Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The boys had Lucky Charms and donuts for breakfast.

I don't want any more of my ice cream, says the big little man, pushing his dish—not the one pictured below, that's Jon's—away.

I smile inside, thinking: what a smart, self-regulating young man we've got going on here. (This one. The little little man, still at Grandma and Papa's, licks the bowl and then reaches for his big brother's leftovers. Every. Time.)

Then he explains why he isn't going to finish his Phish Food: He had Lucky Charms—and a donut—for breakfast. My teeth suddenly feel filmy. My mind flashes to snippets of all the peer-reviewed journal articles I've read in the last 15 years, the studies suggesting that sugar is rotting our kids' teeth, their bodies, their brains.

As I kid, I was not allowed to have Lucky Charms for breakfast. Or Sugar Smacks. Or even Honey Nut Cheerios. At the Micco household, the breakfast cereal choices were limited to four options: regular Cheerios, Chex, Rice Crispies and Kix (Kid Tested, Mother Approved indeed). I'm pretty sure Jon wasn't offered cereal-candy for breakfast either. But his mom is a Grandma now (a good, fun, loving one, I should add)—and when her grandkids say they are hungry for breakfast, sometimes Lucky Charms are on the table. And, really, what kid can resist?

What's wrong with this photo? 
Much as it makes my nutrition-degreed self crazy to think of consuming such a product for a proper meal (dessert, offered in an appropriate context, is an entirely different story), I've accepted that my in-laws consider "spoiling kids" (their words, not mine) with sugary treats at all hours of the day a bona fide accountability in their grandparent job description. It's fine. It's occasional. It's all good.

I say this... but at some point I must have projected my knee-jerk discomfort with the nutrient-deficient diet the boys consume at the Adirondack cabin. This is obvious because he delivers this breakfast report in sing-song. The kid is taunting me. The cereal-and-pastry confession is followed with this: "... and I bet Kai is gonna be up SO late tonight. Grandma and Papa let us stay up so, so late... like till 9 o'clock." Suspicion confirmed.

I don't react. I see what's going on here.

"... past 9 o'clock. Till 10 o'clock." 

I maintain a normal face. A smiley one.

"No, no! Past 10 o'clock. They let us stay up till 11 o'clock!" 

He's searching, waiting for a reaction. Jackpot. Jon and I are both cracking up. But mostly we're impressed that Jules seems to have developed a pretty solid understanding of time. Which flies far too quickly to be concerned with quarterly sugary cereal splurges.

Monday, August 26, 2013

I have lots to learn about schools today.

"Did you like homework when you were a little girl, Mama?" I love the way he says girl—his R's are still the little-kid kind, articulated in a way that's not quite right but entirely age-appropriate, according to my sis, the speech-language pathologist.

Under my watch (read: restoring him to a seated position every time he cartwheels off the chair) he's completing his first homework assignment, one that prompts him to write in little squares things about himself: what he's good at (digging rocks), what are his hobbies (puzzles, museums and hiking), what kind of ice cream is his favorite (maple and vanilla) and what places he's visited (Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Cape Cod). His responses to this assignment seem to lend evidence to my theory that this  little guy is going to dig school.

What sort of makes sense. I did. And so did his dad.

"Yes, Jules, I liked homework. I still like homework. Learning things is super fun, don't you think?"


What I didn't always like was sitting in a chair, still. What I didn't like was being quiet. Memorizing and regurgitating facts whose importance I couldn't really place in the real world. Focusing on information that felt static. Having to try to concentrate in a silent space. I still struggle with these things. And I think someone else might too.

I've heard amazing things about our community school—and I hope they're all true. I think it's important to know things, a lot of things. But I think it's even more important to be curious enough to explore the space all around the stuff that's known and imagine how you might fill in what's missing, to seek out the synergies that allow for evolution—and to know when it's time to shut the books and play music in your underpants.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I go through phases.

I bought baby carrots today. And wipes that allow me to disinfect a counter without having to exercise a single spray. I've been washing my face with a similar convenience product okay for sensitive skin. This is not typical. Or has not been—until recently. And there's more.

