Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Most Important Part: Each Other

Hey, y'all - 

If there's one thing I can say with certainty and with all the love in my heart, you have definitely kept me entertained with your dad gone.

Sometimes, Hagen comes to the breakfast table as a raccoon and tells me raccoons are supposed to eat out of the trash can, but he'll eat this waffle at the table just this one time. Or he'll get tired after playing at the park for five whole minutes and need to lie down. 

Laney is still down to try whatever adventure life throws at her, while Hagen would rather sit out the adventures but wear the helmet, just in case.

Laney is teaching herself to ride a skateboard, and is my official yoga coach / photobomber. 

Sometimes Hagen goes to school as Aqua Boy, and sometimes - fresh from his manicure - he'll volunteer to help me mow the lawn.

Speaking of which, here are some of the things I have learned to do since your dad left:

Shovel snow, jump start the car, jump start the truck, operate a power sander, load paddleboards into the truck, change a flat tire with an allen wrench (do not recommend), cut Ella's fingernails (definitely do not recommend), mow the grass, assemble and use a new weed whacker, and start the propane grill with the broken ignition without losing my eyebrows. When Jill Biden started working on the "Joining Forces" campaign, she was quoted as saying something like "Yellow ribbon stickers on your car are great, but what's better is to find a deployed family and mow their grass." It's a great idea that doesn't really happen when only 0.4% of Americans are currently serving and we're mostly invisible. But enough of that pity party, I guess.

Back to the love:

We got lice - again - because there's some super-strain in Missoula and everyone in Laney's elementary school is passing it around. Laney handled it like a champ, and Hagen reminded us that the trick to avoiding lice is to keep your hair short and flat. Don't know why we didn't think of that. 

I live for little moments like when Laney went to a big-kid birthday party and gave hagen the last cupcake, or when we walked past the duck pond and Laney immediately went and got her brother so he could also see the ducklings. 

Y'all definitely keep life sweet. 


P.S. Honorable mention goes out to Ella, who is usually the only other grown-up in the house. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Part Four: Grandma Sue / Mother's Day

Hey, y'all -

Please know that even though she only lives 198 steps down the alley and I get to see her more than any of your other grandparents, I definitely don't take her for granted. Without Grandma Sue's help, I would never go the grocery store by myself or have any sort of alone time.

For Mother's Day this year, Grandma Sue outdid herself; she came and got you two at 7am and took you back to her house for a special project. In previous planning meetings (no, really) she'd let you each pick a recipe to prepare for a special Mother's Day breakfast.

Hagen made fruit skewers because he loves sharp sticks and patterns, and Laney - because she is hell-bent on appearing on next season's "Master Chef Junior" - made assorted fruit crepes.

Laney also wrote me a card about how I make her day "explode with love and excitement." Who could ask for anything more?

Then, Grandma Sue played with you while my friend Jess and I went on a hike above Missoula and it snowed on us because it was only the end of May. 

Because we had Grandpops here visiting and lined up to babysit, Grandma Sue was able to join us when I met my girlfriends out for an afternoon of Moms-only shopping. I know some people think that Mother's Day is a day best spent with your children, but I've convinced my friends that since those young'uns get us every minute of the other 364 days of the year, we should get one day free of responsibility. Our tradition is to avoid crowds by meeting up at places that no one would dare take their mother. Dive bars, casinos, Hooters, etc. Then we always end up at TJ Maxx, encouraging each other to buy things we'll later regret. Your ever-lucky Grandma Sue kept winning every time she sat down at a poker machine. It was a hoot.

Last week, to show my appreciation for all that Grandma Sue does for me/us, I took us all out for a pedicure. 

Thanks to Grandma Sue for helping to keep our feet on the ground and this train on the rails. 


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Part Three: My Friends

Hey, y'all -

A few years ago, I read a book called How To Raise An Adult, which talked about the current trend of over-parenting, and the trap parents - especially moms - fall into these (judgmental, social media-fed) days by making being a parent 100% of their identity. The book suggested that one of the best things you can do for your kids is to have hobbies and interests and friends outside the home so you can model what it's like to be a whole person. In short: I would throw myself in front of a bus for y'all if I needed to, but sometimes mama needs to leave the house to stay sane.

My friends have been very good about picking up the slack with your dad gone and encouraging me to leave the house. Correy in particular is especially good at taking me on dates so I'll occasionally put on make-up, and when I'm particularly down, she makes me climb a mountain. Literally.

Vanika encourages me to go to the gym and exercise, and always sets her treadmill 0.1 faster than mine because we're competitive and liable to make each other pass out one of these days. When she's not looking, I move the pin on her weight machines to make her lift heavier. We're terrible. 
A few weeks ago was Craft Beer Week in Missoula, and one of the events was the "Brewmazing Race," a sort of "Amazing Race" knock-off that would send competitors around Missoula on a series of physical, mental and beer-related challenges. Jess signed me up as her partner and I started praying that we wouldn't come in last. I didn't need to be first; I just didn't want the embarrassment of being the worst.

