The Fitness Rollercoaster And My Adventures With Abs Girl, Jersey Boy and Yoga Man

went-to-the-gym

I’m gonna be straight up honest with you. I didn’t go to the gym today. I didn’t go yesterday either. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember the last time I went to the gym. I have what basically amounts to a lifetime membership at 24 hour fitness, and I think I have been there 10 times in the past year. My car got rear-ended last July, causing me back and neck injuries,  and working out and/or running have been difficult for me.  I actually thought about going today. My neck went out last Wednesday, but I’m feeling better this morning. Writing about going to the gym is ALMOST as effective as GOING to the gym, right?

I miss the gym. Sorta. I prefer running outside, but when you’re running inside on a treadmill, or lifting weights, it gives you more time to observe people than when you fly past them. Ok, maybe “fly” is an exaggeration. “Move slightly faster than the old couple out for a stroll” is probably more accurate. I miss the opportunities for people watching at the gym, and I’m not thrilled about the extra weight I have put on this past year.

I was never much of a fitness fanatic. If you may recall from my previous post- http://kbjackson.com/anything-i-can-do-you-can-do-better-musings-on-an-average-life/ I was not what you might call athletically gifted. I had asthma, a lack of coordination and a lack of confidence. I never quite understood people who exercised for fun. Occasionally I tried the 20 minute aerobic workout videos ( “4 more. 3 more. 2 more. Now take it to the left and one and two and three.”) And for a time in the late nineties I did “Tae Bo.” My need to take a shower after the Tae Bo tapes (and yes, I mean VHS tapes) was precipitated less by the workout and more by the dirty feeling I had from the creepy way Billy Blanks looked at me through the TV.

My favorite workout tape, though, has to have been “Seven Minute Abs” as seen here:

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http://www.popscreen.com/v/7Gg/7-Minute-Abs (the full clip from “There’s Something About Mary.”)

By the time I was 35, I had given birth to 4 children and had my gallbladder taken out due to poor diet. I knew I had to make a change. I tried the “Biggest Loser” DVD’s, but hit a wall after about 15 pounds. I remember saying to my husband, “I hope you like me exactly as I am, because I’m pretty sure this is the best it’s gonna get.”

His response was to take a pretty large risk by giving me sessions with a personal trainer for my birthday. That could have gone very not well for him. But I decided to seize the opportunity, and showed up at the gym with fear and trepidation. When I asked Jeff how he had chosen the personal trainer he said, “I looked around, found the biggest, meanest looking guy there and said, ‘that’s the one!'”

317156_4419244451842_1022087964_n Not intimidating at all.

And he wasn’t kidding. But in 3 months, Mike Cahl (still training in Orange County, CA if you’re in the area and need a kick-ass trainer) transformed me from a soft, squishy size 14 (plus ) to a rock hard size 4. I wouldnt believe it either if it hadnt happened to me. A colleague of my husband’s started calling me “Robomom.”

Soon this asthmatic who got out of PE with a doctor’s note for all of high school, was running an average of 20 miles a week. And I was spending lots of time at the gym.

When we moved back up to Washington from Southern Cal, I noticed there was a vast difference in the clientele of the gyms in each location. Whereas the Huntington Beach 24 hour fitness looked more like a nightclub or the set of a workout DVD, my new gym looked like the bar scene in “Star Wars.”

Over time I began to pick out my favorite regulars. There was Jersey boy,

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No, not that “Jersey boy.” Jersey boy was a guy who worked out every single day in what appeared to be his high school football jersey. He looked to be at least 5 years out of high school. Jeff’s theory was that he wore it because the cut of the shirt made him look broader in the shoulders. All I know is his mom must be really good at laundry to make sure he had the same jersey clean every day.

There was “anchorman.” I dubbed him this because he reminded me of this guy:

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our former anchorman in Los Angeles. “Anchorman’s” mustache was tighter than this, though. Last year he shaved off the mustache and I was very disappointed. Maybe if I ever get my rear back to the gym I will see he has grown it back.

Every gym also has its resident anorexic. When I lived in HB, I actually mentioned to the front desk at the gym that they should do something about the fact that she was literally killing herself before my very eyes and they told me there was nothing they could do about it, for fear of being sued. The girl up here spends hours on the elliptical. HOURS. She wears a giant pink parka and looks like she’s being forced to keep moving even though her body can barely function. She smells like death. The front desk up here said that they limit her to two hours by policy, but then she goes to the other 24 hour fitness about 15 minutes away. If someone wants to kill themselves, there’s not a lot you can do about it, I guess.

There’s the old woman who walks the treadmill in her mom jeans. I’m not sure why she doesn’t just bite the bullet and get herself some comfortable workout clothes. I have also often seen a man wearing street clothes on the treadmill with a giant set of janitor keys hanging off his belt loop. He doesn’t walk very fast, so thankfully it keeps the jingling to a minimum.

About 3 years ago, a new guy showed up just after New Year’s. It was clearly a resolution situation. He had on a new blue sweatshirt, matching blue sweatpants and shiny white shoes. He came back the next day- same outfit. For two months I wondered when he would decide that the resolution was going to stick and he could invest in a second sweatsuit. It never happened. The last time I saw him, he was still wearing the same cornflower blue Hanes sweatsuit. I wear something to the gym and it doesn’t come back clean out of the laundry room for weeks. I can’t figure out how these people wear the same thing every day. Maybe he has several sets of the same exact outfit. That is more plausible to me than that he washes it every single day.

There’s a trainer who works there that I would never hire in a million years. Besides the fact that he has a serious paunch in his belly, he’s slimier than a slug. He has longish hair that he slicks up with some sort of greasy product, and he just has that “creeper” vibe. One day he showed up and he had colored his hair with blue streaks. It was not an improvement. I guess my feeling on personal trainers is that they should look somewhat like what you aspire to become. There is nothing about that greaseball I would want to be like or want my husband to be like.

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One day I was in the back of the gym doing curls. I looked over into the room where they do classes. There was an older man there in the back row, closest to the window. He wore tight yoga pants, and he clearly was enjoying the class. CLEARLY ENJOYING.  If you know what I mean. Two days later, I’m back there again, yoga is happening again, same thing. Eventually I had to change my workout schedule so that I was no longer doing curls during the 9 am T/Th yoga class. It’s like a car accident- I was horrified and yet couldn’t stop looking.

yoga2 “I really REALLY like yoga. Really.”

I gotta say though, my two favorites were Abs girl and Orgasm girl. Abs girl had the most spectacular abs I have ever seen on a human woman. Seriously. For a while, she seemed to have a thing with this giant buff guy who couldn’t turn his head because his neck was so thick. One day, they were no longer spotting each other. She had a new spotter, and he was with one of his other musclehead friends. He kept looking longingly over at her. I suspect Abs girl broke the big guy’s heart.

amazing-girl-abs1  Not actual Abs girl abs, but you get the idea. Is it any wonder he was so sad when she dumped him?

Orgasm girl, well, she was in a class all by herself. Every single thing she did in the gym came along with a vocalization. Every rep had a sound effect. Every bench press, every leg curl. Everything. And they were all straight out of a porno film. We get it. You’re hot. You want everyone to see that you’re hot and you’re working out. Not everyone wants to hear what it makes you feel like. I could do that too, you know, but I have self control and grunt it out like everyone else. I know the sounds I make are way less pleasant, but they are appropriate to the activity in which I am participating. One day I noticed Orgasm girl was no longer svelte in the middle. She was pregnant. Apparently her method of working out was more effective than I had imagined it to be. Or was it less effective?

As for me, well, I have a long road back to the peak of my fitness. I can still run 3-5 miles in a stint, but the next day my neck and back feel like I have been jackhammered. I may need to take up a new form of exercise. I tried hot yoga, and I didn’t die, but I didn’t love it. Plus I’m not good at scheduled classes. Every time I showed up right before the class was supposed to start, and the only spot left on the floor was directly under the heater. I felt like a rotisserie chicken.

Now that the weather is better I should probably take up walking. It’s tough on the runner’s ego to walk, but I think I just need to get over it. I’d rather be a semi-fit walker than an unfit former runner.

I do need to get back to the gym, though. My injured self can still do some toning and light cardio. Besides, I think it’s time to check up on all my old friends, and maybe find some new ones. It’s worth the pain for the entertainment. sits-down-at-a-machine-at-the-gym_last-person-wa It could happen. It totally could.

