Friday, July 22, 2011

Sunshine paradox

Right now it is really hot where we live. I used to refer to this kind of heat as *Africa hot* because I always imagined it didn't get any hotter than Africa judging from the pictures. But living in Washington DC and all those State Department families, we now have several friends who have lived in different parts of Africa. And they inform me it isn't this hot there (note: yes, I'm talking to you Kathleen. Thanks for ruining that for me). So that leaves me with referring to the heat as *almost as hot as the surface of the sun*. I am confident that living here it is just a matter of time before we meet some family who have lived on the surface of the sun and I will have to abandon that simile as well. Never mind - it is just freaking hot.

It is too hot to go outside, even at night when the sun goes down. It is too hot to go to the pool because the thought of leaving our air-conditioned home to get into the car and drive there and then walk from the air-conditioned car to the front door of the clubhouse is unbearable. And there is a good possibility that during the 15 minute *safety break* each hour someone will spontaneously burst into flames. Today I made my children toast for lunch. Why? Because I didn't want to turn on the stove to make mac n cheese, or a grilled cheese sandwich, or any other *and cheese* food item that involved heat. And because my brain is so addled by the heat that I took the path of least resistance. Unfortunately we also ran out of bread after they ate five pieces of toast each so I will have to think of something else for dinner.

But this sitting inside at home, prisoners of the heat, touches on a fundamental flaw in my belief system that I haven't been able to shake in the 14 years that we have lived in Washington DC. This is the belief that because the sun is out you should be outside enjoying it.

I grew up in Seattle. In Seattle it is fairly straightforward. When the sun comes out you drop whatever you are doing, even if means leaving work, or school, or rescheduling critical surgery, and GO OUTSIDE. It doesn't matter what you do outside - run, walk, play with your dog, sit in a chair and read a book, lay down a blanket and have a picnic. For the love of god, just go outside and enjoy this fleeting bit of sunshine while it lasts. This logic works in Seattle for two reasons. First, since the sun will only shine for a very brief period of time it isn't like you are losing any productivity inside. And two, when you go outside to enjoy the sun the temperatures are conducive to it. These are two fundamental truths that I can't quite let go of.

In DC the sun shines. A lot. It shines a good part of the year. The difference is that it shines in the winter - when it is only 20 degrees outside. It shines in the summer - when it is 102 degrees out (like today). Neither of these temperature are conducive to being outside and enjoying yourself for very long. And truth be told, I am much more likely to go skiing all bundled up in a million layers in the freezing cold (but sunny!) as opposed to going outside for an extended period of time in 102 (but sunny!).

So herein lies my problem - the sun is out (yay!) but we can't go outside (boo!). This paradox, combined with my Seattle roots creates internal chaos and tremendous anxiety. Because despite living here for 14 years, whenever the sun comes out, as it does most days, there is a little voice inside of me that says *we must go outside NOW because who knows when this will come our way again*. It physically pains me to look outside and see that glowing orb and know I can't be a part of it. It gives me hives to let my children turn on the television and watch it all day long because there is nothing else to do, as though it is 50 degrees out and rainy. Every once in awhile I will get a burst of inspiration and make the kids take the dog on a walk. We make it about three houses away before even the dog is complaining.

So any year now I am hoping my mental crisis will pass and I will come to accept that it can be sunny and crappy at the same time. That one day I will be okay with having my children turn to piles of goo in front of the television because no one has the will to live anymore, let alone come up with an idea to do something else. And one day it will be sunny *and* pleasant outside, and we will be able to enjoy it to the fullest extent possible. I just hope my kids don't object to not going inside for the entire month of October.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 34

A while back I wrote a post about my desire to have some space of my own. Any space. All I was asking for was somewhere that I could have to myself, and that would stay clean because no one was messing it up. Of course I realize this isn't going to happen anytime soon. And even after the kids have moved out I plan on keeping my husband around so even then, while I will have more space, it won't stay clean.

During the school year this is an endless source of frustration. Now that it is summer I am overwhelmed by *togetherness*. Don't get me wrong, I love my children. I love spending time with my children despite the fact that they fight more than all the Kardashians put together, and their arguments are just about as petty. They are some of the funniest people I know and my biggest fan club. But the mess...oh lord, the mess.

