At Least It Wasn’t Me

When we headed down to Cancún, I fully expected that I would commit some sort of embarrassing/hilarious (and perhaps ADHD-influenced) snafu that would be worthy of sharing with everyone back home. Perhaps I’d forget to remove the cardboard insert from a new pair of shoes or I’d encounter a wild animal that I would attempt to take home as a pet. At the very least, maybe I would scream in terror and cause another hotel guest to do the same.

The possibilities were endless, really!

Alas, by the end of our trip, no particular story emerged as one that was terribly share-worthy; my adventures were remarkably un-embarrassing. Don’t get me wrong – there were plenty of amusing moments during our 5.5 day sojourn. Our guide to Chichen Itza spoke incredibly good English but repeatedly uttered the phrase, “Let me be honesty with you…”, which caused our group to smile. We sat through dinner at a restaurant that was so uncomfortably and ridiculously hot, we sweated so much that we couldn’t finish our meals. We sang karaoke and brought the place to a halt with our rendition of “We Are The World”. (Several days later, people would approach us and say, “Wait! You’re the ‘We Are The World’ guys, right?” Indeed we are!)

Let’s not forget when Kiki and I participated in water Zumba. That was pretty damned amusing.
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And then there was the time I ordered three drinks all for myself and drank them at 10 p.m. while wearing a sun hat, but that’s neither here nor there. 

But overall, nothing of the Of COURSE It Was Emily variety.
All we had to do was get home.

One of the benefits of Nick traveling as often as he does is that he accrues a lot of airline miles, which can then be applied to upgrades or “free” tickets. Because of the celebratory nature of this trip, Nick decided to splurge and use his miles to get us first class seats for the Chicago-Cancún portions of our journey. It’s already been established that first class and I don’t get along so well, but this seemed like a good opportunity to mend our  differences and move forward.
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This was taken on the way TO Cancún; I know because there is a Bloody Mary and a mimosa involved.

Everything went swimmingly for the first half of the flight. We enjoyed our lunches but completely eschewed the alcoholic beverages; turns out, it’s definitely possible to reach your limit after five days of all-you-can-drink booze – who knew? I’d taken the aisle seat because I tend to need to use the bathroom at least twice during every single flight, so that when Nick required a trip to the loo, he had to maneuver around me to get to the aisle. He got up out of his seat just fine, began to scootch in front of me… and promptly spilled my entire cup of ginger ale — and ice (lots and lots of ice) — into my lap.

The sudden chill in my nether regions was what alerted me to his gaffe. (Have you ever dumped an icy beverage onto your lady [or gentleman] parts? If not, allow me to assure you that it is REALLY FREAKIN’ UNPLEASANT.) As the frigid ginger ale pooled onto the seat below my rear end, I immediately lifted my tush off of the seat to get away from it – but quickly discovered that I couldn’t quite escape the deepening disaster because my seatbelt was still fastened.

Safety first!

If you’ve spent any time in a car or plane with a seatbelt on (and really, you should; buckling up saves lives, for real), you know that straining against the belt makes it infinitely harder to unbuckle. The more I pushed upward to avoid the icy mess, the more impossible it was to unhook the clasp, meaning that for a good 20 seconds I was hovering with my tookus three inches above my soaking-wet seat while madly trying to release the hinge on the buckle (which made a delightfully angry clang! with each successive attempt).

First CLASSY, wouldn’t you say?

At last, I realized that, in order to extricate myself, I had to create a little slack in the line – which meant I had to lower my caboose a couple of inches back into the freezing puddle. Once I was free of the seatbelt, there were still the problems of a) the contents of my cup of ginger ale that were now seeping into my seat and b) my soaking wet pants and lady parts. After apologizing profusely for his mistake, Nick had hustled himself off to the bathroom… so I had to request some clean-up help from the flight attendant. When she handed me the wad of napkins to soak up the spill and the extra blankets to place on the seat (to “save” me from getting wet?), she did so with a look that clearly indicated she thought that I was responsible for the debacle.

Which, normally, would have been the case – but this time?? SO NOT MY FAULT.
Once he returned from the bathroom, do you think that Nick ‘fessed up and explained that he, not I, had spilled the drink and created this ruckus? Of course he did not.
And we hadn’t even been drinking. OH THE IRONY.

