12.04.2009

Blog Move!

I have finally transferred this blog over to WordPress. It's still under construction, but please go visit me now over here: Maternity to Madness

11.10.2009

Come on in. Stay awhile.

This is gonna sound weird, but I really love growing up on Facebook. I love watching my friends grow up (not old!) with me. I love seeing their smiling faces on Facebook every day (ok, sometimes every couple of hours. what?) and knowing they are happy. Or not. Either way, I have the gift of knowing and being there, for the good and the bad. And honestly, without FB, it would be a heck of a lot harder to keep up with everyone. It's like a central memory bank/webcam/window into the various parts of my life - past, present, future.

Also: my friends? The best looking group on earth. They are all so beautiful, and they get better looking all the time. The laugh lines, the sparkling eyes, the goofy smiles. The little girl I grew up with now thriving in her medical residency. The boys I rode BMX bikes with down to the 3-D Mart for candy and comics, now grown men with families. My college buddies who are spread out all over the world living out their dreams. It's all right there in front of me, beside me, whether they are down the street or on the other side of the world.

And it makes me so, so, so very happy to see all of them, anytime.

You see, I get quite attached to people. Sometimes too much. If you touched my life for the better in some way, even for 10 minutes, I will always remember you and be there for you. That's kinda how my silly heart works, and Facebook kinda feeds that silly heart til it's stuffed happy with good people updates, links, photos, crazy videos.

What an AMAZING bunch of human beings they are, my Facebook friends. Personally, I only friend folks that I have had some sort of personal contact with, either in person or online, or via mutual good friends. They're battling cancer, MS, severe food allergies, Celiac disease, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, drug addiction, OCD handwashing issues. They're single, divorced, married, gay, straight, bisexual, dazed & confused. They hate kids, have 1-6 kids, are dealing with recent miscarriage, IVF treatments, going through the adoption process. They are agnostic, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, atheist, Muslim, bow to the church of Whiffies (not in Portland? look it up).

You get the point. The diversity in their updates makes me smile. That they choose to share something -- anything -- with me in this cozy little nook of the web, is truly an honor.

And I'll be honest: I would not remember everyone's birthdays if it were not for Facebook. Not all 468 of you. And be honest: don't you love it when you get those birthday messages? Of course you do!

Because if you strip away all the potential drama and silly games associated with Facebook, what it comes down to is that even if you last spoke with so-and-so 20 years ago, you've decided to let them into a little part of your life for one reason or another...and they have allowed you into theirs. And that means something.

I love Facebook because of them. I can't tell all of them in person or even over the phone everyday, but in some small limited-character, funny, complaining, happy, tired way, I can reach out to these very important people and let them in.

For people who are outwardly-social-but-really-closet-loners like me, it means a lot. It means a lot.

11.02.2009

Have wings, will fly

I speak often of the gifts my children give me--the life lessons, the hard lessons I need to learn as a parent and to grow as a person. It has been two and a half months since I wrote this post about my 2.5 year old daughter's speech delays, and I have slowly come to understand her lesson to me in this part of our relationship: I need to let her do things on her own time...and I need to learn to let go.

In just under 3 months, my daughter went from speaking just a few words to now speaking full short sentences and bringing in almost a dozen new words and phrases a day. Like so many mamas who graciously offered me their support and words of experience having gone through something similar, I just needed to be patient. In time -- her own time -- she found her words. And so many of them! Oh, what a GLORIOUS sound to hear my daughter speaking! Every new word she says, every new phrase, is said with such confidence and such bravado! Along with both of my kids' laughter, hearing her say a new word or phrase is the BEST sound in the whole entire world!

And honestly? She did it on her own. Sure, my husband and I worked with her on her words, and her teachers did too. I'm sure being in school helped. But truly, I feel she has always had the words, known the meanings, understood everything clearly. She is the one who pieced it all together and made the words come to life...on her own time.



I'm so proud of my little girl. She wore this fairy/Tinkerbell costume for Halloween and after some hesitation (loud barking dogs and older kids in scary costume were cause for pause early on our trick-or-treating adventure), she proudly raced up the steps from door to door with her big brother and cousins, shouted "trick or treat!" replied "thank you!" and left with a smile, singing "Happy Halloween!" and then in-between a couple of houses surveying her bounty she declared "Look mom! Chocolate! Candy!" Later that night at home, we asked my son if he had fun, and she chimed in "Me too! I had fun too!" Hard to believe that just two and a half months ago, she was only speaking a handful of words, and we were worrying about speech therapy and hearing tests.

Watching her on Halloween, with those big wings on her back and her unbridled excitement, I really almost thought that she could fly. She had THAT much fun, and was full of that much confidence. As long as I let her use those wings, I know she can and she will.

10.16.2009

The tattoo? It was for me, not you

Oh I just love disappointing people. I think I'm becoming quite good at it as I age. The thing is, I know who I am, and what I am not. Some people just see something different based on their own expectations, experiences and points of reference.

We all go through life with so many public personas but really they are all one in the same. When I became a reporter, one of my relatives said she was shocked because she always imagined I would become an English teacher. She always saw me as reserved and bookish (read: nerdy). I've met many other comments along the way in my life of not meeting others' expectations based on their perceptions of who I am, my likes, dislikes, values, priorities. These comments always take me by surprise, because I honestly try never to do anything I'm not comfortable with, or say anything I don't mean to say.

The societal mirror has never been held up to my face so much in recent years as it has in the last 24 hours. You see, I've wanted a tattoo since I was 15. I didn't want to get one until I was sure of the design, placement, and quite frankly, I was also afraid that once I started, I wouldn't stop. I tend to have that kind of personality. I turned 35 this year and decided it was time. So I got my first tattoo yesterday. I consider it a gift to myself, so Happy Bosses Day to me!

Now here's the thing I love: the diverse reactions from friends, family, colleagues. My inbox is flooded with such a range of reactions, I almost want to publish them in a book. Some people love it and are excited that I finally got what I wanted. Some people are shocked at the size, obviously assuming I would get something smaller. Some people are surprised (and a couple of folks absolutely, honestly, outspokenly horrified) that I got one at all, much less one of a noticeable size. And a few others (the few who know me really well) are surprised I am not yet sleeved at this point in my life.

