I think Mother Nature is just a little bit tipsy this week

We’ve had kind of funny weather at the lake recently – a bit windy, a bit choppy, a hint of rain here, a wickedly hot breeze there, a chilly wind over yonder. The threat of a severe thunderstorm kept the girls inside most of yesterday afternoon and evening, so by this morning, they were in rare (read: drive-you-insane) form.

In an attempt to curb their insanity (and preserve the rest of our sanity – or whatever little of it is left, anyway), I offered to take them for a boat ride. Ella, my most avid boater, immediately agreed, and although I couldn’t convince Annie to join us, my grandma, Phoofsy, decided to come along, too.

Upon hearing this, Ella was momentarily concerned. “But Mom – we won’t be able to go fast if Phoofsy comes with us!” I assured her that it would still be a lovely ride, and she conceded that it would be fun to have Phoof with us… especially if I took Ella out again for an even faster jaunt. After procuring life jackets and towels, we were ready to go. While hardly glassy-smooth, the water in front of our dock looked nicely suited for a simple, pleasant boat ride. Easy, peasy – let’s do this!

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A few light waves, but otherwise lovely, right?

The clouds, on the other hand, did not appear so benevolent. One of the coolest parts of living on a large-ish lake is that its open expanse allows you to see myriad weather patterns coming and going – rolling up from the south, sailing over from the west, very occasionally creeping down from the north. Even cooler, the size of the lake (1.5 miles wide and 15.5 miles long) means that it’s entirely possible for multiple weather phenomena to occur simultaneously. Today, the northwestern portion of the lake was blanketed in clouds with the potential for rain, so I opted to take us southward, where it was perfectly sunny.

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See: dark and stormy to the right (i.e. west); sunny with puffy clouds to the left (that’d be east).

As we made our way down the lake, it was, indeed, bright and shiny, but – for some inexplicable reason – choppy as all get-out. The peaceful landscape in front of our dock gave way to a roiling, jagged roller coaster of hell. One moment, we were bobbing happily along, all “Ooooh, what a beautiful summer morning!” and the next I was looking around for George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg to see if they, too, were struggling with their vessel.


 It may not look like it here, but trust me, it was totally Perfect Storm-esque.

I’ve been boating on the lake more times than I can count, and I am not exaggerating when I say that these were the roughest waves I’ve ever encountered. Ocean-like, they were taller than the boat, cresting with white, frothy peaks and dipping crazy low to draw up steam again. Ella hung on, white-knuckled, for dear life and Phoofsy (someone who is most definitely not a stranger to going out in the boat) sat, stern-faced, determined to – quite literally – ride things out as we flew up into the air and then plummeted down into the trough, water spraying at us from all sides. There seemed to be no speed at which the ride was any less formidable; too slow and we thrashed about like ping-pong balls. Too fast and we risked breaking our teeth from all of the machine gun-esque chattering.

Is it legal to send out the SOS signal because you’re worried that you might break your coccyx? What about your grandma’s coccyx? Should I stop mentioning coccyxes?

For as good a sport as she is, I knew that Phoofsy was hardly enjoying the brutal pounding we were taking, and it hadn’t really been my intention to torture her on our easy peasy ride, so I finally cried “uncle” and turned the boat around. (I might have said something other than “uncle” but thankfully it was too windy for Ella to hear me.) As we bounced our way north, the waves began to ease up a little, and I was thankful that the storm clouds remained mostly to our west.

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 Yep, just off to our left… there they are…
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Still looking relatively hospitable, no?

Things had just settled into a rhythm that didn’t make all of us feel as though we were rumbling over a rock quarry, and I had finally breathed a sigh of relief that, at last, this ride was taking a turn away from water boarding and toward relaxation… when it began to rain. Turns out that the clouds “just a bit to the west” were a little more “east” than I’d thought and, despite my attempts to outrun (outboat?) the droplets – despite the fact that it was STILL SUNNY – it was hopeless.

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By this time, even the CCI pups we’d brought along were like, ENOUGH.

Thankfully, the rain was not particularly strong, so none of us got soaked, but the message was clear: Nice try. Go home. With a sigh of defeat, I turned the boat back to the house, barely managing to ease it back into the hoist without doing any damage. Naturally, by now it had stopped raining, and the water surrounding our dock was as calm as it had been before we began our accursed journey. Rather than tempt fate, Phoofsy ambled out of the boat (“ambled” is generous, but hey, if you can climb out of a boat, perch on the edge of the hoist, and then traipse over a handmade, unsteady wooden bridge to the dock when you’re 94, I get to use the word “ambled”) and called it a day.

Ella, on the other hand, was bound and determined to take me up on my promise of a more raucous ride, so we lowered the hoist and motored back out into the open water… where Ella immediately refused to allow me to increase the speed any faster than we’d gone during our first ride. Without a hint of irony, she looked me right in the eye and said, “I’m fine with going slow, thanks. I’m so glad Phoofsy was with us the last time or else we might really have had trouble in those waves.” 

Given that the weather patterns have been changing so rapidly you could get whiplash trying to keep up, it was no surprise that the water that had been filled with white-capped breakers fifteen minutes earlier was now barely rolling. Our ride was as easy peasy as I’d hoped the first one would be as we took the boat across the lake and nearly all the way down to the south end, then back up and home again. Ella’s hair billowed behind her as she sat up front, arms outstretched horizontally as she “conducted” the air each time we crossed another boat’s wake.

As we approached the shore once more, I joked that she’d better brace herself because, as we all know, docking is not my specialty. She obliged and then waited for me to turn the dial and raise the hoist (and the boat) out of the water, but as I did so, nothing happened. The metal coil refused to budge, wouldn’t even make a sound, as the boat bobbed along beside the dock and we waited… and waited… for the motor to engage…

And then our neighbor called over from their beach to me to ask if our power was out, too, because theirs was – and wasn’t this just the strangest weather we’d been having?

Before I cursed her, I did thank Mother Nature for at least allowing my grandmother to get out of the boat earlier when the power was on, because without a functioning hoist, Ella and I were now floating a good three feet lower than the dock, and ain’t no way Phoofsy could have “ambled” her way out of this one. Unable to park the boat as usual, I realized I’d have to back it up and tie it to the dock cleats – while not banging it up against the posts and also while locating and attaching the bumper buoys – which is super fun if merely docking the boat is a significant challenge.

Well, it took me at least ten minutes (several of which were spent pulling the boat back in line with the dock after Ella realized that I’d attached the wrong end of the rope to the cleat and the rear of the boat had come unmoored – oopsies!), but by God, y’all, I attached it and set out the bumpers and managed to clamber up and onto the dock. Ella, of course, was already a good many yards ahead of me, having breezily climbed out of the boat and skipped her way up the beach without a care in the world.