Miraculously, the blanket trick worked; by the time we landed at O’Hare, my pants were dry enough to not necessitate purchasing anything new for me to wear home. (Bonus: ginger ale dries clear, even on khakis.) We had seats in coach from Chicago to Rochester, which was probably good for everyone involved.

We are currently visiting family in Minnesota, as we do every summer. When Nick found out that he’d been upgraded to first class for one of our flights, he graciously offered his seat to me… and I graciously accepted. I regret am pleased to inform you that the entire flight went off without a hitch; nothing was spilled and I even managed to use the tray tables quietly. Go me!

There’s always the chance he could be upgraded on one of our return flights, however. If he does, I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
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On the first flight to Mexico. Don’t we look bright-eyed and un-spilled upon?

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Jurassic Kitchen

Now that we are finally back to life (back to reality), the process of de-summering the house has begun in earnest. Beach towels that hung on the hooks in the front hall have been folded and put in the closet, making way for fall coats. Stale snacks that never got consumed (because of the ice cream, duh) have been pitched, with fresh school-year snacks taking their place. Toys that had been left on the counter since June were finally shelved, replaced by a new caddy (on sale at Target, score!) filled with school supplies (that must remain in said caddy under penalty of death because, for the love of God, how do the scissors disappear so quickly up in here and did you really need to use the entire roll of tape for your “special project”?).

The art closet remains on my to-do list; stay tuned.

While happily helping the orphaned items find their homes, I was reminded of another (perhaps the only other?) time this summer when I reorganized a portion of the kitchen. Except it wasn’t really reorganizing; it was more excavating. Back when Nick and I went away to Puerto Rico in July, my sister-in-law, Emi, came to watch the girls… which meant I had to do a serious house-clean. Okay, I didn’t have to – but I really wanted to.

You see, Emi is one of those uber-organized, super-clean people (yes, we get along extremely well; stop laughing). Whereas my motto is It’s Time To Vacuum When The Dog Hair Starts Rolling Across The Dining Room Like Tumbleweeds, Emi’s motto is Why Vacuum Three Times A Day When You Can Vacuum Four? Nearly every time she comes here, she re-sorts and reorganizes the Tupperware and makes sure our counters are always nice and shiny.

Although this is, indeed, lovely – and, one might think, motivation for me to not tidy up before she arrives, since she’ll do it better than I would, anyway – I nevertheless want to at least try to have things in some semblance of order before she visits, not because Emi judges me (she doesn’t at all), but because I like to prove to myself that I’m capable of holding to a higher standard. For a couple of days, anyway. This time, I went for shock value and actually went through the Tupperware on my own (ah ha!) and made sure the food in our cupboards was safely accessible (by which I mean re-stacking the canned goods so they didn’t conk you on the head when you opened the cupboard to get yourself some cereal).

As I attempted to sort through the baking supplies, I discovered that some of them didn’t move, and was mortified when I remembered the reason why: they were still stuck in the Karo syrup that had spilled. When we were making Christmas cookies. Last December. I mean, it wasn’t a surprise; I’d known that the syrup was there all these months. In fact, I’d deliberately left it there when it spilled, sloshing its thick sweetness all over the drawer, because how in the heck does one even begin to clean up that much Karo syrup? (For the uninitiated, Karo is a brand of corn syrup that is occasionally used in baking. It is dense, like molasses, but clear – and sticky, like… syrup – and makes an excellent ingredient in cookie frosting because it causes the icing to harden to a glossy finish. For this same reason, it is a complete nightmare when it, say, spills and covers a drawer.)

By the time I realized what had happened (back in December), the other baking supplies were nestled in a bed of syrup at least a quarter inch thick. It made my head spin just thinking about removing everything – dragging strands of syrup through the air like tacky mozzarella – and then getting the Karo off of each box, bottle, and bag. And then there would be the mess of syrup in the drawer that would need scrubbing… I simply couldn’t even.

So I did what any other (procrastinating) person would have done: I just left it there. Another day, I’d tackle it. Another time, when I had the energy. But then the syrup, um, hardened, creating its own little veneer, and suddenly cleaning it up became far less urgent. The baking supplies were still stuck, of course, but they were relatively easily pried out – and when I did, I was met with a thin layer of sugary plastic rather than sticky terror, so I just kind of forgot about it.

Until I knew that we’d be gone and Emi would be here and she’d see the fossilized remains in our drawer and would be all, How the heck did this happen? and I’d have to explain that it had been there since December and I’d been too lazy busy to clean it up, and, well, that was just too much, even for me. It had to be taken care of.