At the starting line, I noticed we were the only all-female team. Eight teams total. Our first task was to carry an empty keg for two laps around a vacant lot - approx a quarter mile. We were one of the first teams to finish and I didn't throw up in public, so we were off to a great start. Next, we had to assemble ten large cardboard boxes and fill each of those with four assembled six-pack carriers. We flew through it, but when we yelled "INSPECTION!" our judge told us we'd made a mistake. After studying and studying the sample case, we discovered this little cardboard hook (pictured here) that had to be on the outside of all forty carriers. By the time we re-did them, we had fallen to fifth place. I can't even look at a six-pack carrier now without getting a rage headache. 

We were allowed to bring a smartphone on the trip, and we got really good at navigating and running at the same time. At our next stop, we were presented with a two-page test of beer knowledge. I asked the judge is we were allowed to have TWO pens, and he shrugged and handed me an extra. I ripped the test in half and gave one half to each of us and we googled our little hearts out. I know very little about beer, but I can google like it's my job because some days, it is. When we flew out of that challenge, there was a camera guy on our butts. Jess said "Do you think we've moved into first?" I said "That's my guess - most camera crews don't waste their time on the fifth place team."

It should be noted that I offered to slow down for a second so the camera guy could move in front of us and walk backwards and shoot us from a better angle, and I offered to read our clues aloud for the camera, until finally Jess yelled at me to STOP PRODUCING THEIR SHOOT AND JUST RUN. Can't help myself. 

There was a blind taste test quiz that Jess aced, then we moved on to some physical challenges. Jess scored three free throws in a row, and I had to cast a fly rod so the fly would land in a hula hoop on the other side of a field. Done! Still in first! We went to a seedy casino where I beat the bartender in a dice roll and drank a beer. I'm telling you - we were on fire. Sometimes we completed a task before the second place team even showed up. 

Somewhere, there is footage of me making deals with Jesus so Jess could land that third free throw. 

But then, but then, but then... The final challenge was to beat a dealer at Missoula's oldest bar in a single hand of poker. Poor Jess sat there and got handed the crappiest cards over and over and over again, until she finally got three of a kind. By then, teams had caught up and passed us. We made a valiant sprint to the finish line but ultimately came in fifth. 

I still feel robbed. 

Later that same week, we all participated in another Craft Beer Week event: the miniature golf tournament. With a "May The Fourth Be With You" theme, the teams were supposed to come up with a Star Wars-inspired look. I pitched the girls on a team name and designed us a logo, and Correy had T-shirts printed:

Bars all over downtown Missoula designed their own mini golf holes, and we got to play 6 of them. 

Let me just say - golf courses can be in the bar business, but bars shouldn't be in the golf business. Sometimes the holes were play-able and sometimes they weren't. Sometimes there were pipes that the ball didn't fit through or astroturf that hadn't been rolled out. The money all went to the Missoula Food Bank so it doesn't matter, but suffice it to say none of these Leias will be joining the LPGA. 

Thanks for keeping me sane, ladies. 


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Part Two: Grandpops

Hey, y'all - 

In May, Grandpops came to visit us from Missouri. Grandpops is one of those rare people who always has to be accomplishing something. If you clean the heck out of your house before his visit, he'll get restless and detail your car. I've seen him do it. Your dad is similar; sometimes I'll be cooking dinner and he'll ask how he can help and I'll say "Just stand there and keep me company." Then he starts kinda bouncing in place not knowing what to do with his hands, all anxious like a squirrel in a box and I end up saying, "Dang, never mind. Go away." He gets that from his dad. 

For this trip, I thought we'd combine Grandpops' visit with re-doing our downstairs flooring. Tex painted the kitchen a lovely shade of orange while he was here, with a little help from Hagen:

Then once they left, I kept going and painted the living room yellow and then re-painted all the furniture in the living room. 

The last step was re-do the living room floors that made me mad every time I looked at 'em. 

The folks who lived here before us installed reclaimed fir hardwood floors, but the wood was too soft for that purpose so it scratched like the dickens and the planks were too wide so we ended up with huge spaces between them, a.k.a. Where Hagen Stores his Play-Doh. You'd have to scrape it out with a butterknife and shop-vac it to keep it clean and that's just stupid. Equally stupid was the pale yellow flooring in the kitchen, which guaranteed that every time you stepped in the room, you'd leave a dirty footprint. Like my clothing, I want my floors to disguise as many sins as possible. 

Grandpops is a practical midwesterner, which means he's completely unfamiliar with the southern way of doing things. In the south, if a lady asks for help with her floors, there's a good chance the man in the question will say, "You just sit there, little lady, while I take care of this for you." Turns out Grandpops is a feminist (hooray! sigh) because he (rightly! sigh) expected me to work my butt off on these floors, too. When I said "Woo, this is hard," he didn't say "Take a break," he said, "You'll get faster." I wood putty'd every space in the floor and learned how to use a power sander. 

I rented a floor sander and followed behind Grandpops with the shop vac. 

In the end, the effort was 100% worth it:

Then he kept going and re-did my kitchen floor with this faux concrete look that hides all kinds of sins:

We did allow him some time off for good behavior, including an afternoon at the pond.

I love my new kitchen, almost as much as I love my old in-laws.