Monday, December 31, 2012

This New Year's, I'm ignoring the countdown

New Year's Eve is all about reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the next. Tonight, in fact, is probably the one night where you are expected to NOT be in the present moment, not be mindful of the Right Now. But the thing is, I'm always looking backwards or looking ahead. I'm never in the Now.

It's a problem. Has been for as long as I can remember.

And really, tonight, of all nights, I don't want to look back (too much) or look ahead. I am trying, once again, to make it a point to be in the Here and Now. As much as possible, although, really, all the time, would be totally stellar.

What does it say about you when the same issue haunts you, over and over again? When you say you're going to work on this, you're going to make it your focus, your goal, when your closest people who know you best in the world tell you it's a problem, and you know it's true, and yet, you're still here, another new year resolving to fix it. Is it like this for everyone? Or am I the only one who has written a blog post about changing something about myself, only to have to write the same post again, the following year, or the one after that, just in different words? But what other choices do we have? Do we give up, then, and shrug our shoulders, and blow it off: "Ah, that's just how I am."?

No. I refuse.

One of my favorite quotes: "When you stop trying to be better, you stop being good."

So here I am, another post reflecting on how I need to be more present, need to focus on the Now, need to stop multi-tasking, stop thinking about everything all the time, worrying about what's coming or what might come or what might not happen, and just Be Here. Now. In this moment. Each moment.

And really, what does all the worrying and the planning and the overthinking help, anyways? Absolutely nothing. It gives me a false sense that if I can plan out every possible scenario and worry about every possible problem, then maybe I can preempt it. But really, 2012 is proof that whatever's gonna happen is gonna happen, and all you can do is raise a toast when it's good, and step up to the plate when it's bad.

2012: What a year. It started out with an entire TV show crew at my house giving my front yard a makeover. (Well, technically, it started with a hangover from our first ever New Year's Eve house party, but that's another story.) We took road trips in our new (old) RV. We went to Paris for our tenth wedding anniversary and realized we were the exact same couple we were when we went the first time on our honeymoon...just more in love and with better outfits. I got my first new car in 12 years. We spent a couple of months passing strep and hand-foot-mouth disease and every virus imaginable back and forth to each other. There were family issues. There were friendship issues. There were money issues. My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. I turned 40.

It's amazing how many things can be squeezed into 365 days. It's amazing how many lessons there are, sitting there, within the celebrations and the scares, if you look.

So I'm not going to reflect and ponder too much tonight. I'm not going to plan ahead for 2013. I'm not going to spend too much time dramatically looking back at the highs and lows (both of which were quite extreme this past year), either. I'm just going to try to sit  here, in my PJ's, listening to the neighborhood fireworks and my kids' congested snores, snuggle with Hubby under the covers, and be grateful for This Moment, This Night.

Happy New Year's.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Viva Las Vegas: My Life, in Lists

"Let's go to Vegas for my birthday!"

The idea was born, about a year and a half ago, during a drunken afternoon on the beach on one of our babysitting days. Katy Perry's "Waking Up in Vegas" was playing on my iPod. It was a cheesy idea even from the beginning: all based on excess and tackiness and neon and glitter and loudness.

I loved it.

I wanted to wear a fancy dress, some killer stilettos, a tad bit of glitter eyeliner, hold a cocktail, and celebrate my 40th with Hubby and my closest friends in the loudest, brightest place on earth. My mini traveling party leaves tomorrow... A far-fetched idea that was born from a bad pop song and too much sun and booze, and it became reality. I can't wait. It's exactly what I (we) need right now.

So here are some of my birthday wishes for my big "Forty and Fucking Fabulous Birthday Bash:"

1. I want everyone to laugh. A lot.
2. I want to dance. A lot. (It'd be awesome if everyone else did, too, but honestly, I might end up as that girl who is dancing by herself with her eyes closed, oblivious to the rest of her group members.)
3. My heels won't hurt (that much).
4. I will get a lovely Vegas buzz going each night.
5. My lovely Vegas buzz will not turn into a horrid Vegas hangover the next morning.
6. The nightclub crawl tour we bought for Friday night will be more like the Vegas scenes of Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz in the "What Happens in Vegas" movie than like a bad 2012 version of a Chevy Chase vacation movie.
7. My group will do a shot together (or several)...hotel rooftop not required.
8. No one will slip a roofie into any of those shots.
9. I will not lose my camera.
10. I will not fall down.
11. I will not throw up.
12. We will stay up until at least sunrise at least one of the nights.
13. I will have sex. Lots of it.
14. I will remember the sex.
15. We will make it to the places on the itinerary, but I will not be so anal as to continue to insist on sticking to the itinerary.
16. I will enjoy whatever restaurant/bar/club I am currently in, and not worry about whether there's a better one somewhere out there on the strip and I am missing it.
17. I will not complain that my super-cute-but-possibly-too-thin-for-Vegas-winter-weather-coat is not warm enough.
18. I will not worry about my children, my sister, or the bar tab.
19. I will not worry about whether everyone else is having fun.
20. Everyone will have fun.
21. I will not reflect, ponder, wonder, resolve, or over-analyze anything heavy, major, important, or life altering for the duration of my trip.
22. I will not mentally check stuff off this list as they occur.

So raise your's a toast to my next decade...may it be a blast!

Friday, December 7, 2012

A little out of it

I haven't been here in forever.

I must admit that this time around, it is not just Life, and the usual excuses of being busy or tired. Yes, I am busy. Yes, I am tired (perpetually). But really, the truth is I've been avoiding this place.

I don't have anything to write, I think, because I actually have too much to write about.

Does that make sense to anyone?

There's been too much going in life, and therefore, in my head, lately, and I feel like coming here would be like opening up Pandora's Box. And sometimes, you really gotta get in there: yank that sucker open and delve in. But other times--and I think this is one of those--that I'd rather lock it up and sit on it like an overstuffed suitcase.