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Yup. Just a little bit of a mess down in there.

After removing everything that broke free without a fight, I was left with what essentially amounted to an archeological dig. Remember in Jurassic Park when the mosquito is trapped in the amber? That was basically my kitchen, except with Anise Extract and a rubber band instead of a fossilized bug.

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You can’t really see it here, but the things that I’d pulled from the resin-y bottom left impressions behind, so it was totally like an archeological expedition. This was right above the mesozoic layer.

I tried to remove the remaining veneer by hand but soon discovered that doing so was impossible because it was, you know, stuck to the drawer. As it had hardened, it left no room between itself and the laminate, so I couldn’t reach beneath and pry it loose. I considered removing the drawer and filling it with water to, I don’t know, melt it down but that seemed to be pure folly.

“You know,” I informed Nick, “I’ve decided that it really isn’t a problem. I mean, it’s been here for seven months. Do we really have to clean it up?”

He just gave me a look.

“Okay, fine. Be all sanitary. Whatever.”

It became clear that the only option would be to chip away at it – literally – using some sort of chisel. We don’t happen to have chisels lying around, but we do happen to have my grandfather’s old toolbox filled with all sorts of random utensils, including this delightful file-like thing.
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We like to get all 
Home Improvement up in here.

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What, like you don’t ask your husband to snap photos of you chiseling away fossilized corn syrup in case you ever decide to blog about it. Psh.

It was tedious – and surprisingly tiring – work but eventually the veneer came up, one little plastic bit at a time. Twenty minutes later, the drawer was filled with shards of see-through rock candy, which was fairly easy to dump into the trash. A few paper towels and some GreenWorks squirts later, and voila – good as new!

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Please ignore whatever schmutz is on the front of the drawer. It’s always what’s on the inside that counts anyway, right?

After re-filing the contents, I stood back and admired my handiwork. Quite amazing, really. THIS DRAWER IS SO WONDERFULLY ORGANIZED. Surely you would feel welcome in our tidy, cozy home, Emi. Would you like to put leftovers in some Tupperware? BOOM. Right there. How d’you like me now?

I’m pretty sure it was the methodically catalogued baking cabinet that allowed Emi to not totally lose her mind when all three dogs got into the trash and wound up recycling its contents – out both ends – on her bedroom floor. I hope we left the carpet cleaner out, because if not, she’d have to have waded through the cupboards containing the cleaning supplies, and let’s just say they’re not exactly as easy to sort through as the Tupperware, if you know what I mean. One can only order so many areas of the house, no? Plus, I appreciate the irony of untidy cleaning supplies. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

So, in closing, if you were concerned that the stash of Easter candy you just found – in September – was horribly negligent on your part, allow me to assure you that you are are in very good company. Also, by way of a Public Service Announcement, I can now say with confidence that if a bottle of Karo syrup spills in your baking drawer, it is much easier – and more fun, in an archeological kind of way – to just let it harden before attempting to remove it. True, you could probably chisel the stuff out sooner than seven months later, but hey, why rush it?

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I could try to convince you that, seven weeks later, the drawer is still this neat… but I prefer not to waste anyone’s time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look away, baby, look away

Welcome to today’s session of What Life Looks (Or Sounds) Like Through The Eyes (Or Ears) Of Someone With ADHD. Thanks for your attention! (See what I did there?)

Listening is a challenge for me. No, not just because talking takes precedence over listening (although there’s some of that, sure; it’s definitely something I’m working on, that whole You Don’t Need To Think Of An Immediate Response – Just Listen! thing). And no, not just because I’m easily distracted because of my ADHD – well, okay, that IS it, but probably not in the way you might think.

It’s not that I don’t hear things; it’s more that I hear everything. Television at normal volume often feels like it’s screaming at me. If Langston comes in after a particularly exhausting session of ball-fetching and is panting like a maniac, I hear his frantic breaths more loudly than everything else in the room. Last weekend, we went out to The Melting Pot to celebrate the girls’ – and my students’ – successful piano recital. The empty fondue pot was warming up, waiting for the mouthwatering cheese to be placed into it by our server, and the heat from the burner was causing the pot to rattle ever so slightly. Once I noticed it, it was essentially all I could hear; I absolutely could not block it out, even though I tried (I mean that literally – I held my hand coyly up to my ear to attempt to muffle the sound). It took superhuman effort to focus on the conversation we were trying to have, and only once the pot was finally full – and, mercifully, quiet – did I turn my complete attention to Nick and the girls.

