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    February 20, 2014

    Disneyland, how I love it so (and whoa, this got long and introspective SORRY)

    This was our third trip to Disney since having kids. Third. I have shame about this, Internet, and I need to hash it out. 

    See, TRULY cultured people do not like Disneyland. And even the people who DO like Disneyland wouldn't prefer it over, say, a national park, or a great American landmark, or a ski trip or a road trip. Not THREE TIMES. 

    And I think of my parents, who found jobs in Europe for the prime purpose of their kids getting to see Europe. And how they always ask if we're driving on our trip and then I say we're flying and then they say, "But you see so MUCH when you drive!" and I think "But... that's less time I have in Disneyland."

    Many of my growing up memories are traveling memories, but it serves me well to remember that we didn't do our first big trip until I was nine and my youngest sister was five. (Five kids in five years, y'all. I was not quite five when my youngest sister was born. Shall we have a moment of silent respect for my parents?) I know we did smaller trips (they took my brother and me to Disneyland when we were 1 and 2!) but nothing big until I was nine and we road tripped to Dallas to visit my grandparents. I am positive my affinity for cities and utter dread of driving to Spokane was born on that trip, when on hour seventeen zillion of driving through a Southwestern desert I thought for sure we would run out of gas, die of thirst, and become bleached white bones for some archaeologist to find in the future. 

    Then the summer I turned 10 we moved to Sicily and every weekend after that I was sitting in the back of a van getting car sick on Italian streets, on our way to yet another ruin, another cathedral, another historical town. When we moved to the Air Force base on the remote Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic we got an extra free plane trip per year - the island was THAT small and mental illness-producing for adults - and we went to Spain for Christmas, London in the summer. I had an aunt and uncle in Germany and when we moved to northern Italy they took us skiing in Austria over Christmas break. I went to different countries on sports trips. We flew back to the states every summer to visit family, and we almost always made a point of spending a few days somewhere interesting on the East Coast. All of this to say that traveling was the NORM in my life for a long time and now the best place I can think of to share with my kids is a THEME PARK? 

    If I could take my family anywhere I wanted, for sure hands down no contest we would be on an airplane to Italy right this second. We would spend half our time eating and half our time wandering around beautiful cities. But plane tickets are nearly double what they were when I was in college. And there are five of us. And Phillip doesn't get three consecutive months of vacation. It seems... difficult. 

    Next up would be New York. Or Chicago. DC. Big cities with lots to see and do. 

    Then Hawaii. We loved Hawaii. We went there with kids! It was for a wedding, otherwise we probably would have deemed it too expensive. I never thought I was a laying-on-the-beach-all-day person until I went to Hawaii, but now I have seen the light. And it is beautiful and makes the water sparkle. 

    I hate camping. I don't especially like being outdoors, although I appreciate the outdoors as a backdrop to something else going on, like a concert or theater in the park, or something like that. All the mountain sports that my part of the world so enjoys are not really my thing. (Those Austrian ski lessons were totally wasted on me.) I APPRECIATE the Grand Canyon without being excited to go there. So my kids are sort of up against their mother's unfortunate distaste for scenery as the purpose. 

    And then there's Disneyland. After the second time Phillip was all, "Let's go to southern California and... DO SOMETHING ELSE." Which... yes. I am a fan of sunshine. I like the beach. A vacation rental in San Diego sounds great. But I felt SAD that he didn't want to go back to Disneyland. And that he thought Sea World or Legoland would be just as cool, because NO, THEY WOULD NOT. This time I floated Disney as something for Emma, because we loved seeing Disney through our other babies' eyes, and Emma is 2 and a half and therefore still free, and hey, maybe we could bring the in-laws along as a sort of MIL retirement celebration?!

    Which is how we went again and I secretly got my wish: more Disney. Because I LOVE THAT PLACE. It is not cool. (Unless you are there. When you are THERE it is the HEIGHT of cool to be wearing one of those lanyards with the million pins and the special pass identifying you as a Frequent Disney Visitor. Oh, I was jealous.) But yeah, not really that cool. People want to spend all that money on something more meaningful or cultured or whatever, but I just want to walk down Main Street and hear the music and see the colors and the castle and the perfectly pruned trees and feel happy because it IS the happiest place on Earth, dammit. 

    But I realized something else this time. Phillip had a way better time, namely because the big kids were big enough (and willing) to go on the big rides. I refused to let them try the giant roller coaster in DCA, but everything else was pretty much on the thrill ride table. Several times I let them go on ahead while I stayed back for a repeat parade viewing with Emma, or even just walking around pointing out the Mickeys with Emma. I realized that I could go to Disneyland and not ride a single ride, but still feel like I got my money's worth. I love the parades. I love the constant live singing and dancing. I love the crazy water shows. We caught the last half of Fantasmic this time and HOLY COW THAT WAS AMAZING. I love how clean it is and how everyone at the park is trying to make sure you have a good time. I only encountered a few less-than-cheery employees, and that seemed to be a matter of catching them at the end of a long shift than anything else. I love how easy it is to take care of your kids' needs. I love that it's big, but not too big. I love the feel and mood of each "land". I love the fakeyness! I even love the crowds. Honestly. (I am someone who was sort of sad she didn't go to the Seahawks victory parade, not because I wanted to see the players but because I thought it would be so awesome to be in the middle of that ecstatic crowd.) 

    Anyway. I know it's as lame to be ashamed of my penchant for Disneyland as it is to HAVE a penchant for Disneyland. Own your uncoolness, etc! If it helps I am now planning (over a year in advance) a trip to Italy - we're planning (hoping) to tag along with my folks when they go back for a high school graduation next June. And Phillip and I are trying harder to get out more with the kids (despite the disaster that was Victoria). There's a way that Disney feels easy and known and a sure thing, in a way that even a trip to Hawaii doesn't. I don't think I feel AFRAID of going new places with the kids necessarily... I know that Phillip is often apprehensive about managing our family and I am apprehensive about his apprehensiveness. I think, actually, I just really like Disneyland. 

    I have specific thoughts about this trip. I thought I would write them here (tips and new things and such) but I ended up writing THIS instead (sorry) so if you are going soon and interested, email me. I'd be happy to bore you via email instead. 

