Saturday, January 15, 2011

The mystery of sisters.

I'm working and the girls are singing.

This is a welcome change from their usual routine, which as of late has involved shrieking, stomping and fits of whining. They're playing a game I don't understand, and that involves dancing and singing a song about being sisters. The only downside is that Grace is singing in an ear-splitting soprano that is not exactly on key.

Grace and Lauren are mysteries to me. Virtually every day on the way home from school they get in a fight in the car. A fight about nothing. I understand it - they're tired, hungry, ready to get home and get into pajamas. I feel the same way. And I suppose that's the difference between adults and children, that I can feel that way yet somehow dredge up the energy to try to distract them with questions about who they sat with at lunch and what was the funniest thing that happened today. Honestly, some days I'd like to whine and moan just as much as them. But on the worst of those days I just pull over the car and wait for them to finish. It's either that or start screaming, which I'm working on not doing.

Work has been so busy these last few weeks that I'm quite sure I've been phoning it in on my mom duties. But no one seems to be suffering. Much. I'm working harder than I've worked in a long time, and it's good work. The kind where I'm learning new things, making lots of decisions and challenging my brain every day. The only bad thing is that by the time I get home I feel like I've taken the SAT for eight hours.

But somehow dinner still gets on the table, everyone seems to have clean clothes and I haven't forgotten to put anything critical into a backpack. And looking at the way they are playing together right now I think that it's not a bad thing for them to be out of my laser focus. Instead they are focused on each other, creating an imaginary world that - and I'm not kidding here - has moved Lauren to tears.

"I'm happy cwying, Gwace," she said just a minute ago.

So what's so mysterious about sisters who love each other one minute and want to kill each other the next?

Nothing I guess. It's just the way they are. Either way they're sticking together, which makes me feel like we must be doing something right.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The wisdom of Lauren.

Mama, I have to tell you a secwet!

What is it, Lauren?

When I get married I am NOT going to change my name, but my husband is going to change HIS name.

But don't tell anybody, okay?

# # #

Girls, you should never do drugs. They are very bad for you.

I won't Mama.

Pinky swear?

Yes. Pinky sweah.

(We pinky shake)

And also because I weally don't actually know what dwugs are.

Friday, December 24, 2010

One thing at a time.

The other day I left my frozen bread dough out on the table by mistake and went out for the evening. In the morning it was a fat, exploded bag of gooeyness, not to mention hilarious.

Last night I was making lasagnas for tonight's Christmas Eve dinner and by the time I got to the end of the third one I realized I had deviated from my usual method - noodles, sauce, cheese, noodles, sauce, cheese - and instead had done noodles, sauce, noodles, sauce, all of the cheese. It looked wrong at the time, but I didn't realize my mistake until I already had half the cheese spread across the top, so I just kept going. I'm going to call it "upside down lasagna" and assume it will taste exactly the same as the correctly prepared others.

I made toffee bars on Wednesday and forgot to put in half the amount of butter. My mistake was pretty obvious because as I was stirring the mix it just looked more and more dry. Sadly, I didn't really notice this until I was pouring it into the baking pan. Happily, I was able to pour it right back into the mixing bowl, add the missing butter and carry on.

You might think I'm losing my mind. Frankly, sometimes I think I'm losing my mind. But I think it's just proof that multi-tasking is a myth. I can go for a run and listen to my iPod, but that's about it for things I can successfully do at the same time. I've been reading about this, the idea that you can't really multi-task, you just think you are. But what's really happening is that your brain is rapidly switching from one activity to the next. I like to believe I'm a pretty quick thinker, but clearly I can't cook and carry on a conversation, pay attention to my kids, answer the phone and listen to the news on TV all at the same time.

So my new year's resolution is to do one thing at time. Or at least to work on doing one thing at a time. I'm starting by making a list on the days I have a lot to do. Even if the only thing I check off that list is "have lunch" I like feeling that sense of accomplishment. I can tell you right now I won't stick with it. That's the nature of resolutions, and also the nature of an attention-challenged procrastinator like me. So instead I'm going to consider it something to keep coming back to throughout the year. More of a goal than a resolution, you might say.

In the meantime, it's Christmas Eve and I've got to look up the NORAD Santa tracker online, wash Lauren's hair, turn on the oven to cook the aforementioned upside down lasagna, figure out what I'm going to wear besides the t-shirt and crocs that I'm sporting at the moment, and go give my husband a big hug and kiss. But first things first..... a few more minutes here in the massage chair!

