Friday, February 19, 2021

Five on Friday: Basketball Mom Double Feature

As I snuggled in on the couch to watch my son's basketball game being live streamed, I couldn't help remembering how much my back was utterly killing me by the end of last year's season. Backless bleacher seats are so unkind to aging backs! It made me realize that watching games from home on the laptop has its advantages:

1. Not only is the couch literally billions of times more comfortable than bleachers . . . in general the living room is much warmer and cozier than any  school gym.

2. The couch is really, really comfy . . . and when I'm watching from home, a mid-game snooze is totally possible.

3. We can share the link with family members who live too far away to make live games.

4. Volume control when the squeak-squeak-squeak of the sneakers or the drone of the buzzer become too annoying.

5. I don't have to divide my time watching my son play and wondering what kind of trouble my other kids are getting into under the bleachers or in the hallways.


UPDATE! 

I wrote the above observations before they began allowing parents in to watch games in person. Since that time I've been to two in-person games and have to admit . . . there are also things I really like about watching my son play in person. 

Does that mean I take back any of the above? Nope! I have the ability to like two different things simultaneously! So while I continue to appreciate the comfort and convenience of live streamed games, I also really appreciate some aspects of watching in person. (Though I do wish I had volume control in person--that buzzer is excessively loud and annoying.) 

Here are five things I was reminded of  enjoying when I got to sit in the gym:

1. I derive a sort of weird pleasure out of watching grown men lose their minds over a school sports game. (Not when they take it too far and have to be carded or asked to leave--but luckily I haven't really witnessed much of that. Just the sort of run-of-the-mill disagreeing with the ref's call that makes me cue up Heart Attack Man in my head.)

2. It's easier for me to actually see my own son when I'm in direct danger of getting hit by a ball . . .  and I really do love watching him play, even if I don't like the idea of getting hit by a flying ball or smelly teenage boy.

3. I get a little charge out of hearing the coach from the other team repeatedly warning his players to watch out for my son.

4.  In years past, trying to make sure I got to all the games sometimes felt like a real struggle. But this year, any chance to get out of the house and see other people is such a treat!

5. My husband says this wasn't a date since one of our kids was technically present, but it was still nice to just sit with him alone with nothing else to do but enjoy watching the game together. (Plus I got to listen to him be a sideline coach/ref and cue up the Beastie Boys in my brain. Bonus!)






Friday, February 12, 2021

Five on Friday: Getting Shoveling to Count as Exercise

Not sure where you're reading this from, but where I live we've had a bit of snow lately.

 
First there was a 2+ foot dump over a 48-hour period followed by two or three (Or four? Five? I've lost track.) more smaller snowfalls. As a person who uncharacteristically likes shoveling (I hate being cold) and strives for near-daily exercise (if for no other reason but to live long enough to be a burden on my children), I've found myself recently wondering how much of my shoveling I can count as actual exercise.

Isn't it always exercise? Meh, sometimes it feels like a cop-out, like when it's not so much shoveling as just pushing a light dusting off to the side. In my completely unprofessional opinion, there are five steps one should follow to make sure that snow removal job is also a valid workout.

These include:

1. Dress in exercise clothes instead of snow clothes to get yourself in the workout mindset. Bonus: those pants are pretty thin so you'll have to really get moving to stay warm.

2. Try to make sure there's so much freaking snow that it becomes increasingly difficult to find a place to shovel it to thereby assuring you have to give a good, solid heave to get each shovelful off of the driveway.

3. Bend with the knees!

4. Get some headphones and blast dance music in your ears while you shovel.

5. Lastly, and I cannot stress this one enough: have your children see you dance-shoveling and singing out loud to music nobody else can hear out in the driveway. Every time they die a little death of embarrassment, you lose another 500 calories, at least. 

*This has not been proven yet but I am proud to help support scientific research.

 



 


Friday, February 5, 2021

Five on Friday: Roomier Nesters

We're almost one week into being a household of "only" three children living here. Not an empty nest, just a roomier one.

I cried before the big birds left, of course, and my husband consoled me that they'd be okay. I trust that they will, too, we did an pretty good job getting them ready for the world (or college at least? I hope? Please?) I know they can drive and vote but once they move out, even just for the semester, that serves as a stark and unavoidable symbol that their childhoods are over. It's not worry that makes me cry. 

