Monday, August 26, 2013

First Day of the New Semester

The boys aren't in school yet, so things are a little more hectic than they will be (hopefully).

After breakfast, I threw in a load of laundry, got both the boys dressed, and wrangled them into the car. But wait - first I threw the two newspapers in the driveway into the recycling that was at the curb.

Then we drove to the doctor's office to pick up school immunization forms for Buster. Back in the car to a Fairfax County Public Schools administrative building to pick up the ID I filled out paperwork and was fingerprinted for last week. Got lost. Found way again, wrangle boys out of car, wrangle stroller down a flight of stairs, ask for my ID. They can't find it. Wait at desk, trying not to look or feel impatient as Wiggle runs figure-eights around tables of people filling out employment forms. They find the ID, and Wiggle proudly wears it to the car.

Drive home and arrive just in time to hand the boys off to C, pack my backpack, and walk to campus. Look for the right room in the right building for five minutes, find the room, find a seat. Sit down and get ready for the four hour LGBTQ sensitivity training that's about to start. Damn! I forgot to bring any food.

Sit through and enjoy the training, although my stomach grumbles intermittently. Run MSW student association meeting after the training for another 20 minutes. Walk home. Bring in the recycling bins from the morning.

Change clothes, finally have a snack and some water. Clean up the living room for 15 minutes. Briefly search the internet for an example of a document I will need for my internship. Set the table. Whoops! First clean the table, then set the table for dinner.

The boys come home and we sit down to dinner. The boys cajole lollipops from us for dessert, which we concede only if they are eaten on the porch. C and I have a glass of wine and chat a little while the boys run around and play with balls. C and I join in and play ball with the boys. I get distracted and start cleaning up dog poop from the yard. I get even more distracted and start to mow the lawn. Just half of the backyard, then I move to the front yard. I get halfway done there and C relieves me so I can put Buster down. I put Buster down, and then spend 15 glorious minutes lounging on the bed and petting the animals.

Back to the grind. Compose and send a few emails. Jot down a couple of to-dos. Get back to the preschool lego scrubbing project I have been dawdling over for a few days. Soak and then scrub individual legos with a toothbrush.

Clean up in the kitchen. Try to pack my lunch for tomorrow, but realize all of our containers with lids are in the fridge with old stuff in them. Clean them out and put them in the dishwasher. Pack what I can.

Bedtime routine. Get in bed, write this post.

Sleep (I really, truly hope.)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Social Animals/ Solitary Creatures

So recently, I have been coming to the slow realization that I am an introvert by nature. I've certainly never thought of myself as an exceptionally gregarious person, but I had previously thought that on the social spectrum, I fell squarely on the extroverted side. But I really, really don't.
There are two things that confused me and had led me to my former erroneous conclusion. One is that I had thought that introverts were necessarily shy, which I would not characterize myself as. (Although, this could just be a negative connotation with shyness, as I will generally cross the street and look studiously at the ground in order to avoid encounters with acquaintances and all but the closest of friends.) The other misleading trait is that I care deeply about the social. If a teacher asks question in class, I feel an obligation to try to provide an answer. If the band tells me to clap, I clap. If the person at the front of the room asks for volunteers, I volunteer. I have picked a "helping" profession for my career path. This is not to say, I'm a lemming, as anyone I know will attest to, nor does it mean that I am a selfless person. I am just constantly amazed at how society works, and also constantly scared about how close it feels we are to our own utter destruction. Destruction that will come if we all decide to turn away from each other and stop lending a hand when someone asks for one.
So this recognition of the importance of the social naturally has led me to the realization that C and I need friends here. But then I realized that my want of friends really runs toward the completely practical. I need a deeper bench on the boys' emergency contact lists for school or rec classes. We need a few people who could watch one of the boys if a last minute conflict comes up. I need someone to ask for recommendations for handymen or roof repair or babysitters or a manicurist. On the personal side, I need someone to be able to bitch to when C or the boys are driving me crazy that isn't related to either of us. Someone to trade bits of the latest zeitgeist with. I need friends, and I'm willing to do my part to fulfill these social roles. But the truth of the matter is, I don't really want friends. I don't feel any natural impetus to introduce myself to someone I've seen a dozen times at the park or the pool. When someone approaches me to talk and makes overtures of friendship, my first reaction is generally "Why is he/she talking to me?" My confusion does not stem from low self-esteem, but instead from my complete lack of a reciprocal feeling.
I like to be around people, but more to observe than interact. Even when C and I are out together, I find it extremely hard to maintain a conversation with him because I am drawn into all of the social interactions going on around us. When the kids are playing at the park, I love to listen to the dynamics of the moms around me, or even better, of the kids. The conversations of groups of pre-teens and their strange mix of astounding maturity and utter childishness could keep me entertained for days. But as far as getting into the mix myself, I would generally rather not.
Of course, I have had my share of close friends whose company I seek out and take comfort in, and whose lives I genuinely care about and take an interest in, but even those have had a strong component of convenience to them. Once our lives diverged in any substantial way either through changes in location or schedule, the friendships tend to wane considerably and generally cause very few feelings of loss or distress over the change. Eventually in a particularly low social phase, I wonder to myself what happened to those bonds that once seemed so strong, but then I shrug my shoulders and move on for the most part. New situations emerge and the present and its current tangle of new connections and new people move to the front of the consciousness line. Out of sight, out of mind, after all.
So I've decided to forget about forging new personal, "meaningful" relationships, or at least not spend substantial time trying to cultivate these friendships. Instead, I will seek out opportunities to be "next to" other people. Involved with an activity, without the pressure of forming individual connections. If the connections form naturally over time and proximity, great. If they don't, and my emergency contact list stays lean for another year or two, so be it.
My newly realized introverted status has helped me to realize that I do need more time working on a relationship though - my relationship with myself. So instead of Girls' Night Out, I'm going to start having My Night Out. I'm looking forward to having coffee with myself, taking myself out to a movie, or just doing some good old-fashioned people watching. And maybe if I'm able to recharge my own battery enough by being alone, I will have a little more in the tank to put toward being social. But even if I don't, I will at least have spent some quality time with a person whose company I always appreciate - me.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