“Mom? Once we have the power back and get the boat up, can we lower it again tomorrow and go for another ride with Phoofsy?”

Sure, kid. I’m sure she’d love that. Easy peasy.

Summer Vortex

So.

Remember when I said that I was totally looking forward to summer? To all of us finally having a true break, to days with nothing on the docket, to really kicking back and just enjoying?

And remember how I said that I’d undoubtedly look back on that post and chuckle at my naiveté?

Well, HERE I AM. Looking back. And laughing my ass off. With also some tears maybe thrown in. This has only taken seven days*, which is actually a little longer than I would have predicted every summer prior to this one.

Now, let me qualify: this has been a good summer so far. All seven days* of it. And, to my pleasant surprise, I am still continuing to enjoy the doing nothing aspect of it. Which is kind of a misnomer, because we have definitely been up to a lot more than nothing

We have picked snap peas at the farm at which we joined a CSA.IMG_7355Those tasted infinitely better than the ones from the store. Go figure.

The girls created their Summer Fun List….summer fun list
… and have already checked off a good many items.

We, alongside my cousin, Andrew, celebrated my grandma’s 94th birthday by taking what might have been her first-ever selfie.IMG_7373And then I posted it to Facebook. And tagged her in it. Because of course she’s on Facebook.

We’ve been swimming in the lake, which is finally warm enough to not kill the girls.
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‘Cause anaphylaxis would be a bummer of a way to start summer.
Hooray for global warming!

Our garden has already yielded food for the harvesting.
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Those would be radishes.
Annie’s lost another tooth since then, so her smile is even more wonderfully gap-filled now.

The sprinkler has been pulled out and run through…
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… while fully clothed, of course.
In their/my defense, it was a bazillion degrees out that day, so whatever.

First-time sleepovers have been realized.photo_1
And she was still standing the next day, so – success!

Whilst said sleepover was occurring, Annie and I made butter in a jar (de-lish) and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
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We are enjoying said lemonade. Also de-lish.

We picked deliciously ripe strawberries at the little farm just five minutes from our house.photo_3
Yup. They were as good as they look here. And as big, too. 

We have slept beyond our normal school-day wake-up times. We have enjoyed gobs of ice cream (yes, already). We have plans to make zucchini bread (with zucchini from the garden, holla!) and to see a concert and to hurl water balloons at one another with abandon.

So, summer? It’s going splendidly. That Fun List is getting checked off left and right.

You know what’s not getting checked off left and right, however? Anything on MY to-do list. Every night, I glance down at the ever-growing scrawl of things that need accomplishing — weed the garden, mow the lawn, sort through the art cabinet, remove the dried-up highlighters and discarded stickers from the bottom of my piano bag, make phone calls, vacuum — and notice that none of it has been crossed out. And so it’s moved over to the next collection, carefully laid out and rewritten, and when I wake up the following morning, I look at the list and promise myself that today – today, by God! – I will groom the dogs and reorganize the Tupperware and purchase the bathing suit online that I’ve been meaning to get for, oh, an entire month so that I have something that isn’t at least four years old and, like, see-through to wear to Puerto Rico.

Given that it’s summer and all, I have not had to make any lunches. I have not had to run around taking kids to practices or managing homework or planning lessons and organizing childcare.

And you know what else I have not done? ANYTHING.

In just seven days*, the yard seems to have taken on a jungle-like persona and the floors on our main level look as though they’ve never been cleaned. It’s amazing what falls to shit when you’re off berry picking and refereeing and running through sprinklers.

Well, just do that stuff on your list while the girls are occupied, you may think. How quaint!! Let me tell you, it’s damn hard to take care of anything when the girls are around and wanting it to feel like Summer! Yay! all the time. It’s difficult to make phone calls when they are reenacting the climax of Maleficent – in period costume – in the background. It’s not easy sorting through boxes of old clothes when they run through the carefully crafted piles while playing particularly raucous games of “baby.” It’s damn near impossible to do the dishes when slingshots are being fired in your direction (trust me, I’ve tried). And let’s not even talk about the sibling sniping that occurs at regular intervals throughout the day; they are taking button-pushing to levels I did not know existed. In some ways, it’s actually quite impressive.

Simply put: it is neither “fun” nor “easy” for anyone when real-life crap has to be accomplished while the children are tagging along. Not for the girls, not for me. And so very little gets done until it has to or something terrible will befall us because it’s just not worth it making life hell for everyone.

Plus also, I don’t want to be the summer ogre. Come on! Lighten up! SUMMER! SQUEE!!!

Today*, when I announced to the girls that, so sorry, they needed to accompany me to not only Target but also the grocery store AND the pet store, Annie announced that I must think it’s my job to torture them all day long.

She had me. Right on the nose. BINGO.

When I attempted to reason with her, explaining that, on Monday, we did not leave the house for even one minute – despite being woefully out of every essential pantry staple and subsiding on stale dried cherries and shriveled baby carrots – and, instead, made tinfoil rivers and chilled out in the playroom because she and Ella really just wanted to lounge around for a bit, Annie piped up,

“Yeah, well. It’s summer. That’s what’s supposed to happen.”

I then tried to explain that, although it may, in fact, be summer, that does not mean that we can survive without groceries or prescription medications or dog food, and because such goods do not magically fall from the sky (not even Amazon Prime is quite that magical), we occasionally need to go and fetch them. Meaning that they need to come with me, because staying home for hours at a time is kind of, like, illegal… And, unless they’d prefer to live in filth, the house needs to be tidied from time to time (they opted for filth, but this is not a democracy, people) and the laundry needs to be done and all that jazz… So, every so often, Summer Fun Squee!! needs to include real life, too.

This went over very well.

So, to recap: summer is great for laziness and eating and splashing and getting freckles on noses, but can kiss my rear in terms of anything even remotely productive. You gain time laughing but lose sanity. Somehow, in the fresh delight of SCHOOL’S OUT FOR ALL OF US! I actually thought my days would be perfectly balanced between tie dyeing, water slides, reading lakeside, paying the bills, and cooking a nutritious dinner with ingredients grown in our own weed-free garden (because I’d have all sorts of time – and a burning desire – to weed).

Which is kind of like how, pre-Ella, I envisioned Nick and me sprawled on our bed on weekend mornings, our newborn cooing between us, while we read the Sunday New York Times, sipped decaf, and ate lightly toasted bagels. In other words, I’d basically imagined giving birth to an iPad. (I’ve always had a very lively, if completely ludicrous, imagination.)

Instead, summer it is a vortex of disorientation (what day of the week is it again??), mysterious dirt stains (have those socks been changed since school got out?), unidentified rashes (is that poison ivy or a mosquito bite gone awry?), and boxes of popsicles. And flying kites.

