Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hold onto Nothing

And Greg he writes letters
And burns his CDs
They say you were something in those formative years
Hold onto nothing
As fast as you can
Well still pretty good year

If you don't know that song, you must go listen at once. It's the song that plays on a loop in my brain every New Year's. 

And I think 2011 was a pretty good year. When I think back to what I've been doing these past 12 months, it doesn't really seem monumental, just...good.

Let's see...

I ran a 5K, which was pretty amazing. 

I went back to Vegas (twice), which is an important part of every year. 

I got a new job, which was a big change. 

I made a pake, which was fun.

I drove the Pacific Coast Highway with my family, which was awesome. 

I guess, most importantly, I got to see nearly all of my friends at some point this year (which is a bigger feat for some than others). We're all pretty healthy. We have a nice house to live in and good food to eat. 

Yep, pretty good year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Narrowly Averting Salmonella and Other Things

My home vacation turned into a semi-real vacation this week. We made a quick little jaunt down to Chicago. It was actually far too quick; just drive down one day, stay one full day, drive back the next. Still, it was fun.

The highlight was the trip to the Museum of Science & Industry. This is one of the only museums that holds a special place in my heart, thanks to annual trips back when I was young and my grandparents lived in Chicago. It's still very much the same as it was then...they seem to just add things on rather than take things away.

Our trip happened to coincide with the Dr. Seuss exhibit. The exhibit would have actually made more sense in an art museum, seeing as it centered on his life and work as an artist and writer, but I am not one to argue with any exhibit featuring Dr. Seuss. (Plus, I think maybe the blatant advertising for Seuss Landing at Universal Studios Orlando might have been the "industry" part.) It's always fun to get a look into the life of someone who found success doing something they would have been compelled to do even if no one had paid them. Very inspiring.

A lowlight of the trip was our attempt to eat at Frontera Grill. Due to the uncharacteristically haphazard way in which this trip was thrown together, I missed my chance to make reservations (they take a few, but mostly it's all first-come, first-served), so I figured we'd go early and chance it. Seeing as it was a Wednesday night, I figured we had a shot. I was wrong, of course. People must line up before they open just for a chance to eat that amazing ceviche...we got there 45 minutes after they opened and there was a 2 1/2 hour wait for a table. Sigh. (I would have considered waiting had there been room in the bar, but no.)

Seeing as we'd just paraded the boys a mile through downtown on foot to get there, we had to find another place to eat. This brought us to Maggiano's. I usually avoid chains when on vacation if possible, but seeing as we no longer have Maggiano's here in Minneapolis, I figured it was sort of like eating somewhere we couldn't eat at home. Most importantly, I knew the kids would eat it.

We got seated within 10 minutes at a half-moon booth (my favorite). There was a piano player regaling us with Piano Man and Rocket Man right in a row. And I was feeling proud of myself for ordering the chicken marsala rather than my beloved fettuccine alfredo, which is so damn good that I usually try to convince myself that this time those 3 pounds of butter and cream won't make me sick (I am almost always wrong). All was well.

And then the food came.

Everyone else's was fine, but when I cut into my chicken, it was shiny and pink. I kept my vomit inside and alerted the waitress, who gave me a look that said "Not again!" She also immediately said she'd send the manager over. The manager didn't show, but I did get a new plate of chicken. I sawed off a corner, inspected it's opaqueness, and began eating. I was three bites in when I decided to cut into the center again (I don't know why I didn't do this first, I think I was just hungry)...this time it wasn't just pink, but there was a lovely blood vessel in it. Yummy.

I flagged the waitress down again, showed her the meat, and said, "Now I'm too worried to eat any chicken," to which she replied, "I'm worried for you." Well, great.

In the end, I didn't eat, but I also didn't vomit. Plus, I got free wine for my troubles. No, I won't ever eat there again, but hey, at least no one was killed...namely, me.

And after all that excitement, it was time for bed and then up in the morning to drive home. So yeah, I've had better trips to Chicago. But, it was nice to have some uninterrupted time with all four of us. I think we'll go back in the summer. And I'll make all the proper reservations...in fact, maybe I should start planning now.

Friday, December 23, 2011

All I Want for Christmas

I am on home vacation. Home vacation is when you're off work for an extended period, but you aren't going on a trip. It's still a fairly new concept for me. One of the perks of my new job is that they're closed the last week of the year (with pay!), plus they gave me vacation hours that I needed to use by the end of the year, so I've been off since yesterday and don't have to go back until Jan. 3!

It's really fun to wake up and not go to work on a workday, but I definitely have the nagging feeling that all of this time off would be better spent on a beach...or in New York...or Las Vegas...or, well, anywhere involving an airplane. I'm not entirely sure that I actually want to be gone. I think I just might not want to have to cook or clean...is it possible that my entire travel obsession can be boiled down to that desire? Hmmm...something to think about.

So, yeah, it's almost Christmas. I have to admit that even though I love being the parent in the Christmas equation, I do sometimes miss the days when I could just list off things I wanted and have a reasonably good chance of receiving them. Actually, all I want this year is a scraper paddle for my mixer. And a trip to Las Vegas. And a dog that will snuggle me and won't make me (or Aidan) sneeze. And peace and love. But mostly that scraper paddle...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Time and Pie

I don't know where the time goes. The weeks have just been rushing past me and suddenly it's always Monday again.

I've been at my job for 8 weeks. I'm starting to get the hang of it, although I never feel like I'm learning fast enough. I have yet to feel particularly smart in this job, which is both humbling and exhausting, but everyone I work with has been helpful and supportive and genuinely nice and that makes it easier. Plus, I'm learning stuff, which is always good.

Other things happening in my world lately include Owen going to see his new therapist every week. She is wonderful and Owen likes her a lot and I am hopeful that she will be able to get through to that place in his brain that sends him into a panic every time the unexpected happens. I am also hopeful that it will become clear whether or not public school is a hospitable place for him. Obviously at the moment it feels like it's not, but I know how important it is to try to help him learn to cope in the neurotypical world, so I'm fighting my instinct to pull him out of there and run to an underground bunker where no one will ever make him feel bad again...so yes, I'm trying to stay rational in the face of one of my worst fears (that the public school system will crush his soul). I make no promises as to how long this will last, but we're trying it for now.

Also on my mind: vacations. All I want to do is plan vacations, which I suppose isn't new, but it's more intense lately. I have zero plane tickets booked at the moment, which is actually a little unusual given my travel compulsion. However, we're planning to take an "educational" trip to Mexico in March (so Aidan can practice his Spanish, of course), so I've been obsessively reading hotel reviews and checking airfares, even though I swore I wouldn't book anything until 2012. There's also a Vegas vacation on the horizon...I'm trying to wait it out for pool season, but I can't actually give you a good reason for that since laying in the sun gives you cancer and takes precious time away from the slot machines...although I do think sipping cocktails by the pool is good for the soul.

And finally, Christmas is on my mind, of course. I love Christmas - it's almost the only thing I like about winter. We're spoiling the boys, as always, although I suppose it's all relative: Aidan put 5 VACATIONS on his Christmas list and he's not getting any of those...at least not for Christmas. But hmmmmm...I wonder if every vacation we take for the rest of his life could just be positioned as an early Christmas present...something to think about. (P.S. Why didn't I ever think to ask for vacations for Christmas?)

And with that, I leave you with this quintessential Christmas image. I think it conveys the spirit of the season...
Stuff your face.

(P.P.S. Baker's Square, if you ever want to hire me to preach the virtues of Candy Cane Pie, I am totally available.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thy Leaves are So Unchanging

Sha-baam! It's Christmas time!

We put up the tree last night. It was very spontaneous in the way that it can be when you're simply taking the tree out of a box. But Owen introduced what I believe might be the greatest new tree trimming tradition EVER:


After the all the decorations were hung and the lights were glowing, he requested that we stand before the tree, join hands, take "tree" pose (yoga) and sing "O Christmas Tree." It turns out none of us know anything after the first two lines. Ah, that was definitely the best laugh I've had in a long time. 

