Saturday, July 22, 2017

Cool as a cucumber EXCEPT when it comes to back-to-school shopping

People with OCD are often accused of being particular, but I have found that they often aren't any more particular than regular people. They have their oddities, for sure, but these are generally not of the "shallow stuff variety" like M&M colors or which way the danged toilet paper roll goes on the holder, which is what regular people often get their panties in a twist about.

I mean, there are freaking memes about that junk.

I do not have to have M&Ms sorted, and I am just glad someone other than me PUT the toilet paper ON the holder so I have never understood how these things are attributed to OCD-ness.

I'm sure having children has led me to become more relaxed about things.  I don't care what my kids' hair looks like provided it is trimmed and clean (and clean is a relative term). I don't especially care what they wear provided they and their clothes are clean (or relatively clean).

Twice this past year, I have had two people refer to me as being "cool as a cucumber," which I think is both HILARIOUS and appropriate.

I have never thought of myself as a cool as a cucumber-type person because I tend to be pretty excitable, but it is over weird stuff.

One time I was referred to in this way related to how I am as a substitute teacher, and this is probably true. I try very hard to stay completely unflustered by students because that is exactly (especially if they are of the middle-school persuasion) what they want. It is better for me to look bored and ask, "Are you done?" than to get myself all in a kerfluffle. Whispering in their ear, I've found, is far more effective than making a scene which gives them no choice but to make a scene back.

The other was in reference to VBS. My motto is, "Unless I'm getting paid for something, I am not going to worry about it too much." It will all work out, so I'm not going to sweat it much.....or at all.

When it comes to school supplies, however, I am fairly laid back and always have been. I never cared (and still don't) what colors and kinds of notebooks or folders or pencils my students use...whether they are my actual students or my children who are students and for whom I purchase the supplies.

Perhaps in some parallel universe and in some naturally highly organized Earth children, they say, "Oh, blue folder goes with blue notebook," but my experience is that kids are generally idiots who have to be savagely beaten into noticing stuff like this. Any old pencil, notebook, and folder will do when they are asked to get out a pencil, notebook, and folder. I wanted to utilize every second of classroom time and not waste it dicking about with colors of notebooks or whether someone had a pencil.  Find a friend or write with a crayon, but let's go--we got shit to learn.

I have learned to not buy N anything until after the first day of school. When she began 6th grade, I purchased from the "general supply list" and then had to go back out again and purchase plastic folders instead of paper ones since her teacher didn't like that the paper ones fall apart.

Where I am not as cool as a cucumber is on the purchasing end of the school supply thing. I get immensely aggravated at other people's persnicketiness that I have to deal with in a store. I find myself wandering around Staples mumbling things like, "Why don't they just ask for chartreuse notebooks?  How impossible are those to find?  And what is wrong with BLACK notebooks? Is everyone prejudiced against BLACK notebooks?"

I CANNOT HARDLY WAIT for N to start high school so that she can wear regular clothes and I no longer have to drive to every store in town to find uniform pants that fit her in the legs, are not so low-waisted that they ride up her nether regions, that are also the "right" shade of khaki that do not look like jeans, and do not cost $40.

Of course, just as she is getting out of uniforms, G will soon be moving into them which will be an entire blogging thread of disgust and non-cucumber-like behavior. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

The story I've already told my children about risking alcohol

I am not a teetotaler. I enjoy an occasional glass of wine or a beer, but I know my absolute limit is two drinks (and that is two little drinks....not two full glasses of anything like what I might be served at a restaurant).
It takes many months for me and D to go through our alcohol stash. We often just split a beer when we do drink. 
For us, it is a very short drive between relaxed and ready to fall asleep.

At the ripe old age of 21, I stopped drinking more than two drinks and also stopped drinking hard liquor when I got tossed out of a stadium for public intoxication and had a 5-day hangover. How I didn't die of alcohol poisoning remains a mystery to me. 

I have yet to tell my children that story but I will as a warning to them. 

The story I do tell them is the one from when I was 16. 
I got remarkably dumb between 16 and 21, which will be more clear momentarily.