So, if you’ve sent me an email since school got out and have been waiting for an answer, or if you noticed that I didn’t “like” your photo on Facebook, or I haven’t managed to pay that bill in time (I think I’m pretty much up on this, but vortex and all), I apologize. Summer Fun! is taking way more brain power and time than I’d anticipated, and even if I attempted to reply to your query, it would probably come out jumbled because of the children putting together a marching band in the kitchen.

* To wit: I began this post nearly a week ago, aka seven days after school got out, and it has taken me an additional six days to find the time to write. I still can’t promise it makes sense, and the items on my To-Do list have not yet been crossed off, but I do know that the glens we hiked this morning made for some great photo shoots. Summer Fun. Squee!

 

 

Dog Days

So. For a moment there, we thought we might have killed our black Lab, Langston. This dog loves, loves to run and fetch a ball, but we avoid doing so when the temps get too high because he seems to become overheated really quickly. This morning, I knew the front lawn needed to be mowed and, seeing that it was already warm and humid, wanted to get it done as early as possible. As such, I decided to skip my daily dog walk, but didn’t want Lang to get zero exercise, so I asked Nick if he’d throw the ball for our boy. He agreed.

At 9 a.m., it was hazily sunny and 77 degrees (“real feel” 82) with 60% humidity — warm, for sure, but not what either of us considered even remotely dangerous in terms of a short ball-throw. Still, they came inside less than five minutes later — which is not atypical, given, you know, that our pup is covered in a thick layer of black fur. Langston, as usual after a fetch session, was panting like a maniac, tongue lolling from his mouth, and he slurped up water like he’d never been hydrated before. All typical. We even joked – “Sorry that run was so short, dude, but we don’t want you to get heatstroke, hahaha.”

We started to go about our business – Nick on an errand, me to the front lawn – when Nick’s voice took on a different pitch as he said, “Uhhh, Em… It looks like Langston’s legs are shaking. I think he’s having trouble standing.” Indeed, he was, so we watched him more closely and saw, without question, that he was in some major distress: completely disoriented, walking into walls, staggering and stumbling, falling down to the ground. He didn’t seem to recognize his name and responded to none of our attempts to calm or communicate with him.

It didn’t take long to put two and two together to realize that, joking aside, Langston suffering from very real heatstroke — or, at the very least, he was so overheated, he couldn’t think (or stand) straight. We knew we had to cool him off, fast, and decided to guide him back outside so we could thoroughly wet him with the hose. The moment we helped him out the door, he began to wander through the lawn, with me running after him – and him becoming both confused and freaked out that a strange person (he really didn’t recognize me) was freakin’ chasing him – while he circled aimlessly (but fast; that boy can move) until I finally caught up with him and took a hold of his collar.

Worst game of tag ever.

At last, I led Lang to our front walk (cooler than the grass), where Nick soaked him with the hose… and then he collapsed in a heap. Still panting, still awake, but having no strength to hold himself up anymore. For the next twenty minutes, we ran the hose in a trickle under him, creating a cool puddle in which he could lounge, and drink, until gradually he seemed to be out of the danger zone: perking up when he heard his name, looking at us with brighter eyes (Hey – when did you guys get here?!), and thumping his tail in the puddle behind him, happily splashing us all.

When he finally reached “fine” — still hot and panting, but otherwise okay — we turned off the hose and brought him back inside; this time, he was able to walk in entirely on his own. After another half hour or so of resting, his breathing slowed to normal, his strength had returned, and he seems to be no worse for wear.

Nick and I, however – and our girls, who watched, terrified, from inside while we helped our boy get back to good – will not forget.

All of this is my long-winded way of saying:
Dog owners: please, please be super careful with your pups out in the heat. This may seem like a no-brainer – it certainly was for us (or so we thought) – but, as we learned, heat can cause trouble faster than you may realize.

It did not appear to be too hot. Langston did not run for any longer than he usually does. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary… and yet, it was too much for our boy.

Will we run him again this summer? Of course. He loves it, and we love watching him love it. But we will be more cautious. With that heavy fur coat, what seems “warm” to us can obviously be “omg sweltering” to dogs, and so even walking him – and our other pups –  around the neighborhood is going to be a careful, slow, water-filled endeavor.

I started to post this on my Facebook page, but decided to put it out here publicly hoping that if even one other person reads it and is a wee bit more careful with their dogs in these sticky, sunny days, it will be worth it. Or, heck, if even one person who has gone through a similar experience reads it and feels less alone, it will be worth it. ‘Cause it can happen to anyone, to any dog. Even ours. Even yours.

Dog Days of Summer, indeed.
Phew.

(Note: We did consider taking Lang to the vet, but knew it was most important to cool him down as quickly as possible, so we didn’t want to load him into a hot car for a 20 minute ride when he was already in obvious distress. As he began to cool down, we researched heatstroke in dogs and noticed that he was no longer exhibiting any of the danger signs, so it then seemed unnecessary to bring him in. We will, of course, keep an eye on him, and if anything changes, you can bet your ass he’ll be off… but for now, all is well.)

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Taken just ten minutes ago, with his happy tail wagging so quickly, it’s a blur beside him.

Change of Heart

Mmmmm, summer.

Longer days, swimming, sun. Who doesn’t love summer??

Well, actually… me.
But wait. Lemme ‘splain.

The activity parts of summer – the beaches and the splashing, the ice cream and stargazing – I’ve always loved those. But the rest of summer, with months of days and nights with nothing to do? Not really my speed, especially once the kids came along.

When the girls were babies and toddlers, summer was nice enough as a season (yay, warm!), but – other than increasing our intake of watermelon and icy pops – little else really changed. Bedtimes didn’t get later, no one slept in, no one went to camp. In fact, summer was almost more of a hassle than the rest of the year because of things like sunscreen and bathing suits and swim diapers and preventing drowning and OH MY GOD SHE’S ABOUT TO FALL INTO THE FIRE PIT.

As preschoolers, Annie and Ella ditched the Little Swimmers diapers, but activity- and schedule-wise, summer mimicked spring except with more bug bites. Once Ella entered elementary school, things began to shift a little. Suddenly, summer became a time of NO SCHOOL! – which meant delirious mayhem – but also NO SCHOOL!, which meant bittersweet sadness. The change of routine was jarring; she missed her classmates and her teachers. For as much as she and Annie liked not being in school, they – like their mama – weren’t so good at just hanging out. Two days in, they’d be at each other’s throats, and so to ensure that all of us actually made it through summer alive, I did a lot of refereeing while secretly wishing I could just let them go at it Hunger Games style.

Plus also? They were home. All the time. With me. (Or at the lake, or on a trip, but still… Not at school. With me. ALL THE TIME.) The schedule I’d so carefully created during the academic year flew out the window, and for the life of me I couldn’t quite get back on track. I will be the first to admit that I, too, like routine, and that endless of stretches of nothing make me itchy. Despite how much I loved homemade popsicles and exploring creeks with hidden rope swings and creating – and completing – our Summer Fun List, summer was not really something that I looked forward to.

