Monday, December 31, 2012

Games Without Frontiers

At 2 1/2 he is teaching his 5 month old sister how to play
Not sure if I should be proud or totally ashamed to admit that my son is a gaming prodigy / Amadeus.  He beat (credits rolling) his first video game (Crash Team Racing on the original PlayStation) when he was 3, before he was even fully potty trained or had given up the pacifier.  He would play on the old-style Nintendo 64 (Donkey Kong 64, Super Mario 64, and the Ocarina of Time) until the cartridges got too hot and stopped working... then he would take a break.  While some kids relaxed with TV or a movie, he played video games.

I can't be too embarrassed or frustrated because video games have been a motivating educational tool for him particularly (now 6th grade); he may be naturally good at math but video games helped him quickly subtract how many more coins he needed for the next level in his head.  Video games taught him to read because we wouldn't always sit with him and he realized that if he skipped reading, he didn't know what to do next (I would still love for them to have "an early reader" setting so that the language is less complicated).  He swears he will be a natural when he finally gets behind a wheel because he is so good at Mario Kart.  He knows soccer players and positioning better because of FIFA soccer on the xBox.  When he ran cross country, he thought of ever person he passed like he was in a video game... "just beating one boss at a time".  He can problem solve when he thinks of obstacles and projects as levels in a game that need to be completed.  I'm not sure what hours of Minecraft has taught him... I'll have to think on that one... it must be something...

Personally, I'm not a gamer and have a love / hate relationship with the medium:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day

Winter Craft Idea from Craft Junkie
Christmas has been lovely so far!  We spread things out, and embrace the whole Holiday season, probably way more than the 12 Days of Christmas.  I don't know how other people balance the holidays, but when the kids were little, we still tried to see everyone on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. "Everyone" was happy and we didn't hurt anyone's feelings, but what we ended up with was a pile of sick kids and cranky parents.  With all of the excitement smashed together, we didn't even have time to enjoy our own Christmas of PJ time, canned cinnamon rolls, and relatively small but thoughtful gifts; it was exhausting and frankly, not very Christmas-y...

Now, no two groups share a day or the same experience.  Each one so different and special in its own way:  With one family there are a million kids-- we make crafts, eat in shifts (and had one small oven fire), and throw the kids outside when it gets too crazy.  Another family is quiet and we visit for hours, just chatting and catching up over wine.  Another family loves games and there are epic tournaments with bragging rights that don't always match reality...  and with another we roll traditional pasta (including a highly contested and debated hierarchy of tasks) and make a huge mess of flour and lots of laughs.  We mix in ginger bread houses and game nights with friends, a trip to the zoo lights, movies, downtown if we can fit it in... and visits to Great Grandparents who aren't able to come to the parties anymore.   

Friday, December 21, 2012

Over-sized Reverse Dimple

I sincerely believe every child / person is brilliant in their own way (some just keep it really well hidden), but there is something special about our daughter.  She has this weird internal (glittery) glow that is all her own.  Her touch calms people.  Her quick smile is a jumble of messed up teeth but is always sweet and confident.  She talks to anyone and puts them at ease. She draws people together and brings out the best.  Even the lunch ladies love her but her unique perspective is nothing short of brilliant.  She is more than a glass half full kind of person.  Her glass is over-flowing, except when it is not, and then it spills all over the table and floor and is a big messy puddle of pepto pink-- her melt-downs are rare, but when they happen, they REALLY happen.

Anyway, she has this little lump on her face.  She thought it was a pimple but I think it is probably the start of a mole.  She asked what a mole is, and unfortunately, I have a lot of examples.  (Thank you strong and unrelenting gene pool -- as if being plagued with heart disease is not enough).  I showed her this one that has bothered me, probably since I was her age (9), on my cheekbone.  Her response,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Room For Everything

The gas fireplace is roaring.  10,000 Maniacs are on itunes.  I just took the most glorious first sip of coffee (isn't that first sip of the day always the best?). It is 12/12/12 (the last of the repeating numbers for quite some time), and a surprise late start for the kids (really not a surprise, I just forgot until opening The Oracle).  What better way to start the day than with a blog?!

