Friday, April 17, 2009

Ann and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day!

Looking on the bright side, I don't often have these days anymore. I used to feel like they were a weekly occurrence. -The kind of day for which this blog is named. You all know the feeling, I'm sure. Hanging on by mere fingernails-the only thing saving you from the bottomless chasm below. Wednesday, unfortunately, was a by-my-fingernails, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

It all started innocently enough. On Wednesdays I attend a meeting at our church in the morning where the calendar is planned and then I make any changes needed to the master calendar. Just as an aside, before I started doing this, I had absolutely no idea how seriously church leaders take the calendar. It is a BIG deal. Anyway, since the car dealer is only about three blocks away, I had made an appointment to take the van in to get this really annoying creaking fixed. Something is wrong with the seal of the sliding rear door that makes it creak loudly and sometimes constantly while it is closed and the van is in motion. So I dropped it off, walked to the church and attended the meeting. During the meeting, my cell rang. I politely excused myself and took the call. It's the dealer with the news that they weren't able to duplicate any problem noises (OF COURSE NOT!) and what they are hearing is just normal noise. -I am telling you, it is NOT normal noise. I can only guess that the van decided to behave for the short period of time they were road-testing it, because if they had heard it at its worst, they would have immediately fixed it. I arranged to pick it up when I was finished and will take it back without an appointment on a day when it is especially obnoxious. Annoying and unproductive, but nothing earth-shattering yet.

About a half-hour later, the meeting is over and I'm still at the church making changes to the master calendar in the computer when Devin calls. Evidently, the shower head in the master bath of our house in Florida had sprung a major leak the day before, flooding the area under the vanity, inside the wall and seeping under the wall to flood the dining room on the other side. That would be the dining room where we have laminate flooring, virtually impervious to everything BUT water! Although Devin handles most things to do with the house (financing, property manager, bills, renters, etc.) he wanted me to handle this because I'm more familiar with our house's mechanics and up-keep (construction materials, drywall repair, painting, etc.). So I embarked on an afternoon-long marathon of calls between me, Devin, the property manager, and the guy from the water damage company who is at the house estimating the damage. To make a long story short, this little shower head snafu is going to end up costing about $1500-2000 - and that's if the laminate doesn't have to be replaced. Luckily, there is no mold growing inside the wall so that is one headache averted. I need to add here that the reason Devin handles most of these issues is because I get really stressed out over them. This was no exception. I was feeling faintly nauseous by the time everything was settled.

BUT WAIT!! There's MORE!!

By now it was almost dinner time and here I was with no dinner started. I pulled one of my emergency meals (tortilla soup - YUMMY) out of the freezer and stuck it in the microwave to begin defrosting. I wanted to get SOMETHING useful done for the day so while it was defrosting, I pulled out a ham I had cooked the day before to finish carving it up. I had just put it out on the counter, pulled out a knife, and MAYBE sliced one or two pieces when Dylan came back from playing at the neighbor's house. I could tell immediately that something was wrong, so when he bypassed me, saying "nothing" was wrong, and headed to his bedroom, I dropped everything and followed. It took me less than five minutes in the bedroom to find out that his arm hurt, he'd been jumping on the bed and fallen off, nothing else was wrong, etc. His arm hurt just above the wrist and there was only a tiny bit of swelling but when I pressed the bone on top of his arm up toward the elbow, it still hurt at the wrist. Yup! Broken arm - independently confirmed two hours later in the emergency room.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Joke of the day

A friend sent me this the other day and I just had to share. Which of us with children hasn't been here at least once?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Daddy's sudoku quilt

This was the only Christmas present that didn't get done on time last year. It's a lap quilt for my dad, who loves to do sudoku puzzles. In this pattern, fabric is substituted for numbers, making a sudoku grid out of colors. I lost count of how many times I checked this to make sure I hadn't twisted a block - the equivalent of screwing up a sudoku writing in pen - except I wouldn't just throw this out the way I could if I screwed up a written sudoku. I also did numbers in trapunto in the single blocks in the top and bottom borders. I was able to give it to him in person when we visited last week. He loved it, which makes me very happy.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Dylan and scissors - or - Dylan and pictures

Dylan has a thing about scissors. I'll never forget the day I picked him up from kindergarten and was met by his teacher, wearing a grave look on her face. He had capably ventilated the school t-shirt I had just gotten for him the day before, reducing it to rags with those blunt paper scissors they use in kindergarten. On the bright side, that must have taken a lot of determination, something I definitely want to encourage. On the not so bright side, he then had to save his money to buy a new t-shirt, which I know was a huge disappointment for him.