When I was 16, a friend and some of her friends were going to pick me up to go dancing at a local club for teens.  

They arrived, and I got into the car.
I noticed the empty alcohol bottles on the floor.  
I don't recall now whether they were cans or bottles, but I seem to remember glass.
It doesn't matter. What mattered is that I knew the driver, who was my friend's friend, had been drinking.
From the moment I sat down and noticed the booze, I was terrified. 
And angry.

I was scared that we would have an accident, and more importantly, I was fucking pissed off that my "friend" would put my life in potential jeopardy. 

Initially, I was more scared than angry but as we drove away from my house, my fear lessened as my anger increased. 

These were the days long before cell phones.
I kept thinking to myself, "How can I get out of this?"
And that is when I saw a convenience store near my dad's work, which was on the way to the teen club.
I asked them to stop at the convenience store so I could run in and get something.
I ran in, got on the phone, and called my mom.
I told her the driver had been drinking, and I was scared.
I asked her to come pick me up and take me to the teen club (I was meeting my boyfriend at the time). 

Honestly, I don't remember much after that point.
My mom came to me and drove me to the club. 
I seem to recall my friend talking to me both at the convenience store and at the teen club. I'm sure she apologized, but I don't think I accepted.
It took me a long, long time to forgive her for that. 
That event basically destroyed what had been a close friendship. It was never the same between us again.
I could forgive her for putting me in that situation, but I could no longer trust her.
We could be friendly but we could never be friends again. 

Now clearly, this event didn't sour me from alcohol overuse because of the stadium event at age 21. What soured me from alcohol overuse was the 5-day hangover. 
Who wants to feel like shit after drinking?

Plus, I knew of my dad's 2-drink limit. His own father was an alcoholic who drank away the family's income and beat the shit out of my grandmother.
My dad's youngest brother died of liver disease in his 40s due to alcohol abuse. 
Dad learned all too well that he had to be very strict about his own alcohol use to ensure he didn't go down that path. 

A couple years ago, I interviewed two addiction specialists for an article I was writing because many people....myself included at times....make light of drinking alcohol.  You see things about "Mommy's sippy cup" and other funny memes about drinking, and it makes alcohol use seem not as dangerous as it can be. 

I try to reserve judgment about alcohol use, and drug use for that matter. Addiction is a tricky thing.  People don't try to become addicted to anything. There are an awful lot of people who have untreated mental health issues (anxiety, ADD, depression, bipolar, etc) who self-medicate as a way to cool down those parts of their brains they just can't quiet without alcohol or drugs. There is usually an awful lot of pain and general dissatisfaction in life behind the booze or the drugs. 

And, honestly, what people do in their own homes with their own money is none of my business. 

But should it potentially threaten me or my kids.....then it becomes my business.
It was hard to remove myself from the aforementioned sticky situation when I was 16, but at nearly 44 and with three children I need to protect, I have no qualms about making my feelings known now. 

During summer, I remember how hard it was to be with my children 24/7

The novelty of free time in June has become the endless cycle of free time in July.

I enjoyed summer break throughout June, but now that we are in July, I am getting tired of my children, especially the middle one.

This is less about him and more about my reaction to him. I allow him to get under my skin in a way that I do not allow other people, and I do not understand why.  I guess part of it is that he is compulsive and obsessive (hence his darn OCD diagnosis), so he just doesn't give me a moment's peace.  And I am susceptible to compulsions and obsessions (hence my darn OCD diagnosis), which makes me less tolerant of hearing the same request over and over and over.

He keeps bugging me to go on a date with D so that I can hire his camp counselor from Girl Scout Camp to come babysit him and M. He's 9 so he doesn't understand that going on a date requires money for the date and for the sitter and requires that I figure out dinner for him and his siblings, so it's not like "date night" keeps me from thinking about food planning. It's not like D can just come home from work and I say, "Let's go out. Goodbye children" and leave.

I suspect that time will come, but it ain't here yet.

He also keeps asking me to plan playdates and sleepovers for him and every person he has ever known in his entire 9-year-old life.

