Reading is something I do every day of my life. I've tried, with varying levels of success, to get my family to follow along. My husband actually asked (!!) for a book for Father's Day - it was super very exciting. He hasn't read it yet - let's not rush things, he's only read a few books since we've been married - but I have high hopes.
My three youngest are big time readers, especially #4 and #5, and my bigger kids USED to read a lot more than they do. I keep trying, as much as I can, to get them to read - I just can't imagine not reading, every single day. Here are the books I've read lately - it helps that I read quickly, often and everywhere. I take books with me into doctor appointments, read before bed for at least 20 minutes, and read whenever I have a spare minute, if the book is that good. And if the book is not THAT good - I'm probably not going to finish it. These books I finished, and they were all *that* good.
Reading is an escape for me - a chance to try on someone else's life for a little while, walk around in it and see how it fits - and, maybe, find out that all you really needed was a break from your own life to appreciate it, or understand it.
The Obvious Game - Rita Arens - I've known Rita for years and years, and consider her to be one of the best people in the blogosphere. She's a rock star of a lady, and now, you can add rock star of an author to her description. In The Obvious Game, Rita takes on eating disorders and parental illness and hits them head on, unafraid and unapologetic. This book really hit home for me, and I'm not a fan of YA books - most of them feel like YA books, you know? This one didn't - and I'd really recommend it to any parent, not just those dealing with parental illness or eating disorders.
Hearts In Atlantis - Stephen King - Once upon a time, I read everything that Stephen King wrote. He was my favorite author. And then I read Misery. And Pet Semetary. And, finally, It. That books still haunts me, and I stopped reading his work. Which is a super shame, because he is a truly gifted writer with an amazing ability - and when he's not writing horror, I think he's at his best. It's super easy to scare people, but it's more difficult that intrigue them and leave them wondering what's next. I loved this collection of interwoven short stories that revolved around the Vietnam War. There was one bit of supernatural weirdness, but the rest of the book was just ordinary people, doing ordinary things, and it was really well written.
Joyland - Stephen King - Another King book, this one detailed a legend of a haunting at an old fashioned, rickety theme park - but it wasn't spooky and it wasn't scary. The haunting seemed legitimately a feature of the story that absolutely belonged there, and gave the tale a depth that it needed. I really enjoyed this story as it swooped and circled and came to an end, much like the roller coaster referenced in the main story line - and, as a bonus, I didn't figure out the villain. (I usually do!)
And the Mountains Echoed - Khalil Hosseini - I loved this book. It was enormous and wandering, a set of interwoven stories, each one picking up a character from a previous - but there was only one time I was confused as to who, exactly, was who. Set in Afghanistan, it covered several years and many current and past struggles and kept my attention far too late at night.
Roots, A BlogHer Anthology - I love food blogs. They are my favorite, and this book (disclosure: I work for BlogHer) was awesome. (I paid for my copy, btw.) I love to hear the stories of family recipes, passed down from generation to generation, and a few of my favorite food blogs were represented here - although, surprisingly, my favorite stories were *not* from them! The history of food is so interesting to me.
The Ashford Affair - Lauren WIllig - Written by the author of the Pink Carnation series, this book (as far as I know) is a stand alone. It was a light, fun read, and, although I quickly figured out the "villian" - it was fun reading.
Curtains - Tim Jokinen - I am *super* fascinated by funerals, funeral directors, funeral homes, death and elder care. This book covered all five, one lightly and four in great detail. Tim took a year off from his job and this book is the story of that year spent learning the funeral home business. If I had it to do over again, I think I might have picked the funeral business.It fascinates me, and so did this book - until the last couple of chapters, which delved into politics.
Next up - I have downloaded samples from 2 Stephen King books that I really liked and want to purchase - Bag of Bones and Lisey's Story - and Her Last Breathe by Linda Castillo.
I'm craving hot, salty French Fries and a big, ice cold Coke. Or - I was. Now I'm just craving sleep, lol.
But, if I have a craving, it's almost always french fries and icy cold Coke. Fries that are super hot, with lots of salt, and lots of ketchup.
What are you craving?
