Thursday, July 31, 2008

Signs O' Fall

Remember that favorite tree of mine that the moose are intent on killing? Its leaves are already changing color.

And fireweed is sprouting up alongside the road. While I love this Alaskan wildflower, I hate to see it so soon . . . it means that fall is on its way . . .

The death knell of summer.

Dinner last night: grilled salmon, cous cous

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

High Visibility

There goes my husband, heading off to work in his Hi-Vis suit. It's specially constructed to help lessen injury should he ever fall off his bike, as well as designed to be noticed from far away so drivers can see him coming. Astronauts on the moon could spot him.

My husband is the one on the right.

Dinner last night: macaroni and cheese

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mamma Mia!

I saw Mamma Mia! over the weekend. I didn't know much about it (other than it was based on a successful Broadway musical, featured ABBA music, and starred Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan). I like to go see a film without any preconceived notions or influences—I usually don't read reviews, I change the channel if a preview comes on the TV, and I've been known to shush the people at the next table in a restaurant who were talking too loudly about a movie that I planned on watching, but hadn't yet seen. Some of my best movie experiences have occurred because I walked into a film knowing nothing about it, without any idea of what would happen. I'm not necessarily recommending my technique, since some of my WORST movie experiences have also occurred because of this ignorance.

So, if you have not yet seen Mamma Mia! but are planning to watch it some day, please DON'T READ ANY FURTHER. I've got enough guilt in my life, I don't need to start worrying that I've given away the plot to you.

It's a little over the top—definitely a musical, where characters break into song and dance even in the dramatic moments—but I was in the right mood to receive it. Meryl Streep gets all the credit for finding the balance between the larger-than-life performance required by Broadway and the genuine emotion necessary for cinema. She sets the lead for the rest of the cast to follow. I loved the middle-aged actors, bad voices and all; they were such good sports to dance and sing and jump into the water. Kudos especially to Christine Baranski, who is the most qualified musical performer of the bunch. She's got a beautiful set of legs, but still, it's not easy for any woman to let herself be filmed so up close and personal . . .  she did a great job in her cougar solo, "Does Your Mother Know." Pierce Brosnan is as good an actor as he is gorgeous. He just keeps getting more and more handsome the older he gets!

My boyfriend Pierce is not the only beautiful thing about the movie, though . . . the story is set on a Greek island and the scenery is breathtaking. The blue water is a color that I don't think I've ever seen on film. The girl who plays the daughter, Sophie, is also stunning. The lighting is amazing, with the main characters sparkling almost as much as the water. Streep literally has a glow around her as she dances through the courtyard. 

Mamma Mia! is not a perfect movie. It should have ended at the church, but went a couple more numbers too long (almost like they had to prove they could work in every ABBA song). The daughter deciding not to get married was a weird choice; she stated that her boyfriend "never wanted any of this," but he had definitely wanted to get married to her, hadn't he? He just wanted to elope and keep it small. The fact that she needed to get off the island was mentioned numerous times by her fiance/father/mother, but never by her--so her epiphany that she needed to pursue her own passions and that her boyfriend didn't want to get married seemed forced.

Harry ending up gay was really unexpected--was it like that on Broadway? I thought he'd end up with Baranski's character and that Bill would end up with the cookbook writer. The whole joke on the boat when Harry was talking about what he needed to do to make right by his daughter (while Bill was thinking that he was talking about coming out of the closet) was ruined when it turned out that he indeed was gay. So did I misunderstand the joke, and he really was talking about coming out of the closet? Anyway, his sudden interest in the Greek boy at the end seemed very contrived and stuck in there last minute. Almost like, hey! we all know gay men like Broadway musicals so here's a little something for you.

My absolute favorite scene was "Dancing Queen," as Streep's friends encouraged her to revisit her youth. She was so joyful and carefree, jumping on her bed and then dancing down the trail like the teenager she used to be. As she wound her way toward the water, woman after woman joined her until the number ended with a huge line of women dancing down on the dock; when a stereotypical Greek mama with dark shirt, huge boobs, and a scarf covering her head threw off her bundle of sticks to join them in celebration, I almost started CRYING! As we move into and out of middle age, most of us are seen by others only as mothers and grandmothers. We take on the responsibilities of the matriarch, seeing that our households run smoothly and that our families are healthy and happy, but at the cost of our youth and joie de vivre. While everyone else is laughing and playing games at the table, we're working in the kitchen to clean up or get dessert ready.

