My Stream of Facebookness

Most nights, I curse myself for looking at Facebook before I go to bed. It causes me to lose sleep, scrolling through the endless feed of trending topics, advertisements and things that people liked that other people liked that other people posted. I’ve thought numerous times about quitting altogether, but then my kid does something cute and I’m back where I started. I mean, what am I supposed to do, NOT share the cute thing with the Facebook world at large, thus enabling someone else to get to bed earlier? I don’t think so…

Every once in a while, though, the completely random stream-of-consciousness in the Facebook newsfeed yields something interesting. And yesterday, it seemed as if the universe was reading my mind. Here’s what happened:

Two days ago, Nataly Dawn posted a cover of Billy Joel’s The Longest Time on YouTube. I’m subscribed to the Pomplamoose YouTube channel but not Nataly Dawn, so I must have seen this in my newsfeed. I watch the video excitedly, as The Longest Time is one of my favorite Billy Joel songs.

I didn’t, at that moment, think about why The Longest Time is one of my favorite songs, but a video I found on Facebook last night led me to the following train of thought:

When I was a kid, I watched a show on PBS called Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? based on the popular children’s video game. This quiz show, for whatever reason, featured an a cappella group called Rockapella. One day on the show, the group used the melody for The Longest Time to sing a song about (presumably – I can’t really remember) geography. I liked the song and my dad told me it was Joel’s The Longest Time. I went out and bought the album An Innocent Man and the rest is history.

Oh, except for the part where I watched Carmen Sandiego half because I liked the video game, and half because I already knew Rockapella, having seen them on a Spike Lee television special in 1990.

I had forgotten this series of events enough that it was not the first thing that popped into my head when I saw the Billy Joel cover. It eluded me until, in a moment of total random Facebookness (TRF), the Zombie Jamboree video showed up in my feed.

And for that, Facebook, I thank you for keeping me up just a little bit longer. (Song begins at 2:27)

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My Four-Year-Old Well-Child

“The doctor reassured me this (clinging to me for dear life, head buried in my chest, weeping uncontrollably) was perfectly normal behavior and that this would be the last time the doctor visit would be this traumatic.”

Lies. Damned lies! The 4-year-old well-child check did not go any smoother than the 3-year. Well, there wasn’t any crying, but there wasn’t any cooperation, either. As Sonja lie on the table, curling up, turning away, and being generally uncooperative, I caught a little smirk, a tell-tale sign that this was all for show.

Mostly what the doctor and I talked about was her steady weight-gain.  Her incredibly slooooooow but also very steady weight gain. I mentioned that there was some guilt on my part that I couldn’t get her to eat better. I also explained that since she decided she liked chocolate milk, it was harder to get her to eat actual food after drinking the milk. His suggestion was to feed her at more regular times to see if that would encourage her to get hungry more often. (I have not done this yet, favoring my plan of just forcing her to eat something real before she can have milk.) A while back, I implemented an 8:30 snack time  so that Sonja would stop complaining she was hungry after I put her to bed. It worked. Sometimes she eats, sometimes she doesn’t, but she knows she can’t use that excuse to stay awake anymore.

Her height was another issue. The curve took a little bit of a dip and the doctor was a little concerned. He said it would probably go back up, and to bring her in for a height-weight check in four months. I asked what would be wrong if her height didn’t improve, and he said, once again, that there could be some motor issues. Then we went down the list of the things she should be able to do, and she can do them all in spades. Talk in complete sentence. For years now. Recount her day. Just try and stop her. Hop on one foot. Yes, and plié and chassé too. As usual, this boiled down to, it’s probably just the size she is going to be. I was really short too, until middle school, at which point I took my place amongst the average-heighted people.

During this conversation I mentioned that, despite what he was seeing, Sonja is a very friendly and outgoing child. I also told Sonja, somewhat in jest, that she was embarrassing me. At that point the doctor said that the sooner I realized that this was her, and not me, the better off I would be.


I think as people we have a tendency to judge. If a kid is screaming his lungs out at a restaurant, we get annoyed and blame the parents. Now that I have a child, if I see a meltdown at the grocery store, I’m more likely to feel bad for the mom, who is no doubt embarrassed but not at fault, either. But even if we can withhold from casting aspersions on other people, it is much more difficult not to judge ourselves, isn’t it? If your own child is acting poorly, you assume everyone else is silently rating your parenting skills.