 

 

 

 

“I Think You Should Lose Your Back-Up Band” And Other Awesome Celebrity Encounters

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Last night, as my 9 year old daughter Zoe and I drove home, she said what she often says while riding in my car, “Can we PLEASE listen to something from the 2000’s?”

I like contemporary music, but I also love the old stuff. I go through phases of different eras and genres. I would apologize to my kids for subjecting them to that, but I love that my daughter can sing the lyrics to almost any Motown song, much of the 80’s music, and can often be heard belting out “Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons.” Currently as I am typing this, she is walking down the stairs singing “Love will keep us together” by “Captain and Tenille.”

So I ignored her request and flipped on the 70’s station. It was Glen Campbell singing “Southern Nights.” I heard a groan from the back seat.

“You know, your dad flew on a plane with Glen Campbell once.”

“Really?”

“Yes, and the plane got struck by lightning.”

“You’re making that up.”

But I wasn’t. Several years ago my husband was on a flight with Glen Campbell. He said at the time he got on the plane he knew he was someone famous, but couldn’t quite figure out who he was. He said that he was dressed really well. ( I asked him this morning if he was dressed like a “Rhinestone Cowboy.” He looked at me for a moment and then said, “No.” He doesn’t think I’m as funny as I think I am.)

Glen was in first class, and my husband was kiddie corner from him, so he had a direct view. He heard the murmurs all around, people whispering “isn’t that…” and it was clear the flight attendant was giving him extra attentive service. Jeff says Glen looked like he was trying to keep a low profile.

Partway through the flight, that all changed.  It was a bumpy stormy flight to start off. But suddenly there was a large CRACK! The plane lit up like Times Square and then dropped like a thousand feet in an instant. Everyone on the plane thought they were going to die. (He says now that he’s not sure if it actually hit the plane or was just very close. Would a direct hit cause all the electronics to fry?)

When they all realized they had survived, the atmosphere of the plane changed. Suddenly the flight attendants were serving drinks, everyone was getting liquored up in relief and celebration, and Glen Campbell was out of his seat signing autographs. Jeff said, “If he had his guitar with him, he probably would have led a sing-along on the plane.”

Sadly, Glen Campbell is in deteriorating health, but we have his music and this awesome story that will live on.

Glen-Campbell-picture

That story got me thinking about other celebrity encounter stories I have heard and/or experienced. “US” magazine says stars are “just like us!” and then they post ridiculous things like “Justin Timberlake pumps his own gas!” or “Khloe Kardashian has deodorant balls!”

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or this:

celebrities-are-just-like-us I don’t know who this guy is, or why anyone thought he might not use a basket when grocery shopping. Would he use his hands? Would he have a butler carrying his bananas for him?

As a general rule, I do believe celebrities are just like me… only with more money and fame. We are all human beings. And my instinct when I see one is to leave them alone. I passed Urijah Faber (UFC fighter for those who don’t know) in the taxi line at McCarran airport in Las Vegas. His butt chin was unmistakable. I felt that momentary buzz you get when in the presence of someone famous, but then I realized it was 95 degrees, he was in a line of a hundred other people, all of us weaving our way through the queue like lambs being led to slaughter. In that moment, he WAS just like us. I made eye contact and then looked away. It seemed like the right thing to do.

urijah_faber_1961143 Urijah “California kid” Faber

We had another UFC celebrity encounter in Vegas last year. The UFC is headquartered in Vegas, so I guess that’s not so surprising, but we lived in Southern Cal for 5 years and I never saw a celebrity.(*editor’s note- Sydney just reminded me that for a semester Bobbi Kristina Brown aka Krissi aka daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown attended her middle school.)

We were at SW Steakhouse at the Wynn hotel for our anniversary dinner when Chuck Liddell walked by. My husband almost peed his pants. Chuck Liddell is a former UFC light heavyweight champion who successfully defended his belt 4 times, and is now a member of the UFC Hall of Fame. (He’s also my friend Jami’s second favorite UFC fighter.) The next time our waiter came over, Jeff told him he wanted to send a drink over to the “Iceman.” A little while later he returned and said, “He appreciates the gesture, but he no longer drinks. He’d be happy to take a coffee, though.” I said, “Good one. You sent a drink to a recovering alcoholic.” We later found out that Liddell’s sobriety was short-lived when he began appearing in Miller Light commercials.

ufc49_chuck_liddell_015 “Go ahead. Try to buy me a drink.”

Nice restaurants are great places to spot celebrities, but I never expected to see one in Utah. We lived in Utah for 5 years, and when we moved to Southern Cal, our house in Utah was still on the market. It took several months, but it finally sold, and we had to fly back to Salt Lake to oversee the final packing and closing of the house. We decided to do it in style, so we stayed at the Grand America Hotel. One morning as we sat in the nearly empty restaurant having breakfast, I looked over at a group about 20 feet away and almost choked on my orange juice.

“Oh my God!”

“What?”

“It’s that guy. Holy Cow. The guy. You know, ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ One of the greatest actors of our time!”

I couldn’t think of his name. I had a total mind blank.

Our waitress came over. “Is that…?”

She smiled. “Yes it is.”

It took my brain another couple minutes and then I said triumphantly, “Anthony Hopkins!”

Jeff said, “Shh.”

I leaned forward. “Oh my gosh I can’t believe this. He’s amazing. I wonder what he’s doing in Utah of all places?”

Jeff responded, “Currently I’d say he’s trying to eat his breakfast in peace.”

A little while later he said, “You need to stop looking at him. ”

“I can’t. He’s Sir Freaking Anthony Hopkins!”

“You’re making me uncomfortable. I’m sure you’re making him uncomfortable. Stop looking at him.”

“I wanna go over there and ask him if he’s having some fava beans with a nice Chianti.”

Blank stare of incredulity.

“No.”

We eventually got the scoop from our waitress that Sir Hopkins was in town because he was filming the movie, “The World’s Fastest Indian” on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

I said, “Well that’s racist.” But it turned out the “Indian” in question was a motorcycle.

THE-WORLDS-FASTEST-INDIAN-MOVIE-POSTCARD-BLUE-POST

Jeff has had a lot more celebrity encounters than I have, in part because his old job required a lot of traveling. One day, when we still lived in Socal, he texted me.

” I’m at the airport sitting next to Jesse Jackson.”

“Shut up! You are not!”

“I am. Do you think I should sidle up next to him and say, ‘Hey my last name is Jackson too?'”

Hmm. Should you, a white man, tell Jesse Jackson, civil rights activist, that you share the same last name? Probably not. But I replied, “Totally. You totally should.”

He didn’t. I’m pretty sure he was joking.

jessiejackson This is not a current pic of Jesse Jackson, but it’s awesome, so that’s why I picked it.

I have to say, though, my favorite celebrity encounter story is my mother’s. My mom was born and raised in Southern California. She went to high school with David Ward (Oscar winning screenplay writer of “The Sting.”) and musician Jackson Browne (who taught my aunt to play guitar.) She went to college at USC at the same time as Tom Selleck, George Lucas and OJ Simpson. She’s also a people person, can strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere, at any time. Celebrity status doesn’t phase her.

Back in the 70’s when she was living in Huntington Beach, there was a local club called the “Golden Bear.”

320246_10150273255707056_5654020_n Note- Hoyt Axton’s name on the marquee. See my previous post http://kbjackson.com/any-man-can-be-a-father-it-takes-someone-special-to-be-a-dad/ to learn more about Hoyt Axton.

My mom was a regular down at the “Golden Bear.” It was a place where you could go hear rising stars and past their prime musicians perform in a cozy atmosphere. The small space lent itself to a feeling of familiarity with the performers. Early in her career, Linda Ronstadt played the “Golden Bear” and my mom went to see her several times.

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One night Linda said that she was trying out a new band. At the break, my mother walked up to her and said, “I think you should lose the back-up band.” She went on to tell her that she felt the band was overpowering her, that she loved the acoustic style and that these guys were just too loud. Linda thanked her for her feedback.

She didn’t lose the band. Good call on Linda’s part…

It was “The Eagles.”

0 R Maybe “Witchy Woman” was written about the lady who tried to get Linda Ronstadt to ditch them at the “Golden Bear.”

 

 

 

 

How NOT To Make The “World’s Greatest Sandwich.”

