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Sunday, September 30, 2012

The fear of the unknown

This is a blog entry I don’t really want to write, but I’m hoping that writing about it – and mentally reliving it – will help me get over it.  I mean, I should.  Everything turned out fine, it’s just thinking about the five minutes of fear, panic and the unknown that are still gripped tightly around my heart whenever I think about it.


On Friday, while the boys were at school, Kayliana and I had a lovely playdate at Rebecca’s house.  With little to no traffic, our houses from door-to-door are about 30 minutes apart.  Kayli and I left her house shortly after 3pm in order to meet up with the boys around 4pm when their school bus arrives.  Nearly an hour – plenty of time – especially considering that we can bypass most of the traffic in the carpool lane.  Traffic. Was. Horrible.  At 3:50 I wasn’t even off the freeway yet.  I usually leave my house at 3:50 to walk the 3 minutes to the bus stop.  I tried to not panic, I really did (try to not to).


Just on Wednesday, I’d let the boys walk home alone for the first time ever.  On Wednesdays, the boys have early dismissal and I have to wake Kayli from her nap for the afternoon bus stop.  So, I’d prepped the boys that we’d just let them handle it and see how it goes.  Walking home from the bus solo?!  You’dve thought that I told them we were heading to Disneyland this was so exciting.


Well, of course, on Wednesday, a good five minutes before they would’ve started walking up the hill towards home, I started pacing outside.  I sorta pretended to do yardwork, but basically, every 30 seconds, I’d decide to wander out to the sidewalk, and then across the street to, you know, just look down the hill. Just checking things out down the street.  Just seeing what’s a happenin’.  The funniest part is that I needn’t have bothered to WATCH for them.  I could hear them coming – talking and laughing – well before I could see them.  (Apparently, they were discussing with the neighbor boy Roman, what they would do if suddenly a bad guy appeared and tried to ‘steal’ them.  They’d scream and yell and kick him and punch him – in the privates even! – and find a house with a swimming pool in the front yard – these don’t exist as far as I know – and push him off the diving board.  Yes, hilarious!)


So, they’d made it home safely from the bus stop.  I’d even had them practice what they’d do if – for some reason – I wasn’t home.  They’d practiced opening the lockbox thingy where our extra key is and letting themselves in.  Considering that we had JUST gone through a dress rehearsal of all this, one would think I wouldn’t be that stressed on Friday afternoon upon realizing that I wasn’t going to make it.   The thing that freaked me out the most was: how would they handle it?!  I certainly didn’t know that I wasn’t going to be there in time, so I hadn’t prepared them for that.  So imaging them looking around for me, confused that I wasn’t at the bus stop, wondering where I was, etc. was sorta breaking my heart.  I just didn’t want THEM to be scared – especially once they walked all the way home and – for the first time ever in their lives – arrived to an empty house.


Let’s just say, the second I got off the freeway and through traffic, I SPED home. Up, up, up the twisty windy hugenormous hill to our house.  A quick glance down the street confirmed that – as far as I could tell – no one was at the bus stop anymore – I’d missed its arrival by nearly 15 minutes. I turned up the street and saw a mom – who I haven’t met yet – walking with her two toddler/preschool boys.  I’m sure she glared at me as I sped past and floored it over the speed bumps.  I pounded the garage door opener until the door SO SLOWLY – it seemed – began to open.   Oh and did I mention, that for the last 20 minutes of our bumper-to-bumper, stop and go drive, Kayli’d been yelling her head off, totally sick of being in the car?  Right.  I threw on the parking break, ran up the stairs and flung the door open, calling to the boys, trying to hide the panic in my voice.  I’d pictured them calmly walking to the door all, “Uh, hi, mom.” Like no big deal and why the heck was I freaking out.


But they weren’t home.


This was the one thing that I’d REALLY tried to not let play through in my head.  I kept telling myself, we’ve practiced this, they’ll just let themselves in, be a little confused that I’m not there, and most likely go a little crazy with the freedom and find my hidden chocolate stash and eat it all in the few minutes they’re home without me (that’s what I would’ve done as a kid!)…I tried to not think about how I’d react if they weren’t home. 


