Sunday, January 30, 2011

New York, New York. Except Not.

A week ago yesterday, I was in New York City with the Tornadoes. It was Day Two of a three day trip which I had arranged months earlier as their "big" Christmas gift, and which began a week ago Friday with an excruciatingly slow bus ride in the middle of a blizzard.

Aside from the prolonged commute, Day One played out pretty much exactly as I had been rehearsing it in my head for two months: Infected with the energy of the city at night, we ignored the bitter cold and set off for Rockefeller Center, where we ice skated and then rode to the Top of the Rock and gazed out at the city surrounding us. The Tornadoes honored my request for a texting moratorium with ease. It was so magical, I didn't even mind that we had dinner at Olive Garden.

Day Two? Still bitterly cold out. My planned itinerary of museums, local eateries and general assimilation? Not so much. How about hours upon hours in Times Square inside Toys R Us, Aeropostale, Forever 21 and American Eagle? They are too different, Mom. They are multiple floors. How about TGI Fridays for lunch and Sbarro for dinner? And about that art you want us to see and possibly find inspiring. How about an eighty dollar hansom cab tour of Central Park instead? It's culture, Mom. See? The Friends fountain! You love Friends! And that school over there? That's where Buddy the Elf picked up his little brother! And here's where they got into their epic snowball fight! Culture! So what if the charming West African hansom cab operator said that the author of Stuart Little also wrote Alice in Wonderland. We have blankets!

We did follow the planned evening agenda of attending a show with the rest of our bus trip group. Putting aside the fact that our designated show, Billy Elliott, was positively riddled with foul language and inappropriate sexual references (which would lead, several days later, to Fifth Grader being taken into the hallway at school to "have a talk" with the Vice Principal, who is Australian and who happens to know the meaning behind those derogatory terms that Fifth Grader was "sharing" with her curious classmates), I'd say it was a delightful night of family fun. And I only had to tell Seventh Grader once to stop texting in the middle of the show.

A perfect ending to the evening, as I had envisioned (for two months), would have been to share animated discussion of the performance we had witnessed while also sharing a little after-show dessert. Almost as much fun was what we actually did: tromp on back to Times Square in skirts and nylons and heeled boots (still bitterly cold out, mind you) in order to retrieve Fifth Grader's cell phone, which she had accidentally left in a third floor dressing room of American Eagle earlier in the day. We then chose to retire for the night to our hot, dry-as-a-bone hotel room. This was a great idea, most notably because it provided just the missing environmental ingredient needed to push my burgeoning cold into full bloom.

A week ago today, I surrendered my plans to introduce the Tornadoes to Greenwich Village and SoHo. Instead, I sniffled and sneezed my way through Times Square - AGAIN - to help them frantically throw away their spending money on cheap t shirts and candy. Once that fun was had, I blew their minds. "Yes," I said, "I am perfectly okay with sitting in the hotel lobby for hours until the bus comes so you can text and play on your iPods." I settled them into the lobby, excused myself for fifteen minutes to clear out the nearest Duane Reade of all of its tissues and cold medicine, plus a quick stop at the only Dunkin' Donuts I had seen in three days, settled into a hotel lobby chair and died. When the bus arrived, I boarded and died again. I was resurrected about midday on Wednesday.

I'm so glad to have been able to take them to New York for an entire weekend. It is one of my favorite places on the planet. I'm equally glad to have transformed into writing the details of our special weekend. Sitting here in my toasty but well ventilated living room, with my sinuses clear and my day free of plans, I look back on the story that has just unfolded on my computer screen. And I wish to take back the fourteen times this weekend I have whined, "I am so bored."

I'm going to take a nap now.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

There Are Plenty of Reasons to Envy Me

Yesterday was not the best day.

In typical misleading fashion, it started out exhibiting best day attributes. Exhibit A: A successful five a.m. two mile run outside in twelve degree weather, and I didn't even die. Exhibit B: All of the laundry is clean AND put away. Pretty good start, yes? Then we had to wake up Seventh Grader.

Oh, Seventh Grader.

It never stops puzzling me how my wonderfully sweet and loving firstborn has transformed into something that, were I a small child, I would want to make absolutely sure was not lurking in my closet before the lights went out at night. I swear, she used to be kind. And moldable. Not so yesterday. It began with her inability to get out of bed, despite being summoned multiple times. Then, once she arose, she encountered a hair crisis. The hair crisis required twenty plus minutes of confrontation with the straightener, although at this point she had only fifteen minutes to spare. No matter. It was a CRISIS. As the seconds ticked by, and Future Husband (her ride for the week) finally said "I'll be in the car" with an air of resignation, I began to nag. Hey, you know what I hate doing more than just about anything? Nagging. Particularly the Tornadoes. We might as well just spray each other with nitroglycerin once nagging enters the picture. There is much muttering under the breath, to which I helplessly roar in response "WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?" which, you know, is such an effective communication technique for a grown woman to employ.

Eventually, Seventh Grader made her way downstairs, with icy daggers shooting out of her deeply black-lined eyes and her hair a marvel of straightened perfection. I made an attempt to change the subject and nag her about something else completely, namely her after school plans and homework. There was, of course, no agreement on either of these fronts. So I was forced to play my parental "this is how it's going to be" card. Always a crowd pleaser. Then she left, and I wept gratuitously.