I often wonder why people have such a hard time when others don't fit into their box of expectations. They act as though I have failed them somehow. Personally, I am not here to live up to anyone else's expectations but my own. Are you?

Someone asked me what I would tell my kids about the tattoo -- a bluebird with a banner that says "love," and a "c" and an "e" which are my kids' first initials. I've already told my son: it reminds me everyday of living a life of hope, optimism, happiness, which the bluebird symbolizes. I've told him it reminds me of who I am, that I am here to love, that I believe love can change the world, and that they --my kids-- are my greatest loves. I've told him that it reminds me that I am free --that we are all free-- to be exactly who we are, even though it may not always be who others want us to be; even though we may not fit into a convenient, neat little personality type box that they can easily understand.

This tattoo was for me, and no one else. My son loves it. I love it. It's part of who I am, have always been, and always will be.


PS: I realize that people may not vote for a presidential candidate with a big ol' bird tattoo. I'm ok with that because, you know, I wasn't planning on running. But thanks for pointing it out to me (you know who you are).

9.24.2009

Pictures of You

"Screamed at the make-believe,
screamed at the sky
and you finally found
all the courage to let it all go"

Pictures of You by The Cure was her favorite song. At least, it was the last time we spoke. When I was in high school, that song used to make me all angsty about boys and sometimes it still does but for the most part, it now makes me think of her. It was playing on the radio when I got into the car this morning after dropping my kids off at school and BOOM. Tears.

I miss her.

My friend that was taken away from us way too young, way too fast. I didn't even have the chance to tell her how much she meant to me all those years. I honestly don't think she ever knew what a bright star she was. How even though we lived in different cities and only talked on the phone and wrote letters every few months or so, and only saw each other maybe once a year at most, she meant a lot to me. I looked up to her, admired her, wished so often I was born with her amazingly wonderful qualities.

Then she was gone.

And all I have are my memories and pictures and this song. And sometimes, as soon as I hear it, it just hits me. Hard.

I used to think that I never had the chance to tell her what she meant to me, but that's a crock of sh*t now, isn't it? I had plenty of chances. Every day is a chance to tell someone how much they mean to you.

So now I try. I try to let people know how much the mean to me. I usually end up looking like an idiot, but I'm ok with that. I don't care if they laugh at my feelings, at least they are known. Because I never want to let another person in my life go without knowing how I truly feel about them. Ever.

If you are reading this, just know that I appreciate you taking the time to read my words and process my sometimes completely random meaningless babble. It means a lot to me. And so do you.

9.17.2009

Girlie Girl Glow

My daughter is a girlie girl. She was born that way and I've not only come to accept it, but I am trying to follow her cues and let her do the things that make her so happy and just glow and revel in all the girlie girlness. Like putting barretts in her hair. She used to hate it but now the bigger and brighter the hair accessories, the better. Like indulging her love of shoes. Like letting her wear a girlie girl butterfly princess-like costume that I swore I would NEVER let my daughter wear. Ever.

Never say never.

My son had decided we should all be superheroes this Halloween, but after seeing the poor quality of superhero costumes in person (really, they were $30 worth of absolute crap), we checked out what else was available and in the end, came home with this costume:



Now, seeing her in this outfit, I know it suits her to a T. She is radiant, because she's so happy in it. Originally, I was eyeing a dragon costume for her, but when I took this costume off the rack to check out what it was, she instantly grabbed it from my hands, put it in her lap, felt all of the fabric and sparkles and looked up at me with the biggest, widest eyes and happiest smile.

And in that instant I knew: it was hers. No doubt about it, we weren't walking out of the store without it.

My son, instead, chose the dragon. It's also a bright green.


So my children will be glowing at Halloween. With the obnoxiousness that is this crazy bright eye-burning green (who needs reflectors or flashlights?). But also, with pure joy. I can't wait!

9.11.2009

Still Waiting



There are days when everything seems just as it should be, but at the same time, you know nothing is as it seems. Today is one of those days. Same time, same date, different year. And each year, I am overwhelmed with emotion, overcome with tears on its eve, and then again as it passes into a new day.

And it does, miraculously, always pass into a new day.

Eight years ago today, I had just gotten out of the shower, when my husband said in a calm voice "Honey, come in here." His voice never scares me, but in those seconds it did, because I didn't recognize it. Moving into the bedroom I saw him watching the tv. On the tv was an image of the Twin Towers. There was smoke. Not a second later, we watched the second plane hit. My heart stopped. I counted the seconds.

For the next several minutes the world stopped and time stood still.

Then I went to work. Crisis communications being part of my job.

I made phone calls. Some of them went through. Most hit a busy signal. I waited to hear from family members, friends, co-workers, students, colleagues, media contacts. I arranged for more televisions to come in. Whether with friends or strangers, that day we all watched and cried and hugged and wondered. Together.

More than anything, I waited and waited and waited to hear those busy signals turn to voices saying they were ok.

In the days that followed, as phone service was restored, most were.

But not all.

Too many lives lost in an instant. I cannot write about what it is like to lose a parent, spouse, or child in 9/11. I cannot fathom that deep a loss and am still constantly in awe of the strength of those who endured such a loss that day. I was not there to experience the chaos or witness what New Yorkers went through first-hand, nor able to assist as bravely and immediately as our firefighters, paramedics, police and other disaster relief workers.

I was not there, and yet, I was. We all were. In many ways, we still are.

On the anniversary of 9/11, it is difficult for me to conduct life as normal. Every other day of the year, fine. But this day, every year, I am struck with so much emotion that I am almost frozen. I remember.

I feel like I am still waiting for my phone to ring. I am still waiting to hear those voices who never had a chance to call back.

9.09.2009

Kindergarten Becomes Him

Well I'll be. My son loves Kindergarten. L-O-V-E-S it.

Exhibit A: his silly unstoppable smiles as we got ice cream to celebrate his first day last week:



The boy who cried and protested throughout most of his preschool days, and tried at least three times each week to rationalize why he should not go to preschool that day, now LOVES Kindergarten.

