Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We'll start with the CSA.

Two years ago, two of my favorite BTV people suggested that a bunch of us band together to support each other in an initiative (The Compact) that would help us all to reduce crazy consumption, cut clutter and waste and simplify our surroundings. It sounded really hard, but Jon and I were game. No, we could not commit to making our own laundry soap but, yes, we'd try really hard to not buy any new "things" for a year. With some exceptions. The effort was somewhat successful. (You can read about it here). 

Fast forward almost exactly two years to a couple of weeks ago when I started feeling super overwhelmed by "stuff." There were 9 kinds of snack crackers in my cabinet. The shelves in our basement and guest room were (and still are) stacked full of packed brown boxes never opened after our move. Which occurred 10 months ago. My closet and drawers contain loads of clothes I don't necessarily like anymore, jackets that I don't wear because they have missing buttons and ripped pockets, underwear from 2001 and two pairs of jeans that will never again fit unless I stop eating carbs, start nursing an 8-month old baby or begin running a half marathon each day. And I plan on doing none of these things. Our kitchen is overrun with potatoes from our CSA because we can't keep up. Because we keep going to the store to get the ingredients for recipes that "sound good." 

I wanted all of that extraneous stuff to go away. I craved The Compact. Or, at least, a Compact Lite. I* am planning to start again on March 1. I'm still nailing down the details—including "am I in for a whole year? 3 months? 6?"—but, so far, here are some of the things on my list of to-do's for March:
  1. Start meal planning with food we get in our CSA; supplement with grains and, a couple of times a week, fish (sustainably sourced) and/or meat (local or organic). Buy in bulk. Slow-cook beans instead of buying cans.
  2. Clean out drawers and closets: donate, repair, swap. (Don't buy anything new—at least for myself—for defined period.) 
  3. Ditch crappy old cosmetics, toxic cleaning products, paints, etc. (disposing of them properly, of course). Use more natural cleaning products, making them whenever possible.
  4. Stop buying convenience items like counter wipes, face cloths, etc. 
  5. Establish plans for a 2014 garden.
  6. Switch from a credit card that encourages unnecessary spending on "things" to one that provides kickbacks that can be used toward experiences.

Tonight, we started planning what meals we'd make from tomorrow's CSA pickup, and Jon made carrot/parsnip soup and roasted beets from previous Pete's Greens bounties. Our shopping list for the week is quite small. 

How do you simplify? 

*Jon, who has far less trouble with accumulating "stuff" than I do, is supporting but not necessarily fully participating in this effort. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

It gets better.

This week's riding lesson rocked. I went in anxious - it was icy - but there were no tears, just some unnecessary verbal diarrhea about how scared I was. (Thank you, L and G, for indulging that process. I'm gonna try to keep it silent next week.) And then I felt fine.

Above: (L) In the car on the ride down; (R)    On the lift before the 3rd run

This being the 5th class, I am more than halfway done, and though I probably would have said something different at 9:45 am this morning, I'm pretty bummed my Saturday days at Smuggs this season are numbered. Also, being on the "back 4" of this 8 week session, I feel now is a good time to capture some of the things I've learned thus far:

1. Third run's a charm. Run #1, I'm remembering which edge is my toe side (kidding, but only slightly) and stressing that I won't be able to stop. Run #2, I'm worrying that the people around me won't be able to stop and will crash into me. Run #3, things are clicking, my turns are connecting smoothly (mostly) and I'm actually enjoying myself.

2. You can, and should, breathe while riding. I just learned this today. Game changer.

3. Every pair of Burton gloves has a soft spot that superbly absorbs snot. Game saver.

Pretty sure I'm going to make a midweek night ride happen this week. Yeah!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

I love these people.

I didn't share a childhood with these people. But we've grown up together.

I married into the most fantastic group of tight-knit, solidly awesome grade-school friends. Who all married the most amazing of women. And then spawned a bunch of pretty special kids.

I wasn't there when these guys played video games in middle school or threw parties in their parents' basements after high-school football games - but I was around for Round 2, in the three-bedroom Queens apartment they rented post-college. The one where John and Dan shared a room with two twin beds. The one where I ended up after an evening at the Irish Cottage, one April night in 1999.

Without this crew's acceptance, no doubt, I wouldn't have lasted long. And when Olin left for Cali, these people kept me company: taking me to cooking classes and on bike rides through Flushing Meadows Park, packing my shit into a U-haul and then navigating it through Manhattan. 

We've danced at each others' weddings and celebrated new starts at celebratory showers; knit gifts for fresh babies and and offered tips for dealing with obstinate kids and tricky situations.

Now, on the rarer times when we're together, we eat and drink (far too much) and pass the time with fun and games -kid-friendly themes by day, irreverent ones by night. We laugh. And we laugh and laugh, realizing all the while how lucky we are to have each other. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

This is 15 (together).

