Monday, January 25, 2010

The Cool Grand Coulee

By the end of January, the winter blahs have usually migrated and fashioned their little birdhouses in my soul for the remainder of the season. This year, however, I haven't experienced any of the typical soul coughing of the pesky Seasonal Affect nesting materials. I believe two major factors have contributed to this blahlessness. First of all, the little boy, El NiƱo-Southern Oscillation, has been brandishing his stick and warding off any frigid invaders as only a little boy knows how to do. We have had a laughable amount of snow, leaving an ironic aftertaste in the mouths of the school officials who decided to stash a week of snow days into the calendar this year. I don't remember another Spokane winter in which the blue skies have come even close to outnumbering the grey.

Secondly, and I think the more influential reason that my Affect is not in Disorder, is the Sherlock Holmes behavior of my husband, who has refused to allow us to be locked in our home, by sniffing out fun family day trips that are far from the rutted paths of routine winter hibernation. This past Saturday, he discovered a remarkable canyon about 100 miles Northwest of Spokane located near Grand Coulee Dam.

The clouds were moody today and changed their disposition multiple times
We invited along the Jones family because, in regards to adventure, they are equally as appreciative

There were so many luring rock piles, abandoned houses, cliffs, barbed wire fences, ice patches, and catapult worthy stones that we could barely keep up with darting and potentially life-threatening excitement of the three younger kids.
Somehow Ansel can move a million times faster when he with buddies.
Yeah, we were looking their backsides most of the day. Having too much fun to look at a dumb camera.
Emmy hurt her foot jumping around on the rocks before all of us had even exited the vehicles. She was not a happy hiker, mostly because she was painfully aware of all the things that she could be climbing if she wasn't in so much pain.

Corey found a few acres of garbage and dove right in to fetch me some old glass bottles.
Millions of years ago, this area boasted a 6 mile long waterfall that would make Niagra falls look like a raindrop.

The clouds were giggling at one point

A unforgettable day reminding us of the incredible state in which we live.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Taking Refuge from this wild life at the Wildlife Refuge

I typically have the art of living with the unacceptable completely mastered. I can read an article about children in India finding their food in the fly-infested garbage dumps, have a good cry, and then appallingly fret about my daily dilemma of cooking a well-balanced meal for my family that they won't hide in their napkins.

I rationalize my turning away from injustice and pain by arguing that the best thing I can do to change the world is by making my home a haven and volunteering in the schools. I simply move my thoughts to the shallow end of the pool, where I know they can't drowned me or leave me stranded in panicked paralysis between the hours of 10pm and 7am.....those hours in bed when I can't dull the anxiety buzz with busy work. During those hours, I can worry endlessly about the quality of my kitty litter. Imagine what happens to me when I start think about real issues.

I can rationalize my unhefty constitution by the declaration that I tend to be a person who is overly passionate. Rather than have an objective, coherent conversation about the abhorrent practice of sex trafficking, I could more easily start punching holes in a Humvee with my fist. I have written many letters to politicians, pleading for action. I have gone door to door for signatures in support of stricter sex offender legislation. And then I grow weary or numb or lazy or selfish or all of the above and forget my measly pushes for world evolution.

This week, I couldn't bear to paddle into the shallow water. It didn't seem fair. I couldn't stop watching the news coverage of Haiti. I felt guilty every time I turned away. I couldn't clean my bathrooms. I was disgusted by the fact that I have more than one bathroom. The kids were making me so angry with their petty fighting about who got to sit by the cat or who got the extra piece of gum. Ansel crossed into dangerous territory when he told me that I was a bad mother for letting all the batteries in his toys die (It sounds funny as I am writing this, but it was not amusing at the time). I wanted to shake them and yell, "Please, Please, Please just be grateful that you are not trapped under a concrete wall praying that someone will find you, or at least that you will be granted the mercy of a quicker, less painful death." This anger led to more guilt about me not being the one trying to find a suitable place to bury my children. I felt like such a jerk just for the mere fact I have a house and a healthy family. And then I felt like a jerk for not appreciating what I have. At the same time, I just wanted to build a fort and play checkers with the kids all day.

I was a mess and I think I freaked the kids out a few times.