I'll admit that I kinda love hibernating in our house all winter (easy for me to say in the first 2 weeks of December, ask me again in late January).  There were years when it was trapping and I wanted nothing more than nicer weather, but I found one of the keys to accepting inevitable winter is to love our home.  So, the long cold darkness of winter has become a time for reorganizing, cleaning, and projects; specifically (free) projects that brighten the house and make it a happier (or at least more tolerable) place, for all of us.

Every winter the kids and I (with moral and physical help from the DH) clean out the shocking accumulation of toys.  Historically this grand event fell on December 26th / Boxing Day; it was a necessary and natural reaction because we would come home with all of these generous wonderful new gifts and no where to put them. Hence, we go through everything and organize, clean, donate, and recycle.  Sometimes toys are carried to a new home (as in, Baby Elli will love this), others were donated to Salvation Army, a preschool, or sold on Ebay / Craigs List.  Garbage or broken toys are thrown away.  Everything is thoroughly cleaned and then, if necessary, new practical storage (usually from IKEA) is added for our ever changing and evolving needs*. 

At this point, most moms are over-whelmed and almost ready to stop reading because you've repressed the fact that this needs to be done.  I know this because it is a really over-whelming project and I've been personally known to be completely blind to negative things that involve work or pain (what mirrored wall?!), but it will make you and your kids love being home so much more if you just get it over with, and waiting only makes it worse.  The kids and I just finished this weekend and so I am still on a post-organizational high (I just want to stand in the middle of the playroom and spin like Julie Andrews in the hills of Austria).  So, here are some tips from a decade of experience organizing toys with my kids:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gifts that Keep Giving

Especially in November, I recognize that I'm really lucky / thankful to be surrounded by all this Love.  Most people have probably heard the 5 Love Languages alluded to, but the basic premise is that people feel and give love differently.  This hasn't been canonized or anything  but I do feel it rings true in most people.  It varies with the dynamics of certain relationships and at times in my life it shifts.  It is over-simplified and I think that often how people naturally show love is very different from how they feel loved, but here are some examples:

  • Acts of Service -- My Folks -- When they visit, my house is cleaned-up, my dad has a mental list of things on my furnace, a/c, foundation, and plumbing to check.  My mom cleans screens and sweeps and organizes.  They help us through the worst spot of every project.
  • Quality Time -- My Grandma --  just loves to sit and visit, which I don't do often enough, probably because it isn't my natural Love Language and I'm so busy being all crazy; at some point my priorities need to get in line.  She is a delight.
  • Words of Affirmation -- My Husband -- is great at encouraging when people do a good job, especially me.  He is my number one cheer-leader, he may not read my blog or do his own laundry but he tells me how delicious the soup is, and how fantastic and witty I am... 
  • Physical Touch - My Dear Daughter -- is constantly giving back rubs, manicures, holding hands, hugging with all her strength, and walking too close, which is also why the poor girl gets lice.  I don't want to squelch her love language, so I've just gotten really good at nit picking and we all give her lots of hugs.
  • GIFTS! -- My Mother in Law -- shows love by giving, and we have been the lucky recipients... It took me awhile to adjust to accepting these gifts with just gratitude (not guilt), and that is what this blog is about. 
This is more than a public Thank You / Affirmation; I think some of the things she does are absolutely brilliant, it isn't over the top, she doesn't pay for everything, it doesn't add clutter to the house, she tailors her gifts differently for different kids, it has changed our life for the better, and she doesn't feel pressure to do them (I don't think); besides, at this time of year especially, people, like myself, who don't have the GIFTS! Love Language, tend to need a little inspiration.  I have a surprisingly large number of Grandparents who read, but I think this is relevant for Aunts and Uncles and Friends too.  These are some of the things that our Fairy God-Mother does for us (her grown children and grandchildren) on a regular basis, often she doesn't even ask, they just happen:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Viva Las Vegas

Las Vegas is such sensory over-load.  I'm still kind of in a daze and exhausted.  It is all so flashy and over the top.  I love to get away with just my DH but I'm glad the conferences aren't all in Vegas; I can only enjoy it in moderation. I don't gamble.  I am most certainly not club'n material.  I am frugal to the point of being cheap but Vegas is still so interesting.  It is sad and happy.  It is America at it's best and worst.  It is crazy but safe (mostly).  There is no judgement, which is refreshing. 

