Monday, August 18, 2014

How I learned that the start of the school year helps prevent river-related tragedies.

Friday was a life lesson for me, mainly that the school year exists to prevent accidents related to entertaining my kids in the remaining days of summer.   My last surge of summer energy often neglects the laws of common sense, for the sake of that bucket list of things I said we were going to do with our kids over break.  I sucked at that list, and we only accomplished 22% of it, and so I had ONE LAST DAY to make up for all of my failures as a parent--and you know how that goes, someone almost ends up dying.

Friday was one of those days where my imagination intersected with real life, and I decided to give my kids one last, epic adventure before the start of the school year.  Honestly, I was thinking it would be fun, and I would score a few kick-ass Instagram pictures, and the kids would frolic and it would be one of the best days of their childhood.  

And so, I took them on a spontaneous float trip.  By myself.  Without Mike.  

To be clear:  I was slightly terrified.  Of meth addicts down by the river.  Because that is a real thing, and THIS (link here) happened, on the same weekend, on the same river, the last time we went floating.  It is true that I am paranoid, but also that the world is made up of entirely crazy sh#!.  

If you’re not from Missouri, then I should probably tell you that floating is a *thing* here.  There’s lots of moving water, and typically it involves MANY adults and large rafts and coolers full of margaritas.  There are entire industries that exist to make floating coolers and floating coolers with speakers built into them, for this very reason—and it is freaking glorious.  But you see where I am going with this?  When you take the margaritas out of the equation, it IS NOT THE SAME THING.  There’s more awareness of snakes and sun and the potential for drowning.  

I love a float trip.  It is…beautiful.  And there is a lot of great conversation to be had when you are trapped on a boat, with great fear of dropping your iphone in the river.  It’s priceless, a whole day, or what I thought was going to be 3.5 hours, without Facebook, or building pig canons on Minecraft.   Enjoy God's ACTUAL creation, kids—you know, not the pixelated version where you mine emeralds that look like green blocks.

Of course I researched my options on the internet, and I went with the one that was open for business today, and we packed a non-alcoholic cooler (thank GOD, and I mean that in the most sincerest form of a prayer that saved our actual lives).  We headed out, we went to the bank for cash, and we arrived on time four our three hour tour.

A three hour tour….

So, the 20-year-old in charge of this taco stand said we'd be okay getting two canoes (questionable).  He said the longer float would be three and a half hours (lie).  He said the river was still running (lie) and that we shouldn’t be carrying your canoe much (not technically a lie…but we paddled the crap out of it, or else we would still be sitting somewhere around hour #2).  The 20-year old was WRONG and a *little* out of touch with the boating abilities of young children.

We sunscreened, we loaded the bus, we prepared to set off—which is when I asked for the ropes to tie the boats together.  This would be both a blessing and a curse, friends.  In case you aren’t aware, pulling two metal canoes, four children and a moderately large-sized cooler down an “almost-still” river is NO JOKE.  

Well, after 4 minutes of that goat rodeo, I’d had enough, so I untied us and parked it at a sandbar to swim for a bit.  In retrospect, that was a really dumb luxury.  But whatever, the kids were hot and also hungry, and this was supposed to be magical, and so we swam in the beautiful river that we had all to ourselves.

We got back in the boats and sometime shortly after, still untethered.  And then we hit some small rapids with tree logs and the sh#! went and hit the fan, because our boat got caught sideways, and then G’s boat (yes, I let an 11-year-old captain a boat) got caught the opposite way, but also sideways, and it was a real tragedy, what with her giving up and me screaming her through it.  Magical.

We regrouped, I retied the boats, and then we had a brainstorming session about how we handle frustration.  Which was good, but not how I expected the day to go.

You can repeat this loop for the next few hours, but picture me trying to keep two canoes going straight, with one of them zig zagging behind me (paddling straight was not a concept we mastered that day).  And also, we were either awkwardly tangled in the rapids that form over fallen logs, or we were using all of our strength to paddle through still water.  For SIX HOURS.  