I am reaching the point in the summer when I give up my efforts to keep the house clean. After over a month of repeatedly putting the exact same items away 10 times a day I need to admit defeat or I will go insane. Realistically, if I don't pick it up to begin with I won't be complaining that I have picked it up 15 times if it just stays put. But I am incapable of following that basic logic, so I spend my days shuffling from room to room returning things to their rightful place like a children's librarian whose spirit has been broken from attempting to shelve books in the middle of tot time. And by the end of the day it isn't unheard of that I finally take said item and just chuck it in the trash.

Yesterday, in my quest for cleanliness and order I came across a random pile of...scissors... on the kitchen floor. There were about 10 pairs (who knew we had so many?) and no one could tell me why they were there, or how they got there. I am guessing it is the household equivalent of a crop circle. Come to think of it, no one can ever tell me who got something out (except it wasn't them). I am starting to suspect the dog is secretly doing art projects while simultaneously attempting to complete a puzzle, playing a few rounds of badminton and of course, playing poker (oh Lucy, so cliche). How else can you explain how these items got out if my children didn't do it?

I spend a lot of time picking up various sports action figures, balls, random scraps of paper, feathers, pens, underwear, swim suits, towels, lip balm, legos, books, magazines, book marks, pencils, tape dispensers, playing cards, and the most reviled things of all - darts to a Nerf gun. Somehow those stupid darts seem to breed and multiply overnight, so that it isn't unusual to find them in every nook and cranny of the house. It drives me nuts.

So this morning my son decided to build a fort. In my room. With my blankets and pillows. And what does he tell me it is for? It is a bunker. And into the bunker he loads every Nerf gun and dart he has. It's like Waco in there. But it's 8:30am and I am all sweaty from having gone running in the 90 degree heat with 99% humidity so I grit my teeth and decide that if playing Montana militia man will keep him happy and quiet so I can take a shower in peace so be it.

And there I am, in the middle of my shower, relaxing in the heat and suds when I hear the sound. Pop pop pop. And I open my eyes and what do I see? Nerf darts. In my shower. Where I am (obviously) naked. And foolishly thinking I had five minutes to myself. Only now I am yelling at the top of my lungs at the retreating back of my alleged sniper. And I suspect the dog is snickering at me.

Only 50 more days left until school starts. But who's counting anyway?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dear Nordstrom, it's not you, it's me.

Dear Nordstrom,
I see from the two catalogs and three letters you have sent to my home that your Anniversary Sale starts tomorrow. As someone who grew up in the Seattle area I have a special place in my heart for the Anniversary Sale. I still salivate looking through your sale catalog at all the beautiful clothes and accessories at such amazing prices. In fact, when I was in graduate school in Boston I would plan my trips back home around the timing of your sale just so I could shop it. But alas, I fear that some of the bloom has come off our relationship. You see Nordstrom, I live in the metro Washington DC area now. And while I love those beautiful things you put on sale I have no need for them for several months. At least three months, closer to four or five for the sweaters and coats. That's right Nordstrom, if I buy these things today I will be putting them in a closet until November, at which point they are no longer *new clothes* but have become *clothes that are taking up space in my closet for four months which I don't use*. This is an even bigger problem when it comes to my children. Have you ever tried to explain to an 8 year old girl that she can't wear the awesome outfit she got at your sale for her first day of 3rd grade because it is still 90 degrees outside? That explains the knee high black patent leather boots and black jeggings she was wearing in her first-day-of-2nd grade picture. It was 93 degrees that day, not counting the humidity. If you ask me she looked a bit warm. And even if we can get past that negotiation there is always the chance that many of the items will no longer fit my children because they have irresponsibly had a growth spurt between the time the clothes and/or shoes were purchased and when they can actually be worn. And even if they are the right size and the weather cooperates there is a good chance my children will no longer like them. Because they are fickle and if they can't even consistently like the same toys, music, video games, television shows or colors for more than ten days there is no way you can expect their fashion sense to remain static. Thankfully your return policy is rather generous, and I always have my receipt so there is no question whether I am attempting to return stolen goods. However I still feel sheepish and hang my head in shame when I have to cart back hundreds of dollars worth of goods in September and October because no one will wear them. And I feel truly sorry that this probably screws with the commission of the kind salesperson who worked really hard to help me purchase things for my kids. So I hope you will forgive me if I sit this one out. It's not you, it's me. But I should be honest and tell you I will still be stopping by for handbags and maybe some shoes that I have no occasion to wear. Because you can't totally abandon a tradition.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It finally happened and I didn't see it coming