Dylan also has a thing about pictures. If we are going to get pictures taken, he is almost guaranteed to draw a boomerang with a Sharpie on his forehead, fall and give himself a shiner or do something else to make it seem from photo evidence as if he is horribly abused and neglected.

Two weeks ago he decided, in a moment of inspired brilliance, to marry his two passions by taking the scissors to his own hair without the benefit of a mirror, cutting off his bangs in big hunks. He did this the day before school pictures. When I asked him why he had done it, he readily informed me his bangs had gotten too long. When I asked him why he didn't get me to trim them, he didn't have an answer, but I suspect it must be a source of great joy to him to leave me speechless, which happens way too frequently. The way he's wrinkling up his forehead here makes his hair look lumpy, but not too short. However, he cut it SHORT! I ended up just leaving it alone because he would have been left with an exposed hair line by the time I got it blended.

Needless to say, that's one set of pictures I won't be ordering.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Movie review - Monsters vs. Aliens 3-D

For those that are interested, I thought I would review "Monsters vs. Aliens 3-D", which we saw while we were in Montana.

First of all, the boys loved it. My parents, who had never been to a 3-D movie, were extremely impressed, too. I, however, am a little more jaded. That's probably a result of having had a year's pass to Disney World, the mecca of special-effects entertainment.

The 3-D that was on the screen was fabulous. I think it probably had the most depth of any 3-D movie I've ever seen. It was consistently good throughout the movie, too. However, there was very little that came off the screen into the audience. I think "Voyage to the Center of the Earth 3-D" was better for that kind of effect. Also, I was a little disappointed with the writing. Some of the animated movies are so clever that they are a joy to watch again and again. "Fern Gully", "Shrek", and "Monsters, Inc." spring to mind. This movie was entertaining but, if it hadn't been for the 3-D, I think it would have been totally forgettable, blurring into the mass of animated movies most parents of young children end up watching. I left feeling disappointed, because it could have been a really great movie. It had 3-D, good animation, big budget, good premise, etc. In the end it just fell a little flat.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring Break/Memory Lane trip

Well, we did end up going to Montana last week for spring break. I'm always hesitant to go this time of year because it's still cold but it can also be muddy and all that goo can freeze, making driving conditions really treacherous. There are two pretty high passes to go over in Idaho - Fourth of July (3173ft.) and Lookout (4725ft.). We were fortunate (and we had checked the weather) on the way over and the passes were clear and dry. So the drive over was uneventful - just the way I like it.
This is the sign at the bottom of the hill where my parents live: For the first several years after we moved here (I was in second grade), there were only two families beyond this point. There was us and there was a neighboring family who lived about 1/4 mile away over a hill. We both lived to the right, the road to the left was a largely unused, rutted, logging road. The area right behind the sign is where we had a pasture for my first horse, Twister, an 18-year-old palomino gelding. There was also one spot in particular that was the best place on the property to dig up worms for fishing. Now there's a sign to keep track of everyone and it's almost like a neighborhood in town. Most people can see at least one other house from their driveway. It got too crowded for my parents down below, so they moved farther up the mountain. They're still the last ones on the road.

It was a fabulous way to grow up. I wouldn't want to move back now but I really regret that my kids can't grow up "free-range" the way I did. In the summertime we had to be back by dark (around 10:30pm) and take the dog (to chase away bears). There were no worries about human predators because for miles behind our house it was all forest service and logging land - we only rarely even saw other people. We knew how to find our way down the mountain if we ever got truly lost, but we never did. We knew all the logging roads, abandoned cabins and landmarks for miles around.
Because there were so few people, there was lots of wildlife. We saw bears quite a few times. My parents even have a bear skin rug on the wall that killed three of our pigs before my dad shot him. After that the Fish and Game believed my parents when they said we had bears (before that they had told my parents that there were no bears that close to town) and F&G would come out to trap and relocate them. There were the occasional mountain lion, skunk, moose, and elk - more often we would see signs of them or hear them (or smell them in the case of the skunk) than actually see them. There were also coyotes, birds and lots of deer. One of my clearest memories is going to sleep on a warm summer evening listening to the coyotes yipping.
Anyway, the boys love it up here. They get to run wild for at least a few days, although I do insist they stay within sight of the house so they don't get lost. This week, they spent 1-3 hours a day just playing in the snow. They also got to see a decent assortment of critters. This flock? gaggle? idiot? (Okay, I looked it up. It's a rafter of turkeys... and that would've been my next guess, lol.) of turkeys was crossing the road as we drove up the hill one afternoon and the tom was clearly daring me to MAKE HIS DAY! I was really excited but my dad hates the turkeys. He says they're dumber than rocks and crap all over everything to boot. I still think they must be smarter than he thinks because they know enough to make themselves scarce around mid-November.
We always see lots of deer but this one was a treat. This picture is taken through one of the windows at the front of my parents' house. The windows are reflective enough that the animals can't see us inside the house and this deer was close enough to pet at one point (assuming we could somehow reach through said glass).
Anyway, we had a great time. The boys were very well-behaved - believe me, that is never a sure thing and I do NOT take it for granted, I got to visit with my oldest friend (in years of friendship - 30+) and my parents got to spend some time with the boys before we move this summer. It almost makes me wish there were another spring break between now and when school ends so I could do it all over again.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

