Friday, June 24, 2016

Five On Friday: Things to Do With the Kids At Home (with recipes!)

My kids are finally done with school! We've got a long list of places we'd like to go over the next ten weeks. Some are free, some are cheap, some are going to need some coupon research. Of course there will be plenty of staying home and letting them be bored time, too. 

But my kids and I really like to make and do things. I know that if we're having an extra boring day sometimes just doing one activity together can inspire them for all sorts of other play. So I've also been making a list of things to do at home, like:

1. Watch the movie "Flubber" (borrowed from library so Mommy can exercise or nap) and then make some flubber to play with. 

2. I make bread almost every week but we haven't ever made butter. I remember my older kids doing it at preschool once with heavy cream and a jar so we're going to try that  one of these summer days.

3.  Sidewalk chalk: still fun for all of my kids. Sometimes they use up our entire driveway and then ask our next door neighbors if they can draw on theirs, too. We create creative hopscotch games or draw curvy lines to follow on  bikes or scooters. 14-year-old G has invented large, elaborate, live-action fantasy-type games with chalk on the driveway. Currently there is a "village" on my driveway which is chalk-drawn businesses and homes connected by two lane roads. (And I can't forget "chalk makeup" which is made by grinding up chalk and adding water.)

4. Speaking of neighbors' driveways . . . it occurred to me that because one of our other neighbors has a driveway that has been deemed "way more fun" to bike on than ours, we can take advantage of their willingness to let us use it and go down there to get some free fun.

5. Oh and one more recipe to try, this is one definitely for the big kids. Last year we were in New York City with some visiting friends and my teens got "Ramen burgers" from a food truck. The burgers were beef but the buns were made from Ramen, which, in spite of all my cooking from scratch, is one of their favorite foods. It didn't look that hard to make so this summer I think we'll try for ourselves with this recipe.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Five On Friday: Plans for My Teens This Summer

In the past few days, I've learned that my 14-year-old son has a few ideas about what he's going to do this summer. They include things like: thwart all efforts to the best of his ability to go on outings, eat an entire bag of marshmallows and some sleep every half an hour every two or four hours all day long.

Funny. Those aren't the things I have on my list for him at all.

We're getting to a funny stage in planning: the little kids are still gung-ho for most of the outings I plan (free shows at the library, the local lake, etc.) but the teenagers not as much. So I've come up with a list of my expectations and desires for them this summer:

1. Yes, I'm sure I will end up taking you and whomever else to that cool arcade half an hour away. But I expect you to do things for me, too.

2. I'll let you both sleep in if you let me nap in the afternoons sometimes (by "let me" I mean "watch the little kids.")

3. I will help you find ways to make money but I won't do all the groundwork for you. (Otherwise that would just be me finding ways for ME to make money.)

4.  I understand that you don't want to do all the little kid things. That's fine. I'm not going to force you to go to the traveling petting zoo or anything like that. But I will expect you to go on some trips with us and I will always do my best to have it include something that's interesting to you. Your input is welcome, by the way, as long as it's realistic.

5. I reserve the right to wake you up for no reason other than it's a beautiful day and you're wasting it in your bed with your eyes closed.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Five on Friday: Fifth Kid's Last Day of Being Five!

It’s our fifth kid’s last day of being five so today's list is all about her!

We didn’t expect you, kiddo, and we didn’t think you would stay. The thought of falling in love with baby and then not having her with us forever was a bit scary. But you needed a soft place to land and we had one. And as soon as we heard about your existence, we loved you. We couldn’t say no.

But you came when we were already getting old and tired. Looking back, though, I do believe there were both disadvantages AND advantages to being the fifth kid. I am sorry and not sorry for:

1. I am sorry that you often were fed by bottle-prop. I am not sorry that your siblings got to hold and feed you frequently.

2.  I am sorry that you got no infant massage class, tumble time, toddler story hour. Well not formally anyway. You got that at home with me and from all the small hands that wanted to help with the baby.

3.  I am sorry that you got me and Daddy at our oldest and most exhausted. But you also got us at our most experienced in raising babies and toddlers stage! That has to count for something, right?

4. I am sorry that you got to have all sorts of sweets and gum and tastes of soda WAY before any of the other kids did. But I am sure you are not sorry about that at all.

5. Lastly and most seriously:  I am sorry that you didn’t get to stay with your first parents. I really am. I know that is something that you get sad about sometimes, too, and will continue to have feelings to work through as you get older. But I will never be sorry that we took chances: on saying yes to a baby that might not stay, to simultaneously wishing you could go back and that you’d never leave, to opening up our hearts and lives to your first parents. You might not be able to live with them but the fact that you can know them and love them as you grow here with us is an amazing gift I never thought we’d be lucky enough to receive. 

Blink! Tomorrow you will be six. Happy Birthday, big girl. I love you. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Under Pressure

This essay originally appeared on Witty Bitches

For two decades I said, “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

And when I got to it, I wailed to myself, “How did I do this last time?”

