Friday, August 11, 2017

Five on Friday: One Man's Trash

There are many charming things about living in an old house (and sometimes charming can mean frustrating and perplexing, of course.) I always wished to live in one and my dream came true when we purchased a home originally built in 1787.

One of the "charms" I did not expect was the amount of trash we'd find in our yard. Considering that people used to not have garbage pick up, it makes sense (I guess?) that they'd dispose of broken dishes and things in the woods. It's amazing how the Earth pushes more up every year. It's so much here that the springtime novelty of walking down to the stream and finding little shards of pottery has worn off for my kids (I still get a little charge out of it). 

We've now got material for 1,000 mosaic projects . . . and plenty of disgusting stuff that was put right into the trash. However, we have found some interesting things that now have spots in our home. Like:

1. This plastic pink poodle toy!! This one was found in our stone spring house along with a totally muddy and creepy old baby doll from hell. The doll was disposed of, the poodle was washed and is now great friends with my vintage pink poodle lamp.

2. Antique tongs: for ice? For coal? This one actually has not found a spot in the house yet, it's more of just interesting garden decor. However, while I was trying to figure out what it was I saw a cute idea of turning into a paper towel holder. (The roll goes down where the ice/coal would go.)

3.  My husband found this large iron floor grate when he was expanding the garden. We decided to hang it from the kitchen ceiling as a pot rack.

4. Eventually the inner circle was also found, though partially damaged. I haven't found a great use for it yet so it's also still in the "interesting garden decor" category.

5. This rake head makes a perfect place to hang one of my many hats.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Five on Friday: About Last Night (Moth Porch Party)

Being involved with The Moth* is truly the gift that keeps on giving. I was thrilled when I was invited to perform in New York City for a Mainstage show last year and then floored when they sent me to two other cities for shows.

Last night my husband and I were invited to their 20th Anniversary Porch Party. On my drive in to the city, I literally drove THROUGH A RAINBOW on the New Jersey Turnpike. That seemed auspicious and it was; I had an amazing night. Here's a realization and fun highlights from last night:

1. Realization: lots of my stuff is double vintage now. When you consider that they were several decades old when I got my hands on them and that was another two decades ago . . . the old beloved (used to be Babci's) dress I wanted to wear last night has a zipper that just does not want to work anymore so I switched to a newer one but with a vintage purse. And then this happened. (Good thing I was out without kids and had hardly anything to carry!)

2. As I was wandering around Brooklyn waiting for my husband so we could get to the party, a woman came out of the VFW and insisted that I come in and have a drink of wine with the ladies. It was all women, bartender and patrons, drinking and smoking (haven't seen smoke in a bar in a few decades, so that coupled with the decor made me feel like I stepped back in time.) They were all Brooklyn natives, getting away from their families for a bit for a drink together. They were all foul-mouthed and welcoming and I adored them all. I purchased some raffle tickets and promised I'd consider coming back for an event in September.

 3. The party! Oh so fun. I got to hang out with a fellow storyteller from my first show. The turnaround time on the show is so quick that we barely got to know each other but through the magic of Facebook have stayed in touch. We had a blast. Plans are in the works for her to visit us and I'm determined to make this happen as soon as possible.

4. One minute stories with names I've heard a million times on the podcast--like Senior Producer Jen Hixson who directed my story and always makes me laugh, Host Dan Kennedy (bottom right) that I totally dorked out to the first time I met him but have now shared several laughs with . . . and Moth founder George Dawes Green (bottom left) whom I have not personally met but am ever grateful to for starting all of this.

5.  On the way out there were party favors and, being the Moth, they were journal of course! I first saw the red journals labeled "Shinola" and was disappointed the others weren't labeled "Shit From." I suppose that would be a pretty bad name for a journal though.

*The Moth began in 1997 as a live storytelling show. It has grown exponentially since that time and now has ongoing programs in over 25 cities worldwide and produces over 500 lives shows a year. The Moth podcast is downloaded over 30 million times a year, and each week, the Peabody Award-winning Moth Radio Hour is heard on over 400 radio stations worldwide.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Five on Friday: Writing is Happening Today. For Real.

I know I haven't been posting much on the blog lately and it's not that the children, job, theatre troupe, etc, etc, are keeping me too busy to write. I am writing but all of my writing time and energy is going towards writing my memoir. I started working on it at the beginning of the year and set up goals for myself to reach in each month.

There have been starts and stops and somehow I kept exceeding my goals . . . and then summer hit. I was really worried about becoming derailed and was starting to feel pretty bad about not finding time to write when I remembered: the kids are going to day camp the last week of July!! Oh, I will have HOURS to write then! It will be glorious!

It's now Friday of that week and I have spent exactly 35 minutes writing. I could sob but instead I'll write a list:

1. I need to remember that my week was not a waste. I caught up on a ton of housework, vacation planning, baking and errands. I exercised every day and caught up with some friends this morning.