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Several years ago, Jeff and I discovered a gem of a movie- “Spanglish.” This was not your typical Adam Sandler movie. In it, Adam plays a successful chef, and Tea Leoni his neurotic, insecure wife. She hires beautiful Paz Vega to be their housekeeper even though she’s just arrived from Mexico and speaks little to no English. I’m not going to give an in-depth review of this movie, but I heartily recommend it. While funny in parts, it’s also very poignant at other times. I wouldn’t even call it a comedy.

The best thing that came out of the movie, however, was what has become a staple meal at our house. “The World’s Greatest Sandwich.”

Created in real life by chef Thomas Keller specifically for the movie, when we first saw Adam Sandler’s character make it as a late-night snack, we actually rewound the DVD and took notes on how he made it.

The recipe is as follows. Recipe courtesy mission-food.com. (Serves one)

Ingredients:

3-4 thick slices bacon

2 slices Monterey jack cheese

2 slices pain de compagne (rustic country loaf) toasted

1 tbsp. mayo

4 slices tomato

2 leaves butter lettuce (aka boston or bibb lettuce)

1 tsp butter

1 egg

Directions:

Cook bacon until crisp, drain on paper towels and set aside. Place slices of cheese on one slice of the toasted bread and place in toaster oven or under a broiler to melt the cheese. Spread the other slice of toast with the mayo, top with cooked bacon, sliced tomato and lettuce.

In a nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Fry egg, turning over briefly when the bottom is set. You want the yolk to be runny! Slide the finished egg on top of the lettuce. Top with the other slice of toast, melted cheese side down. Put on a plate, and slice sandwich in half. The yolk will ooze down in a beautiful way.

That, my friends, is how TO make the “world’s Greatest Sandwich.”

And now, ten steps on how NOT to make the “World’s Greatest Sandwich.” ( What I am about to tell you is the completely true story of last night’s dinner.)

So, you’ve had a long day, and don’t feel like making dinner but have already been through the drive-thru twice this week and it’s only Thursday? Have you hit your limit of ordering pizza or making Kraft mac n cheese?

Have I got the dinner for you!

Step one:

Take an inventory of your needed ingredients. No pain de compagne lying around? No idea what pain de compagne even is, much less how to pronounce it? No problem. Go ahead and use the loaf you bought from the Safeway bakery two weeks ago that is too wide for your toaster, so no one in your house will use it. No lettuce and your tomatoes look like they’ve seen better days? No biggie. The kids won’t eat them anyway. In fact, your youngest likely has recently sworn off bacon. AND toast. AND cheese. He will only eat the egg.

Step two:

Turn on the oven’s broiler setting. Soon you will smell something burning, and the smoke alarm will go off. I would advise you to calm your children, but they will probably be unfazed and just assume, as always, it’s an indication dinner is almost done. Open the oven door. Wait until last night’s French fries that fell off the tray are no longer engulfed in flames before attempting to retrieve them. Carefully, as in the game of “Operation,” use your tongs to remove the still-glowing embers that once were crinkle cut potatoes. Drop them into last night’s dinner pan that you currently have “soaking” in the sink. This will help them cool down. DO NOT place them in the trash where they will burn a hole through the plastic bag.

Step three:

Heat a large pan for the bacon. Heat a medium pan for the eggs. Add butter. Turn the stove to high and walk away to maximize the chances you will burn the butter and have to start all over again. Add the bacon to the pan and then get distracted. Some pieces will be so crisp that they turn to powder when you touch them, while others will merely be “extra crispy.”

At this point you should make an attempt to shove the bread in the toaster, just to reaffirm that it won’t fit, and there is probably not a slot toaster made in which it WOULD fit.

Step four:

Take a cookie sheet and squeeze as many pieces of your giant bread as possible onto it. Probably you will only be able to fit enough for 3 1/2 sandwiches. Add cheese to only two pieces, because none of the children want cheese on their sandwich, thus demoting the “World’s Greatest Sandwich” to an egg and bacon sandwich.

Broil these pieces of bread so that they are completely browned on top. Pull out the pan. You will later discover that they are completely untoasted on the reverse side, but only after it’s too late to do anything about it.

Because the bread is so large, remember you won’t be able to fit them all on the tray. You will need to broil 3 more pieces of bread (no cheese!) but should wait until after you’ve made the first few sandwiches. This way you will have children impatiently waiting while the others eat in front of them.

Step five:

While awaiting the bread to be toasted and the next egg to cook (it’s taking three times as long now that you’ve turned it to low to avoid burning more butter), place the next child’s plate on an unused burner next to the pan frying the bacon. This will ensure that when you go to move the plate, it will burn off the entirety of your thumbprint, not just a partial. Think to yourself that this may come in handy at some point if you ever commit a crime. While you run your blistering thumb under the cold water, the bacon will suddenly increase it’s cooking speed by double, and the three additional pieces of bread under the broiler (as it turns out, the last three pieces of bread in the house) will char to a nice “Cajun” look. This will set off the smoke detector for the second time that night, conveniently alerting your 14 year old that it’s time to make his way downstairs for dinner.

image Still not toasted on the other side

*Note- It is important that when your thumb makes contact with the 500 degree plate, you yell the most profane word your two youngest children and your neighbor’s 8 year old daughter have ever heard. This will not, however, increase the chances of your husband getting off his computer game and rushing in to see what has caused you to cry out in pain, but it will make you VERY popular with your neighbor.

Step six:

Because you so smartly burned the thumb on your right hand, you will now discover you can no longer crack the eggs. Make a few pathetic attempts at cracking eggs with your left hand. I believe a little shell is good for you. Tell your son this, and try to be convincing. Call your husband in for help. He cracks one egg and then goes back to the computer.

Step seven:

Once everyone is happily (or unhappily depending on who got the most burnt bread and bacon) eating, tend to your wound. A search of the medicine cabinet will reveal that your Neosporin expired 6 months ago, and none of your band-aids are large enough to cover your entire thumb. You will need at least two. Attempt to take pictures of the burn, but dismiss the idea of posting them because you see that every picture looks like a tiny male appendage.

imagethe red is the part of the burn the band aids can’t cover

image The piece of aloe your neighbor thoughtfully sends over with his daughter prior to learning of your outburst.

Step eight:

Find someone who has two working hands and knows how to use a corkscrew.

 

Step nine:

Wine.

Step ten:

More wine.

And that is how to Make the “World’s Greatest Sandwich.” Or not.

Join me for my next installment: “Why I need to keep a stocked first aid kit in my kitchen at all times.”

 

 

 

 

 

In Case You’re Wondering, I Think It’s Poprocks- An Apology Letter To My Housecleaners

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Dear Molly Maids,

I know. It’s bad. I really did try this time. I swear I did. It’s just that it’s summer vacation. They’re all here now. All day. Every day.

I told them you were coming. They mocked me. “The cleaners are coming! The cleaners are coming!” they screeched in their impression of me channeling Paul Revere on his midnight ride.

There’s 5 of them, you know. I’m completely outnumbered. And I think they’re partially blind. How else could you explain them not seeing the chocolate chips they dropped on the floor, only to melt, be trampled by everyone else and tracked throughout the house? Or the maple syrup trail leading from the table to the kitchen sink? (Don’t be silly- the trail will never lead to the dishwasher, they think it’s simply a magical mystery box which should be avoided at all costs, so they walk past it and set their dirty dishes on the counter.)

When I walked in after you had cleaned two weeks ago, I sat in awed silence in the middle of my living room, taking it all in. I knew that in a few short hours there would once again be cheese nips crumbs on the couch and something sticky spilled on the counter.

Last night I made everyone eat their dinner off paper plates so there wouldn’t be dishes in the sink. How was I to know my daughter and her friends would come over and make themselves late-night chicken quesadillas?

I’m sorry to tell you that Parker has learned to make himself microwave popcorn. You would have found out soon enough.

That stack of papers on the counter? Well, that’s a combination of school papers, mail I haven’t sorted, report cards, father’s day cards, mother’s day cards, birthday cards for me and my husband, and invitations for my kids to three parties this weekend. (No, I haven’t bought the gifts yet. That would require me dragging them to the toy store with me, inevitably leading to a tantrum- by them or me or both- and you’ve seen the play room upstairs. The last thing they need is more toys.)

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The pile of backpacks near the front door? Well, yes, school is out for the summer, but I haven’t quite figured out what to do with the boxes of broken crayons, half used glue sticks and reams of completed (well, mostly completed) assignments their teachers chose to wait until the last day to unload on me. Yes, I agree it would probably have been helpful to see that Parker never quite grasped the concept of sorting by tens and ones before getting 30 papers marked with “work on this at home” on the last day of first grade.

