Thursday, June 30, 2011

Made It!

Here it is, the last day of the month, and I have an overwhelming sense of relief to have gotten through it. I attempt NaBloPoMo a few times a year, usually when my creativity feels lost, in order to push through it. That's how I handle creative lag: I write, I read, I brainstorm, I think think think.  I am nothing if not a Protestant, and the work ethic is hardwired. Can't think straight? Feeling unproductive? Try harder, work through it, stay up later, do something, even if it's wrong.


I'm beginning to question this approach, though. I think that sometimes, we're so busy that we forget how important it is to rest. The scripture is full of admonitions to rest, be still, be quiet, but I, for one, tend to focus on doing much more than being.

Yesterday, I was weepy. I had multiple projects on which I was working, I was experiencing technical difficulties, and I just couldn't get my brain to work. I thought about scrapping the whole day and playing hooky while my husband had the day off, but I decided to push through. My work was flat, and I didn't get it all done. I ended up staying up much too late, waking up exhausted.

Today I was devoid of creative spark. When my computer turned itself off, I took it as a sign, and left the house. I took my Small One to lunch, out for ice cream, shopping at the craft store, and to the playground. I left my phone in the car and sat on a park bench to watch her play, and suddenly, I knew exactly how to solve the problem that had plagued me for twenty-four hours straight. I came home, renewed, and did what I needed to do, in no time at all.

That, then, is my advice for today. Knock it off. Stop trying so hard. It's summertime, for crying out loud. Go lie in a hammock. Commune with nature, or with God, or with someone who loves you, or just with yourself. You may find the answers you were seeking, when you just decide to stop.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A question for my readers

Running late tonight, and almost forgot, in truth. It was a busy day, with plenty of chores, topped off by a lovely concert in the park, and I just didn't think about blogging. Well, that's not technically true, I actually thought about it all day, but just not when it actually counted, when I was home with access to a computer. (This is sort of when you think as you're going to sleep that you should call someone in the morning, and then when you're in the shower you keep reminding yourself to call that person, but you don't actually remember it again until it's entirely too late to think about calling anyone.)

Anyway, while thinking about my blogging, earlier today, it occurred to me that I would really like to know what the lovely people who read my blog are reading in real life. (Real life, in this instance, refers, of course, to things not involving a computer.)

I'm reading a few things. For example, my dad gave me A Jane Austen Education for my birthday, and in starting to read it I realized I was not educated enough on Jane Austen, having never read Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park or Persuasion. I bought myself the complete works of Jane Austen, and now I'm reading what I'd missed.

Typically , I try to read three things at once: one spiritual, one fluffy, and one somewhat educational. Right now I'm sort of floundering between things, so I could use some suggestions.

So, spill it! What are you reading? And while we're on the subject, what are you usually reading? Preferred genres? Authors? I'm interested, not least because I'm always looking to broaden my horizons.

I look forward to your answers!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Happy happy birthday, Baby!

My Middle Child turns 17 today. This is pretty unbelievable to me, as she was only born a few years ago. My small pink cherub, my little lamb, the baby that looked to me like a rosebud more than anything, is now an almost adult.







When she was little, MC was my pal. She was so bright and funny, such a ray of sunshine, and I was the center of her world.


The past few years? Not so much. Adolescence has hit hard, and as much as I've tried to make light of it, especially on this blog, it's been a long and bumpy road for us. I once heard it theorized that girls who are very close to their mothers in childhood tend to push harder against them in the teenaged years, in preparation for the separation necessary for adulthood. Maybe this is true, maybe not, but it has definitely been challenging, helping her prepare for what is ahead of her.

The funny thing about being a mom is the momvision. I know that any mom will back me up on this, but when a mother looks at her child, she sees the person, but she also sees every incarnation of that person, from birth on. Not to say it's not sometimes maddening for the child, to feel that someone is looking through you, and not at you, but that's not it. I see her.We see our kids. We just see them for who they were, who they are, and who they can and might be in the future.







 

So when I see her, I see the sweet funny baby, the bright and intelligent child, the rebel, the artist, the science fiction lover. I see the young woman she is now, and all the possibilities in front of her. 


Happy birthday, my girl. I see you, I love you, and I hope this birthday is the best one yet.  
 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Storytelling Sunday

Having finally gotten some sleep, I'm feeling a little more coherent than I have been. It also helps, to be honest, that I have absolutely no obligations tomorrow, other than a few tasks for work, some of which I will complete tonight. I'm hoping to spend the day doing boring things, like laundry. I guess you might say I've had enough adventure to last me a while.

Last weekend's camping trip was an adventure, to be sure. We weren't even sure, when it started, that it was going to be a camping trip. Leaving in the middle of the afternoon, we threw some camping gear in the car, in case we decided that it was something we wanted to do but, in reality, I was hoping to be home before midnight.

