Saying Goodbye to Motorcycle Mom for Good

by Jessie K on September 2, 2014


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Jake and I used to ride motorcycles together. It was something fun we did together, each of us astride our own Kawasaki and Suzuki 500 ccs, racing up and down the twisty back roads of our rural county.

I bought a motorbike first as a hedge against moving from New York City to rural Virginia, figuring that if life in the quiet country bore down on me, I could always jump on my crotch rocket and go for a ride. Many of the roads around here don’t even have yellow lines running down the middle of them. Traffic consists largely of scampering squirrels and rednecks driving jacked up Fords. Jake wasn’t wild about me riding solo so he quickly got a motorbike and a license in that order. We invested in motorcycle jackets, gloves and full-shield helmets. One time, we rode to West Virginia, stopping for an ice cream cone and a lemonade at a disheveled 1950s-style drive-in along the way.

I have fond memories of that time, when it was just Jake and I enjoying ourselves, our new marriage, new house, new lives, and new bikes together.

That was two kids ago. I haven’t been on a bike since finding out I was pregnant with June. Jake has ridden only occasionally since her birth. Once she came along, the bikes remained parked in the shed.

We kept figuring, one of these days we’ll be able to ride. But between Jake’s military deployments, a move, and a second pregnancy, that day never arrived, especially for me, Diaper Wrangler in Chief. The bikes continued to sit in the shed. And here’s something they never tell you when you go buy a motorcycle: If you don’t ride regularly, the bike won’t start. On the rare occasion one of us actually had time to take it for a spin, the bike inevitably would not run. So we pawned off one of the bikes to Jake’s brother, who was going through a divorce and had his own issues to sort through via the open road.

We had one bike left. We knew we had to get rid of it, but we kept putting it off. Even though we never rode it, and it wouldn’t even start when we tried to ride it, jettisoning that bike felt like jettisoning a piece of our former selves, the selves that weren’t so damn responsible, encumbered and safe. The selves that didn’t always worry about sunscreen application, bug bite protection, adequate hydration and shoes that fastened properly.

What to do with the bike became a stark rendering of how boring parenthood can make you – everything you do, every action you take is weighed against how safe and prudent it is. It’s only a matter of time before going to the movies without a sweater will seem like the height of wild rebellion.

You probably know where this is going: We recently sold the bike.

Who were we kidding? We’ll never ride again. That time on the bikes was a mere sliver of our lives, never to be repeated again except for maybe when we’re fat and middle aged and straddling one of those chubby, three wheel motorbikes you see retirees tooling around on together, equipped with His-n-Her headsets.

At least this way our girls will never have to say, “Remember when we had a mom and dad? Remember when they died in that cataclysmic motorcycle accident?” See, this counts as a perk when you’re a parent — you remove the possibility of dying while having fun for the sake of your children.

Parenthood, like life, is a constant process of change and growth.

Some of it is rewarding, like watching your children deeply comprehend that sticking dimes in an electrical socket is really not a good idea. Some of it, like getting rid of the bike because you know you’ll never be young and free again, is a little depressing.

But at the end of the day, even the sad parts are rewarding because when you’re parent, you stop thinking so much about yourself (you don’t have a choice), and that ultimately is a good thing. Boy, do I sound like a parent.



by Jessie K on August 16, 2014

IMG_7660I’ve been spending any spare time lately working on the house.

Most recently, I tried to tackle June and Katie’s upstairs bathroom. I spent weeks…no, a month selecting the right color. It took a long time because their bathroom lacks any windows and gets very little natural light. I didn’t want to go with a light shade which can look dirty and dingy in a windowless room, and I didn’t want to go too dark, which can look black. So I selected a mid-tone– one of the shades in the middle of the color card; a bright, fun blueish green hue, only to get it up on the walls and realize it looks like the EXACT same shade of greenish-blue on their bedroom walls now. The colors look IDENTICAL, even though they’re quite different in person. Windowless rooms are tough.

I was so upset when I realized what I’d done. I have to go through this entire hair pulling process again. Dang it!