Merry Christmas and thanks for another year of reading - and occasionally commenting on - my blog. I'll let you know how the lasagna turns out.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spying on the other team.

One woman's son was baking the pies right as they were sitting down to dinner. He even put one of them in the oven at 8:30 at night. AFTER they had eaten dinner. Her husband did not like that.

Another's one daughter-in-law bought her dress just three weeks before the wedding, which makes her a perfect match for her son, who never plans anything ahead and can never get all the food to come out of the oven at the same time.

According to the lady in the pink turtleneck whose earrings looked like pink plastic shopping bags that say Barbie on them, her son and his wife cook three different turkeys and then the kids vote on which they like best: oven-roasted, cooked on the grill and some other variation I couldn't quite make out. Only thing is, the son got up at 4 am to get one of them started, but by the time they sat down to eat he had forgotten about it. I'm not clear whether it was cooked to death or just never served because I was too busy listening to the woman next to her complain about how she bought all these groceries for lunch on Wednesday and then traffic was so bad that her kids didn't arrive until after 3 o'clock.

These are the True Thanksgiving Stories of my workout buddies at Curves. 99.9% of the time I am the youngest person there by a lot. I don't come at a consistent time of day, so I see a different group of women all the time. But apparently they see a lot of each other because they all seem to know one another. They also all seem to have kids about my age, so I feel like I'm getting a sneak peak into how my life looks from someone else's point of view.

Aside from the fact that some of these people work out in dress pants and turtleneck sweaters, I find them pretty inspiring. They are active, engaged in their families and community, have lots of advice about cooking and share openly their affections and irritations with their offspring and their families. Today, working out the frustrations of a wrestling match with my Christmas tree lights (a long and yet stunningly boring story), I was thoroughly entertained by their tales of kids who are always late, kids who are too busy, kids who are totally disorganized, kids who think they know how to do everything, kids who don't plan for traffic, even a kid who got up with her 10-year-old daughter at 2 am to get the Black Friday deals and wound up abandoning her cart because the wait in the check-out line was two hours long.

They were hilarious. But I couldn't help thinking so that's what they think of us.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Who you callin' grown up?

I'm turning 38 today and I'm not gonna lie - it's freaking me out a tiny bit. Not the age. I mean, it IS a little hard to believe that 40 is right around the corner when you're still on this side of it. But I wouldn't go back to being in my 20s or even, necessarily, my early 30s. At 38 I know I've still got a lot to learn about life, but I also know a lot more about myself and that's a good feeling.

No, the things that are weirding me out are the crow's feet around my eyes that gather up make-up in them if I put my foundation on too soon after my moisturizer. It's that I bought comfortable shoes and talked myself into believing they're cute - and they are, but they are not the same standard of cute I would have applied even five years ago. It's that my wardrobe is one that belongs to a real adult. It doesn't include anything overly trendy, overly low/short and it definitely doesn't include a single pair of jeggings. It's the fact that the classic rock stations are playing music that I listened to in high school. I mean, what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is happening here!?

I'm now part of a generation who are the parents/grown-ups on TV sitcoms. I'm the target of ads for luxury cars and peanut butter and laundry soap.

Here's a good example of how shocked I am by my age: I'm working on a series of videos for Shriners Hospitals for Children in which I am interviewing nurses, surgeons, physical therapists, etc. Because these hospitals are such amazing places people tend to stay there a long time, so what I hear over and over again is that people have been there 15 or 20 years. My first thought is, wow that's a long time! My second thought is holy crap, they're my age!

What I've learned is that we all have an age in our heads that we really are, which has very little to do with the age we actually are. In my head I'm about 24. I'm certainly not a grown-up, much less the mother of three children with a mortgage and a business. I'm not sure when everyone around me - my clients, my parents, my employees, my children, my friends - is going to realize that I am not an actual grown-up, despite the crow's feet and slightly sensible shoes.

I'm not sure when I'm going to realize I'm a grown-up. And I'm totally okay with that. Because age is fine, but actual adulthood is totally overrated.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Little b, big B.

When I first met B he was a blond, cherubic, chubby-cheeked 8-month-old, so cute that he looked like a child who comes in the picture that comes with the frame. I was smitten. He was smiley. It was the first time I had met all of Chad's family - brothers, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandma - and B was a sweet diversion from the nervousness of meeting an entire family who are completely checking you out.