Driving through the state next to the one in which we live, we did some meandering. We stopped for fireworks and snacks, we stopped so the teenagers could take pictures in a field, we stopped at a flea market. Turning into the parking lot of the flea market, we passed a field full of groundhogs, who were remarkably undisturbed when MC got out of the car to photograph them. At the flea market itself, we had the chance to hold puppies and browse.

We headed off to a National Park, and let me just take this moment for a sidenote: my affection for the US National Park System can not be overstated. We once took a sixteen day family vacation, built around the National Parks, and it is something the kids still talk about, eight or ten years later. The topic of National Parks will definitely be revisited in more than one blog in the future.

On the way to this one, we happened upon a ramshackle building with a sign outside that said "Modern Cottages" . The building was a stone cottage with undeniable mystique, so the teenagers were once again out of the car with the camera. I was glad to let them do that, but by the time we got to the National Park, it was closed. That settled it, at least for Middle Child and her cohort: we were camping out.

I was admirably good-natured about this, if I do say so myself. Our gps was no longer able to locate us, instead replacing the car icon with a blinking question mark. I did not consider that a good sign, as far as the level of civilization in our location. I'd told the kids I'd take them to dinner, so we ate at the only sit down restaurant within ten miles of the campsite. After dinner we went back to camp, where there was no running water, no cell signal, and certainly no internet. As I said, I was good-natured. It was an effort, because, as I believe I may have mentioned, I prefer the comforts of indoors.

Our tents assembled, mattresses inflated, we built a fire to make s'mores. At this point, it was about 10:30pm, which is normally about the time I'm starting my evening computer tasks, having fed the family, done the nightly chores, and seen Small One off to bed. At a campsite, however, for me, 10:30 is the time of darkness and supreme boredom. I bid the teens goodnight, left them to their s'more-ing, and took to my tent with a book and a flashlight.

A few minutes later, I heard footsteps and heavy breathing, just outside the tent. I am a TERRIBLE camper. The impact that ghost stories had on my childish psyche is clearly major, as I am absolutely sure that at some point, a man with a hook for a hand will be more than a little interested in my campsite. My adult brain understands the lack of logic in that, but my inner scaredy-cat is very loud, with her screaming. I played it cool, though, softly calling out first MC's name, and then her boyfriend's. No answer came. I took a few deep breaths, turned off my flashlight, and was quiet, listening for more noises.

Suddenly, the noises came. A snarling, hissing, growling melee started up about ten feet from my tent, and kept up for a good ten minutes. My heart was racing, and I was mentally going over a list of local wildlife in my head. Sounded too small to be bears, but there were definitely several of whatever they were. It sounded like a pack of wild dogs had been unleashed, and I had a fleeting thought that they'd eaten the teenagers. I considered raccoons and opossums, but still, wondered if wolves lived in the area.

The choice I had to make was this: do I sit in the tent waiting for the creatures to tear the the nylon and possibly eat me, or do I unzip it and try to be menacing, using only my wits and a flashlight? I decided on the second option, and summoned my courage.

Raccoons. There were somewhere in the neighborhood of five to seven large raccoons at our picnic site, fighting over the marshmallows and chocolate. And I will say, raccoons are cute, but they are pretty much known for carrying rabies, so I really was not feeling all that reassured. The primary relief I felt was in knowing that I could probably frighten them off pretty easily. I shined my flashlight and encouraged them to leave, and, with the exception of a couple of really aggressive ones, they scrambled away. The last two I had to actually approach and shoo away, but finally, they left as well.


I found them sitting peacefully, on a bench by the river. They did not have any chocolate or marshmallows with them, nor any wrappers to suggest they'd already ingested them, which leads me to believe their claim that they'd left it all on the table when they went to sit and talk. This means, of course, that at that moment, a raccoon was probably scrambling through the underbrush with a bag of marshmallows tucked under one furry little arm. The question that I still have, though, is why two almost-adults, one of them an Eagle Scout, would leave all that food out at a campsite! (The next day, I answered MC's lamentations over lack of chocolate with stony silence, and a look that suggested she accept responsibility for its absence.)

I returned to my tent to try and sleep, and was joined by MC in a short while. I did eventually fall asleep, though I will never understand the appeal of sleeping in a hot sweaty tent on an air mattress.The sleep was broken, though, by what happened next: torrential rain. Ah yes, the joy of camping is so deeply enhanced for me by trudging through the rain to an outhouse. Sigh.

I can only hope that my remaining offspring prefers indoor vacationing.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Quote of the Day

I went out tonight, to hear the Symphony in which my sister plays. After a lovely evening of Rachmaninoff and companionship, I returned home to find my Small One still awake. The Man had to dash out for an errand, so Small and I snuggled up to read some books and talk about dollhouses. While we were chatting, I asked her what she had for dinner.

"I don't remember what it's called, " she said with a big smile, "but it was black."

Well, at least I know she's well tended when I'm away.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Great Equalizer

Picture, if you will, a road trip. Two teenagers, a four year old, and a vaguely harried mom, on a rather muggy, overcast day, starting off down the road a good two hours later than initially planned. By the time they are two hours into the trip, the mom is exhausted, the teens grouchy, the preschooler a little whiny. The one bright spot is that they are making excellent time, certain to be at the destination before any of the people waiting for them become disappointed.

