructive criticism. My own child was off doing his thing but I had been adopted by these two who turned me into their pet project. After she helpfully corrected Jacob he whispered to me, "How did she go from cute to annoying so fast?"

After 10 minutes of stretching, we learned basic forward/side/and back rolls (which aren't easy if you're trying to undo a lifetime of doing somersaults in a particular way) and then plodded through a changing course of blocks, tires, and balance beams. Due to the number of kids in the class, we weren't moving very fast so I was surprised to find myself sweating. Vaughn had so much fun that he asked if he could stay for the next segment and is angling to go back next weekend. I'm not sure I'll go back and do the class again but it was fun to try something new.


Clown make-up is harder than I thought!
I had the day off last Friday so I decided to go out to try and find the pieces of Vaughn's Halloween costume, since it was just one week away. I knew we wouldn't be topping last year's Blaze costume but I figured I could put my own flair on the 'Scary Clown' choice. I started out at Goodwill and discovered that, while Goodwill is normally an excellent place to get Halloween gear, a week before you are pretty much down to Super Mario Bros. costumes (children's sizes 4-6). If you wanted to be Luigi, you're in luck, they have 7 left. I didn't fair any better at Buffalo Exchange so I ended up plunking down $72 at Lippman's Party Supply since Jacob wasn't biting on my hint that it would probably be 'so easy' to sew pieces of a clown outfit (as the one who doesn't sew, it's always easy). Anyway, I kind of felt like a failure since it was all so pre-packaged but Vaughn loved it so I guess that is all that matters.

We went over to the Moyer's house and Sten and Vaughn got to run around Trick-or-Treating by themselves. It hit me a couple weeks ago that they had definitely gotten old enough to do this and there was no reason I should subject myself to standing out on the sidewalk in the cold calling out "Did you remember to say 'thank you'?" Interestingly, they came home after about 45 minutes since they knew there were large bowls of candy right at home. Maybe Halloween is one of those things kids naturally wean from.

About 30 minutes after we all went to bed, a wired Vaughn came to our door proclaiming he couldn't sleep and asking if he could sleep with us. "Vaughn," I wearily mumbled as he lumbered in between us, "You're way too old for this." "I know," he replied, "But it's fun."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

He's Up All Night To Eat Candy

Vaughn posted this pic of his gangsta's paradise
(12 year old style) to Instagram
Jacob has always said he wants to be the house that the kids hang out at. After Vaughn's slumber party, we may be rethinking that idea or, at the very least, be down for sharing the wealth. Vaughn had four of his friends spend the night after the Harvest Fair at school and on the way home they were already talking about how they were planning on staying up all night. We thought we had arranged a pretty decent compromise with a 12:30 "lights out" and 1am "no more talking" rule. What we didn't count on was that, in addition to a bounty of chips and candy, they also smuggled in a 2 liter jug of Dr. Pepper which they, somewhat bizarrely, passed around and chugged in the downstairs bathroom. For kids who are never allowed to drink soda with caffeine, this pretty much sealed the deal on being up all night. It also meant that Jacob and I didn't sleep particularly well, especially after one poor kiddo puked at 4 am. It was hard to be mad though - they drew on each other when one would drift off to sleep, texted girls, and generally had a blast. I'm not sure all the other parents were thrilled with the situation when we had to fess up to the debauchery at pick up this morning.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Office

Vaughn is twelve and a half and he is texting, Instagramming, pre-teen but I'm happy to say he's still down for a good cuddle. In Hawaii, we started watching The Office together on Netflix and it's kind of become our thing to watch a couple episodes a night while munching on junk food together.  It definitely feels like we are in the waning days of him hanging out with us so I'm going to ride this train as long as possible.
Snuggle time in Maui

Monday, October 13, 2014

Jacob Crosses Over

This was an actual conversation in our house tonight:

Scene: Disgusting, slobbery dog with her even-more-gross tennis ball jumps up on our bed.

Me to dog: Yeah, I don't want you up on our bed with your dirty ball.

Jacob bursts into uncontrollable giggles.

Me to Jacob: Ummmm..what's so funny?

Jacob (not very convincingly): Nothing

Vaughn: What are you? Ten?

It's good to know Jacob can still hang with the best of fifth-graders. The dog had no response.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Maui Pt. 2

We've returned from what was possibly the laziest vacation ever. We managed to do a little something every day but a whole lotta time was spent laying around the condo. In fairness, it was 90 degrees every day with 85 percent humidity in the morning.

