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Thursday, March 27, 2008

I have found my dream job. Finally! People willing to pay for the immense skill I have to offer! Granted this dream job will only take place once (tomorrow afternoon for four hours), but still…Listen to this one: I will get paid (a good sum of money, I might add) to talk (yes, ME! Talk! For four hours!!) about…wait for it…food! All I need to do is talk and share my opinion about food – specifically “snacks” for four hours. Not only can I do that, but I’d LOVE to do that.

Let me explain. A couple of years, I received a call from Consumer Opinion Services. They were having a group discussion/survey on hospitals in the area. It was maybe a two hour commitment, one evening, and paid $50 cash. I loved it, and of course, I had a lot of opinions on the hospitals in the area (though this was even before I lived at one for nearly two months). The group discussion was kind of like my first ever Caucusing experience this year – I really like the opportunity to sit down with a slice of humanity and see what peeps out there are like.

So, I received a phone call a couple of days ago asking if I’d take a brief survey on snacks as there was going to be a study in our area. The boys were napping and, well, let’s face it – I enjoy talking and I enjoy food. The first question was “Please answer yes if you eat any of these foods for snack: cheese, fruit, nuts, dried fruit, yogurt, crackers, chips, cookies, candy…” Unfortunately my answer was yes to everything. (We apparently eat a lot). I did try to defend my last couple answers: Cookies? Um, occasionally. Candy? Every once in a while. [Except pretty much all day long today because I’m sacrificing myself for my family and polishing off the last of the Easter candy, so that they don’t have to consume that unhealthy garbage.] Then the question was, “Do you do most of the grocery shopping for your family?” “In the last twelve months have you bought any of these…Doritos? Sun Chips? Pringles? Etc. Then “what flavors of those did you buy?” “How many times did you purchase those?” “Do you remember what the package looked like…?” And my personal favorite, “Just for fun: if you could be any person, place or thing what would you be and why?” Huh? And you’re going to pay me to answer fun questions? Seriously?

At the end of the phone survey I was informed by my new biggest-fan that I was PERFECT for the study. She really was so pro-me it was a little odd. I even heard her say to the phone interviewers around her, “Yeah. I got her! She’s great!” Now am I great because I like food?? I think I hooked her with my ability to clearly describe the one bag of chips that I do buy frequently – Flat Earth’s “baked harvest cheddar veggie chips…with ½ serving of real vegetables in every ounce!” (Feeding your kids chips that are advertised as something remotely healthy, takes some of the mom guilt off your shoulders).

My new BFF informed me of the requirements for this little brief employment: it’s an in-home study, they come to me! I will need to block off 12:30-4:30pm tomorrow afternoon (and therefore, the boys must be supervised by someone else. Mike is so pumped about the money that he’s going to come home from work to chill with the boys). The interview will include a question and answer session, a tour of my pantry (which just sounds, well, a little dirty!), and then a trip down to the grocery store. There will be two interviewers and a VIDEOGRAPHER to record the whole thing!!! My question was: is this really a shot at my own reality TV show? I can just see the camera guy following me around at Safeway while I peruse the shelves, telling them what catches my eye. It’ll be like having the paparazzi following me around! I feel like Britney but sane! (In the end, I found out that, sadly no, the camera won’t record the field trip to Safeway. Oh well, no extra stares from the neighbors, I guess. Though it might be enough to be followed at the grocery store with three people with clipboards recording my every word).

The other fun part of this process is that I’m getting paid to make a first grade art project. I’m to make a small poster board display of “food and how it makes me feel…what is your dream snack? What would your dream snack do for you? How would it make you feel?” I’ve been promised that everyone gets an “A” – there’s no way to fail this project (unless it’s not completed). And that the “more creative, the more you tell us about yourself, the better.” Is this a joke? I can hang a Diet Pepsi can off of it, include a dark chocolate wrapper, and maybe include some healthier stuff too. Is this Hidden Camera or something?

I completed the art project last night, and I’m pleased to say that it’s quite high quality. Maybe even more of a fifth grade level than first!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter! Let’s celebrate with some recent anecdotes from the Tribe Martin.

Matthew and I have been spending a lot of time “farming” here on the homestead. The definition of “farming” on the Martin land is this: we move piles of rocky, hard weedy dirt around; we use paver stones to form two beds next to the garage; we hope to eventually stick some stuff in the ground that will later grow into something remotely related to fruit or vegetable that we can eat.

