Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oh, it's time.

Someone needs some schoolin'

Bek is trying on hairstyles and debating the merits of one style over the other: ” I like to look respectful for the first week as the teachers make their first impressions, and then I like to POP out the edge later in the school year...”

Luke is smelling his shirts, trying to find the one that has just the right “ Odor du Fifth grader”

Noah is telling me that he “ won’t be my baby anymore because I’m going to Pre-K..”

It’s back to school time.

The two oldest went back today. Noah will go back in a couple of weeks. Most years at this time I am more than ready to see them go. They are bored. I am bored. It’s hot. We ran out of activities a month ago and the start of school is a welcome event. Not this year. I actually have enjoyed their company this summer. We had so many more things we wanted to do that we never got around to. I thrived on the “ sure you can stay up until the end of this movie..” quality this summer possessed. We traveled, we recreated, we summered and I wasn’t ready for it all to end.

But end it must.

Yesterday, I followed the kids around and came up with a list of reasons why I am ready for school to start. The negatives of this summer full of positives. Things to prove to myself that we are all ready. Ready for schedules, and rules, and structure, and a life not centered around the kids if only for a few hours.

Why It Is Time:

* Mystery stains on the carpet
* Plastic wrappers in the oddest places... none of which being a trash can.
* Beds unmade mere minutes after being made
* Every TV set blaring Sponge Bob/icarly/Zac & Cody/Most Extreme/SpikeTV
* Luke mood swings
* Bek mood swings
* Mom mood swings
* The contents of the Craft Corner in the basement being hauled in a steady stream up the stairs, through the living room and out the door.
*The sound of the hose being turned on and Noah screaming “ LUUUKKKKEE! I’m getting Weeeetttt!”
*A non stop stream of really elaborate business plans to raise money so they can get( insert really pricey item here)
*Never being able to leave a room mid-All My Children.. because the channel will be changed. I really think that I shouldn't’t have to schedule my pee in my own house!
*Tennis Elbow from grabbing a kid about to leap off the porch railing.
*House shaking door slams
*The Nothing Chorus. “ We have nothing to do, we didn’t do nothing, what are we doing-- bang bang thud thud-? Nothing.”
*Realizing that I have not heard a peep from Beks for hours and finding her in her room, hiding behind her laptop-- where she was 6 hrs before not having moved at all. What is the appeal of Pixie Hollow? Anyone?
*The cornucopia of debris laying under the sofa cushions
* Running the dishwasher twice a day

So today came. And I have already had to refer to my list more than once. But Beks just got home, and Luke will be here momentarily.. I'm sure I can start a new list before dinnertime.

First day of 5th and 7th grade: 2009

Special Thanks for inspiration go to this pretty awesome blog:http://momentarymoments.blogspot.com/2009/08/not-alone.html

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Adventure 2009: Post Script


All the luggage has been unpacked, the suitcases back in their basement hideaway. The souvenirs have taken places of honor on bookcases, shirt drawers, and, in my case, the garage. I collected reusable shopping bags from the many grocery stores we went to. Before you laugh, it makes a great reminder .. all have the store name or town someplace that is not where I normally shop. And, at 99cents, a frugal buy that can be used each week.

Shells, shopping sacks and t-shirts were not the only thing we brought back from our trip. Luke picked up a virus that slammed him our last day and for four more after we came home. He also had a weird reaction to some bug bites. That is one of the reasons it has taken me so long to recap our trip. The kid was a mess. So was my yard. Apparently Brian confused dormancy with death by grub. I have spent a good chuck of this week battling the grubs and fixing the yard.

We have been home for one week, Brain and Noah were very excited to see us. My Visa bill came in just days after we did, and thankfully, Brian was still in a honeymoon phase. My fretting for having gone over ( the ridiculously low) budget was unwarranted. He was ok with it. That was a surprise. Actually, the memories I have from this trip are all surprises.

*Luke did not travel well. He was out of his element, dealing with his first wave of teen hormones so most of the time I felt as thought I were trying to control him instead of enjoying things with him. I have overheard him telling people about the trip, and he is apparently a revisionist. Thankfully.

* Bekah, my worrier, loved everything. She thought she could imagine herself living everywhere we went and soaked everything in. Sure, she ate chicken ever single meal out, but she didn't complain.

*My dad waited until Day 10 before he actually did pull the car over. Instead of yelling like he had when we were kids he was silent. When asked he said" I am waiting for the back seat to calm down before I can safely drive." then more silence. oooh, that man is good. I'm gonna use that.

