Monday, June 20, 2011

Day One

Dear Diary,
Summer vacation started on Friday. Perhaps that was part of the problem. It seems like no big deal, only one extra day until the weekend so there is no need to prepare for the kids being home all.the.time. It started out with everyone up at 6am. I know that in some households that is normal, but in my house the kids prefer to wake up after 7:30am, which gives me plenty of time to get up, have my coffee and some peace and quiet before the onslaught. So there we were, all awake at 6am and already they were bouncing off the walls. So I did what every responsible and devoted mother does, I went for an early morning run while the husband managed them. Originally this run was on my training plan for around 4 miles. I did 6 and would have done more if I thought I could get away with it. But alas, the husband had to go to work so I reluctantly came back. There is a good chance that at this rate I could be ready for an ultra marathon come fall rather than just a regular marathon.

Once I returned from the run it was quite pleasant. No rushing around making breakfast (mostly because the husband had already done that). No frantically making lunches. No barking at people to get dressed and brush their teeth and wash their face put on shoes and get their backpack and stop playing with legos and no, I don't have time to braid your hair when you ask me two minutes before it's time to leave and yes, you have to wear a coat when it's 20 degrees outside and no, you can't bring the sling shot you made to school today, and so on. This relaxed feeling lasted until approximately 9:30am when it dawned on me that it was well past the time they should be leaving for the bus and yet they were still there. Only now my house looked like a bomb had exploded. A lego and art supplies bomb. And my kitchen had reached a state of permanent stickiness. And already they had complained that they were bored, there was nothing to do, and filled that void by bickering with each other and constantly screeching *mom, brother hit me in the ear*, followed by *mom, sister kicked me in the head*, and so on.

At that point I knew we had to get out of the house. And since the last week of school consisted of only two full days followed by two half days (like they weren't going to have enough time once school got out that they only needed to go half days?) I still had a few errands I needed to run. I fed them some snacks and away we went. Stop number one went fine although I don't know if the appliance sales people at Sears would agree with me as my children opened and closed and opened and closed every washer and dryer in the place. On to the mall and they started to unravel a bit despite my repeated threats and promises of a large pretzel or a toy, or a car on their 16th birthdays. By the time we got back in the car to drive to our final destination they were bickering at full decibel and it became unbearable. We had a long drive to pick something up for my husband and I forgot to bring a movie for the DVD player. So yes, listening to them take turns playing *Dynamite* and *Baby* on the kazoo for 45 minutes was actually soothing compared to the alternative.

Eventually we made it back home and collapsed from exhaustion. I imagine it takes a lot of energy to keep up that level of noise and destruction. I know it takes a lot of energy to try and control it. Lucky for me today will go much smoother I'm sure. Both kids have dental appointments this morning. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lost in translation

Recently my husband and I went on a trip to France. By ourselves. No children. Since I am not much of a late-sleeping kind of gal what I was most looking forward to was the peace and quiet. That's not to say the husband and I wouldn't talk. Instead I was looking forward to being able to talk and actually complete our sentences. Even have whole conversations that we started and finished without being interrupted. It was wonderful. The other thing I was looking forward to was touring the museums and landmarks and lingering over reading the placards without anyone whining that they needed to go to the bathroom or needed a snack, or wanted to visit the gift shop. This is where I ran into problems.

What I failed to take into account was that all the signs would be in...French. I don't speak French. I don't read French. And I absolutely do not understand French. For some reason, although I haven't taken a class, this is not the case for Spanish. Although I don't speak it I can generally pick up enough key words to get the gist. Same goes for reading. I admit I can speak next to none of it, but that's beside the point. The point is I just assumed French would be the same way. I was wrong. Really wrong.

I had an inkling of it when we first arrived although we only had a few hours of touring so it didn't really hit home until the second day when we visited museums. Most of them, with the exception of Musee D'Orsay, have all their signage in French. So this is how I interpreted my visit to the Louvre: painting of Christ at the last supper, painting of Christ with the apostles, painting of Christ on the cross, painting of Christ depicting several other scenes from the Bible and then the Mona Lisa and Winged Victory. The other sections of the museum we visited were similar: Roman column, another Roman column, yet another Roman column, Roman frieze, some Roman guy wearing an olive branch, some Roman woman half-dressed, some Roman cherub, and so on. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it. In some ways it freed me to enjoy it on my own terms and speculate on an interpretation. And I had the dates so I had some reference point. But don't ask me the names of any of the works because as I mentioned before, I don't speak any French and am aware enough to recognize that my pronunciation is so atrocious it's best to just pretend I'm mute then to risk humiliating myself and mangling their beautiful language.

