Friday, October 19, 2018

Five on Friday: Perks of Being a Host Family

Tonight our British exchange student will be arriving and we are all really excited about meeting her! We did this same exchange program two years ago and had such a good time . . . I'm not sure how I dropped the ball on signing up last year, but we're back this year, baby!

You might be wondering why we are willingly taking another child into this house where the grown-ups are already so outnumbered--so I should mention that this is just a ten-day visit. And you know how people always say that after having two kids, adding a third isn't really that big of a deal? I can attest to that and add to that by saying after having five kids, any number of additional children aren't that big of a deal either.

One of the great things about it being a short visit is that we don't have time to put anything off. Everything that we want to share with her we must do right away, so we've scheduled it and will get it all done.

Of course the best things about being a host family are getting to make a new friend, having fun laughing at little cultural differences together, having UK vs. US candy showdowns (ever try British Skittles? Not nearly as sweet as ours and a bit more flavorful.) Not to mention getting to listen to my youngest imitate a British accent . . . but having done this before, I've realized there are other perks that I hadn't counted on, like:

1. Being provided the opportunity to take advantage of lots of local places, restaurants and things to do: it's like a mini-staycation with a new foreign friend who has never seen any of it before.

2. Likewise, we also get the chance to take advantage of places that are local-ish but we don't manage to get around to enough. Frequently realtors use "close to both New York City and Philadelphia!" as a selling point to living in this area, but how often do we get into either city? We will be in the next ten days!

3. We also get to go to places that we don't normally go to, like the ginormous Mall about half an hour away. Our children have been there so infrequently that it is just as much a magical display of dazzling American excess to them as it is to our guests.

We took this picture last time we visited the big Mall with exchange students. I'm telling you, we are like tourists there ourselves.

4.  While we like to think we prioritize family fun and togetherness, sometimes the hectic life of a family of seven means we end up doing things like frantically carving pumpkins on October 30th. Not this year! We have all sorts of family fun on the itinerary, including carving pumpkins weeks before Halloween!

5. The food, oh the food.  I love hosting and cooking and making special foods so I have plans to do a lot of that in the next ten days. By the time she goes home we'll all be 5 pounds   0.35 stones heavier!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Five on Friday: Five Ways I Love Waze

(The last two weeks were a little heavy. How about a fun Five on Friday this week?)

When I need directions in the car, I usually just ask Nigel* to pull up the driving directions for me. But I've been trying to use Waze more often because listening to it makes me so damn happy.

I know that sounds weird. But did you know that you can record your own voice directions on Waze? (It's true! Learn how to here!) When my husband and I first learned that, our initial thought was . . . why would you want to hear yourself? But then we were stuck in traffic with all five kids in the car so we thought it might be entertaining for them to try it.

We were right: they had a blast. Now every time I use Waze for directions I smile so much, because:

1. Even though it wasn't that long ago, some of their voices sound so much younger, tinier and more adorable.

2.  My older son's various random accents, like saying, "Turn left" in his best Arnold Schwarzenegger.

3. Hearing the background voices on certain directions. They only come up once in awhile but they capture a moment of us all in the car, all talking . . . it's a weird little thing to treasure but I do.

4. Liberties taken with some of the voice prompts . . . like instead of just saying"rerouting," my daughter made a cute sing-songy  "boop-de-boop" noise. "Hazard reported ahead" is "Dukes of Hazzard ahead."

5. I have heard all of the above things many times and love them each and every time. I thought I had heard them all, but on a recent trip using Waze, my 12-year-old son's voice imitating Brain--of "Pinky and the"--told me to "Take the third left . . . you imbecile!"

*I have switched my Siri's voice to be a British man's voice and I call him Nigel. When I ask him what my name is, he says Darling. It's the little things.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Five on Friday: Here We Go Again

Didn't I just have to do a little survivor self care last week for Five on Friday? Another week under this Administration means, unsurprisingly, another week of new lows.

Plenty of other things the past two years have upset me, but the mimicking of Dr. Ford by our supposed leader struck a different sort of nerve. I didn't even turn the volume up, the headline and comments were enough to make me feel completely nauseated and defeated. I knew I'd bounce back, I'm resilient, but sometimes I need a minute.

