Monday, August 26, 2013

When your littlest goes to kindergarten

when your littlest goes to kindergarten
you can't pretend
that you are the mother
of a baby
there are no more preschool shows
or napping blankets to pack on Monday mornings
the diapers and the bottles
you barely remember
used to be such a concern:
Will he ever outgrow it?
and now
you don't remember the color
his used to be
now it is real kid school
he has to go
it is no longer a choice
made by parents
who need to work
who want their baby
to socialize
get ready
for kindergarten
now it is for real
the littlest one
wears a uniform
packs a backpack
needs folders
and has real homework
you drop him off
and he is expected
to walk into that big school
find his classroom
sit in his line
wait for his teacher
he comes back to you
in a little yellow bus
he loves the bus
you love that he loves it
you can't even entertain the fear
that little yellow bus
you drop him off
and you are expected
to go to work
go about your day
and know that he is all right
he is learning
in the most capable hands
he is playing
with new friends
he is growing
and you
can not believe
that his backpack
when your littlest goes to kindergarten
you are no longer
the mother
of a baby

Saturday, August 24, 2013

RV girls wear heels, too

Let it be known that I own one pair of Jimmy Choos pink stilettos (paid $533 on sale during a 30th birthday trip to New York). I own a pair of vintage Prada slip-ons (thank you, Gil). Then there are my Lanvin patent leather lace-up bootie stilettos, bought in a tiny little consignment shop in Paris that required you to ring the doorbell in order to enter. These precious possessions sit in my closet, nestled happily, organized by color and heel height, amongst many other pairs of Fabulous Shoes.

I say this all in order to point out the fact that I really am not a simple girl. I like my fancy stuff. I know my designers. I covet.

So it came as no surprise when friends and family expressed some doubts when I told them we were buying an old RV.

"You? In a mobile home? Camping?"
Uh, hello, people, I have been camping many times, thank you very much.

"You? In a mobile home? You know you have to be flexible with those kinds of things, right? You could break down in the middle of nowhere."
Uh, hello, people, cars can do that, too.

"You? In a mobile home? Don't you usually like going to big time resorts for vacations?"
Uh, hello, I can do casual, too.

"I just don't see you as an RV Girl."

Apparently no one did, because even the dealer who sold it to us gave me one look up and down (literally) and stated: "Have you ever even been in an RV?"
(The answer was yes, actually, asshole, I drove one double the length of this one for 3 days while my husband raced his bike around Central Florida during a multi-day event.)

I don't know what all the fuss was about. Most people who know me know that I own as many pairs of flip-flops as I do heels, and at the end of the day, I would rather be in a pair of torn up shorts, with salt water in my hair, and a slight sunburn than in my best outfits.

But--although I never admitted it--I was a little bit skeptical too.

I had never traveled in an RV for vacation. I wasn't big on road trips. I get car sick. I wasn't sure I'd have that much in common with the people I expected to meet in RV campgrounds.

But once Hubby told me there were beachside campgrounds and compared the costs of traveling with the boys in an RV versus an airplane, I was in. Besides, this was one of Hubby's Big Dreams. I had to give it a shot.

And all it took was one weekend.

I was hooked.

Of course, most people still thought it was the novelty of it all: that once I spent more than just a couple of days in that thing, the four of us traveling around, doing the work required to set up camp, cook, clean, maintain things, I would realize that I was, in fact, most definitely not an RV Girl.

When we packed it up to go on our first long road trip last summer (9 days), I figured that would be the ultimate litmus test: Would I be dying to get home mid-way through the trip?

Nope. In fact, on day 9, I was bummed that it was over. There was no sense of claustrophobia, exhaustion, or that feeling of I'm-so-sick-of-this-tin-can-shit.

Over the course of nearly 2 years, we went on about a dozen trips: from local little getaways in parks near home, to our 3000 mile trip this summer. I don't think I was ever happier or more peaceful than during those trips. Hubby even bought me a little mini RV keychain. He told me to put it in my pocket, because he liked the girl I was when I was in the RV even more than the regular me. There was just something about that lifestyle--the simplicity of it all--that did something to me.

