Thursday, June 28, 2018

Slowing down for summer

We will all be at home together for about 4 weeks this summer, so part of me wanted to pack that time full of summer fun. But then I realized that what we all seem to really need is a break from the go-go-go of the rest of the year. So my goal for this summer is to work on a slower paced life---as much as this is possible when we still have full time jobs and full day camp.

Those 4 weeks actually only contain 3 weekends. One of those weekends we are going camping with some neighborhood families (the boys all loved the father-kid trip so much, the moms got a bit jealous and we planned round 2). The other 2 weekends...I am not planning much. The boys are always begging to play monopoly and we rarely have enough time to make the whole set up worthwhile. So we can do that. Or go on a rambling hike with the dog if the weather permits. Spend many hours at the splash park with friends. Or just watch movies and read books and play waterguns in the back yard.

G and I also discussed making meals SUPER simple this summer. Either stuff we can make ahead and eat all week (tacos!) or things that can be thrown on the grill. Again, kids are always asking to go to the park in the evening or to play board games with them, and I often have to decline since I need to get dinner on the table. And honestly, we could use a break from chopping and seasoning and...ugh...clean up.  If the kids don't need me during that time...I could relax. A cold can of Spindrift in the back yard after the long walk home....lovely.

I definitely have to fight against the FOMO feeling in the summer. There is SO MUCH "fun" stuff happening in our city and I know that many people take full advantage of these opportunities but its honestly kind of overwhelming to me. For the moms that are home with their kids all day, sure, get out there and explore  (and tire them out), but my kids are going to be exploring and tiring themselves out at camp and I'll be my usual level of tired from exercise and work and life. We each picked one thing we really want to do (I want to go back to the zip-line/treetop course with B, G wants to pick peaches and get BBQ at the farm, L wants a play date at the splash park with 3 friends) and we will focus on that.

I mean, its not like my kids are having a boring summer! They are spending 3 weeks with my parents & their cousins (including one week at the beach with us there too) and 3 weeks with MIL (including 1 week with us there, too, where we will definitely pack in a bunch of fun activities and outings). And 4 weeks at a super fun summer camp where they go on at least one field trip a week and swim everyday. Summer always seemed SO LONG for me. We would do a week of vacation and the rest of the time just hang out at home, with books and TV and video games and some friend time but...really not much else. My mother did not consider it her job to make sure our summer was full of anything, from what I recall.

But I do want them to be a little bit bored...or...not bored exactly but with the free space to just do what comes to mind. Like reading for 2 hours before dinner (B loves to do this when he doesn't have homework) or pulling out old toys and making up elaborate stories (L's jam) or putting on every dress-up item in the entire home and being wizards or super heroes or Jedis or whatever happens to be cool in the moment (they like doing this together). And for me to read more books and them be kids.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Do I miss them?

People keep asking me if I miss the kids and the truth is...not really. Is that terrible? I thought I would miss them, and I felt a bit sad coming home to such a quiet house, but in truth I got busy with work and life and really committed to enjoying this rare time to myself and with G.  And we have enjoyed it immensely. In addition to reading and TV, we've been going out for dinner, meeting friends, took our dog on a long hike on a cool cloudy day, and have had a reprieve from the constant planning/preparing/cleaning up of food because we can just fend for ourselves or eat a bunch of cheese and crackers for dinner if we want.

I think having time away is really helpful for me, given the challenges we have with our kids. They are not easy. It takes a LOT out of me to stay calm and non-reactive in the midst of their constant negativity and fighting and pushing buttons. Yes, they are older and the physical work is less but the mental work MY GOD. They are ALWAYS talking to me. ALWAYS. Asking questions rapid-fire every second. Not going to bed anymore until my own bedtime, so I get very little to any evening "me time" and forget about couple time.