So what happened was that I spent a week for the most part being completely clueless. Occasionally I would ask my husband for a translation since he took several years of French a million years ago and does get a general sense of what someone is saying. This seemed to work okay until the night we went to a restaurant and I asked him to translate the menu for me. As a result, he ended up with a delicious shrimp and morel risotto that was the highlight of his trip, whereas I ended up with some creepy fish and tomato dish which he had assured me was steak when I asked for the menu translation. After that i didn't ask him anymore and just reveled in my ignorance. And when I figured out that *roti poulet* was *roast chicken* I stuck with what I knew and ate a lot of it.

At first I was a little unnerved by not knowing what was going on around me. It was a little disorienting to have directions being given over the loudspeaker on the metro train and have no clue whether I was adhering to the rules or would be arrested at any minute. At one point we came across a huge live reggae concert by the Bastille but have no clue why they were having it because I couldn't read the signs. I also couldn't tell you who was singing. Again, couldn't read the signs. This happened again a few days later when we found ourselves in the middle of a large demonstration by our hotel in the Montparnasse district. They would yell out something, then chant *Oui Oui*, then yell something else and chant *non non*. This went on for awhile and the whole time they were waving signs. I have absolutely no idea why.

So when I got back home and within five minutes of our return the children were already whining and complaining and demanding that they get to watch television and eat ice cream like they did when grandma was in charge I simply said *Je ne comprend pas*.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Life in the bubble

My son is a goofball. Granted, he's only six, but I already envision that he will be the guy you want in your fraternity 12 years from now. Not necessarily because he will be the guy doing the keg stand (hopefully) but because he is genuinely funny in a Will Arnett-Adam Sandler-Steve Carell kind of way. Goofball. So it is surprising to realize that he is observant as all get out. Nothing gets by him. Ever. And he has a memory like an elephant. You put those two together along with goofball and he is the social chairman of kindergarten. And not just his class of 20. I'm talking all 7 sections of kindergarten plus the 1st grade. He knows everyone. And can tell you about them, and their siblings, and possibly their parents if he's ever seen them, which bus they take and what they wore to school last Thursday.

My daughter is not a goofball. She has a sly wit and a dry sense of humor. She also lives in a bubble. By this I mean she pays attention to what she deems is important and pretty much filters out the rest. This results in a problem. When asked about things that happened at school she has no idea. She knows what they studied that day (most of the time) but if I'm trying to pry some critical gossip out of her I get nothing. And not because she doesn't want to tell me, she honestly has no idea what I'm talking about when I ask if Bobbie got sent to the principal's office again today. There's a Bobbie in my class? would be her first question. Next she would try to recall if she is aware of anyone having been sent to the principal's office. Finally she would try to remember if they have a principal at her school and where his office might be.

This isn't a new thing. She has always been like this. My son could tell you who is absent from his class on any given day, not to mention a few kids from other classes who were home sick as well. My daughter couldn't tell you with any certainty whether a specific child is even in her class, let alone home sick. For three years she did ballet. For three years there were a couple of girls who took every class with her and performed in the recital as a group. Six ballet classes, three recitals. And yet if I mention Suzy from your ballet class I am met with a blank stare. Even if I show her the class picture she can't quite recall having met Suzy. This also happens with girls on her soccer team. The same soccer team she has played on with more or less than same 14 girls for the past three years. Granted, they all wear the same color uniform and most of them sport ponytails of varying lengths so I can allow for how that might make things harder to remember them.

Okay, so I may be *slightly* prone to hyperbole. And I should't be so hard on my poor bubble-girl. And just when I think she is growing up and becoming more aware of the people around her we have this conversation over the weekend:

Daughter: Mommy, what is the name of my school's Vice-Principal? You know, the woman who says *hi* to us in the morning?
Me: You mean the woman who you have seen every day for an entire year on your way into the building?
Daughter: Yes
Me: Her name is Mrs. Howard honey.
Daughter: Huh, go figure. Mrs. Howard. Okay then.

