Thursday, May 28, 2015

Instructions for Life

This morning I ran across the Dalai Lama’s Instructions for Life and they’re as true and as heartwarming as you’d expect.

The Dalai Lama's Instructions for Life
  1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three R’s:
    -  Respect for self,
    -  Respect for others and
    -  Responsibility for all your actions.
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.
  7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  8. Spend some time alone every day.
  9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and
    think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
  14. Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.
  15. Be gentle with the earth.
  16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
  17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
  19. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
  20. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

Which ones resonate with you? 



Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Giving Tree

Last weekend we had to take down a rotted crab apple tree. We were sorry to see it go as every Spring it graces our backyard with beautiful blossoms. We delayed the cutting this year so that we might enjoy one last flowering but there were only a very few white blooms, perhaps further proof that the old tree was badly ailing.

The actual process was fairly straightforward, made easier by the fact that the main trunk was severely rotted. It fell right onto the lawn, missing both the house and fence.

Regardless, cutting an old homestead sentinel is a fairly melancholy business.  It reminded me of an Anthony Bourdain episode that followed a pig from slaughter to bacon (and a whole host of other dishes). At some point the pig has been so parceled up that it no longer resembles the  original animal yet you cannot help but be astonished that only a few moments ago it was a living, breathing, oinking being. Somehow, in a slightly strange sort of way, cutting branches from this fallen tree felt very similar.

The tree may be gone but it is certainly not forgotten. We salvaged a few of the twisty pieces and turned them into outdoor side tables.

Both had rotten areas that traversed the length of the stump so they may not be long for this world but this summer they’ll be a nice place to rest a cool drink. Ben and I harvested some succulents from the living roof on the shed and filled the holes.

We’ll see how long they last: Emma promptly ripped them out so they may have a tough road ahead with a toddler on the loose.

If the stumps manage to survive the summer then I’ll bring them indoors so they might properly dry out, sand the tops, and then slap on a few coats of waterproof varnish.



PS: We also did a project with the smaller branches that is still in progress but here is a sneak peek:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Emma’s Baby Book

This morning I was walking around Greenlake with a friend and we were discussing baby books. And lo and behold, look what was waiting on the doorstep when we arrived home: The Book of Emma 

Just like Ben’s Book, we ordered it through MyPublisher and went for the gigantic 11"x15” size.

There are a few changes since we ordered Ben’s three years ago, the first one being that the covers are thicker and have a bit of gloss.

You should know that I blurred some portions of the text, just to provide our wee gal with some birth info privacy. 

Like Ben’s book, this album is divided into several chapters.


Here we go:

Chapter 1: Formal Monthly and Weekly Photographs

All those weekly picture sessions finally paid off! Never again will I be doing that project. :)

I know some people consider it a waste to only put one picture on a page, but the big photos are some of my favorites. Especially this one.

Chapter 2: The Baby Journal

The journal includes stats, birth details, notes, and milestones. There is also a section for future 'accomplishments' and height/weight entries. 

There is also: “The Price Of: ...a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, the cost of your first house, etc”. Another fun section: What Famous Events Happened On Your Birthday, Which Famous People Share Your Birthday, etc.

Many of the questions we used in the baby journal can be found in this link

Here is a new page: photos of Chris and I as babies. I think Emma is a dead ringer for Baby Christopher, bottom right. Especially the hair! I wonder when Emma’s hair will go dark. 

The one of me with my mama (bottom middle) is a favorite of mine. 

Chapter 3: Informal photos

These are arranged chronologically and begin with her birth (very early January) and end with Christmas (December). Basically a “Year in Review” section.

Here is a prime example: The summer trip to Alaska

In addition to the bigger album format, I also sprung for lay-flat pages. Fancy, fancy. 

I love picking out pictures for album. Hopefully she’ll see the humor in these...

This one is mostly of Ben but I crack up every time. Because clearly this is the photo one should make when forced to do posed pictures with family members.

 If our little girl ever gets too big for her britches then I can always whip out the baby book to show her what the first year was really like:

Oh Ben, you’re so sweet. And I am such a horrible mother for choosing to photograph this rather than saving the poor wee babe from nasal tickling.

Chapter 4: Keepsakes

This section has been revamped. Ben’s book is a bit unwieldy because I pasted in all the cards and hospital keepsakes right into the album. With Emma’s version I decided to scan everything as photo files and incorporate them directly into the book. Much better.