As for the shoes, yeah, it is a bit out of control. But six people with two feet each- that’s 12 shoes a day. Two more for soccer, two for baseball, and now you’re up to 16 shoes. It adds up quickly, and the shoe bin can only fit so many before it starts cascading. P.S.- Try to avoid getting too close to the grey slip ons. Parker isn’t a fan of wearing socks.

Just ignore the pantry this week. Again. Someday I’ll get around to laying that tile I bought for my Spring break project. Then I’ll be better at putting the groceries away on the shelves where they belong, instead of throwing the grocery bags in there and slamming the door shut as I race out to whichever sports practice is going on that night.

The good news is that you can see the laundry room floor. The bad news is that all of the baskets are filled with clean clothes stacked in my bedroom, waiting to be put away in their proper rooms. If you could just vacuum around them, that would be great. Oh, yeah, that suitcase on my bedroom floor; I can neither confirm nor deny whether that is from my Vegas trip 3 weeks ago.

I know the playroom doesn’t look like I cleaned it, but take a look at the before and after shots:

Before
Before
After
After

You’ll be happy to hear I finally picked up the athletic cup and the rubber alligator off the stairs. Unfortunately, I discovered last night that the alligator isn’t in such great shape.

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I called to Parker and asked him why he mutilated his alligator.

He said, “Because I wanted to make him look like a snake.”

I replied, “But he doesn’t look like a snake. He looks like and alligator who had his legs ripped off.”

It’s like I’ve got my own midget Charles Darwin.

You also wouldn’t believe how many lego pieces I had to pick up to ensure that you wouldn’t vacuum them into oblivion. You see, Parker doesn’t have the patience to build any lego structures. He prefers me to spend $50 on a set so he can get the guy who comes with it. All the 7000 pieces that are supposed to compose the building then get disseminated throughout the playroom. And the characters break into several pieces as well. We had so many body parts all over that floor last night it looked like a horror film.

And then I found this totem pole of lego heads:

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I called again down to Parker to ask him to explain what I was looking at. He said, “Oh, I took the snake heads from the Ninjago guys and the mummies from the “Mummy” set and a ghost head to make “the Great Devourer.”

As a parent I have learned that sometimes it’s just better to let an explanation stand and ask no further questions. Trust me on this.

I also found a stash of Easter candy. My guess is that the sticky red spot on the floor is what is left of some small child’s attempt at eating Cherry Poprocks. $20 bonus if you can figure out how to get that up.

I know it’s not good to stack so many video game discs on top of each other, but I have already put them back in their cases a hundred times in the past few months. I’ve decided to go with the “leaning tower” effect. The same goes in the boys’ room with Parker’s Scooby Doo DVD’s.

You can also leave the Skylanders Giants display where it is.

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I prefer it in here to where he set it up last time- surrounding my bathtub. Do you have any idea how hard it is to relax with these guys staring at you?

I know they have too many toys. It’s on my list for  this summer to scale back all of our excess stuff. Yes, I know it was on my list for last summer, but this time I really mean it.

My husband says I’m a lunatic the day before you come. He’s probably right. Every time he makes fun of me for “cleaning for the cleaners”  and every time I attempt to explain that in order to clean the counters, you have to be able to SEE the counters. In order to vacuum the floors, you have to be able to SEE the carpet. As my friend Kristin said the other day, “I refuse to pay someone $75/hr to pick up my kids’ toys.”

I’m on your side, Molly Maids. They’re the ones working against us. I not only know where the trash can is, I put my trash inside of it! I don’t drop my jacket and shoes wherever I am standing, I hang them up and put them in the bin!

I’m not claiming that none of this is my fault. I live here too. That flour on the kitchen floor is from the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I was craving Monday night. I knew you were coming today, so I didn’t sweep it up. And I’m sorry.

I could have put those clothes in the baskets away last night, but I chose to sneak out and get myself a treat (frozen yogurt) instead. Yeah, that I don’t regret.

I’m sure you see houses way worse than mine, right? Ones that smell like ferret and still have last night’s McDonald’s remains sitting on the table?

I know my house isn’t the easiest to clean. Heck, if it were, I’d do it myself. (Oh who do I think I’m fooling?) I just want you to know that I DO appreciate it very much. I don’t even care that you’re probably talking about what a lazy housewife I am  when you’re speaking to each other in Spanish. I can live with that, just please come back again in two weeks. I promise to have all the laundry put away by then. Well, most of it. At least my suitcase.

Sincerely,

Moderately Ashamed and Grateful in Seattle

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“No honey, the cleaners cleaned while I blogged and facebooked!”

 

 

 

 

Man Of Steel Abs And Other Reasons I Didn’t Love The New Superman Movie (Minor spoilers)

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No, that is not Wolverine you are looking at. That, ladies and gentlemen, is your new Superman. Now, I admire a great set of abs like any other red-blooded woman, but I found myself a bit traumatized by the fact that the new Superman movie, “Man of Steel” had my favorite superhero shirtless for the entire lengthy opening sequence of the film.

I guess you could say that I’m old school when it comes to my superhero movies. While I thought Christopher Reeves was beautiful, I didn’t ever look at him as a sex object. Of course I was 6 when the first Superman movie came out (Yes I know, technically it wasn’t the first, just the first of our modern era) but to me, objectifying Superman diminishes him as a hero, and makes him just a glorified Chippendales dancer who flies.

I was excited for this movie to come out, as I have mentioned previously ( http://kbjackson.com/voulez-vous-vous-gaver-de-chocolat-avec-moi-vegas-part-3/) I have always been a huge fan of Superman. I grew up watching “Superfriends” and the “Wonder Woman” series. As a 5 year old, I received a wonder woman bathing suit

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which I accessorized with my sister’s gold belt as a lasso and a yellow plastic headband that I put a red star sticker on and wore across my forehead. I had a sheer pink polyester robe that I wore over the suit. As I watched the episodes, when Wonder Woman would spin to change out of her street clothes into her suit, I would start spinning in circles, ripping off my robe as I went. I loved the idea that someone who looked like a regular person could then turn into someone “super.”

I didn’t see the first Superman movie in the theater, but my parents brought home the soundtrack album. I spent hours listening to the music, looking at the cardboard cover, dancing around. Nothing against Hans Zimmer, but John Williams is the greatest composer of my lifetime. His music was a huge part of what made those movies so great.

When Superman II came out, I was 9 years old. And I was obsessed. At the time I was really into barbies, and Superman came in and changed the way I played. Suddenly Hawaiian Barbie became Ursa, Beach Ken was General Zod.

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I would sit outside under the lilac tree at my parents’ house with all my barbies, Superman, and Barbie’s giant Winnebago.

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Sometimes the camper would hang off the edge of the rock wall, and Superman would have to fly in and save the day. Sometimes he just wooed Barbie, while Ken sat in the grass and brooded.

I asked my mom if she still had my superman doll. She sent me this:

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with the caption: “Sadly all that’s left of Superman.” I went through a destructive  creative phase. Most of my dolls ended up with Mohawks and altered clothing.

So, yeah, I loved Superman.

And I’m pretty protective of Superman.

I know a lot of people didn’t like Superman Returns, but I thought it was consistent with the rest of the series. I liked Brandon Routh, and I found Kate Bosworth much less annoying than Margot Kidder as Lois Lane.

So now comes “Man of Steel.”

“Man of Steel” is an origin movie. It spent a lot of time retelling what happened on Krypton, establishing Jor-el and General Zod. Clark’s childhood was all told as flashbacks, and showed him struggling to contain his superpowers. Unlike the first series, he was actually seen by his classmates doing something impossible. This changed the dynamic a bit later on, because as Lois tried to discover Superman’s identity, she was able to do so by following stories of people who had witnessed these feats over the years.

One of the biggest problems I had with this movie was the Lois Lane/ Clark Kent relationship. He comes into her life as an unknown man working on her crew. She sees some things that show him to be otherworldly from their very first encounter, but not in his suit. As a result, she uses her investigating skills to try to learn his identity, which she does. No bumbling Clark and Obtuse Lois at the Daily Planet.

This movie is also missing any sign of Lex Luthor, the “greatest criminal mastermind of our time.” Perhaps they plan a sequel to introduce him, but his comic relief was definitely needed here. General Zod is a great villain, but I was a bit distracted by the fact that he’s the creepy FBI agent from “Boardwalk Empire.”

