February Twenty Eighteen

It’s Monday and then it’s Friday. That’s what my grandmother, Nan we called her, always said. I miss Nan. She died in November 2013. I remember getting the call. Brian’s dad and Tara were in town, and we had taken the ferry to Bainbridge Island to visit the children’s museum. I remember we had bought the kiddos—only two then—bento lunch boxes and we had packed them for the first time. They were excited to use them on the ferry. I must not have had my phone on me because Brian came and found me; my mom had called his phone. I could tell by his tone when he told me I needed to call my mom that Nan was dead. I have a death sense. I knew when our phone rang at 10pm one night it was my mom calling to tell me my dad died. He wasn’t supposed to die. But I was right.

Nan wasn’t supposed to die either. I mean, she wasn’t ill or anything. No cancer, no heart issues, no old person anything. She had broken her hip a few years back and we thought for sure that would be the end of her… seems like old people always go downhill after they break hips. Not Nan. She wasn’t about to let that happen. My sister used to call Nan Jessica as in Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote. Everywhere Jessica went, someone died. And that was our Nan. She was outliving all of her friends and family. She made it to the ripe old age of 93, two months shy of 94.

Nan died in the best way possible. I want to die like her… preferably when I’m old. Friday afternoon, she was out front raking her leaves and watering her lawn. Friday night, she went to bed as usual. Sometime in the night she got up to get a drink of water and when walking back to bed, boom. Dead on the floor. We didn’t do an autopsy but the consensus was she had a brain aneurysm and it was a quick, sudden death.

My mom called her Saturday morning and there was no answer. Which wasn’t unusual. Nan liked to walk to the store or work in her yard. She was always busy. But my mom called a few more times that morning and there was still no answer. She knew. She drove over to Nan’s house around 11am… the curtains were still closed. Unlike Nan. Knowing Nan was most likely dead inside and not wanting to be the one to find her, my mom called the police (or some uniform people) and they entered to find Nan on the bedroom floor.

I took a psychology of death and dying course in college. Fascinating stuff. One of the things that stuck with me was that people won’t die unless they let go. Nan was ready to let go. Apparently on the Friday when she was raking leaves out front, she told her neighbor that she was just done and that she was tired of dealing with aches and pains. Nan got her wish.

Nan was my mom’s mom. And my mom was an only child, so my sister and I were the only grandchildren. Growing up, we’d spend the night at Nan’s house at least once a week. And she and Bop, my grandfather who died in 1993, were always around on holidays, birthdays, school events, etc. Nan was a constant in my childhood. Granted, she was kind of mean and wasn’t the nicest to me. Lisa was her favorite. Lisa could do no wrong as a child. But me, she didn’t want my mom having a second kid and well, here I am. She held this against me. It was the running joke in my family that if something was missing, it was Lora’s fault. Nan would blame me for anything. And then there was the birthday money. Nan was always equal in what she gave Lisa and me for our birthdays, but Lisa would get an additional $25 on my birthday also… I didn’t get anything on Lisa’s birthday. I remember realizing this but it didn’t bother me. I guess I was used to being second fiddle. And, I think my parents made it equal for me.

As an adult, Nan still remained a constant in my life. When I was taking college classes in the mornings and working in the afternoons, I’d go to Nan’s house for lunch in between. And I spent every Christmas Eve at her house until I was 32. After I moved to Washington, Nan and I would talk on the phone every Sunday at 5pm. See, my mom wasn’t a Nan fan. Nan was a controlling mother when my mom was a child and adult, and my mom still has resentment toward Nan (and she’s dead!).

My mom has many stories, like the one time my mom was maybe 13 and leaving for school. Nan stopped her and told her to scrub the mascara off her eyelashes. My mom told Nan she wasn’t wearing any. Nan didn’t believe her so my mom had to scrub her eyelashes to get rid of the mascara she wasn’t wearing.

When my mom was an adult—before marrying my dad and still living at home—she worked for a doctor. Several of Nan’s friends went to this doctor. Nan would interrogate my mom about which of her friends visited the office. My mom, not able to discuss patients with Nan, would be scolded by Nan for keeping quiet. Things like this. My mom has several stories. Needless to say, my mom isn’t like Nan as a parent.

After Bop died, my dad was the one who interacted with Nan regularly. I’m not sure if he did this on his own or if my mom sent him. Either way, I remember whenever Nan would call I was instructed to say my mom wasn’t home or she was busy, something. Avoidance. But then my dad died and I moved to Washington three weeks later, Nan was lonely. So we did weekly calls. According to my sister and mom, my mom visited Nan regularly. According to Nan, nobody visited her. Or if they did, it was a quick visit. Who knows? I was in Washington. Between my mom, sister and Nan, they all likely were telling the truth from their perspective.

Nan will be gone five years this November, and I still think of her every Sunday at 5pm. And I think of her as these weeks fly by. She was right. It’s Monday and then it’s Friday. Not only are the weeks flying past, but it’s basically Groundhog Week every week. Every weekday is the same. Mostly. A few slight changes.

Side note: I wonder when cultural references will die out. Like will my kiddos get Groundhog Day? What about Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean? When will they become irrelevant? They already kind of are to me, and I’m a ’79 kid. But I at least know about them. That young snowboarder kid who won the gold medal at the Olympics for slopestyle, he said something like he didn’t realize how big of a deal the Olympics were. And he overslept the morning of his competition. Haha. I love teenagers. Will the Olympics be a big deal in years to come? Watching them this year, I never realized how privileged and elitist the athletes are. It’s not like the average seven-year-old discovers their passion for skiing so young AND has the opportunity to ski all the time. Let alone the cost of all the gear, lessons, and coaches. I’m not discrediting the athletes’ abilities—they are amazing and work hard—but wondering if the average kid will ever have a chance at a medal. Maybe in curling. That seems like a sport you can win at without much athletic training. It’s like bowling on ice. Which makes me wonder if curling is included, why not bowling? Although bowling is a sport to me like fishing is a sport. Both take skill but are they really that physical? I digress.

