May 28: Month in review

may2012inreviewEven though there are three days left in the month, I feel prepared to review it. I do.

Special days I celebrated this month and how:

  • The end of National Screen-Free Week. Ugh. I celebrated by watching THE HELL out of Hulu.
  • Teacher Appreciation Week at school. This is one of my favorite PTO recognition projects, and this year’s committee (Wendy, Dina, Jenn K) did a fabulous job spoiling our teachers rotten. They had a massage therapist come in for a day, lots of great gifts, and food food food. We have such huge classes this year that our teachers have definitely earned all the delights we can possibly think to give them—and a lot more often than once each school year, if you ask me.
  • The end of our reading incentive program, in which we gave books to kids who met their reading goal. I love putting books in kids’ hands! We also put pizza, candy, and popcorn in kids’ hands. That’s fun too.
  • Mother’s Day. We spent the weekend at my mom’s this year, and had a lovely, relaxing visit.

Gifts I gave and/or received this month:

  • I made fun little gifts for the kids’ teachers and moms who help with PTO. The idea came from Pinterest, of course. 

Yes, those are pull-tab cans with presents inside.
How I made them is a secret.
(Not really.)

  • The kids gave me three big hanging flower baskets for the front porch. I love that this has become my traditional Mother’s Day gift. So cheery, so colorful! Also, dead-heading petunias is one of my favorite gardening tasks—the “refreshing the plant” part, not the “sticky fingers OMG so sticky seriously this is gross” part.

Books I read this month:

Movies and TV shows worth mentioning:

  • I finally got caught up on all the TV I missed during Screen-Free Week. It took FORever.
  • Smash finale: seriously, we have to wait until NEXT mid-season for this show to start up again? DAMMIT.
  • Modern Family: still one of the funniest shows on TV.

New recipes or restaurants I tried:

After passing Buffalo Wild Wings on the way to IKEA every couple months for [how long has IKEA been open?], we finally went there. As sworn carnivores, this was a place that left us all happy. Stuffed, too. It’s not the best restaurant ever, by far, but we’ll probably go back again.

Special or unusual purchases I made:

  • New phone cases. Mine is fun. Vic’s is yaaaawn.
  • Miche shells and stuff.
  • Other top secret things (at least until Mother Mary’s birthday in two weeks). Winking smile

This month’s disappointments:

  • Sunshine moved far, far away.
  • I miss my Sunshine girl.
  • If I think about it too much, I cry a LOT.

My accomplishments:

  • This weekend I sorted through the linen closet and got rid of two HUGE bags of blankets and towels—approximately half of the linen closet’s clutter. I did 14 loads of laundry, and my most proud accomplishment is that I folded and put it all away! I went through dresser drawers, shoe boxes, hanging clothes—and Victor did too, so we had quite the trunk-ful for Goodwill. I washed cupboards and doors. I vacuumed everywhere and repeatedly. We plant-shopped. It feels satisfying to have gotten a lot done; lest you think this is the new Jen, I assure you that I spent pa-lenty of time not doing anything productive—I mean, it’s a holiday weekend, isn’t it?
  • My Miche Bag Relay for Life fundraiser on Thursday night earned almost $400 for our team. Woo-hoo! Of course, this wasn’t my own accomplishment… thank you to everyone who shopped with me!
  • Along with a few other editors, we got the school yearbook done. Anyone who’s ever worked on a yearbook before knows how great it feels to finally have the year-long project in print-ready format.
  • I might never stop saying that living through Screen-Free Week was a pretty darn big accomplishment. I think I have PTSD from it.

Anything else noteworthy:

  • We spent a gorgeous day at the Oregon Coast. The good feelings just last and last. Yes, the Oregon Coast is that beautiful.
  • Katie got her ears pierced again.
  • Last week we saw Million Dollar Quartet, one of our Broadway in Portland shows. All four of us enjoyed it way more than we expected to. What a fun evening!
  • For the most part, PTO is done for the year. For me, this is kind of a big deal. For you, it means a lot less PTO-talk on my blog, and that is also kind of a big deal.

Smell ya later, doods.


May 23: Our new home

Last night I dreamed that we built a house on Portland’s waterfront. It had a spectacular view of Mt. Hood on one side, the city on the other. There was a pool. There was a huge master bedroom. Perhaps best of all, there were no kids’ bedrooms. I know you’re jealous.

