Friday, December 3, 2010

That hairy beast issue...

I have issues. No big surprise there. Who doesn't, really. I am usually pretty good about keeping said issues in check, but today that was so not the case.

It started this morning when the groupon of the day was $149 for $1000 worth of laser hair removal. It seems innocuous enough, hair removal. People do it all the time. I have thought about doing it. My aunt and mother have both done it. But let me tell you, when I got to thinking about it, it took me on a very slippery slope which ended in tears.

It started back when I was a senior in high school. I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I was camping at Dorena Lake with my parents and family. My Uncle Don was standing in front of me and grabbed one of my chin hairs, pulled it out and said, "What are you growing a beard?" I was mortified. I understand now that he wasn't trying to be mean or humiliate me, but in that moment, I just wanted to cry.

I had spent my entire life up to that point trying my hardest to fit in, including following every beauty regime possible. Being a fat kid, I was already at risk for being picked on, so I certainly did not want to "create" any other "errors" by not keeping myself in the best cosmetic shape possible. I knew that I was growing more chin and neck hair than I had seen on other girls. I knew that my mother, grandmother and aunts all had struggled with it. They plucked, Nair'ed and used electrolysis to try and remove their facial hair. I was just hoping that no one would notice mine and if I was lucky, I wouldn't have as much.

Unfortunately that would not be the case. As the years have progressed, so has my excess hair growth. In my early 20's I was diagnosed with PCOS, poly cystic ovarian syndrome, of which one of the symptoms is excess hair growth. After my diagnosis, I have had multiple doctors ask me if I was interested in trying medication to slow the growth, but I have really conflicting feelings about ingesting chemicals daily to stop a symptom of a larger issue.

What this has meant for me is that I deal with male patterned hair growth, which totally sucks. I have to shave my chin every couple of days and my chest too. In the summer if I want to wear a bikini, I have to Nair my tummy. When I was dating, it was horrible. I was so self conscious about it. What would a potential partner think? When do I not shave daily, so that they see what it looks like and decide if they want to be with me? I remember the first time Alan "caught" me shaving my chin in the shower, I felt humiliated. It seems ridiculous when I say it out loud, but it's my constant struggle.

How could someone find me attractive like this, is a question I struggle with often. When Alan touches my face, I sometimes cringe because I don't want him to feel the roughness. I was so worried that all my wedding pictures would be lovely, except for the shadow my facial hair leaves (thank you SO much emilyg for making me look gorgeous!) I was listening recently to a panel of Trans folks talk about the importance of having their outsides match their insides - and felt for a moment that I could relate. Every morning when I look in the mirror, I struggle. Some days it's easier when my face is smooth and I am having a good hair and make-up day. Others, I just want to cry and feel so frustrated and angry to look the way I do.

It's funny, one would think that being a fat girl in our society, that my one wish would to have a skinny body. Honestly, that desire RARELY crosses my mind - most often when I am thinking about the hassles of "flying while fat" but that is a topic for another day. What crosses my mind on a daily basis - get this excess facial hair off me!!

So I have been staring at this groupon all day thinking, should I do it? What if it doesn't work? Then my dream of not having to deal with this is kinda over. I also think - for christ sake Olivia, get over yourself. You are happy, for the most part healthy, you have a wonderful husband, sweet step son and all in all, lovely life. Quit bitching about a few (ok, a lot more than few) pieces of hair. But it's more than that. It means "getting over" a lot of "issues" that I am still just figuring out and that I know will take a while. In the mean time, I may just give it a try. The groupon deal is up all this weekend, so I have some time to keep thinking it through...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I have so much to be thankful for...

There has been so much "stuff" going on in my life lately. Between loosing my job in August, the never ending custody process we are attending to, the normal challenges of being a parent, trying to maintain a happy healthy relationship with my husband while I am going to school, homework and internship woes - it is easy to go to a place where I feel encumbered. Overwhelmed is an understatement today.

Today I turn 35. My morning started with a grouchy husband who was running late to work, me rushing around the house trying to prepare for our journey to my parents for the holiday weekend, finding a brand new container of ice cream in the refrigerator instead of the freezer and a crying spell in the middle of the kitchen. Not exactly what I had hoped my birthday would be like. But as trudged to the bus bundled up with tear streaked cheeks enjoying the quietness in the frigid fall air, I realized how blessed I am. This year has brought me many wonderful gifts.

My first full year of marriage - what a gift! It wasn't perfect, what ever that means, but it was a good foundation for a long life together. We have worked really hard to create space to grow as individuals and as a couple. It's really quite lovely.

I've had more time with my stepson. I have felt so blessed to have him in my life. I have formed a safe and loving relationship with him. Don't get me wrong, being a parent is hard work and being a stepparent brings its own set of challenges. But I really do love him and enjoy watching him grow into an even more wonderful human-being.