I didn't know if I should let the kids see the things that I was seeing on the news...the broken bodies and the frantic mothers. And should I be protecting them from this atrocity? One minute I wanted them to feel what I was feeling, so that we could all be human together. The next minute, I wanted so desperately to protect them from this pain of feeling helpless and small. I just didn't know. I just don't know. What can I do? The only solace I had was that I felt that my suffering and sadness might in some way help those people in Haiti feel less alone and forsaken..that I can mourn with those that mourn.....even from thousands of miles away. But that sounds like a bit of a cop out as well. And the answer I keep hearing is to send money...that is all we can do right now....send money. OK. But there has got to be something we are missing....I don't want to ever teach my children that the click of a "donate now" button can wash our guilt away and banish our soul desire for inner and outer evolution.

I think about Josef Rilke who said that it's the questions that move us, not the answers. I need to stop fearing the questions.

I had to escape my emotional prison in which I was trapped. I packed up the kids, some snacks, binoculars, and notebooks, and we headed to the Turnbull Wildlife Refuge. Nature NEVER fails me.

I had them log any form or sign of animal life. Hiking is more bearable if we can make a game of it. They wanted to know if scat counted. I didn't see why not, as it is proof of a living thing in the vicinity. They tally a few birds, but the majority of the tallies are from poop. Sometimes life is just a pile of poop. Get used to it, kids.
Savanna found the beauty in the reindeer moss and began to gather it in handfuls. It is now in a bowl in our dining room.
Emmy, as usual, can't resist climbing anything climbable
Ansel wants to follow Emmy and realizes that it is a little high for him
Emmy ran over and allowed Ansel to wrap his arms around her eyes, mouth, and neck. She lovingly carried him to safety.

I love this world, in all its poop and beauty. I will try to be aware. I will try to not fear. I will continue to ask how I can help carry others....even if the questions don't have immediate answers.
I will try not to post after midnight when I am in an emotional state.
It isn't pretty.
Should I push Publish?
What the heck.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Hot Monday Date In the Cold

Today happened to be one of just a fistful of days in which Corey wasn't working parallel to the hours when the kids are at school and or at friends. We have been known to squander these rare moments by responsibly sipping from our bland cups of errand-running and household maintenance. Today, however, we extracted every bit of the pulp, juice, and zest from the fruit of life, filled our mugs and gulped down every last drop.

We snowshoed to the peak of Mt. Spokane, amidst a light drizzling rain and temperatures much too warm for January
We reached the top. The rain stopped and the clouds began to be inhaled in a way in which the earth seemed to be swallowing itself. I felt as if I may be the next one to be sucked up into its mouth....and I was totally ok with it.
The windy and cold conditions at the top of Mt. Spokane allow for the these surreal relationships between the snow and the trees. We were suddenly on the planet Hoth and I kept expecting a Tauntaun to crawl out from behind one of these sculptures.

This one almost frightened me in a beautiful sort of way. It looked like a fellow snowshoer that didn't go down the mountain soon enough.

The sun had been revealed completely, but the cold wind was winning the battle for my ears and fingertips. We sought our thaw at a lower elevation and serendipitously found ourselves in the midst of a mist of the ice frosted needles of the conifers beginning to perspire. The interaction of the mist and the sun as we walked through the halls of trees was picturesque. The earth was now exhaling in warm steamy breaths. My camera battery was dead, with a bit of relief, as I knew I was not capable of properly capturing the scene.
We stopped for lunch at this Spokane landmark which made an appearance in Benny and June, the Johnny Depp film made her in the 90's. We have had many intentions of dining here, but needed a day like today to make us stop. It is nice to be on a date with someone with whom you feel comfortable enough to order a grilled onion sandwich. It is also nice when your waiter chats with the older gentlemen at the next table about their latest fishing excursions and about how their uncle Jed is doing. It was evident that the Milk Bottles brief brush with fame didn't harm its humble hometown charm.
We perused a few antique stores that we have passed thousands of times and also needed a day like today to finally break the entering barrier. We found and purchased this vase, which will always remind me of this magical day. I knew it was truly magical when I actually was successful in my baking endeavors.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Old Man who almost took out his Kindergarten Class with his cane

Every year before winter break, the kindergarten classes at Wilson Elementary perform their personalized renditions of The Gingerbread Boy or Girl. Each class member is able to dress up as his or her favorite animal, mineral, or superhero, and one by one, join the chain of gingerbread chasers, running laps around the audience. If you are the old man or woman, you must do all 22-25 laps, depending upon the size of the class. If you are the fox, you only get to do one lap, but reap the reward of cleverly devouring the gingerperson.