I dragged my new mandolin with me so I forced myself to "play" each day; but this generally consisted of watching a ten minute YouTube video, playing the three chords I've learned for a few strums, and calling it a day (with a silent promise that I'd get serious once I get into lessons).

The happy couple looking fabulous
When he wasn't uploading pictures to Instagram, Vaughn's thing was to have 'rap battles' with Jacob that entailed both of them furiously writing away for a bit and then facing off to recite their raps over beats generated with Garage Band. They got better but neither one of them were particularly consistent with either rhyming or cadence. But then, what do I know? (Not much but I'm pretty sure incorporating "Powell's Books" into your rap isn't very street. Jacob).

The activities surrounding the wedding were very fun. Most days people did their own thing but we all met up to watch the sunset and toss the frisbee (which I cannot do but am not half bad with a Nerf football). The wedding itself was lovely and fun. Vaughn was an enthusiastic ring bearer and Jacob performed his ukulele song flawlessly.

It's always tough to come back from vacation. I think that both Jacob and I are working on figuring out how to live life so it doesn't feel like we're living from vacation to vacation. It was kind of a drag to step off the plane into pouring rain and I'm sure this will be a groggy week at work, but it's always good to be home.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Maui Pt. 1

There is a sticker on the bulletin board in our condo that says, "Please take off your Shoes before entering but no switch to better shoes when you leave." What does that mean? Jacob and I can't wrap our heads around it. It seems to imply don't steal any of the shoes in our house but that doesn't seem very hospitable. I guess it is just one of the mysteries of the island.

I've come to Maui with three basic goals (outside of the obvious of seeing our dear friends Lindsay and Sarah get married): Don't drown; don't get eaten by a shark; don't get sunburnt. The first two seem pretty easy but the last one is going to be rough. Luckily we've packed FIVE tubes of sunblock for 7 days here so I'm hopeful. The bulk of the guests at our condo complex seem to be over the age of 65 and I'm amazed at the their ability to bask in the sun like leathery honey baked hams next to the pool.

It's our first day here and our timing is all off. I barely made it to 7:30 last night before crashing out hard. Jacob woke up at 3:30 in the morning and would not stop pestering me to get up until I sternly told him he was annoying me (kind of like the verbal equivalent of hitting a puppy with a rolled up newspaper - NOT that I would do that. It's very old-school thinking and besides, anyone who has spent any time around any of my many animals over the years knows that I have no patience for discipline. Or training of any sort).
I think this crab is actually dead

Just as they did the last time we were in Maui, the boys took advantage of the time change and headed out to play basketball at 5:30 am.  I left not much later to walk the trail that runs along the ocean. It is insanely hot and muggy here so it was nice to get up before the sun was too high in the sky. There are plaques along the trail detailing interesting bits of Hawaiian culture and history. At one stop, I read about Eddie Pu (or "Mr. Aloha" as he was also known).  With a ti leaf wrapped around his forehead and only a towel, a walking stick and a bag of trail mix, Eddie walked the entire circumference of Maui each year for decades. I made the mistake of paying over $9 for a modest bag of trail mix during our first visit to the store so, while I hope to do a bunch of walking, it's going to have to be with a cheaper snack.

There's a lesson in this somewhere

Vaughn drives me crazy when he leaves his dirty clothes all over the house. Truth be told, all three of us are slobs but unlike Jacob and I, he can't be counted on to jump in and pick up. After numerous requests to remove his clothes from the bathroom went unmet, I instituted the new rule that all dirty clothes needed to be worn on his head until they were taken to the laundry basket where they belonged.
Vaughn is unphased by my new rule

We take Vaughn to a concert and he is not impressed.

There's been a serious decline in the quality of Vaughn's musical choices in the last year. Previously, he could be counted on to basically listen to whatever we did but now he's getting his own tastes and opinions and they are leaning toward hip hop and pop. When this came on I threatened to lock him the basement with a bunch of punk rock albums until he came to his senses but now I've thrown in the towel and just grit my teeth as he sits in the front seat and commandeers the car radio.

The other night we decided to take him to go see Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails and I hoped the energy of the show would maybe have a slight deprogramming effect on him. On the way there, we gave in and let him download the 'Explicit' version of the new Eminem song. Up until now, we've made him get the clean versions but I realized
that all kids hate having their music censored because their parents are all bunchy about the lyrics or message or whatever (how many times did I miss out on "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood when it was in constant rotation in the '80's?). Jacob also pointed out that we were taking him to a show where the lead singer growls about wanting to "fuck you like an animal." Parenting is a constant barrage of contradictions.

