Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Three-Day Weekend, Oh How I Love Thee

When I still lived in the Washington DC area, I got used to having a fair number of day-off kinds of holidays. Many employers in that neck of the woods simply follow the federal government's holiday schedule. When I moved to the midwest, I lost a few holidays. No more days off on Veteran's Day, Martin Luther King Day, etc. Let me just tell you that the period from New Year's Day to Memorial Day is a vast wasteland of drudgery and disappointment.

So it was that I was very excited about having a three-day weekend for Memorial Day. Now, lest you think I'm a shallow hag who doesn't know what the holiday is for, allow me to assure you that I do. But still, sunshine and lollipops, too.

I had to leave work early on Friday for a band concert at my daughter's school. God love that poor band instructor.  He teaches band to fifth graders at every elementary school in the district. He probably hears Hot Cross Buns in his sleep. My kid plays the clarinet - and I'm using the word "plays" pretty loosely here. She didn't practice and didn't seem very enthusiastic (well, she was enthusiastic . . . for the first two days). I'm glad we did the band thing (I thought it would be helpful to her singing career to learn how to read music and such), but I'm also glad the school year is just about over. She did squeak during the concert but did well otherwise.  I talked to the band instructor after it was over and asked him if it is okay to return the clarinet to the music store. I just wanted to make sure there aren't any more rehearsals.

"Are you sure she doesn't need it for next year?" he asked me.

"Oh, I'm sure," I replied.

I returned the clarinet to the music store later that evening. I've had thirty-something bucks ripped out of my checking account every month since the school year started and I was happy to put an end to that. I don't want to make it sound like I don't encourage my child. I do - I just thing singing is more her thing.

On my way home from the music store, I stopped at Home Depot and bought a new umbrella for the deck. I bought a patio set on Craigslist a few years ago and have now replaced all of the chairs and the umbrella. In retrospect, that little bargain is not looking so bargain-y.

The weather forecast for the weekend was a little dicey. I decided to take a wait-and-see approach for Saturday.  I got up and headed to the farmers' market and then the gym. It was the first farmers' market of the year and our growing season is relatively short in these parts, but there were lots of good things for sale. I picked up some asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, and peaches.

The rain seemed to be holding off so the kid and I decided to head to an art festival about an hour away. I'm still bummed that she no longer says "festibul."  It was a windy but otherwise gorgeous afternoon. She had conveniently forgotten her wallet (which contained some birthday money) so I bought her a necklace and a trampoline session. I bought some earrings and a pendant for myself. The fair was held at a waterfront park, so we spent some time just hanging out.  She got soaking wet, of course. Because kids.

After the fair, we went to a candy store and then a toy store. The kid conned me into buying her a root beer float. "Forgot my wallet," my ass.  At the toy store, I stopped to chat with the owner. I knew that the shop dog, a Borzoi named Ziva, had passed away recently. I loved that dog. I used to stop in sometimes just to see her.  "I'm so sorry about your dog," I told the owner. Much to my surprise, she came around from behind the counter, gave me a big hug, and thanked me for the condolences.  She told me how much she missed Ziva and how great the loss had been. I told her that my Giddy died five months ago and I can still barely talk about him. Dog people understand these things.

On our way back home, we stopped at an amusement park to ride a couple of rides. It was supposed to be a quick trip, but we ran into a friend/neighbor and ended up hanging out a lot longer - which was perfectly fine because the weather was still beautiful. My friend has two boys that are a lot older than my daughter, but they are nice kids and didn't mind having a fifth grader tagging along for the rides. After we left the amusement park, my daughter said, "This was the best day ever, Mom."

Sunday ended up being a pretty quiet day. There was rain in the forecast for sure this time.  Church was canceled because of the holiday. So, I decided to take Grover to the dog park to wear him out. He's technically not old enough to be there yet, but I figured it would be pretty quiet. The kid and I took him over there. It rained on the way but then cleared up. Grover had a ball. He was running around with a Newfoundland ten times his size. The Newfie marked a tree and Grover put his head in the urine stream - that's how smart my boy is.

