Category Archives: The Jungle

Blue jeans and roses

This morning, I took Harvey to the YMCA for the preschool class he attends on Wednesday and Thursday. (Ohsweetbabyjesus, I was happy today was a school day! Harvey spent the first hour of the morning dumping out toy baskets, slamming doors, stealing things from the baby, throwing Legos, and run-by-hitting anyone sitting still. Okay, peace out, little dude…and good luck, Miss Amanda and Mr. Peter!)

After drop-off, I grabbed a coffee and headed to the library to renew our library cards, but apparently it doesn’t open until 10AM during the summer months. I wasn’t the only person who didn’t realize this judging by the dozen people sitting on the sidewalk in front of the building with books and iPads and forlorn expressions.

Rather than waiting around, Hugo and I crossed the street into Julia Davis Park. It was a beautiful, cool morning… the kind that reminds you that fall is quickly approaching (oh, blessed, blessed fall). I even embraced a pair of jeans this morning. Like, actually embraced them, and then put them on. How I love my uniform of jeans, long-sleeved tee, and flip-flops in the spring or fall. Digress.

We walked past the Boise Art Museum and into the rose garden. The gardener was mowing and my toes were quickly stained green as we strolled though the rows. I happened upon a rose called “Pumpkin Patch” which might be my new fav… a deep, golden orange with petals that fade to mauve as they age. The city has decided the fountains look best in lovely shade of completely-antithetical-to-nature “toilet water turquoise.” Odd…but Hugo still thought it was pretty mesmerizing.

rose garden

Then we came home (library STILL not open) and I picked an actual handful – finally! – of little tomatoes for my breakfast. My fault for not planting my veggies until the end of June, but it’s nice to see some production.  No one likes tomatoes at my house except me, so usually I eat them for a few a weeks and then they all fall on the ground because I can’t keep up and I’m too lazy to freeze them or something.  Meaning the following year we have tomato plants growing out of the cracks in our patio – bonus! Also, while I was picking them, some guy walked by on the Greenbelt singing “Piano Man” at the top of his lungs – bonus bonus! SING US A SONG, YOU’RE THE PIANO MAAAAAANNNN…

Red cherry tomatoes and yellow Squidward-head tomatoes (according to Hudson)
Red cherry tomatoes and yellow Squidward-head tomatoes (according to Hudson)

For his part, Hugo is working on self-feeding some Cheerios and tiny blueberries this morning. He does great chewing them, but also bites his own finger and cries at least once every 5 minutes. 🙁  While he practices, I plan on killing the approximately 127 flies in my house before Hayden gets home this afternoon and has a panic attack.

 

Thinking about the Midterms…

Elections, that is.  It isn’t easy to flash forward to the first brisk Tuesday in November when it’s the first sweaty Wednesday in August, but that’s what we tried to do today.

I sit on the Idaho political action committee (PAC) for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, the electoral arm of Planned Parenthood affiliates in Alaska, Idaho and Washington. PPVNW works to promote and protect reproductive health and justice by advocating for public policies that provide full access to reproductive and sexual healthcare and education. As a former Planned Parenthood employee, I am incredibly proud of the work this organization does, and as a wonk, I can think of no better way to spend an afternoon than discussing the politics of women’s health.

Our task today was to discuss candidate endorsements and recommendations at the district, state and federal level. It is a time consuming task to review each candidate’s questionnaire in detail, but ultimately allows Planned Parenthood to dedicate its precious time and resources to viable candidates who, if (re)elected, will be the greatest champions for reproductive health and rights.

We decided my patio would be the best place to tackle this project…it took a quite a bit of cheese, a little bit of wine, and a ridiculous amount of peek-a-boo and baby talk (with Hugo, not each other) but we made it through with a nice stack of interviews to be scheduled ASAP.  Once the endorsements are made, it’s all over but the….ENTIRE ELECTION SEASON. Really, it’s only just begun. But isn’t this what activists live for? <humming Election night theme music> Personally, I can hardly wait.