Remember we did the Wishes For Emma project at her party? Here is how it turned out. I also scanned these, rather than pasting in the card stock.

Chapter 5: Birthday Book (Ages 1-18)

I went ahead and filled in her one year birthday party page but all the subsequent pages are blank.

Here is a good example. On the left, we have space for descriptions and photos of Emma’s 4th birthday (and year) and on the right is the annual questionnaire (What is your favorite animal, what do you want to be when you grow up, tell us a funny joke, etc). Some of the questions I used for Ben’s interview can be found here. I tweaked them a bit for Emma’s version.

There is also space to post pictures and announcements in the Time Capsule section.

Another new feature: a customizable back cover. Whoohoo.

You are loved, Emma. Fiercely, unconditionally, and without reserve. We are, and always will be, grateful to have you in our lives.
Love, Mama and Daddy

(I know, 'Mama and Daddy' sounds slightly off. But I don’t love ‘Mommy’ and Chris doesn’t adore ‘Papa’ so this is the compromise)

So, the nitty gritty:

Size: 11”x15"
Extras: lay flat pages, linen book cover, 100 pages
Cost: $236 face value. (I know, crazy expensive. But I used a coupon so the total cost after rebate was $104. Still not cheap, but hopefully she’ll keep this around for many, many years to come)

MyPublisher requires that you download the program from their website and it’s available for either Mac or PC. We used the Mac version and it was fairly decent. There were a few things in the program that I found somewhat limiting (background colors, resizing photos, spacing/aligning photos, moving pages around) but overall it was fine. Once you’re finished, you upload the entire thing to the website and fork over your $$. The ordering process was easy. 


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

News and Reviews

Hello Darlings,

I hope you’re having a fantastic week. Chris took all of last week off to spend some time with us and it was gloriously terrific. Of course, we’re desperately missing him this week. Can we all agree that having to work stinks?!

Here is the latest and greatest (according to moi) from around the web:

Holy frijole this is an inquisitive orca.  Awesome...but freaky, no?

How many years apart should you space your babies? Don’t ask me, I have no clue, I’m an only child. For the record though, our munchkins are separated by three years.

The Bears of Anchorage (with GPS collars). I’ve met you before, pink bear of the Upper Hillside, and you are one BIG bruin.  A bear on a boat. 

Labs will do anything to get to water. 

The difference between living in New York and San Francisco. 

What Norway can teach us about getting more women into boardrooms. 

NatGeo photo contest winners. Whoa.

Groom cake prank. 

Seattle: traffic is going to get way worse. 

Kids aren't getting enough active time in preschool. 

His wife was just thirty-four. They had two little girls. The cancer was everywhere, and the parts of dying that nobody talks about were about to start. His best friend came to help out for a couple weeks. And he never left.

If you made it through the above article (which you should, because it is worth your time) you deserve a little levity:

Texas cycling gangs clash, leaving nine critically offended

“Sonja” was the 446th most popular name in 1981. In 2014, “Felicity” is the 446th most popular name. Chris would have been Liam. 



Eh. What can I say, I’m partial to Sonja. 

Ben and his Lady Friend

Ben is completely enamored with one of his classmates. He talks about O all the time at home. “This is my marry ring”, he says, “It’s special to me and I’m going to wear it when I marry O

Unfortunately, the lady in question is not particularly taken with Ben. This may have something to do with the fact that Ben immediately bolts to a hiding spot whenever O appears, as he’s too shy to actually talk to her.

My son, too shy to talk to his crush. Whoa.

It took him 20 minutes the other day to work up the courage to give her the flower that he’d picked especially for her from our garden.

She wouldn’t take it. “YUCK!"

Poor guy was crushed. Not that I really blame her. He’d sort of been creeping around the playground, following in her wake.


Update: Lady O has had a change of heart. Evidently Ben’s wooing worked. They gleefully announced that they’re going to marry each other soon.

The parents: "What?! How about you wait about 20 years." 

The kids (in typically 4-year-old fashion): "No. NOW. "


Update: This morning Ben was clearly hiding something behind his back as we were headed off to preschool.

Me: “Ben, what have you got there?