In the 15 years Olin and I have been together (10 of them married), we've created various Valentine traditions. We've gifted underwear (which is way less sexy than it sounds - fancy cold-weather first layers, like long johns, are favorite picks for this). For a number of years, we did 7 am breakfasts at Penny Cluse, saving the evening of 2/14 for our Platonic Pancake Lovefest. This was a pancake party for all of our friends - singles, couples, kids, whoever.

The most memorable of these happened 8 or so years ago, when 2 feet of snow trapped most of our guests at home. Not S and A. They snowmobiled over. Right down North Ave. And two single friends made it. Now they are married and expecting a baby. Like I said, Lovefest. Back then, when we were newlyweds. Or, at least, back then, when we were kid less and had more time for dates.

Today, our love looks more like this:

He is driving because the snowy, icy roads are dicey and that makes me super anxious.

He who remembered my mentioning months ago that I love the Vermont hats from Syrup Shop  and bought my favorite one, even I never told him the colors.

He who has been listening to me, for at least a week, obsess about my lower back pain. What if it's a kidney infection and not a snowboarding-induced strain?
He'll give me one of his kidneys, he jokes. And then, noticing real worry on my face, he listens to me read, aloud, a list of symptoms from WebMD.

He who pushes me to get behind the wheel at other times when I'm scared, to head back to the mountain when it'd be easier to just stay home and make the chili. Because he knows I'll be pissed at myself if I don't. 

And he cares.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

He wasted all of his money.

I scan the tables where kids are painting swirls of pink, white and red, looking for his dirty-blonde head and colorful plaid shirt (which he's actually not wearing). He's not there—nor is he on the floor playing cards. Then I see him, huddled, head-down, with four little buddies. They whisper as I approach, and he quietly gets up, tucking a big book under his arm. He walks over and pushes the tome toward me.

"Look what I got." He pauses, looking proud and slightly tentative. "It was 19 dollars."

 It is Lego Minifigures: Character Encyclopedia. Which is, essentially, a glorified 203-page hardcover catalogue. Which, apparently, purchased on Amazon, costs $10.55.

"Wow," I say. "So that's what you decided to get?" 

After much discussion about the school book fair, Jon and I had somehow come to the decision that we would let him spend the $20 he had saved on whatever books he wanted. Initially, I'd preferred that one of us supervise his purchases at the fair on Thursday night—but we talked it through and decided that we'd go ahead and let him take his money and make the buy during his class "field trip" to the fair (a class activity that I think is crazy) today. The deal was this: First, Jules had to do some comparison shopping with me online last night. He agreed to this happily and we took the list of 8 books (6 of them came with toys) that he'd made when he'd visited the fair with his class the day before (!!!). We looked at them one by one—evaluating the pros and cons of each, and he actually crossed off 6 books, leaving only the two most expensive choices: both came with toys; one was the book he actually purchased.

"Yes!!!" He is so excited he's shouting (louder than normal). "I wasted all of my money on this one book!"

Not quite grasping the nuances of similar words is one of my favorite traits of five-year-olds. Clearly he meant that he "spent" all of his money on his choice, and I quickly explain the difference. Which he appreciates. "Oh, yes, spent!" He laughs heartily at his mistake as if we're old friends. He's in a spectacular mood. Even more so when he pulls out his backpack to show me the other prizes he "got" (read: bought)—erasers in various shapes—after finding another $1.25 in his wallet. Ironically, one is in the form of a miniature $50 bill.

Our evening centers solidly around his purchase: while I make black-bean quesadillas and cut strawberries, he assembles the toy soldier that came with the guide and lets Kai play with the koala and lion prizes (which might be erasers or might not, I realize upon closer inspection). After a shower, he flips through the pages, "reading" about the characters to Kai. He requests that we read this story—which is not at all a story—before bed. Kai's into it too. And so we do: covering ho-hum characters like Cheerleader girl and Skater boy but also discovering Tribal Hunter, an intriguing shy-guy who apparently has a talent for finding lost objects and an obsession with dancing when nobody's looking. As the "story" goes, he's got mad moves. This guy, I'd like to meet.

When it's time for bed, Jules carefully places his new bible on the shelf next to his scrolling animal nightlight and crawls under his covers, patting down a place for me. The moment I lay down my head next to his, he asks earnestly, in a whisper: "Do you think my book was a good choice?"

I deflect the question: "Do you?"

"Yes," he says confidently.

"Me too," I whisper back. And I'm not even totally lying.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I am not the most relaxed [fill in the blank]

"I'm not going to cry today, Mama," Kai told me matter-of-factly en route to the mountain. "I'm just going to give you a GREAT. BIG. HUG." Context: Last week, Kai cried—sobbed—when we dropped him off at his snowboarding lessons. And then he was fine. 

