Looking for peace and serenity

February 22, 2015 at 11:23 pm (Family, Uncategorized) (, )

It’s been a long time since I even aspired to have a “done” house, worthy of photographing for a Pottery Barn catalog, or even a Sears catalog. Neither of those styles were ever really my ideal anyway. I was happy to entertain in my Seattle apartments, decorated in eclectic-hand-me-down-pre-hipster-hipterish-thrift-store-garage-sale style. It was a completely socially acceptable style for one’s twenties.

Now, though the standards for homes of upstanding adults in one’s late-late-thirties are much higher, our home is infinitely less inviting. For us to relax and function in, or for us to entertain in. Some combination of more square footage to maintain, many many more responsibilities, not the least of which are four kids, more people’s stuff, less time, less disposable income, less energy, it all boils down to a home that makes me wince every place I look. Mess after mess, stained carpet after stained carpet.

I decided maybe if I just focused on a micro-level, if I just looked for teeny corners of the house that gave me pleasure, made me smile, maybe I could capitalize on the positive, and grow those places. So I went looking for spots in the house that didn’t need decluttering, organizing, cleaning, vacuuming, wiping, patching, painting, replacing, repairing, recarpeting, washing, straightening, airing out, dusting, culling, rearranging, degreasing, opening and paying, or sanitizing.

Somewhere that was even “good enough just for now”.

I walked the whole house. Looked at every inch.

The *only* parts that foster a feeling of contentment:










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Summer Wrap Up

August 27, 2014 at 2:14 pm (Family, GOJ, MJ, Parenthood, PJ, WJ) ()

Every time someone asks my kids what they’ve been up to this summer, and this is a favorite question of adults to kids and other adults alike, my kids’ response is “Nothin'” and a shrugging of their shoulders.

I started the summer practicing, and really have always used, an “Embrace the Bored” parenting style. I don’t over schedule my kids (generally). And I don’t feel the need to prepare specific activities for home either. We have plenty of toys, plenty of yard, plenty of books, plenty of craft supplies. Go.

I have a box for our unfolded socks that is labeled “Are you bored? Fold socks.” Translation- don’t talk to me about nothing to do or I’ll find something for you to do. My kids know that mentioning boredom will get them either an instruction to do a chore, a recitation of my motto “Only boring people are bored”, or a lecture on how being bored is a privilege of the rich. Or all three.

Still, I know what irks me about them being ho-hum about their summer is that I wish we’d done more. There were days we lazed around and bickered all day, and I knew we’d be better off getting out, but just didn’t quite have it in me. In practice, “Embrace the Bored” seemed to lead to kids stretched out on couches, clearly bored, but smart enough not to say so. What do bored school-aged children tend to do, I found? Not find a great book to read, but pester various siblings until they find the sibling that yields the biggest reaction. The littlest one, interestingly, is happiest to occupy herself. You can usually find her at the kitchen table, drawing.

I can’t say I’m ready to give up “Embrace the Bored”. I’m not sure why there was not much taking up of interesting projects or play this summer. Perhaps that’s just my point of view. Maybe there was internal processing going on that will bear fruit later, during those hours sprawled on the couch, repeatedly and unfruitfully asking for more screen time (my rule was an hour after your morning chore was done, no more until Dad gets home and we may decide to watch something as a family, may not).

I do wish I’d arranged a few more get-togethers with some of the boys’ school friends. They did play nearly daily with their neighborhood friends. That may have gone a long way to feeling “fun”, more than anything you can pay to go see. But arranging such things is not really my forte, and I was also looking for a job all summer. So I was trying not to commit to anything too far out, such as a camp they could have done with friends. We mostly did family day trips. Even then, some of us like to leave the house more than others. The same kids that complain we didn’t do much this summer have to be dragged out of the house more often than not.

