multi-hyphenated-me

the hyphens that define my life

These Two Hands – Our Year In Review – Part 4 June 19, 2014

Filed under: Gardening — multihyphenatedme @ 10:50 pm
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Truth is, be careful what you ask of me, assign me, challenge me or give me.  These two hands splayed before me can do anything.

Disclaimer:  Except knit.  It’s a crazy thing.  My cousin and I were both taught how to knit by our paternal Grandmother.  My cousin is an award-winning, knitting camp attending (ok, show of hands, who knew knitting camp existed?), master knitter who has photographs of her work published in knitting books.  Me?  I can knit.  Scarves, just don’t count my stitches or expect any awards.  To be fair, I am an award winning pie maker and this same cousin can’t make crust, even though we were both taught by the same woman, our Grandmother.  Let’s call it a tie, I just want to be honest, I can do anything, just with varying degrees of accomplishment. Best believe, I will give whatever is presented before me my best effort.  If I call it a scarf, accept it as a scarf.  Give it to the cat if you hate it.

As a corporate recruiter, in addition to regular every day career placements, my day job includes travelling to our US and Toronto offices and 15-17 universities throughout the year.  At some point I tallied I travel 57 days a year.  Manageable, and I get to meet great people and see some fantastic places too. Most of this travel happens in the spring.  If you’ve kept up with the series, you will agree, this past spring was emotionally difficult.  Pushed to my limits, I needed a big project, a big distraction to deal with my life, my emotions.

I’m not sure my husband was fully aware that I was serious when I asked if he had any thoughts or comments to my brilliant idea to ripping out half of our front yard and putting in a vegetable garden, but he agreed.  He doesn’t like watering or mowing the lawn so he was happy to have less lawn.  Excellent.  The catch was that he put me on a tight budget that allowed for irrigation and soil and seeds, but no labor.  If I wanted this garden, I had to do it myself.  I called a contractor to get a quote to remove the sod. My husband laughed at the quote with a hearty, “No!”  Being a kind hearted guy, my husband did buy me a new shovel.

Yes, I have a husband, a daughter and three boys, but all quickly disconnected themselves with any garden responsibility.  Think of The Little Red Hen story, I am The Little Red Hen.  They know the story too, and helped just enough to say they did.  My husband dutifully went on every Home Depot run and gave me instruction on how to cut, glue and fit PVC.  Yes, I dug sod, I went battleaxe on gigantic tree roots, I dug out the pattern and I moved all the compost and wood chips from the street to the garden.

Five hundred square feet of sod removal is how I managed my stress, my workload, my sadness, my emotions, and my pain.  My vision of my garden was my therapy.  I ached.  I hurt.  I had blisters.  I was filthy.  I collapsed into bed and slept solidly every night.  Exactly what I needed.

My project proved Sponkanites to be a curious, opinionated bunch.  No wonder I love it here, I fit right in!  Everyone that passed by had a question or a comment on what I was doing, why I was doing it and what I should do differently.  I met and conversed with so many, including the preschool chain gang that marches by every week on their walk around the neighborhood.

My design is an unframed raised bed in a keyhole pattern, providing twelve 4′ x 8′ beds.  My kids say it looks like sunglasses.  All of my previous gardens have been hidden in the back yard.  This garden, located in the front yard, had to be more than some rows of dirt.

It took me over two months, not quite three months of inconsistently working.  The garden is in, see for yourself:

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The plants are growing, I just haven’t taken any pictures yet.  We’ve eaten lettuces every night for weeks.  I have red potatoes, artichokes, rainbow chard, cabbage, kohlrabi, romanesco broccoli, regular broccoli, cauliflower, kale,  haricort vert, shelling peas and sweet peas, bush beans, fava beans, lima beans, zucchini, patty pan squash, cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, 7 kinds of tomatoes (10 plants total), tomatillos, sweet corn, pumpkins, jalapenos, red and gold sweet peppers, eggplant, popcorn, leeks, carrots, beets, arugula and mixed lettuces.

I have yet to plant my radishes.

Slacker.

 

A Rough Road – Our Year In Review – Part 3 June 16, 2014

To say that every single aspect of our move to Spokane has been smooth and easy would be a bold faced, italicized, triple exclamation point lie.  Yes, we arrived in Spokane safe and sound, or as sound as a mother could be with her chatterbox then 7 year old as her driving companion.  The beauty of our tree-tunneled street was awesome to see as we pulled into the driveway of our new home.  As soon as the kids inspected the house, claimed their rooms and whooped it up, they begged for their bikes to be taken off the trailer so they could inspect the neighborhood.  A lot of complaining and rope untying later, the three helmeted blonds were off on the BMX rides in search of adventure, and hopefully, a friend. My husband and I stayed at home and unpacked with strict instructions to stick together, ride safe and report back within the half hour.