Perhaps it's because I've just marked another birthday, but this scene made me realize that it's been a while since I've let myself feel young and carefree and spontaneous. I've stifled myself because of my daily work load and my motherly responsibilities, but really it just takes a shift in perspective. I need to dance more, sing often, and jump on the bed in abandon (okay, maybe I'll go into the backyard and jump on the trampoline in abandon). So, thanks for that nudge, Mamma Mia! Your flaws are forgiven, because that reminder alone was worth the cost of the movie and popcorn!

Dinner last night: cheeseburgers off the grill

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just Because My Kids Play With Fancy Toys Doesn't Mean They're Spoiled!!

I spend a lot of time researching the latest in toy development to make sure my twins have playthings that are age-appropriate, child-safe, colorful, nontoxic, and educational. If that means I have to spend a little extra on specialty toys, then so be it.

My precious angels deserve the best that money can buy.

Dinner last night: beef stew, cornbread

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kim in the A.M.

Is it morning already? Lord have mercy.

Feels . . . so . . . good . . . to . . . strrrrrrrrretch . . .

. . . reach for the sky . . .

Awright, enough of that . . .
time to make the donuts.

I need some coffee.

Dinner last night: tuna melts, tomato soup

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Height and Weight, Please

Last month, I celebrated my birthday. And by "celebrated," I mean "curled up in a fetal position and cried myself to sleep." This year's birthday was a double dose of bummer because not only was I one year closer to the grave, but my driver's license was due to expire. I could put it off no longer. I had to go in person to the local Department of Motor Vehicles office.

My afternoon at the DMV was everything I had dreamed it would be. Long lines. Unsmiling clerks. Screaming babies. There was some awful woman there who couldn't get her brats to shut up. Oh, right. That woman was me. And those shrieking two-year-olds were my identical twin daughters, complaining loudly about being trapped in their stroller. Until they invent DMVs with play centers, everyone's going to share in my pain.

So I finally got up to the counter and the first shock of the day was the eye test. I've been successfully cheating that thing ever since I was age 14 and applied for my learner's permit. Turns out they've updated their technology with some fancy schmancy machine that no longer allows me to shift my head ever so slightly so that my left eye can do all the reading for my lazy, no-good right eye with the astigmatism. I'm now classified as a RESTRICTED DRIVER who can only operate a vehicle with all three mirrors: left, rear, and right. Bah!

The second shock was that I'm a big fat liar. No sooner had the words "Height and weight, please" fallen out of the DMV agent's mouth, then a lie slipped from mine. Now I certainly don't fib about my height. I'm 5'10 and darn proud of it. But my weight? No, no, no. That's a top-secret figure known only to myself and a handful of medical professionals who had better take privacy laws seriously because I will sue their butts if I ever find out they've leaked my real weight to the press.

Who knows who might check my ID in the near future? There's no way in H–E–double hockey sticks that I will allow the pimply-faced teenager working behind the Blockbuster counter to know that which has been kept hidden since the beginning of my time on this earth. I still haven't forgiven my mother for sending out birth announcements that advertised my enormous weight of almost ten pounds to everyone in my social circle. I certainly have no intention of providing personal information that can be used against me to a perfect stranger who curls the fingers of one hand in the universal gesture for "hand it over" while using the knuckles of his other hand to knock on the "Store Policy" sign taped to the counter. I just want to buy a bottle of creme de menthe for my grasshopper pie recipe, not be humiliated in front of a smirking liquor store clerk.

So when the DMV agent requested my weight, I didn't bat an eye as I rattled off a number some 20 pounds lighter than what my scale says. I figure it's not really a lie if I lose that 20 pounds. Which I definitely plan on doing.

Starting tomorrow.

Dinner last night: halibut tacos

Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm Only Happy When It Rains

We've had a lot of rain lately. Everyone has been all, "What happened to our summer?" and "I'm getting sick of this weather!" Being born and raised in Ketchikan (a small city located in the rainiest area of Alaska the Pacific Northwest the entire country), I actually don't mind the rain. In fact, I downright enjoy it. Even four straight days of it. I absolutely love waking up to the sound of falling rain. It puts me in the mood for reading a good book, baking chocolate chip cookies with my girls, sitting down to scrapbook a few pages, taking a nap, curling up on the couch with a really soft blanket to watch an old movie . . . you get the idea.