Anyway, despite having a pretty good time, he had been at a water park all day and started wearing down early. We had to cut out about a half hour into Nine Inch Nail's set, which made me sad since I missed them in high school when I had the flu. I don't think we changed any hearts or minds last night- but we still had a pretty good time.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Phone Call

Vaughn had an assignment tonight as part of his Service Learning Journal. The assignment was called "A Phone Call" and the instructions read:

Most of us have a person in our life that we don't see very often and would love to receive a phone call or letter checking in and catching up. A simple gesture of a phone call or written letter can make someone's day very special. Choose a person who is of an older generation to call or write a letter to. 

Nice sentiment! Vaughn chose his Grandpa Lou who it's fair to say he sees on a pretty regular basis. We tried to coach Vaughn on some meaningful questions but because he is pretty lazy about homework, he went with three questions that just scream "catching up."

1. How was your day?
2. Do you have any plans for tomorrow?
3. What did you eat for breakfast?

Actually, now that I think about it, those aren't bad "checking in" questions for an older adult but I don't think that was the spirit of the assignment. When we teased him about the quality of the assignment, Vaughn actually tried to pin a little blame on my dad by saying that he just said his plans for tomorrow were to do "something indoors" rather than naming something specific. My dad, for his part, confessed that Vaughn's giggling throughout the interview made him think that perhaps he and Sten were playing a trick on him (which would be fair since they did try and slip my dad a couple melatonin a few years ago when my dad was babysitting them. Once bitten…)

The best part of the assignment was the final question: How did you feel about the conversation after? How do you think it made them feel? Vaughn's answer? "I think it made my grandpa feel more included in my life."

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Faithful readers know that each year for my birthday, Jacob learns and plays a song of my choice. This year it was "Wagon Wheel" and although I got an 'official recording' with all the editing, I love this version I shot on my phone.

Training Day

The last time I was "a runner" was my senior year in high school. After not having done anything athletic for two years, I decided I'd run track my senior year (full disclosure: this was after flaying really badly at badminton try-outs. It turns out some people take that really seriously!).

I started running a solid couple miles every few days and considered myself in pretty decent shape, so it was a big surprise when I showed up for the first day and the warm up was a mile - half my total workout! Those of us who planned on running "the mile" competitively were sent off to run FIVE miles for our daily workout. After already running a mile! There was no way I was going to go five miles. Despite the encouragement of my fellow teammates, I bailed off the course after a couple more miles. I think I gave a couple other track sports a go (discovering I had developed a healthy fear of hurdles) before bailing on the idea of competing in track altogether.

Fast forward to now when I have no heart/lung capacity (but knees that will go the distance!). Vaughn announced he'd like to start running and running competitively. I figure, unlike basketball, with a little effort I can do this in at least the very minor leagues. We decided we'd set a goal for a 5K exactly one month from now. Today was our first day of training and although we walked/ran the 3.1 miles, we felt so good after that Jacob got on our pavement bandwagon and all three of us are signed up for the Shamrock Run. Our goal is to be able to actually run the whole thing without having to walk.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


I have loved Vaughn at every age. Watching him grow and unfold - I remember clearly the feeling that he was a book we had no idea what it was about. We watched him take shape, develop personality, things he was good at, things he gravitated toward.

In some ways, I love this age the best. At eleven and a half, he is polite and genuinely caring with a quirky and off-beat sense of humor that makes me so proud.

So it's fair to say that I was totally unprepared for the intensity of emotions elicited by watching old baby videos. Videos we haven't watched since we filmed them. The people in the videos are almost strangers to me. I recognize these younger, smoother versions of Jacob and I but I do not connect us to them. Such is the disconnect that I don't see the baby on the screen in the child sitting next to me and it fills me with an unexpected pain and longing. I watch the video of Vaughn and I in the tub, blowing bubbles and practicing letters and I ache to hold his chubby body and breathe in the baby smell. I don't want Vaughn back as a baby and I certainly don't want ANOTHER baby, but I can't reconcile the sadness. The baby on the screen seems like a separate person - a person who is irretrievably gone. I think, "I had a baby once - where is my baby?" I imagine my loving, sweet boy playing with the baby on the screen. I guess it is just one of those maternal things that happens as we get older and watch our children grow.