These days, if I invite you over for dinner (which I love to do),  you can pretty much expect to be served hot dogs and burgers, often purchased pre-pattied from the Shelburne Meat Market, just down the street. Corn on the cob might be served on the side. Or potatoes that require only slicing and oiling before they hit the grill. If you ask what to bring, I'll tell you a salad. I appreciate your chopping. If I make it myself, it'll be a compilation of pre-washed greens, baby tomatoes, slivered almonds and olives. If I'm feeling generous, I'll slice up some scallions. Dessert will probably be a couple of pints of premium ice cream—or maybe a "fancy" dessert (see below) made by layering pre-made pound cake around a half gallon of cookie-d ice cream. (Mary McCartney told me to do it.)

If you look closely in the corners, or you help me to clean up the bins of Legos that the kids have dumped around the house throughout the night, you'll notice tufts of cat hair and dog fur (this actually always has been typical). I don't change out of my bathing suit when I get home from the beach (it's not wet). I lost my makeup bag for most of the weekend (nbd).

I know some friends will say that this is the start of a slippery slope but this caring less about little things—letting them drop to make way for more space to fill with people and parenting and work projects, I think, is a good thing. For now. Because I don't think it's the start of anything. I can only sustain this sort of living for a short time, and then I'm back to chopping pounds of (locally grown) plants for new vegan recipes and railing against all of the wasteful paper products 'round the house and wasting time changing my nail polish. It's sort of a seasonal cycle. How 'bout you?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

There are limits.

I've written lots of magazine stories that would seem to suggest you can create energy: by eating strategically, going for a walk instead of another cup of coffee, sniffing invigorating scents. Bullshit. Today—today—I'm going with the laws of thermodynamics, straight-up.  Sorta. I kinda think energy can be destroyed. Here's how:
  • Wake up late to two dueling iPhone alarms, both downstairs. There's a kid in our bed lying perpendicular between us, forming a perfect H.
  • Digs circles. Olive slithers. Demanding food and love. The aroma of coffee wafts. Thank God.
  • Breakfast battles > dressing drama > out-the-door dawdling.
  • Dentist > deliberations > discussions.
  • Kid pickup. Disturbing report. (All is fine but WTF?!?).
  • Championship softball game; little "fans" snake through mounds of dust while I stand sentry waiting for a foul ball to knock someone off. It's not like I could catch it. (All the time others were developing hand-eye coordination, I was doing handsprings, aerials, plies. Dammit.)
  • Herding humans > mud-room strip-down > naked parade/pet feeding > one-minute, assisted showers. PJs.
  • Dinner making > dinner eating > dinner clearing.
  • Dessert demanding. I succumb. 
  • Teeth tending. Kid TV. Books. Back-scratching.
  • Him: "Tell me a story...." Me: "I can't. My brain doesn't work anymore. 'Night."

I imagine the inside of my head an iPhone with too many apps running at once. Battery's draining like an emptying tub. All to do is reboot.

My old-author self would tell me to go lace up those new minimalist shoes (half off, perhaps due to their John Deere hues) and get down to the basement for a workout. Common sense would send me to bed. Instead, I pour myself a glass of Cab and ready myself for a date with Cary Agos. Done.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Going with the flow is refreshing.

"Do you have your suit on? We're going to hit the driving range, then go to the swimming hole, then over to Flatbread." 

My skin starts to itch. Do I have my suit on? Um, no. I'm literally just stepping out of the Escape, back from a quick kid-book shopping spree at the Goodwill on the way home from our hike in the woods at Chris and Ri's. (We have separate cars because I had one too many margaritas the night before.) He's loading the van with golf clubs and back packs.

I haven't shaved my legs in three days. What are we going to do with Dempsey? I am shouting things over my shoulder, grumpily, as I run into the house. I don't want to miss out on family fun but I need advance warning of plans. It's not a quality I like but it is. When I pass the dining room en route to my suit, I spy an empty bowl, a dollop of creamy yogurt right on the table. Not even on a placemat. I lose my shit. This isn't a frat house, I scream. The boys, all in the van, waiting, don't hear. I think.

I am a J (as in ENFJ - I can't stop with this Myers Briggs thing). Jon is a P. As I understand it, this means that I prefer things to be planned out in advance, and Jon prefers to take things as they come. It all seems backward, as I am supposedly the creative in this partnership; he, the engineer. Perhaps that's why these opposite tendencies have attracted us to each other, even as they drive us crazy.