At any rate, all these Nothin’ replies and my usual self-criticism had me feeling some major Mama-guilt about their summer. So I made a list*. Turns out, it wasn’t Nothin’. I had a lot of fun at some of these activities, and I believe the rest of the family did too. Maybe it’s just that the older kids get, the less they know how to do Enthusiastic well. Teenagers are not known for their enthusiasm. Maybe we should have done much less and we’d have gotten over the Bored hump. Maybe many things. My conclusion after some reflection is that we tried to do some fun things, and you win some you lose some. They can choose to believe they had an awesome summer, and they can choose to believe it sucked. Like all things, I can’t control what anybody else thinks.

I will show them this list, though, so in case their teacher asked, they might have something to say. 🙂

*Here, for the record, so you don’t believe what you hear from my kids, is

What We Did This Summer (June – August 2014)

Charter boat fishing off Westport for salmon (SUCCESS!)
Set up, played in, and maintained our 18 ft above-ground pool
Hosted my Aunt Elly and cousin Chris (in his twenties and therefore way cool for all of my kids) visiting from Alaska
Celebrated my Grandpa John’s 90th birthday camping in Corvallis, OR
Returned two weeks later to celebrate his life in memorium
Visited the Flying Heritage Museum three times, including their annual air show and the last flight of the White Knight)
Bought and lit fireworks for the first time
Visited my parents’ home in Port Angeles
Hiked to Marymere Falls
Had Date Night at Diamond Knot Brewery
Attended gymnastics classes
Backpacked up the Elwha River
Camped with family friends at Flowing Lake- canoed, fished, tubed, and attempted waterskiing
Played at Wild Waves
Celebrated Willa’s 4th birthday at Birch Bay Waterpark
Petted animals, ate junk food, rode ponies, and watched the Logger Show at the Evergreen State Fair
Boated with cousins on Lake Sammamish
Celebrated Father’s Day with a ferry ride and drive to Point No Point Lighthouse- fished
Toured Whidbey Island, visiting the Coupeville Arts Festival and toured Fort Casey bunkers and lighthouse
Hosted and attended several bbqs with friends
Hosted a family party for Willa’s 4th birthday
Attended a Glow Birthday Party at Jump Planet
Played at Auntie Laura’s house on Lake Jane twice- kayaked, swam the lake and in her neighborhood pool
Visited the library at least once a week
Swam at Rattlesnake Lake
Loaded and emptied the dishwasher ~130 times
Shopped for, fixed, and consumed ~360 meals and snacks
Dirtied, washed, sorted, and folded ~180 loads of laundry
Read at least one full book geared for adults
Read many many books geared for children
Climbed to the top of Guemes Island with friends
Celebrated Backwards Day
Swam at Lake Washington with cousins at least twice
Caught our first crab
Camped at Blue Mountain with Dad’s co-worker and son
Went to the Fremont Solstice Festival
Played at Edmonds Beach a couple times
Watched the Bothell Fourth of July Parade
Flew to San Diego for a job interview
Swam at McCollum Pool
Spent a couple days watching our road get repaved
Replaced electrical cables in Mark’s truck and got it running again (both boys helped)
Had friends over and played in the pool and Xbox (many times)
Attended eight doctors visits (caught up on all the check-ups and multiple specialist)
Attended three dentist visits (Holy Cavities!)

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8:43 am

August 6, 2014 at 4:27 pm (Family, Parenthood, WJ) ()

Republished in honor of World Breastfeeding Week

A Breastfeeding Story
(with plenty of other trivialities mixed in)

The three older children have just left.  I am rain-drenched from going outside in a T-shirt and yesterday’s flats to help load them and their three carseats and three backpacks and buckle them in.  No, scratch that.  I watched my friend buckle them in her car while I distracted her by asking questions about her weekend.

My bi-weekly gift of three hours alone with four months-old Willa has begun.  First, pick her up and ask her what we should do first. 

Coffee, she says!  I pour a cup of the pot Mark brewed at 5am and set the microwave for 44 seconds.  I am no coffee snob.  What to do while we wait… (because I am so neurotic about efficiency I couldn’t possibly just stand there and talk to Willa- which is how I end up completely scatter-brained and inefficient)… laundry! 

Move clothes into the dryer, taking care not to drop them in the cat’s water dish like I always do.  Put muddy clothes from Saturday’s rainy park outings into soak.  Notice Willa in her bouncy seat is chowing down on her hand.