Ben: “Nothing”

A few minutes later:

Me: “Sorry kiddo, remember that you can’t bring toys to preschool”

Ben: “I haven’t got a toy. It’s a marry ring for O”

Me: “Oh, the purple butterfly one? That’s nice. “

Ben: “No, that’s the one I’m going to wear. This is the one I’m going to give her:

Me: “That’s very nice that you’d like to give my ENGAGEMENT RING to O, but that one is very special to me. Daddy gave it to me and it’s not for re-gifting. “


O has been on vacation and I secretly hoped that the whole subject would be dropped. I mean, sweet singing baby jesus, my kid is practically still a toddler.

In other news,  I’d better find a safe deposit box at a bank, else my ring might just up and disappear one day.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bathroom Remodel: Progress

There are still tools everywhere and we have plenty of touch up work to do but the major pieces are in place and we've got running water.  Now we won't have to bathe the kids in plastic tubs anymore. So that's excellent news.  

Less good news? Emma chipped the sink as it was laying on the floor awaiting install. 


And what do you do when you install a new mirror? 


(In your work clothes, with dust in your hair, and wearing a necklace that your son picked out.)

 Because that's how we roll around here. 


Friday, May 08, 2015

Benisms vol 17 and the Tale of the Popular Pot

Ben: “I’m sick”

Me: “I’m so sorry.”

Ben: “I know I’m sick because I have golden snot. But I’m not super-duper sick because then I have green snot”

Well, that’s one way to tell. The power of observation.

I can tell he's sick because he refuses to take a nap and then crashes 20 minutes later on the floor:


The neighbors across the street from us are doing some extensive landscaping. The contractor brought in a porta potty and overnight it’s become a stop for every UPS man, cable guy, and plumber.

Ben loves it. “Mom! There’s a cherry picker outside! I’m going out in the yard to take a good look.” More often than not, he’s got about 20 minutes to ‘take a good look’.

The previously unknown entertainment value of the humble porta potty.

This morning I had to stop Ben from knocking on the door to see if the garbage man had any of the temporary garbage truck tattoos they usually carry around. “Pretty sure he’d like some privacy right now."

On a more logical note: How do they know of the toilet's existence? Is there an iPhone app? “FRESH PORTA POTTY ON SAND POINT WAY AND 110TH. LANDSCAPE PROJECT IS ONLY HALFWAY DONE SO IT SHOULD BE THERE FOR ANOTHER WEEK.”

I mean, I understand the garbage guy. And the UPS delivery guy. They’re on our street every day. But what about all the others in the big trucks: Comcast installers, moving trucks, dump trucks? Do they just happen to drive by and make the most of an unlocked port-o-john?

Dude, if there isn’t an app, I totally need to make one. This is porta potty gold.



Thursday, April 30, 2015

I See You (Alternate Title: The Magical Wonders of LASIK)

Let’s do a little experiment: position your face so it’s a mere six inches away from whatever device you’re reading this blog on (phone, iPad, desktop, etc). 

Six inches. That’s what my vision was. Anything beyond that was crazy blurry. Now imagine blindly groping around for glasses in the middle of the night while the baby howls. You can’t find them so you stumble out the door, trip over the dog, and pick up the thing that looks like a babyish blob. Repeat. Every single night.  

I’ve worn contacts since 5th grade. I was going to be the first person in my class to get glasses and for some reason I was absolutely terrified about that proposition.  So my parents got the Most-Incredible-Padres-Of-The-Year Award and let me get contacts. Back then they were the hard ones and you had to pull them out of your eyes with a little toilet plunger. And they would occasionally fall out and I’d be crawling down on the floor looking for a tiny slip of clear plastic. Usually I’d inadvertently find it when my knee came down and cracked it.  

Aside from an unfortunate stint with giant, coke-bottle glasses during middle school, I’ve been relatively happy with my contacts. After 24 years, they’re second nature. I can put them in without a mirror and my eyes handle long stretches with relative ease. 

The biggest drawback however is the environment. In any condition other than my house, they were kind of a pain. Living for six months at jungle stations in Costa Rica? Grubby. Getting water in my scuba mask? Difficult. Camping with porta potties? Ick. 

I was all set to have LASIK done six years ago until my doctor asked if I was planning on having children. Yes. Well then, you’d better wait. Damn. 

As it turned out, she was right. Pregnancy (and hormonal changes) can cause vision fluctuations for a small percentage of women. I was one of them. 