Anyway, there is one thing that I absolutely love about Vegas, and it is the hand-holding.  I'm a hand holder.  My parents are hand-holders.  Even my sister and I held hands (mostly skipping, swinging our arms, and whistling the Smurfs' theme song).  I still remember distinctly when my now DH took my hand for the first time; we were at a $1.50 movie, The Addams Family... in late November 1991.  I also remember the first time he took my hand in public; it was a statement that we were together.  His always warm dry hand felt safe.  It felt like it was us against the world. I had dated other people but nobody's hand ever felt like this.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I pretty much hated my Middle School years.  I was in a really conservative setting and knew I didn't fit in but not why or if I would eventually fit anywhere.  I knew I wanted to be "good" but it felt shallow and forced and unrealistic.  I wasn't ego-centric but instead saw very little joy in the world-- of course, none of this was articulated because I was in Middle School and an emotional mess, but I have to say, being a mom to a Middle School-er just might be worse.  Being moody and confused and insecure and lost is AWFUL but watching this "little" person you love going through all of these growing pains is much much harder (as my Aunt L would say, "and you thought potty training was a challenge").  

Before leaving on our marriage / conference / retreat this week, my pre-teen boy leaned over to give me a hug goodbye; the hug lingered because change is always hard for him, even when that change is spending the weekend with his beloved (and overly generous and adoring) grandparents who live in town.  As he walked away, the pants that fit him perfectly a couple of weeks ago were more like capris.  He had a little limp because of Osgood Schlatters in his left knee and his poor sweet adorable face was covered in pimples that no facial cleanser / toner / spot treatment could control (at least without some black market connections). It is like all of the craziness of this stage of life is trying to force itself out any way that it can.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hazy Shade of Winter

I'm preparing for the texts and calls so I thought it best to just answer them proactively and a little more publicly:
  • Yes, the windchill is 28 degrees and my son is in shorts and a sweatshirt. 
  • Yes, I let him out of the house like that.  
  • Yes, he will probably be dressed like that through the winter.
Much to my grandmother's chagrin, this didn't start as Middle School rebellion.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Arch Nemesis Rises

My 2nd Bike Ride
Once upon a (very brief period of) time...  I loved cardio... or at least the sanity that cardio brought.  I've already admitted that the baby stage of parenting was not my shining moment; To try to get out of that funk, we joined the most glorious gym ever.  It was elite and expensive (my DH tells a funny / humbling story about being locker neighbors with Bo Jackson).  Walking in felt like arriving at The Promised Land; One could almost hear the chorus of angels... mostly do to the fact that they had free childcare.

It had tunnels and slides better than any McDonalds' playland, a child size basketball court, outdoor park, computer section, life-size TV with groups of kids pretending to be marching with Dora, toys to ride, craft corners, new friends to make, and toddler sized potties and sinks.  My kids would run in, physically embracing the supervision, who where mostly peppy high school and college kids who wanted nothing more than to entertain hordes of squirrelly kids (when they weren't harmlessly flirting with each other).  My children begged to go to the gym, and my DH and I rushed over after work (often I got a head-start with a rowing machine and Audible).  We procured two side by side ellipticals and talked about our days until we couldn't.  On my particularly bad days, he played basketball, while I sat in the sauna or hot-tub, or got a haircut in the spa, or a coffee in the cafe, all while I escaped in a book...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Onions & Illness

As I'm always trying to find the most natural approach to health, I was really kind of excited rather than the typical wary (--although admittedly, I did stop reading and start skimming around the 2nd paragraph) when I received the following email forward circulating the Suburban Circuit.  Maybe you received the same email, and as a servant of the Frugal People out there, I felt the obligation to deal with this Sub-Urban Legend head on and share my own version of FMC Myth Busters:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Month to Me!!

