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It’s that time again. Time to dump some instagrams and catch up a little so I can show off my new April banner. I don’t pay $79 bucks a month to keep this site up for nothing. I know, it’s ridiculous isn’t it? The price I pay to maintain all these memories because I’m too lazy to figure out a better way. Someday I think it will pay off. Someday…

Let’s catch up!

    1. The kids are rollerblading every day. It’s amazing. Their legs hurt at night because they use their muscles so much.  Rollerblades were the smartest Christmas gift we ever gave them. If you have kids with Minecraft addictions, I cannot recommend rollerblades enough. It’s made them kids again with real things to talk about instead of mods and skins and jokes from people who talk in Australlian accents on their Youtube channels.
    2. It’s Spring! The nature trail where I walk the dogs is busting at the seams with wild flowers and it’s divine. I walk along cataloging how much each stem would cost in my old flower stand days. I could make a fortune!
    3. Vegetables. I signed up to get another subscription-based box of vegetables  delivered to the house and I LOVE it. It’s so fresh and best of the season. I think I might never go shopping again. I admit though, I might have a delivery dependence because it’s so cool to get boxes of surprises delivered to your door. (So far I’ve got stitch fix and blue apron…) But have you calculated how much you spend on stupid seasonal Target end-cap displays? Here’s my theory: if you don’t see them, you don’t know you need them and that is a savings right there.
    4. I have an iPad pro! I’m kinda upset that it doesn’t work like a wacom tablet but it is a pretty good tool and I use it for filming craft videos which is kind of awesome. More on that later.
    5. Kids in their new spring outfits! We went to the ballet a while back and it was a nightmare trying to find the kids something to wear that was “fancy”. They pulled out sundresses five sizes too small and matched them with dirty converse and different colored footie socks. I hung my head in shame. This is what happens when you don’t go to church every Sunday anymore. So I marched them to Target (and yes, I fell for some seasonal end-cap crap) and bought everyone new Spring outfits. Now they have at least two fancy dresses to wear for special occasions. No more excuses and no more growing!
    6. Blue pancakes! Because why not? Now that everyone has Moana fever it seemed appropriate.

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  1. Daffodils from Trader Joes! That seems like old news now and I guess it is but is there anything more announcing of Spring than when the daffodils come in?! I wish I could grow them in our yard. I have before but they always peter out after a year.
  2. Joon in her glasses looking cute. Got nothing else there.
  3. It’s a lone duck. I’m so bored of the lake. I used to walk there everyday with the dogs but it’s just the same old lake over and over. Plus, I run into so many other dog owners and it’s always mayhem and I’m just tired of it. So now we go to the nature trail and risk being circled by crazy guys on bikes (yes, that happened), howling coyotes (happened 2x now) and old men who have it out for me. Not really but there was a brief time when I though this one old man was trying to chase me out of the park.
  4. Bug in her pajamas on the couch with Cody. Who lets their big ol’ stinky oaf of a dog on the couch?! It’s a bad habit we’ve picked up, sadly. And there ain’t any going back now. We’re holding out on the bed though.
  5. Snoring. Both Payam and I snore. It sucks. I never used to but I guess old age has finally caught up to me. Thankfully, I do not have sleep apnea though. I seem to have escaped it! Yay!
  6. Straw hair: Bug’s great hair-coloring experiment has run it’s course. The colors have washed out and I’m not keen on re-inventing them. I think we are just going to trim the dry straw off and let it grow back to it’s normal color. End of story. Hopefully she got it out of her system. And even though it often looks completely unnatural and like something went really wrong with her hair, it has been kind of rocker-fairy fun.

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  1. It’s an octopus with a brush! This means nothing. I was just staring at the illustration on Bug’s detangler spray and I was impressed. Now that I illustrate everyday and I know how long things take, I’m kind of in awe that we buy so many products with hours and hours of artwork put into them and often we don’t even notice. It’s kind of sad that illustrators are so often overlooked. I was at my publisher’s house and she was showing me this easy reader book that had amazing illustrations but the story was nonexistent. It didn’t even make sense or have an ending. It just left you hanging there, forcing you to make up the rest of the story in your head. I felt bad that some artist worked so hard and their work ended up so haphazard and disrespected. It’s kind like walking in front of a live band playing and not acknowledging that they are creating something really cool. It’s worse even. It’s like pretending the live band was wall paper that you can push your rusty old garage refrigerator up against and pop open for a can of beer with your gut hanging out while you sit facing the opposite direction. Wow. I feel strongly about this. Who knew?!
  2. There was candy at the ballet! We went and saw Whipped Cream by the American Ballet Theatre and it was so good! I don’t even know where to start. The costumes and interpretations of the Mark Ryden’s art was amazing. I will be inspired by this ballet for years! If you have a chance to see it you must!
  3. It’s Snot Fair! I swear this is the book that probably has the most chance of getting me famous and I am forever going to be embarrassed of. Yes, I illustrated snot and farts and toilets and lion puke. You’ll have to buy it to believe it.
  4. Absolutely no progress on the Buddha painting. Sad face.
  5. The girls at the ballet in what they cobbled together as a “fancy outfit”
  6. Whiskey. I love him when he needs a haircut. His face is so much cuter when you can’t see his beady little eyes that are too close together. I’d be happy to leave him with his puppy muppet hair forever if he didn’t stink and get mattes under his ears. So off to the groomer he goes! I did try to take a shower with him and groom him myself once. It was only mildly successful and a TON of work.