This year, things feel… different. As the school year wound down and the first day of summer break – omg! – loomed on the calendar, I felt almost none of the all-too-familiar apprehension. My entire attitude seemed to have shifted, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

Last night, after the girls went to bed, I began to think about what needed to be done for today… and realized how little needed to be accomplished. No lunches to be made. No white board notices to write. No backpacks to check. (Have I mentioned no lunches to pack?) I was practically giddy.

The pieces started to fall into place: for the first time ever, we have been running around so much during the school year that summer break is actually that – a break. A respite. A reprieve. No more rounding up cleats and water bottles to get to soccer practice on time. No more being unable to eat dinner until after 7:30 because of swimming. No more making sure that math facts are practiced and reading logs are filled in. No more arguing over hairstyles every morning. No more IF YOU DON’T LEAVE RIGHT NOW YOU WILL BE LATE WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T FIND YOUR SHOES.

It also dawned on me that, for the first time in seven years, I was coming into my own summer break. No lesson plans to write. No early-morning texts about potential jobs. No worrying about looking professional (you laugh, but omg, having to dress in “real” clothes is just exhausting). No childcare arrangements for particularly early or late subbing assignments. Whenever idiots people complain about teachers or say that teaching is a cushy job (HAHAHAHA), they always bring up summer break. You’re done at 3:00 (HAHAHA) and you’re off all summer! Trust me, no one teaches simply to have summers off; that lovely perk does not begin to outweigh the difficulties and challenges of the job.

But it is still an awfully lovely perk.

As I unloaded the dishwasher but did not make lunches (thank you sweet baby Jesus), I thought about how easy the afternoon and evening had been. Instead of trying to cram homework in before sports and dinner, we lounged. The girls forgot to put away their clean clothes last night, but guess what? They could do it this morning because – surprise! – no school! All of those things that we’ve been putting off because there’s no time, when will you do your homework?, you can’t do that and get to bed on time… we can finally get to. It feels glorious.

And so, whereas the ten weeks of torture summer used to stretch before me as an anxiety-producing collection of NOTHING TO DO, I am now very much feeling how incredible it can be to have NOTHING TO DO!! This was a very good year – a busy, exhausting, happy, fulfilling year; I wouldn’t change it, and am excited to start up again in the fall. But I hadn’t appreciated how very much we all could use a real, honest-to-god break.

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Yeah, I’m still a bit apprehensive about the whole They’re With Me All Day thing, but I’m not nearly as worked up about it as I was in the past. While I know there will be plenty of refereeing moments, Ella and Annie are just a bit older now, that much more independent (even though they still don’t sleep in worth a damn). Also, we’ve done this summer thing before, and I know that – needing a break aside – some structure will be good for everyone, so our days aren’t going to be complete free-for-alls. We have camps and trips and family visits and the lake and I imagine we will still make our Summer Fun List; but also, we have time at home to just hang out and for once, I’m good with that.

This ain’t my first rodeo. Five minutes ago, Ella declared that she was bored. She and Annie will be having fistfights by Monday. There will be tears (theirs? Mine? All of the above?) by midweek. By the Fourth of July I will be counting down the days until they go back to school. But, right now, at this very moment, summer holds delicious promise. (Remind me to check back here in a month to laugh at my foolish naiveté.)

This morning, for the first time, Ella joined me in taking the dogs for a walk, riding beside me on her bike as we traversed the neighborhood. It was raining slightly, but neither of us cared; if anything, it felt refreshing. As we neared home, Ella looked over her shoulder and flashed me a huge grin.

“Mama!”

Yes, love?

“If this were a school day, we’d never have time to go for a bike ride. And now we’ve walked the dogs and it’s not even breakfast yet. Summer is the BEST!”

By August – hell, by July – I may deny I ever said it… but this morning, I couldn’t help but call back, Yes, indeed. It is.

Going for a ride

I’ve visited the lake (Canandaigua, one of the Finger Lakes in western New York) every summer since I was seven months old. It’s magnificent; the clear, sparkling water; the bonfires on the beach; the rising green hills; ice cream trips made by boat; the flat shale beaches that make for perfect skipping stones; the lack of weedy shoreline that so many other lakes possess; the piercing brightness of the stars at night, with the Milky Way streaking right over the dock. The moment I’m near that water, I’m home.

For as long as I’ve been alive, family has been fortunate enough to own a boat, and so I have more memories than I can count of skimming across the water onboard our Boston Whaler… or… whatever kind of boat we have now. I’ve tubed until my arms are ready to fall off (likely thanks to the cackling drivers – and egging-on passengers – who decide, without fail, that it will be a hilarious game to make the trip as wild as possible in an attempt to send the tube-riders flying off of said tube), water-skied until I got blisters on my palms (or until I took such a big fall trying to go over the wake, I lost not only lost the skis but got smacked in the nose by one, too), wake boarded (once… although I did – completely accidentally – manage to do a trick and turn the board 180 degrees because the “wrong” foot was facing forward, to raucous shouts from the passengers and bewildered confusion from me), and jumped off every part of the boat into the open water to go for a dip. I have no idea when I officially learned to drive the boat – come to think of it, it was really more a process of osmosis, with me gradually just taking over (something that would be, um, frowned upon today with, like, rules and regulations and needing a license and all that), and I still have to say a prayer and close my eyes when I finally dock it (opening my eyes might help with the whole not-running-into-the-dock thing, but hey, why mess with tradition) – but I love, love going for a boat ride.

In many ways, I’m more at ease on a boat than I am on land. Although I’m known to grow both carsick and airsick, the rolling motion of the waves is actually calming to me. I can trip over the pattern in the rug (and did, once, when I was in high school; apparently, I slammed my head into a water fountain and knocked myself cold, resulting in a concussion. I am not making this up) but I’m surprisingly sure-footed when out in the middle of the lake. It’s not uncommon for me to lose my balance while just walking in my kitchen, but I can prowl around the thin walls of the boat like a freakin’ maritime mountain goat, never yet falling into the water below no matter how precarious my climbing (not that I’ll ever admit this to my girls, of course; safety first and whatnot).

Our crazy winter left the lake completely iced over for the first time in forever (do you see what I did there, Frozen devotees?), which, in turn, left the water level higher (and far colder) than normal from both the ice melt and the snow run-off. Then, a couple of weeks ago, we were hit with a decent rainstorm that walloped Rochester and Canandaigua, sending virtual torrents of water down the steep hillsides surrounding the lake and into the basin below. Within two days, the water had risen a good two feet above normal, swamping docks and swallowing up beaches.