I just don't want to Go There. Not yet, anyways. I know the time will come when I will need to ponder, to question, to try to make sense of stuff, and to get it all out. But for now, for just the next few weeks, I would like to practice a little bit of denial. Ignorance is bliss, and all that.

You see, I feel like if I reflect too much, I might have to face some harsh realities: my sister's current situation, the fact that I'm about to hit a major age milestone, and the sudden awareness of the passing of time. (I have not forced myself into such ignorance that I do not realize the obvious link here.)

Since my last post, my sister is healing well. (Thank you to all who have prayed, sent well-wishes, asked about her...) She is still not at the end of her journey (as if any of us ever are), and the family is still struggling day-to-day. There are Big Lessons here. Big. I just don't have the energy to try to figure those out yet.

There is this birthday thing: 40. I will be 40 in just a couple of weeks. That's pretty big, too. And I feel like I'm a little too fragile right now to get all self-reflective and melodramatic and poignant.

My babies are gone. I can't quite come to terms with the deliciousness that is my 4-year-old and my 7-year-old who I feel are growing up so fast, I can't bear it.

And the holidays...this time of year always makes me all pensive.

So I am doing something I usually am not so good at: avoiding. Instead, I am choosing to immerse myself in the busy-ness of this time of year and the excitement of my upcoming birthday trip (Vegas BABY!). There will be plenty of time (and I know myself well enough to know that I don't avoid for very long) to poke around in my subconscious and try to figure out some of the emotions that I've been try to  make sense of or come to terms with or have some sort of epiphany or Something...but for now, I'm just going to put my energies into figuring out which stilettos will look the best and hurt the least in Vegas (as if!), and what Santa is going to bring my little boys. There will be time for heavy stuff. Right now, I just want light.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My sister has breast cancer (or: Time to put on your big girl pants)

I am sitting in a hospital waiting room while my sister undergoes surgery for a double mastectomy.

I am surprisingly calm. I think it's because I haven't really dwelled on what's actually happening to my sister's body as I type. She is 49 years old and takes such good care of herself that people regularly ask which one of us is older (I am nearly 10 years younger). We had no history of breast cancer (or any cancer, for that matter) in our family. So as we waited for biopsy results last month, I thought surely we were in the clear. It wouldn't touch us. Cancer, that is. And then, all it takes is one phone call, and there It is. It becomes part of your family. Your life. Your everyday. We all have to check off the "yes" box on the medical questionnaires that ask about your history. It looms.

In one month, I have learned more about breast cancer than I have known my whole life. I think I might have learned a lot about my sister and myself, too. It's all very surreal. This moment, it is surreal. This post. Surely, I will wake up and say to Hubby, "I had the weirdest dream..."

This past month has been one of the hardest for Hubby and me. As if the c-word weren't enough, there's been Other Stuff. (I feel the need to state, for the record, that the boys are good...knock on wood. I'm so superstitious). It seems that Life has decided we've been good and calm for a while, so let's shake things up a bit. Let's make those two grow up some. They are always so good together, so let's see what they can do when we throw some shit their way.

So far, so good though. At least there is that: when push comes to shove, we pull each other in. There is light in that. There is grace.


Mixed in there in all the crap, in all the horror, the fear, the anxiety, the general bad luck, there is grace. I am realizing that already. But you gotta go out there and look for it, find it, grab it, drag it into you. But it's there.

I've seen grace in the way my sister has stood tall during this, and in the way she's allowed herself to crumble, on some days, when she's had to, to cry and be afraid and wail, and then pick herself up. Or, maybe more importantly, find someone to do it for yank her up by the shoulders and slap her around. It takes grace and dignity and courage to keep your chin up, to be brave and strong. But it also takes grace to know when you can't dig yourself out, to recognize you've gone over the edge, to the dark side, and to know you need to find the way out but you can't do it for yourself.

I've seen grace in my brother-in-law, who was always a man of few words and even less emotion, who told my sister he didn't care if they took her breasts and her hair; all he wanted was her to be at his side.

I've seen grace in the way my parents have put up a front and held themselves together for my sister's sake, and do what they have to do for her, her kids, her husband, and for me, and my kids.

I've seen grace in the way people at work, friends, acquaintances come to bat for my friends walk the line between distraction and a shoulder to cry on.

I've seen grace in Hubby, who woke up early with me today, and when I insisted he go back to bed, that there was nothing he could do, he simply sat next to me, took my hand, and said, "Then I'll just hold your hand while you have breakfast."

You hear all kinds of stuff about how people cope with the hard stuff in life. And then it's your turn, and you just kind of muddle along, and you go through all kinds of emotions and thoughts: denial, anger, frustration, fear, optimism, hope. Everyone copes differently. I'm starting to realize that the only thing that gives me hope in tough situations is the possibility that good might come out of it on the other end....that when the dust settles, you will be a better person for it. That's all I've got to hold onto right now, for me, for my sister: that we will be, somehow, better for having been forced on this journey.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Watching my kid sleep: New favorite pastime

I am acutely aware of the passing of time.

The days of answering the cartoon characters on TV are nearly over. The dimples on the back of the hand are nearly filled in. There will soon be no more babies in this house. Just two big boys.

I remember when the TV shows around here were limited to extra sweet themes: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Dora, Diego... Ben would sit there, transfixed, his big button-like eyes barely blinking, dutifully replying to Dora's bilingual questions, agreeing with Diego's animal-rescue plans, mimicking Mickey's dance moves. Now, we have to force him to change the channel on shows with character names like "Buttowski,"  involving lots of yelling, and lots of  "loser" and an occasional "jerk." But Aidan will still, every once in a while, answer the Little Einsteins when one of them asks "What's your favorite animal?" or "Will you help us on a mission?" or (my personal favorite) "Do you want to go on an animal safari with us?"

