Jul
16
2013

  Little Does He Know

I was quizzing W tonight, and asked him who would his children visit when they went to see their grandma. He thought about it, but was hemming and hawing since he didn't know, and I said, "ME! I will be their grandma!"

W promptly dissolved into a fit of giggles. I asked him what was so funny, and he said, "YOU'RE not old like a grandma! You can't be a grandma!" Bless his heart. Little does he suspect that not everyone in town shares his point of view. My innocent, innocent little boy.

Jul
04
2013

  Great Day!

I can hardly believe how easy the boys were today! I started my day around 10am as usual. But today I cooked the corn on the cob from yesterday's CSA pickup for breakfast, and it was so tender and sweet! So instead of just cooking two for myself I cooked them all and T and the boys gobbled them down as their mid-morning snack. The weather looked iffy, but all week the storms have been very short and easy to wait out, so I took my chances on a day trip to Staunton. It's only about 45 minutes from home, so it's not a major expedition, just 50% further than we'd go on an ordinary day. We arrived at Gypsy Hill Park just after 1pm.

The town has a miniature train that runs through the park on weekends, but it was running for the holiday today, and even better, it was free! So our first stop was to ride that train. The last time I tried it with Will, he totally freaked out and cried the whole time. Maybe he was one? Two? I don't remember, but it's been over a year in any case. I was hopeful Max would take it better than W did back then. When M threw himself down on the ground crying on the walk to board the train I was worried, but I just scooped him up and sat him on my lap and he was fine. But then W had to sit alone in the seat in front of us (Plan A was for both boys to sit together with me right behind them). But both boys did just fine and enjoyed the ride. It's really a charming little train, it makes me want to lay down track around the farm and have my own miniature railroad. That would be awesome, but waaaay beyond the scope of my attention span. I would just wind up with 10 yards of track somewhere with weeds growing up through it, my own little mysterious abandoned railroad is what it would be.

Then it was time for lunch-- I ate a large breakfast (last night's curried kale & tofu leftovers) in anticipation of finding nothing vegan. The boys had hot dogs, potato chips, and sno cones, while I had the same but fried pickles instead of the hot dogs (I checked, no eggs or milk in the batter). We spread our blanket in the shade of the large trees in front of the bandstand and listened to two different acts while we ate. I much prefer the setup in Staunton, their stage is smaller than the monstrosity that is the Pavillion in Cville, and the spectator area is well-shaded.

After lunch, we headed out in search of the playground. We found the one for little kids first, and both boys loved it. There were enough other toddlers there for it to be lively, but not chaotic or loud. Then we went back for some more music and to look for the big-kid playground. But right as we approached it, it started pouring rain. Lucky for us, there was a building with a large porch right next to it, so we waited there. I blew bubbles from a star-shaped bubble necklace given to the boys by a neighbor for the amusement of all the toddlers trapped on the porch until the storm blew over. Like all the storms this week, it only lasted a few minutes. By then it was around 4pm and I decided a good time to head home. I saw a fireworks stand on the side of the road, and hopped out to get some sparklers. They only had giant ones, but the guy pointed out they were safer for kids, so I got a box.

The boys were kind of a wreck when we got home, both screaming for no reason other than being discombobulated from a big day out, but the commotion didn't last long and we were able to chill out before bath time with some video games. W wanted to put the sparklers off until tomorrow night so I would let him watch more of a new game, but we wound up so far behind our normal schedule that it was already getting dark before we were ready for baths, so I took them outside for the sparklers tonight. W wasn't sure he would feel safe, so I had him and Max hold their sticks unlit, then they could watch me with mine and decide for themselves if they wanted to hold their own sparklers or let me hold them. It took them all of a nanosecond to determine that they wanted to get theirs lit, and so it was done. W didn't care for M "chasing" him, but M was too mesmerized by the sparkles to notice W and I think W was just nervous because M was randomly wandering a few steps nearer him. One giant sparkler was just the right amount of amusement, so that was quick and easy for me.