My aunt, who was staying at the lake house with my grandmother during and after the storm, sent us these photos of our (now much smaller) beach.flood3!
The shoreline running between us and the house to the left is usually a good six feet wide… Not so here… Plus, you know, the portions of the dock and the beach that are obviously underwater…

flood!
That yellow swing is normally at least five feet from the water’s edge. It’d be hard to plop a baby in there now…

flood2!
The following morning, the water levels had risen still higher, covering a large portion of the dock and filling up the beach. 
It’s kind of like having one of those cool infinity pools… except, um, not.

As a result of the flooding, all motorized boating was prohibited on the lake for over a week – in part because the wakes from the boats would swamp already waterlogged docks and beaches and also because there was so much debris floating around, traveling through it would be like trying to reenact the Titanic’s voyage. And we all know how that ended.

Even through Memorial Day weekend, traditionally the first “big” weekend of the year, there were no boats allowed on the lake. I was bummed not to be back on the water, but quickly grew acclimated to the very unusual… silence… that filled the air. In all these years, the ever-present sound of the motors had – apparently – become its own kind of white noise, humming in the background constantly. Without the revving and whizzing by of various watercraft, the lake took on an entirely new, and unexpectedly relaxing, feel. I would never have told you that not having boats on the water would be a good thing… but it was. It was peaceful and slow and old-fashioned and very, very good.

5.25 fire and flood
Annie poking a stick at our Memorial Day weekend bonfire. By now, the water had receded significantly, but it was still nowhere close to normal.

Last weekend, a good two weeks after the lake rose to its precariously high levels, the water had finally drained back to  almost normal, and the boating ban was lifted. As if to make up for lost time, vessels of all shapes and sizes began darting past our dock, the whirring of their motors creating the soundtrack for our sunbathing and shale-skipping (although Langston launched himself off the dock with aplomb, the water was still far too frigid for our cold-allergic kiddos, and so no swimming was to be had this time). Although I had never given it any thought before, I was now hyper-aware of each boat that passed by the house, feeling both comforted and annoyed by their sound.

When Ella asked if we could go for our first ride of the season, I was almost hesitant. In some way, I didn’t want to break the previous weekend’s quiet reverie, didn’t want to spoil the antiquated – if unnatural – peacefulness. But Ella persisted until at last I relented, and we found ourselves donning towels and sweatshirts to ward off the faint chill of twilight as we lowered the hoist and set the boat in the water.

It took nearly a minute for the engine to finally turn over, but at last I shifted into reverse and slowly backed us out of the hoist. (I might have turned the wheel just a bit too hard and nearly smacked the bow right into the side of the dock, but I didn’t. It was close, though. Like I said, docking – or, really, having the boat anywhere near the dock – isn’t exactly my specialty.) Moments later, we were cruising toward the middle of the lake, our hair racing behind us, grins bursting onto our faces.

first boatride2first boatride
I know these are all blurry – it’s hard to steer and use the “big” camera in a moving boat, people – but I adore them anyway.

Our maiden voyage lasted less than five minutes (in our excitement to finally get back on the water, turns out we’d completely forgotten to get life jackets for the girls. Oopsies!), but it was a glorious, warm, exhilarating, completely joy-filled five minutes. Maybe it’s growing up on the water, as I did, or maybe it’s something genetic, or maybe it’s just one of those funny coincidences, but Annie and Ella adore being out on the boat just as much as I do.

It may have been delightful having a boat-free weekend, but – man! – getting out there again was even better. While there are plenty of things about summer that I look forward to (not having to make school lunches, being able to sleep past 7:00, consuming more ice cream than a Ben & Jerry’s tester), few top the simple pleasure of being in the boat, with the wind in my face, the steady (or unsteady) rise and fall of the hull over the waves, the seagulls flapping overhead as we the glide by the emerald green shoreline.

Sharing that love of the water, of being on the water, with my girls?
Well that, my friends, is very, very good indeed.5.31 first boatride

Bugs, Sweat, and Tears

I am not cut out for the heat.

It’s not even so much that I don’t like it (although that’s definitely true) as much as it doesn’t like me. Just looking at a thermometer with a temperature above about 85 degrees makes me break into a sweat — and I don’t mean a glisten or a sheen or a bit of perspiration, but a full-on, pouring-down-your-back (and especially your front, ladies, am I right?) flow of salty, sticky SWEAT. It stings my eyes, it makes my hands unable to swipe the front of my iPhone (and then I cannot obsessively check my email, which is clearly an issue), and people aren’t exactly lining up to purchase my eau de gym socks fragrance at the mall.

First world problem? Yes. Absolutely.

But I still am not cut out for the heat.

Which is not to say that I stay inside all day when it’s hot, hovering in the air-conditioned splendor like a hermit crab, because I do, in fact, venture out – sometimes for things that have to be done (putting out the trash cans) and sometimes for things that need to be done (getting an iced latte). But I sweat like a leaky pig and complain about it (usually in my own head) the whole time.

It’s really not pretty.

The past two days have seen unusually high temperatures here in Western New York. They’d be ungodly just about any time of the year, but were especially unexpected mid-September, after several weeks of lovely, warm-but-not-hot days. And, really, it wasn’t so much the heat as it was the humidity. People joke about places like Vegas and “it’s a dry heat,” but it’s absolutely true. 100 degrees in an arid environment feels infinitely cooler than 80 degrees when the humidity is at 100 percent.

hot day
Yes, I know that where you live, it was over a hundred degrees, and your heat index was almost 200, and there are places on the planet where people would offer their firstborn children to the gods if they could experience just one day of temperatures like these.
I’m not saying any of that isn’t true.
I’m just saying it was damn hot here.

And, good grief, the humidity has been here in full force the last couple of days, like she was ashamed of herself for skipping out on the early September party and decided to make up for it by bingeing and getting sick all over the front seat of the car. GO HOME, HUMIDITY. YOU’RE DRUNK.

As I walked the girls to school on Tuesday morning, we met up with our beloved crossing guard, Mrs. H, at the same time as another family. I could see that Mrs. H felt just as droopy in the extreme temperatures as I did, but she still managed to greet us with her trademark smile. She then said something to all of us about how freakin’ hot it was, to which the other mother replied – before I could get a word out – “Yes, isn’t it just amazing! It feels like you’re all cuddled up in a warm blanket!”

So. Apparently there are those of us who are not cut out for the heat, and those of us who are clinically insane. I’ll give her “warm blanket,” but my blanket was smothering me, not cuddling up, thank you very much.

You know delightful it is, keeping the windows open all summer, allowing the breeze to waft through, eschewing the harsh blast of air conditioning coming through the vents? Yeah. Me neither. As soon as the indoor temperature rises above 73 degrees, we all begin collectively wilting, so our A/C is running from approximately May through September.