For crafters/quilters

I just read on a friend's blog about a new website. It's a spin-off of the "You Can Make This" website, which has a lot of articles and cute projects. The new site is going to be called... drum roll, please... "You Can Quilt This". It's going to be up and running sometime in April and, as part of the effort to get the word out, they're giving away a Janome sewing machine. If you're interested and want more information, just click on the blog button below and page down a little to the post from March 19.
You Can Make This! Blog

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Small quilt for auction

Every year the quilt guild I belong to has a small quilt silent auction at the quilt show in August. Members can make a small quilt/wall hanging and donate it to be auctioned. In return, those donating quilts have the opportunity to suggest a non-profit agency to get the proceeds from the auction. One is picked at random and that non-profit gets the proceeds from everyone's small quilt. It's normally somewhere around $500. This is my quilt for this year. I'm hoping that my non-profit, HANS (, is chosen. It's based right here in Salem, Oregon and their mission is to provide doctors and other health care professionals with materials and training to help diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) earlier. Having experienced a grueling three years trying to get Dakota properly diagnosed, this is something close to my heart. We had medical professionals suggest diagnosis ranging from emotionally disturbed to sensory integration disorder to poor parenting to auditory processing disorder. - And yes, the poor parenting diagnosis hurt. That doctor (a psychologist) only worked under that theory for a short time until he knew us better and had seen enough interaction to realize it was not poor parenting, in spite of first impressions.

Not a single one even mentioned autism until we got to the Child Development Center at USF, where he was seen and tested by a developmental pediatrician, a clinical psychologist, a school psychologist, and a neurologist. Then they all got together and their joint diagnosis was the first one that truly made sense. It just shouldn't be that hard! In hind-sight, the warning signs were there for anyone who looked if they had any training at all in recognizing ASDs. And with ASDs now affecting 1 out of every 150 children, this isn't some exotic disease that a doctor might never encounter outside of a text book. Anyway, I'll be hoping really hard that HANS gets a little extra boost in funding this year to carry out its mission, courtesy of the Oregon Coastal Quilter's Guild.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Newest member of the family

Both the little boys have been nuts for these little stuffed animals called Webkinz for about a year now. You buy the animal, then go online to "adopt" it at the Webkinz website. Then there are all sorts of games you can play. You have to feed and care for your pet, send it to classes, work to pay for things, build a house and furnish it, etc. You can also send other Webkinz owners gifts and pre-written messages. About 5 months ago Devin got one so he could play games with the boys online. I half-jokingly said that I would have to find a horse before I could join them, so Devin got me one for my Valentine's Day present. This is Kady. It really is fun and unlike Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, Bakugan, and WWF figures, I can actually get into this. You log on and your Webkinz greets you with a little heart, saying she's so happy you've come back to play, she loves you, etc. It's the kind of unconditional love and validation we mothers never get until our kids are grown and moved away (if then), leaving us all alone with our gray hair and panic attacks. So, hey, I'll take it where ever I can get it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oregon Winter Beaches

We frequently go to the beach in the winter. I actually enjoy the beach here more in the winter than in the summer.

First of all, we love the agates. The winter storms pull all the sand off the beaches and areas that were nothing but sand in the summer turn into rocky morains. There is a beach just south of town that we like a lot and the first time I visited last year in the winter, I had to convince myself it was the same beach. There was absolutely NO sand, just tilted basaltic rock strata with the occasional pebble bed. This is a different beach, but I'm guessing that the rocks jutting up through the sand here aren't even visible in the summer.

Agates (made of quartz) are lighter than basalt and most other rocks, so they tend to "float" to the top of these pebble beds. Last year our family Christmas gift to ourselves was a rock tumbler. It takes about a month for agates to tumble and our rock tumbler operated non-stop for about 8 months last year. A few months off for good behavior and it's up and running again now. When we get a batch tumbled, we all gather round the kitchen table and take turns picking our favorites, a process which lasts about an hour each time because there are a couple hundred rocks in each batch. Other favorites besides agates are green and red jasper and petrified wood.