School's Out

C's and my semester ended a couple of weeks ago, and Wiggle's last day of school was last Thursday. So now we are footloose and fancy free for the summer. Actually, the months of unstructured time stretching out in front of us are giving me heart palpitations at the moment. Of course, there are tons of things I want to get done and tons of summer activities I want to make sure we do. Then there's summer traveling, C has a couple of conferences to go to, and I have to get mentally ready to go back to "work" next fall with my internship.

As far as the things I want to get done around the house and yard, I've made some progress - I set-up an office in the basement complete with curtains, desks, lamps, and a nice rug. The rest of the basement looks a little like a hoarder is squatting down there though. My tools are spread around the ground and tool bench, baby toys are piled up needing to be boxed up or donated, various papers, out-of-season clothes and the like are in bins, but should really be culled down. I have a perpetual pile for Goodwill by the front door that shrinks and grows, but never seems to disappear.

Upstairs, the painting projects, of which there are many, all need prep work that requires me to get dusty and covered in flaking paint in the precious hours after the boys go to bed, so needless to say they have not been started. I'm almost decompressed enough after the semester to start on them though. Almost.

Outside, I enjoy cutting things down and/or back, but the rate of growth seems to be outstripping my rate of cutting. And we have massive amounts of poison ivy that as far as I can tell have gotten bigger and angrier after I sprayed them with weed killer. I will make real progress in the fall when things die back again, but I want to keep the jungle slightly contained until then which is proving to be no easy job. We also need to power wash the siding and then, hopefully, paint.

Oh and I want to add insulation to the attic, have the fireplace converted to gas, get either can or track lights installed in the living room, kitchen, and family room. Have a ceiling fan installed in the family room, re-do much of the kitchen, etc, etc, etc.

Not all this summer though, but I still need a master list so I can do things in a somewhat logical order. The list both excites me and makes my head hurt.

Meanwhile, every room has at least one "junk" bin or basket that I am slowly going through, returning things to their rightful rooms (Buster is like a one-man moving company), putting like things together, and throwing the broken or dilapidated things out. It's slow-going, but it is going, finally.

We went to the pool this weekend and it was bracingly cold right now, but I look forward to sunny, hot afternoons there as the summer progresses.

I have also been scouring pinterest for fun summer activities, but the true goal is to find things that Wiggle wants to do without us. The thing is playing with a four-year-old kinda sucks. OK, no, it really sucks. Everything he does involves making up rules, changing the rules, making sure the rules only favor him, adjusting the rules so he's the only one who gets a turn, etc. So even when we are playing with him, we are generally in the position of arguing that the rules can't change or perpetually waiting for our turn. But he insists on having someone play WITH him all the time. Of course, we don't indulge his whims or play with him every time he asks, but then it means we have to deal with floppy-bodied, exasperated, whining. He doesn't "want," he only "needs," or rather "NEEEEEEEEEDSSSSSSSS!"