Since we're now working backwards in time, I'll mention that I dipped my toe in the Black Friday craziness. (I also partook in Small Business Saturday, which I think is a very good idea.) No midnight shopping sprees, but I did make a stop at Old Navy early that morning because $10 jeans are too good to resist (especially when your children are already outgrowing their back-to-school jeans). We hit Target later in the day just for regular shopping and were still able to get a few of the good deals, which means that a lot of the waiting in line in the middle of the night shenanigans were probably unnecessary for many people, but hey, who am I to tell you how to get into the Christmas spirit?

And yes, before all that was Thanksgiving. It was lovely and low key. We hosted our traditional pumpkin pancake brunch (which was on hiatus last year while we were in NYC), which was very nice despite the absence of a few key family members. Then we saw The Muppets, which was wonderful.

Please, please go see The Muppets. I need it to do well so that the Muppets can once again be part of our everyday culture - and not just in a nostalgic way. I was skeptical, of course, after the cinematic atrocities committed since Jim Henson's death, but this movie is really sweet. The human stars were unnecessary, but they didn't detract from what is a really great film. I mean, really. Don't we all want to live in a world where Muppets can still be gainfully employed?

So yes, pumpkin pancakes, Muppets, shopping, Christmas tree, and tree pose. A lovely, lovely holiday weekend indeed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Falling is Like This

Oh, fall. You are so cozy and inviting and yet simultaneously foreboding due to the promise of a cold, dark winter that follows you.

I'm trying to enjoy fall and all the squash-inspired treats it provides. However, I'm also mentally preparing to throw myself into the Christmas spirit because that's the only part of winter that I really enjoy. I figure Christmas carols and peppermint mochas can carry me through the first 4 weeks of winter (not winter according to the calendar, but according to the weather) and then there's a small grace period post-Christmas where the snow is still sparkly and fresh and cuddling up next to the fire is delightful...

Then we descend into the depths of Minnesota winter when the sun vanishes and it actually hurts to go outside. That's when it's time for vacation. This winter promises a family beach vacation. My mom often helps subsidize educational travel for the boys, so I'm trying to justify Mexico as educational since Aidan has started taking Spanish afterschool. That's kinda legit, right? I mean, maybe the trip will inspire him to continue his studies...or at least he'll learn how to order virgin pina coladas.

I don't think we'll be able to take this trip until March, but I figure knowing it's coming will make January and February slightly easier to tolerate. Slightly.

All this impending winter gloom is not being helped by the continuing saga of Owen vs. 3rd grade. When we last left our hero, he had recovered from the school suspension and all the adults had sworn to figure this thing out. Flash forward to last Friday when our hero fell apart in the lunchroom, threw a couple milk cartons, and landed himself back in time out with the principal calling me to take him home.

What is it about 3rd grade that is so different from 2nd? I don't get it and I don't think he knows either, but whatever it is, it's ratcheting his anxiety up higher than we've ever seen. And although he still seems to like school, it would appear that he is just barely holding it together most of the time. And sometimes...he just can't hold it together anymore. It breaks my heart. It shouldn't be this hard for him.

While I think the school staff genuinely would like to find a way to make this stop, their motivations are of the keeping the peace variety vs. a concern for Owen. And so, as it happens when you have children, my husband and I are left having to be experts on things we've never claimed to be experts in: education? autism? anxiety? children?

The only part of this I feel expert in is Owen. And even then, I can't claim to understand the way his brain works well enough to know the solution. I can't read his mind, and that's pretty much what it feels like I'd need to do to get to the bottom of this.

But I can make decisions that put his best interest at the center rather than the policies and procedures of the school. And I can stand up for him when people forget that he's a brilliant little boy who is having a hard time and not a troublemaker. And I can always hold him and remind him to breathe when the world feels like too much. I'd like to believe that all of that combined with some patience, some more research, and the help of a new doctor we're meeting this week will lead us to an answer of some sort, because things can't continue on this way or else we might all have to run away to Mexico permanently.

Friday, November 4, 2011

It's a Living

I blinked and it was November. I blinked again and I was finishing week 2 of the new job! Pretty soon they're going to expect me to know stuff...gulp.

There have been up and down days in the last two weeks. I'm not good at not knowing what I'm doing. I can be paralyzed by my fear of looking stupid...which is stupid in itself, I realize, but we don't get to choose the fears that paralyze us. 

I'm learning a lot of new stuff. And I'm finding new ways to use the stuff I already know. And so far there's been a happy hour every week, so I'm getting to know my co-workers, who seem to be genuinely nice people.

I struggle with not being critical. I struggle with letting myself believe that this is going to work out. I struggle with the constant battle between loving work and loving what work provides. Because yes, this feels like work. It doesn't feel inspirational or entertaining or thrilling. It feels like work. And sometimes that's just what having a job feels like. I'm not totally comfortable with that yet, but I'm getting there.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Work Life

Tomorrow is day 4 of the new job. I have made the decision to suspend my usual cynism and just try to embrace the whole new thing. So far, so good.

Returning to full-time office life for the first time in almost 8 years is going to take some adjustment. It doesn't seem like it should be that different from working in my home office full-time, but it is. I feel inexplicably exhausted by 5 o'clock. But, the job hasn't made me want to cry yet, so that's a plus - and kind of amazing since I mostly have no idea what anyone is talking about all day. (In case you've ever wondered, marketing and corporate communications are really super different.) 


Truth be told, I did cry when I got home on Monday, after having been unavailable for an unprecedented three calls from the school and my mom forgetting to pick the boys up at the end of the day (grandpa came to the rescue, but not until my poor kids had been waiting there for nearly 30 minutes)! That's what's the hardest...not the work or the learning a whole new industry...it's the being so much less available for my kids that's hard. I want to be able to drop everything and go running if they need me.


On the bright side, this new work arrangement is forcing me to delegate more things to my husband, which I think will end up being good in the long run. For now, I just have to get used to maybe not knowing what's happening with everything on the homefront at all times. I have to be okay with missing some things. And when that starts to make me feel sad, I'll just think about our fabulous new health insurance. Better yet, I'll call my therapist, who I can now see for a tiny little co-pay. 


Yep, we're gonna get through this. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Stories

I went to a literary event last week called Mother Words. It's an annual celebration of mothers who write about motherhood. This time the theme was breast-feeding, a topic I have pretty much zero interest in at this stage of the game, but the authors were such good writers that I still had a lovely time.

During the Q&A, someone asked about privacy and if there was a time when the authors would stop writing about their children because the stories were no longer theirs to tell. It touched on a nerve I've been feeling...truthfully, I've always worried about mentioning the teenager, even though I've never done so by name, because that line between my story and his is so blurry. (Luckily, I have a readership of, like, 25.) But now, as my boys get older, I'm aware that they are capable of finding and reading my blog and I wonder what they would think.

For the record, all of the authors said they rarely write about the details of their elementary-aged kids' lives anymore...although they've all written books chronicling the early years.

Then today, I read this debate over whether it's okay for parents to tell their children's stories in memoir. Again, the lines are blurry, but I can't help but think that those arguing staunchly in favor of doing what's best for the story over the children, don't actually have any children.

This is all to say that I'm back to trying to figure out what to do with this blog. Do I retire it? I can't just delete it - I'd be sad to lose all these memories. I could make it private, but leave it up here for my own reference. I could use one of those applications that turns it into a printed book...

Part of me doesn't want to let go of this blog until I finish my 40 by 40 list. I could do that. I could just stop detailing the activities of my children. Or I could start a new blog and bring my 40 by 40 list with me.

These aren't real problems, I realize, they are just questions I'm trying to answer. Is there any value in continuing to blog? Well, yes, to me there is. But I know I have to be more careful to separate my stories from my kids' stories. It's not worth hurting anybody, even if it's not intentional.

And so, I'm trying to view this as an opportunity to make my blogging more focused - less schizophrenic - but I don't really know what I'd focus on...baking and reality TV? Is general neurosis a focus?

