Imponderables

Well, it’s happened again and I missed it.  I turned down Rawson the other day, and the trees there were definitely fall-ish.  Not majority fall-ish mind you, but the seasonal corner had been turned.  Despite my best efforts and intentions to notice it this year, once again I blinked during the slight course-correction that marked this veering into autumn.

It is one of those miniscule changes, a tiny, ephemeral, imperceptible shift that markes the borderline between one and the other.  I miss it every spring, too, when I set the goal to notice the moment when the trees are more green than bare.  I’ll mentally catalog the increasing spray of green over the winter-bare branches, waiting until that aha! moment when it’s tipped over into spring.  I always miss it.  Same with sunsets, the halfway point of an ice cream cone, and the moment during a party when it’s peaked and starts to head downhill.

2010 Flordia and others 092sunset

Maybe it’s not so much that we can’t sense these moments, but that our brains can hold onto the enormity of the moment.  The best word for them, therefore might be imponderable.

One time when the girls were both still young, we waited near the baggage carousel at O’Hare.  These were the days of a stroller, diaper bags, and relatively useless kids.  Sure the older one carried her sippy cup,  but I was still in full on sherpa mode while Jimmy waited to snag a few more bags.  I’m sure my face looked exhausted.  Perhaps that’s why a woman came over to chat with me–motherly solidarity in face of the hell that is an airport with kids.  She was perhaps 20 years older than I was, and had a nice, relaxed, sensible face.  She commented on the girls’ adorableness (true), and how traveling with kids is not for the faint of heart (also true).  She was waiting to pick up her adult son.

“You know, I can’t remember the last time I held him,” she said.  “You spend all those days and nights just doing it, thinking it will never end.  But one of the times it will be the last time, and you just won’t notice it.  I don’t remember the last time I held him, I wish I did.”  She smiled a little sadly and looked up to wave to the tall young man coming down the escalator, hands entwined with a young woman–he belonged to her now, I suppose.  The woman turned to say goodbye and “I know it’s silly to say, but enjoy it.  You won’t realize when it’s ending.”

I’ve gone back to that bittersweet memory often, fully intending to note the last time I picked the girls up.  I tried to pick Evie out of bed this morning and I couldn’t–and I don’t remember the last time.  Another imponderable slipped past, like summer into fall.

First Date

Author’s note:  I kept trying to write this story, and there’s too many little detours that need to be mentioned.  So, I’m just going to write it as I’d tell it.  During the asides you have to imagine me holding up one hand, frozen, as if sustaining the main thread of the story, while the other hand provides colorful gestures.  Trust me it works and people love it.  I think.

 

I took the girls out to dinner the other night.  It was early, so the restaurant hadn’t really filled up yet.  We were seated in the back room, empty save for only one other family with kids;  we were in “kid wasteland.”  The other family consisted of what were clearly a new mother, her mom, and her babies.  They were tiny and new, curled up sleeping against the women’s as they quickly, anxiously finished a one-handed dinner.  Clearly this was a first “time out with the baby” experience, which they confirmed.  I was  immediately taken back;  except for the fact that there were two babies instead of one, it might as well have been me and my mom with a relatively new Natalie.

Aside 1:  The girls wondered how I knew that they were twins.  I pointed out that unless the grandmother had simultaneously had a baby (she heard that and guffawed) or that the family’s baby had already made a best friend of the same age, the best bet were that these babies OF THE SAME AGE UNDER THE CARE OF THE SAME PEOPLE were, in fact, twins.  I hear that parents of twins get asked stupid questions all the time.  “Are they twins?” is merely a variant of my 7 and 11-year-olds’ question.  Another favorite has to be when parents of a boy/girl twin pairing are asked if they’re identical.

 

. . . I would imagine that Natalie was quite a bit older than these little ones, maybe closer to a month, when we had or first date.  It took me quite some time to rally to the idea of actually facing the terrors of dining out with an infant.  That’s a realistic concern. However, heaping helping of postpartum depression added to my hermetic state.  Luckily, my mother is a professional “propper up of people,” and she spurred me on to a lunch at the nearest sit-down place:  On The Border.

