Indian Summer in the Northwest

Holy cow, the first day of fall was almost two weeks ago, and we’re still having summer-like weather.  It hasn’t rained for something like 70 days, except for a couple of really brief showers, and on my iPhone weather app, there is nothing but a yellow orb showing for the next seven days, with highs into the 70s.  I love it!  I’m sure it’s contributing to why we’ve all been happy and getting along so well lately.

This perfect fall weather also means that I’m still picking tomatoes, and we’re still having fun playing outside.  When I pick the kids up at school at 3:00, we never seem to leave the playground until after 4:00.  So the kids get to play like crazy, I don’t have to schedule so many play dates, and I am getting to know the other moms at school, as we sit in the sun and chit chat at the playground.

Also, we’ve either walked, biked, scootered, unicycled, or roller-bladed to and from school every single day.  I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to get the kids up and out the door in enough time to get to school without driving, but the kids love it.  The one time I frantically said, ‘We’re late, we have to drive!’ the kids had a fit, and I thought to myself, ‘Okay then, maybe it’s better to get a little exercise and fresh air before school, than be perfectly on time.’  And we weren’t even that late.

The route to school is lovely.  It’s mostly down hill, and we go a certain way that has uneven pieces of sidewalk that are like jumps, so the kids can catch some major air.  But at the end of the day, the way home is mostly up hill, and the kids are convinced that the least hilly route is along a really busy street.  This way is far from scenic, but it does give them some good exposure to city living.

First we cut through the Budget truck rental parking lot that has speed bumps for some good air.  Next up is the Plasma Center, where you see people lined up who need money so badly they sell their blood.  Actually, as down on their luck as they may be, they almost always smile and make way for us, especially when Nadine is on her unicycle.

After that is the Love Zone, where there are skinny white mannequins in the windows with sexy outfits on.  Sometimes we look at them and try to decide which outfit would look best on me.  And sometimes there is a guy on the street, a pretty scruffy and disheveled guy, holding up a big sign with an arrow pointing back to the Love Zone that says “Free Sexy Panties’.  I asked him the other day if I could just walk into the store and they’d hand over my free panties, and he said, “No, I tried that.  You actually have to buy something.”  Bummer.

The Love Zone

Then after we cross at the light, we go by the plumbing supply store, which has an assortment of sinks and toilets lined up outside.  Yesterday, as we were biking past, I saw an old guy (and I mean ancient) come out of the store with a t-shirt on that said “Blink if you want me.”  Priceless.  Then comes the Thai Food restaurant, which smells so good and makes us all starving, then it’s all down hill from there, and we’re home free.

Toilets for Sale

I love these new rituals.  If I were still working full time I’d be racing the kids to school in the car, and racing them back home at night.  Having time to do simple things like riding bikes to and from school with my kids is not something I’d thought would be such a bonus, but now I want it to last forever.

Summer Reading

I did a lot of reading this summer.  However, unlike most summers, I didn’t read a lot of juicy novels (although I did manage to read “Fifty Shades of Grey”.)  Mostly I read a whole lot of non-fiction self-help and how-to books.  Goodness, I’ve never even perused the self-help section of the library before.  Now I could spend all day there!

Before I decided to quit my job, I was reading books I thought would help me make my job better, like Why Should the Boss Listen to You?, Working With You Is Killing Me, and Crucial Conversations. While these are all really good books, they became irrelevant when I made up my mind to quit.  But there were two other books I read, that I couldn’t put down, that completely altered my thinking – about my job and about my life.  Those were:  A Whole New Mind, by Daniel Pink, and Soul Stories by Gary Zukav.

So today’s blog is dedicated to reviewing my summer reading list.  Here goes.

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink

My brother-in-law Gary gave me this book when I was visiting my sister’s family in Austin over spring break.  I was going through a terrible ordeal at work – the catalyst that ultimately led me to jump – and was complaining that my boss had no empathy, and creativity wasn’t valued at my company.  So Gary gave me this book, which was given to him by his former boss.

I was, at the time, reading The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch, which I couldn’t put down, so I didn’t think to pick this book up until a few weeks later.  Once I did, I was enthralled.  It seemed to articulate everything I was feeling about my life, my work, and my desire to be creative.  It also made me think a lot about how I raise my kids, living in this hyper-evolving technology-heavy world of abundance.  I love this book so much; I can’t wait to read it again.