Any ideas? Please share.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I'm Number 1!

I am both proud and amazed to tell you that just this morning, I completed #1 on my 40 by 40 list! Not just any 5K either, but our very first Big Gay Race, an event to oppose the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex couples from getting married. It was the perfect combination of a good cause and a personal goal.

So yeah, I ran a 5K! Me! The person who up until 4 months ago didn't think she could even run a single mile. I have to say, this seemed like one of the most daunting tasks on my 40 by 40 list. And up until I actually saw that finish line, I was debating whether I'd still be able to count today if I ended up walking part of the race. Actually, I was silently chanting "If you run this whole thing, you never have to run again! Ever!"

I had never run 3.1 miles. I did not follow a training regimen. I tried to, sure, but within the last month, I probably only ran 3 or 4 times because I was sick and then sometimes just lazy. The point being: I really didn't think I could do this.

But I did!

I know I've mentioned this a few times over the last couple years, but setting a goal and accomplishing it is really amazing. And I'm not saying that to be trite. I'm saying it because I honestly don't think I had ever truly set goals for myself until I turned 30. That's not to say that I'd never had a goal or I'd never achieved anything in my life, but I don't think I'd ever truly set a goal that was just for me and that was totally within my control to accomplish. I'm actually a little sad that it took me so long to find out how great it is.

As for running, I'm not ready to train for a marathon or anything, but I would definitely run another 5K. And I do intend to try to stick with it as a form of exercise...assuming that I ever regain the use of my quads. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Blips

Sometimes life seems like a big grassy meadow and other times it seems like a brutal climb to the top of something, right? The top of something that you can't even identify and don't even know for sure you want to reach...

My life over the past week has been hilly. Owen got suspended from school on Friday. I thought I'd been thrown off a cliff or something, I was so panicked. 

He got so mad that he stood on his desk and screamed. And then he hit his teacher, which has never happened before. And I was terrified for him because he probably had felt so scared and out of control. And because I worried that they would tell us he couldn't stay in his mainstream classroom, which is crazy, of course, because that's where he's always been and this was only one incident, but that's what I was scared of when I found out. As if he doesn't have the same right to be there as every other kid who's ever flipped out for any number of reasons. 

It's been resolved. The short version is that he had been asked to clean his desk - an activity that was not on the daily schedule that is taped to his desk - and when he refused, he was informed that he would miss out on Friday "choice" time, which is probably the 30 minutes he most looks forward to the entire week. The whole thing seemed unfair to him. The injustice was too much to bear. He couldn't calm himself down and, really, it doesn't sound like anyone was paying close enough attention until he got on his desk. Not that he had the right to hit anyone. Of course not. But the whole thing became so much less scary once I understood his point of view. I wish that his school wasn't so under-resourced so that they could have someone whose job it was to consider his point-of-view. 

Anyway, the very same weekend we were dealing with the suspension (which looked like me pulling info out of Owen like a dentist extracting molars, and researching autism service dogs), the (former) teenager had an emotional breakdown of his own that involved the bubbling up of all those horrible things that I could tell you that I feared he felt, but that he had never voiced, the big one being "I haven't had parents for 4 years." 

We could debate the validity of such a statement for hours. It wouldn't change the fact that when he's at his worst, that's how he feels. The tragedy, I suppose, is that now that he's an adult, he wants exactly what we were killing ourselves to try to give him for so long. 

Again, it's been resolved. Or, rather soothed for now. He and his dad were able to have a hard talk and I think both of them feel a little better...as evidenced by the call I got today saying that the (former) teenager is now thinking of applying to college again. Out of state, where he has friends who also attend college and hold jobs and live independently. Please, set aside all the potential pitfalls of such a scenario to enjoy the good parts of it with me. He has set a goal and sounds excited about it. And that's enough for today.

And so you see, as fast as life feels like it's veering off course, we can just as quickly be back on track. It's hilly. And it's good. And I'm learning...learning...to let myself believe that what feels like the end of the world at the time could very well turn out to be nothing more than a blip in what is a pretty great life.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's like Reading, Baking and Eating Rolled Into One!


You guys have to go buy this book immediately and here's why:
  1. It's important to support anyone who runs a dessert detective agency...because c'mon, you know you wish you'd had that idea.
  2. It includes a recipe for Pookie, which is a cookie with a PIE INSIDE IT! (If you're thinking, "But you just linked to the recipe," please see item #1.)
  3. It includes a recipe for Cupcake-Stuffed Cupcakes, which are what would happen if average-sized cupcakes ate mini cupcakes. 
  4. All the other recipes are just about as insane as #2 and #3.
  5. Your kids will want to bake with you.
  6. And finally, the author's response to my tweet:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sky's the Limit

Hey look! My blog is different! Apparently they've released a gazillion more blog templates since I started this thing, so I figured it was time to give the blog a little facelift. It's good timing too, as I believe I am starting a new chapter in my life...

I got a new job! I wasn't really looking for a new job, mind you. But the universe pointed me toward an opportunity to work at a company - a big company - that I'd been admiring from afar. A company that I would have said was on my "Reasons I'd return to corporate America" list, only they didn't have an office anywhere near here...until apparently six months ago, when they opened an office 9 minutes from my house. Fate? Maybe.

I don't start for 3 more weeks, but I'm excited...and nervous...and sad to be leaving my current job. Up until I actually received the job offer, I didn't think I would really leave. It just seemed too risky to leave a job I liked for a job I could potentially hate. A job that will find me trapped back in cubeland after nearly a year and a half of working (mostly) in my slippers. A job where I don't have any friends.

But then I made my husband give me a reality check (He's usually more like, "Whatever you want to do is great!" so I had to make him take sides.). It's a good job. In a big, stable company with a culture that is held up as an example among people in my profession. Plus, the benefits summary nearly made me weep with joy. (Therapy and braces for everyone!) Oh...and let's not forget that my husband runs a struggling, non-profit theater.

So even though I'm scared, I feel like this is what I need to do. And I'm excited about the opportunity to learn new things and have co-workers that I can see.

I think it's the first time I've ever taken a job with the intention of getting the most out of it. In the past I've always just sort of followed the opportunities and done my best, without thinking much about where it might lead. I finally feel like I'm being smart in my career and smart for my family, which is a good feeling. Let's just hope I also feel smart on the job.

So stay tuned for the adventures of a mom trying to remember how to run a household while working in an office full-time...should be interesting.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Conflicted

Some of you probably saw this story, about Stephen Wiltshire, another person with autism who has an amazing gift. I like these stories because, with all the challenges that autism poses, it's heart-warming to be reminded of the way it can also produce genius.

However, I have to admit that every time I read one of these stories of an autistic genius, I worry that even though Owen is exceptionally smart, he might not be a savant. I'm not saying he couldn't be the best in the whole world at something (in fact, I have no trouble believing that he could), I'm just saying that there's almost an expectation these days that people with autism (especially high-functioning autism) are also geniuses of some sort...at least, where the media is concerned.

So I find myself hoping he does have some exceptional gift because it would be so great for him to give a big f-you to all of the stuff he has trouble with and be able to be the best at one thing.

And then there's the flipside. I'm sure most of you saw this story in the NY Times, about Justin Canha, another young adult with autism, who is also an artist, but has struggled. He's talented, but not a savant. And his talent has not allowed him to overcome the obstacles that autism presents. It's a sadder story.

And then a friend sent me this story, which was written in response to the story about Justin. The author talks about her younger brother who is on the lower-functioning end of the autism spectrum. She was happy to see the story about Justin for the very fact that it wasn't just another story about a savant.

But what did I think when I read it? Honestly, I felt defensive. Like, why would you think this would apply to me? Owen is clearly a genius bound for incredible things.

Right. So I guess what I'm saying is that I am conflicted. Like I should be holding him to the possibly-unrealistic expectation that he will be a genius in some area...even though I don't think that's a fair expectation to place on him.

