Monday, August 27, 2012

False Start

Imagine.  Feet in the blocks.  Hands and fingers crisply stretched across the painted line of the track.  Heart loud.  Brain wired.  Eyes focused on the path ahead.  Adrenaline pumping.  Lungs deeply inhaling.  Anticipating the crack of the gun.  Run.
No.  False start.  Back to the starting line.  Do it all over again. 
I've never actually run a race on a track but I do know that when I'm in the corral for a 5K I'm all adrenaline.  It's an awesome, terrifying feeling.  You have to pace yourself.  You can't go out too fast using all that energy or you won't have any left for the end of the race.  It's all about mind over body.  You have to hold back a little. 
We were all set to be far from here now. All set to be well into the race.  But it was a false start.  We are back in the corral waiting, anticipating.   We have a good place - a pillow top bed, a warm shower, a nice pool, a hot tub.  But if we wake up here again - if I see that same alarm clock - I will feel like I'm in Groundhog Day, that awful movie when Bill Murray couldn't get on to the next day.
At least we have each other to stay amused in these 200 square feet.  It's funny.  The kids are piled on the bed watching Sesame Street that they haven't seen in years and wouldn't dare watch at home.  What is about a new place that makes everything new again?  I ironed the damp bathing suits from last night to try to get them ready to wear today, and Charlie says, "Mom is wire-drying the bathing suits!"  He is the compound-word-maker-upper.  He knows what an iron is and has seen me use it on quite a few occassions, but somehow his new term was so much more descriptive of what I was doing.  Right - who irons bathing suits?  So we are having fun learning about each other in more ways than would be possible at home.
And there's a major city out there to tour!  We made the best of it yesterday and will again today. The sun is shining brightly, there are thousands of parks in Chicago that boast the best of everything and we'll find the best for us.
Then tonight around 8 we'll get on the road for a fresh start, driving through the night to the Badlands!  Hopefully its better in the Badlands!  Hopefully we are just pacing ourselves for what lies ahead, conserving our energy.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Thursday afternoon.  8 hours til departure.  The house has a quiet buzz to it.  The kids are 'napping'.  The phones, kindles, ipods, cameras, lanterns, airpumps, everything are all plugged in.  Everyone and everything is charging.  Charging up for an adventure.  The kids need those 'screens' as we call them, they are Digital Natives, a term I heard at a conference this summer.  To not take them would be like taking corn away from Native Americans.  They need them to communicate, to feel connected.  So we are packing them and charging them.
I am baking.  The old fashioned stuff that keeps us charged.  Oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips, nuts, and honey.  No Raisins.   There are a minority who don't like raisins, so we give them preference.   We want to keep them happy. 
So we are fully charged.  We've got trail food to keep us charged and we are on our way!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pounding the Pavement


Finding a new way to go to work

Walking the side streets

Driving to California


Seeing things differently

New perspective

These were my notes.  The things I wanted to say and talk about.  We are leaving soon for a long trip.  Escaping.  I cannot wait.   But right now I hope I can leave some of the anxiety behind and experience each moment.  Right now I'm wondering if I have everything packed.  I do wonder about grizzly bears. I've gotten over carjackings, because really no one wants a minivan with a roof carrier on top with New Jersey tags, it wouldn't make for a quick getaway.  Right now I'm worried about kids who drown in Yosemite.  (Kids, ages 8 and 10)  And wildfires.  But I'm also worried because our son was just diagnosed with allergy-induced asthma.  What's he allergic too?  Grasses, birch trees, dust.  So when your son, let's just say, says "Mom, I'm so tired, I can't go any further,"  and it is on a hike around a lake that is SURROUNDED by BIRCH TREES, you probably shouldn't say, "Matt, this is our hike we do every year with our family and you are ruining it, and you are so going to bed early tonight!  You just took a break.  You are the only one complaining!  Everyone else is enjoying themselves!  I know all you want to do is play VIDEO games, but this is our vacation!!"  No, don't ever say those things.  So I wonder if Yosemite is surrounded by birch trees.  I wonder if our car is full of dust.  I am packing the inhaler and the drugs and a bandana he can wear around his face if he wants too.  I think I've got everything we need.  Now I just have to let it go.