Is that you try on all different kind of shoes. One day, you wear the type of shoes that say "I am a runner!", for example. And then you ARE a runner. Or you wear the shoes that say, "I am a boxer!" and you earn your black belt and you ARE a boxer.
Well, not exactly, because the five years I took boxing class were all barefoot. But you get the idea.
Sometimes, those shoes fit well. And other times, they don't. And what fits well in the beginning might change as you change. For example - I loved boxing. HATE hitting people and being hit, but loved pad rounds and bag work. Ergo - boxing is not for me. I like the concept of running. My body does not, as is evidenced by the fact that whenever I run, I injure myself. So, I am not a runner.
As an adult, I've tried, especially in the past 6 years, many types of exercise - Jazzercize, Zumba, running, walking, boxing class, Crossfit. I've joined gyms, taken swimming and group exercise - tried all kinds of things. To me, much of being an adult is trying on different things.Things that you might have wanted to do when you were younger and not had the ability/money/opportunity. Or maybe they were things that you did have the opportunity to do when you were younger, but growing up took you away from those things. After all, when you are worried about paying the mortgage, did I defrost the chicken for dinner? and taking care of other people (be they older or younger) -
Well, sometimes you get lost in the shuffle.
I'm not saying that's good, I'm not saying that's bad, I'm just saying that it's often reality. I tend to think of myself as a pretty selfish person. I try to always remember that I have wants and needs and desires, and see to them in some way or another. Lately, that has not been happening. There are a couple of situations in my life pulling me in multiple directions. At the end of the day, if I am still breathing - well, then, that's all I can ask for.
When I got up today, I knew it was the day for ballet class. I got dressed, got in the car, and as I drove, my stomach tightened. Yes, I've been through this before, and I still think it's totally ridiculous that I was nervous. I mean, I was really pretty irritated with myself for being nervous. But the reality was – I was nervous.
So nervous I didn't talk to anyone while I was waiting for the class to begin. If you know me, you know, that's nervous. I talk *an awful lot*.
The class began, and I was so worried about myself that I was completely tensed up. My shoulders were up in my ears, my knees hyperextended into my thighs. More than once, I think I forgot to breathe. I tried to avoid looking in the mirror - a joke, when the entire room is wall to wall mirrors - and just feel what I was doing. Tried to remember what it felt like, and get back to that place - minus the competition that always occurs in high level ballet classes.
But I did it. I took the entire class, made a ton of mistakes, was dissatisfied with the way I looked in tights and a leotard (ugh, cellulite is super noticeable in flesh colored lycra!), but I did it. Any time the teacher offered an additional challenge - well, I didn't always take them the way I do in Crossfit class, but I took at least two, and that's about all I could ask for today. I was petrified that I would've forgotten stuff. Mostly, names of steps and how to execute them, but that was not the issue. I was concerned that I would forget body placement, but that was not the issue either.
The issue was just getting out of my own head.
Sure, I don't have the posture that I once had. After all, there's a lot more of me to put in that correct body position then there was when I danced 20 years ago. I wasn't the best in the class – not that I thought I would ever be. But I wasn't the worst in the class either, and in fact, I don't even remember looking at anyone else. But I don't know if anyone else was even looking at me. Jumping was not as easy as it used to be. I wasn't as quiet when I landed as I used to be, LOL.
For one hour and thirty minutes, I didn't think of people needing to gain weight. I didn't think of sick older people. I didn't think of people dying. I didn't think of the bills I still need to pay, the small amount in my checking account, the house work, work work, or emails to send or answer. I didn't think of people who refuse to take their medication or do what they are supposed to do. I didn't think of people who need therapy appointments, doctor appointments, weight checks, medication refills. I didn't think of "will I sell my Jeep?" I didn't think of this person's fight with this person, or what I needed to make for dinner, or how I was going to accomplish everything on my list. I didn't make a mental grocery list, a meal plan or count calorie possibilities in a side dish. I didn't think of how sad I am that my best local friend moved to another country. I didn't think of people who are traveling, people who aren't speaking to me, the speech I have to give next month, or the classes that I still need to cement for next school year.
