Thursday, October 27, 2011

Autumn, Colorado-style / Take Four

Everything changed here, as we got our first snow of the year.

It caught me somewhat unprepared; Noah's legs sticking 4 inches beyond the end of his snow pants. I removed the liner from his two-sizes-too-small boots so that they 'fit.' I gave him long mittens to cover his exposed wrists. And I placed a quick online order for a new snow outfit.

But then, it wasn't even that cold. We went inside from snowman making, carved a jack-o-latern, and took this photo on the front steps two hours later.
The trees were unprepared as well. If nothing else, a tree in full fall colors, covered in snow, makes an impression. Now, I'm hoping the trees don't shed their clothes like the boys.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

5 PM: Happy Hour

Do you have days when you finally put the kids to bed and you stop to breathe and you think: I feel traumatized? Like you just survived a battle? Like your heart is still pounding in your chest? Because I feel like that sometimes. I have these little arguments with myself where I say to myself,

"Ann, you are NOT traumatized. YOU do not even know what trauma is. You live in a nice house, in a wealthy country.You have a very healthy, happy family.You get to spend your day with your family! You are lucky. Lucky, I say! NOT TRAUMATIZED. THINK GOOD THOUGHTS, POSITIVE THOUGHTS!"

And yet, I still close my eyes, bury my head, set my jaw firmly in place, and try to will the boys to sleep a little bit better and a little bit longer through the night. Please....

It's hard to remember the days when I used to look forward to 5pm. Grandma will think this video is funny.  Maybe I, too, will think it's funny - TEN YEARS FROM NOW. I advise anyone else, especially those with little kids, to JUST SURF ALONG to the next blog. Anything that I have to say today has already been said. Although joining the antics of these two might make me feel better, especially considering the potential snow day tomorrow.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

This Past Week at the Wyse House

Green Ketchup: Mara helped me make and CAN on Wednesday morning. Fritz inexplicably ended up hanging around and telling her the Canning Horror Story. Didn't he have a job to be at or something?* Mara took it all in stride, unlike me. I was ready to call off the project and just stick the green ketchup in the fridge.

And Kristi's Green Zebra Ketchup? Awesome!! Except for the fact that Noah won't eat it. I believe his exact words were:

"That green ketchup is too sparkly! I'm never eating it again. Mommy, I need some milk RIGHT NOW." I think the "sparkle" was the pepper. But really, who knew ketchup could taste so good? I'm actually glad we don't have to share with the RED ketchup fiends in our house.

Thank you, Mara!
Blueberry Bushes: are turning a marvelous range of colors. The soil isn't very good for blueberries in Colorado. However, I read (somewhere online) that you can grow them in pots. We needed something for our naked, exposed deck, back before the planter and bamboo, so blueberries it was. They love our deck. I love the fall color. Mattias is all about the blueberries themselves.
Fence Staining: the never ending project. I'm a mere 7-one-sided-panels (out of 44) away from completion. Maybe this weekend. No photos, because I don't have it in me to look at any more fence than I absolutely have to.
Paper Making: Fritz was suddenly inspired to teach Noah about recycled paper. He called Oma (The Artist) to get her 'paper recipe.' Tearing the newspaper into itty bitty pieces? Way fun. The screen part? Fun, too. This artsy-crafty-get-dirty side of Noah is still so new to me. Mattias, as always, jumps right in. He's 100% his Oma's Enkelkind.
*Actually, I love it when Fritz 'works from home,' but I do like to have a little notice, because it's rare, and seems like it should be celebrated!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Franconian Wine

I don't know a lot about wine, but I'd like to learn.

When I was teaching English in Munich, one of my private students, a woman in her early 40s, was a wine hobby-ist. Since she loved to talk about wine, I often used wine as our topic to generate grammar lessons. I'm not sure I can say I learned a lot about wine. But I did start to think about wine in new ways.  Integral to her hobby of wine collection was travel.  Every wine she bought was handpicked at a vineyard over a weekend of travel.