It was, however, an amazing success story in empowering my now middle-school daughter.  I realized very early on that this activity was *probably* above her pay-grade; not the partaking in a float trip, but the part that required her to be in charge of a boat and the well-being of her sister.  After our initial breakdown in communication, G stepped up BIG.  She settled in, and she paddled (oh, she paddled) and she didn’t complain, not once.  She got caught in some tight spots, and I often couldn’t help her, because I was caught, or the current was tough to fight, and she just did it.  She pulled the canoe, and managed to get herself unstuck on logs and also didn’t get run over by the damn boat after dislodging it, which is a miracle in itself.  I am PROUD, and thankful that there was MAGIC on the river today, but not the Instagram variety—more the realization that my kid is SO capable, and so calm, and so amazing.  You know, all the stuff I wish for her, when I’m not to paranoid to let her walk to school/ use the stove/ insert dangerous activity of choice here.

So we had lunch, and then we floated, and around 3:00, I started to get worried.  And then I checked the map on my iphone and I got really worried, because we were like, half way there, and almost four hours in.  For a couple more hours, I debated pulling up to the next boat ramp and calling the 20-year-old who thought this was a good idea, but then we saw the bridge that meant we had a MILE left.  And, holy hell, that was the longest mile of my life, but we made it safely back, at 5:45 p.m.  And every muscle in my back and shoulders was KILLING, because I basically rowed a boat for six hours, and honestly thought we might die of exposure.

So we ditched the boats on the sand bar by the sign marking the end of this fiasco, and we followed the ONLY gravel path leading from it—and we didn’t appear to be right next to the lot we parked our car in, and WHERE was the 20-year-old to collect our life vests and drive us back and give me my MEDAL?  Seriously, I was so delirious that I called, and yes, we were supposed to leave the boats and WALK back.

Every single expletive silently flew out of my brain.  

Because, you know, I had that moderately large cooler to carry.  Uphill.  For what I estimate to be about a quarter of a mile.  Maybe more.  With my arms that just did the equivalent of 17,000 consecutive Crossfit WODs.  But yes, even this I survived—and I had no idea that it would be a bigger deal than escaping an imaginary meth addict, but it WAS.

Some lessons learned:

1.)  Mike does a hell of a lot more paddling on float trips that I had previously realized.

2.)  The shorter 1.5 hour float would have been ENOUGH.  Because chances are, it was the 3.5 hour float that I was looking for.

3.)  Sunscreen. Your. Back.  I am a pretty tan gal, but crap.

4.)  There are a lot of things to fear in the world, and among them are my own delusions of what "fun" looks like.  

I am all kinds of conflicted about the start of this school year, and yet tonight, I am thankful--mostly because I'm not sure that my family could survive anymore of my summer adventures.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The first two weeks of summer have been a bit of a ball-buster.

A few of you have wondered where I have been lately--and if I could pinpoint the reason (and ironically, the overarching theme of this blog), it’s that I am generally overwhelmed with life.  And also, that we got a dog.

To recap:  Mike did not want a dog, while I have felt that our family Christmas photos have been lacking something furry.  And you know how this goes, furry wins, because who can deny the power of adoption Saturday at PetCo?  Not I.

Sloane (the dog) came with a lot of promises and soul-selling, mostly along the lines of doing everything she needed and not involving my husband at all.  That’s not exactly how it has played out, but my intentions were GOOD.  Not to brag or anything, but I can probably cure feline AIDS with my intentions.

So, Sloane arrives, and she is the sweetest thing EVER, and we fall in love with her--but are also, instantly invested in her bathroom habits.  After seeing four children through diapers, there is a certain amount of irony involved in sweet talking sh#! out of a dog.  But that’s the thing, the longer you live, the more your life is likely to become an Alanis Morisette song.  

I take dog ownership very seriously, mostly because our last dog developed diabetes, and I didn’t really notice--but in my defense, I was neck deep in toddlers for a few years there.  So I spent days searching for dog collars, and second guessing my choice of fabric for dog beds and arranging the dog kennels (one for the laundry room, one for our bedroom)--and on the first night she was here, I went to bed with that anxious feeling that I had with newborns.  You know, that this might just be one, gigantic, sleep-deprived debacle.