Our afternoons farming are always interrupted once or twice by the shrill girly-scream of my four-year-old son. This means he has either unearthed a worm or spider. Yesterday, the insect interloper caused such an uproar that shovels had to be put down and we (Matthew and I, not me and the bug) had to have a heart-to-heart.

“Matthew,” I said, “I don’t like spiders either.”

“Really?” Matthew asked incredulously.

“Yep. When I was little, I always made Uncle Chris kill them for me, and eventually I slept with a baseball bat in my room to protect myself…not that they could do anything ‘cuz we’re a lot bigger than they are, huh? But it just made me feel better. Now, if Daddy’s home and I find a spider in the house, I have him kill it. But if he’s not home, I have to be brave and kill it.” [or pretend that I didn’t see it and vacate the house with the children as quickly as possible for a spontaneous – but necessary – errand].

“I’ll have daddy kill spiders too,” Matthew informs me.

“OK, but what about when you’re a grown-up, and if you’re the daddy? Then will you kill it?” I inquire.

“No. I’ll have the mommy do it. My wife will like spiders and always kill them for me.”

Good luck with that, future daughter-in-law of mine.

After post-farming clean-up yesterday, we went out do dinner. Zachary had earned all of his “coins” (poker chips that are placed in an empty deli meat container in order to bribe our children to be good little people). I didn’t have any cheap, crappy toys to give him as a prize, so we decided to head to one of those family-friendly places as a treat. The choice? Billy McHale’s. Let me tell you, a train driving around a track suspended from the ceiling is almost as cool as Disneyland.

But perhaps even better than the train was the Jack. By some act of God, we were seated on the other side of the wall-partition from a family with a five-year-old named Jack. Matthew and Jack had a perfect little window in which they could swap facts. The conversation – to the best of my memory’s ability, went something like this:

Jack: “Hey, watch for the train. I’m five. Where do you live?”
Matthew: “In the white and black house.”
J: (laughing) “No WHERE do you live?”
M: “Washington.” [Mommy: “Newcastle, Matthew. We live in Newcastle”]. “Newcastle, we live in Newcastle.”
J: “We live in Covington.”
M: “Mom! They live in the same town as us!”
ME: “Matthew, Covington is no where near Newcastle.”
J: “My name is Jack.” [Matthew grins from ear-to-ear. One of his best buddies is named Jack! And he has a cousin named Jack – who Matthew adores even though they only met once, last summer. Oh, what luck! We know how great Jacks are].
M: “My name is Matthew [pronounced “Maffew”], and John Deeres and fire trucks are my favorite.”
J: “I like tractors.”
M: “My favorites are John Deeres.”
J: “I like hay balers.”
M: (hardly able to contain his excitement) “John Deeres have hay balers!”
J: “How old are you?”
M: “Four. Green is my favorite color.”
J: “My favorite is red.”
M: “MY favorite is red…and green. I like red AND green.”
J: “So, Matt, [Mommy cringes -- I'm so not ready for my Matthew to turn into a Matt] do you want to be my best friend?”
M: “Oh, sure!”
J: “Draw me a map to your house.”
M: [Drawing lines on the back of the Kids’ Menu] “OK, you go this way, then this way, then go here, then this way to our house!” [drawing a square-ish shape at the end of the squiggly lines].
J: “My grandma and grandpa live in Ellensburg…on a farm.”
M: “Can I have a map?”

In purple crayon, Jack’s dad (who we haven’t actually seen due to the various Billy McHale’s props hanging in our way, but we assume he has parents over there), draws us a map that includes a few road names off of the Interstate with an X marking “Spark’s Farm.” I think, if we were really dedicated stalkers, we could actually show up at the farm. It’s a much more detailed map than Matthew’s, that’s for sure. And how great that Matthew’s new best friend has grandparents with a farm! You know how much we love John Deeres in this house.

Eventually food arrives and Matthew and Jack’s conversation becomes more sporadic as they focus on eating mac ‘n cheese or chicken tenders or some other fried food substance. At some point during dinner, two peanut M & M’s are passed from Jack to Matthew. They happen to be red and green, perfectly corresponding with Matthew’s recently declared favorite colors. Jack’s mom says something (still can’t see her either) and Jack says, “You can have that one when you finish your dinner.” Matthew – always Mr. Polite – thanks his new best bud. Finally, Jack’s peoples have concluded their meal (they were there before us, after all). Jack bids his new best friend farewell. When his parental units surface above the restaurant paraphernalia I wave to his dad and say, “OK, we’ll see you in Ellensburg!” Smiling, he responds, “Everyone is always welcome at the Spark’s Farm.” Sweet! We’ll consider that our standing invitation.