None of it matters, of course. He is who he is no matter what I may or may not expect of him. So I suppose the only expectation I should have is that he keeps doing his best.

Here's what makes me a little mad: Both of my kids are probably geniuses (I say this based on test scores, not just maternal pride). But whereas Aidan has the freedom to surprise and impress people with this information, Owen has this unfair expectation placed upon him. Like, he's expected to make up for his challenges by being exceptional at something...because we're a society in love with freakshows.

I'm cool with both of my kids being freaky geniuses. I just don't think it's fair for me or anyone else to expect them to be...me included.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Emmys!

I'm watching the Emmy Awards. I know two nominees (!) and my friend's former boss was just highlighted in the memorial reel. Is the world getting smaller or do I just happen to know amazingly cool people?

I don't know, both probably and I like it.

If only everyone working hard to follow their dreams had the chance to get dressed up and be recognized...what a wonderful world this would be.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Indebted

I made the mistake of telling my mother I have credit card debt. As I get older, I keep having these moments with my mother where I think honesty is better than quiet agreement...I'm pretty sure I've been sorry every single time. 

A wise friend once told me that when it came to my mother, if I was being honest just because I didn't care, that was one thing, but that if I found myself wanting to be honest in an attempt to change her mind about something, it probably wasn't worth it. So true.

So yes, the credit card debt. I'm not happy about it. Not proud if it. But, hey, shit happens. We make choices, we live with the consequences. To my mother, however, admitting that I do not pay my credit card in full every month is the equivalent of telling her that I have an illegitimate baby in my basement. Seriously. It's like she can't even look at me lately without being reminded of the sins I have committed. 

Despite being an adult and having gone through enough therapy to know that she has unrealistic expectations, my mother's disdain threw me into such a tizzy of anxiety that I considered deleting the rest of my 40 by 40 list and replacing it with "Pay off credit card." I didn't, of course. But seeing as neither my husband or I are on the fast track to increasing our incomes dramatically, I might need to push those trips to Paris, Italy and Joel Robuchon to my 50 by 50 list...hello, living within my means. 

These are not real problems, I realize. It's just me accepting that living on a single income is not the same as living on a dual income. It's just me applying what I logically know to be true to my emotional desire to err on the side of fun rather than fiscal responsibility. It's the whole live-for-the-moment dilemma, right? Because to truly live like there is no tomorrow is only fun until you wake up and realize there are a whole lot more tomorrows and you've got bills to pay. Sigh. Responsibility is a bitch. 

On the bright side, this will force me to resurrect my efforts to invite people over more and eat out less. And not impulse buy at Target. And not plan vacations until I can afford to do so. Ok, that last one makes me cry a little. 

Poor little vacationless me against the big, bad credit card company. I will be triumphant. And it will be worth it. And all the world's creatures will rejoice in the knowledge that there is more than one way to live your life -- no matter what my mother thinks. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Shiny Days

It's already the end of the very first week of school. Seriously, I don't think I'm being premature by suggesting that we start our Christmas lists at the rate things seem to go these days.

The boys are happy little third graders. They are in separate classes just like last year and they're handling the whole back-to-school transition like seasoned pros. I'm happy for them.

I did take one step closer to my dream of putting them in a bubble where no one can corrupt or traumatize them by pulling them off the school bus in the afternoons this year. Owen was having a hard time toward the end of last year - kids would get him riled up and he'd meltdown and yell at the bus driver, who I'm sure was well-meaning, but clearly not trained to calm or discipline children - especially children with special needs.

Actually, the even better reason to pull them off the bus was all the shit they were learning from the troublemakers. Swearing, general hoodlum-ism...I wish I could say there was rock 'n' roll, but instead there was top 40 radio, which is essentially a lesson in getting drunk and having sex. Ok, I realize all of that made me sound very old, but seriously...no elementary age kid should be calling people "sexy mama." It's disturbing. 

So now we pick them up after school and they love it and hooray for doing anything to help preserve their innocence for just a little longer. (Not that we don't let them listen to top 40 radio, but at least when I'm with them I can treat them to lectures on how it's not actually cool to go get drunk at the club and leer at women every night...I'm pretty sure they have no idea what I'm talking about and probably very little interest in the lyrics on the songs, but it's good practice for all of us.)

In other good news, I think my annual need to make radical change and question every life decision in the fall is passing...although it's not even actually fall yet, so I guess I might just be having a good day. I'll take it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Autumn Ennui

I saw "Magic Bus" this weekend, the documentary about Ken Kesey and his Merry Band of Pranksters' trip across the country in their trippy acid bus. While I'm not so sure that I wished I had been on the bus, it made me wistful for the simplicity of it all...

Pretty much every hippie-themed documentary makes me feel this way: that somehow life was so damn simple back then when everyone just wanted to love each other and expand their consciousness. No one seemed to have any sort of outside demands...no one seemed to have a mortgage to pay or a job to show up for...everyone just seemed to be hanging out.

I know it's an illusion; those people had problems and probably bills and not everyone actually loved each other all the time (they even showed as much in the film's epilogue)...but it's still a fantasy I like to harbor...this idea that with the right choices, a person actually could go live freely on a farm, surrounded by friends, with nothing more to worry about than creating art and philosophizing. (How the food and electricity gets there, I don't know.)

I think it's the freedom I'm in love with...freedom from all responsibility. I suppose that's a product of being given too much responsibility at a young age, although that's really kind of a cop-out because I doubt that there is truly a "right" amount of responsibility to give a kid. You give too much, you force your kids to grow up too soon, you give too little and they never grow up...we, as parents, are screwed and our kids are screwed, too. 

But, I digress...so I saw that movie and then I went out to the Renaissance Festival (where my husband performs) yesterday and realized why that place is such a cult...it's people chasing this same fantasy of a simpler time, a freedom from the shackles of modernization...it's a bubble of zero responsibility...a tangible fantasy. (I'm sure there are artistic reasons people do it, too, but I can confidently say that not everyone out there has creative aspirations.)

This realization did not bring me any closer to wanting to embrace the Festival lifestyle, but it did make me ponder how to simplify my real life (no costumes required). Like millions of people, I suppose, I want to get off the hamster wheel...this constant cycle of things I have to do rather than things I want to do...it's figuring out how to be happier with less stuff and less scheduling. I want to tell you that it doesn't come down to money, but I think it does. I want to spend less, so I need less, so we can eventually not have our lives dictated by a need to acquire money. 

These are the things I am pondering today as I prepare to send my tiny babies off to THIRD GRADE tomorrow...it's just my anual back-to-school ennui, where I see the way my life is divided into neat little boxes that constantly need to be checked and I wonder how it all happened and whether it's possible to change...not depression, more of just a pondering of domesticated existence in these modern times.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

These Days

These are the days that make me want to build a cocoon around our house and just stay inside...maybe forever...at least until my kids are adults.

I look at Owen and he is fine...more than fine, happy, sweet, smart, playful...good. Great. He is great. We are lucky because he is so great.

And yet, whenever we have to let him out into the world without us (say, to fish camp this this week), he's not so great. He gets mad and he gets frustrated and people don't understand why he is so loud. And I hate other people then. I hate that he is a problem for them. I hate that they aren't able to help him. I hate that he feels scared and overwhelmed and that I can't always be there.

I hate that I can't always be there.

But maybe what I hate more is what it does to Aidan. Because Owen feels bad for a bit, but when the fit is over, he's pretty much over it. He'll tell you he had a great day. He can be happy as quickly as he can be mad. And he doesn't really care what people think about that.

But Aidan...Aidan cares what people think. He is acutely aware of the eyes that are on him when his brother is screaming about not being able to tie a knot or whatever the the meltdown is about that day. He wants to crawl into a hole and it's not fair.

It's been a bad week at fish camp. I can't tell if Owen has actually been having a harder time at this camp, or if these instructors have a lower threshold, because if it had been this bad at other camps (if it had been reported to me as being this bad), I probably wouldn't have sent him to camp this week...or possibly ever.