Fritz comes from Franconia (Franken), an area of Germany close to Frankfurt, but still in the German state of Bavaria (Bayern). They grow grapes on the south facing slopes of the Main River. The wine produced is so dry (with such a low sugar content) that it has it's own scale of dryness. To me, it tastes so complex and refined. After a few years of drinking it, I lost the ability to drink most American white wines which are now almost uncomfortably sweet. Franconian wine is produced in small batches and mostly consumed in Franconia. Although, der Spiegel once claimed the Queen of England drinks it regularly. It has its own special bottle design, called the Bocksbeutel.

When we lived in Munich, we drove up to Franconia (about 4 hours away) once a month to visit family. We often stopped at the local wine dealer, Weingut Wengerter to pick up a case of wine. At 5 euros (about $8) a bottle, it was affordable and significantly better than the 2 euro wine at our corner grocer.
At some point, Franconian wine became quite boring, and we began to get wine from Spain and Italy through mail order programs that send 12 different bottles to sample. These programs are omni-present and quite affordable in Germany. Occasionally, I see similar programs advertised here in the states, and I've always wondered how they navigate the complicated interstate alcohol laws. Some day, we might try these programs stateside, I think.

The Spanish and Italian wine samples were sometimes good and sometimes bad. But after about a year of experimentation, we returned to Wengerter.

In Denver, we decided to make a concerted effort to try American wines. Although we haven't been to any vineyards here in Colorado, we're really disappointed in our 'finds' at the local wine stores.

We gave up; we looked for imported Franconian wine. Nothing. At least nothing here, in the state of Colorado.

I wonder if it is a mistake to buy wines from a store anyway. Commercially available wines are, after all, mass produced.

Maybe good wine can simply NOT be mass produced. And the idea of a whole store that sells vast quantities of the same wine? Detrimental to quality. Maybe we need to buy wine at the vineyard on our Weekend Travels, like my student.  Because we do SOOOO many Weekend Travels with the boys.

We bought a case of wine from Wengerter last Spring while in Germany. We had no idea how we would get that much wine back to Denver. We thought only 2 bottles would make it back due to customs regulations: one for me, one for Fritz. But the more I looked into the regulations, the more excited I became. It's confusing - but basically, you can bring as much wine (for personal consumption) as you want into Colorado from abroad. You will simply be responsible for paying customs and tax on the value of the wine. And here, I should tell you the customs and tax are quite low: fear not. So there you have it, go abroad and collect lots and lots of wine.

We hauled back 14 bottles of wine in cardboard wine boxes in the luggage compartment of the airline. We paid a little extra for an additional piece of luggage. I hope the wine lasts until we can start Weekend Wine Collecting Expeditions. I'm sure there's good (affordable) wine out there; I'm just pretty convinced it's not available at the 'local' wine store.

I wrote this post a long, long time ago. And accidentally hit publish last week (or so). Now, I'll publish it for real, while I struggle through completing a couple posts that are... challenging me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Autumn, Colorado-style / Take Three

We turned off the irrigation system in our yard and within two days:
Ah! Red.

You can still see some of the mucky yucky brown leaves, but there's a fair amount of red.

I've also decided, in the process of driving around the greater Denver region, that there are a lot of yellow trees in older neighborhoods, but many more red trees in newer neighborhoods. So maybe I'm not the only one missing New England.

I can also see the red leaves through the window as I walk down the stairs:
Doesn't everyone have dead, dried plants sitting in their windows? How could I throw it away? It's so cool looking, even if it's brown.
Ah, very nice.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Autumn, Colorado-style / Take Two

I guess what always surprises me, when I look at the photos, is the dryness. High prairie, I often say. But even that may imply a little more green than there is. 






Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Autumn, Colorado-style / Take One

Right about now, each year, I start to long for New England. Mostly what I long for are the sugar maples. Especially the primarily red sugar maples nestled in the rolling hills of Berkshire County in Massachusetts. Each year that we've lived in Colorado, I've tried to get excited about the yellow aspen that pop up in pockets all over the Rocky Mountain-sides. But it's not really the same. I'm a red person.

The one tree I wanted to plant in our yard was a sugar maple. However, the man at the nursery talked  me into an autumn blaze maple, because it could withstand Colorado's conditions better (he said). I wanted to be, you know, sensitive to these things. It came with a nice little tag showing how RED the leaves would turn in the fall. The boys gave it to me for Mother's Day. I was thrilled.

"It was the very last one!" Fritz told me proudly.

Um...

