Friday, January 14, 2022

Five on Friday: Sights, Sounds, Smells (!) & Perpetual Large Appliance Issues, Otherwise Entitled "A Snapshot of Life Here Lately"

I began working on what I hope is going to be a very funny list earlier this week but it just hasn't jelled yet. With my being extremely busy with planning the 19th Annual MLK Day of Community Service (and now today also being extremely bothered by Monday's forecast) . . . there is no time for jelling this morning. No time at all. 

So instead I'll present just a small snapshot of life here at the Rumspringa Home for Children lately:

1. Recently I drove our 11-year-old daughter to our friends' home to go sledding. As we approached their house, she randomly belted out in her best operatic style, "AND A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE!!!!"

I pulled up, put the car in park and she said, "Thank you."

I replied, "Wow! Thank YOU for remembering to thank me for the ride!!"

She looked confused and then said, "Oooh--I was actually saying thank you for the singing. You know, like, thank you, thank you very much."

2. Dinnertime scene: 
I was in the kitchen cooking homemade macaroni and cheese when my husband walked in and said, "You're going to regret that."


Him: "You will ROUX the day!"

I rolled my eyes and handed him a block of cheese to grate.

Our youngest piped up, "MOM! You're asking DAD to CUT THE CHEESE?!"

Daddy-O: "See? You WILL rue the day!"
(with apologies to my friends that read this already on my personal page, but I think it's funny enough to share twice)

3. Seen in 13-year-old son's bed:
Yeah, it could be worse but just . . . I have questions.

4.. You know how a few weeks ago I said the dryer was broken? It was fixed. Then broke again. Then fixed again. Then broke again. If you've known me for a minute, you know we have the WORST luck with appliances. So anyway I stupidly was telling someone recently how our best dishwasher (we're on number 5? 6? In less than twenty years) is the one we have now that I literally picked up on the side of the road and works great.

You know where this is going. I need another roadside dishwasher, STAT.

Also--The fridge has sort of been on the fritz for awhile and now sometimes it makes this really cool sound in the mornings like it's trying to take off.

5. Lastly, what would a snapshot of life at Rumspringa be without some sort of reference to our ridiculous little dog? I often take pictures of her doing weird or silly things and text them to the college kids. Here's one I sent recently followed by our daughter's response:

Friday, January 7, 2022

Five on Friday: First Five

This week's title is a double entendre--it is the first Five on Friday list of the year, but the content is also "first five." As in highlights from the first five days of the New Year . . . or at least the first five of the work week (that counts because this is my page and I just said so). 

My highlights from the first five days of 2022 include:

1. One public nap (Oh, yes I did . . . and not just in my own vehicle in a public parking lot as I have been known to do but a legit waiting room couch where anybody could see me. And, given the chance, I will absolutely do it again.) 

2. Two classic games played with my oldest kid before she goes back to college.

Pente is one, Rummy 500 (our favorite) is the other

3. Three dinners eaten by me that were prepared by someone else--that must be a new record for (adult) me.

4. Four tasks (to prepare for the 19th annual/2nd drive-through MLK Day of Community Service) that I delegated out to capable and willing volunteers. (Thank you, volunteers!)

5. Five workouts (the kind that actually make me sweat and feel that good-sore the next day) done, in a row, even on the days that I was tired and full of pizza.

This is my home gym. It is also my dining room.

And this is my four-legged stalker who, I can see, has made the same exact resolution again this year. 

Unlike my dog, I personally did not make any resolutions this year . . . but if these first five are any indication of how the rest of my year will go, I'm off to quite an auspicious start! Happy New Year!

Friday, December 31, 2021

Five on Friday: Adoption Hits

At any given time, I have multiple running notes on future Five on Friday list ideas. These notes contain anywhere from one to four possible entries for the list. Sometimes they come to fruition immediately, sometimes they linger awhile, sometimes they never make it and get cut.

One recent idea was adoption humor, some of the funny incidents that have come up over the years due to the fact that we are a mixed-race family thanks to growing our family through adoption. 
Some of my kids pointing out where they are represented in my tattoo

I usually feel more inclined to share the poignant or bittersweet sides of adoption, never wanting to emphasis the funny parts in fear of downplaying the inherent loss that comes along with adoption. (Uh, but then again, I have been known to do things like this.)