It is my birthday and I am not ashamed to say that I love birthday month.  I'm not really a center of attention type of person; I don't relish getting older, but I love an excuse to do things entirely selfishly that are just for fun. I embrace the meals with family and friends; the spice cake, zucchini bread, drinks, and coffees; I cherish the FB posts, texts, calls, well wishers, birthday buddies, girls trips, thoughtful little cards, and tiny thoughtful treasures.

Most years, since my Freshman year of college, I have ditched (not just school or work but responsibility and duty) and dragged someone with me.  99.99453% of the year, I hold myself accountable (translation: boring), but on my birthday, I want to be entirely carefree and un-tethered.  My Dear Best Friend from college / Room-mate is really the one who started this craze.  We would spend glorious days at museums, the beach, sleeping in, pedicures, and spa trips (in that brief period where we both had disposable income).  She embraced the ditch day  like no one else (sometimes we expanded it to a week to encompass both our birthdays - and at this point I just admit it and call September birthday month).  Eventually I dragged my then boyfriend (now DH) into this debauchery (which he was a more then willing participant and even handled the predictable consequences with dignity).

As if ditching weren't enough, I do something that is a total waste of time.  One year I messed around on Adobe Creative Suite for hours.  Other years I plan trips we are decades from being able to take or design house projects we have no intention of completing this side of the kids' college.  I've organized thousands of pictures into digital collages that I will probably never have the money to print.  Last year, I played on Pinterest for an entire day.  This year, I set up my goodreads account; I entered books read over the last 3 years and then went back and thought of some of my favorite (and least favorite) books from my college and high school years.  It was a wonderful walk down memory lane and so fun.  The only problem is looking at the lists of books:  I can almost hear the words of my favorite college English / literature professor, Dr. Rosalie deRosset, as she glances down my rather lengthy selection and with a sigh of abandon says, 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Becoming a Minimalist

A couple of times a year, generally around Labor Day / the autumnal equinox / Rosh Hashanah / my birthday / the start of school (give or take a couple of weeks), I go through a full-blown crisis of direction and self.  Our summer is over and the reality of our real lives bombards me.  I look at all that we have accumulated:
  • possessions, out-grown clothes, gum wrappers (and recycling - why so many papers?!)
  • time commitments and obligations (when did we sign up for all this?!)
  • a muffin top and high blood pressure (hopefully it is just the stress and lack of yoga)
  • homework, chores, errands, tasks, spreadsheets, & lists (so much mind-numbing monotony & busy work)
  • cobwebs and weeds and dust-bunnies (everywhere!)
  • bills and a dwindling bank account (I thought we were living frugally)
And I quickly become over-whelmed with all that threatens to close in on us.  I look around and wonder how it got like this.  By living day to day I've allowed life to encroach so that I'm actually no longer living; I'm just maintaining all that has accumulated.  All this chasing is exhausting and I find myself laying in a stupor with a glass of boxed wine, in front of the TV, surfing pinterest, or with a cotton candy escapism book and dreading what comes next.  Obviously, not the way I want to live.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Neti Stomp!

These allergies have been plaguing me for weeks but officially pushed me over the edge yesterday.  They are always bad in the spring and fall but this year has been terrible.  I've limited myself to 5 sentences of whining because nobody wants to read that, but I've hardly slept.  My daily walk has been stopped.  I can barely breathe when I walk outside (it feels like a cat has taken up residence on my face).  My eyes itch like crazy and the pressure on my head/sinuses is borderline explosion.  I've been nearly immobilized and forced to lay in bed in a near comatose state until 1:20pm reading a book (okay, so maybe that part wasn't so bad).  Then the allergies went ahead and hit way below the belt... they made my morning coffee taste funky.  

I've tried everything short of trapping myself in a air-purified giant hamster ball and rolling around life.  I've taken every herbal and medical means possible to get keep these awful things at bay.  I've been barely warding off a sinus infection / ear infection by faithfully (overdosing) on Claritin every morning and Benadryl (generic from Costco, of course) at night or when it gets too bad during the day. I can't use anything with a -D because of my high blood pressure.  I've suffered through nasal sprays.  I've eaten spoonfuls of local raw honey to help build my immunities to local pollen.  I've kept the house closed up with the air on.  I've cleaned every air filter and fan.  I shower all the pollen off.  Nothing is working but this current desperation brought me to a new level...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Travel Sport Lament

In case this isn't abundantly clear, we live in Middle Class Suburbia.  EVERYONE athletic (and some who are not) play, love, and embrace Travel Sports. I can't always tell, but I think it is more than just a status symbol / window cling to them...  Signing our son up for Travel Sports was a bigger dilemma for us than it needed to be because I'm always weighing what is just the culture with what we should do; I never wanted to be a soccer mom, and I over-think almost everything.