Well, they weren’t.  That’s when I finally just let go and gave in – a wee bit – to the real panic.  The thing is, I KNEW they were fine.  I figured that another neighbor had seen that I wasn’t at the bus stop and had offered to just have them over.  The problem was, I still don’t have any phone numbers, I didn’t know where they were, and I felt like the worst mom in the world.  Maybe people are reading this thinking that I overreacted. But those few minutes of having NO idea where my young kids are just kinda pushed me over the edge. 


So, I’m crying, I jump back in the car and race down the hill.  I see the mom again, still out walking her little kiddos (like a GOOD mom who WALKS WITH her children).  I put down my window and yell, “The school bus kids already went by right?!”  I knew the answer.  It was 15 minutes passed the time the bus usually arrives.  I was just hoping.  She’d seen me walking with the boys before; maybe she’d offer some info.  She smiled and said, “Yeah, they all went by a while ago.” 


I drove down the hill and turned down the street towards the bus stop thinking that maybe they were waiting for me there (around the corner where I couldn’t see them).  Nope.


I drove back up the street and parked in front of Roman’s house. Now sobbing.  By this point, the mom with her two kiddos happened to be right in front of Roman’s house.  I said, “Hi, sorry, I’m Jenny.  I’m kinda freaking out [duh] ‘cuz there was traffic and I wasn’t at the bus stop and my boys don’t know where I am and I don’t know where they are and I’m hoping they’re here….” By this point, Kayli is also screaming her head off. 


“OK, OK,” the mom said kindly and calmly, “We’ll find them.” One of her boys asked me what they looked like.  Um, wow.  What little 3 or 4 year old knows to ask that in this scenario?!  I think I said, “They’re 6 and 9” as I kinda ran passed them towards the door.  She and her boys went over to the open window of our minivan to try to visit with Kayli and calm her down – since, ya know – mommy’s lost it!


I should’ve known that they were at Roman’s, and again, just like knowing that they were OK, deep down, I figured – I hoped – they were.  But it was the same thing with the house.  I KNEW they’d be there and then the fact that they weren’t started the spiral of panic.  So, I was already at the: Oh. My. God. What will I do if they’re not here?!!  Where will they be?  How will I find them? place.  I really do – typically – pride myself on remaining cool in an emergency situation, but there’s something about that whole Mama Bear not knowing where your cubs are thing, that just made me kinda – OK, TOTALLY – lose it.


I waited for the longest minute (it was probably like 20 seconds) of my life until someone came to the door to answer my urgent knock…it was Roman’s mom, her 3 year old, her 5 year old, Roman AND Matthew and Zach.  I’m sure it was somewhat comical, really.  They fling open the door and I’m already crying and they’re kind of all staring at me like, “Uhhhhh, what happened to you?!”  As if I’m just picking them up from a regularly scheduled playdate.  But the boys, while they’ve played with Roman, haven’t played AT his house.  I’m friendly with his mom at the bus stop, but I can’t even remember her name and I don’t have her phone number, so it’s not like we’ve done this a million times.


Her eyes started to water as soon as she saw me, and she said, “Oh no! Please don’t cry.  It’s OK.  They’re OK.  Roman walked them home and they couldn’t get your front door open, so they came here and told me that their mom wasn’t home.  So, we were just going to have snack.”  I kinda nod and blubber and mutter some stuff about traffic and I just didn’t know where they were and I was sorry and, well, traffic was just so bad.  (Kinda like I was crying BECAUSE of the traffic). 


“They can always come here.  I’m always home.”  I thank her and tell her, the same and that well, gosh, I really should get her phone number! I follow the boys to the car who – really were just bummed not to get to play longer at Roman’s – but DO make sure to tell me that “that was scary” that they didn’t know where I was. 


As the boys get in the car, I sorta-properly introduce myself (through my tear-drenched, cry-gasping breaths) to the mom who’s been hanging out with Kayli this whole time.  We chat briefly – though I’m not entirely sure what we talk about.  I do know that I said something like, “Well, this is an awesome first impression that you’re getting of me.  But at least I’ll just get more awesome from here.  I’m actually really fun…” Yeah, or something like that. I think the last thing I said was, “I’m going to go have a glass of wine.”  (Which, really, is how I sign off from most conversations, right?)


Anyway, the boys explained to me more of what happened and how they just COULDN”T get the key to open the front door.  I told them that, it’s fine what they did, going to Roman’s house.  But if – for whatever reason – something like that scenario happened again – I’d want them to get the mom’s help and write me a note to stick on the door telling me, you know, where I can find them.  Just so, you know, I don’t totally panic, when they aren’t in the safety of our home like I think they’re going to be.