Last week I took the train into work each day.  This was different from my normal routine of driving in and parking in a lot and paying condo rental fees for a car for 6 hours.  The train made for a nice getaway.  I felt professional and Yuppie.  (I know, that's a really old term, but when I was in high school, our neighbors were Yuppies and I so wanted to be like them taking the train each day to Center City!)  So I took the train and walked the ten city blocks to work, through Rittenhouse Square, and down the side streets.  And I'm so glad I did.  Out of the car, the honking, the traffic, the air conditioning, the closed up feeling.  It gives you a different perspective on things.  You take your time, you stroll, you take in the sights, you take in the people, you soak up the history.  It was really beautiful.   Things I never would have seen.
 The street names in bronze in the stone.
 Will someone meet me here for breakfast one day?  We'll pretend we are Parisiennes!
 Very ornate...
 Such intricate work...
 A tree grows...
 Imagine the ladies who walked down these steps in ball gowns over a hundred years ago..
 So amazing.

I used to eat at this same place in college!

I saw roses in bloom in center city outside the Episcopal church, I saw a cellist playing on a park bench in the Square.  The people fell into a trance created by the soft mellow notes and the quiet peace made the walk that much sweeter.   I am hoping I can carry those feelings with me as we walk through the Black Hills and Yellowstone.  Soaking it all up, pounding it into my memory with each pounding step.  I also hope I can transfer that feeling to my kids.  I hope they will soak it all in and savor the moments, the quiet, the flutter of leaves, the babbling brooks, the expanse of the sky.  In a few weeks they will be kept inside four walls for the majority of the day, at least during Peak Playing Hours.  It is a shame.  I don't know what it is about school that makes us think that being outside is too distracting.  Can I tell you that in 90% of the classrooms I go into, the shades are drawn all the way down?  No looking outside.  I've heard the phrase, "There's nothing out there for you to see!" Come on teachers, open up a little!  I just read of a school in New Hampshire where all the learning takes place outside, rain, snow, sun, cold, outside.  "There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing," the article said.   That's pretty cool!  This school in Andover, Massachusetts, gets it too.  I think that will be my one analysis on back to school night, Are the shades drawn? 

So, we are off on an adventure, seeing new things, learning new things, including what not to say to your children when they get tired!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pack Mentality

I have adopted a pack mentality, which means I am doing the thinking for 5 people.  No, I'm doing the packing for 5 people.  It's actually been going on for weeks.  Everything I see, everything I touch, I think, Should I pack this?  Could I pack this?  You see we are going to California in our MIN.I.VAN, all six of us, for 2 1/2 weeks.  Our destination is our cousin's wedding.  I can't wait.  It will be a trip to remember.  It will be awesome and awe-inspiring.  Stories to tell for decades to come.

But right now I have to worry about whether to take a jug of liquid laundry detergent or little packs of dry detergent sorted into sandwich baggies.  Does this sound pathetic?  I know it is, but I also know that if I don't think this way we are going to be living like a bunch of packrat hippies in a VW bus but there won't be any drugs for us to take to obscure the mess in front of our eyes.   And so I've been planning.  Excessively. 

Here is a grid graph I drew of where I imagined everything going.  The circle in the upper left hand corner is the steering wheel and the list across the top are the things that are going in the roof carrier.
We have each room in one box, well almost.  The attic (winter clothes) are packed in a soft pack zipper case that will go on top of the car.  These will be pulled out for the 36 degree temperatures we encounter in Yellowstone, where there are campfire restrictions these days due to the drought.   The bedrooms (sleeping bags) are packed on the roof too. The dining room is packed in a big clear rubbermaid, with everything from rice to dishes to oatmeal to potholders to water jugs to ladles (my husband kindly reminded me last night that you need a means of getting the chili out of the pot and we are planning on eating a lot of campfire stews.  While you can whisk eggs with a fork, you can't exactly ladle chili with a spoon.)

 The cleaning closet is packed in a carryall with paper towels, wipes, carpet freshener, (I'm dreading vomit more than grizzly bears right now) and a small dust pan and brush.

 The bathroom box isn't packed yet, but I had planned on using the top two pockets (see below) hung across the back for things like bug spray, hand sanitizer, glow sticks, and other things we might need for picnicking or while hiking.  But we've now realized that's not going to work for the trip as there will be all kinds of other crap piled in front of them!  So I'm saving it for when we get home.
The other thing I made was a net that hangs across the ceiling between the "dry cleaner" hooks by each door.  The plan was to have a little 'airline' blanket within easy reach for each kid and this way they wouldn't get stepped on.  However, the net  hangs a little low and we're just not sure if it's going to last.  (Any ideas here are welcome!)
The kids each have a duffle bag with 5 outfits packed in gallon baggies.   My plan is that this will help me keep the dirty laundry straight and I can 'fold' these outfits right back into their baggies.  Wish me luck.  We loose socks here everyday, now they will be scattered all over the highways of the USA.   ( Here's Charlie looking exhausted while cleaning the car out!)