But sometimes, or as the doctor says, all the time, this is an attempt on the child’s part to control what he can in a particular situation. Sonja could not control being at the doctor’s but she could control how much she cooperated. It was a sentiment I needed to hear.

I thought of it last night after Sonja’s swim instructor was looking for suggestions to get my (normally cooperative) daughter to participate in activities the first time, instead of saying no and having to be persuaded. Sonja and the teacher started off on the right foot the first day by bonding over The Lego Movie. Then, the first thing the teacher did during the very first lesson was dunk Sonja completely underwater. Had she been consulted, Sonja never would have agreed to this. So now I think she’s a little distrustful, and really, there’s nothing I can do about that. That’s all up to you and her, lady. Good luck.

Back to the checkup. I asked for the doctor’s opinion on starting kids in school early, since our school district won’t test kids and it’s looking less and less like Sonja will be able to start early. He refrained from saying too much in one direction, but he said some schools don’t want people using the public school system as free child care, but that some have taken it too far, because some kids are ready to start early.

Then the nurse came in and gave Sonja a bunch of shots and she left the office sobbing and limping. We went out for a healing frozen yogurt treat, and the next day she insisted on wearing a skirt to school so she could show off her bandaids.

Here’s to next year.

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REPOST – My Dad’s Columbus Day Storm Story

This blog originally appeared on October 14, 2012.

It is a time-honored tradition for parents to bore their kids by telling them the same stories over and over and over again. I am personally looking quite forward to boring my own child with my stories. First I’ll tell them to her, then I’ll make her read this blog. Yes, I’m going to be an overflowing fountain of quotidian repetition.

Perhaps I’m overcompensating a tad, to make up for the fact that when I was a kid I was rarely treated to stories from my parents’ pre-kid life.* The stories I did hear came from my dad, and the one story I heard over and over again, year after year, was the Columbus Day storm story.

I realize I’m a couple of days late posting this story, but not as late as you might think. In America we’ve taken to “celebrating” Columbus Day observed, which is reserved for a Monday so workers can get a three-day weekend. (Except I don’t know anyone who actually gets Columbus Day off save for the postman, and I only know that because I tried to post mail last Monday.) Actual Columbus Day is October the 12th and has been for over 500 years.

In keeping with my blog’s wishy-washy “should I actually post this story” theme, I hesitated to post this famous story because I wasn’t sure there was enough of a story to tell. As best as I can remember it, after hearing it at least 20 times, the story goes like this: My grandparents, my dad and my aunt all moved into their new house on Columbus Day, during a storm, and the electricity was out. That’s it. From beginning to end. Doesn’t seem like much, does it?

Upon fact-checking that actual Columbus Day was actually October the 12th, I stumbled upon a crucial part of the story that, for whatever reason, hadn’t previously registered with me. My dad’s family didn’t move into the house during storm, they moved into the house during the storm. The Columbus Day storm of 1962. It’s famous. According to Wikipedia, the storm, “is a contender for the title of most powerful extratropical cyclone recorded in the U.S. in the 20th century.” And this year, being that it is 2012, was the fiftieth anniversary of that storm.

Officially, or perhaps finally, intrigued, I pressed my dad for more details on the infamous story. He said that the roads were a mess as they drove a van back and forth from Parkland to Puyallup several times, dodging branches and driving circuitous routes to  avoid the debris in the road.

So yes the storm was a big deal and yes it was an extremely ill-timed moving day, but if you’re wondering why I had to repeatedly hear a story about a house my father moved into fifty years ago, it’s because my dad still lives there. In fact, this home has been occupied exclusively by Scotts. My Grandparents had it built in the ’60s and my parents took it over in the late ’70s. It’s where I grew up. So not only was the twelfth of October 2012 the fiftieth anniversary of the storm, it was also the fiftieth anniversary of the house.

Here’s a picture of the house the day I came home from the hospital.

And here’s a picture I took earlier today.

So happy birthday house! I look forward to many more years hearing the story of your birth on a dark and stormy night in October.


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My Tea Culture

IMG_1807I never drink coffee. I hate the way it tastes and I hate the caffeine jitters it gives me. I see all the articles people post on Facebook about the many health benefits of coffee, as well as the other articles about how caffeine will kill you. Sometimes I read them. Mostly, I don’t. It makes no difference to me. I am not part of the coffee culture.

