Tuesday, December 23, 2008

When 12:15 in the a.m., during a massive snowstorm, is the only time I get to write about ME

I'm not complaining, really. I love my children dearly. Given that I've traveled halfway around the world to find them, I'd say I pretty much wanted kids.

It's just that, at the end of the day, I'm usually so friggin' exhausted, I hardly remember what it feels like for my head to hit the pillow. I'm not exaggerating, either. I went from having difficulty with getting more than 6 hours a night of sleep to being damn near narcoleptic.

So, what happens is that my free time is compressed and I have to make concessions, and unfortunately, writing has been the one getting axed every day, unless you count the stupid, mindless shit I'm putting together for the PTSA at Mr. Na's school. Rah!

Tonight is one of those rare moments where I'm actually awake while the rest of the house is asleep. Maybe it was the afternoon coffee, or the fact that there's not a damn thing I can do since we're snowed in here, so sleeping in is actually an option and I don't have to worry about rising at the crack of dawn.

I don't remember being "this" scatterbrained when Mr. Na first came home, maybe it's just so long ago it had been conveniently forgotten. But now it's like I can't even organize my thoughts or finish a sentence. I can see how easy it is for people to lose themselves when they raise a family.

Thankfully, running is my anchor--though lately, it's been tough to get outside when there's a foot of snow on the ground. I've resisted joining a gym because I really prefer running outside rather than inside, stuck on a treadmill. And since our winters here are relatively mild, except, say, once every 12 years when we get a major dumping, there's really no need. But I've definitely noticed that I get into these terrible funks if I don't exercise. It doesn't give me time to decompress and take a break from all the noise around me.

Oddly enough, for the longest time, I absolutely HAD to run with music in my ears. I felt like it was the only motivation and the only way to tune out. But ever since we brought Audri home, I prefer running without any music. Even if I do my long runs alone, I don't want anything (else) inside my head.

It's nice, too, because I can actually hear myself when I run, which reminds me of what this talented young lady wrote in her latest blog entry. (Which, by the way, I look forward to reading Murakami's book, curse you, Geoff Dyer!) It doesn't matter if my thoughts are cohesive while I'm running, at least I can hear them. At home it's like, "Wait, did I say this?" or "Did I finish that?" I'm seriously thinking of turning on the voice recorder from the moment I get out of bed to the moment I pass out at night, just to be sure.

So, I traded my early-morning run tomorrow for a late-night session of writing tonight. I don't mind the occasional trade off, though I have to say that writing has become less therapeutic than running. I wish I didn't have to choose, but as long as my little girl is awake, clinging to my leg, going "meh? meh? meh?" (she's not talking quite yet), or having a tantrum because mommy's at the computer trying to type a 6-word e-mail, the choice is clear.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy 40th, All You Zombies

I'm proud to say I share the same birth year with George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. It's a classic that I love watching year after year--mostly because it's one of two movies that still scare the bejeezus out of me (the second being The Exorcist). What could be more frightening than going to a graveyard and getting grabbed by the undead--only to find out the whole world's been turned upside down and there's thousands of them out there that want to eat those still alive? Being stuck in a house surrounded by zombies, that's what...and Romero's film delivers the suspense and crazy-by-the-thousands-zombie-walkers masterfully.

If you love the film as much as I do, I suggest you check out these articles pulled together by PopMatters from various writers who take its theme, its living and its dead characters and compare them to humanity. We are all relatively rational people living with many irrational fears--and Night of the Living Dead preys upon those fears, which makes it a perfect horror film.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Squirrels Ain't Got Nothin' on Me!

This is my 12th year in Seattle, and as such, I've become all-too-familiar with the gloomy weather that casts its net over the Puget Sound sometime around mid-October and doesn't leave until the following Fourth of July. It messes with my psyche, which is why I think I enjoy running so much. A good hit of endorphins three days a week keeps the blues from the blah weather away.

It's funny, too, but I used to take sunshine for granted--which is easy to do living in Southern California. Nowadays, my mood can change drastically from one day to the next, depending on how gray it is outside, and I understand why caffeine is such a big hit here. On those seemingly endless dreary days, I feel more sluggish and less motivated to do anything, and oftentimes, caffeine is my only saving grace.

With only a few more days of gorgeous weather, I find myself longing to be outdoors more, either with the kids or alone with my thoughts. I even spent two hours on the garden last weekend during a sun shower just because the air quality was so much better than the stuff I sucked in every day for a month in Ukraine. But also, it's almost as if I'm soaking up the last of the remaining sunshine of the year before the weather turns to crap.

Today was one of those monumental "this is why I live in Seattle" days. The sun burned away all the morning clouds and by noon it was a pleasant 70 degrees with a slight breeze. I took La La (this is what Audri calls herself) for a leisurely ride in the bike trailer until she started getting fussy because she ran out of Cheerios. But the best part about today was at dusk, when Scout and I ran a 6-mile loop around the lake, and watched the bats zig zag overhead and the squirrels fight over acorns.

Yup, it's days like today that I try to summon from my memory when I get sick and tired of the same ol', same ol' monochromatic 9-month season.

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Settling in...

I'm amazed that it's 9:40 p.m. and I'm still awake. Ever since I got home from Ukraine, I've been asleep by 10. I'm no longer the night owl. Now I get up at 6 just so I have enough time to make and drink coffee before the little buggers get up.

Life's been grand since we've been back. I'm finally fully recovered from the Ukrainian Super Flu or whatever it was that knocked me flat on my ass. Now if only I could muster up running more than 3 miles at a stretch, I'd be a happy camper.

Speaking of happy campers, I have to tell you about these adorable little plates I bought at Fireworks the other day, under the guise of "they're for my kids!" Check 'em out online.

I got myself the Funky Monkey, of course!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I don't know what the hell's the matter with me, but I've become a total klutz. I can only chalk it up to being utterly distracted by everything else going on...either that or I'm getting fuzzy in my old age. Hmmm...

Anyway, I got this bad boy on my arm the other night and I can't explain exactly HOW it happened. Isn't it pretty? One minute, I was in the den, holding the central vac hose with one hand, trying to turn my slant board with the other, and then I just...fell...over. But not just over, over either...it was more like, I knocked into the side table and then landed on some free weights and then kinda wound up in a fetal position on the dog bed on the opposite side of the room. I skinned my knee, too, and it was in the same spot where I tore my knee open last year, when I fell on the sidewalk. (Yeah, this is becoming chronic, huh?) That time, I was running along, and BAM! Tripped over a crack and split my knees wide open. I felt like I was five again.

So anyway, back to this nasty bruise on my arm...I'm a little bummed because it looks kind of ugly and...see, I've got this big appointment coming up next week in Ukraine where I have to appear adoption friendly, and since it's like 100 degrees in Kiev, I was planning on wearing a sleeveless dress...and this thing looks like Pa punched the shit out of me, not just once, but a kajillion times.

Makeup anyone?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Muddy Runs -- The Cure for What Ails Ya

Man oh man, I had a shitty morning. 99.999% of it is because of our trip. You can read all about that on Privyet.

I did, however, push myself out the door for a run and I've got to say, it helped tremendously. The run, itself, wasn't all that great (it was hot, too late in the morning, I missed my running group, and I was a sluggish) but mentally, it did wonders.

As I rounded the Montlake Cut and headed to Foster Island via the trail that runs behind MOHAI, it became pretty mushy. I couldn't figure out why, at first, because it was a warm day and it hadn't rained in a few weeks. And yet, the mud got deeper and deeper. Here's a picture of my shoe as I'm navigating the trail by way of stepping on branches:

Teetering my way through actually forced me to stop, which is why I took out my phone and started taking some pictures. Despite the mud, the scenery was gorgeous:

These are water lillies. Sorry, the camera on my phone sucks. Frickin' Blackjack. If you click on them though, they're a lot clearer.

Then I realized...DUH...I'm in the middle of marsh here...
of COURSE it's muddy. Silly me:
Yup, that's water underneath that green stuff!

A boat on Lake Washington

This is where the trail turns into a floating bridge:

Anyway, I ran through the Arboretum to Lake Washington Boulevard; hung a right and ran up Interlaken. It was a good day to stay in the shade.

I feel much better now. I mean, my stomach is still in knots over this trip, but I feel calmer now. Yay!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hot Dog! Mr. Na's a Bicyclist!

