Thursday, May 9, 2013

Let's talk about mental illness.

My best friend, Carrie Brinker Sehl, was diagnosed last year with a late onset of mental illness. She was 37 when she was diagnosed, a mother to two beautiful children, and a wife to a loved husband. The doctors initially thought it was schizophrenia, but they changed the diagnosis to bipolar, with psychosis. It wasn't good. 

Someone said recently, who had also been diagnosed with mental illness, "I wish it had been cancer. With cancer, people bring you dinner. They form meal trains, and drop off magazines, organize car pools for radiation and chemotherapy. With mental illness, I was also debilitated. On medication that made me feel like a zombie. But I was alone. I feared running into people I knew, and when I saw them at the grocery store, they avoided eye contact. They didn't know what to say." 

I am not saying that cancer is any better than mental illness. But we need to talk more about it. Carrie took her own life on Saturday March 30th, after battling the illness for nearly a year and a half. She left those two beautiful children and husband behind. And it's heartbreaking. 

This cause is too important not to talk about. One in four people will be impacted by mental illness this year in the United States. I hope to get people talking about it. And hope that it can help. Carrie was a devoted friend, loving mother and wife, and this disease took over. 

This is the eulogy I delivered at Carrie's memorial service on April 4th. 

"My name is Lynn Budde Brown. Carrie and I had a very unique and wonderful friendship that lasted for 32 years. It’s hard for me to imagine painting a picture of Carrie’s special life in just a few minutes, but I promise to try.  The last time I may have seen some of you was at Carrie and Peter’s wedding, 10 years ago. I couldn’t have imagined as I gave a toast to her and Peter that night, that the next time I would offer similar words about her would be at her memorial service.

As I boarded the plane from Portland yesterday, the trees were in full bloom. Camelia, dogwood, rhododendron and ornamental cherry blossoms burst from the trees in a sea of color, against the Portland green.  It was beautiful. And I could see Carrie’s smile and her love of nature in every bloom.  And as I drove into Denver today, under a stunning sky, I could see her face in the mountains and trails that she loved.

Carrie and I met when we were 6 years old. We grew up just a street away from each other. My two older brothers were the same ages as Denise and Bob, Carrie’s sister and brother.  I feel like Carrie and I found a sister in each other, since our siblings seemed SO much older than us –sorry Denise and Bob. We did all the sorts of fun stuff kids did.

We rode our bikes to Pikebrook Swim Club during the summers, our towels around our necks, wind in our hair, feeling very grown up that we could be on our own like that. We spent snow days sledding together at the end of my street, on what seemed like a giant hill then, but now that I remember back, I think it might have been just a drainage basin. We made Kraft macaroni and cheese from a box, and put extra packets of cocoa in our hot chocolate when my mom wasn’t looking.  

I still remember The Brinkers phone number. 359.4330. That was how many times I called it over the years.

Carrie and I grew apart a little bit at one point – I honestly don’t remember when it was or for how long, but we came back together in high school, and cemented our friendship, never to look back. Carrie was kind of a rebel. I was kind of a goody two shoes.  I remember her getting in BIG trouble one time, because we had taken out the car before Carrie had her license.  We didn’t do anything crazy – as I think Mr. and Mrs. Brinker feared - we needed a destination, because where do two fifteen year olds go in Belle Mead, New Jersey? I think we just went to Burger King a few miles away to get French fries. But we got caught. And it was ugly.  

We traveled Italy and Greece together in high school on a school trip, skied in Vermont on middle and high school trips, and in Canada, sneaking out late at night. Carrie gave me courage to try things I didn’t think I was good at – sneaking out not the only one on the list. She gave me courage to take the intermediate trails, and a few black diamonds – both on the slopes, and in life. She believed in me. And I in her.

We were opposites in many ways. That’s how we have always been – she loved the mountains and a tent. I loved the beach and a hotel. She was an Aquarius. I am a Leo. But somehow we worked. We balanced.

I want to touch on three of Carrie’s qualities that I most admire and love.