The remains of the day
The remains of the day

Bear Creek

Last weekend, we took the boys up to our family cabin in Grandjean, Idaho, about 2.5 hours NE of Boise in the Sawtooth Mountains. “Bear Creek” was purchased by Hayden’s grandpa, Henry Hales Falkner, in the 1950’s.  At the time, it was a basic hunting camp but with lots of TLC was made suitable for the women-folk and kiddos. To this day, the bathroom has a pink toilet and a community can of vintage Aquanet.

Hayden pretty much spent every weekend of his childhood there, weaving up narrow SH 21 (the “Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway”) with his dad in a 2-wheel drive pickup, over Mores Creek and Beaver Creek summits to Lowman. From there, the highway heads north along the South Fork of the Payette River past the Sourdough Lodge toward Stanley, but we hit the turnoff to Grandjean and the road becomes dirt for the next several miles.  (Or snowpack in the winter, when it’s only accessible by snowmobile – which, BTW, was the first trip Hayden and I ever took together. Valentine’s Day weekend, 1998.)

Hayden was always at home in Grandjean, surrounded by his parents, both sets of grandparents, the “cabin people” (essentially another dozen sets of grandparents), his .22, his fishing pole and his dog. It was a pretty great childhood for an Idaho kid, especially back in the 70’s when you could go missing in the woods for hours and nobody thought twice about it. (Not sure if it was a more relaxed parenting style, or more bourbon, but I’m guessing both.)

It’s definitely an experience we’d like to share with our boys, but our life is hectic and trips to the cabin are rare. Hayden’s dad spends a great deal of time there now in his retirement, but eventually we will inherit this family treasure and one day it will belong to our boys. It’s a special place, even to me…in fact, only 9 months after that first winter getaway in 1998, two crazy kids got married there, under the deer head I decorated with gold ribbon. It was November; the aspen trees were yellow and the day was gorgeous. I wore a black velvet suit (which nicely covered my 5-month baby bump) and I carried a bouquet of white roses and pink pepperberries.

So, when we saw an opening in our schedule this weekend, we took it!

Sawtooths, Welcome to Sawtooth Lodge, Falkner hospitality
Sawtooths, Welcome to Sawtooth Lodge, Falkner hospitality

The boys were thrilled (if a little carsick – holy switchbacks) when we arrived. SO.MUCH.EXPLORING!

Hayden is immediately in his element. I love watching him in the mountains – he’s so confident and peaceful. We lounged on the deck, ran through sprinklers, fed the hummingbirds, played football, grilled brats, went fly-fishing, strolled along Wapiti Creek, made s’mores, gave the Littles baths in the chipped porcelain sink, and slept on the screened porch.  Our Barley-dog was one tired old lady.

cabin

cabin kids

A cabin weekend is a lot of work; a lot of packing, shopping, laundry, car snacks, cleaning, cooking, etc… but the memories are priceless. Looking forward to returning soon – and also to the day when I can sit on the deck in my muumuu with a cocktail and watch my adult boys joke around and tend to their own kids. (Because traditions that involve me not doing anything are my favorite.)

 

Summer nights

I’m sitting outside on the red lounge chair I bought myself for Mother’s Day last year. It’s 10PM and the kids are in bed or otherwise disposed…honestly, by this time of night they’re on their own. Eat these cookies and go away!

It’s still warm, maybe 80, but with a lovely breeze. Hayden just watered my plants which also cooled down the patio considerably. There is a lazy crescent moon to the west, my twinkle lights are glowing, and I am listening to thousands of crickets chirping in sync around the creek that skirts our backyard.  My garden is overrun with mint to the point where it has become a “mint situation”… it’s pretty much nothing but mint at this point.  But right now it smells awesome.

A jet flies overhead and I wonder where it’s going. In the distance, I can see two small white lights and hear the laughter that indicates cyclists are headed our direction on the Greenbelt. They pass by in the darkness with a hum of tires.