She went quietly into the bedroom crate.  It went pretty smoothly actually, and at some point, I drifted off to sleep, until about 3 a.m., when she stood and shuffled and turned herself around a few hundred times, and resettled herself.  I figured she needed to pee, but I waited to see how it would play out--and then I started to think about monogramming fourth of July shirts, or something stupid, and BAM!  It was 5:00 a.m. and the dog was still fast asleep and I was  mentally picking imaginary paint colors for the bathroom.  After two-hours of that BS, my brain exploded a little bit and I slipped into a coma.

Which explains why, exactly, I didn’t hear the dog awake at 5:30 a.m.

But Mike did.

The thing about Mike is that once he wakes up, he wakes up.  He doesn’t roll over and will himself back to sleep for the next two hours.  I do not understand this, it sounds exhausting.

He took the dog downstairs and let her out, and fed her, and then let her out again.  And then he went for a run.

While he was gone, the kids got up at some point (the were WIRED like they were on crack, over this dog), and they plopped themselves on the couch and turned the television on.  And then they watched the dog take a crap on the floor.  And left it there for Dad to clean up, when he got home from his run.

This did not fly so well.  Or, that’s the impression I got, when Mike woke me at 7 a.m. with fire shooting from his eyes.  I’m pretty good with non-verbals.  

I should probably tell you that our first dog didn’t ever *fully* master being housebroken.  In hindsight, I think this might have had something to do with the diabetes.  But in the car that morning, I asked Mike why he was so...on edge, exactly.  Because we’ve cleaned a lot of sh#! in the past 11 years, so one might argue that we are well qualified for this.

“I’m worried that this dog is not going to be housebroken,” was his answer.

I told him not to worry about it, that she just felt out of place and that she needs to get used to our yard.  It sounded logical, and I was hopeful.  Not to brag or anything, but my hopes could probably end world poverty.

“No, I’m worried it’s US.  You and me.  That we don’t do dogs very well.  That WE are the problem.”

Totally a fair observation.  But I told him we are in a different place, that the kids are more independent, that I will be on top of it, that I will rewire my brain to sleep between the hours of 3-5 a.m.  But also, that affecting the bowel habits of animals with our simple presence is kind of awesome and should not be discounted as a super power.  Or a laxative.  People spend lots of money on laxatives, I reminded him.

Needless to say, this put me on my A-game--and instead of responsibly altering my sleep habits, I’ve stayed up until midnight watching The Bachelorette and sleeping lightly, and waking up at 6 a.m. to take the dog out (as promised, with the soul-selling).  And generally just not sleeping well.  At. All.

Also, there is another part of this story, and it’s that I signed my kids up for two different swim teams (year round Club team and recreational summer swim team), and that I am usually driving someone to a pool at 7:15 most mornings.  Also, it’s this gigantic math equation, having to figure out who needs to be where, at what time, and with what carpool, and if I can get 30 more minutes to sleep before I need to start spinning the proverbial hamster wheel--but damn it, there is not a chance, because I have literally been doing mini-van geometry for the past hour and now my brain hurts.

Also.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I paid money to wake up at 6:30 (really, 6:00, because, THE DOG), and go workout and do sprints and stuff.  So there’s that.  Oh, the irony, that I have raised kids who can make breakfast (translation: pour cereal) and not electrocute themselves without constant supervision--and yet our extracurricular activities make all of that a non-factor.  I used to think I was teaching them to be self-sufficient on Saturday mornings; turns out this parenting thing is really about producing well-rounded kids, and that is a hell of a lot more work.

I know, I know, I know.  I DID this.  I signed up for 8,365,213 different activities that start before 8 a.m. and they all started the week I got a dog.  I get it.   

But here’s the thing.  The kids are awake and chillin’ to “Crash and Bernstein” until someone makes breakfast--and from there we have a rule that everything electronic gets turned off.   And there’s a lot of time to fill, because that’s the magic of summer, all of this glorious time that we never have enough of in the months between September and May.  I’m all for fun excursions and bowling and paper mache--but there are a lot of hours and there is a fine balance between having time, and having too much time.  We need a bit of structure or else we begin to resemble Jabba the Hutt.  