Last year, we bought Mr. Na a sporty little Trek bike with the hope that it'd last him a few years. It will, too, because it's just a hair too big for him right now. When we bought it, we opted to put training wheels on it because of the size; but during the few rides we'd taken so far this summer, Na's been balancing all on his own. I think riding a Razor scooter to school every day had a little something to do with it.

So on Monday, as we rode to Husky Stadium and back, I told him that I thought he was ready for the training wheels to come off. He wasn't too thrilled, initially, and secretly, neither was I. I wasn't sure if I was up to the task of scraping him off the ground six or seven times before he "got it". But as I watched him ride home in front of me, I noticed that most of the time, the training wheels never hit the pavement. I figured...he was ready. And worse case, I could always put them back on.

This morning, as Na was brushing his teeth and getting ready for his day, I went to the garage and did the deed. The wheels came off quite easily and so I still had time to run down to the basement and get all of the padding I could find for him: I grabbed knee pads and elbow pads, along with his helmet because, by gosh, if Na was gonna fall, he was gonna be ok with it...and so was I. I think if Pa had his old football gear, I'd have used that too.

I spent some time with him on the driveway at first, showing him how to put his foot down whenever he felt he was leaning too far one way or the other. Then I made him sit on the seat and, without touching the pedals, I grabbed the back of his seat and rolled him. Then I made him put his feet on the pedals and I wheeled him to a nearby school parking lot. Along the way, I lessened my vice-like grip on the back of his seat and grabbed it again when I thought he'd do a header.

When we got to the smooth, level parking lot, something told me to just let go...and that is exactly what I did...and I shit you not, Na took off! He rode faster and faster around the parking lot...and I had to run behind him just to keep up. When he stopped, I gave him a huge hug and cried, "You did it!" That was by far, the fastest time I've ever seen someone learn how to ride a bike.

Unfortunately, our parking lot time was up when someone came out of the school and told us a lot of trucks were going to be coming in and out. So we went to our playground and Na rode around the gravel outer path of the field. He'd fall every now and then--mostly because he stopped too fast or he made too sharp of a turn, but he'd be all sprawled out and raise his arm in the air to give me the thumbs up!

Later this evening, as we drove to his swimming lesson, Na said,
"That was a lot of fun today, Momma, but do you know what I want now?"
"What's that, sweetie?"
"A motorcycle!"

Adoption News - Take Two

Ok, so the wonderful folks at Today.com aren't willing to comply with my request to filter ads for my family blog...so I've taken the liberty of changing the adoption blog to here:


It's unfortunate that I have to pull the blog from Today, but it's highly embarrassing to have inappropriate advertising featured across the top banner of a blog that covers our family's adoption journey. I should have gone with Blogger to begin with, but I was lured with the idea of being a paid blogger. So much for that!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Dog Days of Summer

Well, despite my freaking out over our trip being less than two weeks away, I'm enjoying the Seattle summer sunshine with Mr. Na (and I've got quite the sunburn to prove it!)

We took the dogs to an awesome off-leash area today (Magnuson) which also has a "dog" beach off of Lake Washington. Mr. Na, being 6 and all, went right in with the dogs, and all I could do was stand there and cringe, wondering what sort of organic floaties were touching his skin. Of course, afterwards, under the guise of "wanna play in the sprinkler?" I hosed all three down in the yard--and then stuck the child in the tub.

It's good to have him home again; but my staycation was kind of an awesome way to regroup and appreciate him all the more.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Don't Mess with My Liberty!

Source: Seattle P-I
During our morning run yesterday, Scout and I were heading toward Gas Works Park when I saw this gigantic Statue of Liberty head situated on the edge of Lake Union. Underneath the ridiculousness of it, there was something about it that creeped me out. Call me warped, I dunno, but rather than feeling all patriotic and gung-ho for the Fourth, it instantly reminded me of the scene from the last Planet of the Apes movie, when Charlton Heston finds a third of the Statue sticking up out of the sand and curses the apes for blowing it up, crying, "You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you all to hell!"

My second thought was that it reminded me of that Cloverfield movie, where the monster rips off the head of the Statue of Liberty and throws it down Broadway like a bowling ball.

How could the Family Fourth of July event organizers be so irresp
onsible! Damn you all to hell, you maniacs!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Memories of Maroon and Gray Color Wars

I had the most random conversation with a guy from my running group last Saturday and as it turns out, he and I went to the same camp at the same time over 30 years ago in New Jersey.

We were talking about the heat, which led us to talking about the humidity on the East coast, which led him to ask me where I grew up, which led me to tell him I spent part of my childhood in Bergen County, New Jersey, which led him to say, "No way, me too!" which led me to ask him the name of his town, which led him to tell me he lived in Ramsey, which led me to tell him I lived in River Vale which led me to add that I went to camp at Knights Day Camp in Upper Saddle River, which led him to say,


Bizarre, but true. We spent the next hour or so reminiscing about the camp and lamenting over its demise and the death of Uncle Maurice--a man who not only founded the camp, but created such a fun, memorable atmosphere that 35,000 happy campers, over a 25 year period sang "We Love You Knights Day Camp" every morning on the bus ride in.

Turns out, my friend and I were both there in 1977, and we were both nine at the time, though we don't remember one another. I told him that was the year when, during a game of Hares and Hounds, I managed to step on a fallen yellow jackets nest and was stung by 13 bees. I was surprised he didn't remember someone with long blonde hair running up to the infirmary with a cloud of bees following closely behind like something out of a cartoon. I had a pretty bad reaction from the stings, too, and I swelled as bad as Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I had to be taken from the infirmary to a nearby doctor who removed the bee stings one-by-one. Uncle Maurice came to the doctor's office and drew a Purple K on my (good) hand for being so brave and later that night, he called my mom to see how I was doing. Still high on Chlor-Trimeton, I went to camp the very next day, since I didn't want to miss out on any of the fun.

That was the summer, too, when I wore the highly fashionable Wonder Woman bathing suit, and got mad when another girl in my group had one as well. I also got mad because when I got my Junior Lifesaving pin, I wore it and it left a rusty mark on the suit. My friend told me he'd talk to his parents to see if they could dig up the pictures of camp that year. He distinctly remembers seeing pictures of him in his group, The Exterminators, during the "Buddy System" in front of the Plake (the camp's pool/lake combo). He said he'd be on the look out for Wonder Woman (or her imposter).

Each camper received two or three gray Knights Day Camp t-shirts, with an illustrated Maroon-colored knight in the upper right hand corner and we took pride in the shirts--wearing them everyday with our Adidas shorts and tube socks. I think I asked my mother to find tube socks with maroon and gray bands so I could be color coordinated.

My friend has a lot keener memory than I do. He remembers "Sloppy Slurching" where we trudged in the muddy water behind the cemented Plake and his parents even have his old banner with the merit badges he earned. I wish I had saved something...anything. Sigh!

Every year, we had one overnight at the camp, which was the highlight of the summer. This is where we learned of the legend of the Purple Knight who would come to the camp once everyone was asleep and leave his trademark Purple K on an unsuspecting, but lucky, camper. None of us got to see the Purple Knight in person (it wasn't Uncle Maurice), until the very last day of camp, when he made his appearance on horseback as the buses pulled away.

We also discussed the annual "Color Wars", and as it turns out, he was on the Maroon side (I was on the Gray team). Color Wars was a week-long competition at the end of the summer. The competing teams earned points with various activities including archery, swimming, and the ever-popular volleyball-esque game called "Nuke 'em" where players had to catch the ball or lose a teammate. I can remember we also had a sing-off and cheer-off competition to see which team had the most spirit. That year, the announcer played a trick by calling the Maroon Team winners...only to psyche everyone out and give the win to the Gray Team. My friend insists on doing a re-match.

I'm up for the challenge...so long as it doesn't involve running! My friend ran Boston this year and I've yet to earn a respectable qualifying time to do so.

It'll have to be Sloppy Slurching!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Looking for Adoption News?

Some of you visiting this site have been brought here, inadvertently. And while I appreciate the readership on Canned Goods, you can find more information about our Ukraine adoption here:


Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pacing: It's Like Racing...Without the "R"...sorta

Today, I had the opportunity to be an official pacer at the Seafair Marathon. I was one of four people assigned to a snail's pace and so, instead of doing one leg of it--the assigned 6.something, something miles--I decided to run with my friend for half of the race (13.1 miles). We looked at it as a "fun run"...a typical long run we enjoy with our group on most Saturdays. We figured it was going to be easy! It was going to be fun! We were going to enjoy the scenery! And what's more, since we volunteered our time and services, we got a free pair of Brooks running shoes out of the deal. What could possibly go wrong? we mused yesterday, as we picked up our schwag at the Expo and watched the temperature climb steadily to record highs.