But, yeah, Groundhog Week. Just for kicks, let’s talk Tuesday. Tuesday is my long day.

Every Tuesday: Brian and I are up early. He’s a snoozer so I’m up first. My alarm goes off at 5am and I’m down by 5:15am. I may hit snooze once. My routine is like a choreographed dance. Before getting out of bed, I take Melvin’s collar off in my hand, clenching the tags. Even he’s choreographed; he stops at the top of the stairs every morning and shakes his head. If he has his tags on, it’s loud. We walk down, he goes straight to the back door. Here begins the choreography:

  1. Turn off the house alarm.
  2. Turn up the heater one degree so it kicks on and creates white noise for the kiddos while I do my thing downstairs.
  3. Walk toward the back door, wake Sammy who is always dead asleep on the couch, remove his wrap, and I let both dogs out back.
  4. While the dogs are out back, walk to the kitchen junk drawer where I keep my hair brush and brush my hair.
  5. Turn on the light over the stove.
  6. Click on Brian’s coffee maker he prepared the night before (at 39, I have no idea how to use a coffee maker, and no desire to learn).
  7. Hit the restroom. I do this while Melvin is out back because he has an unhealthy obsession with me and follows me everywhere, and he walks loud on the wood floor.
  8. Circle back and let the dogs back in.
  9. Take my morning medication.
  10. Fill up the dog water and food dishes.
  11. Make coffee for me. I’m not much of a coffee connoisseur… I use instant, whatever. I don’t even really like coffee but it’s part of my routine so I drink some.
  12. Grab the blanket on the couch.
  13. Finally, sit in the same spot and drink my coffee before Brian strolls down.

I’ve nailed this routine to be finished before the heat kicks off after I bump it up one degree.

Brian strolls down around 6am. We sit and chat on the couch. After 22 years, we still find things to talk about. The little ones come down around 6:30am. This is when we turn on the kitchen light and get the day going. Brian makes school lunches for Blaise, Laine, and Saige. I leave for a walk or run with Melvin. I get back around 7:45am. All kiddos are up and they are finishing breakfast. We have an hour before we leave…

Everyone heads upstairs. Except me. I clean the kitchen. Brian cleans the kitchen but I do it right. Haha. I have standards. I load the dishwasher and run it even if it’s not full. I like to stay caught up. I fix the pillows on the couch and pick up anything out of place. I can’t leave the house unless I’m coming home to a clean one. Now I go upstairs. I make six beds. SIX. So annoying. I start a load of laundry so I can rotate it before we leave; I need the washer free on outdoor school days. Blaise and Laine get themselves ready for school. Blaise does this quickly so he can get some Xbox action in before we leave. Brian and I get ready. I get Saige ready with her five layers for outdoor preschool. Baby is next, I dress her. I finish getting ready while Brian brushes Saige and Baby’s teeth. I send everyone downstairs so I can ensure the upstairs is tidy and all lights are off. Without fail, if a kid goes upstairs after I’m down, a light will be left on. Before I head downstairs, I rotate the laundry and leave the washer lid up so I can easily toss in Saige’s wet, muddy school clothes in there when we get home.

Tuesday is trash day. Five minutes before we leave is when Brian takes out the trash and puts the cans on the curb. There are two type of trash day people: those who put their cans on the sidewalk and those who put them in the street, up against the curb. Sidewalk trash can people aren’t my favorite. They either have never pushed a stroller or forget what it was like. Hats off to the people who put the cans in the street against the sidewalk. Brian drives me nuts with his last minute-ness. I mean, it’s who he is and he’s a total last minute guy in almost every area of life, but Jesus Christ. I wish he’d put them out the night before. Sometimes I do. But he’s right. I don’t have to do it so what does it matter? (It matters.) Except when it comes to buying things. Brian takes FOREVER to make a decision. It can take him six months to decide which electronic meat thermometer to buy.

While Brian’s dealing with the trash, the kiddos get shoes on and empty out. We have an empty out rule… everyone has to hit the restroom before we leave, even if they don’t have to go. I take the dogs out and ensure they have water—Sammy often drinks all the water from when I fill it up first thing—and I refill the cat food and get them fresh water. Then I pack the kiddos’ backpacks. This is different each day. Because they go to different classes everyday, they need different things. And then there’s Blaise’s epipen. He can take it to his Tuesday and Thursday classes, but his Monday and Wednesday classes they keep one on campus. Tuesdays, they get green folders, lunches, two snacks, a water bottle, and Blaise gets an epipen. And I double-check I have the right backpacks. They have classroom backpacks and outdoor school backpacks. Because the outdoor school backpacks get muddy and wet. Saige gets lunch, one snack, water bottle, hand warmers, gloves (two pairs: waterproof and wool), and a hat. I bring the dogs back in. Brian is usually finished with the trash by now. We corral all the kiddos to the garage where the little ones are loaded in the Suburban and the big kiddos are loaded in the van. I head back inside to do one last check, give the pups treats, and set the house alarm.

And we’re off.

Blaise, Laine, and Saige all start at 9:30am Tuesdays. Brian drops off the big kiddos; I drop off Saige. I’m down to one kiddo until 12:30pm when I pick up Saige. Freedom! Haha. Depending on my errand load, I’ll either head back home or run a bunch of errands. Errands with one kiddo is a piece of cake.

Baby and I arrive at Saige’s school around 12:10pm. If I’m not early, I’m late. My mom was always late. Always. I can’t stand being late. Even with four kiddos, I’m usually always at least 10 minutes early. I say usually because there are those times GPS is wrong or something throws even my cushioned schedule off. But 98% of the time, I’m early. I like to get to the farm 20 minutes before Saige gets out of school for two reasons: 1. I like to park in one of three parking spots and 2. I like to catch up on texts and emails from the morning. I’m a routine gal.