Aside 2:  Natalie was born in Arizona in June.  This was fortunate for me, as my mother was still teaching school and could stay indefinitely over the summer break.  Lucky for me she did, as I really am not sure how else we would have survived.  Two of my most vivid memories of the time were staring out this one particular window, and setting a daily goal of emptying the dishwasher.  Postpartum depression is no joke, and my mom’s a winner.

DSC_0194

Mom and baby Natalie.  Note the St. Norbert College shirt;  I think she probably missed a lot of Pat’s stuff that summer.  Sorry about that one, Pat.

 

. . . On the Border is a chain Mexican restaurant, with the attendant loud decor and music.  It was the perfect place in which the cries of a baby would be lost in the shuffle.  I don’t remember what I ate, just the overwhelming desire to get to the part where they bring us the check!  My diaper bag bulged with enough supplies to sustain us for up to a month;  we never needed them.  She slept in her little carrier the entire time.  Thank you, On the Border!

Aside 3:  There are no On the Border restaurants in the immediate Milwaukee area, however there’s a strip joint a little ways off that bears the same name.  You really couldn’t mistake the two.  The different approaches to signage alone make this impossible (busty lady vs. cactus and lime).  Despite this, one of Jimmy’s coworkers once took her sister to the wrong On the Border for lunch.  Interestingly, they weren’t put off by the sign, the fact that all the cars were parked around back, the lack of windows, or the darkness of the entryway.  It wasn’t until they were asked to pay their cover that things finally clicked.  An honest mistake, I guess…

Image result for on the border

This is a family blog.  No comparison sign will be posted!

 

. . . The memory so fresh and real, I asked if the girls and I could come over and look at the babies.  They were sweet and gorgeous, and their mother really looked fabulous.  Before I even realized that the words were there, I was asking if they’d had to spend time in the NICU?  Luckily the mother provided me with an out, replying that “yes, they’re pretty small aren’t they.”

Aside 4:  Despite truly being small, they really just had that slightly NICU-ish look about them.   I have a problem digressing medical, as I have all of this information in my head rattling around that’s not being used any more.

 

. . . The mom and grandma didn’t seem taken aback, though, and my girls hovered over them making all the appropriate cooing noises.

Aside 5:  My medical colleagues can attest to the fact that any babies that spend more than a brief time in the NICU tend to take on a characteristic look.  Part of it is the charmingly nicknamed toaster head, which develops when these little ones spend long periods of time lying very, very still on cribs instead of floating in a nice buoyant belly.  But the other part is my observation that they always seem just a little more tense, even in sleep, as if awaiting the next interruption as they go about the tricky task of sustaining life.

 

. . . It was no more than a minute or two, but the exchange was important to me.  For the new mom, it will either be lost in the blessed forgetting fog of first few months, or it will be one of the sharp memories that comes back unbidden.  The moments of early motherhood are mostly snapshots for me, but I got to relive a vivid one:  the first date.

2015-04-08 19.53.00

Another great date night with Evie. Their manners may still be in process, but they’re generally quiet!

Pickup Lines

There are many  posts bemoaning the woes of the parent pickup line at school.  I have to admit–I’m part of the problem.  Last year, our carpool stood at four little girls who, despite my best efforts, were always painfully slow to board.  I would watch in horror as the cars ahead of me pulled away, making it excruciatingly clear that, yes, it was me holding up the pickup line.  And drop off?  I always felt that circus music should have been playing as the  kids and gear spilled explosively out of all orifices.

This year, we are adding one more kid to the mix, making a grand total of 5 girls in a 3-row midsize SUV in which seats need to be shifted ahead to access the third row.  Oy-vay.  In a desire to avoid being lambasted by mom bloggers such as those mentioned above, I  developed a surefire, guaranteed plan for the pickup line.  I’ve called it the Carefully Balanced Pickup Plan (C.B.P.P.), and I include it for your perusal below:

pickup plan_1

 

It really looks like a nice, well thought-out plan, doesn’t it?  The kids are sorted by size and skill level, with the lollygaggers relegated to later boarding in acknowledgement of their foot-dragging approach to the car.  We actually ran a drill several times in the driveway.  We had it down.  However.  First day of pickup, despite my getting out of the car to supervise and repeat instructions in a drill sergeant- like manner, we came in at an embarrassing 1 minute 12 seconds.  I know I was getting dirty looks as I returned, sweaty and panicked, to my driver’s seat and peeled away (ALL THE WHILE CAREFULLY FOLLOWING THE POSTED SPEED LIMIT.  Sheesh.).

