All posts by Jolie

Ode to my sons

IM from my son Friday:

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Never mind the heart pounding I experienced considering the damage his ignorance could inflict on my beloved washer,

Never mind that (as I was later to discover) he had loaded the machine with his socks, only his socks and not one other item sharing the hamper with his socks,

Never mind that he went from brazen challenger to quitter in one sentence,

Never mind that, at 12 years of age, Sarcastic Willy Wonka is his chosen avatar…

Never mind.

None of that matters because,

My son knows we have a washing machine and he knows what it is for!

Mommy win.

And it got me thinking. I don’t take time often enough to thank my boys for all the joy they bring me.

So, without further ado (too late)

Here it is:

 

Ode to my sons, a thank you

 

A computer breaks, an engine won’t start,

You come to me and it warms my heart.

Your wreckage arrives,  as there’s “nothing mom can’t do!”

And so I do, and do, and do and do and do.

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I love you but if everyone could stop breaking things, that’d be great.

 

I like to be outside, this you know,

So without complaint we go, go, go!

But when life ties us down and we’re unable to roam,

You bring the lovely outdoors right into our home!

Seriously. There’s dirt everywhere. I’m freaking Cinderella, cleaning, cleaning…

 

I strive to be fit, to keep up with you,

Your energy, speed, our active milieu!

And you, my sweet darlings, help me on my way,

By making me run stairs a dozen times a day!

The next time I have to walk up and down stairs just to tell a kid  his food is cooked someone is losing an eye…

 

I love you, my cherubs, more than is possible to tell,

But there is one thing I love almost as well.

So thank you, for you and your fantastic freak show,

And flooding me with reasons to drink more Merlot!

Cabernet, Pinot Noir, sometimes even a nice Riesling…I’m not picky…

 

I love you boys. Never change.

Except, shower – do that. And wear clean underwear… maybe get a job one day…. 

 

Hunting, what really happened

My boys went hunting last weekend and, because I wanted to aid in the successful stuffing of our freezer for the winter (without having to actually do anything), I decided to help them pack.

My job was food. As I wish to see them happy, I asked what they wanted.

They said:

“Shredded beef, roast beef, turkey, ham…”

“Hamburgers, hot dogs…”

“Steak…”

“That’s it? You aren’t forgetting anything”

“Oh right. And cheese. Thanks Mom”

“What are you going to eat for breakfast?”

“Can we have Poptarts?”

I have not been so happy to not be on a camping trip in a while. Think about it. The lot of them in an 11 x 12 foot camper on a diet of protein and sugar.

good times
good times

Anyway, I packed what they asked for and, because I love them, included condiments, a loaf of bread, and a selection from the popular food groups “chips” and “dips”.

I’m just caring like that.

(I also tossed in some food from the lesser known – more nutrient dense and life sustaining – groups, but that was only so I could unpack those same foods, untouched, a few days later.)

(I’m just ridiculous like that.)

Then, I sent them on their merry way and for the next 72 hours wallowed in the misery of my empty home pining for their return…

Kidding.

I sent them on their merry way and for the next 72 hours I did whatever the hell I felt like.

(I won’t go into wild details but suffice it to say Wine and Pinterest were involved.)

(It was awesome)

And then it was over. Waaaaaay too soon. My beloved family returned a day early.

Rained out, they said and wet they were.

But…funny thing…

I cooked vegetarian that night and, for the first time ever, guess what was missing.

Complaints and leftovers.

Win.

For those wondering, the weekend wasn’t a total bust. They came back with a grouse.

And ate it. Wrapped in bacon.

 

Reboot 2017

If you didn’t see it on my FB page, here is my husband’s explanation for my lack of blog last Monday:

Jolie is off grid. She and K took the pickup and camper Friday morning and went berry picking at Tangle lakes between Glennallen and Fairbanks. No mobile signal. They took 4 boxes of wine and assorted bottles of spirits. Wonder if they will come back with berries?

