Archive for March, 2011

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Losing Touch

March 29, 2011

Toward the end of the day on Sunday  — after WD and I went to the museum, and after met the girls for dinner at a restaurant that just opened in Boston that we loved when we were in NYC — I logged onto Facebook.  I scrolled through the ridiculous onslaught of music videos that so many people insist on posting — even when “music video” means “lyrics scrolling across the screen while the song plays” — and saw a few fun tidbits from friends and family.  Including a post by my mother talking about how much fun she had celebrating her granddaughter’s second birthday.

Huh.  Her granddaughter = my niece.  “Today’s her birthday?” I thought.

Pathetic, right?

So what did I do?  Did I pick up the phone?  Nope.  I posted on my brother’s and his wife’s facebook pages.  Because no one has picked up the phone in so long, it didn’t seem feasible.

I think I’ll send her a gift, though.

And then I think “Why?  He’s really NEVER gotten my kids gifts for their birthdays.”

But – does that matter?

On my commute home yesterday, I started to think about it a bit more.  I struggled to remember when I last spoke with my parents.  I couldn’t remember when I last spoke with my sister.  And I thought, you know, I don’t like this.

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In my family of origin, I am the oldest of 3 siblings.  My sister is 2 years and 8 months younger than me, and my brother is 5 years and 9 months younger than me (I think I did that math right — I’d always said he’s 6 years younger, but why break out the months for my sister and not my brother?)

We grew up in a relatively rural part of New England.  It was just rural enough that if we wanted to do get together with friends, our parents had to drive us.  For some reason, for us, that meant we stayed home a lot.  My brother, sister and I spent a LOT of time together.  For a while when we were younger, my mother worked nights on the weekends, and she slept all day on Saturday and Sunday.  My dad worked in the service industry, and he spent those days working.  So it was just us kids …. all. day. long.

We fought a lot.  But we also had a lot of fun.  My sister and I especially had a pretty close relationship.  Sometimes,  that closeness resulted in cat fights and physical altercations … but most of my memories of my pre teen years involve my sister.  Watching t.v. together after school, trying and botching taffy recipes, and stashing the wrecked remains in the woods, staying up until 2 a.m. during the summers playing spit and listening to Cyndi Lauper, etc.

As I may or may not have mentioned, when I was a pre-teen, my mother had a “religious awakening” of sorts.  She had been raised Russian Orthodox, then we had a blip of Congregationalism, but when I was 11, my mother became Born Again.  My father eventually followed.

Today, my brother, sister and I all have chosen not to be a part of that religion.  That choice meant different things for all of us, and the separation process from our parents’ religion took different forms.  There was, as a result, a certain amount of separation from our parents, as well.  We all three do what we can to stay close to them on the levels we are able, and I think I have been successful.  We all three carry different levels of scars from the years where the religion shaped our home life.

Since we’re adults, us siblings ahve gone through various levels of closeness.

When I was a single mother, living in California, my sister left her husband.  She and her then-2-year old son lived with me and my girls for a long time. We functioned like a married couple, an intact family.  She cooked and took care of the house.  I worked.  If my kids were sick, she picked them up from school and helped them to feel better.  We did things together on the weekends.

We were very, very close.

When it was clear that we needed space, she found an apartment across the street.  The kids would run to visit her in their jammies and bare feet.

When I moved back east, we had tears.  (Just like we did when I went to college.)

But since I’ve been back east, we’ve drifted.  For a while, we stayed close through email.  But that faded, too.  Now she’ll occasionally text me.  If something comes up, there’s no problem picking up the phone for a quick call.  But I have no idea what her day-to-day life looks like.  There are a few potential reasons for that, which are not blog fodder, but regardless, I really miss her.