Baby and I sign Saige out, and we have 2.5 hours to kill before picking up Blaise and Laine. Sometimes we hang at the farm for a while, sometimes we go to the library, and sometimes we run errands. Whatever we do, we’re at DigiPen by 2:45pm. My whole I like to be early thing.

Picking up Blaise and Laine is chaotic. Saige is a tired mess from school and Baby, ugh. Let me explain the ugh: Baby pretends to be a dog when she sees Laine. And she will not let it go. The minute she sees Laine, she’s on all fours howling. I’m laughing out loud as I type this because it’s ridiculous, but it’s not fun to deal with at pickup. There are parents and kids everywhere. Blaise is busy saying goodbye to his friends and always forgets to take off his lanyard name tag. I have to remember to remind him to remove the thing every time. Laine is a scatterbrain and forgets her backpack half of the time—but remembers to take off her lanyard name tag—and she has Baby in dog form following her, to her amusement. We eventually make our way back to the car. Sometimes with a crying dog-baby in my arms.

Then comes the fun part. Blaise and Laine look around the car and assess what we did while killing time. And if they see anything the little ones got that they think is unfair, I have to hear about it. And then I have to remind them how much stuff they got back when they were two and three, and Saige and Baby are still in the red compared to them. And not only that, how much we spend for them to attend their all-day Tuesday school. They stop with the inquisition.

Reunited with all four kiddos, we either go straight home or we stop at a friend’s house on our way home and play for a bit. Either way, we eventually get home and eat dinner, and then relax until bedtime. Relaxing for me is washing Saige’s school clothes and unpacking lunches, which means I have to unload the dishwasher so I can put the dirty lunch containers in the dishwasher… I don’t like dishes in the sink. And then dinner something. I’m no cook but I get buy. The kids eat some sort of balanced meal. The big kiddos are in school all-day Monday and Tuesday, and Saige is exhausted from preschool, so bedtime usually starts around 6:30pm Tuesday nights. Brian deals with the bedtime routine.

I end my Tuesday cleaning up, walking the pups around the block, and finally sitting on the couch around 8pm. I usually watch Brian peruse Netflix before realizing even if he finds something, there isn’t much time to watch it before we go to bed. But I can’t go to bed before I get reminded by Snugs that she hasn’t had her wet food yet. Or, as Saige calls Snugs, Black Moose (Moose is our all-white cat). These cats! I noticed in early January Snugs had lost some weight. Nothing else had changed with her so I decided I’d try to fatten her up a bit with some wet food. Two nights of wet food, she reminds me every night at 7:30pm that she gets wet food… at 9pm.

At 9pm, I feed the kitties their wet food, take the pups out, and tidy up downstairs. Mostly arranging the pillows on the couch and putting the remotes away. I always think of Blaise. He was maybe three and I had this patterned pillow with arrows. I always positioned the pillow with the arrows pointing upward. I have a thing about points; they seem negative if they’re pointing downward. When Blaise would help pickup and he’d put the pillow on the chair, he’d step back and look at it and if it was pointing downward, he’d turn it upright. He’s my detail-orientated kid.

I take a bath every night before bed. I always have, always will. I don’t like going to bed feeling dirty and I like the heat of the water before I hop in bed. After living together for 18 years and Brian knowing about my nightly bath routine, he recently got in on the before bed bath action. It’s like when I fly and I always check my bags, even if they meet the carry-on requirements. I like having my hands free. Brian used to think it was lame that I’d check my bag and would question why I would go through the effort… until he started checking his bag and realized how nice it is not to have to deal with a bag. Same with the baths. I wonder what I’m doing now that in 10 years he’ll start doing?

To my benefit, Brian is a fidgeter. He can’t sit still. This means he has to be moving something at all times… lucky for me, that means he moves his hand and massages me every night while we screw around on our phones/Kindles/etc. before we hit the hay. Which means I usually stay up a bit later than planned because I milk being massaged. I aim for lights out at 10pm but it’s more like 10:30pm.

Repeat Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday… the morning and evening routines are mostly the same, with the exception of the big kiddos’ activities Wednesday (gymnastics/ninja warrior) and Thursday nights (dance/gadgeteer club every-other week). Tuesday is the extreme weekday. It’s my least favorite day of the week schedule-wise.

Mondays are fairly easy, with the big kiddos in classes up the street all-day and Saige has dance in the morning.

Wednesday, the kiddos are in classes up the street until 12pm, and then we chill in the afternoon before they head to gymnastics/ninja warrior.

Thursday is busy, mostly for the kiddos… Blaise, Laine, and Saige all have outdoor school, in two locations. I’m basically an Uber driver. I drop off Saige, drop off the big kiddos, and then kill time in Redmond before picking up Saige and then picking up the big kiddos. We usually stay after at whatever park the big kiddos had class and play a while. My goal on Thursdays is to tire out the little ones so when Blaise and Laine leave for dance at 5:15pm, I can start the bedtime routine for the little ones and have them down by 6pm. On the Thursdays when the big kiddos have gadgeteers after dance, that means I have the house to myself until 9pm. I love these Thursdays.

Fridays are usually nothing on the schedule days, with the exception of once a month when the big kiddos have an all-day outdoor class at Tolt MacDonald. Otherwise, it’s the morning I may sleep in until 6am and might not make beds until 8am. I like to live on the edge. With nothing required to do, sometimes we have lazy days where we hang at home all day; sometimes I have Lisa so I can have some me time; and sometimes we go somewhere like the zoo or to a park to meet up with friends. It’s my balance day for the week.

