How to make dinner in 65 easy ste — Squirrel!

I’ve had ADHD all my life, although my parents didn’t know it when I was little; back in the ’80s, such terminology wasn’t exactly mainstream. Plus, I was fortunate enough to not struggle academically (as so many folks with ADD/ADHD do), so no “red flags” were raised. Yes, I was somewhat of a disorganized, super-talkative whirlwind, but my teachers were kind enough to use such phrases as, “I like to refer to her desk as ‘creative clutter'” and “Emily is a bit distracted at times,” which were vague enough to not be terribly worrisome. (I was too much of a goody-goody to purposely cause trouble at school, but I do distinctly remember the time I was sent into the hall because I wouldn’t stop blurting out the answers to my classmates’ oral spelling words. Every time anyone would walk by me, I’d make my way over to the drinking fountain. What? No, I’m not in the hall because I’ve been disciplined. I’m just absolutely parched is all.)

It wasn’t until high school that my mom was looking over an ADHD questionnaire (that, ironically, had been suggested for another family member) when she realized that he met very little of the criteria… but I met nearly all of it. I know there are a lot of misdiagnoses for things like ADD and ADHD, and I know that the term is bandied about far too freely, but as for me? Let’s just say that, once, when I was taking a “Do you have ADHD?” quiz, I got to the question, Are you impulsive when… and checked the Yes box before I’d even finished reading. POSTER CHILD.

So, I definitely have ADHD, which is neither good nor bad, but simply part of the fabric of who I am. But it can be confusing sometimes, especially when other people don’t seem to understand what having ADHD is really like. When I try to describe my hyperactive tendencies, how easily I can become distracted, how difficult it can be to just have “down time,” or why I have to work hard to get anywhere on time, people tend to chime in with a story of their own. “Oh, I lose my keys all the time, too.” “My bedroom is such a pigsty – I bet I have ADHD!” “I totally jiggle my knee when I’m bored. I know exactly what you mean.”

I can relate to all of those, and it’s great that people “get it”… to a degree… but being forgetful or disorganized or having a hard time sitting still do not, in and of themselves, indicate that anyone has ADHD. It’s… different. It’s all-encompassing. And it’s really, really hard to fully explain (especially without sounding like I’m just making excuses for putting my purse in the refrigerator), like trying to describe a color that someone has never seen, although they’ve glimpsed shades of it.

But, a few weeks ago, something happened while I was making dinner that made me stop and think, THIS is what ADHD looks like. At least, one tiny, distractible portion of it.

And so, HERE is what making dinner looks like – in just 65 easy steps! – through the eyes of this mom with ADHD.

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* I know the photos are tiny; they’re the largest that this blog format will allow. You can click on them, though, if you really desire to see them closer. HAHA.

1) Begin making dinner – soup (whose recipe says it will take 20 minutes to prepare) and a salad. Wash the veggies and strain them. Leave the strainer and the cutting board on the stove (duh). Leave another cutting board on the counter. Wonder how many times you’ve heard “Let It Go” today.

2) Get wine out of the fridge and pour yourself a glass. Leave the bottle on the counter – not because you’re having more, but because you forgot to put it away.

3) Notice that, good heavens, the kitchen looks like a bomb went off in it. How can anyone cook in this mess?? Decide that you must start cleaning and reorganizing this very instant.

4) But, before you do, snap a photo, because you realize that this may just be the photo series you’ve been looking for to illustrate what having ADHD is like.

adhd kitchen1

5) Take the photo. Notice immediately that, for some very unknown reason, a cupboard, a drawer, and a twirly cabinet (there must be a better name for that) are wide open. Wonder why that is.

6) Notice, also, that the dishwasher is open, but reassure yourself that it’s because you were putting away the clean dishes before you started cooking. Pat yourself on the back for multi-tasking.

adhd kitchen2

7) Decide to put away the carrots and onions that you were done using ages ago.

adhd kitchen3

8) Ahhhh. Major progress.

9) Hear the song change on Pandora, which is playing through your laptop, and remember that you haven’t checked email in a few hours. Check your email.

10) Hear the soup blurping in the pot. Leave your computer and go stir it.

11) Put the cutting board (that had been on the counter) in the sink.

12) Get out a few of the ingredients for the salads.

13) Take notice that the silverware drawer is open. Close the silverware drawer.

14) Take another photo.

adhd kitchen4

15) Look back at the counter and decide, now that you’ve tackled the misplaced food, that you absolutely have enough time to put away all of the cooking items; that’ll only take, what, two minutes?

adhd kitchen5

16) Put the strainer, cutting board, tupperware bottom, and enormous knife in the sink.

17) Put away the clean dishes that are sitting in the other sink.

18) Drink some wine.

19) Go back to the computer to fast-forward the song that Pandora is playing. Why on earth did they decide to play “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” in March?

20) Pet the dogs.

21) Remember that you have a task at hand that does not involve the dogs: MAKING DINNER. You reaffirm that dinner will be made, stat.

22) Fifteen minutes after you began putting the cooking items away, put the blender back in the twirly cabinet.

adhd kitchen6

23) Close the open cabinet. Even though you just used it – and, thus, might have thought it wise to close it – leave the twirly cabinet open.

24) Pause to take a photo of your daughter who has just come downstairs wearing her Gryffindor costume.

adhd kitchen ella

25) Realize that you needed the blender to puree part of the soup.

26) Get it back out of the twirly cupboard and use it.

27) Do not close the twirly cabinet.

28) Take another photo.

adhd kitchen8

29) Declare that not nearly enough progress has been made and promise yourself to really buckle down now and finish the damn soup already.

30) Sip wine.

adhd kitchen9

31) Reach to get bowls into which to begin ladling the soup and discover that all of the clean bowls are in the dishwasher.

32) Decide that right now is the perfect time to unload the entire contents of the dishwasher. It’ll only take five minutes.

adhd kitchen10

33) Set one bowl on the counter for soup. There will be four people eating tonight, but this does not matter.

adhd kitchen11

34) Hear children say that one of the dogs is running around in the street. Tell them to get the damn dog (but do not actually say the word “damn” out loud) and to go back outside and close the damn gates (but maybe do actually say the word “damn” this time) that they must have left open earlier.

35) Climb up to the cabinets above the fridge to fetch a lantern when said children complain that it is too dark outside to close the gates.

36) Finish putting away the dishes. It’s only taken ten minutes; not bad.

adhd kitchen12

37) Turn back to counters and finally realize that the twirly cupboard has been left open all this time for no reason. Close it. AMEN.

38) Put the wine bottle away; one is enough, thanks. Two glasses is clearly too much.

39) Where were you? Right, dinner. Must finish soup and make salads, pronto.

40) See the dirty dishes piling up in the sink and decide to wash them immediately.

adhd kitchen13

41) Take a photo and then stand back and admire your far tidier kitchen.

42) Become annoyed with the clutter by the dog kennel and spend five minutes rearranging it.

43) Look more closely and notice the salad makings that are still on the counter. Decide to make the salads once and for all.

44) Stop to put a french braid in your daughter’s hair so she can method act as Elsa.

adhd kitchen annie

45) Listen to “Let It Go” for the 37th time. Today.

46) Decide that you mean business about the salads.

adhd kitchen14

47) Make salads. THANKS BE TO GOD.

48) Turn off the heat on the soup so it doesn’t burn the girls’ mouths.

49) Drink some wine.

50) Call the family down to the twenty-minute dinner that took eighty minutes to make.

adhd kitchen15

51) Take a photo.

52) Distribute the food.

53) See the clean dishes in the sink and decide that you need to put them away right now before you eat.

54) Put the dishes away.

55) Tell family you’ll be joining them for dinner in just a moment; they can start without you.

56) Wash your hands.

57) Realize you need to use the bathroom.

58) Wash your hands again.

59) Notice that the floors are dirty; sweep the floors a just bit.

60) Check Facebook.

61) Remember that, oh hey, you’re hungry.

62) Close the computer to turn off Pandora.