Unfortunately, my kids are at the ages where the activities happen at three seperate times throughout the morning, and while it’s kind of a pisser, that’s LIFE.  At least, it’s our life right now.  Earlier this year, I resigned myself to the idea that this is what life looks like when you are in school full-time and playing a sport.  I assumed it would be easy and fun, like eating snacks from a magically packed cooler on 70 degree fall days; it is more like quick dinners and traffic and sitting in humid indoor pools.  My hopes and intentions for my kids are still the same though--it just looks (and feels) a lot more like a manic cocaine bender, all crazy and disheveled and what not.   But knowledge is power--in this case, the power to adjust my expectations about what this particular stage of parenting looks like, and what it actually is.  Having kids isn’t all ice cream and trips to Disney World; but it also isn’t entirely sleepless and vomit-covered either.  It’s all things, and the perspective to understand them in a bigger context--and this season is much the same, just with more dog hair and driving.  

Happy summer, friends.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Finding cute accessories is the hardest part of dog ownership.

I was waiting for the right moment to tell you this, but we are dog owners.  Technically.  We don’t ACTUALLY have her yet, because the deal was that this was going to take a month--to get her lady parts removed, and to have her “generally” trained.  I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds good--and also, we need about four weeks to freak the hell out over the fact that we now have a dog, and to be a little bi-polar in our “feelings” about it .  The bible is totally right though, the greatest of these is love; but often times, love has to fight with fear-of-what-to-do-with-her-while-we-go-on-vacation, because we are selfish and ridiculous a-holes a lot of the time.  True story:  we once had this exact same internal conflict over having children vs. enjoying another ski season.  This is (now) freaking hysterical.  In 2002, however, it was a very serious discussion.

We got a dog, and it’s a funny story that includes Mike being gone for a Saturday, and me passive-aggressively taking the kids to PetCo.   I’m not joking, magic happens at that PetCo, like last year when I had an impromptu, professional photo shoot with a random sharpei/pug mix that was up for adoption.  This time it was a beagle, shaped peculiarly like a basset hound--which, I’m not joking, is what I have waited my whole life for.   Long story short, this was the best damn beagle I’ve seen since our thyroid-challenged Bailey--and also, my dark feelings of despair over euthanizing our first dog have lost their edge, or at least they have grown less pronounced than my optimism over how good our new dog will look in a Christmas sweater.  

Turns out Mike was on board.  Or that was the Saturday that I happened to break him.  Whatever, we have a dog.

But not that dog, because that dog got adopted.  This just proves that I know how to spot good dogs, the kind that eat sticks of butter.  But also, it turns out that the beagle people have more beagles, and so we got an invite to come to the beagle farm and pick one out.  

There was some debate, but ultimately we went with a spunky little one-year-old.  We let Mike pick, because I am nothing, if not a team player.   

We instantly started talking about names, and we were playing it kind of classic and cute--but nothing that really stood out, you know?  And in my review of movie characters from the 80’s, I suggested... Sloane.  And Mike was all over it.  Because, Sloane Peterson.  Duh.

The kids thought it was the worst name they have ever heard, but Mike and I played our parent card and named that dog right then and there, on the drive home.  Because when you know, you know.  And the kids have not watched enough John Hughes movies to know a good name when they hear it--so their vote doesn’t count.  That’s the kind of parents we are--totally willing to dominate the decision making, because one day they will see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and it will all make sense, and our street cred will be properly recognized...and then we will bring it all full circle by wearing the orange and blue Dumb-and-Dumber tuxedos when we chaperone G’s prom.  They will thank us later.

But none of that is really important, because didn’t we all know that we were destined to have a dog?  And that it’s going to wear a sweater at some point, just to drive Mike crazy?  Haven’t we proven that we are people who are going to love an animal manically, and that we just can’t deny the power of the PetCo in Kirkwood?  And also, that we are not the sort of family that cares about how clean it’s floors are, or any of that other bullsh#!?  

We got a dog.  And our feelings have waivered from worrying about allergies, to searching Etsy for monogrammed sweaters.  But mostly, the monogrammed sweater part.  Getting the dog was a no-brainer, because when you are ready, you are ready.  We had talked about getting one in the fall, when school starts again and our schedule is more regular, but the waiting feels so long and out of control, and I generally make decisions just to get on with it already.  