Weekends we usually stick close to home. This is a goal of mine to change this year. I’m a major doer during the week but come weekends, I like to be home. I’m not a crowd fan, and everyone is out on the weekends. And the kiddos are usually tired from the week and ask for lazy days. They like to chill at home; they’re my kids. But I want to change this. I want to start doing day trips places. Maybe even an overnight trip every few months. I mean, we live around really cool stuff. Mt. Rainer, Canada, the islands in Puget Sound… seriously cool stuff. And all the events that happen around Seattle. There is always something to do. I should make a post of things we want to do, a bucket list. My extreme planner-self could use a list of things to do so I don’t have to think about it come weekends. Ignore my stream of consciousness. Which is basically this whole post thus far.

Really, we couldn’t start doing things until now anyway… the big kiddos had skiing every Saturday all January and half of February, and Laine has riding lessons every-other Sunday. And things always seem to pop up on weekends, like birthday parties. But damn it, we will start doing day trips soon. The little ones are at a great age to start doing things. We’re mostly stroller-free, and they listen for the most part.

Major unimportant ramble above about my boring, self-inflicted busy week, it makes me want change. With every week being Groundhog Week, I crave something different. Maybe our future weekend adventures will appease my need for change. But I’ve been thinking about doing a major change lately, one that won’t actually happen: the three Cs.

California, Colorado, Canada.

Three places I’ve been pondering moving to lately. But then I break it down and decide to stay put in Carnation. Really, it’s all about the Cs.

California, where I was born and raised, and lived until I was 27. I love California. There is something to saying you are from California. A certain sense of pride and coolness… rather, elitist maybe. Unless you’re from Bakersfield maybe, haha. I’ve been gone a while though, maybe Bakersfield has moved up in the world? There’s a reason California is popular… people choose to move there for a lifestyle. And in California, you can have any type of lifestyle you want: beach, snow, country, city, mountains, valley, it’s all there.

And there’s the excitement some people get from anything California. I remember when OJ killed Nicole and Ron, one of my friend’s cousins who lived in the midwest asked her if she saw OJ’s Bronco on the 5. Like she thought everywhere you go there is a famous person. And one of my professors in college—who was from Pasadena—briefly taught in Ohio, and his stories. One couple he had in his class had recently been married and he said they were so excited to honeymoon in California, at Disneyland of all places. He laughed when telling the story—because of the way this couple and other midwestern students he had—and how they idolized California. They probably called it Cali. Maybe even San Francisco, Frisco. Those make Native Californians’ ears hurt. Probably how people from Nevada cringe when people say Ne-vah-da.

If we were to move back it would likely be to live near family. And this means the Sacramento area. That’s a big nope. Family, yes. Sacramento, no way. There’s a reason we left and haven’t looked back. Even the other day when I was talking with Brian about craving change, he suggested moving to Davis. It’s close enough to family but has a different feel than Sacramento. It’s a college town. Something about college towns do it for us. The young, liberal mindset where college kids think they can change the world. And I hope they do. But then I asked him why should we move back, aside from family. His answer, hahahaha. He said, “Well, it’s close to Tahoe.” Exactly. The best part of the Sacramento is that it’s close to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.

What about San Luis Obispo? We love SLO. Part of my heart will always be in SLO. It was an amazing place to live during college and our early adult days. We even got married in Pismo Beach. Everything about SLO was home. Such great memories.

I remember going back when I was pregnant with Blaise—four years after moving away—and I just sat in the rental car parked in downtown, crying. I’m not a crier. I blame pregnancy but really, I was so sad to be back knowing we didn’t live there anymore, and we likely wouldn’t again. We could move back there. There are tech jobs there, Amazon even. But SLO has changed. There is a Target now. Not that I don’t love Target but it’s grown. There was something about the smaller feel. And if we moved back we’d want to live downtown, like in college when we lived on Palm Street. For kicks, I looked on Redfin and there is a two bedroom/two bath townhome downtown for a measly $1 million. There’s a nice—clearly a flip—home just outside of downtown for $900k but it’s only three bedrooms and not much of a yard. And it’s not downtown downtown. We’re picky, especially compared to what we have now. Then there’s state income tax at close to 10%. And other small things that may seem insignificant but matter to me… up here, we are close to the snow, near an international airport, plentiful job opportunties for Brian, amazing doctors in every discipline, to name a few. And up here, there is more of a chance a few of our kiddos will stick around as adults since the area has more opportunities. At the end of the day, Washington is home now. And, real change is moving forward, not backward.

Colorado sounds appealing because it’s a new, total change. I haven’t even been to Colorado. Ha! But I like everything I hear about Colorado. I probably glorify it much like those Ohio students did with California. But, Colorado is landlocked and I’ll never leave the Left Coast, even if moving to another blue state.

Canada, O Canada. My dream. I love everything Canada. At least in my head I do. And to leave this country and all the political nonsense sounds amazing. But it would be quite the move. And while Brian could easily transfer up there, we have our Groundhog Week here and life is pretty damn good… even with craving change.

Carnation it is. For now. I love our house and location; I’m not loving the old town Carnation mindset though… like, it’s the country, dogs belong off-leash. Simple things that annoy me but I deal. This will change though, with the cost of living pushing people out of Issaquah, Sammamish, and Redmond. Carnation will eventually gentrify… which means it’ll become more liberal. Bonus.

I’m annoyed about housing prices. Maybe I don’t understand why houses are so much. Other than because they can since people are buying them. I searched Redfin last week with a filter for single-family homes under $700k. Nothing. Not one listing showed up in Issaquah, Sammamish, or Redmond. Under $800k, one single-family home that is clearly underpriced to ignite a bidding war. And it will; it’ll sell for a ridiculous amount over asking, likely within a day. There’s even a townhome near our old one that is listed for $775k. And someone will buy that within a week, too. It’s crazy.

