A Grownup’s 20 Questions

My 4 year old asks endless questions. A car ride wouldn’t be complete without a question that stumps me, like, “What’s underneath grass and rocks in the earth?” Hold that thought, let me Google it. Soil? Lava? More soil? 

But I have a lot of questions, too. 

  1. What age do kids start having sleepovers?
  2. What’s the going rate for the tooth fairy?
  3. Should I be flossing my kid’s teeth?
  4. Why is Ben Carson running for president?
  5. When will my kids be old enough that I can replace the IKEA couch that has coffee stains, spit up stains and other unidentifiable stains? 
  6. When will I be able to part with my copy of the Twilight series?
  7. Where can I buy a large area rug for less than $50? 
  8. If I sign up for a 5K, who will hold me accountable to train for it?
  9. When will my husband and I be able to go on vacation without the kids?
  10. Why didn’t I learn how to sew a button or hem pants?
  11. Why did I waste so much time in my 20s reading celebrity gossip blogs?
  12. Should I get a tattoo?
  13. Will my students take me seriously if I get a purple streak in my hair?
  14. When I tell my kids they’ll see their great-grandparents in heaven, do I really mean it?
  15. Why can’t I concentrate long enough to read a book for more than 5 minutes?
  16. Why do I still have acne?
  17. What if someone tells my son Santa isn’t real?
  18. How do I know if my son is ready for kindergarten?
  19. Why are clowns so creepy?
  20. Why are cell phone plans still so expensive?

So many questions. 

Sun and Surf

While fortunate to live close enough to the beach to make frequent day trips, we don’t go often enough. And since there’s no guarantee of warm weather even if it’s sunny, a trip to the Oregon coast holds no certainty that any time will be spent on the beach. 

Unless you have kids. 

I wasn’t planning to go to the beach this weekend but I sent my husband to the church meeting I had intended to go to and met my parents and H and B, who all happened to be staying 15 minutes apart. I took both boys and packed the car with extra clothes and snacks and off we went, leaving so early that we avoided the usual weekend beach traffic.  

 

It was cold and windy. But a day in the sun, watching the waves and the kites, it’s just what I needed.  

 

I just wish it was a little (a lot) warmer. 

The Silver Balloon

Today as I drove into work I saw a single balloon float into the sky. I imagined the small child in the grocery store parking lot, sad because the balloon slipped out of his hand because he tripped on the curb or absentmindedly let go of the string when he spotted a worm on the ground. 

Sometimes I feel like the balloon. My children are fine even without me completely present, floating above them in a haze as they are distracted by other things. It’s lonely in the sky by myself. I am high enough to see all of the pain and all of the heartache but I can’t float back down to do anything about it. 

When we talk about postpartum depression, we usually hear about the new mom who isn’t sleeping at night and it’s just a passing phase. I’m here to tell you that postpartum depression can happen well after your baby is eating solids and sleeping through the night. Postpartum depression needs a face, so that people stop making fun of the moms who need help. 

There is nothing funny about postpartum depression. When you hear about the people on bridges who disrupt commutes with their suicidal intentions, stop complaining. When you hear about the water being polluted with antidepressants because so many people are taking them, stop making jokes. 

Mothers come in all shapes and sizes. Healing after childbirth takes a long time – physically, emotionally, spiritually. May I remind you to be extra kind to someone today because postpartum depression or anxiety or stress has a face and that face belongs to someone you will interact with today. 

A Rooftop Pool (is Not as Fancy as it Sounds)

I don’t remember how many stairs there were from the 12th floor, where I went to school in a two-room, multi-grade classroom, but I can tell you that it took less than 30 seconds to bound out of the classroom and up those stairs to the roof. 

The roof was all concrete. I’m surprised more of us didn’t have permanent scars on our knees and elbows from falling on that concrete roof. One of the best features was the rooftop pool, a square, shallow pool that was the perfect depth for little kids. And in the awful summer heat and humidity of Hong Kong, it was the perfect place to take a dip. 

But what a temptation. At recess we would sometimes come to the roof to swing and run, ignoring the flapping laundry that was drying on the lines. At recess we were not allowed in the pool. This didn’t stop some of my friends from pushing the envelope and testing our teacher’s patience. Because is a foot or two in the water “going in”? 

The roof was a great place to watch Chinese New Year fireworks, eat potluck and picnics and celebrate birthdays. From the roof you could see so much of the city, and now that I’m an adult, I realize how lucky I was to live above the chaos and crowds. The compound really was an oasis. 

Besides swimming in the pool, my favorite part of the roof was the swings. I would pump my legs as hard as I could and swing so high I felt like my feet might touch the clouds. 

I Highly Recommend 

Time is short when you have two kids, a full time job, spend at least 2 hours in the car every day and a husband you love dearly. So. Anyway. Here are some short blurbs about things I’ve loved recently.

Books

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Life changing. No, I really mean it. If you have too much stuff in your life, read this book. It will make you rethink everything you’ve been holding on to for so long.

