Friday, October 23, 2020

Five on Friday: How to Make Winter Not Totally Suck/Early Autumn Gratitude

I’ve been noticing my kitchen could use a good scrub lately.


“Didn’t I just do a deep clean recently though? Oh, man, I guess that was way back in early quarantine!"

I keep hearing that we are entering COVID’s phase two, so I suppose that means it's time to deep clean the kitchen a second time. In some ways we are moving a lot towards what it was like back in March: the kids are taking classes remotely and soon the colder weather will isolate us again. Maybe we'll be reviving the Zoom cocktail hours that had been replaced by drinks on the patio.


I don't want to stop walk-and-talks with friends and potlucks on the patio. I know these things are still possible in cold weather but I despise being cold. I've been asking my husband if we're old enough to be snowbirds yet since we were in our late thirties. So I’m trying to prepare myself for it: physically, I’ve purchased new, warmer winter boots and mentally I've been visualizing how much I will enjoy the fresh air, movement and socialization of brisk winter walks with friends.


Naturally, when this headline showed up in my feed it caught my eye.



 The article suggests " . . . cultivating different states — social connectedness, a clear purpose, inspiration . . .  focus on something outside yourself." I reviewed the suggestions and realized I do most of those things already. Now when I do them, I will try to appreciate them for their apparently dual purpose of not just being things that feel good to do, but that are hopefully going to help this winter not totally suck.

Since autumn is the harbinger of winter, and winter is what I'm dreading, I thought I'd start with a gratitude list for the sights and smells I've been so thoroughly enjoying lately:


 1. Cinnamon Pine Cones: Starting in September, our supermarket places this highly scented cinnamon pine cones by the front door. I always inhale deeply and walk on by, such a weird product and frivolous purchase! 

Well last week I bought them, on a whim, and they have brought at least $4.99 worth of joy into my life if not more. I can't explain why I love them so much but I do.

2. Lip Balm: On the same day my lips were feeling chapped last week, a friend randomly gave me this lip balm. I like it quite a bit; it feels nice on my lips, has a good flavor . . . and when my 10-year-old saw it, she let me know that owning this brand lip balm means I am now entered into the category of "cool Mom." 


At long last, I'm cool! Thanks, eos.

 3. This Squirrel Thief: Pretty sure this furry little bandit stole that ear of corn from the farmer's cows but I enjoyed watching it maneuver it with its tiny hands anyway. Sorry, cows.


4. Montauk Daisies: All summer I kept thinking, "What's this green thing again? And is it ever going to flower or do anything exciting?" Ah, yes, they are my October bloomers, the Montauk Daisies! I don't pick favorite anything (ask my kids what my favorite color is and they will correctly tell you it's rainbow) but I have said that crocuses may be one of my favorite flowers since they signal the start of spring. I realized that Montauk Daisies may bump crocuses out of that toppish place on my list since they extend the flowering season. 


They also provide a lovely home for this tiny spider who now has no reason to make a web in my house.

 5. Walk Surprises: A walk through the park, when taken thoughtfully, can always produce a surprise or two. I find when I slow down a little and pay attention to my surroundings I can be amazed by interesting mushrooms or delicate spiderwebs that seemed crystallized by the morning dew. But sometimes I don't have to be paying that much attention at all to be delighted by the unexpected. For example, this wild animal I saw at the State Park earlier in the week;

Really, you're just pollution. But you did make me smile.


Friday, October 16, 2020

Five on Friday: Exercise! Exercise! It's so Good for You!

My oldest kids had an Elmo's World CD that used to be played in heavy rotation around here. It included a song that went like this:



It's so good for you . . . 

Exer, exer, exercise!

It's easy to do!

 We haven't listened to it many years but I still know every word. It's been popping into my head lately when I do my exercise videos and, honestly--this only makes a bad situation worse.