I was surprised by how much I loved the RVing lifestyle. It was all very different to the kind of traveling I was used to. Usually, my trips involved a frantic pace, a long list of Must-Do's and/or Must-See's, a very rigid agenda, and an even more rigid list of expectations. With RVing, it was the exact opposite: the pace was unhurried, the itinerary was flexible, and the only Must-Do's were hiking, playing, barbecuing, and drinking wine.

The people you meet along the way are all happy and pleasant and relaxed. And although there were some highly amusing stereotypical encounters (have you ever seen the movie "RV" with Robin Williams?), for the most part, it was a great mix of people: lots of retirees, some young families, groups of friends. During one trip, we met a grandpa who lived in the swamplands of Central Florida and had taught his 8-year-old granddaughter how to shoot gator. The adorable blond, blue-eyed little girl gave us some fried gator tail to try (I passed, but Hubby and the boys all swore it tasted just like a chicken nugget). During the same trip, we met an Italian family, and my two little boys taught the 12-year-old boy from Rome how to skimboard. Another time, we showed up at a park and learned it was "Bikers' Weekend." We camped out next to a group who wore leather the entire time, had motorcycles parked next to their RV, were covered in tattoos, and smoked constantly. One of the men was about 7 feet tall and slammed a log as thick as a telephone pole into the ground in order to break it apart for firewood. On our last day there, they came over to make small talk with Hubby, telling him they couldn't believe he mountain biked because "now that is dangerous!" and revved up their motorcycles so my boys could hear the roar.

The dealer who sold us the RV told us that when you're camping, you could be parked next to a serial killer, but in the campground, he'll read his newspaper and mind his own business. It doesn't matter who or what you are in "real life." When you're sitting next to your RV, you're a camper, like everyone else, and everyone is there for the same reason: to relax and check out of life for a while.

My boys learned to climb trees and shower outdoors and play with kids who didn't speak English or with kids who ate gator tail. They learned that every family is different, and that when bad stuff happens (the RV breaks down and you're on the side of the road for 9 hours), you make the best of it. We played Frisbee barefoot. We looked for shooting stars. We threw rocks in canals. We saw raccoon eyes glow at night. We talked. We learned that a hammock can hold all four of us--but only for about 3 minutes.

We sold the RV today. There had been too many mechanical issues to keep it any longer. And although we plan on getting another one, we know we won't be able to for at least 2 or 3 years. That doesn't seem like a very long time to wait, but it means that by the time we get another one, Ben will be a pre-teen, and Kai will be 8 or 9. I can't imagine not being able to sneak away for a weekend here and there, not holing up in it and driving 10 hours to see a new place. Today when we emptied it all out before turning over the keys and the title, Kai kept asking: "But are we bringing the RV back home?" We realized that he was so little when we got it, that he doesn't even know life without an RV.

I realize this might all seem a bit melodramatic. It's just a vehicle, for pete's sake. Just go camping in a tent. What's the big deal?

It's not about the RV itself. It's about the lifestyle. We feel like we have temporarily given up our freedom. We are not simple people. I am most definitely not a simple girl. But we loved the simple life that our RV gave us. And even though, for now, I don't have one, I am still most definitely an RV Girl.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Back to School Lockdown

As a Floridian, I have lived through quite a few hurricane seasons. It is rare that a year goes by without at least one scare or another. For those of you unfamiliar, there are different levels of scares: there are "watches" (keep an eye out cause sucky weather might be coming) and "warnings" (get ready cause the sucky weather is coming real soon). There are "tropical storms" (sucky weather) and "hurricanes" (really sucky weather). These watches and warnings are intended to help people get prepared. When they are issued, you are supposed to go out and buy any supplies you did not already theoretically purchase back when the season started: batteries, canned food, a million water jugs. You are supposed to dig around in your closets and drawers and find all your flashlights and check that they are working. You are supposed to fill your bathtubs with water (in case you drink the million water jugs). You are supposed to put important documents and irreplaceable photos in Ziploc bags or other water-proof containers. You are supposed to close up your hurricane shutters or run out to the Home Depot and buy wood to nail over your windows.

In short, all hell is supposed to break loose, in preparation for the storm that will probably not hit, but could.

