List of What I Need to do Before Kids Go Back to School Tomorrow
Everything
List of What I Will Actually Do to Help My Kids Get Ready to Go Back to School Tomorrow
I will wake them up an hour before school starts, and explain to them, while I pour whatever cereal is least stale into a bowl, that nobody brings their backpacks, or their pencils, or their calculators, or their crayons or their summer reading assignments to the first day of school. They won’t believe me. I will then point out that I did buy chocolate cookies for their snack, and that 4 of them are left from when I watched that movie the night before. They will be a little pissed but take the cookies.
They will come home from school and tell me that EVERYONE was better prepared than they were. I will apologize and take them shopping and backpacks and pencils and calculators will all be on sale, incredibly cheap. We will use the savings to buy a summer house.
The End.

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     Tomorrow, I’m taking the gang to the beach. We are going to pack a cooler with fried chicken from Shaws and a big thermos of lemonade. We are going to remember the frisbee and the football and the boogie boards. On the way I am going to sing along to hip hop and 80’s music until the kids cry for mercy, and/or promise to clear the table for the rest of the time they live at home.

When we get there we will find parking. The tide won’t be too high or too low. The water temperature will be cool enough to refresh, but not cold enough to hurt my toes. Tomorrow, I am going to make a day feel like a week, but it will end when I blink my eyes. I will take plenty of pictures. I will remember every single second forever.

And I promise I won’t hide under the beach umbrella posting whatever cute thing someone said on Facebook. I wo’t need to. I will remember every single second forever.

My first memories of Mountain Lakes are golden, they are colored by that magical belief that my parents could solve every problem in the world. I remember The Club, and egg throwing and the fishing contest at Birchwood. I remember Hap, the king and dictator of The Club, and musicals and baiting my hook, or having my Dad do it for me.

I was so lucky. We were so lucky. To have all those moments of utter confidence that the world was kind, that Easter was about catching a hardboiled egg, and that someone would always be there to help with the nasty business of fishing.

At a point, it turned. Dad got sick, I grew up, the fish stopped biting, the eggs stopped flying, I don’t know the exact moment. I trace my steps, we trace our steps, here, or while we try to sleep, or search for the right words for a eulogy, or a christening.

It turned for everyone, the things we remember are not the things that exist these days.

These days are different. Let us celebrate them, what is to come, and what is past.

Back at the Gym

August 25, 2012

Today was my first day back at the gym after a long summer. I got there just in time for zumba, one of the most joyful and humbling workouts imaginable.  (I can’t describe it. If you don’t know what it is, picture a whole lot of white women doing the salsa to the music of Pitbull. If you don’t know who Pitbull is, and you feel the need to know who Pitbull is, you are on the internet, so look him up.) I followed class with a long, hot shower, uninterrupted by children looking for socks or a telephone call from a computer trying really hard to convince the home security system they want to install is actually free  And then, also for the first time since the middle of June, I took out my fat, round brush and blew dry my hair. It boils down to this- I spent an hour and a half this morning looking at myself in the in the mirror.

This is what I learned.

1. I look really good with a tan.

2. There is a reason Zumba is often done in a dimly lit room, most people look like idiots while zumbaing. I caught a glimpse of myself in between a gyration and a hip thrust and decided next week I would take out my lenses beforehand.

3. Scowling doesn’t look sexy on most people. I know photographers and models have conspired to make American women think that scowling is mysterious and inviting. However, after catching a glimpse of this particular expression on my face, and the faces of other women in the class, I noted  that it in fact makes the wearer appear mad, constipated and, in extreme cases, dangerous. Of course, I caught myself smiling in the mirror and regretted not wearing my retainer after my braces came off.

4. That thing I do with my mouth when I look at myself, that pouty thing, it makes me look like a llama. I don’t hink it’s ever going to fashionable to resemble an irritated animal that lives in the Andes.

5.  I need to do my eyebrows. I don’t know what I need to do to my eyebrows, but I do know that something needs to be done. They don’t look right.

6. Blowdrying is the most insanely boring activity since traffic. I think someone should invent a way to blow dry ones hair while sitting in traffic, thus killing two tedious birds with one stone. I should patent this.