63) Take a final photo of the kitchen (where all you were supposed to be doing is making dinner).

adhd kitchen16

64) Notice that the lantern is now sitting on the counter after your daughters brought it back inside.

65) Decide to put it away. Tomorrow. Because heaven only knows what will happen if you allow yourself to become distracted and flit from task to task.

———————-

And that is what “making dinner” looks like when… Wait, it’s nearly ten a.m. and I haven’t had breakfast yet? I do believe I’ll do that now. Catch you later!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Throwback Thursday: All Cold Things Must Come To An End

When the girls were babies, I remember being confounded time and time again. Their sleeping is bad! They cry for no reason! They think it’s funny to poop in the shower!

More often than I can recount, exasperation was met by the sage advice: Don’t worry. They won’t still be using pacifiers in college. It has to end sometime.

Half of the time someone uttered such a phrase, I wanted to knock their teeth out. They may not make it to college if she won’t stop shouting “fuggin'” at the top her lungs each time we go out in public. The other half, however, I found some sort of comfort and consolation in the idea that this, too, would pass. They would eventually sleep. They would stop crying for no reason. Pooping would be kept to the toilet. Maybe.

I’ve found myself offering similar statements when local friends talk about the weather. (Heck, I’ve found myself saying it to the checkout people at the grocery store; the weather is a hot topic of conversation here in the ROC, let me tell you.)

“OMG, more snow. More cold. THIS WINTER WILL NEVER END.”

Well, yes… Except I tell myself that summer will actually get here sometime. It will not be winter forever. So, even though I’m not so great with The Math, it has to end at some point, does it not??

I know this to be true. And yet, there are times when I need proof… and I can find it in my (oodles and oodles) of old photographs.

To wit: It was a deliciously warm St. Patrick’s Day back in 2011.
st patricks day girl4
Annie does her best, cheese four year-old smile.

st patricks girl4
Ella is six going on sixteen in this photo.
But the missing teeth give her away.

‘Twas so warm, in fact (by Rochester standards, anyway, which probably means it was about 60 degrees), that Ella took to lying on a towel outside in her pajamas to celebrate St. Pat’s in all her glory.
3.17 unexpectedly warm st pats
Yes, that’s an iPad, which should probably not be allowed outside – nature vs. technology and all. I like to be a rebel.

But then… While walking to the talent show on March 24th of the same year… There was snow.
3.24 walking to talent show
Have I mentioned how much I love living so close to school?

And on the 25th, there was this:
3.25 march storm
Annie’s like a robin flitting about in the corner. A large, loud, hilarious robin.

By two weeks later, however? Gone. And green. And spring.4.14 two teddies
 
April 14, 2011 – just hanging around.

So, spring will surely come. One of these days. It can’t be winter forever.

Saying naughty words while we’re out in public, though, is something Nick will still have to work on.

Lightweight

I love my job – today, the periods were shortened to thirty minutes each (from the usual forty) because of the talent show, and when I reminded my seventh graders of this, one kiddo burst out, “Why is it that the best classes are shortened??” – and it’s been going really well. The logistics have been tricky, and I’m behind in basically every other area of my life, but it’s all been good and worth it.

With that said… great googly moogly, I am SO FREAKIN’ TIRED. There’s just too much to squeeze into each day, and, in order to actually spend a few moments with my children that don’t include screaming over hair-brushing or standing at the thresholds of their bedrooms and uttering some form of, “How is it possible to create such a huge mess in so little time?”,  I wind up doing the majority of the “extra” stuff after the girls go to bed. Which means that I, myself, routinely don’t manage to turn my own light off until at least 1:30 a.m.

I’m usually a morning person, but when that alarm goes off before 7:00 and it’s my fourth consecutive day getting only five hours of sleep, I’m do not have a wonderful feeling that everything is going my way, let me tell you.

I don’t nap. I don’t know why, but I just don’t. I realize that this is a foreign concept for many people (especially my husband), but, as appealing as the couch seems and as cozily as I nestle my head, napping simply doesn’t happen for me unless I’m coming down with some major illness. Or a man cold. Likewise, sleeping in a car or on a plane are out of reach for me, too, no matter how much green eggs and ham you throw in. And falling asleep while watching TV or reading a book? Fuggedaboudit. I am broken when it comes to sleeping anyplace other than my bed, or any time other than when I climb in for the night.

A few weeks ago, Nick asked if I’d like a glass of wine with dinner. I agreed, and then decided to throw caution to the wind and have a second with dessert. (I know, crazytown – but it was Friday night, so you’ll forgive me for really letting loose.) At bedtime, we decided to split up reading with the girls; Nick went to Ella’s room and I settled next to Annie as she opened up her latest Princess Posey tome. She began to read to me (thank God she now pronounces the heroine’s name correctly; she used to call her “Princess Pussy”), and I think I heard the first few words… but I’m not quite sure, because the next thing I remember, I was wiping drool off Annie’s pillow and trying to making up an excuse about how I’d been listening, I was just doing it with my eyes closed. When she finished the chapter and turned off the light, I kissed her goodnight as always… but then asked if she would mind if I just stayed put for awhile. I mean, I was already cozy and warm, and it’s been such a chilly winter…

I awoke around 9:30 p.m. and peeled myself out from underneath her covers. Instead of migrating to the living room to pull out my laptop, however (with hopes of editing some photos, or maybe laying out yearbook pages, or researching lessons, or writing plans, or answering emails, or any of the other myriad items on my To Do list), for the first time in… well, I honestly can’t remember, so it must have been forever… I trudged up to my own bedroom. Nick was already lounging on the bed – technically on my side – but, being so tired that I quite literally couldn’t keep my eyes open, I merely grunted a greeting his way and crawled into bed on his side, sound asleep the instant my head hit the pillow.

Good grief, two glasses of wine and I had passed out faster than free samples at Sam’s Club!

I awoke with a start – comically, like you see in the movies, practically sitting bolt upright from a dead sleep – when Nick (who had also nodded off) got up to use the bathroom, and it somehow registered inside that, Holy crap, I actually went to bed before midnight... and I accomplished NONE of what I needed to that night. Slightly panicked, I glanced at the clock – 1:30 a.m. (great balls of fire!, I’d been asleep for four hours?!) – as I realized that the dogs had not yet been let out for the night. In fact, if Nick and I both had dozed off (or, in my case, passed out cold), the dogs hadn’t been let out since… oh… 6 p.m. or so, and asking them to “hold it” until 9 a.m. was probably a bad idea.

It was then that it dawned on me that I was… damp...?… absolutely everywhere. Because, in my complete and utter exhaustion, I had gotten into bed wearing all of my clothes — including my thick socks, jeans, long-sleeved shirt, and a sweatshirt — and, after lying beneath the sheet, duvet, and comforter for four hours, I had basically sweated myself into oblivion. I managed to shake myself awake enough to remove my (damp) clothing, clean up a bit, and get into some pajamas, and then went downstairs to let the dogs out to do their business.

I did what I always do – open the sliding glass door in our playroom (which is otherwise closed all of the time) to let them romp straight into our backyard – and began to wake up slightly as the chilly night air snuck in. Joey came in almost immediately, as usual, and gobbled his treat as I tucked him into the kennel. Jambi returned shortly thereafter and wandered upstairs, but Langston… Sweet Jesus, y’all, that dog can pee. We are talking, I kid you not, three or four minutes straight and the stream still continues. It’s truly like nothing I’ve ever seen – where does he store all of this liquid? Is he a magician? A sorcerer? – and, quite frankly, sometimes I get bored and check back in with him later.

IMG_6747
Joey was all, Why the hell are you putting my in my kennel in the middle of the day? For a photograph?? Are you nuts? 

As Lang continued to pee… and pee… and pee... I remembered that the dishwasher needed to be run, so I went up to the kitchen and turned it on. While there, I was greeted by the many other things that I’d intended to do that night – tidying up the kitchen, going through the girls’ school folders, making juice for the morning – so I figured, hell, as long as I’m up, I might as well take care of this stuff, too!

Who knew that a four-hour nap can be so energizing?!