The innocence of it is almost painful.

I was never one of those moms who just looooved the baby stage. I did love stuffing my nose in their necks and inhaling that perfect baby smell. I did live for the moments when they would do something new: smile, say Mama, wave bye-bye for the first time. But the rest of the time, I was exhausted, frustrated, and stressed. By the time my oldest turned into a toddler, I realized I was the kind of mom who enjoyed the older stages much more. So I spent a lot of those early days wishing I could fast forward, wondering when they would grow up a little more, counting the days until they would be more self-sufficient.

And now, here we are, nearly there. My little one is in his last year of daycare/pre-k. Next year, he goes to "real school." That's it. To me, once they are in kindergarten, they have crossed over: no longer a baby. A kid. My last baby will be all grown up.

I have never been particularly sentimental about these sorts of things. I never felt this way about my first born. I've realized that we sorta missed out on this toddler-to-3-year-old-yummy stage with Ben. Ben turned 3 a month after Aidan arrived. And Aidan was a horrible baby. (Yes, I can say that. Trust me. He was.) I am not even exaggerating when I say that the kid cried--no, wailed--for the first four and a half months of his life. I'm serious. All the time. I remember driving around with the two boys in the backseat, Aidan squealing his completely hysterical red-faced shriek for no apparent reason, and Ben sitting with his hands over his ears, his face contorted in a look of pure hate as he stared at this little wailing ball of hysteria that was his new brother. That was the day I realized that it wasn't just Mommy and Daddy who were suffering with the latest addition to the family. And once the crying subsided, there were always new "issues." Aidan had a vomiting stage that lasted months (if you think I'm exaggerating, click on this blog's Labels actually has one called "Vomit.") He had a "I-refuse-to-sleep" stage. He just demanded a lot of our attention a lot of the time. Ben, on the other hand, was a very easy kid. We just didn't know it until Aidan came around.

So now, as I find myself walking into Aidan's room at night and watching him sleep, his arms up over his head in little relaxed fists, just like when he was a baby (on the rare occasion that he was actually sleeping peacefully, that is), I try to remember doing that with Ben. And I realized, recently, that I can barely recall Ben being this age at all. It dawned on me: of course, we were so busy with Aidan's first two years that we sorta passed by Ben's 3 and 4-year-old stages in a blur. We were just surviving then. There wasn't much time for sentimentality.

But now, here we are: Aidan is completely manageable and easy (except when he absolutely isn't), and Ben is like a whole little mini-adult. There are even days when we can send them both to shower and get dressed on their own, and (holy cow!) they do it! Some days they even manage to do it without any drama, screaming, fighting, or flooding of the bathroom.

So we have a little more time these make dinner, read a book, watch "Dancing with the Stars," sneak into their rooms at night to watch them sleep...and contemplate the passing of time and the filling in of those little hand dimples.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where I am right now

"There's no real point in mourning
all the sadness and suffering in the world....
So this is my therapy,
to sing about the end of the world and dance.
We don't find solutions in despair--
we find solutions in the defiance of it....
Everybody needs a little horn section."

                                                                  ~Dave Matthews

Friday, September 14, 2012

Things I've Been Doing Instead of Blogging: My Life, in Lists

1. Starting a new school year for my 1st grade little boy (I can't believe he's in 1st grade!)
2. Starting a new school year for my pre-k little boy (actual homework!)
3. Starting a new school year with my students (48 fourth-graders, to be exact)
4. Moving classrooms twice in a three-week period
5. Stressing about work and the general state of public education
6. Ignoring my broken computer
7. Trying not to stress about my broken computer
8. Having to face the reality that my computer is broken
9. "Writing" blog posts in my head
10. Stressing about the blog posts that are not making it into the blogosphere
11. Trying to lose the 8 pounds I gained over summer vacation
12. Realizing that as I approach 40, losing summer weight is not that easy
13. Waking up at 4:35 a.m. to make it to the gym (see #s 11 and 12)
14. Going to bed at 10:00 p.m. (see #13)
15. Entering the world of Soccer Mom (Soccer practices are how many times a week for a 6-year-old?!?)
16. Entering the world of tennis (how cute is a 4-year-old who actually asks to take "tennis classes"?)
17. Missing summer

Monday, August 13, 2012

Good-bye Summer!


~10:00 a.m. wake-up calls
~Going to sleep past midnight (usually us, sometimes even the kids)
~Monopoly Jr. games at 10:00 p.m. (what bedtime?)
~"What do you want to do today?"
~"Is it good beach weather today?"
~"We gotta do laundry for the next road trip..."
~Hanging out with my girls (and their kids) on a weekday afternoon
~Middle-of-the-day, middle-of-the-week art classes (for the kids)
~Middle-of-the-day, middle-of-the-week any activity (for the kids)
~Babysitting nights Every. Single. Week. (for Us)
~Wine on a Monday night
~And a Tuesday night
~Maybe a Wednesday too
~Stress-free Sunday nights
~"What day of the week is it?"
~Middle-of-the-day spontaneous gym visits
~Consistent conversations with Hubby all the time
~No need for "scheduling sex in"
~Tour de France on DVR
~Olympics on DVR
~Family Movie Night any night
~Flip flops 24/7 (what stilettos?)
~No routine, no schedule, no stress
~"Summer Liz" (the much-nicer-to-live-with version)

Perhaps I should keep that last one in mind?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, Aidan Kai!

Four years ago today you entered our world with terrible drama.  

You drove us nuts the first few months with your endless piercing cries.

You've made every milestone and transition difficult.

And you've melted each and every one of us with your amazing sweetness, gentle nature, perfect dimples, and deliciously wicked sense of humor.  Happy Birthday to the sweetest little marshmallow of a boy. We love you, Pokey-Chicken..."all the way to the stars" and "sooooo much."