My brother and I also have had our ups and downs of closeness.  If hard pressed to say why we’re currently in a down, I would pin the blame on myself.  We worked through some issues in the past couple of years, and he was doing a really good job of keeping in contact, calling frequently, checking in.  But the timing of the calls was tough, and I wouldn’t pick up because I couldn’t have a conversation with him while sharing an office at work.  And I wouldn’t call back quickly, because by the time our later dinner hour took place, I knew he was putting his small children to bed.

And now – tons of life is happening on both ends, and we’re not really talking much.

And I missed his daughter’s birthday.

Now I feel compelled to fix it.

I called my parents last night – although, really, I wasn’t very out of touch with them.  My mom is a big chatter (i.e., instant messenger), and we often touch based through the computer and give updates.  It isn’t a bad way to at least keep some level of contact.  They visit us occasionally, and us them.  We used to more, but my girls’ sports makes it difficult.  Lemon has a crew race every weekend starting this Saturday.  They take an entire day.  It’s tough to do a 2 1/2 hour drive (each way) in one day.

So I am going to try – I am going to pick up the phone and check in with my brother – break through the potential icy start, until we get to place of more comfortable chatting.  I will try and do the same with my opposite-coast sister.  And see if I can’t make my actions match my priorities.

[This makes me a totally typical oldest child, doesn’t it?]

[Also sad to realize I don’t have my brother’s phone number in my phone.  Geez!!  Where’d it go??]

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More From the Dining Room

March 26, 2011

Work continues this weekend.  This memorandum is turning into a 20+ page monster, and the research avenues just keep splintering off and splintering off.

The Freshmen woke up by 10 this morning, with my poor little child looking and acting like someone grabbed her out of bed in the dark of 3 a.m.  The sadness of having friends who are “early risers.”

Into the kitchen they came.  “Oh, shit,” WD and I said.

Because last night, I went to the grocery store and fetched a respectable amount of junk food.  Potato chips and ice cream, specifically.  But I forgot that he mentioned earlier that we weren’t rich in the breakfast department.

Now, Lemon is like me, and she does not typically eat a large breakfast.  Especially when stirred from sleep hours before she would naturally choose to wake on her own.  So I knew we’d be able to cobble something together.

Our only cereal was Cheerios.  They ate that.

There were 3 bagels left.  They ate those.  With enough cream cheese in the fridge to create some coating.

We only had 6 eggs (instead of the usual 2 dozen).  I scrambled those.  They ate them.

They asked for a banana.  They ate 3.

They asked for a clementine.  They ate 2 each.

Next, they made hot chocolate and coffee.

Then, they opened the potato chips.

Then … out came the peanut butter.  And some spoons.

Hours later, WD and I were just discussing whether or not we need to throw the peanut butter away.  Because it was one spoon per girl, but multiple dips into the jar.  I am not a germophobe, and said, “I’ll just pretend I didn’t see it.”

And this mornings’ conversations were also fun

… if you go into space, and watch the earth, are you watching history (something to do with the speed of light … I think)?

… if you live long enough, is cancer inevitable?

There was more, but my distractability of last night didn’t extend into this morning – I really have been working.

And I wish I was done.  Because then I could wander down the hall and eavesdrop on the 7th graders, now that the freshmen have left for crew practice.

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From the Dining Room

March 25, 2011

Work bogged me down yesterday and today – unexpectedly.

It’s Friday night, and I’m sitting here at my dining table, while Lemon and 2 of her new friends (i.e., new since entering high school this year, and very new to me) are in the kitchen, eating pizza.

If I have to work on a Friday night, I am glad that it gives me the opportunity to eavesdrop:

  • “Lemon!  You totally lied to me!  You said Atticus died!!”  [Lemon laughs hysterically]  “That took you so long to figure out!!”
  • Laughter about other lies they can tell about the book, imagining test answers that people would write as a result.
  • Lemon tells her friends that she was a hypochondriac in 7th grade.  I can’t help but to giggle, and then tell them “I remember when the nurse said to me in December of her 8th grade: ‘Suzie, Lemon is growing up so much!  I think she’s only been to see me ONCE this year!'”  Lemon is embarrassed, but giggling.
  • They talk about when they are ill, and about fevers.  Lemon recounts this story.  Again, I can’t help but to interject.  About my pride.  At least I’m consistent.