Don't worry, I don't say this in front of many people (yet here I am, blogging about it).  Permission to speak freely? 

I've always thought of sports as a decadent waste of time and I really don't like the whole idea of Travel Sports for kids.   I find them pretentious and just another way for Affluent America to exert elite-ism.  I don't like life to revolve around sports or to encourage the natural  egocentric mentality that life revolves around our Dear Son.  I am uncomfortable with the intensity of the parents / fans / coaches / players.  I'm not big on the rigorous nature of the schedule.  I hate that the "outfit" is so expensive; I refuse to call it a uniform because anything that coordinates that well and costs $200 is an "outfit".  I'm not even sure it is emotionally or physically healthy for kids to dedicate so much energy to one endeavor; I'd rather have a wider variety. But I've squeezed it into the budget and come to peace with it all because...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Memory of Trees

It is a sad day at the V house.  Four trees were chopped down today in our yard to make way for the new power lines.  The 60 year old trees bordered the backyard and hid the unsightly lines as well as made our yard wonderfully private without the need for a fence.  They weren't anything special, but they were tall pines that offered shade and a barrier whatever the season.  

ComEd (please read with a shudder of disdain) has been battling this moment with me for years.  One time, they didn't even ask, they just came by and whopped the top right off of one of the pine trees.  I ran outside, dragging a half dressed child, and demanding that they stop (the neighbors tell legends of finding me standing chained to my trees for days on end).  We came to a compromise and they took the branches off surrounding the lines but left the tops on.

Those poor pines were never the same.  They grew thinner and thinner with each season.  They produced less pinecones but the cardinal family still happily called it their home and the morning doves came out everyday to greet us.

When I got home from work on Friday, my neighbor nervously came over with a note from the ComEd arborist saying that I MUST call him immediately. This time, I knew there was trouble.  For the past couple of years, the power has faithfully gone out in Suburbia at the first sign of dark clouds.  Last time, a half hour after the storm passed, the power went out as if someone forgot to push the, "Knock Out Power to Suburbia" button at ComEd Headquarters (which I envision to be a very dark building on the top of hill, surrounded by barbed wire, and run by an evil tycoon that strongly resembles Mr. Burns - and coincidentally also controls Comcast, AT&T, BP, Chase, and Jiffy Lube).  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Raising a Nark

A friend and I were talking the other day about adult siblings who don't get along.  We were discussing how we want our kids to be friends with each other as they grow older.  My sister and I rarely ever fought and still don't-- we both figured we would live longer if we were on the same team (only partially a joke).  We could not be more different in personality but we look nearly the same, except that I look like a version of her that has "let herself go".  We talk everyday and go to art fairs together and laugh about our family.

My husband's family has 4 boys in 5 years (could you imagine that house?!)  They wrestle and tease, but they are all good friends (they claim that they fought until they realized that girls existed and then all of their energy shifted focus).  They golf together, have roomed together, make pasta on holidays, plan to watch games together, and without faking it, they've stood up proudly in each others weddings.  