I completed my first year of graduate school. It has been a challenge balancing class, homework and internship with the other aspects of my life, but I did it. I have also learned a lot about myself and who I want to be as a therapist. I have had some great experiences and learning opportunities and over all wouldn't trade any of it.

My friends continue to be amazing. I have been so blessed with wonderful people in my life. This year we have welcomed new babies, become homeowners, watched relationships bloom - grow - and end, together. We have held each other during times of sadness and loss, as well as whooped and hollered at our successes. Through the magic of Facebook, I have reconnected with long lost friends and through the School of Social Work, kickball and new jobs have made new life long friends.

There aren't words to express how wonderful my family has been. Long phone calls with my mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law and grams have helped sustain me when I wasn't sure what to do. They always have the right words to prop me up, ground me and help me move along in my journey. I thank the universe daily to come from such smart, funny, compassionate people.

So yeah, I have many many people and opportunities to be thankful for this year. I hope you all know who you are and feel my love and appreciation of you. And if 35 is half as good as 34 was, I will be doing alright for sure.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Firsts

Our lives have been filled with many firsts lately. When I thought about writing this post, I was thinking more about the firsts that Gage has been experiencing - outdoor school, middle school dances, mainstream classrooms, but the more I thought about it I am experiencing firsts as well. It's amazing how easy it is to lose sight of the newness of life when you are going 90 miles a hour ahead into the unknown.

Gage went to outdoor school this past week. He was so excited about it. As long as I have known Gage, he has talked excitedly about outdoor school. His older cousin Jonah got to go a few years ago, and I think that is probably when the seed was planted in Gage's mind. He would bring it up randomly, but more so when we were preparing to go camping or were actually camping. He would hypothesize what it would be like to sleep away at camp with strangers, or whether he would like the food. Sometimes he would talk about the stuff he would like to do including archery, swimming, food fights and general tweenage fun.

When the time came this year to actually go to outdoor school, I was a little worried that he wouldn't enjoy it as much. I know what it's like to build something up in your head so much that there is no humanly way possible for it to come true. I really hoped it wouldn't happen this way for him. So when I saw his sweet face debarking from the school bus last Friday, I was excited to hear how it went.

For nearly two hours he recalled all his adventures, shared stories of hiking, archery, new friends, bugs, two desserts a day, short showers, dressing in sleeping bags, earning beads for leadership and all the other fun he had. After he finished up, I asked him if it was everything he thought it would be. His answer was no, but that he would do it again if he had the chance.

That response was another first for Gage. He has rounded the corner heading full steam ahead towards maturity, and we have been working hard to help him realize that life isn't always going to be the way you want it. However, you do have a choice in how you respond. You can either stew on what you don't have, think you deserve, didn't get and want to have or you can enjoy the ride and know that maybe next time it will be different. It's a hard lesson for anyone, but he's getting it.

It's moments like these that are firsts for me. I feel like I am really contributing to the wellbeing of this sweet child. Occasionally I have moments where I feel frustrated or unsure in my role. I am not his biological mom, but I am responsible for his wellbeing, both physical and emotional. There are things that if I had it my way, I would have done differently. However, at this point it's neither here nor there. So I sit back in my role as step-mom and do my best, hoping some of my good qualities will rub off on him too. I can't wait for more firsts and being there to share them with him.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fall Fun!

Team Mongoose decided to spread our pumpkin adventures over the course of two weekends! We tried to organize a pumpkin farm adventure with friends, but I failed to anticipate the craziness of an early Sunday morning at the farm. We did get to hang out with Kelly & Michael and Suzanna & April. Sweet Dizzle, Michael & Kelly's dog was along for the ride too. The Shattuck-Hardy Family started out with us, but it proved to be a little to overwhelming for the little ones. Better planning next years, meaning get there earlier and bring a wagon! All of that aside, it was a GORGEOUS October fall day. We couldn't have asked for better weather.










The following weekend, Team Mongoose spent a rainy Friday night designing and decorating our pumpkins. Alan and Gage decided to go the fancy route and use a stencil to create their ghoulish pumpkin. Me, I stuck with the simple first grade look. Why change it up when I am so good at that!? ;)












We had a really good time. Gage is still young enough to have fun and not get too caught up in the "my parents are sooo dorky" attitude! I totally remember feeling that way about my parents. Hopefully we have him a little bit longer! :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

I think I must be doing something right...

After two hours straight of the kiddo telling me all about his outdoor school adventures - every counselor he met, hike, stinky boy stuff he did - he tells me he learned a song that he "knew instantly" I would really like. I asked him to sing it to me, which he said he was too embarrassed to, but he really wanted me to read the lyrics. Check this out...

" A penny's made of copper,
love is made of hearts,
magic is within us all,
too soon we must depart,
a magic love is in the air,
the spirit round you flies,
a magic penny means i care,
your magic in my eyes.