What kills me is that he likes camp. The fits don't bother him nearly as much as they bother everyone else. When I tell him maybe he should just stay home tomorrow (should he? I have no idea),  he gets upset about what he'll miss. And then I've got Aidan agreeing with me because all he wants is to do is go to camp and not be the brother of that weird kid. And then I cry and Aidan cries and even Owen, with his supposedly limited ability to empathize, comes and sits next to me and says he'll try really hard. And you see, I'm back to hating everyone outside of my house.

Is he getting worse? That's what I keep wondering. Am I being unfair or unrealistic by thinking he can cope in these "typical" camps for "typical" kids? I check all the boxes and answer all the questions and hope for the best and this time it's just especially bad. Maybe this is the exception and not the rule...but I can't help feeling like maybe I've just been in denial about the way it's been going at all of these other camps. Maybe they just didn't have the heart to tell me...or the energy.

Next year I'll send them to separate camps. It won't solve the issues with Owen, but at least it will allow Aidan to be carefree.

Or maybe camp is overrated. Maybe we'll just drop off the grid entirely until they emerge as adults whose eccentricities are valued because they're so brilliant...I have to tell you that I like that scenario a lot better than this one. Today, I do, anyway. But this is one of those days...and these days are fucking hard.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Drive from Seattle to LA

Alright, I'm only a week late in recapping our West coast adventures. It was a rough re-entry after 12 days of fun. I'm SO glad that we came home on a Saturday, thus giving us Sunday to do absolutely nothing before trying to behave like semi-productive citizens again.

I had a romantic notion of driving the Pacific Coast Highway. And yes, there truly is something romantic about the way you can come around a curve and find yourself inside the most beautiful postcard shot with shimmering waves and majestic cliffs...it's breath-taking. It's also a lot of driving.

The way I planned the trip didn't actually have us getting to the coast until the 4th day, which I almost felt bad about, like I was cheating by calling it a "PCH trip." The most accurate name for the trip would have been "A Drive from Seattle to LA" and the subhead could have been "Mostly on the PCH." But whatever, it was my vacation and I called it the PCH trip.

The highlights:

We flew into Seattle at night and I loved it right away (well, right after the hour-long wait at the Hertz rental counter) - it felt different than most cities I've visited and I liked that. We checked into our super cute room at the Maxwell Hotel (whose slogan, "Meet me at the pineapple," is so adorable that they almost didn't even need to be as good as they were, but they were).
The Maxwell Hotel
When we woke up in the morning, we saw that we had a clear view of the Space Needle right out our window. Nice. Breakfast coffee was had at the flagship Starbucks and then pastries at Three Girls Bakery at Pike Place. Yum.
Three Girls Bakery
Of course we visited the famous fishmongers at Pike Place Fish Market - no fish were flying, as no one was buying, so we made the obvious decision to buy a King Salmon and have it shipped to my mom for safekeeping so we could enjoy a taste of Seattle for weeks to come. It wasn't cheap, but it was probably the best souvenir of the trip.
Our salmon!
We really only had one day in Seattle so we had to be power tourists (note: I have to get back there when I can spend more time). The Experience Music Project was featuring a Nirvana exhibit, which was a very happy coincidence. Having fallen for Nirvana as a 14-year-old high school freshman, it was weird to be in a museum with my kids saying, "See, sweetie, this was Kurt Cobain's guitar." My kids know Nirvana - they've been fans since they were three, which is more than I can say for a lot of the whipper-snappers at that exhibit. (Overhead: "Mom, was Nirvana good?")

It just doesn't seem possible that people are walking around having no clue who Nirvana is. And that, my friends, is how you know you're old. Sigh.

**sigh**
The exhibit was good. It made me a little sad, but it was mostly good nostalgia. The rest of the museum was fine. A little Jimi Hendrix, a lot of instruments that my kids would have liked to play had there not been 500 school groups hogging them all (they did get to play bass, which was cute), a room full of computers where you sit and watch videos of musicians telling stories...not quite sure what was delivered that couldn't have been delivered via a web site in that case. Anyway, it was fun.

We ate some ridiculously good sushi for lunch. We ordered Owen fried gyoza, and then he had the revelation that he actually likes shrimp nigiri and California rolls, which is a pretty enormous breakthrough for a picky eater with texture issues. (Seriously, getting him to try the stuff was more than I could have hoped, but the fact that he likes it is amazing.)
Lunch!
I could have skipped the Space Needle. I mean, we stood next to it and noted how tall it is...but Owen was adamant about wanting to see the view from the top. There's a chance this is because Aidan is scared of heights, but I like to believe that Owen does not have a sadistic bone in his body.  So up we went. It was a pretty view and Aidan managed to overcome his fear enough to walk out onto the viewing platform, so, you know, both kids made progress that day. (And to think, I hadn't even set any development goals for this vacation!)

Dinner that night was at Ivar's Salmon House. It came recommended somewhere as being kid-friendly and having a nice view. Both of these things are true. The salmon was great. The kids were happy. That made us happy. We all went back to the hotel and slept.

The next morning was the first day of road tripping! After a repeat visit to Pike Place (the kids really loved those pastries from Three Girls) and a stop at Freeway Park (which we had seen on as the site of the parkour competition on Jump City: Seattle), we were on our way to Portland.

Although it could have been just a 2-3 hour drive, we decided to detour over to Astoria to visit the Goonies house. The one were Sean Astin and Josh Brolin's characters lived (a.k.a., the reason they needed to find all that gold) Yes, it's a real house! People actually live there though, so you can only see the outside.
Goonies!
Astoria is a really cute little place. I fantasized about moving there and writing my series of best-selling novels (yes, it's a series now) while gazing out at the ocean and drinking Rogue ale. The closest we came to this was stopping at the Rogue Public House for lunch. Here's what you need to know: beer cheese soup.

Soon we were back on the road for Portland, where we arrived just barely in time to get ready for our fancy dinner because...I forgot to mention this...it was our 10-year wedding anniversary! A 6 o'clock dinner with my children was not how I pictured my 10-year anniversary, but in the grand scheme of things, it was perfect.

We ate at the Portland City Grill because it appeared slightly fancy, had a nice view (it's in a skyscraper) and seemed doable with the kids. I had noted in our reservation that it was our anniversary and when we arrived, the table was decorated for the occasion and we got a card signed by the waitstaff...I mean, seriously? It was really a sweet gesture.
Thanks, Portland City Grill!
Dinner was delicious (ahi tuna!), the kids held it together as best they could given that they'd spent the day in the car and were now sitting in a white tablecloth restaurant. After dinner, we headed to Voodoo Doughnuts, where I ate a Portland Cream and the boys had things with Oreos and Cap'n Crunch and my husband had a long john with a whole strip of bacon on top...life was good.

Voodoo Dougnuts
I regret not spending more time in Portland. I didn't really get the chance to fall in love with it, but we did have breakfast at an adorable place called Slappycakes, which was recently written up in Racheal Ray's magazine (which is where I heard about it). They have griddles built into the tables and then they serve you squirt bottles of batter so you can make your own pancakes! Despite the obvious hazards of having a hot surface inches from where you eat, it was great. The kids order chocolate chips and bananas and whip cream and I don't know what else to put on and in their cakes and everyone was happy. Plus, they make a real good latte.

A note about the Hotel Monaco Portland: The hotel is really nice, but I thought I had booked a suite with a bedroom that is separate from the living room with the sofa bed (because, hello, it was our 10-year anniversary), but instead, we found that the "wall" was actually a fancy curtain. It was all one big room. An expensive big room.

After Portland, we headed straight out to the coast. Here's where my trip planning began to break down. I hadn't noticed that we'd be passing directly through Oregon wine country. We seriously passed a dozen vineyards and wineries and didn't stop at any of them because 1) we needed to get to our next stop before dinner and 2) I didn't think the kids would enjoy it. Lame, I know.

We ate MN State Fair-quality Pronto Pups on the side of the road for lunch and then we finally hit the 101 and the ocean! It was so exciting to finally see it after that long day of driving through grassy fields.