Because I grew up in Ketchikan, I am not averse to tromping around in a dripping forest. This past weekend I took a nice long walk in the rain.

I never noticed this patch of dogwood before. Coming across it brought back fond memories of my childhood spent exploring the forest with my field guide in hand, identifying wildflowers that I would pick and then press between the pages of a heavy book. Remembering those times makes me realize I need to introduce my two oldest daughters to the wonderful world of Alaskan wildflowers. 

Right near the dogwood were some berries. This is a nice shot of the berry AND the leaf, so I should be able to figure out exactly what it is called . . . okay, I'm back. I do believe these are high bush cranberries! I wasn't sure, because dogwoods can have red berries, but the leaves on these match up to photos of cranberries I found on an amateur botanist's site. Before I start going crazy with my exclamation points (cranberries, y'all!!), I suppose I should check with a more authoritative source.

Daisies are everywhere in Alaska right now. The older I get, the more I appreciate the beauty and simplicity of a daisy.

As I returned home from my walk, I took a quick lap around the outside of the house. Which probably was not a good idea. While the rain does not depress me, this does:

My lilac bush is done for the summer. I'm always caught off guard by the tiny window of opportunity for lilacs to bloom here. It was less than a month ago that fragrant blossoms waved at me from outside my kitchen.

And what is it about these strawberries?! No fruit. Again!! I've had it! Next year I'm ripping this entire patch out and replacing them with the most hardy, dependable fruit-bearing plants I can get my hands on. I'm calling up Vickie in Homer and then I'm marching over to Peg's house next door. Both of these women have spectacular gardens and will know where I can get some good strawberry plants.

I was so upset to see how the moose have stripped most of the bark off my favorite tree (which I love not only because of its glorious foliage but because it helps provide privacy from passers-by on the road in front of our house). I'm going to wrap some burlap around the trunk in hopes that it keeps the moose from nibbling on it, but I'm not going to hold my breath. 

Short summer, uncooperative garden, destructive moose . . . at least there's the rain to cheer me up!

Dinner last night: parmesan chicken, twice-baked potatoes, steamed carrots

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Surviving Soccer Season

It's that time of summer when I pull out my list of warning signs from Teaching Character through Sport: Developing a Positive Coaching Legacy by Bruce Brown to make sure I'm not morphing into the soccer mom from hell. After feeling despondent over an especially crummy bracket that screwed the chances of my daughter’s team at a recent tournament, I realized I needed a big reality check. The following questions help me put youth soccer and my role as a supportive parent back into perspective, and I thought I'd share them with you. In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit that I struggle with #4, especially feeling nervous before games and taking losses harder than the players! Ridiculous, I know! Chill, Kim!
Are You Living Out Your Dreams Through Your Child? A parent who is continuing to live personal athletic dreams through his/her child has not released his/her child to the game. I've noticed two particularly dangerous types: the parent who is isn’t athletic at all and the parent who played soccer himself. A parent who possesses a competitive nature but isn’t athletic may not have a clue about the mental and physical elements that go into playing hard, but hoo boy can he lecture his child about hustling and playing harder. The parent who played soccer himself may be a big know-it-all who is unwittingly using his child to work out his own issues regarding athletic performance.
Are You Too Involved in Your Child's Performance? If a parent tends to share in the credit when the child has done well in sport or has been victorious, the parent is too involved. Also, a parent who makes excuses for his or her child’s poor performance or, even worse in my opinion, criticizes or blames the other players for a loss is too involved. As they like to say in U-11 soccer: We win as a team, we lose as a team.
Are You Trying Too Hard? If a parent is trying to continue to coach his or her child when the child probably knows more about the game than the parent does, s/he has not released the youth athlete. For example, are you giving your little athlete tips, suggestions, and "pep talks" in the car on the way to the game? Then spending 20 minutes on the way home analyzing what just happened on the field? Stop it!
Are You Too Serious About Soccer? A parent should realize that s/he is taking everything too seriously and has not released the child to the activity when the parent:
is nervous before his or her child’s game.
has a difficult time bouncing back when the player’s team suffers a defeat.
makes mental notes during a game so s/he can give his or her child advice at the conclusion of the game.
becomes verbally critical of an official.  Or of the coach! You'd think that only a monumental jackass would storm up to the coach after the game and complain that his daughter didn’t get to play enough or that the team would have won if the coach would have done things a different way, yada yada yada. But it happens! Many coaches institute a "24-Hour Rule"—if a parent is truly concerned about the coach’s methods or decisions regarding his child, he should schedule a time to speak with the coach the next day when both parties are calm enough to discuss the matter without yelling at each other or throwing around personal insults.
If you found yourself getting defensive, feeling angry, rolling your eyes, or thinking to yourself as you read any of the above points, "None of this applies to me, because my daughter is different! I really think she has a future in soccer—if she stays focused and works hard, she could be one of the best female soccer players in history. With my guidance, she can win a college scholarship and play on the Olympic team!" then you are probably that parent that seems to exist on every team—the obnoxious, overbearing soccer mom or dad who embarrasses the other parents on the sideline and dampens his or her daughter's love for soccer. I’d like to respectfully point out that your little girl is acting more maturely than you. Please let her grow, improve, and have fun on her own terms. I highly suggest that you take a self-imposed hiatus from watching her games. God forbid if you’ve been attending all of her practices, too—go away and do something athletic yourself and leave her alone for one hour.
Studies prove that kids play better when their parents are silent at the game. I know it’s not as fun for the spectators, but it’s better for the kids. And isn’t that what we all want? The very best for our kids? Please tell me that you want the best for all the girls, not just your own daughter . . . because, if not? Well, that’s just too selfish and disturbing for words. We’re all in this together, moms and dads! Let's provide stellar examples of sportmanship, encouragement, and perspective. That way, all of our precious children—even the poor saps who won't end up attending UCLA on a sports scholarship—will still have fond memories of their childhood summers spent out on the soccer field. 