After about ten minutes, I heard Langston nosing around in the garage, so I let him in through the kitchen; he and Jambi went back upstairs to the bedroom to wait for me (and their treats). At last, my burst of energy faded, and – feeling satisfied that I’d finally checked off several To Dos – I settled into bed for good around 2:30 a.m. and slept straight through until the girls woke us at 8:30 the following morning.

IMG_6746
They don’t usually share a bed, but they’re cuter that way, no?

TEN, ladies and gentlemen. I got over TEN hours of sleep(!), which is almost double what I normally get, and, good grief, I felt like a new person. There was a spring in my step as I showered and got ready, then made my way downstairs around 9:00 to help the girls with breakfast.

Nick had already beat me down to let the dogs out, however, and was engaged in a lively… discussion… with Ella about some infraction that she, supposedly, had committed.

“Why would you have opened that door? You know you’re not supposed to use that door!”

“I didn’t open it, Daddy!”

“But it’s wide open! It’s freezing down here!”

“I didn’t open it, really. It must have been open when I came downstairs to play.”

“How on earth did it get open? Do you think Joey got out of his kennel and opened it?”

“No, that’s crazy. But I didn’t open it. I promise.”

“Well, if you didn’t open it, why didn’t you at least close it?”

“Because I didn’t know it was open.”

“You didn’t know it was open?? It’s ten degrees outside! This playroom is like ice! How did you think it got so cold down here?”

“I don’t know! I knew it was cold, but it’s always colder in the playroom because it’s near the basement, so I just thought it was regular cold.”

“IT’S TEN DEGREES OUTSIDE!! IT’S ABSOLUTELY FREEZING IN HERE!”

“I just thought it was normal!!”

And that is how I made a horrifying realization: my daughter’s sense of temperature is clearly warped.
And also… in my flurry of “accomplishments” the night before, while waiting for Langston to finish his epic pee, I had inadvertently left the sliding glass door open. All night. When it was ten degrees out.

Whoops.
On the bright side, at least no bugs got in!

I immediately ‘fessed up to my mistake, thereby clearing Ella of any wrongdoing (although, seriously, I don’t know why she didn’t think anything was amiss – it was cold!). I then apologized to Nick, both for leaving the door open (but I did take credit for extracting myself from our nice, warm OMG IT WAS SO WARM AND HOT AND WARM LIKE A DAMN SAUNA AND I NEARLY SWEATED TO DEATH bed in order to let the dogs out, thank you very much) and for drinking enough to knock myself out cold.
That finally got him chuckling.

“Uh, Em. You can’t be serious.”

What do you mean?

“You had two not-at-all-big glasses of wine last night. You drank them an hour apart AND you ate a full dinner and had dessert in between.”

Yes, and…

“And I know you’re the cheapest date in the world, but even you cannot get so drunk on one-and-a-half glasses of wine that you black out at 9 p.m.”

Well, it doesn’t really take a lot to…

“How do you feel this morning?”

What?

“How do you feel right now? Are you hung over?”

WHAT?! No. I’ve been hungover exactly once.* I feel just fine.

* true story. I’m sort of proud and sort of mortified by this at the same time.

“So, yeah. No. You did become even remotely drunk last night. You don’t need to apologize for passing out, are you crazy??”

But then how…?

“I believe it’s called tired. As in, you’ve been staying up SO DAMN LATE recently, your body absolutely couldn’t handle anymore. Sure, the wine may have mellowed things out a bit, but this wasn’t you drinking too much. This was you realizing, somewhere in the back of your mind, that you could let things slide for just one night, and your body finally giving out because you’re exhausted. Actually, I think it was one of the best things that could have happened to you.”

Oh. That might explain why I feel so good this morning after getting so much sleep.

“It might.”

And it might explain why I fell asleep in Annie’s bed. And why I fell asleep on your side of the bed with my clothes on. (GREAT SCOTT, THAT WAS DUMB.) And why I slept for FOREVER.

“Yeah.”

Which would also explain why I forgot to close the sliding glass door, which essentially lets me off the hook entirely…

“Not even remotely.”

Fair enough.

I’d like to say that, since my Friday night snoozefest, I’ve treated myself better and have gotten to sleep at a better hour each night. I’d like to, but that would be lying, so I won’t. I have made it to bed before 1:30 (several times), however, and I have proudly fallen asleep before 9:00 on more than one Friday night since then. DO I KNOW HOW TO HAVE A ROCKIN’ GOOD TIME ON A WEEKEND OR WHAT!

Maybe, someday, I’ll learn how to better balance all of this stuff and I’ll finally figure out how to get more sleep, but until then, at least I’m happy. Happy at my job, happy that the girls are happy, happy that my kids let us sleep in on Saturdays, happy that my husband knows I’m not a lush, happy for wine, and happy that no wild animals snuck into the house and made nests in the heating vents.

Silver lining, people. There’s always a silver lining.

 

Is it bigger than a bread box?

Recently, Annie and I (and occasionally Nick) have been playing epic rounds of Disney Hedbanz, which is just like regular Hedbanz except with only Disney characters. Or things. There are sometimes things and those are really hard (like the rose from Beauty and the Beast, the pumpkin coach from Cinderella, etc. HOW DO YOU GUESS THAT YOU’RE A POISON APPLE??).

The object of the game is to determine what character is pictured on your headband (which you cannot see, because it’s, you know, on your head) by asking questions about it – essentially Twenty Questions, except the number of questions isn’t limited; you can ask as many as you want until the sand runs out of the hourglass. Or, in Annie’s and my case, you can ask questions for all of eternity, because it’s exceedingly rare that one of us gets the answer right our first go-round, so we decided that you can just keep asking questions about the same character when it’s your turn again until you finally get it right or become so frustrated, you debate lighting the card on fire, and give up instead.

Playing Hedbanz can be challenging, period, but it is made especially so when you’re playing with someone who is of a different generation than you. Or who does not recognize half of the characters. Or who says “Maaaybe?” when you ask if your character is a boy. Very helpful.

It certainly keeps the mystery alive, because you never know how each round will go. To wit:

When Annie had Eeyore…
headbanz1
“Am I sad?”
Yes.
“Am I grumpy?”
Yes.
“Am I the sad and grumpy guy from Winnie the Pooh who’s always sad and grumpy?”
Yes. All you need is his name.
“I need his NAME? Come on, what kind of game is this?”

When I was Captain Hook…
headbanz6
Am I a bad guy?
“Yes, mom. Ohhh, yes.”
Do I have a beard?
“Ummmm… Nope.”
You hesitated.
“I was just thinking!”
So I don’t have a beard?
“No! I just said that!”
Hmmm. All of the villains I’m thinking of have beards.
“Then you’re not really thinking very hard.”

When Annie was Tinker Bell…
headbanz2
“Am I a boy?”
No.
“Am I a girl?”
Yes.
“Am I a person?”
Well… You’re kind of a person.”
“Am I an animal?”
No.
“I can’t be kind of a person.”
Actually, you can. You’re also something else.
“SOMETHING ELSE? I don’t even know what that means, ‘something else’.”
That’s why you need to keep asking questions.
“Man, you’re really tiring my hands here.”
I don’t think that phrase means what you think it means, either.

When Annie was Squirt…
headbanz3
I’m not sure you’ll know this character’s name, but that’s okay. If you can just tell me about him, I’ll count it.
“Great, mom. You’re giving me characters I don’t even know.”
I didn’t say you don’t know him. You just might not know his name.
“So, he’s from Nemo?”
Yes.
“But he’s not a fish?”
Nope.
“And he’s not a frog?”
Nope.
“There’s nothing else in all of Nemo!”
I beg to differ. We saw a character like him in Disney World.
“Walking around??”
No. On one of the rides. Or, to be more specific, on one of the attractions.
“WAIT. I know! Am I a turtle?”
Yes!
“Am I related to CHUCK THE TURTLE??”
I think you mean Crush.
“Whatever. You said names don’t count.”