For a magic penny says the things no words can say,
its a silent song of friendship that has grown,
to someone who gives back to you,
the love you gave away,
a magic penny will never be alone

For nothing can be had,
from a penny you don't spend,
love can never grow inside till given to a friend,
i've learned so much from all of you,
i wish this would not end,
but if we learned to share our love,
it will come back again.

For a magic penny says the things no words can say,
its a silent song of friendship that has grown,
to someone who gives back to you,
the love you gave away,
a magic penny will never be alone."

How sweet is that? And that he thought of me. Even sweeter. I sometimes don't know how good of a stepmom he thinks I am, but in moments like that I think I am doing ok.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

we are all learning...

I think we all forgot what it was like when 2/3 of us are back in school and Alan works full-time. Now that Gage is in middle school and is mainstreaming, there is more homework to be done. Getting it done on time means something different than it did before. We are all working on getting our schedules figured out and making sure that our needs are being met.

Co-parenting a middle school student is a bit more challenging too. They want more freedom, but there are also more responsibilities, both personally and academically. At Chateau du Mongoose we are trying to teach Gage how to manage multiple responsibilities and prioritization, both of which are challenging for adults to do, let alone an eleven year old. As I arrived home from class last night at 9:30pm and watched Gage and Alan put the final touches on his first big social studies project due this morning, I felt a mixture of pride and frustration. I was proud that with little struggle, Gage was getting the project done. He had spent the better part of his time, since arriving at our home around 6:30p, crafting all the pieces, writing up the notes and decorating the box. Gage is a great artist and enjoys doing crafts, so this project was more fun than work.

However, I was also frustrated. I was frustrated that he hadn't told us about the project when it was assigned three weeks ago and that we had to learn about it at Back to School night. I was frustrated that he was supposed to have been working on this project for the last three weeks and for the last two weeks, when ever we asked about it he said he was working on it at his mom's. I was frustrated that it was like pulling teeth last week when Alan sat down with him and tried to get him to work on the project. Lastly, I was frustrated when he arrived back at our house yesterday with only one craft done.

These are the years in which we are laying the ground work for how he will be as a student during the rest of middle school, high school and hopefully college. Having a few college degrees under my belt, I know how hard it is to stay on top of projects and how miserable it is to have to stay up all night to finish something I had all term to complete. I wish I would have learned how to plan my time better. I wish I would have learned that doing it incrementally would save me tons of stress and frustration. I don't want Gage to fall into these bad habits.

I know it's only the first project and I probably shouldn't stress it, but I really want to see Gage be successful. It's our job as his parents to make sure that he learns how to do this. We have to lead by example, by sitting with him to make sure he's working on it, and by checking in with each other to make sure we are all on the same page in supporting him. We are all learning this year.

Friday, October 1, 2010

apparently I bought a ticket to overwhelmedville...

Well back into my first week of my final year of grad school. I am really excited to be back. I loved see old friends, and enjoyed meeting some new folks too! My classes are all great, the work load doesn't seem to overwhelming so far. I got to do two days at my internship, both of which were great. I am looking forward to getting to work with clients, hopefully sooner than later.

On the work front, well not much going on there. I was notified by the employment department that I have qualified for the Training Unemployment Insurance program. It was created for displaced workers that could better their job situation if they got an associates or were less than two years from finishing their undergrad degree. I applied for the program last fall, but they denied me. I decided that I would try again this time and since I am over 1/2 done, they made an exception. All it means is that I do not have to actively be looking for work while I am in school. It doesn't give me a bump in the amount that I receive weekly (a whooping $97 after taxes)and the program will end the day I get my degree.

I am still looking for work. I had a second interview on Wednesday. It seemed to go really well until the second to last question. It felt like they wanted a really specific answer and I guess I wasn't understanding exactly what they wanted me to say. I was told that I would hear either way by today and as I haven't heard anything, I am assuming I didn't get the job. So yeah, i am feeling a little stressed about how it will all play out. i am trying really hard to keep a good game face on, not get to stressed out and do the best that I can with what I have. It's all I can do right now.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

weekly update.

As I learned last school year, time flies when 2/3 of the family are in school! I wanted to make sure an log the adventures we do as a family, as sometimes we forget what we've been up too. My mom swears she can't remember the 80's because she was working full-time, raising kids, hauling us to girl/boy scouts, swimming, soccer, football etc. This is my new memory holder. :)

Gage started middle school this year. It was decided that staying at his current school was the best idea.. It runs k-8. He seems to like it. We went to his Back to School night this week and got to meet all his teachers. They all think he is the bees knees and will do great at mainstreaming this year. He's a really smart kiddo for sure, but like any middle schooler can use some work on motivation! ;)

The first week of school went well. We had Gage for two days, and had some fun. He told us all about his class. He has 8 people in his class and it's a mix of 6-8 graders. His old bestie from elementary is in his class, which made him pretty happy. He made a couple of new friends and seemed to be getting along well.