Lest you think my dream of buying a no-kids-allowed house colors us as the worst parents ever, I assure you that the blueprints showed kids’ rooms, but once the house was done, we discovered the builders had put huge holes in the floors of those rooms, meant to be a new-fangled type of skylight. It was kind of awesome (turns out we were the worst parents ever); the kids hated them but we were all HEY, WE HAVE A POOL SO SHUT UP AND ALSO, I HOPE YOU DON’T SLEEPWALK.

The house was $100. I don’t know how we got such a good deal. So maybe we had to give up the kids… whatevs. More pool for us!

Oh, and the Rose Festival Fun Center surrounded us on four sides, but that was only for one month a year so we decided to just deal with it. Less easy to deal with was the other new-fangled design element: no exterior doors. We hadn’t even moved in when our house had become a transient camp. At least during Rose Festival, when it was a carny camp, there was a party feel to it. Geez.

Who knew carnies are more fun than hobos?

My subconscious did, that’s who.

Do you ever wake up from a vivid, insane dream and wonder WHERE that came from? Me three. Here’s my guess for this one:

  • There’s a house being built near us, and every day I drive past it I think a different side is the front than the day before. It’s impossible to figure out—maybe once they get doors on it’ll be more obvious, but it’s funnier to assume that the builder is just really, really indecisive.
  • We’ve passed the Fun Center repeatedly in the past week. I love Rose Festival, but I prefer to pretend the Fun Center does not exist. So why am I defensive when Victor starts in with his trash-talk? I have no idea. I like to think Rose Festival has a bit higher safety standards than parking lot carnivals, but who knows if ride inspectors have a clue what they’re doing ANYWHERE? And that is why I am not going to ride “Vertigo” this year. Or any year.
  • You locals know that the Rose Festival Fun Center (now apparently called “CityFair”) is a hell-on-earth mudfest. Last night we drove past it and the kids asked why we never go there. I wanted to say, “Because the ride operators depend way too much on the effectiveness of that giant jar of Vaseline at the base of each ride” and I wanted to add, “plus they use so much in their hair, they could run out at any minute.” Instead, I said, “Maybe we’ll go this year. But not if it’s raining. Or if it has recently rained. Or if it might rain. Or if it rained once. Or if it ever rained.” Vic nodded along enthusiastically (probably not because he agreed but because he’s afraid of carnies). Cue the heavy we-never-get-to-do-anything-fun sighs from the back seat.

(See? Best parents ever!)


May 21: Perfect day

Katie loves the beach too

Here’s one thing I love about living where we do: the ocean is less than two hours away. So are mountains, rivers, desert, rain forest, city, country—we’ve got it all ‘round these parts—but my favorite quick-trip destination is almost always the Oregon Coast. Being at the beach is one of the few times I can honestly call the outdoors “great.” Otherwise it’s “the ‘meh’ outdoors.” True story.

Goofy boyVictor checked the forecast on Friday afternoon and quietly suggested going to the beach the next day; I agreed that it would be fun and since we had no other plans, why not? Stuff happens, though, and by morning we weren’t sure we wanted to make the drive. We’ve got the dogs to deal with, traffic, kids with opinions, things to get done around the house… and sleeping late on weekend mornings is a luxury we hate to sacrifice. I call us “adorably lazy.”

But what’s cool? I’ll tell ya. On Saturday, it was nice north Oregon coast weather and the fact that the sun doesn’t set until after 8:30 or so. Even though some of us slept until 9am, we still had pa-lenty of time to get to the beach. 

We left the little dog at home, packed up the big dog and (suddenly) eager kids and headed northwest. Even with quick stops at Old Navy (for flip-flops) and Walgreens (to replace the sunglasses I lost, which I found ten minutes after I put on the new ones, DAMMIT), we still had our toes in the sand by 1pm. It was warm and there was almost no wind—both very rare things at the Oregon Coast. Cannon Beach is beautiful no matter what the weather, but when there’s blue sky peeking through the clouds and you don’t need a jacket, it’s as close to heaven as you can get.

Lucy!Lucy was crazy on the beach. She couldn’t stop digging in the sand or drinking the sea water. She was fascinated by the surf. We even let her off the leash for a little bit and she behaved like a big girl. We’ve never had a water-loving dog, so it was all quite fun for us, too, and also OMG, how wet is she going to get??? (Answer: very.)

We had lunch in Seaside... Katie got her ears re-pierced... I got new books… we made a few other stops, and then headed back to Portland. It was a gorgeous day and we spent it in “moving slow” mode—the very best mode of all. Still, we were exhausted when we got home. I think it was watching The Frolicking Giant Yellow Lab that wore us out. It certainly wasn’t anything else we did.