Suddenly, traffic grinds to a halt. The mom watches helplessly as the estimated arrival time winds forward at a rapid pace, and soon, they are set to arrive far later than predicted. Mutinous murmurs start up in the back seat. Demands for ice cream are put forth, and mom, needing to get off that road anyway, gives in. Because, in truth, the Small One needs a bathroom as well.

Even with ice cream, spirits do not really lift. The detour required to circumvent the traffic adds over an hour to the arrival time. People begin to be disgruntled.

Then, the miraculous happens. The mp3 player, set to shuffle, but perhaps somehow sensing the tension, finds one Weird Al song, then another, and another. By the second one, everyone in the car is singing. By the third, they're all friends again. The silliness of the songs has made them equal in their helpless amusement, and everyone, regardless of age or mood, is giggling. The Middle Child realizes that the mp3 player has not three, but FIFTY Weird Al songs! She takes it off shuffle, and immerses the car in goofy goodness for the remainder of the trip.

Has anyone considered blasting Weird Al across the Middle East?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Running out of Steam

I swear, I feel like I've been running non-stop for a month. I guess I sort of have, traveling to Atlanta in the middle of May, to Chicago in early June, and Kentucky last weekend. In addition, I've had a teenaged boy for a houseguest for a week, so there's that.

Tomorrow, I'm off again, on another roadtrip, to take MC to her dad's house, and her boyfriend to his home. It will be a brief trip because, quite frankly, I'm exhausted. I may not be as young as I used to be.

Anyway, my lack of steam is pouring over into my blogging, and please do not think I'm not aware of it. I promise, very soon I'll have a really entertaining story about a close encounter with wildlife. In the meantime, maybe this dog video will tide you over.

video

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Talking to Strangers

I talk to strangers. I mean, I talk to everybody. I can basically strike up a conversation with anyone in the world; it's a skill I inherited from my mom. She is queen of the shmoozers, and it often nets her discounts from salespeople she chats up, in her true Southern Belle style.

With Small, strangers are a bit of a conundrum for me. She tends to cozy up to people really quickly, and obviously that makes me uncomfortable, but on the other hand, I want her to be politely friendly. After a stranger danger unit at school she became freakish for a little while, and we had to work on who is a stranger, who is not, and how to handle situations. At the zoo the other day, she walked up to my friend's husband, turned to me, and said "I've met him before, can I hold his hand?" This is the sort of thing that comes up.

Talking to someone you don't know is a weird experience, because you can basically say anything you want, but does that mean you should? Recently, I was in the checkout line, and the cashier was chatting me up. She said something about being married, I responded, and she suddenly got grim.

"I used to be married," she said, "until he left me. For another woman. After twenty-one years. I signed divorce papers on our twenty-first anniversary, and now I have to work here."

I had no response to that. Seriously. I had no idea what to say other than, "Oh, goodness, I'm sorry." But mainly, I just wanted to be done with the checking out, so I could leave. She wasn't done, though. She laughed at something one of the kids said, and I asked if she had kids. Once again, her answer was more than I bargained for.

"Yeah, I have kids. My youngest is dead, though. Drowned. Got hit in the head, fell off a boat. Was nineteen."

What is the appropriate response to such outpouring of personal tragedy, at the checkout  counter? I noticed she told me these things in a quiet voice, looking around herself nervously, so I can only assume that she's been reprimanded by management for oversharing. It certainly brings a dark tone to the transaction.

How about you? Do you talk to strangers? Are any topics off limits?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hobo Bucket List

I've stated before, unapologetically, that I am an indoor cat. I was thinking about it the other day, though, and I realized that I've come to this conclusion through many outdoor experiences, both the usual kind and the kind that's a little bit outside the normal realm. I've done enough field research to be able to draw the conclusion that I vastly prefer the indoors. When it comes down to it, I have a completed bucket list to make any hobo proud.

I've camped out, road-tripped across the country, biked with camping gear for a week, fished and swam in oceans as well as rivers, lakes, and streams. I've gone cliff diving, horseback riding, hiked on both sides of the country, camped in the forest and the desert. I've been to summer camps, on a mission trip, and all sorts of places as an adult. I've camped in miserable heat, in rain that flooded the tent, and, once, in a hail storm.

On the other side of the coin, I've showered at truck stops. I've brushed my teeth at train and bus stations, and in the woods, with a canteen instead of running water. I've sponge bathed with a bucket and a hand pump. I've not only used, but also cleaned outhouses.

I've slept in my car, with and without children. I've slept on the floor of an airport. I've spent the night on the street corner in a foreign country. I've gone to the bathroom in a stall where the "toilet" was a hole in the corner, where the mosquitoes were so thick on the walls that they looked like wallpaper. I've shooed scorpions away from our campsite, and cooked over a Coleman stove in the rain. I've worked on a car at a campsite. I've broken down by the side of a wide variety of roads.