Friday, July 20, 2012

The 4 of us for 8 days in a 20-year-old RV: My Life, In Lists

We spent 8 days traveling from nearly one tip of Florida to the other. Just the four of us. In one charming and slightly battered mobile home. Here are some of my lessons learned...

1. Going on vacation in an RV with two small children is not really a vacation at all. A vacation, in my mind, entails cocktails and reading by the pool and relaxing. This was more of an adventure. A really fun but really, really exhausting adventure.

2. Any time I open my mouth while anywhere north of the Disney World area will result in people commenting on my "accent" and asking me where I am from.

3. Revealing you are from Miami to anyone who lives north of the Disney World area in Florida will result in one of two very specific responses...either they shudder (in fear? anxiety? traffic phobias?) or they gasp in awe: "Why are you here, then?"

4. A squeaky dinette table hinge that was barely noticeable when you first purchased the used RV of your dreams will become Chinese water torture after a few hours (let alone 8 days).

5. Oil does not work on squeaky dinette table hinges.

6. Neither do paper towels or rubber tape stuffed into said hinges.

7.  When one goes swimming in South Florida, you tend to see cocktails by the pool area. In a swimming hole in the middle of nowhere, you see cans of dip.

8. A whining 3-year-old is not as annoying as a defiant 6-year-old.

9. A normal size bikini in Miami will be the smallest one on the campground beaches.

10. I am still waaaaay more afraid of lizards than of enclosed spaces: I was just fine checking out the stalagmites in the dark tight quarters of the Florida Caverns State Park (even when they mentioned bats), but the minute I heard "black salamanders that live down here" I nearly had a full-blown panic attack.

11. When traveling for more than 5 days in an RV, you  must pack a mani/pedi kit--even if you're "just camping."

12. Jack Johnson is the perfect soundtrack for a summer Florida road/camping trip.

13. Eating burgers and hot dogs around a campfire at the end of the day is awesome.

14. So is walking a mile down the beach to have shrimp and scallops at the nearest restaurant.

15. Watching your kids climb their first tree (in flip-flops, no less!) is exhilarating in the good way and the bad way.

16. I am still a little afraid of the dark, dark woods.

17. When your sweet, animal-loving 3-year-old asks to see "the dolphin with no tail" over and over again, you are willing to wake up at 2:00 a.m. to drive through the night in order to make it on time to the marine aquarium. (Thanks, Hubby.)

17. "Young" couples can only afford the banged-up mobile homes.

18. I sleep better in our RV than in a fancy hotel room.

19. Even children who love the outdoors and have been looking forward to a camping trip for months are seduced by the lure of the portable DVD player.

20. Even parents who don't really like the idea of a portable DVD player being packed for a camping trip are seduced by the lure of the possibility of "grown-up time" thanks to said DVD player.

21. Laundry is, apparently, quite exciting while on vacation.

22. Much like hotels, there are campgrounds, and then there are Campgrounds:

Adequate but small, dusty, and swarms of mosquitoes

Way bigger and only gnats, but still dusty

Just as big, no dust, no bugs and practically beachside

23. At some campgrounds, a 20-year-old RV will be the envy of all the tent campers. At some campgrounds, a 20-year-old RV will blend in just fine. At other campgrounds, you will hope that every one else is too busy watching their flat screen TVs or adjusting their satellite dishes to notice your 20-year-old RV chugging into its reserved spot.

24. Mold is not always green. Sometimes, it's white, and it can proliferate in a matter of hours given the right conditions.

25. The right conditions, apparently, exist in my RV kitchen cabinet.

26. White mold reeks.

27. I am way tougher than I thought I was, since I was the one who took care of reeking, white, proliferating mold without hesitation and with only minor (mostly) verbal complaints.

28. There is nothing like seeing your kid's dimply face light up when he catches his first wave on a boogie board.

29. My sense of adventure can override my sense of least when it comes to jumping into a 68 degree spring where I could see a foreboding-looking cave and slimy-looking grass from the diving board.
That's me and Ben holding hands...he had no issues jumping in (over and over again).

30. When you are the proud owner of a 20-year-old RV, expect things to go wrong. 
A $700-pit-stop for an ailing generator

31. I really love the outdoors.

 32. I really, really love the beach.

3 bike racers + 1 beach babe = 4 very happy people!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Can I wash that vitamin down with some beer?

I have gone through many stages in my life when I realize that something's gotta change.

Sometimes, it's just my attitude, as in: I am being overly dramatic or overly pessimistic or overly pissy.

Sometimes, it's been my weight, like after I had the boys and I felt so trapped inside that swollen, slow, puffy body that I knew I had to make it my focus.

Sometimes, it's even been the people I associate with: a spouse who made me miserable, a friend who made me crazy.

It's simpler when the problem is easy to identify and the solution within your control. When you are attacked by falling hangers every time you try to pull a shirt out of your closet (true story), you know what you gotta do. A couple of hours and some minor effort later, the problem has been solved. But usually, life isn't that easy. You don't always know what the problem is, or whether it's within your control at all. Sometimes, the problem isn't even a problem; sometimes it could just be a string of bad luck. I'm not sure which of these applies to me right now, but I know I function better when I at least think I'm trying to do something about it. So I am.

The problem these days is my body. For a change, it's not about fitting into that perfect size 4 in the back of my closet. It's not about losing the stubborn pooch that came along with my two boys and likes to masquerade as a Shar-Pei when I bend over. It's not even about my thighs.

It's about my health.

I'm not sure what's going on lately, but my body's been complaining. And they say that if you listen really carefully, your body will let you know what it needs. Well, my body definitely needs something.