I don’t know! I was much younger and had the resiliency and naivety of youth. I didn’t have children.

But still I lived six weeks without knowing where he was. Not terribly long in the grand scheme of things but somehow I survived that time. What did I do, day to day, to get by?

Well, I guess leaned on my well-loved friends for comfort and security. I let myself cry and double check my doors even though it made me feel weak. I bought myself flowers. I considered the man who had hurt me and what the childhood perhaps looked like of a person that would grow up to do such things. I forgave him, even though he didn’t ask for forgiveness. I did that for me and I did that for him.

So it kept coming back to love: for my friends, myself, my attacker.


That’s nice.

That’s nice for an optimistic 21-year-old. But I’m a Mom now. I’ve got kids to worry about. Fuck that piece of shit for making me worry about my kids’ and their parents’ safety, not to mention their mother’s mental state. I happened to like feeling comfortable with our doors frequently unlocked.  I liked feeling strong. Fuck him for changing these things for me. Love wasn’t going to work this time. I needed to be practical.

So I tried practicality. I began locking the doors more even though it felt like a silly Band-Aid (I, of all people, raped at knifepoint by a stranger while my front door remained firmly shut and locked, should understand the futility of door locking). I made calls. I went to the local Police Department. I considered a restraining order.

But none of it really made me feel any better.

What was I going to do? Searching for the answer consumed me. And then one day while I was driving alone in my car, the song “Under Pressure” came on. I’d always liked it but never considered it a favorite. It certainly never reduced to me to tears before, but that day it did.

Keep coming up with love

 But it's so slashed and torn . . .

Why can't we give love that one more chance?

Why can't we give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love?

Cue crying: because love didn’t work. Love didn’t keep the bad guys out. But neither did locked doors and my heart was still hurting.

'Cause love's such an old-fashioned word

Yes! Both the word and the idea that “love is the answer” were hopelessly outdated. 
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night

Commence sobbing:  Maybe love dares me to forgive my attacker, again.

And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves

This is ourselves 
Under pressure

And maybe loves dares me to change how I care about myself, now that I am older, a mother and a person feeling the need to introduce some practicality into my life. Maybe at this stage, at this bridge now that I was here, meant I did have to talk to Police and lock doors but that I still had to find the way for love to be the answer. Not just in finding peace in my heart about my rapist again but in allowing myself to feel fear and to cry to my friends and to feel weak and strong simultaneously; to love myself enough to be okay with all of that.

Perhaps this is myself under pressure.

For about six weeks (there’s that time span again . . .) I played it again and again: in the car, at home, on my jogs through the park. I didn’t always cry but if I tried to sing along I was guaranteed to break down. What was it about music, about the common human experience shared artistically? How could someone else’s pain and revelations relate so dearly to me and suddenly mean so much? For six weeks I listened without tiring, I relived my pain, I wept and I found solace. This was myself under pressure.

I dared to give love that one more chance.

And now I sing along without crying.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Five On Friday: Signs of Summer

Just like the flowers begin blooming and the grass suddenly needs mowing, so are there signs in our family that the seasons are changing. After a long, cold and wet spring it finally seems like winter is over for good. How do I know? Well . . .

1. The kids have stopped asking, "Where are we eating?" or "Can we eat outside?" and now just automatically carry their plates out there.

2. I am no longer yelling about the piles of wet mittens and coats and am instead yelling about the piles of wet bathing suits and towels.

3. My children are still making questionable clothing choices in regards to the weather but now it's not my younger boys wearing shorts when it's 40 degrees out, it's my older son wearing a sweater when it's almost 90.

4. Everyone's getting their summer skin on: lots of bumps, scrapes and mystery rashes!

5. Every night as I'm falling asleep I have very good intentions to start daily tick checks the next day.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Five On Friday: Field Trip Chaperone Tips

In my many years of going on kids' field trips as a chaperone, talking to other parents who have chaperoned and now working as a tour guide leading students and their chaperones . . . I've observed a few things. It seems as though some people really need a handy dandy guide to doing it right, so that's what I'd doing for this week's list:

1. When on a bus full of first graders, do not lead them in singing songs at the top of their lungs. Honestly, whose side are you even on?

2. When chaperoning on a trip a baseball game, it doesn't really matter how boring the game is (and trust me, I find baseball mind numbingly boring) you really shouldn't ditch your responsibilities and go to the Target across the parking lot from the stadium. Just no.

3. Do not disrupt a tour to call your husband at work and loudly ask him to identify a fish that was just seen jumping out of the river.

4. When the tour guide asks questions like, "Does anyone know what this was used for?" she's asking the children. Not you.