Two more evenings alone and then we go join them on Friday night. And I will spend every waking minute with them for a full week at the beach where I am also dealing with the rest of our extended family (G will be there half the week but sincerely does not enjoy the beach so I let him off the hook). I'm grateful that I can enter this challenge with my patience and energy restored. We will all be together at home for about a month after that and then we do a week with MIL and....get 2 weeks to ourselves again. Hey, I have the misfortune of dealing with the worst MIL on earth (I'm in an awful MIL facebook group, but my god, mine wins the gold most of the time), but she loves to care for our kids and I am taking full advantage of this positive outcome. EVERYONE deserves some kind of summer break.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


The state of the world (or specifically our not-so-little part in it) has me overwhelmed these days. I'm doing what small part I can but it just doesn't seem like enough. And I've realized the hard way that dwelling on things beyond the circle of my control is not going to help anyone and actually precludes me from showing up at my best for the people and responsibilities I actually can influence. So I get the updates, make some calls and donations, and go back to my (admittedly privileged) life. 

Which is actually going well. I'm knocking out stuff at work. The kids are with my parents for the week. I miss them but I don't...I'm really busy at work and 9 days really isn't that long! I've been reading and watching TV and exercising and playing with the dog and spending time with G and just...trying to savor this rare time to myself.

Things I've been up to:

Books: I recently finished Educated, by Tara Westover, which was...astonishing. Such an intense memoir and incredibly well-written.  I also tore through Radium Girls, by Kate Moore, another too-bizarre-for-fiction story with a much less hopeful ending. The story was riveting and I finished this up in a couple of days, but the writing was a little unpolished. I think this was her debut, so I'll cut her a break. I listened to Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. I really really loved the first 1/2-2/3 but wasn't a fan of the ending. The narrater was West African and did the voices and dialect so perfectly that I think I would've enjoyed this less in text, since the action was very very slow to come and the characters did not turn out to be particularly likable. I'm currently reading The Underground Railroad by Colin Whitehead which is as depressing as I'd imagined, but also quite well-written and fast-paced so far (20% in). I need some fluffy fiction for the beach so I borrowed a Sophie Kinsella novel from the library and my sister is bringing me Crazy Rich Asians.

TV: G and I are trying to catchup on Westworld Season 2. I'm thoroughly confused. We can only watch one episode at a time because its brain overload.  I wouldn't mind giving up but G is into it, and we don't have anything else new that we are watching together. Also, Parks & Rec is back on Netflix whoo hoo! A good mindless one for unwinding and laughing. And of course, I am binging the Handmaid's Tale, which...I dunno, maybe I like season 2 even more than Season 1 (which was up there with the best TV I have ever ever seen)? I know Noemi's husband called it "misery porn" which isn't untrue but there is more to it. I am drawn to stories of strength and resistance amongst the most atrocious evils...and the hope that that one little spark can bring truth to power and bring down a fascist regime. The fact that the sentiment is so apt in our current political climate also helps. Not sure how this show would've done 5 years ago---I think I would've found it a relic of another time, and just take solace that we've grown beyond such possibilities. Now...sometimes it seems prescient.

Food: Still obsessed with Spindrift and found the elusive cucumber flavor at the 5th store we tried! Its absolutely my favorite. I tried grilling pizza for the first time and it was SO EASY and quick and the crust actually turned out crispy and not doughy!  This will be a weekly addition to our summer meal plan! We also discovered my new favorite restaurant. We went Saturday and are going again today it was THAT GOOD (and hey, no kids, so.....)

I had planned to write everyday the kids were away, but I could sidetracked by all of the above, but I have some thoughts about summer plans and 2nd quarter goals so I'll probably be back. (Just in case anyone happens to read here anymore...)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Some randomness on a Wednesday