When I was Prince Naveen…
headbanz4
Am I a boy?
“Yes, mommy.”
Am I human?
“Not right now.”
Um… Okay. Am I an animal?
“Yes.”
Am I furry?
“NO! Not at all, Mom!”
Could you fit me in your pocket?
“You could. I mean, it would be kind of disgusting, but you could.”

When Annie was Simba…
headbanz5
 
“So, let’s reveal. I’m a boy.”
Yes.
“I’m an animal.”
Yes. And I think you meant ‘let’s review’ instead of ‘let’s reveal.’
“What? You’re revealing the answers, aren’t you?”
Fair point. Carry on.
“I sing songs.”
Yes.
“I’m the main character in a movie.”
Yes.
“My name is actually THE TITLE of the movie.”
Yes.
“And I’m a lion.”
Yes.
“So… I’m a lion. I’m a boy. I sing. My name is the title of the movie… 
Nope. Can’t think of anything. Can you help me out here?”
Actually, at this point, I think you’re beyond help.

They say that the family that plays together stays together, but in our case, I think the phrase is more like, The family who survives a dozen rounds of Hedbanz together earns a beer and a Xanax.
That is, when I stop laughing long enough to look for the bottles.

headbanz8
“Am I an animal?”
Yes.
“Can I fly?”
No.
“Can I swim?”
Yes.
“Am I blue?”
Yes.
“Am I another color, too?”
Yes.
“Am I yellow?”
Yes.
“I KNOW! AM I DORY??”
No.
“What? I HAVE to be Dory.”
Nope.
“I don’t think you know how to play this game!”
Time’s up.

STOP. THE. MADNESS. !!

Nope. Nothing to do with basketball. Sorry.

I’ve had an idea about a Pinterest post percolating for a good couple of months now, but haven’t found the time to write about it. Today, I was going to post a quick St. Patrick’s Day recap when I happened to read this article that was shared by a friend on Facebook… and suddenly, my percolating idea and my St. Pat’s post ran into one another full-speed (it was a real pile-up; not pretty), and I so now I’m going to attempt to do write both posts simultaneously.

A mom-guilt/ Pinterest/ St. Patrick’s Day mash-up, if you will.
I do love me a good mash-up. Until Glee got lame last year. But I digress.

I’ll cut to the chase: I did a whole bunch of stuff with the girls for St. Patrick’s Day, even though we’re not Irish! I got a lot of my ideas off Pinterest! I did it because it made me happy, and I loved every minute of it!

st pat's lunch
All green lunch, complete with neon cream cheese bagels. Annie’s my pickle girl while All’s the celery with blue cheese kid. I’m more of a mint chocolate kind of gal myself.

Some people hate Pinterest. They feel guilty because they’re not doing the stuff they see on Pinterest. They feel bad because they’re not doing the stuff their neighbors are doing.

That sucks.
But just because we’re not doing what “everyone else” seems to be doing doesn’t doesn’t mean any of us is doing it wrong or that we should stop. Unless we’re water-boarding our kids and eating a diet consisting of only Easy Cheese. Then maybe we should reconsider.

So, here’s the gist of Kristen Howerton’s above article: celebrating the holidays (especially with kids) has gone overboard. Each one brings about crazy activities (An elf will come to our house and be all funny and cute at Christmas time! Cards aren’t enough on Valentine’s Day – you need bags of loot! Is the Easter Bunny leaving footprints at your house, too?) that can be difficult – or all but impossible – to complete. Kids are then left disappointed and parents feel like crap.

The article was well-written and funny, and I hear Kristen. I really do. To wit: Annie came home yesterday informing us that her teacher had told them all about leprechauns and their magic. She then set about decorating several plastic cups which she left on the dining room table so that the “leprechauns can visit, make the cups tiny, and leave a prize behind!” I looked at Nick like, The ever-loving hell they are, and might have contemplated sending her teacher’s future children a drum set in retaliation.

So, I get Kristen’s point. Annie had high expectations that something super-awesome was going to happen, and she was bound to be disappointed if the “leprechauns” didn’t follow through. But to do so meant a lot of… work… on the other side, and frankly, I was too damn exhausted last night (after having put in a full day’s worth of my own St. Pat’s celebrations, thanks very much) to even consider pulling this off. And so I did the only thing I could think of: I threw the cups in the garbage.

Yep. Just tossed ’em right out.

When Annie came downstairs this morning excitedly looking for the goodies that the leprechauns had left behind, I told her matter-of-factly that I’d thrown away the cups, so there were no goodies. That went over well. I mean, I wasn’t a total monster about it – I said it sweetly and all that (“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry, but while I was cleaning up last night, I threw away the cups!”). She was bummed, yes, but I then explained that I didn’t want her to be disappointed – maybe the leprechauns only work their cup-shrinking magic at school, and I didn’t want her to come down to un-shrunken cups – so, to avoid that possibility, I just got rid of them. She perked up immediately and agreed that, yes, the magic was probably a school thing, and she was on her merry way. Thank God, too, because turning myself into a leprechaun last night was just not in the cards.
Not. Happening.

Kristen (I’m back on the article now; bear with me) expressed the same sentiment, saying, “I don’t like the feeling of disappointing my kids. But I refuse to give into this holiday madness.” Amen, sista. Preach it! But she then goes on to request the following:

Fellow parents… teachers… sunday school workers… I beseech you. BRING IT DOWN A NOTCH.  Ya’ll are setting up expectations that I just can’t maintain. Wouldn’t we all be just a little happier if we returned to the slacker days of store-bought valentines and kit-dyed eggs and JUST WEARING A GREEN SHIRT AND CALLING IT A DAY?

For the sake of overwhelmed parents like me, I beg you. Stop the madness.

And here’s where we might just have to agree to disagree because, well, quite frankly… No. I won’t. Might it be easier in some ways if we returned to the “slacker days” and skipped the extras that so many people seem to engage in today? Sure. But would we be happier? Would I be happier? Nope. I wouldn’t.

Because, as simple as it sounds, I’ll say it again: I do this because it makes me happy.

It’s not entirely logical, I’ll give you that. I am still only getting about five-and-a-half hours of sleep a night, I’m way behind on emails, and I’ve stopped attending church because something has to give, for the love of God (see what I did there?). But when I remembered on Friday night that St. Patrick’s Day was to occur three days later, I panicked because I had done absolutely nothing to get ready for it.

Which, yes, is ironic anyway, because there is less than no Irish in us, so “celebrating” St. Patrick’s Day is wholly unnecessary. That’s not why I do it, though. I do it because it makes me happy. Looking online for ideas makes me feel really, really good; it’s simultaneously cathartic and energizing. I was practically giddy shopping for little goodies for the girls’ scavenger hunt. I absolutely loved composing limerick clues (even if they were some of the most pathetic rhymes ever written), and browsing for Irish-themed dinner recipes made me all kinds of cheerful.

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What’s a lunch without a (bad) joke?

Is that madness? Perhaps. But it brings enormous joy into my life. That it also brings joy into my daughters’ lives is a bonus, but that’s not why I do it. My motive is purely selfish: (say it with me) it makes me happy.

This is not a new phenomenon, this “madness.” I’ve been doing some form of it since forever; it’s how I’m hardwired. I’ve always had a thing for collecting quotes; now, they’re pinned to my Pinterest wall, but I’ve still got my “nothing books” from my middle-school camp days, filled with colored-marker quotes, cartoons, and oodles of photographs. Today, I might send a friend a video montage for her birthday; back when, I plotted out how to get her locker code to sneak in and decorate so that streamers and balloons exploded on her between first and second period.

In my current life, I spend days planning the events my daughters’ birthday parties. In my former life, my college friends and I staged an elaborate “Jeopardy” skit in the middle of the student center – complete with costumes that we purchased from a local thrift shop – to celebrate a buddy’s 19th birthday. This year, I’m browsing Pinterest for ideas on bento lunches; in my first years as a teacher, I made heart-shaped Rice Krispie Treats and put them on sticks to make heart-pops for my students on Valentine’s Day. In 2014, I spend time in Photoshop designing our holiday cards. Back then, I took pictures of Nick and me with our dogs (or even me with my students – a practice that would, um, definitely be frowned upon now), printed out actual photos at the one-hour developer, and inserted them into Christmas cards with pithy themes like “Where The Wild Things Are” for when I taught preschool.