Yo ho, are you ready for a nap already?  Clearly you are hungry, but are you tired also?  Not so much looking like it, but let’s try for it anyway.  Mama’s got things to do.  Three hours, three hours!

Go upstairs.   Hmm, the bed is stripped.  Because, like I always do, I left Willa naked there this morning, thinking I’m sure she won’t pee this time.  And like she always does (and every other baby, and I know this and choose to ignore), she peed.  Find some baby blankets, and we lay down.  Oh, and find my cell phone.

It’s a source of pleasure and guilt.  I often (okay, usually) put Willa down with my cell as amusement.  Check email, check Facebook, check blog reader.  A triplet of websites each time.  It makes nursing even more enjoyable.  What’s not to love about lying in my comfy bed, with a warm cuddly baby, reading amusing anecdotes?  And if I can hear Mark outside the bedroom taking care of a screaming three-year old and It just took a little longer than usual to get Willa down, honey, well, so be it.  (We’ll see if he gets around to reading this post.)  I do worry I’m making Willa believe she’s not worthy of my attention, though.  Like I should stare at her beautiful baby face and sing her to sleep every time, not just sometimes.  My own little Mommy-guilt dilemma that I bash myself with multiple times a day.  I know I’m a nutball, I know.

We lay* down.  I twist her to her side.  She grins at me.

I’ve always been a big side-lying nurser.  I like it for being able to leave without disturbing the baby after she falls asleep.  I know moms that never master it, which I cannot fathom.  It’s so useful.  Try it, really, you’ll like it.  (Disclaimer:  You do not?  Okay, do what you like!  I’m not saying not side-lying nursing makes you a bad mother.  Or not nursing at all!  Or not having children at all!  Though if you don’t, you probably stopped at the words A Breastfeeding Story.  Okay then.)  And it’s easier on your wrists/arms.

She whimpers in her sweet Willa way as I adjust pillows and shirts and blankets.  Letting me know she truly is hungry.  Good, we’ve timed it right.  She’s not full-on crying, so I also know she’s not starving.

She latches on easily, begins gulping.  Greta asked me the other day why Willa sounds like a pig when she nurses.  I suppose she does, a little.  At least she sounds like what I imagine pigs to sound like, because I can’t say I’ve spent much time among real live ones.

I launch Google Reader.  The light from the phone draws Willa’s attention.  I move a pillow between it and her face.

Her left arm flails around until it finds my right thumb.  The (second) connection Willa-required for nursing and sleep.  Her grasp seems to me a loving hug.  I need you, Mama.  Not just for food but for tender touch.  I am happy to lose my texting thumb to her.

Her eyes close quickly.  I have always loved the early morning nap that babies seem to take just after breakfast.  Sleep seems to come easily at 9am, and not always so easily at 2pm for that afternoon nap.  Time passes.  A belly fills, a social media fix sated.  A content smile on two faces.  Or perhaps mine is more an amused smile, and hers a content smile, or as much of one as a nursing baby can manage with a nipple in her mouth.

Time to get up and work around the house spend too much time writing a blog entry.  I let her hand go, and it does not flail.  A sure sign she is asleep.  I release my breast from the gentle sucking she has continued.  Ease her to her back.  Her hand immediately and desperately searches her face.  Thumb finds mouth, mouth sucks vigorously.  Fingers fan above.  The sucking quickly slows.  She is fully asleep.

I tiptoe downstairs, remembering my cold coffee still in the microwave, in love with my baby Willa Apple Merigold.

20140806-093055-34255163.jpgthe only side-lying nursing photo I have, six years pre-Willa

*lay/lie? Enlighten me if you know!

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March 5, 2014 at 8:43 am (Family) ()

Here’s one of those iconic memories that stick with you forever and define the way you think about somebody, about my dad.

For some background here, my dad is a hard-working man of few words*. He has his opinions, but unless you grill him, you probably won’t know what they are. I’ve certainly seen him angry before, but he’s not ever going to be the one to make a public scene.