Sprinklers come on, mosquitoes are out. I decide to head inside…and with a terrific crash, walk directly into the screen door. The crickets pause, probably to shake their heads. Oh, there you are, reality.

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Ebola (O-no-la!)

Apart from my INCREDIBLY witty title (so, SO bad), there is nothing funny about the current Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa. For those not habitually tracking global public health crises, this is one to pay attention to. I don’t care how distracted you may have been by the hot-mess-bro/slut-shaming incident on the Bachelorette. Okay, I admit I don’t watch the show (At all. Ever.) But….dude, just NO. To quote Kid President, not cool Robert Frost. I digress.

This is the largest global outbreak of EVD in recorded history and already it is nearly three times the size of the next largest outbreak, which occurred almost 15 years ago in Uganda. Over 1200 cases have been reported since March with the vast majority occurring in the past month. It is officially a pandemic, having spread across four countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Guinea) to date, which has hindered a coordinated response. This region is ripe for the transmission of disease due to environmental, political and economic conditions. People who have no clean water to drink cannot be expected to prioritize washing their hands. Fear, lack of education about the disease, and mistrust of authority has led many citizens to become suspicious of aid worker’s role in spreading Ebola and many have been targeted with violence.

Ebola is highly contagious with a long incubation period… up to three weeks. Initial symptoms are like any other flu; headache, fever, sore throat, and muscle aches but the virus eventually causes both internal and external bleeding and organ failure, leading to death in the majority of cases. In Liberia, schools and shops have closed and workers are being told to stay home. Healthcare and aid workers are extremely vulnerable, even while utilizing universal precautions (including nursing barrier garments) as they function in very close proximity to those infected with EVD. Today, the U.S. Peace Corp announced it would be evacuating hundreds of volunteers from the region, with several quarantined for observation due to suspected exposure.

There is no known cure for Ebola and the mortality rate ranges between 60-90% of those infected. Treatment includes hydration and transfusion; immediate hospitalization is critical, however, often not available in the rural and impoverished regions where the disease thrives. Vaccination is also unavailable at this time. Several pharmaceutical labs are conducting Pre-clinical and Phase 1 trials, but that generally means any potential drug is still years away.

Although in our globalized, mobile world there is a potential to see multiple outbreaks spread in a variety of places, the likelihood of seeing something like this in the U.S. (or any other Western country) is extremely low due to robust sanitation practices and access to health services. Researchers say that although the virus is deadly, it is fragile and can be killed with the use of basic soap or detergent.

However, as we know, viruses are constantly changing and mutating… there’s a reason (antigenic drift) you need a new flu shot every year to protect you from the most common 3-4 strands. Antigenic shift is a little more scary; it generally refers to the sudden mutation of a virus, creating an entirely new sub-type to which humans have little to no immunity – therefore, much more likely to lead to an epidemic.

So, don’t panic, but know your risk of exposure…specifically if you live or travel abroad or eat things like, say….under-cooked fruit bats. And pay attention to global events for Chrissake. The next season of The Voice doesn’t start until September anyway.

Ebola virus* *Not actual size or color. Though it would be convenient if it was because we could, you know, see it coming.
Ebola virus* (Shutterstock)
*Not actual size or color. Though it would be convenient if it was because we could, you know, see it coming.

This is not a drill!

Gird your loins – it’s mantis season.  First official backyard sighting this afternoon at oh-shit-it’s-a-mantis-o’clock.

I used to love to spot a praying mantis. I almost felt lucky, like it was a good omen to come across one during my daily routine. I rescued them from sidewalks and city buses and cats. I gave them dignified British accents. Well, NO MORE, suckers!

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Let me take you back to the summer of 2012.

My kids were skeptical from the start.  I mean, a mantis is pretty weird looking, right? Like an insect designed by Tim Burton. You can almost picture it smiling at you to reveal a full set of dentures and one crossed eye.

