Blackberry Summer

15 Aug

Hank tapped at the front door and not sure if he really needed to go out or if he was just sulking because he didn’t get a taco I grabbed a couple of grocery bags just in case.  Outside he pulled to the left and kept on going, not bothering to look back and seek approval as he usually does.  They say you shouldn’t let your dog be in charge of the walk.  That’s probably good advice.  But tonight I didn’t mind, I was anxious to be outside and since when is your 150 pounder not in charge anyway.

This afternoon I asked my mom what the weather was doing out there.  She laughed and said it was only 88 and tomorrow only 90, “maybe fall is on the way.”  Our summer, while significantly cooler than that, seems to be just kicking into high gear.  Summer around here seems to ride in on the wheels of RV’s and hazy sunsets reaching full ripeness alongside the juicy berries that pop out to color the green.

Hank and I walked on enjoying the reprieve from the winds that blow relentlessly across the golf course for most of June and July.  It was not until we were headed back that I spotted a cluster of ripe blackberries.  I took one of the bags that was shoved into my pocket to grab a few.  But as berry pickers know, one cluster leads to another and another and before you know it, you are full on in a ditch filling up a Thriftway bag.

Blackberries are more temperamental and less forgiving than blueberries or strawberries.  You have to work a little more diligently.  Getting them means taking on the risk of a thorny vine hooking onto your jeans or snagging your shirt, getting a little scraped up is just part of it.

All of this impromptu berry picking had me thinking about seasons and what we associate with each one, images popping up of what we do and who we’re with, some things a constant and defining presence, others changing.  My idea of summer has evolved to include northwestern things now that I’m experiencing them a second time around.   The scrapes I’ve endured while acclimating myself here make this summer a little sweeter.

Once we were back home it didn’t take long for Abigail to catch on that those blackberries had come from right outside our door.  We headed out again; this time all four of us walking into our summer.

A summer that is always defined by each other, and is more recently defined by cobbler,  delicious blackberry cobbler.


Heat Wave

7 Aug

When a “Heat Advisory” for 80 degree weather is issued on a coast that rarely sees 70 you throw your to do list out of the window.  We did just that this weekend.  Living by the ocean really can be the best thing in the world and it’s even better when you wake up and have a day or two that feels like a vacation.

Our little beach town is so much different from the beaches I visited growing up.  The coastline is cut by dramatic cliffs, made only more so when the fog rolls in to wrap them up in a cloud of mystery.  But this weekend the wind slowed, the sun warmed, and the “bathing soup” came out for a glorious juxtaposition of the two kinds of beaches I love.

We pulled off 101 and made the short trek down to Moolack Beach eschewing the touristy crowds at our usual spots.  At this point allow me to make one strong recommendation for your bucket list.

Experience a beach that feels as if it’s all yours.

It’s paradise no matter the weather.

The one constant out here?  The Pacific waters where we are hover in the very crisp range of 50 and 55 degrees.  It’s wet suit mandatory kind of cold.  For me that means no water will be touching my toes.  Abigail, however, splashed until her little lips were quivering.

There was even more splashing when Olivia, Ollie, and Bella the beach dog showed up.

Thankfully this Coast Guard Helicopter was not going to rescue us or our potentially hypothermic daughter.

Thank you Coast Guard!

If that wasn’t enough of a treat, we took our weekend to hot fudge sundae proportions when a trip to the valley resulted in a get together with friends we are missing and new running shoes for me!

Wagon Rides, of course!

Guard dog, Ella.

Oh and we did some of this, too.

Is it Friday yet?

Abigail Do It!

5 Aug

My dad sent me an email last week after I wrote the Puzzling blog.  I had a few days of feeling off kilter.  My expectations were not matching up with what was going to realistically happen.  I shifted gears after reading what he wrote.  He was reminding me that it isn’t always about constantly entertaining your kids or shuttling them around to a million things.  It’s also good to just include them in that hum drum stuff that has to get done.

Trust me, Abigail will get just as much from following you as you will give her “following her”..  

We spent a lot of time doing regular stuff this week and as the days went on, “Abigail do it!” became our enthusiastic mantra.

It’s quicker and easier to just do it myself, but this week I opened up that reserve of patience that I forgot I had hanging around.  There were a few deep breath and jaw clenching moments but we made it through — and in the end?

I learned a lot about Abigail.

1.  When asked what she wants to wear?  It’ll be a toss up between something pink and a OSU “beebers” shirt.

2.  A pretty good fix for missing Nanny is making her blueberry scones.

3.  She takes her time writing thank you notes and decorating the envelopes.

4.  Abigail makes a mean PB&J dino toast.  After a few days of practice we served it up to a special breakfast guest who didn’t seem to mind pre-licked jelly.