Soul Stories by Gary Zukav

This book was just what I needed during this time of my life.  It’s the kind of a spiritual new age self-help book that I never in a million years thought I would read, much less love.  It is divided into 52 chapters, with the idea that you read one chapter a week and reflect on it.  As this was a library book, I couldn’t do that, so instead I read 2-3 chapters every night.  Each chapter is a simple story and life lesson on basic topics like love, trust, and harmony, that I found really powerful and inspirational.  Here’s one little gem from the chapter on ‘Responsible Choice and Intention’:

“An intention is not a wish. A wish does not cause anything to happen. An intention does. An intention pushes against the way things are in your life. Those things push back exactly the same way. (Remember, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.) Your intentions create everything you experience.”

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

My friend Kathy, who I’ve worked with for years, got me this book as a present.  She knew, probably long before I did, that I was going to ‘jump’.  So, being a great and supportive friend (and excellent gift giver), she gave me this book as inspiration.  And it worked.

I had no idea so many people were doing so well, in this economy, running their own business, without a lot of start-up money, working on their own terms.  Sounds dreamy.  This book tells their stories (many of them from Seattle), how they accidentally or deliberately got there, and offers advice and exercises to get you started.  And while I haven’t started applying any of this information, just having read the book makes me think differently about what I might eventually do to make a living and how.

Carve Your Own Road by Jennifer Remling & Joe Remling

This book is about a couple that takes an Airstream trailer across the country to interview successful entrepreneurs who are passionate about what they do.  While I got some good stuff out of this book, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.  I thought it would have mostly motivational stories from the people they interviewed.  Instead, it was more about their own journey of developing and implementing the vision that led up to their writing this book.

It also describes a process called “The Mindset of Clarity” that helps you create a vision of what you want to achieve, and the steps to get you there.  The seven steps are:  Clarity, Setting Big Goals, Immersion, Take Inspired Action, Reflection, Evolution, and Letting Go.  My mindset could use a ton of clarity when it comes to what I should do with my life, so I plan to do many of the things described in this process.

Live More Want Less by Mary Carlomagno

This is a great book and quick read about simplifying and organizing your life.  It contains 52 chapters – each little pearls of wisdom – and you can read them all, or just the ones that apply to you.  Like for me, Chapter 44:  ‘Eliminate “Should” from Your Vocabulary’ was perfect, where she says, “If you are engaging too much time in what you should be doing, you are missing out on what you love to do.  Adjust your thinking and increase your happiness.”  I love that.  Oh, and the author lives in Hoboken, NJ with her husband and children.  I love that too.

Creative Girl – The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career by Katherine Sise

I got this book from the library, but I think I may need to buy it for myself.  It has so much great advice in it, plus a lot of fun questionnaires and worksheets to fill in as you work your way towards a more creative career – either as an employee or starting your own business.  It seems to offer a pragmatic approach to changing gears at any age, and has chapters like:  “Where Is My Creative Happy Place?”, “Seriously, How Talented Are You?”, “The Fear Chart”, and “Birth the Creative Baby”.  It’s a really fun, easy, and hopefully effective read.

Printing by Hand by Lana Corwin

This is a beautiful book, with gorgeous pictures, that I ordered from Amazon.  It’s filled with great information on how to print on fabric, walls, furniture, you name it.  It is what inspired me to do the stencil printing on the kids’ dresser.

Handmade Living by Lotta Jansdotter

I love everything this woman does.  I want to be her.  But alas, I cannot.  So thankfully she has published beautiful books like this one that inspire me to make creative changes to my home, and try some of her crafty projects myself.

Mastering the Art of Fabric Printing and Design by Laurie Wisbrun

This is another gorgeous book that I got at the library, filled with information on designing and printing your own fabric.  It also has inspirational interviews with people who do this type of work professionally.  I think it would be an amazing job.

Design on Fabrics by Johnston & Kaufman

This is a book that I got at Goodwill, that has a ton of interesting information on the history of fabric and lessons about printing on fabric.  I don’t know why, even though it’s pretty technical, I found it fascinating, and took it with me everywhere to read.