But of course, few of us down here ever do any of that in a timely manner. Unless...
...a hurricane warning is issued.

Then, all hell does actually break loose.

Traffic comes to a complete halt (as opposed to the stop-and-go we usually have). People come to blows over the last jug of water at the grocery store. Everyone sits around the TV, watching the endlessly repetitive and overly dramatized media coverage of the coming storm.

You are on lockdown, doing nothing else but waiting.

Waiting to see what will happen: will it veer off and we will be spared? Will it come in for a direct hit? Will it be as bad as they say? Waiting...waiting to see what's left standing at the end of the storm.

That, my friends, pretty much describes how it is around here the weekend before back to school.

Ain't time for no measly "watches" around here...We have been placed under an official Night-Before-School-Warning.

I swear, we hunker down more for the first day of school than an actual hurricane.

As most of you know, we are an active family. We can barely stay still. We rarely have a day at home just hanging out. We are always doing Something. But the weekend before the first day of school? Nope. Don't ask me to get together. Don't try to arrange a play date. I want no part of any barbecues, and I sure as hell am not going out dancing all night and leaving my kids with the grandparents.

'Twas the weekend before school...we've got stuff to do.

Instead of batteries and canned foods and boarding up windows, it was labeling folders, lunchboxes, and journals. My boys sharpened every pencil in the house to a potentially-fatal point. My 5-year-old practiced writing his first, middle, and last name 5 times in row (okay, I admit it: I bribed him with a buck). My 7-year-old practiced his lunch number until he memorized it (sorry, but seeing as he knew it last year, remembering it wasn't worth a dollar). We read books about starting kindergarten and practiced what we could say to a new friend ("Hi, my name is Aidan Kai. What's yours?"). We laid out two sets of yellow and blue uniforms. My little one practiced buckling and unbuckling his new Shaun White belt. My older one folded and stored his new surfer hoodie jacket in the back compartment of his new backpack. Even I got in on the action: trying on and picking out my first day teacher ensemble, right down to the accessories.

I felt like I was in training all day. Or participating in some sort of religious retreat. Or meditating. This must be what it feels like to be a ninja in training: We are preparing.

And this isn't just me and my usual slightly-manic craziness. Even Hubby, Mr. Super Laid Back himself gets in on the action. He set the alarm so we would all wake up at a "reasonable" time today: not too early that we would all be too tired, but not too late that it would throw off our recently reestablished sleeping routines. He was the one who sent them outside to the pool for a little while to "burn off some energy" so they wouldn't be too nervous and they could sleep better. Even he spent time online preparing lesson plans and looking over the curriculum.

You see, when you are a family of 2 teachers and 2 students, you take Back To School to a whole new level.

I would assume it's sorta like if you are a meteorologist who is married to a meteorologist and you have two little kids who are going to weather camp (just go with it, will ya?): the minute they issue that first watch, even if it's just a tropical storm, you're gonna go out and buy those canned goods, and your flashlights are probably already sitting with brand new batteries in them, right next to the jugs of water. No need to panic, but you're going to be ready if that storm hits.

Well, that's just like us. No need to panic, but we're ready. Now let's hope that this school year is filled with sunny skies and calm winds.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The problem with a summer bucket list

Well, that's it, people.

Party's over.

Summer--at least for this family--is officially done.

Hubby and I were back to work today. It's amazing how quickly you can slide right back into routine. It almost felt normal to wake up when it was still dark out, rustle two sleepy boys out of bed groggy and complaining, walk back into our classrooms, and start unpacking the books and binders again.

When teachers return to work after summer vacation, most of us spend at least a few minutes (some, hours) catching up. Today, when anyone greeted me with the usual "Hiiiiiii! How are you?" I mostly answered: "Fat, sun-damaged, rested, and happy."

Which led me to reflect upon my previously posted Summer Bucket List....

Here's the problem with having a summer bucket list (when you're me, anyways): because of my generally Type A, slightly obsessive, greatly perfectionist nature, it tends to go completely against the whole purpose of having two months off of life.

Yes, there were many items on the list that were checked off.
Hang out by the pool? Check!
Take the boys to an art class? Check!
Read? Check!