In some of these experiences, I was one of a crowd, in others, the lone adult. In many of them, I experienced beauty so breathtaking that it will stay with me forever. I've awoken in the morning, beside the Rhein, to find swans swimming silently just feet from my campsite. I've turned a corner and surprised a herd of deer, sending them flying across the field in front of me. I've watched my children play in wildflowers, swim in oceans and lakes, and be rendered speechless with delight over the wild creature in front of them. Those are the times I think it's worth it.

How about you? How much of a hobo's bucket list have you completed? What's your experience been, and do you prefer indoors or outdoors?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sentimental Sunday

My Dad



The Big Kids' Dad



The Man






Happy Father's Day, y'all!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lazy Saturday

As I mentioned, I have two teenagers in my care this weekend, and I'm trying to keep them busy. The intention this morning was to leave bright and early, to visit some touristy spots and possibly camp out. That did not happen.

First, it rained last night, and a little this morning. The narcotic effect the rain has had on us can not be overstated, and all three of us have been moving like tree sloths- you know, the ones that grow algae in their fur from lack of movement? It's after noon, and we're almost ready to go.

Another time sucking factor, I'll be honest, is Animal Planet. With Cats 101 and My Cat From Hell on back to back, how can anyone expect us to leave the house? We want to stay and play with the cat, while we also watch cats on tv.

Alright, alright, we're leaving.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Challenge of NaBloPoMo

I think this is the third or fourth time I've done this challenge, and let me just say, it's hard. I absolutely do not have something pithy to say every day for a month. That being the case, I think today's post will be a journal entry, pretty much.

The Man has gone away for the weekend, and he took Small One with him, They're off visiting the paternal grandfolks, which would normally leave me alone with MC, except this week, her boyfriend is visiting, so I'm alone with two (count 'em TWO) teenagers. Teenagers who are infatuated with each other, no less.

My strategy for handling this is simple- keep them busy. They've hung out at the pool, played with Small One, come with me to the grocery store... and this weekend, I'm supposed to take them camping. I've been really dreading this part of it, because I loathe camping, with every fiber of my being, but hey! I may be in luck. The weather channel is predicting rain, and since camping in the rain is no-one's idea of a good time, I think I'm off the hook. Our camping trip will turn into a day trip, or maybe two.

Of course, this brings me back to the original dilemma, of how to keep them busy. Any suggestions? I'll be back to check for answers later- right now I'm off to the dollar theater.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday Thirteen: Random Thoughts from my Trip

  1. I grew up in Florida, and lived in Georgia for a long time, and both of those states have beer and wine at the grocery store, and liquor at the liquor store. Now I live in Tennessee, where you can buy beer at the grocery store or the "beer and tobacco" store, and wine and liquor at the liquor store. But in Illinois, you can buy beer, liquor, and wine just about ANYWHERE. Drug stores! Gas stations! Interestingly, the pricier liquors have electronic caps to protect them from theft. So weird.
  2. Drivers in Chicago are insanely aggressive. I mean, by the time I left I'd sort of gotten the hang of it, but wow! They will cut you off, keep you from merging, whip around you... and then they'll stop, in the middle of the road, and open all the doors to their cars. Then, while you are stuck behind some nutty person with all their car doors open, the aggressive people behind you will come around you and squeeze through the narrow space on the wrong side of the road, to get around the open-doored car. They manage it, too! 
  3. I love big cities. I came to this realization when I was in Chicago. For lack of a better, less cliched term, I just really love the energy of a big city. I love the buildings, I love the crowds, I love the wide variety of things to do, I love driving around, even when the other drivers are trying to kill me.
  4. I have a weird but persistent yearning to go everywhere and see everything. I even want to see things I've already seen. Right now, though, I'm a little bit obsessed with the idea of Mount Rushmore. Must. See. Mount. Rushmore.It's a 21 hour drive, though, so I'm not sure when that's going to happen.
  5. On that note, however, I am pretty much a badass when it comes to road trips. Last night, for instance, I drove all night, arriving home at 6am. Sure, I was having some minor hallucinations by the time it was all over, I'm not sure I should ever drink any more coffee, and I could write a guide on gas station restrooms between St. Louis and Nashville, but I did it.
  6. Smaller children, in my experience, are more interested in seeing new things. Teenagers, not so much.
  7. Parking at Navy Pier in Chicago is $25. Parking at Gateway Arch in St Louis is $9. Why the big disparity? The Arch is a National Park. Solution? Government takeover of all parking garages! Whee! (My Republican friends are hissing and spitting at me right now, maybe.)
  8. Gas prices are wildly disparate across the country. In most of Illinois, it is a fifty cents more per gallon than it is Tennessee. In Chicago, it is over a dollar more! What's that about? I'm wondering if it has anything to do with proximity to the Gulf coast? Probably not.
  9. In Illinois I ate something called "farmer's cheese". I have never heard of this. I speculated that it is a Midwestern thing, maybe, and was assured that I can get it in the South, I just have to ask for it. But how would one know to ask for it, when one has never heard of it? Have any of you heard of farmer's cheese? Is it regional?
  10. Indiana is boring. I apologize if I'm hurting anyone's feelings by saying this, but I can't help it because it's super true. Or maybe it's just driving through Indiana that's boring? Thoughts, anyone?
  11. Much of the country has a lower speed limit than I'm used to driving. I did not know that. I am typically not a speeder, but I was sort of a speeder this week, because I was consistently surprised by the lower limits.
  12. Another Chicago observation: Chicago has a heaping ton of cool restaurant, yet they also have places like Chili's and Applebee's. How on EARTH do those mediocre chains survive in towns with plentiful and excellent restaurants?
  13. Australia has many American chains, but not Outback. When we told our Australian friend that Outback has a dish called "Alice Springs Chicken", she pronounced that item "random". I guess I hadn't thought about it.
Speaking of random, I think I'm done with this list!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Homeward Bound