How did this dismal failure in the face of preparation and practice occur?  You will note that the success of the C.B.P.P. depends on a number of assumptions.  And you know what they say about making assumptions.  

Here’s what really happened…

Assumption #1:  Participants will enter expeditiously and be on the alert at pickup.  3/5 kids noticed me pull up.  The others were distracted by fidget spinners and an invisible butterfly.

Assumption #2:  All “stuff” will be easily maneuvered and neatly packed.  One carried an art project apparently involving the entire contents of a recycling bin.  Another one had a cupcake, the least maneuverable and most despised birthday treat of all.

Assumption #3:  Snow gear will miraculously fit in trunk.  This hasn’t happened yet, but the fact that the kids are asked to stow their gear in those insane giant Ziploc bags makes it highly unlikely.

Assumption #4:  3rd row occupants will nicely pull 2nd row seats into position.  One of the third row occupants has a younger sister in the second row that needed to be teased rather than assisted.  The other third row occupant claimed to be unable to use her arms after a mysterious playground incident.

Assumption #5:  2nd row occupants will easily buckle up.  Have you seen how exhausted new kindergartners are after a full day of school?  Even I have to admit that this was asking too much.

Assumption #6:  1st row occupants will not be distracted by the radio.  I was distracted by the fact that I’d accidentally left the audio version of the fifth Outlander book playing (highly recommended, not exactly suitable for children…).  Natalie was distracted by the need of all preteens to immediately reset the radio at all times.

Assumption #7:  All complaints and commentary will be held until disembarkation.  The following conversations continued despite instructions to focus on entering the vehicle:  who I sat by at lunch, who vomited during lunch, who was getting yelled at in the pickup line, can I go to Kayla’s house, can we have a smoothie, and I call dibs on the bathroom when we get home.  This was just one kid.

Assumption #8:  Participants will not attempt to circumvent the C.B.P.P.  

 

Goodbye Summer, Goodbye Slime

My new favorite phrase is that something is “having a moment.”  It stylishly captures the notion that some thing is seemingly everywhere.  In addition to being stylish, use of this phrase handily allows me to avoid its awkward cousin:  “zeitgeist.”  For example, while travelling abroad, my sister Louise was wont to order an Aperol spritz.  She mentioned that this delicious Italian aperitif was “having a moment” in NYC, and it appeared to be doing so in Germany and the Czech Republic as well.

aperol spritz

Aperol Spritz:  Having a moment

For the under 12 set of Southern Wisconsin, I am loathe to report that the thing which had its moment this summer was, unfortunately, slime.  All I have to do is say the word  “slime” to another caregiver, and a rending of  garments commences as we bewail the misery that is slime.

slime

Slavish creation of slime:  also having a moment

You aren’t familiar with slime, you say?  Well, I don’t speak of anything naturally- occurring or featured in Ghostbusters, nor even any slime that is Asian beauty product related.  Oh no, I speak of that monstrosity promoted by ‘tween You-tubers and created with any number of ingredients.  Regardless of the particular recipe, however, the main ingredients of slime are massive amounts of Elmer’s glue and pure evil.

glue

Avoid any endcaps featuring this product

And just before school let out, the kids were infected by this evil contagion.  The desire for slime infected our entire summer.  I tried to resist.  I’d resisted similar things like Play-Doh, but the slime fever was virulent.  I eventually caved and went out and bought the requisite industrial size Elmer’s glue, shaving cream, and contact solution.  I was immediately disillusioned and, after one afternoon, banned slime!  Or I tried to.  Here’s a sampling of the pro-slime arguments that constituted the sound track of 2017 for me:

“But mom, it’s like science!”  This is true only in the way that Grease II was like Grease.

“Wouldn’t you rather we be creative than sitting in front of our electronics?”  At this point of summer, no.  Your electronics do not produce an ever-escalating disaster, save for the slow erosion of all couch cushions into a pile on the floor.