But the one about waking up super early and taking two little boys to see their first sunrise on the beach? Yeah, not so much. I don't know where the hell I got the idea that waking up at 4:00 in the morning might be a reasonable and exciting plan when one is able to sleep in until whenever (which usually meant when our youngest son started watching TV, around 9:30 a.m. Not bad, huh?).

And the one about working out outdoors more than in the gym? Well, let's just say I didn't hit the gym a whole lot this summer, so we can check that one off (unless you want to count the part about actually working out).

Then there were the housekeeping type goals on the list: items #21-23 all involved some kind of organizing project. Although I can be a glass half-full kinda gal and say that I did manage about 50% of those (I sorted about half of my pending photos and completely organized my closet, but totally ignored the make-up drawer), those three items on my list just haunted and taunted me every time I had a free minute. The relief of having my closet done really wasn't worth the self-imposed stress of nagging myself about it all summer.

I think I might be too goal-oriented (and anally retentive) to have a summer bucket list. Although it was fun to create one and a few times we actually referred to it to remind us to do stuff (Watch the night sky for shooting stars! Run barefoot on the grass!), it really just gave me a nagging sense of "To Do." Every once in a while, I was like: Oh yeah, we haven't done the colored hairspray thing, or We didn't play Frisbee while we were on the trip, or I should be having more post-sex waffles! Now, admittedly, that kind of To-Do List is waaaaay better than the usual To-Do List, but it's still, in the end, a To-Do List. And if you know me, you know I can't fully relax when I have a To-Do List.

Maybe my Bucket List should've consisted of:
1. Get some more sun-induced wrinkles
2. Gain some weight from too much beer and too little exercise
3. Destroy blond highlights with a mixture of chlorine and salt water
4. Sleep in

I may not look my best for the start of the new school year, but I sure had a good fucking summer.

Last day of school back in June: Cheers to being OFF DUTY!

This can certainly be nicknamed The Summer of Stickers...we added quite a few to the old RV this year

If you drink beer that was purchased as a souvenir,
it should not make you gain weight, right?!?
Let's make Mommy a mermaid!

One of our favorite Summer 2013 memories: crab hunting on the beach at night

Boys' first waterfall hike in GA

During a summer RV road trip, this is our version of going out to dinner:
walking a mile down the beach from our campsite for ocean side (literally) dining!

Anyone remember the movie "Point Break?" Look it little Bodhi & Utah
(Can you believe that background?!?)

Annual summer trip: Dave Matthews Weekend

Girls behaving badly

Plenty of pool time acrobatics & goofiness

Made it to painting class...check that one off!

Me & my girls attempting (but not succeeding!) sexy snarls

Me + Hubby + Beach  = Perfect Summer Day

We are incredibly lucky enough to have two whole months together off as a family, with nothing to do but enjoy life. And we certainly did that...and then some.

Maybe next year, I won't have a Summer Bucket List, because, after all, summer is all about the glory of not having to do.

Or, maybe, my list next year will be very short:
Do whatever we want to, whenever we want to and enjoy it.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A post in which I officially declare my craziness as a mom

Today is my son's 5th birthday. Except he thinks it's tomorrow. And we are all pretending it is, too.

I believe this is further evidence that motherhood has made me crazy.

Let me explain.

We have fallen into a particular birthday tradition with our boys. Nothing fancy or especially unique, but its sweetness, I think, is in its simplicity. When the birthday boy wakes up, he finds his gifts, card, birthday hat (those cute little headband-looking things they make in kindergarten and preschool that proclaim "Today I am 5!"), and a bunch of balloons in the dining room. After Hubby and I take a million pictures of him opening his presents, hoping at least one captures the sheer joy of the perfectly selected gift (okay, that's just me obsessing and taking pictures; Hubby just enjoys the moment), the birthday boy is presented with a pancake with Hershey's syrup for curly hair and an M&M happy face. For this birthday, Hubby and I (and big brother, Ben) are especially excited about the birthday morning, since Aidan Kai is receiving a major gift: his first, not-a-hand-me-down, real-deal mountain bike in his very favorite color: blue.