I could be having the crappiest day but it doesn't matter because my sweet, sensitive, kind, thoughtful, insightful son is HAPPY. Every day since he started last week, he's been this transformed little grown up. He doesn't even run to me at pick-up time, he wants to stay a little and finish up! He chatters away excitedly from the minute I pick him up to the moment he goes to sleep at night. About school! Kindergarten! My kid is at last challenged and excited about being able to do more, learn more, experience more, and it is so so so incredible to see him be this H-A-P-P-Y about school!

And that makes this mama happier than ever. And no 6-hours trying to fix a stupid ass computer that's been affected with super nasty spyware can take that truth away. What's that about the computer? Oh, that story is for another post. This is a post about my son's happiness, which is, truth be told, a million times more important to me than mine.

9.01.2009

Downsizing to Offset the Duggars


I find it ironic that in the midst of my manic downsizing obsession, the Duggars decide to have baby #19. Nineteen! Holyfuckinshit! That doesn't even deserve to be bleeped out because if you don't curse, surely you MUST submit to profanities now because it is the only logical response to such insane news. Now you know I try to give folks their own private space when it comes to parenting decisions, lifestyle decisions, whatever. I don't care what you eat, what you feed your kids, how you discipline, homeschool, private school, make the whole family dress up as farm animals at the dinner table every Tuesday night, whatever. I cut celebrity families a lot of slack. But this...this affects our entire overpopulated planet. They claim to have changed at least 90,000 diapers. Were any of those cloth? Oh wait! Do you think she'd buy my Fuzzi Bunz cloth diapers and inserts? Maybe I'll just send them to her. She could use them for kids #19-24, I bet. They're THAT great!

I digress.

"This never gets old," says proud overly-sexed papa Jim Bob Duggar. What? Yes! Yes it DOES get old, Jim Bob! And so do YOU! You are going to be grandparents for goodness' sake, and here comes baby number 19. Your grandchild will be older than your #19 baby.

Truth be told, I think they're insane. There. I said it. I hate saying it but that's how I feel. However...they seem like somewhat decent insane people. The kids seem a little robotic but kind. I think Michelle and I could be friends, in fact. That is, if she'd allow a loud opinionated Filipino into her home (has there been a non-Caucasian in their life?).

While the Duggars are preparing to add more to their overflowing plates, I am focused (some might say obsessed. po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe) with taking things off of my overflowing plate.

Starting with moving out of my office space downtown and moving back to my home office. Less commute, less overhead, more time to work.

We have two kids and we're calling it good. That means it's about freakin' time we unload all of our baby gear once and for all. Furniture, jogging strollers, double strollers, baby strollers, infant car seats, playmats, swings, toys toys toys. It all must go go go!

Sidenote: 75% of the babyproofing industry is a SCAM people. First time parents: you do not NEED half of that crap and believe me, when it comes time to sell your things to people who might not want the baby bumpers around the corners of tables and whatnot? It is a BEYOTCH to take off.

Weight. Or, more correctly stated, inches. I took the summer off from doing any sort of exercise whatsoever. I'm not a summer gal, and the heat and my skin conditions don't get along. Ah, but glorious fall is almost here, and I have no excuses. Eager for kickboxing to start up again in the fall. I might even give yoga a try again if I can find an instructor and classmates I don't want to punch.

Ommmm.

I want less. Less everything. Less is more! Less is good. Less is happiness.

Unless, of course, your last name is Duggar.

8.26.2009

I have days like this


Today is about stillness.

I woke up after not-enough-sleep, got the kids dressed, fed, lunches made, out the door and to school.

Went to work, picked up things, answered emails, designed some business cards, labels and ads, answered more emails.

Left the office, checked on my consignment balance and picked up some fall clothes for the kids. Organized some things in the home office, put together some Fishful Thinking goody bags for next week, heated up leftover Chinese food, tried for the 4th time this week to rid the carpet of our almost-12-year-old dog's latest puke fest, put away dishes, cleaned the kitchen.

Answered more emails, picked up the kids from school, had snack time with the kids, changed a diaper (not mine. yet.), cleaned up toys, took some pictures.

Now one tot is walking around the house in princess shoes singing songs, while the other is figuring out which toys he wants to keep and which I'm allowed to give away (one guess which pile is bigger).

And I'm sitting here typing. Tap tap tap. It doesn't sound like a horrible day, but it has been. It has been a monster of a day. It has been one of those days that makes me question what on earth I did to make the karma gods angry and pelt me with one craptastic situation after another. I fought the suckiness tooth and nail and I'm still not quite sure who won. I'm not quite sure I have the energy today to care.

While madness piled on me throughout the day, I became more and more still. I am trying to listen to my gut, my heart, my head all at the same time, but everybody's quiet today.

Today is not a day for answers, and this is ok. It's ok to have a sucky day and just be.

And now the littles are restless for mommy to stop the tap tap tapping and to start the making of the evening meal. Tomorrow will most definitely be a better, brighter day. But tonight, I'm content sitting still in whatever this is, and just letting it be.

8.19.2009

She speaks. We just need to listen.

It's been a month since our two-year-old daughter was evaluated for possible speech delays. While we were somewhat relieved it was determined her case was not severe and that she did not at this time qualify for speech therapy, it was also a very frustrating result. What were we supposed to do now? Continue working with her as we have been? Wait and hope for her to magically one day start speaking?

Since that evaluation, our always vocal, constantly singing little girl has started pointing to items in books now and labeling them. She has been asking for items that she wants by name. She has been counting up a storm.

What's that? You don't hear her saying the words? What do you mean you don't hear the words?


Oh, you hear what we used to hear.

But then we started listening. Really freakin' listening. Hard. When she speaks, the world stops, and we all lean in closer.

And that's when we hear her. Her words are there. She just doesn't always pronounce the first syllable, and sometimes she misses the last syllable. But when we started really focusing and listening to her we knew exactly what she was saying.

She says some words very clearly. Mommy, daddy, go, no (oh how she LOVES the word "no"!), counting 1-10, and a smattering of other words. She's starting, slowly, to say more words very clearly, with precision. Now we know she actually can say the majority of other words too but not an a way that the average person can understand. For instance, "grapes" may sound like "aeapes" and "snack" is "ack." She says each word with great inflection, and when we are totally focused on her, we understand completely.