“We’ll keep it in the kitchen.”  In kid mind this includes the floor.  Recall the new puppy?  Luckily we had taken up most of the rugs during housetraining, and the puppy slime prints were sort of easy to remove.

“…we’ll keep it in on the counter.”  Places I have found slime:  in the track of the sliding patio door, under my pillow, smeared into a screen, in Evelyn’s hair, in the puppy’s fur, on the seat of my toilet.

“…OK, fine, we’ll only play with it outside.”  Have you ever seen what grass coated with slime looks like?  I have.  It adheres with juuuuust enough stick that a broom can’t sweep it up off the floor, this must be accomplished by hand.

“But we always clean it up when you tell us to.”  Mmm hmm.  That’s why I’ve taken to locking myself in my room with an Aperol Spritz  after announcing to the two of them that it is time to clean up the slime.  The only way to truly get two little girls to accomplish a joint cleaning task is to hover over them, referee-like, for the duration of the what is essentially a G.L.O.W. match as both attempt to win by performing as little actual cleaning as possible.  I sip my drink, wait for the screaming to die down, and then exit, always hoping that they’ve somehow adopted my definition of “cleaned up.”  Somehow, despite an entire roll of paper towels having died in the fight, the telltale heart of slime will still beat steadily.

“But mom, it’s the last day of summer.  We just want to spend a last day doing what we think is fun”  Arrrrgh.  You got me with the sentimental ‘last day’ gambit.  OK, fine.  Keep it outside and I’m throwing it all away tomorrow!    (Yelling into the vacuum created by frantic exit of children given permission to make slime).  Did you hear me?  Tomoooooroooooow……

Put a fork in her, she’s done: “Kid Summer” fades to black

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s almost time for the little people to head back to school. As if the numerous back to school sales and advertisements weren’t enough, the naturally occurring signs of the season’s demise are all around us.  And for those previously mentioned little people, the Kid Version of Summer has definitely begun to show its age.  It’s gotten a little bit frayed, worn out, and ready to go in the hand-me-down pile.  I’ve taken a brief inventory of some of the indicators that Kid Summer is ready for retirement.

Top ten indicators that Kid Summer is finished:  

  1. There are no more complete sets of intact flip flops anywhere in the house.  They’ve either all broken, been chewed up by the dog, or disappeared in kicked-off glee.  Because I refuse to buy new ones, my people will shuffle through these last few days with mismatched flip flops held together with duct tape.  Classy.20170823_072823
  2. The list of “summer expectations” is no where to be found.  It was a noble effort, and for a month or so we were pretty good.  No electronics before X,Y,Z, keep up with personal hygiene, rudimentary chores.  About July the list was popsicle stained and rumpled on the front of the fridge.  When I checked today, it was simply gone, a mysterious smeared handprint in its wake.
  3. The sunscreens are all 5/7 empty and choked with sand.  They’re gross, I don’t want them in my bag, but there they are.
  4. The girls’ hair has achieved that “end-of-summer” crispness that only a ruthless trim will take care of.  They swam every day.  The personal hygiene got a little lax.  Instead of the special Swimmer’s Wellness shampoo, I’m pretty sure they were using Old Spice Body Wash on their hair the majority of the time.
  5. There are no areas of their arms and legs that haven’t sustained a mosquito bite or injury.  It’s hard to tell what their actual skin tone is.  Bronze tan, white healing scab, red bite, black dirt.  Did I mention the personal hygiene challenges?
  6. There are 12 incomplete projects ranging from half-done jigsaws to slime to living room forts slowly decaying in various corners of the house.  Any horizontal surface is occupied by a project that GOD FORBID I dismantle, despite all indications that they will never be finished.  And, because the little people are around all the time, I can’t launch my usual stealth dismantling attack.
  7. All of the sidewalk chalks are itty bitty nubs.  FYI, I hate chalk.  I hate how it feels, I refuse to pick it up, and I hate watching the kids draw with it.   But the danger of accidental fingernail scrapeage that these nubbins impart?  Shudder.  Time to close the driveway gallery for the season.20170823_072914
  8. We’ve gone through all of the “Outdoor Shenanigans.”  Every summer, Jimmy stocks up on stuff that makes him quite popular with the under 10 set.  We’ve reached that sad point when all of the glow bracelets, rubber band missiles, stomp rockets, and sparklers are gone.  All that’s left at the bottom of the Shenanigans bin are some of those lame snappers.
  9. Morning preparations seems to drag well into the afternoon.  To the little people, “get dressed and get ready for the day” has come to mean something very far from what I intend.  Lack of practice has lulled them into thinking that I mean “sit on the couch in your pajamas until noon, and by the way I was just kidding about getting yourself breakfast and I’m here to prepare lunch for you on an emergency basis whenever it suits you.”  Dear Lord, please return my routine to me.  I am incapable of holding it together during Kid Summer.
  10. They have, on occasion, looked just a liiiiiiiiiitle bit B-O-R-E-D.resized952017081995083544001002-1.jpg