5.  Don't talk while the tour guide is talking. It's so rude, distracting and a bad example for the kids. This shouldn't even have to be said but apparently it does.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Five On Friday: Lessons from Working

Working as a tour guide and workshop leader for school groups at a local historic site, I've actually learned way more than five things in the past few weeks. I'm so fascinated but human ingenuity and resourcefulness . . . and don't even get me started on the myriad uses for limestone!

But this blog is all about me, you know, so my list is going to reflect that:

1. I've learned which shoes are okay for wearing out on my feet all day and which ones not so much.

2. There's been an  addition of new words in my lexicon like "coworker" and "abecedarian"

3. I'd been on a good fitness kick before starting this job and recently increased my almost daily 3 mile jogs just a tiny bit more so I could say I started my day with a 5K. But on the mornings I have to get out to work I only have about 20 minutes to exercise. An amazing thing began to happen--knowing I had a shortened run, I began running faster. Much faster!  I never knew I could run this fast! (But my 8- and 10-year-old track star sons are still way faster than me.)

4. Another lesson from the running analogy: I can run that fast because it's only for one or two miles. Likewise, I have been managing to still juggle it all (the kids, their activities, keeping the house clean, making most of what we eat from scratch,  etc) without dropping any balls. However, this job is short, it's only going to last another few weeks of school field trip season. If it was much longer than that, I'd really have to slow down.

5.  I make a cute Colonial lady but one that is much better at candle making than using a drop spindle to spin wool.

Monday, May 16, 2016

"Take Comfort"

I was on my hands and knees in the garden getting my pants filthy. It started to drizzle and I didn’t even care because I was already crying.  Before I went to the garden I had sent my husband a text, a change from the usual “what time is soccer?” or “What’s for dinner?” banter. This time I had written: “I’m having a hard time this week missing Babci.”

Right before the rain he replied, “I was thinking of her before the party. I see a lot of her personality in you and B. You should take comfort in that.”

We had two years of celebrations without her yet for some reason at my parents’ 50th anniversary dinner days before, I kept thinking of where she’d sit, how I’d make her comfortable. I felt lucky to have a husband who also thought of my deceased Grandmother. But then I wondered with frustration what “take comfort” was supposed to mean—frustrated with the futility of our language. Take comfort? Like a tincture? Could I ingest some until the overwhelming urge to cry passed?

I had done all of the things one is told to do after a loss. I let myself cry. I keep pictures of her visible. I honor her memory, oh, all the time. I hand out tic-tacs with personalized labels (a picture of her on the beach, 1941, with the words Stay fresh and on the back she’s sticking her rear end at the camera and the words Like Babci.) They are leftovers from her viewing. A friend had come to it and found a scene she didn’t expect: there was laughing and loud conversation. There were tic-tacs!  “This is sort of a party atmosphere,” she noted. Like it should be, I thought, for a long life well lived.

The rain stopped. I thought about my husband’s words and about the direct line I always had felt from my Grandmother to me to our firstborn daughter, B.  I thought of the way my youngest daughter, who had just turned three when Babci passed, so frequently asks to hear “Babci stories.” That should please me but sometimes I’m not in the mood. Sometimes I’m tired or it feels painful or she’s just stalling. Sometimes she tries to tell the stories herself but doesn’t understand what it means that a Depression-era family would have a drunken boarder so she tells it as a silly uncle. This littlest daughter is not her biological descendant but there’s still a line connecting them and all of the fierce and feisty women in this world.

How do your extended family members treat the adopted kids? What does your Grandmother say about these little Black babies you keep bringing home? Oh she just loved them. Rocked them and gave them each their first pickles. After I took them to meet their biological Great Grandmother, Babci caressed my hand, saying, “That was real nice what you did, Gina. Real nice.”

My friends indulge me in my ongoing mourning of the world’s least tragic death—a peaceful one at home of a 97 year old woman surrounded by loved ones.  They remind me that it didn’t matter how long she lived or how long it had been since she died, that years of grief would be no less than our relationship deserved.

But I wondered again, why now? It was funny that I was in the garden because it was a gardening memory that gave me my first tears that day. It was May when she went to the hospital and we heard it was “World Naked Gardening Day.” My husband and I staged funny pictures with strategically placed watering cans and shovels. My cousin showed Babci the pictures on her phone and she loved them. Every time a new nurse came in, she wanted to show them, too.  When we visited the next day and it was time to leave, my husband said one of her favorite goodbyes, which was, “Tell your mother I was here!” She retorted, “Try to keep your pants on.”

For two hours I worked in the garden, thinking of her stories, the heritage for my daughters and my sons. The way she loved babies and children and how she’d pinch someone’s ass at the supermarket and when they’d tell me “I saw your Grandmother . . .” I’d laugh at what might come next. I thought about the doll she stole with her gang when she was a kid and the thrift shop dolls she kept on her bed as an adult. I thought about how that morning I said to the kids, “You know what Babci would have said, right?” They did.

I looked at my phone again. “You should take comfort in that” and finally responded, “I’m trying.”

 *Originally published on Her View From Home