When Superman first showed up in full costume, Zoe leaned over to me and whispered, “He looks like Danny from Grease.” And he did. I think he’s a good looking actor, but what were they thinking having Clark Kent be actually more attractive than Superman? I kept looking at his lower teeth and remembering the actor is British.

This version of Superman was less graceful. His takeoffs and landings reminded me more of the Incredible Hulk than Superman. The scenes were action-packed, to the point most of Metropolis was destroyed. The Superman I know and love would never allow that much destruction and loss of life.

Before we went to see “Man of Steel” we watched Superman and half of Superman II. My kids giggled at the cheesiness, and Nathan said, ” It’s too slow paced for kids today.” So what movie makers are aiming for is to create more action, more explosions and more chaos than their previous movies to keep a bunch of people who have developed ADD entertained? I don’t love all the nonstop action of today’s movies. It makes me anxious, and I can’t connect with the movie.

That brings me to my biggest complaint about this movie: it lacked heart. What I loved most about the old series of films, what moved me, was the overriding message of hope. I know this movie tries to claim the symbol on Superman’s chest means “hope” in Krypton, but there was nothing about the Superman they portrayed that made me feel hopeful- for humanity, for freedom, for the future. The spiritual metaphors so prevalent in the first series are completely lacking here.

As an action movie, it was entertaining enough. I felt it was wayyy too long, and could have (should have) ended at several different points. It was exhausting, not exhilarating.

We came home and watched the rest of Superman II. During this movie, Lois discovers that Clark is Superman when he trips over a bearskin rug in their Niagra Falls honeymoon suite and his hand falls into the fire. She sees that his hand is unblemished, and calls him out. He admits to her that he is Superman. But in the end, as they are standing at the Daily Planet, he kisses her. He kisses her so hard, he makes her forget he is Superman.

Now THAT is my kind of Superhero.

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My Child Has Autism, He Is Not Autistic- A Guest Post By Krystal Walton

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My Child Has Autism; He is Not Autistic

Krystal Walton

 

I just completed my 12th year as a special educator.  Honestly, I did not go into this field because of a burning desire to help disabled children. Someone told me that my student loans could be paid off if I went into special education.  With over $60,000 in student loans, I was sold!

 

Only God knew that, in addition to helping disabled children and their families, I was also preparing for the child I would have in 6 years.  On June 13, 2007, I gave birth to Devin Matthew Walton, a child who would develop autism.

 

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects communication and social interaction.  It is usually diagnosed around age 3.   Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning it can have a very mild effect or it can be very severe.

 

Children with autism may exhibit delays in speech or a sudden regression in communication or other learned behaviors.  It may impede their learning, interactions with others (up to complete withdrawal), ability to share affection, and eye contact; they may exhibit sensitivity of 1 or more of their 5 senses and have self-stimulatory behaviors (“stemming”), which may include flapping arms, making strange noises, spinning in circles, or banging their heads.

 

Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S.  1 in 88 children are diagnosed with autism, and 54 of them are boys. Although there are many theories about the causes of autism, there is no definitive causative factor and, as of now, no cure.

 

I prayed for Devin’s health – specifically regarding autism.  I made his baby food from organic, fresh, and frozen foods.  I pumped him full of vitamins and lots of veggies prior to vaccinations as it was believed at the time to be a cause of autism.  I kept his brain stimulated and avoided television as much as possible. I knew the world for children with autism can be difficult, confusing, and cruel.  No one wants that for their child.

 

Devin met all milestones within or ahead of normal limits. When he reached age 2-1/2, I noticed his peers passing him in speech development.  Not long after, it was clear there was a very serious problem.  Before the candles were out on his 3rd birthday cake, I had scheduled appointments with a team of specialists for a full evaluation.  His speech was significantly delayed – a year behind where it should have been – but he was fine in all other areas. He had sound sensitivity, which is common in young children, so we prayed he would outgrow it as most kids do.  He also walked on tip-toes (another sign of autism), but so do many in my family – including me – so we didn’t take it very seriously either.

 

However, because Devin met enough of the criteria for autism, he was diagnosed with it at age 3.

 

Since then, Devin has grown tremendously.  He does well in school with special education supports.  He attends weekly social skills classes to help him with pragmatic speech – his ability to participate in and maintain conversations.  He is learning to answer “why” questions (although he sure can ask them!).  Devin is shy with strangers but talks my head off at home.  His answers to questions are sometimes off-topic – typically because he did not understand (receptive language disorder).  He wants interactions with children and adults, but he must be spoken to in short sentences so he can process what is said.  If people speak quickly, the words go too fast for his brain to make sense of them.  His ability to express what he is thinking – expressive language – is also impacted.

 

I never felt let down by God.  I don’t know why my only child has autism.  I don’t get to pick; my job is to trust.  God has been too good to me to begin to doubt Him even in this.  My child is alive.  His symptoms could be so much worse, but he is healthy, beautiful, smart, quick-witted, athletic, loving, and inquisitive.  Like Hannah, I too proclaim, “I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.” (I Sam. 1:27).

 

I will have to teach Devin that he is not defined by his disability.  Devin is not autistic; he is a child with autism.  His disability is something for which he must learn
to accommodate, but it does not have to define or limit him.

 

The Lord has a plan for Devin’s life (Jer. 1:5, 29:11).  Of that, I am certain. I must continually go to God for wisdom to raise this child.  He has never failed to open doors, to give us favor, to provide…  I am confident that He will continue to do so as His plans and purposes unfold.

 

Sources:

Sheehan, Jan. (n.d.). 6 Facts You Need to Know About Autism http://www.parents.com/health/autism/facts/facts-about-autism/

 

Wikipedia. (2013). Autism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism

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“Any Man Can Be A Father. It Takes Someone Special To Be A Dad.”

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Yesterday as I drove home from grocery shopping, I had my sunroof open and my music volume up. It was a beautiful sunny day, which means the perfect day for the “California Dreaming” playlist on my ipod. This playlist reminds me of the years we lived in Huntington Beach as a child, and the first few summers after we moved up to Washington State. It reminds me of the beach, camping, long car trips and easy Saturday mornings. It’s filled with 70’s artists like the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, John Denver, and Starland Vocal Band. What came on as I drove yesterday was a song by Hoyt Axton. I’m guessing most of you have never heard of Hoyt Axton before, and I probably wouldn’t have either- if it wasn’t for my dad.

Hoyt Axton was a folk/country singer with a deep bass voice and a penchant for storytelling. He was a songwriter as well, and, in addition to writing most of his own songs, also wrote “Joy To The World” for Three Dog Night. (You gotta know that song- one of the most unusual opening lines of a song ever: “Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine.”) He never had a number one hit of his own, and only cracked the top 10 twice. But those songs evoke memories for me that take me right back to my childhood, and every one makes me think of my dad. The one I heard yesterday was a strange little ditty called “Della and the Dealer.”

“It was Della and the Dealer and a dog  named Jake

And a cat named Kalamazoo

Left the city in a pick up truck

Gonna make some dreams come true.

If that cat could talk what tales he’d  tell

About Della and the Dealer and  the dog as well

But the cat  was cool and he never said a mumblin’ word.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZHSIhdYSZY (Della and the Dealer)

I’m not gonna lie- I have no idea what this song is about, but I can sing every darn word of it. I remember long car trips where my sisters Colleen and Shannon and I were jammed in the back seat while we sang along at the top of our lungs to the Hoyt Axton 8-track.

We took a lot of car trips when I was a kid. Partly that was because all of our family was still in Southern Cal, and partly because my dad just loves to drive. We rarely flew anywhere if we could drive. And every car trip had an accompanying soundtrack. I remember one trip in which my father had somehow managed to sneak in a song that was so cheesy and awful that it became the theme song for the whole trip. I can still remember singing,

“Put another log on the fire

Cook me up some bacon and some beans.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CsayG8DoYs

Unlike Della and the Dealer, the meaning of this song was very clear. It’s a male chauvinist anthem, although it probably was a little tongue in cheek.

Music was a big part of my childhood. When we would go camping with our friends the Setterlunds, we would all sit around the fire and sing songs, mostly John Denver, while Steve played the guitar. We did stuff like that a lot growing up- camping trips and sing alongs. I know it sounds made up, but we really did.