Over the last year, I've had several colds/bugs/viruses/under-the-weather-spells. I've been diagnosed with GERD, exercise-induced asthma, acute bronchitis, and a rib head disarticulation. (Yeah, I didn't know what it was either, but it hurts like hell.) I've had liquid drained from my good knee. I've had three sinus infections and three corneal abrasions. Throw into the mix my chronic migraines, and it's been a stellar year, health-wise.

And this week? Recovering from hand, foot, and mouth disease. (Remember my post about how I was absolutely, definitely not getting strep? Well, I didn't. Instead, I got this.) "Adults don't usually get hand, foot, and mouth." "It's a children's virus." "If you get it as an adult, it's super mild." That's what I was told. But you know me. I got it BIG TIME. And if you don't know anything about this virus, let's just say it's super fun. As in, your closest friends literally cringe when you touch them. (It's okay, M, I would have cringed too.)

I realize that I have two small kids who bring everything home from pre-k and kindergarten. I realize that both Hubby and I are elementary school teachers who bring everything else home. I realize that we lead very hectic lives and run around a lot. And I also know that in the grand scheme of things, none of this stuff is a big deal and I really am lucky and blessed and healthy. But I've gotta try to make things a little my body do its thing somehow. So the question is how? What's gotta change?

Well, for starters, Hubby pointed out that, lately, we've been spending a whole more money on beer than on vitamins. And my four-day-per-week-minimums at the gym have turned into twice if I'm lucky. Fish and salads for dinner have been swapped for dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and frozen pizzas. We've gone from a very healthy lifestyle to "What's the quickest thing we can throw in the microwave and does it go well with my Belgium lager?"

Even Hubby, who was sick--literally--like twice in the first 11 years we've been together, has been sick four times in the past year.

So what to do? I need a plan of action. I am an anal, Type A, list-making kinda girl.

Well, for one thing: cut back on the booze.
Go back to the runs, the bike rides, the gym visits. Make that a priority.
Pull out the yoga gift certificate I've had in my purse for 6 months.
Stop being so cheap and buy some good supplements again.
Buy more fish.
Become obsessive-compulsive about all things Dr. Oz.

Maybe none of this will make a damn difference. Maybe next week, I'll develop some other random, annoying, cringe-worthy virus. But at least I'll get a false sense of control over my circumstances. Even that's gotta be healthier than how I've been feeling lately. Then maybe I can start obsessing unhealthily about my thighs again.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Taking a risk

Sometimes in life you have to take chances to be happy. You have to work at creating the life you envision. And most of the time, the decisions that get you there and the steps you have to take--big or little--can be scary.

We had been behaving responsibly for a while now: no lavish trips, no more high-end martini bars, cheap take-out had become an occasional treat, and random no-reason shopping trips were a thing of the past. We'd willingly and solemnly swapped our kick-up-our-heels, paint-the-town-red, live-for-today, spontaneous life of the Olden Days for the cliche we shockingly and embarrasingly realized we (gasp!) wanted: corner lot life with the big mortgage and two shaggy-haired boys.

It's what we wanted.

But despite what we used to think when we were in our early twenties, you can't have it All. So something had to go. Hence, we became responsible.


And bored out of our minds.

Enter: The A-Team (R)Van.

Yep, we got an RV.
And yep, we gave it a name.
And yep, we named it after a bad 80's TV show.
And yep, it worked: we aren't bored anymore.

Hubby had grown up taking RV trips, and it was his dream to have one of his own. Although I loved camping and the outdoors in general, I never took him very seriously. I knew nothing about RVs. It seemed overwhelming and impractical and unnecessary. And certainly, financially irresponsible. How much did those things cost, anyways?

But Hubby kept at it. He scoured the internet for used RV deals, sure that "one day" he'd find the perfect, can't-beat-it deal. He shared blogs about families with young boys who were traveling the country each summer. He pointed out that with both of us not working every summer, we had the perfect set up to use an RV; with that much vacation time, we could take a few days to drive here or there and save tons on airfare. And with all of his biking races (especially now that the boys were racing in the kids' division too), we wouldn't have to drive hours before sunrise to get to a state race and then drive hours back when it was over. We could finally be one of those families we saw at these events: making it a weekend, camping out, turning it into an easy, fun activity instead of a chore to get there and back.

The more I started looking into it with him, the more it became my dream, too.

And this past December, two days after Christmas, we gave each other a special gift: a 20-year-old, Class C, 28 foot mobile home that sleeps at least 6 comfortably. (And the very next day, we went to the mall and returned all of the other "real" gifts we had opened on the 25th--more a symbolic gesture than one that actually made a financial difference.) It was an RV we had seen at a dealer, and we had liked it so much that it had become "The Measuring Stick" we used to compare all the other ones we went to see. After a few months of serious looking (and Hubby's aforementioned 2 years worth of casual scouring), I made the suggestion to go back and see it again and put in a low-ball offer. After some semi-serious haggling and a check-up by our mechanic, the dealer agreed to our offer and we brought home the latest addition to our family (affectionately called The A-Team around these parts).

Although it was in great working condition, it did, admittedly, look like the set of a bad 70's porn movie (or so I've been told, of course). After gutting and completely remodeling two houses with our sweat and muscle (really just Hubby's muscle and both of our sweat), we weren't afraid of tackling such a little space. So we gave it a major scrub-down, painted, tore out, replaced, and added our own special touches...

A few bumper stickers to give it some personality...

And, finally, never underestimate the power of a vintage hula girl...

We've gone out in it already 4 times: one time locally to try everything out (I will spare you the details of the first time poor Hubby tried to work the sewer system or, as I like to call it, the Poop Tube), once for a biking event, once just the four of us in the middle of nowhere, biking and hiking and barbecuing, and once with ALL of the grandparents AND the kids. Each time, I've been sad when it's time to pack it up and go home (yes, even the time with the grandparents). This coming Saturday we leave for our first "real" trip: 8 days all over Florida, exploring the old town of St. Augustine, 2 Florida beach campgrounds, Florida Caverns State Park, and possibly an elephant sanctuary and/or the famous little dolphin from the movie "Dolphin Tale." I have never felt as disconnected from the real world, stress, and the relentless noise in my own head as when I've been camping with the RV. Hubby says I'm a different person; he suggested making a tiny model of it and making me carry it around in my pocket. (I know, he's super funny, right?)

