My intrepid summer partner, Angie, and I kicked off summer vacation today with a trip to the lake.
I’m not the most graceful person I know, so I was nervous about learning how to stand up paddle board. I was surprised at how quickly I got the hang of it, though. I could spend my whole summer in one!
Once we returned I informed my father-in-law that we needed to rent a pair to try out to camp. He agreed, and I think he’ll be pleased!
Matt and I went to the Hot Rods day at Owl’s Head Transportation museum today. It was awesome- the bus picture here was one of my favorites.
Although I am always thinking about the amount of parenting Matt does (without the official title), I thought of it even more today.
We fished off Rockland’s breakwater after the car show, and then met my family at a local lobster pound. We wrapped up our day with a trip to see his parents. I had an allergic reaction while we were out and about and had to make an emergency Benadryl purchase.
Now I am in bed, talking to all of you. I’m puffy, itchy, and so so grateful for the dads in my life.
I feel myself sprouting and growing and greening up just like the tomato plants in my garden. I’ve been productive and focused and happy. I want to be my summer person all year round. Maybe I have chlorophyll instead of blood?
Just look at this:
I woke up at 5 a.m. today, so I was outside with Matt by 8. We sweated gardened for most of the day. Did I tell you we have the most wonderful neighbors? They are retired now, but ran a nursery and now share resources and knowledge with us. Anyway.
I capped my day off with drinks and dinner with a colleague just as evening rolled in.
It was a day of firsts. Our first swim while canoeing. The first time I’ve changed in front of my in-laws. Cheers (see me holding up my cup of Sleepytime tea?).
We were so thankful for dry weather that the intermittent clouds were no problem. Matt and I took the Forester, freighted with gear, out Route 9 and toward camp. We drank coffee and ate breakfast and had a rare, but much-needed, visit.
Once at camp I settled in with a stack of grading while Matt attempted to get his old VW Rabbit (1 out of 4) running. His family arrived, and with them, lots of wedding talk. His father asked me, “Why can’t you just elope like normal people?”.
Said Father and Matt’s brother dropped us, our canoe and gear off, and we whooshed by them shortly. Us, water everywhere; them, safely on shore, fishing and shooting video.
We knew we’d have big water today, but I certainly didn’t foresee what was to come.
We took some pics as we scouted the most difficult piece of our run. We were on the East Branch of the Union River and prepping to go over Ledge Falls. This spot has given us difficulty in the past, but usually because the water was TOO low.
Long story short, we dumped it.
I was pretty convinced that I was going to die. I was stuck for a few seconds but managed to wiggle my foot free and made sweet love to a huge rock. Once I was perched on the rock I was able to grab the canoe rope (Thanks, Matt for saving the canoe!) and haul it over to my rock. I flopped in, Matt hopped in, and we were back on our way. The rest of the trip was cold and wet, but we survived. Oddly, it was fun. We had a few more sections of fast water and then, poof, we were done. Matt built me a fire and I stood by it and wrung out my clothes while we waited for his parents.
Now we’re home and dry. Laundry is done and I am too.
That makes me giggle. Believe me, I am not becoming more mature or less impressed with scatalogical or vaginal humor thanks to this book. You should read it, but only if you won’t judge me and my love of it.
Anyway. This is what’s been happening in our neck of the woods.
Because I inherited a set of sub-par genes, I needed to have fasting blood work done. I am a coffee fiend, so Matt left me this kind note to remind my morning-zombie self to abstain.Then he gottheeffout before he had to deal with me.
My dear friend (and concert partner) and I once took Colby to see Phish in Portland, ME on a school night. Neither my mother nor his teacher were impressed. But hey! Family values! We all do things differently. We see music. This most recent time, though, fortuitously occurred on a long weekend. It was lovely and affirming and Colby slept the whole way home so Angie and I could gossip.
I’m not exactly sure what’s going on here, but I obviously thought it was photo worthy. Sometimes I have to be the foreman on our homework, work-site. It’s, uh, not so much fun.