Eventually, they leave.  But I’m very happy to have the glimpse.  Happy that despite my eye contact and face-making, Lemon just smiles, and makes goofy comments about her “annoying mom” which really are pretty loving, accepting, and amused.

 

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One Month/Two Trips

March 24, 2011

Well, I left town for work again.  This time, it was just to the Big Apple.  Much less painful than a dreary, distant Springfield.

A few observations:

  • I know that a lot of businesses are centered in New York, and that it’s a typical meeting place for business people around the world.  But honestly, to me, New York = fun.  Not work.  It was pretty surreal to be there for work. Especially since the neon of Times Square was flashing in my window while I was trying to prepare for a presentation.
  • iPad + travel = woo hoo!  I brought four novels with me.  Four.  They all, combined, weighed 1.2 pounds.  And that included my games, my email, my maps, and more!  Thank you, iPad!!
  • work travel + train = ahhh!  I find the train so much more palatable than flying.  I took the Acela this time, for the first time, and I will say I was less than enthused about the “upgrade.”  It didn’t feel like an upgrade.  It went faster, but that – to my tender inner ear – made it sway a lot more.  Not fun for a girl who gets motion sick on a dime.
  • Restaurants in NYC are ridiculously expensive.  Seriously, I wandered into this steak place thinking “steak sounds good,” and it cost so much f’ing money, I don’t know if I can even submit the damned receipt for reimbursement.  Ridiculous.  Granted, that is not a mistake that we made when I was there 2 weeks ago with the family, because when it’s MY budget, I’m a bit more careful, but still.
  • When you go somewhere on a vacation with your family, and then return approximately a month later alone, it feels pretty lonely.
  • At the same time, it’s nice to show up in a different city and feel familiar.

It’s good to be home.  With requests for sleepovers, furry little kittens making themselves cozy on my butt while I sleep, husbands who do thoughtful things (i.e., bags of cadbury mini eggs), and kids who block your path on the stairs, even though they see you struggling with 3 bags, because they just want to say hi.

 

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Environmentalism, Abandoned

March 20, 2011

When I lived in California, where the weather was mild and public transit decent, I ditched my car.  I was a single mom with a very modest income, was paying for childcare, couldn’t afford to park at work, and was staring down the end of a lease.  Seemed like the right thing to do.  While I remember knowing it was good for the environment that I was taking public transportation (and later bicycling) to work instead of driving, I do not remember that it was the primary reason for decision.  I remember money being the primary issue.  Although, I’m sure I could have afforded a used car, in lieu of the very new Honda Accord that I had, left over from the days of Being Married.  I wanted to make a go of a car-free, lower expense lifestyle.

But as the girls entered elementary school, first in Berkeley, CA, and later in our very progressive little town in New England, the Environment became something that was important to them.

Very important.

They harped at US about leaving lights on.  About recycling.  About light bulb choices.

And they balked every time I talked about bringing an end to our days of being carless.

I remember one day, in January, probably 2 or 3 years ago, I was having guests over that night, and needed to go to the store.  The Trader Joe’s I was heading for was just under a mile away.  It was 10 degrees outside.  Mouse wanted to come with me for the walk.

It was FREEZING.  And we were kind of miserable.  We had scarves around our faces and couldn’t really talk on the walk, because we couldn’t hear each other through the scarves and over the wind.  the way home was worse, because then we were lugging bags of groceries.  “Doesn’t this make you wish we had a car?” I asked Mouse (I was campaigning).  “NO!” She was so adamant.  “Mom, we can’t get a car until they make electric cars!”