At least she knows who I am. I think.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thank you Nordstrom

It happened again today. Nordstrom somehow managed to have the perfect dress for me for a challenging social commitment. In my size, in a beautiful color, and flattering while also being comfortable. In this case the function is a Saturday evening wedding, but not a *night* wedding, and not formal. But fancy. And at a hip location (too hip for me to have any business going there). The wedding is for two people I don't know and I don't know any of the other guests, except my husband, who is no help on providing guidance on appropriate attire. And yet there it was on the rack. Perfect. And did I mention reasonably priced?

This isn't the first time Nordstrom has been there for me. Previously they helped me rock the ultimate Survivor Style Challenge. Last year in late September I attended an interment at Arlington National Cemetery  of a long serving former US Senator. In other words, it was a big deal. Hundreds of people, VIPs, the media, you get the picture. The funeral had been held the previous month up in Alaska so the exact time and date of the interment was known well in advance. Plenty of time to find something appropriate to wear. Except that I assumed that I would be able to wear something with sleeves since it was at the end of September. I have several lovely black dresses that are perfect for fall weather. And when the interment was less than three days away I looked at the weather report and realized it was going to be in the high 80s and humid as all get out. So there I was, frantically trying to find a conservative black dress that was appropriate to wear after Labor Day but still cool enough that I wouldn't melt into a puddle while standing outside. And unbelievably, Nordstrom had just the thing.

I rejoiced in my good fortune and decided to pair the dress with some awesome black patent heels I had also picked up. Even though the heels were 4 1/2 inches high it wouldn't be a problem because all I would have to do is shuffle over to the gravesite in my suitably somber yet stylish and cool ensemble and then shuffle back to the car when it was over. That turned out to be a huge tactical error on my part.

I confess that this was my first interment at Arlington, and since it was for a former US Senator I have no idea whether it was typical. For starters, we were escorted to parking which was aways from where everyone was gathered. That wasn't too bad because I could shuffle the distance just fine. Then there was standing around for awhile - still doing fine although my make up had begun to run off my face. At this point I am craning my neck trying to see where the actual ceremony will take place and am growing puzzled. Then the music started. And the caissons began to move. And suddenly I realized we would be walking in a processional behind them. Down a steep hill. For over a half a mile. In the 88 degree humidity. Oh wait, it gets better. I forgot to mention that I am so sick I can barely stand up, even if I wasn't wearing the 4 1/2 inch heels (I found out the next day I had strep throat). So I wobbled and lurched down the hill and tried not to pass out. And as we walked of course we saw a million people we knew, some that we hadn't seen for over a decade, maybe longer. So there was lots of reminiscing. I can only imagine what came out of my mouth between the pain in my feet and my overall illness and heat delirium.

Finally, after what felt like a lifetime, we made it to the gravesite. But not quite the gravesite, more like an embankment overlooking the gravesite. Remember, there are hundreds of people there, and with my slow shuffling pace we were some of the last to arrive down the hill. At that point I cursed myself for not being elderly or pregnant because those people got rides in air conditioned vehicles and were dropped off right up front. So there we were for the ceremony, me still in those heels, which, with the incline of the steep embankment, caused me to tilt at an alarming nearly 45 degrees. The ceremony lasted over 30 minutes and when it was done we turned to walk back UP the hill. At that point I just couldn't take it any more. I took off the shoes much to the embarrassment of my husband who walked several paces away from me in an attempt to distance himself from my spectacle. Did I mention that the road was gravel over concrete? And yet the pain of walking in stocking feet up a hill in gravel was still less than the agony of walking down the hill in those heels. And my stockings were snagging and tearing and my makeup had completely run off my face and my hair was a frizzy mess. But oh my, I looked awesome in that dress.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I'm committing