 

Do you think that a review of these clues will be enough to truly convince them that it’s time to head back to school?

Disney Detox

I haven’t written for a bit.  That’s because a little over a week ago, we returned from a family trip to Disney World.  We were there for the World Dance Competition, which was simply amazing, but more on that later.  I want to discuss a radical proposal.  Now, I love me a Disney trip.  I am seduced by the attention to detail, the amazing customer service, and the familial joy.  Note, however, that I did not refer to said excursion as a “vacation.”

Family Vacation

“Family Vacation,” Normal Rockwell.  Yup, this is about right.

By the end of a Disney jaunt, I feel like a wrung out dishrag, and the faces of the parents at the Orlando departure gate would indicate that I’m not alone.  We all sat with a slightly glazed look while our children, high on sugary, sunburned energy buzzed around our aching feet.  Likewise, a number of the dance moms who’d gone on the trip posted celebratory couples only shots at Summerfest over the subsequent week, reveling in their alone time.  Please don’t get me wrong:  I realize how lucky my kids are to have gone to Disney more than once in their young lives.  Heck, my first trip there was in the fourth grade, via full-size van and involved running out of cash on the return trip and a drive straight-through back home.  I get that it’s a special treat.  But for the parental set, I’d like to suggest some modifications that will allow for the noun “Vacation” to apply.

A Radical Proposal:  Disney Re-Entry Experience, a.k.a. Disney Detox

This 1-2 day experience will be located well away from any tempting Disney-related attractions, lest you feel compelled to check off one more “most-do” item from the list.  I’m thinking a parking lot near the airport or a nondescript office park on the outskirts of Orlando.  It doesn’t have to be a glamorous location;  nobody will be going outside for any length of time during re-entry.  It just needs to be outside the sphere of Disney (and other theme park) influence.

I’ve drawn up some sample language for promotional literature.  Let me know what you think:

During the re-entry process, parents will be gently separated from their children.  We acknowledge that you love them, but during this re-entry period it is important for you to attend only to your own toileting / hunger / thirst / entertainment / impending meltdowns. Children will undergo their own re-entry experience in the care of qualified, boringly-dressed professionals who do not give out autographs or call anyone “princess.” Daily programming will include clearing one’s place at the table, unembellished sandwiches / cereal / casseroles for meals, being responsible for one’s own belongings, and long periods of boredom. Don’t worry, they’ll be fine without you for two days.  Besides, let’s be honest–they need a little time away from you as well, Ms. Sweaty Boob Crabby Pants.

book nook

The adults-only facility features muted color, dim lighting, soft music and staff without name tags.  The option for separate bedrooms is entirely up to you and your partner.  Trust me, we get it.  Daily programming consists of napping, reading, board games, spa time, TV watching, and yoga or light stretching.  You can go for a leisurely walk if you must.  There is no schedule, opening / closing times, or lockout period for any of these.  YOU CAN DO THINGS WHEN YOU WANT, THERE IS NO NEED FOR A FAST PASS.

In addition to our serene detox environment, we are proud to highlight the following:

 

  • An excess of bathrooms.  You will never have to hunt for them or pre-emptively empty your bladder in anticipation of a long line.
  • Set menus requiring no decisions and no discussion of allergens.
  • Common areas arranged kind of like study carrels in a library–cozy chairs arranged such that you can avoid eye contact and, as a result, forced chitchat with any other re-entry guests.  For those inexhaustible extroverts among us, there will be a dedicated chatting lounge.  It is in pristine shape as it has never been used.
  • A return to a cash economy.  You must be shaken awake from the ridiculous ease with you have moved to paying for things with your wrist.
  • Foot massages.
  • Evening sunset-viewing from our shaded deck with 2+ dedicated chairs for each guest to choose from.  There will be NO fireworks.
  • Did we mention the foot massages?
  • No ponchos.  Anywhere.

feet in bed

 

So who’s with me?  I figure all we need to do is line up a few investors, arrange for a drop off point for the Magical Express, garner the support of the legions of Disney Mom Bloggers, and we should be set!