Do I love the summer evening air drifting through the trees? Yes, I do. And if I want to be a part of it, I’ll sit outside and enjoy it. But sweating inside the house is simply not an option. This is why air conditioning was invented. And also Frappuccinos.

Realizing that it was likely impossible to teach the dogs how to use the toilet in just one day, I knew I’d have to let them go out back to do their business, but elected not to throw the ball or even let them stay outside very long. Which was probably a wise decision, because less than five minutes after I’d let them out, I went to check on them and found them like this:

hot dog2
Did I mention that I’m covered in fur?

hot dog1
Cannot… keep… tongue… in… mouth…

That evening was the annual back-to-school picnic, and I might have considered not going, but I’d promised that I’d take photos for the yearbook. Plus, I didn’t otherwise have a plan for dinner and we’d already paid for pizza, and at $398 per slice, I was bound and determined that we’d at least make a showing.

Because what’s better on a billion degree evening than eating piping hot slices of pizza outside in the sun?

As we approached the school, I could hear the DJ’s music, but noticed that the playground was suspiciously underpopulated; perhaps we were one of only a few families stupid brave enough to make the trek…? And then I saw everyone, pressed up against the side of the school where the late afternoon sun had mercifully created some shade in which to hide.

We dropped off the brownies we’d made (Wegman’s gluten free, holla!) and the girls got their slices of pizza, then flopped on the ground while they tried to wipe the sweat from their faces and force the food in their mouths. (The snow cones, however, went down without any complaint…) The parents and teachers, on the other hand, were mostly standing – probably because we recognized that the lack of inertia would cause us to permanently dissolve into puddles (and also grass and dirt tend to stick to you when you’re sweating more than Miley Cyrus at a Disney convention) – all with the same glassy-eyed stare. Occasionally, our sense of civility and politeness would take over, and we would actually approach one another, each conversation always beginning with some form of, “SWEET JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH IT IS HOT!”

After melting for thirty minutes, I decided I’d better make good on my promise to take some photos for the yearbook, so I shuffled off to capture the kids in their back-to-school revelry. As I did so, the sweat – which had been just resting there, acting like a little water shield – began freely cascading everywhere, until every single surface of my body was covered. I reminded myself that it could be worse – I could be one of the parents who signed up to actually hand out the pizza (on the blacktop without the merciful cover of the shade by the school), or one of the Cub Scouts volunteers at the folding table under the unyielding sun, or, like, actually living in a location where it’s hot and humid all the time and air conditioning doesn’t exist) – and made myself continue snapping photos of red-faced children who looked like they’d popped water balloons over their heads.

When the kids get the yearbooks next June, just looking at the Back To School spread is going to make everyone spike a fever.

I was lifting up the camera up to take another shot when I felt… something… on my arm. I thought maybe it was a stray hair, so I attempted to brush it off – but that didn’t remove the tickly, skin-prickling feeling. I let go of the camera to more firmly get rid of whatever it was that clung to me, and then noticed that it wasn’t just my arm that was affected… No, both arms, my hands, my knees, my shins, and my face – essentially every single inch of exposed skin – were covered (and when I say covered, I mean covered) with gnats.

hot picnic
Don’t adjust your screen… Those little dots in the background? The ones that look like drops of water or maybe smudges on the camera? Bugs. Gnats. SWARMS OF GNATS, every single one.
See also: the families in the shade pressed up against the school.

The ridiculous heat and humidity had hatched these little devils, and they were had descended upon the school grounds like plagues of locusts. Being very small, they were no match for the coating of sweat that encased me, and, upon flying into me – or upon my walking through them – they became positively glued to my skin. I attempted to rub some of them off, only to have my entire hand covered in little bitty gnat guts.

After managing to remove most of them from my arms, I hurried toward the few areas that seemed bug-free, passing Ella on the way, who looked up at me and said, “Uh, mom, you have all these bugs on your forehead…” Thank you. I’m modeling a new fashion statement. Do you like it?

By the end of the evening, the girls had had a marvelous time in spite of the heat, and as always, it was – truly – nice to hang out with the other school families. I’ve said it before, but I mean it: our school and community are utterly amazing, and we are truly lucky to be a part of it. I just wish Mother Nature wasn’t such a bully.

Today, it is twenty degrees cooler than it was yesterday, and tomorrow is expected to see another twenty degree temperature drop. Sure, the roller coaster is going to get us all sick, but I, for one, will not be sad to see the 90-degree days go.

If you are clinically insane do miss the heat, feel free to come on over. I’ve got plenty of warm blankets for you to cuddle up in.

Which will come in handy, because the A/C will probably be running until at least Columbus Day.

 

One day at a time

If you asked me what I liked best about being a parent, I might reply that it’s incredible seeing these beings who Nick and I created turning into actual, amazing humans. Or maybe something about what fun it is to watch them be sisters together. Or how great it is to have an excuse to watch Aladdin any time I want.

But, really, one of the best things about being a parent is the ability to tease my offspring, give them a hard time, and generally pester them all day long. As Ella’s embarrassment threshold has lowered, with instant looks of shock and horror the moment Nick or I do something that doesn’t suit her, we have become all the more determined to dance in public, call her by her code name (Vanessa Stinkbottom), and kiss one another when other people are watching (oh mah gah).

Lest you worry that we’re causing permanent damage, a) we never act up for too long, b) she plays along gamely, and c) she always knows that we’re kidding. We talk about it with her and make sure that we’re not actually torturing her. Plus, we’ve volunteered to pay for her future therapy, so it all evens out in the end.

As we were driving home from the lake on Labor Day, both girls were in rare form. They’d been at the lake for five days visiting with their Grandma and Pops, as well as their Uncle Taylor and my grandma, Phoofsy, while Nick and I were out of town, and they’d had a marvelous time. The end-of-summer festivities had filled them to the brim, and they were melancholy about returning home and starting school a couple of days later. That melancholy met up with their general apprehension about new classes and teachers, and created a delightful combination that might be described as complete and utter freakishness.

Hands could not be kept to selves. Feet could not be kept to selves. Voices were impossible to lower. It was just too much, this end of summer nonsense, and they were not to be contained.

At first, we ignored them, understanding how they were feeling and appreciating that they couldn’t just kick back with a glass of wine and let it all out. But as their tomfoolery gave way to pokes and kicks and pinches and screams, we could feel the change in the air, and knew that if we didn’t do something fast, one of them wasn’t getting out alive. To get their attention, I told them about a friend’s Facebook post: her sons had been playing the Quiet Game at bedtime, and had been silent for a good ten minutes when she checked on them (hoping they were asleep)… heard one brother fart… and other say, “You lose!”