Apparently, a lot.

The race was slated to start at Husky Stadium this morning at 7:00 a.m., but they wanted racers to come across the water and park at Bellevue Square, across the street from the finish. They hired school buses for shuttles and began taking people across the water as early as 5:00 or so. Given that I wasn't one of the starters, I made my way across the 520 bridge four minutes before it was scheduled to close, so by the time I got to Bellevue Square, it was about 6:55--or five minutes from guntime. Yet there were still hundreds of people standing in line at the FINISH, waiting for a shuttle to take them across the bridge to the START.

I can't accurately report what happened next first hand, because I was across the street in the mall's parking structure with my driver, but by 7:05, an announcement had been made to those who were still on the Eastside that they wouldn't be able to run the full marathon but that they'd be shuttled to the halfway point since there weren't anymore buses to take people to the start. Imagine signing up to run a full marathon; paying the higher fee, and training your ass off for four months, only to be told you can only run half of it. Hmmm...

Anyway, getting back to my little group: Our driver was awesome--a 15+ year-veteran of Seafair. But since the course had changed from the year before, he had a tough time trying to figure out on the map where our rendezvous point would we would relieve people running the first two legs. So after some driving around, we went to the water station in between miles 13-14 because he thought that was where we needed to be. So we figured when it was near our time, we would walk around the corner and down the hill further back in the course to find our teammate. We even called our running group director to ask what the official guntime turned out to be (it was 7:15) so we could re-calculate our handoff time.

So, we waited at the water station with other pace groups, and during that time, one of the runners noticed that the water table looked kind of sparse for such a hot day, and the fact that this was the halfway mark and that there were almost 5,000 people running. So she spoke with one of the volunteers at the water table who said, kind of nonchalantly, that they had run out of cups and that they probably weren't getting any more. Given that it was 73 degrees by 8:30, this did not bode well--especially since runners would be taking more than one water cup to drink and douse themselves. What's more, the table had both Gleukos and water, but there was no delineation between the two. Both were clear liquid and both were poured into the same Gleukos cups, which would have made for a huge, sticky mess of runners who needed to cool themselves off by dousing. But thankfully, the runner from my group took charge, kicked some ass, took names, and whipped the water table into shape before the Kenyans came.

Once the 8:35 min/mile pacer left, follwed by the 9:10 pacers, my friend and I got out of the sleek, airconditioned Seafair Suburban and stood with a bunch of other relay people to wait for our teammate. By 9:33, she still hadn't shown and we were getting a little worried. We waited a little longer (our first mistake) but then made the judgment call to just go. Even factoring out the guntime delay and the heat, we figured we would need to cross the finish line at 12:00 noon to make our pace, but because we waited for our teammate we were 11 minutes behind schedule, which meant we had to up our pace to a full minute per mile faster to try and make up for lost time.

And while the faster pace was one I could hold for a 10 or 12k, it's a little too fast for me for a half marathon distance, particularly when the course is super hilly and it's 78 degrees. We started out strong, but our segment was the hilliest of the course--and between miles 14-20, we encountered some MAJOR climbs. I told my friend that if he could hold steady at our faster pace for the rest of the race, he should just go on ahead because I knew I wouldn't be able to do that for 13 miles in the heat.

So I'm running pretty much by myself and there are random people running up to me because I have a "PACER" shirt on and they're saying, "HEY! So-and-So (the teammate I'd been waiting for) was looking for you! You weren't at the handoff!" And I'm going, "I most certainly was! Where was she? I didn't see her!" and I see this one guy whom I had seen run past me on the course while I was waiting for So-and-So (he happened to be one of the guys calling out to me) and I said, "Well, I saw you but I didn't see you with So-and-So." So apparently, she stopped at a sign that read "Relay Exchange Point" (makes sense, doesn't it?) and my running partner and I never saw that sign because we were about a half a mile UP from that point, where our driver thought our exchange would take place!

Anyway at this point, we're at mile 18 and I've pretty much caught up to the time I wasted at the water stop, waiting for So-and-So but I am dead tired and ready to collapse from the heat (I heard later that someone had collapsed in the Costco parking lot right around that point of the race) and as we round the corner, this GINORMOUS hill looms ahead...and I see my running partner's green shirt at the top of this hill, sooooooo very far away. I was about to call it quits when a woman calls out, "Heyyyyy! It's a pacer! Boy, I'm so glad to see you!!!" and I think, "There's no way I can quit now. This woman has been running the full 18+ miles and she's ecstatic to have found a pacer." So, I started running with her and it turns out she had been running with So-and-So earlier in the race, but lost track of her, so she was glad to have finally found another pacer.

I ran with this woman from mile 18 to mile 22 when the blister on the ball of my right foot started screaming at me and I told her it was the end of the line for me. She was still going super strong and there was no way I could keep up--especially having spent so much of my energy nine miles earlier. She was great, though, and it seemed she was going to have a pretty commendable finish given that it was her first full marathon and that she had conquered the heat and hills respectably.

At this point, though, I was in Carillon Point and I still had over four miles to go. I slowed to a walk, hoping some wayard official-looking Seafair Suburban would pull up and take me to the finish. Instead, people at every water station kept cheering me on. "Lookin' good! You're almost there!" I had to laugh. This was one of the most unconventional racing situations I'd ever been in. Finally, I get to Mile 23 and straight ahead is the steepest hill of the entire race--over the 520 interchange. It was 11:45 and the sun was just beating down on us and there was no way I was going to run up that hill. I just had nothing left to give. Yet, I was so grateful I wasn't running the race for a goal...I would have been so damned depressed at that point. I just did the only thing I could do--kept going toward the finish line, taking it all in stride, so to speak.

I finally crossed the finish line at 12:33. My running partner waited for me (he finished on pace!) and we made a few phone calls until we reached someone who was with So-and-So, who had wondered what the hell had happened to us at the exchange. But once she heard our version of the story, she wasn't too surprised. "Next year," I said, "we grab each other's cell phone numbers!" This was a debacle that could have easily been avoided.

I will say one thing, though. I DEFINITELY earned those free running shoes today!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Staycation, all I ever wanted...

It's pretty bad when I can't seem to recall the last time I was home alone for more than a few hours. All I can tell you is that it's definitely been years. Several years.

But this morning, Pa and Na headed out for an early flight to Michigan to visit the grandfolks until next Sunday, leaving me here at home with the doggies for a little R and R and W (reading, running and writing). I have to say, it's a win-win situation for all parties concerned: Pa gets to golf with old friends, Na spends quality time with the grandparents, and I enjoy the peace! and quiet! and solitude! Or, in the words of Elmer J. Fudd: West and Wewaxation at Wast!

Now, I don't want you to think I jumped for joy once the taxicab carrying Na and Pa left at 7 this morning, but it was awfully nice to be able to crawl back into bed and sleep for two more uninterrupted hours--at least until Scout decided to pounce on me.

I don't know if I was always like this or if it's been a recent development--but I really do favor quiet time over noise, which is not a good thing when you have a six year-old child or a 71 year-old mother who can't stop talking. I find that when I'm with those two (and it's at least once a week) I have a much harder time processing anything they say because THEY'RE SAYING IT AT THE SAME TIME! And it's not like, "Hey, how are ya? What's new?" it's "I need this" or "I want that" or "Can you do this for me?" It could damn near drive one to drink!

So you can imagine my annoyance when, upon hearing that Na and Pa would be gone for nine days, my mother asked, "What are we going to do while they're gone?" I said, "WE aren't going to do anything. I'M taking a staycation!" That didn't go over very well. But I'm sticking to my guns. There will be no family face to face time for NINE WHOLE DAYS! Momma's checkin' out.

If you ask me, I think my staycation is one of the greatest gifts from Pa. I mean, after all, in four weeks, Pa, Na and I will be in Ukraine sweating like crazy (literally and figuratively) and living in pretty tight quarters for four weeks (Na and I are leaving early, after court--if all goes "well") And then there's our joyful addition to the family once Pa and little-person-yet-to-be- determined come home, which means it'll be another several years or so until I can say "I honestly can't remember the last time I was home alone for more than a few hours." So yeah, I'm enjoying the break!