My mom and dad got married in February of 1971. At the time, My dad had two children, Billy and Heidi, who were almost teenagers. My mom had 4 year old Shannon and 18 month old Colleen. I was born a little more than a year later. The blending of the two families wasn’t always easy. My brother and sister lived with their mom for the most part, but with my two very young sisters, there was suddenly a family of 6. Shortly afterwards, 7. My mom was a single mother, and my dad chose to legally adopt my sisters. Most of the time I forget that fact, because there is no doubt that my dad loves my sisters as fiercely as he loves me and his older two kids.

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And it couldn’t have been easy, living with all those women. My brother (who goes by Bill now but I can’t ever stop calling Billy) was 14 years old when I was born. He did live with us for a short time, but he mostly stayed with his mom  before going out on his own. That meant it was my dad vs. 5 females. Even the dog, Daisy, was a girl.

But he handled us all with patience, and kindness. He was firm, but not unforgiving. And he was steadfast. Always steadfast. There has not been a moment of my entire life where I didn’t know with absolute certainty that my dad has my back.

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It’s very rare to find a man who will always be there for you. Who will go out of his way to help. He rarely balks at anything anyone has ever asked of him. I know that I am very blessed to have him for my dad.

I love our existential talks, about life, the universe, history, the Bible, science and the meaning of it all. I know that I get that inquisitive side from my dad. That part of me that wants to know why, and how. He knows all kinds of weird and interesting things. He knows the details that not everyone cares about- but I do. Nathan said to me that after spending the weekend with my dad while we were out of town he came to realize how smart he is. He said, “It’s like having conversations with you- only he explains it way better.” I love that my kids are starting to understand the treasure trove of information that is my father.

He wasn’t perfect though. One night we were driving home and someone talked him into stopping for ice cream. He said he would go in. We all waited in the car in anticipation. What would he get? Chocolate? Mint Chip? Rocky Road?

He came back to the car. My sister said, “What did you get?”

He handed her the carton.

“What is this? Burgundy Cherry?! What in the world is Burgundy Cherry? Who gets Burgundy Cherry ice cream for children? Chocolate something- anything. But BURGUNDY CHERRY??”

Burgundy Cherry. A flavor that would live in infamy.

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He would never live down Burgundy Cherry.

He also has his own share of idiosyncrasies. Jeff calls it ingenuity and obscure creativity. My dad is a left-brain thinker, a  draftsman, a mechanical engineer, a do-it-yourselfer.  He looks at a problem and is determined to find a solution. His solutions aren’t usually mainstream thinking. One time, when my mom was out of town, he got locked out of the house. Instead of calling the locksmith, he went into the garage, pulled out one of his tools, bore a hole adjacent to the doorknob, reached his hand through, and unlocked the door. For months that hole stood testament to my father’s way of handling the situation.

He also has a propensity for grilling inside the garage, even though the label on the side expressly warns against it. He considers it more of a guideline; One which he chooses to ignore. He grills year round, no matter the weather. If you are driving through Snohomish during a snowstorm and you smell barbeque chicken, it’s probably my father.

The best day to be at my parents’ house, though, is the fourth of July. This is his favorite holiday by far. One year he slipped Jeff a piece of paper discreetly and said, “When you go to Boom City, go to booth #49 and ask for Mike. He’s my contact up there. He has the big stuff in back.”

Their house has hosted some elaborate 4th of July parties over the past 25 years. One year, as the fireworks display entered it’s 3rd hour, Jeff leaned over and said, “Some people have 401k’s. We have fireworks.”

The Snohomish police drive down the hill next to their house every year, and, although they see my father loading illegal reservation fireworks into the mortar launchers he has attached all along the guard rail, they simply wave to my mother and drive away. You always know things are about to get crazy when you see my dad walk by with the propane torch he uses to ignite the explosives.

Every year we insist he gives us some sort of warning before he sets them off. A couple years ago my sister and I demanded that he yell out “fire in the hole!” before launching anything. Sometimes he remembers. Every year we are also convinced it is the year someone will have to go to the hospital or we will light the neighbor’s house on fire. It’s inevitable.

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Yesterday at Parker’s last baseball game he came back from his car wearing this:

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I don’t know why. Maybe there is no reason.

But he was there, cheering Parker on, just like he is for almost every event my kids participate in. My dad has 5 kids. He has 13 grandkids. And as of last week, he is now a great grandfather. And loves every one of us more than we can imagine. He shows us through his devotion, his loyalty, his willingness. He shows us through his kindness and his servant’s heart. What a great example for my kids and a beautiful legacy.

I don’t want to end my Father’s Day post without giving a shout out to the father of my own kids, Mr. Jeff Jackson- Hey! You! Jeff! You’re a good man and a great dad. You bring humor to our home, you have balanced out my crazy, you have stood by my side through all the ups and downs of raising 4 kids for the past 18 plus years. Thank you for loving our kids and giving them a great role model.  I’m sorry for making you build your own father’s day present last year ( A BBQ smoker) in the rain, and then cook your own father’s day dinner on it. This year I promise not to make you do anything you don’t want to do. Except spend it with us. Happy Father’s Day.

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photo by Di Miles at Natural Approach Photography.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here Are Some Of The Fantastic Reviews of My New Blog… Spam Anyone?

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I can’t tell if I’m in Spam heaven or hell. These comments are so ridiculous they actually make me laugh.

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Particular you build this tool in a poorly lit spot for your dog’s comfort.”

 

 

 

The Carnival Goldfish Has A Case Of The Dropsies

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As Jeff walked past the fish tank this morning he said, “Well, you finally did it. You have a dead fish.”

I cried, “No!” and raced over to see. One of the goldfish was perpendicular in the bowl.

I pulled it closer to look, and suddenly she began swimming. “No look! She’s still alive! Maybe I can still save her!”

I’ve been really busy the past couple of weeks. I’m not sure when I last cleaned out the water, but it was on my to do list in the next few days. The water wasn’t terribly murky… what hadn’t already evaporated. And I have been feeding them regularly. But I am pretty sure this is my fault, and I feel terrible. I think the water quality in the Ganges is better than what they have been swimming in.

I never wanted these fish. I never wanted any pets at all. My kids’ number one complaint is that I don’t want any pets. I feel like I have enough to do already, the last thing I need to do is add one more living thing depending on me for survival. I can’t even keep houseplants alive.

image This is what remains of my beloved Gardenia.

Their biggest gripe is that I had pets as a kid, so I am a hypocrite for not allowing them to have them. What they fail to realize is that I never took care of those pets. When I was little, we had a Pekingese named Daisy and a cat named Speedy. (Speedy below)

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Notice how my outfit matches the pillow and blanket. I believe my mother sewed all three.

We had another cat that made the move with us from Huntington Beach. This was a grouchy male cat. After moving, my parents decided the cat needed to go. We were living in Machias at the time, which is in the serious boonies. We were about 3 miles outside of downtown Lake Stevens, and about 5 or 6 from Snohomish. There is a whole post worth of material about our two years in Machias that I will save for another day. They posted an ad, and a family from Everett came to get the cat. Two days later, the cat reappeared. We don’t know if the family decided they didn’t want the cat after all and dropped him at our house, or if he walked across the trestle and came home. We believe it was probably the latter. Regardless, this became that cat’s theme song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rKmQr0EnZgs

(Click the link. You know you want to. It’s the Muppets for goodness’ sake.)

I texted my mother this morning to ask if she remembered the name of the cat, and she said she couldn’t. She asked my dad and sister. My sister said she thought his name was Tigger. I don’t remember ever having a cat named tigger, but it was striped, so I guess it’s possible. My dad said he wasn’t sure, but was very concerned that the cat had somehow reappeared again. Pretty sure he’s been dead for 20 years, but hey, you never know.

I liked our animals ok, but I have never been an animal person. My sister Colleen, on the other hand, was. And still is. Somehow she talked my parents into getting her another dog one Christmas.

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His name was Buckwheat. Buckwheat had the most obnoxious bark of any dog I have ever heard. Every bark that came out of his mouth sounded like he was being run over and was yelping in pain. He also wasn’t the brightest of animals. The prevailing theory is that Buckwheat met his end at the bottom of the well in the back yard of our house one day while we were gone. RIP Buckwheat.