Dinner last night: pork chops with stuffing and mushroom gravy

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You Can't Argue With Logic

Mommy: Have you fed Tie-Dye today?

8-Year-Old: Ummm . . .

Mommy: When's the last time you fed her?

8-Year-Old: Yesterday. But she's still got some food left in her dish!

Mommy: I don't care! You've got to give her fresh water and food every single day! How would you like it if I only fed you whenever I felt like it? "Oh, not today. Maybe tomorrow." If I didn't feed you for three days, you'd have to go to the hospital!

8-Year-Old (completely unperturbed): What if I just fed myself?

Mommy: Well, uh . . . you . . . uh . . . can't . . . 

8-Year-Old: Tie-Dye will go catch a mouse or a bird if she gets hungry.



Mommy: Oh, alright, you've got me there.

Dinner last night: tuna noodle casserole, zuchini

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Great Sippy Cup Rebellion of 2008

A pox on you, Hello Kitty. The twins spied this cup way at the back of a lower cupboard. I didn't even know it was there. I vaguely remember my mom giving it as part of a bowl/plate/cup set to my eldest daughter seven years ago. It's probably made of plastic #5 and completely toxic, but now the girls refuse to drink out of anything else. Which means lots of spilled apple juice. Lots.

Dinner last night: spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, green salad, orange cream cake

Monday, July 14, 2008

Boys Are From Mars, Girls Are From . . . Diaperville?

I'll admit it. I know nothing about raising little boys. I grew up with sisters. I've only given birth to daughters. Gender stereotypes considered, I feel confident in stating boys probably would not spend their mornings wiping, diapering, and hugging their stuffed animals.

Dinner last night: chicken and garlic pizza

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Minor Irritant

I just caught our cat up on her hind legs, neck stretched forward, tongue extended, drinking my coffee. My morning mug of aromatic Hawaiian Macadamia Nut coffee full of caffeine goodness, with its rich robust flavor and perfect cream-to-joe ratio, had been waiting for me at the computer desk. My warm cup of happiness was sitting there, innocent and defenseless, about to get sucked up by a coffee-stealing spaz cat.

Time seemed to stop as I watched in horror her tongue lapping, slurping, befouling my precious beverage. Images flashed strobelike and in slow-motion across my mind: the headless mouse I had to clean up from the garage floor . . . the bird foot and feathers I had to pick up off the carpet . . . the many furball stains I have had to detoxify out of the carpet . . . Tye-Dye's leg over her head as she washed herself down there.