I know, though, that once the weekend passes and the quietness has settled in, I'll really begin to miss them. I've gotten used to the little footsteps going across the hall to use the bathroom in the morning; and the silly songs we three make up together everyday; and my little cooking assistant who was able to work a stand mixer since age three; and how Pa makes my latte in the morning and then puts it in a commuter mug and sends Scout up with it. I think the break, if anything, will help me appreciate that all the more.

Mr. Na at the airport this morning

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin R.I.P.

Growing up, George Carlin was a staple in our household. My brother--a good ten years older than me--listened to the Class Clown record album non-stop. Obviously, not getting the references at such a young age, I would laugh when others laughed. And it wasn't until a good ten years later when I listened to it when I fully realized his comedic genius.

It broke my heart to hear that George Carlin passed away yesterday, from heart failure. He was 71.

His raw humor, coupled with his nicotine-laced, gritty New York attitude can never be matched (although honestly, my Dad's Jamaica-Queens accent comes a close second). He taught me a lot about words and how, if we just stood still to ponder for just a moment, certain words in the English language seemed so ridiculous and filled with double-meanings. But moreover, he broke through major tenets regarding organized religion, claiming, at one point, that he worshiped the sun because it was the one thing he could actually see. But his sensibility about the world in which we lived gave proof that he was so much more than a rable rouser.

Just as he was a staple in my early childhood, he returned to be a part of my son's. His cheeky narration on many episodes of Thomas the Tank gave the stories a whole new dimension of humor, and his hippie-ish character in the Pixar movie Cars, Filmore the VW minibus, reminded me of his 70s stand-up material.

George will truly be missed.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Running in Ukraine?

I had pretty much tossed all hopes aside that I would do some running in Ukraine during our trip in mid-July. Having been there before, the idea of running seemed kind of far-fetched, what with all of the crazy drivers on the road and the lack of sidewalks. The stray dogs, too, kind of puts a damper on any desire to run.

I am a creature of habit and like to run close to home, rather than feeling all adventurous to blaze a new trail--though I will admit I have been bold during certain trips to other cities, and I've run routes in Barcelona, Helsinki, New York, Las Vegas, Honoloulu. But there have been times when I've held back, feeling a little unsure of my safety--particularly in Paris, Madrid, London and Prague. It's mostly because of the high volume of traffic and the layout of the cities.

So, along with my decision not to run in Ukraine, I skipped plans to run in a marathon this fall since I figured I'd be gone most of the summer and would miss at least two or three 20-mile training runs, not to mention the fact that I'd have to consider running up mountains made out of coal slag for hill training since Ukraine is about as flat as Kansas. My decision left me kind of bummed, too, because I've been hankering to do the Portland Marathon so I can finally get a decent finish time.

But this morning, I got home from my run and Pa asked me if I had planned any running routes in Ukraine. I kinda looked at him sideways and said,
"I don't think it's safe, do you?"
He said for sure he'd feel safe in Kiev and that once we got to our child's city or village, I could determine whether or not I'd feel comfortable. And then, of course, a new seed was planted in my brain. I mean, sheesh, we'll have so much down-time during our travel, it would seem a shame not to spend some of that time running. So, I'm thinking about it more in earnest now...but of course thinking means planning, since I'd have to schlep more crap with me (i.e. running shoes, socks, shorts, shirts, sports bras, hats, sunglasses, My Forerunner (GPS), bluetooth headset, water belt and bottles, and packets of Gu. And if you're dying of laughter at the thought of all my "gear" then you should try running 10-20 miles without most of the above. You'd be bored to tears, dehydrated, lost, and low on blood sugar.

Seriously, though, all that crap means needing space in my already-maxed-out-luggage or worse--having to pack a second bag. And when you're in Ukraine, climbing four flights of stairs in a post-communist apartment building with a broken elevator that has a spray painted "Anarchy" symbol on it and you're sweating your ass off because it's 98 degrees with 100% humidity, having a second bag just for running clothes really seems asinine.

Aw well, I'll figure it out. For me, running takes the edge off...makes me feel awesome...helps me to sleep like a baby at night...and I'll admit, if I don't plan to run, I will miss it while we're gone. Seems pretty silly to leave behind a great form of therapy during a super-huge stressful time.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The (Kindergarten) Graduate

Ma: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Na: Yes, mom.
Ma: Are you listening?
Na: Yes, I am.
Ma: Plastics.
Na: Huh?

Pa thought it was pretty silly to have a formal graduation ceremony for Kindergarten, but I'll admit I got a little teary-eyed at the cuteness of it all. On the downside, it also gave me the opportunity to have a flash-forward of Na's high school graduation, which I found to be somewhat disturbing. That's 12 years from now and I'll be (gasp! gasp! gasp!) 52!

The tears flowed a little more once the entire class broke into Annie's "Tomorrow" (which is ironic because it's about orphans awaiting a better life--hence my free flowing tears).

This year -- seriously -- went too fast. I just found it amazing that one day, not too long ago, as we discussed his homework, Mr. Na was reading sentences. SENTENCES! In September, he could barely read "the"! And math? Whoa...pretty soon he'll catch up to my math skills! Ha!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

On Friday night, I ran in the annual Fremont 5k. It was my third time running the race and I had hoped to improve my 2006 PR. It looked like I was in pretty decent shape to do just that until I heard this awful noise behind me that sounded like someone had collided with a rollerblader. I turned around, thinking, "what the hell would a rollerblader be doing on the Burke Gilman trail with 500 runners coming from the opposite direction?" but instead, I saw another runner laying on the ground, with a mixture of blood and bile coming out of his mouth and nose. People yelled out to call 9-1-1 and I fumbled for my phone to dial, but I stopped trying to make the call when I saw several people doing the same.

Even though the man's eyes were half open, his pupils were dilated and he was not conscious. I summoned up outdated CPR training--telling people that we needed to check his airway by opening his mouth. When I did, he made a very bone-chilling rattling noise and I feared the poor man wasn't going to make it. I located his carotid artery for a pulse but couldn't find one, so I began compressions on his chest until a firefighter--who had also been running the race--ran up to us and took over. Every so often, the man exhaled and then his chest would rise, so it seemed he was breathing, but then his entire face and neck turned purple, and the firefighter continued compressions while another man gave him breaths. It wasn't easy, though, because there was a lot of blood in the victim's mouth and the man assisting the firefighter wiped a whole wad of it on his shirt after giving a breath.

Within minutes, the paramedics arrived with a Lifepak AED and they took over resuscitation attempts. I figured there was nothing more for me to do, so rather than being in the way, I left and did a half-hearted walk/run to the finish line, where people were smiling, cheering, drinking beer, listening to music--completely unaware of what happened only 1/4 of a mile away. I couldn't help but worry, though, if the man was going to make it. He was relatively young (I'd guess late forties) and looked as though he had been fit; but having worked for a company that made portable defibrillators, I know that cardiac arrest can strike anyone without warning and without proper resuscitation, victims will die within minutes.

After I retrieved my bike, I went back to the scene, where they had just placed the man in the ambulance. I asked a policeman if he was ok--told him that I was one of a handful of people to first respond. He said he thought the man was going to make it, though he himself had just arrived at the scene and didn't know whether or not the man required defibrillation.

Incidentally, last week was National CPR/AED Awareness Week--a time when the Red Cross promotes training lay responders CPR and using an AED. Yet, despite the fact that there were at least five people (before the firefighter came) trying to help the man, no one, myself included, had any sort of updated CPR training and so we were all second-guessing one another while trying to provide First Aid. I wanted to start chest compressions immediately, but people were telling me not to because it looked as though he was breathing (I later looked up the AHA guidelines that state that you shouldn't wait to see signs for normal breathing and that you should start chest compressions immediately). I couldn't remember how many chest compressions needed to be administered before giving the victim a breath, but since my last training, the guidelines had changed from 15 to 30. Initially, the victim was on his side, and when I asked for help in turning him over so I could check his airway, someone told me not to because he had been bleeding from his nose and they were worried that he'd choke from the blood. All I kept thinking was that time was running out for this man and if we didn't try to do anything, he wouldn't make it and that it was neither the time nor the place to stand around and argue about what should be done. The man needed to be resuscitated and if I had been more confident in knowing I was doing the right thing, I would have told everyone barking orders at me to shut the fuck up.

Friday night's turn of events left me feeling very sad, but it also prompted me to look into taking another CPR/AED class so I could keep my skills current. I don't ever want to be in the same situation of wondering if I'm doing the right thing.