So now we just continue to work with her. Her big brother has been a super teaching assistant in her language development. She loves to copy him, and a lot of her speech development has come from her learning from him. It's incredible to see, and just fills our hearts so much.

Of course, sometimes she'll just copy us exactly and say the words clearly. Like this morning. Herding the kids out of one room, my husband said "Let's go peeps!" She promptly copied exactly what he said, clear as day.

We're getting there.

8.14.2009

A Day in the Life...at the Office

I just posted my first story on Whrrl.com. Oh that's dangerous. Much, much too much fun to be had on that site.

Photos + stories? Hours more of internet time. I can see it now.

Husband, rolling eyes, telling me to stop with all the social media. I can see it now.

The first story is a little visit to my office. Enjoy!

More stories at urban bliss design
Powered by Whrrl

8.13.2009

C is for Cookie

While we bake a lot at our house, Thursday is our standing baking day. My son and I try to bake something different ever Thursday after school. We'll bake lots of different kinds of bread, brownies, tarts, but we really like to bake cookies. Today we went through our dessert recipe book and made a list of all of the cookies he would like to try to make, so that we never run out of ideas (and so I can prep ingredients beforehand) for our baking dates.

Apparently, I'm very enthusiastic about cookies, because while going over the recipes, my son asked me, "Why are you SO excited about cookies?!" Then when I was trying to convince him that we really should add the cappuccino chocolate chocolate chip with mocha cream filling cookies to our list, he looked at me with bewilderment and said "that's way too much chocolate!" I beg to differ. I've made them before, and think they're just the right amount of chocolate! YUM. You be the judge. Here's a photo of the last time I made them:


Here's a brief look at our list of cookies:
  • oatmeal chocolate chocolate chip cookies
  • gingersnap cookies
  • sugar cookies
  • double chocolate biscotti (because they're dunkable!)
  • snickerdoodles
  • chocolate chip snowballs
  • peppermint bark (ok, technically not cookies, but whatever)
  • peanut butter blossoms
  • midnight crackles
  • oatmeal toffee butterscotch cookies
  • gingerbread cookies
  • rugulach
  • chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies
Out of about 350+ cookie recipes, we had about 25 that we agreed we would both like. My own list would have, well, about 350+ different kinds of cookies I would like to make.

We also started discussing our holiday baking list today. What? I know it's still August. Don't look at me like that.

What are your favorite cookies to make with the kids?

8.04.2009

Our Action-Packed 3-Day Mini-Vaca

If you follow this blog, you know my son has slowly -but loudly- been coming out of his shell the past two years. He's up for trying new adventures, which just makes this mama flying high giddy with joy. When we were given the chance to spend a long weekend in Sunriver Resort in Central Oregon, we jumped on it. As with all of our trips, I logged a decent amount of computer time researching the family-friendliness of the resort, with my son by my side. After studying the site, his own detailed list of Must Do's while we were there: golfing, bike riding, swimming, kayaking, pony rides, rock climbing, the Observatory, the Nature Center, the High Desert Museum. We were only going to be there from Friday afternoon through a Sunday afternoon, so obviously unless we cloned ourselves there was no way we were going to do all of those things. But by goly, we sure were going to try!

Growing up in Portland, Oregon I had been to Sunriver a handful of times. It is about a 3.5 to 4 hour drive from downtown Portland, depending on the route you take and the weather conditions through mountain passes. The majority of my experiences with Sunriver are pre-kids: renting a house with 8-10 other friends for a long weekend, and just sort of hanging out (read: drinking, grilling, running, biking, drinking). So I was excited to see the resort in a whole different light.

Here's what we did do:

Stopped at Deschutes Brewery & Public House a few miles outside of Sunriver in Bend, Oregon, followed by a family-friendly tour of the nearby Deschutes Brewing Facility:

Played golf at Caldera Links, a family-friendly 9-hole golf-course. I use the term "played" loosely, since nobody in our party really Golfs, per se. My 2 year old danced around and sang (wide open green spaces = perfect for just that!), and my son & his 4-year-old cousin took some breaks to try to catch the hundreds of tiny frogs hopping about the course.


Went swimming at the South Pool, one of four main pools on resort grounds. My kids LOVE the water so much. I think it would make sense for our next house to trade a backyard for just straight swimming pool.


Ate dinner while a family of deer hung around outside right next to our back deck:


Hiked halfway (ok maybe a quarter of the way) up the Lava Beds:


We also rode bikes, enjoyed ice cream in the main resort shopping/eating area, visited the High Desert Museum (pricey admission, but the kids had fun; the bat exhibit area is a must) on the way back home, and just had the best time. The drive to and from Sunriver was just gorgeous. I'll post those photos in the next post. All in all, it was an AMAZING time and we cannot wait to visit again soon!

7.30.2009

Hot, Hot, Hot



It was 108 degrees in some parts of Portland today. It's Day Three of Hotpocalypse, and tomorrow it's supposed to start cooling down to 100, then 90s over the weekend. We Pacific NW folk aren't used to this kind of heat. My webbed feet are melting.

Luckily, both our house and my office are well insulated, so they stay cool. I didn't need to turn on the air conditioning in the office until late afternoon on Monday (it was 103) or Tuesday (105) and today I turned it on around 1pm.

Normally we'd go cool off at the fountains around town, but we've just been staying indoors as much as possible. Shut-ins during summer -- it's almost a crime!

7.22.2009

Farm Fresh Fridays: Round Up

In our lil' experiment to visit a different farm each Friday this summer, we've been able to experience a decent variety of farms on the westside of town. We've decided to skip the bigger, more popular farms like Sauvie Island/Kruger's farms for the smaller farms. For those that live in or near the Portland area, or are thinking of visiting, I thought I'd do a quick round-up of the farms my kids & I have visited during our Farm Fresh Fridays experiment (apologies in advance for some of the bad cell phone photos).

