Sunday, August 18, 2013

From Awkward Phase to Shining Awkward Phase

That's me on he right. When i was still shorter than my big sis.

My kids are super duper cute. I don’t feel that humility is necessary in this regard; it’s just a statement of fact. Yet I can’t help but wonder how appearances will change in the years to come. I was also a pretty cute little kid, until my big girl teeth came in and I started making fashion choices for myself. Then I went through several horrendously awkward phases from 3rd grade to 8th grade, at which point my teen years brought a whole new set of styles. 

2nd grade: still cute
3rd grade: starting to go awry. Don't you just love the side pony and amazing 80s sweater?

 When I was little, I rocked the adorable strait bangs and whatever lovely 80s clothing my mom chose. That’s the stage when anything goes, when no one needs to be embarrassed because you’re small and cute and not at all responsible for your appearance. But the second half of elementary brought with it greater independence and major buck teeth. I remember my best friend in 2nd & 3rd grade, a Canadian redheaded boy, whose mom once told me I looked like a beaver. Nice, right? It didn’t help that I had spurned any trace of hair hanging in my face by cementing it all down in a slicked-back ponytail (topped off with the infamous scrunchy), emphasizing my generous forehead. Pair the beaver teeth and drive-in-movie-screen forrid with the oversized Looney Tunes T-shirts and tapered stonewashed teal and purple paint-splattered jeans (I had them in blue and black denim), and you have one stylin’ 9-year-old. 

4th grade. Nice outfit.
Standard hairdo

Then came the bangs and braces of middle school. I had braces for just two or three years, rubber bands and all, which were the perfect complement to my huge bangs and du roll. (I think that’s what you call the hairstyle where you make a ponytail but don’t pull it through all the way the second time, leaving you with this loopy bun thing.) Remember that? And remember when giant bangs were the thing? As much as my folks hated them, I had that fad nailed. I recall being asked all the time just how I styled my bangs so perfectly. I don’t know what answer I furnished at the time, but the truth is that I used a whole can of hairspray each morning and avoided the slightest breeze like the plague. I also spent hours on them every day. And beneath my glorious bang dome, lurked numerous purple curling iron burns. 

Looking hot in 6th grade
Apparently I wasn't a fan of my yearbook photo?

And let’s not forget the skater grunge fashion of the 90s: plaid flannel shirts and massively wide jeans that covered your shoes. If you were that cool. Remember JNCOs? I was beyond thrilled if my mom agreed to splurge on the brand, but often had to wear knock-off wide-leg jeans that completely covered my knock-off Vans. My best friend’s grandpa called me “Droopy Drawers”, a label that made me proud. Strangely. 

I remember when the more preppy girls started wearing flared jeans and sweaters; I vowed to never wear flared jeans. I also vowed to shun skinny jeans when they re-emerged in the 2000s, but neither vow really stuck. Peer/societal pressure, y’all. Between 7th and 8th grade, I got my braces removed and chopped off all my hair. (Other than a few trial grow-outs here and there, I’ve pretty much had the same haircut since.) One particularly intelligent classmate of mine was shocked at the things I had in common with another girl who had attended the year before—we even the same name and were both good at art! Yeah, that other girl was me, but apparently I looked so different people thought I was a new student. 

8th grade
10th grade?
11th grade

Through high school I had a schizophrenic alternative style: some days skaterish, others punkish, occasionally raverish—despite never actually skateboarding or doing ecstasy. Well, I guess I was moderately mainstream in 8th and 9th grade, even sporting the occasional crop top (oh the flat, flawless belly of youth!) or floral print now and then, but after switching schools I switched gears. I suppose I was inspired by hormones, teen and artistic angst, the desire to separate myself from my popular then-blonde sister, and the need to rebel against my middle class religious upbringing. Who knows. 

In any case, I rocked the combat boots, the uber chunk heels; I had this one pair of fire engine red shiny shoes with that awful wide square toe and the giant block heel that I loooooved. I had the red hair, the orange hair, the purple hair, the black hair—either manically hacked with scissors or buzzed with the 1” clippers by yours truly. One of my fondest memories is my wearing a bright red dress to prom, with my inch-long black hair, teamed up with my punky boyfriend in his black suit and bright red foot-tall mohawk and big ol' septum piercing. (How I ended up married to a hippie cowboy, we’ll never know. Other than the opposites attract thing I suppose…)

12th grade (prom)

I mellowed a bit in college; I let my hair grow into its natural brown, and settled into the thrift shop boho style that I still sort of wear today. There was a decade-long hiatus in which I let my hair stay natural. There was also a perm in there somewhere. Bad idea. I grew it out almost waist-long after getting married, you know, trying to be a grown-up lady…until I got pregnant with #2 and chopped it off again. Now that I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for a year I find myself reverting to self-inflicted haircuts and the desire to dye it more interesting colors again. Now I rebel against domesticity and mediocrity and boredom by Pinteresting tattoos I’ll probably never get and by having other peoples’ babies. L.O.L.