Would you have panicked? Did I totally overreact?  Probably yes and definitely yes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mountain view...?

I’m proud of us! We’re campers!!  Yes, we’ve camped for a few years now, but never by ourselves – just our wee fam ‘o five.  We boldly went where we’d never gone before: camping without the security blanket of our bff’s who are camping pro’s and who, I know, always got us covered should we forget something vital.  So, summoning all courage (and all our camping accoutrement), we left Friday afternoon for Seaquest State Park – conveninently located near Mt. St. Helen’s (and only two miles from the visitor center). 
The first ruh-roh, when we arrived was the small printed out sign that said, “No campfires allowed.” WHAT?! Are you stinkin’ kidding me?!! This was part of the reason we WENT to Seaquest. It was one of the state parks that didn’t have a burn ban – as of Wednesday when I called.  Turns out, as of Thursday, it too had a burn ban.  We tried to had our frustration (seeing as I’d even told the state park lady on the phone, that we HAD to have a campfire for s’mores purposes and our children just wouldn’t consider it camping without that).
Ruh-roh number two was the sprinkling, smattering of rain that commenced as we erected the tent. Awesome.  So, we can’t have a fire because, you know, the conditions are too dry, but we have to deal with rain?!  Mike was quick to put up a handy-dandy tarp covering over our picnic table (which we moved to cover the taunting yet-unusable and tripping-hazard fire pit).  And then, of course, once our rain cover was up, it didn’t sprinkle at all after that.
Ruh-roh number three: um, yeah, so we went to the visitor’s center on Saturday morning, which was great.  When we got to the end of the exhibit there was a sign in front of the window with a little diagram complete with arrow and “Mt. St. Helens, 30 miles away.” Um, what?!  I thought, we were camping right next to the mountain and seeing as we were 2 miles from the visitor center, I figured we must be close.  Then, as I looked out the window, I thought, “My gosh! Maybe it’s one of those things that, when you’re a kid everything seems SO huge, but wow! Mt. St. Helen’s just looks like the rest of the foothills.  It’s really not much bigger than the other hills over there.”  We pointed out the biggest hill to the boys and ‘oohed and ahhed’ at how small it was compared to how big it must’ve appeared BEFORE the 1980 eruption. Then we departed and did a mile hike around the wetlands.
So, it wasn’t until the NEXT day, shortly before we departed, that we realized we hadn’t ACTUALLY even SEEN Mt. St. Helens.  (Oh, what people must’ve thought of us, as we showed our children the small mound in the distance and told them it was the volcano!).  I decided that we should drive out a little ways, so that we could at least get a VIEW of the mountain.  As we headed down the highway (in the opposite direction of the freeway – where we needed to go for heading home), we kept trying to catch glimpses of the infamous volcano.  Finally after about 20 minutes, we saw a “viewpoint” sign.  Mike quickly pulled off the highway and we followed the signs which lead us to…a hiking trail…which (had we taken it) would have taken us to a viewpoint of…a sediment dam.  Seriously?  A view of a wall that blocks mud?? Awesome. We turned around and headed for home, totally mountain-viewless. Poop.
I kinda feel like the biggest moron and pretty lame that here I thought we were camping right by the mountain, then thought we’d seen the mountain and actually never had…ever.  (Turns out the smoke from the fires in Eastern WA was providing a big enough haze that blocked our view).
Anyway, aside from not actually seeing Mt. St. Helens (other than at the Visitor Center in film and photo), we had a very good camping trip, AND the campground hosts showed up right after dinner on Saturday evening to tell us that we COULD have a campfire that night – woohoo!  The boys went and scavenged wood from vacant campsite firepits.  Apparently Zach even went into an occupied site and started to steal their wood scraps (the people said it was fine once Mike intervened and apologized). I pictured the boys covered in soot and, with British accents saying, “Please, sir, just a bit ‘o wood to build a fire to keep the chill out of me bones.” 
We had s’mores, we had camping food (not the healthiest, but so delicious fare).  We had quality family time: charades, a hike, playing at the camp playground, playing catch, playing cards. We had outdoorsy-ness: fresh air, the kids played with countless sticks and LOVED having so many vacant sites to play in; we were woken up by a freakishly loud owl.  We made camping memories…and all by ourselves!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

curtains, projects, oh my!

