Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Countdown

Well fellow parents, we're in the home stretch. The week before school starts, and I know many who are counting down the minutes until those double doors open wide and swallow up our kids for another school year. Normally I am chomping at the bit by this time, but I have to say that this year's start is bittersweet.

Nathan is going into fourth grade and, like the typical fourth grader, is not at all excited. He wants to lie around playing on his iPad in only his athletic shorts all day for a few more months, and who could blame him? The spelling tests, the lining up, the paying attention, all exhausting for the nine year old brain. He just wants to stay home and hang out with mom. That would be sweet, if he weren't such a ball of preteen angst most of the time. I think school is just what the doctor ordered for his moody ass, but I love that he still wants to cuddle with me, so I am also sad to see him trudge back to the trenches.

Sofie, on the other hand, is very excited about starting kindergarten. Unfortunately I can't help but weep silently to myself every time I imagine her climbing onto that bus and coming home hours later, each and every day. What a big girl she is, and man, does that make me feel old. The baby off to kindergarten is so simultaneously awesome and depressing, I don't know where to begin with my emotions.

Carlos is going to be a high school sophomore this year, and everyone is excited about that. No back to school tears for this boy who has spent most of the summer with a camp counselor job and the rest of the summer in his underwear, sleeping the day away. Time to get back and at 'em with the football team and learning stuff, that's enough of you loafing about. Apparently when they're teens they really have angst (huh, you don't say), so out the door you go, keep them busy until nightfall. He agrees wholeheartedly with this plan, and I love that about him.

I am really hoping to enjoy this last week of summer vacation, before the homework rolls in, and everyone needs a ride to the next activity. I'm hoping to spend at least a couple of days lapping up the lazy days of summer with my favorite littles before it all rockets us back into routine and we quickly forget how good summer can be.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Family Time

I just returned from a glorious fun-filled week in Pennsylvania with my extended family. Grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, we span the gauntlet from ages 5 to 87 with everything in between. We pile into a giant old house and prepare to relax for a week of serious family bonding.

I love a lot of things about this vacation, but the top of the list for me is the fact that we put away our phones and iPads, computers, and televisions (with the exception of the World Cup) and spend the week completely with each other. We march around the gorgeous lake, spend hours sunbathing on the beach and jumping off the long dock. We gather on the porch for cocktails and stories in the evening, and sit around a huge table for dinner, each night a new meal carefully crafted by a different chef.

This week we made time for charades and board games, Olympic water balloon tossing, and capture the flag (even my grandfather was making a go at that flag). We played endless rounds of our favorite game "What would you rather do?" and made many trips to the ice cream shop. We had costume night, fancy night, my cousin's birthday celebration, game night, and home movie night, among a few others. At one point after dinner we went around the table to talk about what we hoped we'd be doing at this time next year. The only thing that I honestly could say was that I hope I am lucky enough to be this happy next year, because this is pretty hard to beat, and I am feeling pretty blessed.

Packing up this morning was bittersweet as always, hugging good-bye for the long drive home. I was psyched to be home but once again, our glorious family week went by too fast. I am so grateful to be part of such a wonderful group of people, who I enjoy so thoroughly that I want to spend a week under the same roof. I can't wait to do it again next year.

Photo: Celebrity game night
Game Night

Photo: Time for the family Olympics complete with Chariots of Fire theme!

Kan Jam, my favorite Olympic sport

Photo: E


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hitting My Stride

So it's been just over six weeks since I began this new lifestyle overhaul (see previous post here) and I have to say I am pretty happy with the way things have been turning out. I have lost 14 lbs so far, and have actually, shockingly, taken up running. I don't know if "taken up" is actually the term I would use for huffing along with a cherry red face, pausing every 10 minutes or so to pant heavily in a doubled over position for several minutes as my dog looks downright embarrassed, but we'll go with that for now. It is, for sure, the most I have ever done about my weight/ health/ well being in my entire life, and that makes me feel like a rock star.

I am shocked to report that it's actually not that hard. I mean that in the most liberal sense though, as I assumed that giving up my bagel-based diet and strict policy of never getting up would feel like my arms being torn from my torso. Come to find out (and you will find this insane), I actually feel freaking amazing the more I don't retreat into my own bad habits. I have energy like never before (and all the ladies at work scoff, as they think I am the most energetic person on the face of the earth). But this energy is different. Not a caffeine or sugar-fueled burst that would charge me through life for an hour at a time, only to have me lying prone in a coma when it ends. Now I just feel really really good most of the time, and that is beyond my wildest dreams.