But a mantis (mantid?) had landed on our patio, so I gathered the boys around to let them share in the wonder of this twee, friendly stick-man.  He stood on my hand in his devout little pose watching us watch him.  And then… all hell broke loose.  I’m not even sure what happened, but suddenly he had a kung-fu grip on my index finger, using his spiny front legs to grasp my skin while biting and kicking and scratching and flapping his wings like a completely deranged lunatic. I screamed bloody murder and shook my hand, flinging him about 15 feet into the grass. The kids, apparently NOT subscribing to the “no (wo)man left behind” philosophy, ran inside and slammed the door in my face.

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And so forevermore July shall be known as the month these demon hellhounds once again roam the earth in search of delicate lady-fingers and opportunities to traumatize small children.

The game is afoot. You may be nimble and your numbers great, but I have a car. #WINNING

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Good busy

The past 24 hours have been hectic, but all good things…all good things. Hayden returned from DC and I made a big salmon and pasta dinner to celebrate / show some empathy knowing he spent an entire week eating conference buffet food (#firstworldproblems). Henry began his last week of summer school this morning and Hudson and Harvey started a two-week session of swimming lessons at the Natatorium. 

Currently, “the Nat” is comprised of an Olympic-size pool, a toddler pool, and a Hydrotube… a pretty great summer attraction to have just a 5-minute bike ride from home.  But the Nat is also a historic treasure.  Built in 1892, the Natatorium was a grand example of Moorish architecture and housed a huge geothermal swimming pool with waterfall, steam rooms, cafe, bar and a ballroom that hosted many a swanky gala. Due to severe wind damage, the original building was eventually torn down, but the Nat remains an integral part of childhood for East End kids.

For his part, Hugo spent the day being adorable.

float

I think all of these shots are pretty self-explanatory. Except the last one where Harvey is wearing his underwear like a headband. And, no, I can't explain that.
I think all of these shots are pretty self-explanatory. Except the last one where Harvey is wearing his underwear like a headband. And, no, I can’t explain that. (Props for Hudson’s running photobomb.)

Loyal to local

Picked up lunch at Westside Drive In.  Wrapped in pink neon lights, Westside is a bit of a Boise icon and has won many local “Best of” awards as well as being featured on the Food Network.  The menu is insane and diners can order almost anything – prime rib, spaghetti with meatballs, chili dogs, fish n’ chips and shakes that are shut-your-face delicious.  There are two drive-thru aisles and a walk-up window, and everything is made after you order it so it’s always delicious.  I had a turkey focaccia sandwich which is the same thing I always order because  I love it so much I would marry it.

So, what are you doing for dinner? I say you change that shirt and head down to your local pub/patio/food truck/rib shack and support some community peeps while sitting on your butt and stuffing your face. Do it. Do it.

Ignore the Elvis music, sample food from other people's plates when they aren't looking.
Ignore the Elvis music, but do sample food from other people’s plates when they aren’t looking.

Compassionate conservatism

Was that ever really a thing? I mean, besides a way to sugarcoat regular conservatism to make it sound more appealing to swing voters? I think it was Tony Blair who said something like, “Compassionate conservatism means we’re still not going to help you but we’re really sorry about it.”

The GOP -We care about people, but we think private charities should help them. But we’re not going to incentivize private charities to help them because we need to set aside these tax breaks for corporations because trickle down because job creators because blah blah blah vote against your own self interest, okay? Ps: Brown people are stealing your jobs.

Anyway, it feels like if it ever really was a thing, compassionate conservatism is officially dead. And not just dead, but reviled. To the GOP, compassionate conservatism is like the printer scene in Office Space. Kill.it.with.fire. Smash it like a piñata. Somehow showing compassion has become an admission that there IS something government could be doing to make things better for struggling individuals, so we need to quickly pivot and put all blame squarely on the shoulders of the poor… you know, for being poor. And uneducated. And so unbootstrappy. Why don’t you have boots??? You think we’re afraid to berate a victim of circumstance (frequently a circumstance U.S. policy, both foreign and domestic, has created?) Well, we’re not. And that goes double for you, kids.