The second week we were back in our regular schedule and it was our long weekend with Gage. The school week seemed to go well. Alan decided to buy Gage a cell phone that way he could check in with us while he was maxing home from Boys and Girls Club, call his mom during the week and be in touch with his friends. It's a big responsibility and we are working with him on how to use it correctly and take care of it. He also got to start back at Boys and Girls Club. He really enjoys going there. They have tons of activities and he gets to socialize with kids outside of school. I think it has helped him a lot having another social avenue. I was gone for the weekend with the girls, but I heard rumors of lots of video game playing, pizza and movie watching with the boys. Some good father/son time indeed!

This week was the third week of school. Wednesday was a favorite, Spaghetti Dinner, at Chateau Du Mongoose. Since we all starting living together even before we got married, I worked really hard to make sure that we got to sit down together for dinner each night. I did this with my family growing up and it was such a good time to catch up and learn about what is going on in everyone's life. After dinner we all just chilled out and enjoyed each other's company. Thursday was the Back to School night at Gage's school. It was so fun to go and meet all his teachers, talk to them about how he is doing in school and let them know we wanted to be involved in his education. He proudly showed us all his artwork hanging on the wall, his desk and his friends. It was a fun night and it was one of those moments I really felt like a mom. Friday night we had a family meeting with the custody evaluator for the custody case we are currently involved in. After that, Gage and I convinced Alan to make us some home made Pad Thai while Gage played Wii. After dinner we introduced Gage to one of our favorite treats, YoCream. It is the most delicious treat where you get to pick your frozen yogurt from a rotating menu of like 8 kinds. Then you get to pick from the 12 dozen different toppings. It is a lovely treat to enjoy on a 70 degree sunny fall evening. After desert we poked around in a few stores. Gage got a new blue t-shirt and turquoise(his favorite color!)hat. This morning we got up and had a pancake breakfast together. Then we headed out to march in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Fundraiser for SARC. We raised $550, and got 2nd place as a community fundraiser! It was great. Kelly, Micheal and Thunderfoot joined us for the march. It was so lovely to participate as a family for something so important.

So now we are rolling into the fourth week of school for the kiddo and I start school Monday. Wish us all here at Chateau Du Mongoose luck! We're going to need it!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

lots in my head, now to just get it out on paper, er the screen

I have been thinking a lot lately about stuff. What it means to be a step parent. What it means to be a step parent when you start parenting without children of your own. The challenges of balancing life, school, relationships and your desires. I just can't seem to get myself motivated to put it down on the screen. It just keeps rolling around in my head, which is often not a good thing. But now that I have it out here for the world to see (or at least the three of you that follow this blog) I have to commit to following up. Bear with me. I see these being conversations with myself, so they may not be that great. A work in progress, if you will. Kinda like me.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Oh Oregon Employment Department...

I spent 25 minutes on hold this morning waiting to find out about training program that is available for people who have lost their jobs and are enrolled in school full-time. When I finally got through the lady was super helpful, but at the end of the call notified me that my claim had been denied because I was in school. This information differed from what I was told on Friday afternoon at 4:30pm on my last call with the OED. The woman told me not to worry about it, fill out the paperwork and fax it back to her ASAP. I appreciate her sentiment, and for the time being I have enough resources in place not to worry about it, but what if I didn't?

It really made me think again about the importance of the language I use as a social worker. Even with good intentions, I need to be aware of how it can feel like I am dismissing someone's very legitimate concerns, especially if they are in a place of high stress. Perhaps a simple, "that sounds really frustrating, here's what I can help you with..." would have been a better response.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ouch, that hurts...

I finally got through to the Employment Department today, just in time to learn that I would qualify for $116 a week in unemployment assistance. Wow, talk about feeling like I was kicked in the teeth. Had I not taken my most recent job and stayed on unemployment, I would have been bringing home $1,600 after taxes. But instead, I took a part-time job that had "guaranteed funding" until June 2011 and a pay-cut. Let's just say I am kicking myself a bit. What do they say, hind sight is 20/20...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What a lovely end to Summer 2010!

This past weekend was the ending of our very short summer. Fortunately Alan had planned ahead and took Thursday and Friday off. We tried out kayaking for the first time and had a hoot of a time! We are both plotting and scheming how we can afford our own kayaks, but in the mean time, we are planning on renting from Next Adventure. Needless to say I was a little nervous going into this adventure, but our guides Jess and Nick were awesome. Super helpful guys that made the day amazing. As a fat girl I am always a little leery around the sporty folk. I consider myself pretty athletic and outdoorsy, but that can often get lost on others. No problems here. The guys were great at teaching me how to get into my boat with easy, using my core muscles to make paddling easier and just being great guides. I would totally recommend them!





