Thursday, January 8, 2015

The twenty-year cycle

2014 has bitten the dust without me even getting a chance to sit down and muse about it. Do I have a lot to say about it? Not really. What I can say, though, is that 2014 was:

- Our first full year as Seattleites. Winter, spring, summer, autumn, and back to winter. My favourite part? Always summer. Spring, a close second. Winter blows. The weather here is like that mean boyfriend who is also capable of treating you like a princess... but more often mean. That's Seattle. The climate does not agree with me for a good chunk of the year, but now that we've had two whole summers here? When it's summer, I can't think of a better place in the world to be. It's stunning and perfect, and a damn good thing it exists or I'd possibly be on the next plane outta here.

- A good time to revisit grunge. The EMP Museum has had a great Nirvana and grunge exhibition all year long, which we've ended up seeing a few times (whenever we've gone to check out newer exhibitions, we always find ourselves back in the Nirvana section). Twenty years since Kurt Cobain's death really only feels like ten years - at the most.

- My first full year back in the workforce since P was born, even if just part-time. Have I figured out what I want to do with my life, career-wise? Not yet, but contributing a few extra dollars to the household has done wonders for my self-seteem, even if it's only a small amount of money.

- The year I began wearing liquid eyeliner again. I'm not sure why I ever stopped, but I wore it often when I was a teenager. It's a classic look, right?

- The year I began wearing Converse again. I used to live in Chucks back in the day, but moved away into other kinds of sneakers for some reason. Like liquid eyeliner, these sneakers began to appeal to me again, and now I can't imagine not putting them on most days - at least until summer is back.

In short, 2014 was the year of 1994 for me, the year I began revisiting my eighteen-year-old self. Perhaps it's an early mid-age crisis. Perhaps I'll get my nose re-pierced next. I'm still working on a tattoo design, so why not? I think I'll draw the line at Doc Marten boots though. I spent enough years wearing those, so I'll leave them for the real eighteen-year-olds to party in.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

All of the thanks and fun

You know what? We had the best Thanksgiving break ever. It was exactly what was needed.

Our friends in Portland arrived in record time for lunch, where we proceeded to stuff ourselves silly with food. We ate and ate and ate and ate. As we fell on to the couch to recover, all four kids disappeared upstairs to play, and it was like no time had passed since they last saw each other. As they played, the wine and beer began flowing, along with reminiscing about the years when we lived next door in Sydney. This was pretty much the pattern for the next few days: coffee, coffee, coffee, wine, coffee, coffee, wine, wine, wine, wine. And food. Lots of food.

I think my liver has only just recovered.

We kept an eye on the weather forecast because Saturday was predicted to bring snow. I didn't want to get my hopes up because if I learned anything last winter in Seattle, it was that snow gets predicted much more than it actually happens. Also, it was still November! The first snowfall last year didn't happen until days before Christmas. As if it was going to snow, right?

And we then woke up on Saturday morning. Ahem... and, yay!

It was only a small amount of snow, and oddly none of it actually stuck to the roads, but it was enough to make four kids super excited and willing to head to our local baseball fields for a play. This adult may or may not have been excited too - for the first time, I had proper snow boots to break in and keep my feet warm and dry. Another reason I was happy was because the clouds gave way to sunshine and blue skies, which never happened last winter when it snowed - back then, the rain came and melted it fairly quickly (this time, the snowy white patches stayed for a good four or five days).

In fact, the skies cleared up so beautifully that we thought it would be the perfect afternoon to take our visitors to the Space Needle. We'd already been up twice in the past, but both times were heavy grey days without mountain views. This day was so cold anyway, not many other people would have the same idea, right?


We got there at 2pm, and stood in line for a freezing half hour as icy winds - the truly miserable kind - whipped around us. When we finally got to the ticket window, we were informed the next time slot available was 4pm, and we nearly cried, until we remembered we could go and warm up in the nearby EMP Museum (we get a discount there which makes it worth going in, even for just ninety minutes). So that's what we did, and everything worked out perfectly.

We made it up the Space Needle with not much time to spare before sunset, but in those temperatures, it's not like I wanted to be outside for more than five or ten minutes anyway. As the sun was going down, we were treated to a birds eye view of two dudes climbing around, installing the Christmas-coloured lights on the outside of the tower. They had a crowd watching, I had vertigo, and knew for sure that was a job there is no amount of money in the world that would convince me to do.

Happily, the entire horizon - both east and west - was full of mountains and pink skies, so I finally got my wish for clear views form the Space Needle. And white snow-dustings atop the buildings downtown - still a novelty. We got some cheesy photos of the four kids sitting with Santa in his space sleigh, and called it a day. The Portland gang had to leave the next day, and I spent another three days eating stuffing... I want more weekends like this, please. There's nothing better for the soul than quality time with close friends you've known for a decade and gone through the dramas of baby stuff together with, right? Living away from Australia, the opportunity for spending time with old friends isn't something we get to do often, if at all, so I'm grateful we only live a three-hour drive from these guys.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bits and bobs

I still have some half-finished posts about summer sitting in my inbox, but I might save those for a quiet wintery day. In the mean time...