So I wanted to share my crafty mom thing just briefly.  I took an old shoe bag organizer, cut it into fours and sewed elastic around the edge.   We now have organizers for kindles, hats and sunglasses, pencils and the million brochures/souvenirs that I know at least one of my kids is going to collect. 

The elastic fit nicely around each seat and seems to hold the light supplies.  It can hang low or high and doesn't affect the person in the seat.  The length is a little shorter than the circumference of the chair seat.  I did have to quadruple sew the elastic together. 
They seem to be working nicely.  I'll let you know when we get back.  That is if I ever finish packing!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Comings and Goings

The other day Annie and I went out for a run.   Down a tree lined street, a little dog darted out from the door of a house and took off, soon to be followed by the owner, who quickly realized that she'd need her car to chase down this little dog, and soon the dog was followed by Annie and me, the owner in her car, and a driver passing by who knew her assistance was needed as well.   That dog did not know where to go but she had a good idea that she wanted to go! and so just kept going, across this way, coming back again, going around this tree and that.   It took all four of us to corral that dog and even at that, the odds seemed to be against us.  Finally, Lola, the dog was back in her owners car after darting through six yards and giving us all a good run!

My mind is like this too.  It's amazing how much coming and going I can do when just sitting still.  If they actually tracked my brain function I'm sure mine would look more like fireworks than a systematic pattern.  I heard that medications used to treat ADHD actually have the effect of speeding up the brain even further making it so tired it has to settle down and focus.  I don't know if this is true, but that kind of sums up my life.  Things are going so rapidly that it takes my four children to corral me like we did the dog.  One thing, cleaning up, leads to another, packing for vacation, and before I know it I'm so exhausted I have to sit and focus on one thing.  So somebody says, "What's for dinner? and I'm like okay, I'll cook dinner.  Then while cooking dinner, I begin packing again all the food I think we might need for our camp vacation.  It's MIHD, motherhood induced hyperactivity disorder. 

The funny thing is I see my kids in that little dog too.  They may not literally being darting out the door, but they are quickly leaving the house.   First it's, "Mom, I'm going outside," then, "Mom, I'm going to school," then "Mom, I'm going next door," "I'm going for a bike ride, a run," "I'm hanging out with the guys," "I'm off to college."   The thing is we can't corral them anymore.  I asked Charlie yesterday if he just wanted to stay home with me instead of going to school and he said, "Can you really do that?"  No, you can't do that anymore than you can stop from growing, stop from going.   At one point the dog owner debated whether to go back inside to get the dog's favorite toy, or a dog bone.  She didn't.  She knew that whatever Lola was finding on her run was much more appealing than anything she could find in her old dog bed.   

And so it is with another school year.  What they will find there is much more appealing than any old thing mom could come up with at this point.  We have our moments, our shiny memories that will always hold us together, but what's out there is so new, so full of adventure that I won't be demanding that they come back inside.   They'll be coming and going for a long while still.   I'll look forward to hearing them share all their adventures at the dinner table and I'll appreciate that they are all still sleeping in the beds upstairs, but I'll also be aware that one day when that screen door slams and they are on the other side... well let's just leave it at that. 

My brother too... I think for so long he came home, he stayed with us, he kept us believing in him, that everything was okay.  Then one day he knew.  He knew that what was on the other side would be better.  He knew that saying goodbye was too hard and he just took off before we could even chase him down the street.  No one knew where to look, where to go, who to call to help us find him.   He had to leave, had to get out there and seek new adventures.  We couldn't corral him and keep him anymore.  And I know that just like the little dog he is finding so many wonders out there and he is happy, wagging his tail, coming and going and doing his thing.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

At the Dimming of the Day

When the kids were babies, I came across a life-saver of a book, "The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer."  I can't find my copy on the bookshelf because I've lent it out and bought it again so many times I lost track.  I don't have babies anymore so I can't justify purchasing another, but sometimes I recall her wise words.  One thing that sticks out is this:  "Working parents should be sure to change their work clothes when they come home from work before picking up the baby."  Her philosophy was that the smells and odors from outside home and the business world were not good and were rather confusing for the baby.   And even the environment clung to your clothes, the stresses and the emotions.  So change.  Well, even now I find myself guilty of not doing this.  I come home from working and someone needs a ride RIGHT NOW and someone needs this and someone needs that and dinner needs to get started and so on.  So I kick off my heels and put on flipflops but never actually make it upstairs to change my clothes.   And then I look like an idiot dropping off the kids at a swim club birthday party with my pearls around my neck!
But don't we all just wish could peel away those multi-tasking layers of anxiety and pressure and put on a pure, fresh outlook for our families and our children.  So I'm going to start doing this. 
And I'm going to lay on my bed for a minute too!  I don't know why it takes me so long to get there.  I know how busy you are. I know how tired you are. I know how much you just want to curl up in bed. But every night when it's past 10 o'clock and I could manage to drag myself up there, I always find one more thing to do. But when I finally do lay down, I'm like, "Beeeeddddd!" My husband laughs at me. I've said on several occasions, "What took me so long to get to bed?" It's a bad habit and I'm going to break it right now. 

