Monthly Archives: July 2014

Summer Checklist

Well if you had any clue from my lack of recent blogs, summer so far hasn’t been as relaxing as I imagined. My fantasies of taking advantage of the long, sunny days … or at least nights after work … were quickly ended by what it really means to have kids running “free range.” School activities, hockey, and homework were swapped for random camp times, baseball, and kid swaps in my work parking lot for play dates. Add in random sitter issues (saved one week by Stormy’s daughter, Blossom), and summer has turned out to be more chaotic than the school year.

Granted, I could have signed my kids up for a full-time day camp catering to working parents. But, my working mom guilt often gets the best of me. Why shouldn’t they enjoy these summer months of freedom? I sure miss having a summer break!

So what my kids would describe as a fun summer filled with sleepovers and

photo 2

sleeping in, has been mass chaos for me. No routine and every week requires a new battle strategy of who to get where and when. My tipping point was last week. A situation where I knew (standing in the bushes in my heels), that I needed some summer enjoyment too.

How did I end up in the bushes? It was my week as a camp driver. We only signed up for “specialty camps,” which means camps kids like but which have no convenience or scheduling around a working parent’s needs. (I will need to do another blog on why everyone else gets what they want, yet I seem to starve myself from all my needs. Even the eyelashes are gone!) Anyway, this week of specialty camp I worked from home in the morning and then took a group of kids to tennis before heading into the office at noon. (I have no idea how parents manage it without a flexible work schedule). One morning I had a conference call for an important pitch. I told the kids that I would be giving hand signals when it was time to be sprayed with sunscreen, grab their racquets and bags, and head to the car. I was proud of myself for organizing it all, including having lunches packed and backpacks lined up in front of the door before the call. The first ten minutes went great. The kids were quiet … which should have been my first warning of upcoming disaster. As I was talking, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see my daughter mouthing “sorry” and pointing at the window. Somehow she had knocked out the boards bracing our window air conditioner unit. I was looking at a gap in the window and the air conditioner rocking on the ledge. Throwing the phone on mute, I ran outside. The rest of my call was done on speaker and muted unless I was forced to speak. I stood in the bushes holding up the air conditioner with my phone resting on the window ledge and my other hand trying to jimmy rig the boards to hold the unit in place till we could do a permanent fix after work.

That night, I realized I have been so busy juggling a full-time job and kids running loose that I basically missed the first half of summer. Our “no routine” had us crazier than our over-scheduled winter. It was time to make up for the lost summer. Which meant another list! Yes, my kids groaned as I asked them to make lists of what they wanted to do before summer ended. I was determined to do at least one thing on each list this weekend. KitKat determination took hold. No matter what it took or what hurdles needed to be jumped, I would do some summer activities. I do realize that I work best in chaos and a crunch, even when the task is finding time to relax.

photo 1Number one on my son’s list was to catch fish. So we drove up to the cabin Saturday morning and spent the day fishing. The fish even complied with our list, and we had a great day. One item done and I actually relaxed. Hard not to, with a pole in one hand and wine in the other, plus a son who would bait my hook and take off any catches.

I had decided to drive back that night with my daughter, so we could check an item off her list on Sunday. We left father and son at the cabin for a full fishing weekend.

I skipped past number one on her list, Chuck E. Cheese, and chose one further down—which was shopping at the farmers’ market. We had a slumber party in my room Saturday night and in the morning I surprised her with money for the excursion. She made sure to spend every penny. She loves nothing better than to pull out cash and pay for a frivolous item. After a summer of giving up things or putting them on the back burner (well, trying), I had just as much fun buying whatever suited me at the moment.

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All in all, it was a jam-packed SUMMER weekend. I ended it sitting outside and watching my daughter and neighbor kids on the Slip & Slide as I looked up things to do in Duluth for a moms and sons trip planned at the end of August (another check off the list). I still had cleaning to do and hadn’t finished my list of dinners for the week but was determined to take a moment to do nothing but enjoy the weather (another item on my list), which I plan to make time for at least once a week.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time.” – Sir John Lubbock

After fully enjoying my summer weekend, I think I am ready to battle another summer workweek. Including managing the text I just received that my sitter has two days she can’t cover.