And I read this book. And also this book. And this one. And another one that was meh. The one book you all need to buy and read, though, is We Were the Kennedys by Monica Wood. I took a class in memoir with Monica while she was writing it, and I smiled as I read because I could recognize her method as so completely her. She tells the story of an industrial Maine town, but at the same time she tells the story of every industrial town. This is a story for everyone who witnessed the end to a simpler way of life, and for everyone who wonders what that life could have been like. Buy it in hardcover, because you will read it many times.
My friend Jane let me babysit her delightful little girl. I promptly fed her sugar, got her dirty, let her dress herself, and whisked her off to a rowdy middle-school basketball game. It was the best day ever.
And when did my boy turn into a middle-schooler anyway? No fair.
One of my favorite parenting books says that whenever you have doubts about your children (say you suspect they are heading down that road of sociopathic behavior or maybe that they are learning how to be drug dealers when you’re in the other room on facebook), anyway, the book says when you have doubts you should observe your child in his or her natural environment. When you have a school-aged child, that environment is pretty much anywhere that is not home and not directly involving you. International Fair night made me feel better. Much better. Phew. Even though I could use some – nevermind.
My friends Megan and Justin are new members of the parental clan, and Colby loves their baby. As do I. Just look at his little shadow!
Colby attended his first District V festival with his school’s jazz band. They were awesome, of course, and scored well enough to compete again at the end of this month. Wish them luck!
Everyone has finally realized that when I say “I’m NEVER going ice fishing again”, I mean it. I am, though, quite happy to cook on the wood stove and read books while the boys are out fishing. Also, peeing outside when it’s 20 degrees provides perspective you can’t get anywhere else.
We took in the last game played in the Bangor Auditorium. It didn’t hurt to see my alma mater (and a group of wonderful young men, some former students of mine) win the gold ball.
Matt grew his hair out all winter. This was fine until he decided to cut his own bangs one morning. Any woman who has ever cut her own bangs knows exactly what happened next. They sprung up. It looked as if he had either passed out by the fire and they were burned off OR he had passed out on the couch and had bacon grease in them so the dogs chewed them off. It was horrific. I couldn’t even look at him. When he finally agreed to cut his hair I went to bed, dejected, he had refused to just. go. get. a. fucking. haircut. He woke me up 30 minutes later with the joe dirt mullet and blacked out tooth. I went back to bed, sure that I would have to deal with Joe in the morning. Much to my surprise, I woke to find a nearly normal looking human next to me. I finally won. Heather-1, Matt- 87.
I am coming back to my mat thankfully and more frequently these days. We have an interlude of a slower-paced life in-between sports seasons, and I plan on making good use of it.
That’s it for now, friends. I have a piece of salmon to turn into supper and a kiddo who needs cold medicine and a new box of tissues.
When people ask me how we’re doing, how life is, I inevitably reply “crazy” and then immediately feel like an asshole. Here’s the thing – we are living the same life most of you are living (or have lived through OR are quickly on your way to experiencing). I, WE, are no different from any other working family with active, school-aged children. What I do is not exceptional, it’s what we all do.
Nearly every day is a sprint-to-the-finish mission to just effing lay down. We herd kids, we drive kids, maybe we even teach kids. We go from sports practice to music practice to off-season sports practice to homework time to are-you-seriously-telling-me-your-science-book-is-at-school and where did you leave your pants?! time. I’m not sure about you, but by the time I’m halfway through my dinner glass of wine I am ready to hit the ground. As in, I would curl up ON the ground, with or without a blanket, and go to sleep if anyone would let me. But the dogs need to go out and the dishes aren’t done and my work bag is glaring at me from the corner and, insert your own after-dinner demon. I do not tend to end my evenings reflecting on how well my day has gone on the parent, partner, teacher scale.
Thank God this has finally happened.
Snow came yesterday and graciously canceled all after school activities, freeing up two or three extra after-school hours for us. I had a migraine and I had papers to grade, but had the odd ambition to run and swim. I’ll fill you in soon on exactly why and how fitness and general self-care left my life for a few months, but for now just know that this was a rare event. I decided to pick Colby up from school on-time and head over to the University of Maine rec center for a run and a swim.