Another reason I like the winter beaches best is that they are mostly deserted, even on stunningly beautiful days like this. Now, even in the summer, our beaches aren't what anyone would call crowded - you might only see a dozen people if you go during the week. But in the winter, you'll only see a handful of people at most in an hour or two.

On stormy days, the waves are awesome. You truly understand what is meant by the term "force of nature" when you stand on the beach and watch the enormous waves crash on the shore. Just listening to them gives me a thrill. I'll try to get some pictures and blog the storms another time but I don't have any great pictures right now. On areas where the waves hit cliffs, the spray will sometimes shoot up 30 feet or more, filling the air with a salty taste a football field away. Although the waves weren't spectacular on this particular day, it was still pretty fabulously beautiful.One of the things I'll miss most when we move is the beaches. I know that sounds funny to say when we're moving to Florida, renowned for its summer beaches, but it's true.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kicking the habit

My husband, Devin, is fantastic. He's smart, funny, kind, and totally hot. ;) He's a patient, loving father and a considerate, loving husband. There is almost nothing I would change about him - and I'm putting this in writing even knowing that he'll probably use this statement against me sometime in the future. However, he has one bad habit that drives me bonkers. I've tried everything to get him to quit - nagging, guilt, lectures, bribing (hey, it works for the boys), and threats (teasing that when he goes on oxygen, I'm taking half and leaving), but nothing worked.

...Well, make that - he HAD one bad habit. He quit smoking two weeks ago today. He had been scaling back but finally went cold turkey. I know you don't get to be an ex-smoker until a year after you've quit, but I'm pretty confident he'll be able to stick the landing. I am so excited about this. On the plus side, I can kiss him before mouthwash, there's a better chance he'll outlive me (and yes, that's a big one for me), the boys won't pick up the habit from his example, his clothes don't smell like a bar anymore, etc.

On the negative side, I no longer have any leverage - hey, the value of leverage should never be underestimated in a marriage - in spite of the fact that the current financial crisis has almost made it a dirty word. In fact, now that I think about it, maybe that's the REAL reason he quit - to take away my leverage. And yes, it IS all about me. Here's what I mean about leverage: When talking about my bad habits, I can no longer blithely take the moral high ground because smoking trumps everything else. Or when we go over the budget and he's teased out all my quilting expenditures (admittedly a shocking total), I don't get to ask where the line item for his cigarettes is. However, in spite of my regrettable loss of leverage, I think we've all come out way ahead on this one. WAAHHOOOO!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Devin's quilt

In all my quilt-making the last three years, I have yet to make a quilt for Devin. I've made several for each of the boys, one for the guest room, a half-dozen for charity quilts, one for myself to watch TV under, and several to give away as gifts. I keep telling Devin to pick out a pattern or colors or style or something for me to go by, but he hasn't. Instead he sits, convulsively shivering, on the other end of the couch after drinking a Slurpee or eating ice cream, casting me pathetic sidelong glances, until I relent and let him have my quilt. The one I picked colors, pattern, and style for to suite only myself.

So I, like most quilters, have this overflowing basket of scraps. -Odds and ends left over from any number of projects. Last fall I decided to just randomly piece some of these scraps into blocks and make a quilt out of them. Partly this was because the scraps are literally overflowing and ending up on the floor. Partly because I had a few small orphan blocks that I wanted to use before they got tattered. And I guess, if I'm totally honest, it was also partly because starting a new project seemed much more attractive at the time than completing any of my numerous on-going ones. Anyway, the result is this quilt which I finished binding about a week ago.
For a lap quilt, this is enormous. It's about 50x70, which is almost twin size. It's the first quilt I've made that doesn't have a specific destiny. So for now, it's Devin's TV quilt. And that basket of scraps...STILL overflowing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Last gasp

One day last week I got outside to drive the boys to school (it was drizzly and COLD) and found this on my windshield:It was ice - probably 1/8-1/4 inch thick. It had been raining all night and it was just cold enough to freeze when it hit the windshield.

I used to have an ice scraper. It saw lots of service in Washington, D.C. It was used several times every winter. It even got used in Houston. However, when we moved to Florida and I was switching vehicles, I tossed it. After all, I could say without a doubt that I would NOT need it anytime soon in Tampa, where once or maybe even twice a year, people tuck in their landscaping plants with blankets when it might drop below freezing for -GASP- several HOURS!!