If you live outside of
Portland, do you have a good variety of farms where you live and do they all have kid-friendly activities and areas like U-Pick, picnic areas, play areas, petting zoos, and camps? Let me know! I'd love to hear what other cities and states have, and I'm sure those who live in your area would love to know more family-friendly spots to visit as well!

BAGGENSTOS FARMS


15801 SW Roy Rogers Road
Sherwood, OR 97140

Phone/fax: 503-590-4301

Pros: Big parking lot, large play structure, nice mostly-shaded picnic area, goats & chicken coop U-Pick: Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries during the summer; pumpkin patch in the fall

SCHLICTING FARM

503.625.3312

20225 SW Scholls-Sherwood Rd.
Sherwood, OR 97140

Note: The photos on their website absolutely do NOT do this place justice.
Pros: Friendly staff, beautiful hanging baskets, great selection of fruits & vegetables in the store, super fun "Coop" filled with metal art pieces in shapes of animals and other ornamental decor that our kids loved. U-Pick: Lots of options! Strawberries, cucumbers, zucchini, corn, tomatoes, peppers and more during the summer; pumpkin patch during the fall. You can also pick fresh flowers.

SMITH BERRY BARN

24500 SW Scholls Ferry Rd
Hillsboro, OR 97123-9320
(503) 628-2172
Pros: Kids can feed the goats & chickens, adorable "country store" with ice cream/coffee shop, small selection of fruits & veggies for sale, and some pricey but stylish kitchen accessories and decor. We always get a new retro-style button for my son when we visit (at $1.25 each).

U-Pick: berries during the summer


BLUEBERRY HILL

13794 SW Roy Rogers Rd.
Sherwood, OR 97140
(503) 590-1525

This place is all about picking berries: blueberries, raspberries, marionberries, blackberries. Best blueberries and raspberries around, in my opinion. All at a great price too!


LOLICH'S FARM
Phone: 503.352.4448

18407 SW Scholls Ferry Road

Beaverton, OR 97007

Pros: picnic area, friendly staff

U-Pick: blueberries (but they also have cherries, raspberries, marionberries and more that they've picked & sell in the store)

7.13.2009

Why a Vacation Sans Kiddos Is Not a Vacation

At the start of this month, my husband and I did something we'd never done before: took an actual vacation without the kids. Oh sure, we went to the beach overnight for about 20 hours without them once. We event went to SXSW in Austin, TX for 5 days without them. But overnight trips are quick, and SXSW was crammed with conference and work...and in the same country. We not only left our kids for a few days, but we left the country. Yeah. I nearly pissed my pants from anxiety the entire week before we left (kidding. I just didn't sleep for 5 days. Not kidding about that).

It was a tough call to make: do we take the kids or don't we? We did travel a few times back East and once internationally once with our son when he was younger. Now we've got two kids, including a newly 2 year old daughter who will not sit still in a shopping cart for 2 full minutes, so asking the two to travel for 20 hours? Out of the question. Oh, and my daughter also likes to scream. Loudly. Not just when she's upset, but, well, all the time.

We could have separated them and just took our son while our daughter stayed with my parents, but to separate these two would have been devastating. They LIVE for each other, as I mentioned in my last post. They would have been heartbroken without each other for a whole 5 days. That's a heartbreak that this mama just couldn't live with.

Finally, we really only had 3 full days of non-travel. The kids wouldn't have even had a chance to acclimate before we'd have to leave again.

So the hubby and I went to Zurich to visit family on our own. My parents stayed and spoiled the kids. Zurich with family? Yes, it was insanely fabulous and I loved catching up with my in-laws (who are truly the greatest in-laws on earth; I am so very lucky). Here's hubby and I having a great time in Zurich:


But it was also an internal hell for me. I missed my kids INSANELY. I was so anxious being so far away from them, worried about what could possibly happen and how long it would take us to get back. But the worst part? Everywhere we went, everything we saw, I couldn't help but think "oh, my son would love that" or "oh man, I wish my daughter could experience that at this age." I had these thoughts literally every few minutes. About EVERYTHING. It was bad enough to give my stomach knots and cause more insomnia. You know, because my normal everyday, in-town insomnia isn't bad enough.

I loved this trip...and I hated this trip. That's the awful truth. I know I should be so thankful that we were able to take this time and be together. I love my husband dearly, and we were able to spend some great quality time together. Yet there were the kids...totally happy, having the greatest time being taken to a million super fun places and being doted on every second by my parents...and me being quietly miserable thousands of miles and oceans away.

So now that we've done the trip I can honestly say that I never want to go anyplace for a vacation that long and that far away without my kids again. No way. I suck at it. I've traveled, I know what it's like, but this is their time. It's time for my kids to see the world together, it's my job to show it to them and I would absolutely love nothing more than to see the world through their excited youthful eyes. Next year, we're taking 2 full weeks and taking the kids to Switzerland, Italy, France and maybe Germany. Now I just need to figure out how to pay for it...

6.24.2009

Best Friends

My brother and I are about 10 years apart. I love him to death, but I don't think he and I experienced the kind of sibling relationship that most of my other friends who had brothers or sisters close in age did. But now, I get to watch it unfold with my own kids, and it's quite the trip.

Now, I was warned about a lot of things before having two kids, but nobody told me about how cool it would be to watch my son and my daughter grow to love each other so much. Nobody told me that watching them play together and react so strongly to one another would sucker punch my heart and make me lose my breath from the intensity of my love for them as a unit. Nobody told me that I would never be able to explain just how incredible it would feel to raise two kids who were so in love with each other.


my kids over a year ago. all about the love.

These two silly kids of mine... They crack each other up like no one else can. They drive each other nuts like no one else can. They support one another. They get into all sorts of trouble together. They are always, always thinking and looking out for the other. In short, they are inseparable. Wherever one goes, the other follows; whatever one does, the other must do as well.


our two monkeys goofing off a few months ago at Five Guys Burger & Fries

It fills my mama heart so much to see my kids growing up together. My husband and I will seriously sit on the couch and do nothing but watch them for 30 minutes straight, in total awe of their relationship. I don't think I've ever witnessed a love like these two have for one another. It's crazy cool. It helps make the really difficult moments of raising two kids (of which, there are M.A.N.Y!) totally completely over the moon worth it. And then some. And then some.