So. We go. Cruising along verdant roadways, noticing the bluebird skies and warm rays reflecting on fields and farms and cows, my annoyance fades. By the time we pull into the dusty little lot near the swimming hole, I am actually in a good mood. We meet up with Chris, Ri and the boys. We wade upstream, admiring the shimmering and speckled Mad River rocks, carrying snacks, packs and little boys. We park on on a sandbar. And chill. Splash around. And then—if we are to get a table at dinner—we have to go. We start packing up.

I strip off my skirt and tank—and dive into the water, letting the current pull me downstream. It is fast (but not too fast). It is freezing. Totally refreshing. I can't stop laughing. This is so worth leaving yogurt on the table (though, of course, I'd cleaned it up.)

The dip is quick. We have to keep moving or there'll be no flatbread in our future. But on the trek back I spot the perfect log. This is the wood we can make into the side tables I've been imagining for weeks.

"I want this log," I tell him.

"It's super heavy - but we can try to float it downstream." Jon is always up for adventure. And so we float the log.  And then he and Chris loft it into the mini-van, Jules taking pictures, while Ri, the big guys and I drive into town to grab a table. 

The day turns out perfectly. "Planned" by a P. 

My Perceiving He-Man with our perfect log.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hacking tech is child's play.

Mama, can I have your phooooone? No matter who is asking, the question is always delivered with whine. Which makes me crazy. So the answer is often no. I don't want the boys chronically plugged in. I want them to be engaged and active. I want them to ride bikes and find bugs, to sing and dance, to invent. Which they do. And half the time the boys are borrowing my phone, they're swiping through photos and snapping their own. They're making creative choices in cupcake-decorating or monster-making. They're learning new words,  like omnivore and voracious, ravenous and predator. How can anyone say this is bad?

Getting comfy with technology.
Kidding: this particular shot is just evidence of lazy iParenting. 

Today I learned, via NPR, about camps teaching kids to hack—to dissect, and gain a command of, the technology that's all around. And, then, it occurred to me that it that it's not just that Jules, an obsessive rock collector, may not end up a geologist or archeologist, and Kai, forever in mesh and sleeveless shirts, may not find work at a gym. The fields that they choose, or that eventually choose them, may not even exist yet.  More surprising (given that my work conversations often center upon terms like SEO, SAS and API): it's the first time this thought has occurred to me. Huh.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The backpack shipped.

A brown pack with dinosaur bones. Lunch box to match. Monogrammed. "Do you really want your name?" I asked. Yes. "Really?" Yesssss, Mom... My first thought was that kidnappers would call after him, tricking him away. My second: When you grow bored of this backpack, or think it too babyish, we can't hand it off. What a waste of material.

But he wanted his name. Why not? The transition to kindergarten has been weighing on him. This was something special that might help cushion the jump. Plus, I'd started to imagine... the mom of another, younger Julian finding a personalized dino pack in decent condition at the Goodwill. Total score!

So today, the personalized pack and lunch sack shipped—an email told me so. Kindergarten starts into two weeks. "Are you ready?" a friend whose little girl is about to turn one, asked me today. Yes - he's going to love it. He's interested and eager to learn. School will suit him, I said. But it is sort of sad. My kid is school-aged. Hard to believe. Cliche, yes. For a reason.

I teared up on and off for a week last year, watching—via Facebook—friends' kids sitting on stoops, waiting for the bus, heading off to kindergarten.  But this year, I'm actually mostly excited to see my big little guy off to his next stage. It's time. Lately, he's seeming more like a tiny man: with real pecs and sound theories, smart questions and a burgeoning set of admirable ethics. Between his brother-bullying and potty jokes are glimmering glimpses of a maturing, kind and cool big kid. It's exciting. It's bittersweet. It's sorta awesome.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I can live without an itinerary. Sometimes.

August has been amazing: it's the first we've been home with no where to go. And after so many full or partial weekends away, two days of no-real-plans felt luxuriously spacious.

Maybe we should be working on the house (starting with the floor pictured, above and below)... or spending long, epic days on the lake (we've managed to fit in just a few short situations). But all I really want to do is meander and socialize. I want lazy, laid-back days but ones that feel rich. And this weekend, that's just the way things worked out.

A surprise (it'd been raining all day) Friday-night dinner at the truck stop meant not having to cook, running into lots of friends and happy boys.