After our kayaking trip we loaded up the car, picked up the kiddo and hit the road to Eugene. Friday morning we were up early and headed to the beach for a long weekend of camping. We joined my parents, one of my best friends Amber and her family, Rich and Louise and Diane and Alan. It was a great group! Amber's oldest son is a year younger than Gage and they get along famously. They spent the weekend running the campsite, sand boarding, swimming, biking, telling stories and just having a good old time.


















You know what they say, if you hate to leave, it must have been a good vacation. That was certainly the case for all of us. We hated packing up Sunday morning and heading back to reality. Back to work, school and all the chores awaiting us at home. It was a good weekend though, and our first real camping trip as a family. I think we are all looking forward to our next camping adventure.

PS - I totally got to re-live my childhood and swam across the lake! When I was a little girl and attended summer camp at Camp Cleawox, the big deal was swimming across the lake. I think it was called Knights of the Dunes or something like that. I was pleased to find out that I am still a Knight and made it over and back in under 30 minutes!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Change, will it do me good?

My job ended yesterday. It was fairly abrupt and unexpected, but once I got over the shock I was ok with it. I am able to get unemployment and I have applied for a few jobs that would be interesting and more social work related. I have to admit it is easier this time.

When I was laid off from BAH I was really angry about having to give up on something that I had worked so hard for and was so committed to. I was angry that the "new leadership" was so off base. I was scared about what was going to happen to me and whether or not we would be financially ok loosing so much income. But it all worked out in the end. We were ok, and I ended up being less angry.

This time I have a clearer understanding of it all. I know how to work out a schedule. I know what I need to do to keep myself from going bonkers. I can just relax for a minute and reformulate my game plan. Now that I think about it, I am pretty sure this change will do me good. :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

whew again!

Lots and lots of adventures and activities happening around the Mongoose household. August was a really busy month. Gage was with us for two weeks straight, which was a treat! We made sure to spend it wisely with lots of fun family activities.

The first couple of days he got to spend with his maternal grandma. They went to the movies, played games and hung out together. From all of Gage's accounts it was a fantastic time. Upon his return home we had a nice bbq with the rests of his maternal side. Only bummer was it was the hottest weekend on record this year and we spent the afternoon chasing the coolest most shaded spots we could find in our backyard. Although we did have a splash war in the kiddie pool!

The following day was spent trying to stay cool! In the morning, I got to have breakfast with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Amber. She is a roller derby girl in Eugene, and was up here for a weekend long competition. It was so nice to hang out for a couple of hours catching up on life. I am so blessed to have her in my life still! After a delicious breakfast, the boys decided to try ice skating at Lloyd Center. Gage got around once or twice, but then decided it wasn't his thing. Alan did pretty good. He was befriended by an older gentleman and his wife who skate their all the time. They gave him some pointers and he was cruising around. About 45 minutes in he took a pretty impressive spill and busted his elbow open, so he decided that was it for the time being.

Later that afternoon we headed to Chunky Dunk - a body positive swim party hosted at Peninsula Park Pool. It was still 94 degrees at 5:30, so we really enjoyed being in the water. Gage worked pretty diligently on his jumping into the deep end skills and by the end of the night was a pro in the 8 foot waters. We had a really great time.



Monday brought with it the beginning of camp. Gage had been waiting all summer to attend. He was a little nervous, but more excited. We biked in to camp together on Monday morning and were pleasantly surprised to find out all the activities he was going to get to participate in. They got to go swimming three times, field trips to parks, playgrounds, the movies and the big one - Oaks Park. Gage was beside himself with anticipation. The week went really well. He made some new friends and was bummed when it was over. We are hoping to get to send him again next year. He really wants to go back.

We also spent an hour each evening watching HUGE together. If you haven't checked this show out, please do! It's the story of a group of fat kids and a weight loss camp. Normally that would so not be my style, but this show is quite complicated. They have done a good job casting real fat kids, not size 8 adults. They deal with complicated feelings, trying to fit into a world that tells them they are not ok who they are and looking at how to live holistically healthier lives. We all really like it and we have some pretty meaningful conversations after each show.

After a pretty busy week, the weekend was mellow. We did join some friends on Saturday to wander the Alberta Street Fair. It was a nice cooler day, so even though the street was packed, it wasn't miserable like last year. Sunday we took a little adventure. We headed up the Gorge. First we hit Multnomah Falls. Gage has been asking about going there for months. We didn't have anything on the calendar, so I packed a picnic lunch and we went for it. We stopped at the falls and hiked up to the first bridge. I unfortunately have a torn meniscus, so that was about as far as I could go. After our min-hike, we enjoyed a picnic lunch. I wanted to show the guys the windmills that line the gorge, but couldn't remember how far they were away. We decided to just drive until we found them, which was about 100 miles away! But we also found gorgeous hills, warm sunny skies, crazy wind and an enjoyable afternoon together as a family! on our way back we stopped off at Celilo Falls and Gage played in the water while we watched the wind surfers. Then we headed to DQ for a sweet treat to enjoy on the ride home. It was a really lovely day. I am so blessed to have had that time with my boys.