So, tomorrow, we head back home. It's always bittersweet for me, the end of a vacation, because as much as I look forward to my home, there are always things I meant to do before I ran out of time. I never seem able to squeeze it all in.

It's sort of a metaphor for life, isn't it? Doing all the things you mean to do, before you run out of time? I'm trying to learn to live in the moment, and it is a long and drawn out process. I wonder if I'll ever get it right.

Tomorrow night, I'll sleep in my own bed. The next morning, MC's boyfriend will arrive, and I'll have to entertain him for a week, before driving four hours to return him to his home, and take MC to her dad's house. By that time, June will be over, and where is the summer going, so fast?

Summer days are supposed to be long, aren't they? Does anyone else feel like nothing is long anymore, that time just zooms right past? Is this a sign I'm getting old?

Maybe don't answer that last one. For now, I'm going to bed, to snuggle with my Small, and relish this time, while she's little and sweet, and still thinks I hung the moon, because I know for a fact that this is something that will pass too quickly.

And tomorrow, I am totally going to cheat, and post vacation pictures, because it's Wordless Wednesday, and I can.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Photo Brag

I try not to post too many photos in lieu of words, because I feel like it's almost cheating. However, I can't help but post this one.

I didn't bring a camera to Chicago. I didn't even think about it, really, though I'm sure the man would not have minded if I'd brought his Nikon. I probably should have, since we were in a photogenic city, with people I was excited about seeing. Instead, I took a couple of shots with my cell phone.

Including this one:
How cool is that?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gonna kick up Highway Dust

Yeah, if you're an Aristocrats fan (and really, if you've seen it, don't pretend you're not) you'll recognize the blog title as a line from Thomas O'Malley's song about wanderlust. I chose it because, well, that's me. I've got that wanderlust.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I'm a homebody, for sure. I like my routine, I like my community, and I like my life to stay put. But conversely, I absolutely love to travel. I am completely thrilled by new experiences, and foreign environments, and I will admit, I even like the road trip. I like seeing what's out there, whether it's the terrain, the shopping, or the food. I like staying in hotels. I like watching miles of countryside go by.

The Man and I are extremely compatible, but this is one area in which we are vastly different. He spends so much of his life inside his own head, he doesn't really understand my need to leave home and see new things. He likes the occasional adventure, but mostly, he's content to sit at home and read.

So this is how we've worked it out, almost eleven years into our marriage. I go, he stays. It works out wonderfully. I don't worry about the pets being home alone, we get to miss each other, and I come home better for having gotten a break from the routine. And, as I told my mom when she asked about it while I was preparing for this trip, it's really everyone's ideal situation. I get to go somewhere, take my girls someplace to have a new experience, and he gets to be completely alone, and devoid of human contact, for a whole week. Win-win!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Flashback Saturday

Navy Pier Ferris wheel, 2005 vs 2011:




Friday, June 10, 2011

Imaginary Friends

I'm on vacation right now, spending the weekend with a bunch of friends. This morning I met two of them in the lobby of my hotel, and we all rode in my car down to brunch with another two women and their children. After that, one friend took Small back to her house, so that MC and I could do some shopping. The two friends with whom I'd carpooled to breakfast came along. We had fun, browsing in boutiques, giggling in the vintage store, singing along with radio. Then we returned to the home of the friend who'd had Lily all afternoon, and were joined by several other friends, and some accompanying husbands and children, for pizza. Everyone had fun, the kids played, the grownups conversed, and everyone stayed for quite a long time. Tonight, the girls and I are forgoing the hotel, in favor of staying at our friend's house. Tomorrow, we're all going to the zoo.