So that’s my list.  Now I’m back to reading mostly fiction and my magazines.  I’m half-way through ‘The Hunger Games’, and have two more novels in the queue.  I will also start working on some of the exercises and advice from the books I read this summer.  More to come on that…

What I Learned This Summer

I quit my job on June 15th, a week before school got out, and couldn’t wait to kick off summer with the kids.  Full of anticipation of lazy summer days and exciting adventures, I have to admit, my summer wasn’t exactly what I envisioned it would be.  But overall, it was pretty darn good.

Here is my top ten list of things I learned this summer:

  1. Full-time parenting is way more exhausting than my job ever was.  It also burns more calories.  I’m down about 5 lbs!
  2. Coming off of a completely scheduled lifestyle takes some getting used to.
  3. Trying to give my kids a summer like I remember as a kid isn’t possible, and that’s okay.
  4. It’s really tough to find time to exercise when you are with your kids almost all of the time, but it is really necessary.  There were a few times when I thought I was going to completely lose it.  So I made the kids ride their bikes with me over to ‘the stairs’, and after sweating out 15 flights, I’d fully regained my sanity.
  5. Stay-at-home moms get really tan.
  6. Not having to get up in the morning by a certain time ROCKS!
  7. Getting out of the house every day is mandatory, but can be very tricky.
  8. I love the library more than ever.
  9. Never do origami on an empty stomach.  You will never figure out how to make a crane or a swan until after you’ve eaten lunch.
  10. Quitting my job and spending more time with my kids made me a much happier person, and us a happier family.

Miles Jumping Shadow

What We Did Over Summer Vacation

School started last Tuesday, and summer vacation is a thing of the past.  As we dive head first into our routines of getting up early for school, packing lunches, homework, soccer, gymnastics, choir, campfire girls, etc, let’s do a quick recap of all the fun we had this summer.

At the beginning of summer we all made lists of the things we wanted to do.