First was Carrie’s gentle love of nature, animals and all things living. Carrie loved animals – cared for them, nurtured them, took them in. She hiked, hugged trees, cherished her time at Camp Speers Eljebar, in the woods, away from the world, on her NOLS course down the river that she so courageously completed. Things that took a very strong person to do. I remember one time we were camping.  It was close to the first time I really went camping, minus a brief stint in Girl Scouts – Carrie was the planner. I brought my curling iron. The next morning, we got ready to pack up, move on and to head back. When we went to get our hiking boots there was my pair, but there was only one of hers. I wouldn’t believe me if I hadn’t seen it myself, but honest to God, after a search around our camp site, we noticed a fox at the edge of the wood near us. I am not kidding. There was a fox. Sitting there, the only fox I have ever seen in real life, at the edge of the woods, and Carrie’s hiking boot was sitting right in front of it. It was staring at us. We stood in amazement. As we took a step toward the fox, it picked up her boot and ran into the woods. We didn’t find it. And she hiked back in one flip flop and a boot. And she said, “I guess he really needed that boot for something.” I’m still not convinced.

The second quality I cherish was Carrie’s ability to throw herself into something completely and intensely, following every rule and direction.  Truth be told, she was a bit of a perfectionist. I have dabbled in many things – I love to cook, though don’t do it perfectly. I used to knit before I had four kids – but I have four unfinished sweaters, and a whole mound of yarn that I haven’t touched. I have piles of photos of my children I’ve been meaning to frame for six years, where Carrie had hers beautifully framed in her and Peter’s home. She organized my bridal shower, 8  months pregnant with Lola, with infinite detail, and such love. And only a little bit of resentment. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my own children that I fully appreciated what traveling at 8 months pregnant to throw a bridal shower meant. When Carrie took up yoga several years ago, she was immersed, finding peace and breath on her yoga mat, learning and embracing every yoga move perfectly and sharing them with me. When she was pregnant with Lola and Conrad, she read all the books; she was READY.  For pregnancy and parenthood – both of a girl and then a boy. When things didn’t go exactly as planned, she went back to the books to figure it out. She learned to love to cook, and engaged Conrad and Lola with her. On one visit a few years ago, we were making something together. I had chopped the vegetables into a regular old chop. She looked at my cut up vegetables, clearly wanting to comment. I watched her. She watched me. The recipe said they were supposed to be in a ½ inch dice. I told her I thought it was okay. But she looked at me. I looked at her. And I rechopped all the veggies.

The last quality I want to talk about is Carrie’s loyalty and her ability to see the good in those around her, even when it doesn’t go her way.  Carrie was not perfect. She could be very stubborn. She was a perfectionist, as I said, and she sometimes saw things very black and white. But, she showed so much love for her friends – through our imperfections and our downfalls.  She loved me and she loved you. In 2001-ish, I had thought the most seriously about moving to be near Carrie in Colorado. She had met Peter by then, on a strangely snowy day in September, the day after I left from a visit with her. I was losing my job, and looking for a place to be. Ultimately, I decided not to move to Denver, and although it took her three months of being mad at me to finally verbalize it, she was really upset with me. She felt I had led her on to believe that I was going to move there, and when I’d changed my mind, she’d been very upset.   We always talked about how magical it would be to live next door to each other, especially after we had kids. Lola and my Ellie could play together. My three boys plus Conrad, tearing up the neighborhood. I feel shortchanged, that although I didn’t foresee that happening any time soon, with her roots so solidly in Colorado, and mine so nestled in Portland, I hadn’t given up on that dream. But now it is gone.

As I think about Carrie, I want to remind us all to remember the funny, loving stories that I know you all have – from her days at Camp Speers Eljebar, her years at Boulder, as a Vet Tech, caring for animals, as a nature lover, hiking and running the trails all over Boulder and Denver, as a sister to Denise and Bob, a daughter to Mr. and Mrs. Brinker, a daughter in law to Mr. and Mrs. Sehl, an aunt, a cousin, a dear friend to so many of us here today, and especially as wife to Peter, and her favorite job on so many levels, being a mommy to Conrad and Lola.

This past year, especially, was a roller coaster for Carrie, Peter, her family and friends.  I realized after many conversations last year with those involved, including Carrie, that the Carrie I always knew was hidden away. I had hope that she would come back - I really did. Carrie rode the waves as best she could, I know that for sure. She was a committed woman, who dedicated herself to all she was capable of doing. But her illness took hold at various points, and clouded the vision in those beautiful blue eyes.    