This doesn't sound unusual, I realize, but what makes it a bit strange is this: we all met on the internet. A little over four years ago, we formed a group based around the commonality of having children born in the same two weeks, in 2006. On this basis, we became friends. If that sounds like an incredibly sharp focus, well, yeah, it is. But somewhere along the way, between the discussions of diaper rash and potty training, milestones and meltdowns, we became close. We started talking about all the other aspects of our lives too, our likes and dislikes, personal comedies and tragedies, and we came to care deeply about each other. When one of us has a problem, the others find a way to support her. When something wonderful happens, we celebrate together. And when nothing happens, we're still there. Every day, several times a day. we pop online and chat with each other. We also talk on the phone. Some of us Skype, most of us are Facebook friends. And once in a while, we do something like we're doing this weekend- travel to a new place just to hang out.

We crack jokes, about it all being a con. Before this meetup, some husbands were worried that some of us might not be who we claim to be. We refer to our imaginary friends, who live in our computers. We take pictures, half-jokingly, as proof that we're not pervy middle aged men, posing as mommies. And of course, we also take pictures to commemorate the time together, because it's fun.

It seems strange to most people, I think, because it is a relatively new phenomenon. But I think this sort of thing will become more and more commonplace as years go by. The truly interesting thing about meeting someone on the internet- (and before I say this, let me say I know con artists abuse the web, and take advantage of the naive, but that's not what I'm talking about here, I'm talking about sincere people who sincerely communicate)- is that online, you meet people from the inside out. Four years later, I know what these people look like, and their approximate social status, and what they do for a living, and their true religious beliefs. But at the start, I didn't know anything except that we all had babies exactly the same age. It is a truly beautiful thing to learn what someone really thinks, and if you share a sense of humor, or a sensibility, or a faith, before you are influenced by looks or other surface concerns. It's a very interesting phenomenon, I think, to understand who someone is before you actually meet.

I am a person who is blessed in many ways, with a close-knit family, and many friends. I can't help but feel even further blessed by living in this age, where I can meet someone who lives on the other side of the country, or world, or a even just a few states away, and feel connected in a really meaningful way. What a really strange but really wonderful byproduct of technology!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Meanderstall

Today I left the house at 7:30am, drove to Chicago, which would normally take about 8 hours, and got here at 11:30. You can do the math on that if you like, but I'll give you a hint... it wasn't 8 hours.

It was good, though. Typically, when I travel, there is someone waiting for me on the other end of the trip. This time, I planned it differently. I booked a hotel room for the first night of my trip, rather than staying with my friend, so that it wouldn't matter when we got here. The Man didn't come with us, so it was just the girls: me, my Middle Child, and my Small One. I looked at the route before we left, and thought about some things we might do along the way, and planned to throw out any thought of a direct route.

It went really well. We drove for about an hour, then stopped for breakfast. We never do that. We always grab food and shove it into our faces while flying down the highway. This time, we ate pancakes, and I taught Small how to play tic tac toe, and MC and I conversed.

After breakfast, we stopped, on a whim, at a place that advertised "Underground Boat Tours". It was, to put it mildly, super fantastic. We learned some history, and some geography, and heard some interesting Civil War era stories, then rode on a boat through a cave. Afterwards, we hiked about a mile, saw a beaver, and ended up at a butterfly habitat. The girls had a blast, and I was not even bothered that we spent about three hours there.

Even once we got back on the road, we were in no hurry. We picked up drinks and snacks at a grocery store, pulled off the road to take pictures of giant fake dinosaurs, and stopped for a sit-down dinner. We hit some traffic jams, too, but they were not particularly troublesome, since we had no timeline.

Meanwhile, we sang silly songs, and and talked about everything under the sun, and laughed. We made more plans for the summer. No one got grumpy, no one got argumentative, no one cried. The girls napped, I managed to keep from falling asleep.

Am I exhausted? Absolutely. But I'm incredibly glad we did it this way. I don't know how many more road trips I'll make with MC, and Small is growing not so small right before my eyes. Today, though, they were here, and I was here, and it was good.

And did I mention there were butterflies?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Zoom a Little Zoom in a Rocket Ship

Small One is in a question-intensive phase right now. My days are full of "whys", and each answer I give seems to only lead to more questions.

Ever since we moved, she asks a lot of questions about when we can go certain places or see certain people. She asks when we can go visit friends, when we can visit family in Florida, and when we can go camping. I wasn't prepared, though, for the question I got this afternoon.

"Mommy," she asked, "When can we go to the moon?"

Hmm... I tried to explain that we are not really going to the moon, because we don't have a rocket. She suggested we buy one, and paint the words "Rocket Ship" on the side. She changed her mind, though, when she learned that "Rocket Ship" contains no "L's". I suggested "Lunar Spaceship", and she thought that sounded better.

She's into labeling things, of late. We're about to take a week long vacation, and I bought her a hard-sided suitcase. It's really pretty cool. it looks like a ladybug, and the child can ride on it.

 It came with stickers to personalize it, and I thought she'd put her name on it, but she had a different idea. She did put her name, but followed it with an apostrophe, and the words "Suitcase Ride".