I was learning to drive a stick. In a shiny new used Yugo. I was stuck trying to get going from a stop sign. I just kept killing it and killing it. And killing it. After four/five/God-who-knows-how-many tries, about five cars had lined up behind us. This is a major traffic jam in Port Angeles.

A car honks.

My dad gets out of the car. You might think he was going to switch places with me and get us going, but no.

He turns around, slams his fist on the roof of the Yugo, and yells back at the other cars, “she’s TRYing! to. LEARN!”

He then sits back down and I manage to lurch into the intersection and we drive away.

Here’s my interpretation of everything those words meant:

  • Everybody’s gotta learn new skills sometime and the world can stand to learn a little patience while they do.
  • Why rant when four words will do?
  • Don’t give up. Give it just one more try.
  • And most of all- I love my daughter and she’s worth sticking up for, even when she’s messing up and good sense might dictate she should probably stand aside. Just one more try.

*Now me, I am NOT a women of few words, as it just took me 293 to explain four.

p.s. He’s a great grandpa too.


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Family time

August 17, 2013 at 12:03 am (Family) (, , )

We had such a good time visiting my grandparents and extended family last weekend.

My grandpa couldn’t quite wrap his head around how tall Greta had gotten. He kept assuming Willa was Greta because that was closer to her size in her memory. Saying goodbye, I had them line up to show their relative sizes to him.


This was the opposite view.


They look like 3, 6, 9, and 9 to me! Greta is about exactly between them.

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A little bliss in the midst of this hectic life

June 8, 2011 at 3:37 am (Family) ()

We spent Saturday in my parents’ backyard celebrating their fortieth anniversary.

How many can it hold?

Various combination of a purple-tutu-ed Greta and a blue-tutu-ed Mabel and Auden and Parker swang on the tire swing for hours and hours and hours.

What a great day.  What a great backyard.  What a great life.

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May- Heather’s Brain Download

May 30, 2011 at 8:13 pm (AJ, Family, MJ, PJ, Twins, WJ) (, )

May is always crazy busy in the JaRuud household.  Three birthdays and Mother’s Day, all with requisite multiple celebrations, meals, present purchasing and opening, card making, and general merriment.  Add this year our life shift to me working again, and it’s a wonder I’ve made it through with a smile on my face.

We went camping this weekend near Blewett Pass.  I went late and left early, leaving truly 90% of the camping work to Mark.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable sticking him with that all the time, but it was really nice to arrive to camp with a tent set up and leave this morning (to go to work) with only my clothing bag and no kids. 

People keep giving me sad looks when I tell them I have to work on Sundays.  (So far anyway) I feel no such dissapointment.  Case in point: on weekdays I get up at 5:45, spend over two hours getting myself and four kids ready to leave, and drive an hour to drop off kids at three different places.  Today, I was able to rise a full hour later, 100 miles away from work, and still arrive at the exact same time.  And then I just work four hours.

I tried to get Willa to sleep for a nap and bedtime yesterday in a tent.  Her apparent reaction:  “Mama, what the hell- what is this place?  Where’s my bed?  Why is it cold?  Why is it light out?  You think I’m going to sleep here?  Uh unh, no way, no how.”  I’d nurse her and nurse her but she’d startle awake when I tried to stop no matter how asleep she’d seemed.  I wasn’t successful until I put her in her familiar carseat.  My theory- with my others, especially the boys, I always nursed them to sleep and we traveled with them all over carnation.  They never cared as long as they had me.  Willa hasn’t nursed to sleep in quite some time.  She hasn’t seemed to need it, and sadly, I’m just always needed elsewhere.  She nurses and then I leave her awake, and if she’s sleepy, she’s asleep in minutes.  But this means, she’s less attached to me and more attached to her own bed.  It makes me a little sad.  I’m going to tell myself it’s just who she is and try to lay off the mama guilt that I can’t do as much for my fourth child as my firsts.