Colby was both compliant AND excited (an anomaly these days) and packed quickly. I planned for him to use the indoor track with me to run and then hit the pool and hot tub. When I came out of the changing room (single mothers with male children – we need an entirely different post about the inherent problems with this system) he was nowhere to be found. Three frantic text messages and ten minutes later I spotted him on the basketball court with a bunch of his friends playing a pickup game. Once I was done being pissed about his lack of communicating his whereabouts I was elated – I got my solo run upstairs!
After I finished my (first in a looooong time) ssllllloooooowwwww and sweaty two miles, during which I realized some running pants actually do require you to wear underwear, I went downstairs and found Colby like this:
Happy and sweaty, just like his Mama.
We swam in the pool and soaked in the hot tub and left feeling like entirely different (and better) people. We kept asking each other “Uh – why don’t we do this all the time?”.
It took nearly a million years to get home on the snowy roads, but it was the best spent time we’ve had in so very long.
Here’s hoping that I won’t forget this small fact: we need to play, to hit pause in the general craziness of our lives, if we plan on enjoying any of it.
I didn’t push it, knowing that the more I pushed and cajoled, the more he would resist. And you know, trick-or-treating is kind of a pain in the ass, but I reallly wanted him to go. It wasn’t because of my overwhelming love of Halloween, but because in this new world of autonomy and music and girls and armpit hair (and an incredibly stressful election year) I wanted him to do something that allowed him to be a kid. Something silly and mindless and fun.
He finally decided, that tricky little monkey of mine, that he wanted to be Paul Bunyan. Then he told everyone that he was tricking me into buying him a new flannel shirt. One $12.99 LL Bean flannel later:
Then he and his cousin got the idea to go as Paul and Babe the Blue Ox. I was in heaven. Do you remember this book?
Our copy has a lot of miles on it, and it was the replacement for the copy I had as a child. Steven Kellog (of The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash fame) tells the Paul Bunyan tale with wit and pacing and verve. To boot, the illustrations are intricate and nuanced and are perfectly paired to the story. If you don’t own a copy, buy one now. Here are some of my favorite parts:
Paul Bunyan was the largest, smartest, and strongest baby ever born in the state of Maine.
He soon grew into a sturdy lad who was so quick on his feet he could blow out a candle and leap into bed before the room became dark.
And then there’s Babe the blue ox.
Both Paul and Babe began growing at an astonishing rate, but the ox never lost the color of the snow from which he’d been rescued.
He has seasonal affective disorder:
The blizzard continued for several years … the crew… hibernated. Babe became so depressed that Paul asked Ole to make a pair of sunglasses for his friend. When Babe saw the world colored green, he thought he’d stumbled into a field of clover.
So he ate all the snow.
At that point, all those pent-up springtimes simply exploded, dissolving the storm clouds and the remaining snow.
Sigh. And then the pancakes and the gumberoos and the canyon.
Sometimes his great bursts of laughter can be heard rumbling like distant thunder across the wild Alaskan mountain ranges where he and Babe still roam.
Anyway. I was happy to prolong the magic just one more year. We made pancakes and ate them standing up at the kitchen counter. My aunt and I tried to get the boys (one mine and one hers) ready, but it felt a lot like what I imagine herding wet cats would be like. The boys went out and maybe did more aimless walking around than trick-or-treating, I walked with another mother not necessarily trailing the kids, but you know, just being in the general area.
A quick note: I was the only teacher dressed up at work. I went as Medusa which no one thought was really a stretch, but it was awesome. Awesomer than being Medusa? Having post-Halloween dreads as a result.
I have a love/hate relationship with major election years. My love of theory and policy and social justice has difficulty overcoming my keen dislike of conflict. This causes problems.
I’m loving where we are at this point in history, though. Let me keep my optimism, please.