Their absences haven't fully hit yet, with it being such a weird mixed-up week of massive quantities of snow and altered schedules. So what changes have I noticed in the roomier nest so far?

1. Their empty rooms have served as vacuums that immediately suctioned younger siblings in. I knew our 14-year-old, who normally shares a room with his brother, would be anxious to stretch out in his own space. I didn't anticipate our 10-year-old, who already has her own room, to claim her sister's room as her second bedroom. She didn't fully move in, mostly just spread her toys all over the floor but she did bring one piece of decor with her:

 2. We don't have to eat in the dining room anymore! Technically the kitchen table is still too small, only four chairs and there are five people here. But there are also two counter stools! Why do we like eating in the kitchen? Because the dining room is freezing and the kitchen is cozy, especially when you squeeze five people around a four-person table.

3. There are no drivers here to run errands for me. Boo. On the flipside, there are no drivers here that want to use my car and leave the gas tank low!

4. I don't have to cook as much--ha ha ha, just kidding. The three growing athletes here still eat a lot. I haven't adjusted amounts yet but I am finally learning what "leftovers" means.

5. We get to discover the joys of modern long distance relationships with people we love very much. I texted both college students yesterday with pictures of their brother's overnight bloody nose crime scene (if that doesn't make them homesick, I don't know what will) and had a chuckle at my son's quick reply of "Badass."

I got home from work to find my younger daughter in a video chat with her sister, who had been contacted by her younger brother earlier in the day, and she and I got to laugh together later over the content he had sent her.

Even though it's natural for me to feel sad about their childhoods being over, there are still many enjoyable parts of this roomier nest lifestyle. I'm sure by the time I really get used to it, the semester will be over and they'll be back (hooray!!!!).





Friday, January 29, 2021

Five on Friday: Things to Be Grateful for As I Prepare to Send Two Off to College

 


What’s that word to explain when you’re simultaneously feeling thrilled for your kids’ opportunities but sad because they’re growing up and little bit worried because they’re your kids and that’s your job? Oh right, parenthood. I think the word I’m looking for might just be parenthood.

 

I feel funny calling the older two my “kids” sometimes—at 18 and 20, they’re young adults. But what else can I call them? My offspring? Too weirdly impersonal. My adults? Same. My grown kids? To me that feels like it implies that they are financial independent, or in their thirties, whichever comes first.  

 

Anyway. They are going to college this weekend—one of them back for her the second half of her second year (she came home last March and has been home since), one for his first time. 


The younger three kids are thrilled by all the things they plan on doing with their older siblings’ empty bedrooms once they're gone.  While I will be enforcing some restrictions, I do understand--when my parents drove my older sister to college, I opted to stay home. By the time they returned, I had moved everything out of my shared bedroom and into hers.

 

Me? I’m experiencing all the mixed emotions that one does when sending her alleged adults to college five hours away from home during a worldly pandemic. If you know me at all, you know that means it's time for me to focus on all that I am grateful for in this scenario. I am so very thankful:


1. That they are going to the same school. Not only does this help us in a practical way, it just makes my heart happy.

 

2. These two have been very cautious with mask-wearing and people-seeing. I really don’t have any worries about them being careless in this regard. 
 
3. For, again, technology! Always grateful for the the ability to call, text and FaceTime.
 

4. That five hours is far but not too far. It’s driveable, which is extra great now since I’m still wary about airline travel.

 

5. That even though it's still going to be virtual learning,  they’ll be around their peers and in a different space and city. They want this. They need this. I really am so happy for them to be spreading their wings, even though I'm going to miss them.


 


 

 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Five on Friday: Last One About MLK Day (for this year anyway)

I hesitated writing a third Five on Friday list in a row about Martin Luther King Day, but it’s kind of a big deal around here. Seeing how it occupies most of my life, brainpower and dining room for the majority of the month, it only makes sense that it would also dominate my blog.

 

To be completely honest, it also took over a good portion of the living room for a few days.


I’ve already shared with you my tongue-in-cheek tips followed by my genuine pointers for hosting a Day of Service, now I’m going to share some highlights from this year’s event.