Okay, no problem! I can cheer for the underdog! I anxiously waited all summer. It's turning color...
Ack! Ack! Ack!

[photo removed]

Do those leaves look red to you? They're not even yellow! They're mucky yucky brown. Please, don't try to tell me they'll turn brown and then red, that's NOT how it works! Should I dig it up and take it back?!

I'm trying to be an optimist. In New England, they say the fall colors won't be as good if it's wet. Maybe the tree is getting too much water. Maybe it will be better next year. Maybe I should have insisted upon a sugar maple, like I wanted. And then, if it still didn't turn red, we'd at least be able to tap our own maple tree to boil and boil and boil the sap away. (Thank you, Ox-Cart Man, for reminding me.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On Moving

An acquaintance of mine is moving away. I learned a few days ago and I still can't shake the feeling of sadness. What I've come to realize is that although she is not someone that I know very well, she is someone that I would like to know better. She is someone that I would have liked to call my friend.

Usually, I'm on the other side of The Moving Conversation. I'm the one saying, "Yes, I'm (we're) moving to such-and-such-place." I've had 21 addresses in 10 different cities in 34 years. I've got the moving thing down. I'm also really, really, really tired of moving. I don't want to move again for a very long time. Not because this place, or any other place, for that matter, is perfect. That's one side effect of all the moving: you learn that every place has its own special-(and not so special-)ness to offer. Rather, I'd just like to stop uprooting my life. I would like - literally and figuratively - to see some trees grow around here.

Another side effect of all that moving, is that my friendships lack the depth and time that produces a sort of life experience diversity. It works like this: you move to a new place, you meet people who are in a similar situation: maybe they are in college, maybe they are single and working 60 hour weeks, maybe they also have 4 year olds. Whatever the case, their current life experiences are a lot like yours. And then 3 years go by, and you move again, leaving behind those friends and finding new ones, once again, in the same situation as yourself. And because you don't stay in one place for any length of time, you find you are continuously surrounded by a lot of people who are going through the same things. Your college roommate may have taken a very different path in life, but because you moved far away and contact is limited, or mostly superficial ( as long distance relationships have a tendency to become), you find yourself lacking depth and diversity in your relationships with your immediate circle of friends. Or at least, such is my situation. I'm sure it's further exaggerated by NOT having a job outside the home and NOT living near any immediate family.

So my acquaintance, who I wish I could call my friend, is very unlike me in the most obvious ways. She doesn't have children. She's probably 15 years older than me. She has a paying in job in a field that has nothing to do with children OR architecture. She does something I have never - and probably never will do - she gets collagen injections! And yet, I think she's fascinating and rather upfront in an endearing kind of way and whiny in a funny way and I wish that we were friends.

There's a lot to be said for being friends with people who are similarly situated in their life experience. You don't need to spend a lot of time developing a shorthand for communication, because you're already going through the same things at the same time. It's easier to offer help and receive help when your experiences and expectations match. It's comforting to know you are not alone, it's reassuring to have the support of others, and it's empowering to have a collective vision. Similarly situated friends can be wonderful. It still fills my eyes with tears to think of my group of childless American women friends in Munich who saved my sanity as I struggled through a year and a half of culture shock.

But now, 6 years later, thinking about them also fills my heart with longing for intimate friendships with people who are different: friends who don't have kids, friends who don't share my concerns about injecting chemicals under their skin, friends who go on vacations that aren't dictated by visiting families. I think all these characteristics are things that emerge or change slowly with time and create deeper relationships. For example, I think about the changes my Munich friends have gone through after meeting up to sip a Radler in the biergarten was no longer an option. I feel disappointed that I wasn't there when they became mothers, or found better jobs, or left a spouse. I often wonder, as I think about this group of friends, would they still be intimate friends, or would life have carried us in other directions regardless of moving? Would we still have a relationship? Would the relationship actually feel deeper if I had been there when they were going through these changes? Whatever the case, I wish that I had the option to have them more in my life than thousands-of-miles-away permits.