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  1. Payam made me a pen holder stand for my apple pen! I have an apple, I have a pen… (don’t click on that link, you’ll hate me forever.)
  2. Kids and swimming, what is the fascination? Why do they think that if they break a mild sweat it means you must go swimming that very minute? Why do they think spring weather is swimming weather? Why do they think we should go swimming when it’s time to cook dinner and then if you give in they want to know why dinner isn’t ready because they are STARVING? Why?! I’d laid down the law and said that I only go swimming if it’s after 2pm and over 80. They don’t like my rule very much right now but they’ll get payback come summer.
  3. Aww Whiskey.  Such a love.
  4. Cook’s Corner! Payam and I attended an 80-something year-old’s birthday at this old biker bar and let me tell you, it was a hoot. Talk about getting out of your rut. They had the best music and we were right in the front row dancing until we got sweaty.   It was a lot of fun. The $4.99 spaghetti dinner wasn’t too bad either.
  5. More blue pancakes. What can I say? They might be bad for you but they sure are photogenic.
  6. Daffodils in their full glory and my grandmother’s old blue china pitcher. I love that pitcher and I especially love it with daffodils in it. If it ever breaks I will cry.

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  1. One day I woke up and realized I had gained thirty pounds without even realizing it. Yeah, I skipped a whole block of numbers on the on the scale without ever even seeing them go by. Everyone says to throw out your scale but I did and look what happened! Of course there are other factors like a huge lifestyle change that included happiness and my age…but still. So I’m back on my scale and using the My Fitness Pal ap. I have a love hate relationship with tracking calories. It works but I have to not be too strict or else I catch myself rebelling which is even worse news. But I do have to say I am getting back to my old self and it feels really good. If you’re on this journey too you should friend me on the ap so you can watch me lose the same six pounds over and over again. It’s fun. All that because of a picture of a salad. Salads are like crack when you cut calories. You can eat so much lettuce and it counts for almost nothing! Salad dressing on the other hand is the devil himself.
  2. Hah! Here I am going on about a healthy diet and then I show you a picture of our first picnic of the year with McDonald’s of all things . I am not sponsored by McDonalds in any way but they should sponsor me because I do love them. I hate our local drive-through with the passion of a thousand suns but I am particularly happy with their artisan chicken sandwiches. So much flavor for only a smattering of calories. Sadly, french fries and I are not seeing each other any more though.
  3. Spring outfits being springy!
  4. Hej da! That means see you later guys in Swedish. But to us it means meatballs and ice cream!
  5. Swimming in April is for the birds.
  6. Spring in the nature trail. It’s bananas.

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  1. So have you checked out my craft movies? I’m having a lot of fun with them. The best one is still yet to come. I don’t love the music in the dragon eggs one but it was a fun craft to make. You should definitely try it if you are up to a few glue gun burns. So worth the pain.  These girls in the trees are my modeling crew. They are a fun bunch. I don’t know what I’m going to do when they outgrow me.
  2. Bangs! I’ve stopped parting my hair on the side and it’s been one of my smarter decisions. I was so stuck in my 90’s high school hairstyle. So stuck.
  3. Bug wears my clothes sometimes for pajamas. It’s adorable but also scary!
  4. What are they doing here? Puking up post-it notes? We were rollerblading to the local school to let the dogs run in the field and these post-it notes were stuck on a random trailer on our way. This is the pose they made. I don’t complain I just click away with my camera phone because it’s not every day they like their picture taken.
  5. Aww…they look so cute in their Spring outfits. This was taken on Norooz, the Persian New Year. It really goes off around here because we have a high population of middle-easterners and they like to party and by party I mean have a gigantic picnic in the park that blocks traffic for three miles in all directions. Crazy time! But also fun.