And then I spend hours searching Etsy for a dog collar.  Because we can do this--but not without an orange floral collar.  And what color leash would match with that?  Lime green?  Turquoise?  

I know that sounds ridiculous, but there are MILLIONS of choices, and I cannot rest until I have seen them ALL and properly decided which one is right for us Sloane.  And me.  And maybe the kids, because G isn’t into pink.  See how this works?  I name the dog, and I’ll give you the non-pink collar.  You’re welcome.

If this sounds familiar, then it might be because of the iphone debaucle of 2012; the one that had me debating chevrons and ikat patterns in various color schemes and monograms.  It almost ruined me.  I have NO IDEA who I am amidst too many choices and font selections, and ultimately it was so panic-inducing that I went with a plain pink case that I bought for $.99 off a bootleg Chinese website.  

The feature that most defines me and my iphone case?  The $.99 price tag.

The feature that will most define my dog?  A handmade orange floral collar with a hand-stamped dog tag.  

Sounds about right.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I don't have the energy or attention span for this sh#!.

This is why we can't have nice things.

Because these flowers got ahead of themselves, and all their awesomeness has, literally, weighed them down to the ground--so that, essentially I have an amazing bed of flat-ass flowers.

I'm not sure what to do here, and they are dropping like flies.  If I could pull a metaphor straight out of my own playbook (circa 1996), these things are college co-eds all dolled up in sequin tank tops, throwing down a half dozen shots of dark eyes vodka, doing the Macarena on the dance floor (or bar top at SeƱor Frogs, whatever),  and then passing out in a sloppy mess on the lawn.  What I have here is the garden equivalent of drunk sorority girls on a Friday morning--and I don't know what to do, exactly, besides feed them Taco Bell.

My best guess is that I need to create some sort of system by which they are tied to and supported by a pole or stake of some sort?  I googled it--but son of a bitch, everyone wants to overthink it and talk about stem deficiencies and an inability to efficiently absorb nutrients from the soil.  Or that they're being eaten by snails.  Or their internal water pressure is off.  Or something.  I don't know many things, but I do know that there is NO TIME for me to regulate the water pressure in my irises, so I think we are done here.

I want to be a gardener, because it's beautiful--and also, I have a theory that a nicely landscaped lawn will divert attention from the laundry that is EVERYWHERE.  And the pudding stain on our door frame.  I have this identity crisis every year in April, when I go to Wal-Mart and get sucked in by all the pretty flowers.  I know some of you green thumbs just threw up in your mouth a little, but I love a place that sells begonias AND shampoo, because there is a certain realness to it, something about the way it speaks to my attention deficit, and how I am considering my garden and that can of beans I forgot for tonights chili, in the same thought.

It goes like this:  I go to Wal-mart, or if I'm feeling particularly delusional, a nursery, and I spend HOURS looking at all the pretty things, and deciding that I want a rose trellis and lemon trees and some birds that tie buntings over my front doorstep and sh#!.  Just bring me all the pretty, lovely things because this is the season for grand ideals and elaborate dreams (it follows the season of decomposing leaves in the fall/winter), and we are going to trick this house out like a Disney cottage.

Sometime on the drive home from Wal-mart is usually where I lose interest and forget to 1.) plant the pretty things, or 2.) water them, in which case they die a shriveled mess in less than 10 days.  Sometimes, they make it into the earth, but I ALWAYS forget the part that comes next,  you know, those summer months when the children will need me to sunscreen them/feed them/regulate trampoline jumping/find them socks--and inevitably, dragging the hose 15 feet will just seem too. damn. hard. and the flowers will die as a result of my realigned priorities, which include not sweating through my third tank top in an hour.

A few weeks ago, in a fit of manic energy, I had Mike rip out the few odd bushes we had out front of the new house, and I wasn't thinking much beyond that plan--because now we are a barren dessert land out there, with the wasted irises.  I knew I wanted hydrangeas, and in a true sign that the Lord might be returning, they were purchased and planted; and they will likely be full and mature in four years.  So until then, there is A LOT of space to fill, and A LOT of opportunity for me to spend money on things I am going to kill.