Eat to Live
While I’m not sure I can sustain a lifestyle change like this permanently, I am trying to incorporate more clean eating in my life. This book has good recipes and a philosophy about healthy eating I can get behind.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
The baby sleep bible, re-reading this book made me rethink how many times I’ve disrupted Junior’s sleep to run errands. Babies need sleep! I’m so much better about letting him nap well and sleep early after reviewing this advice.

Emma
I love Alexander McCall Smith and this retelling of a Jane Austen favorite is delightful.

Yes Please
If you can, get the audiobook version of this book. Prepare to laugh and cry.


TV Shows

Veep
After signing up for a free trial of HBO Now, we’ve been binge watching the first three seasons. So, so funny.

Recipes

In my effort to eat more vegetables and reduce the amount of dairy I eat, I’ve had to be creative with quick meals at supper.

Here are three recent favorites:

Baked polenta with sautéed veggies. I sautéed onions, squash, and mushrooms and then added peas to the pan, then poured the vegetable mixture over sliced polenta and then added tomato sauce. I admit to adding a bit of shredded mozzarella cheese, too. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

Curry udon. Make the curry as instructed on the box, then add udon noodles. I added a bit more water than the recipe called for so it would be more of a soup than a thick curry.

Lettuce wraps. I sautéed tofu with mushrooms and then added water chestnuts and soy sauce. Serve with lettuce cups.

36 Hours in Portland, With Kids

I love the New York Times “36 Hours in…” travel stories, but come on, there’s no way those dreamy itineraries were written for families with small children. So behold, here’s my kid-friendly version for Portland.

Friday
3 p.m. Enjoy happy hour at the southeast location of Papa Haydn. The fondue and mac ‘n’ cheese are fun enough for kids and tasty enough for adults. And at 3 p.m., kids will definitely feel welcome. If you sit by the window, you might not have to bring out the iPhone as distraction.

3:45 p.m. After a not-so-leisurely meal, walk, bike or drive to burn off some carbs at the nearby nature-based play area at Westmoreland Park.

6 p.m. Head back to your hotel for a little pre-bedtime swimming. And then while your kids are asleep, hide under the covers and watch a little TV on your iPad.

Saturday
8:00 a.m. Arrive at Besaw’s when it opens and you won’t be plagued with the hour-plus wait that happens at most Portland weekend brunch establishments. Hey, there’s one positive to waking up early on a Saturday, right? And since the kids have been up for a couple of hours, they’ll happily devour the Mickey pancakes. The jam is so good you’ll be tempted to order an additional side of toast to go along with your farmer’s hash.

9:00 a.m. Hop on the streetcar and take it to south waterfront, where you can then board the Portland aerial tram and enjoy the amazing views of Portland.

Noon Find your way across the river for a quick bite at Boke Bowl. The kids will love the peanut butter and jelly steam buns and the fried chicken rice bowl will provide you enough fuel for the next stop.

1:00 p.m. OMSI provides educational and fun experiences for kids of all ages (and if you hit it up in the afternoon, you might avoid the toddler crowd who have been carted off for nap time). Don’t forget about the delicious selection of Salt and Straw ice cream available in the cafeteria for a mid-visit snack.

4:00 p.m. Cross the river once again for an early dinner at Deschutes Brewery, where kids are warmly welcomed and if you’re lucky, the weather will cooperate and you can sit outside and people watch. Three words: chicken and waffles. You will not be disappointed. The kids can fill up on the extra large pretzel. Sneak a bite (or two!).

5:30 p.m. Check out the nearby Powell’s and grab a few books for bedtimes stories.

Sunday
7:00 a.m. Start your day early on Alberta Street at Pine State Biscuits. Everything on the menu is worth ordering. Pick a few options and share, family style!

8:30 a.m. Play at the nearby Harper’s Playground, a fantastic public-private partnership created to provide a playground for kids of all abilities.

10:30 a.m. Shop at the very cute Grasshopper store for a toy or two and browse the shelves at Green Bean Books.

11:30 a.m. If you didn’t get to sample Salt and Straw during your OMSI visit, be sure to get a couple scoops before you finish your tour of Alberta Street.

And then start planning your return trip because next time you’ll want to check out the Portland Children’s Museum and the Oregon Zoo, eat Blue Star Donuts and brunch at Harlow.

Did God Sneeze?

Reading Bible stories with Future President makes me laugh and makes me amazed at the same time. His questions are so imaginative. 

Tonight we were reading the story of Noah in the Ark and when we got to the part about the alter, he asked what an alter was, so we tried to explain. 

The smoke went all the way up to heaven? Is that why Jesus died? Did it make him sneeze? 

Then we read about Mt. Ararat. Where’s that? He wanted to know. In Turkey, we told him. That reminds me of food, he said. 

Why did all the people die? The dove had an olive branch in his mouth? Is Noah big or little? The questions are never ending. 

And then somehow we started talking about heaven and he wanted to know if there’s volcanos and lava. G said yes, we can take a day trip to see them but they’re not by the houses. I guess he’s thought this whole concept of heaven through a little more than I have.