The rest of the day was pretty quiet. I did a little shopping and then went to a yoga class in the evening. I've been really gun-shy about working out (for fear that it will make the plantar fasciitis worse), but I've been easing back into it. So far, so good. The new shoes really have made a world of difference.

Monday was another "good weather" day so the three of us went to the local wildlife sanctuary and hung out for a couple of hours.  Oh, I almost forgot! Before that we picked up a new foster dog.  He's a temporary boarder named Jake - he's a German Shepherd. He's headed to a foster-to-adopt home this weekend. He's shy but has warmed up to us pretty quickly.

All in all, it was an excellent three-day weekend. I enjoyed several meals under my new umbrella and possibly a couple of adult beverages, too.

The last day of school is coming up very quickly. It can't come soon enough for me, I tell ya. I've reached maximum backpack-checking and whatnot. I think that Mr. N (A's teacher) and I have reached an unspoken agreement: at this point, I don't bother to sign anything or fill out any reading sheets, and he doesn't bother to check. It's a win-win.

See the lunatic in the front car with her hands up? That's my lunatic.

See the lunatic with his face in the sprinkler? That's my lunatic.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

All Sorts of Goings-On

I haven't written in a while (except for my brief anniversary post), mostly because I thought you might be tired of listening to me bitch about my feet. Good news - you're mostly off the hook on that score now.  I own three pairs of definitely-not-cheap Vionic shoes at this point and, for the most part, that's all I wear. They aren't the cutest shoes in the world but, let's face it - the cuteness ship has sailed for this old lady anyway. I do feel slightly annoyed with my podiatrist because he didn't mention these shoes as an option. I have given up on curing the plantar fasciitis (and obviously I can't make the bone spurs go away). I now just focus on walking without pain. My Fitbit tells me exactly how many steps I take each day. When I walk 11,257 steps in a day, that's how many times my brain says, "Ow." (My brain hears about it from my feet.)  It's hard not to focus on the pain when you are reminded of it thousands of times a day. The shoes help tremendously. I may order another pair, but I will need to have them delivered to my office because I think the Mister is getting suspicious.

I think we've established that I have never been, and never will be, much of an athlete. However, my daughter and I did complete a 5K on Saturday.  I walked most of it, with some intermittent jogging mixed in. I tell myself that even though I can't really run, I'm still modeling healthy behavior for my child. She and I have a 10K in a couple of weeks, another 5K (pet walk) right before that, and a 15K bike event in July.  Saturday's 5K was a lot of fun. She was dying to take one of the dixie cups offered at one of the water stops and pour it on her head. I let her, because I couldn't really think of a valid reason why she shouldn't do that.

What was really fun about last weekend, though, was that my sister and her daughters were in town for a visit.  My 17-year-old niece wanted to tour a college campus while she was here.  She and my sister also ran a half-marathon on Sunday (the marathon is part of the same series of events as the 5K we did).  While they were running the marathon, P and I were in charge of keeping our other niece alive. She is six months old and we quickly realized that we are pretty rusty on some of this stuff. We drove to the 11-mile mark to cheer on our runners, and you should have seen us trying to figure out the stroller/car seat situation. We attached the car seat (with sleeping baby inside) to the stroller and then could not get it back off to save our lives. A car full of people was parked behind us and I could just tell that our act was the source of great amusement. All three of us were bent at the waist, pushing buttons and flipping levers in hopes of liberating the baby from the stroller.

Another big highlight of the weekend was my daughter's spring choir concert. I was so happy that my sister and nieces were in town for that, too. The concert was really, really good and I'm not just saying that because my kid was in it.

A few weeks ago, my daughter auditioned for one of the upper-level touring choirs. On Friday, we found out that she got in. She was so excited.  So, starting in August, she'll be with the older girls in the touring choir. I think this will go a long way in helping her with vocal development, maturity, and whatever else comes along with such things. The touring gets pretty expensive, though, so I hope she is prepared to sell candy bars like I don't know what.

After a fun, eventful weekend, my sister and nieces headed back home yesterday. I miss them already, but I will see them in just a few weeks when we descend on their house for a visit.  They live about a thousand miles away but we visit as often as we can. We were blessed with incredibly beautiful weather during their visit - I hope they can return the favor.