I’m just happy to nurse her at all.  Last weekend, from Friday through Tuesday, she went on a nursing strike.  SOOOOO not fun.  I felt like I was a first time mama with a newborn again, which no confidence we would ever get the breastfeeding down.  No sleep from trying to nurse, getting bitten, and then pumping at all hours of the night.  Without the help that often comes with having a new baby.  No, instead, I was trying to juggle a family birthday party and full time work and houseguests and… and… and.  Yes, I’m fully aware all of this may have actually caused said nursing strike.  It turns out I had all the right instincts about what to try, and she finally came around just after I took her to the doctor and determined she was medically fine, no ear infection or other problem readily apparent.  Same logic applies as that this weekend we put up tarps to (successfully) avoid it raining.

What I wanted, during the nursing strike, was somebody to understand my plight.  Mark was helpful and fed Willa bottles when I was frustrated, but he didn’t seem to get how awful it was making me feel to keep offering such a sensitive (physically and emotionally) part of me and getting rejected.  He kept saying “Poor Willa” and I wanted somebody to say “Poor Heather!”  Actually my mom did and I’m grateful for that, but I was a wreck; I seemed to need it hourly.  I have treasured the “extended” nursing the other three and I have shared, and I was NOT going to give up easily.  My naturopath actually told me “at ten months, maybe she’s done with the boob.”  Numerous books and google searches will tell you, a baby will almost never self-wean before 18 to 24 months.  I honestly wonder if I should be thinking about switching doctors… is that crazy of me?  It was just such a blatantly false piece of information, and I’m glad I didn’t trust it.

Friday before camping was the boys’ “friend” party.  For the first time, we forked over the cash to have it outside our house.  It was a fun, but I’m not sure if it was truly worth the money.  It doesn’t feel like we created the memories that we have past years at home.  Though the boys came home happy, neither has mentioned a word about it since.  Yes, we had more kids than we would’ve at home, but other than that… I think maybe next time if I want to spend money on a party I’ll use it for a house cleaner beforehand.  Or afterward!  But check out the giant squid cake we made!  (I have many more birthday pictures but I can’t find the cord to download them.  Grrrr.)
Squid cake

Yes, our cake “plate” is a Rubbermaid bin lid.  And yes, I’m well aware it is a major phallic symbol. 

For their birthday, their class made them “birthday books”, with well wishes and what-I-like-about-you’s from each classmate.  Two of Auden’s gave me pause- “What I like about you is that your brother is Parker.”  “You are lucky to have Parker as your twin.”  While I agree with the latter, it makes me worry a little about their twinship and being in the same class.  (In their current program they have to be in the same class.)  It’s wonderful to have somebody to do the things you don’t know how to do, but it can’t last forever.  Right now Auden reads for Parker and Parker makes friends for Auden.  It’s been fascinating to watch… my own personal twin study.  (I know it’s not really a study with an n of one- just anecdotal.)

How glad am I that I have another day to savor before we all go back to school and work?  Very!


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A random travel reco

November 20, 2010 at 4:34 am (Family, Travel)

If you ever happen to be on the Olympic Peninsula, stop in Port Angeles for a visit the Art Park.  It’s not more than a mile off the highway.

Hundreds of amazingly creative sculptures await you from all angles as you take a walk through the woods.

Can you find Auden here?
91/365 see auden?

A couple other things to see:
another good use for all your old sweaters

Branch ball

If you don’t go for the art, you can go for the view:
Art park view

To see more, go jump on the ferry.  If you live in the Puget Sound area, that is.

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Four generations

November 15, 2010 at 7:21 am (Family) ()

Well, my NaBloPoMo streak lasted eleven days. We left town Friday, and I’d intended to pre-blog for the two nights we were away, but packing for a family of six… things like extra blogging and doing the dishes before leaving didn’t happen. Turns out that aging dirty spaghetti sauce pots for four days does NOT make them easier to clean, by the way.

The trip was worth the effort, though.  My Grandpa John and Grandma Adeline are special people who love children.  They’ve been anxious to meet each of my children as babies:
IMG_0597 Greta and Grandpa John

And now they’ve met Baby Apple:
Showing off her dimple 4 months old today!