I had two flights to Denver booked in the summer and fall of last year, to fly out and see if I could be here for her, to help.  And after cancelling both those flights because she seemed to be in the best place she could be, and that I wouldn’t be allowed to visit her, and then later that she didn’t want to see me, as you can imagine, I wish I’d come anyway.  Many of you have similar stories, I’m sure. Wishing you’d made a last phone call, or come to see her.  For those of you that do, I want to share my own thoughts that this latest mountain was just too big to scale.  Peter stood by her side, trying to lift her up;  her beautiful, precious children, Lola and Conrad still brought her joy.  Peter’s family offered support from Germany, and his friends from near and far. Carrie’s parents offered their help and support, as did her sister Denise.  Carrie’s brother, Bob, climbed alongside Carrie with love, support and patience.  But this mountain was just too big.  

My hope, and I feel that Carrie’s hope, would be that we can all find the power to reflect and share the memories of Carrie as the inspirational, loving, loyal, kind, generous and stubborn woman that she was.

And although I genuinely feel that she is at peace, somewhere out of our sight, I, for one, will miss her terribly."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

So Henry has turned two. I mean, he turned two, what, six months ago? But in the past few weeks he has become a full fledged, tantrum throwing, toothpaste tube squirting, hitting, biting, resisting any form of sleep two year old. 

Flashback three days ago, entire tub of fish food flakes - teeny, tiny, smelly, REALLY smelly fish food flakes all over Ellie and Quinn's room, pillows, beds, train table, floor and rug. I guess I should just be glad they weren't all poured in the tank with a very bloat-y dead fish floating on top. This fish is new to the Brown household - Ellie has been begging for a pet for months, and in some guilt ridden moment of softness, I succumbed to buying a fish. And a tank, sparkly gravel, a small castle and several fake plants. His name hasn't really been established - floundering (!) between Baby Dolphin, Annika, and several others I can't remember. It's kind of Ellie's fish. I hope it lives a while. I don't think I could add fish death to my plate right now. The guy at the store said they are pretty indestructible. I told him I had four kids four and under, and wasn't so sure.  So far, so good. 

Anyway. We've had toothpaste squirting incidents, pancake tossing (entire box of 48 frozen pancakes on the living room floor), Desitin cream mishaps, you name it. Henry is officially  in his squeezing and dumping stage. I was in E&Q's room last week, and I hear "cchhh, cchhhh, ccchhh." I said, "Henry!", and out from under the bed flies Quinn's inhaler halfway across the room, after being squirted (not into his mouth) about 8 times. He gets into childproof locks. He climbs to the counter in search of treats and lets himself out of the house. Ah!

When I have yelled at him (yes, I've yelled at him - not proud, just an admission), he pats me, and says, "It's ohhh-kay..." in the funniest soothing way that it makes me laugh every time.  Or when he came down, covered in Extreme Clean Aquafresh, he said, "MMMMmmmm. Mommy. Really good. Really minty. Yum. Smell."

Exhibit A - part of the sugar that was dumped.
 Henry's spoon found next to the bag. 
He's finally talking in multi word sentences. On a 10 minute out of the way trip satisfy both my needs for coffee, and to keep Max asleep, we went to a drive thru Starbucks, and he said, "No Starbucks. Mommy already have coffee home." I love hearing his words. His stories, his songs. He tells the same knock knock joke about 56 times. Knock Knock. Who's there? Dunkin. Dunkin Who? Dunkin milk and cookies sure tastes good."

I do, however, wish he threw a few less tantrums. And maybe a few fewer pancakes. 

Max had a rough few weeks there, looking adorable as ever, but not as adorable in the evenings, from about 6-10 when he would scream bloody murder. Quinn used to do that, too, so I kind of knew what to expect, but sweet jesus, when you've been up since 4am, taken care of three other kids who are threatening to report you to child services for giving them the wrong color spoon, 3-4 hours of SCREAMING is about what it takes to throw one over the edge. The good news is that he has turned a corner. I think. He has started to settle himself down a bit better at night. And he likes to rock. We don't still have our rocking chair, though, so I sit in bed and sway back and forth. With a glass of wine. At least he's smiley now, and though I'm pretty sure he may take longer to hold his giant melon up, I know he will turn out just fine. Even if he is a crier. 