Twenty minutes into our peace, their exploration, our middle son returns home reporting that his younger seven year old brother fell and hurt his thumb on the school playground and won’t ride his bike home.  We thought it was just his obstinate nature, so my husband rode his bike to the school, leaving Within minutes I received the call to drive over and pick up the injured child and his bike.  We went out and bought a thumb brace and arm sling and tended to our wounded soldier.  He wore the brace and sling a few days then ditched them both proclaiming himself healed and ready to go.  In our 19 years of child-rearing up to this point, we believed that if the kid was willing and able to use the appendage he was healed.  Such fools.  Ten days after the initial injury, we took our first trip to Lake Coeur D’Alene.  We played and swam and splashed and though it was plenty hot, our youngest would not go into the water, swim with his right arm, throw a ball or Frisbee, or use his arm at all.  He couldn’t raise his arm.  He was able to get dressed, eat and use his arm, and fool his oblivious parents, but his arm was showing true signs of being broken.  When I took him to the doctor and the x-ray confirmed that his arm was indeed broken, the doctor said to me, “You must be in the running for Parent of the Year.”  Who knew my reputation proceeded me to Spokane.

That was our first broken bone.

The next injury wasn’t a break but was a sprained knee with pulled ligaments to our oldest soccer playing son.  Almost at the end of August, he was running on the field, then suddenly, he was done.  Like any good soccer player, he knows a good flop, but this was no typical son-of-mine flop.  He was down and didn’t run again for three months.  Within two months we had hotlines to orthopedics and physical therapists.

Our second broken bone was mine.  If you’ve read my blog at any point over the last year, you know I was attacked by squirrels.  What really happened is that I startled them, they scared me, I didn’t see the bump in the sidewalk and fell exactly how you’re not supposed to – with your arms out in front of you.  My youngest and I have high tolerances for pain apparently.  It wasn’t until my hand swelled a week or so later, so much so that I had to have my wedding rings cut off, that I decided to head on over to urgent care.

Our then twelve, now thirteen year old had a tough year.  Transitioning into a new school, limping, unable to run, unable to play the sport he loves, having left his awesome friends behind and no new friends to help heal the wounds, we experienced teenage wrath that we knew we had coming.  We knew he’d have a hard year.  Our crystal ball just didn’t foretell his drama to be compounded with injury.  We sent him to California for a fantastic weekend surrounded by friends and his soccer teammates.  That seemed to do him good.  His grades improved, newly recovered he signed up for interscholastic basketball, his attitude had changed.  We had a great winter, we skied at Silver and he loved it, he started playing basketball, then we went skiing again, this time to 49 degrees North.

On January 20, we drove, about an hour and half, and got on the mountain early.   We skied all day.  We saw people we knew.  We were happy and comfortable and enjoying our day.  After lunch my husband wanted to take our oldest and more experienced skier out, just the two of them.  I took the younger two to my comfort zone, the green diamond runs.  I ski so slow my ten year old was twisted so far around to talk to me that he could have been skiing backward.  No need for speed here.  My husband and I agreed to meet back at the lodge at 3:30, just as the mountain shuts down.  Remember, in the Great North, the sun sets early in the winter and stays up late in the summer.  The boys and I were back at the lodge on time, drinking hot chocolates.  Our hot chocolates ran out, the kitchen closed, no sign of my husband and son.  Two ski patrol snow mobiles shot out from the left side of the lodge to the top of the mountain.  Ski patrol stood around outside.  Do you know that uncomfortable tingle you get, that premonition, when you know something is wrong to someone you love?  Leaving the boys inside, I ran out to talk to Ski Patrol.  They told me there were two accidents, one for sure was a broken collar bone, the other was a dislocated or broken hip.  “Please be the collar bone, please be the collar bone,” I began chanting to myself.  My husband then skied down, holding my son’s skis, as the snow mobile and toboggan pulled our son to triage.  My husband gathered gear and took care of the younger boys while I ran to the Ski Patrol triage area.  The ambulance was called to take us to the small local hospital.  My husband drove the boys home leaving us in the ER, unsure if we would be transported to Spokane’s hospitals or released. Five hours later, we were released, knowing that his hip wasn’t broken but unsure of total damage.  The small hospital didn’t have an MRI and we were instructed to call an orthopedic and get further care once we arrived back in Spokane. My husband drove back, an hour and a half, to get us. This was an ordeal in an of itself, yet while I stood in the ER, fretting over my son, my mom called to tell me that my older sister was dying and the doctor called the family together.