     

    ETA: I feel compelled to add a quick acknowledgement of the fact that I am blessed beyond measure and not everyone gets to go to Disneyland and for God's sake shut up about not liking your Austrian ski lessons, POOR YOU. I will shut up. Apparently this post is mostly about how it sucks that *I* am not a teacher for American schools on military bases overseas and therefore cannot See The World for cheap, even though 1) I don't want to be a teacher, nor would I be any GOOD at teaching and 2) I don't even think we should HAVE those military bases anymore and 3) THANK YOU, MY PARENTS. Okay, NOW I am shutting up.

    December 29, 2013

    In which the Cheungs take the least direct and most expensive route to Victoria, BC, all in the name of Spontaneity

    In Cabo Phillip and I talked a good deal about taking more (or, should I say, ANY) family trips. Not so much Big Deal Vacations as little day trips or weekend overnights. Have we gone anywhere? No. Then Phillip had the day off on Friday and we talked about a day trip to Leavenworth, which is this fake Bavarian village in the mountains and you know how much I love fake and manufactured cheer. (See: Disneyland, Las Vegas.) But we were also invited to my niece's first birthday party in Port Angeles on Saturday and late Friday morning I dreamed up the following plan: we could drive to VICTORIA that afternoon, hang out, and take the ferry across the next day for her party. HOW BRILLIANT WAS THAT?

    NOT VERY BRILLIANT!

    The brilliant thing to do would have been to spend at least five minutes looking up ferry information. Ferries, those terrible, horrible, miserable steel behemoths, the mode of public transportation that consistently gives me panic attacks and neurotic episodes, the most dreadful and ire-inspiring aspect of living where I do. You live in Seattle? Would you like to drive somewhere cool? OH SORRY, YOU'LL HAVE TO TAKE A BOAT OF SATAN.

    Even though it is a well known and oft mentioned fact that I Hate Ferries, I did not consider them when suggesting Victoria. (Which is also not my favorite, but more on that later.) I think this is because we didn't have a SCHEDULE. I mostly freak out about ferries because WHO KNOWS if you're going to get on the one you want, no matter how early you get there, and what if you WASTE TIME?! Oh I HATE wasting time. How I LOATHE waiting around. The inefficiency! The un-productivity! My anxious Three heart is going apoplectic just thinking about it. 

    THE THING IS. What I did not know when I booked (and paid in advance for) the Victoria hotel is that there are only 2 ferry crossings from Port Angeles to Victoria per day. OH HO HO. How this would have affected our decision! 

    Because the INTELLIGENT way to get to Victoria from where I live is 1) take a ferry to Kingston, drive across the Olympic Peninsula to Port Angeles, take the 1 and a half hour ferry from the PA to Victoria, which drops you off right in front of the Empress Hotel, and you can just WALK ANYWHERE. The UNintelligent way to get to Victoria from where I live is to drive alllll the way to Canada, sit at the border forever and ever, then drive alllll the way to the Tsawassen ferry terminal in Canada, take a 1 and a half hour ferry to Sidney and then drive another half hour to Victoria. Which is, of course, what we did. 

    But no matter! Phillip and I said to each other. At this point we were still big believers in Spontaneity and Good Intentions and Family Togetherness. 

    And of course, on our way to Canada, I realized I'd left Emma's coat at home. So we had to stop at Target, obvs, and buy the only size 2T coat in the store and THAT took forever because Targets are few and far between once you leave The City and all the moms in a 25 mile radius had driven in to their mothership, Target, and it was trafficky and busy and ACK. 

    The border was okay. Not the hour promised by all the warning signs in Bellingham, but not too short either. I was very nervous that they were going to ask me if I had any fruits and vegetables because I DID, I FORGOT, but they didn't ask and I didn't have to lie about my two bananas in my purse. I called my brother in the PA to give him the update. He didn't SAY we were insane, but I've had 33 years of experience communicating with him and I could TELL he thought we were insane. He DID say, about nine hundred times, that he is the expert on Victoria and we should have called him first and he could tell us anything, especially about FERRIES, which is IMPORTANT, and alert! alert! Internet! Do you want to visit Victoria? YOU BETTER CALL MY BROTHER FIRST.

    Driving to the Canadian ferry from the border was okay. We were totally on time for the 3pm ferry and maybe we'd have an hour or two to explore Victoria before going to bed. (And leaving at 9am the next morning. Oh, did I not tell you that part? That we were basically going to Victoria for dinner? Yes.)

    The 3pm ferry was all booked. Of course. "It's a very busy time of year," the ticket lady told us. "You MIGHT get on the 4pm ferry." Huh? She also wanted $100 which... what? 

    THANK GOD there was a little playground at the ferry terminal and a warm little gift shop in which to wait. We were there over an hour and GUESS WHAT! One of my kids was not feeling well. Poor Molly. We tried very hard not to be annoyed with her, but come on! Where was HER sense of adventure and spontaneity and feelings of family togetherness? (Okay, mine was drifting.)

    We thankfully made it on the 4pm Tsawassen/Schwartz Bay ferry, and my God that thing is massive. MASSIVE. And MUCH nicer than any ferry I've ever been on, AHEM, Washington State. There were, like, multiple places to get something to eat. The bathrooms, which I used several times with various children, were very nice. The seats were comfy! If you found one to sit in, of course, as the entire population of British Columbia was going to Victoria for dinner with us. 

    Please note that Phillip and I had not fought AT ALL. Our children were perfect angels (except for that sick one.) And once we made it to the island we easily found our way to our hotel where we dropped our stuff off and promptly ordered our tired and hungry children outside because we were going to ENJOY OUR HALF HOUR IN VICTORIA, DAMMIT. 

    (Frail mopey Molly rode in Emma's stroller.) (I'm taking her to the doctor tomorrow morning.) (She has a Mysterious Rash! And a Fever! SURPRISE!)

    THE NEXT MORNING. We felt smart. We KNEW that there were only 2 ferry crossings to Port Angeles. We KNEW we had to be there an hour and a half early. We KNEW, because we had looked it up on the website, that it was First Come First Served. 