I don’t want to be hearing these random noises so loudly – I just don’t really have any choice. It’s part of my wiring, a portion of the ADHD code that is who I am. A lot of times, it’s actually a good thing. I can make out someone’s voice from around a corner before anyone else even knows they’re coming and I’ll be the first to realize that the faucet is dripping, thereby saving our house from devastating flooding (go, me!). Others, it’s a real nuisance because it’s not such fun when you can’t read a sentence in your book (or on your Kindle, although I don’t have a Kindle, but whatever) because you can hear the ticking of the watch so loudly – the one being worn by the person three seats over – that it’s making you develop an eye twitch.

There are ways that I help myself tune out those extra sounds. Let’s just say that we don’t have any wall clocks in our house and Nick knows to hold any potential wristwatches-as-gifts up to his ear to ascertain whether or not I’ll be hiding them in the bathroom closet ten seconds after opening the box. (True story: our bathroom closet really does hold, like, three clocks.) I also sleep with an extra pillow so that I can put it over my head in case some random noise is keeping me awake, and I am super fun on family vacations.

I would really like to drown out the extemporaneous nonsense; I simply can’t.

It may seem like a contradiction, then, that I really prefer to do work – or make dinner, or clean, or mow the lawn – with music on, what with the music-being-a-distraction and all. But if I have the right kind of music, it actually works to cover up other potential distractions (the “right” kind is almost impossible to pin down; my Pandora list is really varied, although Nick just was scrolling through my iPhone and announced with genuine disparagement that a “shockingly high percentage of these songs are Christmas songs”). When the girls are playing and giggling and shrieking at one another – even happily – it can make me lose focus almost immediately if I have a task at hand… so I just crank up that play list and, suddenly, I’m able to refocus. Until someone’s bleeding. Or hanging off my back like a monkey. That’s harder to ignore.

These funny little “tricks” have been hard-earned over the years – trial and error, success and failure, melded into one. But one of the favorite tools in my ADHD box is the very purposeful act of not looking at someone when they’re talking… so that I can hear them better. On some level, this makes no sense, I know; why would you look away from someone who’s talking? If you’re really paying attention, shouldn’t you be taking visual cues, looking for facial expressions and body language?

Well, yes and no. Obviously, those things are really important and can contribute tremendously to understanding what someone is trying to say. But also? They’re really distracting. When someone is waving their hands to emphasize a point, my eyes are drawn to their fingers – but unlike most people without ADHD, I don’t just take a quick glance and then look toward their face again.

No, suddenly I’m noticing that her fingernails are painted a really neat shade of plum – and don’t I have one like that in the cupboard? If not, maybe I should swing by Target on the way home… Which reminds me, oh crap! I never got that birthday present! Wait, is the big day this Friday or next Friday? STOP, EMILY. FOCUS. Right, right. What was he saying again? Oh, yes. Field Day is coming up, the girls need to bring sunscreen… Speaking of which, now that I’m looking at his face, maybe he could use a higher SPF himself. Is that a mole or a freckle? Who was that actor again in the Austin Powers movie with the “molé molé molé” thing? Kevin Savage? Wasn’t he in The Wonder Years?

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“My mole-stake..”

And then I’ve completely lost the thread of the conversation and instead of remembering what she was telling me about her son’s recent softball game, all I remember is that Ms. Starbucks Barista has really lovely eyebrows.

Hence, when something is really important – when I really want to hear what someone is saying, or the film dialogue in a crowded movie theater, or whether or not the woodwinds or the brass are responsible for the eighth notes in this section of the symphony – I look away. Not just anywhere, though, because there are myriad other distractions lurking everywhere, just waiting to grab my (already fleeting) attention — the blinking EXIT sign, the way the kid in line to the left is picking his nose, how the poster on the wall is missing a pushpin. Bueller? Bueller?

Thus, in order to really listen, I’ll look down at my own hands (which is also part of why I rarely wear nail polish – because the chipping and uneven color distracts me even when I’m trying not to be distracted, for crying out loud!). Or, if I’m not actually holding a conversation with someone, I’ll close my eyes. Yeah, I may miss the lead actor’s facial expressions, but at least I’ll hear what he had to say.