The next morning inspiration popped up on the Motherwell Magazine Instagram page:

This, apparently, was just what I needed

I remembered who the fuck I am. I am a fighter and an activist that refuses to let the bad guys win. I'm the woman that people ask to speak at last-minute vigils for sexual assault survivors and I'm the woman who fucking slays it. I had several people approach me afterwards to tell me how inspiring I was but I don't think any of them realize how inspiring it is for ME to have done it.

Here are five ways how:

1. Being asked to speak inspired me to write, and I know that writing is cathartic for me. In just over 24 hours I was able to write something I felt really good about and then didn't even need my cheat sheet when I had the mike.

2.  A little girl whom I've met a few times was there; I know her parents. She was unsure about holding a votive candle of her own. Ultimately she declined but when other candles were lit she looked like she may have had some regrets. When it was almost my turn to speak, I asked her if she'd like to hold my candle for me. She said yes so I handed it to her and then walked up to the microphone. I was surprised when I realized she had followed me. She stood next to me the entire time. Mini-activists inspire me.

3. Last week I realized that soon it would be the 20th anniversary of Matthew Shephard's death. I wanted to try to organize something but . . . just hadn't. This experience reminded me how easy it is to organize a vigil and connected me to a fellow activist that was willing to collaborate with me. Within 24 hours we secured a location, arranged for speakers, created flyers and an event page. Within 4 hours of the event being made public, the school librarian let me know that an 8th grade girl is doing a National History Day project on Matthew Shepard and would like to be involved. Interestingly, her first name is the same one that my little candle holding friend has. Young activists inspire me.

4. My parents, who have inspired and supported me my entire life, were there.

5. Most of the crowd, though, were strangers whose reactions, comments, and willingness to repeat my refrain at the end of my speech inspired me. 

We can become the person that others feel safe to confide in 
by practicing saying this simple phrase: I believe you.

 Say it with me: I believe you.
If we’ve never met before: I believe you.
If I’ve known you for my whole life but never knew this: I believe you.
If I’ve love and trusted and never been harmed by your abuser: I believe you.
If it was one time or multiple times, if you were a child or an adult: I believe you.
If you were sober or dry or drunk or high: I believe you.
If you were walking alone or wearing revealing clothing: I believe you.
If you said yes but then changed your mind: I believe you.
If you’ve never told anyone else before: I believe you.
If you’ve told other people and they said you were lying: I believe you.
If it happened days or decades ago: I believe you. 

Everyone here, I want you to know that I believe you.

And I’ll see you at the polls on November 6th

Ultimately, I feel like the Supreme Court nomination we're all fighting against, honestly, is going to happen anyway. We can't expect change over (2018 - 1776 x 365 = ) 88,3330 nights, right? (*sarcasm)

But I've seen so many videos of individuals and crowds protesting since Wednesday, so much vocal resistance. I'm completely re-energized by it. Change is happening and we're living through it. It's difficult and at times certainly feels demoralizing, debilitating, defeating . . . but we just need to collectively take a deep breath and remember who the fuck we are.

We're fighters.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Five on Friday: Survivor Self-Care this Week

Hey survivors, I feel you this week. I feel your trauma and rage and depression. I feel your readiness to mobilize to action with me.

I feel the need for community and for self care. For me, this means that I am going to do my best to:

1. Get good food, exercise, sleep.

2. Not engage with hateful strangers on the Internet.

3. Take media breaks.

4. Look for ways to laugh.

5. Remember that I can't fix the overwhelming problems of the world and count the work I can do, whether it be a conversation about patriarchy/white supremacy, a performance with Meta Theatre Company or educating myself as much as possible. I can do these things and remember that they make a difference and I can feel proud for my own small impact on my corner of the world.

What are you doing for you?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Five on Friday: Rhetorical Questions in the Bathroom

Ah, the bathroom. Not just a small room for fulfilling basic bodily functions but also a tiny sanctuary. Where do we run and shut the door to make a phone call (or to be interviewed on the radio, if you're me)? Where do we sometimes pretend we're still pooping just so we can read in silence?

Of course sometimes they follow us there, but that's what locks are for.

I'm beyond those days of having a young visitor, but based on these five rhetorical questions I frequently find myself asking while I'm in the bathroom, my kids are always with me while I'm in the there. Like:

1. When oh when will they all be old enough that I'll no longer find pee on the seat or the floor?

2. Does this roll of toilet paper feel . . . damp????


4. Really little dog? The kids don't follow me in here anymore but you love me so much you willingly enter the room of your seasonal water torture?