The other day, G insisted we exchange phone numbers with some kid at the pool he had just met. His name is Caleb, and I have his mom's phone number, but that is the extent of our knowledge of this child.
Where he lives?  Don't know.
Last name? Don't know.
How old he is? Don't know.
Spawn of serial killers? Don't know.

G is very much like me in that his mind needs to be actively occupied to keep from getting stuck in the OCD groove. I didn't get better at doing that until I became an adult and had all the crap of adulthood to keep my mind occupied--like bill-paying and cleaning and responsibility.

Anyway, by the time July came, I was starting to remember just how hard it is to be with my children 24/7.
Even though they can occupy themselves much better than when they were little and can mostly get their own snacks, they still require me for a lot of stuff.

It made me think about how unhappy and cranky I was at times when I was a full-time SAHM and how much I relished the times when I could get the heck away from my children.

Of course, there were many things about when they were little that were much easier. They were happy to go outside and play anytime. They weren't interested in technology and devices. They had opinions but I was bigger and stronger and could just plop them in their carseats and take them where I wanted.

I guess it is good for me to remember what was difficult about then to appreciate what is easier now. There is no perfect time.
Sometimes I forget that.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Giving them opportunities to use their judgment

I have two basic rules that I would like for my children to live by:
1. Do not kill anyone.
2. Do not do drugs.

Beyond this, I don't care who they marry (gay or straight), what job they have, whether they go to college, whether they get tattoos or piercings, whether they have a child out of wedlock, or whether they are Republican or Democrat or Independent. Whatever it is that I suspect other parents might make a big deal out of, I intend to not make a big deal of.

I just feel that a person can come back from most anything else but killing someone or doing drugs has the potential to completely ruin your life without any chance of returning to the life you had before.

We are pretty open with our children and try to discuss with them what is appropriate and not and when and why.

I do not monitor them every second on their electronic devices, but I find they regularly tell on themselves by letting it be known what they are doing. I don't think they think they need to be sneaky.

A part of me wonders if this is the right parenting tract, but I tell myself that I am giving them opportunities to use their judgment. I cannot parent the entire Internet.

As much as I would like to toss every device we own out a window after bashing them with mallets first and all of us learn the dulcimer, that is not likely to happen.

When I was 13 and younger, I was sleeping over at friend's houses and sneaking out to meet boys. I was too busy doing whatever it was I knew would drive my parents insane and get me into a world of trouble. I knew what was taboo, and I made a beeline for it.

Of course, there is a limit to what I will tolerate.  I would never (and will never) be a parent who buys my kids drugs or booze or or smokes or allows them to have boyfriends/girlfriends sleep over when they are of a certain age and in a romantic relationship with said boyfriend/girlfriend.

But I feel like I could actually drive myself insane if I try to police the wide web of the electronic world.

Chances are good I won't get into heaven

I don't actually believe in heaven and hell, but if there is a heaven, I feel pretty certain I won't go there.
I don't expect I'll end up in hell, either.
A nice uncomfortable seat in purgatory will be mine.

Of course, I'm already in purgatory.


Today, as the kids and I were walking back to our car downtown, a man right outside of a Subway asked for money so he could get something to eat.

I shook my head no, and as I walked along I was reminded by my conscience that when I do (or not do) unto others, I do unto Jesus. I told D and the kids to go ahead, and I returned to the man.

I asked him, "Do you want me to buy you something to eat?"
He replied, "I need money for the bus to get home."
I then noticed that he had a beverage cup in his hand with a beverage still in it.
I turned around and caught up with my children because his story had changed.

Just as in good conscience I could not not buy him food if he was hungry, I could also not give him money because it didn't sit right with me. That was not what he had asked for to begin with.

I told the kids about it and about my uncomfortable feelings about maybe what this guy's story was and about my own uncomfortable feelings about not just giving him money.....yes because he might buy drugs or cigarettes or booze with it. I can't in good conscience give people cash that might be spent on drugs or booze or cigarettes.

There is judgment there, but I can't help it, and it bothers me immensely that there is judgment and that I can't help it.

As we continued our drive home, G said, "Life is difficult," and I couldn't help but agree. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

So how do I "plan" these trips?