B was in our wedding, a three-year-old in a tuxedo looking like a ventriloquist's doll at his dad's side. He bawled his way down the aisle, then sat to the side of the altar during the cemetery, quietly running his cars up and down the carpeted step. When his parent's divorced he and his twin sister were regular visitors at our house. We'd play endless games of Monopoly, hike into the dunes and pretend to be animals, and he'd eat nothing but sausage for breakfast. He was always sweet, always one of those people who you just know has a gentle inner core, a good heart.

As he's gotten older he's still been a regular visitor. We'd get the occasional text message just to say Hi. We met his girlfriend. Talked about his first car accident - and laughed at how irritated he was that it happened to him and not his sister. When a difficult time at home led to him needing a fresh start Chad and I didn't hesitate a moment to bring him here. He's been here five months and it feels like forever, in the very best way.

This past Friday I took him on a college visit to University of Northwestern Ohio, an automotive technology school that I had never heard of before. What an impressive school. And what a truly fun day. B is not my son and I don't ever want to take away from his mother, who has raised a wonderful kid. But walking through campus with B, I felt the same way every mother who has prepared to send a kid off into the world has felt. That round-faced baby boy was towering over me, tall and skinny and strong. And at UNOH he was in his element. Cars are his passion, and it was a joy to see him take it all in - the tools, the technology, the cars, the single-minded focus on all things motorized. I asked him questions and he answered in detail, showing me things and explaining things that I have never seen before or come close to understanding about a car. He was the expert, I was just along for the ride.

We walked what seemed like miles in the brisk November cold, laughing at how all the kids in camouflage jackets and hats unloaded into the Ag building, eating pizza standing up in the high-performance auto shop, talking about everything and nothing. We saw drag racers and junky pick-ups, jacked up Hondas and a car that was two front ends welded together for use as a training aid. We watched the auto-cross club blaze black tire tracks into the asphalt as they raced through their course, and rolled our eyes when the un-tricked-out, un-jacked-up Jeep went the easy way up the off-road course.

It was a fun day. Circumstances have made it so that he spent it with me, instead of his mom or Dad, and I'm not going to lie - I was glad. It was a privilege and a joy. I can't wait to see where the next phase of his life will take him.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Escape with a side of meeting.

"Mama? Why do you have to go to the business meeting? Why can't someone else go?" It's early. So early that sun has not even broken above the tops of the frost-tipped trees and the sky is blushing with rose-flecked clouds. Grace's face is calm, but her eyes are big.

"Well honey, I'm in charge of this project. And it's a really big project. And also, this meeting is one of only one or two times a year that everybody who will work on the project is going to be in the same place at the same time," I say. "So it's my job to show them what their new web site will look like, and what kind of videos and stories it will have, and also what they will need to do when it's their turn to give us information."

She nods. Lauren is listening carefully, but says nothing. I am pretty sure what I'm saying sounds a lot like that old Far Side cartoon: "blah, blah, blah, Ginger."

I know the girls have mixed feelings about me going out of town. They are always good for Chad. He always finds a way to make things special. In fact, when he's alone with them he's - and this kind of hurts me a little to admit - way more hands-on than me, playing Chutes & Ladders, or HORSE out in the driveway, or tea party or whatever. Which explains why my return home is often prefaced by, "well, the house is kind of a mess..."

But I also know that they miss me a lot. And they kind of think that the world will somehow cease to revolve on its axis. Even B, when informed that I'd be out of town for a couple of days said, "What? You're going out of town? How long?"

I said, "Just a couple of days. What? Don't you think the household can run without me?"

He looked straight at me and said, "No."

Very flattering. But no matter. I don't travel much, just enough to make my job interesting. And I'm never gone for long. Rarely more than one night or two. And secretly, although I would never want my children to know this, I can't wait to go. I love good hotels. I love getting ready for bed without stepping on Barbies or finding tiny pairs of underpants on my bathroom floor. I love eating out at places my kids would hate and not having to get everyone else's food ready first. I love leaving the leftovers behind because I was never going to eat them anyway, but with the kids I feel somehow compelled not to be wasteful. I love having the news on in the morning, and every single light in the room on too, if I want to, instead of putting on my make-up in a nearly candelit dimness (which is flattering, but still....).

I love escaping. Even if only for a couple of days and with a business meeting thrown in.

The best part is, I'm always really glad to get home.