Also.  My husband just told me I need to pull the grass out of the flower beds.  WTH, that sounds like a terrible battle to pick, because grass is EVERYWHERE.  The earth belongs to the grass, I'm just slowly killing plants on it.  And let's be honest--weeding in 75 degree weather is AWESOME; weeding in 97 degree weather with high humidity is not even on the list of things I care about.  Spoiler alert:  the grass wins.

Happy planting, friends.  May the odds be ever in your favor.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Seven simple rules for shopping at Forever 21. When you're 37.

I’m always drawn to Forever 21--and I’m not sure why, except that I got one of my favorite tank tops in there, like 8 years ago, and so I keep holding out hope that something amazing exists there, for $4.  The store is freaking huge, and logic tells me that there is SOMETHING in there for me, if I am willing to forgo my time, self-respect, and dignity to dig for it a little.

Oh, isn’t that a metaphor for life.  That I am always looking for my dignity amidst cheap sweatshirt crop tops.  Note to self:  IT’S NOT THERE.

These little adventures usually don’t turn out well for me, as was the case last week, when I popped in to Forever 21 for no good reason.  Had I noticed these crocheted shorts in the window display, and REALLY thought about what that meant for me, as a 37-year-old woman, I might have turned around and walked myself right into the Dress Barn.  But hindsight is 20/20--and the inspiration for these lessons that I need to remember, the next time I forgo all logic at the mall.

Rule #1:  Never trust a store that sells crocheted booty shorts.  I dare you to give me one scenario in which these are a good idea.  

Rule #2:  Never try on pants/shorts/skirts there.  EVER.  

Rule #3:  If you ignore Rule #2, then be warned that no matter how many sizes you go up, no matter how slouchy it looks on the hanger, there is no pair of shorts that exists in that store that are intended to cover the crease of your butt cheeks.  Case in point:  I saw these shorts in a dressy-like material, and thought I could go up a size or two, and get them to sit loose on my hips--hence, pulling off the greatest hoax in all of history.  And once again, my hopes and dreams really clouded my critical thinking skills, because that was Never. Gonna. Happen.  

There is not enough self esteem in the world to survive trying on bottoms at Forever 21. Instead of hitting at the hips, these things were made with the most unflattering trend in mind:  the high waist.  Hell no.  There were pleats that I thought would be a non-factor in a slouchy type of short (see rule #3), but instead happened to sit at the exact spot of my non-flat C-section scar, which is an area I have sought to hide since 2004.  That typically isn’t hard when I wear clothes, unless, of course, they are from Forever 21.  A side note about women of child-bearing age and beauty; if you have had a child this store will sniff you out and reveal you as the non-21-year-old impostor that you are.  Be warned and take anti-depressants accordingly.

Rule #3:  Pleats are never a non-factor.  But holy hell, if there isn’t a worse combo than a high waist and pleats.  That’s not true.  High waists, pleats and white Keds.  I’ll tell you what, that look did not bring all the boys to my yard back in 1993; and it’s considered downright offensive in 2014.  

Rule #4:  While there are a few options on display mannequins that you would wear, they will not actually exist in the store.  I spent 15 minutes looking for this shirt, which proved my next point….

Rule #5:  What actually exists there, in abundance, are oversized cut-off shirts featuring 90’s cartoon characters.  WTH.  WHO wears this stuff and why is there 5,000 square feet of retail space devoted to it???

Rule #6:  As much as you want to love them, Rompers/Jumpers are made in Satan’s factory and they kill a little bit of your soul.  EVERY TIME.  I mean, there is nothing that I want to love more than (what looks like) a full body bag made out of a t-shirt, but it doesn’t work like that.  There not comfortable, they aren’t necessarily loose, and they make me have to get practically naked when I have to pee.  And as much as I want to have that plays-the-guitar-at-a-beach-bonfire look, but I’m 37 (almost 38) and I need to get over it.  

Rule #7:  Never these.  Ever.  Not unless you dance back-up for M.C. Hammer in 1991.