7 years ago, Savanna was chosen to be the old woman who cooked up the Gingerbread Boy. 5 years ago, Emmy was a lamb who unsuccessfully chased the Gingerbread Boy 'on the lam' in circles around the gymnasium. This year, Ansel was the old man, the intended recipient of the delicious gingerbread girl lovingly baked by his wife.

Since Ansel was one of the first to start the laps, he had 22 laps to run. I could tell during the first lap that his cane was going to be a problem. Of course, he couldn't run with it dragging on the ground. Of course, he had to thrust it out in front of him swinging it in a sword like gladiator fashion, threatening the lives of his classmates, their families, and a multitude of cameras. I didn't manage to catch any photos of this looming disaster due to the fact that I was covering my eyes, praying for everyone to be spared the carnage of the cane. Luckily, his costume was so fantastic that I don't think anyone knew who he was. And when your child is running with a cane outstretched before him in a large crowd of people, it is a nice bonus when he is dressed in a disguise that renders him unrecognizable in a lineup. After the 15th lap, I did make the decision to confiscate the cane. Everyone made it home unscathed.....except the gingerbread girl, who was not bludgeoned by my son, but eaten by the fox.

this was after I confiscated his cane. The looks of terror and horror on the faces have turned to smiles of relief
Ansel patiently waiting to come onstage. He looks so innocent.

And yes, I am about three weeks behind in my blogging

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ode to a December Birthday

The day I gave birth to Emmy, in December of 1999, an abnormal amount of women were simultaneously giving birth to their attempted millennial babies (I promise that we weren't trying to win that lottery), leaving no room for me in the maternity ward. I, along with the other unfortunate overflow mothers, was crammed into a non-obstetric room on another floor of the hospital.. My roommate was a woman who had just given birth to her 4th fatherless child and who happened to be suffering from a hacking cough that woke me or Emmy anytime either of us drifted off for moments of precious post womb-eviction sleep. I don't remember feeling any empathy for the "sensitive" pain she must have felt each time she coughed. It probably was because she didn't speak in any other tone other than yelling and continually made it clear that she was more anxious to cradle a cigarette than her new baby.

Unfortunately, this experience was a sign of many December 18th birthdays to come. On Emmy's first birthday, I thoughtlessly scheduled her 12 month dose of 5 vaccinations. Emmy, in all her good nature, tried her best to celebrate. Alas, she was stricken with a shot-induced fever and whimpered every time she moved her poor needle poked swollen legs. At least we gave her a cheerful yellow balloon to accompany her woeful wobbling during her birthday party.

Each year, Emmy's birthday has been stuffed in the slim available crevices that rarely exist in the crazy month of December. Last year, her birthday party was cancelled due to snow...twice. And this year, her birthday treat had to be sent to school two days early so as to avoid conflicting with other holiday celebrations. She didn't even bother to ask for a friend party, maybe because her birthday was sandwiched between Ansel's school gingerbread play, a church party, and a Christmas party at a friend's house.

We NEVER wrap her gifts in Christmas paper. We always make sure she isn't gypped in the gift department on Christmas, and we do our best as parents to make her feel that this day is one of our most favoritest days in the world. Still, I occasionally wish that darn stork had come a few weeks earlier....or later. Then maybe we would have won the free diapers for a year.

Emmy does not like being the center of attention. I wouldn't be surprised if she was grateful that December steals a big portion of her thunder.

This 88 cent gift offered hours of fun for everyone. I love this toxic stuff.
This book will not be released in the U.S. until May. In an effort to truly surprise and delight her, I paid more money to ship the book from England than I paid for the book.

These little animals were all that Emmy put on her birthday list. She has quite a few sets of different animal babies on her shelf and has had to move them a few times from the clutches of our kitten, who, possibly out of jealousy, likes to swat them under the piano and other impossible to reach places. I must admit that these little animals make me want to make a call to Mr. Stork again.

Emmy's namesake is Ralph Waldo Emerson. She may actually come to appreciate this someday. He said, "The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year." I hope Emmy knows in each and every common moment that she is a miracle and that each and every day in which she is in our life, is our best day.