As you can see, P had to be Elsa - along with about 90% of preschool-aged girls, am I right? In fact, at one point, F also wanted to be Elsa. Things were going to get complicated, but thankfully she changed her mind when she saw this cool witch's costume. Halloween wasn't the lame effort that it was last year, but those outfits were totally store-bought. Maybe next year I'll actually make something... but don't hold your breath.

On a pretty note, we had our first frost of the season the other week, bang on schedule for November. What else? Recently I've been getting in a little more solo time on the weekends - even if it's just in small doses. The girls have Kung Fu lessons in Chinatown, which is very close to downtown Seattle. If J is able to come with us and stay with the girls, I wander and wander and wander. Sometimes I just walk to Pioneer Square, sometimes I jump on a bus through the bus transit tunnel, just a few 'stations' along, and people watch downtown or at the Pike Place Market. Even though it's getting super chilly outside on those afternoons, it's always a much-needed reboot for me.

As for now, it's Thanksgiving tomorrow and we're gearing up for a visit from our mates in Portland. By 'gearing up', I mean 'preparing to eat, eat, eat'. The forecast is for snow in a few days which would be the icing on this little holiday period, but if I learned anything about Seattle winters last year, it's that the snow may only fall for about a fraction of the actual forecasts made. Whatever happens though, I'm really looking forward to the next few days. Bring on the flow of wine!

Plus, how gorgeous are fairy lights at this time of year? Any time of year, actually, but they definitely dress up what is otherwise dreary, gloomy grey coldness. I would still prefer a lengthy, warm sunny Christmas Day, but there is something about having every tree and awning covered in twinkling lights - it just feels so 'right' for the northern hemisphere Christmases.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Autumn and changes

Here we are, halfway through autumn, and I haven't even finished catching up in here about summer. I have drafts sitting, waiting, but for today I'm going to fast forward to the present.

I've never been a fan of autumn. In Australia, my birthday always fell in autumn and I was envious of friends who got to celebrate theirs in the more cheerful summer and spring (which I now get to experience). For the most part, though, I've always viewed autumn as the death of summer. Dramatic and pessimistic, I know. It's just how I'm hardwired though - warmer weather and climates will always be my preferred state of being.

That being said, autumn in Seattle is the prettiest autumn I've experienced anywhere so far in my life. Alright, so I haven't been to New England but the way these trees here change colour is hitting the spot. The multicoloured trees are so spectacular that quite a few people I've met here say that this is their favourite time of year. I'm not quite there yet, but I've changed my tune a little - autumn doesn't quite suck so hard.

Things are pretty good in general now. After struggling with working evening and part of the weekends for close to a year now, I've made some necessary changes. The whole reason I began working those hours was I thought it would be my brilliant solution to child-care - at least until Miss P was in school full-time. No stress of rushing between school drop-offs and work. However, instead of that stress, I had the stress of trying to squeeze in helping with homework, school projects, and cooking/organising dinner for everyone in that window of time between school finishing and me starting work. Together, J and I had the stress of coordinating use of our one car, and getting the girls to their kung fu lessons, soccer training, weekend matches. J was having to leave earlier in the mornings to be back in time for me to get to work. When I'd get home, he'd head to bed while I still needed an hour or so to wind down and have some quiet time to myself. We weren't really spending much time together. As for the weekends, I was missing out on a lot of family time and we haven't been able to plan (or take spontaneous) mini road trips to see more of the Northwest. I was feeling like I could barely catch my breath, and during the summer - without school even being a factor - I even had a nasty anxiety attack.

Things came to a head with J taking on a new role at his work, which will see him needing to travel a few times a month, on weekdays. This will make it difficult to schedule my evening shifts, or change them at a moment's notice, so we thought about it and decided it's just not worth the stress any more. With Miss P now in Pre-K an extra day a week, and the option of booking her in for the lunch programme there, I told my manager that I would only be available during preschool hours, that I'd be happy to come in and work mornings and the lunch rush on those days, and that if they didn't have a place for me during those hours and they needed to replace me, then no hard feelings. Thankfully, they seem to really like me and have been super helpful and accommodating. I'm not sure how long this arrangement will work for (school holidays are going to be tricky or impossible, but I'll cross that bridge later), but for now our little family unit is a much happier one. J and I get to spend more time together again, weekend date nights are doable, we all get to eat dinner together most nights now, and the girls seem to love having me around at bedtimes again.

So for now, I'm breathing better and able to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. Some days are still a bit of a scramble, but nothing like the concentrated way that the afternoons had been. I feel like I've gained back a bit of my life, just from freeing up my evenings and Saturdays.

The way the same types of trees change to different hues, the way the leaves seem to dance and twirl as they fall, the way they lay curled on the ground, the way the sunlight makes the raindrops sparkle on them, and the fact that as I'm walking, it's fun to identify the many leaves: maples, alders, oaks, sycamores and ones I've yet to learn the name for... I'm actually enjoying autumn.

Maybe a leopard can change its spots.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

August (Part 1)

I'm not sure if I'll ever get around to properly writing about everything we got up to in August, because - like July - it was busy, busy, busy. We had close friends from L.A. stay with us, a bowling birthday party for a newly-minted eight-year-old, a girls' night out (me) to see Chvrches live, multiple beach and splash park play dates, and local neighbourhood festivals. August was wonderful to us, and hopefully my catch-up post for the second half of August will do it more justice than this post. Ahem.