    We ate a lovely breakfast at the hotel and drove over to the PA ferry loading area. The girl in the ticket booth asked us if we had a reservation. 

    "Uh, no?"

    "Oh, then there's no way you're getting on the 10:30 ferry."

    We were informed by the ticket girl and the ferry worker dude, who desperately wanted to get us out of the way, that if we parked NOW, we could be second in the STANDBY LINE for the 4pm ferry. Freaking FERRIES!

    I was all "FINE" and Phillip was all, "DO NOT RUSH ME INTO MAKING DECISIONS, PEOPLE OF THE WORLD, I AM A NINE AND I WILL SIT HERE AND FORCE EVERYONE INTO A STANDSTILL UNTIL I FEEL LIKE COMMITTING TO SOMETHING, WHICH MIGHT BE NEVER" and finally I was all, "DUDE. Let's PARK and GET OUT OF HERE" and that's what we did. They hurried us out of line, parked us off to the side, wrote a big '2' on a scrap piece of paper, and put it on our dashboard. 

    I felt super terrible about missing my niece's party, but we had a lovely time in Victoria. Even though I don't really like Victoria. And the only reason I'd suggested Victoria is because we could also make it to my niece's party. Victoria is... well, it's PRETTY and picturesque, but it's also got this stuffy uptight lady vibe (to me) and it's Britishness is not the Fake and Manufactured Cheer kind that I enjoy, but more, you know, ACTUAL Britishness. Victorian stuff (like Victoria) is not my bag. (But I LOVE London? I am a mystery.)

    BUT ANYWAY. We really did have a good time. We saw the Christmas trees in the Empress, we walked up Government street and stopped in book stores and candy stores and had hot chocolate at Murchies (Murchies?). And we went to the Royal BC Museum which is pretty awesome and I could have wandered around forever (the HUMAN history parts, not the natural history parts - SNORE.) (Exhibits on Pacific Northwest ecosystems are right up there with ferries, in my opinion.)

    We went back to our car at the exact right time to wait to be checked by Customs. And we waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and finally someone came to check us EXCEPT! We didn't have a particular necessary form because OOPS! we hadn't bought a ticket! Somewhere in the decision making that morning we'd parked in line without buying a ticket, or anyone requesting that we buy a ticket, or Phillip and I remembering that we needed to buy a ticket. Phillip ran out to the ticket booth and bought a ticket (for ANOTHER $100 OMGGGGG) - and then we waited again. And more and more and more and more and Phillip got out two or three times to see what was up and they just kept telling us to wait and wait and wait and HEY, THE CARS ARE MOVING WHAT'S GOING ON. 

    Phillip asked ME to get out and ask that time since he was afraid he was annoying the Customs folks. When I got out they were nowhere to be found. The ticket girl was useless. I ran up to the office and was yelled at by a ferry worker who told me to (guess!) WAIT. 

    We waited. And waited. And finally our line started to move and okay, I was considering freaking out at this point. See, I am anxious and neurotic and all that, but I'm actually QUITE GOOD in the moment. I was tense and had nervous tummy etc, but I was GOOD. I was READY. And when a Customs lady started running to our car I knew everything would be fine. 

    Phillip rolled down the window and she shouted, "Why weren't you guys in your car for the check?!"

    "WE WERE."

    "Then why didn't you TELL anyone that no one had CHECKED YOU?"

    "WE DID."

    "Well you might not get on this ferry! You should have ASKED!"

    She had us pull out of line (THE STANDBY LINE) while she went over our passports, though, to her credit she gave us the fastest lookover in the history of customs. She sent Phillip running to the office for some sort of pass and ordered me into the driver's seat so I could meet him there and bypass the cars bypassing ME. And Phillip jumped back into the car with the appropriate papers and the grumpy customs people grudgingly let us through and YES. We made it onto the ferry. 

    And THIS ferry... so, at first I'm driving on thinking "Oh thank God, there's ONE SPOT LEFT." But it turns out that spots are relative. It was like car tetris. A ferry dude came up to me and said, "Okay now, what we're gonna do is swing out waaaay far and then turn here and then go right into that slot right there." Fine! And I assumed he meant I should back in. I don't know why. Maybe it was the condescending driving directions? Because I didn't NEED condescending and overly specific driving directions to basically park head first in a regular parking space? So I swung out waaaaay far and then turned the wheel as if to back in and suddenly MANY ferry dudes are barking at me and making faces and Phillip is grabbing the wheel and THAT, my friends, THAT is when I lost it. Here I was doing precisely what I thought was the Right Thing, and it turns out they just wanted me to REGULAR park and what's wrong with this idiot woman who can't just REGULAR park and once I got into that parking space I cried. I put my forehead on the steering wheel and sobbed the sob of a girl who hates being yelled at, hates doing things the wrong way, hates being taken for an idiot. 

    The ferry was slow. It was rocky. We were practically the last car off. We saw my brother and his family for MAYBE 45 minutes, long LONG after the pary had ended. Then we drove to our very last ferry, which we made with time to spare, and got home at 10pm. 

    I am never getting on a ferry again. 

    We've discussed blaming Spontaneity, but this would have never happened if we'd gone to Leavenworth. You don't have to take ANY ferries to go to Leavenworth. I thought about blaming my brother - how come HE didn't call ME? But I've decided to blame ferries. Miserable horrible STUPID STUPID OVERPRICED FERRIES.

    Our next trip is to Disneyland. SO THERE. We have much better luck with airplanes, believe it or not. (See you in February, Sunshine!)

     

    May 23, 2013

    I didn't MEAN to make this about how much I love Seattle, but it's just so easy to go there

    Tomorrow the kids are off school and we are busting out of this joint. We're headed to my parents' house, then the Children's Museum in Tacoma, then we'll lunch at a restaurant I get to review for Trekaroo - hey, did I tell you I'm writing [totally inane, somewhat useless] reviews over at this lovely family travel website? FANCY! Sort of. It's not like they're flying me to Paris. (Carrie, could you work on that?) It's kinda fun, though I've totally run out of things to write about. Must go on a trip soon! 