I tried to run towards the crime scene but, as if trapped in a nightmare, the room seemed to lengthen and narrow with Tie-Dye sitting unreachable—so very far away in a tiny pinpoint of light—guzzling down Momma's cuppa. The harder I tried to run, the heavier my limbs felt and the slower I moved. Finally, after what seemed to be hours minutes seconds, I reached her. I pushed her out of the way, picked up that contaminated mug of mocha, and considered pouring it all out and starting over.

Nah. Too much work. Good morning, Internet, this one's for you. Sip, Aaaah.

Dinner last night: chicken and chips

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My, What Beautiful Hair You Have

Would milady care for a cup of tea? A scone, perhaps? Oh. Right. Goldfish crackers and a sippy cup of apple juice coming right up.

Dinner last night: sour cream enchiladas, refried beans, Spanish rice, salad

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Behold the Power of Ratatouille

I don't know what it is about the film, Ratatouille, but my twin daughters are mesmerized by it. Under normal circumstances, they won't sit still for two minutes. If Elmo happens to flash across the TV, they might pause for a second to point at the screen and shout, "Melmo!" before running off to break something, but put on Ratatouille and they'll sit down for a good 20 minutes to watch.

Happiness is munching grapes
while watching a rat run around.

Dinner last night: lasagna, cheesy breadsticks, steamed carrots

Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer Cookin'

I love summer. I love the sunshine, the green grass, working in my garden, going for walks, riding bikes, and wading at the beach. But what do I love most about summer? Barbecue! (or "grilling out," as my Ohio relatives say). The Fourth of July feast this year consisted of cheeseburgers off the grill, potato chips, watermelon, my mom's baked beans, and my potato salad:

For dessert, I got all theme-y and made a flag cake:

Everyone loved it and said it's a keeper! It was tasty. And big . . . still have some left. In fact, I think I shall go and sneak myself a piece right now.

Dinner last night: heavenly halibut, cous cous, peas, green salad

Friday, July 4, 2008

Things to Do with Your Kids This Weekend 10

Celebrate Independence Day! Happy Fourth of July, Fellow Americans!

Dinner last night: leftovers and a big tossed green salad

Thursday, July 3, 2008

One of Those Weeks

Wow. I've got nothing for you today. I'm sitting here bleary-eyed at the computer, with just a couple sips of my Hawaiian Macadamia Nut coffee in me, realizing that I am smackdab out of ideas. This week so far has been a whirlwind of activity, with no signs of it decreasing any time soon. I'll be cleaning my house from top to bottom today in preparation for the arrival of guests from out-of-town, make that out-of-state, who will be visiting for several days.

If I was a good American, I'd have an inspiring quote for you in honor of the Fourth of July, but the only phrase I can come up with off the top of my head is Abraham Lincoln's remark: "All that I am or hope to be I owe to my mother." Which is appropriate, I suppose, since my mind is distracted right now thinking about neatly-made beds and scoured bathrooms. Thanks, Mom! And my company thanks you, too, for the freshly-baked cookies they'll be eating. And the clean sheets they'll be sleeping between. And the sparkling floors they'll be walking across. Okay, I've got to get going . . .

We're all looking forward to a busy, happy weekend. Hope you are, too.

Dinner last night: macaroni and cheese

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

With a Spring in My Step

When you discover that you are carrying twins, you also find out that it is important to gain your pregnancy weight sooner rather than later. Because twins tend to come prematurely, it is vital that you gain your weight in the first half of your pregnancy. The benefits are many, including a better chance of delivering big, healthy babies on (or at least closer to) their due date. The downside is you look and feel like you are 10 months pregnant at the sixth month mark. Stop for a moment . . . close your eyes . . . and remember what you felt like that last month of pregnancy. That's right, I felt like THAT for three entire months! The scariest part was not being able to walk easily or without discomfort. It opened my eyes to what can happen as you age, gain weight, and decrease your physical activity; I don't ever want to feel that disabled again.

Two years have passed since delivering my 7.14 and 7.8 little punkins, leaving me with stretched out skin, greying hair, and short-term memory loss. And I couldn't be happier. Not a day goes by that I don't thank the good Lord for the ability to walk. It feels so good to stride! To walk briskly! To pump my arms and book on down the road! I don't just schlep into the grocery story anymore, I strut in with my shoulders back and my head held high. I walk with a smile on my face and a song in my heart . . . I walk because I can. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

Dinner last night: pork loin roast, crispy potatoes, green salad