As a family friend pointed out, you don't get much more personalized than that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My name is Tick: Or, Why I Prefer the Indoors

A little girl we know came home once repeating a cheer she'd heard at school, only we were all pretty sure she was repeating it wrong because, according to her, it went like this:

My name is Nick
My name is Tick
Tick Tick Tick BOOM dynamite!

That's not how it really went, by the way. It really went like this:

Our team is dynamite
Our team is tick tick tick tick BOOM dynamite!

But I must confess, I like the "my name is Tick" one better.

I've got that cheer in my head today. I may have mentioned this before, but I am an indoor cat. Anything outdoorsy is so far out of my comfort zone, it is not even funny. I'm so sensitive to the sun that it gives me a rash, I hate bugs and dirt, I kill plants much easier than I grow them... the outdoors and I are not pals.

Today, though, I pushed through it. I do that, from time to time, because I do like to watch the water roll in at the beach, and I like to swim. I like to see how much my kids enjoy outdoorsy things, and I like to travel, so sometimes we camp. Today, I went for a walk with my mom, my sister, their dogs, and my Small One.

It was pleasant enough. The weather was nice, the walk was scenic, and even though Small whined incessantly about her legs aching and how tired she was, I was able to distract her with nature facts, so I felt pretty good about that.

Until we got home, and I found SEVEN ticks under my little girls underwear! Holy guacamole. I am now convinced that I am completely covered in those disgusting little critters, and I'm engaged in the fruitless pursuit of pulling off my own freckles and moles. BOOM, dynamite!

See? THIS is what happens when you go outside.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Step Away from the Computer

The Man and I are pretty much nightowls. Because I work from home, and he does much of his work from home as well, we are often up late, sitting next to each other, working on our laptops. Note: this is not romantic.

One thing that completely infuriates me is The Man's tendency to fall asleep at his laptop. Whether he's at a desk or the kitchen table, on the couch or on the bed, I will look over at him, and there he'll be, head lolling onto his chest, dead asleep. It drives me crazy. If he has a deadline to meet, I spend the night elbowing him viciously in an attempt to rouse him.

I've always been a little superior about this. I often say to him "You should be more in touch with your body. There's no way I would fall asleep at my computer, because I recognize when I'm about to fall asleep, and I know that's when I should turn off the machine and go to bed."

Of course, that was before last night. I'm about to leave town, you see, and before I go I need to finish a large number of assignments. In a desperate attempt to get more done last night, even though I was worn out from attending a child's birthday party in three million degree heat, I attempted to push past my own sleepiness and get one more blog done.

It was when I typed a sentence that suggested "teaching children about charitable giving through scrap-booking" that I realized it was over.

(Slowly backs away from the keyboard...)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

To Be the Bad Man

I mentioned the kitten in my last post. That being the case, I thought I should introduce him a little more thoroughly. This is the kitten:
(He's the one in the back.)

He's cute, for sure, but he's also a wild thing. He is a total instigator when it comes to fighting with our dog, for example.


Together, they enjoy racing through the house, tumbling across the floor, and, of course, the time honored tradition of naughty punks everywhere- harassing cranky old ladies.

And do not get me started on the number of times he leaps out at us and catches us by surprise, to bite our toes or whatever else he can reach. He has officially hit what we in this house like to refer to as the "bad guy phase". He murders objects left on the floor, leaps out of the shadows to attack, rips his own kitten chow bag open, jumps onto the table, hops on computer keys, bites and scratches, wakes us up in the middle of the night and before our alarm goes off in the morning... everything you'd expect from a four month old cat. We sing to him the same song that we used to sing to our dearly departed Sammy cat, that we began singing to him right around the same age. "No one knows what it's like, to be the bad man..."

On the other hand, he jumps on the bed, runs up my chest, and "kisses" me on the face with his cute little kitty nose. He stretches his long skinny kitty belly out in front of the window to soak up the sun. He purrs and cuddles, and is the most fun our dog has had in his entire life. I, personally, am hopelessly in love with him. Of course, he knows this, which is why he plays hard to get. The Man likes him, but doesn't care much for kitty kisses and cuddles, so naturally, this happens:


(He's resting up, for more mischief later.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fan Wars

The Man weighs about 3 pounds. Ok, so maybe that's hyperbole, but I'm just saying, the man has no body fat. I, on the other hand, have plenty of cushion, perhaps even to share with a friend. This disparity causes a bit of an issue sometimes, when it comes to the temperature of our home.

Now, I don't think I'm over the top with my cooling needs. My mother, for instance, is much more the hotblooded type. She has been known to keep her home at such a low temperature that it's been a bit of family joke. "Remember," one of my siblings will say, "when we used to wake up in the early morning, at mom's house, all warm in our sweats, wrapped in blankets, drinking our hot coffee, and talk about our plans for the day, and what time the 4th of July parade was happening?"

I do like it cool, though, and staying cool upstairs requires the use of the ceiling fan. My husband has learned not to turn off the fan- at night, in particular. Rather, he just burritos himself in a blanket and makes the best of it.