Keeping his word, Kai did not cry. He hugged, great-big-style, just like he promised. And, then, from what I hear, Kai, age 3, proceeded to "kill it" on the hill. He rode down Sir Henry all by himself. With the five-year-olds. Julian, age 5, did not cry either. He gave me a hug and stoically waved me away. And then went on to connect S turns. First time. Fab day.

Tonight, gold-medal-guy Sage was called the "most relaxed competitor" in the Slopestyle.
Today, I earned the title of "most high-strung rider" at Smugg's.

Today, I cried - after dropping myself off at my snowboarding lesson. Last week had gone fairly well but I'd caught some edges and bruised my tailbone. All week, anytime I moved the wrong way, tailbone tenderness reminded me of my hard falls—and the UVM student who fatally crashed skiing at a different mountain on the same day. I worked myself up, bigtime. Adding to this was the fact Jon was staying in town to guest-lecture in a friend's class, so the responsibility of driving the boys to the mountain was all mine. Which also made me anxious. I convinced myself I didn't know how to get there (!!!) and actually GPS-ed the route (which seems completely ridiculous as I write it now).
Again, the boys' drop-off was entirely uneventful. Regardless, my anxiety continued to rise. To the point at which, after I left the little guys, I shut myself in my minivan and blasted songs like A-Punk and Oxford Comma in an attempt to calm the fuck down. It worked a little. It was time to go to my lesson. So I went. And then my instructor announced that since we'd been "rockstars" last week, we were heading straight to the lift and she was going to "push us." I protested. Weakly. She reiterated that we were ready to be pushed.

And that's when I started shedding tears and listing all the reasons I was scared shitless to "shred" on this day. I don't remember exactly what she said but it turned out to be the right stuff. My riding partner helped me rally. My tantrum meltdown was done. I was ready. Ready enough.

So we headed straight to the lift. My first few turns were tentative. My legs were super shaky (fear-adrenaline shaky, not tired-muscle trembly) at the end of the first run. But by the end of the day, I was snaking down the mountain and connecting tighter turns. I learned how to hold an edge to steer out of the way of speedy skiiers and a certain burgundy-clad beginner who always seemed to be riding wrecklessly out of control.  I even kept my balance and bantered back when Ben and Brian shouted to me from the lift. Basically, I kept up with my kids today. Physically if not emotionally.

It was a good day. A hard-won good day.

Next week: No tears. Just hugs.

Monday, February 3, 2014

3.75 is the age of absurdity

Absurdity entertains me. That's why my celeb crushes tend to run more toward Tom Green than Brad Pitt. It's why I've been an SNL fan for decades, fully embrace Portlandia and totally dig Flight of the Conchords. It's part of why I married Jon Olin and why I'm psyched to be living in the age of viral video. It's also why I love age 3.75.

The connections made by a 3.75-year-old brain are absurdly entertaining to me. Lately, Kai's been making some bold statements that keep me smiling—like these three random ones, just from the last two days:

  • "I can say poop. Because I'm in the bathroom." (Said tonight just before starting to brush his teeth. After announcing that he could say poop did not actually say poop again.)
  • "My daddy and I went on a kayak. And had a bagel." (Said to my parents via FaceTime today, 2/3/2014. The lake is frozen. This bagel was consumed on a kayak in July 2013).
  • "You know what I like about Legos? Making a dinosaur out of Play-Doh." (Said 2/1 while playing with Legos, which apparently need better branding.) 
I suspect that some of stream-of-consciousness conversation makes complete sense in his not-quite-four-year-old brain. Maybe it something to do with a not-fully-formed frontal cortex. Or something like that. 

I suspect that these super-cute idiosyncratic sayings will soon fade away (into another stage that will enthrall me in new ways—I know from my experiences with J). But I've been doing my best to keep capturing them—and I've been doing a decent job of it, thanks to a fab app called Notabli, which is designed to do just that ("Save the story of your kids."). Check it out.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

You gotta go for it, etc.

Big day for me and my riding partner L on the mountain today. Major level up: we moved off Sir Henry (the training hill) and rode the lift up Morse Mountain. 

There, I realized a few things:

1. The lift was easier than I'd anticipated. Getting back down, upright, on the other hand, was harder than I thought it'd be. But, overall, I'm gonna call it a win.

2. You gotta go for it. Speed is scary but timid tentative moves are what lead to hard falls.

3. A little junk in the trunk is a good thing. Today my tailbone is grateful that my bottom runs more toward bodacious than bony.

4. A challenging Friday yoga class pre-Saturday riding might not be a smart move. My legs might have stayed solid longer had I skipped it.

5. I need to work on my F-bomb restraint. Smuggs, after all, is America's Family Resort.

A (half) day well lived. Off to find the boys!