One of my favorite comedians is Eddie Izzard (this different color means it is a link - click here to see what I am talking about). He literally brings tears to my eyes with his monologues. As my husband can attest, I never get tired of watching recordings of his shows. But I have never thought of him as someone to emulate or look to for inspiration. Yes, he is exceptionally witty. But other than that he is just another performer, albeit a brilliant one who dresses in women's clothing. Until one day I was surfing for a clip of one of my favorite Eddie Izzard segments to show my husband when I came across a video blog of something extraordinary. In 2009 Eddie was approached by Sport Relief to complete a sporting challenge in support of charity. Eddie decided he was going to run 43 marathons in seven weeks. He did six marathons a week with one day of rest.  He ran around the entire UK - 1100 miles. There is one particularly grueling day where he runs one of the marathons in a downpour of rain and you can practically feel the rain sloshing in his running shoes. If that isn't amazing by itself you need to check out the video blog on youtube as he prepares to embark on his journey. Eddie is not a born runner and he certainly doesn't look like one either. When he decided to do this he was 47. In the video blog he expresses doubt about his ability to complete his commitment. And he realizes it will be hard. That it will suck. And that he might not make it. But he wants to do it. He even says *I want to do this but I don't know if I can*. So Eddie, you have become my unlikely hero. My new role model for running. My inspiration. You see, I signed up to run the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30th. It will be my first marathon and I have doubts. Lots of doubts. I am so chock full of doubts that I don't even say *I am running a marathon in October* but instead hem and haw and hedge with statements like *I am thinking about running....*. A 40 year old woman in moderately okay shape and two young children has no business taking on this kind of commitment. But it's time to get off the fence and commit openly. With this post I am declaring that I will run the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30th, 2011. I will spend the next five months training. It will be hard. And it will suck. And I might not make it. But I want to do it. And it's only one marathon. Not 43.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

She is just like me, except when she is just like him

People have children for a lot of different reasons, some good, some questionable. Regardless of how you got there, you have to admit that having a child is the ultimate form of narcissism. Who can deny a certain amount of pleasure when someone says your child looks *just like you* or has your nose (unless you hate your nose, but even then it looks great on your child and so maybe you learn to like your nose...just a little). Or when your child displays personality traits that are straight out of your playbook. This is especially endearing if they are those traits that are quirky or a tad grating. But they are so stinking cute when your child does them, so perhaps they are not as annoying to others when you do them as you thought?

The other day my daughter was assigned the task of cleaning out the bookcase in her room. She is an avid reader and this bookcase was beyond the legal limit of what it could hold. I noticed that many of the books she had outgrown and suggested she go through and take those out to either donate or give to her brother (if the subject wasn't fairies or princesses, which means he would get approximately one book out of the deal). And being my child she jumped at the chance to organize something. She actually got a notepad and jotted down a to do list of steps involved. My heart swelled with pride.

A little while later as I was walking by her room I noticed all the books had been taken off the shelf and there were large piles everywhere. Tentatively I asked her what she was up to. She explained that she decided that things would be much more efficient (yes, she used that word) if she sorted all the books into categories first. She had even put her brother to work helping. I think pride physically radiated off of me.

My next pass by the room I noticed it was unusually quiet. There didn't seem to be any activity going on so I looked in. And that is when I saw it. Both my daughter and my son were sprawled out on her rug, surrounded by mounds and mounds of books. They were silently reading. Now I am all for reading but at that instance I knew I was witnessing more then a brief break to skim through a story. Wait a minute. How did this happen? Where did this come from? When I start something I finish it dammit. Start to finish. No stopping, no breaks. I am on a mission. Oh no, they were exhibiting a behavior of my husband's. Specifically, the behavior where he starts a project, gets halfway through the project to the point that there is a huge mess, then gets distracted from the original project and ends up spending hours doing something else. And in all likelihood gets distracted from that task and so on. And none of the projects get done. And there is a huge mess that stays that way for several days...or weeks...until I come in and finish everything up (usually by employing a hefty bag). It drives me crazy. In fact, now that I mention it, he has a pile of paperwork in our office to *review and file* that is coming up on its one year anniversary.

As it turns out, for better or worse, my children have some of me, some of their father, and a lot of themselves. And for the record, with help from me, my daughter finished the bookcase clean out project and as it turns out there was actually two books to give her brother that didn't involve fairies or princesses.