How funny would that be if we showed up – with our purple crayon-drawn map?! “Yes, hello. You don’t know us but we met your grandson Jack at Billy McHale’s and well, he’s our son’s best friend, we were given this map, so…which room is ours?!” There’s a part of me that REALLY wants to do it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Zach is all about the pronunciation. For an almost-two-year-old, the boy’s got serious vocab-skills. I feel like he kind of skipped over that baby talk thing. (I suppose I could read back through my Blog and find actual documentation of this…or discover that I’ve already written on this topic…or find that I often quoted his ‘baby talking’ proving that I’m a big fat liar, but we’ll just move forward). He’s also pretty big into repeating EVERYTHING we say…and everything that Matthew says. Unfortunately, Matthew occasionally gets into that four-year-old boy potty/body talk thing that drives everyone within hearing up the wall. You’ll say something like, “OK, time for bed.” And you’ll get the response of, “OK, time for my bum.” (Which, it turns out, if you’re four, and a boy, is the most clever and funniest thing imaginable!).

Today, I was giving Matthew a hard time because he was in my facial cheek vicinity – I expected him to give me a nice little sonly kiss but instead he snorted out his nose onto my face. “Matthew!” I cried. “No! You weren’t supposed to snort! You’re supposed to kiss my cheek.” Matthew – under his breath, the cheeky little booger – muttered something that I couldn’t quite catch. Zachary, however did. And he proudly shouted, “kiss my bum!” Yeah, not cool, Matthew. Not cool.

So, as I said, Zach has extraordinary pronunciation...with the exception of one word: yogurt. Really, when you think about it, yogurt is a peculiar sounding word; especially the gurt part. In French, it’s even better: yaourt. (Pronounce: yow-urt). Zach’s yogurt pronunciation is best of all: GA-HONK. It’s quite catchy too. Matthew has even started asking for ga-honk. I don’t think that’s the direction we’d like to go, but it is kinda funny. So, go enjoy some ga-honk today!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Today marks an anniversary for me: two years ago today, I checked into Overlake Hospital, 28 weeks pregnant with Zachary. I didn’t leave until after his birthday – April 28th. It’s weird to think about the dates right now: today is March 12. Doesn’t April 28th, the END of April, seem a LONG ways away??! Let me tell ya: it seems even longer when you’re lying in bed the whole time. Thinking about my bedrest stay at Spa Overlake is a good reminder to be thankful for the little things (and the bigger things). I went for a 5-6 mile run this morning! What a difference compare to my March 12th morning two years ago. I can get up and use my own bathroom! (Hooray for privacy…and toilets). I have Replay TV and call-waiting on the phone. I can sleep through the night (when the boys let me) without having to wake up for a vitals check or shot in the arm and waddle to the potty. I’m self-sufficient (I can get my own graham crackers, thank you very much). I get to sleep in my own bed, and I can wear “regular” clothes with stretchiness as an option not a necessity. I no longer watch the morning news or catch depressing bits of daytime TV. (I do miss watching Ellen Degeneres though). Most importantly, I’m thankful to be home – in my house with my boys. No one else has to take care of them because I am totally and thoroughly capable (although half the time I’m still secretly hoping Super Nanny will swoop in for some guidance and assistance).

This time of year also marks another anniversary. It was almost a year ago (about a month after daylight savings), that Andrea and I started running together at 6am, three mornings a week. And let me tell you: daylight savings stinks. I apparently don’t handle change well. I just can’t let go. I’m still saying things like, “yeah, it’s six o’clock, but it’s REALLY five.” And “I should get to bed, but in old school, REAL time, it’s only 9:30.” You can’t reset your kids, so they really keep you tied to the old time. I miss it. I miss when 6am was 6am. Now 6am is really 5am, and that’s just lame. Who’s idea was this anyway?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mike and I flew to Boise, Idaho for the weekend. Not just for kicks but for an Engaged Encounter Unit Board Meeting which, really, is nothing but kicks. They are so much fun! We stayed with a wonderful family who wined us and dined us, and we had a marvelous time with all of our Unit Board friends.