Nadine's summer list

Well, we didn’t do everything on our lists, but we did do a lot.  For example…

  1. We kicked off summer with the Fremont Solstice Parade, which is always excellent, but this year it was missing something.  Us!  Hopefully we’ll get a float together for 2013.
    Solstice Parade 2012
  2. I quit my job!!!!!!!!!!!!
  3. We implemented a ‘bean jar’ program.  If the kids are respectful all day, they can earn 5 beans.  If they do anything disrespectful during the day, like talk back, not clean up, or teat each other badly, they lose a bean.  Later I added the incentive that if they go the whole day without screen time, they can double their beans for the day.  Once they’ve filled their jars, they can get a big ticket item, like a unicycle, skateboard, or lego set, and we’ll make bean soup.  We’re still working on it…
    Respect Jars
  4. We ran the stairs.  Usually just I ran the stairs, but then I told them that for every flight they ran, I would add a bean to their jar.  One time Nadine ran the stairs 12 times AND was respectful all day AND had no screen time (double beans) and earned 34 beans!
  5. We visited the kids’ preschool.  Here the kids are with Teacher Susan, the best pre-school teacher in the universe!
    Teacher Susan at Beginnings II
  6. The kids did a week of PE camp at their school, and Nadine brought home a unicycle to borrow for the summer.
  7. We made home-made tortellini.  We called it ‘artisan tortellini’ because of the vast variation in size and shape, but they were delicious!Home-made tortellini
  8. We went to Pike Place Market and held snakes.  I don’t know why a family was there with about 10 snakes that they let anyone hold, but the kids loved it.
    Snakes at Pike Place Market
  9. The kids took swimming lessons.
  10. We saw the Seafair pirates at Alki Beach.
    Seafair Pirates at Alki Beach
  11. We hung out at Greenlake.
    Nadine at Greenlake
  12. I joined the North End Flower Club.
  13. We visited my best friend Barb and her family in Tampa, Florida.
    Tampa Vacation
  14. We had our annual family reunion week at the Gulf Coast in Alabama.
    Fort Morgan, Alabama
  15. I went country dancing with some girlfriends at The Little Red Hen.
  16. The kids did a week of camp at the Pacific Science Center while I refinished furniture.
  17. I started a blog!
  18. We played in the Seattle Center fountain.
    Seattle Center Fountain
  19. I helped kids try marbling at the Art in the Garden festival at the Ballard Pea Patch.
    Marbling with Len
  20. We went to an incredible Seafair party where it seemed like the Blue Angels would take the roof off, ate the meat of the future, and had ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.  Below are pictures of the scaffolding used to hoist the meat into a pyre, and of the liquid nitrogen cloud, which felt so good on that sweltering day.
    Cookingthe meat of the futureLiquid Nitrogen Ice Cream
  21. The kids took tennis lessons.
  22. I did free yoga at the sculpture park.
  23. We tried doing batik.
    Batik Stars
  24. We had lots of play-dates and sleepovers.  The favorite activity for play-dates was hanging out on the roof of the shed or carport.
    Playdate on the Shed Roof
  25. We spent a weekend in Suncadia at our friends’ beautiful new ‘cabin’ and watched the meteor showers.
    Suncadia Cabin
  26. We did the zip line and other rides at Seattle Center.
    Rock Climbing at Seattle Center
  27. We went to the Anacortes Arts Festival.
  28. The kids covered a chair in duct tape.  They went a bit duct tape crazy this summer after their cousin Kyla brought duct tape to the beach and showed them how to make flowers and wallets with it.  So I let them cover an old vinyl chair I had gotten for free from my office.  They spent all afternoon working on it.  Miles did the top half, Nadine the bottom.  Anyone who knows them probably could have guessed that.
    Duct tape chair
  29. We went to a Mariner’s game.
    Foam Fingers at the Mariner's Game
  30. The kids had their ‘big party’ with water balloons and super soakers.  It was fun, even though a lot of our friends were on vacation and it was a bit chilly.
  31. We spent time at skateboard parks and bike parks.
    Miles at the skate park
  32. We rode ‘the big wheel’.
    The big wheel
  33. I got whisked away to Victoria.
  34. We went camping.
  35. We went fishing at a great little spot called Beaver Lake.  We didn’t catch anything, except a few branches from the trees overhead.  But we had fun.
    Fishing at Beaver Lake
  36. We went hiking.
  37. We went sailing in an old boat Todd’s grandpa built that Ben (Todd’s dad) restored with a paint job and windsurf sail.  The kids loved it.
    Grandpa's Sailboat
  38. We rode our bikes around Lake Union.
    Lake Union Houseboats
  39. We picked blackberries, and made delicious blackberry crisp.  And we’re not done.  I want to pick a whole bunch more to freeze and make blackberry jam.
  40. We harvested tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, beets, peppers, zucchini, and lettuce from our garden.
    Garden Harvest

Wow, that’s a pretty big list!  And I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things.  And I’m also sure that Todd was right.  I will never regret taking the summer off to spend with my kids.

Who Says Romance Is Dead?

I did?  Well, I take it all back!

I’m feeling a bit guilty because in my last post I made a sarcastic comment about Todd planning an incredibly romantic evening for our anniversary.  That was because usually on our anniversary there’s a lot of back and forth.  “What do you want to do?”  “I don’t know, what do you want to do?”  Then I choose a restaurant, we have dinner and maybe a movie, and actually it’s always great.  So that was what I was expecting.  But hold onto your hats, because this year blew me away.

Just after I’d published that post, Todd called to say that he was on his way home, his mom was on her way over to pick up the kids, and that I should pack up some clothes, we’d be leaving in an hour.

He really tried to keep it a surprise for as long as possible.  But that’s tough when grandma’s ears are congested and your 8 year old has no ability to keep a secret.  Anyway, I saw him grab our passports.  But I also heard grandma telling my daughter that we were going to Canada.  Apparently grandma hadn’t heard Todd say it was a surprise.  And then after Todd told my daughter not to tell me, and I told her not to tell me, she said, “Mom, I’m just curious, how long does it take to drive to Canada?”  And then grandma said to us as we were leaving, “Are you taking a little boat to Canada?  Is that how you’re getting there?”  Crack me up.  So we were going to Canada.  Fun!

But what was surprising, was that we were going to Victoria, and we were going by sea plane.  Woo hoo!  Ever since I moved to Seattle I’ve wanted to take a sea plane, and I’ve wanted to go to Victoria.  Did you know it only takes 45 minutes to fly from Seattle to Victoria?