2. Today is really my day! I made it so by putting my Moth shirt on this morning for inspiration.

3. My house is a mess and I am forcing myself to ignore things like this today:

4. Ignoring messes is very difficult for me so I left!! Yes, this Five on Friday list is coming to you live from the local library . . . as far away from the kiddie section train table as possible and in a quiet corner so as not to be distracted.

5. My "On This Day" feed on Facebook showed me this picture. Must be a sign that today's a day for writing a memoir.

 And now I'm turning off the wifi and getting to work!!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Five on Friday: Five Times I Felt Like a Good Parent This Week

Parenting, for me at least, is full of mantras that help me get through it. Things like: It's just a phase. Someday we'll look back on this and laugh. Tomorrow will be a better day.

But this week felt like it went really well and I had several times I just felt like a good Mom. I thought maybe if I reflected on and noted these times, I could look back to them when I'm feeling frustrated and not-so-much like a good Mom. Maybe this Five on Friday list will become a future mantra . . .

Five times I felt like a good parent this past week:

1. Just when I thought we were getting our Saturdays back, Daddy-O signed the boys up for summer rugby (a totally new sport for us.)  Of course I wanted to see them play but . . . it was proving difficult to make it to a game. Last weekend I finally got to spend hours in the hot sun trudging from one field to another like a nomadic 'athletic supporter' and a good Mom.

 2. I had my three youngest and their visiting sister at the Farmers' Market with me and they wandered around while I was picking up my CSA share. When I caught up to them, two different vendors let me know that they were very nice and polite children.

3. I did some actual PLAYING in the sprinkler and creek with the kids several times this week. I didn't set it up and watch them play, I didn't just watch from the creek side, I didn't just get a little wet, but I got full-on soaked and made up silly games in the water and had fun times with them.

4. My youngest woke me overnight and I was nice instead of grouchy. (Hey, it'd been a long time since she's woken me and who knows when the last overnight-snuggle-request will come? That's not to say she should get used to it, waking me up is usually a pretty bad idea.)

5.  I tucked my 11-year-old the night his visiting sister left after staying with us for a week and he, unprompted, thanked me for arranging it all.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Five on Friday: Teenage Babysitters for the Win

If you've been reading along, you know that this is the first summer I'm trying to juggle five children home from school and a part-time job. Even though my teenagers are perfectly capable of babysitting the younger three kids at times, I didn't want to leave them in charge for ten hours a week. There's way too much sibling bickering for them to have to deal with. Luckily I have lots of family locally that are willing and able to take care of the little three (see last week's updates on Grandmas Camp they've been enjoying)

This past week my adopted kids' biological sister has been staying with us. I thought the addition of one more teenager--one exciting teenager that all the kids want to play with--would change the dynamics at home and that it might be okay to leave the kids home alone while I was at work.

I was right. These kids had a BLAST without me home. Here are the top five hits of having the teenagers in charge:

1. Cooking challenge! They had about three of them and sent me pictures of all sorts of really good looking dishes they made (and even saved me some.) I love seeing kids active in the kitchen but honestly, I often forget to include them in cooking.

2. THEY CLEANED THE KITCHEN WHEN THEY WERE DONE. The garbage was even taken out. I could swoon.

3.They took sidewalk chalk drawing to a whole new level:

4. There was a little vomit the first morning from my youngest--which of course I'm not thrilled about--but I've got to say, the teens handled it extremely well. (Turns out to maybe have just been a case of a little girl sucking down too much snot, not actually sick.)

5. But the very, very best about leaving the teens in charge this week was that my children got to bond one-on-one with the older sister they adore and don't get to see enough without any pesky meddling adults to get in the way.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Five on Friday: The Work/Summer Balance

This is my first summer working outside of the home while I've got five kids on summer vacation. As summer approached, I kept telling people, "It's only two days a week. . . "  (Lucky for me I have a best friend who snapped me out of it with a "I wish you would stop saying only.")

So I stopped. And summer started. Somehow we're only two full weeks into it and it feels like so much more. (Not just to me . . . my 15-year-old asked if we could schedule something in ASAP because "summer seems to be slipping away" . . . they had been off of school for a week.)

Other than the fact that I feel completely scattered all of the time, the working outside of the home/five kids on summer vacation balance is going pretty well so far. I'm particularly grateful for these five things:

1. I was feeling overwhelmed by the chores I don't have time to accomplish, until I realized I can just leave lists for my teens to complete while I'm at work and the younger kids are with a sitter. It's WONDERFUL.

2. We're so lucky to have friends and family that will watch our kids for free.

3. The only time I have paid a sitter it was my niece who is headed off to college in the fall so I was glad to throw her a bone . . . but she shouldn't get used to it (sorry kid.) Back to the Grandmas they go!

 4. My kids have made out like bandits: they've been swimming at the lake and their cousins' pool, they've been to McDonald's and Rita's Italian Ice, they've gone bowling . . . it's been like Camp Grandma 'round these parts.