The kids kept getting older, and their extra curriculars were increasingly less local.  Instead of playing soccer on a field 4 blocks from home, they were playing in other towns.  We had been zipcar users since we moved to the Boston area, and the costs started to get very, very high. I started to track the costs, and saw that we were easily spending a car payment per month on zipcar use.  And so I started to save for a downpayment.

The girls were devastated.  They were so adamant that this was the Wrong Thing to Do.  WD was stuck in the middle, but as the main driver in the house, I think he saw the benefits to having a car.

Mouse even started to cry at one point.  “but if we buy a car, we’re going to start to drive everywhere!”  I told her we would not.  We would still walk more than we drove, but that trips out of town and soccer carpools and soccer games were becoming too difficult without a car of our own.  She made me promise we wouldn’t drive to the school or the store or to the town center.  And that I wouldn’t drive to work.

We bought the car.  It’s coming up on 2 years ago.

This morning?

We had complaints and arguments with BOTH girls.  About what?

1)  With Lemon – her starting to bike to her crew practices, on the other side of the river.  Actually – not even.  We argued about whether or not we were goign to take her bike out of the garage today to make sure it still fits her, and to tune it up, and to get her more comfortable on it, so we can start to talk about her biking to crew practices.  The drive is a horrible one, and biking would likely take less time, in light of traffic, one way roads, and other issues.  There is a group of parents talking to their high school students about biking this route instead, and we would not be shoving her into the street alone, and we would make several trips with her before leaving her to her own devices.  But still, this is horrible of us.  Just horrible.

2)  Telling Mouse that of 4 trips to and from soccer a week, the parents feel that her and 6 of her teammates can actually walk to the field.  She was horrified that we would expect them to do such a thing.  “But it’s sooooo farrrrrr!  I can’t do it!”

The walk is the exact same as that walk in freezing cold January that Mouse and I took to buy groceries.  The one where she was not persuaded that owning a car would be preferable.  Now we’re talking the same EXACT distance (seriously, I just checked it on Google Maps), with her friends, once a week, and it’s torturous.

These are not the first such arguments.  Lemon and I had a similar one on Friday night, about her walking less than a mile to an appointment because the rest of us had to be somewhere else at the same time.  because of a variety of considerations, she won that battle.  But 2 weeks ago she was going to a friend’s house – again, the same distance, and she demanded a ride.  It was one of the first days that was above 40 degrees in weeks, and sunny out.  I refused.  I told her I’d pick her up later (it was supposed to rain in the afternoon), but that I wasn’t driving her to a place that she’d always been fine walking to.  She complained and whined, but eventually came to terms with the walk.  And ended up walking home without asking me to pick her up.

But it all feels pretty ridiculous.  How easily they forget, how quickly their priorities and ideologies have changed.

Laziness is a powerful, powerful thing.

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Suzie Saves the Day!

March 18, 2011

Tomorrow is a big day for one of Mouse’s closest friends.  And it’s the first Bat Mitzvah for Mouse’s grade.  Very exciting, let me tell you.  For anyone who may be unfamiliar (as I was for most of my life, coming from a relatively sheltered, Christian childhood), the Bat Mitzvah will consist of a service at the Temple in the morning, to which we (the “we” here being myself, my husband, and Mouse) will wear typical religious service dress.  Then, there is a party, where, depending on the venue, party attire is worn.  This party is at night, and the dress is, in fact, party dresses.  I’ve been to some others where the party is an outdoor picnic, and so party dresses were NOT worn.  But for this one, it’s a par-tay.

Mouse has been dress shopping  for the party dress for months upon months.  Sadly, 90% of the dresses she chose were completely out of stock, and others weren’t cut for a person of her undeveloped stage, and others still just weren’t made in a size small enough for her.

Finally, however, she found a dress.  We bought the dress.  The dress was a little loose in the torso, but we knew it was salvageable through alterations.  The day the dress came (early to mid-February) she said, “mom, can we find a tailor?”  My response?  Mouse, we have tons of time.  We don’t want to get it altered too soon, what if you grow?