My own son and daughter get along really well, for the most part.  They have their moments*, like yesterday with summer closing-out and they were purposefully annoying the heck out of each other at every turn while at the Art Institute, but usually, they are pretty good friends.  I'm sure karma will get me for this and my kids who normally hold hands when they cross streets will start kicking each other.  I'm not raising our children the exact same way as my mom or mother in law (no offense, I'm sure you guys would even change some things :0) - but here is one thing that both the moms did and that I continue to do...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

National Parks

There are so many things that I did not know about National Parks before starting these trips, that I think as a public service, I'll go over some of them.  This is the stuff that I didn't find in any of the guide books that I scoured from the library or websites that I obsessively looked through.  I plan to make a little series of places we have been as a family, as well as tips and what we would do differently or the same.  But as an introduction, this is some stuff that shocked me the first couple of times out:

Jr. Ranger Program - this program is the best and we didn't know about it until we had been to 3 National Parks.  Almost all National Parks participate and kids can earn a badge for completing a workbook.  Most of the workbook is games and puzzles although it does involve a bit of hiking, Ranger Talks, and research.  Our 9 year old Dear Daughter loves this program and it is the first thing that she asks about at the first ranger station we visit.  The program is free but it is a good idea to donate a couple of dollars to the ranger station at completion.  The newly sworn in Jr. Rangers have this very sweet vow to protect the National Parks and the earth that has made me a little misty all 8 times that my daughter has said it.  My Dear Son does not often participate because he doesn't like to do any extra work.  It is age appropriate for him as well (11 years old) but it is a battle I don't fight.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cleaning-up Facebook

When I was out visiting my Mom, she decided that it was time to join Facebook (basically so she could have a pinterest account). I took a deep breath, poured a glass of boxed wine, and began to explain how to be a member of Facebook-- and not have it drive you crazy (or offend  your old "friends").  I've told the story since, and quite a few people have poured themselves a glass of wine and leaned closer... apparently, MANY MANY people are driven nuts by Facebook and rather than fixing the problem, they avoid the medium entirely.  Here is what I told my mom:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

LIVE at Red Rocks

Some Concerts Attended by Me or my DH but mostly Both
I'm not at all musical.  My parents aren't terribly musical either (my Eccentric Ol' Dad - here after EOD) plays the harmonica from time to time but I don't know that I would go so far as to call it a talent. But they did have highly talented friends; as a kid, I spent countless nights curled in a corner and lulled to sleep by guitars and drums jamming out all sorts music.

I "played" the clarinet for 6 painful years before the realization really set in that I have very little rhythm and no increased ability regardless of how long I practice.  But I never-the-less LOVE music.  We sing along, however off-key and off-beat we might be, and we especially love a wide variety of outdoor live music.  It could be U2 or a Fest (we went to Ska-fest in Victoria BC) or a local park or the 5th grader on the next street over playing Stairway to Heaven.  Music refreshes my soul and brings me to tears nearly every time I see it live.  I don't know exactly what it is, but music heals and cleanses me. Maybe it is because of my total lack of talent, but music seems magical; it inspires me. I love to hear talented (not necessarily famous) people play.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Breakdown

The Sweet Little Pool
Life doesn't always go the way that I plan (how dare it!). Like this camping trip for instance... Tonight we are sleeping in a very sweet Comfort Inn with a pool and a lovely (indoor) shower that is not coin operated. We have a continental breakfast and a climate controlled room.

Basically, The way I plan these Odysseys is to get an idea of how I want the trip to go and then everything falls into place flawlessly, intermixed with a couple of good stories. I'll admit that we are really lucky. Even things not executed perfectly, often turn out for the best. Glacier being a perfect example.

I have always wanted to camp in Many Glacier, the most highly coveted campground. It is the farthest north and has the most glaciers to hike to. We did our research and that campsite usually fills by 2pm. We were on target for a noon arrival. Only we didn't leave on time because we couldn't find the electric cord that made the trailer lights work. We looked everywhere. For an hour... and still nothing. Finally, we found it, where it belongs, just camouflaged with something else kind of dirty and black. At this point, we were running late but not too late... only to collide with the biggest small town parade in history. EVERYONE came out for this event and we couldn't make it 2 blocks, for another hour. By the time we got close to the campsite, it was filled (by 11:15am -so even the absence of these issues would not have put us there on time); and we were forced to stay in my 2nd choice.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah

We bought a pop-up camper on Thursday, my last day of work was Friday, my DH left Saturday for his annual golf trip (not even close to as elitist as it sounds - I believe the goal is to find the cheapest round of 18 in the tri-state area), and I am about to drive My Dear Son to summer camp. It is pretty much the start of moving our home to the road.  For the next 4 days, all we will be doing is:

  • Eating everything we can in our stationary house (we are already down to the last in the fridge) 
  • Cleaning up so that when we come back to Suburbia it feels like paradise (as if a real shower won't be enough)
  • Packing so we don't end up buying stuff on the road that we already own (crushes my frugal heart)
  • Planning the last details of the month long camping trip

Sunday, June 17, 2012

All Summer Long

Our inviting new storm door
So last spring I was DYING to replace our storm doors.  We had the UGLIEST storm doors in Suburbia.  They were metal with lots and lots of glass slats, circa 1965 (see YIKES picture below).  They were heavy and sharp and a pain to clean.  They slammed shut clipping ankles in their wake.  They offered very little in the way of extra insulation and worst of all, they didn't help people know that we were open and ready to play.

Growing up we had a rule; it wasn't written or said, but when the front door was open, neighborhood kids would stop by because they knew we could play.  Sometimes kids would stop by when it was shut too, but were mostly told that we were still doing chores or busy, but when the front door was open, we knew freedom was imminent.

This was in a different time, a time when we only had window A/C units and they were only turned on in certain rooms and only on the hottest of days.  An era when video games were so new that barely anyone had them and nobody I knew had cable.  As kids we played "Scatter" or "Kick-ball" outside from the moment the door opened until well after the sun had gone down with "Ghost in the Graveyard" through every yard on the block because no one had fences and almost everyone had children or remembered what having children was like (and there was no such thing as a professionally landscaped yard).  And honestly, I remember those kids names but they were only friends by proximity; I kept in touch with very few after high school and almost none after college.  It wasn't necessarily the people themselves but the atmosphere of Summer in Suburbia.  We played through swarms of mosquitoes without my mom spraying us with bug repellent or sun screen or handing us bottles of water—we just moved to the shade and drank out of the hose when we needed it and ran around until we heard my dad's whistle; at which point we sprinted home, knowing that if we didn't, our "curfew" would be moved up an hour the next night.  When we got in, we would wash our feet in the tub, be covered in calamine lotion, and sent to bed. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Some people go for years without getting away, not us; we've taken some pretty epic trips, even with little babies/kids.  All-inclusive resorts, Disney, Jamaica, DC, NOLA, Vegas, Canada, on planes, trains, automobiles, I could go on and on.  We all love to travel and I am unabashedly awesome at finding the best deals, but these past 2 vacations needed to be REALLY good deals.  Topic 1 is the Road Trip.  I'm here to tell you that it is way easier (and cheaper) than it seems.  I've decided to use the elementary school writing style for this blog.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The "Joy" of Motherhood

I had all sorts of grand ideas on what would happen (and wouldn't happen) when I became a Mother.  I would have a natural birth.  I would go for stroller walks everyday to get fresh air and exercise.  I would keep plastic crap to a minimum.  My kids wouldn't eat in the car or eat McDonalds at all.  I would speak patiently and calmly to my disobedient children.  My house would be clean and I would not have toys thrown around like it was some sort of booby trap.  I would never make more than one meal and the whole family would eat it (and I would never finish the food on their plate). My kids would blissfully fall asleep in corners so that my husband and I could retain our social life.  The list goes on and on.  I wasn't saying it to be judgmental of other Mothers, I just knew the kind of Mother that I was going to be (you can feel free to roll your eyes back and laugh.  My Dear Aunt would whenever I would tell her these things). 

he doesn't deal well with change
And after a crazy bed-rest pregnancy, scary labor, and then emergency c-section, my son was born.  He was the feistiest baby ever met.  Even my Grandmother (his GG), who had 4 of her own children, 15 grandchildren, and worked in the nursery at church, said she had never met a baby (before or since) she couldn't console, until my son.  At the hospital, my best friend could tell what room they moved me to because we had the loudest baby in the whole place.  I couldn't claim colic, he was just bad tempered.  I literally wept when they told me that I had to go home from the hospital after 4 days.  He single-handedly taught me about the kind of mother I would be, and he did it in record time.  Now, with 11 years of hind-sight, here is the advice I would have given myself from the beginning, they are not in order of importance:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Crazy Tooth Princess