More on Ellie, Quinn, and life with four kids to come. Soon-ish. Here's a little recent artwork, and a Portland photo of the catapees,  as they call themselves. Their only funny twin-ism. 

Miro? Or just Quinn. 

Medusa, by Ellie

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dead animals and new babies

The upstairs office of our house smells like a dead animal in a steam room. I'm laughing as I type, thank god, but it seriously does. With these old houses built on the edge of the woods, I guess we can only expect as much - a dead mouse here and there, but it smells like there might be a moose up there somewhere. 

Anyway. I should have started with something more along the lines of the story of a blissful birth of our newest son - Maximilian Russell Brown, born 8/24/2011 at 9:02am. 8lbs 4 oz. (I hesitated at the time... first kids, I remembered for at least a year. Fourth kid, I remembered without a doubt for at least a week. Now I question his weight and the time). 

Ellie loves this kid. She thinks he's hers. I was just the surrogate, without the fee. I could post 57 pictures of her holding him, all with her little gaze, looking down on him. 

Henry thinks he's slightly more interesting than a table, definitely less interesting than his ball collection. He hasn't shown any outward signs of major jealousy, e.g., flipping him over in his bouncy seat as a friend's little guy did on the arrival of his twin baby brother and sister, or trying to throw him off the back deck. My tomatoes are another story, unfortunately. I thought he was throwing his ball, but turns out it was a bunch of our BEAUTIFUL tomatoes, crashing down two stories to the hot tub cover below.

Quinn is also pretty doting. He has been bringing him blankets and pacifiers (though Max is NOT having any of that), holding him, and hugging. Considering he asked that we donate Henry to any willing recipient for the first year of his life, I think we're off to a good start. 

So far, I would also say that having four kids four and under is vaguely easier than having three kids under two, which was our story before. E&Q can reason a little bit better (notwithstanding tonight's bedtime shenanigans, which are driving me CRAZY). Now don't get me wrong - when I say it's easier, by no means do I mean it's easy, because it is HARD. I am so TIRED. I can barely function.  So on that note, I will post a few photos, and continue when I am slightly more rested. Like in three years. 

And then there were six. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Portland To Do's and I hate yous

This is an article I just wrote for Ellie and Quinn's preschool newsletter, reprinted here for anyone looking for summer ideas, and reassurance that if your kids tell you they hate you, you're not alone, and if they haven't yet, they probably will.

Ah, Summer. So far, we’ve berry picked (mostly at Kruger’s on Sauvie Island), summer camped (Southwest Community Center - still camps available for the rest of the summer for all ages), had swim lessons at the outdoor Wilson Pool (perfect to stay for family swim after the last morning lesson), checked out the water feature at Director Park downtown in front of the Fox Tower (better in the early afternoon, we’ve found, after the sun has had a chance to clear the tower), and of course, Jamison Park in the Pearl, with a Hot Lips pizza picnic (located at the Ecotrust building). Just the other day, the kids rode ponies (courtesy of their Nana, who rides), at Once Upon a Horse out on Stafford Road between Lake Oswego and West Linn. They had a neat program for young children, if you’re not terrified of horses (which I can be - trying not to instill that in the kids). We’ve had playdates and picnics at Wallace Park, the Elephant Park (Washington Park) and the Rose Garden, and plan on checking out Magnolia Park in Hillsboro, just as something new to do; I’ve heard it has a fun play structure and water area with fountains, perfect for little people to cool off in this glorious weather we are having. We are also looking forward to a few more Ladybug Walks - (google Ladybug Walks Portland for a listing of upcoming nature walks in local parks), BugFest 2011 (August 27th,11am, at the Nature Park Interpretive Center in Beaverton), and hopping on the Big Pink Trolley we keep seeing around town (scored a couple 1/2 price tickets on last week - and kids 5 and under ride free). Several other Youngset mamas have mentioned the Preschool Days at Oaks Park - Tuesday and Wednesday mornings from 9:30-11:30, $6.50/child, so we’ll have to put that on the calendar, too.