Kenmore Air Seattle Terminal

Seattle Terminal

The flight was amazing.  We flew pretty low, at about 1000 feet, and it was so beautiful flying over Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Port Townsend, and all the other islands.  And landing in the harbor in Victoria was so cool.  I loved it!

Sea Plane Over Seattle

Taking off out of Lake Union

At around 5:30pm we checked into a beautiful room at the Empress Hotel.  Seriously Todd?  Did you forget that I just quit my job and we have no money?  Holy moly…

The Empress Hotel, Victoria BC

Our hotel. Really???

After reading some restaurant reviews on line we headed out for a beer, and then dinner at an incredibly delicious restaurant called The Mint.  The next morning we slept in, lounged around the hotel until check out, had breakfast at the most delicious bakery called Fol Epi, and then spent the next five hours just walking around everywhere.  We left Victoria at 5:30pm and were back in Seattle by 6:15.

Fol Epi Bakery

Delicious bakery and totally cool area in Victoria

It was an amazing little getaway for so many reasons.  Victoria feels like it’s in a completely different country.  Which it is.  And even though we were gone for only 24 hours, it felt like we’d been gone for days.  And how luxurious that we have the freedom to pick up and go spontaneously in the middle of the week.

Most of all, I love that Todd did this for me at this time in our lives.  Right now doesn’t seem like the best time to be extravagant.  But because of that, I think we truly appreciated every moment of it, and eachother.  And I think it’s a testament to his faith that everything is going to turn out fine.  I know it’s going to be better than fine -  it’s going to be great.  And it’s going to be full of surprises and beyond expectations.  Just like my husband.  xo

Campgrounding

Last night we came back from a weekend of car camping with friends in the North Cascades, at a beautiful site called Marble Creek.  Last week was kind of rough for me, and camping was just what I needed to make me feel grounded and rejuvenated.  So that’s why I titled this post ‘Campgrounding’.  Get it?  Ha ha…

Last week was tough because the kids seemed to be fighting with each other more than usual, and I was getting frustrated much more easily than usual.  Was it because summer is winding down, school is around the corner, and change is in the air?  Or was it just me, getting fed up with them always asking for something:  Can I have a play date?  Can I have a sleepover?  Can I play on your phone?  Can I watch TV?  Can I get a new Halo Guy?  Can we have popsicles?  Can you buy us that super sugary cereal?  Etc, etc, etc…

Plus, getting ready for a camping trip and keeping your kids occupied is a feat in itself.  So on Friday afternoon I told them they weren’t allowed to come inside until I was done packing and getting the food together.  Finally we hit the road at 6:30pm, and got to our campsite around 9:30pm.  Whew!  We made it.

When we woke up the next morning the sun was shining, and mountains, old growth trees, and the sound of a babbling river surrounded us.  Perfection.  For the next two days we played in the river, explored the forest, rode bikes, read books, cooked, ate, drank, and talked by the campfire.  I didn’t know what time it was, and I didn’t care.  There were no phones or video games – just the best play date ever with Mother Nature.  The kids did not want to go home.

I went picture-taking crazy while I was there.  Everything was so beautiful and I felt so inspired; I just wanted to capture it with my camera.  Which is pretty much impossible, but here are a few photos nonetheless.

Marble Creek Camping

Marble Creek Camping Crossing the Creek

Marble Creek Campsite

Marble Creek Forest

Marble Creek Frog

Nirvana

Last week it was hot – in the nineties, which is super hot for Seattle.  So I took the kids to Golden Gardens, and they actually went into the water.  Brrrrrrrrr!  That is some cold water no matter how hot it is outside.  I remained on land, to read and sweat.

As we were leaving, the kids begged me for ice cream, and as I am very weak in this department, I said yes.  Then we found a nice shady spot.  My son Miles sat on my lap, rested his head on my chest and ate his Chaco-taco, while I enjoyed a delicious ice cream sandwich.   Then he launched into this crazy long story about Fart Wars, instead of Star Wars, and green light sabers filled with fart gas.

And that was my Nirvana.  Sitting in the shade with that boy on my lap, making me laugh, while we ate ice cream.  I can’t imagine anything more perfect.  Lucky me.