The drive down the Oregon  coast is really gorgeous. Scenic views and lots of tiny cute towns.
Oregon coast
Unfortunately, we stayed in Florence, which wasn't as super cute as I'd hoped (our hotel faced the Dairy Queen). I found myself wishing that we weren't tied to hotel reservations with 24-hour cancellation policies and could have been free to stop when and where we wanted for the night, but the reality was that it was the weekend and most of the motels were fully booked, so that would have been a bad idea.

So anyway, I didn't love Florence as an overnight destination, but the next morning it redeemed itself when we went to the Dunes. If you've never seen them, the Dunes are just the craziest thing...sitting there between ocean and forest, is just miles and miles of sand. It looks like the desert.

We decided to go for a sandrail tour, which is basically someone driving you through the dunes at 60 mph for 30 minutes. It was amazing and also terrifying at times, as the drivers are trained to shoot straight up a dune, only to then make a sharp turn and fly back down it, and repeat.

You can't see the terror behind the goggles.
It was more like a roller coaster than I had anticipated and I felt bad as Aidan clung to us and whimpered for it to be over. I feel quite certain it will be stored as a traumatic memory for him.

Owen, on the other hand, loved it. He could not get enough. While Aidan sobbed about it being the worst thing ever, Owen exclaimed that he would like to go on it a million more times. So I guess that sort of balanced out my parental guilt...plus, it was sort of a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I'm glad we all did it together.

From here it was a lot, a lot, a lot of driving. Scenic driving, yes. But still a lot of driving. And I say this as the person who never did any of the driving. Thank goodness my husband loves to drive.

We eventually found ourselves among the redwoods, which is always magical. Those trees make you feel so tiny.
Misty and everything
Our destination for that evening was Klamath, CA. All I can say about Klamath is that there's really no need to stop there. If you like to camp (I don't), then I'd totally recommend camping the forest, but otherwise, just keep going. Had I known better, I would have positioned us so that we could have passed through Klamath during the day and been well on our way to San Francisco by nightfall, but as it was, we stayed at the Motel Trees (which I thought would be kitschy, but is really just a run-of-the-mill highway motel), did our laundry in what I swear was an abandoned laundromat, and ate a really crappy dinner at the motel.

The next morning, we crossed the street to see the Trees of Mystery attraction, which is pretty much a path through a section of the redwoods and then a gondola ride up the mountain. It's lovely. I'd recommend it as a stop as you're passing through this section of the redwoods, but not as a must-do destination.

I was more than ready to get to San Francisco by this time. However, I think I was a tiny bit ambitious in the distances I expected us to cover everyday. This day had a few mishaps with switching to the 1 from the 101 and we ended up on the windiest, narrowest roads I've ever experienced in America (again, thank goodness I wasn't the one driving). But, in the end, we made it to the Golden Gate Bridge right at sunset.
video

We stayed in a nice hotel in San Francisco and I was more than happy to oblige the kids' request for room service dinner. Ahhhh, amenities.

I ♥ San Francisco. Truly, deeply, I do. We got to stay for two full days, which was wonderful but not even close to enough. Of course we rode the trolley, saw the sea lions, had ice cream at Ghirardelli, Irish coffees at Buena Vista, dim sum in Chinatown, and pasta in Littly Italy. We even hit the playground in Golden Gate Park, which was a surprise highlight. It's easy to get so focused on "sights" that you forget that kids really just want to play.

I definitely entertained a fantasy of moving there to write novels and take the kids to the playground every afternoon. I believe I even suggested that maybe we try it for a year...there's only the slight issue of my husband trying to run his improv theater from afar.

None of us wanted to leave San Francisco, but the kids had Legoland to look forward to and my husband and I were excited to finally see some friends on this trip, so off we went in our Nissan Rogue...

Again, it was a long drive for a single day and it was hard to fully enjoy the scenery when all you really wanted to do was get there. What I'm saying is, if I had truly wanted to enjoy the PCH, I should have booked more stops in between cities, but the reality is that I like being in cities better than enjoying nature...a point I might have overlooked slightly when imagining this trip.

We got to make a pitstop at Pismo Beach, which I had never heard of, but my husband recognized as an old favorite of Bugs Bunny, which led us to discussing the "Kill the wabbit" song and thanks to technology, I was able to pull up the full  "What's Opera, Doc?" cartoon and show it the the boys in the backseat as we drove. I love the future!

(This might be the appropriate place to tell you that no, we did not have a DVD player for the trip. The boys each have a Nintendo DS and an iPod Shuffle, but Aidan gets carsick, so we actually talked a lot.)

Pismo Beach was worthwhile if only because I got the shot that I already showed you, but will show you again because I love it so much.

We also had a lovely McDonald's dinner in Santa Barbara (which Aidan pronounces like Hanna-Barbera) before rolling into LA at 10 p.m. There was brief unpleasantness thanks to there being no bedding on the sofa bed where the boys needed to sleep, but that was remedied and we all went to bed.

LA was all about friends. We met my former editor from the college paper(!) with his wife and son at Legoland, which was super fun. We got to meet our friends' baby (who is now 1) for the first time and catch up with several other friends. And I got to go out without any children with one of my oldest BFFs. Yay!

We even got to spend an afternoon at the pool...the pool on the roof of our hotel, looking out at the Hollywood Hills. It was awesome. And I had a pina colada in the sun...and then I was struck by the notion that we could have so easily just gone on a beach vacation for those whole 12 days. Rather than driving next to the ocean, we could have been laying next to it..ah, yes, but that wasn't the point of this trip.

The point of this trip was to see the coast, take the kids to places they'd never been, and have an adventure...and to cross off #11 on my 40 by 40 list! Success on all fronts.

But the point of the next trip is definitely going to be to do as little as possible.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hindsight is 20/20

Have you guys read Penelope Trunk's latest blog about the blueprint women should follow to be happier? Very provocative...I've been nearly-obsessed with it for 24 hours.

I don't know if it's that I agree with some of her points or that I admire the way she has so unabashedly drawn completely inflammatory (but logical) conclusions based on the research she cites. I mean, yes, you're going to piss people off when you say things like:

Get plastic surgery.This is the must-have career tool for the workforce of the new millennium. You will earn more money and you will have more opportunities for mentoring. Also, you will have a wider choice of men, which, of course, is another way to earn more money.
But I kind of respect the fact that she doesn't care about pissing people off because it's true. I should admit that I also may be giving her more latitude because she has Asperger's, which probably explains why she's so blunt. (There's also the fact that she's nuts, which I want to make clear is a separate condition from the Asperger's.)

The big picture of what she's saying is that you'll ultimately be happier if you're financially secure enough to do what you want to do as you get older - including having the freedom to stay home with your kids. I don't disagree with that at all. (The homeschool statement is out of place and unfounded, although I agree that our current school system doesn't work.)

The conflict, of course, is that the time period in which she's talking about women being laser focused on increasing their earning potential is also sort of the time you're allowed to be somewhat directionless and not earn any money because you've got so many ideals or so much passion or whatever...and we need a period like in our lives, right?

Because having enough money after you have kids to pay a nanny and a housekeeper and a tutor is not the same as being able to take a summer off to backpack around Europe.

Still, I suppose that logic does not apply to such frivolities as being poor on purpose and finding yourself. I don't know that the "finding yourself" period actually works, anyway. I'm still trying to figure out wtf I want to do with my life and I'm way past her target demographic for this blueprint...

I have to admit that part of me wishes I'd been more focused on earning as much money as I could before I had kids because being ambitious at work pretty much escaped me once those babies were born (I'm happy to say that it's since returned, but it took years).

Still, I'm not really sure what kind of women we'll have if they all emerge from college with a singular focus on finding a husband and staying as pretty as possible in order to increase future earning potential...it freaks me out a little.