    We're staying the night with my folks and heading up to Port Angeles in the morning for my nephew's birthday party. And can I just say: I HATE DRIVING TO PORT ANGELES. I'm sorry All Of My Family Who Live Up There, but I do. It's just so... PACIFIC NORTHWESTY. That stretch between the Hood Canal and Sequim? Does anyone live out there? Is it just a million square miles of FOREST? Populated by nothing but Weyerhaeuser propaganda signs? 

    Actually I think I hate driving up there because when I was little MY cousins lived in Port Angeles too and I swear it took, like, nine hundred hours to get to my uncle's house. One of the first times I went back as an adult I was totally fantastically shocked at how close it was from Seattle - that ferry ride cuts out SO MUCH DRIVING! However! Catching the ferry on the Saturday morning of Memorial Day Weekend? I am not so foolish! So we're going to stay with my parents the night before, drive up with them, and take the ferry HOME. Much better. Especially since I bet my parents will take all the kids in THEIR van. EXCELLENT PLANNING, SELF!

    Anyway, have you even HEARD of Port Angeles? I remember wearing a Port Angeles t-shirt in 5th or 6th grade on the Italian military base (because I was THAT stylish) and being made fun of because it's LOS Angeles, not PORT Angeles, who's ever heard of PORT Angeles. I would like to swat that boy on the back of his head with a hardbound copy of Twilight. Harrumph. 

    But it's funny - my brother and SIL up there would rather eat glass than live in or near SEATTLE. Actually I think I'm really the only one in my family who's totally committed to High Density Living. Not that the rest of them live out in the woods or whatever (and not that where I live right now, on the far northern edge of Seattle proper, is particularly hard core city living), but where they can take it or leave it, I must have it. Not just because Phillip's job is in the city and all our friends are here. There is definitely something about the fact that at age 18, after years of feeling like I didn't belong, I fell in deep monogamous love with this city. To leave it sounds... like changing ME. Or something. I don't know. I can be a bit overdramatic. 

    I remember my first couple of years living here - my only other family member in town was my aunt, and she would pick me up at the dorms and take me to movies or out to dinner or to her house or whatever and I would just be in AWE of her navigational skills. I knew Seattle wasn't a huge city, but it was so much MORE than anywhere I'd ever lived and every neighborhood was far away and new and strange to me. I couldn't imagine a time when I would know my way around. But now I do! And I am still so happy about that in my own warped head. Almost every time I drive north across the ship canal bridge I hear my aunt say, "Nearly every building you see over there is part of UW," and I now I know what those buildings ARE. 

    I just really LOVE THIS PLACE, is what I'm saying. 

    Nearly all of Phillip's business trips, back when he was business tripping, were to Atlanta. I can say that now, I think. So much so that we talked (just a little bit) about MOVING to Atlanta. If he'd wanted to stay at that job and move up and go far, all that, then yeah, moving to Atlanta would have to happen. And because I love and support Phillip, I could contemplate it. How nice for me that he didn't want to stay at that job, eh?! (Not that we discussed it for more than 10 minutes anyway.)

    The only other place we've talked about is San Francisco, also because of a job. I think I would like San Francisco? That seems possible in a way that Atlanta doesn't? But still. No, for a whole bunch of reasons. 

    There was a job that had potential for living overseas. I think I would do that. Maybe. Depending. That's different - we'd come back. (Right?)

    But anyway, Port Angeles, yes, nice place, very scenic, mountains and water and forests and lakes and that Dungeness Spit - all lovely. Not enough traffic for me, though. (HAR HAR. That was for my dad, who hates traffic more than anyone else in the world hates traffic. He hates traffic as much as he loves Harry Potter. That's a lot, people.)

    THE END

     

    April 21, 2013

    After stocking up on Vitamin D

    *blows dust off the ole blawg*

    The last time I went to Europe I was pregnant with Jack. It seems like forever ago. It was even MORE forever ago that I stopped going "home" (Italy) once or twice a year (Christmas, summer). So it makes absolutely no sense that I am still so happily surprised to note that traveling doesn't HAVE to be a days-long, multi-flight, jet-lagged affair where you must be sure of everything you're packing because WHO KNOWS if you'll be able to buy it THERE. 

    I was SO AGAINST flying with children, because flying, to me, was (see above) a days-long, multi-flight, jet-lagged affair that took on all sorts of new neuroses after 9/11. I didn't fly anywhere for a long time. No interest. When I planned our first trip to Disneyland it was going to be a road trip. Oh yes. I was not getting on a plane WITH CHILDREN. 

    But then we flew to Vegas with Phillip's family and I marveled at how easy it was. And we flew to LAX for the Disney trip. Twice. And seriously, I am still SO amazed when I am sunning myself mid-morning in a California backyard and fixing my kids dinner by 5pm in Seattle. WHAT A NIFTY WORLD WE LIVE IN!

    Plane tickets are expensive and child care is complicated, but I highly recommend hopping on an airplane every so often to visit a friend. There are fare deals to be had and grandparents to sweet talk and you can make it happen! Bonus points if your friend lives in what is basically The Tropics compared to your marine temperate locale and your weekend souvenir is an awkward and unfortunate tan line. 

    Elizabeth will tell you that the first time Getting On A Plane And Visiting An Internet Friend came up I thought I would only go for one night. I couldn't POSSIBLY stay longer. Not because my kids needed me or I would miss them so much or anything nice like that, I just felt like I wasn't ALLOWED. I can't go anywhere BY MYSELF! JUST FOR FUN?! So it's totally crazy to me that a few years later here I am taking off, alone, for absolutely no reason, for four days... good crazy. 

    I had such a great time, you guys. And it was so nice to get away. I feel bad because pretty much my entire family was sick while I was gone - either getting sick or continuing to be sick - and I was off, you know, lolling about a beautifully landscaped yard and plotting my move to California. But after the house guests and the holidays and the sicknesses and the stuck at home it was nice to just GO. I am so lucky I'm able to GO. I am so lucky I have such great people to GO to.

    IMG_3460

    And whenever you start to feel like a lame frumpy housewife, there's nothing better than parking your own car, taking the shuttle, going through security, sitting at your gate all by your lonesome to feel like a Jet Setting Sophisticated Cosmopolitan Lady. (Just me?) 

    Also, airport snacks contain no calories. FYI.