Not too long after Buckwheat went missing, Colleen called my parents from a picnic at Flowing Lake to say that there was an abandoned dog there who needed a home. I don’t know what she could have possibly said to convince my parents to bring this mangy mutt home, but they went and picked her and the dog up. A mix of Irish Setter and Lab, this poor dog looked like it had been through a war. He was skin and bones, couldn’t stop shaking and I’m pretty sure had mange. (Can dogs get mange?) We named him “Ribsy” after the Beverly Cleary book, because his ribs were sticking out so badly.

They took him to the vet, where he was diagnosed with all sorts of maladies, including distemper. My sister lovingly nursed him back to health and that dog lived a very long and happy life. He became my mom’s walking companion after we had all moved out. He was a very good dog.

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Around 11 years old, I decided that the rabbit my mother had brought home was going to be my pet. I didn’t have a special fondness for rabbits, but I wanted to join 4H with my friends. Apparently you need a pet to participate in 4H. I went to my first meeting, and was excited to receive the notebook filled with blank pages to fill in all the information about my pet. I soon realized, though, that it’s not cool to be in 4H with a rabbit, especially since everyone else had horses. That phase of my life was very short. I asked my mom this morning if she remembered the rabbit’s name. Turns out there were a few rabbits over the years. She believes they were all named “Bunny.” The last one is currently buried on the hill behind my parents’ home. There is even a grave marker. It says “Bunny.”

My parents have had several cats over the years. Most of them were outdoor cats. There was a cat named Larissa, a black cat, that liked to roam the neighborhood and then a little while later a new litter of kittens would be born. One of those kittens my mom named Ralph. It wasn’t until my wedding day when she discovered several baby kittens in the garage, that she determined Ralph was actually more like a Ralphina.

Jeff and I decided to bring one of Ralph’s kittens home for a weekend to determine if we could, in fact, be pet owners. It seemed meant to be since it was born on our wedding day. Jeff has an allergy to pet dander, but really likes cats. That weekend, however, was a nightmare. He sneezed the whole time and that cat never shut up. I finally understood where the term “caterwauling” came from. Back it went.

For years Sydney begged us to get pets. One day Jeff came home with a beta fish for her. Within a week that fish was belly up. I asked her what happened, and, following a period of intense questioning, determined that she had attempted to pet the fish. Turns out that petting fish isn’t good for them. Who knew?

That was the end of the pet thing for a while. I have shut down the conversations as soon as they start. I don’t care if I’m the mean mom, and Zoe has to fill out every “about me” survey with “pets: none because my mom won’t let me because she’s the meanest mom in the whole world.” Doesn’t phase me one bit.

A little over a year and a half ago, My friend Roshonda and I took our kids to the last day of the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe. Vendors started giving stuff away- candy, popcorn, 3 ft long licorice ropes. The kids wandered over to one of the carnival games and I tried to move them away, but they had money and a sense of determination. It was the goldfish game. Several bowls were stacked in a tower, each containing a goldfish. They needed to get a ping pong ball into a bowl to win a fish. Roshonda’s daughter Malayah, 3 at the time, made her attempt- no fish won. We breathed a sigh of relief. Zoe and Parker took their turns- they didn’t win either. I began to walk away, then suddenly I heard the carnival barker telling the kids that they could have a fish anyway. Before I could shout “Noooo!” and get there to stop it, he had handed the three of them each a baggie filled with a fish. I shot daggers his direction, but he only smiled his toothless smile back at me.

Somehow in the confusion at the end of the day, Malayah’s fish, which was silver and she had named Angel, never got transferred from my stuff to hers. They left without the fish. Suddenly I had 3 goldfish in my possession. We were supposed to see them within the next few days, but in the busy-ness of back to school, it never happened. They came over for dinner, but conveniently “forgot” to get the fish.

I convinced myself that these were carnival goldfish, and they probably wouldn’t last two weeks. 21 months later, still alive.

My kids would give me a hard time about the fact that now that the pet barrier had been breeched, it should open the door to other pets. But I have been the only one to feed them, change their water, clean their bowl. I talk to them sometimes, because they stare at me and I feel like they are trying to tell me things. One of them will bonk it’s nose against the glass to get my attention. Nathan said, “why don’t you just let them die if you don’t want them?”

But I can’t. I didn’t want them, but that doesn’t mean I am a monster. They are now my responsibility, and I take that seriously. I don’t want the blood of these fish on my hands. (Especially considering one of them technically belongs to now 5 year old Malayah. Hint Hint Roshonda lol)

So this morning when I saw this:

image She’s just doing the backfloat, right?

I was devastated. I rushed to clean the tank, put fresh water in and fed them. The one who was ill spent half the morning floating on it’s back with a pathetic attempt to flop back over every once in a while.

Zoe and I said a prayer. I didn’t think she would make it past the morning. Parker asked if she died, if we would throw it in the trash. Zoe said we would flush her down the toilet, and I said, “Yes… back to the ocean,” knowing full well what the journey through the sewer system would mean for this fish. Not pretty.

I left for a couple hours to go to lunch with Jeff for his birthday. When I came back I almost fell over. This was the sight that greeted me:

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Three upright, perky swimming fish.

I think I just saved a fish’s life today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anything I Can Do, You Can Do Better- Musings On An Average Life

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“You’re a shining star

No matter who you are

Shining bright to see

What you could truly be”

-Earth Wind and Fire

There are two classic songs with the title “Shining Star.” One is by Earth Wind and Fire, the other by the Manhattans. It’s difficult to compare the two, as the songs are very different. One is slow, the other fast. One is about love, the other is about being the best YOU that you can be. One hit number 1 on Billboard’s “Hot 100.” The other only hit number 5. I love them both, but the one by the Manhattans is my favorite, no matter what the charts say about which is better. This week, though, the Earth Wind and Fire version has been playing in my head.

Zoe just finished her first select soccer tournament this past weekend. Her team placed 2nd in their division against a tough Snohomish United A team. While some may consider 2nd place losing, I am very proud of Zoe and the rest of the girls for a fantastic performance. I’m not a big participation trophy advocate, as I believe it diminishes accomplishments, but  I do consider 2nd place worthy of getting excited about.

I won 2nd place once. There was a track meet my fourth grade year, and somehow I ended up on the shuttle relay. As you can see…

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I still have my second place ribbon. The girls I ran the race with were probably disappointed. Truth be told, I’m sure I was the weak link on that team, and they likely would have won the race if they had someone faster in my place. Two of the girls had already won several events that day. That red ribbon that they received for the relay was likely the lowlight of the meet for them . For me, however, it was worthy of saving for 30 years.

I was having a conversation recently with a friend who said, “Have you ever met someone like you, only better?”

The answer is, of course I have. I’ve never been the exceptional one. I’ve never been the prettiest, smartest, fastest. Never the best athlete, never the star of the play, never the best anything in my whole life. Don’t get me wrong- this is no pity party. You could say I have had a lot of disappointments, but I never had any expectation of being the best. Maybe I have lowered my expectations. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough. Maybe I was scared, or maybe I wasn’t ______________ enough.  Maybe I just wasn’t enough. I’ve never won a race, but I’ve finished several. I’ve never won a singing competition, but I’ve sung. I wasn’t valedictorian, but I made the honor roll every year. And I’ve relished these personal victories, even though I never had any public ones.

I have known some exceptional people. We all have. You can usually spot them right away. There is a girl like that in Zoe’s grade at school. From the beginning of Kindergarten, it was obvious that this girl had “it.” The one that every girl wanted to be friends with, to be like.  Who, at age 6, had no clue of the power she wielded, but it was obvious to everyone around her. And she would soon learn. She’s the girl who makes every team she tries out for, who gets the starring role in every play. The one who will win every student election  she runs in, and who, someday, will be homecoming queen. She will have more trophies and awards than her parents will know what to do with.

I had two friends like that growing up. One in elementary school, one in high school. The first, let’s call her “E,” I met right after my family moved from Huntington Beach to Lake Stevens, Washington. My parents went church shopping, and her father was the pastor of a tiny new church. They were recent transplants from Tucson, Arizona. (Or Las Cruces, New Mexico. I can’t remember, maybe both. All I know is her mom made amazing Navajo tacos.)

E and I clicked right away, and in the fall we started first grade together at our local private Christian school. We had so much in common, but in everything we did together, she was just better. She ran faster. She was better at basketball, volleyball, track. She had long, shiny wavy dark hair. I had straight blonde hair that I had permed, causing me to look like a poodle.