I do love getting to be home with both boys and spending time with them, but I'm finding these days that to have the ability to occasionally tag-out for a few minutes helps the day go much smoother. Luckily, since C is working primarily from the basement these days, I get to do that almost every afternoon. It also means that I have small blocks of time to actually get things done, during business hours, no less.

So come on summer, bring it on! I'm ready.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Modern Day Parlor Game

C and I came up with a new game today. Our bathrooms have original 1950's tile complete with built-in cup and toothbrush holders. Wiggle always wants to use the toothbrush holders, but of course, modern day toothbrushes don't fit. C was telling Wiggle that his toothbrush wouldn't fit because "Toothbrushes have gotten wider over time. I have no idea why they have, but they have."

The statement made me think of all of the new, crazy, very specific non-fiction books that have come out in the last few years. Why not one on the history of dental care in America? The game is to pick the subject and then pitch titles.

I pitched a few -

Long in the Tooth, Short on Science: How Modern Dentistry has Been Shaped by Advertising

Uncovering the Tooth: The Connection Between Advertising and Dentistry in America

A Winning Smile: How America Kept, Whitened, and Straightened Its Teeth

4 Out of 5: The History of Oral Hygiene Through Advertising

And the winner...

Tooth Decay: How the Oral Care Industry has Impacted Dental Health (submitted by C).

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Baby Steps

First, let me say - I am not pregnant.

I am talking about baby steps in the mind. I have written before about my general tendency toward gluttony. It is a trait I have been unhappy with about myself, and something I have wanted to get rid of for some time. Recently though, I have been trying to embrace my gluttonous ways a little more. I mean, we are not talking about one or two traits here. I am gluttonous across the board, so it's probably better not to fight the trait outright, but instead to try and work with it in order to make changes in my life.

A few months ago I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. As self-help books go, I liked it better than most. Partially because, and this shows what a complete snob I am, she is smarter than many of the people selling the secret to happiness. Also, she didn't end up some kind of happy-zombie for whom turning a particularly stubborn frown upside down is as easy as walking on your hands everywhere. At the end of the book, she seems only slightly happier than she did at the beginning, but she has made a commitment to continuing to look for and embrace happiness. One thing she talked about that I liked was whether people are abstainers or moderators. She is an abstainer, meaning it is easier for her to totally cut something out than it is for her to try and moderate her behavior. I realized that I, too, am an abstainer.

When C and I quit smoking when I turned 30, it was like flipping a switch. After over 10 years of at least a pack a day, I quit cold turkey with little difficulty. I haven't had a cigarette since. Part of it is that I know I am like an alcoholic for cigarettes. One cigarette is not what I want. One cigarette wouldn't even be good, it would just burn my throat and make my tonsils swell. What I want is the tenth cigarette, so I don't ever have the first one.

Gluttony is other side of this coin. It's easier for me to make a full on commitment to something too. I can exercise EVERY day, read EVERY day, cook all our meals EVERY day, but once something interrupts the chain, the whole thing is lost. I don't know how to get back on track because the commitment seems so daunting. I mean, life is going to get in the way of things occasionally, and with young kids around, more often than not.

So my new plan is to throw myself with abandon into the planning of a project. Plan the garden that will supply ALL of our summer vegetables, make a reading list of ALL the past such-and-such winners, plan to DIY-finish the basement, etc. Then take the monster-future-oriented task and commit to a tiny, tiny step of it. I assume that for most of my pipe dreams, I will end up being happy stopping or staying at some point well before/below my crazy, too-large, plan.

So the garden will get planted, I will read more, the basement will get cleaned up, and if I never get to the end of my goals, so much the better.

Friday, March 29, 2013


We were getting ready for quiet time the other day and Wiggle asked to snuggle in my bed with me. I said no because he does not calm down and relax at all if he gets into bed with me at quiet time. He said he didn't think he could go to sleep without snuggles, and he thought my bed was so much warmer than mine, and that's why he wanted to get into my bed. (His comforter is plenty warm and I often find him with his covers half off and shirt pulled way up, so I am not worried that he is too cold in his room.) I told him he needed to go into his room and sleep in his own bed by himself.

He tried telling me that he loves snuggling me, to which I replied that I loved snuggling him too. To tease him, I asked if he loved snuggling me the best of all, to which he replied, "No. I love snuggling Daddy the best." I feigned disappointment and said that snuggling Daddy was yucky and he didn't give good snuggles at all. Wiggle earnestly told me that he loved snuggling both of us the same. I felt bad that he had taken me so seriously and said "Honey, I was just kidding! I think Daddy gives great snuggles. I love snuggling him. In fact, I get snuggles from him every night!"