The cool thing about being around people who are at a different point in their life, or who simply have had different experiences, is that it gives me perspective. I feel more defined and clear about the choices I've made and things I'm doing. Which is not to say, "I'm right, you're wrong." Rather, it's more like a realization of, "Hey, that's right! It did really sucked when I lived alone and couldn't get a jar open. And by the way, it also sucks when your kid breaks a jar of tomato sauce and gets it all over the white kitchen cabinets." The grass isn't always greener, you know. Sometimes, being at home, or maybe even just being a mother, I find it really hard to keep perspective. The other day, an old friend, going through a rough patch, called needing support. I was so glad. So glad to try to be helpful to someone with such a different life. And glad to think about something other than my kids and our school fundraisers and our house projects. The call was eye-opening. I miss this - I miss having other people - and I have to admit to myself that I really need them.

I believe strongly that friendships ebb and flow, regardless of place. Also, if you move enough, sooner or later, you start bumping into the same people all over again. That, in and of itself, can be an awesome experience.

But really, now, I'd just like me and everyone near me to stay put for awhile so that I can grow these relationships and friendships. Fewer props, more depth. And hopefully, phone calls like the other day won't be so far between.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Concrete Sunflower Leaf

Hi there. I'm back.

I've spent the last week playing with concrete instead of blogging. Fritz swears that if he sees anymore concrete in the next year, it will be too soon. Me? I'm just getting started.

While I was playing around with concrete, the boys and I made some fun little leaf impressions that made a great, simple kid project. It was so easy - the results so agreeable -  that I thought I would share; also I think it would make a really cool Holiday gift idea. You know how you always see these craft ideas for kids, and then you try it out, and - well, it's not a craft idea for kids, it's a craft idea for adults that LOOKS like kids made it? This one was nice and simple and we really did it with a 4.5 year old and 18 month old. Also, I think it looks not-so-childish and rather sophisticated.

The trick with this project, is that the kid's participation is really in the process: gathering the leaves and mixing and dumping of the concrete. And the result is all about the materials (concrete and a leaf). Now that I think about it, it's just the kind of project an architect would love. But that doesn't mean anyone else will like it... Well, just humor me, okay?

Concrete can sound intimidating if you've never worked with it before, BUT IT'S SO EASY.

First, get some concrete. You don't want coarse rocks in it, so look for a sand or topping mix, like this:

It weighs a lot (60 lbs), so have another adult help you carry it. I'd avoid any concrete that says anything about drying in 45 minutes or an hour. You're working with KIDS. A snail's pace is OKAY. If someone needs a bathroom break 30 seconds into 'plopping' (below), the slower setting concrete will be your best friend. You won't use the whole bag, so consider putting the concrete bag in a garbage bag, so that once the concrete bag is opened, the dust will not go everywhere. Also, the dust isn't great for breathing, so we wore masks when working with the dry mix. Also, we worked outside.

You'll need a bucket for mixing in, as well as something for stirring. We're not making a lot of concrete here, so we used a wooden paint stick to stir. Noah used gloves, because he doesn't like to touch anything concrete. I put a plastic tarp on the floor, and we used parchment paper in the spot where we 'plopped,' You'll see that in a bit. Ignore the green trinkets, we didn't use them on this project.

Then we went and found the biggest leaves with the biggest veins that we could. For us, this was a sunflower leaf.

I'm going to guess that you want to stay around 6-8" in diameter on the leaf. Anything bigger probably wouldn't be able to support it's own weight using this technique. Our leaf wasn't very nice. Insects has chewed some holes in it. No matter! Veins are facing up, so that they make an impression in the concrete which we will plop on top:

Then we started mixing concrete. A little bit of water.
And a little bit of concrete:

And mix! This was the really fun part for the boys, so we took our time and enjoyed it. The concrete will be about the right consistency when you can plop it on top of itself and it creates little hills buttes. If it's too fluid, add some more mix. If it's too stiff, add some water. HINT: Give your helpers SMALL containers for adding water and mix. You could even use a squirt gun or medicine dropper for adding water. And start stirring right away because 1) concrete is heavy and you don't want to have big 'ole lumps of mix in the bottom that you - or your little helpers - can't stir and 2) everybody wants to help a lot. So: little bit of mix + little bit of water, then stir, and repeat until you have enough concrete to cover your leaves. (Just eyeball the amount. How's that for specificity?)