Anyway that idea was just sort of lingering on the list when it was brought to my attention that the video of the story I told for The Moth, although a couple of years old now, had many new comments I hadn't seen before (a very nice realization).

That combined with the fact that I had no other ideas for this week's list ready (not to mention that I had horrible insomnia last night and really just no creative energy to come up with something off the cuff) meant it was time.

So for my last list of 2021, here are some adoption humor hits from over the years. Forgive me if any of them are repeat stories for you, but they still make me laugh:

1. Picture it: a local playground, 2006. I have three children at the time: my two oldest (white, biological) children and one brown foster baby.  My daughter, age six at the time, has made a new friend and is having a great time with him. At one point, they run over to me to get a snack and the little boy eyes me and the baby up. 

Is that your Mom?
Is that your brother?
(. . . a moment passes while he contemplates . . . )
Your baby brother is . . . veeeeeeeeeeeeery . . . . tan.

2. I had a period of time when I'd be picking up the kids' prescription vitamins and when asked for their birthdates (including YEARS--don't you think that's a little too much to ask???), I'd falter and look like an idiot. 

So this one time I decided to practice on my way up. When she asked for their five birthdates, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom! I had them all ready. I joked with her about having five kids and how sometimes I get the dates mixed up. She had a good sense of humor and tried to play along, pretending to be me ad libbed something like, "What? My kids' birthdays? Sure, I know when they were born, I mean I was there, right?"

This put me over the edge. "But I wasn't!!" I took the vitamins and walked away, completely cracking myself up and leaving her bewildered.

3. On the phone while making an appointment recently:
Your daughter's name is so beautiful.
Thank you.
How did you come up with it?
I didn't name her.

4. As a white woman raising Black kids, I do worry sometimes that we're not raising them "Black enough." But then I decided to put breadcrumbs on the homemade macaroni and cheese on a whim and our 15-year-old Black son accused me of trying to serve him "white people food."

Touché, son, and you'd better watch it or I'll whip up some green bean casserole next.

5. Finally, a conversation between my Black daughter (five years old at the time) and my white son (who was thirteen) that has to be my most favorite mixed-race family moment ever, hands-down:

Did you know my stuffed animals can talk?
Only when people leave the room.
Oh yeah?
Only when white people leave the room.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Five on Friday: Last Minute Gift Ideas for Mom

If you celebrate Christmas and are still looking for a something to put under the tree for Mom, I'd like to say, on her behalf, what the hell have you been doing for the last 364 days? 

I'm sure she understands you've just been so busy with more important things, even after all she's done for you, sniff sniff. 

Fear not, though, for I have created a list of gifts that I would love and I'm sure that, really, almost any mother would adore. You should have no problem purchasing any of these items today. Hurry up, though, they might be closing early as it is literally the day before Christmas.

My ideas are:

1. HOMING SCISSORS: Here's a conversation that happened at my house just the other day:

Daddy O: Where are the scissors?
Me: Got me.
Big Sis: Z had them last.
Daddy O: Why don't we have more than one pair of scissors?
Daddy O: Well what happened to them all?

Still life: junk drawer sans les ciseaux

So at first I was thinking that I'd like some sort of scissors that can only be used if unlocked by fingerprint, like my iPhone. But it's not that I don't want anyone else to use the scissors, I just want them to return the scissors. So homing scissors are clearly the answer! 

2. BODY OF MY 20-YEAR-OLD SELF: Not the whole body, just the bladder will do, thanks.

3. SLEEP MICROWAVE: This is an idea I came up with in High School and still don't own, so I've been waiting a long time for this. It's a sleep microwave! Say you only slept four hours one night and really need another three or four hours but literally only have about fifteen minutes to nap. Just climb into the sleep microwave, set the timer for fifteen minutes and go to sleep. You'll wake up as refreshed as if you slept for hours.

4. ADDITIONAL HOURS IN THE DAY: I'll admit, the science on this (and the previous) gift idea may be a little fuzzy but I'm just saying, some days I could really use another hour or two. 