Saturday morning, Kai and I were scheduled for a date while J & J kayaked. I'd planned to do something, um, awesome (you gotta work hard to stay competitive in the cool-parent game when you're married to Olin) but as it turned out, neither Kai nor I cared about leaving the compound. So we sat around in PJs (and costumes) watching Care Bears on the iPad, reading books, and painting our toe nails. An old friend, in town from Providence, stopped by. I met Ri to run along the water, then we grabbed iced coffees and took a spin around Anjou. We went to Shelburne Farms - twice - during off, peaceful hours. Jules and I made a cherry pie. There were two delicious dinners with amazing friends... ones where the whole fam had fun. And none of this—NONE  of this—was planned by Friday at 5.

It unfolded and we rolled. A beautiful thing.

(Update: I just realized, when I hit publish on this post, that my Grandpa Bill passed away 25 years ago today. I have so many great memories of these sorts of simple-spent days—baking, hanging, talking, eating—with him.)

Friday, August 9, 2013

The apple doesn't fall far...

We had two parent-teacher conferences today. There, we learned these things about one, or both, boys:
  1. Kid, overall, is doing very well - he's more than ready for his next steps. 
  2. Kid loves his friends.
  3. Kid loves learning new things. He's interested and independent.
  4. Kid has hanger-management issues; (in one conference, a 10:30 snack is highly encouraged).
  5. Kid is a convincing negotiator—except when he gets really pissed and forgets his words.
  6. That said, he's incredibly expressive. "He shares just how he's feeling." 
  7. And... kid needs to practice an indoor voice. 
"Regarding the indoor voice," I ask. "How do you handle that at school? We're trying to work on that, too." We, being his two boisterous parents with personal volume-control issues. 

"Well," says the teacher, "we ask him to look around ... is everyone else talking loudly?"

Well if he's at home, or possibly out with, uh, us, the answer is probably yes, I think. 

She continues: "Sometimes we play games where we pretend to be animals that are being really really LOUD and then we become animals that are really quiet."  

So this weekend, we at the Micco-Olin household will be aiming to emulate a bunch of whispering hippos. Wish us luck. (No joke: It's a serious effort. It's happening.)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Others are equally obsessed with Dorothy Parker.

I joined the library in my new neighborhood today. Brought in a zoning permit as proof of residence because I still haven't gotten around to ordering up a new driver's license. Left said zoning permit at the front desk. My cell rang while I was browsing the audiobook selection. I've gotten back into the deal of listening to books. (Thank you, Manova.) It's not what I prefer and I'm not particularly good at it—a  visual person, I sort of need to see things in print—but I least at allows me to absorb stories while I do the dishes.

"... I forgot to give back your zoning permit," the librarian said apologetically.
"No worries. I'm still here." On my cell. Faux pas. 

So I head back up to the desk, taking a quick detour through the new arrivals. Fiction. And I spot this title: Farewell, Dorothy Parker. How could I have possibly have missed this? I'm sort of obsessed with Dorothy Parker. (Answer: Two kids, one job, three pets. I miss everything.) I checked out the book. It didn't look like the kind of novel I'd typically read. Still, it was about Dorothy Parker. So then I actually checked out the book. It's the normal, printed book. Perhaps someone will read it to me while I do dishes.

Dottie walking with Digs.
Today, I also learned that a friend's friend
 distills "Dorothy Parker" gin. In Brooklyn.
My admiration for Dorothy Parker started in Mrs. Olson's 10th grade English class with "One Perfect Rose." Among the gushy sonnets and other, less memorable poetry we were reading, this sarcastic bit struck me as brilliant. I was hooked. The love affair continued:

  • As an undergrad, I wrote an entire thesis on Dorothy Parker's short stories.
  • When I first moved to New York, I made a mecca to the brownstone where she lived on the Upper West Side.
  • My friend John Loecke and I would go for cocktails at the Algonquin, fancying ourselves a modern-day "Park Bench." (Except we worked at Ladies' Home Journal and not the New Yorker.)
  • I have Dorothy Parker martini glasses (Thank you, Ronda).
  • There's a large framed photograph of Dorothy Parker's cat, lounging on Dorothy Parker's bed hanging behind my head—in our living room—right now. (Thank you, Kate.)
But here's the thing: I "loved" Dorothy Parker the first time I read her words. But the more I learned about her, the more this affinity made sense. The woman wasn't just witty; she was awesome. She was a major champion for civil rights. She left her entire estate to Martin Luther King and willed that it be turned over to the NAACP if something should happen to him. (And it did - he was assassinated the year after her death.) She loved animals. If you read her short stories, her empathy is obvious. She "got" people. She demanded authenticity. All of these things are important to me. Could I possibly have read that between the few lines of "One Perfect Rose"? 