I don't mind exercise but I'll admit, I have a bad attitude when it comes to workout videos. I refer to them as my old lady videos. The one I like the most (or maybe "hate the least" is more accurate) has some good dance music. I tried to assuage myself with that fact but then realized that LL Cool J song they used is a solid thirty years old, placing this video firmly back into old lady territory.

But why the bad attitude, G? First of all, they're just so corny. Aside from that, as I've been realizing more and more lately, is that they piss me off with their focus on weight loss and straight up lies: "Ana Rita has lost 75 lbs using Turbo Jam and her feet never leave the floor!" as the camera zooms in on washboard abs that have clearly never held an additional 75lbs. Stop lying, Chalene! And if you really want to impress me, tell me how many flights of stairs Ana Rita can ascend before getting winded.

As a matter of fact, let's completely stop talking about how great I'll look in a bikini next summer if I follow your regiment. Can we focus instead on any of the other multitude of reasons that exercise is good for a body?

If you want to maintain your status as my least-hated old lady exercise video, I have some suggestions. Why not inspire your at-home old ladies with:

1. Live long enough to be a burden on your children! Turn about is fair play, baby! Let's do another set!

2. Just because that genetic testing said you don't have the marker for colon cancer, they also said sometime shit happens! Don't you want to reduce your chance of getting certain cancers? Push it!

3. Oh really? You like being the last person on every single family hike? Sure you do, boomer. Let's get that heart rate up!!!

4. You know you're too stubborn and impatient to wait for help to move furniture when you want to do it NOW. Let's do another round of squats!

5. Did you remember to refill your blood pressure medication? Exercise lowers your blood pressure AND can help sharpen your mind as you age! Since your memory is pretty shitty already, so you'd better not let it get any worse . . . see you again tomorrow! 

Actual picture of me contemplating sweating to the oldies while Freshman Spanish is happening remotely behind me. #2020


Friday, October 9, 2020

Five on Friday: To Assist You in Nominating Me for "Mother of the Year"

It’s that time of the year again, friends! Time to submit your nominations for the 2020 Mother of the Year Award. I realize that everyone is busy with doing things like remote schooling their children or amping up their imminent doomsday prepping, so I thought I’d help you in completing in the nomination form.


Most of the questions are pretty easy to answer, like “Why does your nominee GINA SAMPAIO deserve two weeks away from her family?” 


But I realized you might not have the five recent examples of stellar parenting that you’ll need on page four, section six.  Feel free to copy from below to use in your online nomination form:


1. Last week, GINA SAMPAIO got a text message from her kid, when it was starting to get dark and chilly, asking if anyone was going to pick him up after basketball practice at a park about 15 minutes away.


2. This text came through after GINA SAMPAIO ignored two incoming calls from two separate unknown numbers. Also, this event happened literally three days after one of her best friends told her a story about ignoring calls from an unknown number that happened to be her daughter needing a ride home from the park.

3. GINA SAMPAIO was recently overheard saying, “So help me god if you tell your brothers we split a soda while we were out, I will take $50 out of your wallet.”


4. After once again finding food packaging in the beds of both of the athletic boys whose shared bedroom always smells like a barnyard, GINA SAMPAIO imparted this wisdom upon her children: “Do you want mice in your bed? Because if you do, I’ll go buy some at the pet store and release them on you while you are sleeping.”


5. When GINA SAMPAIO’s most challenging child revealed that she’d like to be “Half-Angel and Half-Devil” for Halloween, the nominee responded with, “Do you know you’re supposed to dress up as something that you are NOT?” 


(Okay, fine, she didn’t say that one out loud. But she thought it very strongly, and that might be the only legitimate example of great parenting on this list.)


Friday, October 2, 2020

Five on Friday: Adaptation

I had some scattered ideas for this week’s list but couldn’t find the theme at first. I thought about it some more and realized they are all in one way or another representative of how we are adapting to ongoing lockdown.