When we moved up here, it was affordable from our California perspective. You could buy a starter home in the $400k range. It may have needed work and wasn’t in an ideal location, but they existed. Now, you need close to seven figures to buy anything. It’s insane. In order to buy a home comparable to ours square footage-wise—with one less bedroom and a smaller lot—it’s about $1.4 million dollars. That’s more than double what we paid back in 2015. Granted, we don’t live in the most desirable area, a whopping 20 minutes outside of Issaquah, Sammamish, and Redmond. But even still, a three bedroom/two bathroom home on our street is listed for $735k… and it sold within a week.

There are so many great, hard-working people with lovely families who don’t have the incomes needed to buy around here; how are they supposed to afford a house? Sure, you can move an hour away or even in neighborhoods 20 minutes from Redmond but there is traffic galore. Salaries aren’t keeping up with the cost of living. It’s really bothering me. And I’m not even getting into the whole coffee used to cost five cents discussion Nan used to go on about. This was back in the ’80s when she was discussing how the cost of living wasn’t keeping up with salaries. Good thing she’s dead because she’d likely drop dead at how things are now. The home Nan and Bop bought in Sacramento back in 1946 for $8,700 is now worth over $550k. Their mortgage was $20/month.

But I don’t know what, if anything, to do about it. Salaries are hefty up here, often with large signing and annual bonuses, and then there are the stock options lenders up here know all about and count as income… our lender, when we met with him the first time and Brian said whom he worked for, it was like here, take a blank check. Probably because we were buying a “cheap” home, haha. Foreign investors are rampant in this area also. Homes keep selling. Within days, sometimes hours. Maybe people aren’t maxing out their 401k? And/or not saving in some other way? Maybe we’re doing something wrong? Because there’s no way I’d ever entertain the idea of buying a standard tract home over $1 million… let alone a used one. I know, I’m super picky. I don’t like the idea of a used bathtub or toilet. And baseboard dirt, I want it to be all ours. It would have to be a customized, totally my style, beachfront home to spend seven figures. And come with a housecleaner or a Ferrari. Something. So here I am, annoyed as I sit in our over-valued home. My parents always said the housing market cycles every seven years, and it’s been mostly true. Things have to level out or go back down.

On things being 20 minutes away, which I mentioned above. I remember reading a reddit post—circa 2007 before reddit was popular and top posts only had maybe 500 comments—asking something about the differences of people who live in different countries. The top comment from a non-American was how everyone in America always describes distances in time. Like how I say Redmond is 20 minutes away. Apparently with non-Americans, it’s more common to use kilometers. I think of this every time I say it’ll be X minutes to get somewhere. And while I’m at it, back to being a Native Californian, I read one of those 10 Reasons You Know You’re From California things years ago. One of the things was everything is 20 minutes away. Hahaha. It’s so true. My dad was the same way. Everything took 20 minutes. Even if it took an hour. And I find myself using 20 minutes most of the time. Sometimes I’ll say 25 minutes if I’m thinking about that list before I offer up a distance. Even here in Carnation, there is a sign by the dog park that says Trail to Tolt MacDonald Park 5 Min Walk.

Alright then, it’s about that time I actually get to February. In pictures:

Dining table. This was my parents’ dining room table. It was their first big purchase together as a married couple back in 1970. When Lisa and I moved my mom out of her house in summer 2016, I brought it back home with us. It’s not something I’d ever buy if I was shopping for a table on my own but it is a part of my history. Every birthday, Christmas, Easter, and special occasion we ate at this table. The table sat in our garage for over a year before I took it to be refinished. It was a ’70s oak color and not my thing. Plus, it hadn’t been refinished in its 47 years. I waited until the little ones were past the fork poking phase. We had a cheap IKEA table; I didn’t care about fork pokes. I mean, I didn’t love them but I wasn’t upset about the table being ruined.

Furniture refinishing isn’t cheap. Unless you consider $1,390 cheap. But still cheaper than buying a new table that can seat eight and is solid wood. Thankfully it was a piece of furniture from my mom’s solid wood days. She went through a lacquer phase in the late ’80s. We had these lacquer entertainment units in our bedrooms. Lisa got black and I had white. I never liked it… I’ve never been into white furniture. It was when we moved into the house my parents built in Rancho Murieta. They bought all new furniture for the house, including our bedrooms. All I wanted were bunk beds and I was talked into a white daybed with hearts and these awful brass balls on the posts. It went with the white lacquer entertainment cabinet, which also had brass hardware. I despised that bed. I wasn’t into white furniture or hearts. I’m not sure how I even ended up with that nonsense?! This was also during my mom and dad’s brass and glass furniture phase. These shelving units that you could make bigger. We had two.

I took the table to the refinishers in early November. It was ready early February. In typical Lora fashion, I went with a black stain. I’ll probably always have a thing for dark furniture but I’ve slowly been adding lighter woods into the house. Like my desk. I LOVE how it turned out. It’s not pitch black to where you can’t see the herringbone pattern, and it’s not really shiny… they did a great job with the finish. And I love, love, love how we can seat more people. It’s perfect. And I didn’t need to buy new chairs. I’m not a matchy-matchy person anyway.

Art afternoon. We’re back to using the art room more often. Nothing special, just your standard coloring, painting, drawing, etc. stuff. Looking at this picture and seeing the stamp pads… in late February when the kiddos were using the art room, Saige was painting and Baby was using the stamps. Saige dumped her brush water all over the stamp pads. I was upstairs when this happened. Blaise called me down and sure enough, the stamp pads were ruined. I wasn’t a happy camper. I don’t care about stuff; I care about having to pick up unnecessary messes. Blaise, my guy, he said, “Well, you do like trowing things out and that makes five more things gone.” He was right. I was happy about tossing them. And I have no plans to replace them.