And speaking of kids, we don’t want those refugee children anywhere near these parts. You hear that, Obama!? We know you haven’t even asked Idaho to take in any of the 57,000 minors fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, but just in case you were thinking about it, DON’T EVEN.  On July 23rd, Governor Otter sent a preemptive letter to numerous federal agencies essentially demanding Idaho not be used as a staging area for “these *dirty little street urchins and their 3rd world diseases. Give them a raft so they can make like a tree.” (*My words. I paraphrased.)

I’m sorry? What was that? Honduras has a higher childhood immunization rate than Idaho? Doesn’t fit narrative – DISREGARD.

Wow. What a flattering light Otter is willing to cast us in…all to score political points in an election year.  I think what makes me most sad is that he (probably correctly) assumes this cruel and callous attitude is the red meat his base wants. I mean, after all, WWJD?

I know it must be hard that your Governor is so lame compared to Butch.
I know it must be hard that your Governor is so lame compared to Butch. Screenshot courtesy of Dailycaller.com

Sleep

Sleep, or lack thereof, has been a hot topic lately among my mama friend group.

Pretty much from the moment you find out you’re pregnant, you stop sleeping through the night. During the first trimester, you pee constantly and you have night sweats and really strange dreams about 1940’s miners in a cave filled with stalactites and wiener dogs (true story.) In the second trimester, you can no longer sleep on your stomach and often experience raging heartburn; I once burped stomach acid out my nose and onto my pillow. So much sexy! By the last trimester, it’s everything. It.is.all.the.bad, including the fact you could now really, really use a crane to help you roll from side to side. Like, how much could those things actually cost to rent anyway?

And then the baby arrives, and the notion of sleep becomes laughable. Even the idea of good sleep is torture.  You feel like a person on a desert island dreaming of a 5-course meal…you remember what it’s like, you can practically taste it, but it’s never, ever going to happen. So you try not to think about how being rested feels. Your goal becomes maintaining just enough alertness to not leave your baby in the bathroom at Starbucks. Although it would be a good excuse to go back and get another coffee.

The months wear on, and it gets better (but not much).  Especially if you have a toddler or other older children who wake with nightmares or come in to tell you they don’t feel good and puke on your nightstand. Eventually, those months turn into years…and you now have a teenager who missed curfew, so you pace the halls and worry about that thoughtless little shithead and things like drinking and driving.  Or you lay awake worrying about your adult son who just lost his job, or your daughter going through a divorce, or your grandchild who was sent to the principal’s office twice last week.

They say to sleep when the baby sleeps. What they don’t tell you is that you will never again sleep like you did before you became a mother. Ever. So, we take what we can get.

Last night, I slept for 7 hours straight for the first time since I found out I was pregnant with Hugo 17 months ago.  Apparently, I spent the majority of this time on my face since I looked like a water balloon with eyes when I woke up this morning. It was glorious. Sleep is so critical to our ability to function in every way – cognitively, physically, emotionally.  It even regulates our levels of gherlin and leptin, the hormones that tell us when to eat and when to stop…which is why many new mamas find it hard to lose weight (raises hand) during that first year of drastic sleep deprivation.  The average human body needs 7.5 hours of sleep per night. You may see that once you hit that level of rest, you will actually lose weight without even trying (crosses fingers). I’m also hoping that the more I sleep, the less I will need to regulate my mood by screaming profanities at everyone who crosses my bed-to-coffeepot path or crying because my earring back fell behind the dresser.

So, sleep baby sleep. When you can. Which is never. But try.

This is pretty much me except instead of a nightgown I would be wearing a t-shirt from 1998.
This is pretty much me except instead of a nightgown I would be wearing a tie-dye t-shirt from 1998.