PS - wanna know the freakiest activity these two like to do together all the time? Clean the house. Yep. If I'm picking up around the house, one will grab the Clorox wipes and they both will excitedly start cleaning the tables, chairs, stairs, or one will grab the broom and start sweeping while the other picks up items to put away... I am most definitely NOT going to mess with a good thing and let them continue with this weird behavior for as long as they want! You know, because it obviously brings them closer together. :)

6.17.2009

My kid's not shy, he's just not that into you


I'm totally kidding about that headline, but I've always wanted to say it to annoying strangers who get in my kids' faces at the grocery store.

My kids are my greatest teachers, and perhaps the best lesson they have given me is that no person - be it Mother, Father, Teacher - has the ability to control another person's soul. We may be able to help shape ideals, help instill values, but there are personality traits that are just inherent in us from the time we're conceived.

My son is what a lot of people call "shy." It's not a label I agree with, because he's really not. He just knows what he likes and what he doesn't like. During a fabulous hour-long pediatrician's visit for his 5-year visit (love our kids' pediatrician!) she observed him for a while, asked a lot of questions, and noted "he's just that kid in the class who's a little bit smarter than the others. He's smart enough to know better." Now I'm not saying my kid is smarter than other kids (hee hee!), but I do know he's keenly aware, almost hyper-aware, of his surroundings: the noise, the logistics, the possibilities of what could happen. He's always been that way. He observes everything in great detail, makes very quick assessments, and decides. If he decides it's not the situation for him, all bets are off. The doc says most kids grow out of this, and eventually play into what we adults expect as normal social kid behavior, and we just need to understand that he just may not be the lead in the school play.

When people who know (very loud, extroverted) me observe my "shy" son, they often say (and I've heard this a LOT): "How did YOU get a shy kid? Is Dad shy?" No, actually. I was. When I look at my son, I see myself at exactly 5 years old, wearing this ridiculous peach pouffy hideous dress ...thing... that was my mom's favorite, hiding in the bedroom during one of my parent's many gatherings. We always had tons of people over at our house when I was growing up. I remember very clearly this one party, where my mom came into the room and begged me to come outside and say hello to everyone. I really didn't want to. I cried. A lot. I remember the moment - and the feelings I had- clearly. I wasn't necessarily a shy kid, I just knew I did not want to be in that room with those specific people at that moment. I went out on my own eventually. Which is how I've always been, and still am to some extent this day.

My son is not quiet, by any means. He is not at all reserved. He is quite loud, animated, boisterous, imaginative, and extremely high energy. Have I mentioned how LOUD he is? I think it's funny that some people think he's shy. To me, he's anything but shy!

So now I'm the Mama. I'm the one throwing the parties and bringing my kids to this social activity and that. But when my son doesn't want to go to someone's house, as much as it pains me sometimes because it's my friend's house and *I* really want to go socialize, we talk about his reasons for not wanting to go, and if they're reasonable, I say... okay.

There are many, many circumstances where I think I need to be firm with my kids about rules. And certainly we discuss the importance of being polite. But when it comes to circumstances that are not so important in the grand scheme of things? It's not my job to push my kids into doing things that make them totally uncomfortable; what kind of message does that send? I definitely work with them to go outside of their comfort zones, but not to the point of making them miserable. I am working on just letting them be themselves. It's not always easy. My friends don't always understand, especially if their kids are different, and especially if my friends have totally different parenting values (many of them do). For me, it's just another step in the process of learning to let go, and let them grow.

6.14.2009

Magical Adventure, Part Two: The Sistahs

Hi. My name is Marlynn, and I am in a sorority.

It's true. Most of my life I've replied to the question of whether or not I joined a sorority with "Noooo, I'm part of a sisterhood!" or "It's really more of a supportive community than a sorority" or "whatchyou talkin' about Willis?" (actually, I just like to answer every question with that question when I can). If you would have told me in high school that I would someday be part of a sorority, I would have probably told you to go f*ck yourself. No way! I saw sororities as groups of sheep, people who liked to follow, they were blonde and blue-eyed and did stupid shit like have high teas. Well, my sorority experience was certainly different - very different - from the sorority stories I would hear from friends at other colleges. When I met the women of Sigma Pi Theta at Emerson College, I didn't see a group of followers, I saw a diverse group of extremely strong women who were all leaders in their own way. To this small town fish out of water, I think they initially scared the shit out of me. But I couldn't have had a better welcoming committee to not only help introduce me to the college, but to the possibilities of my life.

When I went to college, I had never been to the East Coast, never visited the college, didn't know a soul in Boston, and was a general wreck with a lot of emotional baggage. It's true: you can't fully give love unless you learn to love yourself exactly as you are and learn to support and trust others despite your differences. That is the gift that my Sigma sisters gave me: the gift of self-awareness, self-acceptance, and eventually, self-love.

No matter where I've been since joining Sigma, no matter what I've done, it is their unconditional, unending support during those college years and beyond that helps carry me through my darkest days and helps widen my smile on my most exciting life highs. We do not all see eye-to-eye, but at the end of the day, I know that we are all here for each other 100 percent. I do not exaggerate when I say I would do almost anything for my sisters, and I know in my heart that they would do anything for me.

So last weekend was like coming home for me. Not only to the place where I finally became ME, but to be with the women who helped me understand myself so that I could have the strength to be myself, life scars and all.

Look at this picture: these women are accomplished lawyers, executive tv producers, actresses, nonprofit leaders, supermoms, journalists, event producers, cancer survivors, ad execs...but more importantly than those titles, they are supportive, genuine, generous, kind, compassionate, trustworthy and loving. These women will always have my heart. They will always have my sisterhood, trust, and love. I wish for every woman in the world to have the kind of support & strength I know I have in these women. It has made such a difference in all that I do. Thanks, sistahs ;-)


photo posted originally by the amazing Vicki Ceasar Rule but I think it was taken by cute waiter #2 (the one who somehow convinced me that I *needed* the larger, more expensive glass of wine)

6.08.2009

Magical Adventure, Part One


I write this on the last leg of a journey that I didn’t know I would be embarking upon even 72 hours ago. A wild, spontaneous trip down memory lane. A gift to my soul. A weekend that perhaps will be one of the best in my entire life, for so many reasons.