Do you see my mistake?

"Why do you get to snuggle with Daddy every night and I have to sleep by myself?"

Totally caught me off-guard. I changed the subject and tried to re-direct because I honestly didn't really have a good answer. This boy is quick, I tell you. He's already trouble; I dread the teenage years.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Where Da Cousins At?

I always imagined I would have a large family. Not necessarily a lot of kids of my own, but being one of four kids myself, I assumed that as I got older my life and my kids' lives would be full of cousins, large family dinners, and vacations that involved words like "the compound."

Now that I have kids though, I realize that is probably never going to be the case for more than a few reasons. But a large, connected family is still something that I yearn for, and it's something that I want for my kids. So how can I get that without growing my own and becoming my own version of Octo-mom?

But then again, I am one of four kids myself, and my kids will not have cousins of similar ages with whom to run around in the yard together. Let me be clear, I am not trying to call out my sister or brothers for either not having more kids or not having kids yet. I just mean when I imagined my adult life, I imagined my kids having this network of extended family to draw on that in my current reality does not exist, at least not yet.

My husband is the older sibling too, and while I don't think he ever envisioned the same flush flag-football teams at Thanksgiving that I did, I still thought that his younger brother was at least another cousin-making relative in the mix.

Plus, we waited to have kids. Statistically, I mean, even though I am older, because I waited, there was a good chance my sibs wouldn't be far behind. Except that my sister was way ahead of me with her son. And while Wiggle adores the X-man, and Buster will too (as soon as he has the ability to recognize who he is), he is enough older and separated by distance to be more like an uncle than a contemporary cousin. A kick-ass uncle/cousin for sure, and when they are in their thirties, it will all even out, but until then, my boys make their own cohort at family gatherings.

Grumble, grumble. Grouse, grouse.

Can you tell that I miss my family?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring is Springing

Well, besides the positively schizophrenic cold-warm, snow-balmy days we've been having, that is. 
I love all the seasons here in Virginia. I mean just having four totally demarcated seasons is awesome. Spring may be my favorite though. I love watching everything come to life, walking outside to truly perfect weather, the days getting longer, and eating meals outdoors. More than anything though, I love to spend time doing yard work. Not even gardening per se, but hard, physical, tool-weilding yard work. 

We have a slight hill in our backyard along the far back edge which is one big, wild tangled mess of volunteer plants/weeds. In the summer, clematis,  English ivy, and some very thorny greenbrier seem to take over the entire 8 foot swath. Except for the part with the entrenched black raspberry bramble where they only seem to cover about half of it. I also have a lot of couple of magnolia, a dogwood, some juniper, a couple of different hollies, and some Rose of Sharon hibiscus trees/shrubs that multiply faster than anything I've seen. 

Eventually almost everything will probably come out, but because it's a slope I don't just want to tear things out until I have things to plant in place of what I remove. Otherwise our entire lawn will become a soggy, muddy mess. But it's going to be awhile before I start planting the hill myself; it's a large enough space that I want a landscape designer to look at it. In my mind, there are terraced garden beds with herbs and flowers, built-in benches, lighting, and maybe a slide with a knotted climbing rope to get to the top. Of course, my plans may be scaled back once budget enters the equation, but for now, my "vision" keeps me motivated to at least tame the wild that's there now. 

So a couple of times a week, I wrestle the rake through long grasses and various vines to try and get the layer of old leaves off of the ground. I prune the black raspberry so that it and its thorns only take over one area of the slope. I'm hoping to stake some of the canes so we get more fruit and it's easier to prune them in the future. I've been clearing off the English ivy that has climbed our back fence and invaded the neighbor's yard, and I'm trying to clear some paths through the vegetation so I can keep the pokeweed at bay when they start to turn into the overnight-eight-foot-high-monsters that they inevitably do. At some point there will be actual gardening too. I have loads of wild daffodils that need thinning after they bloom, same with the tiger lilies, and I'm at least going to replant the gladiolas. I also would like to encourage the peonies that I literally mowed over half of last year before they had bloomed and I knew what they were.

Plus, there's the vegetables. I always have big plans for vegetables, but I end up with mostly herbs and tomatoes. We had really good luck with squash in our community garden, but it was kind of a bust in our backyard last year. Plus the vegetables require more deer, squirrel, bird prevention which involves extra money, effort, and generally ends up being an eyesore, so I haven't bee super-excited about that part yet. Maybe I'll start expanding in the fall with cold weather veggies. Mmmm, kale, cauliflower, spinach.