Driving through our Tampa neighborhood, looking at all the plants lovingly tucked in for the night, I couldn't help but think of growing up in NW Montana, where it wasn't really considered cold until the thermostat was registering double-digit, negative numbers and plants that didn't survive the frozen winters on their own were quickly replaced with something a little more... well... low maintenance. Needless to say, I never tucked my plants in while we were in Tampa, but I must admit that there were a couple plants that got replaced that first winter, which was fine with me.

Anyway, back to my poor iced-in van... and me with no ice scraper. For the last seven years (five in Tampa and two here) I've used a card (driver's license, credit card, etc.) to scrape the frost off my windshield. It was a bittersweet moment as I whipped out my trusty FL driver's license to clear the windshield (after the heater had had a little time to work). I couldn't help giggling a little as I thought about the fact that FL driver's licenses in general probably don't often get this kind of abuse and this is probably the very last time mine will be used for this purpose.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Big News

Okay, I've been really quiet lately. It's a combination of two factors. First, I was STILL having computer problems. It had gotten so bad that I dreaded turning the darned thing on. I sent it back to them in early February and they supposedly went over everything with a fine-toothed comb and sent it back to me, finally working.... Until about three weeks later when it crashed for good with absolutely no warning, losing about 100 pictures (and yes, most were destined for blog posts) but little else since I've gotten so paranoid about backing everything up.

Tech support still wanted to "help" me troubleshoot, but I balked, refusing to do any of those things I've already done on previous calls to tech support, insisting instead on a working computer or a full refund. Without too much fuss, they sent me a new hard drive. That's the good news. The bad news is that I've switched back and forth between computers so many times in the last couple months that I'm exhausted just thinking about doing it yet again! Reinstalling, downloading, updating, syncing, oops, wrong file, uninstall, etc., lol. I'm just computer-literate enough to get myself into lots of trouble.

Second, the really big news - is that we found out about three weeks ago that we'll be moving back to Florida this summer instead of next. Devin's orders got moved from a report date of mid-February to a report date of December 1. I normally start gearing up for a move six months out but we're already at four months and counting on this one. I've been just a little stressed but have made significant progress on my list of items normally completed by this time.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Break

This week is spring break for us here on the central Oregon coast. Devin and I had planned on taking the kids on a trip down to San Francisco to sight-see for the week. We had such a good time there last fall that we thought it would be fun to do the kid stuff, too. Well, best-laid plans and all that....

Devin's boss asked him back in February if he would go on a trip, which has been planned for two years now, to trouble-shoot and organize, since it's the first mission of its kind. He's really good at things like that. It's a tremendous compliment and, ultimately, a career boost, that he's been chosen for this. Sometimes I wish he were no good at his job, and this is why: the big trip is this week - spring break. SO... no trip to San Francisco. Which probably means we won't ever go, since it was less than two weeks later that we found out just how limited our time here is. AND, even more good news, I get the kids all to myself for spring break - all NINE days. Devin leaves today and won't get back until next Sunday.

So I've decided to take the boys and go visit my parents in Kalispell for a couple days. I don't know if my parents will make it back out here before we go and it's a long trip from Montana to Florida, so it may be a while before the kids get to see them again. Wish me luck on the drive. I'm always afraid that someone may not make it alive on long road trips - probably me!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Those wily leprechauns

Leprechauns run amok at our house on St. Patrick's day every year. The milk is invariably turned green: -which isn't a problem until you try it on cereal:

Then, believe it or not, you simply cannot keep yourself from tasting mint, even though no mint flavor is actually present.
In years past, we've had green scrambled eggs (don't ask me how the little buggers got past the shells), calendars turned to the wall, shoes in the laundry basket with the clean laundry, and many other mischievous reminders that the little people are just waiting for their day. Monday night I slaved for hours over a perfect batch of Rice Krispy treats. Imagine all of our dismay to find this waiting for us on Tuesday morning:

The Leprechauns win again!! Rematch next year.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

We've been flocked!!

Devin mentioned last night that the boys should really leave a little extra time this morning before school to check out our new lawn attractions. Evidently, in between the time we got home from Portland around 6:00 and when we went to bed at 10:30, we were "flocked". Devin assumed someone from his work had done it as a joke because the last place we lived was Florida, which is the state most closely associated with flamingos.

When I read the note attached to the "alpha" flamingo (the one closest to the door), I realized it is part of a fundraiser for two Newport girls to go to Washington D.C. as local representatives of something called People to People. The way it raises funds is that we have to pay to get rid of them! Then they go on to a person of our choosing who, in turn, pays more go-away money. Of course, we can also buy "insurance" so the flamingos won't come back. I think this is pretty funny and very clever.... Devin just raised his eyebrows non-committally.