UPDATE: I was in touch with the folks who organized the race and was told the man was still in the hospital, but doing fine.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Post in Which I Review the Book Skinny Bitch

Having some time to kill at Barnes and Noble the other night, I flipped through some pages of Skinny Bitch and began reading the "Protein Myth" chapter. The authors' profanity-laced language, peppered with statistics lured me in and I bought the book thinking it was a fresh, no-b.s. perspective on nutrition.

It was and it wasn't. On the one hand, they are justifiably quick to bash weight loss fads like the Atkins Diet, and to incorporate more fruits, vegetables and water into the daily diet; but the authors are saying that the only way to become skinny and to stay skinny is to become vegan, which is absolute b.s.. Their "all or nothing" approach sets readers up for failure if they are looking for guidance in weight loss. Sure, it's great if one can completely alter their lifestyle and quit all things meat, dairy and fish, but it's not realistic to most of us who are conscious as to what we put in our mouths but enjoy an occasional steak, salmon or omelet. As a thin person, and someone who had to, at one point, lose some weight, I can tell you first-hand that there's no need to become vegan to shed pounds and stay at a healthy weight. It's practicing moderation, coupled with exercise, that works.

The scare tactics in the book are off-putting as well. It's one thing to inform readers about the ills of factory farming, yet quite another to go into great detail about animal slaughter (watch King Corn--a much better approach). I just skipped those pages because it went from informative to downright gratuitous. They got a hold of some excerpts of slaughterhouse employees talking about the worst things they've ever done to animals and that whole section of the book just became tabloid. So how does a book gain credibility if it turns so many people off? Rather than completely abstain from meat and poultry, I've switched to supermarkets that carry meat from local, range-grazed or free-ranged animals. I pay more for it, but to me, it's worth it.

Same with dairy--the authors are insisting that cow's milk isn't any good for you and that anything dairy is evil. Again, there is middle ground, and it just takes a little research to find stores that sell products from local, responsible dairies.

Oddly enough, I didn't catch any place in the book where they educated the reader on pesticides used on fruits and vegetables--only meat. If you aren't paying attention to your produce selection, there's a good chance you're ingesting high levels of pesticides as well.

There were many places in the book where I felt they were providing less unbiased information and more product endorsement. The funny thing is, their suggestions were extremely limiting. Sure, sodas containing high fructose corn syrup OR aspartame are bad for you, but that doesn't mean you have to give up soda altogether. Why not research alternatives (and there are plenty out there) or buy naturally flavored carbonated water?

Bottom line, there was no balance in this book; it was highly opinionated, unrealistic, product endorsing drivel and I walked away with only two pieces of useful information: eat fruit for breakfast by itself; and remember to drink 64 ounces of water every day.

Somebody get me a buttercream cupcake.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Happy PaNaMa!

Mother's Day marked the beginning of the month-long festival known as "PaNaMa," which means absolutely nothing outside of our little triad. It's a time in which the three of us: Pa, Na and Ma celebrate Mother's Day, Father's Day and all three of our birthdays. I feel sorry for the next little addition to our family...or maybe he/she will feel lucky not having to share our birthday.

This year is quite important since Pa and I both turn (holy crap!) 40. I still find that so hard to believe. I don't feel 40--er, whatever 40 is supposed to feel like. I don't look 40 either. Really. Shut up!

Actually, I have a funny to share...on my birthday, Pa took me to dinner downtown. We pulled up in front of the restaurant to have the valet park the car. After a long, enjoyable dinner, Pa went to the valet stand to have the car brought around, but it was after hours and the car was already out front. Pa grabbed the keys from the maitre d' and they were still attached to the valet card. On the back of the car, the valet had written: Tall Man/Woman. Woman in stunning dress. Pa said, "See? That should make you feel good!" to which I replied, "What? So he thought the dress was stunning..." Pa just rolled his eyes. I'm not good with compliments, but I'll take it...and hope that people still find my dresses stunning when I am in my 50s!

Both Mother's Day and my birthday were low-key, which turned out to be pretty nice. I mean, initially, I was hoping for a big hoopla--you know, maybe going to Budapest or Bora Bora or something...but knowing that we're about to spend 40 luxurious days in Ukraine this summer is plenty enough for me. Yeeeeahhh, I'll trade the white sandy beaches of Bora Bora for hot and sticky Ukraine any day.

Kidding aside, this weekend, we're flying down to San Diego to celebrate PaNaMa in style. One day is a spa day for moi; one day is a golf day for Pa; and one day will be spent at Legoland for Na (actually, ok it's for all of us...what's not to love about Legoland?) It'll be nice to get away to warm(er) weather and actual sunshine, but I've gotta say, it's weird knowing that this may well be our last vacation together as a family of three! I'm excited and kinda nervous about that...and I think Pa and Na feel the same way.

So now that I've officially said good bye to my 30s, I have a full decade ahead of me to accomplish three things: raise another beautiful, sweet child; sell my book; and qualify for the Boston Marathon--not necessarily in that order, though I've got my fingers crossed that our trip to Ukraine will be a triumph and we'll have our beautiful, sweet child first.

All three things have this in common: they are each labor intensive, but worth every minute. My only wish is that for the next ten years (and beyond) I remain as happy and healthy as I am today.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Over the Moon for Molly

For years, I've had this secret desire to open up a dessert place in my neighborhood. I've got the theme picked out, the business plan written up, and some location ideas. But opening a shop would prohibit me from writing, running and raising our kids...so while I continue to kick the idea around in my head, it'll be years before it comes to fruition. I'll get to it once I send the kids off to college, go on the book tour for the first novel, and qualify for the Boston Marathon.

We live in a great little walking neighborhood and I've seen places come and go, but nothing truly dessert-oriented. We had, at one point, an ice cream store called "Wally's Scoop", but it catered to kids, mostly and was seriously lacking in atmosphere. The Crayola color-scheme just wasn't doin' it for me.

Last year, Trophy Cupcakes moved in, and while I enjoy their treats, they close by 8 p.m, so they don't cater to the late night crowd like, say, The Dilettante on Broadway or B&O Espresso.

We also have the Chocolati Cafe, and that's nice...if you just want chocolate.

So, what's a carbo-loading, sugar-craving, dessert addict to do on a Saturday night, after a movie? Well, I think someone may finally have a solution to my dilemma. Last Sunday, Molly Moon's Ice Cream Boutique opened on 45th , and not only are they open until eleven p.m., they've also got some pretty tasty ice cream.

I was never really a huge "gourmet" ice cream flavor gal. I like my Rocky Road, thank you very much; but when I took Mr. Na to Molly Moon's on Wednesday, I tried the salted caramel and the Vivace Coffee and whoa, were they ever yummy. Mr. Na had the "Scout" mint, and while it took him a minute or two to get past the fact that it wasn't artificially colored in green, he loved it. I also sampled the Cardamom, which I thought was nice, and I plan to come back for a full scoop in the near future.

It's nice to finally have a dessert place in the neighborhood that stays open long after the kiddies have gone to bed. It's even nicer that it's just ice cream, and not the treats I'm hoping to peddle one of these days!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

It's... a... difficult responsibility...

A friend of mine, who hinted at wanting this for her birthday, turned me on to Curiobot, and now it's one of my new faves. In fact, I've subscribed to a daily feed so I can see new, off-the-wall, totally bizarre offerings. The site reminds me of the King Novelty catalogs of yore, where one could purchase X-Ray vision glasses, Sea Monkeys and rubber chickens. But Curiobot pulls from all over the Internets, so the offerings are vast. Is Fido in need of a set of pooch slippers? Does your little one have hopes of being a TSA employee one day? Here's the perfect gift for practicing. How about a Shockalot Vault for keeping your highly coveted cookies safe? There's no end to the wackiness.

It's fun to peruse online, but when I'm in need of replacing my Toast Wallet, I shop at the local Archie McPhee in Ballard. And when I want a heaping helping of curio, with a side of Bush bashing, I head to the Not a Number gift store. Not only do I enjoy playing with every single toy in these shops, I also prefer to support my local retailer whenever I can.

I have to admit, though, that I'm faced with a quandary: if this bill passes, these local stores will have problems staying afloat. I'm totally in favor of making kids' toys safe, but I'd really hate to see them go under because they couldn't pay the exorbitant toy testing fees over which toy giants Mattel and Hasbro are up in arms, while other, mid-sized toy manufacturers are threatening to stop shipments of toys in Washington State altogether.