Freshman year in college
And I digress. I’m only reflecting on all the drastic phases I’ve gone through in fear of what could be with my own little people as they grow up—especially for Tuesday. Boys have it easy. The only embarrassing phases guys from my era have are bowl cuts and hedgehog hair with frosted tips. Plus they generally can forego the really extreme teenage girl angst, and the learning-to-properly-apply-makeup phase, which can result in the lovely pinkish-white foundation mask. I think my darling husband (although he had a good bucked tooth phase followed by the braces phase, all with the awkward gangly youth thing and the tallness and the redheadedness, poor dear) grew up seamlessly, with no inexplicable rebellion or extreme self-expression or shape-shifting. 

Maybe our kiddos will be easy like he was (from a parenting perspective anyway…the wifely perspective is a whole other thing). Although the tremendous strong-willed independence possessed by both wee babes could foreshadow trouble. They are already very clearly passionate individuals, very loudly and forcefully expressing the whole color wheel of emotion. Not to mention they are already starting to feel strongly about their clothes: Tuesday refuses to wear anything but “pretty dresses” and Dirt refuses to wear anything that doesn’t have a shark or an alligator or a T-Rex on it. Can’t wait to see what fashion battles we’ll have in the future…and what sort of ridiculous fads will be in vogue. 

I guess, if nothing else, we can have a pile of embarrassing photos from all their embarrassing phases in the end, and they can write self-deprecating blogs lamenting their style choices as adults. That could be fun.

Hair today, aka short married hair (nearing 30 years old)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Wonderful Woes of Camping

A couple weeks ago the fam and I took a camping trip. Not the fake sort of camping with RVs, or even the traditional sort that I grew up with involving tents and campfires, but the cabin sort. The 100-year-old-no-electricity-or-running-water sort of cabins, way up in Northwestern Colorado near the Wyoming border. Typically we go there at least once each summer, but always have other people there besides our little family.

The outside of the cabin we slept in
This time it was just us. For four days. (Did I mention no electronic diversions were available?) The kids are now 4-1/2 and 3, and are becoming functional little humans. Mostly. We didn’t have to bring all the cumbersome baby gear this time (although the frog potty is a must), but I still visited Anxiety Attack Central while preparing for the trip. I thought we ought to pack the night before, since Dooley visits Man-In-A-Big-Freaking-Hurry-For-No-ReasonVille every time we’re trying to get out the door, but he casually insisted that it would take us just 10 minutes to leave in the morning—to “just throw some stuff in the car and go”. REALLY? Have you met this family? Or, for that matter, any family with two young children and three annoying dogs? Do you have any clue how much crap we need for four days? 

For any readers who are either inexperienced or just dense, let me enlighten you as to what items one might require for a long weekend in the mountains with children: Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, favorite stuffed animals. Flashlights. Batteries. Propane for the lanterns. Toys, books, activities. Fishing gear. Dog food and bowls. Human food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, totaling about 12 meals for 4 people, not including snacks. Clothes, for four days and three nights, both for super hot weather and for super cold weather, since the temperature varies so hugely between day and night—bearing in mind that little kids need like five sets of clothes per day. Pullups for sleeping. Wipes. Toilet paper. Camera. Band-aids. Sunscreen. Bugspray. I could go on.

Incredibly, we accomplished the packing in a mere two hours and were gone just a tad later than Dooley’s goal of 9am. Our roomy minivan could hardly contain us and all our junk; it was piled under my feet and all around the kids. Our three dogs, one of whom is over 100lbs (mastiff-shepherd mix named Bruce), had a tiny space hollowed out in the back, and they kept knocking down the carefully constructed walls. The kids were antsy and the dogs were whiny, but we survived the four hour drive nearly incident-free, except for my throbbing headache. And, of course, the time when our nervous young border collie, Pete, decided to jump into Tuesday’s lap and inadvertently scratch the hell out of her soft squishy thigh. This led to lots of screaming, first from Tuesday, then from me as I tried to yank the dog off her and throw him in the back of the van, then from Dirt, telling me not to “rip Petey”, then from Dooley, demanding me to sit back down. Good times. 

Pete was the source of our first on-site incident as well, when, on the first evening, he found a tasty snack in the rat poison that we accidentally overlooked in the cabin. Luckily there was some hydrogen peroxide left there. In case you weren’t aware, a few capfuls of 2(HO) will cause almost immediate barfing. Of course, he almost immediately set to eating his own poison-filled vomit, because dogs are gross like that. But he lived.

"What? I'm not supposed to eat rat poison and puke?"
The first night went fairly well. The dogs paced about a bit, but Dirt and Tuesday slept well. I think they enjoyed the fact that we were all crammed in one room, and although their happy lights-out chatter kept us up longer, it was pretty cute. Tuesday sang herself made-up songs in her soft tiny voice and kept repeating “I love you Mama. I love you Dad. I love you Petey” (the latter was snuggling next to her). 

One of my personal favorite things is having to go pee in the middle of the night, several times per night (remember I’m three months pregnant now), especially when I have to trudge across the meadow with a flashlight, fearfully looking at the trees and bushes all around in case a bear or mountain lion wanted to gobble me up or an angry nocturnal moose wanted to stomp on me. I always make Bruce accompany me cuz I’m a Nervous Nelly. I’m not even sure anyone has ever encountered a bear or cougar there, but naturally I’d be the one if ever they chose to come out. The mosquitos sure think I’m tasty. 