* That I really do like Chicago more than New York. And I am ok admitting it

* That I would feel guilty when I missed more than a couple days of blogging. I thought a few short postcard blogs from the road, but reading back it was more than I had expected. Posting meant more to me. The emotions behind the words were deeper than I had expected And that you followed the trip with us meant the world to me.

* The thing that struck me the most with a SURPRISE! was that even though I didn't have a lot planned other the where we were stopping, when things didn't go according to plan it was ok. Our group could roll with the changes and have more fun than we could ever have planned for.

Here are some snapshots of our trip, a final montage. Get your favorite vacation song running in your head and take a look at some of the things I will remember from this wonderful, special summer adventure.

Our first stop was the arch in St Louis..we didn't go inside but we sure took a lot of pictures!

Getting to spend so much time with my parents was my favorite aspect of the trip. We were living together and exploring together and I will cherish each moment.. even the not so great ones. This was mom and I on the Night of the Chipmunk:

Seeing people that I had not in far too long was one of the things I was most looking forward to, and it didn't disappoint. I think they were as excited to share their worlds with me as I was to see how they were doing. My college roommate , Sharon, and her husband Ford went above and beyond to make us comfortable.

Bek, Mom, me and Sharon ended a day of NYC sightseeing with a view of Lady Liberty from the NJ side. Sometimes you get the most out of an experience when you look at it in a different way than most people do.

When we went to Lake Winnipesaukee we got to see relatives that my kids had never met. My Aunt Mary, Mom, Cousin Carrie and her daughter as we waited for my uncle to bring his boat around for a ride. Carrie and I should get together soon to get our foot tattoos!

Beks never wanted to fish with Brian here in MO, but get her to New Hampshire and she caught her first fish ever.

Another first, the kids paddling in NH. I recall this as an activity they worked together to accomplish and with no fighting. A week later and I am already revising history.

In Maine, Luke, always an adventurous eater, tried his first Lobster coached by a Master Crustacean Consumer, Skipper Dave ( My Dad)

My mother realized, a year or so ago, that she had never mini-golfed. She rectified that situation then, but this was only her second game ever. She slaughtered us.

Each morning on the boat brought coffee and checking of the days news. This is me, just after posting a blog, my father and mother. Cheers to you, folks... and to YOU FOLKS for being a part of my journey.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Tale of Two Trains

It was the best of rides, it was the worst of rides....

When we were planning our trip we had to get from Boston to Kansas City. If we could stop in Chicago on the way back, all the better. Car was out unless we rented one since we had to leave the Volvo with my parents in Maine. Plane was an option, but that would be costly with a stop in The Windy City. Beks also isn't so crazy about plane travel these days. If getting her on a plane was anything like getting her an immunization, it would require 5 flight attendants, a pilot and a mom. Or a kiddie xanax. Then someone suggested train travel. Both Bek and Luke thought that sounded like a real adventure. When I looked into fares, there was no other option. Amtrak it is!

There was only one train from Boston to Chicago. It left at 11 AM. Or 11 and some numbers so just round it to 11 AM. I'm not mathy. I'm also pretty good at laughing at myself because those " some numbers" were :55. We didn't realize this until after all of us were loaded into the car at 5:30 AM for the 3-4 hour drive to Boston from Southport ,ME . No one was mad.. ok, the kids were mad, but kids moods can be bought with a hot chocolate and a glazed stick from Dunkin' Donuts.

Because we had extra time, we hit no traffic whatsoever. Even with Dunkin Donuts, Rebox, and Gas stops we got to South Station with almost 2 hours to spare. Boston is a great city. It has lots of charm, history, sights and activities. It does not have a street system that a visitor can easily understand. It had been years since any of us had driven there and we had to rely on Gypsy the GPS and her quick, one- shot directions. You had best be listening! Failure to listen results in a Gypsy tantrum of " Recalculating. Recalculating.."

We drove around the same " block" for a few laps. It wasn't a square block like in most cities, but more obtuse triangle. But this is Boston, one of the oldest cities in our country, who am I to argue math semantics? I'm not mathy, remember?

Finally we accepted two facts:
1-We had found the front door to the station,
2-There was no parking anywhere.
Mom and Dad couldn't see us off from anywhere inside. It was a rolling stop/toss stuff out the back/ hug/hug/ kiss/kiss/thank you/thank you... and they were gone. The kids and I were on our own, weighted down by too much luggage, on a sidewalk in south Boston. We were sad to see my parents roll away, but excited to see what train travel had for us.