I'm not sure what the solution should be, but I am in favor of having the government step-in to create a federal regulation. Once the little toy retailers go under from this bill, and the mid-sized toy makers stop sending toys to our state, we would have make our purchases in other states where the regulations aren't as stiff. And aside from that being a ridiculous notion, it would make us a pretty boring place to be!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I (Heart) Duran Duran

So, rather than bore you with all the details of last Wednesday's show at the WaMu Theater, I'll tell you a little story about about the first time I ever saw Duran Duran in concert. Stick with me, it's a good one!

It was 1984, I was 15, it was in Los Angeles, and my mother dropped my cousin Guen and I off, telling us to be at that EXACT SAME SPOT right after the show. I think I was wearing a white jumpsuit with teal and black triangles across the front, but I know I was wearing my black suede boots because they looked EXACTLY like the ones worn by the band.

The concert, itself, was pretty uneventful. In fact, I couldn't even tell you who opened for them, though I will say that the "Seven and the Ragged Tiger" tour was legendary. Duran Duran were one of the first bands to use giant video screens so that the audience could see those yummy wild boys up close and personal--even if you were way up in the nosebleeds.

What was more interesting, however, was what happened afterward, as Guen and I walked back toward the "mom spot" in the parking lot: a gaggle of girls swarmed around this very ordinary-looking green Delta 88. I looked at Guen who shrugged her shoulders, and said, "Beats me, let's go look." I love that about Guen. We share the same sense of adventure.

We miraculously made our way through the crowd of girls, and when we poked our heads in the passenger side window, it took seconds to register that C. Thomas Howell was driving the car and Ricky Schroeder was in the passenger seat, just inches away from my nose. I said "hey", they said "hey" and then one of them told us to get in the back. So we did.

We couldn't have been in the backseat for more than five minutes, but it's one of those moments where you can slow it down in your head to savor every detail. Not that I am particularly fond of C. Thomas Howell or Ricky Schroeder, but it gets a little exciting when a random celebrity (or two) says "hi" and then tells you to get in the car. Given that this was 1984, C. Thomas was (sadly) at the height of his career, having just starred in The Outsiders. And Ricky? Well, if I remember correctly, Silver Spoons was a popular sitcom at the time, so it's not like they were unknown.

The boys turned around to face us, Ricky was wearing a red leather jacket - a la Thriller. They asked us our names, we asked them if they liked the show, they asked us where we lived, and then the invited us to a party.

"We can't," I said.
"Why not?" Ricky asked.
"Because my mom's on her way to pick us up."
"Can you call her?" he asked. (Remember, this was still the era of the payphone!)
"No, because she's probably already here," I said.

Talk about a missed opportunity! And who knows who else would have been at that party. Would we have met Johnny or Soda Pop? (Looking back now, I would have KILLED to meet Matt Dillon...) But, you know, my mom would have freaked, and I just wasn't willing to take that risk. I did have a little sense back then. Not much, maybe, but hey...my adventurous spirit was willing to go only so far.

Oddly enough, I had the opportunity to see Duran Duran in concert again, just a few weeks later, at Madison Square Garden in New York. We had floor seats, about halfway back, and there were temporary metal barricades between us and those who were closer to the front. Before the show started and they dimmed the houselights, I caught the red leather jacket out of the corner of my eye and shouted, "Ricky! Hey, Ricky!" He turned and looked at me, smiled and said "hey" and I figured, either he says "hey" to everyone or he recognized me. I guess I'll never know.


What really amazes me is that all of the above happened 24 years ago and that Duran Duran have been around for the last 30 years. And I have to give them credit, you know, because they have managed to evolve over time, to appeal to a broader audience. Their latest album, Red Carpet Massacre, was co-produced and co-written by Timbaland, Danja, and Justin Timberlake--three artists that most people in their forties (except for, maybe, Madonna) don't know.

Overall, Duran Duran put on a good show last week, mixing their old stuff with the new. The only thing that was a bit odd was when they stood in a straight line, with microphones, keyboards, computer monitors, and electric drums. The formation looked more like something out of the Blue Man Group than anything, and they played a few songs off of Big Thing. And then the weirdest frickin' thing happened: While they played "All She Wants Is" Simon started singing, "See the breaking glass, in the underpass. Hear the crushing steel, feel the steering wheel. A tear of petrol is in your eye. The handbreak penetrates your thigh. Quick--let's make love, before you die." It took me a split second to realize he was singing The Normal's "Warm Leatherette"-- a very bizarre song I never would have expected them to cover and that very few people at the concert, I'd be willing to bet, knew. Grace Jones covering the Normal, yes; Simon Le Bon, no. It was...I dunno...kinda contrived.

I still love 'em, though. How could I not? I spent my entire teenage years infatuated with them. And if it weren't for them, I never would have met Ricky Schroeder or C. Thomas Howell. Now, at least, my life is complete!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Stiff and Stiffer: Mary Roach at Town Hall

A few years back, someone recommended I read Stiff – The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, so I put it on my Amazon Wish List, where it sat for five long years. It wasn’t until Pa and I were at Bailey Coy, when I recognized its cover—a pair of feet adorned with a toe tag and attached to a sheet-draped body that I remembered the book. As I perused, most notably, through the pages where she interviews the forensics expert for the TWA Flight 800 crash, I had a feeling that Stiff would be the kind of book I wouldn’t want to put down until I finished.

Little did I know that Mary Roach has a knack for making one laugh out loud while reading about the dead. But she writes with a great deal of respect, as Stiff is more of a celebration of those who, in death, made vast contributions to science. Toward the end of the book, she discusses the relatively new and controversial, yet ecologically friendly method of human composting, and I thought, what a great way to ensure reincarnation. Die as a human, come back as a rose bush! It’s perfect.

Just a week after I finished Stiff, I learned that Mary Roach was going to be in town, promoting her new book, Bonk—The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. So, last night, I made the trek to Town Hall to hear about her research for the book which, reading about in Stiff, was half the fun.

Mary had the audience laughing quite a bit, and she is as engaging in person as she is in her work. She admitted that Bonk was a difficult book to research because sex is difficult for scientists to research. It’s not like scores of people are willing to sign up and participate in studies, especially when the studies include having sex in front of one or more researchers. Mary figured this out, first hand, disclosing that she and her husband were participants in a study, which is discussed in a chapter of Bonk. You can also listen more about it during a recent interview on NPR.

If you have the chance to see Mary during her book tour, you should. I was bummed that there wasn't a book signing after her talk, but I intend to bypass my Amazon Wish List and pick up a copy of Bonk as soon as I can.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Whole Kit and Kaboost

If it was up to Mr. Na, he’d be driving a circa-1960s white, Volkswagen (Herbie) Beetle. He’d also stay up all night long, and would only go to school for recess. Sounds like a normal kid, I know, but it’s funny how frustrated he’s become about the fact that his height hasn’t quite caught up to his ability to reach the gas pedal of a car; or that he conks out after ten minutes of our allowing him to stay up “late”; and just the other day, the school principal joked about his strong enthusiasm for learning (the way in which she described it, though, made me see shades of Arnold Horseshack with his annoying “Ooooh, Oooh, Oooh”).

Slowly but surely, he’s shedding his “baby” image—trading his train table for monster trucks; using a booster seat in the car, instead of a full-blown car seat; riding his Razor like a skateboard, and favoring shows like Word World over The Wonder Pets. And usually, the transitions are pretty smooth, almost transparent, except for this past month when he declared he would no longer sit at the piano or the dining room table with his booster seat. He was “tired of being treated like a baby”, and as such, he was going to sit in a normal chair, even if his chin was level with the table.

Well, Mr. Na got his wish—except that in the nick of time, I found this clever contraption to solve his booster seat issue. The day it arrived at the house, it felt like Christmastime all over. He was so stoked once he got himself seated at the big table and as a bonus, the chair works great over at the piano.

The Kaboost came in one piece, and took nanoseconds to attach to the legs of the chair. It’s a brilliant invention and not too ugly or invasive (though who on Earth would want to buy one in lime green?), and it also came with a travel bag, though I don’t think I’ll have a need for it since I feel it’s still a little too unwieldy to carry around.

When I bought the Kaboost online, the company e-mailed this video, which I thought it was pretty spot-on, so enjoy!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's April 23rd, and everybody knows that yesterday was Earth Day...

I know, I know. I'm a day late. And my sincerest apologies, too, to Dramarama for completely bastardizing their song in my headline. I thought it'd be kicky.

Anyway, well of course yesterday was Earth Day...it said so on Google. But, according to an essay in the Washington Post, Earth Day is dead, so I guess Hallmark is going to need to find another holiday upon which to capitalize. Maybe they'll develop a line of cards for the Boston Marathon.