So we went on vacation.  We got home.  “Mom, can we find a tailor for my dress?”  Oh, sweetie.  We still have tons o’ time. And I’m going on a business trip in 2 minutes, so can we just leave me alone be a little patient?

I got home from my business trip and did say “oh, hey, we should find a tailor!”

Then, about a week later, I did post on Facebook to solicit recommendations for local tailors.

But then last week – “oh, crap!  the party is in a week! We need to take care of the dress!”  I called one of the tailors that was recommended, and left work early to bring Mouse in to have the dress taken care of.

We ended up bringing it in with sufficient time.  I felt Responsible.  (Not typical).

It was due to be picked up yesterday (thursday), before 6 p.m. when they close.

A little side story:

Mouse’s whole group of friends is very excited about this event, and they all have been getting together to check out each other’s dresses, etc.  Yesterday (Thursday), they had plans to go together for mani-pedi’s.  Mouse was going to use her allowance for that.  Allowance is paid on the 15th of each month (my pay day), and she gave me ample notice that she’d really need to have hers in time for the outing on Thursday.  I told her “please remind me the day before?” knowing that I am a scatter brain.

At 4:30 on Wednesday, she texted me and said, “hi mommy! don’t forget about my allowance, okay? luv u!” I responded that her reminder was perfect, and the timing was perfect, and thank you.

But yet, when I left work at 5:30, I did not stop at the ATM in my building (actually, at either of the two ATMs in my building).  Neither did I stop at the one across the street.  I got around the block into the no-ATM zone before I realized that I was a dolt.  But I had plans to take Lemon to empty my bank account into her new sport, so I figured I’d just get cash back then.

Still, there’s nothing like getting an eye roll from your 13-year-old when you explain that you managed to forget (like, 15x) sometime that was clearly stated and reminded (like, 15x).

And of course, City Sports doesn’t do cash back.  But Lemon and I stopped at an ATM, and Mouse had her money.

But it was close.

Back to the dress.

On Wednesday night, she reminded me about the dress.  I had to pick it up before 6 p.m., and I thought I’d be okay with that.

On Thursday, I went to work.

I worked pretty steady all day on a significant project.  I had been a little afraid that I would be panicking and working right up until the evening, but was able to send it off at around 5:15, even with a few other side projects in between.

Once I sent the project off, I sat back and thought about what Friday would bring.  I checked the news.  I looked at Twitter.

At 5:30, Mouse texted.  “Did you get my dress?”

Oh shit.

I called the tailor :  “do you close at exactly 6?”  “Yes, I have someone picking me up at 6.”

I grabbed my bag, texting Mouse “I’m getting in a cab now!”  at 5:38.  I really wanted the dress on Thursday so that Mouse could try it on, and we’d have at least some time to fix any problems.  To be safe, I worked out an alternate plan in my head, if I didn’t make it to pick up the dress.  I’d leave work early on Friday in order to be at the tailor by 3, with Mouse in tow.  We’d try it on there, and make the seamstress fix it on the spot if there was a problem.  But first choice (mine and Mouse’s first choice) was to get it in my hands on Thursday.

I told the cabbie that I was in a big hurry, and it was the perfect day to get the world’s most accommodating (and flirty!) cab driver.  He floored it whenever possible (so much so that I almost barfed, but whatever).

At 5:52, I texted Mouse “I’m almost there!”  She texted back, “okay – this is so stressful!”  So I said, “sorry!” and she said, “wait, you missed it??!!”  And I said, “no, sorry for the stressful part!”

At 5:54, he said, “maybe you should call the store, and tell them to wait?” We were stuck at a light.  I said, “no, we’re going to make it!”

At 5:57, I called the store, “I’m two seconds away!”  She laughed at me, “it’s okay, it’s okay! we’ll be here!”