A quick and easy check in, a bathroom luggage juggle, and a snack filled our time. Our train was finally being called and we hauled all of our carry -on luggage to the track. We were not traveling light like a lot of others that we saw. We had a bag of snacks, a sleeping bag, a lap top and a portable DVD player, clothes for tomorrow,toiletries, inflatable pillows, books, games... we had tried to think of anything that would make the next 22 hrs fly by in comfort. And all the stuff that made our car trip comfortable as well. We had a lot of stuff to make us comfortable.

Comfortable was quickly out of the question. The train was full, there would be no spreading out on 4 seats like we had hoped. The seats did sort of recline, but they were too close to the neighboring seats for comfort. Even with our train training of compact travel in the backseat of the Volvo we felt claustrophobic. We were fairly close to the two restrooms for our car, and a few cars back from the snack bar. We didn't complain because we didn't know any better. We thought that this was part of the adventure of train travel. As the trained rolled on, we rolled with it.

I won't lie: we had a few moments of groaning. When we sat on the tracks for an hour someplace in the woods outside of Springfield MA, for no announced reason. When we were only in Albany,NY 8 hrs later. When the woman in the window seat, next to my aisle one, insisted on getting up at EVERY STOP to run outside to smoke...all. night. long. When we got no wifi connection anywhere. When cell calls dropped at the most crucial moments. When 2 hamburgers and waters cost 20 bucks. When Luke's acid reflux had him barfing at 11 PM. When the cabin lights were not turned off , ever. When a conductor walked through the aisle yelling " Cleveland! Cleveland! Cleveland!" at 3 AM.

Mostly we just groaned and moved on. We were not going to be complaining travelers, we were on an adventure. When the bathrooms began to smell like port-o-lets at a hot summer outdoor concert, we waited until absolutely necessary to head back there. Then those bathrooms were closed down, broken,we walked back several cars to find ones that worked. We were tired and grungy when we finally pulled into Chicago, 2 hours late, 24 hours later. We felt like train travel survivors and I was secretly dreading the other train leg.

Three days later we boarded the next, and final, train that would take us back to Kansas City. The difference in trains slapped us upside the head. This train was a double decker and we were seated on the top level. The car was smaller, had fewer passengers, although it too was full. More storage, bigger and cleaner windows welcomed us aboard. It was newish, cleaner, better smelling. I couldn't even reach the seat in front of me there was so much room! Toni the Chain Smoking Seatmate would never have disturbed my sleep. As we left Chicago's Union Station behind we still had the greatest treats ahead of us. One car ahead to be exact. The observation car.

As we walked through the door that separated us from this nirvana on rails I thought I heard an angelic choir sing some heavenly notes. Bright lights, all windows, many tables and comfy chairs for the taking awaited us. Spread out, play card games, write, watch America roll by in bright sunny comfort. This was the Amtrak of the commercials. We saw cranes that filled a pond, a crop dusting plane that skimmed our train, and a perfect sunset. We took the stairs to the snack car and so many bathrooms we never saw anyone else use. There was a dining car that took reservations, and characters on the over-com giving us updates. If we had been on this train from Boston we would have arrived refreshed, energized and 5 lbs lighter from all the exercise we had.

But we didn't know better then. It's an analogy for life, isn't it? When we know better, we do better. We expect better. That is a rough paraphrase of Maya Angelou, but fits the situation. If we had taken the trains in a different order we would have known that train travel can be comfortable when we boarded the bus on tracks. We might have actually complained out loud. But life is about living and learning and moving on. If we had not taken this second train we would be sour on this method of travel. Now we are eager to do it again.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Old Lady and The Sea

Every New England beach has them. Senior women sporting one piece bathing suits that end in a tight skirts that cling to their thighs. Old Lady Suits. Don't be coy, you know exactly what I am talking about. These beautiful, silver haired women often sport hats, canvas with upturned brims. They have deep perma-tans from years of summers spent with no sunblock. These women can often been seen floating in the water, or swimming laps of breaststroke. Sometimes they are in pairs, but usually they are in the water alone. Floating or swimming back and forth. They are as common to New England beaches as hermit crabs and beach roses.

The tiny beach that we discovered on Southport Island, ME where we stayed on my folks boat was the quintessential New England Beach. Beach roses, pebbles, some sand, and a high tide line marked with a thick layer of beached seaweed. The kids were thrilled that it was low tide and set off to explore what would be undersea hours from now. Big crops of large boulders jutted just off the beach, accessible by wading. There were a few families at the beach this day, and maybe 15 people played and splashed in the water. I say "people"but I mean kids mostly. The parents sitting on towels or low beach chairs enjoying the summer day, but staying dry.