It began Thursday round 7 am. I checked my phone, twitter stream and facebook updates. There they were: updates from girlfriends near and far all packing, reminiscing, giddy with excitement for our sorority’s 30th anniversary reunion in Boston (and no I’m not a rah-rah typical sorority girl but I am part of an incredible sisterhood – more on that in a different post). I wasn’t planning on going. I couldn’t afford to. I had no idea until a few days prior whether my weekend would require work or not. It didn’t. My sisters’ voices came through. Their words fed into my gut, and my gut was telling me that I needed to go to Boston. I always listen to my gut.


WHEELS IN MOTION

As the mother of two young children, owner of two businesses, and slave to a million different commitments at any given time, going with the flow is my life. I didn’t think twice about setting the wheels in motion. This felt right. I had to go. I just needed to get the all clear from the man I loved, who has always supported me and my kooky ideas and crazy adventures. But even this was crazier than anything I had ever done before. Would he go for it? At 7:23 I called my husband and asked him if it would be too crazy for me to fly to Boston, like, TOMORROW for the weekend. Would he be ok with that? Without hesitation, my sweet, supportive husband said yes, go. Then I texted my friend K in Portland, who is also a sister and an adventurous spirit. I needed a partner in crime. I went about my morning getting the kids ready for school, getting myself ready for work, waiting to hear back from K. After I got into work around 9:30 am I got an email from K. And then another one. She was in. I was shocked and ecstatic. The chase was on to find a cheap flight/hotel deal at the last minute.


THE DEAL

For the next 5 hours, K and I exchanged emails and phone calls in between work, my spending time with my son (who went to work with me that day instead of school – that’s another story), and scavenging the internet for travel deals. At 3:05pm, as I was headed with my son to pick up my daughter from school, I secured a deal. It took forever, and I am pretty sure I racked up more late charges from picking up my daughter late from preschool. Our flight was a red-eye, set to take off from Portland at 11:15pm THAT. VERY. NIGHT. Oh shit. We got a super sweet deal for flights and a hotel room. I got on the phone to now find a babysitter for the kids for Friday. As luck would have it, my dad was taking the next day off. He agreed to watch the kids the whole day. A miracle.


THE HAIRCUT

I drove back home with both kids, fed them their usual snacks, and called my pal Susy. I knew it was a total long shot, but could she fit me in for a haircut today? 4:30? Sure! Another miracle. Now keep in mind I have both kids with me… my kids are absolutely crazy wild together in public places, so I knew I was taking a huge chance in asking them to sit and play in one area while I sat in a chair and got a haircut. But I finished up snack time with them, stuffed my son’s backpack full of toys, changed my daughter’s diaper, stuffed my purse with bags of snacks and off we went. We got there 5 minutes late, but I got my haircut. AND, my kids were ANGELS. Absolute wonder kids who listened to me, played nicely, and my daughter even sat in ONE SPOT for a few minutes, contentedly. It was like magic!


THE RACE IN A FREAK STORM

A freak huge storm brewed out of the blue skies while we were at the salon, so I had to grab both of my kids (who were dressed for the sunny weather) and run to the car in the pouring rain. We were all laughing so much from racing to the car in pouring rain, in our tank tops and shorts. We battled traffic on the way home, and I listened to news reports of possible flight delays that night due to the storm. Oh hell no! I don’t think so! I just spent my whole day and bought nonrefundable tickets so we were going to go on this trip!

Hubby and I got home around the same time, and I started getting the kids’ food prepped for the night and for the next day. Then I packed/threw whatever clothes I knew fit me into my bag, wrote my usual notes to my husband and the kids that I leave for them before I go on a trip, spent about 15 minutes yelling at Travelocity on the phone about an error they made that they weren’t taking accountability for, and then it was time to go pick up K.


MAGIC WINGS

We made our flight. Somehow we were upgraded to exit row seats and had glorious legroom. More magic! We flew into Chicago for the most beautiful sunrise, with the city lights still twinkling against a bright pink and violet sky. We flew into Logan airport, rode the T like we’ve never left, and emerged from the T station at Copley place with this incredible sense of coming home. It had been 13 years since I had stepped foot in Boston, and it gave me a huge welcome home hug that made me want to cry.

The rest of the weekend has been an amazing whirlwind that I will write about in another post, because the significance of what this weekend means to me, the person I’ve become, the life I now choose to lead, needs to be written. But right now, I am sitting on a plane, having had 2 hours of sleep, a magical weekend worth of memories dancing in my tired brain, feeling so alive, so thankful, so blessed . I can’t believe my pal K agreed to come along with me on this last-minute madcap adventure. I can’t believe my amazing husband was so supportive of this trip. I can’t believe we were all able to pull off organizing a weekend’s worth of planning in just a few hours. I can’t believe…as a busy mamapreneur with a crazy wacked out schedule…I can’t believe I was able to pull it off, and now I’m coming home again, having been with my sisters, and can’t wait to snuggle my babies!!

6.02.2009

The Pelican Beach

If you don't live near a coastline, you might want to stop reading, because after this post, you're going to SO be wishing you lived near a beach, you just might try to convince your loved ones to make a move :) At least, that's my goal.

My little family likes to go to the beach. A lot. Did I say "like?" I meant LOVE. We try to go at least once a month, and often will go twice a month during the summer months. One of the many benefits of living in Portland, Oregon is that we can hit the coast and smell that Pacific Ocean air in a little over an hour. We've determined we can't live more than a couple of hours away from an ocean, and I honestly don't know how some folks do live so far away from an ocean all their lives (really: how do you??).

We frequent many different beaches, all between 1 and 3 hours away from home, but my son's favorite is Pacific City, or what he calls "The Pelican beach" mainly because of this:

The Pelican Pub & Brewery has changed a LOT since I was young, but so too has Pacific City (for better or worse). Some think it's gotten too built up; food is quite expensive, I must say, at the Pelican Pub & Brewery. Some think it hasn't been "commercialized" enough: no real room service (read: no breakfast in bed that includes eggs, bacon, pancakes, etc nor dinner or late night snacks) in their main hotel, the Inn at Cape Kiwanda.