7. Next week, I’m standing in the back row and letting my hair dry in the car. All this visual introspection has made me uncomfortably aware that I need to make immediate appointments with both an orthodontist and  aesthetician, and I will never get a call back for a chorus line.

But at least I look good with a tan.

Nantasket Beach

August 24, 2012

I lived in New England a long time before I got over my distaste for the beach.  Until I was ten, I spent each summer day at a pool. When we moved, it was to a place called Mountain Lakes. It took me time, I wasn’t crazy about sharing the water with fish, but I got used to it. For years, the beach always seemed too damn sandy and too bright. The  boom boxes were loud and the seagulls were greedy for lunch.

I got over it. Today was my day at the beach. 

We didn’t get there until around 2. The tide was coming in. The water was chilly, but not painful. (Yes, pain is often part of the New England experience.) I dove into the belly of a wave, into the dark cold depths, and then she lifted me back up. I floated. I chased my daughter. I caught a ball. I lost a ball. I raced the waves, I lost, I won. I rode high on the crest, I slipped in underneath and came out the other side.

In the ocean’s arms, I am not 50 or 5. I am a slip of skin, a bag of bones in the middle of  a wet world that lifts me,  throws me over, then lifts me again holds me floating for hours, or minutes. I am the loved and the a lover. I was tickled by crabs and tangled in seaweed. I was stunned, and fell when I walked back into a wall of water. I swam strong easy strokes against the tide. I was home. 

That was just a few hours ago. I showered but there is still a little sand on my skin. My mouth tastes like salt. I have a burn on my ankle that didn’t get sunblock. A long day at the beach leaves me marked, spent and hungry for more. 

 

  • I was away on vacation and I had some time to ponder since my time was spent mostly underwater searching for one more sand dollar, or wandering around the condo looking for Colin’s shoe. My thoughts often turned to one my favorite things to think about- me. I have changed in the past few years, mostly in ways no one would probably even notice. So just in case no one has noticed, I thought I’d jot them down.

a. I like coconut. Someone slipped it to me in one of those bars with the crazy names like “fiesta” or “yum yum” and when I felt the tell tale sweet shred on my tongue, I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve had it since, and not all muddied up in a pina colada, and I have to say, I am a fan.

b. I am no longer the woman that shoves toddlers off the steps of the shallow end of the pool so that I can make my way into the water inch by inch. At the ocean, I don’t spend hours at the edge of the water with a bunch of four year olds I don’t know, (who obviously haven’t been given the speech about stranger danger) while I wait for my shivering flesh to get used to the water in New England. I am now a person who plonges, whole body, toes to the top of my head, into the wet and I don’t resurface until I’ve stopped trembling. Mostly. This policy is in effect July 25th thru August 30. As long as it doesn’t rain too much.

 c. My conscience has finally convinced the rest of me to not eat veal. It still working on a whole bunch of other things.
 d. When going from point a to point b, even if the two points are hours apart, I am now someone who doesn’t stop for anything. I want to beat the time on the gps. I want to call Uncle Fred and crow; “Yeah, Fred. I know you said an hour and forty, but really, it was, for me, an hour and a half, easy. Even if the sound of my daughter, sipping water, on the phone, makes me shake, I won’t stop.
When I was coming to Boston many years ago to check out schools, it took me two days to get there from New Jersey. It’s a five hour trip.
e. I am both a dog and a cat person.
Once I was a finicky amoral person who wasted precious moments on testing the water and going thru the drive thru for coffee.
Now I’ll eat anything that hasn’t been raised in cages and deprived of sunlight and I spend as much time rolling around the floor with Sophie the Wonder Pup, crooning “who loves you, baby?” as I do trying to coax Bijou inside during a tornado, waving a can of tuna in my hand and acting like I don’t care if he comes in or not.
f. I almost forgot to mention, sometimes I like country and western. Not the Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash cool kind.
Tonight, on my way home from the Cape, that song came on, by the father who is saying goodbye to his daughter at her wedding, with words like “I loved her first,” and “she belongs to you now”. It was corny, twangy, un pc. I loved it, I think I cried a little.
My judgement may have been a little clouded. I really, really had to pee.