I blogged a while back about our bedroom and the new linens I purchased from West Elm with our monograms.  You can find these now just about anywhere.  They arrived and I wanted to update you and share my new personal rule:  White Linens.  Somehow, not matter how stressful the day has been, white linens waiting for you are so purifying and refreshing.  I'm thinking of re-outfitting my whole house in white linens.  I'll still use color on walls and curtains and furniture, etc., but white linens are just so Fresh.  I bought white towels when we were showing our old house at the advice of a realtor.  I get it now why she recommended them.  White is so welcoming and cleansing.  Last week I found Kate Spade white pillow cases at HomeGoods and I indulged in their 300 count goodness.  They are so soft, so soothing and comfortable, that I'm going back to get the whole set of sheets.  I'm telling you it's magical.   It's like erasing a whole day of who-knows-what-crap and starting clean and fresh. 

We've still got the old ugly fan hanging up there.  Still not sure what to do with that, but we'll figure it out.  I know somebody suggested spray-paint, but does anyone know how to take off those silly looking decal flowers?  Maybe I could soak it in alcohol or something? 

Meanwhile it's white sheets keep me happy.  There's an old song by Bonnie Raitt, Dimming of the Day.  Yes, it's a love song, "I need you at the dimming of the day."  Well this is my love song to my bed and my white sheets...

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Supply List

It's August 6 already.  I know I should be thinking about Back To School, but I can't bring myself to do it.  I don't want to let go of summer yet.  And it seems the more school supplies I let in the front door, the closer it really will be.   But while I was out last week, I thought about shopping for back-to-school stuff just to be safe.  I tried, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.  I'm going to be behind the proverbial eight ball on that one.  I've picked up a few things here and there to offset the 100-item lists sent home by teachers on the last day of school.  It's like they want you to know that whatever your teacher this year may have missed will be made up for five times over next year so you better get ready.  I bought a few marble notebooks, because what teacher doesn't love them, and a few packs of pencils, because where would we be without those, and that's about it.  I really want to save everything else for the week that school starts.  Wouldn't that be more fun?  "Oh, look, this is just the perfect size notebook for my science lab and it matches the colors of the chairs in lab too?"  You know what you need by that point.  You know what you're in for and can insulate yourself for the onslaught of knowledge with the perfect padded one-inch binder.   I'm just afraid that the night before school starts my kids are going to look at those lists that I have purposefully neglected and say to me with a look of pure horror, "What? You didn't get me the spiral, reinforced hole, college-ruled, three-hole punched, plastic cover, two-folder notebook with red lines that my teacher asked for?  How could you not?"  I feel like my reply should be "Back in my day, we used charcoal sticks and dried oak leaves, so quit your complaining!"   But in reality back in my day, my grandmother took me into the city to buy a back to school dress and shoes and that was it.  The rest was reserved for the best back-to-school shopping experience a kid could have.  You took your two dollars with you to school in an envelope marked with your name and when your class was called, you lined up single file,  marched down the stairs to the basement, ready to make some critical decisions that could effect your learning for the rest of the year:  To the Stationery Store, where Sr. Ann Patricia would smilingly greet everyone, commenting on how they had grown over the summer, asking about parents and siblings, and then she would step aside with great aplomb and our jaws would drop at the expanse of pencil boxes, shiny notebooks, freshly-sharpened pencils, plump pink erasers, and unblemished folders with the perfect white open space for YOUR NAME, that lined the wooden shelves which reached to the 12-foot ceiling of a dimly-lit closet.   Better than Diagon Alley.  It seemed as if Sister had prepared all summer for our arrival by painstakingly unwrapping and organizing this feast of paperie delight.  Harry Potter's wand-shopping had nothing on the class Stationery Shopping Trip.  It seemed like you might pick the perfect pencil to scribe all your new wisdom in an epistle for all eternity to read!  And Sr. Ann would patiently wait to truly make up your mind.  You thought you wanted blue, but someone else had that already, fine, switch to yellow.  Back to blue again?  No problem.  She was everything of Mr. Ollivander and more.  Those were the days, that was Back-To-School shopping.  I wonder if J.K. Rowling knew about that Stationery Store.