Family lore has me as the only kid in our family who would venture into the icy waters of coastal Maine. I was such a fish that no temperature would keep me from diving and and playing. I must have grown out of my fish tendencies sometime about the time that I gave up sleeping with my security blanket because one foot into the water and I was done.

I can not do justice to the temperature of this water by describing it. The only thing that comes to mind is that icy blast you get on the back of your throat with a first sip of a Slush, Slurpee or Frozen Cappuccino. Not cold enough to actually form ice, but you sense the presence of ice. " ICE WAS HERE". That is the temperature my foot felt.

Then Luke jumped in. I suspect that he had to pee, and he knew that was the only place he could go, but it didn't seem to bother him, that icy water. Beks was a bit more timid, but soon she too was up to her waist in the Atlantic aiming for the nearest outcrop of rock to explore. It then became my mission. If I had swam in these waters as a child, if my children and 14 others could swim in them, then I could do it today.

I say 14, but there were 15 people in the water that day. Number 15 was the Beach Woman.Black old lady suit with a deep V , orange canvas hat, permatan-- it was as if the Southport Visitors Bureau had cast her in the role of Beach Woman. She was standing in the the water just a few feet out from me and commented on my kids eagerness to climb the rocks.

She must have sensed my desire to go into the water battling with my desire to remain comfortable. It was probably the " aah! Ugh! It's coooold!" or " ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh" mantra I repeated. Or maybe it was the moans that I made with each step. She zeroed in on me and began her project for the day: Get this Midwestern mom into the water.

She started of sneaky, I didn't realize what she was doing at first. " I have heard that if you get your wrists into the water, you can cool your blood and the water doesn't feel so cold. Get your wrists in the water,"she offered as her first suggestion.

Makes sense,cool the blood. I took two more loud steps deeper in the water so that I could bend over and get my wrists submerged.

" No, you have to have them in the whole time,not just dip them" she then corrected me.

I took two more steps until my wrists were underwater and I was still standing up. I didn't feel a difference.

" You know," she said still a good 5 feet farther out and to the left of me," there is a sandbar over here it's nice and sandy, you should come out here."

The rocks were digging into my feet as I stood statue still trying to lower my body temperature. She got 3 steps out of me that time. She was still the same 5 feet away from me ,though. It was then I caught on that she was my Swim Coach. Float Coach. Maine Water Coach.

I knew that on my own, I would have high tailed it to the towel and dug my feet deep into the sand. But I also had a deep desire to get in the water. I knew I could not do it alone.

" You aren't going to believe me but there is a warm spot right here, you should come over here." I made sure Luke and his bladder were down current from me. I saw him scaling rocks not even in the ater any longer, and took the three slow steps over to her. Or where she used to be. She was now,still, 5 feet farther out than I was.

At this point, standing on the sandy bottom, I argued with myself that the water was a touch warmer at this new spot. By now I was boob deep. I never knew that a swimsuit could keep me warm until the frigid water hit my exposed back... fast deep inhale at the shock, but I didn't back down. Coach was talking the whole time, telling me she was a native, and telling me that her favorite thing to do was to sit on the beach as the tide came up and wait for the water to just lift you up. I heard about all the free band and jazz concerts in town, how wonderful the library was and where to catch a ferry to another beautiful island. All with the deep accent of someone who had lived here her whole life.Coming from the face that had gotten her base tan for the last 80 years playing, living, and raising her family by these waters.

" The bravest thing to do is to just go for it now" she cheerfully said.

And I did.

I flopped forward into the water that really wasn't that icy any more. It wasn't a dive as much as a resigned lowering. I dunked my head, rolled on my back and realized that saltwater is so much more buoyant than anything else that I swim in back home. I stared up from my salty recliner at the seagulls flying overhead, listened to the squeals of children playing nearby, and glanced at the boats sailing on on the horizon. I squinted in the bright sun and thought the only thing that would make this perfect would be a hat to shade my face. Maybe an orange canvas one like Coach wore. Coach. Her nonstop monologue had ceased. I swam around to find her and thank her for helping me realize my dream of the day, to swim like I had as a child.

She was farther down the beach. She stood knee deep in water, 5 feet out from a middle age woman in an aqua swimsuit who was just beginning her quest into the Atlantic.