Hi! How ya doin?

by Jessie K on August 15, 2014

IMG_7648Some of you may have noticed I haven’t posted in awhile. I’ve had my hands extra full now that Jake is gone and I confess, I really haven’t had much motivation to express much publicly for a few months now. Isn’t that weird how that happens? One day I blog religiously and fanatically and the next, I’m like, [sound of crickets chirping].

Though one thing happened I feel compelled to share with the wider world. I recently called a plumber to come inspect one of our toilets that has never flushed properly and the man, a nice, knowledgeable guy, got down in his knees and stuck both his hands inside my toilet bowl! He stuck his bare hands all around and inside a dirty toilet bowl! I was like, do you want some bread to sop up what you can’t reach with your hands, buddy? I stood over him while he worked, literally trying not to throw up in my mouth. I know people use that dumb expression frequently but in this case I really was trying to contain the projectile spew from behind my lips.

He got up, wiped his hands on his pants and I watched those hands move in space as if in slow motion, noting every single place they touched that I would go over with an extra strength handi-bleachwipe after he’d left : the edge of the sink, the wall, the doorknob. I was afraid he was going to try to shake my hand, which he did not.

It was one of those vocational hazards where I guess a worker becomes increasingly lax with safety because they’ve been doing it so long, like a rock climbing instructor ceasing to wear a helmet because he assumes he won’t plummet to his death.

On that note, enjoy your lunch?



by Jessie K on July 14, 2014


“That all are born radiating light but that this light diminished slowly (if one was lucky) or abruptly (if one was not). The most charismatic people — the poets, the mystics, the explorers — were that way because they had somehow managed to keep a bit of this light that was meant to have dimmed. But the shocking thing, the unbearable thing it seemed, was that the natural order was for this light to vanish. It hung on sometimes through the twenties, a glint here in there in the thirties, and then almost always the eyes went dark.”

I don’t know if reading Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation is the best or the worst thing for me to be reading right now…especially now that Jake has been away from our home for a week. It’s about a writer who has dreams of being what she calls an “art monster” — a prolific creator of arty things  — only to become mired by the mundanity of life: marriage, kids, infidelity, stalled ambition, growing older, taking on ridiculous work just to pay the bills. And then she goes nuts, naturally. This sounds completely bougie and pretentious, I am aware. Yet I am enjoying it. The writing is so sparse — it’s the slimmest novel I’ve read for some time — and she’s so dark and wry that I can’t put it down even as I am clobbered from her grab bag of punishing observations.


Happy Birthday, June!

by Jessie K on July 11, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis little lady turns 4 today.

IMG_7382I wouldn’t want to imagine my life without her.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJake left a week ago (boo hoo!) so we had a little birthday celebration for her before he left town. Here she is with her best bud Josie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmong her cache of gifts, my Mom — who was visiting from Montana — presented June with a Dora Singing Sensation Microphone. Our home, our road has been filled with the reverberating sounds of Dora ever since Mom left. Thanks, Mom. No, really, thanks for that. ;)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday we’ll open up some more presents and maybe bake cake. This morning, I treated her to a very special bowl of sugary cereal!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s the only time of year June gets to eat crusty pink wheat pellets (why, oh why, does Jake buy this stuff?). Enjoy it, June….and Happy Birthday! We love you!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy friends got me a Fiddle-Leaf Fig — the trendy plant du jour — for my baby shower seven months ago and I’ve been trying to figure out this tricky plant ever since.

Everything I’ve read about these plants say they’re finicky and fussy. They like a lot of light, but not too much. They don’t like a lot of water. They don’t even like to be moved all that much.  When I asked friends about it, I kept getting all sorts of different advice:

“Oh, they hate direct sunlight. They need filtered sunlight.”

“They love the shade.”

“Water them once a month.”

“Rotate it counterclockwise once a month on the lunar moon.”

Yeah. Okay. Sure.

When I first got it, I put it before a sun drenched window in our upstairs landing. This was over the winter and the plant just didn’t seem very happy. The tips of the leaves took on those unsightly ubiquitous burn spots. But I thought, how could the leaves be burning when it’s getting the filtered direct sunlight it apparently needs?