I'm being cynical, yes, to prove a point. 18 years ago, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of Earth Day with fanfare. There were concerts and t-shirts and TV programs and Earth Day hacky sacks and other green tschotskys. And the interesting thing was, after the celebrating was finished, and everybody went back home, leaving millions of pounds of trash in their wake, some people left scratching their heads, wondering why, on that 20th anniversary, Earth Day hadn't been celebrated for the 19 years before. Why was Earth Day suddenly so important in 1990? More importantly, if we fast forward 18 years, what have we done to date, other than mass produce more "stuff" like cell phones, SUVs, and plastic water bottles?

Now, I am probably the LAST person to pontificate the virtues of going green, so please don't think that my rant is about everyone else scorching the Earth. I'm just as guilty. But I am trying to make an effort, and little by little, I hope that I can incorporate better, environmentally-friendly habits in my family's daily routine. So, after the first of the year, I made the following changes:

1) Shutting off my computer every night: Time Magazine quoted the U.S. Department of Energy's statistic that "The average desktop computer, not including the monitor, consumes from 60 to 250 watts a day. Compared with a machine left on 24/7, a computer that is in use four hours a day and turned off the rest of the time would save you about $70 a year. The carbon impact would be even greater. Shutting it off would reduce the machine's CO2 emissions 83%, to just 63 kg a year."

Some experts say that setting your computer to "hibernate" is just as effective, but for me, it's just as easy to shut it off completely than to set it to hibernate.

2) Replacing my lightbulbs with compact fluorescents: I've got to admit, at first, I hated the lighting that compact fluorescents produced. But over time, I got used to them and now I replace our standard bulbs with compact fluorescents every time a bulb burns out. The reason? An article in Fast Company puts it succinctly, "the energy savings. Compact fluorescents emit the same light as classic incandescents but use 75% or 80% less electricity."

2a) Shut off the lights! This is a tough one because I'm constantly following Pa or Na around, turning off the lights in the rooms they've just left; but I'm finding that Mr. Na is starting to "get it", too as he turns off the lights he doesn't need.

3) Use canvas bags for groceries: When you go to a grocery store in Paris, you must buy a tote to use for your groceries as they do not offer paper or plastic. And from what I'm hearing, pretty soon grocery stores here in the States will soon follow. I find the canvas totes to be quite handy, so long as I remember to bring them when I make a mad dash to the store!

4) Walk: I'm awfully lucky to live in a pedestrian/bicycle friendly city that has relatively mild weather year round. And since Mr. Na has started Kindergarten, we've been walking to and from school nearly every day, which is about a mile and a quarter, round trip. The dogs love it, too.

4a Drive less! Again, I am very lucky to live in a city where I don't have to drive everywhere, and that Pa, along with most of our neighbors take the bus to work every day. And it shows. According to a study conducted by the Sightline Institute, drivers in the Pacific Northwest have cut their gasoline consumption by 11 percent since 1999. Now, ok, before you get all debate-y on my ass, yes, I realize much of this is because no one wants to pay $75 to fill up their cars at the gas pump. But I truly believe that "if" gas prices ever get back to any sort of reasonable amount, you'll find a minimal rise in gasoline consumption in the area. Yes, I have a car and no, I'm not getting rid of it because I own it and it'd be stupid to just flat out sell it. But it's 8 years old and has only 52,000 miles on it.

5) Stop buying water in bottles: I honestly don't know how we started the bad habit of buying cases of Crystal Geyser from Costco. Not only is it incredibly stupid to pay a premium for water, but our local tap water isn't so bad, either. After I got Mr. Glugger for Christmas (yes, he has a name, thanks to Mr. Na), we started filling him up with tap water and putting him in the fridge. There's something so refreshing about cold water from the fridge! Is that hysterical, or what?

There are other things I do (like wash our laundry in cold water and run a full load in the dishwasher, which, by the way is more efficient than hand washing) but I also know I should be adopting greener habits much more frequently. But I am human, and as such, I'm taking baby steps. Maybe, though, those steps will lead me into leaving a much smaller carbon footprint.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mr. Na and the Dalai Lama

Last Wednesday, Mr. Na – along with 14,999 fellow classmates from the school district – had the rare opportunity to see the Dalai Lama speak. The program, Seeds of Compassion, was part of a 5-day visit to Seattle that included lectures, workshops, and lots of kid-friendly activities. When I first learned of Mr. Na’s class trip, I wondered what sort of program would be offered to school-aged children that they’d be able to sit still through and—perhaps—take one or two things away from it. I mean, after all, he’s five and as such, has the memory of a gnat. But I had the opportunity of catching the program via webcast and it was an hour and a half filled with music, storytelling, laughter, and finally, His Holiness, whose presence moved the entire Key Arena to absolute silence. Not an easy feat to accomplish, when 99.9% of the audience was children. Yet, it was so.

I’ve seen His Holiness speak on a variety of television interviews and programs and found him to be quite jovial, despite the decades-long hardship in Tibet. And my comment comes from awe, not judgment, that he is a living example of his belief that the very purpose of our existence is happiness. He’s a man that, despite his presence, is overwhelmingly down-to-Earth to a point that it makes me often wonder why I fall prey to sweating over the small stuff in life. Wednesday's program was no exception. When His Holiness took the stage, after the hour-long music and words by various performers, he said, “Because of all of the programs this morning, my mind’s scattered, so I don’t know what to say!” He discussed the concept of compassion--though understanding alone is not enough--and urged parents and teachers to lead by example, incorporating compassion into our daily lives.

The Dalai Lama spoke about our interdependency and interconnectedness – and not just among humans, but within the entire universe and beyond. One “body” does not mean one absolute, but a variety which is all interconnected. And since the very purpose of our existence is happiness, everyone has the same right to it—though not everyone achieves it.

"Compassion begins with motherhood" was a common theme throughout the 5-day program. The Dalai Lama had a very special bond with his own mother, and claims that even with all of his training, his spirituality, and his lifelong commitment to compassion, it was his mother who set the example for him. This was discussed at length on the Friday before, when Ann Curry from NBC News and Dave Matthews hosted an informal Q&A with His Holiness prior to a concert given by Death Cab for Cutie and then Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds (you can catch that webcast of the Q&A session, too, if you click on the link above and scroll up to Friday, April 11, at 4:30, but the concert is not a part of the webcast).

When I picked him up at school on Wednesday, I asked Mr. Na what he learned during his visit to see the Dalai Lama. He told me that he learned how it was important to be kind to others--proof, indeed, that a seed or two of compassion has been planted for our future.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ukraine Bound, Part Two

For those of you keeping score, here's the latest news about our second adoption:

We started our paper chase last June, which involved hiring a social worker to prepare our homestudy, getting physicals, obtaining copies of our home deed, marriage license, etc...etc...

We had everything gathered, notarized, apostilled and sent to our translator in Ukraine in October--two days before the adoption center in Kiev closed its doors to adoption for four months. Isn't that always the way?

The adoption center re-opened in February and since all of our documents only had a six month "shelf life" we had to re-do them again, and send the new batch on to Ukraine.

Our documents were submitted to the adoption center by our translator last Tuesday.

We'll find out by the end of May if we've been approved and the date of our appointment in Kiev.

Our translator predicts our travel to be either at the end of July or in August (barring any closures).

If you know me and you've lived through project "Mr. Na", you know that the adoption process is full of uncertainty (that makes it so thrilling, don't you think?) We have no idea "who" we'll be adopting (by that I mean age, sex or health) or, for that matter, we have no idea if we'll be successful. All we know is that we're going on another journey, albeit this time, during the summer and not the winter (January was a little too cold to enjoy Kiev). The bonus is that we'll be taking Mr. Na, who will be an enormous source of comfort.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is that a Prius or a Pious you're driving?

The dogs and I were on one of our daily walks yesterday when a shitty little incident occurred that made me, for the first time in eleven years, hate the fucking hippie-turned-yuppies that live in our neighborhood.