Then bath and bedtime, about 30 minutes later than usual. I am fine with that variance from our regular schedule for a holiday. I shudder to think what horrors of behavior I would face tomorrow if I tried to keep the boys out until after late-night fireworks and then the drive home afterwards. Maybe next year. The local show is Saturday night, so I'll see what T thinks about that-- with a ten-minute drive home it's less of a production than going to a larger town, but still pretty late for these boys, so I don't know.

Jun
25
2013

  A/C Attitude Adjustment!

We have a houseguest this week, so the whole family is off our routine. Today this meant I had to take the Jeep instead of our sedan. The A/C in the Jeep doesn't work, and it's 90F out there today.

Driving around running errands, I was pretty unhappy about this turn of events. With the windows down and nothing but hot air blowing on me, I thought miserably, "this must be what the air feels like inside a clothes dryer." But I also recalled somewhere in the back of my mind that once I owned another car with no A/C. I had to think waaaay way back, but then I remembered I had a Honda Civic hatchback, my first car. It might have had A/C at some point, but it quit sometime during the time I owned it, I think I had that car for at least five years. I didn't recall being miserable in the heat back then, so I tried to discern what has changed that I was so miserable today. It dawned on me that now I have a sense of entitlement that I didn't have back then. I was appalled with myself; people complaining about problems that aren't real problems as much as they are just the result of a sense of entitlement is one of my pet peeves! So I snapped my fingers and reframed my mind.

That feeling of driving around with he windows down on a hot summer's day was what it felt like to be nineteen and in charge of my own destiny with my entire life waiting to be discovered on the road in front of me. With this in mind, I turned up the radio, relaxed, and enjoyed the feeling of the wind blowing through my hair, content with my world and the realization that I have another 20 years ahead of me full of adventures and unknowns, just like I did back then, the last time I was driving around in a $4000 car without A/C.

An attitude adjustment is infinitely quicker and more practical than changing your circumstances, but the increase in happiness can be the same. More, in fact, in the long run, since you can get happy right away when you change your attitude and so enjoy more time in a state of happiness than if you had to wait for your circumstances to change before you could be happy.

Jun
21
2013

  Same Goal, New Strategy

First off, I noticed that I have not yet written about my summer vacation. Not the trip to NYC (FYI since my last post about having to move to Plan B, one of the apartments from airbnb came back with a lower price, so we're actually back to Plan A, to everyone's delight!), but my extra hours away from the kids.

I was feeling a bit burnt out and irritable this spring, so T suggested that I get more babysitting once the schools were out and high school girls were available during the day. And so I have. I now have childcare 2.5 days per week.

I started keeping a journal, trying to figure out how to get my life to where I want it to be. I thought I had worked out some strategies, but when I explained the situation to a friend over lunch today, she encouraged me to rethink my plan.

Yesterday, I set a goal of putting away the nativity set and organizing the bookshelf in the parlor during my six hours of child-free time. It took about 15 minutes to carefully pack away the nativity set. I figured I'd be done with the books in an hour or two.

It didn't work out that way. I got about half the shelves organized in about 40 minutes, but then I started getting a headache and feeling bad, so I lay down for 20 minutes. Then I went back downstairs to finish the job. But after 30 minutes of sorting and organizing, deciding which books to keep and which to give away, and then for the books to keep, which shelf to put them on, the headache and overwhelming fatigue had returned. I went back upstairs. I journaled how puzzled I was at this, since I had enough sleep the previous night, and I had eaten plenty of food so it wasn't hunger or low blood sugar or anything predictable.

I repeated the exercise once again, but as soon as the headache returned for the third time, I called it a day, with the bookshelf project unfinished. In retrospect, I think my brain was rebelling against all the decision-making. My solution was to just take my home organization goals as slowly as I needed, with as much breaks as rest as necessary to not make myself miserable about it. I journaled that I was resigned to this process taking years to complete at my current pace, but I can only do what I can do.