 

As overwhelming as it was to plan and prepare for it, it all came together beautifully in the end. I’m not going to lie, some things even went smoother than usual. Even so, I never want to do it this way again. I long for the events of the past, with a room packed full of people and so many hugs. I want that again very badly. But this year’s drive-through Day of Service was terrific! Here are some of my favorite parts:

 

1. People! I'm so grateful for people. People in general for annually reminding me how good we can be. I'm grateful for both people who know me and my event and especially for those who don't for donating money, goods and time. My favorites are always the people who jump right in; especially this year, having no experience with what our event is normally like but still just deciding to go for it. I appreciate them all so much.


2. We tried a few new projects this year that worked out so well, they are already on the list for next year. 


3. The creation of a little new terminology “We’ve got to Tetris this insane number of diaper packages into the back of that Subaru” and a new unit of measurement: “We ended up with three Subarus-full of diaper donations!”

 

Still lots of space in there!

4. Everyone was really good at following instructions on how to complete their projects at home. They even remembered to take pictures and send them to me.

 

 5. The weather!! Someone wanted to know what our inclement weather plan was. I laughed and told her we fly by the seat of our pants on that, 18 years strong now!  Two years ago it was about 20 degrees outside. I felt bad about sending my son and some other teenage boys outside to direct traffic but . . . I still did. We really needed traffic to be directed.

This year I was going to be the outside (along with other volunteers) and I despise being cold. Well lucky me! It was sunny and mild all day! A little breezy at times but really not bad at all. I am pretty sure I was being rewarded for my good deeds. Like instant karma, but in the good direction.


Additionally, I just wanted to share that our motto for this year was "Doing good together while safely apart." I think this picture sums that up beautifully:


 


 

 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Five on Friday: How Easy Community Service Projects for MLK or Any Day

I realize it's probably too late for you to plan an event for Monday. But if you've never hosted an MLK Day of Service before, this might not be the best year to start. (Believe me, the pandemic has really complicated hosting an event that normally fills a church hall.)

The great thing about serving the community is that you can actually do it any time, not only on the third Monday of January. Not only that, but you can do it from the comfort of your own home! No church hall full of people needed.

You don't even need a lot of time or money.

Like Martin Luther King said, you only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.

Here are five free or very inexpensive projects you could do on your own this year or at your very first publicly hosted MLK Day of Service next year:

1. Coloring Meals on Wheels bags: this has been a standard for us every single year since we first started in my dining room eighteen years ago. Check with your local Meals on Wheels office, ours has particular bags to use and guidelines for coloring. (Another great coloring option is Color-A-Smile. It's an organization that collects and distributes drawings to residents of Nursing Home, Troops overseas, and anyone in need of a smile. For coloring pages and more information, please visit ColorASmile.org

2.  Host a Donation Drive: I've actually been doing this seasonally for the local food pantry for the past year. I find out what the food pantry's current specific request are and then I post on Facebook to ask my friends to drop things off in a box on my porch. Et voila! 

*Make sure you ask the organization you're trying to help what they need first, sometimes their answers might surprise you. You could also help an animal shelter (they frequently need old sheets and towels), the United Way (our local one needs diapers frequently) or Women's Shelters (feminine care products can be expensive!)

3. Write a letter! Letters to Strangers is a global youth-run non-profit seeking to destigmatize mental illness and increase access to treatment. For guidelines and instructions, visit LettersToStrangers.org

4. Valentines for Veterans: Using simple craft supplies at home, make valentines and mail them to a VA hospital.


5. Assemble Toiletry Sets for a Shelter: This is a newer project for us and is brilliant in its simplicity. I solicit donations (via social media and public drop boxes) of sample and travel size toiletries. People tend to have a bathroom drawer full of them that they are happy to share. 

Sort the donations into small plastic bags (shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, etc) We donate these to a shelter that has showers for folks to use but can't provide personal care products for everyone.


 

 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Five on Friday: How to Host a Successful Day of Service

Last year started like any other for us like it always does, with me falling asleep long before the stroke of midnight followed by a cold month with two beloved annual events: visiting the kids’ Great Grandmother for her birthday and then the Annual Martin Luther King Day of Service that I organize.