My culture is tea. I love tea, and have devoted plenty of time and money to my tea education. Any generic Google search will reveal that tea is definitely its own culture, albeit a smaller one than coffee.

My teapot, with several temperature settings for every type of tea.

My teapot, with several temperature settings for every type of tea.

And so it was that I found myself paying far too much for tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, Canada about two months ago, and being completely shocked that they left the tea bag in the teapot. People, this is a mortal sin in my book, and many other tea enthusiasts will have my back on this. If you leave the tea in the water too long, it will turn bitter. Some people can handle bitter, some people even like it, but it is not proper and it is not okay with me. Nor my daughter, who wouldn’t so much as touch her favorite beverage.

Before things got bitter.

Before things got bitter.

While we were in Canada, I bought some loose leaf tea at one of Canada’s many tea shops. I bought three kinds I like – Ceylon, Darjeeling and Jasmine Green – and a tea towel that says, “Tea is the finest solution to nearly every catastrophe and conundrum that the day may bring.” Any search for tea on Pinterest will reveal hundreds of similar sayings on mugs and signs and towels. “If tea can’t fix it, it’s a serious problem.” “Tea: A hug in a cup.” “You can’t buy happiness but you can buy tea, and that’s kind of the same thing.” “Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.” The calming and relaxed nature of tea is the focus of the culture, as opposed to coffee’s position as an essential life force.


Tea is the finest solution to nearly every catastrophe and conundrum that the day may bring.

After thinking about my tea experience at the Empress, what should have been the end-all, be-all of tea culture experiences, I realized something. I realized that I am not, in fact, a part of the tea culture.

Tea Happy

First of all, I like my tea iced. Those that have gentrified their lives through the consumption of tea are drinking it hot. I remain among the hoi polloi. One cannot achieve such a calm, zen-like state with ice.

Second, most people don’t care quite so much about which kind of tea they drink. I’m limited to three or four kinds. Some, however, can sample all that the massive tea world has to offer, and they can probably finish what they buy without pawning it off on family members, even if it doesn’t measure up to their all-time favorite. Others might even drink (gasp!) herbal tea. Still others might try to make a less amenable tea more amenable through the addition of sugar or cream. I can abide no such additions, thank you very much.

Some of my tea.

Some of my tea that I make and then pour over ice.

No, somehow I’m too niche to fit within an already established niche. I don’t belong to the tea culture at large. As usual, I live in my own little world (of tea) with my own rules and regulations. I can buy the towels and the signs, but I am merely a pretender. But that’s okay. I wouldn’t want to be a part of any club that would have such a ridiculously picky person as a member.

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My Daughter’s Fourth Birthday Party

IMG_1730 We held Sonja’s first birthday party at a park on a sunny day. We held her second birthday party at home on a cool and rainy late September day. We held her third birthday at the park, on a beautiful and warm-enough-to-melt-wax-candles afternoon. Sonja, now four and able to understand patterns, could tell you that what comes next. I decided to ignore the pattern, cross my fingers and hope for the best.


And so it was that we held her fourth birthday party at the park on a windy and cloud-covered day on the last official weekend of Summer. As the plastic Frozen tablecloth flipped in the wind and the half-empty bag of tortilla chips flew off the table, I thought to myself that perhaps I should’ve had the party at the house. Luckily it didn’t rain until the second after we had packed all the presents in the car and started home.


Four was a nice birthday indeed. Sonja invited a few of her friends from preschool, the neighbor boys, and her cousin. As in, she knew who she wanted to have at her party, without me having to tell her. She also knew she wanted a Frozen-themed party. One $70 trip to Party City later, I began to wonder if I’d lost my mind.



I made another chocolate chip cookie cake, as regular cake is not yet part of her repertoire. If I make another one next year, which is quite possible, then NOTE TO SELF: Cook it longer than 25 minutes. At least 30. Maybe 35. It actually turned out great this time, but I did not remember how long it needed to be cooked. For me, it was a little underdone, but in the world of chocolate chip cookie dough, all’s good.


Also of note for next year: introduce games. It might’ve been a little iffy to play “pin the tail on the donkey” this year, but by next year, I should say a game of musical chairs is in order. As I type this, I am thinking of the tears that are guaranteed to ensue when she doesn’t win. Eh, maybe I can think of something more cooperative. I have a whole year.

Happy Birthday to you, my little cookie monster.

Happy Birthday to you, my little cookie monster.