We’ve got curtains, people; we’ve got curtains.  All together, about six burly strapping men assisted in some aspect of installing the valance in our room.  It was a huge pain, a crazy hassle, but SO worth it.  This valance (which my parentals got for free at an estate sale) was MADE for our room.  It’s pretty awesome.  Mikey also got the curtains up in the dining room which beautifully match the burgundy and gold colors from the living room.  I’ve been busy trying to finish up the deck stain-project before fall weather really arrives.  Meanwhile, the boys are getting adjusted to their new school (and are already comfortable enough that Zach has gotten in trouble – surprise, surprise).  Kayli’s adjusting to being the only kiddo here most days and NOT sleeping well at night. Grrr.  I’m also getting ready to teach my first music classes in two and half years (come Monday)! AND we’re having one last camping trip this weekend (rescheduled from Wenatchee – due to the fires and burn ban – to Mt. St. Helen’s.  The boys thought that it was kinda foolish of us to go camp next to a volcano. “Uh, isn’t that really dangerous, mom?” Hopefully not!)


I’m pooped!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Do you ever have those moments where you feel like you’re going out of way to do EVERYTHING right, and yet the Universe is basically just spanking you in the rear showing you that you’re, in fact, doing everything kinda wrong?  Do ya?  Do you know what I mean? 


Here’s how it went down: so, we enjoy eating out.  We used to eat out fairly frequently (at least a couple of times a month).  We ate out A LOT when the house was on the market and we’d get a call at 4pm saying, “We’ll be there to see your house at 5:30.”  Not a ton of healthy-home cooked meals were a-happenin’.  BUT, now that we’re on a much tighter budget, we rarely eating out.  And that is why we DID eat out last night.


We know the boys love Red Robin and we’re able to get gift cards through points earned with our credit card.  So, we’ve been saving the RR gift card to go for a special near-Matthew’s birthday outing.  We even had a free meal coupon to use as well.  My dear friend Rachel is staying with us for a couple of days, so she also could join in the festivities.  All around, it seemed like a good idea, right?


Well, shortly after arriving, Kayli started to be a fit-throwing toddler-rage person.  She’s been a picky eater lately and my guess is that she was kinda starving since she hasn’t been eating all that much at meals.  Then, Mike and I discovered that we didn’t actually have the RR gift card with us.  The whole point of going to Red Robin, the whole reason we could do it in the first place, was because of this gift card.  But we’d already ordered food and couldn’t just pack up and leave, so…there was that.  Then, after eating a little bit, Zach suddenly announced that he felt like he was going to throw up.  If you know us, you know that we’re kind of a pukey people.  It’s what we do.  And we’re pretty good at it.  Mike quickly steered Zach towards the restroom only to find a couple of people standing in the way, blocking the door.  I don’t know if they were coming or going or if loitering outside Red Robin restrooms is something they do for kicks, but unfortunately they were doing it at the wrong place and at the wrong time.  Zachary proceeded to vomit all over the floor.  Awesome.


We can now add Red Robin to the list of restaurants that we have, er, marked.  Also on that list are: The Olive Garden – ‘when you’re there, you’re family’ and I guess we felt just a little too at home.  McDonalds – that Zachary sprayed with Easter candy rainbow vomit, and Jack in the Box, where Matthew finally let his ‘car sick’ outta the car. I don’t think anyone will ever invite us out ever and really, I don’t think we SHOULD eat out for a VERY long time…or maybe ever.


Mike left to take Zachary and Kayli home while Rachel, Matthew and I calmly finished our meal and then split the check (the sweetheart!) for the meal that we really shouldn’t have had to pay for and sadly didn’t really manage to enjoy.


So, the money thing: we’re on a tighter budget now, which I DO think is a good thing.  It’s definitely more stressful, but it makes us count every penny we spend.  We eat home, so we’re eating healthier food; the kids know that they’re not going to get whatever they ask for (though I’d like to think that they didn’t even before either); we’re just getting more creative and spending less.  Anyway, I feel like, again, we’re doing a good job, we’re trying anyway and yet…and yet…we had to get new tires and breaks for the minivan – Boom $$$.  We had to buy a new furnace (which we knew we’d have to do) – BOOM $$$$$!!!  We got the bill for Kayliana’s trip to the ER on our anniversary – OUCH $$$$!!  We got the bill for her second elbow relocation – OWIE $$$.  Mike and I haven’t been to the dentist in two years (yikes!), but his work doesn’t provide dental, so we’d have to pay out of pocket for that.  Not gonna happen right now. The boys are now due for a dentist check-up, and I dread setting up the appointment because of what it will cost.  Wah wah wah. Whine whine whine.