Then I read that when it gets warm, I should put it outside so it can soak up the humidity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I placed it on our expansive front porch. For a time, it seemed to thrive. The sun it was getting was bright and direct and unfiltered. The card it came with said the plant likes “bright light,” even though that runs contrary to what friends and some decor blogs have indicated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe leaves looked strong and healthy. I’m careful to water it only once a week….even on these punishing 95 degree days. But I noticed some of the leaves are still turning brown and crisp! Arrrgh!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I moved it again to another spot on the porch where the light it receives is more filtered…more of a dappled quality. So far, she seems to be doing okay even as the condition of some of her leaves are not making me happy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAre there any Fiddle Leaf Fig experts out there? Do you have any advice? I really like the look of the plant and want to do right by it. I hate it when plants don’t do well. It’s a heartbreak!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe nice thing about this plants is that I got a two-fer deal. The pot came with two separate plants that I can transplant at some point in the future, but I don’t want to do that until I know exactly what this fussy fuss pot needs!



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wasn’t sure I was going to be able to compete in this year’s Fourth of July baking competition for a variety of reasons — Jake leaves for a year (tomorrow morning — ugh), the girls keep me running — but Thom, my fierce competitor, amazing baker and host of the annual fete, wasn’t having it. He basically said, “Cry me a river! Enough with the excuses, woman!” And he’s right. Enough with the excuses. So I felt compelled to represent…even if it meant making yet another flaccid Jell-O cake. (Whoa. I just realized this year marks our FIFTH ANNUAL baking competition — we’ve been having bake-offs for five years now. I thought this year marked our FOURTH. Wow. Scary.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I was all set to do something really lame like, oh, I don’t know…Jell-O, perhaps (I don’t venture too far outside the wheelhouse), but my friends Grigg and Accacia approached me about helping out. They are the homemade ice cream making masters so we thought we’d do something along those lines: Ice cream sandwiches! I thought it would be cool to stack the sandwiches in some kind of rocket looking configuration.


And just my luck….Grigg is a metal worker! A really good one! His company is called Precise Solutions. You should totally call him for all your custom metal job needs. Grigg just happened to have a bunch of slender metal rods lying around that he quickly welded into a tower that looked like a rocket.

Then they whipped up a bunch of mint vanilla ice cream. Homemade vanilla ice cream made with real mint is sublime, people. I highly recommend it. I was tasked with making about 40 sugar cookies that we dusted with red and blue sugar sprinkles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then set about assembling the sandwiches, which we rolled in blue and red candy doo-dads.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hardest part was getting the ice cream to the party and hiding it from Thom so as not to tip him off he was about to get creamed. See, I went ahead and let him believe I wouldn’t be making much a showing at this year’s event. As I’d hoped, he didn’t kill himself trying to come up with a cake to destroy me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADon’t get me wrong — his cake was amazing. (His cake’s are always amazing. The guy wins on flavor every time.) But I think had he known he’d be competing against a TOWER OF ICE CREAM complete with fins, he would have added more fire or showmanship or puppetry or something. But no, all he had was his albeit DELICIOUS carrot sheet cake. But what is carrot cake when you have this?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARight before Jake and Grigg brought out the tower of sandwiches, I read this ridiculous poem I wrote. The second I finished, Accacia cranked Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”  See, you gotta get creative, you gotta pull out all the stops when competing against a guy like Thom. The man does not lose. But we trounced him and it was magical. I’m king of the world today.

And for those paying attention, the annual scoring breaks down like this:

Year one bake-off: Point Thom

Year two bake-off: Point Thom

Year three bake-off: Point me

Year four bake-off: Point Thom

Year five bake-off: Point me

Needless to say, now I’m scared about next year’s event. What will Thom come up with?

Thank you, Thom and Lornie, for another great night!


Water fun that was not to be

by Jessie K on July 1, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I was a kid, I remember we had this plastic clown’s head topped with a hat that, when attached to a running hose, lifted off the clown’s head and spun around by a 6 foot jet of water. Water would come shooting out of the sides of the hat and spray all around. I recall spending entire summers jumping through that thing, leaping through the jet of water as fast as I could to prevent the clown’s hat from toppling over.