It was bound to happen. I have been both expecting and dreading this moment for awhile now. So why was I so taken off guard when it finally occurred? Perhaps it was because this morning was a typical morning. Nothing special or out of the ordinary. One of those days when you aren't sure what day of the week it is because they all run together in their sameness. We got up, I made breakfast, the kids ate, squabbled, got dressed, squabbled, brushed their teeth, squabbled, put on their shoes and then had some time to devote their full attention to squabbling before it was time to go. Oh wait, there was one big difference. Today I decided not to shower after my morning run. Today I had the audacity to stay sweaty and wear my running clothes to camp drop off. 

I should have been tipped off that this was a problem when I told my son we were leaving in five minutes and he eyed me suspiciously. "Um, shouldn't you change or something?", he asked. Innocently I told him, "Nope, I am going to shower when I get back from dropping you off at camp". Somehow I failed to register the look of alarm that crossed his face when I said that. 

As we were pulling out of the driveway he told me I could just drop him off at camp, I didn't need to walk him all the way down the hill to where they assemble. Naively I said, "Oh honey, that's okay, I don't mind". Then he got direct. "Mommy, I really don't want you to walk me down. I want to go by myself". At first I thought, how sweet, he is exerting his independence. But then it dawned on me. "Charlie, are you embarrassed to be seen with me?". Not even sheepishly he replied, "Yes! You are all sweaty and gross in your running clothes. And you smell." True, true, true and true. 

A lesser woman would have been offended, or maybe have their feelings hurt a bit. After all, their baby just told them to take a hike. Instead I had to suppress a giggle. For starters, this is coming from a 6 year old boy. Not his 8 year old sister who is still oblivious to the public suffering I represent. But the biggest irony was that I was Which is held on the football field at the high school. It was 85 degrees out and humid at 9am. People are getting sweaty and smelly just walking from their cars in the parking lot. When I pick him up three hours from now he will be so gross and dirty and sweaty that he will almost slip off his leather seat in the van. And yet somehow my appearance is completely unacceptable. Yow. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Know it all

Once upon a time there was a woman who knew things. This woman had graduated from college with two degrees, then went on and got her master's degree. After graduate school she worked a series of jobs with progressively more responsibility. These jobs involved people contacting her for her advice and guidance. Sometimes they just needed some basic questions answered. But always these people went to her because they felt there was a good chance she would have the answer, and most of the time she did. And they appreciated that. And she developed a reputation for knowing things.

One day the woman had a baby girl. This little girl was a joy and it was evident early on that she was a spirited child and an independent thinker. For several years the girl took what her mother told her as fact because the mother was older, wiser and seemed to know what she was talking about. The woman foolishly assumed that this relationship would last at least until the tween years, maybe even until the teens if she was lucky. She was wrong on both accounts. When the girl was young the woman rarely knew what she was doing when it came to raising a child but she still had the answers to the girl's most important questions. Do you love me? Do I look pretty? Why is the sky blue? Can I have some ice cream? Then the woman had a second child, a son.

With the son the woman realized she had even less answers than she thought she did when it came to raising children. She foolishly had thought that the second time around she would know what she was doing, that like the professional world the learning curve started to flatten out as you went along. She was wrong. The son proved to be a leopard of completely different spots than the daughter, so the woman was starting from square one. When the son got old enough he started asking questions she had no clue about. Questions about the various trucks on the road, and sports, and blowing things up. Every day the woman realized she knew less and less than she thought she did.

At some point things changed and the little girl began to doubt her mother. To challenge her assertions, no matter how based in fact they might be. One day, when the girl was six, she told her mother that the District of Columbia was a part of Virginia. The mother could not convince the daughter that this wasn't the case. The woman's word was not good enough. Only when confronted with a map did the daughter concede that perhaps she was wrong.