I have always been like this.
Because it has always made me happy.

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Don’t worry, fruit made it into breakfast, too. But really, all the girls cared about were the marshmallows. 

I’m not (completely) stupid. I understand that there are differences between then and now, most notably that technology – especially social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr – makes it much easier to see what other people are doing. And, in turn, what you’re not doing. The whole Keeping Up With The Joneses thing has been around for forever – what the Joneses are doing is just much more in-your-face than it’s been before.

And that can lead to feeling inadequate, which can lead to feeling guilty, and we all know that there’s a whole Mom/Parent Guilt thing going on. (Type “mom guilt” into Google if you really want to kill an afternoon.) And, again, I get it. There are so many expectations on moms – hell, on parents – these days, with seemingly contradictory messages: spend time with your kids because it all goes by too fast, but don’t smother them because helicopter parenting is the devil and your children will be living in your basement until you die. Make sure to find time for yourself, but for God’s sake, don’t let that time be spent on a smartphone because those things are evil and are probably destroying humanity. Offer your children a variety of organic, gluten-free foods, but, my goodness, don’t spend so much time worrying about it – a cupcake now and again won’t hurt. Foster independence but always be there for them no matter what, except when you’re allowing them to fail in order to succeed. Breast is best, except that that makes bottle-feeding moms feel bad, and so it’s perfectly fine to bottle-feed, except breast is really best – but only nutritionally, because really it’s just love that matters, so a bottle is fine. Except you should try to breastfeed. Probably. Unless you’re miserable, because everyone knows that if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Much of this “advice” has been around since probably forever, but again, technology and the media make it so much more available and prevalent that it can feel as though you’re surrounded by a roomful of angry people all shouting at you that you’re doing it wrong.

Which is undoubtedly why there has been such a backlash against it – and, in many cases, rightfully so. The so-called “standards” are unattainable, and we all know that Keeping Up With The Joneses was never a good idea to begin with (grass always being greener and all that). But then there’s this sub-culture of anti-Pinterest, anti-SuperMom, pro-slacker parenting that seems to have taken root — Screw the cutesy sandwiches, my kid’s lucky if she gets a Lunchable! Our Elf on the Shelf hasn’t moved in eight days!! Fuck the fondant-covered cake; that’s why Betty Crocker was invented! — and suddenly the “solution” to the problem seems to be, yet again, telling people that they’re doing it wrong.

I’ll absolutely admit it – I’ve been completely fed-up with today’s “standards” on a gazillion occasions. And, as a result, I’ve taken the slacker root many, many times (see above: leprechaun cups in garbage). But I don’t ask other parents to “tone it down a notch” so that I can feel better about myself. Because, let’s admit it, that’s what this is: our own feelings of inadequacy. Pinterest isn’t making you feel guilty; that’s on you. No one is “doing” this to us; we’re doing it to ourselves.

Put another way: my doing St. Patrick’s Day activities with my kids isn’t setting up expectations for you that you can’t maintain. I shouldn’t have to stop doing what I’m doing so that you can feel better about yourself. Not to go all Stuart Smalley or Dr. Phil on you, but the only person who can make you not feel inadequate is… wait for it… you.

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Home run!

No one is good at everything, and no two of us enjoy the same things. This may seem really obvious, but apparently it’s not, because we continue to measure ourselves up against what other people are doing. It’s like trying to squeeze a hippopotamus into one of those little sweaters that’s been woven for a dachshund; it may seem like a swell idea at first, but in the end, you’re going to wind up with a pissed-off dachshund with stretched-out sweater and a hippo with a self-esteem issue. Or something like that.

In case you’d like to hear it directly from me, I will be the first to tell you that, while I have loads of good qualities, I suck a a lot of things, too. I may have made a cute green lunch for my kids on St. Patrick’s Day, but, yesterday afternoon, I also discovered a layer of dust on my living room bookshelf that was so thick, I could have removed with a shovel (that is, if I actually got around to dusting). Sure, the girls handed out themed, homemade Valentines, but Ella wore duct-taped boots to school for a few days, too – yay, arts and crafts! My clothes keep coming out of the dryer with oil stains on them and I don’t know why. Whenever I wear a dress to work, the girls ask me what the special occasion is. I have fallen so far behind on my family’s photo editing that, in about two weeks, I will officially be one year behind. I will have lapped myself with editing. Last week, I fell off a treadmill, and I still have the scar to prove it.

I could go on (and on… and on…), but I think (I hope?) you get my point.

If you head over to my Pinterest page, you’ll see ideas for hairstyles, crafts to do with the kids, teaching activities, and loads of recipes. Some, I’ll actually get around to doing. Others are just there because they seemed neat to me at the moment and I thought, why the hell not pin this? What you will not find is: anything having to do with knitting or crocheting or sewing. Anything about scrapbooking. Any pages devoted to “beautiful spaces” or really lovely fashion photos, or pages about makeup or fancy nails.

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Knowing I wouldn’t be home when Annie and Ella arrived from school (and I wouldn’t see them at all until 5:00), I created a St. Pat’s scavenger hunt for them to do with our babysitter.

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Each clue was a limerick (man, those took some time. Phew), and at the end, they giddily won $3 off of the scratch cards. That’s almost as good as a pot of gold!

Why not? Because I’m not interested in those things. There’s nothing wrong with them; they’re just not for me, so I move on by. I pin the stuff that makes me happy or inspires me or makes me laugh or makes me shake my head or makes me wish I had a glass of wine. The rest of it, though? I just don’t care… and I also don’t give two hoots about what you have on your Pinterest page (unless it’s only about Easy Cheese; then, maybe we need to talk).

Why can’t the same go for real life? If one of your daughter’s classmates just got a puppy, and you’d like to get a puppy, then go get a puppy. If you’d rather eat a handful of sand, then don’t get a damn puppy. If someone at work starts bringing awesome leftovers for lunch and you want awesome leftovers for lunch, then cook something awesome and bring the leftovers in. Or ask your coworker for extras. But if the thought of having to actually cook and reheat makes you break out in hives, then skip it and buy a sandwich instead… but don’t tell your office mate to leave the coq au vin at home.

I’m never going to be a good housekeeper, but I don’t want you to let your dust bunnies start mating because your level of cleanliness is one that I can’t attain. I’m not going to ask you to please start spilling your beverage on your shirt because I can’t seem to keep my clothes coffee-free. And I won’t request that you please refrain from posting photos from your incredible trip to Europe because it makes me feel shitty that I’ve never been to Europe. If I feel shitty about it, that’s on me.

This is not to say that I’m not jealous or envious of other people, or that I don’t think snarky things about them from time to time (or, okay, a lot). “Well, look who had the time to go and see a movie in the theater, while the rest of us actually had to work and pay bills and run errands and spend time with our kids. Must be nice.” ‘Cause I do. But I don’t want you to stop seeing movies because I’m bummed that I don’t see more of them. That’s just weird.

st pat's hunt2
Found these little grow-your-own clovers in the Target dollar bins and was like, score! So I put them downstairs in the playroom, making sure to leave dog-appealing items – like gum and lip balm – well out of reach…

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… annnnd then I received this text from Annie while between my piano lessons.
Yeah. Fail. 😐

So, to get back to the request made by Kristen (from a blog post that I recognize was written a year ago and totally not aimed at me in any way but that resonated strongly today when I read it)… No, I’m sorry. I will not bring it down a notch because you’re feeling overwhelmed. It sucks that you’re feeling that way, truly – I’ve been there oh-so-many, many, many times (in fact, that’s pretty much were I live) – but I’m not responsible for you feeling like you need to live up to (what you imagine are my) expectations, and then feeling bad when you can’t maintain those (imagined) expectations. That’s madness.