On January 22, my sister passed away surrounded by her sons, their wife and girlfriend, her mother and her siblings at University of Washington Medical Center.  She received the best of care and we received incredible support.  Though we knew the possibility of this outcome when she had her bone marrow transplant in October, the reality of my sister being gone is still impossible to believe.

Parts of me are still in shock from that week.

I returned home from Seattle to an injured son, who, according to the MRI, had pulled ligaments in his hip.  He remained on crutches for 2 1/2 months.  He walked in the pool at physical therapy while I travelled to  sister’s memorial service in Michigan.

Life goes on.

Until the next bone breaks.

The young one was back in form, playing a stealth game of basketball.  He got checked to the asphalt by a scrappy hockey playing classmate using his ring finger of his right hand to break his fall.  The injury happened at lunch time, but high pain tolerance strikes again.  Despite the swelling and discoloration that had to be brutally painful, he didn’t shed a tear.  His teacher nor the office knew he was injured.  When he got home from school at 3 PM with a purple sausage for a finger, I ran him immediately to urgent care.  Since nothing is ever easy with this kid, it wasn’t a simple break, but a tricky one involving his growth plate, requiring a specialist.

Except for the hole in my heart and in my life, we have all recovered from our injuries.  We have paid our dues to Spokane’s healthcare system and made some friends and connections along the way.  I also scored a “Squirrel Whisperer” t-shirt and some cute squirrel knick knacks from my younger sister and friends that thing they are hilarious.  Har dee har har.

Our oldest son came home a week before school let out and asked if I had heard of this weeklong overnight camp.  Yes, I told him I knew about it, why, I asked.  My friends are going this particular week and I want to go too.  Wait.  Time stood still as I wanted to find out more about these friends, what friends?  All year we heard nothing but how this school sucks and he has no friends and now suddenly there are friends and they are making friends.  I almost passed out.  Instead, I took a deep breath and said, sure, yes, you can go.  Off he went to school.  I sat down, poured another cup of coffee to jolt me into action and sign him up for camp.

Though in so many ways our year has been spectacular, this year has been rough. I am so thankful and grateful to be surrounded by family and friends and teachers and coworkers and new friends and community that care.  Thank you for supporting us through our journey.

 

 

 

Oh, The Places We’ve Been – Our Year In Review – Part 2 June 15, 2014

One reason we chose Spokane as our new home was where we could, what we could experience if we travelled 2-4-6-8 hours from our front door.  Not only the incredible places, but the diversity in experience as well.

We’ve done and seen some pretty awesome things this year.  Here is a photo essay of our year in Spokane, experiencing and enjoying all four seasons.

Thirty minutes down the road, we spent our summer on the Spokane River at Post Falls and tubed the riverway up to Lake Coeur D’Alene.  Good times.

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Much closer to home was the rope swing adventure:

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Not a bad start to our year.

Then school started and finished.  See how they’ve grown:

first day of school 2013last day of school 2014

At least their hair has grown.

All Spokanites will tell you that winter is their least favorite season, then they will all tell you that spring, summer and fall are their favorite months.  Fall was an incredibly colorful end to summer.

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We went to our first corn maze that would never legal, insured or permitted in Southern California.  The novelty of  this insane adventure near the Idaho state line will be etched in my children’s brains forever. My eight year old brought home his daily journal from school.  He wrote “We went to a corn maze. People chased us with real chainsaws and there was a joker that scared me and my brothers.”  Recorded sound effects can have a huge impact on an 8 year old. I laughed remembering the moment, that he wrote about it, and how frightened we all were by the 6’5″ scary Joker.  Here are my children of the corn

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Summer and Fall we went to Green Bluff, WA, straight to the farmers to pick peaches, blackberries and pumpkins.

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Then….