I thought about body placement. I thought about weight distribution. I thought about opening my chest space, supporting my sternum, relaxing my neck, not hyper extending my knees, and for the love of God, plie-ing more.
Most people think of this when they think of ballet:
Pretty, slightly out of focus, graceful.
Fewer people still think of this when they think of ballet:
For me, I think of this:
Worn-out shoes, probably with a hole in the toe, dirty. But, oh so comfortable, and oh so familiar.
Now just to figure out how to get out of my own head, stop comparing the me of 20 years ago to the me of today, and just do it. And wearing the shoes that are most comfortable to me and being at peace in them.
I feel like I've been remiss in a couple of areas, kind of leaving you hanging, and so I thought I'd do a quick update.
Or, maybe, you really don't care and it's all in my mind. Humor me.
Item the first - It's Garden! Update! Time!!!!
So far, so good. I've been less than impressed with the growth - virtually nonexistent - of the pepper plants, but I'm hoping that they will gallop along shortly. I now have 15 green tomatoes and 2 baby eggplants. I need to look up cilantro for some advice, and have been pleasantly surprised at the rapid growth of the zucchini and the pumpkin (below). Ask me again in a month and I will probably be crazy.
Coffee - After two phone calls, one of which was supremely unsatisfactory and ended with me feeling like the representative called me an idiot - I received a replacement Keurig machine yesterday. I have high hopes. I hope I am not foolish for this.
Child weight issue - One of my underweight kids has dropped even more weight. It's to a level that is super uncomfortable. I would really appreciate your very best "put weight on" food ideas, recipes, and whatnot.
Ballet class - The school is on a one week summer hiatus. I would have imagined that a sign would have been put up, or maybe it would be on the answering machine - but I got a call two days later, so I guess there's that. Next Monday is a new day, eh?
Snack bucket - They've been pretty good about it. In fact, I often have to remind my kids that they are *allowed* to snack. Remaining in the bucket today are - applesauce packets, fig newtons, crunchy granola bars. Everything else has been eaten. Of particular favorites? The string cheese, the diced pear cups and the chewy granola bars.
Is there anything else that I've forgotten to update? Any questions you want to ask? I'm open for questions.
I didn't want a school that would put a three-year-old onstage. I wanted to school that took dance seriously, a place where she would learn all of the things that she needs to learn, and that had the potential to move her further if she had the desire as well as the skill. I thought about every school in the area, discarding them one by one.
I knew there was one school that met the criteria, although it is not in my city. It would mean a 20 to 25 minute drive, but I was willing to do it. After all, it's near the musical training my opera singing daughter attends. I went downtown to the school, sat in on a class, and found everything to be exactly as I remembered. There were six studios, classes full but with a good teacher/student ratio, and absolutely zero discipline issues that I could see. Excellent floors. I know the school well - you see, I had trained there for a year when I was 20. Right before I got married, when I more than halfway thought about becoming a professional ballet dancer. It is one of the best schools in the area, in my opinion, and, like I said - I know an awful lot about dance. So I signed her up for a six-week dance camp, one class a week. While I was there, I asked about adult classes. And then, without even thinking about it, I paid for a single class. For myself. I was alternate parts euphoric and petrified, but I thought that, well - I could try one class and see how it went.
And then today happened.
I grabbed my new leotard and tights - I'd ordered a set for myself when I ordered my daughter's - and my old slippers (found in my dance bag, holes in the toes and super broken in, just the way I like them) and started driving. To say that I was nervous would be a gross understatement. What if I hated it? What if I was the fattest person in the classroom? What if I couldn't remember anything? What if everyone laughed when they saw me there? Ballet dancers don't have tattoos. OR six kids. What in the hell was I doing, going back to a ballet class, at age 43, when I haven't danced for close to 15 years? What if I was absolutely terrible? I'm usually fairly self-critical, but I thought that I was a pretty good dancer - maybe I had exaggerated my dance skills all those years ago. Maybe, there was no way the world I would belong in this class.
I drove. I called my mom and talked to her and decided To Heck with it - I'd already given myself a nervous stomach and I had to pee AGAIN and I was really pissed off with myself for even debating the issue. You are going, and that's it, so stop even thinking about it!