So happy birthday, my lovely Sonja. I hope you loved your party and I can’t wait to do it again next year.

First Birthday Party

First Birthday Party

A box. The most timeles, bestest gift ever.

Second Birthday Party

Third Birthday Party

Third Birthday Party


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My 4-Year-Old

Age 4. She voluntarily put her PJs on by herself, and then tried to clean my desk for me. This is a sign of things to come, right?!?

Age 4. She voluntarily put her PJs on by herself, an hour before bedtime, and then tried to clean my desk for me. This is a sign of things to come, right?!?

So long, temper tantrum threes, hello totally patient and reasonable fours. Right? I think I heard that somewhere before. The temper tantrums do seem to be subsiding, partly because of age (probably) and partly because I am getting better at ignoring them. Sometimes I have to plug my ears for five minutes, but when she figures out I’m not caving to that particular whim, she will eventually move on.

I set out to make this summer busy and memorable. I succeeded on both accounts. After preschool ended in June, I knew we’d need some scheduled activities to keep me from going insane. I signed her up for swim lessons and gymnastics at the Y, and ballet at a local rec center. She loved all of them, but especially ballet. She got to wear a skirt (though not a tutu) and learned moves such as “smell your feet,” and “happy cat, angry cat.” It was a slam dunk, to use a sports metaphor. Sometimes, at night when she didn’t want to go to sleep, she’d cry that she never wanted to go to swimming or gymnastics again. This was just a threat, a last ditch effort at keeping me in the room and staying awake. But she never, not once, invoked ballet in this little game of hers, lest I actually listen to her and take her out of lessons.

Sonja practicing her ballet moves.

Sonja practicing her ballet moves.

We also saw two movies at the theater. Inside Out, the latest Pixar film. This one was mommy’s pick, because I really wanted to see it, and I wasn’t disappointed. We also saw The Minions, which was daddy’s pick, because who doesn’t love minions? Inside Out was unquestionably the better film, but it was far too advanced for a three-year-old. Sonja enjoyed it, said she liked Joy and Disgust (because Disgust was green) and then immediately forgot about it. Minions was more appealing to her. Sonja really enjoys the theater ritual, sitting in the giant seats with a giant tub of popcorn, so I’m sure we’ll catch a few more flicks before the year is over.

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At the start of summer, we took her  to Wild Waves (just the Enchanted Village part) just for fun. It was just about the right outing for her age. There was no travel involved, the lines were short, there were a lot of rides just for her, and when she got cranky after a few hours, we didn’t feel like we had to stay just to get our money’s worth. Don’t get me wrong, it was too expensive, especially since Shaun and I didn’t go on any rides, but it wasn’t Disneyland expensive. It’s also nice that the park has plenty of shaded areas, so you don’t get too hot.

Wild Waves, nee Enchanted Village

Wild Waves, nee Enchanted Village

Wild Waves, nee Enchanted Village

Wild Waves, nee Enchanted Village


We had several smaller outings as well, to the Redondo Beach Boardwalk, and the Point Defiance Zoo. A trip down to Vancouver, WA to see a friend and visit another Spaghetti Factory. Last week, she went bowling for the first time at her friend David’s birthday party.

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And then there was the big outing: the trip to Victoria, Canada. We spent weeks talking about the ferry we’d take and the things we’d see. The actual trip was exhausting and Sonja whined just about the whole time. Now, Sonja pleads with me every day to take another trip to Canada. Her favorite part? Sitting in the hotel watching TV. I put this one in both the win and fail columns.


Canada, baby! Woo!

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Sonja is still completely obsessed with Frozen, and wants to be Elsa and play Elsa and have every Frozen thing ever made, but I haven’t had to actually watch the movie in a while. She prefers to watch shows on Netflix, and she is particularly enamored right now with an original called Puffin Rock. The nice thing about this is there is no Puffin Rock merchandise. Yet.

She’s gained a little weight and has decided she likes chocolate milk. However, now that she’s back to drinking some milk, I think this interferes with her appetite for other foods. It is very difficult to get her to eat. I have also found that I must have an iron will when it comes to dinner. I must insist, and plug my ears, that she eat all of her dinner before she can have cookies. And no, she cannot eat something else. She has to eat what I prepared. I have catered to her wishes too long because of her weight, but I have found if I bring the hammer down, she will eventually eat, if only to get that cookie.