See, I like what I’m doing. I don’t want to return to store-bought Valentines and just wearing a green shirt for St. Patrick’s Day. (We do still kit-dye most of our eggs, though; the PAAS “extra bright” pack yields really rad eggs.) I enjoy thinking up Elf on the Shelf poses, and we attended our first actual “Pie Party” last Friday (where everyone, you know, brought a pie to share…) and it was not only fun, but delicious. And it meant I didn’t have to cook dinner. So I’m going to keep doing those things.

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Bathroom loot.

st pat's hunt4
Yeah, it’s all cute and WTF, you wrote a million limericks! until you actually READ the limericks… like this one.
I don’t have any explanation other than that it was really, really late. And I suck at limericks?

I don’t really care so much about the 100 days of school, so when those things come home, we tend to throw something in a bag and call it a day. Although I’ll dye a bazillion eggs (using the store-bought kits) and we do host an egg hunt for our neighbors, Easter is a pretty easy affair in these here parts; last year, our “official” Easter dinner came from Five Guys (I am not making this up). We’ll probably wear red, white, and blue on the Fourth of July, but beyond that, our “patriotism” will likely be limited to the American pastimes of eating hamburgers and hotdogs and drinking beverages from red Solo cups.

In short: if it works for you, great. If not, don’t worry about it. Or, to bastardize Nike, just don’t do it, simple as that.
Neither is better than another, and there’s really no reason to feel that you’re not living up to expectations… because the expectations are imaginary to begin with.

My kids’ only knowledge of New Orleans comes from The Princess and the Frog, but by golly, we have beignets and gumbo on Mardi Gras each year. We will absolutely eat Mexican food on Cinco de Mayo… because it makes me happy. For me, life is too short not to celebrate as often as we can (especially if it involves chocolate). When it stops being fun, and when I stop getting joy from it, then it’s time to call it quits – but so far, so good.

st. pat's ice cream
Making mint chocolate-chip ice cream (because it’s green, duh) seemed like a good idea… until I neglected to correctly calculate the proportions and my cup ranneth… over… 

I know it’s not always so easy, the just-let-it-go part. I am hardly immune from self-doubt or feelings of guilt or worries that I’m not measuring up, that I’m doing it wrong. In fact, the reason I’m absolutely certain that I do these things simply because they make me happy – and not because I’m, I don’t know, unfulfilled in other ways or trying to make up for a childhood slight or some other crap – is because I’ve been so concerned that maybe there was a nefarious motive at play, I’ve discussed it with my therapist.
Turns out, nope. No motive; just happy. Go, therapy!

I still struggle with feeling like I don’t measure up, but it’s been a huge weight off my shoulders to realize that the bar I’m rising to was set by me. I think we all do ourselves an enormous disservice if we outsource our happiness instead of taking charge of it ourselves, and if we don’t acknowledge that the source of our feelings of inadequacy and guilt is… us. There is no International Committee of Expectations reigning over us, telling us what standards we have to maintain. Yes, of course there are societal pressures, but in the end, the only ones who hold us to those pressures are ourselves. (Maybe I’ll try to pin that idea.)

So I’m going to keep on making green-themed lunches and setting out Lucky Charms on St. Paddy’s morning. On the last day of school, the girls will come home to some kind of celebration because that’s how I roll. That doesn’t mean I think I’m better than you, and you certainly don’t need to feel overwhelmed because of it. If you don’t want to turn holidays into madness-inducing fiestas, then don’t. No biggie. No one expects you to. Really. (I know, when your kids expect things because they see “everyone else” doing it, it can make for some crappy parenting moments. I’m not saying that’s fun. But still… the neighbors shouldn’t have to tone down their Arbor Day festivities because your kids feel left out.)

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Despite my technical difficulties, the ice cream tasted damn delicious.

To those of you who make sure your kids are all decked out on crazy hair day, I salute you. To those of you who have crock pot meals ready to go for the rest of the month, that’s awesome. To those who’ve made it home just in time to read to your kids every night this week, good on you. If you’ve found a new pattern and are knitting socks in just two days, congratulations. If the only cookies you’ve ever made come from the Pillsbury tube, that sounds great to me – I love me some cookies. To you who’ve taken to hiding in the bathroom just to read an email because it’s the only peace and quiet you’ll get all day, I sympathize; go ahead and lock that door.

Whatever you’re doing – and not doing – is fine. It’s all good. And if you’re content and your family is content and everyone is still alive at the end of the day, I’d declare it a success. The lawn over at the Joneses may be green, but their water bill is crazy. Plus also, if you look closely, you’ll see that some of that grass is technically weeds, anyway.

So, let’s make a deal: I won’t expect you to make first-day-of school welcome-home brownies. As long as you don’t expect my floors to be clean (or my pants to be stain-free or my cupboards to be organized…), we’ll get along just fine.

Snowing like the Dickens

It was the best of times… It was the worst of times…
*****************************

I first got the news via text at 5:35 p.m. on Tuesday:

School will be closed on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 due to severe weather.

I received the news again at 5:38 p.m. via email. And again at 5:41 p.m. via robocall to my cell phone. And, finally, one last time at 5:42 p.m. via robocall to our home number.

I immediately took to Facebook to proclaim the startling news:

STOP THE PRESSES!! For the first time since we moved here, our kids have had a snow day declared (which, in itself, is really really rare) BEFORE the snow starts! We’ve had almost 90″ of snow this year but this is the FIRST snow day. Hot damn!!

That the girls are celebrating this while playing outside without their jackets because it’s FIFTY DEGREES at almost 6 p.m. is a fabulous irony.
Even more ironic: if I still DO have school. 😐

But hey… I’ll take what I can get.

Indeed, it had been fifty degrees – fifty-four, to be exact – which, after our interminably freezing winter, was so welcome, I practically open-mouth kissed it (Nick understood). I celebrated by picking up five bags’ worth of dog poop (no joke; it was one of the most disgusting things I’d ever witnessed – and, after having had a child poop through her onesie and up her back and into her hair while sitting on my lap on an airplane, that’s saying something), and then celebrated further when my own school district cancelled school as well.

We do not do snow days here in Rochester. We simply don’t. We get assloads of snow, but our road crews clear everything so quickly, travel is almost always possible, and schools are open. By all accounts, though, this was to be a doozy, even by Rochester standards — an honest-to-God blizzard, the likes of which the city hadn’t seen since 1999.

Snow day! BRING IT.

Because I have spent more than ten minutes with my offspring, I knew that there was the potential for disaster on a surprise day off of school… but my fingers were crossed for the best. Before the big snow got underway, we made a quick trip to the vet to drop off Jambi’s food and visit with her; she’s still in heat and, as such, is in quarantine, and we miss her, by gosh!

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Why, yes, I would like a belly rub, thank you.

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Come home soon, Beast!!
And yes, they’re in their pajamas at the vet’s office. Any questions?

The rest of the day was spent within the warm, cozy, safe confines of our house. Nick came home around 12:30; shortly thereafter, a state of emergency was declared for our county, parts of the thruway shut down, and the roads became all but impassable. The storm was as advertised: a true blizzard, blustery and snowy and really, really cold.


As I posted on Facebook: “I’m no expert… But when you can’t really see the house across the street, this *could* be why there’s no school today… 
(The girls are still playing outside, though, just for shorter amounts of time than usual. Duh.
But they did agree to wear hats. It took a damn blizzard, but they’re finally in hats.)”

This was not a lie: they were outside many times over the course of the day, tromping through the snow, climbing the tree in the front yard, and attempting to dye the snow with colored-water spray bottles. I nearly froze to death watching them; celebrating a snow day by baking Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding Cakes is much more my style.

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They really were as heavenly as they look.

self saucing pudding cake
My children definitely agreed…

Okay, so the girls came downstairs to consume the pudding cakes dressed in only their underwear and had to go back upstairs and put on some clothes. And, yeah, there was that incident with the purposeful peeing on one of their beds (omg, don’t ask; they stripped the bed and changed the sheets so I’m pretending it never happened). Plus also the ridiculous mess in the living room and both bedrooms and the Xanax I took when I saw said messes so that I wouldn’t turn into an even bigger witch than I had already become and swallow both children whole.