It was a perfect day, and we were glad we finally got moving Saturday to get out and enjoy it.

For my fellow US 26 travelers: does Cooterville City Hall ever not make you laugh for two miles past it? We can’t possibly be the only ones.


May 16: Geek. Ing. Out.

I haven’t mentioned Pamela Ribon for a long time, and that’s good because it means she’s probably forgotten about the restraining order that EVERY ONE OF YOU thinks she needs to take out on me. Can’t someone be a super-fan without getting the law involved? Geez.

A bit of review: I read one of Pamela Ribon’s books in 2010; she happened to see my post and left a comment asking if she could send me her other books for reading during chemo. I tried to be all, “Oh, you don’t need to do that…” but, I mean, SHE OFFERED. Pamie and JenThe next week I received all of her books, autographed to me, and even though I already loved everything about her (yes, mostly her style of writing and sense of humor), I loved her even more because of her very generous and thoughtful gesture. When I heard she was going to do a book reading/signing in the Northwest, I dragged April way up to Bellingham so I could meet Pamela in person. Picture proof of a giddy Jen and nervous Pamie:

Last year she emailed to ask if I could give her some details on surviving cancer treatment—how it made me feel, what people did that was helpful and kind, that sort of thing. She said she was writing a book in which a character was going through chemo and wanted it to be as realistic and honest as possible. I was thrilled to help, of course, and sent her links to a bunch of my posts from 2010—the ones where I raved about how awesome my friends were/are.

So, when you read Pamela Ribon’s latest book, You Take It From Here—and you will want to!—keep in mind that the nice things the cancer-fighting character’s friends do for her? They were inspired by YOU.

And before you put the book down, please turn to the acknowledgements section at the back, because that’s where you’ll see this:

pamelaribonOMG, she means me!!
I think she means me. That is me, right?

Pamela sent me an advance copy of the novel—it comes out July 3 for all you un-acknowledged-in-the-back-of-the-book folk—which I eagerly read and completely loved.

Here’s the publisher’s synopsis of You Take it From Here:

youtakeitfromhereFrom the author of Why Girls Are Weird comes a poignant, funny tale about two very different best friends—one terminally ill with cancer, and the other determined to do absolutely everything she can to help…

Practical, patient Danielle Meyers escaped her small Southern hometown as quickly as possible, landing herself in sunny Los Angeles as a successful homemaking consultant and recent divorcee. Her bossy, loud, impulsive best friend Smidge stayed behind in Ogden, Louisiana, and has succeeded quite soundly—wife, mother, karaoke superstar, social butterfly, and survivor of cancer. But when Smidge and Danielle reunite for their annual girls’ vacation, Smidge reveals that the cancer is back and terminal, and Danielle vows to do anything to make the last bit of Smidge’s life easier. And Smidge has just one favor that she wants to ask: She needs Danielle to move back to Ogden and take over Smidge’s family after she dies, marrying Henry, and raising Jenny. When the friend you love “the mostest” wants you to make her last wish come true, how do you say no?

Like her other books, there is a very true-to-life balance of hilarity and sadness in You Take it From Here. Her characters are real; they are dear friends who are sometimes assholes to each other. It is a heartwarming AND heartbreaking story about being by a friend’s side as she faces cancer and what will happen after she’s gone. I very highly recommend this book—all of Pamela’s books, not just this one, but also especially this one.

I am soooo geeking out over this little blurb in the back of Pamie’s new book. I cannot even begin to tell you how much.


P.S. I asked Victor which of my friends he wants to marry when I die, and he very smartly refused to answer. I made him promise that it won’t be someone so great that he’ll forget about me or I will haunt him and not in the friendly ghost way. So, he’s pretty much damned whether he speaks up now or waits until I’m gone. Ha! Haunting him and whichever one of you he marries is gonna be awesome.

May 16: A list of things

As frequently as I’ve been blogging, you’d think I’d still be doing that horrid screen-free stuff. Nope. Just bizzy bizzy. Sooo… here are things I’m blogging about today:

  • I think I want all the drinking receptacles in my house to have this at the bottom. Non-stop hilarity, right?