Something is better than nothing, right? Lots of things going through my head, just not able to get them written into a full post for you, so you get bullets instead.
  •  I'm reading my first book by Brene Brown, The Gift of Imperfection. As I read it, it seems very frothy and repetitive and not a little cheesy (sorry, fangirls!) BUT as I let the thoughts percolate, I'm finding some really great nuggets in there. Like her story about being addicted to "taking the edge off" with alcohol, food, social media, shopping, etc... I've been thinking about this a lot this week. Is not just "normal human" to do that? Because I FOR SURE do that, always. If I try to cut back on one thing, the other pops up---its constant "take-the-edge-off" whack-a-mole around here. The thought of giving up every single vice is horrifying. Does the fact that it is so frightening to me indicate that it is bad for me? 
  • G and the boys are going to a father-kid camping trip on Friday. I will have a whole night and most of a day to myself. Everyone keeps asking me if I'm going to "go out" Friday night and I am like, what is this "go out" you speak of and can I do it in my PJs? All I can fantasize about is an evening to myself with Netflix and take out and wine. And waking up early-ish to go exercise and then read books all day. In honesty I do like going out usually, but I'm feeling the need for some introvert-time lately.
  • We went strawberry picking last weekend! I was so proud of myself for actually making this happen. It was one of those things I always mean to do but then somehow miss the window for (because "the berry season is short" of course) but we went! And it was fun! And I am so sick of strawberries right now. 
  • The farm also tricks you into picking sour cherries by stopping by those trees first on the hayride to the berries. And they have somehow genetically engineered the cherry trees to be exactly picking height for kids. They just called them "cherries" so I had no idea until we had paid (a LOT) for them and tasted one. Now I need to bake things with these beautiful mouth-puckering fruits. Ideas other than pies? I'm not really that advanced a baker that I am planning to attempt a pie. I can do a "crumble" or a "crisp" maybe?
Any thoughts on taking-the-edge-off behaviors and beginner level sour cherry recipes welcome! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sweet Sassy Molassy!

I am trying to encourage old school alternatives to the actual SWEARING my kids have been experimenting with lately. Where the F&*K did they learn that go$d@mn s?it anyways? (No seriously, I have the worst language when I'm not around my kids but I am pretty good about cleaning it up around them---L learned the whole list of them from an "older", i.e. 1st grade, kid who learned it from his 4th-grade cousin). B is my rule-follower who never dared utter even his version of the "S-word" (stupid) but now that L is letting the F-bombs fly (loudly, in public, "what does F&*K mean mommy? Do you know the word F&*K?) he's getting in on the action, too.

Anyways. I'm crawling out of the funk. We had a pretty nice weekend, and this week is somewhat less rainy (except today). Both boys were in uncharacteristically happy moods yesterday which really really warmed me from the inside out. B went to bed saying---completely unprompted---that he loved his day & it was all thanks to "Mommy, Daddy, my teacher for getting us the worms (they are making a worm compost bin, but first studying the little guys), my friends at school, and Daddy again for buying me a Wawa Hoagie". L couldn't stop jumping around squealing that "THE CHICKS HATCHED!"

We finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and haven't quite latched onto our next reading obsession, so just reading bits and pieces of Roald Dahl and old favorite picture books. I think I'll order "Wonder" to finish before the summer. I'm taking the summer off from Harry, we started this last one in January and the next one is even longer.

As the boys get older they eat way more, and we can't realistically cook enough to last an entire week anymore. So I've been meal planning and using inspiration from the Plated meals we've liked to try some new recipes. Chicken thighs have been surprisingly cheap and easy---rub on spice and throw in oven for 30 minutes & serve with salad with some toast for the kids on the side. Sunday I made chicken satay with peanut sauce, with simple broccoli and rice. Yesterday I made shrimp tacos with frozen peeled & de-veined shrimp & some kale/broccoli/cabbage slaw. The boys tried one little bite of shrimp and went back to their Wawa hoagies and vegetables. I want to try more vegetarian/vegan ("plant-based" if I'm being pretentious) meals because damn we finished the ENTIRE package of chicken breasts on Sunday that cost nearly $10, same with the shrimp.

My beloved GRIT class is cancelled for 2 weeks as our instructor is on vacation and they couldn't find a sub to come in at dark-o-clock and help us try to die, so I'm mixing it up. I've done a few different barre classes---I did one Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and my legs were in PAIN yesterday. I'll do Bodypump tomorrow and Friday, and then back to barre.