I must admit that I’ve been looking forward to the weekend for a while – not because of the ditching kids factor – but because of the airport. While I don’t love flying (I’m OK with it), I’ve really gotten to love the airport experience. I really think that I could spend hours in an airport (and have). I love to study others and in my opinion, next to Costco, the airport is one of the best places to pursue my passion for people-watching. At one point, while we waited to board our plane to come home from Boise, I made Mike move seats two or three times to locate the best possible vantage point. (I’m sure the fellow people-watchers were fascinated by our relocation process; they were trying to figure us out). That’s one of the best parts of people-watching: trying to unriddle their story, who they are, where they’re going or coming from, and (my personal favorite) why they selected that outfit for their traveling attire. You see everything at the airports these days: from heels and suits to pajamas and Uggs (really expensive, comfy cloggy-slipper-type boots, for those of you lacking knowledge in the current fashion trends). I was most fascinated by the head-to-toe white linen suit Man. The only splash of color decorating him was a bright yellow scarf wrapped around his neck. He happened to sit right by us and was reading what looked to be an essay or report on Yoga/Meditation. (Yes, my people-watching skills do occasionally turn into glancing at other peoples’ reading materials).

While Yoga/Meditation Guru Man made me happy, I was also fascinated – and slightly disturbed – by WAY Inappropriately Too Tight EVERYTHING Man. On Friday, we flew with WITTEM and his wife to Boise. On Sunday evening, we had the pleasure (OK, displeasure) of flying back to Seattle with Wittem and Mrs. Wittem. Friday’s ensemble was a skin-tight blue t-shirt, tucked into skin-tight black Levis, cowboy boots, cowboy hat, and puffy white vest (that was too tight to fully snap shut). I was disappointed to see that Wittem’s outfit on Friday was not an accident – I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt – but when the Wittems arrived on Sunday evening, I discovered, no, this is just the look this man goes for. For Sunday’s travel, Wittem selected a long sleeve, skin tight SHEER t-shirt, underneath white puffy vest (too small to snap closed), showing-it-all too-tight Levis, and white cowboy hat and black boots. Mrs. Wittem, however, always appeared perfectly normalized and acceptable in her attire selections. I just don’t get it. I must admit that I was assuming the Wittems were from a more rural locale – such as Idaho – and that on Friday, we were flying them home. However, seeing them return to Seattle like us, really threw me for a loop. Are they from here? I have a hard time seeing Wittem blend in with either the (stereotypes here): Yuppies of Bellevue or Urban Granolites of Seattle.

While we partied in Boise, the boys spent the weekend with the Buckley and had a marvelous time. On Saturday morning, my parents took them to their friends’ son’s farm. You can imagine the excitement. (Grandma’s….the boys were a little hesitant at first). When I spoke to Matthew on the phone later that afternoon, he said, “Mommy! I got to steer the John Deere. And I got to scoop up horse poo!” Wow, highlight of his weekend, I’m sure.

So, the Martins are all reunited again in Newcastle – undergoing the stress of daylight savings (you can’t reset your kids’ clocks) and sickness. Zach had a bit of a fever and cough for my parents this weekend (sorry, Grandparental Units!) and Matthew started the cough and fever last night. Being forced to stay home is actually a good thing. Yesterday, there was so much laundry to do, that I had the boys help me with one of their favorite household chores. We call it LAUNDRY AVALANCHE!!! The boys sit on the stairs, and I proceed to dump hamper loads of laundry on them. They ride down the stairs while butt-surfing on a wave of dirty clothes. Once all the laundry is at the very bottom of the stairs, they use dump trucks and kid-size toy shopping carts to transfer the laundry from the base of Mt. Martin to the Land of Laundry where it slowly (over the course of a couple days) is turned into clean clothes by the Sprite of Cleanliness who – occasionally and ever so benevolently – visits our home.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

How in the world has a ca-razy life gotten even ca-razier? Let me tell you: I am now officially the sole proprietor of my own business! Little Ditties (Music Academy) is off the ground and running. In the near future, I will be on contract to teach my toddler music classes at the local Boys and Girls Club. A while back, I had considered taking on the Preschool music teacher position as well, but that was just too many hours right now and not enough moolah to make it worth it. I’m a stay-at-home Mom and a very part-time music teacher/business owner! (And that’s how it’ll stay for a while).

I’ve spent a lot of time doing research for my class. For the actual instructing part, I’m good to go. It’s things like needing to buy more instruments (as it will be a much big class: 15 kids w/15 parental unit/grown-up helpers), but especially researching all the legal/tax broo-ha-ha/official stuff that goes with having a business. What I have learned is pretty exciting! I can write off all of my class-related purchases including: my commuting gas/mileage, all materials, and I don’t know…if I need to stop at Starbucks to get caffeinated before class that would count, right? What about new clothes for the new Sole Proprietor of Little Ditties? Afterall, I am a business woman now. (Just kidding: Random IRS Person who might be reading this).