My Dear Sweet Daughter has FINALLY lost some baby teeth only to have her front adult tooth come in at a 90 degree angle.  I'm not exaggerating.  I've attached photographic evidence in case you don't believe me.  Now my DD has had a lot to contend with in these last couple of weeks:  She found out she desperately needs glasses, she is still short, and now this crazy tooth.  Frankly, I was a little worried about her psyche; teeth especially are something our society seems overly concerned with.  I remember someone (I don't remember who; I hope it wasn't me!) told my sister when she was a little kid that she had too big of a smile; my sister proceeded to spend the next couple of years with this really weak pathetic smile in a conscious effort to "not smile too big."  My dear daughter has a lot of my sister's love for sparkles, sprinkles, big parties (and the inability to rub two nickles together) so I was a little worried.  What if my smiley and happy daughter suddenly becomes self-conscience?  Is this the time?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Throw It All Away

 Maybe it is my early love of the Velveteen Rabbit or the letter R, but I get seriously excited about this week.  I'm done with the facade.  YES, I have a small mental list and am a little more than excited to drive down the streets during unlimited garbage week; I've been taking the long way in hopes that I'll find a more perfect little wooden end table for beside the reading chair or possibly some new garden pots (don't worry friends, I generally pull into the driveway so as not to block up traffic)*.

It's Earth Week, for those of you who don't have school dwelling children and are hence not currently bombarded with The Eco Lunch Nazi (that was me yesterday, and let me apologize publicly for accidentally over-enforcing the guidelines when I didn't realize that "waste-free / no garbage / no recycling" was making exception with the school milk.  I hope that I did not inadvertently crush your child's spirit while zealously fulfilling my liberal eco-freak agenda duty.  Any cursing about me being a socialist / granola / tree-hugging / fanatic was warranted and expected.  Sorry.  I hope we can still be friends). 

That said, in conjunction (probably coincidentally although I'd like to think it is all part of a master plan) with Earth week, our town does an "unlimited garbage day" once a year.  Normally we get one can but on this very special day, ANYTHING can be put out at the curb: Couches, tables, beds, toilets, construction material... you name it, it is out on the curbs.  Homeowners start nearly a week before, piling their year of refuse and discards on the parkways, and my eco-heart gives an excited thump when I see it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I Work-out?

An Honest Review of the Dailey Method

There is nothing quite as humbling as signing up for an elite work-out class in Suburbia.  I'm not saying that like it's a bad thing.  Humbling experiences are cathartic for the psyche.  I'm not in terrible physical shape.  I walk everywhere.  I do yoga 3 days a week.  I am from good strong Polish stock and although I'm short, I'm not at all waify.  But this class is filled with strong, beautiful, albeit high-maintenance women.  These are the kind of women who do their hair BEFORE they work-out.  Seriously.  They wear rarely repeated, expertly coordinated, brand-name (and I don't mean Gap) yoga attire that is not only skin tight but has gaps and mesh exactly where I have love handles and a slight muffin top; the kind of women who actually procure spots in the front with mirror visibility and do cardio in the morning BEFORE they come to class.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Playing Ferris

Quite a few times, I've sent an email that goes something like this,

"I realize that your offspring spent hours in our home yesterday.  If your children come home with tales of my children not being in school today, please relax, there is no need to stock up on Clorox wipes and brace yourself for the worst.  You are not about to catch anything, unless mental illness is contagious."

I don't usually keep the kiddos home completely gratuitously, but that said, I do keep them home when they are over-tired, fighting a cold, have bad allergies (like today), a headache, out of sorts, didn't sleep well, or just need a break.  I'll be honest, I don't know if I'm doing the right thing.  Who ever does in parenting?!  I guess we'll see eventually, and my gut tells me this is the right thing (my gut is usually right, unless referencing my original instincts on my DH).  

In my mothering defense, I don't let them stay home whenever they want, this isn't a weekly or monthly occurrence (anymore-- maybe tri-mester-ly?); I don't pathetically give in after they have begged and pleaded.  They can ask, they can state their case, but if they whine or ask again, the answer is always no. I do have some other questions that I internally debate before finalizing my decision...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012