I am certainly no guru of vacation planning, but I have collected some websites that I regularly use to help me when I travel plan. 

We try to avoid hotels as much as possible because we are a family of 5, and my mother-in-law often accompanies us on long trips, which makes us a family of 6. 

Finding one hotel room that can handle 5 people is difficult, but when we need a hotel, I try to use this site to help me locate one. 

I have had great success using VRBO to find houses and condos--in South Carolina, in Alabama, in Florida, in Michigan.  I have not used Airbnb only because I've had good luck with VRBO.

I have used Roadtrippers to help find unusual things along the route that we plan to take. On one drive to Sanibel Island, FL (a 14-hour drive), we stopped at Foster Falls, TN because I found it on Roadtrippers.  It was a lovely hike that broke up the drive. 

To be perfectly honest, most of my travel "finds" have been pure dumb luck.  

We used a Canadian travel agency for our Quebec trip that I just happened upon one day while searching---Fresh Tracks Canada.   The company completely rocked it out with super personalized service. I could not recommend them more highly. 

In thinking about a trip to Utah, I have been using this site a lot. One of the things I like about it is that it lists trails that are good to do with kids. I just googled "Mighty 5 Utah with kids" and found it. It has been very good at taking me down a travel rabbit hole from which I reluctantly return to real life. 

When we've gone to Disney, we never stay on property but have always used Florida Sun Vacation Homes to book a house within a mile or two of Disney property. A friend of mine from back in Mom Club days turned me onto this site. A three-bedroom, 3-bath condo during peak season is around $150 a night. We'll drive ourselves 1-mile to Disney for $150 a night, thank you very much. 

A big part of planning is knowing what you and your family like and don't like. We do not like busy, touristy places with lots of people and traffic. Anything with a "strip" is to be avoided, which means my searches do not involve those types of things. 

G always likes to play miniature golf, so that is one of the things I look for whenever we do a beach trip. We aren't big on eating out, so I don't spend a lot of time looking up restaurants. One of my rules is that if there is a lighthouse where we go, we have to see it. I just like 'em, so when I research places that are near water, I always check for this. 

In the past, I've tried to do one day trip to a nearby city when we go to the beach. When we went to Edisto Island, we were an hour from Charleston, so we drove over and spent the day. On our upcoming trip, we'll be near Savannah, but I've decided we will not go there. D and I visited Savannah prior to kids and have nice memories of it which we would like to keep intact. 

Also, I think since D and I did Quebec, I kinda got the "do something more than sitting on the beach" thing out of my system. 

When I see essays in magazines on travel, I make a point to cut them out and save them. I did this eons ago with an article about the UP.  It took us a long time to get there, but that article planted a seed that eventually grew into a trip. Call it an "inspiration board" if you like. 

These are two articles I found---one from Better Homes & Gardens on national parks, and the other from a travel magazine that came with the newspaper. I have them hanging from a magnet board in my kitchen so I can see them and reference them if needed. 

I also keep a manilla folder on my desk for brochures that I pick up. I think Chattanooga, TN would be a great little trip at some point. 

I take a lot of notes and look at a lot of maps to figure out where we want to go, and then I draw my route so I can get a better handle on it. I also plot time distance between spots. 

When I was talking to my parents yesterday about Utah, my dad was like, "Oh, it doesn't take long to drive between Zion and Bryce," but I had to remind him that travel time with two adults in the car is different from travel time with 2 adults, 1 teenager and 2 very loud little boys in the car. Two hours with two adults is a nice drive. Two hours with the aforementioned combination whose Kindles have run out of juice is the premise of a horror film. 

Anyway, I'm always game to talk about travel with people, share my dumb luck finds, and utilize their knowledge. I think people who enjoy travel tend to find each other. One of my girlfriends has been a great source of inspiration for trips. I've also used Facebook a lot to get in touch with people. A friend of mine from book club grew up in Michigan---she got me in contact with a couple of her friends who could provide me info on the UP, which was super helpful. 

This is SO MUCH BETTER than reality television, right?

Yes, we're running out of time

I annoy my husband, my mother, and my sister-in-law with my exuberant vacation planning.
I likely annoy other people, too, but these are the confirmed cases.