Oh, and thanks for the birthday wishes! My birthday is actually this weekend. I booked us to go on this "Treetop adventure" thing that opened in a nearby park, with zip lines and such, for my birthday activity. We also have a baseball game with friends, and are going to have neighbors over for a Memorial Day cookout (or cook-in, since it looks like rain). Also have a date night planned for Friday. Last couple of times we went out, we opted for spontaneity and started at a bar for a cocktail and decided what we felt like having for dinner and went somewhere we could just walk in and eat a bit, and then went somewhere else for dessert/nightcap. We are fast eaters and just going to one place ensured that we would be done way before our kids were even in bed, so this is a good way to stretch out the evening, not feel too full all of a sudden, and explore the city.

OK, there is a break in the rain, I may head home to walk the dog and work on my laptop until time to pick up the boys.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Nodding my head like yeah...

L has been really into this horrible Kidz Bop pop music lately (school! damn the "indoor recess dance party") so my head is overflowing with the cheesiest ear worm beats and lyrics.

I've been in quite a funk lately. I'm acknowledging it here as the first step to climbing my way out. Nothing actually has happened, its just that all the little things this time of year take on extra poignancy and weight. The end of the school year, another year of my life, my marriage, my motherhood. Its all getting shorter. Its a weird mix of wanting to take it all in and really LIVE IT and yet being too raw to really engage, so I distract and dissociate.

Another birthday coming up and why do I struggle with all the same things? I cope with eating and drinking and scrolling too much. And then I feel bad about myself for the time lost and the weight gained. The vicious cycle of my life.

ANYWAYS. As I tell my kids...time to turn it around. Positive thinking.

A short list of small things making me happy these days:
  • Spindrift sparking water. Cucumber is the best but harder to find in stores. The orange mango is my second fave. Not a huge fan of the berry flavor.
  • the NYT crossword. I do it every day for a break at lunch time. I can easily finish M-W, it gets trickier after that. I also do the weekend ones, which take at least 30 minutes. It sort of fulfills that "gaming" urge but is limited--you either finish or you give up--so isn't as much of a dangerous time suck.
  • Puzzles. The kids and I have taken over the coffee table for 1000 piece puzzles. We work on them little bits at a time and start a new one when we are done. Its a nice break.
  • The West Wing Weekly podcast. I still adore it and it just makes me happy to listen to those guys banter and riff off each other and try to out pun and dad-joke each other. I've been s loving the recent live events with special guests. 
I will try to incorporate all 4 of these into my day today. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Suddenly Summer

Which reminds me of that convenience food item "Suddenly Salad" which I used to love as a kid, or that show "Suddenly Susan" starring Brooke Shields and her eyebrows.

Anyways. It went from winter to 90 degrees this week. I hate to complain, but damn, what happened to spring? I had to change out our wardrobes in a hurry yesterday so we had something appropriate for today.

So many little annoyances today. Blah. I'm trying not to let it get to me. THREE separate patients calls from people who are VERY UPSET about something not involving me or their medical care but systemic issues in our division/hospital and yet I have to spend 20+ minutes talking them down from the ledge. I entrusted G to go to the boys' report card conferences, told him several times when to go, and watched him put the times into his calendar and HE MESSED UP AGAIN (I messed up last time and had the wrong dates and missed both). And more drama about this proposed construction 2 doors down and basically all our neighbors think our (4 immediate neighbors) position is wrong and anti-progress and if "you don't want xyz, go move to the suburbs" when really, I just want an honest developer with a solid (i.e. not changing every 2 minutes) plan for the development and no restaurant venting into our backyard.  Also all my clothes are tight again. FUCK it is impossible to maintain your weight after a certain age without being constantly hungry.  Plus I still have the tiniest hint of lingering pain over my left eye from the migraine I got last night after trying to go running in the evening with some neighbors. The run went GREAT, but I learned that the thing that used to happen to me 10 years ago where I would get a migraine if I ran in the evening and didn't eat immediately is still there.

OK. Vent over.

Minor annoyances notwithstanding, life is pretty good right now. Apparently the kids are both doing quite well in school right now (G finally got around to the right place and the teachers fit him in), including J's socialization. I love taking them to the park in the evening, and we even somewhat-inadvertently skipped homework once because dammit, kids should go play with other kids in the evening when its perfect and sunny outside. I can't believe there are only 6 weeks left of the school year.

Happy  May!