“I Don’t Know How It Happened So Fast”

time

I always get a bit melancholy this time of year.  It’s ridiculous, because the changing Midwest landscape seems so exuberant and joyful, but there it is.  When I was a kid, sure I was happy that the school year was over and the summer stretched lazily out in front of me.  But the end of the year festivities always fell flat.  I think that part of this depressive tendency has something to do with the cumulative effects of six months of Wisconsin’s meager winter sunlight.  I suppose that biology played a role, but over time I realize that most of it is pure nostalgia. My response to this past weekend confirms that I just don’t handle the passage of time well at all.  All of spring’s celebrated milestones and kids moving on;  the reminders of the ephemeral nature of time are too much for my naturally angsty soul!  Here’s some of the most recent evidence (caveat:  I cry over well-written commercials, so take it with a grain of salt):

Things I cried about this weekend:

  1. Senior “memory posters” at the dance recital.  Every year, the graduating seniors get to put together a collage of dance memories and a few words.  I routinely stand in front of these posters dissolving into a weepy pile of mush.  The old shots of the round, awkward preschool versions in puffy tutus compared with the “now” shots of these lithe young women.  And I know that every girl’s parent says the same thing:  “I don’t know how it happened so fast.”
  2. Tiny confection-like dancers at the dance recital.  If the senior displays weren’t enough, I then am confronted by the puffy little preschool ballerinas being led clumsily onto the stage.  Their tutus as wide as they are tall, they routinely steal the show.  However, while the rest of the audience “Aaaaahs” over the cuteness and laughs at the one ham in the crowd, I’m left with tears silently streaming down my face.  In 15 years, the little bon bons’ parents won’t know how it happened . . .
  3. Graduation blessing at church.  I might have been able to handle this one, so staid and formal in nature, were it not for everyone whispering how they could “remember when they were just a little baby.”  Stop remembering that so easily!  It was years and years ago, that much time must have dulled your memories!  It couldn’t have just slipped by unnoticed like that!  Luckily, my choir robes are long-sleeved and highly absorbent of human tears.
  4. Facebook feed crammed with pictures of graduates.  These always do me in more than prom pictures.  The look has changed so little over time–gowns, mortar boards, awkward poses next to Sunday-best parents.  It’s easy to dredge of memories of all of those other graduation photos filed away.  I cans till remember the cheap feeling of my own high school graduation gown, how my high heels sunk into the football field over which a stage had been set up.  If I can remember THAT so clearly, it must have only been a few years ago, right?  Who are all these young whippersnappers messing with my sense of reality?  Cue waterworks.
  5. My girls’ birthday pictures.  So, I don’t know how to use technology.  I needed a tutorial over the weekend to figure out how to find pictures and export them to this blog.  It was ugly, and Jimmy has suggested that teaching my grandfather how to use the computer was easier than helping me.  Apparently I kept saying things like, “stop clicking so fast!” and “how’d you get there?”  It was not a pretty scene, but he was saved from utter spousal destruction by the discovery of girls’ birthday dress photo collection.  This is a little tradition we started of taking their picture in the same dress every year.  Please join me in rapturous weeping over the first and most recent editions of each:
  6. Free donut for National Donut Day.  I’m not even kidding.  Nobody be kind to me for the next couple of weeks, I seriously need to recalibrate.

And here’s the thing:  I know that all of these tearjerking examples have to do with kids getting older.  I’m not sad about that fact, not exactly.  I’m interested by them as they change.  I was never a huge fan of infancy to begin with.  I’m just petrified of the fact that it all goes so quickly.  I get sad every spring when the tulips drop their petals, every fall when the last leaf falls;  somehow I didn’t pay close enough attention.

How can we possibly pay close enough attention?