This event, which started in my dining room, is now so big we reach capacity at the church hall where it is held. Participants come from all over the county and beyond because there aren't many other public days of service around. This prompted me to plan a workshop on how to host a successful day of community service so that others could start them in their own towns.

Then Covid happened.

You can guess how this ended.

Since I never got to hold that workshop, I thought I would at least share my unofficial steps to hosting a successful day of service. (Later I may post real tips, but for now I leave you with this tongue-in-cheek checklist.)

1. Late January: Realize that if I got started earlier next time, maybe I wouldn’t have that crunch time freakout. Write well-thought out reminders and tasks on the calendar, starting in October and adequately spaced out.

2. Early October: Have first reminder pop up. Push snooze. Repeat in late October when the reminder comes back up. Push delete this time.

3. Mid-November: Begin to feel overwhelmed by the impending holidays combined with the thought of planning a day of service even though I literally broke it down into very easy-to-do tasks for myself, some of them literally being as easy as “email so-and-so.”

4. Late December: Commence the real freakout*.

(*this year compounded by "how the hell do I do ^this remotely??")

5. Mid January: Somehow* manage to pull off another successful event. Pat myself on the back. Realize that if I got started earlier next time, maybe I wouldn’t have that crunch time freak out. Write well-thought out reminders and tasks on the calendar, starting in October and adequately spaced out.

*Full disclosure: that "somehow" is made up of many generous donors who fund the event, my co-organizer Mom, my family for dealing with boxes of supplies that take over the house and for helping me sort and move them, the church that I don't even go to letting me use their space, volunteers who help purchase supplies, set up the room, direct traffic, run tables, deliver projects, host bake sales, set up screen printing stations, clean up the room and MORE!!  I absolutely COULD NOT do this without the strength of an entire community behind me.  Hey, I should hold a workshop to teach people how to get to started with this . . .

 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Five on Friday: These Are Not Resolutions

Last year on January 1st, we drove about an hour across the state to celebrate our children's Great Grandmother's 91st birthday.  We gave what feels like hundreds of hugs and took lots of family photos.

On the ride home, the sunset was so beautiful, we actually pulled off the Interstate into a "scenic overlook" area to get a better view. I snapped this lovely picture. If you look carefully, my son is goofing around and acting like he's going to push his sister over the edge. 

In hindsight, this seems like perhaps a perfect photo for the first day of 2020.

I'm not making resolutions this year, I doubt many people are. What I am making, though, is a list of things I am absolutely going to do once it's safe to (oh please, oh please, let that be this year), like:

1. Drive my family that hour across the state and hug the heck out of that 92-year-old. (Also drive my family a little over an hour south and do the same to the new baby in our family. And basically just HUG everyone I've missed hugging.)

2. I am going to have parties upon parties. I am going to hire a live band for at least one of them, if not more. I am going to embarrass my younger children with my dancing.

3. I have a few friends that are several decades older than me (because I am a very lucky person). A pair of them used to grab an occasional weekday lunch with me, another would sometimes treat me to a day drink at a bar. I am definitely prioritizing both of those things.

4. I am getting a goddamn mani-pedi. I don't need them often, but you know, about once a year I feel like I need some assistance in taming these wild cuticles and softening up these sandpaper heels. I promise I will double-tip for all the extra work they'll have to do. Um, maybe triple. Things are getting bad over here.

5. I am going to go to my favorite local dive bar with my friends. It will be karaoke night, and I will walk in and announce that James Brown sent me. (I feel like I've been hearing him sing, "Tell them James Brown sent you" for years and I think it's high time I listened to the man.)

I am not going to spend my free drink token because they're going to need cash (and also ever since I first got this I decided I'd like it to be the kind of thing my grandchildren see one day and shake their heads and laugh at what a character their Gigi is)

I'm going to sing my heart out and dance and laugh and talk to strangers, who will be able to hear me (as well as they can over the bar and karaoke noise) and see my facial expressions fully because I won't have a face mask on.

Oh wait, is that five already? No!!!! I didn't say anything about going on a date with my husband or an overnight away with my best girlfriends or taking a family road trip or just sitting in a coffee shop or watching my kids play sports, even on the uncomfortable school bleachers!

UGH fine. Maybe I am making one teeny tiny huge resolution: to not take any of these things for granted ever again.