On Monday we met up with our friends Luc and Nora and headed out to lunch at NOSH and then off to OMSI. I have never been during the week before. It was really nice. Not a ton of people when we arrived, so the kids got to really enjoy themselves. I had never been upstairs before and that was pretty cool. Gage and Nora both got to hold this really creepy bug and Gage and Luc practiced their weather reporting skills using a green screen. It was pretty funny to watch.





On Tuesday, Gage and I met Gage's Uncle Don for some bike riding along the Banks/Vernonia trail. It was a hot day, but this gorgeous trail is covered in natural shade with a few sunny spots along the way. It's paved and not too hard of a climb. We worked our way four miles up to the top, then coasted our way back down to a lovely lunch spot. After lunch we coasted our way down to the car. We were almost injury free, until Gage wiped out at the 1 mile mark. He earned himself a nice knee and elbow scratch, but thankfully his head was protected by his helmet and no other bones were broken.





It was good two weeks together. It was fun having Gage around more and watching him get out there and participate in activities. He is growing up so fast and in just a few days will be a middle schooler. Shortly, he won't want anything to do with us, so we are just enjoying the time with him the best we can. Guess that is all you can do as a parent. Love your kids and teach them to be the best people they can be. The rest will work itself out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I cant' hardly wait!

Today is going to be spent finishing my paper due tomorrow. Oh yeah. Good times. I am really ready to be done with school for a minute. I just have to stay focussed today and get through this. I have to have it done by 5pm. I want to be free to hang out tonight with the boys. This is the beginning of Gage's two weeks with us! More on that later. Now it's a quick shower, breakfast and on to paper writing!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I can't wait for this week to be over.

I suppose everyone says that, but I am really done with summer school this Thursday. I am so ready to not have to be engaged in homework for a while. I am really struggling to finish this last paper this term. It's only 8 pages, which shouldn't be trouble at all, but it is just staying motivated enough to get it done. Argh. Three more days, three more days, three more day - perhaps if I keep saying that it won't be so bad. ;)

Monday, August 9, 2010

And what a year it has been...



Yesterday, August 8th, Alan and I celebrated our first year of marriage. We spent the day only doing the things we wanted to. The laundry, still unfinished from the day before, remained untouched. We left the dishes in the sink. We slept in late and took our time getting around in the morning. It was lovely. We then hopped on our bikes and headed across the river to the Chinese Gardens. After leisurely wandering through the quite and sereneness, we poked in and out of gift shops in bustling Old Town. In the heat of the afternoon sun, we headed up to the 30th floor for happy hour at the Portland City Grill. You could see three quarters of the city from a vantage often only witnessed by birds. The drinks were delicious and made our cheeks pink. Soon the crowded venue was no longer what we craved, so back on the bikes again to find a new spot to enjoy together. After an unintentional bypath through the streets of northeast, we arrived at Vendetta where Alan proceeded to share with me his love of shuffle board while enjoying an ice cold lemonade Pabst in the sun. As Johnny Cash crooned to us over the juke box, we flirted like a couple on their third date, eyelashes fluttering in anticipation, bodies brushing against each other and innocent kisses being shared. As the sun started to fall in the sky, we hopped back on our bikes and headed to a delicious dinner at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant. We ended the evening sharing tasty sweet-treats cuddled up with each other on the couch.

It was a lovely celebration of our first year together. All the trials and tribulation of our daily life - work, school, bills, custody battles and the like, were suspended momentarily. We simply got to bask in the happiness that we bring to each other. It felt like reconnecting to all the things that initially drew us together, but with a deeper appreciation of the whole people we are. I really needed that time with my partner in life. I feel rejuvenated and re-centered in my commitment to our relationship and each other. I am excited and ready for what year two will bring us...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Great Jam Experiment 2010

I grew up in a home where canning was the norm. I fell asleep many a night to the rattle and hiss of my mom's canner. She would can string beans, corn, home-made veggie stew and jam. It was so common place, I didn't think much about it as a kid. We had locally grown food year round. As I got older, I wanted to learn how to make my own food and can it. It seemed so tough to do. I surely didn't have the right supplies and I wasn't even sure what to do.

Saturday, on our way to a party, we stopped into a QFC. They had this seemingly HUGE container of strawberries. Alan asked me twice if I was sure that I needed that many. I assured him that I did. He then asked me what I was going to do with them all. I confidently, for no apparent reason, answered "make jam!" I went on to use them in a couple of July 4th baking projects, but still had 3.75 lbs left. So this morning I googled strawberry jam and jumped right in!

After a quick trip to Freddies to get the jars, I started hulling and then smashing 4 cups of strawberries, then juiced three fresh lemons and readied 4 cups (gah!) of sugar.



Once I had it all laid out, I put it on the stove and got it to a rolling boil of 220 degrees for 10 minutes.