That's all cute and sweet and all that, you are surely thinking, but what the hell does that have to do with pretending his birthday is one day later? You might assume it's because the bike is not here on time. That would make total and complete sense. And would make me way more sane and normal than I actually, apparently, am.

The reason we have all chosen to pretend today is not, in fact, August 8th, is because our little one wanted to celebrate his birthday with his pseudo-godmother (and one of my favorite people in the whole world) and her grandchildren. She lives a few hours away, and surprised him with a night stay at a water park resort, and the only day we could do it was the night before his birthday. (Hang in there, I'm getting to the point.) So that meant that we woke up on the real morning of his birthday in the resort, and then a good portion of the day was spent driving home. (You see where I'm going with this, right?) So if he knew that today was his birthday, I would have had to take his bike up there (ridiculously out of the question) or give him his big surprise when we got home, after driving for hours and all of us being cranky and tired and ready to just do laundry (me), eat (all of us), watch TV (them), and go to sleep (again, all of us). No sweet little birthday breakfast. No excited, messy-haired, sleepy-eyed 5-year-old tearing open presents. No pancake birthday face.

So, I was faced with a conundrum (within my own head, I understand). And although I know we could have skipped some of the minor traditions listed above, Í know that really, I could not.

And so, thankfully, I am surrounded by people who not only know my craziness, they love me anyways (or maybe a little bit because of it?), and are more than happy to go along with it. So everyone involved (and I do mean everyone) is pretending that today is August 7th (luckily his birthday is in the summer, because I could never get away with this during the school year), because--to further complicate things--he knows his birthday is August 8th. So if you happen to bump into my kid today, and he asks, it's the frickin' 7th, dammit.

Tomorrow, after the Big Breakfast Gift Giving Bonanza, we will have family and our bestest friends meet us at the beach for a little celebration. And everyone will probably giggle as they wish him Happy Birthday. There will probably be a moment where someone will forget and slip and say something about his birthday having been yesterday, and I will nudge them sharply in the ribs with my elbow, and obsess over whether my 5-year-old suspected anything.

I know, I am fucking nuts.

All day long today, I have looked over at him lovingly, privately wishing him a "Happy birthday" in my head, wondering how the hell my little baby turned 5 and is ready for kindergarten.

And felt guilty.

Because of course, if I could just do all this scheming and just go with it, it would not be as crazy as I actually am, because I also have obsessed (a teeny bit, but still) that maybe it's just wrong that he doesn't know that today he is five!

When we woke up this morning in the hotel room, I was dying to jump on his bed, shouting, "Happy Birthday Big Boy! Today is your birthday!" But I settled for what I've been calling him since we left to our friend's house two days ago on his birthday trip: "My birthday boy." Don't worry; I don't think he noticed that I said it about a million times this morning: Good morning, Birthday Boy! How did you sleep, Birthday Boy? Did you have fun on your trip, Birthday Boy? Are you excited about tomorrow, Birthday Boy? Did you brush your teeth, Birthday Boy?

Before I had my kids, I swore I'd never be One Of Those Moms. And in many ways, I'm not. I leave them "behind" (often) with family members so Hubby and I can have date nights and travel and pretend we don't have children. I never put a "Baby on Board" magnet on my car, or one of those stick family collections on my rear window. I refuse to drive a mini van. I don't gush about my children to random people (much). I still shave my legs every other day and do my manicures weekly so my husband will consider me a hottie. I don't scrapbook. I will never record my child's voice as my greeting on my voicemail in an attempt to be super cute and adorable. And I will never, ever, ever tell a pregnant woman that she is so super duper lucky because she is a walking miracle and is about to enter the happiest most magical time in her whole life and that she will never wonder what the hell she got herself into.

But lately, I've started to catch glimpses of myself that prove that really, I am One Of Those Moms. And I am realizing that we are all, in fact, to some degree or another, One Of Those Moms. Because we do corny things and put an inordinate amount of importance on minor things and fret and worry and gush and cry at preschool ceremonies and make M&M happy face pancakes...all in the name of Motherhood.

So, today I want to wish a very Happy Birthday to my littlest soft, squishy, sweet Aidan Kai.
(But for today, let's just keep it between us, shall we?)