As we were admiring the spring blossoms, each in our own special way, Oatmeal took a little tinkle on the median strip. Now, mind you, she's an old dog and she pees frequently, and when she does, she squats. And unless you're watching diligently, you might wonder whether or not she's pooping. Well anyway, once she was finished, we continued on our merry way, and right as we were about to cross the street, a man driving a gray Prius rounded the traffic circle. He stopped the car, rolled down the window and said,
"You know, most people clean up after their dogs."
I looked at him completely befuddled and replied,
"Oh, uh...she just...peed."
Failing to apologize for his poor judgment, the asswipe simply said, "Oh."
Unsatisfied with his lackluster response I said,
"For what it's worth, I do clean up after my dogs," to which he replied, "Ok."
At this point, he stopped making eye contact with me, but that just made me get closer to his car window so that I could hold up the poop bag container that has a roll of 35 ECO-FRIENDLY, BIODEGRADABLE POOP BAGS which are conveniently clipped to Scout's leash.
"Would you like to see my poop bags?" I proffered.
"No, I understand. Have a nice day," he said, and then he rolled up his window and drove away.
That was one of the moments when I wish I had one of those poop bags full of Oatmeal or Scoutie goodness. I would have loved to have chucked it right in the passenger seat.

I realize that there are the occasional assholes who do not clean up after their dogs, as evidenced by the random piles of dog shit that dot the median strips. But as a homeowner, law abiding citizen and someone who hates stepping in dog shit as much as the next person, I believe in cleaning up after my dogs. And yeah, sure, this guy didn't know me and probably figured I looked stupid enough to let my dogs crap in front of someone's house in broad daylight; but that's just the thing that gets my panties in a bunch. Mr. Dickwad loses mega points for assuming the worst in a fellow neighbor. All in the name of righteousness.

I was going to let this stupid thing go...chalk it up to randomness and call it a day, until this morning when the driver of a red Prius shot me a dirty look as he drove past and watched Oatie get up from her squat position.

ATTENTION PRIUS (MIDDLE-AGED MEN) DRIVERS OF OUR NEIGHBORHOOD: Back the fuck off. You may think you're stewards of all things green, but it's about time you got off your fucking high and mighty horses, ok?

Oh, and have a nice day!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ready, Steady...Neti?

When I moved to Seattle 11 years ago, I developed allergies I’d never had before. Assuming it was because of the constant dampness and moisture in the air, I figured it was moss or mold related; but what I discovered over my first year here was that my allergies were mostly seasonal: I would have an attack in the spring, then again in mid-summer, and finally in the fall. These attacks often came on like bad colds or the flu—I experienced body aches, sore throats, stuffy head and a bad cough. But because they came on during same time every year, I suspected they were allergies (I also never had a fever). Finally, I went to an allergist who ran a whole host of tests on my arm—poking me with samples of grasses, dog and cat dander, mold, oak--the whole shebang. And sure enough, I was allergic to grasses, dog and cat dander and oak—though, surprisingly, not mold.

The allergist told me not to let my dogs sleep in my bedroom (yeah, right!), to wear a mask when mowing the lawn or dusting the house, and he put me on some nasal sprays and told me that I could get away with just using Claritin or Sudafed as needed. He also said that if those things weren’t doing the trick, I could come back in for weekly shots, a thought which, I explained to him, did not interest me in the least. He then suggested I try nasal irrigation, which is something Pa had been doing for years (his allergies are far worse than mine). I explained to him that I had tried that a few times, the way Pa’s allergist had instructed him—a little salt mixed with baking soda in warm water, and using a bulb, snort the stuff up the nose, hold it there and then let it out—but all it did was make me choke and make me swallow lots of salty water, so I stopped, thinking it was a mild form of torture. But my allergist said to try just a simple nasal irrigation using a Neti pot, which is a fancy-looking pot that has a long spout used for stuffing up your schnozz. Armed with some instructions, I went to one of the gazillion naturopathic wellness stores Seattle has to offer and plunked down $15 for a pretty little ceramic Neti pot with a blue glaze. I bought some coarse sea salt from Trader Joes (the salt must be non-processed, non-iodized) and when I got home, I mixed a half a teaspoon with warm water filled to the rim of the Neti pot.

At first, it was a little tricky, but once the water started coming down out of the other nostril, it was easy to just relax. Nasal irrigation can be done using a bulb like the one Pa uses, but I discovered that Neti pots are a lot easier to use because you don’t have to squeeze the water up your nostril, you just pour the water while tilting your head and let gravity force it out the other side. Now I use the Neti pot every day, right after I brush my teeth in the morning, and after two months, I really do notice a difference. Once the cherry blossoms bloomed in my neighborhood a few weeks ago, I hunkered down in preparation for my spring seasonal allergy attack; but so far (knock on wood, but not red oak since that might trigger an allergy attack), nothing has happened except for one sinus headache. And I think—the next time I feel a sinus headache coming on—I might just try using the Neti pot twice a day to see if that’ll alleviate the pressure.

Though nasal irrigation using a Neti pot has been around, like, forever as an Ayurvedic treatment, it’s become popular as more and more medical papers are being published about the subject. Do a Google search on Neti pot or nasal irrigation and you’ll find family medicine websites that provide step-by-step instructions—even a demonstration video. The press has also grabbed hold of this technique—even Oprah’s own Dr. Oz has touted its efficacy.

I’m all for doing things the natural way—especially when I see immediate results, and I don’t have to pop a million horse-sized supplements to make me feel better. I really find that using the Neti pot has worked for me. It’s definitely alleviated any allergy symptoms I usually experience with every change of season. But this is as “gross” as it gets for me, and I assure you that you won’t see me singing the praises of a coffee enema any time soon.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Carpe Diem, Na Style

Last week, Mr. Na was off from school for Spring Break--a term I still associate with heavy drinking and practically falling off a house boat in Lake Havasu.

There was no partying going on here, but I have to say, it was actually a joy to have him around. He's gotten to the age when children have better control over their emotions, a high command of language, and attention spans longer than 5 minutes. So one day, we took a day trip to see the Tulips up north and had a picnic; the next day, we rode our bikes all the way to Green Lake, and had another picnic; we walked the dogs together; he practiced braking on his Razor; and we watched episodes of Discovery Kids Ultimate Guide to the Awesome--where we learned about dinosaurs, crocodiles, the sun, the human body, even spiders! And not once did I have to raise my voice or get into an argument with him over this or that.

No matter what we did or where we went, every so often, Na would exclaim, "I loooooooovvvvve picnics!" or "My mom is the greatest mom in the world!" or "I love my bike more than my scooter." or "I love my scooter more than my bike." And these affirmations were totally unprompted too. He would just blurt out his love for any one or any thing that was within his reach.

From what I've read, Na's behavior is not unique. Five year-old kids are, for the most part, in love with life. In fact, Louise Bates' book about five year-olds is titled "Sunny and Serene", which pretty much sums up their little personalities at this age. From the time that he wakes up in the morning, to the time he goes to bed at night, Mr. Na is one of the most pleasant human beings to be around. His healthy attitude puts mine to shame because, as anyone who's ever been around me in the morning can attest, I'm a total bitch. I have to thank Na, though, for his cheerful enthusiasm since it definitely rubs off, or, at least, makes the morning more bearable. I often wish adults could have the same optimistic, bright and chipper outlook on life. It'd certainly make the world a better place.

Sadly, though, Na is turning 6 in June and according to Louise Bates, he'll soon transition from "sunny and serene" to "loving and defiant." I don't want to hang my hat on the opinion of only one child development specialist, but I've read enough of Bates' books to know that she's not too far off from nailing a kid's personality at a given age. So while the "loving" part is something that seems to be a continuation of his current demeanor, I'm not looking forward to the "defiance" half of the label. This is especially vexing since, in her book, Bates describes how six year-olds shift from placing their moms in the center of their universe to laying blame on them for everything that goes wrong. It makes me wonder how well he'll deal with going to Ukraine to see his birthplace and to help us adopt a younger sibling. Ukraine's a tough place to be for an adult, let alone someone smaller and dependent on someone else to keep them occupied. But Pa and I both feel we'd be making a huge mistake in leaving him home, since, we feel, he's a major part of this family and as such, needs to be involved in this life-changing milestone we're about to experience. And hey, at least when he starts to fight with his younger brother or sister as siblings often do, and he blames me for making his life miserable, I can remind him that he was just as much a part of the decision-making process.

Having been with Na these last four years, I know that his behavioral shifts don't happen from the moment he has a birthday. It usually takes about six months to see his personality change, which means it'll happen some time during the fall or around the holidays; but I will definitely miss his daily declarations like, "That is the BEST peanut butter and jelly sandwich I've EVER had!" I've often thought about turning on the voice recorder on my phone, just so I can capture these sentiments, and play them back whenever we have bad days. Maybe then, we'll both try harder to move away from the storm clouds and, as one of my all-time favorite Chet Baker songs goes, "try to find the sunny side of life."