As we approach the seven-month mark, I am sure I’m not the only one that looks back to our earliest days without thinking “that’s cute how optimistic and productive we all were.” It was so new—we halted everything. Then time passed and there was still seemingly no end in sight, but we began to relive life . . . to adapt. And now, at this point, the adaptations have not only arisen but also evolved. 


Some of the items on this week's list are just observations on how life has changed while others  are plans for things that seemed impossible before. All are COVID adaptations for our family, seven months in:


1. I've learned to check my email first thing in the morning.  One of my kids is actually getting in to the school building on an every-other-week half-day hybrid schedule (and is going to the school grounds every weekday for soccer practice)


I need to answer the emailed COVID questionnaire for him every weekday morning.  Even though I always wake up before everyone else and sit around with my coffee and social media for awhile, I apparently wasn't always remembering to check my email. Now I do.


2. Bittersweet conversation I overheard:

Son who turned 12 in early March: "Hey, I never got my do-over birthday (party)!"

Older & wiser sister:  "Hate to tell you, Buddy, you're probably not getting your *next* birthday either. 


3. My husband for the past two months: "So have you thought about how you might be able to hold the MLK Day of Service in January?" 

I hadn't. The thought filled me with dread. But all of a sudden I'm starting to think of possibilities. I took the plunge in reaching out to some other organizers to talk about how we can make it happen. It still seems hard, but doable.


4.  After repeated delays in getting our High School Senior’s yearbook (first because of COVID then some sort of typo/s that were so bad they couldn’t bear to hand the books out? We’re dying to know what it was!), it has finally arrived. He actually doesn’t care about it, didn’t even want it but I said I was going to buy it regardless.

Anyway, he has one signature in it. From his sister.

It's funny because neither of them is going anywhere.

5. And perhaps the biggest adaptation of all: I've begun prepping or even packing the kids' lunches even though they are all home all day and are all completely capable. I did say I was here to help them the best I could. Furthermore, I am sick to death of coming home from work in the late afternoon three days a week to discover that nobody ate a proper lunch and would like to do so just as I am deciding what to make for dinner. 


So I'm telling the "you're enabling them" voice in my head to shut up. I have begun doing things like making ten little containers of homemade macaroni and cheese and making sandwiches while I sip my morning coffee . . . but only after I complete the online COVID questionnaire. 




Friday, September 25, 2020

Five on Friday: Mama's Got a New Playlist

Recently I've realized how much no-longer-listened-to kid's music is still on my phone. I can be in the middle of a really good random music shuffle and suddenly one of Randy Newman's songs from the movie Cars starts playing. 

It's sort of a buzzkill. 

So I've started (sometimes happily, sometimes reluctantly) deleting those songs. I also decided to spend a few minutes creating some fun new playlists so that I don't have to worry about the errant random shuffle buzzkill anymore.

And because it's me, I might have had more fun coming up with ridiculous playlist titles then the lists themselves, like:

1. Does Bob Marley Love Me, Y or N?

2. Road Trip Music if Those Ever Happen Again

3. Howl But Not in the Allen Ginsberg Sort Of Way

Less this . . .

 . . . more this.

4. Oh My God, Break a Sweat, Would You?

5. I Have Decided to Put Myself in Charge: This is the only one I am going to elaborate on. It starts out with a little ditty being sung by our son when he's around 8 years old. It's just him in his tiny little voice singing, "I have decided to put myself in charge!" repeatedly. 

On my playlist, it is followed by songs like I Fought the Law and the Law Won, Bad Decisions, He's in the Jailhouse Now . . .

"Nice narrative," observed my teenage daughter. She regularly creates amazing playlists so I considered that a pretty high honor.