“Oh you know I got some in the end.  I don’t practice my pathetic eyes for nothing!” – Hank

4.  If you thought she was good at vacuuming you should see her sweep.  (Don’t mind the mess.  We are spending most of our time making toast and sweeping a 1×1 square of carpet.)

5.  Even though she prefers her “gymnastics hair” I’m wondering if she’s destined to be my tiny dancer.

Mary Poppins wasn’t lying when she talked about the sugar making the medicine go down.  You bet we found some fun in the jobs to be done.

We’d like to thank our friend the step stool for making this week possible.

“Abigail doooooo it!” You sure can!  Go girl.



Olympic Gold

30 Jul

London Mug – a la TJ Maxx

We are crazy over the Olympics around here.  Our usually quiet TV has been kicked up a notch making an exception for the summer games.  I love the back stories of athletes overcoming financial, physical, and mental road blocks to become an elite few in their respective sports.  It’s fun learning about the host city 2-5 minutes at a time.  And the events, oh the events, we cheer, we cringe, we I even cry a little. Shocker!  Ryan and I have a tradition of staying up way too late watching the prime time coverage and this year is no different.  It was a fun, lazy weekend.  We let the athletes do most of the work but we managed to sneak in a few medal worthy moments ourselves.

Double Decker wind up bus — a la London

Hank took US gold in table begging, eye boogers, and drool.  We’re so proud.

We secured a team medal for reading but not before Abigail was questioned about possible foul play over jeans suddenly didn’t need rolling up any more.

Ryan shocked us all with his soft butter catch, landing himself on the podium despite slacking off during training.

Over at Playground Stadium Abigail captured the All Around Toddler Gold for near perfect scores on the see saw, monkey hang, and twisty slide.

Check out that focus before a second attempt at the twisty slide.

And me, well, I was just beyond ecstatic when I did my 3 mile trail run at a sub 10:00 mile pace.  It’s as strong as I’ve been since injuring my IT band last summer.  Sweet, sweet victory!

And did I mention Abigail wants to train for a spot on the 2016 vacuuming team in Rio?  Far be it from me to stand in the way of my kid’s dreams.


25 Jul

Many years ago I went to a math workshop with my friend Heather.  One of the things we created was a three dimensional puzzle by gluing different numbers of wooden cubes together in a very particular way.  When we were finished we had 6 or 7 separate pieces that if assembled just so would create a 3x3x3 cube.

Everyone started at the same time.  Heather, spatial guru, completed hers quickly.  One by one the rest of the class followed, except me, it was sort of embarrassing.  “Moving on,” the instructor announced.  I can’t remember what was covered after that because I wasn’t paying attention.  I was too busy trying to solve the cube puzzle.   As a former student who struggled in math I was deflated but determined to get it right.

I have these moments while at home with Abigail.  Moments were my mama mojo just disappears.  Poof!  All of a sudden I fumble and lose my confidence, just stuck.  I see the pieces.  I know they go together, but how?

I can be the mom on the go but things get hectic at home.  I can keep everything together at home but then I worry that if we miss story time my little clam will never open up in a group.  These expectations that I am setting for myself are too high, so when I don’t meet them I feel like I’ve failed.  The puzzle sits on the table untouched because I can’t figure it out right away.

I don’t want to lower my expectations of who I want to be as a mother, but I need to set more realistic goals.  Right now we are knee deep in potty training and rearranging nap schedules.  With a new nap time that falls at the same time as story time we just can’t make it.  It’s okay.  Instead, we go to the playground or ride bikes or sit on the potty 40 times a day, well, Abigail sits on the potty.  I just sleep with my eyes open.  It’s okay.

When the mama mojo is gone it’s not always helpful to look around and see wonderful and fantastic and great plastered all over Facebook.  It doesn’t help me to log onto Pinterest for just another organizing tip or homemade play-doh recipe that I won’t have time to make.  I do get on though because it’s fun to be connected, to celebrate each other, to dream about what we might do given an extra hour or two every day.  But it’s also okay to just be okay, to be in a process of figuring it out.

I need to be patient with myself.  I need to view our little successes as just as important as our big ones.  I need to remember that Abigail and I have a great time when it’s just the two of us and there will be years upon years of activities to open up her little clam shell.

I don’t think the mama mojo really disappears, it just gets bogged down.  I know it’s time to reprioritize, slow down, and breathe.

I finally figured out that 3x3x3 puzzle, you know.  I stopped caring that I was the only one still working on it.  I did it in my own time and I was damn proud when I finished.  It stayed on my teacher bookshelf for a long time.  I worried that I’d forget how it went together.  A student asked me what it was one day and I took it down and handed it to him.  “Why don’t you see for yourself…” I said handing it to him.  That puzzle got taken apart and put back together a lot that year, little hands finally wearing down the glue that held the blocks together.  But that’s okay.  There are always new puzzles worth taking the time to figure out.