I arrived at the school. No one was there. Doors were locked, lights were off, no one answered the doorbell. I went back to my car and I did my hair, remembering the high bun and the bangs back from my face - a look I haven't sported in, well, forever.This is ridiculous - maybe no one will have their hair up. But, it's a really professional school - of course everyone will have their hair up.
No one came.
I told myself that it was early, class didn't start for twenty minutes. Fifteen minutes. Ten Minutes. Five minutes. Four other students arrived, but I sat in my car, too nervous to get out - because, really, I probably didn't belong here. No one had their hair up, no one had tights on - I started to feel like a first class fool, someone that was taking this whole thing WAY too seriously.
And a teacher never showed. I left thirty minutes after the class was set to begin, after the other students hugged and kissed and waved good bye and I wondered what, indeed, was I doing there.
I left a message and no one called me back.
And I'm left wondering if I should try the Friday class, or get the message and give it up, already.
All of that angst, wasted. I was *exhausted* and I hadn't even done anything.
In the words of the inimitable Popeye : I yam what I yam, and that's all that I yam....
(tell me I'm not the only one who used to watch those old Popeye cartoons, the ones that are now called "vintage")
So, this happened:
Yeah. She did it. She graduated - and one of those cords means that she graduated with honors. So, so proud and happy. And, ahem, relieved. Two down, four to go...
So my kids have been invited to various graduation parties, this being the season. And we had one of our own. I took one of my kids to one of these parties, and for a brief minute or two, I felt like total and complete shit about myself. The family was super, super wealthy. The house could have held two of mine. The garage was double the size of mine, and decorated in a manner that was both ostentatious and impressive. When I met the mother, she was friendly and warm - and completely relaxed about having an enormous party. The house was quiet and clean and very, very calm.
I don't know about you, but when we have a party everyone is on edge, being that we are a family of 8 Type A personalities with two Alpha leaders (and I will let you try to fathom a guess at who those Alphas might be...), I cook a ton of food, and it's super loud and chaotic, frentic and nuts - and we love it. I'm usually sweating through my clothes, I forget to eat but I drink too much - which, hello, I talk a lot even when I'm sober -
and I generally, you know, throw a good party. No one goes home hungry, and people often tell me that they had a great time. But this mom, well, she was cool and calm - because she had a staff. And it was catered, and cleaned beforehand by a staff, and she could just relax.
And for about a minute - I was envious. Because, really, I thought that *I* might want to have a fully catered party, one where a uniformed staff served the guests, a cook prepared extra foods, and a cleaning crew came later. And all I would have to do it lay in the pool and enjoy myself.
And (I know, I start a LOT of sentences with AND, I break all of the rules) I know that parties at my house are loud. There are usually a lot of people, we play pool and let the little people run amok, I will probably have a couple of drinks and gesture with my hands even more than usual - I might sing, and that is a true sign of the Apocalypse - little people get overheated and overwhelmed and cry like they've been tasered, big sisters critique the younger sisters clothing choices, older kids get embarrassed because the party just doesn't look like the parties of their imagination -
and, you know what? I'm A-OK with that, now that I think on it.
Someone critiqued me this weekend, really, our entire family - that we weren't like another family, one that this person held to a high standard. We were too much, this person said - too loud, too chaotic, too just - crazy.
I'mma lay it out, right here, right now.
I'm the person who had blue and green streaks in her hair for a long while there. I have four tattoos. I am pretty free with my language. I like to wear clothes that don't necessarily hide the fact that I have curves and areas of generosity. If you come to my house, I will ply you with food, shove a beverage in your hand, and expect you to mingle and have conversation. There will be music playing - definitely - and people will be singing - some of them very well, and some of them not so well. I will go from conversation to conversation. Someone will certainly get their feelings hurt and cry, and I'll have to whisk a kid upstairs for a few minutes of decompression - and said kid may end up staying upstairs in the quiet of her room. I will return downstairs and talk your ear off, argue some bit of trivia to absolute death with my husband, engage many of those around me in the discussion, laugh probably inappropriately and much too loudly. There will probably be a game of pool going on, possibly a soccer match, kids will be climbing all over the play structure and jumping off swings with abandon, and if it's dark, we will be making s'mores in the fire pit. There will not be one area of quiet, one segment of peace - even if there's not a party going, there's no quiet and peace to be found here.