In the event that any of the above four are somehow not locally available for purchase, I have one last suggestion which should be simple to make at home:

5. AUTHENTIC HUGS FROM TEENAGERS: Okay, maybe any of the other four choices would be easier . . .

Happy holidays! Go do something nice for someone you love.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Five on Friday: Five (Or, Fine, Maybe More) Things to Be Happy About

The truth is, I've never read the 14,000 Things to Be Happy About book. Maybe I've flipped through it once or twice--my oldest daughter owns and loves it. She has even shared her own quirky, poignant, delightful lists of things to be happy about which I've very much enjoyed reading.

Me? I've long been a fan of grat lists, quick collections of things I'm particularly grateful for in that moment. I think the difference between the two might be that the latter is more likely to be very specific to the writer's life while the former is made up of more universal concepts that a broad range of readers could relate to.

 For example, if I were to write a grat list right now, it'd include things like:

1. The mild weather this week.

2. The fact that somehow with seven people in this family, we only just now in December 2021 have had our first student asked to quarantine due to potential COVID exposure at school. It's amazing to me that we made it this far without direct exposure not to mention the fact that it happened at the point in time when we are all vaccinated. (The only reason our child even had to quarantine was because her age group was only recently approved for the vaccine and the exposure came at not-quite-fourteen-days after her second shot.)

3. Finding time to take walks with my husband.

4. Being surprised by the Christmas cactus. It was just over there on the window sill all green and I forgot what it was, I guess. Until boom! (Or bloom?! Bloom boom!) Instant color and beauty.

5. College kids coming home for the holidays!

But the above grat list is just for an example, of course, since I'm not even writing one this week. Duh.

I'm trying something new, see? A list of things to be happy about, that hopefully other people can relate to and then remember to look around for joy in their lives. That's my real list this week, and it includes:

1. Watching High School music teachers direct their jazz bands. 

2. Noticing natural colors and patterns.

3. Wooly bear caterpillars.

4. Flags that get stuck to trees in such a way that they look like they're flying even when there's no wind.
 (I've seen two of these recently, believe it or not!)

5. The way clothes smell when they've been dried on the line.

Our dryer has been broken and repaired twice recently. It's currently working but it was so warm yesterday (see #1 above-above) I just had to use the line instead!

Okay, so honestly, they're both sort of grat lists but I hope the second one is universal enough to inspire you to remember to take a moment to look around and find small moments to find joy. 

Reminder: It doesn't have to be a holiday for you to be happy

Friday, December 10, 2021

Five on Friday: My New Group of "Friends"

Last month when I was telling you about what a big month it had been for a local history nerd like myself,  I mentioned that I had been becoming more involved with a non-profit volunteer group that meets socially once a month and supports a local historic site. I wrote that, in this group:

I adore being in this group and not just because I'm the youngest by decades (or maybe because I do like it, in the sense that I really value intergenerational friendships . . . but I digress) and plan on sharing more about my experiences with them in an upcoming post. 

So, here's that post! 

1. I used to work at the historic site that this group supports, so that's how I got my first invitation to their meetings. At one point I volunteered to drive a bunch of them in Overkill Jones, our 15-passenger van, on a museum field trip. 

It was my understanding that this museum was about an hour away . . . the first hour of chatting passed by swiftly. But it was closer to two hours away and at one point there was a lull in the conversation.

My co-pilot in the passenger seat, a 76-year-old woman, broke the silence by asking, "Want to hear a funny story about a vibrator?"

My back-seat driver, directly behind us with a voice like one of Marge Simpson's sisters, deadpanned, "No."

(To which I replied, "Speak for yourself!" and then I got to hear the story.)

2. Time passed, I switched jobs, the pandemic started . . . I hadn't seen this fun group of women in ages. When they had their first in-person (outdoor) meeting again in August, I attended and was reminded of just how fantastic they are. Vibrator Story* announced that she really needed help with emails, so I decided I'd become a proper member and do just that. They almost didn't let me, but then . . . well, I'll just recap the email conversations below:

Me: I heard Vibrator Story say she needs help with email. I'm going to become a member and help her.