Now the daughter is 8 and asks her mother lots of questions but rarely believes the answer. The woman is not sure why she even bothers to ask. Is she testing her? Or testing herself? Unfortunately these questions often times are about things the mother once knew, or should have known, and has now forgotten. Such as geography. Yesterday the girl wanted a summary of the plot of Homer's The Odyssey, and the woman had to google it because her memory is full of holes. The woman now spends time boning up on subjects she hasn't thought about for years just to stay a step ahead. And the daughter also asks questions that have a straightforward, unambiguous answer, like how many floors there are in the Macy's department store at the mall. And the girl tells the woman she doubts her answer, that she things she is wrong, so the mother must show her. The mother spends a lot of time proving herself. It's like she is starting school or her career all over again.

The woman who once thought she had a lot of answers now realizes perhaps she doesn't have many at all.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sometimes it's okay to judge

I try really hard not to be judgmental. As I have gotten older, and especially as I travel the road of parenthood I have adopted *There but for the grace of god go I* as one of my mantras. This is especially hard for me since my Myers-Briggs type indicator has me pegged as an ENTJ, with the *J* highlighted in neon. I try to remind myself that we all make mistakes and while judging anyone is a bad idea, judging people for their parenting is never a good idea. It is my belief that we are all one step away from making some sort of mistake with our kids on a daily, even hourly basis. Some of these mistakes will be minor and hardly a blip, others will be bigger. So let's all give each other a break. But let's be honest, we are all judging Casey Anthony and if any one of us had been on that jury she would be on her way to the big house. (Seriously, who were those jurors?). So with that fresh in my mind I nearly choked on my diet Barq's root beer this afternoon will skimming through the Washington Post. There was an article about a woman who has been indicted on charges of felony murder and child neglect of her 3 year old. It appears she put him in their mini-van and forgot to take him to daycare. Instead she left him in the car while she went to work. And drove home afterward with him still strapped in in the back seat. And still didn't realize he was there until her husband called from the daycare in the evening because the child wasn't there to be picked up. At which point she ran out to the the van and there he was there in the back seat, dead. The story reported that you could hear her screams all over the neighborhood. These facts alone are horrifying and I felt grief for the poor mother and the anguish she must have felt and what a terrible tragedy that could happen to any of us with our overwhelmed, overworked, over-scheduled maxed out lives. This had happened previously in 2002 to a man out in Manassas. I recall reading the stories and feeling tremendous empathy for the family, and the living hell that man must be living every day since the death of his daughter. But when I read on in this recent story I discovered that the mother had done this previously back in January, when the car wasn't sitting in a blazing hot sun all day and heating up to a zillion degrees. And that time the day care called her office when he wasn't dropped off in the morning so she discovered her oversight within 30 minutes of getting to work. Forgetting your child somewhere once is a tragedy. Doing the exact same thing less than six months later is unforgivable. So yes lady out in Prince William county, I am judging you.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Book Club

So this starts a new series where I will occasionally reflect upon a book I have read recently. Or not so recently, depending on how much time and energy I have for reading. Lately I have been busy with children home for the summer and training for my marathon. Between those two endeavors I am either otherwise engaged or too exhausted to move. Usually both simultaneously. So please forgive me if my posts are erratic and my humor is a bit tepid. It's only two more months and one day until school starts again...

I recently finished a book that I loved called What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. It was a quick read but having finished it two weeks ago I still find myself thinking about it and reflecting on the premise. The plot is that Alice, a 39 year old woman, falls off the bike during spin class and hits her head. Right there I was hooked because for that reason alone I have never tried spin class. Now I am even more convinced that something bad will happen to me if I do. When Alice wakes up she has forgotten the past ten years of her life and believes she is her 29 year old self. She believes she is newly married and pregnant with her first child, when in fact now she has three. Mostly she is puzzled by who she has become and is completely baffled by her life. This got me thinking; what would *my* 29 year old self think of my current 40 self?

When Alice wakes up as her 29 year old self in her 39 year old self's body the first thing that she is aware of is that time takes a toll on your body. While my 29 year old self would probably question how she got the stretch marks, varicose veins, wrinkles and surgery scars I think the first thing that would come to her mind regarding the deterioration of her physical appearance would be "what the hell happened to my boobs?". I only say that because I don't have amnesia, was there through the breast feeding of two children and still wake up every morning wondering the same thing.

Sorry 29 year old self, it just happened. Since you know what's coming you may want to beef up that savings account since plastic surgery is a bit pricey. And a word of advice: don't buy Enron.