Anyway #alaskagirlskickass

For the record: We did get berries. GALLONS of berries.

What it means to be rich
This is wealth.
Fat Heaven
Fat Heaven
Berry Blood
The blood of our enemies…or berries.

We even found mushrooms.

"baby" King Bolete. They get MUCH bigger.
“baby” King Bolete. They get BIGGER. O.O

And the only booze we used up completely was the beer. (So there Mowgli.)

Yes. #alaskagirlskickass

For those wondering, beautiful Tangle lakes is 269.6 miles from my front door. It takes about five and a half hours to drive there (in summer) if you do it in one shot which, of course, requires:

A super-efficient car with a massive fuel tank (F350 carrying 4000lbs of camper? Yeah, no.)

AND

A berry picking partner happy with 5.5 hours in a car (mine was not. In fact she made it clear that if I don’t promise to stop A LOT MORE next trip, there won’t be one.)

One of the rare occasions the travel natzi (me) allowed us to stop.
Sheep Mountain. One of the rare occasions the travel Nazi (aka me) permitted stopping.
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Chugach Mountains (home)

Anyway, we made it in about six hours (can you guess who was pleased with that and who was not?)

6 hours.

270 miles.

Divided thusly:

90 miles of: hairpin turns, steep drop offs, impressive grades and stunning scenery you’re too scared to take your eyes off the road to enjoy.

90 miles of: reasonable roads that, from your perspective, are nectar of the gods and mind-blowing landscape you can appreciate without penalty of death.

90 miles of: a white-knuckle frost heaved roller coaster carved through more countryside that’s probably amazing but you are, again, too focused on not crashing to really take in.

I know. You have just now decided you are NEVER visiting Tangle lakes EVER.

But wait… it’s totally worth it. Just look:

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It was still summer at my house. We literally drove into a change of season.
Woke up to a little termination dust Sunday
Woke up to a little termination dust (aka snow) Sunday. Far left mountain top.

What’s more, it’s fun.

No kids, no husbands (we love you family! But…) all the berries you could want (we wanted GALLONS evidently), hiking trails forever, fire, wine, stars (Aurora one night) and (because we are complete princesses) a generator, heater, TV and Mama Mia DVD.

This is the Alaskan equivalent of a spa weekend.

(For the record: Actual spa weekends are a thing here as well)

And to top it all off, NOT ONE BEAR. Which is weird because they aren’t called “Ber-ries“ for nothing.

It goes to show you that in Alaska, if you’re willing to work for it, there is plenty for everyone. No need to get in each other’s way.

(Yes Mr. Bear, you who trampled and robbed my raspberries last week, I’m talking to YOU. Lazy thief…)

And to my berry partner – please, please, please take me here again! I promise to drive slow, stop, smell roses…

 

Forever After

cinderella

Now that I’ve taken you down the seedy side road of marriage, it’s time to talk about the one subject that really makes people uncomfortable: longevity.

How do you stay married? What’s it take to make things last?

First, a review. Everyone knows what is doesn’t take, right? Fairy tale love? Yes I know that according to Disney and every Rom Com ever written fairy tale romance is where it’s at.

Well they are wrong. While love is a BIG part of happily ever after, fairy tale love is well, a fairy tale.

The real way to stay together? The real way to keep the magic alive?

Acronyms.

Wait, come back. I’m serious. An expertly placed acronym is like the right pair of shoes. Not only will it save you from pain you’ll look like a rock star in the process.

Today I’m going to share with you the top two acronyms for marital stability.

#1 AOR

Area Of Responsibility

AOR, colloquially known as “Not My Job” is a fast, effective way of delegating the tasks of cohabitation. Think of it as an adult version of “Not It!” and “Shotgun!”

“It’s trash day.”

“Not my AOR.”

“The dog pooped on the rug.”

“Your dog, your AOR”

“The girl scouts are at the door. It’s cookie season. Should I tell them to leave?”