And yet, we almost didn't do this.

The night before we went to pay for it and bring it home, we almost chickened out. We had capped our adventurous tendencies so tightly, we almost forgot how to take a risk. It was like if we had been the responsible parents in the corner lot house for so long, we had forgotten how to be ourselves. It was when we realized that, that we knew we had to do this. Even if it didn't work out. Even if, in 6 months, we had to sell the thing. We needed this. We needed to remember what it felt like: to take a leap of faith, to look for adventure again, to be who we used to be, who we wanted to be again, now that things had "settled."

And so, we're not bored anymore. For now, anyways. I'm sure that in a few years, we'll find another adventure to jump that we've remembered what it feels like to be excited again.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

It's in the genes

I didn't even know he knew how to play Hangman.

"Yes, Mommy, I know, I knooooow. You don't have to teach me. I've seen you do it with your students before and I've played with Sofia a couple of times."

"Ok, Ben, but then don't you want me to go first? How are you going to know how to spell the words? And what if you can't think of anything?"

Then he busts out with this:

I'm not sure if the grin on my face was more from his message or the fact that he whipped it out without hesitation, informing me first that "It's 4 words."

For Round 2, the only explanation he gave is that he's "not really sure how to spell it" so he's "gonna do it the way he thinks it sounds."

For those of you not fluent in "invented spelling," that's SARCASTIC for ya.


As if that weren't enough, he hung me with it, too.


What kind of kindergarten graduate comes up with "sarcastic" for Hangman?!?

Oh yes...MY kindergarten graduate. And really, now that I think of it, his FATHER'S kindergarten graduate, too.

When I told the story to some of my friends and family, they just chuckled and said things like "Figures," and "I'm not surprised," and "So there you go." I don't know why we are ever surprised by Ben's personality; he is nearly exactly like us in so many ways.

It's like if now, all of a sudden, we have another partner in crime. It's not just the two of Us anymore, now we've got another one on the team.

And it's pretty cool.

For Father's Day, one of the gifts we had gotten Hubby was a book I knew he had really wanted. A few days before Father's Day, Hubby does what he often does right before a gift-receiving occasion: announced out of nowhere that maybe we would all go to Barnes and Noble the next day to hang out and shop because there was a book he really wanted to get. (It almost never fails: whether it's a book or a $3000 bike, Hubby's impatience usually kicks in and he gets himself whatever I got him.)

But this time, I had someone else on my side.

Ben stops with his cereal spoon midway to his mouth and (almost) subtly looks over at me. We make eye contact across the table, and I realize that he got it. He gets it enough, in fact, that he says nothing over breakfast, but comes immediately over to me in my room when we are done. He whispers: "Mama, we can't let Daddy go to Barnes and Noble!"

"I know, Ben, so here's what we're going to do..."

Between the two of us we devise a plan to get Daddy home and avoid the bookstore altogether, and the next day, the boys and I surprise Hubby with breakfast in bed (Ben's idea) and a bag filled with gifts, including the book he really, really wanted.

It's kind of odd, this shift we have felt from baby to full-fledged kid. And a smart, funny kid, at who can actually be part of the conspiracies, instead of have them explained to him all the time.

It's funny, because waaaaaay back in the days before kids, one of our biggest concern was our "cocoon." We used to say that we had this little cocoon of two, and we were very hesitant to let anyone else in. We liked each other so much, we weren't sure how we were going to handle having to share each other with someone else. (And don't get me wrong; there are definitely plenty of days when we would like nothing more than to throw the kids out the window drive-by style at the grandparents' house.) "Can you imagine?" we would ask each other. "We're gonna have a whole little person around here, another human being, sharing our space, our home, our life, our cocoon..."

And yet here we are now, stuffed in tight, the four of us, into this space...and now it feels like Ben has crossed over to really feeling like one of Us...similar humor, strong in his opinions, blunt in his thoughts, curious about everything.
Welcome to the team, Ben.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Jinx?

My mom believes in the "evil eye."

Mal de ojo.

That's what they call it in spanish. The old Cuban way of thinking is that if  you have good stuff in your life, then people will wish you ill. They will be jealous. They tell me this--my family--over and over again. Even young, professional, educated, modern, Cuban parents fall into this superstition: everywhere in Miami, you see cute fat babies with little black beads hanging from their necklaces--azabaches--to ward off the infamous evil eye.

I never believed in it.

When I had my kids, I refused to put one of these little black stones on them. I lectured my parents on karma. I told them that if someone wished my delicious, perfect little boy ill, then that person would surely get it back from the Universe. They, in turn, tried to tell me that most of the time, when you got this evil eye, it wasn't purposeful; it was actually accidental: people were just admiring your child, your choices, your life.

How could this be? I scoffed. You're trying to tell me that someone who is happy for me has accidentally given me bad luck? Nonsense.

Then again, I am the person who knocks on wood--literally--every single time I say something about how great things are. I mean, I actually wander around, mid-sentence, looking for wood, or something that resembles it, to knock on if I say something like "Everything is good. Everyone is good." It's like, I don't want to throw it out the universe...that all is good...I feel like just maybe, I might jinx myself.

Isn't that silly?

Isn't that almost the same thing as my mom with her evil eye and black beads?

For the last 17 days, at least one of the people in my household has been sick. Not sick-sick (I just knocked on the plywood computer desk), but sick as in strep throat, high fevers, overall misery. Poor Ben had it for a whopping 15 days. Aidan for a mere 2 (we cheated and broke every rule and gave him Ben's antibiotic the minute he started with the symptoms). And now, Hubby.