These hot-pink flamingos are a shocking sight in our yard, not only because they are stereotypically trashy lawn ornaments, not only because flamingos clearly do NOT belong in Oregon, but because there is such a glaring contrast between our current lusterless, overcast day and this garish neon-pink flock of birds, one of whom is resting in a BUSH???

I have to admit this made my day.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A.C. Gilbert Discovery Museum in Salem

Sunday we left Portland and traveled south to Salem, which is on the way back to Newport, to visit the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Museum
( We had never visited this one but had heard good things about it. It was well worth the stop. This is really two activities in one.

First, there is the inside. Believe me, the insides should never be undervalued in a rainy climate like Oregon's! There are three buildings with quite a respectable offering of daily life type activities (a pretend grocery store, stage with costumes, skeleton manipulatives, crafting with re-purposed trash, etc.). Here's Dylan, the intrepid explorer, posing for the camera in the stage room. My favorite room of all was the bubble room. There were dozens of ways to make bubbles, including the bubble circle curtain that the kids stood in the middle of, and the bubble wall, shown here, with Dylan blowing into it.

Dakota and Dylan, although they enjoyed it, are getting to the upper limit of the age to be interested in most of the things inside - but younger kids would be hugely entertained for hours.

As nice as the inside is, it is the outside that puts this place over the top, though. They have one of the most extensive and well-thought-out play areas I have ever seen. There is the music room:

The spider web: The "cell" that can be explored from the inside out:

There is also a paddle wheeler, many paths and tunnels connecting it all, benches in the middle for exhausted parents, and, best of all, this humongous, multi-level maze with slides on the back side to zip down on.

Dakota and Dylan spent about two hours zooming around, playing hide-and-seek with Devin, who frequently pretends not to see them in order to make the game even more exciting for them. He's such an awesome dad!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Well, we decided last Tuesday - last minute as usual - to head up to Portland for the three-day weekend. Our main purpose was to visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). I consider this to be the best children's museum I have ever visited, although Seattle comes very close, if only for the butterfly house. What makes this one so great is that almost everything is hands-on, which is especially great for boys, so many of whom are kinesthetic learners. In addition to the exhibit halls, there is an IMAX theatre, a planetarium, an awesome science store, and temporary exhibits (this time it was Da Vinci).

When I was in grade school, a group from my school came to Portland every year for a basketball tournament. There are several things we did every time, one of which was to visit OMSI, so I have fond memories of coming here as a child. My clearest memory is of the Gravitron. It's one of those things where a little metal ball rolls on one of several tracks until it gets to the bottom, at which point it is hoisted back to the top to start down all over again. As you can see, kids are still fascinated with it and, I must admit, even as an adult I can sit and watch it for several minutes without the slightest feeling of boredom. Dakota and Dylan sit for at least five minutes and watch it every time we visit.

OMSI is so densely packed with activities and exhibits that, even though we have visited at least half a dozen times (and I want to say closer to ten times), we still haven't done it all. Dylan always heads straight for the paper airplanes and bridge building area, frenetically testing everything that catches his eye as he races through the main exhibit hall. Dakota still hasn't really gotten past the Chemistry lab, robotics, Physics lab and ball area, all of which are in the first two-thirds of the hall.

Dylan and I spent a couple hours on Saturday and Sunday making various paper airplanes, which we then tested in the "wind tunnel" and aimed at a target to see how accurately they flew. We kept the best of them to show off for Dakota and Devin back in the hotel room. Dakota's reaction was, "HUH, I never knew they had paper airplanes! Where are those?"

Here's Dylan in the robotics section trying to move the circle to the other end of the metal tube without being beeped (when they touch each other).

I highly recommend OMSI to anyone in Portland with children middle school aged and younger. When they get to high school age they don't want to do ANYTHING with their parents, most of all a lame educational museum. For everyone else, this is definitely one thing not to pass up.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


"Hi, my name is Ann, and I'm a yesoholic."

"Hi Ann."

"I've tried to get clean and stay clean before but I always fall off the wagon."

"We've all been there. And you're here with us now. That's what counts."

"I used to be a volunteeraddict but I kicked that habit cold turkey. Been clean almost two years now."

"Congratulations! That's a tough one."

Okay, you guessed it, I made that up. But if I could find this group, I would join in a heartbeat. I imagine it being called Spineless Unpaid Chumps Anonymous, or SUCAs (suckers? get it?) for short. Seriously, what is it that makes me raise my hand without a thought, jumping up and down and screaming, "PICK ME!!"? I like to help out but it's drastically cutting into my nap time.