I realize that this probably comes as a no-brainer to all of you thin and fit people out there. But for those of you who have struggled with weight and terrible habits, I know you feel this. I am deathly terrified that this good streak is going to end, and I will tumble off the wagon onto a sidewalk made of quesadillas and inactivity. I don't yearn to be thin (although I am not complaining about my new found ability to button my pants), but I do want to keep up with my children and be the happy, healthy mom that they deserve. So I will set my alarm for 5 am tomorrow and head out to keep on huffing and puffing my way to a new me.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Turning Over a New Leaf... Spinach Leaf That Is.

I have very righteous news to report. I have spent the last eight days actively trying to improve my physical health. This may not seem like much to some, but for this gal, who has spent the last 33 years of her life on a gradual weight incline, it is tremendous. I have attempted this before, and eventually end up forgetting that I am trying to be a healthier me, and relapse into the carb-smothered lazy pool of life. Well, for now I am doing it, one day at a time for as long as I can. Today I am eating spinach salad and running on the treadmill. And it feels awesome, like I need a large medal or something. Maybe I'll make myself one.

The funny part about being a person who is neither naturally thin or fit, or fitness inclined (if I'm being honest) is that I completely forget about how unhealthy I am for months at a time. I sometimes walk by a mirror and think "Who is THAT?" and then am sent into a momentary panic when I realize that "Oh shit! It's me...uh oh". Other times I am completely shocked when I am running around with my kids and am completely out of breath after two minutes. "Who's lungs are these? Certainly not mine..." I try on clothes at the store that are three sizes too small for me and then am outraged when they don't zip up "Who makes these pieces of crap anyway?" I think I might have a problematic case of inflated self-esteem, it sometimes keeps me from keeping it real. Or maybe denial is a powerful and all-encompassing force.

Well, I hope this time it lasts, one spinach leaf at a time. I want to be a healthier mom for my kids, and I want my pants to zip. I don't want the heart attack at 50 like my mom, or the diabetes that runs so rampant in my family. I may be back into the grilled cheese soaked haze of my regular life next week, but for now I am feeling righteous and I am trying, and that's all that matters.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bad Citizen

I write this post with only one eye open, as I may have stayed up too late last night with some of my best girlfriends acting just a tad too rowdy. Today is what Jane and I call a "Bad Citizen" day, where all you can do is lie around and watch bad TV, and it takes everything you have to muster up the energy to toast a bagel and bring it to your lips, in hopes that the carbs will absorb some of your pounding headache. It's really not that bad today, but I think many of you can relate to the feeling.

I can't remember all of the specifics of what our conversation rolled on about last night, but I do know that I (per my usual) made an outstanding number of travel plans. I often do this when I have drinks, with each cocktail I make another plan to fly off for a girls' weekend in New Orleans, or rent a beach house on the Cape, or head to South America for a month of backpacking. Huh, lofty goals. I also, apparently, am independently wealthy.

So, if I made a drunken travel plan with you please do not expect me to necessarily show up as I a). may not remember it and b). probably can't afford it anyway.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Notes From the Super Lame

I am coming to realize more and more that I have to admit when I suck at things. As my friend said to me the other day when she was relating to this feeling "I just suck at life right now". 

I don't suck at everything, but there are some things that I really, really suck at. Little things that I find so totally overwhelming that I cannot possibly get them accomplished no matter how hard I think about them. Like The Bills that pile up around me and stare me down every morning when I get up. I don't pay them, or deal with whatever bank juggling needs to happen, instead I just smoosh the pile together and turn them over. That'll show you, Electric Company, if your envelope is face down you can't possibly make me pay you right this minute. Ha. Take that. Not even because I don't have the money, but more because I just don't want to. 

Also on a sucky note are the areas of clutter in my house that are slowly starting to take over the entire place, the crap slithering out across the hall and up my leg until it threatens to choke me if I don't admit RIGHT NOW that I am a teesy little bit of a hoarder. This is the kind of thing I suck at, figuring out where all of that shit is supposed to go (hint: the trash) and getting it there. 

I also cannot call people back who probably deserve to be called back. Nope, can't deal. Pretty much if you don't text and we haven't spoken in a long time, it's too hard and it's not happening. I don't walk my dog (or myself) enough. I can't possibly clean out the fridge. I don't really care if my daughter hasn't washed her hair in a week (a week!), which is the same amount of time it takes me to empty the litter box. I came to work last night realizing only after I'd been there half an hour that I wasn't wearing a bra (thank god it wasn't so busy I'd needed to run down the hall or somebody might have lost an eye). 