    Anyway. School starts again this week, I have the Great Spring Clothes Sorting to suffer through, and a six-year-old's birthday to plan. Back to real life! I kinda missed it.

    IMG_3466

    ooh! ooh! Before you go, I have a serious question. How cost prohibitive do you think it would be to install a SLIDE alongside the DECK STAIRS????? (I'm calling contractors this week. I AM.)

     

    July 22, 2012

    Beggars would ride

    You know what is not that awesome? Standing around on the empty, bleak, gunmetal gray Washington State coast, in the almost-rain, clutching your thin and useless hood around your chins, and watching your nutjob children gleefully racing the waves with their nutjob cousins, all while listening to your just-married sister extol the virtues of the Disney resort in Hawaii. AKA where Jesus goes on vacation. WAH, I WISH. And then perhaps, if you are me, you come home from your family beach weekend and start looking up prices for beaches that actually live up to the name.

    But FINE - my preference for white sand, blue sky, and 80+ degree temps aside, Family Beach Weekend was a good time. The kids CLEARLY don't care what color the sand/water/sky are, they are throwing themselves into it no matter what. Sand? YES, MORE SHOVELS! Water? WE WILL GET WET! Sky? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT! THAT'S JUST OCEAN MIST!

    I walked out to that stupid beach more times than I really wanted to, simply because the best thing about having kids is watching them be kids. You just have to see those skinny chicken legs galloping through icy surf, listen to the high pitched shrieks of frozen joy, grudgingly participate in the building of a the too-cold-for-water but not-too-cold-for-digging dilapidated sand castle. (And, if you are P Cheung and New BIL, a channel out to the ocean to fill up the moat - excellent engineering, men!) 

    Photo (8)

    Photo (7)

    Photo (9)

    And did I tell you that Phillip goes on a business trip tomorrow? I conveniently forgot this fact myself. Right now I am Thinking Positive: it'll be a good week to get everyone back on my very favorite thing, A Schedule. Would you believe I'm actually sort of excited to put our house back together, get things cleaned up, remember where I put the mop and all that? 

    I even had an incredible moment of foresight a few weeks ago and signed the kids up for two separate weeks of Vacation Bible School. The first week fortuitously starts tomorrow YAAAAYYY!!! It's at my friend's church so at least Jack and Molly will know those kids, it goes from ten to one Monday through Thursday, and if nothing else it'll be a few hours each day when all of us are having our own kinds of fun. My friend thinks we should drop our kids off, go find a coffee shop, and blow the rest of the time shopping. I'm not entirely sure if Emma will nap before or after VBS drop off, but I don't see why that should interfere with the coffee/shopping time. That's what Ergo carriers are for, right? 

    It's a relief AND a disappointment to know all the big stuff of our summer is over. Until our couples retreat with friends over Labor Day, we are looking at a nice long stretch of Nothing. Usually a nice long stretch of Nothing is exactly the sort of thing to send me into a blubbering angsty-blog-post-writing panic, but it honestly sounds pretty good right now. The only way it could be better is if I had white sand/blue sky/warm water in my backyard.

    Yeah yeah yeah if wishes were horses WHATEVER.

    June 20, 2012

    Fun Fact: Phillip neatly flattens and folds our plastic bags into quarters and stores them in a drawer. I will actually miss that.

    As of July 1, plastic shopping bags are banned in Seattle. Banned! OH SEATTLE. 

    In theory I think this is an excellent idea. I am Pro Environment. I am a Proud Supporter Of Our Earth. I am Team Recycle. Plastic shopping bags are terrible horrible things, especially for our Precious Marine Habitat which, I hear, is the main reason we are banning the shopping bags. (?)

    In PRACTICE I am PANICKED. 

    I own, like, four thousand reusable bags. I have them from absolutely everywhere. I've even bought a few on purpose. The other day at the library I bought THEIR reusable bag because I just didn't feel like stuffing 10 picture books into my diaper bag. 

    But once I own the bag it never leaves my house again. Oh, sometimes I pack them with the kids' overnight things for a stay at Grandma and Grandpa's. Or I use them to tote dinner to a friend's house or to haul some baby clothes or whatever. I have never ever brought one of my reusable shopping bags to a store. EVERRRRR!

    So this is bad, Internet. How am I going to get my groceries home NOW? Wait wait wait - how am I going to carry home my weekly $100 worth of Target junk? THEY AREN'T GOING TO HAVE PLASTIC BAGS AT TARGET!!!

    Okay, don't pester me about the DETAILS of the ban. Like PAPER bags are allowed. And those little plastic bags they have in the produce section are allowed. And I guess there are exceptions and qualifications and all sorts of confusing things that don't really affect the fact that Target is no longer going to have BAGS. 

    I'm thinking that I'm going to have to store my bags in the car. Right? This makes sense. HOWEVER. Once I carry all the bags inside and unload the groceries, I will then have to put the bags BACK in the car. And the chances of me doing THAT are, well, NOT VERY HIGH. I am already SO bad at this sort of thing, Internet. I can put off menial Taking Care Of Life tasks until the rapture comes. My library books are ALWAYS overdue. I make important phone calls at the absolute last minute. I still have a handful of thank you notes from Jack's birthday sitting on the counter, because I can't be bothered to buy stamps. 

    Up to this point, the only people affected by my Extreme Laziness were, well, myself, and the library I suppose (they are many dollars richer) and also my aunts who haven't received their thank you notes and are rueing the day they ever bought their great-nephew a shirts-and-shorts set. But now my children are going to starve because I won't be able to bring the groceries home. 

    It's really just one more annoying way thing to remember or, rather, another thing to forget and race back into the house to find, cursing and stomping the whole time. Like I don't already forget everything ELSE. Why is my city trying to make my life harder? WHO CARES ABOUT THE MARINE HABITAT?!

    Sometimes, I think, THIS is why I live in Seattle. I am not naturally green. I do not particularly enjoy nature. I was SO not the girl planning to be a marine biologist when she grew up. I am not overly concerned about emissions and waste and local and organic. But I live in a city where those things are pretty much a religion and because of that I am horrified when I visit out of state or even hour-away friends who do not recycle plastic bottles. And then my heart starts to hurt because OMG THEY JUST THROW THEM IN THE GARBAGE?!?! SERIOUSLY?!?!?