Then, plop that concrete on top of the leaf. More...
and more.
Then shape the concrete around edges of the leaf. This part, I did myself: basically, pushing all the extra concrete way from the edge of leaf, so that the concrete is ONLY on top of the leaf. Here, the parchment paper comes in handy to protect the floor from all the excess concrete that was plopped on top.

I allowed the boys to stick sticks in the concrete because they wanted to and I knew it wouldn't ruin the finished product. Rinse the bucket well as soon as you are done, because whatever you leave in there is staying in there. On the other hand, don't sweat the sticks. After the boys went to bed that evening, I pulled the sticks back out.

Then we let it dry for about 24 hours. At which point, I picked up the concrete lump and pulled off the leaf. The concrete was more or less 'set' at this point, but it wasn't finished drying yet. Complete drying took another 2-3 days.

Then we put it in among our naturalistic-rock-filled-deck steps:

Cute! I think.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Plastic Eyeglass Frame Discoloration

A while back, I wrote a rather boring post about the plastic frames on my eyeglasses and how they were discoloring.  They're tortoise shell frames that I bought about ten years ago. It looks like the plastic on them has dried out. But I really like these particular frames, so I've been trying to figure out how to 'fix' them for some time.

Now, if you read here regularly, you already know that I don't do paid ads or promos here - not because I have anything against them, per se - but because sales and advertising are just not my thing. However, my stats tell me that a lot people are finding this mommyblog because of that boring post on those eyeglass frames. Hmmm. I've debated deleting the post, because it's so NOT what this blog is about. Then the (very small) investigator in me got the better of the me and I decided to experiment on my frames and post AGAIN on this dull, but apparently important-to-many-people topic. I'll consider it a public service announcement. But be warned, I'm about to sound a little bit...commercial. Okay, here it goes:

My Paul Smith frames - or spectacles, as they call them - looked like this:

See that white stuff on there? eHow said it was makeup or styling products, but I REALLY doubt it because I almost never wear makeup and I don't use lotion, and I wash my face only with water. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that, actually. But in this case, it might be helpful to point that out. Most likely whatever oils or residues are on these glasses come from my hands. AND, since a lot of the white is on the top of the frames, I suspect they are drying out, not discoloring from chemicals. Finally, I kind of collect glasses - I guess I really like them - and this is the ONLY pair that I own that is discoloring. Admittedly, at 10 years, they are also the oldest pair of plastic frames that I own.

Onward.

One anonymous commenter said to try WD40 and buffing. I'm going to assume buffing means using a soft cloth and NOT steel wool or sand paper like eHow wanted me to do.  I decided to test the lanolin I was using against the WD40. So, here are the befores and afters:



The lanolin worked better. But now I need to give you some qualifiers:

1) Technique: I rubbed both products in. Not really buffing: more like smearing.
2) Time: I let both products sit on the frames for a long time. Like 48 hours. Not because they needed to sit there that long, but because I got distracted by my other 'job' in the midst of the experiment.
3) Time: I did check on the progress about 15 minutes after application, and at that point, the WD40 was winning.
4) Longevity: I'm not sure which product will do better in the long haul. And THAT is why I did half of the frames with lanolin, and half with WD40.
5) Caution: Plastic is a complicated material; different plastics are made with different chemicals. What is good for one plastic may not necessarily be good for another plastic. A latex, for example, would actually dissolve in oil given enough time. I have no specific knowledge about the plastic in eyeglass frames, except for what the results of this experiment tell me.

So now, I'll go wear the glasses for a few weeks or months or whatever it takes and I'll update you! Or Paul Smith can send me a new pair of spectacles, preferably with my prescription lenses, in that Harrold style. I'll be a contemporary, female Le Corbusier and no longer need these old, discoloring frames.

Who am I kidding? I love having multiples frames to choose from!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Répétez

I think we've made it into the rhythm of the new school year. It feels good, even though Mattias continues to take one single, ridiculously early morning nap (at 9 or 10 am) 75% of the time, while Noah is at school. I've resigned myself, realizing that he sleeps better when his brother is not around and he plays harder when his brother is around. Okay, yes. All the better for an early bedtime. Last night, they were both asleep by 7:15. A miracle, aided by the earlier setting of the sun.