Fun evening things have been a little more limited (ready for bed at 8:30) - but I have to include my feeling that Kruger Farms summer concerts are the best. I feel like they embody the reason I love raising my kids in the Northwest - or at least Northwest summers - warm sun, great music, relaxed atmosphere, grilled corn, picnic blankets, bare feet running up and down rows of fresh summer fruit, berry juice dripping from chins. We finally made it to one this past Thursday (the first really nice Thursday evening that we were able to coincide with our schedule), and it was heaven. If you haven’t been, put it on your summer to-do list. I also recently saw a listing for some great concerts out at McMenamin’s Edgefield - maybe a date night? We just missed Willie Nelson, which would have been super fun - but there are a bunch of other ones coming up, so check those out, too!

While we’ve certainly been having a fabulous summer, we’ve also been stricken with some less than fabulous behaviors among the four year old set at the Brown house. Somehow the early morning cuddles of three loving children (okay, so it didn’t happen EVERY day, but more often than not), has turned into a somewhat less charming, less than loving, “I hate you, Mommy!!”, usually uttered by about 7.15 or 7.30am, and then repeated three or four times a day. The reasons have varied - one day I wouldn’t make from scratch pancakes, since we had to be out the door by a certain time, or I gave the wrong juice cup, the incorrect spoon, didn’t get things done fast enough, brought ketchup instead of ranch, wouldn’t tell a third bedtime story, suggested they not cheat at a board game, put someone in a time out. You get the picture. The patient, adoring, loving mother in me sometimes has the sound mind to recognize it as a cry for attention, or “provocative communication” as Don Fleming writes in his aptly named book, Mom, I Hate You!, replying with something like, “I’m sorry you are mad at me right now, but I love you, even though I can’t make pancakes.” And then move on. The 8.5 month pregnant, uncomfortable, not sleeping, less than patient mother with a bladder the size of a walnut, and lungs being compressed by a seemingly 15 lb. baby, wants to yell right back at them (and cry for hours into my pillow!). Everything I read tells me it’s normal - both their instigation and exploration of expressing their emotions, and my reactions - compounded by my current state of pregnancy. And I know that - I really do. But it is so hard to hear those words! Ah, parenthood. I’ll just try to stick with the calm, reasonable mom attitude - even though I’m not always feeling it.

Quinn and Ellie have just started asking when school will start again - something I’m glad to hear. There is something so simple about summer - PJS until 10am, later nights, breezy summer afternoons. But there is also something so comforting about getting back into a routine, watching our children continue to develop at Youngset, learn what it means to be a friend and all the other fabulous and not so fabulous self discovery and learning they go through at these ages of 3, 4 and 5.

I had a minor heart attack last week on our first day of camp, one of the first mornings we had to be somewhere at a certain time in quite a while, and I wondered how I will do it all - four kids four and under dressed, shoed, fed, watered, played with and loved, the new one nursed - all by 9am, and although I still don’t really know how I will do it, I know what a welcoming and supportive group Youngset has offered so far. So when I roll in at 9:20 (9:30, who am I kidding?), with a deer in the headlights look, nursing bra exposed, shower taken no less than four days prior, another Youngset mom will be there to help me with a carseat or a cup of coffee. I thank you in advance.

Hopefully the only thing you get from my blurb is an idea or two for an outing - but if your kids are telling you they hate you, too, or you are feeling apprehensive about the change in routine, know you’re not alone. It all settles down when they turn five anyway, right, Teacher Lynn?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Change is good?

So first of all, can I tell you how EASY it is to have one kid? I mean no offense to friends who have only one - but I simply cannot get over how delightfully calm it was around here this afternoon. Henry and I played in the sandbox for an hour, then went to Schmizza for dinner, rode the street car, played in the water at Jamison Park (spontaneously!), had ice cream and came home to bed. We snuggled, we didn't have to rush to the potty or fight about who got the tractor or the ball, no one was crying, I didn't have to keep my eyes on three kids in the water, worry if I had juice cups for everyone, or a change of clothes in case someone fell in, that one kid was lagging behind and about to get run over, or ANYTHING. I know it might feel boring by the time Chris, Ellie and Quinn get back on Sunday, but tonight one kid was Heaven. Capital H.