5. Maybe best of all for my 9-year-old, even better than bowling or french fries or ice cream, he got to fulfill one of his greatest fantasies earlier this week when GRANDMA LET HIM HELP MOW PART OF THE LAWN.

All this in just two weeks of summer! So I may feel totally scattered and scrambling to get it all done but I just need to relax, re-read this list and realize we're doing all right.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Five On Friday: Tis the Season for Losing Kids in Public

It's summer! So that means the kids are home from school and going to lakes! Carnivals! Zoos! Amusement parks! The grocery store!!

Oh it is just all so much fun . . . especially that last example. And just so many opportunities for our little darlings to become separated from us. Here are some ways I've managed to never (permanently) lose any of our five kids.


1. When they were too little to remember my cell phone number, I made a bead bracelet that spelled out MOM'S CELL and then the number. Nobody ever needed it but it was nice to have just in case (and a fun way to learn that number).

2. When we get somewhere crowded, I try to point out what color shirts the employees are wearing, where the service desk or lost child room is, etc.

3. I try to frequently remind them that no matter where they are, if they think they are lost, their best bet is generally going to be to ask a Mommy with children for help.

4. I instruct them to NOT call Mom. Mom is being called out constantly, I become deaf to it. Call out "Gina" and you'll have a much better chance of me tuning in to you, kiddo.

5. Call and response. As we wander around a busy place or if I'm trying to gather my crew back together at a playground, I may shout something like "Scaramouche, Scaramouche!" and listen for five "Can you do the fandago?" responses to come back to me. (We're incorporating some Hamilton lyrics in this year, maybe a little Rochambeau, dig me?)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

My First Time

I think everybody remembers their first time.

I do, too. I think I thought it was going to hurt a little, but I guess I was lucky: it didn’t at all. It actually felt pretty good. It seemed like something I would probably want to do again and maybe even with other people.

It was a warm afternoon in the early summer. I was at the local lake with a bunch of friends. I knew a lot of them had done it and they all had great experiences. But I just . . . I don’t know, the time had never felt right to me. I wasn’t really sure I was ready. I’d resisted much longer than any of my friends had but that day I knew I felt ready to try something new: 

I was ready to ask a group of Moms to help me out with my kids.

Two weeks earlier, we had gotten a surprise baby. Some people have surprise pregnancies but when you’re a licensed foster family, sometimes you get surprise babies. At the time we had four kids under the age of ten and we weren’t really chomping at the bit to change more diapers--but when we got a call about our younger children’s baby sister needing a soft place to land, we broke out the landing gear.

It was an emotionally draining time. In one week’s time, she arrived unexpectedly, left again just as suddenly  and then surprisingly returned. The frequent night time waking is always an unwelcome shock to the system, even with the fifth baby. (Maybe even more so with the fifth baby) I tried my best to maintain normalcy for the older kids. That meant in spite of my exhaustion and the newly scheduled late afternoon appointment for the baby, I stayed committed to our plans of celebrating the end of the school year with a trip to the lake.

As all the local mothers gathered around to coo over our beautiful new addition, I realized I was tired. I was really tired.

I also realized I was ready. The time was right. This was what they meant when they said it takes a village, right? I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have a husband that is an amazing partner and an excellent father but there were times (like weekdays when he was at work) that I’d need help from someone else. Now, more than ever, with five children needing me all the time, I was going to have to call upon my village.

I took a deep breath and asked the other Moms if they could watch my kids—the 2 and 4-year-olds playing in the sand at the water’s edge, the 8 and 9-year-olds swimming in the lake with friends, the infant that needed cuddling. I needed to take a nap and I also didn’t want to haul all five to the baby’s appointment an hour away.

They didn’t hesitate. Of course they would watch my kids for both my nap and the appointment. I took my towel and my sunglasses and hiked across the beach to farthest spot away I could get to. I spread out my towel and laid down. As I closed my eyes and succumbed to the pleasure of an early afternoon nap in the sun, I thought, “I could get used to this.”

Something clicked that day—when those other mothers were so eager and willing to help me it made me realize that I, of course, would do the same and more for any of them. Since then it’s gotten much easier for me. I’ve even been known to do it twice in one day, sometimes with two different people.

And I never have any shame.

Because now I have a better understanding of how this Universal Village works: sometimes I will be on the giving end and sometimes I will be on the receiving end. It’s not tit-for-tat. I’ve got friends that bail me out more than I care to admit and I’ve got friends whose rescue I’ve come to too many times to count. Nobody’s keeping tabs.  And that’s exactly what I tell any frazzled parent who needs to hand a crying infant to me or have me feed their child a meal unexpectedly. Sometimes they think they need to repay me, they don’t understand what I’m trying to tell them about how this all works. 

So I just try to be very gentle with them and take it slowly . . . it might be their first time.