But what you do get is this:


A beautiful huge cliff that rises above the beach.
And this:

the most amazing view of the Pacific Ocean, a big huge crazy rock, blue skies with fast moving artsy clouds, and sand that isn't as peppered with broken branches and random debris as some other Oregon beaches are.

If you do go, we love the Inn at Cape Kiwanda, even without the benefit of full room service (sniff sniff - perhaps a future addition to the hotel amenities? hmm???!). The hotel is a short walk from the beach and the Pelican Pub & Brewery. The staff is honestly one of the best I have ever encountered. They are attentive, have a policy of responding to your needs/requests with immediate, kind attention, and they're honestly just so, so nice. Friday and Saturday evenings they have a wine tasting in the lobby with nice Oregon wines, where you get to meet some of the other guests, who are seriously usually as nice as the staff. The rooms are spacious enough for our wild little family of four, they have pet-friendly room options, and the prices are reasonable compared to other Oregon beach hotels. Check it out.

Plus, all rooms face the ocean, so this would be your view:


Not a bad view at all :)

6.01.2009

It was good while it lasted


Taking vacation when you run 2 businesses is never an easy task. I was supposed to be on vacation from last Wednesday May 27th through tomorrow, June 1st. Well, new clients came in (hooray for new clients! but why is the timing always off?), requiring me to work all day & night last Wednesday after a 14-hour work day on Tuesday. Then Thursday my husband stayed home sick and my son stayed home for what was supposed to be a special birthday fun day. And then today, on what should be my day of solitude and peace, I've been battling my bank on business banking issues that really should have been resolved at least a year ago (grrr banks), making necessary appointments for my kids (that were supposed to be made last week), and dealing with technology issues (like none of my software works and I can't reply to any emails. it's great fun! grr...).

So in the end, what I really had instead of a nice, relaxing 5-day vacation, was 2.5 days at the beach with my family, which, as you know, can sometimes not be so relaxing but heck, I'll take it! I enjoyed at least one full day of Vacation, with a capital V. It was awesome. LOVED it. And I wish it didn't seem so long ago already...

At least, I made an attempt to take a vacation, and at least, I was able to spend the weekend with my family doing things other than our usual weekend housework and errands. And now, back to the grind...

5.28.2009

Now the mother of a FIVE-year-old

I have practiced saying this for the past couple of weeks: "My FIVE year old..." Rinse, repeat, go numb, freak out a little, freak out some more, fight a tear, flash of five years of memories, rinse, repeat: "I have a FIVE year old son..."

Today's the day. At 4:34 pm on May 28, 2004, my son Ethan was born.



What the WHAT?! Yeah his name is Ethan, not Boo, as I've been calling him here since I started this blog when he was 4 months old. Shocking, I know. :) Let me introduce you now to Ethan. MY FIVE YEAR OLD.

And my name is Marlynn, and I am the mom to said FIVE YEAR OLD.

Annoyed by the all caps yet? Well that's the only way I can think it, speak it, write it. I don't know why five is freaking me out more than four or three or two... but it is.

Maybe it's because at this age, he's truly come into his own person. Over the past year, my husband and I have watched his confidence blossom, he's become more outspoken and outgoing, which has just caused his already ingrained curiosity and fascination with every detail about everything just explode. He is no longer baby, toddler, but Big Kid. The conversations we have just blow my mind! The things he knows, observes, takes in, understands and the questions he has are so insightful and thoughtful... each day I feel like I walk around with a stupid awed look on my face because that's how I feel. I can't believe that's my son, my little boy, asking me those things, saying those huge words, doing all this math (and loving the math - he doesn't get that from me) and reading all of those books so well! My son! My FIVE YEAR OLD son!

I am in awe of the human being he's become, and can't wait to continue to watch him grow. He's taught me so much about life, about relationships, about patience, about my own strengths and challenges. He's my oldest, my dear sweet, helpful and kind son, and now he's FIVE.

Happy birthday, Ethan. You will always be my baby Boo, but also your own fabulous individual self. I am so, SO very proud of you, big kid! HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my FIVE YEAR OLD!!!!

Ethan wearing his 5-year-old t-shirt a week early. He designed the "5" by choosing all of his favorite dinosaurs & helping me with layout. The kid knows how to do some basic work (with my help) in Photoshop already.

5.25.2009

Wishing Others Happiness



I'm excited to watch tonight's season premiere of Jon & Kate Plus Eight. I'm not a regular viewer but after everything that's happened to them in the media the past few weeks, I feel this odd protectiveness of them. Do I think Kate can be a little overbearing sometimes? Sure. Do I think Jon really cheated on her, and she on him? Maybe. But in the end, what I think doesn't matter. What you think doesn't matter. It pisses me off to no end that there are hundreds of people out there who revel in other people's unhappiness. Why do people care so much about other people's personal problems and have such strong opinions? I don't get it. I mean, I get the fascination part: I am a sucker for bad reality television because it's a nice escape from the craziness of my own real life. But really, do I ever want anyone I see on television to be unhappy? Do I wish horrible things to happen to them if I disagree with their beliefs, think they're a jackass, or I can't believe what they have done? No. I think that's horrible. What kind of person thinks that way, about anyone, regardless of whether they are on tv or not? I don't care what you do behind closed doors. I don't care about your personal life. I simply wish you happiness and joy and the strength to triumph through life's many difficult challenges. That's it. I don't understand how anyone can ever hope anything differently for others, much less strangers.

So I'm a few minutes away from the Jon & Kate Plus Eight season premiere. In the end, she's a mom, a woman, a human being; he's a dad, a man, a human being. Together they are parents with good days and bad days just like the rest of us, and no matter what, you cannot doubt that they love their children more than anything. For that, they deserve happiness, they deserve positive thoughts and strength to deal with challenges as we all do, they deserve our respect. Life is not easy, for anybody. We should be here for each other, as fellow human beings all trying to do the best we can, regardless. Bottom line.