    Okay, that's not REALLY why I live in Seattle. But I think it's a reason why I like it here. It's good for me. I sometimes feel that way about being Catholic. I think I'd make a super non-denominational church goer, but even though I don't feel passionately about liturgy, I want to be around it. It's good for me to be in it, to be with people who value it. 

    So dearest Seattle... I love you. I don't want to go camping with you. I don't want to go to the REI garage sale. I don't want to hike or ski or snowshoe. I buy the cheapest gallon of milk. Sometimes I get really mad at bicyclists. I don't see how you can afford to shop at Whole Foods. I can't tell the difference between Peet's and Zoka's. I will never EVER keep chickens in my yard and I will ALWAYS vote for whoever is running against Jim McDermott. But you are good for me. You stretch me and challenge me and keep me honest. I will never leave you. Even if I forget my reusable shopping bags every single time I shop. 

    Love, Maggie

    June 07, 2012

    In which I steal my own private jet

    TypePad is SUPPOSED to email me when someone comments here, but I didn't get any emails about yesterday's post and I was feeling pretty dumb. Until I stopped by my little command center to write something new (have to get that embarrassing post off the front page! gah!) and saw all the nice things you said and all the people who were totally cool about those wacky Catholics and SIGH. I really love my dorky little corner of the web. 

    Tonight I am looking at airfares. I have to say, I don't really recommend it if you're already of a high strung nature. Points being: 

    I had EVERY intention of tagging along on Phillip's latest work trip, a couple of days in Sacramento to tour some workplace facility (it's where they house the robots? keep the secret codes? I don't know) and you know this is where my favorite Princess Nebraska lives and I was IN! But then holy cow, it's $300 to fly from Seattle to Sacramento and also the trip got cut to one day and BOO. BOO I SAY.

    Next I was looking at flights to NOLA for the Blathering and YIKES. Five hundred dollars! Worse: no direct flights! So I'm looking at leaving at the crack of dawn and arriving with hardly any time to hang out on Thursday night. Unacceptable! I'll start my letter writing campaign tomorrow. 

    THEN I was looking at flights to St. Louis. Becaaaaaaaause I am kind of sort of super leaning towards attending Urbana the week after Christmas. Urbana, for those of you too lazy to click, is this ginormous student missions conference that happens every three years. I never went to it when I was in school, mainly because 1) it cost several hundred dollars and 2) I spent my Christmas breaks in EUROPE not MISSOURI and 3) I was going to be a starving unpublished author when I grew up and starving unpublished authors are far too navel-gazing to do missionary work, are you kidding?

    Do not fear, Internet, I am far too navel-gazing NOW, in addition to soft, lazy, and extremely fond of American convenience food, to become a missionary. I actually have the opportunity to attend as a full time volunteer for prayer ministry. Remember my friend Pancakes and how she is a muckity muck in the NDCF - she has to go to Urbana for WORK. And somehow she passed me off as a worthy and dedicated alumni so I could go with her. I just got the This Is How You Register! email from the prayer ministry lady today and now I am in A State. 

    PROS: 

    1. HOW AWESOME WOULD IT BE! OH SO AWESOME! I can't even imagine what it would be like to pray with these hard core prayer people. This really is an incredible opportunity for me. If my mini-experience in Portland is anything to go by, I would learn SO MUCH. It'd be intimidating, but I think it's fair and not TOO dramatic to say it's potentially life changing as well. 
    2. Pancakes and I would have a big fat huge BLAST.

    CONS:

    1. It's six days/five nights long! Gah! I have never been away from my kids that long. Phillip has never taken care of them on his own for that long. I'd leave early Thursday morning and come back Tuesday night. THAT IS A LONG TIME. Even with the weekend in the middle of it, meaning Phillip wouldn't have to take a whole week off, even with help from grandparents, that just feels like a LOT of hard work and time for something that is essentially a Fun Trip Just For Me. 
    2. I'm responsible for airfare, lodging, and meals. I'm not all that worried about hotel and food expenses, but airfare is pricey. Again, all that money (or frequent flyer miles that we could save for that ten year anniversary trip with the kids) JUST FOR ME.
    3. AND I'LL HAVE JUST GONE TO THE BLATHERING! As I type this I'm reading responses to my "Woe is me, tickets to NOLA are so expensive and have horrible timing!" tweet and one "solution" seems to be to leave a day early and stay overnight in a connecting city, or even road trip, and OOOH THAT SOUNDS FUN TOO! But no! That is too much time! That is too much fun! That is too much for just MEEEEE. 

    Self-indulgence... it weighs a lot.

    P.S. My husband, because he is made of amazing, is Pro Maggie Going Pretty Much Anywhere To Do Anything Awesome. I mean, he is a TEENY bit perturbed about SIX DAYS AWAY, but he's been really supportive about "what a great opportunity". And he DOES have a bazillion frequent flyer miles, right? Think a bazillion is enough for two nearly-cross-country flights? 

     Blargh. I have to decide this soon.

    May 16, 2012

    Where I brought a BABY to a BAR

    HOLA INTERNET! Did you miss me? I've been very busy. Very busy NAPPING. 

    I went to Venice!

    Photo (95)

    Well, Fake Venice, where the canals are chlorinated and the signs all point the right way and there is no St. Mark's in St. Mark's Square and there are heaps of tourists who aren't wearing enough clothing. 

    Photo (94)

    Well, I suppose that last one is true of Real Venice too. 

    So, I know perfectly well that I'm supposed to hate Las Vegas or at least feel prudishly superior to it, but I can't. I love it so. The corrupted Disney-ness of the entire place just fills me with glee. I could seriously wander around inside those cavernous Houses of Sin with the fake blue sky and luxury shops for hours - in fact, that is exactly what I did. My 48-hour vacation basically took place in my hotel and the sidewalk in front of my hotel. 

    There ARE other ridiculous hotels and casinos to visit on the Strip and ordinarily I would have dragged Phillip to every one (the sky! I LOVE THE PAINTED SKY!), but I had a somewhat rigorous napping schedule. 

    Photo (93)

    It's her fault. 