She’s learning to play card games and board games. We have a co-op board game called “Max,” for which she understands the rules and can play. We have a game of “Go Fish” with actual fish on the cards, and she can play this too. However, she cannot play it without showing me all her cards. And the other day we were able to teach her “Uno.” She still wants to show everybody all her cards, but she knows when she has a match. With any of these games, we can play about three times before she decides to make up her own rules, and steals all the green cards.

Green is her favorite color. She loves green. This is a major part of her identity to her. I’m pretty happy with this selection because it is not pink. She tells everyone that her favorite color is green, and she wants green lollipops and green color crayons and green playing cards. She even ate Grandma’s split pea soup, because it was green. (Sadly this logic that green is good doesn’t apply to vegetables.)

Now we gear up for preschool and Halloween and another year of adventures and milestones. It’s going to be a good one. Happy 4th birthday sweet Sonja, we love you so much.




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My Birthday – 2015 Edition

“Yesterday it was my birthday, I hung one more year on the line
I should be depressed, my life’s a mess, but I’m havin’ a good time.”
-Paul Simon

Last year, I said with some aplomb that the previous year kinda sucked, and I would make the next one better. And I think I did. After a very rocky start to the year, wherein I worked for four months at a job terrible enough to make Michael Scott look like the world’s most competent boss, I decided I needed to start over.

It seemed like a strange time to start over. “Why, at this age, am I starting over?” I have thought on many occasions. Because for some reason, I keep starting over. It’s a trend. It’s a theme. It’s the main idea. From flute player to librarian, video editor to teacher, and at least a dozen odd-jobs in between, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I must always be doing something else.

I think the origins of the renaissance woman attitude can be traced back to my flute- playing days, when I was sure I was going to do one thing and one thing only. I noticed tunnel vision all around me, and when I noticed it in myself, I decided I didn’t like it. I began a search for balance, which turns out – spoiler alert – is much harder to achieve than falling over.

Let me get right to the point since I’ve been so busy with my new job that I’m going to have to backdate this post by over a week. Fear is good. Challenge is good. They keep you from becoming complacent. Your options are limitless, but you absolutely must look around once in a while. The best jobs I’ve had are the ones that put me on the high wire and said, “walk.” Life should not be about the process of learning how to do one thing. It shouldn’t be about learning how to do several things. It should be about the process of learning to learn. And once you’ve learned how to learn (hint – mistakes are involved), you want to surround yourself with the people who trust you enough to let you figure out how to be successful. Failure is always an option in life, so learn how to do it well. Do it often. Scrap ideas. Edit. Rewrite. Try again. Recover quickly. Or slowly. Get it right. And then start all over again with something new, maybe on your next birthday.

“She knows there’s no success like failure,
And that failure’s no success at all.”
-Bob Dylan

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Our Third Family Vacation, Pt. 2

…continued from part 1

Day 2 started as I suspected, with a less-than-stellar breakfast. While the hotel had a much more vast selection than most hotels offer, it was pretty bland food. I had a bagel and some hash browns. Shaun had eggs, sausage and hash browns. Sonja had hash browns. Afterwards, we headed out to the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm (that’s Canadian for petting zoo). We walked, and on the way were forced to trek through Beacon Hill park, which is terribly lovely. We ran into a peacock along the way. We were early to the farm, so we explored a little more of the park. This was probably the best part of this trip, and when we go back, I’ll make it a point to go there again.

A Canadian Peacock. Maw...Eh?

A Canadian Peacock. Maw…Eh?


Beacon Hill Park

Beacon Hill Park

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Silly poses

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Running through the flowers

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One of many lovely ponds. She’s standing directly in front of the fountain.

The petting zoo was small, but we were there in time for the goat stampede, which was pretty cute. Then Sonja brushed some of the goats and watched while they mingled with other children. We looked at bunnies and alpacas and birds, oh my. We didn’t spend nearly as much time here as I expected, because it was so tiny. So off we went a-walkin’, again.

Children's farm is Canadian for petting zoo. Phew, I was a little worried.

Children’s farm is Canadian for petting zoo. Phew, I was a little worried.

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Goats and children mingling.

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Hellooo? Anybody home?

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Brushing a goat.