 

Running away from home… Cali style

As I mentioned in my last post, KitKat’s tale of Vegas fun inspired me to schedule a trip with my two best girls—my darling daughters. The impetus for the trip was to use an airfare credit my youngest had, and the premise was visiting a high school friend who had moved to LA a few years earlier. However, as I mentioned in my last post, the real motivation was trying to regain my sanity by getting out of my frenetic rut and spending some quality time with my girls.

First of all, I was just pleased that my daughters wanted to travel with me. It’s true I was paying for everything except the one plane ticket, but even so, I can’t imagine myself at that age wanting to take a trip with my mother to visit one of her friends—or at any age, for that matter. Our tastes are just too different.

I’d never taken a trip with just my girls before, but from our family excursions I knew that traveling with Lucky (22) and Blossom (19) would be akin to vacationing with The Odd Couple. Indeed. To illustrate my point, we were leaving on an early Thursday a.m. flight, so I asked my girls to drive home from their respective cities Wednesday afternoon with everything packed. Blossom arrived two days early to babysit for KitKat (whose regular summer sitter was unavailable) and had her suitcase ready and waiting in the living room the day before. Felix Unger all the way.

Lucky started the long drive home on Wednesday afternoon, forgot her contact lenses, realized it an hour into the drive, returned to her apartment to get them, and finally made it down to our house at about 9 p.m. on Wednesday night—a bit bedraggled and with a suitcase full of dirty laundry that still needed to be washed. Clearly our Oscar Madison.

Both girls were ready by the appointed time on Thursday morning, though. So after a quick trip through the security lines, we were sitting on the tarmac, waiting for stormy weather to pass. We touched down a bit late at LAX and got our rental car. Blossom (our Felix) was my human GPS. She pulled up all of our destinations on her smartphone and gave me real-time directions out of the rental car area and smoothly onto one of LA’s infamous multi-lane freeways toward my friend’s house. (Her quick-draw-with-an-app skills also came in handy later, when we were looking for a pharmacy and grocery store.)

I already knew my girls would click with my high school friend. Dot is just one of those people who can make friends with anyone—because she is interested in everyone and everything. In fact, her pseudonym comes from her role in a high school performance where she played an Uber-Geek with complete and utter commitment (something the self-conscious Stormy wouldn’t have been able to accomplish at 16). As Lucky said after meeting her, “I love her. She just radiates positive energy.” Not a bad sort to hang out with 😉 which is good, because that was our plan: An unstructured vacay comprised of some cheesy Hollywood/LA type of activities and lots of hanging out.

That first afternoon we hung out at Dot’s pool and plotted the rest of our visit. We decided to tackle Universal Studios the next day. Since Lucky graduated with a film degree and Blossom was deprived of the Disney Experience bestowed upon her older siblings, it seemed like a clever way to kill two birds with one stone. Or in my case, entertain two diverse daughters with several hundred dollars in admission and overpriced burgers.

Universal Studios was a blast. It had been a long time since I had been to an amusement park, and I was amazed by what can be done with computer generated special effects. Likewise, the studio tour was fun—spotting familiar scenes like the town square from Back to the Future (a favorite movie for our family of Michael J. Fox fans). Throughout the day, I was acutely aware that it would have been a very different experience with my husband. The crowds, long lines and sprawling theme park would have been challenging for him to navigate. It was fun to have the freedom to explore all parts of the park and not be worried about wearing out my spouse.

That evening, we went to the Hollywood Fringe Festival to see one of Dot’s friends perform. It was a sweet, engrossing play and our front-row seats put us nearly on stage in the tiny theater. After spending all day at the theme park, we were a bit tired. But since we were trying to pack as much as we could into a short vacation, we were glad we were able to catch this unique performance during our trip.