That's all the news for now. The puppy is still a terror. We like to play a fun game called "Guess what's in my puppy's mouth?"  Yesterday, we thought he just had some dental floss but when we tugged on it, it was wrapped around a fist-sized wad of Kleenex. It was actually pretty impressive. He has also started humping Gretchen periodically. That goes over about as well as you'd expect.

19 Years Ago Today

19 years ago today, I married the handsome guy who had proposed to me on bent knee. We had been together for five years when we got married - apparently it took few hundred dates for him to notice that I was the girl of his dreams and all that jazz.

I wish I had some sage advice on what it takes for a couple to stay together for 24 years. Honestly, I think it comes down to personality types. He's easygoing and I'm not. End of story. I don't even think shared interests is a firm requirement - we don't like the same music, we aren't the same religion or even the same political party, and we don't have any shared hobbies. But, we get along and there is a lot to be said for that. We get on each other's last nerve sometimes, but there is always respect on hand, and that IS important.

Happy anniversary to my sweetie, my guy, my comic book geek. Here's to many more years of wedded bliss (or something like it)!

p.s. In an expression of true love, we just spent the last ten minutes bickering about whether or not it's going to rain today.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day (sub-title: This is What $65 Flip-Flops Look Like)

Hey, Happy Mother's Day! On Mother's Day, my first thought is always of my own mom. While it's true that she did give me faulty hips and such, she also gave me lots of good stuff, like having the courage to be a free-thinker. She knew how to build character before character-building was even a thing. I love you, Mom!  My next thought, each Mother's Day, is of my daughter's birthmom. Without her, I would not be a mom. There are no words to describe how I feel about her - believe me, I've tried. And you guys know how I love words.

As for my own role as a mom, my main request for Mother's Day this year was: "I don't want to pick up anyone's stuff off the floor." I know, it's a big request. I feel like I spend half my life picking up crap that doesn't belong to me. "Why is this sock in the middle of the living room floor? Why are your shoes right here where the puppy can chew them?" And, since we do have a puppy, sometimes I am picking up actual crap.

In addition to my outlandish request about not having to pick up stuff that doesn't belong to me, I told my husband what I wanted for Mother's Day a couple weeks ago. I asked him to order some Vionics flip-flops for me. They are made for people with chronic foot issues, which I guess I now have . . . ever since plantar fasciitis came to town and refused to leave.  He nearly keeled over when he saw the price. He did buy them for me.  In case you're wondering, here is what $65 flip-flops look like:

So far, I love them. They are very comfortable and have the all-important arch support. I worry about arch support more than I worry about ISIS and Donald Trump combined.

The kid made an art project for me. I am not sure if I will use it for my bamboo spoons and such, or if I will use it as a pen/pencil cup. For all those years when I was trying so hard to become a mom, this is the kind of stuff I thought about. Art projects just for me.

It's been a good day. We went to Noodles after church. Then we made a quick stop at Kohl's.  We have guests coming soon and I wanted to buy some new bedding. My kid also needed some new  underwear. I had some Kohl's cash (and God knows you can't let Kohl's cash go unspent) so I wanted to stop on the way home. My daughter refused to come anywhere near me in the store because she knew I was buying her the underwear. "Mom! Gross!"  

I thought, "What the heck? They're for YOU!" Who knew that some new drawers would be so traumatizing! By the way, if you see her around, be sure to ask her if she is wearing new undies. I feel like that conversation will go well. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Even Songbirds Need to Practice

As a parent, I'm sometimes torn about how to react when my child gives minimal effort to something that should clearly receive a much higher level of effort. Is it okay to demand excellence or it is better to say, "Well, at least you tried?" She entered her school's talent show, which was held this evening. She's known about the talent show for at least a month. We spent a lot of time listening to song choices that might work well. The song also needed to be appropriate for an elementary school, of course. She chose "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz. (The song contains the word "damn" but of course we just changed it to "darn.")