Literally five minutes after Jake spent $40 on that inflatable kiddie pool in the photo above — something fun for the kids’ to play with for June’s early 4th birthday party — an unrepairable leak sprung in the sides of the tube, causing him to have to throw the whole thing in the trash.  She played with that thing for maybe 8 minutes.

They don’t make plastic like they used to.


I heart old furniture

by Jessie K on June 30, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJake’s Grandmom has this incredible basement and outbuilding full of six houses worth of knick knacks and furniture. We went rummaging through her stuff a few months ago looking for furniture for the new house. She graciously let us take home a few choice things. Thanks, Grandmom. Though I don’t think we put any kind of dent in her inventory.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe scooped up this really nice chest of drawers for the dining room….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd we also brought home four wooden chairs for the breakfast nook. These chairs are ubiquitous — any idea of what they’re called? I’ve heard them identified as both captain’s chairs and Windsor chairs, but I’m not sure if either is accurate.

IMG_7001What I love about these chairs — aside from being free — is that they’re indestructible. The kids can pour juice on them, get crumbs all over them and stand on them when they help me cook, and I don’t have to think about it. I don’t care if they get ruined. I also like the shape. People always think modern when they hear “mid century,” but Americana or shaker style was very popular in the 40s and 50s too. These chairs may look really cool mixed in with more modern pieces. This image inspired me (even though the chairs are quite different):


I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the chairs to give them a fresher look, and I’ve settled on sanding the life out of them to remove as much of that dark finish as possible. I’m still in the middle of the project so I don’t have anything great to show yet, but I’m aiming toward a light, blond finish which should look great around our white round Eames-esque breakfast table.


How to drop major pounds in a day and a half

by Jessie K on June 28, 2014

IMG_7391Attention dieters of the world! I have stumbled upon a nifty and expedient weight loss solution: FENCE PAINTING. Yes, fence painting. Forget your Slim Fast, your Hydroxy Cut and your strawberry flavored Menthols. Spraying 63 gallons of black paint on a fence will get your body bikini ready in a hurry.

IMG_7390For the past three days I have been out in the fields painting board fence with Jake. As soon as I zipped up that unventilated painter’s jumpsuit, donned the goggles and the eye mask on a 92 degree day with high humidity, I realized a bikini ready body would be mine, whether I wanted one or not.

I must have sweated out half my body weight in 10 minutes stumbling around a field holding a paint sprayer gun wondering what those purple spots were prancing across my pupils. While I was still lucid, I had a faint inclination I might actually die from heat exhaustion. But I couldn’t take off the suit because that meant chugging a jet stream of black paint and getting paint all over my face and clothes. See:

IMG_7418All things considered, I decided I’d rather die from heat exhaustion than chemical poisoning. And who wants to scrape gobs of black paint out of your ears? Oh, wait, I know: Jake, the original Young Invincible.

IMG_7420How about whispering some sweet nothings into that ear?

We were painting with these giant hoses that can knock out six lengths of fence including the posts in something like 1 minute. We knocked out one mile — some 5,000 feet — of board fence in a day and a half. The pace was relentless. My husband is relentless. There were no languid lunch breaks under a shady tree swapping tales about our reckless youths. No, I had to eat my chunk chicken breast straight from the can topped off with “spicy buffalo wing” flavored crackers then told to get back to the gun. By the second day and some 40 pounds lighter, I had wised up and burned the painter’s suit and donned something more weather appropriate. I present to you, Fence Painter’s Chic:

IMG_7422By that point, though, Jake had put me on hand painting duty to get into the fine detail handiwork around gardens and outbuildings and hard to reach corners. Which was fine with me….I’d had enough of random downwind blasts of paint to my eyes to last me a lifetime. (Seriously, a blast of paint to the eyeballs is about as close a description of hell as I can muster.)

IMG_7425All in all, it was a killer job — as in, it did nearly killed me — but weirdly relaxing at the same time. There is something to be said for working outside. And it was pretty cool looking back at a mile of board fence and thinking, ‘Wow, we did that.’ But that could also have been the paint fumes talking.