Monday, September 24, 2012

Mom Moments, or Packing for New York

My eldest son turns 14 today.  I am overwhelmed.  I feel like I am running out of time with him.  My favorite book about caring for children, The Baby Whisperer, which I have mentioned before, describes the day with a newborn this way:  E - eat, A - activity, S- sleep, Y - you.  The Y is when you take time for You, doing whatever it is to help yourself stay rejuvenated and energized to get ready for the next EAS.  The activity she suggested back in the day may only consist of a diaper change or a lullaby. Those sleep-pajamas-all-day days are long gone.  I used to sleep or make tea or watch tv or refinish furniture (Yes, really) during my Y time.  Between all of our kids, the household still functions on those basic steps.  Eat, activity, sleep, school, sports.  But if we do sit down to relax for a Y minute, inevitably someone realizes that their uniform isn't clean, or they have a spelling test tomorrow, or there is an urgent need for making cupcakes, or something else that forces the bubble to break and we are set in motion again.  Usually it requires some work, however small, on my part, and I am distracted from the hypnotic state of laying on the couch.  I am on the job.  So when JJ calls to me, I have to force myself to look up from what I'm doing to make eye contact with him, (and I now have to gaze UP to see his eyes) because before I know it he is on to his next thing, too.  At this point I think the Y should stand for "You will never have this MOMent again." 

So I was hoping today, with all the kids in school, to take a minute with an old book I found while readying for the Yard Sale (another major project I probably shouldn't take on right now.) It is called Simple Abundance and a good friend gave it to me back when I was teaching 15 years ago.  I was hoping to turn to a page about getting You ready.  I seemed to remember that the author, Sarah Ban Breathnach, spent all of September talking about back to school and back to school supplies and clearing out and loading up for the winter, or for autumn.   I thought I would enjoy a refresher on cleaning the closets, hosting a yard sale, and making things new for Yourself.  But that's not what I found.  It's about a new career, which kind of really threw me into a tailspin.  The last thing I need right now is to start thinking about that.  I just need to get my closet cleaned out.  So I carefully put the book back on its shelf.  But if you're up for it, I encourage you to check out the website.  It seems she has some great new motivational stuff out there. 

Back to the closet.  I know that with our busy lives I'm going to need to keep my clothes straight.  I need to have things in order even if I don't have very much mom time.  Here is what I did:
This was the before.

I cleared it out and GLUED, with a simple glue stick, this drawer liner paper on the walls as a fun border.  (Honestly this takes about ten minutes and transforms your life!  My whole closet smells like lavender now and it's fun to open the door!)

I stacked a few old boxes, you could go out and get cute coordinating baskets too, and this old picture on top of the dresser.   (I have to tell you that this picture was in W magazine in the summer of 1990.  It was my dream - the mom and kids have just come off the beach and the boys are sitting on the little step, the younger one obviously getting talked to - I think of my Matt everytime I see it.  It was one of those Cotton - The Fabric of Our Lives ads!  It's probably time for it to go to the yard sale, but I can't.)  I love this dresser in my closet for scarves, negligees, and even flip flops that often get lost.

Then hung the clothes I think I will still wear...

Sorted the bags on top...

Stuck on these fun mirrors...
(These are from a friend, and I can't find them on line.  I have to ask where she got them!)

And my husband hung these matching mirrors on our closet doors. 

I wish I had the before picture to show you what a transformation this made.
I'm far from done.  I still have to bring down fall clothes and we are planning to go shopping for fall on our day off this week.  I have to work harder at purging.  Jamie Lee Curtis suggests that to decide what to keep in your closet, you should pretend you are packing for New York for two weeks in the fall.  Put all those clothes on the bed, give away everything else, and reload your closet with the clothes you packed.  I keep this in mind, but haven't really done it yet.  Then a friend gave me this great wool suit that I love and want to keep, but I have to think if I would take it to New York.   Hmmm.  What would I wear in New York?  It's fun once you start fantasizing.  JJ has his fantasy football - we need a fantasy football for moms. It will be called Fantasy New York.  Where would we go?  What would we do?  Where would we eat?  Who would watch the kids?   Maybe I'll have to actually go for some Y time after all!   

Monday, September 17, 2012

Safe at Home

This weekend a boy on my son’s baseball team hit an over-the-fence homerun.  It was so exciting.  Around every base he waved his arms and ran his heart out.  The smile and the disbelief grew on his face with each base he touched.  The team gathered at homeplate welcoming and congratulating him.  He must still be reeling from the feeling, still be feeling the ringing of the bat in his 11-year-old hands.  I can’t imagine that kid slept much last night. 
I think I can say that I feel something of that emotion.  We finished.  We made it home and safe.   We rounded each base and touched down safely, checking off the miles and the sights.  We saw the most incredible scenery and the most incredible places.  We met really cool people along the way.  We experienced things I hope we never do again, felt things that we’ll never be able to fully express, and some that we’ll spend forever trying to replicate.  I hope we can someday, somehow.   Here is a list of where we went:

Kalahari, Sandusky, Ohio

Chicago, Illinois

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Wall Drug, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Crazy Horse, South Dakota

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Sheridan, Wyoming

Shoshone Lodge, Cody, Wyoming

Canyon Campground, Yellowstone, Wyoming

Grant Village, Yellowstone, Wyoming

Lexington Inn, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Twin Falls, Idaho