Obviously, we CHOSE to move, we KNEW we’d have a bigger mortgage and a tighter budget, I just wish the universe would stop pooping on us!


But then, just when I’m so super frustrated with things going just kinda-a-little-puke-ily wrong, something amazing happens.  Kayliana and I nearly get hit by a car.  This was amazing because we WEREN’T hit by a car.  We were walking from Spin at the gym today down the shopping complex to the Safeway.  Kayli wanted to walk and kept stopping and was taking her sweet time which was fine with me as we weren’t in a big hurry, so I let her linger.  We’d just started walking after another little for-whatever-reason break, when an old man floored it instead of stepping on the break and proceeded to drive his car (about twenty feet in front of us) on to the sidewalk and up against the brick wall of the building.  Without much pause, he quickly threw the car into reverse and went to a different parking spot in the lot as if nothing had really happened and he hadn’t just smashed his car into a building, leaving chunks of his hood and bumper on the sidewalk. 


I’m thankful that we weren’t the chunks on the sidewalk.  Thank you, Universe.  Thank you, God!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

First Day

I’m not quite sure how this happened, but I blinked and now have TWO elementary school offsprings – a 1st grader and a 3rd grader.  The latter will turn 9 tomorrow.  That’s like, ELDERLY by little kid standards.  It’s not little kid even, it’s just full-on big boy, stinky-feet KID.  CRAZY.


Thankfully, before this morning’s momentous school bus departure, the kiddos and I spent a lovely weekend together with my parentals (along with my brother Chris) at their Port Ludlow beach house.  We went to the “lagoon beach” to catch crabs and find sand dollars, we swam in the pool and collected sea glass at a different beach.  Mike stayed home as he was attending a video grame tournament/conference thingy – basically the OLYPMICS of video game playing.  Needless-to-say, we ALL had a great weekend.


Before we left town on Friday, the kids and I went to their new school to meet their teachers. I’m pretty sure they both scored in the teacher department this year.  Matthew’s 3rd grade teacher seems totally great and lives down the street from us with her hubby and three daughters!  Zachary’s 1st grade teacher: well, her last name, if lacking an “e” would be “Ms. Candy,” and she sure does seem sweet.  Honestly, if Zachary doesn’t have a crush on her by the end of the year, I’d be surprised.  I already do!  She’s adorable! 


In the classroom, we waited (Kayliana, IMPATIENTLY) for our turn to speak with “Ms. Candy.”  We kept having pain-in-the-butts cut in front of us in line.  While some DID apologize, (“Oh, so sorry, this’ll just take a minute.”)  Others took forever.  One family – new to the school like us – even asked Ms. Candy things like, “What’s on the lunch menu on Tuesday?!”  ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME. RIGHT. NOW.??  Did that seriously just come out of your mouth hole?!!  Look it up on-line, peeps.


By the time, Ms. Candy finally made it to us; she was quietly VERY apologetic for our having to wait.  Zach – not one to typically be shy – immediately clammed up upon meeting his teacher.  She put out her hand to shake his and he just stared at it as if he had NO clue what to do with such a gesture.  (She ended up just patting his hand).  And when she asked him if he preferred Zachary or Zach, he gruffly replied, “I don’t care.”  Nice.  Friendly kid!


This morning, on the walk to the bus stop, I asked the boys if they were excited. 


Matthew said, “Yeah, but I’ll have no friends.”  I reminded him that nearly his entire baseball team goes to our new school, and that they’ll all be at the same recess even if they’re not in his class.  Also, he’ll make lots of new friends as well.  Zachary piped up with a (NOT) helpful, “Matthew doesn’t make new friends well.  I do that way better than him.”


I chastised him, saying that wasn’t nice, but Matthew quickly interjected, “No, he’s right.  I’m a lot shyer than he is.”


Well, OK, then.  Both boys did get on the bus happily and without incident in their MATCHY shirts (which THEY decided on).  Mike, Kayliana and I waved them off and headed home for our first day with two kids gone ALL day.  WhatEVER shall I do with myself?!