We postponed a major road trip with the 4 grandparents and 2 kids (yes, FOUR grandparents and TWO kids--sick ones, at that-- in one RV) and then went anyways and then had to come back one day early in a huff and a rush with a little one puking and suffering with 104. (Truth is I think the grandparents suffered more just watching and worrying and wishing I would have just put one teeny tiny little black bead on the kid...).

Now I postponed an annual girls' getaway because of Hubby.

I was told by my good wise old friend: "You know you're next."

I will NOT be next.
I refuse.

I can't take one more thermometer, one more dose of nasty-smelling antibiotic, one more cold washcloth on a steaming forehead.

I am officially pronouncing us all done.
You hear that, Universe? You hear that, jinx agents of the world? You hear that, Karma gods?

But maybe, just maybe, just in case, I will ask my mom for a couple of those beads...


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hello, Summer!


~daily routine
~inevitable morning chaos
~4:40 a.m. gym wake-up calls
~kindergarten (Ben!)
~part-time pre-k (Aidan)
~lunchbox packing
~working late with tutoring students
~"Does Ben have clean uniforms?"
~"Have you washed Aidan's napping stuff?"
~"Have you finished your homework?"
~"What am I going to wear to work today?"
~sight word lists
~backpack checks
~cafeteria salads
~teaching 53 students all day long
~worrying about the FCAT
~rushing to make it to bedtime
~Sunday night dread

Friday, May 18, 2012

Six Word Friday: A Parenting Conundrum

When will you grow up already?

They grow up way too fast.

What does the word GROW bring to your mind?
Join us at Six Word Fridays!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What I Really Want for Mother's Day: My Life, in Lists

1. A chef (doesn't even have to be a really good one; just one that will take care of "What are we eating tonight?")
2. An assistant to take care of all of the To-Do's that drive me absolutely insane in my day-to-day life
3. A pair of peep toe Christian Louboutins
4. To lose 5 pounds magically overnight
5. A magic cream that will erase the suddenly-drooping eyelids and neck (WTF happened after I turned 38?!?)
6. A pair of perfectly fitting and comfortable blue jeans
7. A perfect, 90 degrees and sunny, blue skies, clear water beach day
8. A longer summer
9. My boys to bicker less
10. To find the perfect shade of fluorescent (but not too fluorescent) pink nail polish
11. Someone else to scrub the bathrooms (I would add "mop the floors" too but Hubby did that today after little one puked all over)
12. At least a week with no fevers, no "my tummy hurts", no "my head hurts," and no puke
13. Sleep...blissful, dead-to-the-world, no-alarm, no-calling-for-Mommy-or-Daddy-in-the-middle-of-the-night, wake-up-when-I-feel-like-it sleep
14. A personal trainer
15. My knees to behave so I can run again
16. A new computer (and someone to completely set it up, move all my files, and reset my iTunes library)
17. More time (and energy) to write
18. A 3rd annual Mother's Day on the beach with decent weather, children who don't bicker or whine or cry or complain of salt water in their eyes, and no dysfunctional or awkward family interactions
19. My boys to make me feel really, really, really special
20. A tiny and charming condo, apartment, or shack on the beach...any beach, but preferably Hawaii
21. My hair to grow back to its original mane of long beachy blond waves (if that's too much to ask, then can this short little mop just behave?)
22. A bikini wax that doesn't hurt
23. A stand up paddle board
24. The return of the neighborhood video rental store
25. More patience (especially with the kids)
26. A case of straight-from-France wine
27. My husband's perspective on life
28. Babysitting

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Twenty-Five Reasons Why a Girl Who Loves Jane Austen Can Also Love Fifty Shades of Grey: My Life, in Lists

 1. You go a lot faster and a lot longer on the stairmaster if you're reading it.

2. You have a whole new perspective--and appreciation--for elevators.

3. And silver ties.

4. Suddenly, women everywhere are considering "dirty" sex as a not-so-dirty-thing.

5. Every woman wants to spend some time with a hot guy who is completely enraptured by her, gets aroused just looking at her, and wants to give her the world.

6. It gives you great stuff to talk about with your girls (and, if you're lucky, your husband).

7. It might propel you to try something you've never done before.

8. Floggers and handcuffs and crops...oh my!

9. Toys no longer seem like a bad idea, a threat, or icky to women everywhere.

10. Women who would never have set foot in a sex shop are suddenly flocking to them for girls' night out (or at least secretly ordering online).

11. You get a crash course in classical music.

12. Book Two.

13. It makes women think about sex, and when women think about sex, their partners get more of it, and when their partners get more of it, the relationship gets better.

14. It brings you in touch with your inner goddess.

15. It will make you rethink using that extra room as a playroom for the kids.

16. After a whole day thinking about deadlines and/or lunchboxes and/or laundry and/or bills and/or groceries and/or sippy cups and/or running the world, it's nice to just stop and think about sex (and romance, of course).

17. It reminds women that it's totally okay to be sexual.

18. It serves as evidence that "kinky f*ckery" AND romantic, loving sex do not have to be mutually exclusive (and sometimes can even occur on the same day..maybe even in the same room!).

19. Women around the world are strengthening their pelvic floor muscles (courtesy of The Silver Balls).

20. It's making women speak honestly and openly (read: no shame) about sex.

21. You realize that the work day goes by much quicker when you are engaging in witty sexual banter via email (or at least text).

22. Because even though Anastasia Steele's lack of self esteem drove us crazy (a lot), we could all relate to it (at least a little), and we loved that when she needed to, she'd kick a guy in the crotch or jump on a jet ski.

23. It's a total escape from life.

24. So you can be in the know when everyone around you is saying stuff like "Laters, baby," and "We aim to please," and "My breath hitched."