Betta Fish

August 23, 2012

     I don’t know where Colin’s obsession with beta fish came from. One day he was obsessed with the NFL and NBA, the next he was going to Petco’s website and telling me about special tanks, strategies for breeding, and gory details about what happens when two males are in the same tank. 

     School is starting in less than a week. There are backpacks and bluejeans to buy. There is the beginning of football season. The return of homework. His phone needs to be turned on and his hair needs to be cut. And all he wants to talk about are fish. Betta fish.

     So today on our way home from camp, we took a field trip to Petco. There must have been hundreds of bettas, all swimming in their own plastic containers, about the size of small soup bowls. There were betta babies, betta girls, betta boys, double tailed, single tailed, every neon color that ever twinkled at  Christmastime . Some were sluggish, some were frantic, and some just looked bored. 

     Colin looked at me, his sister Katy looked at me. But I was prepared for the guilt, I’d left my wallet in the car. And now, whatever crazy obsession he has was transferred to me. I’m sitting here when I should be leafing thru circulars and weighing out the merits of binders versus folders. I’m sitting here and all I can do is think about bettas. And write about the fact I’m thinking about bettas.

     You know, it’s been a while since we’ve had salmon for dinner. 

     I don’t want to think about food, I’m getting rid of my- it’s too hot to cook, let’s just order pizza- belly. So I’ll go back to thinking about bettas. I heard they are a lot cheaper if you buy them online. Shopping for bettas must be even more relaxing, soothing and life changing than simply pondering the little fish. 

     I’ll let you know.

     

     

 

 

Guilty Pleasures

August 22, 2012

Just after the kids finally sleep, there is that moment I realize I will not hear “mom, can you shut out my light, ” “don’t forget to wake me up 15 minutes early,” “what was that, you are watching tv without us?!”. When the stillness settles around me, I begin my life without them. And yet they are there, in those moments just after. I listen for footsteps, or doors, I don’t want to get caught by my kids doing what I do in the hours I have sent them to sleep.
I go to an “inappropriate site”on the internet and hope not to get busted. If the phone rings, I answer it like I’m asleep. When I snack, I wash out the bowl and wipe counters.
I’m not up to anything yet, just by living a life after they sleep, I feel like I’m cheating.
Just being online, or reading a novel or sipping tea at 11:05 feels like a forbidden pleasure.
Before I had kids, I had to work so much harder for that sense- this is bad, therefore it must be-feel-taste really good. Now, all I have to is be awake after they sleep and watching something HBO.
I’m such a dangerous girl.

Dinner Time

August 22, 2012

Dinner time

The transition of junk table to dinner table, of homework to eating always seems impossible to me. One minute crayons, paperwork, a college catalogue, a coupon for cat food, that weekly with the tv guide, and a roll of scotch tape, all of it must find a new spot  where it won’t get lost but  we don’t have to look at it. After fifteen minutes and Side 1 of Janet Jackson’s greatest hits, there are napkins and jelly jars. In the middle of it all is a mountain of pot roast and a hill of mashed cauliflower, potatoes and leeks overlooking a puddle of spinach.  The kids and I gather and sit. There is sniffing and negotiating (how much spinach, how long do we have to wait for dessert…) Before one bite is eaten, there is the horrible realization that the ketchup hasn’t made it to the table. There is the sprint to the refrigerator, one kid, two, “Mom, where is the Heinz?” And the collective sigh of relief when I find it. Someone stuck it in the cupboard with the crackers. It’s probably gone bad.
That was last night. No one has died yet.

Quiet

August 22, 2012

     I left my phone/ipod at home so during the dog walk I had time to think my own thoughts. Probably not a great thing, for a little while I was playing around with a poem that used the words “butterfly” and “matchstick” broken into pieces, nouns and verbs, very symbolic, Sophie didn’t like it one little bit.
     Next I pondered how quickly the month of July and the first half of August has passed. Before I had a chance to finish that thought, I was turning the key in the ignition. In an attempt to make the evening last a little longer, to put off turning into my driveway and turning my attention to tomorrow’s lunches and laundry, I watched the sun set before turning left. I stopped at the yellow light and smiled at an old man in the crosswalk.

     The old man was confused and the driver behind me was livid.
     Maybe next time I want to slow time down, I should probably do it before I get behind the wheel and put my foot on the gas.