When my friend heard me describe all this, she pointed out another solution that had not occurred to me. Hire even more help. She said it was painful to hear about how difficult it is for me to get things organized, and she had another friend with ADD (her age) and never really understood why she just couldn't get simple things done and was always asking for help. Now she understood just how difficult some things are for someone with ADD. But she thought that torturing myself and drawing out the project for years was not the obvious solution. She said if something was so difficult that it gave me headaches and I could only do it for 30 minutes at a time, it was a clear sign that I should outsource the project. I need to hire a helper. Somebody really organized. She said an organized person could have the task done in even less time than the hour or two I had originally anticipated.

She pointed out that there are so many other things that I am really good at, that I really should be focused on doing THOSE things instead of struggling so much with things that are terrifically difficult for me. That option hadn't occurred to me, but it is appealing.

So my goal is still to get all the junk cleared out of the house, and get everything organized and updated, ideally to the level as if the house were up for sale. Really de-cluttered and pristine. But instead of slaving away at the task and developing strategy upon strategy for how to get it done myself, my new strategy will be to hire someone and get a lot of it done this year. And once it's all done, get them on a regular maintenance schedule, so I don't have to lose sleep about how I will possibly keep the place from falling into chaos again. I will outsource that responsibility. This will free me up to focus on the better use of my time, which is hanging out with my sons. And pre-schooling W in the fall.

After spending a month mowing and keeping up with the yard work, I am confident that at this point I'd rather pay a babysitter to watch the kids while I get that done. I like gardening and landscape maintenance, it makes me feel good. But I would MUCH rather watch my own children than tackle the organization projects that literally make me feel sick and make my head hurt, like the bookshelf project. That sort of thing I will just outsource.

So my task now is to make a list of projects I have no problem completing myself, like yard maintenance and changing the air filters throughout the house, and what projects are unreasonably difficult. Once I have a list, I can start my search for a helper, and have some idea of the sort of hours I will need.

My friend today helped me to see that if I need support staff, I need support staff. I shouldn't waste time spending days doing things that should only take minutes or hours, I should use those days for doing something that I CAN do well.

I do not anticipate cutting down on the babysitting hours this summer, though. But instead of using my free time making myself sick to neaten things up in the house, I will use my free time to recharge and do things that make me feel good. I'm so glad I escaped another day slaving away at the bookshelf and went out to lunch. I will hopefully have a much better summer because of it. And I will enter the fall refreshed and relaxed, and ready to take on the new responsibility of home-schooling my four-year-old.

Jun
12
2013

  Family Travel

I'm not sure why it's been so difficult to find an apartment in NYC lately. It really wasn't so hard to find apartments a few years ago when we were travelling when W was a baby. The market has definitely changed. I think now that more people have jumped on the bandwagon, it is actually more difficult to find a suitable rental rather than less. My theory is that back in the good old days, only people with experience as landlords signed up for the internet listing services, and they knew what they were doing, and were reliable and competent. Now, just any old person who will be out of their apartment for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks lists their place, but few seem committed to their listings. It seems to me like there are places listed on a whim, and they will only lease them if the mood strikes. Which is fine if you're the landlord, but a nuisance for someone like me who is trying to plan a family trip in advance.

So I have abandoned the attempt to find an apartment. The deals I would get on hotel suites in the past have also evaporated-- what used to be around $200/night has gone up to $500/night which is way over budget.

So T and I are moving to Plan B for our friend's wedding. It will involve only one of us attending. What is still up in the air is whether we all go to NYC as a family, since the ceremony is early enough we can all attend that. But then T will take the kids up to bed while I go on to the reception. Or T has offered to stay home with the kids while I go to NYC alone, in which case we'll work out whether I fly or drive. If it's just me, I could also stay with a friend (you can fit one adult on a sofa, not so much a family of four).

With luck, the pendulum will swing back the other way at some point, making family travel to the city easier again.

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