Selfie skiers. Last year when they were on the chairlift, they took a few selfies with Brian. Brian was amused, they said, “You know how to take selfies?!” Haha. Now they like to take them when the opportunity arises.

Mamma Mia! Laine is slightly obsessed with ABBA. She started listening to them last summer so we showed her the Mamma Mia! movie. She watched it several times, and then she’d watch the musical numbers from the movie on YouTube. In fall when I was nosing around online looking for shows, I found Mamma Mia! would be live in February at the Fifth Avenue Theater. Memories. Brian and I used to go to the theater and symphony all the time before kiddos. I bought tickets for Laine and me, and she counted down until we went the first weekend in February. It wasn’t the Las Vegas version Brian and I saw in the early 2000s but it was worth going. I love musicals. Laine loves them also. I see many future musicals with her. And I’m sure she’ll want a cupcake after every one. Not to sound like Nan, but I never thought I’d see the day when I’d pay $4 for a cupcake.

Trail runners. I’ve been back at running regularly. Almost daily actually. It feels great. This was a Monday and I didn’t run that morning. My solution: I took the little ones in the double running stroller an hour before we had to pick up Blaise and Laine from Riverview. The trail is right next to their school. I ran and then released the little ones so they could get their run on. It was a even trade. They probably made out more since they got lollipops while I ran.

Time killing with Baby. This Tuesday I had a ton of errands. Baby and I didn’t go home while Saige was in school. One of the errands I needed to do was to get Sammy diapers. Sammy is a dog. My life is so exciting.

Sammy-Sam. He’s was a challenge to figure out. When he first moved in, he slept in our bed. He was totally normal and fine for a few months. But then he started getting up in the night with weird attacks, doing this shaking and breathing thing. I was worried he was going downhill and something was wrong with him. At first, we thought he needed to go out so we’d take him. He’d come back to bed. But then he’d continue with the shaking and breathing. The vet checked him out and ran blood tests; he was normal. She prescribed a general medication that helps with infections or pain (I can’t remember), thinking maybe he had something that we didn’t detect and this was worth a shot. Two weeks of this medication and he was doing better. Whatever was wrong with him, he was back on track. But then we started waking to a mess on the carpet. We had the carpet replaced before he moved in so this wasn’t something we wanted happening… not that we would on the old carpet either. We decided we’d start crating him for the night. We did this with Mayah and Leilah as they got older and it worked well.

Sammy had never been in a crate in his 14 years. It was a process. The old guy has major anxiety and it only made it worse. We stuck it out and he eventually dealt with the crate at night, next to our bed. This lasted for about six months. Then he’d wake in the night around 2am breathing heavy and panting. I figured this meant he had to go out. I’d take him out, put him back in the crate, and he’d continue with his anxiety attack. Then we decided we’d move him downstairs. We tried securing him in a hallway so he wasn’t crated. Same thing. Anxiety attacks. I ended up sleeping on the downstairs couch for a while with him. We’d let him sleep on the couch and I’d wake if he hopped off, and I’d take him out. I couldn’t do this long-term. We decided to try the crate again, downstairs. That way if he woke up at 2am, he wouldn’t wake us up with his heavy breathing and panting. Well, this backfired. Not only did he do his heavy breathing and panting, he started barking all.night.long. I think we had better sleep with newborns than this time trying to figure out Sammy.

Brian had been to Mike and Katherine’s house to watch a movie a few weeks prior, and they mentioned one of their dogs was on anxiety medication. I emailed our vet and asked for the same stuff for Sammy. I started Sammy on the anxiety medication and we put him back in the crate next to our bed. It seemed to work for about two weeks before he was back to his 2am attacks. We moved him back downstairs in the crate with the medication. He’d still bark all.night.long.

Then one night in early February, I was up with him at 2am. I couldn’t fall back asleep and was getting increasingly annoyed with interrupted sleep thanks to the old guy. It hit me. Diapers. My parents had a dog who needed diapers as she aged. My mom used to take baby diapers and cut a hole for her tail. I figured there must be diapers for dogs nowadays. I was right. I found these male dog wraps. Life with Sammy has never been better. And thankfully, he likes wearing things so he has no issue with them. Now I put one on him before we head up to bed and he gets to sleep on the couch. Half the time, he’s dry in the morning. I thought I was almost all finished with diapers. Haha. I still give him his anxiety medicine at night… the little guy is an anxious pup.

Long story to get to the point of the pictures: Baby and I went to Petco to buy the male wraps. Did you know Petco price matches to their own website? The wraps in store are $19.99; on petco.com they’re $11.69. Pathetic they do this. That’s a 41% increase.

Baby liked the kitties! even though they are ferrets. We went to Red Robin after before picking up Saige… to kill time before we picked up Blaise and Laine.

Goats and pigs. When Baby and I arrived at the farm to grab Saige, the goats had just broken out. Smart suckers. They knew exactly where to go in the shop to eat. I’m not sure how smart goats really are but these guys have their criminal life figured out. The baby pigs keep getting bigger. So cute!

More time killing. Tuesdays. Ugh. After getting Saigers, we went to Target and Costco. I always have something to get at either store. Usually because I went with a list and still managed to forget something, and in the meantime need more things. The kiddos scored at Costco. Samples of M&Ms. Unless there is an afternoon class to die for next year, I won’t be doing this after preschool time killing thing again. It’s not fun.

Musical cars. Bob, Tara, and Courtney drove up the Suburban in December. Courtney and Genna flew up and drove down our SUV in February. Courtney wanted a second car. She has a two-seater and wanted more space. Sometimes things work out. Brian was going to deal with selling the SUV locally. I didn’t think it was worth it. People can be a hassle, especially when they’re spending a few thousand dollars. And rightly so. But Brian works and we have four kiddos with a busy schedule. When Courtney texted Brian asking about the SUV, I wanted to make it happen. Brian was going to sell it for a higher price up here and he told Courtney that price. I disagreed, she’s family. So I got him to lower it and she agreed.