Chairperson: That'd be great, send your $20 in.

Me: Will do.

Me: Hey, I became a real member and I'm going to help you with the emails!

Vibrator Story: Oh, no, you can't.

Me: What?

Vibrator Story: No, no, I couldn't do that to you. It's entirely too much work.

Me: Um . . . what is it, like one email a month? I assure you I can handle it.

(No response until an email out to the board of this group with me added in)

Vibrator Story: Great news, everyone! Gina is taking over for me and is now a member of the board! 

(I am??!! That means two meetings a month! I didn't realize what I was signing up for but okay!)

3. So here comes the first meeting that I'm going to be sending the email about. I've already sent one email about membership and blew their minds by adding photos and graphics. I looked at the list of 115 email addresses and thought to myself: now I'm really going to dazzle them . . . I'm going to introduce them to BCC.

Well. That backfired. 

This meeting was going to be a local field trip (actually to the museum I currently work at, followed by lunch at a nearby restaurant).  Some of them do not drive. Many of them like to ride together even if they do drive. None of them is familiar with BCC. So I happily sent the email and then the responses started rolling in:

Shannon, will you drive me?

Kathy, I can pick you up if you want.

Marcy, I'm going to ride with Penny but I can ask if she has room for you.

Et cetera, et cetera. But BCC meant those responses only came to me so then I spent the better part of an hour untangling that mess. Lesson learned: sometimes BCC is not better.

4. All board/meetings have the potential to be derailed by some chatty members going off-topic. This board is no different but has the added risk of this happening by virtue of the fact that it's a group of older women who aren't as social as they used to be because of the pandemic. A recent meeting was just getting to that point of me wondering just how long it was going to last when suddenly they ALL STARTED GETTING UP TO LEAVE. No slow wrap-up, no good-byes, they literally just all stood up and began walking out the door.

The host was cleaning up the coffee and I asked her what just happened.

"Oh, we have a lunch meeting at 11:30."

(A lunch meeting. At 11:30. For a different group that they're all in.)

5. Last month's regular meeting featured a speaker teaching us about flax production. Vibrator Story, who is now nearing 80 years of age and still the source of the best stories in this group, shared her experiences in using a spinning wheel back when her kids were younger.

"The thing about using a spinning wheel is that you have to be very relaxed. I was learning with my girlfriends and all the kids were running around and it was very hard to relax. I recommend a glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream first, it really makes the spinning much easier."

Essentially, I learn so much from these women all the time . . . oh wait! I say women but actually there is one man who regularly attends. He missed the field trip to my museum so came on his own recently . . . on his motorcycle. I showed him some pictures of Giacomo and he recommended a memoir about a woman who rode her motorcycle around the world to me to read. I picked it up and I'm really enjoying it!

I mean . . . you see it, right? You see the value of intergenerational friendships and how this group in particular is an amazing group of folks? 

Officially, they're one of these "Friends of a Non-Profit" group. Personally, I count myself damn lucky to say that they are also friends of mine.

*I don't even think she'd be all that horrified to know that I'm referring to her as "Vibrator Story" here. She's got a great sense of humor . . . which I hope comes through in reading about her.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Five on Friday: The Evolution of Holiday Traditions

It's family tradition season, folks! It starts annually in October when the bin of Halloween decor comes out of the attic only to be swapped out for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year . . . 

Every year there's the possibility for slight tweaks but the changes have picked up in frequency, due to three main factors:

* First: Kids insisting on growing up. Our oldest two are off at college so aren't home to participate in some traditions. Some of them start to feel a little too babyish, so it's understandable that the young teens will begin to roll their eyes at them. But with a ten-year age gap between oldest and youngest, I've always wanted to make sure there was plenty of holiday magic for the youngest to experience, too.

Somehow, though, even the baby has grown though and she's now a tween herself. This means she wants to act grown but still be a little girl. This extends to how she approaches holiday traditions (eye-roll or get excited?)