Annie and Ella thought this was maybe the most hilarious story ever, and were intrigued with the Quiet Game. This isn’t something we’ve played with them too much, in part because we really haven’t needed to, and in part because I, personally, hate losing, and keeping my mouth shut is not exactly one of my strengths (in case you hadn’t noticed). Given their level of bat-shit-craziness, however, Nick suggested that we play right there in the car and see who could be the quietest for the remainder of our drive. Thrilled that we’d be playing with them (thanks so much, Nick), the girls were immediately sold, and the game began.

For the first minute or so, everyone just sat still, which was lovely and all, but pretty boring, quite frankly. I knew that my chances of winning would increase dramatically if I could do something to get the girls to make sound, so I decided to do what typically elicits the loudest protests: make a fool out of myself and embarrass them. And so the seat dancing began. With gusto.

I looked back in the rearview mirror to see Ella’s eyes widen with horror, then flash with indignation as she realized that if she told me to knock it off, she’d be out of the game. Nick immediately picked up on what I was doing and began epically rocking out in his seat as well.

Not ones to let us get the upper hand, the girls quickly upped their ante. Feet were pressed against the backs of seats, knowing that we couldn’t tell them to put them down. Spare car socks were plucked from their little pockets and chucked in our direction. They made faces at one another and stuck their tongues out at us.

Windows were lowered and feet were waved out of the car. I honked at every house we passed (including several where we knew the occupants, thereby exponentially increasing the embarrassment potential). I raised the stereo volume to deafening and opened all of the windows. Nick removed his shirt and hung his bare torso out the window. When I came to a stop sign, he leaned over and we locked lips for an absurd amount of time.

By the time we arrived home, the car was a complete disaster… but no one had uttered a word. It had probably been the rowdiest version of the Quiet Game, like, ever, which was kind of the opposite of what we’d originally intended, but which wound up being just what all of us needed — Nick and me, especially.

This past week has been incredibly difficult, to say the very least. Everything is surreal; it is simply impossible that Bill is gone, and that we are going on without him. There are moments when it’s hard to breathe, when the crushing sadness of it all threatens to overcome me, and I wonder how anyone survives a loss like this. And I know that Nick is feeling it so much more deeply than I am, and his sadness makes my heart ache and my stomach hurt.

But, with kids, you cannot wallow in your sadness. That’s not to say that we feel the need to completely stifle our emotions – we don’t, and we’re real and honest with them when we’re feeling sad – but we also don’t want to scare them or make them sad. And also, I don’t want to be sad around them. I want to enjoy them, to laugh with them, to be with them – really with them – and not lost in a surreal cloud of grief.

At times, having Ella and Annie makes all of this more difficult. Frankly, it’d be nice to occasionally have the chance to just stay in bed, or to not stop my tears because I hear them coming down the stairs. Grieving and parenting are not good bedfellows.

But, on the other hand, Annie and Ella make all of this so very much easier. They’re not bogged down with sadness, and seeing them continue to laugh and live and just be kids makes my spirits lift every time. When they’re around, I pull myself out of my sadness and focus on them…

… and the bean and tomato salad Ella created last week from our garden…
8.27 garden fare
It was actually quite tasty, especially served on the Mickey plate.

… on Annie taking my hand and skipping with me through Target…8.28 holding hands in target
I know the picture is wicked blurry, but that’s what happens when you take a photo while giddily skipping through Target.
Bonus points for our skipping embarrassing Ella to no end.

 

… on Ella finally deciding to have me change her earrings (five months after she got her ears pierced), and flashing the most enormous grin ever – after crying about it for a good twenty minutes – on the night before third grade…
9.03 giddy earring changer
Mickey Mouse earrings FTW!

… on Annie losing her first tooth on the first day of first grade…
9.04 first tooth
Well timed, kiddo.

… on the final boat ride before school begins, and jumping gleefully off the back of the boat…

9.01 last lake day jump

I know these coming weeks will be far from easy, but with these girls around, I know that I’ll have something to smile about every single day.

Especially if we play the Quiet Game. Next time, they’re going down.

9.04 back to school girlies
All smiles after the first day of school.
I may or may not have toasted with a glass of Pinot. What happens at home stays at home, y’all.

 

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.

Last Hurrah

For the past five years, on the day before school begins, we’ve had an official family Last Hurrah. It’s never anything particularly momentous (last year, we got ice cream; two years ago, we went on a hike), but it’s a way of putting a parenthesis around the end of summer, giving us one more opportunity to have some lazy, delicious fun before the glorious   OH THANK GOD   incredible predictable routine of fall gets underway.

This year, we’d already planned to go out for dinner tonight, and asked Ella and Annie if they’d like to declare that our Last Hurrah. WRONG. Wrong. Very, very wrong. “Um, Mom, it’s just eating food out at a restaurant.” It seems that their idea of “lazy” and “delicious” fun diverges slightly from mine. And also requires more actual parenting and stuff. Damn it.

When asked what they’d like to do for their Last Hurrah, the girls mulled over several possibilities (painting nails? going to a waterfall? doing a craft?) before settling on the most obvious choice: making something with wood. Because, duh. Who doesn’t want to Make Something With Wood to mark the end of summer?

And so we found ourselves at The Home Depot, waiting impatiently for the orange-aproned helper man to saw ten-foot boards into 6″ and 12″ segments.last hurrahDOES THIS NOT LOOK LIKE FUN??

Once home, the girls enlisted our neighbor (and one of their best friends) in their scheming, and immediately got to the work of Making Something With Wood. Edges were sanded…

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That pile of wood pieces is still in the garage. Thank God it’s still warm enough to park the car in the driveway.

Hammers were wielded…
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No fingers were harmed in the Making of Something With Wood.

Paint was procured…
last hurrah2Yes, the little “shelf” in the back does take after Pisa.

And, a few hours later, they proudly displayed their creations:
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A “shelf” for our neighbor’s soccer awards. I hear she’s got four trophies she’d like to put atop these boards. That should be neat.

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Annie’s “little table” for holding “little parties.” Paint on the garage floor is just for kicks.

There was much grumbling as we pulled them away from their workshop so that we could head out for dinner (“But the legs aren’t painted yet!!”) until I assured them that tomorrow, after school, if they actually make it through the first day alive and still have the energy to pick up the paintbrushes and hammers, they can finish their projects. Won’t that be fun.

Nick and I decided that our version of Last Hurrah would take place at The Melting Pot, which, although the opposite of “lazy,” was certainly a delicious end to summer.last hurrah7

We had a particularly awesome server who asked – twice – what grade the girls were going into, and then presented them with dessert plates displaying said grade.

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First grade or bust! En garde!
Except I kind of mean it. I hope Annie’s teacher got a good night’s sleep.