Leo Lionni's Frederick entertains his field mice family during the cold winter.
Fritz points out every evening how much darker it is than the day before. It's a yearly ritually, his 5 weeks of preemptive mourning of Daylight Saving Time. He hates finishing his working day in darkness, hates the coldness it brings, hates the early morning sun. He pretty much dislikes autumn and begrudges winter; unless they come with skis, crevasses, and sleds.

We are foils. I like autumn, I like winter, I like the cold, I even like the darkness. It brings out my inner artist.

As a child, I found it exhilarating when the sun set during my 3:30 ballet class. There was thrill associated with the fact that I was awake, it wasn't bedtime, and yet, yet, the sky was dark! Plié. And it all happened while I was demi-plié-ing next to those big, huge windows in the second floor studio with high ceilings overlooking main street. Plié. The street lights klicking on randomly. Plié. Sometimes I could see the fog of rain or sleet or snow in the headlights of passing cars below. Plié. Honestly, I didn't focus very much on those pliés. I was more in love with that particular room in that city at that special time of day. Class over, shoes off, boots on, parka pulled over my dance clothes, down the stairwell, a chute to the sidewalk that was thick with the smell of leather, and then, finding the soft headlights of our family minivan parked in the dark fog. I still find this early evening darkness exhilarating.

Every year I scratch my head, wondering if I should attempt to overwhelm Fritz's gloom with my eager anticipation of winter. Or if I should simply let him have his misery. I think there is value in both approaches. Whatever approach I take, this seasonal ritual inspires it's own sense of comfort, even if the scale of the repetition is harder to grasp.

Which is how I'm feeling about Noah's school these days: five days of (mostly) the same schedule, if it doesn't quite work one day, there's another day and another just like the one before. Until now, I didn't understand how exhausting the irregularity of his previous schedule was. Generally speaking, I'm a person who strives to keep things simple, eliminate fuss, shed baggage, but for me keeping things simple with kids can often feel like an exercise in personal frustration. The variety in our previous schedules toyed with my minimalist efforts, and more often than not, I felt like we were constantly adjusting to one more variance.

And now: order. Or it feels like order - a comfortable one -  where I can breathe a little deeper and relax a little longer. I might even sit down and read a book for myself this fall; something I haven't done in years.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Small Spaces

Our kids love small spaces. That's something that Fritz and I, in our state of being big and tall, don't remember very well. But the boys keep reminding us.

[photo removed]

What makes small spaces for my children tricky, is that they like to be in small spaces right next to me. So, despite the fact that Noah set up this rabbit cage home in his closet, he has no interest in actually being anywhere near there himself.  Only for the rabbit.
Fortunately, Noah DOES deliver water and toilet paper to the rabbit regularly.
The stairs are a favorite playing ground in our house - I think because the boys have such a good vantage point - AND, each stair is a relatively small space.

[photo removed]

Per multiple suggestions, I'm trying to relax about the stair play, although I REALLY DO WISH THEY WOULDN'T PLAY THERE. In fact, I'm even trying to go with the flow. Here, I moved the play kitchen into the stairwell.  And the boys? Well, they made the space feel smaller by surrounding themselves with the dining room chairs.

We've received a couple of tent-type structures as gifts. The boys love them! It's convenient to (sort of) be able to move them around the house with us. The problem is that the poles and connectors keep breaking. I haven't yet found good replacements for play tent poles and connectors. And it just slays me to have these cool tents that can't be used because of some little broken plastic connector. If anyone has hints on where to find cheap plastic tent pole replacements, please share! But it must be cheap, flexible plastic - fiberglass poles don't bend enough, at least for the frog tent below.

[photo removed]

We've had much better luck with these 8 inch heavy duty waffle blocks. Ours are on loan from my college roommate(!). I'm pretty sure they no longer make them in this size, which is sad, because they are perfect for building small spaces and they are almost indestructible. But you can still find them on ebay.

One more thing I wonder about: if we designed more small spaces specifically for kids, would they play in them? I have the distinct feeling that it's also the inappropriateness of the space that makes it fun. Sheez, I was always chasing spiders out of this window well so Noah could stand there.