Some examples from this category include:

1. Decor placement! I shared this meme with my friend and we both chuckled. 

I can relate to the sentiment while also realizing how silly it is. This year my 11-year-old wanted to place all the Halloween decorations around the house and she was absolutely putting things where I didn't usually put them. I had to tell myself to relax and appreciate how excited she was to be doing it herself. And really, who cares? (Okay fine. It's me. I care. I stealthily switched some things around but I swear, just a few.)

2. The Thanks-Giving Turkey has traditionally been made of paper and added to after dinner the entire month of November. This wasn't really possible since two kids were at college and three kids didn't care that much about it. I still wanted to have an option on Thanksgiving Day so this year it was relegated to the chalkboard door, participation optional:

* Second factor, related to first: parents getting burnt out.
3. The annual gingerbread creation, originally my husband's idea and project, has been feeling overwhelming to him in the past couple of years. It is really fun, though, so many of  us are not ready to abandon it. 

My oldest daughter and I usually take the lead on it but this year it felt particularly burdensome . . . I wondered if this might be the end. Somehow all five kids ended up getting really invested in it (in a way I hadn't expected) and it turned out great. It's our family's Museum of Art:

4. Aw, look how cute these card holders are that I made! I hated throwing away all the great holiday cards we get so I started saving them in homemade pouches. I was delighted that my children loved poring through them each year.

Uh, apparently last year's card holder looks like this:

This is a plastic zippered pouch that bedsheets probably came in, with 2020 written on it in marker. Is it because I was burnt out--or does this one really belong under the . . . 

* Third Factor: Pandemic influencing everything.
Because maybe a shitty plastic low-effort card holder just sums up 2020, am I right? 

Lastly. . . 

5.  When I opened up the bin of Christmas decor, I thought, "Why the heck is there a face mask in here?" 

Oh. A holiday-themed one I made last year and surely put away thinking that by 2021 it'd be a funny blast from the past . . . that's sort of bittersweet, isn't it? Because now I wonder if we'll be wearing it again in 2022.
Man, is that a bummer way to end this list? I didn't mean it to be. Overall I want to express that times and our family are changing and actually, I'm okay with it. Yeah we have holiday-themed masks but now we also have vaccines and boosters . . . we spent time with family, in person (!!), this Thanksgiving. 

I'm thankful to be alive and healthy to experience these evolving traditions together . . . might have to add it that to my chalkboard turkey.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Five on Friday: Requisite Sappy Holiday Gratitude Post But With a Twist!

I'm supposed to write a gratitude list today, right, because Thanksgiving was yesterday? It should be sappy and I should gush about how much I love my husband and kids.

Meh, I do that all the time.

But since it is a slow week because of a holiday that's all about being thankful, I think I will write a little grat list. However, I've been trying to think of some that are unusual or seem contrary or force me to take a new spin on something that I'm *not* actually grateful for, like:

1. Daylight Savings Time. It is stupid and I hate it and I wish we would stop doing it. Also I loathe the cold of winter and can't wait to be a snowbird. But I'll tell you what, the sunrises this time of year always knock me out.

2. All five kids are home and yes, it is wonderful, but I am so glad they're going to go back to school (university, high and middle) soon. Not in a "oh my kids are driving me crazy please open school again" sort of way, though, which I have felt before and will maintain that that is a completely valid feeling. 

This time, though, it's pandemic-related . . . I just continue to feel so grateful that my kids can have a more normal year this year, with sports and friends and more typical college experience. We survived the virtual/hybrid year, but I am so grateful it is over.

3. The dryer is still broken and even though I do really look forward to having it fixed, the little-girl-playing-Little-House-on-the-Prairie in me kind of enjoys hanging the clothes on the line and/or on the rack near the fire. And what I really love is putting on a shirt that smells like outside. It's not summer anymore, which does make me sad, but my clothes and sheets smell like sunshine.

When I sit on the couch with the television volume turned up to 50 because the teenage drummer upstairs decided to forgo practice all day and start at 9pm, I like reflect upon how  much I rue the day we ever got this goddamn drum kit  lucky we are to have such talented children.

5. I really love my job and look forward to going to work, I honestly do. But a day off to be with my family, creating our annual gingerbread and just being together is something to not take for granted. 

Sneak peek: these are just some parts, it's not done yet