It drives them bonkers that I haven't even gone on the current year's family vacation before I'm off and planning next year's......or 2024's.

How do I have time for this?
I do not watch television.  Ever.
This gives me loads of time to 1. read books and 2. research places to see and things to do.

I immensely enjoy learning about other places and dreaming of what seeing these places with my own two eyes might be like.

Just because I talk about a place doesn't mean that this is where we will land.

Before D and I finally decided on Quebec, I had researched Paris, Bavaria, The Greenbriar Inn in West Virginia, Hawaii, and Key West. I had also suggested that we just drive one mile to the Hilton Garden Inn because I couldn't decide.

G asked to go to Atlantis in the Bahamas, and I researched it. He also asked to go to Moon Palace in Cancun, and I researched that, too.

Given our "international airport" that isn't AT ALL international, it would be insanely expensive to go to either of those places, and I don't have a burning desire to visit either. I mean, if someone handed me $10,000 and said, "This money HAS TO BE SPENT ON A TRIP TO THE BAHAMAS OR CANCUN!" I would oblige them. But if I am spending our money, I want to go someplace that D or I really want to go (and by D and I, I mostly mean "I" because D just goes along 98% of the time with whatever I want to do).

My sister-in-law, when I commented that G just wants to go to a cool pool, said, "Why don't you just take him to Great Wolf Lodge?"

We have never been to a Great Wolf Lodge, mostly because D and I don't relish being around people very much. This is why we like hiking in the woods and seeing outdoors stuff---less people, more rock, tree, animals that don't speak.

But her idea was GENIUS!!

So I showed G the website and asked, "If we went here, could we forget about Atlantis and Cancun?" and he said yes.

Now that I feel like his desire will be happily met, I can carry on with my desire to visit out west.

Now, two days ago, D and I took the kids an hour away from our house to a state park, where we made them hike a bit and then hung out at the park pool.  They complained, of course, but overall, they did what we wanted to do without complete meltdowns for 4 hours.

We spent $9 to enter the state park, $15 for all 5 of us to swim, and $13 at the concession stand. A day trip to the woods for well under $50 is less than what we'd spend if we stayed in town and went to the trampoline place for an hour.

I am going to whine like hell about hiking in the woods
 and walking up a trail, but you bet your sweet bippy, I will climb
 this thing 37,000 times to go down the water slide 
and love every second of it.

Someone call CPS. My mother made me 
look at this amazing wonder of creation. 

Geezus, this woman loves me and wants me to walk
 and enjoy nature and quiet and family time.

When I blathered on yesterday about going to Utah next summer, D mentioned how well N did in comparison to the boys on our Monday hiking excursion and said that maybe we had better wait until the boys are N's age.

He has a point.
At 13, N can carry her own stuff and doesn't complain, but a large part of that is that N just isn't a complainer.
G will complain whether he is 13 or 23 or 103. That is part of his personality. He has never been a go-with-the-flow kid, and I doubt he ever will be. He takes bribery and cajoling and (much desiring of beer on my part).

But my point is that when G is 13, N will be almost 17.
When M is 13, N will be almost 19.

She will be gone, busy with her own life, although I suspect an all-expense paid trip to wherever is a good inducement to go with her parents and younger brothers.
However, I know that for me, I did not go on a vacation with my parents and brother when I was newly graduated from high school because I had gotten a summer job at a grocery store that went belly-up two months later.
I have wished for a long, long time that I had told the grocery store I was going on vacation with my parents, and I'd see them in a week.
I know that I rarely regret what I DID, but I always regret what I DIDN'T DO.

My argument is that the time is now (and given how stiff D's back was yesterday after hiking on Monday, I say we better get out to Utah before he is too old and decrepit to go himself).

My experience is that when your youngest child is 7 and your oldest is 13, you realize that 1. this is an awesome sweet spot of parenting and 2. HOLY CRAP it is going to end very soon so I better carpe diem the heck out of the next decade.

If Utah looks to be too intense, my back-up is the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
But barring a catastrophe, our butts will be heading west next summer.