While the jam was cookin' I readied the jars and lids. I dug out my stock pot thinking that it would be plenty big for the four 12 oz jars of jam. It would have been, had I been able to just set the jars down in the pan. Unfortunately I learned that I needed to set them on a rack in the stock pot. With some creative finagling I was able to get them in the pot and covered with the appropriate amount of water where I let them boil for 15 minutes.



When the timer buzzed I removed them from the water and let them cool until each one of the lids "pinged" to indicated they were sealed tight. I was really proud of my handy work. I definitely want to try to can some other stuff. I need to collect up more jars and then plot away! Arminda promised to help me do pickle string beans, and I would love to can up some veggie soup and chili. Come winter time it would be nice to just pull something home-made off the shelf and have a healthy home-made meal in seconds!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Settling in

I can hardly believe it's almost July. With the grey cooler weather and me being in summer school, it seems like we aren't really haven't reached summer yet. I am hoping the weather will change up a bit. We have had a few days of sun, which has been lovely. I am hoping it sticks around next week when the kiddo comes back.

Speaking of the kiddo, it's been fun having him a week at a time. Our summer schedule is a week with mom then a week with dad. It so nice having him around. Plus, being here for a week gives us some good time together. We get to settle in more as a family. With the old schedule, it seemed like we were always going at a break neck pace to fit in all the stuff families want to do together and in our Friday night through Sunday 8am restrictions, there was never enough time.

Our first week of summer together we got to do some bbq-ing, adventures around town, Gage got a hair cut that he picked out himself, we got him a few more clothing items to round out his summer wardrobe, Pa & Nena came to visit, lots of bike riding, a boat ride on the Willamette, family movie night at the Kennedy School, a play date with his friend Avery, and he got to do some reading - which he loves.

It's been nice hanging out just the two of us during the days Alan works from the office. I am working really hard to make sure that Gage gets to have a fun relaxing summer. I want him to get to hang out with his friends, hopefully make some new ones, get to do some activities and enjoy being a kiddo for a little bit longer. He is rounding that corner into middle school and not wanting anything to do with us anymore. I remember it. I am working hard at building a trusting respectful relationship with him. I try to model open, direct and ethical communication. I want him to know he can talk to me about whatever is bothering him and I am not going to flip out or discredit his feelings.

Being a parent is hard. I am not saying that in a 'whoa is me' sort of way. I am just honoring all the work, love, frustration, happiness, joy, and heartbreak that goes into helping another human being grow up in this crazy world. Props to all my friends who have been doing it way longer than I have. Being a step-parent presents a whole different set of challenges, so again, props to all my friends who have sat where I am sitting today. I am so blessed to have such a loving supportive birth and chosen family who have been such great role models of how to create a loving caring family. They are constantly a support for both Alan and I. They offer us guidance, support, and sometimes just a shoulder to cry on and a wise ear to listen to us as we struggle and succeed at being good parents.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

whew...

It's been a busy few weeks. All of us on Team Mongoose wrapped up school. Papa Mongoose did really well in his writing class. It was a tough go of it, getting back in the school routine, but it paid off with a big ol' A. Lil' Mongoose finished up school yesterday. He is officially a middle schooler now. I got my grades back yesterday and was really proud. Although I wasn't able to get that elusive 4.0, I did get an A, and two A- so I can't really complain.

Today is the first day of our new summer parenting time schedule. Gage will be with us 1 whole week at a time. It's kind of exciting. Our time together is often so short and couched in school that we don't get to have downtime to hang out. We have enrolled him in camp for a week in August which sounds like so much fun to me. Lots of swimming and activities. The week Gage and I are spending today, tomorrow and Monday by ourselves. We have a pretty adventure packed day today and we have kickball tonight as well. Tomorrow, more artsy crafty stuff as we have Father's Day cards and a birthday card for Nena to work on.

This weekend should be a lot of fun. Nena and Pa are coming on Saturday morning. We are going to celebrate Nena's belated birthday on Saturday with a bike ride along the Marine Drive trail and picnic lunch. On Sunday we are taking the Dad's on a boat ride up the Willamette. It should be a fun weekend.

What summer adventures do you have planned?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

500 down, 500 to go...

Today I finished the last of my 500 hours of internship for first year. We have to complete 1000 hours over the course of the two year program. It feels good to be done with the first half. I had a great year. I got to work in two very interesting programs and learn a host of new information and skills.

I have to say that I am really looking forward to next year. I am excited to be interning at Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC). I have a list of reading for August and September, once I finish up summer term. I get to attend training in October too. I am so excited to do this work.

YAY Me!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wow, that was great!