But, overall, it was a successful snow day for everyone.

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In anticipation of the storm, we’d taken before and after photos in the same spot, twenty-four hours apart. Ohhh, March. You are one bipolar vixen.

One day. A single day off in the middle of a long, very difficult winter; in some ways, it felt as though we’d earned this damn snow day.

It was still coming down like gangbusters well into the night, but Nick used the snowblower at 9 p.m. anyway, hoping to spare us the bulk of the clearing-away come the morning when we both had to be at work. I took more than an hour to perform my usual school-night routine: make sure the girls’ backpacks and white board are set out, pack snacks and lunch, make juice for the morning, set out notes for the babysitter and money for the dog-sitter (since I’d be at school all day and then head straight to piano lessons), cut fruit for the girls for breakfast, and go through my lesson plans for the rest of the week, making adjustments for the missed day of school.

I’d enjoyed the day off of teaching, but I wasn’t too keen on having lost the day of instruction. For just this one missed lesson, I could combine and shift things so that we are sure to accomplish everything necessary this quarter, but still, I was eager to get back to things this morning. As such, I set my alarm nice and early so I could shovel out and get to school with plenty of time to settle in.

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A decent showing, no?

When my phone buzzed on the nightstand, I first thought it was my alarm going off, but then realized that, no, I was receiving a text. Given the early hour, I contemplated ignoring it until later, but decided that since I rarely receive texts in the wee small hours of the morning (5:41 a.m., to be exact), perhaps it was important and I should check. What I saw was this:

Schools are closed today, Thursday, March 14.

A quick check of my email confirmed what I’d just been texted; yup. Snow day. I had just turned to hiss at Nick, “Holy shit! There’s no school AGAIN today!” when it dawned on me that if my own school district was not closed today, we might be in trouble. While fumbling in the dark through my bleary-eyed haze to locate the Twitter feed for the district where I teach, I was interrupted by my cell phone ringing – at 5:46 a.m. – to robotically inform me that there was no school today.

The news was just starting to sink in — that we’d be home again (no school for me, either)… that my lessons would now be two days behind, which will be much more difficult to account for in the three short weeks remaining in the quarter… that, holy crap, because there’s no school tomorrow for my kids, they now have an unexpected five day weekend (due to a teacher workday, they’re off of school tomorrow)… — when the landline rang at 5:48 a.m.

NO SCHOOL. GOT IT. THANKS FOR MAKING SURE WE KNEW. FOUR EFFING TIMES.

My mind was racing, zigzagging between angst over my teaching curriculum and dread over how absolutely bonkers the girls would be when they learned they had five days off in a row. After a good ten minutes of reasoning with myself – come on, it’ll be fine! In fact, it’ll probably be fun! I bet girls will be great! Stop worrying so much! – I was just about to ease back to sleep when my cell phone buzzed again with this pithy text:

Correction: Schools are closed today, Thursday, March 13, 2014. (Apologize for the confusion. It’s early!)

Damn straight it is. AND YOU’RE STILL TEXTING ME. BEFORE SIX A.M.

I did eventually manage to drift off, only to be startled out of a deep sleep by a loud bang. It seems my previous inner-self pep-talk was for naught, as I wrote on Facebook:

Was awakened (once I’d finally fallen back asleep after receiving the two text messages, one email, and two separate phone calls alerting us to another – unprecedented – snow day) by an angry foot stomp, Annie yelling “It’s not my fault! I didn’t hit YOU so it’s not okay to hit ME!”, followed by a door slam that shook the upstairs.

It’s going to be a super fun day!!

I’m still not sure why there’s no school today. Yes, we got a lot of snow, but the roads are pretty clear, and Nick was able to head to work. After informing the girls that they might not make it to the end of the day alive if they didn’t stop arguing, they agreed to head outside and were quite delighted to discover the snow was up to their thighs (we got around 17″).

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I think our sleds are buried somewhere beneath the tree…

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The view from the other side of the circle; where’s Waldo??

Earlier this year, I’d bemoaned to friends that we couldn’t buy a freakin’ snow day. Here everyone else was, with oodles of days off of school, and we – despite our crazy amounts of snow and ridiculously cold temperatures – couldn’t beg, borrow, or steal one. But wait, they said. All these snow days suck! We have to go to school later! Our vacation days are being taken away! Our children are turning into feral animals and we’ve taken to drinking before noon. Be grateful!

And so I was. But still… just one snow day would have been nice…

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the children are at it again, and I feel I must step in. I did promise Nick that we’d all still be here when he returned from work this evening. I didn’t say what condition we’d be in… but I promised we’d be here. SNOW DAY!!

Baby, Why Don’t We Go (Aka: Cruisin’ Part Deux)

And now, the thrilling conclusion to our Disney Cruise chronicles. I know you’re pumped!!

The first night, we sailed (is that the right term? Boated? Cruised? Went?) to Nassau in the Bahamas, where the ship docked for the day. Instead of disembarking (do you like my cool cruise lingo?), we opted to stay on board and take advantage of the ship’s offerings while everything was a little less crowded.dcl3
Nassau lighthouse that was just begging to have its picture taken. Hellllllllloooo, lighthouse!

We swam. We watched movies by the pool and got ice cream from the self-serve machine just for the hell of it. Twice. The girls went to the kids’ club. We tried the drinks of the day and went down this absolutely crazy water slide that sucked you through a tube and then swung out over the side of the ship. We ate more food. The girls went to the kids’ club. (Yes, I know I said that twice.) We explored the ship and got to know one of the bartenders and then ate more food. We saw shows and waved to the myriad Disney characters who were greeting ecstatic lines of kids. We donned bandanas and eye patches for pirate night. We ate more food. And we collapsed into our beds that night so fully exhausted, we could no longer keep our eyes open.

The following day, we arrived at Disney’s teeny private island, Castaway Cay (which is pronounced KEY; I know, it’s weird, but it’s a fact).dcl6
It really was small – that’s it in its entirety.

This time, we had no intention of remaining on the ship. As soon as we deposited our bags and towels on the gorgeous, pristine beach, we were off to our first adventure: petting, feeding, and snorkeling with stingrays. (I’d like to pretend we were stupid brave enough to do this with potentially dangerous stingrays, but these guys had had their stingers gently filed down so that they couldn’t harm us.)dcl11
Hungry, dude?

I’m not gonna lie… it was a little weird having these floppy, slippery beings suck the food out of your hand like an rabid vacuum (they don’t really have teeth, but their mouths are… knobby?). They were quite majestic, though, undulating and gliding through the water, so we soon got over our fears. Or, at least, Nick and I did; we couldn’t quite convince the girls to participate in the feeding. And, actually, Ella never quite worked up her courage to associate with the stingrays, period, but Annie was game to snorkel with them once the Hoover portion had concluded.

After our sixty minute sojourn was over, we donned our snorkel gear once more to explore the reef. Proving that her earlier trepidation was due to an extreme dislike of stingrays (who knew?), and not of snorkeling, Ella joined Nick in swimming as far out in the bay as was possible, ooohing and ahhing at the sunken ship (“Mom, I think Disney probably put that there… but it was still cool!”) and the many tropical fish.

Hunger soon got the best of us, so we eagerly piled our plates high at the BBQ buffet (more food!), listening to the sounds of the crab races that were being held only a few feet away. (I mean actual racing of crabs; Annie watched as the winning crab was crowned. It was pretty damn funny.) The rest of the afternoon was filled with highs (more snorkeling) and lows (a bicycle ride to “lookout point” that proved too arduous for Annie, who got partway before collapsing into a heap and declaring she needed to walk back. In the 85 degree Bahamian sun. Which I’d sworn not to complain about, given how freakin’ freezing it’s been at home, but which I might have cursed while hissing at Annie that she needed to get back on the bike and just pedal a little harder, for God’s sake. Absolutely my finest moment of the trip).