    But really, there is not a more perfect baby than that one right there. She was a dream. A chubby ball of joy. AN ANGEL. This kid easily fell asleep in her father's arms mere minutes before our flight took off, slept the entire way, then took another nap when we reached the hotel, waking just in time for an evening stroll about the [crazy huge] premises. Then she proceeded to charm the socks off all of Las Vegas. Quite possibly my favorite part of the trip was all the "She is SO ADORABLE!" comments I got from everyone from hotel staff to the random dude in the elevator. Am I bragging? Well, I don't do it that often, so whatever, MY BABY IS THE CUTEST I AM TOTALLY BUYING HER A PONY. 

    Honestly though, she was SO EASY. She slept super duper crappy at night, but she sleeps super duper crappy at night when we're home, too. But during the day she was a breeze. She went down so easy for her naps, was always happy to hang out in the stroller, didn't mind the outdoor furnace or the frigid inside AC or the arid desert air that was slowly killing her mother's will to live. (I'm a Pacific Northwesterner. I am basically made of mold.)

    There was a lot of napping, a lot of exploring the Venetian and the Palazzo - by the way, we stayed in the Palazzo, in a [crazy amazing] room that looked identical to the pictures of the rooms on the Venetian website. I spent a stupid amount of time trying to figure out if they were separate entities or what. Ashley, who is a Las Vegas NATIVE, who took herself and her three small children to the Strip just to hang out with ME (SHE IS CRAZY) informed me that basically two people own everything on the Strip so it really doesn't matter if it's separate or not. Point taken. 

    Also, Ashley was so awesome to come hang out with me while Phillip was working and I continue to have a 100% success rate on Internet People, Fantabulousness Of - except for the part where her terribly cute identical twin girls and baby boy with baby angel halo hair totally stole EJ's limelight. 

    Photo (98)

    You can see why. I DIED OF CUTE.

    Phillip was giving presentations all afternoon on Wednesday (WORKING! IN VEGAS!) (Actually, I have all these THOUGHTS about corporate conferences and events in places like LAS VEGAS) so there was more napping. We did make it to the pool one time - EJ was very suspicious of that situation. But there was a lot of hanging out on the brown velvet sectional (!) in our room:

    Photo (96)

    WORKING? WHATEVS.

    Oh, I suppose I should mention that I probably gained one pound per hour and I should probably go to therapy for something I've decided to call Vacation Gluttony. It starts at the airport, when you think: I have to get on AIRPLANE, and that SUCKS, so I should probably buy myself a treat. And continues at the hotel, where you think: When will I get to go out to dinner and order dessert in such a fun place again! Or: This is going to be a long nap - I better get a snack. Or: I ate a chocolate bar for breakfast, so I might as well eat my weight in pastries for lunch, yes? 

    This is a SERIOUS PROBLEM. I've decided to solve it by 1) not wearing pants for the next month and 2) going off carbs. FOR REALZ THIS TIME FTLOG.

    The baby was a bit fussier on the ride home, which was unfortunate as I was sitting next to a Prim Older Woman who, upon seeing that her seatmates brought a baby, did not bother to hide her Utter Self-Pity at her Utter Unfortunate Circumstances. Which, okay. FINE. I might be a little nervous about sitting next to a baby on an airplane too. BUT I WOULD NOT SHOW IT!!! I might even act overly sympathetic or interested in the baby or anything to show the parents that I was On Their Side because NEWSFLASH: the parents do not want a crying baby either! Possibly one of the parents needed an extra dose of anxiety medication for this exact potential scenario! 

    Emma did cry a teeny bit, two different times, but not very loud and not very long and I made extra sure not to unnecessarily bother the woman next to me and she was STILL A PILL. And when we were getting off the plane she picked up Emma's sweatshirt, which I hadn't noticed I'd dropped, and wordlessly flung it into my lap. 

    Phillip thinks I am oversensitive. Please see the above photo for what I think of that. 

    Okay I have a LOT to say about a LOT of things, but this is what I will say for now and I missed you and I hope this wasn't the most boring vacation blog post on earth and I tried to post pictures for just that reason even though they are PHONE pictures and not even of the Instagram variety so therefore TOTALLY INFERIOR PICTURES but I tried! We'll chat later! Bye! (NO MORE CARBS! I MEAN IT!)

    January 30, 2012

    The hottest day in Seattle is Palm Springs in January

    When you're a native Pacific Northwesterner, who has never lived more than an hour away from a Large Body of Water, and at one point lived mere steps away from an OCEAN, and who now regularly maneuvers her vehicle around several annoying lakes just to go SHOPPING, flying to Palm Springs was a freaky mind trip. Perhaps you did not know this, but THERE IS NO WATER IN THE DESERT. 

    Sights like that make me panicky. Like I start envisioning Wile E. Coyote-type scenes where it's just desert and animal skulls for miles and miles. I get like this when we drive to EASTERN WASHINGTON so the ACTUAL DESERT gives me the shakes. 

    But then you fly OVER Palm Springs and it's this swanky, midcentury Oasis. I kept pointing out giant green square (with a hotel in the middle) after giant green square (with a golf course and a hotel in the middle) to my friends. I don't know. It was just sort of fascinating. I know. I'm a dork. I'm a dork from one of the greenest places on Earth. 

    And then we touched down and I instantly felt out of place. I needed to be of Retirement Age, attached to a Paunchy Balding Man in belted khaki shorts and white tennis shoes, with a vodka cranberry in my hand. (Although, you know what I can say for the Paunchy Balding Men of Palm Springs, they all appeared to be with women who looked like their wives rather than their secretaries.) (MAD MEN NEEDS TO HURRY UP AND GET ON MY TELEVISION.) 

    So anyway, my friends and I took a taxi to a hotel that was actually as snazzy as it looked in the pictures. Aaaand, we never left. Well, there was Saturday morning when we walked into town and found breakfast, but mostly we were at the hotel doing a whole lot of nothing. It was mahvelous. 

    Photo (52)

    SWOON

    We read, we talked, we ate at the hotel restaurant (twice - it was SO GOOD), and I'm glad I bought a bathing suit because DO YOU SEE THAT POOL. 