[photo removed]

Then there is this rather dangerous corner behind the couch that hasn't been childproofed because Mattias can't get back there yet. Fritz insists (for 7 years and 4 homes) on a weird 25 degree angle between wall and sofa, and I have yet to talk him out of it. Ahem, WHO is the architect? Fritz likes to hide the stereo back there. (See: storage problems) Noah likes to hide himself back there.  Consequently, I spend a lot of time chasing Noah out of the space.
See, Grandma? I took the photo stealthily this time so Noah wouldn't think I was encouraging such behavior.  That's why it's not even in focus - I had to hide the camera while telling him to get out and then SNAP! a photo. Gosh, maybe all these dangerous places are fun for Mommy, too.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Questions, questions

1
How can I get one of these? and
2
How can I chop it off midway through the spool to make a big, round, funky coffee table without it falling apart? and
3
Where's my genius brother?

4
Someday, when we finally get stools for this bar, can they double as step stools? This Ikea one isn't quite high enough.

[photo removed]


5
Can I actually taste the difference between these squash, or is it my imagination?

6
Is this set up going to keep my tomatoes from drying out while they ripen?

7
How many times will making their own salad translate into eating it as well?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

En route

Guess what? Day Two after the flu shot, the flu-y feeling is gone. Which confirms my suspicion that The Shot made me feel this way and it wasn't just some-cold-I-already-had-but-didn't-know-about.
So, I rallied on Friday and biked to preschool. It's a little over four miles each way; together the boys and trailer weigh half of what I do. It takes me 45 minutes each way. I feel totally badass on the bike, hauling the boys. (And here, I really need to credit JJ Keith for making me think about things that make me feel badass and why they are worth doing.) But the truth is, my pace ON A BIKE wouldn't even qualify for most marathon RUNNING.  So, after I stop feeling badass (kind of like the minute I get off the bike with a sore butt), I console myself with thinking that doing pickup and drop off on a bike is:

   45 min of exercise 
+ 45 min of exercise
+ 45 min of exercise 
+ 45 min of exercise 
= lots of chocolate chip cookies

And when Noah wanted to go on his own self-powered bike ride the very minute I unbuckled his helmet in the garage, I told him, absolutely, positively NO, we were going to do some baking.

Yeah, that's the problem with THAT kind of exercise. The boys finish it well-rested, while I am barely able to stand (or at least sit on a bike seat). Speaking of well-rested, here's Mattias at 9:15 Friday morning:
Yup, eyes are closed.
It has occurred to me that I could do ONLY pickup or ONLY drop off. Sometimes I have done that.  Usually, I become so indecisive about which one I should do that I end up doing neither.

I like drop off, because it's morning, and I'm one of those people who jumps out of bed smiling. I have a lot of energy in the morning. It's cooler in the morning. I can take a shower when I get home from drop off and then flow into the rest of the day. I don't have to fight for a parking space with all the other car-driving parents doing drop off. Then, I start my day feeling like I already did something great for me and I can focus on the boys for the rest of the day. However, it's kind of bad for Mattias, should he:
Midday pickup is a little more relaxed. It's less stressful because I have less weight (ie, only Mattias) to drag behind me. There are fewer parents at midday pick up than morning drop off, so the parking is less of an issue. It's still pretty much door to door service on a bike. Once we collect Noah (more weight), we can take our time heading home (good!). Sometimes, we stop in a park and have a picnic. The weather is usually a little warmer and sunnier - which can be good or bad at this time of the year. Still, this midday pickup, it eats away at my day. It doesn't flow as well. It feels like a detour instead of being part of the journey. But for Mattias, at midday, it's okay if he:
Also, since I've now done this preschool bike thing 6 times, I would like to say that I much prefer the postwar grid of secondary suburban streets to the new construction, picturesque greenways for biking. The greenways, with their serpentine paths and artificial hilly-ness may be good for the new urbanist flâneur, but they serve no useful purpose for the bike commuting mother with two (did I mention?) heavy children. There's a special place in my heart for postwar suburbia. If you've forgotten - or maybe never discovered - the haunting beauty of postwar suburbia, go read Holy Land by D.J. Waldie. One of my all time favorite books. But I think I'd still rather live in a proper city - it's the Jane Jacobs in me, I guess.

I'm sorry to bore you with these opinions, but once upon a time, I used to be paid to think about stuff like bike trails and I miss it all the time. Although, right now in my life, I feel both fortunate and happy to be able to spend three hours of the day hauling around the boys in a trailer. Really. I do and I am.