Tea shopping was on my itinerary for the day, but we didn’t make it that far before Sonja got whiny and I got hungry. I had also wanted to stop at the downtown Victoria mall, and that is where we went to eat. I don’t have any idea why I let myself stop at a food court for lunch. Mall food is universally terrible, and the sesame chicken I ordered should have been called sesame dough balls. At least Sonja enjoyed the piece of terrible-looking pizza we got her.

Then it was more walkin’, and I found the Silk Road Tea Spa, which was recommended by the travel guide. A few people were there on some sort of Tea Tour (if only I had known!) and I overheard the guide talking about how to brew a proper cup of tea, including the steps, which seem now common sense to me, of making sure the water is the right temperature (differs for the type of tea you’re brewing) and steeping for the correct amount of time (too long can turn your tea bitter.)

I purchased some tea and as we left. Sonja was having an “I don’t want to walk anymore” meltdown. We promised her we’d get her ice cream on the way back to the hotel, and we’d rest before we went to afternoon tea. She wound up with a chocolate shake because the gelato tourist shops were scary in a “we-might-be-harboring listeria” kind of way.

"I'm tired of walking!" In front of Fan Tan Alley

“I’m tired of walking!” In front of Fan Tan Alley

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After a brief respite at our hotel, all three of us headed out to the Empress hotel for what I knew would be a ridiculously expensive tea time. I already knew Shaun wasn’t particularly going to like it. I thought he might enjoy the pastries. I figured I’d like the tea – though I did wonder what the reception would be like when I asked for ice. When we got there, we were seated near the piano player, who was playing muzak renditions of everything from Toy Story to Bob Dylan. We were immediately served three dishes of blueberries covered in whipped cream. Two dishes remained uneaten when the waitress checked back, and I explained that Sonja wasn’t going to eat anything. (If only I’d said the same about Shaun.) We ordered the Empress blend of tea and a Darjeeling. I requested a glass of ice for Sonja, and the waitress looked at me like I’d asked to to go to Mars and bring back a Martian. We got the ice, and Sonja said she liked the tea. But after Shaun put a couple of sugar cubes in his cup, Sonja wanted to do the same. I warned her she wouldn’t like it (she won’t drink anything with sugar in it), but she did it anyway. When she didn’t like it, I poured the sweetened tea into my cup, and poured her a new cup. Now I didn’t want my tea because it was sweetened (I don’t like anything in my tea), and Sonja started complaining that the tea was different and she didn’t like it. It suddenly dawned on me. The tea was bitter. There’s only one way tea gets bitter. I popped the top on the teapot and sure enough, the tea bag was still in the teapot. Apparently the employees of the Empress had yet to take that tea tour. At this point, I realized where things were headed, and when I asked for the check, I somehow received a 20% discount since we didn’t like it. It must’ve been Sonja’s cuteness. It still cost us over $100 to not drink tea and not eat anything. As we were waiting for the credit card to come back, Sonja started complaining that she didn’t want to listen to the music anymore. I can’t say I blame her for that. Really, her instincts were spot on. So I can’t recommend the Empress experience unless bitter tea and hoity-toity snacks are your purview.

The only happy moment of the entire experience.

The only happy moment of the entire experience.

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After tea we retreated to the hotel once again, and at this point the vacation was winding down. We were headed to the ferry at 9 a.m. the next morning for a 10:30 sailing, and I still had one thing on my list I wanted to accomplish. As strange as it sounds, that thing was Wal-Mart Canada. My French friend told me that’s where she got half of the French-themed decorations for her house, and as I am partial to those types of decorations myself, I wanted to see for myself. Part of the appeal of this little excursion was that we would need the car, and that would lessen the walking, and hopefully the whining, significantly. The 15-minute drive was pleasant – a nice glimpse into greater Victoria. Surprisingly, the gigantic, two-story Wal-Mart didn’t disappoint, and I came home with a tablecloth, placemats and kitchen towels. However, they did not have the extra special deodorant and, as I did not make it to any other drugstores, my stockpile is only three deep.

Canada - More French than America, less French than France.

Canada – More French than America, less French than France.

That night Sonja slept through the night and I slept better. I was happy my internal alarm woke me at the correct time because my phone had died in the middle of the night. I had leftover spaghetti for breakfast, and we got in line for the ferry. Sonja wanted to eat on the ferry again, but all they had were breakfast foods – nothing she would touch. We climbed up the steps to the deck seating area, and were greeted by exceedingly pleasant weather. Sonja danced and did gymnastics in an effort to entertain the other passengers. By the time we reached Port Angeles around noon, we were all hungry so we stopped at a Frugal’s. Sonja was asleep before we hit the drive-through, and slept the entire way home.