5. Oh sweet Jesus what fresh hell is this?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Five on Friday: Bullshit Reasons Why I Couldn't Write Last Week

I could attempt to justify each one for you, as I did for myself mentally, but I think that goes against the stated theme of BULLSHIT reasons. I'm putting them here, to embarrass and remind myself that every single one of these is bullshit, I should stop trying to justify them and just WRITE.

1. The kids have a day off from school.
2. I'm tired.
3. I don't have time.
4. I have time but not enough so why bother getting started.
5. I haven't written anything new in awhile, so . . . (wanders off to find a toilet to clean)

I know.

I'm awful.

But I'm working on it . . . stay tuned for more writing, including something brandy-new on a blog that's not even mine on Sunday!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Five on Friday: It's a New (School) Year!

When my sister’s youngest son was 4-years-old, he desperately wanted to go to school with his older brothers. That big yellow bus was particularly appealing to him. “Next year,” my sister kept assuring him.

That January, after the bigger boys' holiday break, it was time for heading back to school. That morning, the littlest brother packed a backpack and lined up at the door.

“Where do you think you're going?”

“School! It’s next year now!”

Of course he hadn't realized there was a difference between next year and next year. Grown-ups are so confusing. 

Even though I'm well aware of those differences, I think they do have a lot in common. It's a new school year for us now and it's filled with bright shiny promise just like every January is. Instead of new calendars waiting to be filled with appointments and doodles, there are now new agendas longing to be filled with homework assignments and amazing doodles!

It also similarly feels like a time to make some changes, set some goals, make some resolutions if you will. This year I'm also reassessing some of our previous ones, perhaps they were too lofty or just not relevant at this stage in our lives anymore. Here are our school year resolutions, some altered old ones and some completely new:

1. I am no longer bothering with trying to get the kids to pack their lunches at night anymore. Evenings are busy with chores, homework, lounging, sports and meetings. My kids are generally easy risers and their morning routines are pretty streamlined, including making lunch for themselves at breakfast time. As long as they're packing for themselves, I'm happy. 

2.  Oh bedtime. You are so difficult to regulate after summer and then with the start of homework and sports. We're totally going to wrestle you back into submission. Soon.

3. This one is for Mom and Dad: Stay consistent in checking the kids' agendas and homework. 

4. This one's for myself: I've been working outside of the home for a year and a half now. It's time to accept the fact that even though it's only 15-20 hours a week (and they're even while the kids are at school!) it completely affects my ability to consistently make the kind of dinners and snacks I like to make for my family. Concessions need to be made, like more store-bought snacks. Changes need to be made, like prepping or even cooking dinner before work.

5. This last one is brand new and I'm not sure yet how we're going to do it: get through searching for and applying to colleges without completely stressing ourselves or our daughter out. (I'll gladly take tips on this one, we'll need to hone these skills for the following four kids!)

Friday, August 31, 2018

Five on Friday: School Supply Hacks

The Internet is rife with memes about insane school supply lists . . . mainly because it's true. I used to get a new Trapper Keeper each year; my kids get mile-long lists of required supplies. I'm happy to help the teachers out but shopping with five kids each with their own insanely long list is not exactly my favorite yearly tradition.

This year the lists didn't seem quite as long and I'm grateful for that. For today's list, I am going to share some tricks I've come up with to make the school supply situation easier on myself, hopefully something will be helpful for you, too:

1. At the end of each school year, we save things that aren't totally trashed. Folders or binders with a just a name label on them, notebooks with three pages used. No shame in sending my kid to school with like-new supplies.

2. But where do I store these items over the summer? A-ha, I'm glad you asked!! Because I feel like this was one of my best ideas ever:


3. When we are shopping for the new stuff, I always grab a few extra folders, notebooks, etc. because inevitably someone is going to need one--usually for the very next day--and it just makes my life easier. Also they're generally on sale this time of year.

4. I also try to remember to grab a package of poster board while I'm out. Someone always ends up needing one and it's always urgent.

5. If your kids got new shoes for back-to-school, hold on to those shoe boxes! It seems fewer are needed as they get older, but sometimes the big kids need them for building certain projects. I like having several on hand so I can offer one to someone else that was caught off-guard as I know there will be about a million other ways I'll need help during the school year so this is my one little way of giving back.