  • I taught The Boy how to sew last week... kinda. He was making his covered wagon and we were looking for a good way to attach the cloth for the cover; glue was too flexible and my stapler wasn’t handy. Then I got this brilliant idea to stitch big x’s along the edges. (I like to think that’s how they repaired them out on the prairie, but since Martha Stewart didn’t travel the Oregon Trail, more likely they patched holes with cowpies… and I was NOT about to suggest that to The Boy.) I got each series of stitches started and then handed the needle to him. He sucked at it just enough to make it obvious that his parents didn’t make the wagon for him. Remember The Girl’s wagon?
  • This is pretty funny:
  • Do you use the very awesome Bare Escentuals Mineral Veil? Here’s a recipe to make your own, if you’re into that DIY thing (I am). I haven’t made this yet, but I’ve made shower spray, laundry detergent, softener, and cupcakes.
  • rfllogoHave you joined our Relay for Life team? If you haven’t, do it here. It doesn’t cost anything to register, but feel free to donate anyway. Everything goes toward fighting cancer! YOU KNOW you want to be a Hoe-Down…
  • One of the Relay fundraisers I’m doing this year is a Miche Bag party. Instead of giving me hostess credits, the sales rep is donating a portion of the sales at my party to our team. Last year this fundraiser brought in about $400! If you want to know all about Miche bags, go here. If you want to order, be sure to click my name to make sure the credit goes to my party. Order anytime between now and May 24. Thanks!
  • Funnies from and twitter:





  • I love this etsy shop so, so much: Spunky•Fluff. How will I ever decide what to order?
  • On Friday I was packing for the weekend at my mom’s when Jack found a dog wandering our street. I was preoccupied and in a hurry, but I couldn’t bear the thought of not making sure she was safe. She was easy to catch—super friendly sweetie—and didn’t have a collar. Jack and I went to a few houses to ask if anyone knew where she belonged, and all we found out was that people had seen her roaming in several different nearby neighborhoods earlier in the week. I finally took her to Animal Control, and they scanned her for a chip (nope) and put her on the “found” section of their web site. I saw her on it all weekend and today she’s gone, so either her owner got her or someone adopted her. I hope so, anyway… otherwise I took her from a nice little neighborhood to Euthanasia Camp AND was late getting to Mother Mary’s. Either a did a good deed or played executioner.

More later.


May 7: Screen-Free Week = Grouchy Jen

Screen-Free Week is over. Hooray! I stuck with it, with the tiniest bit of violations, for the entire seven days. I’m not gonna lie; it was not fun. The only time I remember feeling this kind of constant anger and resentment is when we did Atkins after I had Jack.

I kept a SFW journal all week so you could follow my descent into madness.


I have to remind y’all here that the PTO encouraged kids to participate in National Screen-Free Week and I felt that, as PTO prez, I needed to do it too. Vic agreed to do it with me, but he formed his own set of SFW rules. Jack and Katie went along with it too, unless you think escaping to their friends’ houses to play video games and watch TV was against the rules. (It totally was.)





(Just gotta point out the illegibility of my handwriting, which is a good clue of how seldom I take a pen to paper. What a mess.)


During SFW, I continued to email and text—this was the only way I was able to stay connected with the outside world. Some might say that wasn’t following the SFW rules, and to those people I extend a sincere invitation to bite my giant white butt. While Facebook is a definite time-suck for me, I realized during SFW that I depend on FB to stay in touch with friends and family. Cutting it from my screen time completely is too extreme, but I could probably spend a little less time on FB every day…


Victor suggested the similarity to Adventism, and how true it was! The many ways people interpret the rules makes SFW a different experience for everyone. Honestly, I didn’t miss my TV shows as much as I expected to, so maybe my own, super-logical (of course) set of rules for SFW would do just fine in the future. Sadly, we will never know, because THIS SFW RELIGION IS NOT FOR JEN.


I’ve gotten used to immediate notifications for texts and emails, and whether they contain important info or not, I did not like giving them up. Full disclosure: on Saturday I peeked at Facebook and played a few games of Sudoku on my phone. My hold on my sanity had become flimsy; I needed to do something.


I read a lot of reactions to SFW online today, and the people who had positive results said they had shared lots more family time than usual, got out the door faster in the mornings, were more productive, etc. The one good difference for me was that I read a LOT during the spare time I might have normally spent playing mindless games on my phone. All I really need to be enticed to read more is a good book, though, so I can’t credit SFW all on its own for all my extra reading.

In summary, I will probably not do Screen-Free Week again, at least not with the rules I set for myself this time. If I start pushing SFW next year at this time, please remind me how miserable I was last week.

Frustrating: the 357 unread items in Google Reader. That will take FOREVER to get through. I think I’ll do little bits at a time. Now, leave me alone so I can catch up on my 12+ hours of Hulu. Shhhhh…



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