We splashed and swam. We ate and shopped. We snorkeled and played in the sand. We laughed and relaxed. And we promised, as soon as possible, that we’d take another cruise.
castaway cayA play area in the middle of the water? Why not! Yes, those are the girls, waving to us from the bouncy bridge on the right.

Everyone who’s gone on a Disney cruise can’t say enough about the ship’s staff – how welcoming they are, how friendly, how helpful, how gregarious. Although we’re terribly unoriginal here, we absolutely echo those statements: our cast members KICKED. ASS. We did not encounter a single employee – from the crews quite literally swabbing the decks to the performers to the waitstaff to the front desk people – who was anything shy of tremendous. Every single one – all of them! EVERY SINGLE ONE! – greeted us with a smile, whether it was at 7 a.m. or 1 a.m., whether there were screaming children all around or it was silent, whether it was the beginning or the end of their sixteen hour work day (I’m not kidding; these people work their butts off). In fact, not only did they greet us smiling, they seemed honestly happy to see us.

Our housekeeper even found the time to fold and twist our towels into adorable animal shapes every night when he turned down our covers, turned the sofa into a bunk bed, and laid out the chocolates and the following day’s itinerary. I know this is standard practice, but doing this for every room in his block has got to be tedious, man.

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Even “Bolt” got the sunglass treatment!

We had the same waitstaff for all of our sit-down meals (hi, Emilia from Italy and Ilham from Indonesia!), and every time they saw us, they made us feel like we made their nights. Ordering more than one appetizer? No problem. You’d like to trade this for that so your menu can be gluten-free tomorrow? We’ve got it. They used steak knives cut the girls’ meat so we could enjoy our own meals. They refilled our drinks without us asking. They chatted with us and answered our never-ending questions. “No” was never an option; “I’ll see what I can do!” was.

In fact, that seemed to be the mantra for the entire staff: we’ll see what we can do to make this trip incredible for you. Case in point… The very first afternoon, while I ordered myself the spiffy (alcoholic) drink of the day, I spied a super-cute Disney Cruise Line cup behind the bar that was emblazoned with Olaf the snowman and the Frozen logo. My BFF had requested Frozen paraphernalia for her daughter, and I’d struck out so far (apparently, the Frozen merchandise disappears as soon as it arrives ; the cast member at the Disney Store in Downtown Disney – the world’s largest Disney Store – told customers they were all sold out and their best bet would be to check online…!), so this was a find! But, seeing as the only way to procure the cup was to purchase the non-alcoholic drink of the day and my daughters were currently occupied (see above: kids’ club), I figured I’d just pick up the Frozen cup at a later time.

Naturally, I completely forgot about buying the cup until the very end of our very last night on the cruise. At 11:50 p.m., I asked our server – at an adults-only club on the third deck – if he knew whether or not they had any Frozen cups at the bar. His response: “Let me see what I can do!” After bringing us our drinks, he informed me that, no, they didn’t have those cups, but that the bar up at the pool might – and that he would check for me. And so he trekked up to the ninth deck at midnight (which was after the poolside bar had closed) to look for a damn kids’ Frozen cup… and returned five minutes later carrying this:

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Yes, this is the actual cup, which means – no, I haven’t mailed it to my BFF yet.
Surprise, Evie!!

I don’t even know if he charged us for it.

The reason I do not know this is because we did not buy our drinks that night (not that round, anyway). Which brings me to to the very best part of our trip: free drinks!

No, no. I jest.
The drinks are most definitely not free.
But I am in the dark about whether or not we were charged for the cup.

See, we didn’t pay for those drinks because the best thing happened: we made friends. (Slow claps all around. I’ll wait.) But hold on – hear me out, because this is really spectacular.

Nick, Ella, Annie, and I went on this trip as a little foursome, and were very happy to do so. We didn’t plan on “meeting” people beyond folks to say hi to near the pool, and we certainly didn’t expect to make actual, for real friends. We did know that we’d be seated with the same people each night for our sit-down dinner (each table “rotates” through the full-service restaurants, retaining both the same diners and the same wait staff each night) and, secretly, we hoped that we wouldn’t hate these people. No, truly – Nick and I discovered after the fact that we each had our fingers very, very crossed that we didn’t despise the thought of sitting next to these people night after night; anything short of outright loathing would be a bonus.

Imagine our delight, then, when we arrived that first evening to discover that we’d be dining with four other folks — a mom and a dad (I’m going to call them Miss L and Mr. D), their daughter, J, and Miss L’s cousin’s daughter, S. Both L and S – who are best friends – are in third grade, just like Ella, and they hit it off immediately. Although we’d arranged the seating so Annie and Ella would be next to Nick and me, by the end of the meal, we’d switched places so that the four girls could be next to one another and yuk it up.

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Mom! Look who we found by the pool! Can we get more ice cream??

Disney is not stupid, y’all. It is exceedingly unlikely that we were coincidentally seated beside a family with two girls our own daughters’ ages. While that kind of engineering is great, there was no guarantee that it would manufacture actually liking one another; that was just wonderful serendipity. Nick and I were happy for the girls, but were even more surprised and tickled to learn how much we liked Miss L and Mr. D.

It started out gradually, as so many relationships do. As Nick and I fell into bed that first night, we remarked to one another how nice Miss L and Mr. D seemed. They were funny. They were smart. They were our age. They used correct grammar. They knew how to eat (and eat… and eat…). It seemed a good match; we assumed that dinner the following night wouldn’t suck.

When we found them by the pool the next day (see photo above), we were pleased to chat with them again as the girls ran off and terrorized the kiddie pools and slides. We further cemented our bond when Nick, Ella, Mr. D, his daughter J, and I went down the plunge-to-your-death-and-go-over-the-side-of-the-boat slide, leaving Miss L to watch Annie and her cousin’s daughter, S. I mean, when you’ve stared death in the face and left your child in someone else’s care, it’s hard to go back to casual again.

By that night, we were lingering just a little longer over dinner, and then splitting forces so that half of us saw the live “Villains Tonight” show (that would be Ella, satisfying her Maleficent fascination) while the other half attended a Frozen sing-along. By the next day at Castaway Cay, we found ourselves actively looking for Miss L, Mr. D, and the girls. By that night, we four adults had ditched the kids and were shouting out answers at a Music of the 80s Trivia contest and forming human pyramids on the floor to earn our team extra points. (I kid you not; Miss L and I got down on our hands and knees as Nick climbed on our backs and Mr. D – who is approximately 385 feet tall and might have a had a difficult time safely hopping aboard – gesticulated and called from behind.)

So, yeah. From strangers to human pyramids in just over 48 hours, because, hot damn, we really, really enjoyed these people’s company. (And also: alcohol. It amuses me that Miss L and Mr. D may think I always drink like this. Ah, well... Who am I to burst that bubble…) In only a few short days, they had become our dear, wonderful, true friends in that intense, we-shared-this-experience-together kind of way that’s typically reserved for retreats or summer camp. Or maybe prison.

As we docked again at Port Canaveral bright and early that third morning, we were not ready to leave – not the ship, not the weather, and especially not our newfound friends who were kind enough to buy the last round, which included the aforementioned Frozen cup (hence, why I don’t know whether or not we were ever charged for it).
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Ella and Annie felt the same…

Alas, Disney frowns upon stowaways, so we had to disembark and make our journeys back home – us to New York and our new cruising family to Georgia. Not to worry, though; we were Facebook friends before we’d even left the port, and now regularly gripe to one another about how much we wish we were still on vacation. It’s good to have people who understand you.

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I’m the king of the world!

So, there you have it. To say that it was just the very most fantabulous vacation ever really doesn’t do it justice, so rather than continuing to search for super grown-up adjectives, I’ll simply say that it was perfect. Not just Mary Poppins’s practically perfect in every way; no, actually perfect. I can’t recommend a Disney cruise highly enough – and not just because I’m a Disney fanatic. It is joy and laughter and fun and memories and magic, pure and simple.

We will absolutely be going on another Disney cruise.
Along with these crazy people, of course.

Next time, I call the top of the pyramid.

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