No, I don't really know Dorothy Parker - but I do know this: Those people with whom I seem to have an instant connection... I can't think of one time when it was just a superficial spark. Over time, the reasons have always been revealed. I find that fascinating. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Oversharing has its benefits.

I recently took a Myers Briggs test. Turns out, I'm an extrovert. Shocking.

Extroversion has its benefits, sure—but it's frustrating too. I talk too much.

In kindergarten, this landed me in the "bad chair." (Call it like it is, 1980.)  In elementary school, constant chatter earned me time inside writing sentences while other kids recessed. (I have excellent penmanship.) Whispering through geometry = detention (I hear such places are called things like "thinking rooms" these days). See the pattern?

Still, I can't seem to shut up. I have trouble keeping quiet in meetings. I release brain blurts without forming them into full sentences. I say lots of the wrong things. I think I scare people.

Yet, too much talking//oversharing also has served me well. I know a lot about a lot of interesting people. Opening yourself up invites people to open up on. I make new friends. I get great tips. Support and accountability find me.

Just sharing yesterday's blog, one friend suggested that I should start reading Anna Rosenblum Palmer's Shelburbia. (So glad I did. It's awesome writing: real, honest, funny.) Another friend took me to lunch today and told me it was time to face my fears. He's so right. And I left with an action item: This fall, I'm enrolling in high-performance driving school. I've been talking about it for years. Time to shut up and actually do something.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

There are dangers I hadn't even considered. (Shocking, really.)

It appeared in my in-box today: a note from Nixle (basically a police plotter-type service intended for paranoid peeps like myself) announcing that a boa constrictor had been found in my old neighborhood, just steps off the path of my old running route. "Crazy shit happening in the old 'hood, huh?" I wrote to Joanne. "OMG. Can you imagine if you'd seen this on your run?" I zipped off to Renee.

Then, about an hour later, I read about two brothers strangled to death, while they slept, by an African rock python.  The coincidence was bizarre.

My heart hurt thinking about those little boys in New Brunswick, each two years ahead of my little guys. Thinking of their parents. Holy awful shit.

I'm afraid of everything: Great Whites off the coast of the Cape, busy highways, fast-moving traffic. I worry about fluke falls and calm waters that might seduce a confident preschooler into sneaking off for a solo swim. I fear I wouldn't do the right thing if I crossed a bear in the woods with my kid. I worry when I hear how loud the clunk is when an apple drops down from high branches onto my deck. Should we chop down the tree? Surely I hit like that would really hurt a little head. It could even... You never know when danger will descend.

Today's tragic story of the python and the sleeping boys didn't  stoke a fear of snakes (that's actually pretty low on my list). But it did suggest that there are dangers I haven't even thought of yet, something I hardly thought was possible. Good lord.

Monday, August 5, 2013

I am capable of feeling content.

I've been meaning to start a new blog.  I've been meaning to ... blog. To write anything not work-related really. And, actually, inspired by Christina, I was planning to write—just one graph—every day for 30 days starting August 1. Today is August 5. First entry.

Today, J is 5 1/4. Today, I am 37 2/3. Today, Digs is 10. All born on the 5's. I think: surely there's a reason for this connection. And then I think... how do so many 5's pass so quickly? I'm prone to over-thinking, prone to nostalgia, prone to bat-shit-crazy ruminations when hormones and circumstances align in just the wrong way. Luckily that's not today.

Today, I felt compelled to capture my contentment because feeling comfortable standing still, absorbing the awesomeness of what is, happens rarely—if ever.

But as I watched the boys sing happy birthday to Digs...  a typically shirtless Jules presenting him two scoops of cake batter ice cream (his once-a-year treat) on the family's special-occasion scarlet plate...  Kai shimmying, snapping and beaming million-dollar dimples, I was gratefully present... celebrating sweet Demps and two little boys who recognize, much as we do, how incredibly awesome our decade-old Digs is.