I "yessed" myself into a big project for my quilt guild. I had a self-imposed deadline to finish it by last night and didn't quite make it. I had one or (gasp!) both boys home with the flu all last week, among other things. However, I am now spitting distance from completing it - should be easily finished early next week. Then I can get back to napping...I mean housework.... Okay, okay, I'll actually be sewing and blogging again. To quote a friend, "If I can't use the vacuum once a week, I'll just use the leaf-blower once a month." Words to live by! It's nice to be back.

Happy Valentine's Day

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sleep talking

Last night, as I was laying in bed trying to find yet another comfortable position that would allow me to actually fall asleep, I heard Dakota start to mumble in his sleep.

I have to mention here that all three of the boys talk in their sleep and I've read that there is a correlation between this and sleep walking as teenagers. With David, it sure was true. He sleep walked A LOT! The most memorable time is when he thought the kitchen trash can was actually a similarly purposed bathroom fixture. Let's just say he lifted the lid - for which I am very grateful.

Anyway, Dakota was mumbling in his sleep. I heard "Mumble, garf, pfluble. Can I save?" (He's talking about saving a video game.) The last was said loudly and just as clear as day. Imagine my amazement when I heard Devin, who had been asleep for about two hours at this point, reply "mmm hmm" in between gentle snores.

Devin doesn't believe that this actually happened, but it was all I could do not to wake him up shaking the bed I was laughing so hard - very quietly.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Swallow the frog first...

I got an email a couple months back that contained a story along the following lines:

Imagine that you have a rewarding and comfortable life except for one thing. In exchange for this life, you have to eat a frog every day. From the time you wake up, the thought of this unwelcome task is always in the back of your mind, draining your energy in ways you don't even fully realize. The solution to this problem is to swallow the frog first!

So, that's become my number 1 New Year's resolution. I'm swallowing the frog first! Every day, I've been trying to pinpoint the one thing on my to-do list that I most dread doing. That item then becomes the first thing I attempt to resolve. I have to admit that this simple change is working amazingly well for me. Even things that have seemed like huge problems have, for the most part, been solved by 10:00 in the morning, leaving me free to enjoy the rest of my day. It's only two weeks into the new year and I've swallowed all my on-going "big frogs". Now I've just got a handful of tiny ones to work on.

Wish me luck, warts and all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


When I was in college, I was an Asian Studies major, which meant taking several fascinating classes on development of third world countries. In one of those classes, I learned about Grameen bank, a micro-lending bank in Bangladesh. Back in the 70s, the founder loaned a very small amount of money ($27 each) to a couple dozen poverty-stricken families. The money was primarily loaned to women because, it was reasoned, women have the most stake in improving the lot of the entire family. Most of these families were able to use the money to dramatically and permanently improve their standard of living. Almost all the loans were repaid on time and now, three decades later, Grameen Bank is huge, still lending to the poorest citizens of Bangladesh. I had seen extreme poverty before (as an outsider in Mexico) but still was amazed that such a tiny (to my way of thinking) amount of money could have such a huge impact.

Fast forward twenty years. About once every four months, I catch an episode of Oprah. I love the show, but it's not on at a convenient time for me and I don't love it enough to commit to watching it in its recorded incarnation. About a year and a half ago, I happened to tune in and learned about Kiva. Kiva is a non-profit organization that matches micro-lenders (you and me) with people in mainly third-world countries who need micro-loans (in most cases, a few hundred dollars). I can go to Kiva's website and lend money in $25 increments to people who have applied for loans for various purposes. (The entire $25 goes to the loan with no fees taken out) My $25 joins the $25 loans from other people until the entire requested loan amount is funded. So far I've made nine loans, four of which have been paid back and five of which are in the process of being repaid. As one of my loans is repaid, I just lend it back out to someone else. I love that I can be personally involved in making the earth a better place for some of its least fortunate inhabitants. Rarely is a loan not repaid and, if one of mine ever isn't, I will know that that $25 is probably needed a heck of a lot more by the person who has it now than it is by me.

A Kiva volunteer made the following video if you'd like more information: This video lasts about 10 minutes and follows the money as it's loaned by a group of people in London, travels to the Kiva offices in San Francisco, and then goes on to the intended recipient.

Or, you can visit their website

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Oops - make that the top eleven

In yesterday's top ten, I omitted something that should definitely have been there. Devin and my anniversary! We have been married 13 years as of last week. He didn't even make any comments about it not making the top ten - which means he didn't think about it. Because if he had thought about it, believe me, he would have said something ;). On one hand, it's hard to believe it's been that long, but on the other hand, it seems so right that I can't imagine a life other than with him. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Here is my all-time favorite picture of him as a little boy. He looks so much like Dakota sometimes it's almost scary.