Last week SUCKED. I really needed this break with just Hen. We got home from a 10 day vacation at our house at Black Butte Ranch in Central Oregon on a Sunday (which was so fun, and SO tiring) . The day we got back, the kids transitioned to bunk beds - big kid bunk beds. So no more princess and car toddler beds. Then the next day (also the first day of swimming lessons), they decided they wanted to give up their nighttime pacis (gasp!). Yes, my four year olds were still using pacifiers at night. Not proud of it - but Ellie was SO attached, it was hard to yank them from her. I was pretty much willing to switch dentists just so we wouldn't have to deal with getting them to give them up - but Ellie (the real hanger-onner) announced she was ready. I hadn't been pushing - encouraging, but not pushing. That was Monday, so Tuesday, we went to Build-a-Bear and they each made a teddy bear (at friend Karen's suggestion), and stuffed their pacis inside. I had told Karen months ago that while it totally worked for her girls, I was SURE Ellie would be ripping the bear open within minutes of bedtime and trying to tear her pacifiers out.

Quotes from that first night, after attempting bedtime at 8:30:

9:15pm - "I know it was my idea, Mommy! It was a STUPID idea! I should have listened to you!"

9:45 - "I hate Build-a-Bear Factories!", throwing her newly stuffed purple bear across the room, then running across to get her, screaming, hoping she hadn't hurt her.

10:08 - "Sometimes life is just so hard, Mommy!", through heavy tears.

We were up until 10:15ish that first night, crying, anguishing, very, very sad. I felt so badly for her. But we made it.

Quinn, on the other hand, just said, "I don't miss my paci."

That lasted for 3 or 4 days - the heavy crying, twisting and turning in bed - total paci withdrawal. Then it started to settle down, BUT they started getting used to us hanging out in their room at bedtime, and started waking in the middle of the night again - at least 2 times each, which is FOUR times between 11-5am, which means that I don't sleep well, which is already not happening because, have I mentioned? I am 36 weeks pregnant with a seemingly huge baby who likes to kick. So to recap:

- come home from 10 days away (always an adjustment)
- switch to bunk beds from pint size toddler beds
- begin swimming lessons
- give up pacifiers
- up until after 10 four nights in a row, with no naps

Oh, and on a more positive note, but still big deals - within the past couple of weeks, they have mastered scooting on their Mini Kicks (which they LOVE!), and just yesterday learned to ride big kid bikes. So I guess that was a lot of change within a couple of weeks. When they get back, we are going to need to be on serious sleep patrol. How is it that our 2 year old is a WAY better sleeper than our four year olds have ever been?
Oh well, good thing things will be settling down here in the next few weeks. Except for me being gone for five days - to have a baby.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

when space feels tight.

So in addition to my general uterine area feeling tight, I have been stepping on one too many legos around here, and we have been investigating the idea of moving - as in, occasionally looking at a house or two, weighing our options, thinking about what we'd be giving up and what we'd gain, and then feeling like it would be INSANE to think about moving anywhere in the next year, or especially in the next 6 months, but the thought of remodeling sounds even crazier.

We have a great house - full of charm, details, molding, built in 1926. I love our house. We are one block away from where the kids will go to elementary school, and four doors up from my mother in law. And the view! The VIEW! We feel like we're in the treetops, but really we live in the city. Terrible photo - but maybe you get the idea. Taken from our living room, out the giant window.

The trouble with out Not So Big House is the layout is a little tricky - and our footprint is small. We have four finished levels - a basement that is mediocrely finished - a small bedroom and bathroom that kind of reminds me of something you would find in a Cape Cod summer cabin - blue and white, wooden plank swing door, clawfoot tub with wrap around curtain and an antique-y sink, super cute, but kind of iffy on the function level (okay, maybe the outdoor bathroom at a Cape Cod summer cabin). Washer/Dryer, furnace, some storage in cabinets, and a laundry sink. Not a whole lot of extra room - certainly not a playroom area. Not sure what a remodeling design firm would say. We'll have to see. My gut is that we could probably spend a whole lot of money down there, and not really gain that much.

Main level has living room, dining room, kitchen and den - and a view that I would have a REALLY hard time giving up. Photo somewhere in this post. (I will post more pictures, too - because I need some serious thoughts on whether we should stay and make do, remodel or move). Note: no bathroom on the main level, which is WAY more of a pain in the butt than you imagine - especially when potty training, needing to run inside for a second to pee when the kids are playing out front, or when one (or more) of the kids has diarrhea and vomiting, like today. Ugh. Who needed that living room rug, anyway!? We could get rid of our small (Prius small) garage and kick the kitchen out, add a bathroom, open up the layout a bit and then put french doors to make the driveway into a patio. That's our big idea. But suddenly, between that, updating the bathroom upstairs, and doing the roof, painting, blah, blah - we've suddenly spent 200k. Still cheaper than buying a new house I guess. (and for all of you thinking - why don't you just do most the work yourselves? ha!)