    Photo (54)

    Oh hello most perfect bath tub in the universe. Please come visit me.

    Photo (51)

    I threatened to put my friends on the blawg, but only one of them appears in my handful of phone photos and you all know I'm completely incapable of putting pictures from my CAMERA onto the COMPUTER. Anyway, this is my friend who knocked on my door the first week of my freshman year of college and is basically responsible for sucking me into four years of NDCF and we are going to call her Pancakes. Because:

    Photo (53)

    we ate that mountain of pancakes. Each of those pancakes is bigger than my head. I think we ate some fruit. But mostly pancakes. And we ate them POOLSIDE in our BATHING SUITS in UPPER SEVENTY DEGREE WEATHER in JANUARY. WHY DID I COME HOME?

    Oh right

    Photo (55)

    You guys, Phillip did SO AWESOME. I think the kids did pretty well too. Emma had one good night and one not so good night, and I missed her SO MUCH, but I'm also really glad I left her at home. I think it was great for Phillip to have the experience of taking care of the kids on his own, and I think it was fun for them too. I knew he'd be fine taking care of them, no worries there. I did miss her, and all the super cute babies at our hotel did not help, but I was fine. (Except for the pumping. HAAAATE.) Anyway, I knew that Phillip would be awesome with the kids but, uh, not so much with the rest of the housewifely duties, ie: cleaning anything. Except! My house was spotless when I came home. SPOTLESS. For this we will thank my blessed mother-in-law who visited Sunday afternoon before they picked me up at the airport. Seriously. I was SO HAPPY ABOUT THIS. 

    Pretty much the only negative thing I have to say about my trip was that my Kindle Fire mysteriously stopped working on the plane ride home. BUMMER. I had to get out my OLD Kindle (which I brought because it has the e-ink screen which I would need to read outside in the SUN, I know, shut up me) and reread the first half of Prep, which might be even more awesome than the first time I read it. But even that, I mean, most of the time we were using it to hook our other friend on Downton Abbey, which was super fun. Speaking of, Pancakes does not think Matthew Crawley is cute. !!! 

    Anyway, I'm super glad I went. Sunshine brings me out of many a funk, and I'm glad I didn't bring Emma. I may start lobbying for a Blathering 2013: Palm Springs. We can all pretend to be trophy wives!

     

     

    January 17, 2012

    The Snowbound Edition

    You guys, I don't remember when we had enough snow to make snowmen. Or the right KIND of snow. And I have made TWO people-sized snowmen so far. I've dragged my kids around on a plastic disc borrowed from our friendly neighbors. I've oohed and ahhed over the winter wonderland that is my tree-filled neighborhood. I've put hats and mittens in the dryer. I've made many cups of hot cocoa for the kids. I've exchanged the "isn't this NEAT!" happy face with the not-friendly neighbors, because snow on a holiday weekend IS pretty neat. 

    But now I am over it. To be honest, I am over it as soon as it begins falling, because Seattle is not known for its snow-handling abilities, both practical (the city continually falls down on the snow job) and emotional (I've seen ninety-thousand cars slide down Capitol Hill streets into downtown on the news thus far.) Also it means I am stuck. 

    See, Seattle's kind of weird, in that it will snow in certain pockets of town, or the snow will miss entire ribbons of neighborhoods, or it will DUMP in one particular area and only dust another. It started falling on Saturday and by Sunday morning it was pretty clear that we were not going to church OR the baptism reception for which I bought a VERY CUTE PRESENT. Disappointing! 

    Usually you're fine once you get out of the side streets, but according to the news, our chunk of I-5 was a skating rink. Also, our side streets are BAD. My side street is a VERY STEEP HILL and even though it's one seven millionth of a mile long, it's still a launching point for flying into a house and/or sliding backwards into the creek. For this reason Phillip parked HIS car (did I tell you we have two cars now? gah) on the street above the steep hill, like everyone else on the two cul-de-sacs below. 

    So we're not STUCK stuck. Phillip could drive out and get us whatever we needed (although he'd still have to make it off the side streets and they are gleaming sheets of white). But for all intents and purposes I AM STUCK and I am stuck here with THREE RESTLESS CHILDREN and there is only so long we can all do this. 

    It was fine when Phillip was home this weekend. He's actually still home. He's WORKING from home, which you may all agree is worse than being at work. I used to think it was awesome that he could work from home, but now I know it just means he's HERE but UNAVAILABLE. I do a lot of stomping and shouting when he works from home, just so he KNOWS. 

    But anyway. Hopefully this will all be over by the time Phillip leaves for his trip on Sunday morning. Right, God? 

    I haven't been doing much of anything except, oh, standing in every room in my house deciding how I will decorate/redecorate/remodel/redesign. It's a sickness. Especially because I have every intention of DOING these things. It's not just, "Oh, wouldn't it be fun if we knocked down this wall?!" Like, I want to email the dudes who took out the fireplace and ask HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST TO KNOCK DOWN THIS WALL. 

    I spent a couple hours yesterday planning and measuring for a wall of DIY built in bookcases, before I realized that Ikea only sold one style of bookcase in the depth we want (as far as I can tell anyway, feel free to refute!) and my plan would not work after all. I did a lot of computery work. I folded a lot of laundry. I made brownies which was BAD because 1) I'm still hoping to lose four pounds by my trip (HA HA HA!) and 2) I am beginning to suspect that eating copious amounts of chocolate makes my baby uncomfortable... 

    BECAUSE SHE WAS UP ALL NIGHT AGAIN. This is not helping with the snow. She is actually sleeping better during the DAY, which is great. That's helping a lot. She's even napping in her bed again, after we tried it out one day and she slept three amazing hours. So. Better during the day, but still crap at night. Even though we 1) moved her into her own room and own bed/car seat and 2) I am no longer nursing her in bed and 3) we tank her up as much as possible before we put her down for the night. Last night she still ate ALL NIGHT LONG and I finally ended up putting her in bed with me because WE COULD NOT HANDLE IT. And I suspect she didn't REALLY need to eat, but when you're dead tired and it's 4 am, you are not particularly principled. 

    So I don't know. Whatever. What am I going to do with us today? More snowmen? BLARGH.

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