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  1. This block is kinda moody but it’s really just a trick of the light and not symbolic of anything. Bug and I have Wednesdays together every week when she is with her dad and it is the best thing ever. I took this photo on our dog walk. The kids don’t always come with me on dog walks but when they do they always rollerblade.
  2. For a short time I was waking up at the crack of dawn and running with my new workout friend. While it was great for seeing sunrises it did not last long because my calves kept cramping up. It was like I was running on stumps of bloody murderous pain. It was terrible. I’ve since decided that my on-going vitamin D deficiency (that I’ve known about since my last doctor visit a year ago) is the culprit. My arms and legs were hurting all the time. So I upped my vitamins and gave up running. Yoga and dog-walking is filling the gap and I’m no longer in pain. Vitamins and dogs for the win! Your 40’s are all about moderation. That’s what I’ve learned.
  3. Repeat duck. Oops.

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  1. Hey there! It’s Gigantic Brenda and Payam! Whenever I post a picture like this I always get a lot of likes which translate to dopamine hits and so I’m now addicted. Everyone loves a love story and ours is a pretty good one.
  2. All dressed up for the ballet again. We aren’t ballet fanatics usually. Just two ballets in the span of a month. We went to see Shen Yun and sadly, I slept through the second half. Yes, I feel bad. Morning people are so rude when they stay up past their bedtime.
  3. Dragon Eggs! They are very cool. Not so great at hiding treasure inside of but very fun to hunt for and do kids really need more candy anyway? I say no.
  4. Oh hey! Did you know I have a new book out? Yeah, it came out last month and it has NO REVIEWS! If you bought it you should go find the link and review it because I really need reviews. And then you should tell me so I can send you some chocolate or something.
  5. iPad drawing of Little Hoo. I got nothing else.
  6. Me and kids. I do love these knuckleheads. Things are going so much better between them. They say they aren’t friends but I think otherwise. They have a bond that will go beyond me and Payam I think.

 

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  1. Speaking of that mother daughter day, Bug and I had the best shopping day this week. I had some extra funds that I don’t usually have so we made sure that we spent it twice-over in true mis-managing money fashion. We had breakfast and lunch out. We bought some new outfits…and had macarons at our favorite place. It was great.
  2. Joon at the beach getting covered in sand, her favorite pastime. The kids are on Spring Break this week but they are at their other parent’s who work full time, which means I got to steal them back here and there for a few days to help out. It’s been nice. I always feel bad for the kids when they get stuck bored during their vacation days because grown-ups have to work. Of course that means I didn’t get much work done either but that’s the beauty of freelancing. I’ll make it up somewhere else.
  3. Bug looking kawaii next to a giant ice cream cone.
  4. It’s a bunny! It’s a blob! It’s a latte made for me by Joon! She is the best barista in the house these days even though she doesn’t touch a drop of coffee. Bug on the other hand sneaks sips. I think she is going to be a coffee-aholic like me someday which of course makes me super happy.
  5. Oh yes, Whisky on the dog house roof. Those of you who follow along on my instagram feed already know all these stories including the one about Whiskey and his many issues with Cody vacuum-cleaning up his food. Whiskey would like to recline and eat kibble by kibble daintily all afternoon at a very leisurely pace. Cody would like to EAT ALL THE THINGS!!! as fast as he possibly can and have some more, please. You can see why this might become an issue between the two dogs. Whiskey is getting bent out of shape and sulks.  I think someday we might have to put him on prozac before he starts chewing at himself and going crazy, the poor dog. I had the bright idea of putting Whiskey’s food up high where I thought only he could get it because he’s a little more agile than big ol’ Cody. That did not work. Now we have ninety-pound Cody jumping up on top of the doghouse that was not built to hold ninety-pounds.  All the puppy manuals say not to feed your dogs separately because this causes territorial issues but I think the puppy manuals did not meet Cody and Whiskey. We have not solved this problem yet. Stay tuned.
  6. That’s it! I’m sorry this was a pretty boring post.

I thought I would be an expert at this by now.

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I had it in my mind that if I did something for 800 hours I’d be an expert at it. Turns out I was wrong. It’s 10,000 hours.

I guess it makes perfect sense that I am a tired, bored, frustrated dog walker because I’ve only been doing it for about 800 hours. EIGHT HUNDRED HOURS!! I’ve probably done more because I’m not doing the math. I roughly figure that I take two 45-minute walks a day and we got the dogs last April. That adds up to something near 800, give or take. See how I did Core Curriculum math there? Estimating!

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I LOVE my dogs. But man are they a pain to walk sometimes. They pull me down the street. They see a squirrel and lose their minds and pull me through mud puddles. Cody is strong so you can imagine how that goes. I’ve actually cried real tears on dog walks before because things just went to hell.