It was so much fun to get out of town this weekend! It was like we were newlyweds again. When we pulled out of Portland it was pouring and gray. As we rolled into Lincoln City it was sunny with fluffy little white clouds rolling by. We headed immediately to the beach to enjoy the big glowing orb in the sky. After a walk down the beach we headed to Chinook Winds Casino to check in. We got a great room with an awesome view of the beach. Alan opened the windows and we didn't close them until we left this morning. It was so lovely to listen to the crashing waves as I fell asleep last night. I slept like a baby. We had fun playing slots, poker and blackjack. No big wins, but definitely had a good time. This morning we enjoyed the new Pig N'Pancake in Lincoln City before heading back home. We decided to stop off and Spirit Mountain Casino and see what it was like. We played a few hands, but decided that it was just too smokey for us. We jumped back on the road and headed to the Woodburn Outlets. I wanted to see what deals I could find on some new summer clothes for the kiddo, work pants for the hubs and I am still in search for the perfect summer skirts. I did alright. At least the boys are good to go.

It was a wonderful whirl wind of a weekend. We need more of them. We are already planning the next one! Here are a few shots from our adventure...




Saturday, May 22, 2010

woohooo!

Alan and I are finally getting away for a night to the beach! We are so excited. We get to pretend we are newly weds again. I'll post pictures upon our return.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A weekend off

This weekend we are heading over the mountain to see Grams. With the parenting time schedule that we have, we are only able to go away one weekend a month. This month we chose to visit my paternal Grandmother in Redmond. It's supposed to be a lovely weekend in the high desert. We will all have a great time. The boys love the neighborhood as there is great biking and parks. Grams loves having her family around her. So it works out to be a win win situation.

Tonight we are packing a picnic dinner to take with us and will hopefully find a nice spot to pull over and eat at. Tomorrow, depending on what Grams needs done, we are talking about hiking up Pilot Butte and the boys want to check out the skate park. We are planning on meeting up with Aunt Jill and Uncle John, some of the cousins and their kiddos. It's going to be a fun family weekend!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Gratitude.

How did I learn how to be grateful? Until recently, it was a rare day that I would celebrate the absolutely mundane gifts I received on a daily basis. I did not even view them as gifts. I expected them - a roof over my head, food in my belly, transportation, clothing, the love of my family and friends. I rarely ever stopped to think about what gifts each of those are.

I know I am lucky. Where as life has not always been easy breezy, it sure has afforded me some rich wonderful experiences. I have two amazing parents who have spent their lives doing the very best that they could to make mine and my brother's lives happy and healthy. This doesn't mean they were perfect. This doesn't mean there weren't times when our life as a family didn't feel desperate or painful. It means that life was complicated and my parents did their best.

One of the amazing gifts they gave me was the gift of gratitude. My parents struggled through out my childhood financially. They came from very different backgrounds and life experiences which gave them differing ways of looking at and managing resources. I remember their struggles and how each thought they were doing what was best. As someone who now shares financial responsibilities for a family with my parter, I have great admiration for what my parents were able to do for us and each other. Never during their struggles did I get the message that we didn't have enough.

No matter how financially burdened they may have been, my parents created an amazing life for us. They got us involved in our community. They challenged us to take our education seriously. There was never any question that if we wanted to achieve something, that we could. They taught me to be creative and think outside the box. They encouraged me to dream big, work hard and to never give up. Never give up on my family or my friends. Most importantly they modeled gratitude.

Daily we witnessed how truly grateful they are for each other and the life they have created together. They show us continually how grateful they are to have us as children, and now our partners and children as an extension of the family they created. I am truly grateful to have had such great examples of how to live in the world and am now trying to pass these examples on to my step-son.

I have kept a gratitude journal off and on for many years. Recently, I had started writing in it again. I was feeling burned out and stuck, so to help me reset my thinking I dug out my journal. It was so great to go back and look at some of the amazing events, emotions, thoughts and even recipes that I had been grateful for over the years. It felt kind of silly to be inspired by my own self, but I was.

As a family, Alan, Gage, and I have been trying to look at amazing gifts we are to each other, what we have to offer and what we have been given. I think sometimes in the rush of the day to day we lose site of those gifts. We began last week by purchasing Gage and Alan their own journals to start writing in. Then we spent some time together before Gage went to bed writing down - and in Gage's he also drew some pictures - what we were grateful for that day. It could be anything, the dinner I ate, the shower with lots of hot water, the fact that I got to cuddle with both my boys while watching a movie together. Then we shared one of our thoughts with each other.

I am so glad that we started this as a family. It has been such a great gift to sit with our little family and really concentrate on what we are thankful for. I know it helps me. I go to bed thinking about the good things going on in my life. I feel like Gage is trying really hard to figure out what gratitude means for him and it's fun to get to be apart of that. I also think Alan is enjoying the process as well. I am grateful for this.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Gage's new room!

Last weekend we all decided that Gage's room needed a little revamping. Gage was tired of his loft bed. We spent some time online looking for beds. He found one at IKEA that he liked, so after a quick trip to pick it up we put his new room together.

The before picture...


Cleaning stuff out...


Dad puts the bed together...IKEA is never easy!


The cool new space!