Last stop - ringing the bell on the ferry.

Last stop – ringing the bell on the ferry.

Now she tells me frequently that she misses Canada. When I ask her what specifically she misses, she says eating snacks and watching TV. Sigh. At least she had fun.


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Our Third Family Vacation, Pt. 1

After the disappointing end to last year’s beach-side vacation, we decided that Seaside would not, in fact, become an annual family tradition. Through no fault of its own, we just could not bear to go back to the beach this year. We decided instead to hit up Victoria, BC, location of our honeymoon and many fond memories. We told Sonja that she would get to go on a ferry boat, and this made her very excited. I tried to instill the concept that Canada was a foreign country (really the concept of country all together), with a small amount of success. Although I try to keep most activities under wraps until the last second, so I don’t have to hear a constant barrage of, “is it time yet?” questions, I let her know early that this was the plan so she could get excited. And excited she did get.

Watching the ferry arrive

Watching the ferry arrive

We decided to go for two days for a number of reasons. The journey is too long for just a one night stay, and Sonja is still young enough that any more than two would be too exhausting for me. Plus, Shaun didn’t have a lot of vacation time accrued at his new job. Our original intent was to take the Clipper, as was the plan for the honeymoon. Both times, however, a search for Clipper vacation packages resulted in the knowledge that the sailing times are very inconvenient for people who live an hour south of Seattle, and the ferry from Port Angeles is much cheaper with more convenient times. In the end I’m glad we went that way, as we pack too heavily to not take the car.

Before the day arrived, I was showing Sonja pictures of the boat on the ferry’s website, and happened across the information that they serve ice cream. She knew immediately that she wanted ice cream, but was concerned about exactly where she would eat the ice cream. I explained that it was a very big boat, and there were tables and chairs where she could sit down and eat the ice cream. She then began telling everyone she saw that she was going to sit at a table and eat ice cream on the ferry.

Eating ice cream. On a boat. At a table.

Eating ice cream. On a boat. At a table.

It’d been seven years since our last visit. I remember Victoria as a sleepy town, but not as sleepy as Seaside. I borrowed a guidebook from the library and looked online for kid-friendly activities. There were a few that I earmarked, with the intent of playing it by ear.

Honeymoon selfie. From before the word selfie even existed.

Honeymoon selfie. From before the word selfie even existed.

We arrived in Victoria on a Sunday afternoon, and were half an hour early for hotel check-in. This may be the only time I’ve been turned away for arriving early. We took a short walk, which took us directly by the horse-drawn carriage tours. Sonja immediately started lobbying for a ride, but to no avail. It was expensive and we figured after one whiff of the horse poo, she’d want to get off.

Walking around Victoria

Walking around Victoria

K_Aug 2015 (23)

Where does she come up with these poses?

Where does she come up with these poses?

In front of the parliament buildings.

In front of the parliament buildings.

Making a wish

Making a wish

After checking in to the hotel, which was very nice and had an unexpected but small kitchen, we headed off to dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory. I’m somewhat amazed that I did not know Victoria had an OSF when we went on our honeymoon. It seems like the kind of thing I’d suss out early. But I knew this time, and it was only a few blocks from the hotel.

The Embassy Inn

The Embassy Inn

It was a long dinner, during which I had to exchange Sonja’s drink twice and her meal once. We left a nice tip for the friendly waitress, and started walking. Most shops and activities were closed already (this was about 7 o’clock), but there were a few souvenir shops and drug stores still open. I realized that I’d forgotten to bring Sonja’s toothbrush, so we stopped at a 7/11 to buy her one. They did not have a kid-size one, so we plunked down $4 Canadian for an adult one that we figured we’d throw away after the trip. Then, on our walk back to the hotel, we found a proper drugstore, a kind of Canadian Rite- Aid. There we found a kid’s toothbrush, and after some fussing about which character she wanted on her toothbrush (she settled on Marty from Madagascar), I stood up from crouching and turned to exit the aisle. I found myself staring directly at my favorite deodorant which I haven’t been able to find in the States for years. (It is nearly impossible to find strictly deodorant – not antiperspirant – in the ladies’ deodorant section. Go ahead. Look. You’ll see I’m right. Now go to the men’s section. See how much more choice they have?) I really liked this brand for being cheaper and better smelling than what I could find in the organic aisles. I cleared off the shelf and intended to stop by every drugstore I could find the next day to clean them out too.