I have no idea if other folks with ADHD do the same thing, but I’m a fan. Concentration and focus, FTW!

So. If we’re having a chat, you and I, and I suddenly look down – or you see me working fervently to give make appropriately polite eye contact while also, oddly, glancing at my own fingers from time to time – don’t take it personally. Actually, do take it personally, because it means that I care enough about what you’re saying to really listen, and this is the best way I know how to do it. And if you’re a teacher and that highly distractible kid is looking out the window instead of staring at you? Sure, maybe she’s not listening. But, then again, maybe she is. Maybe give her another chance.

Also? You might want to check a mirror when we’re through, just in case the thing I was finding the most distracting was the salad stuck between your front teeth. You’re welcome.

 

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

46) Decide that you mean business about the salads.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Move over, Jackass

The start of school smells good. I don’t just say this because today was one of the most perfect days, weatherwise, we’ve experienced maybe, like, ever, nor because of the girls’ fresh, clean, new school stuff, all of which comes with its fresh, clean, new smell… New backpacks, new supplies (erasers, I heart you), new clothes, new lunch boxes… Each has its own crisp aroma, un-stained, not yet having taken on the stank of leftover spaghetti or forgotten sneakers.

Beyond that, however, there’s still the geeky kid in me who always loved the start of school each year, and that kid sits eagerly beside the teacher in me, who met the beginning of each September with equal parts trepidation and exhilaration. Yes, the year holds the possibility of something dreadful, of birds pooping on your head while you wait in line to go inside from recess (first grade, true story; Sarah Tallman was kind enough to help get the poop out of my hair while everyone else laughed), of classmates who are tyrants hiding behind polo shirts and jeggings, of parents who think that little Junior deserves special treatment and plays the not my child card every. single. time. But there’s also the promise of new friends, of clean notebooks and smooth desks, of games at recess and giggles during library, of field trips and science experiments, of fall and cinnamon and hay rides.

A month in, school begins to take on the metallic, pungent smell of tiny, sweaty bodies who defy logic and seem to need deodorant, despite being only eight. But the start of school? Those first, unblemished, ripe-with-promise weeks? They smell great.

Each year, as the girls begin school, I try to do something special for them – a fun first day breakfast, a treat when they come home, a dinner of their choosing, notes in their backpacks – something to make this day stand apart from the other 179 days of the school calendar. This year, with the (very) recent loss of my much-adored father-in-law (there will be more to say on this in coming weeks – I promised Bill it would be so – but right now, I need to wait and process and grieve, and think about just what I’d like to write), I have had to cut myself a break and be patient with my lack of focus… but I still want to be doing these special things. Not for any grander purpose, not because of any outside pressure, not even because of expectations that I may have inadvertently raised in my children, but simply because they make me happy.

And, I’m learning, that’s a pretty damn good reason for doing most things.

Except watching Real Housewives (of Anywhere). Or wearing Uggs year-round. Or preferring dark chocolate to milk. There are rules, people.

I’m also learning what I can and cannot do, and I’m learning to be okay with it. Which isn’t such a novel concept, except I recently read two seemingly opposing blog posts and found myself agreeing with basically everything they both said. Which means… thinking. And growing. And learning. Or something. And all that jazz.

First, I read this post, and loved it not only because “Pinterest Bitches” is a fabulous phrase and they worked “explosive diarrhea” into their narrative, but also because, hell yes! Crazytown! A stitched-together pencil caddy? “Yay school” and a little globe? Have we all gone insane?? Reading that post made me feel instantly better about getting the time wrong for Ella’s meet-the-teacher day, and going to Target yesterday in biker shorts and a dirty Zumba t-shirt.

But then I read this post today. Michelle had me with “braless in the drop off lane”(and also made me feel a little like maybe she was stalking me with the whole, Does Emily pause before posting about finally, finally having her depression under control because she knows there are other moms still struggling? thing), but also got my attention by mentioning, despite her house never being company-ready, that she does throw “Pinterest worthy” parties… both of which sounded awfully familiar. (Not because the parties I throw are necessarily Pinterest worthy, but because I, um, did post photos here specifically so I could put them on Pinterest.)

So… It seems that the Pinterest Bitch would be… me.

Conundrum, no?

The more I’ve thought about it, however, the more I’ve decided that the dichotomy not only makes sense… it’s okay. It’s good, even. It’s just me; it’s who I am. It hurts no one (except myself, when I stay up too late making Looney Tunes birthday cakes or getting pancake batter ready to go for the first day of school). It’s a bit nutty, but that’s fine. It makes me happy.