And another, more recent, picture. Although this one is about 5 years old and he's a little scruffy, it's still one of my favorites because I find myself smiling back every time I look at it. I love you, honey. Happy Anniversary!

Monday, January 12, 2009


I'm shocked to realize it's been WEEKS since I've blogged. Even Devin has made a comment or two. So, in the interest of catching up in the shortest amount of time possible, here is my top ten from the last three weeks.
1. David - it was wonderful having him home. His girlfriend, Kimberly, spent a lot of time over here so we got to know her a little better, too. She really is a nice girl. I made cinnamon rolls twice because of special requests from the two of them. Everybody else really enjoyed them too, of course.
2. Gingerbread - David and Dakota paired off against Kimberly and Dylan in a gingerbread house building contest. I helped with Kimberly and Dylan's in the beginning because they couldn't quite get it structurally sound (the short set of walls was on the inside to begin with, which made the roof not fit, then the walls were falling over, then the roof kept sliding off - the smack-talk was hilarious). David and Dakota were clearly the winner in part one - construction, but Kimberly and Dylan held their own in part 2 - decoration. They might have done even better if Dylan hadn't wanted to eat all the candy instead of use it on the house. Then they each decorated their own gingerbread man, ahem, person - which were all gleefully eaten immediately after this picture was taken. It's always struck me as pseudo-cannibalism to eat cookies shaped like people - most often headfirst - all the while making little screaming noises. Those sound-effects only happen at my house, you say? Oh, well. Notice how Dylan's is absolutely covered with stuff? He couldn't wait to get at it!
3. Weather - like everyone else in the Pacific Northwest, we had severe weather the last couple weeks. Here in Newport, that meant that of the last week of school before break the kids only went for 1 whole day and 1 other day with a two-hour late start. Talk about messing me up with the whole last-minute-errands-before-the-holiday thing.
4. Weather - I know, I've already listed this once, but it deserves special recognition here. I went up to Portland on December 23 to pick up my in-laws, Ed and Kathy, from the airport. A trip which normally takes just under 6 hours took me 15 hours to make. Yes, that included putting on and removing chains, being stuck behind a snowplow moving 3 mph and sitting in a miles-long traffic jam waiting for a major freeway ramp (205 to 5 south) to reopen after an accident. I drove all night, leaving home at 5:00 pm and getting back at 8:00 am, just in time for Devin to go to work. I kept thinking about the fact that 15 hours will get me to Kalispell, Montana, three states away, where I grew up. Instead, I just went to Portland and back, never even leaving the state.
5. In-laws - mine - Ed and Kathy came for a nice visit. It was pretty relaxed and I think we all had a good time. It was unusual, however, to be frequently setting the table for eight people (including David and Kimberly), instead of our usual four.
6. Christmas - a good time was had by all.
7. Wii - we got one!! I'm not normally into video game platforms, but I also received the Wii Fit and it totally rocks! Our living room turned into a tennis court, gym, yoga studio, race track, bowling alley, ski slope, etc. I felt like we needed a sign-up sheet and time limit because EVERYONE wanted to play ALL the time. Our New Year's Eve party consisted of all of us, including kids, staying up and playing Wii games until midnight.
8. Pitas - I have to make pitas every month or so and had been out of them for over a week. I used to be able to buy them in Florida, but the brands they carry in the store here taste just awful! I get such a kick out of how they puff up like whoopie cushions.
9. Everyone leaves and I can breathe - I love having company, but I love it when I have the house to myself, too. My in-laws left on Saturday, January 3, and David left on Monday, January 5. January 5 is also when the younger boys went back to school. So, last week went like this: Monday I took David to the airport, Tuesday I met with my monthly sewing group, Wednesday I volunteer at school, Thursday was our monthly Quilt Guild meeting, Friday I got to stay home and veg! This week I'm back in the swing of things, getting set up for the year ahead. Yesterday I read the 50+ blog posts I had missed over the prior couple weeks. Today I'm posting (Yippee) and will be caught up again (even bigger Yippee).
10. DRUM - I am STILL having problems. I called tech support this morning and they are sending me a box. They will take it all apart and (hopefully) figure out what's wrong. I've already backed up everything to my old laptop (I hope!!) and this will only be a minor glitch (I hope).
Those are most of the high points from the last couple
weeks. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and is looking forward to an even more awesome 2009!