Brr 2013

We didn’t let the cold stop us.  We travelled about an hour north to Elk, WA to cut down a Christmas Tree.

christmas tree 2013

Old man winter supplied an “easy winter” by Spokane standards.  Thank you.  With snow arriving late, we only went skiing four times.  Only.  There are 5 mountain resorts within 2 hours of home and we managed to get to four of the five, missing the one closest to home, Mt. Spokane.  We skied Silver Mtn (ok, this is the one I sat with ski anxiety in the lodge),  49 degrees North, Lookout and Schweitzer.   Lookout was great for early snow; Silver was too steep for the boys and I (I’m sticking the boys in my anti-steep anxiety zone); 49 degrees North was my personal favorite and got me over my issues and back on my skis; and Schweitzer, at the end of March, won all of our hearts.

schweitzer top o the world (2) schweiter boys 2013

Our two hour travels took us skiing, our 4 hour circles took us to west to Seattle and east to Missoula and Butte Montana.

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Back in Spokane, spring color exploded with color.  This beautiful lilac peeked through my backyard fence.

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For now we’re staying close to home.  Who needs to go anywhere with this spectacular scenery in Spokane?

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Our Year in Review – A Series, Part 1 June 13, 2014

Approximately 355 days ago we moved from Placentia, North Orange County, California to Spokane Washington, 10 days shy of any entire year. We chose Spokane for no state income tax, lower cost of living and better quality of life.  Four seasons, smaller student to teacher ratios in classrooms, higher rated schools, where we could go in 4-6-and 8 hour concentric circles from our front door, and why the hell not all played into how we chose Spokane to be our new home. The past year has had more than a fair share of ups and downs.  This post is Part 1 in a series of my family’s experience of living in Spokane.

School’s out for summer. We survived our first year at Spokane Public Schools.  Coming from a Los Angeles Unified Public School alum, this is a false statement.  Spokane Public Schools have lived up to their Schooldigger.com reports, reviews and rating.  My kids didn’t survive, my kids flourished. My kids nervously began, seamlessly transitioned and finished strong.  Cheers and many thanks to Placentia-Yorba Linda School District for building a fantastic foundation from which they could build.

Our school year in review provided many comparisons, from my eyes, and my boys perspective, between the two districts:

Spokane:  Doors locked, campus accessible  Placentia-Yorba Linda:  Doors locked, campus locked

S:  Volunteer registration and badges  PYL:  No registration, badges

S:  Parent Teacher Group (PTG)  PYL:  Parent Teacher Association (PTA)

S:  Elementary School start 9 AM release 3 PM, late start Thursday 9:30 AM; Middle School start 8:45 AM release 3:15 PM, late start 9:10 AM   PYL:  Elementary School Start 7:50 AM, release 2:15;  early release Wednesday 1:15 PM

S:  Elementary Student: Teacher ratio  24:1  PYL:  Elementary Student:Teacher ratio  32-34:1

S: Good school lunch – per my 8 year old, a very critical foodie  PYL:  pack lunch most days

S: Music and Art Classes   PYL:  Band an available option for 5th & 6th graders only

S:  Few to no assemblies         PYL:  Countless assemblies and time out of the classroom

S:  Inconsistent field trips (4th grade went to Symphony; 3rd grade no field trip (WTH direct quote again from my 8 year old)         PYL:  Each class participated in 1-2 off campus field trips per year funded by the PTA

S: One big fundraiser   PYL:  One big fundraiser

S:  No Halloween celebration in classroom, Fall Harvest celebration on selected day; after school Monster Mash  PYL:  Halloween with full costume parade

S:  Book Fair is one week after school for parents and supervised children for books for children [gasp]  PYL:  Book Fair is one week each semester, books for teachers and school library

S:  Elementary school allows children to wear flip flops   PYL:  In Southern California, no flip flops for elementary students

S:  Snow day options (none this year!)   PYL:  Furlough days no matter what

S:  2 blocks away   PYL:  3 doors to schools’ back gate

S:  Common Core Practice School         PYL:  Common Core Practice School this year too

S:  Awesome teachers      PYL:  Awesome teachers

S:  Incredible volunteers     PYL:  Incredible volunteers

S:  My children thrived      PYL:  My children thrived

We moved to a new school district and did not experience anything different than what we knew.  The cafeteria is inside, not outside under an awning.  There is a gymnasium, not a black top playground.  From the list above, though flip flops made my eyebrows raise in surprise, the most important items on the list is that with the awesome teachers and incredible volunteers, my children thrived.  My children learned, grew, made friends, and made memories.  Moreover, mo better, they promoted to their respective grade level.  Whew.  Our research paid off and we chose great schools for our children.

Schools out for summer.  Party on.