And it’s high time that I reconcile what I can and cannot do, and become okay with it. Or, as Michelle puts it, it’s high time that I “quit being a jackass” to myself.

I can make cute first-day-of-school breakfasts with pancakes shaped like school buses and the girls’ current grade numbers. first day breakfast
Don’t worry; Annie eventually received more than 1 cut-up strawberry. We are all about equity in this house.

I can make brownies for when the girls come home from school, with their newly-begun grade levels powdered-sugared onto them.first day brownies
Notice how these are the corners? I ate the gooey middle piece. It was delicious.

I can send my kids off to school, and welcome them home from their first day, with a bang (a bang that is created with the help of boxed mixes from Wegmans, but a bang nonetheless), and they love it, and I love it, and it’s just the way it goes. I cannot, however, manage to keep our fridge and cupboards stocked with actual necessary food, so when my kids request a sandwich with pepperoni and cheese, they’re going to get some pepperoni and a torn-up cheese stick instead.
IMG_3537
Yep. Real lunch from last year. Super proud moment.

School bus pancakes. Cheese stick sandwiches. Pretty much me in a nutshell.

I can send my girls to school each day with a joke in their lunch boxes (or a joke told over the phone)…
first day joke
Ellen” and her Facebook page FTW!

… But I cannot organize the papers in the kitchen – nor manage to replace the window shade that’s been broken for at least two years – to save my soul.

messy papers
I know you’re jealous. Just keepin’ it real.

I can make number signs the night before and pose my adorable children in front of the house on their first day…

ella first day 3rd
HOLY CRAP, she has gotten so absurdly old.

… But, for the life of me, I cannot get ahold of the weeds that are overtaking every spare space in our garden, in the yard, and on the sidewalk.
annie first day 1st
The foot-tall “bushes” to the left, in front of the bricks? Yeah. Weeds. Every last one.

It used to be that both sides of this coin bothered and embarrassed me. I didn’t want to admit that I studied hair blogs so that I could send the girls off to school with cute and fancy ‘dos, because that somehow felt like something I should be ashamed of – as though admitting it would somehow be showing off, or trying to put other non-hairdo-ing parents down, or saying that I had too much time on my hands, or making a judgement one way or another.

And yet, I also didn’t want to admit that the third seat of the car is so filled with dog fur, we cannot have people ride there without producing a towel for them to sit on. That was also something to be ashamed of, an admission that I cannot keep everything together, that I let some things go.

But lately – and quite uncharacteristically – I’ve been going easy on myself. I’ve come to realize that I don’t always have it all together (a shocker, I know, I know), not even in a scattered sort of way, and that’s okay. I’ve certainly never felt that I’m Super Mom, but I’m coming to see that my priorities are just that — my priorities — and that automatically makes them different from everyone else’s… but it doesn’t make them bad or wrong, nor something to be bothered by or ashamed of.

Again, to paraphrase Michelle (can you tell I really liked her post?!), I’m being a good parent. I’m loving my kids. I’m doing the best I can.

And it makes me happy.

I’m going to scour Pinterest for ideas and then send my girls to school with Halloween-themed Bento boxes – because it makes me smile – and doing so says nothing about anyone else who thinks that Bento boxes are as absurd as The Real Housewives. It says only that I like them, and that’s okay.

I’m never going to knit the girls a scarf, nor make them fabulous scrapbooks, nor send them to school with stitched-together pencil caddies, because that’s just not my bag… which is also okay. And I will always have a perpetually messy stovetop, because making Halloween-themed Bento boxes takes priority over stovetop scrubbing (plus also, hello ADHD), and that says nothing about people who do prize a gleaming kitchen. It only says that I don’t, and that’s okay, too.

Some things I can do.
Others, I can’t.
Or maybe I just don’t. Either way, it’s okay.

I’m going to give myself more of a break, cut myself a little more slack, and allow life to slowly come back together, without rushing it or being impatient with myself when I need to take a little more time. I’m going to do the things that make me happy, and worry far less about the things that don’t (except for, like, mowing the lawn and paying bills, because when I let those slide, it doesn’t work so well), and I’m going to stop apologizing for both. And I’m going to encourage everyone around me to do the very same.

In short, I’m going to quit being a jackass to myself.