**A few months ago tons of articles were circulating on social media sites about putting down the iPhone and being a more present parent.  Thanks to this blog for the inspiration for our “iPhone fish.”  We’re trying to fatten him up by feeding him daily and often.

Penchant for Pink

20 Jul

Hank’s dog collar was on the verge of breaking. We had to run out this morning to get milk from the store so we stopped by the pet store first.

“We need to get a collar for Hanky. Should we get blue, orange, or green?” I asked holding out the three choices.


“Well, I don’t know if Hank wants a pink collar. How about red?”

“No pink.”

We perused the collars for the next few minutes, Abigail clutching a pink collar suited for a chihuahua.

“What about this one with blue AND green?”

“No! Pink pink!”

“Skull and crossbones?”


“Here’s a spikey one!”

Abigail begins to do the toddler knee bend cueing up the onset of a tantrum…

“NOOOOOOOO!” And higher pitched, “PIIIIIINK Hank pink one!”

So a whopping $8 later we were headed home with a hot pink collar in tow.

Parenting lesson #6,289: If you care about what kind of collar your dog is going to wear, don’t take a 2 year old with a penchant for pink.

Me? I didn’t really care. Learning to take turns? Sitting at the table for a family meal? Brushing your teeth before bed? Buckling up in the car? Those are battles worth the fight.

“Here Hank! Here’s your college!” she ran in proud as can be to show him.

All that mattered to Hank was that he got a new nylabone. Newfoundland “colleges” don’t really make much of a statement anyway as they are covered up with floofy hair.

“Real men wear pink…or so they tell me.” Hank

It’s Complicated

15 Jul

A toddler is complex, wanting security and independence sometimes simultaneously. It can be exhausting. It can be exasperating. It can be exciting. And just as I find my daughter to fit the “complex” description of a toddler I know that my feelings lately are just as complicated. There are times when I look at her and get wistful because she is not a baby anymore. But there are other times that I see a new relationship growing, and it is so exciting I find myself looking forward to the changes I know are coming.

I’ve mentioned a few times (or an excruciating amount to a select few) how hard it has been to get Abigail to go to sleep at night — even with a calm and predictable bedtime routine and consistent timing and all that jazz. So we lay down with her a lot. “Mama stay. Daddy cuddle.” Some people would say maybe that is our problem. We should just leave her up there to go to sleep on her own, but I just can’t. For Abigail it means adventuring around her room or standing at the top of the stairs bawling her eyes out. So we lay. It’s not a perfect solution, but it makes the happiest home for us.

There are many nights that I lay up there and think, “Please. Just. Go. To. Sleep…” There are other nights that I’m asleep well before she is, and when I wake up an hour has passed and my contacts are dry, blurry, and suctioned to my eyes. Many nights it’s Ryan who stays up there and falls victim to the unintended bedtime. Sometimes we get lucky and she’s asleep in a couple of minutes. At this point it’s a crapshoot.

She’s sick tonight with coughing and congestion. I sang her our special song and when I finished she was so still I wondered if she had drifted off at last. A few minutes went by and she sat up and started talking:

Play trains at E’s house. E’s clock octagon. Lolo’s clock broken. BB’s hat and orange tractor. Watch swimming races. Kids swimming fun! Kids put on black bathing suits and hats. Fun LoLo’s house. Pop’s garden pick cucumber. Bridge. Walk bridge. Pet Molly. Shh! Molly’s sleeping. Nanny and Gramps come, fun. Drive red car. Play outside. LoLo’s red car. Pop’s be right back – pizza party! Fun Emmy. Emmy watch BB tractor. Put sunscreen on. Guy door, play ball again. Walk stroller in rain…Go back E’s tomorrow.  Play trains. Go back LoLo, Pops.

It was a running monologue of our trip to Virginia in unbelievable detail. For once I didn’t care that it was 8:37 and she wasn’t asleep. I wanted to keep whispering with her about the sweet memories we shared. My heart leapt as I realized how much she remembered, how vivid it still was to her. She said she wanted to go back and we talked about how we would — but not tomorrow or even very soon. And that’s okay, the missing something.

I don’t claim to have all of the parenting answers. I don’t.  Exhibit A:  Our bedtime situation. Every day we face new challenges. We evolve to meet the needs of Abigail and each other and our family. I could tell you what worked for me today and low and behold tomorrow it would be proven ineffective against the resolve of our determined two year old.

But I do know this. If I had not been laying with Abigail tonight I may have never known what was on her mind. So I’m glad I stayed. Maybe one day the staying will mean I get to learn a funny thing that happened at school or something she’s worried about or a problem she’s having. Maybe I’ll get to hear about her wishes or what she wants her future to be like.

I’m happy we’ve turned the corner into toddlerhood — into this world of give and take, big battles, and little conversations. There is a lot left to be celebrated. I am still very much in awe of this unique soul that belongs with us. I feel like I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of all she is becoming and all she is destined to be.