I have always loved school. Historically, I have loved it for the learning aspects, but now I have a new reason to love school. And that reason is that Seventh Grader and I are forced to take a seven hour hiatus from one another. It's my recovery time. I use it to remind myself, and to be reminded by others, that I am in fact not a horrible person. Fifth Grader I still miss during the day. She still thinks I'm fabulous. True, she has begun to exhibit the occasional twinge of tween monsterness. The difference with Fifth Grader is she is incredibly self aware, and wishes for nothing more than to not grow up, not because she wants to remain childlike - although there may be a little bit of that going on - but because she has so much to do and see and try and master. She doesn't have time to dwell on her looming hormonal madness. She has a master checklist and she must complete it. Sound like anyone else we know? Seventh Grader lives in a perpetual state of annoyance with us both.

Ultimately, the school day had to end. Fifth Grader dutifully came home, followed instructions regarding taking her allotted snack/tv/computer time and then finishing all of her homework before going outside to play. Seventh Grader naturally modified her homecoming instructions to suit her, lingered endlessly over a bowl of cereal, and necessitated my leaning against the kitchen counter for ninety minutes to ensure that she did at least ninety percent of her homework, which of course "ruined" her Tuesday. Didn't do anything marvelous for mine either, but who am I? We agreed that she could finish her homework today, a snow day that was all but guaranteed. I wiped the blood and tears from my eyes and made dinner while she slunk off to the computer to tell her friends how awful her life is. Fifth Grader made intermittent appearances during this time. She was a bit mopey. She didn't want to talk about it. "What happens at school, stays at school" she recited at one point. Not altogether reassuring to my ears, but I didn't press.

After dinner, Seventh Grader and I put the gloves back on for the day's final round. The issue? Taking a shower. I was in favor. She was against. There was howling. Howling. I kid you not. At this point, my nerves were so completely shredded that I let it go. If the child truly wishes to shower every third Sunday, I say fine. This could ultimately be the answer to my fretting over her disproportionate social life/purposeful use of time ratio. If she stinks to high heaven, who is going to want to hang out with her? Stink away, little girl. Stink away.

Mercifully, bedtime arrived. After all of that, Seventh Grader and I did still manage an affectionate and even tender goodnight hug. So there's that. Fifth Grader capped the night off with the following:

"I didn't have the best day today, mom. But I still love you a lot." Aww.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I'm Thinking Epic. In a Baby Steps Kind of Way.

Here we are again, at the start of a new year. No doubt the fitness centers are all overflowing with Resolutioners, and celery sticks are flying off the produce shelves at grocery stores nationwide. I don't think I've heard anyone utter a curse word within a ten mile radius over the past four days, and that is just truly disturbing, really.

Thus, it pains me to confess that I am a card carrying member of the New Year's Resolution Club. Always have been. Can't seem to help myself. I am internally programmed to crave self-improvement. It's a sickness. Much like keeping a notebook where I write down the title and author of every book that I finish reading, and also alphabetizing said books on their bookshelves. And spending an inordinate amount of time making lists in my head of the things I need to get done on a daily basis. And always needing to have an ample supply of pain reliever on the premises, just in case. There, I have given voice to just about all of my neuroses - and if I have left any out that you are aware of, just shut up about it.

So I have repeatedly read that a good way to back up one's commitment to achieving New Year's Resolutions is to share them with a friend. Then, I suppose, because you have stated your intentions out loud, you are more likely to follow through. Well, I happen to know that this is utter crap. Just the same, I will use this time and space to share with you my resolutions for 2011.

Resolution #1: Write on a regular basis. OK. This is about the fourteenth year in a row that I have made this particular resolution. Some years it sticks, other years I massively suck at it. I can say with total candor that 2010 was a massively suckish year - but this does not stop me from resolving once again to write, weekly with any luck, even if I don't feel like it. Writing this blog might be a good place to start.

Resolution #2: Take responsibility for my own sorry-ass emotional bullshit. I think I will leave the mystique in that statement and simply reiterate: writing this blog might be a good place to start.

Resolution #3: Get marathon ready. Sadly, AficioNada is not going to be of much aid on this front. No way to achieve Resolution #3 without running a whole bunch. Not a compatible activity with typing. I do have a plan for this bad boy, which is to be ready for, and run, a half marathon in May. Part two of my plan is to be ready for, and run, a full marathon in October. But I'm not quite so hardcore about achieving part two. Let's just get to May first, mkay?

Resolution #4: Practice gratitude. A few months ago, I read this article about some dude whose life felt completely apart. To celebrate his coming apartness, he decided to write a thank you note every day for a year. Then, naturally, he wrote a book about his thank you note experience. Seems like I could kill two birds with one stone here. Seriously, I shared this story with the Tornadoes, and attempted to impress upon them how cool it might be to try this ourselves. But naturally, not every day. How about one thank you note per week? Surely they can think of ONE person a week to thank. So we haven't done a thing about it yet. But I am committed to giving this a go this year. And because our home is governed under a benevolent dictatorship (, the Tornadoes are committed as well. Because I told them that they are. And now I've told you, so I guess that means we're all on the hook.

So there you go. My New Year's Resolutions in a nutshell. If you have made any resolutions, I wish you the best of luck. And keep an eye out for your thank you note.