Nowadays, it's skull-covered notebooks and gas-mask folders, anything but what makes learning look like it might be fun.   The pencils are plastic, the crayons don't smell, and no one really uses them anymore anyway.  I've been in classrooms with SmartBoards and Smart Phones and computers galore, but where's the tactile, aroma-therapeutic experience of opening those notebooks the first day and breathing in the freshness of a new school year.  Writing your name in perfect penmanship on the first white page, knowing this could be an epic year. 

So, I am not shopping this week or next.  I'm savoring summer.  I'm not letting it get to me.  After I cleaned out the drawer last week, I found enough colored pencils to draw for at least a few years.   I think we're good.  Maybe I can sneak into that Stationery Store and see if I can find one of those old school notebooks!  (At least I cleaned the rest of the cupboard where all those supplies will go...
I hope you won't blame me for not painting it all cute and really fixing it up.  I just want to pull it all apart one of these days.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

With Regular Maintenance

Early this summer I took my car in for what I thought would be a rountine check on tire air pressure, oil, etc.  But the tires had been worn threadbare.  Apparently the mechanic could see the belts coming through!  This is scary.  He also had to flush several of the fluids and a few other things.  Not surprisingly the car is riding extremely well now and I feel much better!
It goes for everything in our lives too - With Regular Maintenance we feel much better.  Of course this year I let things go for the sake of the busy-ness that preoccupies our lives, but no more.  When we are running threadbare because we didn't check our own 'tire pressure' so to speak, we really can't go that fast.  We are jeopardizing everything and everyone else around us.  We don't have the energy to go any further.   So I am making a New School Year resolution to do better this year.  I am going to schedule Regular Maintenance checks and keep myself and our house going. 
Last weekend I took a much needed break to go visit by brother by Myself.  I felt a little guilty, but after a glass of wine and a nap, provided by my loving sister-in-law, things became much clearer.  I could think straight, see problems more clearly, and be more creative.  That Wine Fluid Flush did wonders! 
So this year I am not going to let my hair roots show through (yesterday I ran into someone I have seen in years, and it was not pretty!), I'm not going to get off the running regimen for longer than a week, (I'm being realistic here) and I'm not going to forget the joy of going away, even if it's to the hardware store for 30 minutes.  You find inspiration for personal maintenance there too!

Now, about the house.  
This section  of the kitchen serves as mudroom/office/kid desk space/snack central.  It's a bit crazy.  I really want to tear the whole area out and reconfigure it to be more of a mudroom.  That's not going to happen this year, but if I ever want to demolish it, all that it holds is going to have to go somewhere.  So I'm cleaning out.

Believe it or not it wasn't very long ago that I bought the boxes and reoganized and everything looked so Pretty!
Not anymore.  So, I went through and sorted.  I went through and labeled.  I had the kids do the replacing.  I did a lot of tossing.  The funny thing is, I can't believe what I found in there.  I have hundreds of thumbtacks and NO BULLETIN BOARD!  How does this happen?  I'll tell you - I go into Target or Staples and think:  SCHOOL SUPPLIES and I start buying all they have marketed as such.  I sometimes stop thinking, actually and just start filling my cart.  I got behind a lady in the Customer Service last night to make a return and she went through all her just-made purchases and started returning stuff, seemingly at random.  I can relate.  It would be great to just sort it through one more time in the store and get that money back.  Any way....

Then I sorted through recipes I have saved.  Now this one is from 2006.  That is six years ago.  That's a long time and I have NEVER made this recipe. Nor will I ever.  It is for Indian Pudding.  I don't know what I was thinking.  The claim to fame for this recipe is that instead of steaming for 12 hours, which the original recipe called for, you only have to steam it for 6 hours.  Really?  Six hours?  HOURS?  Sorry, someday when I really can't think of one thing to do, I may miss this.  NO, on second thought I won't.  Hey, if you're up for it, call me and I'll be happy to send you the recipe!
NO, I won't let you get sucked in either.  It is in the trash. 

From 3 shelves to 2.  Less room, less junk!


Silverware trays (dollar store) work wonders.  Labels work wonders. 
(This is an old trick from teaching that I used.)

Muffin tins are good for small items. 

My husband got me the coordinated scissors and tape measure, so I took the picture with the pretty pinks showing.  That probably won't last long.  I have to hide those scissors. 

I didn't finish my recipes, maybe tomorrow.  So I don't have those pictures, yet.  But, I am going to carve out 15 minutes every Thursday (have to be specific) to maintain the junk that accumulates in our house.  Hopefully with a little regular maintenance I can keep the house functioning on all cylinders!