Upstairs has three bedrooms - small for Henry, medium for E&Q to share, and large-ish for Chris and I. Master bedroom closet for Max, I think. And a Small Bathroom. Capital S. If we wanted to add a bathroom in the master, we could, but I think then Max would have to sleep in a drawer. Which would work for a while, I guess. Then, in the Up-Up, as I call it, we have (as of yesterday) a playspace for the kids, thanks to my handiwork and the Ikea Trofast storage bins, and Chris's office. And shelves of fabric and yarn that I have had every intention of using to knit and sew for years now. I haven't quite finished the playspace - I have to paint one of the walls with magnetic paint and finish bringing some more toys up. The kids seem to really like it. Same toys/different space=new toys!

I think we could make the Up-Up a bedroom at some point, with some redoing of our HVAC system. It's a finished attic that gets hot, hot, hot in the summer. And iceberg-ish in the winter. But March-May, and October/November, it's perfect!

And I'd like more of a yard, but we're so close to the school playground that it doesn't seem to matter that much. And as Chris reminds me, I don't really have time for gardening right now, anyway. And we have a small garden, 3 decks off the back of the house, and a sidewalk that we draw on.

Maybe I should just organize the legos better and shut my mouth. I don't know. Remodel? Move? Stay? I'm totally nesting.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

When I think we're good parents.

So there we are at the Waterfront today for the Rose Festival Fun Center, which generally translates (and I realize I may sound snobby here) to a bunch of people in "Honk if You're Horny" t-shirts from the sketchy parts of the burbs - which I did actually see, and should have taken a picture of to prove it. Anyway - the crowd is not the Portland I live in (though I did run into two families I know from around town and saw lots of people wearing much more appropriate clothing - including a cute dad wearing an "I Love Soccer Moms" t-shirt). We like to think we keep our neighborhood real with our plastic toys scattered around our front garden, including a crab shaped sandbox, plastic slide, pea gravel dig pit and a super cute wooden picnic table I picked up from a garage sale yesterday for $10. And though we don't have gardeners, as most of our neighbors do, I am happy to report that I do not own a "Honk if you're Horny" t-shirt.

Anyway. The kids LOVED every second of the festival's trashy glory! For my (two?) out of town readers, the Rose Festival is a week long 104 year old Portland tradition created to make Portland 'the summer capital of the world!' - and it has all sorts of events during the week, spanning end of May to June. There is a fleet of Navy ships that come into harbor, a giant Rose Festival Float Parade, the Starlight Run, all sorts of things - including the crowning of the high school Rose Queen, you get the picture. And there is the Fun Center. I think we spent $90 on ride tickets, or something ridiculously close to it. Henry rode the same car ride 5 times, each time choosing the same exact car. The ride operator made us get out every time and get back in line, even though twice there were only two kids lined up, and never more than four (plenty of cars to go around). Each time I got Henry out, he would scream because he wanted to stay in, and I would have to carry him out the exit, and back around to the line and say, "Oh, hi again. One, please." Just one of those things that people do that drive me CRAZY. I would have happily just handed him my tickets each time.

Ellie rode the carousel - here's where we come in as feeling like we're good parents - and there's this muscly dad, probably 40ish, with his wife, older daughter and no more than 2 year old boy. Ellie and Chris had gotten on the carousel, and the 2 year old got on with his mom, right in front of them. The kid is hysterical - screaming because he is clearly terrified, and his mom is tightening this leather belt around him, forcing him to stay on the horse. The muscly dad is yelling at him from the sidelines, "Hey, boy, you listen - Knock it off! Quit your crying and put on a happy face." All this is making the kid even more upset. I mean, for the love of God, the kid is TWO. A baby. He's scared shitless of being on the horse, and he's being forced to stay on it. The poor kid is going to grow up petrified of carousels. So depressing - not just the carousel fear - the whole thing.

So bottom line, our kids had a great time and we had a lot of fun watching them have a great time. And next year, we'll have FOUR kids at the fair. EEk.