So the only conclusion I can really draw is this: The idea of 20-somethings going through life with a blueprint centered around a man and kids might seem great when you're 45 and looking back...but maybe that's just because you've had the luxury of living a life with the freedom to follow your heart...damn the consequences.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

12 Days of #11

We've just returned from a fabulous trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, thus completing #11 on the ol' 40 by 40 list! For some reason that I don't remember (but probably work-related), I planned the trip as a 12-day journey, when if I'd just added on two more days, I could have also checked #31 off the list. Oh well...guess that means another long vacation. 

In a nutshell: 

It was amazing. The coast is beautiful. 

This photo sums it up nicely....


I'll post a real recap soon. Right now I'm recovering from the constant state of motion it feels like we've been in for 12 days. All I want to do is lay around and watch Tivo...which is totally different than how I usually feel, I swear. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

MIA


I haven't really gone fishin' - I'm off completing #11 on my 40 by 40 list! Be back in 8 days!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fix You

Hey look, I'm blogging! I didn't want you to think that just because my last entry was all about not being happy with this blog, that I was going to just stop blogging here...that would be like seeing a problem and fixing it...but seriously, moving blogs will require a lot of thinking and moving of things, which I am not yet prepared to do.

In the meantime, let's make the best of this comfy little blog, shall we?

I'm anxious today. I managed to incur the wrath of the teenager due to an innocuous 3-minute conversation with his girlfriend (who now doubles as our Tuesday night nanny!) that somehow got twisted in his mind into some kind of behind-his-back condemnation of his existence...or something. I can't say for sure what his brain tells him is the truth, but in this case, it's so far from reality that I am left only to guess.

Not coincidentally, all of this happened the day he was supposed to show up for family photos. I'd failed to realize I was putting something out there for him to ruin...an expectation. I'd gotten so good at not getting myself into that situation over the last couple of years.

It's really not that big of a deal...it's a temper tantrum. A temper tantrum that comes from a very injured and raw place, I'm sorry to say, but a temper tantrum nonetheless. And the pictures aren't that big of a deal, either...just something nice I'd hoped to have.

But what's bothering me is that I can't stop the buzzing in my brain...the compulsion to want to fix it, even though I can't.

What I want to know is, will I ever get to a place where I can just say, "You know what? It's not okay to fuck things up for everyone else. It's not okay to hurt me just because you're hurting."  I want to say it and feel it and be done with it and move on.

But even though the rational side of my brain knows that's what I need, the rest of me just wants to make him feel better. Because I'm sad that he still harbors so much hurt that his brain waits for things to pounce on and twist into ways to tell himself "See, I told you, no one wants you around." My heart aches for him. And that's what I can't get rid of...even though I know I can't fix it...I can't stop wishing that I could.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Blog Envy

I'm not happy with this blog. I started it when my kids were younger and it once was sort of mostly about them (or at least me parenting them), but now it's more of just a random collection of thoughts and complaints about things mostly not related to my kids.

I've been thinking these thoughts for awhile, but today I stumbled onto Penelope Trunk's blog, which is weird, I know, since apparently practically everyone in the world reads her blog and she's been published everywhere...oh, and she's got Asperger's and so does her son. But what can I say? I'm not always in the loop...

The important thing is that I have now found her blog. It's like a brownie you tell yourself you're only having one bite of and so you take your bite and wrap it back up for later, but you keep unwrapping it and nibbling and then wrapping it back up until you've actually eaten the whole thing. Yep, that's her blog for me today. I haven't read all of her posts since 2001(!), mind you, but I've read a good number of them. She's totally crazy and smart and authentic. What boggles my mind the most though is that she's unapologetically flawed and nuts and still comes off as a seriously insightful business woman. It's kind of awesome.

So yeah, inferiority complex aside, I'm thinking I might need a new blog. I'm not going to stop blogging. I actually like blogging, I'm just lacking focus. Or maybe I'm lacking the nerve to be unapologetically nuts...maybe that should be the name of my new blog...not really sure that would give me any more focus, but it would give me more to write about.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summertime

How can it possibly be the middle of July? This is when I usually begin to frantically grasp at summer's corners as it's flying by...but I feel like I haven't even begun to grasp yet.

I suppose it has to do with working. I suppose it has to do with planning our Great American Road Trip down the Pacific Coast Highway (my mind has been focused on August). I suppose it has to do with being slightly depressed about my seemingly unstoppable weight gain. I suppose it has to do with the fact that the older you get, the faster time just rushes past you.

Not that summer has been entirely lost on me. I've been running outside (still at one mile, but feeling good), the boys have played in the sprinkler, we've walked around a lake, and we've been to some BBQs. My husband and I even took a trip to scenic Pittsburgh last weekend to race in the Great Urban Race! (And we placed 43rd, which is good EVEN if you consider that there were only 93 teams! And that we made a beer pit shop!)

Still, I don't feel like I've taken full advantage of being able to walk outside without a coat. I may have to get serious about spending some more time on patios sipping margaritas.

To that end, another recent development is our decision to get a Tuesday night nanny! (she's really just a babysitter, but I like alliteration) From now until at least October, I've got a date with my husband every Tuesday! I'm not entirely sure we can afford it financially, but I feel like it's an investment in our marriage, so we'll balance the budget somehow...patios, here we come!

And one more thing I want to say before I end this laundry list of a blog:

The weight thing. It's not good. I went off my meds about 6 weeks ago and rather than lose, I put on more weight. So on July 2, I got fed up. I had sworn off calorie counting because it makes me neurotic, but I decided I had to at least track my calories for a little while to find out wtf was going on, so I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app to my iPhone and it is fabulous.

Using the app's calculations, I'm only supposed to consume 1200 calories a day. That's not a lot and I balked at first, but it adjusts for exercise, so if I run my morning mile, for example, I can eat a little more. It has this huge database of food, so every time I eat something I can just enter it and it logs my calories (this also handily serves as a food journal, another thing that I'd been trying to start).

I went over my 1200 calories for the first four or five days, but then it just stopped being hard. It's kind of amazing how I can still basically eat what I want, only since I'm being more thoughtful about it, I make better choices...better choices like NOT eating Chipotle or having that half pint of Haagen-Dazs at 10 p.m. (Which honestly is when it tastes the best, but oh well.)

In 13 days, I've lost 4 pounds! If I continue at that rate, I could be down to my goal weight in 10 weeks, which would make me very, very happy and also provide an excuse to book a bikini beach vacation this winter! (Please note that my goal is to lose more weight than what I gained on the meds, as I've been gaining slowly for a few years and I figured if I'm gonna do it, I should do it.)

So here's to achieving goals and having (low-cal) cocktails in the sun!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Stewing and Simmering

I read this really great post about writing today. It reconnected me with my dream of being an author (an author of books). My dream of spending my days living in the fictional world of my best-selling novels. Sigh.

It also gave me hope that just because I've basically talked myself out of that dream doesn't mean it couldn't still come true one day...I mean, the author part - not necessarily the best seller part.

The particular bit that gave me the hope:
...experiences: you need lots of them. Along with time, to let them stew and simmer together and become a part of your very being.
Since I can remember wanting to write, I remember feeling as if I viewed the world as a writer. Observing. Hanging on bits of conversation. Imagining the stories one could write about various places and people. So maybe I'm just biding my time. Maybe this is why I love to travel so much.

Maybe those experiences just haven't stewed long enough yet...but when they do, I am hopeful they will begin pouring out of my fingers. Not all of their own volition, no. I know I will have to work at it. Work harder than I've been working at it.

But I also believe that I'll be moved to write at some point. That this blog won't sustain me. That might be the lazy approach - ok, that's probably the lazy approach - but I know myself well enough to know that when I really want something and when I feel ready to go after it, I will.

Until then, I'm still observing. I'm still living the life that I later want to draw from...better make it good.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Week Without Kids

The boys have been at camp since Sunday. Sleep in a cabin, swim in a lake, learn archery, make lanyards camp. It's been weird.