At 5:59, I texted Mouse, “The dress is in my hand!” “I did it!”

Mouse:  Yay, Mommy thank u!”

Me:  I am a super hero!!

Mouse:  Yes u r

Me:  My power is making deadlines when it seems impossible!

Mouse: !!

Me:  My weakness is putting myself in situations where making deadlines seem impossible!

Mouse: IDC – I’m so happy!!!!

I’m very lucky to have such a forgiving child.

When I got home, she tried on the dress.  We both had a moment of concern when the dress seemed like it might not zip.  But it did, and it is just snug enough that she doesn’t have to worry about it creeping down and showing her bra.

She tried it on with her shoes and she put her hair up, and she looked quite lovely.  Success is sweet.

 

Also – today?  67 degrees in the Greater Boston Area.  67 degrees.  That is awesome.

 

 

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Normal Again, with Wide Feet

March 17, 2011

Okay, I have snapped out of it.  No more whining!

Lemon has followed through on her physical therapy exercises.  Not without grumbling, but grumbling is better than sobbing.

I took her shopping last night for the promised new sneakers.  We went to City Sports because they sent me an email letting me know that most sneakers were 50% off.  She also needed a digital, water resistant watch to fulfill her coxswain duties, and City Sports had told me that those, too, were on sale.  Gotta love the open channels of communication that I have with major retailers.

Sadly for Lemon, I have contributed more than my fair share to her genetics.  Physically, the child seems to be 70% mine … if not more.

Right down to the wide feet.

We’re in City Sports, looking at the Wall of Shoes, and I mention to her that since several pairs are 50% off, I’d like her to limit herself to those choices.  So she – with a little less than full enthusiasm – chose a pair.  We requested said pair in a size 8.5 and a size 9 (yes, seriously).  I wandered the store looking for waterproof socks (as recommended by her coach) while she waited for the shoes.  While I was gone, the 8.5s were deemed too small, and she donned the 9s.  I came back and asked how they felt, and she said, “honestly, they’re a little tight.”  I asked the shoe-person to check, because I was too disgusted thinking my poor daughter would be needing a size 9.5 shoe at the age of 14.

“No, no, it’s not the toe, it’s the FOOT.  I have wide feet.”

The salesman – in all of his expertise and understanding of podiatry – responded with, “oh, they’ll stretch out.”

But I, as an owner of wide feet, persisted oh-so-unreasonably, by asking if they have any shoes that come in wide.

“Mmm.  No.”

Then kicks in the 14 yo fear that mom will Cause a Scene, “Mom, it’s fine! These are fine!”

Fortunately, another clearly more experienced salesman overheard our exchange.  Alas!  There are shoes that come in a D instead of a B!

Shoes that are not on sale.

“Can we try them in a 9, please?”

“Mom, I said these are FINE!”

But these could be more fine … despite the fact that – of course – they are not on sale.

Less Experienced Salesman brought out a 9 in last year’s [barf green] model, because “they’re cheaper.”  I guess trying to honor my pursuit of the cheaper shoe.

Despite the barfy green, Lemon tried them on.  “Oh, wow.  These feel a lot better!”

And I thought — is the barfy green really worth the $14.03 that I save on purchasing last year’s model?

Answer, no.

We got the beautiful uplifting blue – this year’s model – that had the added bonus of pretty tropical flowers on the insole.

On top of 2 pairs of spandex shorts (so odd shopping for my stick of a daughter, searching for the XS side of the rack instead of my usual L or XL), one pair of spandex capri pants, a polyester long sleeve shirt, and the watch.  Oh, let’s not forget the headband I purchased for myself, because it was Prana and pretty and would help keep sweaty hair out of my face at the gym.

I thought I was adding things in my head as we went, but I still felt like the final bill ($293) should have been about $100 less.  Maybe $87 less, when considering my $13 headband.

Imagine if they had the waterproof socks?