I’m not sure that car had ever looked so good then when Brian cleaned it up for Courtney. It was a great car for us. I think Brian misses driving it around. Now it’s a great car for Courtney. And bonus for us, we didn’t have to deal with selling it locally.

Genna and Courtney flew in Friday morning. The little ones and I picked them up. The big kiddos had their all-day outdoor class until 3pm. We left the airport and went to downtown Seattle, checking off the Pike Place Market tourist thing. We all had $4 cupcakes and then left the city and drove around UW. Courtney said she’s considering UW for graduate school… we hope she comes up here.

The big kiddos finished class and we had a nice evening at home with everyone. We ALL fit at the dining table! It was so nice not to have to move chairs around.

Saturday morning the big kiddos had their last skiing lesson… that they skipped. It was too much fun having their aunts here. Courtney and Genna left just after 10am. They planned on driving back to Sacramento that day. We got the report Sunday they arrived safe and sound after midnight.

Hide-and-seek Baby. Genna texted me this picture she took of Baby hiding during a game of hide-and-seek. HAHAHA. Side note: we had the three former kiddo bedrooms painted late February. This used to be Blaise’s room, now the guest room. And it’s now a paint color called sparrow. Fancy.

Contortionist Mel. He’s such a great pup. Insta-Dog as we call him.

Puzzle day. I felt like doing a puzzle one Sunday afternoon. So I did.

Homework. Literally. Work they do at home. Saige takes it the most serious. She LOVES doing homework. She is powering through a preschool workbook faster than the big kiddos are with their workbooks. Baby has to get in on the action these days also.

Sammy! Sammy-Sam was in major need of a groom. I trim around his eyes but it’s not the same as getting a shiny clean cut. We use a mobile groomer who comes to us. I always feel bad sending pups to a groomer where they spend most of the time in a cage. It’s worth the extra to avoid that. Well, and it’s just easier for me. He’s back to looking dapper.

Valentine’s. Man, one of the downfalls of all the kiddos’ classes is the multiple Valentine’s we have to do. Not that I’m complaining too much. It’s fun and they enjoy doing them (but I’m complaining).

This year I planned ahead. I went to the Dollar Tree mid-January and bought everything we needed. And I even had the kiddos work on them Sunday night, two days before their first Valentine’s event. While I’m a planner, I can also be a procrastinator when it comes to stuff like this. I think past years we’ve done Valentine’s the night before. Except when the big kiddos did the crayon hearts for preschool. We made the crayons a week before but I was scrambling to assemble them the night before. Saige did the crayon hearts this year. She helped with peeling the wrappers and breaking them. I did the rest, early even.

Glimpse of summer. There was a nice, sunny day in the midst of everything rain and gloom of February. Even I enjoyed the sun break. I’m all about rain and gloom. But in fairness, my ideal weather is rain and gloom for about five days, then two sunny days, and then back to rain and gloom for five days. It was a nice taste of the upcoming spring and summer time. I have to admit, I’m actually looking forward to both. Maybe not summer for the weather, but summer for the break in our schedule. We have nothing planned for the summer. Let me say that again, nothing. Glorious. I take that back. My summer plan is to have the kiddos play out back all day, every day.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m feeling better about spring and summer coming because I’ve been running regularly. Which means I’m dropping these pesky pounds I’ve held onto since having Vaile and I’ll be more comfortable in warm weather clothing. (Weird, I typed her name without thinking. Maybe Baby is on the way out.) But even still, I just feel better about myself.

Constant purging. I think I have the opposite problem hoarders have: I’m constantly purging. After moving the kiddos into the bonus room, I couldn’t handle the chaos of four different bedding sets, the fun pattern chair, play kitchen, play tool bench, and the baskets of toys. I let things sit for a few weeks before I figured out what to do.

This is our linen closet. We don’t have that many linens. Like I said, I purge. And so we have just enough sheets for the beds we have, with a select few extra should anything happen—like a kid gets sick in the night—and we need clean sheets ASAP. I cleared out the linen closet and moved the extra sheets to an empty laundry room cabinet. The linen closet became the toy closet. These are the toys in the kiddos’ room now. With the exception of the play kitchen and play tool bench. Since I took this picture, Laine brought me a few of these toys to donate. They’re purgers, too. And I still want to purge a few more from this closet.

Cold morning run. This is a view of our neighborhood from the trail, at 6:56am according to the photo time.

Oil change. The Suburban needed an oil change. Timing never worked out for Brian to take it in so it was on me. This was the first oil change I’ve dealt with since Brian and I lived together in 2000. He refills the sugar dish, takes out the trash, and gets oil changes. Next time, it’s back on him. Although it was super quick It really was only 10 minutes. Baby and I went on a morning while the other kiddos were in school.

Tuesday. After Baby and I picked up Saige, killed time, and then picked up Blaise and Laine from DigiPen, we went to our friend’s house to play. Saige immediately got her school lunch out to finish, and Baby went straight to the trike. The big kiddos were off in a nearby field playing with their friend.

Valentine’s Day. Also Brian’s 40th birthday. I don’t have any pictures of our small birthday celebration here at home, but here’s a picture of the kiddos with their Valentine’s candy I gave them.

The kiddos had half-day school up the street. I picked them up at noon after decorating the house and we went to Costco to pick up the cake. We had a ridiculous amount of cake from Costco but it was where I was the day before, and it was cheaper than a smaller cake anywhere else. I ordered the skateboarding cake. The receipt checker lady leaving Costco questioned the skateboard cake and it saying Happy 40th. Haha. Then she drew a skateboard stick figure on the back of the receipt for the kiddos to give to Brian.