We all know kids change your life, but I think the scheduling part of parenthood might have come as the biggest shock...it's not easy to explain to someone without kids that once the children arrive you will have to account for your location and your kids' locations at all times...that your day will really revolve around when those kids need to eat and sleep (even when they're bigger)...and that leaving the house in the morning and returning only when it's time to collapse into bed is something childless people do. I mean, sure you can explain it, but they won't get it until it's happening to them. Which is probably just as well.

I'm not complaining. I've adjusted to being home way more than being out and about. It's just weird to suddenly not have the kids around for such a big stretch and realize how long it's been since you could have a spontaneous happy hour after work or go out to a movie on a weeknight...or not cook dinner for almost a week(!).

I miss those boys, but it's been a good week. [With the exception of my dear Lola dying yesterday. Rest in peace sweet mouse.] It's been busy and tiring in good ways. And I've barely watched any TV, so now I'm starting to understand people (childless people, at least) who tell me they don't really have time to watch TV.

The boys come home tomorrow and I am torn between spending my last night without them purging and cleaning their rooms (like I vowed to do when they left) or just going out to another movie and having a margarita in the sun...wow, when you say it out loud the choice seems a lot more obvious.

Monday, June 20, 2011

One Foot in Front of the Other

I did it! This morning I ran an entire mile without stopping - and more importantly, without DYING!

I've been working on this for awhile and I am just amazed at how quickly I was able to increase my distance by running outside. The treadmill and I are no longer friends. (However, the Nike + GPS app and I are BFFs.)

I'm ridiculously proud of myself. And motivated. I actually think I'll be able to run a 5K this year...possibly this fall.

Running a mile is nothing to many people, but I'm not kidding when I tell you that I did not think I was physically capable of it just weeks ago. But now I am!

Here's to setting goals and achieving them - especially when they're actually good for you.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

If We're Friends on FB, You Probably Know All of This

I'm afraid that Facebook is replacing my brain's need to blog...which once replaced my need to journal (on paper! privately!). It all feels a bit like switching from eating grapes to drinking grape-flavored Fanta. (I've mentioned that I'm analogy challenged, yes?)

Anyway, I have about seven zillion things (or at least seven) that I've wanted to write about during my blog silence, but today I must first acknowledge that today is not just Father's Day, but also my husband's birthday. I am very lucky to have a husband who is both an amazing person and an amazing dad. So even though I feel bad that he kinda got screwed in the celebration department this year, it at least gives me the opportunity to say how happy I am that he was born on this day 36 years ago because otherwise my life as I know it would not exist - including these crazy fantastic kids. So, honey, thank you for that. 

In other news, I am in the middle of another whirlwind-y phase at work. It's the travel that really throws me into a tizzy. On the one hand, it's kind of fun to take a break from routine, visit a new place and play the role of business traveller. Last week I was in Vermont hanging out with some very cool snowboarders. Tomorrow I'm going to Boston to hang out with a whole lot of IT guys (and gals) and probably some of them will be pretty cool, too. (Plus, I'm going to visit the birthplace of Boston Cream Pie!)

One the other, bigger hand, it's hard to be away. I hate seeing how much bigger the boys and the pile of laundry have gotten while I've been away. And then it's never like there's a catch-up period, you're just back in it, only a few days behind. It makes me a little crazy.

But, after this trip I should be home again until we leave for our fantastic voyage down the Pacific Coast Highway in August! I just made the last of the hotel arrangements (no, I don't camp) so we're good to go! 

But much sooner than that, my tiny babies who are somehow now 8, are going away to overnight camp...for a week. A week! Last year they did the mini-camp that lasted only 3 nights and they had SUCH a good time. No TV, no video games, just the woods and swimming and campfires...I know it's all so good for them, I'm just having a hard time knowing that they'll be gone for 6 nights this time. I will, of course, fill those 6 nights with happy hours and movies and whatever else kidless people do on a whim, but I will also miss seeing those little faces every morning. Sigh.  

Since we're having the blog of randomness today, I'll also throw in that in my quest to lose weight, I've taken up running again and yesterday I ran 0.86 miles(!), which is very, very close to my goal of being able to run a whole mile...which, in turn, will bring me closer to fulfilling #1 on my 40 by 40 list: Running a 5K. 

Everyone told me this, but I didn't really listen because I liked being hidden down in my basement: Running outside makes all the difference. I ran 1/2 a mile on my first outside run. On the treadmill, I am near death after 1/4 mile. It's the ability to slow your pace down without having to think about it, but I think it's also just seeing actual progress...getting from one place to the next. It's much easier to will myself to run to one more mailbox or to the end of the next block, than it is to stare at numbers on a screen. 

To be clear, even though I'm making progress in the endurance department, I haven't lost any weight. It's actually pissing me off a bit, but I know I'm supposed to be patient. I have the good fortune of being related to a health counselor, who has instructed me on volumetrics, among other things, so I am slowly learning to fill my belly with whole grains and nutrient dense vegetables. Combined with the running, I am bound to see progress soon. 

Soon, I tell you!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cold Turkey

I recently went off my anti-anxiety medication (Celexa) cold turkey. I had intended to step down off of it, but I guess my brain had other plans since I found myself suddenly forgetting to take it for three days in a row.

I decided to quit after my doctor confirmed that I had gained 8 lbs. in just six months. Add that to the weight I started gaining two years ago when I switched birth control, and then the normal couple pounds a person gains each year as they get older and it’s a lot. The meds were the obvious culprit for the recent weight gain – my doctor said that she had seen other patients gain 20, 40, even 60 pounds on the same or similar meds.
“You don’t want to keep gaining eight pounds every six months,” she said, eyeing my 5’1” (and a half) frame. No, I certainly do not.
So, it’s been nearly two weeks and I feel...anxious. And tired. And overwhelmed. And unmotivated. In other words, not great. I don’t yet know how much is withdrawal and how much is what I blissfully forgot I felt like before the meds.

It’s weird because I didn’t think the meds had made a drastic difference. I felt better, sure, but I had described the effect as merely “taking the edge off” my general neuroses. Now that I’m returning to my natural state, I’m finding myself getting much more easily frustrated, the house feels much dirtier, and I’m in a constant state of trying to remember what I forgot to do. This is what I used to feel like most of the time. This is why I went on the meds in the first place.

The fact that I’d been coping with all of this without meds for so long made me think that my anxiety wasn’t that big of a deal…and in the sense that I am able to function in society, I guess it’s not – is “functionally anxious” a term? – however, I can’t help aspiring to do more than simply function.

What does all of this mean? I have no idea. In the short term, I plan to use my yoga breathing and channel all this anxiety into losing weight. I’m shooting for an even 10% of my current body weight. It’s not going to be easy since I have almost no willpower and I still hate exercise, but I’m hoping Minka Kelly’s belly will supply enough motivation to keep me jogging and crunching for at least a little while.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Another Year Older

And so another birthday weekend has passed... 

I'm okay with being 34, but I'm having a hard time with this 8-year-old business. It's just so unbelievable that my babies are such big people...you'd think I would have seen it coming. Sigh. 

I won't give you the full play-by-play on all the festivities, but I do want to tell you that taking a group of 8-year-olds to a restaurant where they juggle knives and cook over open flame right in front of your face isn't the smartest idea. I mean, everything was fine and the kids had an amazing time, but as we sat down at our teppenyaki station, I couldn't help but think that I might be tempting fate. 

I also should tell you that iPod Shuffles are, in fact, the perfect gift for 8-year-olds. Owen actually asked if he could listen to his iPod rather than play Wii today. Sure, there's a lurking fear that I'm paving the way to a reclusive teenage-hood where they sit alone in their rooms listening to headphones (yes, I know, they're "ear buds") and refuse to speak to me, but I'm trying to keep a lid on that for now and instead enjoy the peace that comes from personal music players...even if the first thing Aidan bought from the iTunes store was Ke$ha. Seriously.

The end of birthday weekend also marked the beginning of the 10 Percent Challenge, which kicked off strong with a jog and a day of sensible eating (and no sweets!). More on that tomorrow.