Okay, if I’m being honest, I think it’s pretty damn cool that our girls chose to bash hammers into nails and Make Something With Wood. I love how they’re not afraid to get down and dirty, how the allure of pounding something to smithereens is difficult to ignore, how they don’t hesitate to make a shelf even though they have no idea what they’re doing, how little they care that the shelf is so lopsided the trophies will probably slide right off, and how awesomely they use their imaginations. They looked at fall’s fast-approaching sunsets (um, how is it already almost dark at 7:30?!?!) and said, HELL NO!, and gave summer one last fabulous go.

Their backpacks are waiting by the front door. Their carefully-chosen clothes have been laid out. Water bottles have been filled. They’re ready. Tomorrow, they’ll head off to school, eagerly anticipating what this year has in store.

Personally, I’m hoping for a few lessons in geometry and physics, because if I’m getting a “shelf” for Christmas, there’s definitely some room for improvement.

Skyward Bound

Yes, it’s true. I’m on a flight, heading back to Minnesota, updating this blog from 30,000 feet. Technology, you sexy vixen, you.

Yes, it’s also true (for those of you who have been keeping track), that Ella, Annie, and I returned from Minnesota a mere 48 hours ago. Nick is the frequent flier in the family, not me, and my immediate return to the land of 10,000 lakes is not for pleasure, nor for business, but borne out of necessity and love. Without being ridiculously vague, I will simply say that our family is going through a very difficult, private matter, and we have been traveling a lot lately. I have been asked to discuss this in future posts, but for now, it is enough to say that I need to be on this plane, to travel across the country once more over these cotton candy clouds, to be by my husband’s side.

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I also decided, given that the cost of an emergency cross-country ticket is already larger than a mortgage payment, a tiny splurge would be appropriate, and I needed – for the first time ever – to purchase a first class seat. Yes, needed. I felt it in my bones, just how I knew our current house was the right one for us (despite having never set foot inside before purchasing it) or how I knew that Milli Vanilli was too good to be true. When you know, you know. I needed first class.

Thing is, despite flying at least a half-dozen times a year myself, first class and I are not exactly familiar with one another. Have you ever seen Big Business, the 80s comedy with Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin where they play twins (each named Rose and Sadie) switched at birth, with one set growing up in the country and the other in the city, and then the country twins show up in the city and act like the bumpkins they are, ogling the sky scrapers and taking about “Goin’ to the meetin’”? No? Well, you’re not missing much, but the point is that right now I am country Rose and Sadie, and first class is my meetin’, it could not be more obvious that I am not in my element if I taped my Disney World “First Visit!” button to my forehead.

As is absolutely typical of me, I arrived at the airport later than I’d planned, which made me more disheveled than usual (although, considering it’s Rochester and the airport is totally small and manageable and I had first class priority – can I get a what what! – it took me a mere twelve minutes from the time I stepped foot in the airport to go through security and arrive at my gate). Still, I even found time to purchase my travel standby – a bottle of water – and sauntered onto the plane feeling quite smug… until I saw the lovely mini water bottle waiting for me at my seat.

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You get water bottles in first class. Who knew?!

I was aware, of course, that you get free drinks in first class, and I decided to take advantage of that immediately. I asked what white wines were available, and the lovely flight attendant immediately brought me two bottles for my perusal, including my favorite, Pinot Grigio.

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I know it’s not actually possible to drink your troubles away, but hey, this isn’t a bad start…

What I did not realize is that the lovely flight attendant would serve me the wine in the plastic cup rather than in the mini wine bottle, which meant that I reached out and tried to take the bottle from her, resulting in a very awkward tug of war across my seat mate. Keepin’ it classy.

After receiving my wine, I made myself comfortable, doing the crossword in the Delta Sky magazine (yes, I’m that geek) and adding items to my never-ending To Do book. I vaguely registered that someone was standing in the aisle, talking, and paid her no attention – because who would be talking to me – until my seat mate gently tapped me on the arm and I realized that the “someone” was the lovely flight attendant, and the “talking” was actually her saying, “Ms. H? Ms. H? Can I get you a beverage for after we take off?”, which totally weirded me out, because since when do flight attendants refer to you by name? Considering that I had downed the Pinot before the plane even left the ground (truly so unlike me, but hey, desperate times, right?), I decided that perhaps a Diet Coke would be more appropriate for my second drink.

Although I have flown first class once or twice before, I have never done so alone, meaning that Nick has always helped me navigate the ins and outs of the seats. This may sound unnecessary – they’re airplane seats, after all, how complicated can they be? – except that the tray tables don’t fold down from the seats in front of you like they do in coach; they magically rise up from the armrests and fold across your lap. When the flight attendant brought me my Diet Coke, I nonchalantly attempted to pull the tray table up and out of the armrest, because I have so done this before, especially one-handed while holding a drink that’s in a cup made out of glass instead of plastic, this is no big deal, I have totally got this… Until my armrest wrangling and Diet Coke sloshing became so disruptive, the gentleman beside me pulled out this nifty little tray thing and said, “Why don’t you just put your drink here?”

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Mini drink holders! How cute is that! First class, you are so clever!

You totally know this guy is thrilled to be sitting next to me.
Especially because I thought it was so awesome that the lovely flight attendant offered us snacks, including a banana, I decided to take a photo of it. A photo. Of my banana.

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They really let anyone into first class these days, don’t they?

I also chose a little bag of peanuts, which I decided not to photograph because, hello, boring… But that’s kind of a shame because, as I opened them, they flew across my keyboard and skittered onto the floor below, so now I can never document my bag of first class peanuts. If only they had popcorn, I could really make a good showing. The cleaning crew will really appreciate the work I’ve done here.

When the lovely flight attendant came around again asking me – by name –  if I’d like anything else to drink (good grief, they are so attentive up here!), I decided to get my mortgage payment’s worth, and ordered a margarita. This may ultimately wind up being a bad idea, but I have  both a) successfully used the little drink tray and b) finished the drink without spilling, so that’s something, anyway.

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Surprisingly delicious!

We still have an hour to go in this flight, so only time will tell what other disasters adventures I will encounter, but so far, first class has certainly proved to be an enlightening experience.

In a few days, I’ll be flying coach again, but for now, I will sit back, enjoy the Great Lakes out my window, and try to not act too much like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when she first encountered the opulence of Richard Gere’s life.

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On second thought, feeling like Julia Roberts, even for a moment, isn’t such a bad thing. Just this once, I want to forget it all, and feel like Cinderfuckin’rella.

p.s. Did you know that the seat pockets in first class are held on by velcro? And that, if you root through your enormous backpack mid-flight and then attempt to put said bag back under the seat too vigorously, you can peel the velcro entirely away from the seat, resulting in all of the contents — including the in-flight magazine, barf bag, Sky Mall magazine, safety card, two water bottles, a camera, and an iPad — to fall out onto the floor? Well, consider yourself warned. You’re welcome.