Some members of the household have not yet gotten the memo. Last night, I was just drifting off to sleep, when I heard a jangling sound and awoke with a start. My husband sighed and got out of bed. I said, "What are you doing? I think that was just the kitten, playing with the necklace Small One hung on the door."

"No," he replied, "I re-hung it, on the lightswitch. Kitten just turned off the fan."

Kitten! Behave!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Inner Dumb Guy

So, I have not been blogging much of late, and the reason is primarily because I really have been blogging much, just not around here. I am working now as a professional blogger, though I don't know if that is really correct terminology. Basically, all those blogs you see on websites, with no byline, that inform you of some pertinent information, are written by someone like me. So if you are reading up on how to save money with coupons, or what is involved in LASIK surgery, or how to get the most house for your dollar, that may be mine. Who knows? (Well, to be honest, I know, but I'm not going to detail it here.)

I get my information for these blogs from many different sources, mostly internet based, and in searching for information, I often come across things that are truly wacky. For example, when looking for ways to earn money from home, I came across a blog that suggests that stay at home moms can "Make crafts – Making crafts is a candid part, though once you have a unequivocally good total of crafts achieved take a small to informal benefaction retailers as well as qualification retailers as well as see if they will await you marketplace them."

What? Clearly not a native English speaker. Even among English speakers, though, there are some weird posts. Like this advice for how to have fun with your kids during summer vacation: "Start by waking the kids before eight thirty every day during the summer months. Start waking the kids with a question. 'What would you like for breakfast today?' Start a conversation about food first thing in the morning and the kids will begin to find an appetite. Begin to make breakfast for you and the kids right after you wake them up.Cook two eggs, two toast, and 4 bacon. Kids enjoy eggs scrambled"

Now, I get the part about waking the kids up during summer vacation, but certainly it is not mandatory for every family, in order to have fun. And I'm not really clear why you would wake the kids up and ask what they want for breakfast, when you know you're going to make two eggs, two toast, and 4 bacon. And scrambled eggs at that, not even any other options there.

Anyway, knowing what is out there, I do my best to make my blogs factual and not completely ridiculous, though I'm not sure I always succeed. Some of my topics are easy, because they are on topics I already understand. How to have fun with your kids? Bring it on! How to work the Mercedes E Class navigation system? Huh? Yeah, no, I'm awake.I'm just puzzling over what the words in this instructional pdf mean.


I find that watching television helps me blog. No, really. Here's why: I have an inner dumb guy. While I'm sitting here, trying to concentrate on the merits of biodiesel, or what have you, my inner dumb guy is thinking about everything BUT blogging. Singing stupid songs in my brain, basically tugging on my mind's sleeve, demanding attention. Turning on the Lifetime Movie Network or a soap opera is like throwing my inner dumb guy a hush puppy, so I can turn my attention to more pressing business. It seems counter-intuitive, I realize, but for some reason, by dividing my attention, I'm better able to focus.

I'm wondering though, am I alone in this? Or do other people share the affliction of the inner dumb guy? Anyone?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

FANtastic

Trying the NaBloPoMo thing again, which may be foolish, since I'm totally swamped with work and about to go on vacation...

Anyway, the word for the month of June, from the NaBloPoMo powers that be, to inspire bloggers as they try to muster up 30 days of things to say, is "fan".

I was thinking about all the meanings of that word, whether to fan yourself, turn on a fan to keep cool, or to be a fan... I'm not much of a fan. I don't get overly impressed with people or teams. Not to say I don't like certain actors or athletes, or what have you, I just don't get obsessive about it. I was analyzing myself on this topic, and I think it may have to with my lack of competitive spirit. I am a fairly cooperative type, and have never understood the point of all that "us against them" sort of behavior. Can't we all just get along? Not to say that I don't want to do the best I can, I just don't care if I do better than someone else. Your pie is better than mine? Hurray for you! You can run faster/jump higher/type faster/do whatever better than I can? Go for it! The exception to this may be trivia, because I do like to win at trivia.

Anyway, this lack of competitive understanding makes me completely disinterested in sports. I do not understand how people get so into watching grown men trying to beat each other at a game, usually through aggressive shows of force. I particularly do not get the whole "we're winning" when you, in fact, are drinking a beer and watching them play. It all holds absolutely no appeal for me.

Even with that being the case, I recently went to a baseball game, with a group of friends and family. The company was pleasant, though it was blisteringly hot, and I honestly had no investment in the game whatsoever. Small One, on the other hand, was into it. She really wanted to be in the game, not just watching. When our friend told her she could run around the bases after the game, she was so excited she could hardly stand it! "When," she asked, "will this game EVER be OVER?"

When it finally was over, she eagerly went down and ran the bases. She was definitely one of the smaller kids out there, and it was pretty funny, watching her little legs pumping around the field. We clapped and cheered, and when she came off the field, we told her how well she'd done, but she only had one question. "Did I WIN?!?"

I guess she inherited the competitive gene from her daddy. Who knows? We may even have unwittingly produced a sports fan.