We aren't like any other family. I'm not like many of the moms out there, but I'm finally happy with who I am, I love who my family is, I love how we have parties (crying and gesturing and all) and there's not one thing I'd change.
One week down, nine more to go.
No, really - so far, it's not been bad. It helps that the shorties are the only ones out - tomorrow is the first day with the high schoolers home - but we all know that they won't get up before noon, and that's half of the day right there.
We've not been swimming yet, mostly because every day has featured rain and thunderstorms - but I'm holding high hopes for the next couple of days. Not so much because I have a burning desire to appear in public in my bathing suit - oh no, not that - but because it wears my kids slam out.
And I am ALL about that.
One area that my kids often struggle with is snacking. When they are home all day - and let's face it, when I'm home all day - the kitchen beckons and before you know it, they are all in the pantry and the cabinets, raiding the fridge and begging for food.
So this weekend I created the snack bin.
With breakfast whenever you get up - and one kid gets up at 6 STILL, but that's ok, because I'm wide awake for the day at 5:30, sigh - you have breakfast. They know the drill: choose frozen whole grain waffles, bagels, cereal, oatmeal, and muffins with either fruit or yogurt. Breakfast is strictly on your own. Sometimes, one wants a hot pocket - yes, I do try to feed them pretty nutritiously, and I think we do a good job and I know hot pockets aren't great, but whatevs - everyone loves them and it's a non issue here. My two youngest are big smoothie fans.
Lunch is between 12 and 1, and that is again serve yourself. I will provide guidance - give choices of sandwiches/leftovers/help make quesidillas/enforce the fruit and veg rule. In other words - we've got the meals down pat.
Snack time is our nemesis. Everyone wants to snack as soon as the meal is over, and they all want crap food. So we created the snack bucket. It has all of the approved snacks - granola bars, fruit cups, almond and peanut butter packs, applesauce pouches, nutrigrain bars, and fig newtons. (Those are mostly for me. I love me some Newtons.)The cards in the back offer the cold items - yogurt cups (we do Stonyfield and Oikos), string cheese, half of a peanut butter or soy butter sandwich, fruit smoothie, fruit, carrots. The deal is that you can have one of those choices at 3-3:30.
Not gonna say it's genius - but over the past week, it's become standard. I'm hungry! Well, is it 3? Nope, gotta wait. It's so far, so good - and that's the best I can do for 10 weeks of summer break.
So. I have this love of coffee. Some might say I have an addiction to coffee. Those people would not be far from the truth. I love me some coffee. I've been a fan of the drip coffee, the French press, the Vietnamese stout pot, the stove top - you name if, if it's not instant, I'm drinking it. Raw sugar, low fat half and half - I'm a happy camper. I'm just not a huge fan of the clean up of the grounds, but you've got to take the good with the bad, right?
About, oh, maybe 11 months ago, I bought a Keurig. The thought of it made me slighty weak in the knees - I'm not a fan of flavored coffees, but the single cup at a time and the easy clean up wooed me. I bought the refillable pod and proceeded to use the machine every day.
About 3 months after I bought it, the light came on to descale it. Whatever, no big deal. Except that it was a pain to fill the water basin with vinegar and run it through the machine until it emptied, let the machine sit for several hours and then remember to run plain water through until the vinegar flavor was gone -
yeah. One time I forgot to rinse it, and the resultant "Pickled Coffee" that I was served for breakfast the next morning was a memory that I'll always hold deep inside. Unlike the coffee, which came right back out.
In the past six months, I've descaled no fewer than 12 times. Every single time that light comes on, I descale it. After all, I paid a lot of money for this machine, and I can't afford to be lazy and ruin it - so when the indicator comes on, or when I try to make a cup of coffee and end up with just an inch in my cup - off I go to find the huge jug of vinegar (I've had to start buying A LOT of vinegar) and I descale. Which takes approximately 4864396 hours, and those are hours I am without coffee - but you've gotta do what you've gotta do, right? I thought I was having to descale more than average, especially as it says online that most people descale every month or two. I researched and saw that maybe the needle was clogged, so I have taken to scrubbing the needle out with a toothbrush after every use - but that stupid descale light mocks me every 5-7 days.