I am sucking at these regular things so badly right now that I wonder if there is ever a time when I am on top of my game. Maybe this is the top of my game, and that is so sad I want to weep, but not really, because that's too hard. Instead I will just shrug it off and assume that at some point the greasy hair, cluttered hall, or the stench of the fridge when they cut off my electricity will snap me out of it and force me to pay some bills. Until then I will just keep on sucking.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Coming Home

My family and I just returned from ten days in my husband's home coutntry: The Dominican Republic. I too have spent a lot of time in this heat washed, rough-edged paradise even prior to meeting Francisco. We both think of it as home in many ways, so I have been looking forward to this trip for months, albeit with some nervous anticipation.

It surprises many to know that my husband does not travel well. Even (or maybe especially) to his country of birth where his family still resides, he is shaking with anxiety pretty much until we reach the airport to return home. It's weird, but I'm used to it, so this time I was prepared to handle his jittery nerves. He is anxious about the poverty, he feels guilty for those he cannot help, he hates to make arrangements to shepherd us from one end of the island to the other, he is terrified that we are going to be robbed. He doesn't sleep, he barely eats, he's really just a man meant to stay home. Unfortunately, his family cannot come to visit us, so travel he must, and we all grin and bear the vibrations from his shaking legs.

I hadn't been to the DR in two years, so this time when the plane touched down I was awash with feelings of homecoming. The smell of frying plantains, motor oil, and mangoes assaults you when you set foot into the night air, even at the airport. The DR is definitely third world. It's dirty, people drive like lunatics, and the houses often resemble shacks with scraps of tin patchworked together to attempt to keep out the rain. It's gritty, it's often slow and disorganized, and as soon as you spend any length of time there you can't help but fall in love. I have been in love with the DR since the age of 16, when I stepped out into the night air with nine of my exchange student peers and felt the exact same way I did last week.

We spent a few days at my mother-in-law's small cement house in the rice fields in the center of the country. Hot, buggy, and completely devoid of anything to do, I am usually itching to get out of there after a few days have passed. This time I felt like I could spend a month sitting on her porch in a hard plastic chair, drinking rum from a metal cup, and watching my kids play cards with the neighbors. We moved on to Sosua, a beach town on the northern coast where a rental house awaited us, with room for all and a pool in the backyard. It was, even by the stuffiest gringo opinions, quite fabulous. My mother-in-law and another family friend stayed with us, and we were joined by several friends and family members throughout our week.

Sosua is one of the grittiest of tourist towns, a haven for European tourists and Haitian prostitutes. There are parts of town one doesn't frequent at night, and there are beautiful stretches of beachfront just waiting for you to sit down and soak up the sun. We spent many days on the popular Sosua beach, where Francisco is famous for once having owned a bar. Sofie never tired of trying to weasel pesos out of anyone within earshot to visit the many crowded gift shops laden with cheap trinkets marked up 400%. Everything we bought broke before we made it onto the airplane, but it always feels good to infuse the local economy.

I finally got to spend two glorious days with my long lost surrogate daughter Sindy, a girl I have known since she was a small child and considered my own for many years, but whom I had not seen in over 10 years. When she stepped off the bus we embraced and both cried tears of long overdue joy. It was amazing to experience her upbeat, adorable self now as a young woman coming into her own. She is beautiful in many ways, and it was relieving to see with my own eyes how well she is doing. I cried for a long time after she climbed the bus to make the long trip home, happy to have spent such a lovely time with her but sad for the many years of her life I missed.

People in the DR are poor but unfailingly upbeat. They can be in the throes of poverty and tragedy, and still there will be laughing and dancing in the streets. Music flows from every window and cheers of friendly hellos call out from passing mopeds. The people, the sunshine, and the strong rum makes for a pretty good time, and I was surprised at how much I did not want to come home. Granted, it was only 12 degrees when we landed in New York, but there is usually a small part of me that is relieved to return to my own bed, and a familiar routine. This time however, I felt nothing but pissed off and sad as I packed my things to return to the north. I feel a sense of longing to be back there that I haven't felt since my early years of traveling to the DR, when I would work for weeks at a job I hated just to make the money for my plane ticket so I could feel the familiar feeling of homecoming. It's hard to find a balance now that I am grown, with too many responsibilities to pick up and leave at the first whim, but a burning desire to be embraced into a culture that I love. Maybe it's time to play the lotto...