“That is MY AOR! Give me that checkbook!”

By the way the reason we abandoned the familiar “Not My Job” is because a clever acronym is does not make. Try it. NMJ. Now say that 5 time over and you’ll sound like your whiskey to coffee ratio is off.

(FYI that ratio is 6 to 1 on Monday 5 to 1 on Tuesdays, etc, graduating accordingly… but I’m getting off topic here…)

#2 MBI

I sound smart just typing that don’t I? You want to give me ALL your retirement funds now. I know.

But you shouldn’t. MBI has nothing to do with money and everything to do with the:

Marital Bliss Index.

“I love you, I just don’t like you” may be a truth, but it’s not exactly the best word to use in a relationship you want to last FOREVER.

Enter MBI

“You know that back packing trip you wanted to take in February, in Antarctica? Well I crunched the numbers and it’s not looking good for my MBI. So, I’m gonna have to say no…”

“Isn’t it weird how dinner out kicks my MBI up like ten points? We should study that.”

See?

Now if you really want to up your game, combine.

“Good Morning Alaska! Top news today, MBI’s suffered a low yesterday amidst an inexplicable AOR shortfall. Market experts agree, however, that if operation vacation proceeds as planned, we’ll see a rebound. Now for weather…”

Welcome to Happily Ever After.

 

A cautionary tale

seal

In retrospect its clear we would end up like this – Mowgli away, tirelessly dragging himself around a foreign city to keep his family clothed and fed while on the other side of the world I wake and cast a shameful glance at the stranger in bed beside me.

We found it. Marital rock bottom.

There are excuses and guilt and a long line of errors that led us to this point and I’d like to say the blame is shared but the truth is, it is not.

It’s my husband’s fault.

Entirely.

OK he didn’t actually tell me to go this far, He didn’t say the words, but he had been encouraging the leap for some time. My memories of the last year are peppered with his subtle hints.

What if…have you thought about it? You might enjoy…

I shot him down, every time believe me. I was a firm “NO” a staunch “are you crazy?”

Then, after months of badgering, I gave an inch. I agreed to go to one of “those places”.

We’ll just look. He said. Test the waters…It’s ok to touch, everyone’s doing it….

It wasn’t long after that I caved. The pressure was too great. All those beautiful faces, ready and willing to help, to bring ease to your life.

My very own personal assistant. That’s what I told myself.

Don’t look at me like that. You would have done the same.

Besides, there were rules. You don’t bring a stranger into your home lightly. This would be a strictly business relationship. There would be no fooling around.

And then Mowgli went away, hinting once again,

Open yourself up…just see…you might surprise yourself…

It’s appalling how un-disgusted I was at the idea. It’s shocking how quickly I fell. Suddenly the seedy world of late nights and sneaking around was my reality.

And then, our ugly situation took a horrific turn.

Prepare yourself…

Cover the children’s eyes…

I came home and found my husband in our bed with my new love in his arms.

Oh the rage. The blinding emotion.

I exploded with fury. How could he?

This was beyond tolerable.

That computer was MINE.

Furthermore, the TV in the other room was perfectly capable of airing Netflix. He didn’t have to take this road.

(sob)

I’d like to say we’re working on things. I’d like to say we’ve abandon our wicked ways to rebuild our marriage.

But the truth is…

Don’t look at me like that. It’s Netflix… on a Surface Pro…in bed…

Hey at least we’re doing it together now.

 

Is it September yet?

Summer in Alaska is a singular experience.

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For starters, Alaskan summers are visually stunning. You don’t even want to blink let alone close your eyes for 8 of every 24 hours. There is too much to miss. This is nature donning her Sunday best every day for 3 months, and there is a wealth of activity! The fishing, hiking, boating, wildlife spotting…When the outdoors screams at you like that, you run to her.

Which means, June through August, you stay the F#$% awake.