One of Greta’s favorite phrases is “Silly me.”  One of my favorite phrases growing up was “Silly Grandpa.”  He’s known for goofy tricks like putting me in my lemon car on his lemon car.

This weekend it was fishing for a frog:
Fishing for a frog

My grandparents, well mainly my grandma, are some of the most organized people I know. They sent all of their children and grandchildren a catalog (yes, a whole catalog) with pictures (pictures!) of memorabilia, antiques, furniture, and various household items. We were to choose the things we might like, and then they’ve earmarked things for each person. Some of the items they still use, or want to keep displaying, but some of them they’ve been giving away slowly.

Doing it this way could be viewed as sad. The unsaid aspect, of course, is that my grandparents won’t be here forever. It is sad. But I take my cues from them. My grandma, especially, is so tickled (her word!) to watch how happy we are receiving these gifts, instead of it being a sad process that she doesn’t witness after she’s gone. Having dealt with the dividing up of items in a harder way on the other side of the family, I really really appreciate the way they’ve chosen to go about this. It speaks to their generous souls.

My boys asked for Grandpa John’s Army uniforms, from the late 1940’s.
Yes sir
Unfortunately I don’t think them saluting me here means I can expect “Yes ma’ams” for most of my chore requests.

Parker asked for a violin they had.
Parker received this violin from his great-grandparents

Greta got a vintage magnetic firetruck puzzle.
Fun to play with old toys at Grandma's house

All the kids were so sweet and obliging in their interactions with them. It’s not necessarily easy to carry on conversations with especially my grandpa anymore. Willa happily smiled at them, Greta amused them with her goofy antics, and Auden and Parker talked to them about their lives. Bittersweet seems a trite word to use, but it was. I’m so happy to make visits like this and establish relationships between my children and grandparents, and so sad to know it’s likely that at least Willa won’t remember them. My children have their own special grandparents, but it’s hard to see my special grandparents so much different from the active people they were in my own childhood.

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November 8, 2010 at 2:22 pm (AJ, Family, Knitting) (, , , )

Some people are afraid of spiders. Not this family, as you will see. Spiders have redeeming qualities- they eat all kinds of pesky bugs. But this isn’t a why-you-should-love-spiders post. If you hate them, just move on. This is a how-fun-it-is-when-the-whole-family-get-into-something post.

Here in Washington, the spiders seemed especially prevalent this summer, and I wasn’t the only one to notice. I took out my camera one day, and took this picture.
Spider in the front yard

My spider-lover Auden loved it (it’s now framed and on his wall) and I loved it. As animals go, spiders are easy to photograph- they don’t move quickly. So I took more.
Adjusting her web

gutter spider

I have not yet captured a photo of Sally yet, but she’s been helping me wash the dishes for at least a month now.  She strung up her web right across the window above the sink.  We enjoy observing her activities throughout the day.  I’ve seen her re-build her web at least twice, seen her strike out and capture a bug that was unfortunate enough to fly her way.

Auden’s love of spiders is going on its third year.  Though he claims he will grow up to be an arachnologist, I don’t hold any illusions that he’ll stick with it.  Kids are fickle.  I’m just thankful he doesn’t still aspire to a garbage-truck driving career.  His mama has been known to indulge his spider fascination.  Exhibits a through e:
Tarantula Cake Auden made a spider You can see my issue here 8 red button eyes Auden turns 6

A- Tarantula cake for 5th birthday
B- LEGO spider
C- My first sewing project on my new sewing machine- a spider/insect bathrobe. He wears that thing all the time.
D- He asked if I’d knit him a spider
E- Tarantula cake for 6th birthday- I hope he keeps asking for this cake. MUCH easier than the saber-tooth tiger that Parker asked for.

As I’ve mentioned before, we also keep Harry the Tarantula as a pet.  She is a little bigger than the spiders I love, I have to admit.  Mark and the boys take care of her.

And finally, Auden hopes to inspire Willa to love spiders also. Somehow I don’t see her choosing this spider that Auden posed her with as her lovey.
All babies sleep with plastic spiders,

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