I last descaled on Friday. FRIDAY. Today, I made a cup of coffee. That flippin' Keurig machine gave me two inches of coffee - which took about 4 minutes to appear, drip by drip by miniscule meandering stream - and promptly lit up AGAIN to descale.
I'm almost over it.
Has anyone had any type of issue with their Keurig? I love the idea of the machine, and when it's freshly cleaned and I get a cup of coffee rapidly - I'm in love. The rest of the time - I'm just bitter.
So, I think it's safe to say that sometimes I have really, really awesome ideas. Really awesome. It's like the idea is so good, that I don't even need to reflect. I just do it. Mostly, those are the times when I prove myself a complete and total idiot.
Such was the case Thursday evening.
A couple of times during the year, I've taken my opera singer student to see live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera in a movie theater. Produced by Fathom Events, these are tremendous opportunities. While I was at the last one, I saw that there was a broadcast of the Russian ballet company, performing Swan Lake live from the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg.
There is no way in my life that I would ever be able to see something of this magnitude and so I immediately added it to my calendar. It was only showing one day, and that day was Thursday. One of my shorties is very interested in ballet, and so I decided to take her. When my other shortie heard it, there was no rest until I agreed to bring both. Rookie move #1.
On the way there, I told them the story of the ballet, only to be interrupted - "Mama, we know the story. We've seen Barbie Swan Lake a whole bunch of times." Rookie move #2 - should've turned around, right then, and gone home to watch a Barbie DVD.
We arrived at the theater in plenty of time, got seated, and waited. The show finally began - only it really didn't. I had no idea that the first 30 minutes was a scenic tour of Russia, St. Petersburg, the history of the Mariinsky and interviews with the principal dancers. Excellent for me. Very bad for shorties. Rookie move #3 - verify when the show actually, you know, begins.
Thank God we sat in the back row. (I always sit in the back row – it's kind of a thing with me.) Further Thank God that there were only 20 other people in the entire theater. The shorties stood up, they sat down, they switched seats. One needed to stretch, one had a coughing attack, both needed tissues. One started sneezing, the other needed to ask questions, and the music was in no way loud enough to cover them. Typically, my children behave very well - at least in public. This was most emphatically not the case on Thursday evening.
"Mama, why isn't the man wearing any pants? What do you mean he's wearing tights? Boys don't wear tights! You can see things!"
"Mama, no one has a birthday party this long (the entire first act as a birthday party for the prince). When are they going to get to the swans?"
Act I took 317 hours.
They went immediately to Act II, and I had high hopes. The swans appeared, and the dancing was breathtaking. I let out the breath I didn't know I was holding. Maybe this act would be just the thing, I thought.
It was not to be. The shorties stood up. They sat down. They stretched. They balanced their bottoms on the folded up chairs and squeaked when the chair opened. I handed out more tissues, a cough drop, shushed people more than I wanted to, and almost gave a rousing cheer when Act II finally ended.
And then it was a 15 minute intermission, and I decided that I was done.
I called my oldest daughter, who had just finished at work, and we agreed that I would bring the shorties home, and then return to the theater – my Opera student was at a school function across the street from the movie theater, and I had high hopes that I could drop the shorties off, return to watch the movie, and then pick up my daughter.
It is a 25 minute drive. And they were doing road construction.
I got back to the movie theater, and discovered that I did not have my movie tickets. I begged my way into the movie theater, showing my credit card receipt, climbed all the way up to the back row, and sat down to watch the very end of Act III. I saw approximately 2 minutes of it, and then there was a 15 minute intermission.
Act IV began, and 3 minutes in – yes, I timed it – my daughter texted me that she was ready to be picked up.
The next time that I want to pay $37 to go see a show with my shorties, please tell me to go by myself, and use the money I've saved on the $12.50 tickets to buy myself a stiff drink.
Apparently, I am a slow learner.