Ironically, as luck (and biology) would have it, Alaskan summers are also treacherous.

Alaska is bursting with life, the more deadly of which (just like you) wakes up for summer. (Another reason to keep your eyes open ALL THE TIME). There are 3 types of bear, large unpredictable moose and big cats but there are also some pretty scary little guys.

As my son reminded me yesterday:

“Mom I think I saw a wasp. It was about 2 inches long with a HUGE stinger and red stripes…”

(FYI that was not a wasp)

Even some of the botanicals are out to get you. Digging in the garden last week I brushed up against a plant know to scar human flesh before remembering,

“oh right, poisonous…”

(I’m fine by the way.)

The offensive green was removed immediately as I can’t be expected to stay out of the garden…all summer…in Alaska…

Like I said, singular.

Severely singular…thrilling, intense, ubiquitously exhausting…

(No I’m pretty sure that’s a thing)

All of the above.

And the effect this has on those who live here is curious. About the end of July a strange sensation begins to take hold and suddenly, shockingly, bizarrely (for an inhabitant of a place with such a short summer)…

Winter starts to seem like a pretty cool concept.

(Eagle River with bear and Eagle River without. You decide)

Yeah winter, it’s dark, people sleep, there’s no bear, the poisonous plants are gone and the life cycle of the 2 inch red stripped ‘wasp’ has ended.

Winter…there’s an idea…

Is it September yet?

 

Alaskan check list

 

Well here we are, rounding off our first full week back in the 49th.

First week, that is, plus a couple days. But since those days were little more than a blur of boxes, cleaning supplies and the occasional “look, a new road” I’m not counting them.

Anyway it’s more interesting to count other things. Like these curiosities of local life:

The number of times I begrudged Walmart for being the closest department store to my house: 

10. Ten times, in seven days.

Walmart is not only the closest store it’s the only store. The next option is 3 miles beyond.

We have nothing. I have spent the week trapped in a vortex of little time and much need. Enter, Walmart.

Of all the gin joint neighborhoods in all the world, they had to build a store in mine…

Despite this…

The number of times I went to Walmart:

10. Ten times.

One trip was actually to visit the bank inside Walmart. However after finishing my business there I stepped left to shop for chest waders.

So, I have to count it.

On a related note:

The number of time I’ve used the word “waders” in casual conversation this week:

9

Alaska. July. It’s a bit like visiting Germany without saying “strudel”. Yeah no.

On a slightly more frightening note…

The number of conversations I’ve had since arrival that ultimately turned to a bear rant:

All of them

This summer’s bear population is extremely “healthy” (as one woman euphemistically phrased it. Healthy/deadly Potato/potaato). The bears are so prolific that if you leave food out, your neighbors are likely to maul you. 

Which begs the questions – wasn’t that one of the reasons we left?

Final count for the week (and if you didn’t see this coming, you don’t know me AT ALL)

The number of times I’ve said, either audibly or mentally, “Hawaii”.

25

That’s 3.5 times a day though I believe the bulk were said last Saturday shortly before this photo was taken.

rain
By Mowgli. Because I looked fierce.

(Beautiful Friday, stunning Sunday…Saturday, WTF?)

Alaska is great. The Mountains, the opportunity, the lifestyle…

And thanks to Hawaii, I just might survive it.

 

 

Chaos Theory

arrows

My fourth child would have been a time traveler.

If I’d had him.

No, I’m pretty certain this is a valid assumption. You see, my other three children are polar opposites. That’s right, three opposites. Three points of a triangle. Pick an example any example, apply it to my children and this is what you get:

arrow

I am mother to:

An omnivore

An herbivore

And a carb-ivor (He only eats carbs. It’s a thing)

Also:

A son who could not lie to save his life

A son who weighs his options at every venture

And a son who does wrong simply because it’s there

Oh and don’t forget my:

Son who loves flying machines

Son who love wheeled machines

and their brother, the guy who gets motion sick on a slide.

arrow

The logical fourth dynamic of this paradigm is time.