*A note about my son's song: I couldn't remember what the inspiration for writing it was. He reminded me that he used to have this tee shirt:


. . . and just started to sing it one day. I also forgot that the song existed at all, because I am getting older and have a terrible memory. It popped up in a random music shuffle a few weeks ago, completely delighting me . . . so even though I've got these fancy new playlists now, I think I'll still do the shuffle, too.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Five on Friday: Okay, Boomer

"Ha ha, kids, I know I'm old but technically, I'm not a Boomer, I'm actually Generation X . . . "

"Okay, Boomer"


Five ways I'm feeling old lately that actually have nothing to do with the above oft-repeated conversation:

1. I cannot fathom why on Earth my child would want to spend his screen time watching other people play Minecraft on YouTube. This is a thing that makes sense to kids and makes those of us of a certain age interrupt their watching with, "But WHY???"

2.This makes me cringe so hard:

   "Oh my god, Mom, this is how you wear them."

3. I like a lot of pop music my kids listen to. I know this should make me feel young instead of old, but when I was actually young I despised the idea of liking what was popular with my peers so much that when everyone in school was going crazy for U2's Joshua Tree I would not even give it a chance. That's right, wouldn't listen to U2 then but now I'm singing along to that ugly guy with the tattoos on his face and the terrible lyrics (and whose name I can't remember, probably because I'm old.)

4. Recently I have had to get rid of two pairs of shoes because they make me feet hurt when I wear them. Only one of them has a (teeny-tiny half inch) heel, the other one was completely flat but apparently just not comfortable enough for my old lady feet.

5.  I don't know if my family is getting worse at using the dishwasher efficiently or if my patience for bad loading has run out . . . but something about spending a portion of my time each day reloading an already-loaded dishwasher makes me feel like a crotchety old lady. So as I pick up dirty bowls and put them back down in a more orderly fashion, I quietly comfort myself with, "Okay, Generation X-er."

This is a stock photo. If our dishwasher ever looked like this I'd probably just check myself into a nursing home.


Friday, September 11, 2020

Five on Friday: Ways Remote Learning is Just Like In-Person Learning!

. . .  at least from Mom's point of view.

1.  Now that school has started, the children that have been waking up before 7 am for the majority of the summer have begun sleeping in. (Just like when they have real school! The only difference is now I can't threaten with "You're going to miss the bus!!") 

Likewise, my guy that's been sleeping in has switched a flip and is once again consistently the first one ready, but he's always been the exception to the rule in this matter.

2.  My kids are occupied all day which means my kids that can drive are no longer available to run my errands for me, but . . .

3. My kids are occupied all day!! And it's not me that's occupying them! So I can run my own damn errands, thank you very much.

4. I have absolutely no idea what their daily schedules are but they seem to know where to go at the right time so I'll just continue staying out of it.

5.  Sometimes there are fire drills! Okay, it was the smoke detector from a baking incident, but it did interrupt class with the alarm one would hear in the case of a true emergency.


Friday, September 4, 2020

Five on Friday: This Year's Back-to-School "Must Haves"

Just like everyone else, our back-to-school checklist looks a lot different this year. Since none of our kids are going to school in person (at least not yet: the younger three are working towards a hybrid schedule and I really hope they get to get into school, even if for just a week or two), we don't even need to stock up on face masks and sanitizer yet. 

But we still have five students (ages 10-19) starting their school years learning remotely all under one roof. So what are our family's back-to-school "must haves" this year? 

They include:

1. Noise cancelling headphones for the college freshman with a downstairs bedroom, a noisy family and an intense workload.

2. Frozen burritos and packages of ramen noodles for the two college students to have an easy, quick lunch option as well at the illusion of a more regular college experience.

3. A steady stream of easy-to-grab snacks for all five students.

4. Two new desks and sneaky spots to squeeze them into for improved work stations. Last spring's quickly put-together folding table in the family room got the job done but wasn't sustainable.

                                         Wasted space + free desk = learning nook!

5. A Mom who has offered her services to the children to not be entirely at their beck and call, but very willing to help them fetch that snack or burrito, find them a charging cord or refill their water bottles. Because while they may have their nooks and technology and amazing teachers doing the best they can under the circumstances, remote learning just isn't anybody's favorite around here. Since I can't do anything to change the situation, I can grab that granola bar for them.