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She was taller, thinner. She wasn’t boy-crazy like I was, and yet they flocked to her. We sang duets in the school talent show, but she had more confidence. She played first chair clarinet, I played second chair flute. We both tried out for cheerleading in 6th grade and made it, but she was clearly the more coordinated of the two of us.

E had another friend that she spent a lot of time with. I don’t blame her for wanting to hang around this girl. “S” was blonde also, but she was Scandinavian platinum blonde, while I was Irish dirty blonde. S was as good, if not better, than E at sports. (S and E were the two girls on my relay team I mentioned earlier.) She was beautiful, sweeter than pie, and she lived in a big house on the lake. I couldn’t compete.

So I got bossy. And mean.

I developed an ability to be condescending in the 3rd grade that could rival even the snarkiest of adults. I used my large vocabulary as a weapon.

And I sealed my own fate. My jealousy, instead of motivating me to improve myself, caused me to be resentful, and a sore loser. If I couldn’t beat them at their game, I would create my own. The trouble with that is I was the only one playing. I was the winner and the loser all at once.

I wasn’t a naturally gifted athlete, but I did love sports. I asked my parents to buy me a bunch of softball equipment for my 10th birthday. I got the ball, the glove, the bat, the hitting net and all the Mariner’s gear. I didn’t have a team to play on, though. Sometimes I would play catch with my dad. One day, I missed the ball, it smacked me in the face, and broke my nose. To this day I have a bump on the bridge of my nose as a reminder of my failure, not to mention a fear of balls flying at my face.

In the 7th grade I tried out for Volleyball. I was on the third string. For those of you athletes out there, third string is where they place you when you are hopeless, but they feel too sorry for you not to let you on the team. I was benchwarmer for the benchwarmers. I had a curious habit of kicking my right foot back every time I served the ball. I could hear the giggles from the sidelines. I tried out for basketball, and found that the same habit  appeared every time I attempted a free throw.

This was also about the time that I grew boobs. Between those “developments” and my propensity to have an asthma attack whenever I ran, I came to the conclusion that I would never be an athlete.

My next foray into the sporting world was 9th grade track. As you can see…

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I didn’t actually run track. I was the manager. (Thanks, Mr. Gionet, for making sure there was no question as to my participation on my certificate.) I attended the meets and did whatever the coach wanted. And I organized the spaghetti feeds. Remember, “if you can’t be an athlete, be an athletic supporter.”

Also during my ninth grade year, a new girl came to my school. We became fast friends. It’s always great when you find someone with similar interests. What is difficult is when one of you has success and the other doesn’t. “C” was/ is a beautiful girl/ woman. She had perfect skin, teeth and amazing blue eyes. Where I was awkward, she was graceful.

At the end of our sophomore year, we both tried out for jazz choir. We chose our songs together, rehearsed together, and went to tryouts together. When they posted the results, she was listed for jazz choir, and I was listed under the women’s choir, which I hadn’t even tried out for. I went to the choir director and he told me that the vote was very close between the two of us (current choir members had voting input on the new members) but that they had decided she was a better fit. I was crushed. If I had chosen a different song, if I had sung it better, if I was thinner, prettier…

About a month later we both tried out for cheerleading. Getting on the cheer squad for junior year was a big accomplishment. There were usually only 2 selected each year, the rest being incoming seniors. Whoever came in as a junior, would then be captains the following year. I had wanted to be a Snohomish football cheerleader since I attended a cheer clinic in the 3rd grade. (We did a stellar routine to “Mickey.”) C was selected, I was not. Soon, she was invited to all the cool parties and her squad and their older friends became the people she spent the most time with.

My response was to do what I always did when faced with my insecurities and inadequacies. I tried to bully her and control our friendship. It took almost a year to repair the damage that I did.

The following spring I tried out again, and this time I made it. She was captain. And she was on the homecoming court. (As was “S”) But by this time I had begun to come to terms with my place in this world. I was never going to be the superstar, but I had good friends who were. And if I wanted to stay friends with them, I needed to get over myself and just be there for them. Since that time I cannot think of one moment that I have ever begrudged the success of one of my friends.

Fast forward 10 years, and I’m  a mom to 5 year old Sydney. Jeff’s boss at the time convinced us to sign her up for the soccer team he was coaching. It was his son’s team. All boys, and little Sydney. To say that season was comical and painful would be an understatement.

When soccer didn’t pan out, she asked to take ballet and tap lessons. I made her take them one additional year after she started begging to quit. From there, she did English horseback riding for two years, hip hop dancing for one, a summer of tennis, and one week of field hockey. As the $200 worth of field hockey equipment sat unused in the garage, Sydney decided once and for all that sports was not her thing. She’s finally  found her thing- music. She taught herself to play the guitar, write songs and sing.

We signed Nathan up for Tae Kwon Do at the age of 4. He did that for 2 years, and then we moved from Utah to Socal, so he quit. At 7 he started baseball. He had never even played catch before. (Don’t look at me.) Following his first practice, the coach called me and asked, “Do you really want to do this?” Nathan was so far behind ( at this point all the boys had been playing for 2 years) and the coach was concerned it would damage his self esteem. I told him that he needed to give him a chance, that he was a hard worker, and he would do everything asked of him. If he was willing to coach him, Nathan would be coachable. At the end of that season, he received the award for “most improved.”

Nathan played baseball for 3 more years after that, and did jiu jitsu and kickboxing for two. Most of the time I had to drag him there. He didn’t love it. A year ago he started playing tennis. He seems to actually enjoy it, and that’s my hope for him. I’m not setting my sights on Wimbledon, I just want him to find something he likes to do.

Parker could care less about sports. He’s done two years of soccer and is playing the last game of his third season of baseball on Saturday. Following the game, they are having their end of season party.

He asked me last night, “Do we get a prize at the party?”

I said, “You get trophies.”

He responded, “I don’t care, trophies suck.”

Barring a minor miracle, Parker is unlikely to be MVP of any team that he plays for. He just doesn’t care enough.

His first season of soccer he spent chasing after his opponents ( and sometimes his teammates) like “the Creeper” from Scooby Doo.

image See parker bringing up the rear?

He never paid any attention to the ball. Sunny games in either sport are always a challenge, because then he can see his shadow. One time I bribed him with a dollar for every intentional contact he made with the soccer ball. He earned $3 for the whole game.

And then there’s Zoe. Zoe doesn’t have to be cajoled, bribed or forced to play sports. She played 3 years of softball, 3 years of soccer, she’s done ice skating for 18 months, and she really wants to try volleyball. My issue with Zoe is that she wants to play too many sports, often concurrently. She’s good, and she’s improving. But I don’t believe it’s because we have done anything different with her, and it’s certainly not that she’s inherited some recessive athletic gene, she just really wants it. And she will have to work harder than some of the other girls to get it. She’s shorter and stockier than a lot of her teammates. But she’s got a passion to play and a competitive spirit.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about superstar kids in sports. Zoe’s team played against a girl who scored all but one of her team’s 8 goals. This friend has a daughter like that. She is a third generation athlete, who excels at every sport she tries. She was ostracized by her team last year because she was the only one to score any of their goals all season long, except for two. The parents and kids were so jealous that they made her feel bad about her success.

I try to teach my kids that they don’t have to be the star of the team and don’t need to put their teammates down to make them feel better about themselves. The kids who are amazing, the kids who are average, the kids who probably shouldn’t be playing- they all deserve to be supported and cheered on. I want my kids to try their best, and enjoy what they are doing. (Except Parker. I’m gonna keep making him do sports for now, even if it is torture for everyone involved.)

There are families that would say winning isn’t just important, it’s everything. I feel like winning isn’t only about the score at the end of the game. It’s the byproduct of doing something you love, and putting your everything into it. Sometimes, you can give your everything and not be the victor on the scoreboard, but when you know you’ve done your best, there’s a victory in that.

But what do I know? My greatest sports accomplishment was second place in an elementary school relay race 30 years ago.

There will always be those that we meet that are better than us. I choose to revel in the accomplishment of improvement . If I only considered winning success, I would feel like the biggest loser around. But I can take pride in doing me the best that I can, and improving where there is room to do so. (And boy, is there room.)

Whether Zoe’s team wins first place or third place in their next tournament, I’ll be as proud of her as I was this past weekend as long as she tries her best- Just as I was proud of Nathan’s “most improved.” My wish for my kids is for them to be the best Sydney, Nathan, Zoe and Parker they can be. And I haven’t quite given up on myself yet either.