Waiting for the food

Waiting for the food

Outside the entrance

Outside the entrance

Ye Olde Spaghetti Factory

Ye Olde Spaghetti Factory

High off that triumph, we headed back to the hotel a little worn out, a little weary and some of us (I won’t say who) a little whiny. The beds were comfy (though not the pillows), the a/c cold and the hotel quiet. Still, it took me a long time to fall asleep, and I was awakened at four a.m. by Sonja, who was complaining that she couldn’t smell. She was just having some allergies – happens all the time to me and Shaun in hotel rooms. It took another hour for us to get back to sleep. And by 7 the next morning, we were up and getting ready to head downstairs for the hotel’s free buffet-style breakfast.

What else does Canada have that the US has discontinued?

What else does Canada have that the US has discontinued?

Continue to Part 2…

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My 7th Anniversary – The All-Food Edition

Seven years of marriage, another seven or so of dating. A 14-year span of time gone by inexplicably and unacceptably fast. Instead of dwelling on the shock of it all, I have been thinking recently of the time before the wedding. Seven years and three months ago, I undertook a dairy-free diet. I searched the web for diets that were good for skin, and out of the several I found, the only one I thought I could keep up for three-months was the one that eliminated dairy. I totally rocked this diet with only a single cheat day half-way through. I remember passing up M&Ms at work, rebuffing a coworker who was coaxing me to just take a few. If you know me, you know that passing up M&Ms meant I was deadly serious.

Spoiler alert: Avoiding dairy did nothing for my skin. However, by the day of the wedding, through what can only be described as a combination of diet and exercise, I’d achieved the figure I’d more or less been trying to achieve.

On my way to the ceremony, looking and feeling good.

On my way to the ceremony, looking and feeling good.

Let me explain something. I’ve never been fat. I’ve been skinny and even scrawny at times, but I’ve never had a particularly flat stomach. So of course that is what I want, almost more than anything, except of course M&Ms. I was proud of my small achievement and pinned all of the success on the dairy-free lifestyle. Dairy, I figured, just didn’t agree with me. Neither the exercise, nor the stress, nor the length of time figured into any of my post-wedding assessments of the diet.

I got married on a Saturday morning and by nightfall I was in Canada eating at The Old Spaghetti Factory, puffing out and completely ruining three-months worth of work. It seemed that to continue the flat-stomached figure, I’d need to continue the dairy-free lifestyle, and long story short, that wasn’t going to happen.

However I’ve spent much of the last seven years obsessing about my lack of resolve, feeling guilty whenever I eat cheese, and embarking on dairy “cleanses” in an attempt to recapture the glory. There are a few dairy items that I’ve had to divorce. Cream and I just didn’t get along anymore so we parted ways. And since I wasn’t much of a milk enthusiast anyway, I stayed with almond milk. But cheese. Oh my, cheese. I will always and forever love cheese. And it’s cheese that ruins any and all attempts to remove dairy from my diet. I can get by for a couple of months, or until someone puts a pizza in front of me, whichever comes first.

Recently, after attempting a difficult elimination diet that allowed cheese but almost nothing else, I decided that I didn’t want to eliminate things from my diet anymore. There are a few things that have had to go over the years, like MSG because of its headache-triggering properties, some legumes for the same reason, and the aforementioned cream, but they are minimal and not really missed. I started to realize that full-scale, cold-turkey withdrawal just leads to cravings and binges (duh), and that eating less of these things and exercising more over a significant and sustained period of time might be the thing to reproduce those wedding results.

We are a culture that is obsessed with food, and obsessed with elimination and diets. One year we have to eat no fat so we binge on carbs, the next we eat no carbs and binge on fat. It’s all meant to make us feel better about what we’re eating, because ultimately we are trying to feel better when we eat. But it makes no sense in the long run. Bingeing and purging is the easy thing to do. The hard thing to do — the right thing to do — is to make lifestyle changes and choices, and to stick by them through the fads and the fledgling nutritional science. So from now on I’m going to eat that pizza in front of me, I’m just going to try not to eat the whole thing.

Oh also, I’m trying this new thing where I accept who I am. I think it will help. Maybe you could try it too.

This cake is not dairy-free.

This cake is not dairy-free.

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