They are not always bad. They are getting better and better at minding me and listening to me when I call them but they still have their moments where they try my patience regularly and I feel like I am the worst dog-owner ever.

Yes, we’ve taken them to training and Payam is pretty good at making them mind him but I’m not an alpha by nature and I think the dogs know it. They think Mom is great for a really good time and they like to show me a really good time no matter what brush, bramble or mud puddle it might take me through. Of course, I have been known to take them to the nature park and let them off leash to chase a bunny or a squirrel so it’s really my own fault that they don’t walk beside me calmly. I know this. And they are puppies. So really everything is progressing the way it’s supposed to.

Dog walking can be a chore. It is a chore!  It’s not just a walk in the park on a sunny day. It’s a walk through and around the park on hot days and cold days and rainy days and days when you have so much work to do you can’t believe you are spending 30 minutes untangling yourself from leashes when you really need to get back to your desk already and make that deadline!

Dogs are like having babies all over again.

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When I started my whole dog-walking experience by walking Payam’s dog, Ty, (who passed last year) I thought, This will be great exercise! I’ll do it everyday. How great! It was great for about a month. Then it got really really boring. You can only watch a dog sniff so many sign posts and pee on so many trees before your mind starts to wander and you pull out your phone.

Then when we got the puppies we practically dragged them down the street because they didn’t know how to take walks yet and it was SO FUN! They were so cute!!! That lasted about three months. The novelty wore off.

Now, nearly a year later, it is the bane of my existence. Now I pull out my phone whenever I can and just when I’m sending an important text or titling a really good instagram shot, Cody pulls me sideways and I drop my phone and then Whiskey runs around me, tying me up with his leash and licks me in the face and everyone else out walking their dogs stare at me like, “What are you doing using your phone and not paying attention to your dogs!!”

So I put my phone away and compose blog post after blog post in my head that never get written. I spend a lot of time thinking and not doing anything because of those blasted dogs.

Obviously, I started to resent the dog walks. Especially because I always end up greeting other dog-walkers and it’s always this crazy confusion of my dogs jumping all over their dogs and me using all my strength to hold them back. I feel bad because everyone just wants to say hi and I’m terrible at controlling my dogs. It just felt like a daily exercise in failure.

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I’m learning. Failure after failure and eventually I learn. I am only 800 hours in after all, just a mere baby dog-walking expert.

So what have I learned?  I’ve learned that I can look for the good in these walks. There is so much good. I’ve learned to watch the skies and take my walks when the sun starts to set because it’s about a thousand times more fun to walk and enjoy nature during the golden hours.

I’ve started taking the nature trail near our house that isn’t as busy with other dog-walkers. Of course this trail holds other challenges like that one time the fire engine sirens set off all the coyotes in the park howling and scared the crap out of me. There were literally ten coyotes surrounding us on all sides and I had no idea they were there before the sirens went off because they were hidden in the brush. It was so terrifying I had to split and hide out in a nearby apartment complex and call and ask Payam to come get us. I took several months off from walking in the nature trail after that happened but I’m back to it because the beauty pulls me. Also, Cody is so big these days. I’m pretty sure a full pack of coyotes wouldn’t mess with us. But believe me, I do not let them off leash if we are deep in the nature trail or it is anywhere near twilight.

I’ve also started using headphones. Not when I’m in the nature park of course, because obviously I need to be fully aware of my surroundings but when we are on our lake walks where all the other dog walkers are. It’s amazing how much more patient I am with the pulling and the sniffing and the taking forever to take a crap when I’m listening to classical or piano music. I am truly amazed at how much music can alter my mood. Headphones also kinda keep the other dog walkers from engaging me, which is great. Headphones rule.

There are also the rituals the dogs and I have created. They always sit with me on the benches near the lake. They jump up on the bench before I even get a chance as if to remind me, “Here is where you have to sit and take a moment, Mom.” They let me pet them while I sit and stare at the lake. I am actually very grateful that I have the luxury to take dog walks. They force me to slow down. They force me to sit and think about what I’m thankful for instead of getting mad that I’m not heading home already.

We live in a moderate climate (outside of this crazy rainy year) and I have two pretty places to walk to, that’s a lot! I do wish I could take them to the countryside and let them run to their heart’s content. I do wish the dog park would dry up and stop being a mud festival. But for what it’s worth, I have a lot. And maybe if I remember my headphones or remember to walk when it’s a pretty time of day, I’ll get through the rest of my nine-thousand hours and finally be a calm, peaceful dog-walking expert!