The hacking and carting away, though, those things excite me enough to get out there every time the weather and the boyos have coordinated cooperation. C has gotten a little guff for my love of yardwork though. Today, one of our elderly neighbors commented to him that he had me "up working on the bushes again." He was playing soccer with Wiggle at the time. He told her that I liked to do it, that  I wouldn't let him do it until I tired out, but you could tell she wasn't convinced. Luckily, C's masculinity cannot be threatened by such a trivial thing. Plus, he helped me clean-up, so you won't hear any complaints from me.

Tonight, I go to bed tired, a little sore, and covered in scratches, but I'll be hoping for nice weather again tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sneaky Pete

So, what does a four-year-old do when he wakes up at five in the morning and sneaks into your room and silently takes your cellphone into his room? This video, that's what.

After dinner and bath each night, we have what we call "wind-down time." Wiggle gets to choose an activity like playing Legos, a couple of games of Uno or Cootie, or doing a puzzle. Then we brush teeth and pick stories to read in bed. It's a way to break-up the bedtime routine which we instituted after we encountered a lot of resistance at bedtime when we were doing the whole routine in one sitting.

So tonight during wind-down time, Wiggle, C, and I were working on our second puzzle and trying to keep Buster from taking pieces and squirreling them away around Wiggle's room. After much redirection, Buster comes to the table with a little wind-up Santa Wiggle got in his advent calendar. So I wind it up and place it on the table so Buster can watch the little guy waddle around. Without looking up, still engrossed in fitting some pieces together, Wiggle says "I thought it was supposed to be wind-down time." That boy doesn't miss a beat, I tell you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Getting Older and Not Necessarily Wiser

So I turned 37 last month, and I've gotta say, this one feels like a doozy. Part of it is that I seem to have forgotten turning 36 a little. I mean, I intellectually knew it, but I realized when I thought of my age, I thought of myself as still 35 sort of. How does time fly so fast?

Somehow when I had Wiggle at 33, it didn't really occur to me that I might have a one-year-old at 37, or that if we decide to have third that I could have another one-year-old at 39 or 40. That seems old to have a toddler; scratch that, it doesn't seem old, it feels old.

This feeling has been compounded by the fact that the whole family got the flu a few weeks ago. Well, everyone except me, I just got a cold. And then last week, I pulled a muscle in my back. All things that make a person feel a little older.

Also, Wiggle turned four and Buster turned one. Your babies getting older definitely makes you feel older.

This is not to say that I don't like getting older. I feel more grounded as I get older. My marriage feels better, more secure. I feel more like I want to be, like I want our family to be.

Most everything about getting older feels good except the actual physical act of getting older. That parts sucks a little.

Now the wiser part. I also thought that as I aged, got married, had children, that I would feel, I don't know, more mature, more with it, more together. But I don't feel any of those things, for the most part.

I still feel like I can't manage to get my towels in the hamper, my bowls in the dishwasher, pictures on the wall. All that sort of adult stuff.

Even this blog. I keep thinking about recommitting to writing posts regularly. I even spend time in the car, on walks, while loading the dishwasher, composing posts in my head, but trying to translate that effort into actually writing the posts just doesn't happen. I am so much more prolific in my head. And you wouldn't believe my wit. I'm a regular Dorothy Parker in there.

So I'm not going to say I'm going to write more, and I'm not going to chastise myself for having laundry spill onto the floor. I'm just going to try to enjoy 37, both what the year has to offer and what I have to offer it. It's gonna be a good one, I think.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year, New Day-O

I am always conflicted at this time of year - the beginning of a new year. Part of me wants to take the turning of the calendar as a signal to turn over some new leaves for myself. List the resolutions, make the changes, look to the future. The other part of me thinks it's silly to join the throngs of people making what will almost certainly be mostly empty promises to themselves, and instead enjoy where I am at the moment. 
Theoretically, I can and should make new goals for myself whenever the need arises, not because of some arbitrary day on the calendar. But I do like to make lists. And with two young kids, the need to make goals (read more, exercise, be more patient, etc) arise all the time, but I hardly have enough breathing room to acknowledge them to myself in the moment, let alone sit down and make a reasonable plan about achieving them. 

Right now, we are staying at C's parents which has meant that we actually get a little more sleep and some time to ourselves each day, so I am thinking that I might just take advantage of the mental space I have acquired and jump on the resolution bandwagon while I'm here. Otherwise, I may wake up tomorrow to find it's 2014.