There are always plenty of bugs to keep us company. Since it was later in the summer there weren’t as many obnoxious miller moths bumping stupidly into all things, and the house flies were negligible. Still, our presence in the cabin disturbed several large spiders that didn’t really want us to crash their party. The mosquitos, however, were more than happy to have us there. The bug spray I got did not seem to work, as Tuesday and I had at least fifteen bites apiece by the time we went home. I’m not sure why the boys didn’t get eaten as much; maybe because they aren’t made of sugar and spice wrapped in silky-soft lady skin? Snort. I would’ve liked to wear long sleeves and jeans to avoid being feasted upon, but it was so dang hot out. As a result, we were rocking several delightful layers of bugspray on sunscreen on dirt on unshoweredness. Yummy. (I’d like to point out, on the issue of hygiene, that I still brushed my teeth each day and shaved my pits. Once.)

We spent the days fishing*, swimming** in the river or the lake, hiking***, off-roading****, eating, and napping. It’s a nice break from civilization because there is no sense of time other than daylight. With no phones or internet or television (and no we don’t wear watches), the day’s events are played by feeling. All weekend the kids were picking “beautiful flowers” and rushing them gleefully over to me; we cut the top off a bottle of water and made a bouquet. Dirt was inspired to sprint about like a madman on numerous occasions, sometimes totally nude after swimming (he seems to run even faster when he’s nekked). 

*By fishing I mean we threw in a few lines amidst swimming dogs and yelling kids and splashing rocks. Dooley caught a few with his fly rod when the rest of the crew wasn’t there. A few times we let the kids hold the fishing poles while bait hung in the water below a bobber, but if we turned around for 0.3 seconds, there was an insane nest of tangled fishing line, inexplicably. I still have no clue how they did it.

**By swimming I mean wading and splashing. Although Dodie, our 9-year-old “borderstaffy”, would happily swim all day every day, so we played fetch. She did the real swimming-swimming. Bruce would wade in and swim a little too, but Pete just uneasily watched from the shore, curled up in the grass like a baby deer, wondering what the frick we were all doing in the water. I threw him in once, thinking he’d learn to love it, and he didn’t trust me for the rest of the day. (Oops.) By the end of the trip he was brave enough to get in the water to herd Dodie as she chased tennis balls. 

***By hiking I mean walking very, very slowly on almost level terrain. It involves telling Dirt to slow down and telling Tuesday to hurry up while the dogs trot along happily at any pace. It also involves lots of whining on Tuesday’s part on the way back because we won’t carry her (she still hasn’t passed 30lbs but she’s close).

****By off-roading I mean exploring roads intended only for ATVs and horses…in our minivan.

Each day after lunch I’d nap with the kids. We had a few afternoon thunderstorms, creating magically soothing rain on the roof of the log cabin. Once or twice Dooley took that opportunity to go fishing alone; one of those days Dirt wet the bed and I had to wash his bedding in the river. Well, no, I just thought about doing laundry in the river but settled on a tub of hot water (from a propane-fueled giant coffee urn) and laundry soap that was serendipitously left at the cabin.

I hung his stuff in the sun on the deck, but it still wasn’t dry by bedtime so he had to sleep in bed with us…and had another accident in our bed. It was the last night so we just flipped the sleeping bag and went back to sleep. Or tried to. As wiggly and fussy as Dirt was, always getting hot and kicking down the covers from where he tossed and turned between us, even though we were cold and wanted covers on. I also had to pee three times that night, and the dogs were particularly antsy and even Tuesday was fussy, so not much R.E.M. sleep that night. 

Each evening Dooley would cook dinner in the “cook shack” and we’d eat at the huge wooden table by lantern-light. After I washed dishes (also using scalding hot water from the commercial coffeemaker), we’d put on PJs or sweats and then read or write or color or play or sing—surprisingly not bored to tears given the lack of television, tablet, or computer. At one point Tuesday put boots on over her fleece pink piggy jammies and declared herself “the coolest of all the people” as she got to work with crayons and coloring book on the floor. 

One afternoon we played at the sandy beach on the lakeshore. The water there wasn’t nearly as freezing as the river running by the cabins, and the water’s depth is so gradual that we could all wade out pretty far. Dooley walked out so far into the water in an attempt to catch fish that we had to yell out to him. I could have stayed there forever though. It was warm and sunny and peaceful and everyone was playing happily (kids in sand, dogs in water, Dooley fishing). Then suddenly the sun was behind the mountains and it was friggen freezing and we were all wet and covered in sand. 

Both kids and dogs were happily exhausted by each day’s end, and so were we. Coming home was bittersweet, and electricity felt sinful. For all the stressors involved in a trip like that, it’s a lovely break from the reality of the modern world. We’re planning to go again soon, and I am both dreading it and looking forward to it. Go figure. 

New Year New Me: Pony Progress

Today I thought I’d mix up my morning “internesting” ritual (coffee and computer time, usually comfortably nested on the couch); I brought ...