But our bambino-creating days are behind us so I signed myself up for a few consultations at area LASIK centers. My procedure was yesterday and Chris got to sit in on the surgery. 

Crazy note: See those big windows? That’s the waiting room. You can see people having their eyes lasered while you sip your Starbucks and catch up on US Weekly. 

My eyeball is looking slightly stressed. Not that I blame it. It was about to be sliced open...

I have no idea what’s going on here. All I know is that I’d just had my first-ever valium and my eyeball was numb.  The clamp wasn’t particularly comfortable and the laser that cuts the flap makes your vision go black, a slightly disconcerting experience. But it wasn’t painful. And my doctor was amazing. Two thumbs up for Sharpe Vision in Bellevue.

And best of all, I woke up this morning with 20/15 vision. Holy frijole, peeps: The wonderful power of modern medicine.

Full disclosure: my vision isn’t perfect, particularly in my bad left eye. Things at a distance are slightly fuzzy and I’m finding that my eyes are fairly sensitive to bright sunlight. And I’m an eye-dropping fool every hour. But these are normal side effects and will hopefully clear up in the next few months.

In the meantime, who is up for grubby camping?! Count me in.



Thursday, April 23, 2015

Get Your Camp On

Ben is in full-on camping mode. Today he dictated his packing list (in order of importance):

News and Reviews

Last night I got sucked down the internet rabbit hole, particularly scrolling through this website: Nature of a Man positions critter cams in Central California and his photographs are spectacular (and funny). The ones of mountain lions just south of San Fran are especially fascinating.  Or the bears!

Speaking of those same lions, check out one youngster’s journey in an attempt to find himself a new territory in downtown Mountain View. I wish I could say he was successful but five months later he was hit by a car while trying to cross a highway.

Whoa. William Shatner, keep your dirty paws of our precious Seattle water.   Get rid of all those SoCal golf courses, lawns, and swimming pools, and then we’ll talk. Maybe.  Or probably not.

Excellent post about relationship tips from weddings. 

My mom wants to be turned into a coral reef when she dies. I might spring for tree food. What do you think? Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, fertilizer to fertilizer...

Holy batman, peeps! This is taking it to a whole ‘nuther level. Mom sends most demanding birthday invite ever. 

CEO of the century: One Company’s new minimum wage: $70k/year

Outdoor preschools are coming to Seattle!!

For the bicycle set: cute toddler shirt. 

 I loved this speech by Amy Schumer. Read the entire thing here. 
"I want to throw my hands in the air, after reading a mean Twitter comment, and say, 'All right! You got it. You figured me out. I'm not pretty. I'm not thin. I do not deserve to use my voice'...But then I think, F*** that...I am a woman with thoughts and questions and sh*t to say. I say if I'm beautiful. I say if I'm strong. You will not determine my story — I will. I will speak and share and f*** and love and I will never apologize to the frightened millions who resent that they never had it in them to do it. I stand here and I am amazing, for you. Not because of you. I am not who I sleep with. I am not my weight. I am not my mother. I am myself. And I am all of you, and I thank you.”

The Tallest Trophy: The Movie Star and the Missing Totem Pole (a great read!)

Pacific Northwest Peeps: Are You Ready for Mushrooms?

Ben just participated in a similar study by the same author: Game played in sync increases children’s perceived similarity, closeness.

There is no such thing as ‘women’s rights’. 

Speaking of women, my mom dug out that newspaper article (pictured above) from the year I was born (1981) about the Equal Rights Amendment. Here is your depressing history lesson of the day:
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal rights for women. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman. In 1923, it was introduced in the Congress for the first time. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress and went to the state legislatures for ratification. 
The resolution in Congress that proposed the amendment set a ratification deadline of March 22, 1979. Through 1977, the amendment received 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications. Five states later rescinded their ratifications before the 1979 deadline, though the validity of these rescissions is disputed. In 1978, a joint resolution of Congress extended the ratification deadline to June 30, 1982, but no further states ratified the amendment before the passing of the second deadline, leaving it three short of the required threshold. 
Consequently, our Constitution is missing this little piece of wording: Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Not cool, country. FLOTUS, get on it!

Again, for the biology fanatics: The mystery of the red bellied newt. 

Hope you’re gearing up for a great weekend, Peeps.