After supper (and a discussion of medical marijuana?) and chores C and I packed up and drove to see the Marine Corps Band. A colleague couldn’t attend and I knew Colby would be quite happy to take his seats. It wasn’t until we were seated (in the perfect, percussion section watching spot) that I was able to recognize quite what a big deal this show was. A quick glance at the audience revealed many white-haired or no-haired heads, though there was a significant showing of students and young adults.
What a show! Colby and I used to regularly attend performances here, but he was a young man in his element tonight. Watching his face, I could see him feeling the music, smiling at certain spots and mimicking the movements of the percussionists hands. It makes my heart flutter to think that he loves something that much, to think that he has a great passion. Our favorite piece was called “Asphalt Cocktail”, this rowdy and discordant piece in which a band member played the trashcan. Who doesn’t love that? The performance included what you would expect, Stars and Stripes Forever and Armed Services Medley and such, with some wonderfully surprising pieces interspersed. The second encore included a crowd sing of America the Beautiful, and Colby and I both knew the words (Thank you Mrs. Tardiff!).
Every time I settle into one of the new Collins Center seats I remember the first time Colby was there – in 2001 for the Cohen lecture series. He was a newborn, I was there for extra credit, and as soon as he was finished nursing I hoisted him up over my shoulder, at which point he vomited into the collar of my shirt so that a river of partially digested milk flowed under my shirt, down my back and pooled in the waistband of my jeans.
Tonight though, no vomit. Just intermission cookies, legs and shoulders spread wide into my space, and a face to look up at instead of down at. Colby yawned toward the end of the show, and this is the point in which I usually throw my arm around his shoulders and snuggle him onto my shoulder to rest. Tonight, I realized that this will no longer work. Instead I, yawning, let my head rest on his shoulder.
Then into the car to listen to the debate. And home for the debate – and debate snacks.
Don’t get confused. I haven’t undergone a radical change to become a paragon of preparedness and forethought. I have, however, managed to purchase a winter coat for Colby before snow is on the ground. This is something we usually get around to after he has spent a week going to school with his ever-broadening wrists exposed and wearing mismatched dollar store stretchy gloves.
Apparently it is so cold on the sun porch that he must wear his new coat and hat.
It’s been one of those weekends that I enjoy more because my winter-self is perched inside my left inner-ear reminding me that the clock is ticking.
The above picture may chronicle the most terrifying event of my life – in which I, one lone adult, take three, 12-year-old boys to hike a mountain. Believe me – I knew exactly how far we were from the nearest hospital. I certainly heard snippets of conversations I wish I hadn’t heard (“That’s what she said! hahahaha!”), but when I heard them pointing out trees and birds and aweing over the foliage, the terror and the education was totally worth it. On the way down a woman told me I was brave, and while I was thankful for the compliment, she and I both knew that what I was demonstrating was not bravery, but a combination of optimism and stupidity. I’m glad we’re down now.
My parents picked us up to celebrate Pumpkin Day. What?! You don’t celebrate PUMPKIN DAY?! Oh people. Pumpkin Day is an annual holiday that always occurs on the Sunday after my childhood friend Jenny’s birthday.
We spent one day with our friends at Owls Head Transportation Museum. Colby spent the evening with Mimi and Papa, and we had a rare quiet car ride. Since Colby doesn’t really fit in the back of any of our vehicles and I get motion sick, our family car trips tend to be filled with lots of clearly articulated complaints or passive-aggressive sighing. We’re all guilty, and it tends to be enjoyable for none of us. I popped two Dramamine at breakfast and slept nearly the whole way down and back – a present for me, a present for Matt.
It’s the last week of soccer season here, and I’m just now doing the laundry from last Thursday’s monsoon game. This was not a smart move on my part. As much as I want to run out the door to make a 6 o’clock yoga class, the smells of last week’s laundry are beginning to mingle with the aroma of last week’s dishes. I’m not sure which one is worse, and this means I need to tackle it all.
I’ve decided that I am going to keep some of that bravery from the weekend tucked in my pocket, because I really need the optimism to balance out the stupidity of our daily routines, or lack of. So this week: real dinners! finished homework! umbrella and blankets packed!