Lucky was inexplicably delighted to discover Nicholas Cage's handprints. Yes, Nick Cage.

Lucky was inexplicably delighted to discover Nicholas Cage’s handprints. Yes, Nick Cage.

The next day was our “tourist” day. We went into Hollywood to see the famous sign (from a distance), tour the Walk of Fame and people watch. Afterward, we drove to Santa Monica and had a late lunch on the pier. Lucky was excited to play in the ocean—she couldn’t recall the earlier Disney trip to Florida that Blossom missed and had no real memory of swimming in the ocean as a child. After a long day, we got home early in the evening, but Lucky wasn’t ready to call it a night just yet. She said, “You know, if I was on vacation with my friends, we’d probably go to a club or something.” I said, “You know, if I was traveling with my friends, we’d probably do the same thing.” So Lucky determined we should go back to Universal and explore the “City Walk” portion of the park—which is basically shops and restaurants and rather reminiscent of our own third-floor Mall of America. And Blossom, being Blossom, was happy to go with the flow.

hiking_LASunday was our last full day, and after the previous two jam-packed days, we decided to dial it down a bit. We texted Dot in the a.m. to see if she wanted to go hiking, and she led us on a beautiful trail up in the hills. Afterward, we hung out in her pool again, where Blossom (my usually practical child) learned you shouldn’t try to scoop a bee out of a swimming pool with your bare hand.

Dot is married to an actor. He’s not Brad-Pitt-with-paparazzi-hiding-in-the-bushes famous, but he’s recognizable, respected and steadily working…while still able to live a pretty normal life. (Which, when you think about it, is probably the level of success one should strive for, if one goes into that business.) He joined us at the pool where the girls got a big kick out of talking with him and realizing that—even though they’ve seen him in multiple TV roles—he’s a pretty normal guy, all in all.

Later that afternoon, we drove through Topanga Canyon and up the coast to Malibu to meet my husband’s sister and her husband for a seaside dinner on the deck at Duke’s. Lucky ordered King Crab legs and kept her eye out for dolphins and whales (no luck spotting them, though). I had fish tacos and the house specialty—a Mai Tai. It was fun catching up with my sibs-in-law, and I was envious that what was a vacation outing for us was just another Sunday night for them. Our Minnesota summer has been turbulent from the start, so the consistently 80-and-Sunny LA weather was mighty attractive.

Oh those vacation romances! Meet Blossom's new boyfriend...

Oh those vacation romances! Meet Blossom’s new boyfriend…

On our last day, our agenda centered around going home: Get up, shower, pack, hang out by the pool for an hour, have lunch, return the rental car and check in at the airport. (Can you see my control-freak side rearing its head?) I had timed out how long we had for each activity, but Lucky (Oscar) wasn’t operating on my timetable. We got into a bit of a tiff about it…the result of too much togetherness, I think. The fact is, I could travel with Blossom for a year and experience nary a kerfluffle—we’re just that compatible, and she’s a great traveling companion. On the other hand, Lucky and I are not much alike in terms of our hobbies, but we’re emotional twins. I’ve just been on the planet longer that she has, so I’ve learned how to fake my confidence. It frustrates me to see her wrestle with the same insecurities I had at her age when I know—KNOW!—that she has such strength and competence and intelligence inside of her. But I also realize she has to figure that out for herself, so I apologized to her once we were both in a better mood.

We arrived home tired and slightly crabby, but with some fun memories to carry us through the next long winter. All in all, the trip was a success. Not only for me getting a rare chance to spend time with my darling girls, but for being able to take a “vacation” from Parkinson’s—something, sadly, my husband can’t do. I think there are more such forays in my future (as long as I’m paying). After all, there’s some truth to this adage:

If momma ain't happy

Because I know that when I’m happy, everyone around me is happier, too. I just hope Lucky learns this lesson sooner than I did. And, more importantly, realizes that her happiness is in her hands.