25. It's fun!!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Listening: The Things People Say

I'm glad I didn't listen when they said...
~Once you have kids, you can't do that anymore.
~If you leave him, I think you're going to ruin your life.
~You? Run a half-marathon? That's hilarious.
~You should be an accountant, not a teacher.
~You two are never going to work.
~All men are like that.
~You're getting a tattoo? Are you crazy?
~You really need to start doing Facebook.
~Pink hair is for rock stars.
~When it comes to real estate, you'll never lose money.
~You know, I'm really not the romantic type.
~Having another kid is just going to complicate your life.

I wish I hadn't listened when they said...
~I think this new guy...he's the one you should marry.
~Too bad you don't look like your sister.
~You shouldn't be a writer. That's never going to work.
~A size 12? I'm sorry, we don't sell sizes that big here.
~Things like that don't happen to people like us.
~Will you marry me? (the first time)
~Don't get the VW Cabrio; it's not a responsible choice.
~The beach is too far.
~Aren't you a little too old to go dancing all night?

I'm glad I listened when they said...
~Have you heard of "Fifty Shades of Grey"?
~Will you marry me? (the second time)
~You should really start watching that new HBO show about 4 girls in NY.
~I'm telling you, a Brazilian wax will change your life.
~Let's get an RV.
~You need to get some therapy.
~Hey, you wanna apply for one of those home make-over shows?
~You really need to get a smart phone of some type...
~If you like tequila, you should try Patron.
~Let's just throw a bag in the back of the Jeep and take off to the Keys.
~You should go away for the weekend with your girlfriends one day.
~Don't wash your hair so often.
~Why don't we move in together?
~You should try on the skinny jeans.
~If you let me, I'll take care of you.

This was the last topic for Momalom's Five for Five series. I can't believe that after barely blogging once a week, I managed to get out five consecutive days AND read other blogs and comment. Thanks, Jen and Sarah, for doing this again, for giving me a little kick in the ass, and reminding me what it feels like when this place is more towards the top of my To-Do List.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Age: Turning Forty and F*cking Fabulous

I'm turning 40 this year. Forty. It's weird. I didn't think it would be. But it is. I don't feel forty, although, really, what does forty feel like? I keep reminding myself: Gwen Stefani...isn't she like 42? And SJP...way over 40. Jen Aniston. So yeah, forty is still super hot and cool and hip, although really, I know: perhaps using celebrities as a comparison as I approach this major milestone is not the most brilliant or rational of ideas.

When I saw today's Five For Five topic, all I could think was: 40.

Although I will still be in my 30s for more than half a year, it is looming.

I debated just posting a bunch of images that have been floating around in my mind: the perfect party dress, the perfect pair of shoes, me in the perfect party dress and perfect pair of shoes surrounded by my homies in Vegas...

Yep, I decided a little alcohol, some friends, my Hubby, and a room at the Bellagio will soften the blow.

If I'm gonna turn 40 (before any of my friends and Hubby, mind you), I figure I should do it Big. Grand. Loud. Over-the-top. Tacky, even. And preferably while holding a martini in a feathered cocktail dress.

I'm not really sure what the big deal is. I never really used to have an issue with age. But then again, I've never been 40. And it's not like I'm hiding it: if my friends didn't think it was waaaaaay too tacky, I would make everyone wear shirts proclaiming: "Liz is turning 40 and she is fuckin' fabulous." That's the theme, anyways. Yep. I have a theme. And before you think I'm totally nuts, seeing as it's in December, for heaven's sake, just know that the airplane tickets are already booked. So see? I'm not getting that ahead of myself. I'm not obsessing that much. So it's official: I guess if I have a non-refundable ticket (along with several others that will be flying over there with me), then I guess I really am turning 40.

So you'd think, as much of a ponderer as I am, that I would already have plans...big, big plans for my new decade. Goals, adventures...  But nope, I haven't gotten past the shoes and the party dress. So as of right now, I'm gonna ignore the weird posing-questions-about-life-and-wrinkles-and-mortality-stage and just call this year's birthday an excuse for one hell of a party. I'll worry about the rest while recovering from my hangovers.

Vegas, babyyyyyyyyyyyyy.......!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Day in Pictures

"This is your wake-up call. Get your ass out of bed and go to the gym!"

After lacing up my sneakers, had to do another quick fever check...
boys have been sick for 4 days now. Haven't slept though the night (any of us!) since Friday!

Off to work for to Grandma's for one with fever (you'd never know it by the smile, huh?),
and off to school for the no-fever boy (notice the toilet paper roll for nose-blowing)

Commuting in Miami: sunny skies, lotsa traffic

My "other" children

So much for the no-fever kid...
the benefits of working at the same school your kid attends?
You get to snuggle with him during your lunch break when his teacher calls to tell you he's running a temperature.
Then you get to smuggle him into your classroom and let him sit and have a snack and catch up on homework.

How do I get through a long meeting at the end of an even longer week of state testing? I sit with My Girls and... Hubby. I KNOW...I actually work with some of my favorite people. I'm crazy-lucky.

What did the Amazon Fairy bring me?
Answer: Smut books #2 & 3! (I'm not proud, but I can't say I'm ashamed either!)
Which motivated me to...
take a five minute break with my fave beer & try to finish up guilty pleasure  #1!

Fevers don't excuse homework,  huh? (Toilet paper roll still there..ya think we should buy some Kleenex?)

When Hubby surprised me by bringing home this plant, I squealed so much (I had wanted one of these for a looooooong time), the boys decided to kiss it to show their appreciation.
Our version of reupholstering for our new (old) RV
(more on the RV in a future post...)

Dinner Aftermath

"Holy crap!" We're on TV!


*This post was on the topic of "Pictures," and was part of Momalom's 5 for 5.