I printed the lyrics for her. Twice (because she lost the first sheet I printed). I played the song for her on my iPod. I found a karaoke version on YouTube so that she could practice singing along. I knew she didn't know the words very well and yet she did not practice. As the talent show got closer, I became more and more alarmed that she was not practicing. Or maybe it was something more like annoyance?

Anyway, she sang well but bailed halfway through the song because she did not know the words beyond that point. So, part of me is thinking, "My kid rocks!" and part of me is thinking, "My kid is super lazy!" I sometimes think of that scene from the movie Parenthood where Steve Martin worries about messing up his kid (after encouraging him to play second base in a baseball game). He pictures a future scene where his son is in a clock tower, gunning down students. Someone yells, "It's Kevin Buckman! His father really screwed him up!" I don't want to push her too hard, but I do want to encourage her to develop her gift and to take it seriously.

I still think my little underachiever will someday do great things with that voice of hers.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Eleven (Going on Eleven-Teen)

Happy birthday, baby girl! The days are winging past me so fast - I fear you'll be in college before I know it. Right now I complain that you waste too much water with your insanely long showers, but I know the day will come when I will miss hearing you singing into the shower head for 45 minutes straight. Hey, would this be a good time for me to tell the story about all the times you pooped in the tub when you were little?

I am so proud of you and all that you are. You make me crazy with your dilly-dallying and your refusal to be a part of the whole "a place for everything and everything in its place" theory that seems to work for everyone else on the planet, but you just wouldn't be you if you didn't follow your free-spirit heart.

I love your singing. I love your sense of humor. I love how you still call me Mommy sometimes. I love your crazy curls and your expert-level hugs. I'm so happy to see you developing the heart of a volunteer. You understand the value of fostering homeless animals and then letting them go. We also joined the local reptile club so that you can volunteer at their events.

When I was a kid, I loved a book called A Spell for Chameleon. The book takes place in a land called Xanth, where every resident is born with a specific and unique magic power. The main character, Bink, doesn't know what his magic power is and sets out to find out. I know what your magic power is, baby. You make everyone around you feel special. That's an awesome talent indeed. 

What do I want to remember about you at this age? I want to remember that you are growing in your independence. We finally gave you a house key! You're testing the waters and feeling your way through the world. I love the fact that we can talk about weighty topics now that you're a little bit older. We also laugh about dumb jokes together. A couple weeks ago, we were in the car with the puppy and you said, "I can't buckle because Grover is sitting on my butthole."

I replied, "What?! Grover is sitting on your butthole?"

You laughed. "No, Mom! Gross! He's sitting on my buckle."  We still laugh about it all the time.

So, here's to dumb jokes and arguments over just how much lip gloss is appropriate for a fifth grader. Here's to sleeping with Lamby at night and wearing fancy wedge heels during the day. Here's to "can you help me with my hair?" and "stay out of my room!" Here's to "Please buy french bread" and "please stop buying french bread because I don't like it now." Here's to emojis that confuse your old-lady mom and "I love you, Mom" texts that don't.  Here's to you, kid, on your birthday and every day. I love you more than you'll ever know.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Water Park Weekend

In keeping with our "there's no way you're getting a birthday party every single year" tradition, we let our daughter pick a weekend destination for her birthday (instead of a party). She chose a massive indoor water park, located about 2 1/2 hours from our home. We let her choose a friend to bring along.  I also ordered a cake so that we could take that along, too.

The water park is a resort and so, of course, you can stay there. However, I could not bring myself to spend quite that much money. By my calculations, the weekend would have cost about a grand if we went that route. Instead, I booked us for two nights at a Best Western that had a pool and free breakfast. (It was still $300 for the hotel, but regardless . . . still an improvement.) I then purchased day passes for the water park.  We arrived on Friday evening and of course the girls wanted to go swimming in the hotel pool right away. We had stopped at a Red Robin for dinner along the way, because I had a coupon for a free birthday meal for my daughter (call me cheap all you want, people! I prefer the term "thrifty!")