Ergo, my unborn fourth child, the temporal pilgrim.

It’s algebra.

Sometimes I’m sorry we never had baby Z.

(What else do you name a child with extra dimensional powers? Bob?)

I’m sorry because I believe Zee might have been quite a handy guy to have around.

I’d probably never lose my phone. Or if I did, I’d never know it because Zee would just bounce back in time and tell me where I set it down. I’d also not have to worry about a shopping list with Zee at my side. He’d bounce into the future and let me know what we were going to be out of, what would break next week, when to expect a growth spurt…

Maybe, just maybe Zee might even make his way back to the day we decided to start our family and say…

“Hey Mom look! Wine!”

Ah Zee, my son.

He’s my favorite.    

 

 

Fun with art

 

When you’ve had a long day holding up the fountain and looking stoic for tourists…this buds for you.

Share?
Now there’s an idea.   

 

I spent a good deal of last year trying (and failing) to get my son into humorous statue posing. 

Because it amuses me.

Because I’m 8. 

He appreciates the concept and is, for the most part, willing but we get stonewalled by creative differences.

He’s conservative, and I’m ridiculous. That’s the gist anyway.

Take yesterday, for example. We crossed paths with a raging metal bull statue that screamed for comedic intervention,

and we left him wanting.

Me: stand by his rump and act like he just farted.

Son: I should ride him. 

Me: No really, scrunch up your face like you’ve never smelt anything so bad.

Son: Or I could just ride him. 

Me: Trust me, this will be good, make like you’ll be sick.

Son: Yeah, I’m gonna just ride him.

Me: when did you get old?

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He won. He usually does. But tell me my idea wasn’t gold. Look at that stance! That bull looks in pain. 

Oh well. Sometimes he throws me a bone. He did approve this shot.

Why is stone nose picking so amusing?
Why is stone nose picking so amusing?

 

So I’m not throwing the towel in yet. 

 

 

Space Time and Teenagers

sloth

Last night I had my least favorite recurring dream, the missed flight dream.

Are you familiar with this nightmare? You’re supposed to take a trip but you’re running hopelessly late. In mine I’m miles from the airport, have not packed, have not even dressed and my airplane is leaving in 30 minutes. Every single time.

I hate every moment and still, it keeps coming back to me.

Yesterday, I finally realized why.

I have this dream because I have sloths.

SONS! I mean, I have sons.

I have three wonderful sons whose range of speed goes something like this:

Slow

Slower

Impossibly Slower than That

and

Not Moving at All.

 

My everyday existence is a miss-flight-mare, no matter what is on our agenda.

Me: “The movie starts in a half an hour.”

Son speed: turtle.

Me: “If we leave now, we can go to the game store before it closes.”

Son speed: turtle with a broken leg.

Me: “There is a man outside giving away tickets to Disneyland for anyone who can get to him in 5 minutes.”

Son speed: turtle with a broken leg riding on the back of a dead snail.

Yes these are teenagers, yes they have boundless energy, yes it makes no sense, and yes I am not exaggerating.

Yesterday I told my son (still in bed and pajamas even though I’d spent the last 2 hours telling him to get ready) that we were leaving in 10 minutes. When I checked on him five minutes later the only advancement he had made was to take his shirt off.

When I asked him if he was ready know what he said?

“Almost”

Almost?

“In what universe?” I cried. “By what stretch of the imagination are you “almost” ready to go? A blind fish on tranquilizers could get out of this house faster than you!”

Kidding. I didn’t say any of that.

Telling a teen to hurry is like honking at someone because you want their parking spot.

You think it will speed things, the opposite happens.

Anyway he was moving, we hadn’t hit full stop yet. And besides it is far more important that he understands no matter what, I love wine…

HIM! I mean, No matter what I love him…

Stop laughing Wine. That was totally believable! Hey I had that dream again, are you free later?