Lake Tahoe, California

Yosemite National Park, California

LaSelva Beach, Santa Cruz, California

That’s a lot of bases to cover, but we made it.  And in the end the fates called us ‘safe at home.’  Each stop along the way was filled with adventure, some with fear.  We dipped our toes in:  Lake Michigan, Lake Arlington, Yellowstone Lake, Jenny Lake, Lake Tahoe, and the Pacific Ocean, and the Courtyard Pool.  We crossed a creek in Yellowstone to see this incredible Rock Fountain and Annie slipped on the wet rocks.   We put our hands in the HOT water that bubbled out of the rock and was immediately cooled by the mountain creek.  We rode horses named Paco, Jimbo, Harpo, Uma, Dutch, and Spud to a Cowboy Cookout and then descended down a rather
hill, watching the sunset on our way back to the corrals.  We climbed a mountain during a thunderstorm and were quickly chased back down by clouds and lightning.  We were awakened by a BEAR (I think I will forever capitalize BEAR now!)  while we huddled WITHOUT MOVING inside our tent in the middle of the night, (think Parent Trap without the Hollywood producers) and were quickly chased into a HOTEL which thankfully had room for us!  We saw a Redwood Tree that we could have lived in.   We ate Bison Burgers in Jackson Hole as a rainstorm moved in.   We laughed as we ran down the street carrying our takeout trays.  We saw a shootout that for a split second seemed like it might be the real thing.   We ate pancakes as big as a globe, partly because they were griddled at 8,000 feet altitude and caramel s’mores (JJ's idea) that were scented with freshly chopped pine and s’mores that were made on a dark beach in California by a firepit that reached 10 feet high.  We ate hotdogs there too that night.  We laughed a lot.  Especially when one of the kids read that if you laugh for 15 seconds straight, you’ll live an extra two years.   We visited Badlands at 7:00 am and saw a Rattlesnake.  We woke up before he did.   We went to a Ranger talk at 9:00 pm to hear about the bears in Yellowstone and Charlie fell asleep – “a little bit,” he says.  We met a college couple that had practiced their mountaineering techniques and that was going back to climb the Grand Teton at midnight; while it usually takes two days, they were hoping to finish in one.  We met a girl at the Wendy’s in South Bend, Indiana, who served us Frostys and she got the chills as she told us she grew up in Westmont, New Jersey, until her father moved them there so he could fulfill his life’s dream of being affiliated with Notre Dame, where he worked the rest of his life.  I could tell it was never her dream.   We watched as two very special people made vows to each other under a warm sun overlooking the Pacific Ocean.   That was a dream come true.

We went through 16 mini-boxes of cereal, 3 big boxes of cereal, 32 packs of cheese crackers, one jar of peanut butter (finished off by the bear), one jar of Nutella (carried off by the bear), I never found the jelly, three loaves of bread, two gallons of milk, one half gallon of oj, one package of shredded potatoes, one quart of egg whites, four cups of dry oatmeal, one bag of pasta, one soup mix, three large cans of chicken breast, two large cans of tuna, one package of shredded cheese, one package of tortillas, one bag of coffee, three bags of chips, 6 boxes of Cracker Jack, and five tubes of biscuit/pizza/cinnamon rolls, three of which burst because of the water in the cooler, and one box of Clif Bars.  No one went hungry.

We bought 6 airline tickets, 5 one way and 1 the other way.  We logged 3950 miles on the car and my husband and father added another 3200 on the way home.  They took the straightest shot possible across the midline states and took in a few sights along the way.  He brought me a t-shirt from the lodge in Aspen where my brother used to work, which is now a spa.  It meant so much and feels special when I wear it.  I’ll never forget seeing him for the first time again after that week of waiting and wondering where he could be, if he was okay, if my dad was helping with the driving, or driving him crazy.  He looked good, no worse for the wear, and I was happy, happy to have him safe at home.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Taking It All In

A few weeks ago as we anticipated the closing of the pool, the end of the summer, the beginning of our trip, my 13-year-old, who was floating around on the raft in the pool, said, "You know mom, I don't think I appreciate this enough.  I mean the whole summer has almost passed and I really don't appreciate it.  I think for the rest of the summer I'm just going to take it easy!"  Well, I really couldn't contain my laughter.  Really?  You are going to take it EASY?  I wanted to say.  You've slept past 10 every day, you have no job, no responsibility besides making your bed, and showing up for dinner and you are going to take it easy?  But I think what he meant was, "I'm going to take it all in."  That's the hard part.  Taking it all in.
Here we are in the middle of the country and seeing all sorts of new things.  Learning new words, learning new people, learning new places.  Trying our best to take it all in.  But it is hard.   There's so much to do and such a short time to do it all.  We are on to the next place, the next thing, the next exhibit before we know it.  We've been on vacation overload.  It's almost impossible to process it.  We have to stop and think about where we've been and what we've seen and somehow we're already onto the next place.  It's not a matter of stopping to smell the roses - that's what we are doing.  It's just that we have to let it sink in.
In yoga practice, after all the stretching and working the instructor will settle everyone down and say something like, "Let it sink into your muscles.  Let your muscles create the memory of the work you have just done."  I think that's the part that is so important.  Letting the memories stay.  Finding time to process and reflect.  It's so important. We want to experience it and relate it to something we already know. But sometimes we have to create a new file, a new system for recognizing it. It is amazing. It's amazing how the brain works and how kids learn and how we learn to take it all in.  Part of the learning is slowing it down and taking it in. 
While we were walking through Yellowstone among the many different types of geysers, I asked Annie, "What do you say when you see that?"  I was asking her for the name of the type of geyser we were looking at and she had researched Yellowstone and I knew that she knew the different names.  But I was in a sleep-deprived state and didn't phrase my question right.  So when I asked What do you say, in response she just said, "Look at that."  We've been saying that a lot.  Look at that, look at that, look at that.  It's a type of reflection, a type of prayer almost.  Wow - look at that.  That's amazing.  And it is so amazing.   And we are taking it all in.