I poured myself an adult beverage and headed down to the pool with the girls. I knew I'd be traumatized enough by spending the whole day on Saturday in a swimsuit, so I decided to pass on the swimming on Friday. Speaking of swimsuits . . . the kid has been bugging me for a bikini for a while. She had tankinis, but nothing that was stomach-baring.  I don't know why I wasn't too thrilled about the idea. I have a lot of trouble articulating it. It's certainly not about body-shaming my child. Her body is perfect like it is. Anyway, I gave in and bought her two bikinis at Justice last weekend. She tried on a couple at Old Navy that she liked, but they felt very flimsy to me. My concern was that she would tug at the top endlessly if it didn't fit well. Also, she is in between sizes so that complicates matters, too. The ones at Justice fit better, even though they cost at least double what the ones at Old Navy cost.

The girls had fun swimming in the pool. Or at least I assume they did.  There were a gazillion kids in there. The hotel was pretty crowded. Apparently, there were a bunch of soccer tournaments going on. I was tired so I didn't last too long after we went back up to our hotel room. The girls plowed through a party-sized bag of Doritos. Quite the party indeed! I have no idea how late they stayed up. Those two are perfectly content to play Minecraft until they can't see straight.

The next morning, we grabbed some breakfast and then headed to the water park. The place was enormous. We didn't know where to start! The girls ditched us pretty quickly, which was fine. They are old enough to be on their own a bit. P and I rode a bunch of different water slides. I rode a couple that he refused to try. They had two slides that were a little bit harrowing. You climb to the top of a platform, stand in a tube, and then the floor drops out from under you.  There were two variations - one that dropped you straight down and the that other spun you through a loop. I did both. I couldn't help but notice I was the only chick up on the platform. I guess it's more of a dude thing. I am probably slightly more adventurous than people think I would be.

We regrouped mid-day for lunch. P gave me some cash and told me to splurge on a fancy drink at the bar. I have been really stressed about a medical issue and some work stuff. So, maybe he felt a little bit sorry for me. I don't know. Anyway, I went to the bar and ordered a mai tai in a souvenir glass. I noticed that prices weren't posted anywhere. The bartender made the drink and sat it down in front of me. Guess how much it was? No, higher. Nope, higher. Twenty-seven dollars. It was a pretty large drink so yes, I did share it with Mr. M. "How much was it? Like $15?" he asked.  I just smiled back at him.

I didn't get a lot of photos from our water park adventures because of course I wasn't walking around with a phone when there is water shooting out in a million directions. I did take some photos of the girls attempting the boogie board attraction.

After our water park adventures, we headed back to the hotel to shower and clean up. We went out to dinner at a vegan place.  The girls weren't that enthusiastic at first but once we were out and about, I think they had fun. The most exciting thing for me was the chocolate cake - I ordered a slice to go. That way, I could have cake while the others enjoyed the kid's birthday cake. Win-win!  Back at the hotel, we sang "Happy birthday" to my daughter and then had cake. Her birthday isn't until Tuesday, but she has school and then choir practice that day. So, there won't be a lot of time for celebration.

I was hoping the girls would be so tired that they wouldn't even think of asking to go to the hotel pool. Ha ha!  Ten minutes later, I was once again seated poolside. I watched a stand-up comedy routine on my Kindle. I was wearing ear buds, but that didn't stop an elderly security guard from looking over my shoulder and asking, "How do you like that little TV of yours?" Oh, mister.  You are so cute with your little-TV business.

So, that was our weekend.  The next day we had breakfast, made a brief stop at an outlet mall (the kid has money from her grandparents burning a hole in her pocket), and then drove home.

On the way home, it occurred to me that this being-a-mom job is much more thankless than I ever imagined. Being a wife, too. I don't think either of them realized just how much preparation it took to pull off a successful weekend like that.  From making reservations weeks in advance, to doing research on the best places to stay/eat/whatever, to making sure we brought a lighter for the birthday candles . . . I mean, I made it all happen. I made arrangements for the dogs. I made sure we had birthday plates, napkins, and utensils. I packed snacks and drinks. But had I forgotten something? I'd have never heard the end of it.

Oh well. The important thing is that my kid had a kick-ass birthday celebration. Plus, I'm sure I'll get a big raise at my next mom review.

Don't you tell me there's no such thing as good vegan cake.