Brian came home early to grill some steaks. Yes, he made his own birthday dinner. I did offer. I made him a homemade pie instead. Baking is more of my thing.

This was the first year Brian knew everything wanted: which gift, what dinner, and which dessert. Maybe 40 is his year. The big kiddos usually have gymnastics/ninja warrior Wednesday nights but we decided last minute to keep them home and enjoy a quiet evening for Brian’s birthday. It was a nice night. Simple and low-key.

Mid-winter break. This is new from when I was a kid. They have mid-winter breaks up here. When I was a kid in school, we had two three-day weekends in a row. One for Lincoln’s birthday and one for President’s Day. Up here, they just give a week off. Depending on the school district. Issaquah gives a week; Redmond gives Thursday-Tuesday off. We fall into the Redmond schedule for two of their classes. They didn’t have their outdoor classes Thursday, February 15.

With no school on tap, we had a friend over and walked the trail for a nature scavenger hunt. Blaise and Laine made their own lists, and I put them in InDesign and used my laminator I always forget I have. We walked the trail up to Tolt River where the kiddos played on the beach for a bit. Blaise packed his backpack and proceeded to forget it at the river.

Saige is going through a posing phase. I think she beats Blaise on poses.

Eevee. What a sweet pup. We pup sat our friend’s pup while they jetted off to Hawaii for the weekend. Blaise and Baby really took to her. And she took to the bath… my friend warned me that she may hop in the bathtub. Sure enough, Blaise was bathing that night and I heard, “Mom!” And walked up to this. She tried to hop in the bath with me the next night but I was prepared.

Le Pie! Sitting on the playground log at school.

Backpack hunting. Blaise left his backpack at the river the Thursday before. When we got home Thursday, I asked him if he grabbed his backpack. He said he did and that it was in the garage. I believed him. He’s usually my with it kid. Well, come Tuesday morning when we needed his backpack for DigiPen, his backpack was nowhere to be found. Turns out he left it at the river.

Baby and I came back home after dropping Saigers off. We walked up to the river to see if there was any chance his backpack was still there. Shocker, it wasn’t. He only had crayons, a pen, and the scavenger hunt paper in there so no big loss. And, to his benefit, the backpack was a Minecraft one and he’s mostly out of his Minecraft phase… on to Star Wars so he’s pretty stoked to get a new Star Wars backpack.

Robot Laine! Okay, this is when I’m super stoked about the schooling choices we make. The big kiddos take a robotics class. And it’s not some semi-robotics class but full-on robotics with programming and gadgets galore. Laine was excited to show me the robot she was working on when I picked them up at DigiPen, although she doesn’t look that excited in the picture. She was.

Battleship. This is one game I won’t play with the kiddos. Maybe I’m mean. But it takes them forever and they give away all their locations without realizing it, and it’s just not fun for me. Brian was playing it with them for a bit but I think he’s on the same page as me. So they play each other. And they still take FOREVER.

Olympics Saige. Saige’s sleeping schedule is all out of whack since starting school. This was a Thursday where all the kiddos had outdoor school at the farm, and we stayed after to play for a while. We got home around 3:30pm and she was passed out in the car. I tried to wake her with no luck so I put her in bed. She slept until 8pm, after all the other kiddos were already in bed. She came downstairs and watched the Olympics with us a bit. With her Teddy bear. It’s name? Brown Teddy. Original. Haha. She ate a late snacky dinner and then went to bed with us.

Blaise, my co-parent. Blaise is going to be a catch when he’s older. Brian is usually the breakfast guy. If I’m on duty, it’s a cereal or oatmeal day. I like easy to make, easy to clean. Brian was already at work, and Blaise had slept in. When he came downstairs and wanted breakfast, I asked him what he wanted. Lucky for me, he’s all about making his own foods lately. He wanted eggs. But he decided to make eggs for Saige and Baby also. Laine doesn’t like eggs. He did it all himself. Cracked the eggs, turned on the stove, everything. I did clean up. I found a video of him making scrambled eggs back when he was three… he’s always been into cooking. Like Brian.

I personally like how he gave everyone the same amount of strawberries. Not only a co-parent, also Mr. Equality.

Pottery Laine. It’s only been two months since Laine got her pottery wheel at Christmas. She finally opened it and got her pottery action on. She’s my artistic kiddo. She loves everything art, and she’s good at everything art.

Bunny Saige! This is Saige’s dance costume for her June recital. I’m not one to dress my girls all girly, but I’ll admit this is adorable. I can’t wait to see her on stage.

School skippers. Eh, their Tuesday morning class has changed. They started this computer testing and online reading program, and have made it out to be this wonderful program. Maybe it is. But as much as I love technology and I think it has its place, I don’t like the kiddos learning basic subjects on the computer… or taking online quizzes. This isn’t BuzzFeed. I know in the Issaquah School District, they have the kiddos do math homework online. I’m all about the pencil and paper, especially for math. And, of course, reading. I want my kiddos to hold books, have a piece of paper in front of them to read. I’m picky.

The class is moving toward a more traditional public school class. Which cool, if you like that sort of thing. But we do our own thing to avoid stuff like this. And yet, here they’re doing it in a class we pay a decent chunk of change for.

So, the week after they implemented this program, I decided to silently protest by letting the kiddos play hooky for the morning. Brian was driving them so I called him and had him drop the big kiddos off at Saige’s school. After signing Saige in, Baby, the big kiddos, and I went to the Original Pancake House. We screwed around until I dropped them off at noon. I wanted them at robotics class.

They have eight more classes left. I doubt I’ll pull them again since they like seeing their friends and it’s almost over. I got my protest out of my system. Haha.

February, check. March is on now and it’s going well. Same ol’ Groundhog Week thing going on but it’s all good. We have Great Wolf Lodge coming up and a visit from Brian’s mom. Those should spice up the weeks.

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