Fountain of Youth

Although my bug bitten legs would not agree, Saturday was a nice evening. An old friend came over for dinner. We used to get together so our "babies" could play - mine had bright orange-red yarn hair. Her's had brown yarn. I'm not sure about her's, buy my Cabbage Patch Kid is still around. Meg likes to drag it from place to place by it's ratty looking pig-tails.

We sat chatting in the yard - perhaps we were giddy on the fumes of our non-effective bug spray (although perhaps spreading it on one's legs might lend more protection from said bites then forgetting about one's legs.) It was like old times - times in green heavy canvas tents hung on the wooden frames of Girl Scout camps where we'd huddle with two other giddy girls and giggle under the glow of flashlights.

"You know I'm going to end up having to write this in my blog," I had said. She knew. (Now, you all take a moment to wave to her because she is currently shaking her head at me and laughing as she reads this. Go on. I'll wait. Wave to her.)

It wasn't the evening I wanted to muse on. It was one particular topic of conversation. There we were, two grown women in our early (but inching closer to 'mid') 30s and both of us wondering exactly when it was that we'd feel like grown-ups.

I had expected to feel more grown-up when I got a 'real' job. Nope. I thought maybe when I got married. Nada. Certainly children would make me feel all grown-up. And yet, it hasn't. At least not completely.

Sure, I have adult responsibilities. I have bills. I pay them. I have young charges to keep in one relative piece. I raise them. I have a career. I have a house with a mortgage that has my name on it -- my married name.

And yet, I still don't feel like a "grown-up."

As a kid, grown-ups were "old." They were 30. They were 40. They were my people my parents' age. Here I am now -- my parents' "age", at least what they were when I was a child musing about what constituted grown-up. The funny thing is my perception has changed. Grown-ups are *still* people my parents age, only now that has shifted to '50' or '60.' I am some sort of stuck-in between adult that's not done growing.

It's true, of course, None of us, no matter what the calender says we should be, are ever truly grown-up then. We never stop growing, evolving. . .adapting. We are in a perpetual state of growing-up. This is something I never knew way back then. I expected 'grown-up' to feel so very different than what being "adult" feels like.

There are times, as my friend and I discussed, when we step back and think "Wow, holy crap, I'm an adult." It's not when we're paying bills or settling into our desks in our offices. No. it's when we're standing on fences, glaring at those loud, obnoxious "kids" in the yard behind us and telling them to keep that racket down so some of us could sleep because hell, we have jobs to go to in the morning.

I do feel decidely grown-up when a young new hire giggles about blowing her first ever real paycheck on new designer duds because really, she's still at home with her parents and can afford to go crazy with what seems to be so very much money at that moment. I grin at her and think of how very far that same check wouldn't go if she had a home to finance and children to feed. I feel a bit of envy for her zeal. I also, however, feel a bit smug knowing I have what she does not - that loving group of arms to greet her when she gets home at night - the big ones to hold her up when she needs it and the little ones to bolster her spirits.

I feel rather grown-up, but only briefly, when someone uses the term "your son/your daughter." Or, when someone refers to me as Mrs. [last name], Logan/Megan's Mom, or, better yet, Ma'am. Those grown-up feelings though are only fleeting because in the moment the words fade from the air, their weight fades too.

Sometimes, as that feeling of 'grown-upness" dissipates it leaves behind this sense of being young and over my head - a kid dressing up in her mother's clothes, playing in the make-up bin. I used to like to put on my mother's only remaining vestiage of the 60's. Her knee high, white stretch leather go-go boots with the big chunk heel. I could barely walk in them but I loved to try.

Today, my daughter, all 23 months of her, likes to pull my rarely worn heels from the closet. She pushes her small feet into them - slipping deep down into the leather toes. She stands next to me in the little master bathroom and begs, "Do my eyes please. Color my eyes too!" I use the side of my finger to gently brush across her closed, expectant lids, fooling her into thinking she's all made-up. She smiles. She twirls. "I look like mommy!" she coos and she shuffles off down the hall way in her blue satin and white netted princess tutu pulled up high over her shorts - her pig-tails bobbing up and down as she goes.

And in that moment, she does look like me - the me that's not yet grown-up deep inside. I hope the two of us keep that little girl within us forever.


Offically a demographic

It's offical. I am now a real, honest to goodness soccer mom from the mini-van right down to the kid in cleats.

Earlier this summer we heard that the local soccer clubs had instructional leagues for the preschool set. Bruce and I agreed. When the kids got old enough to really be 'joining' things it was going to be their choice, not ours. We let it slide. Didn't even mention it. We didn't want him to think we were urging him or 'hinting.' When he came to us asking to play, we'd discuss it.

He plays soccer in the backyard with Dad. Up and down the backyard. Passing the ball. Kicking the ball. Sometimes guarding the net. He loves it.

One recent day he said to me, quite matter of factly, "I want to play soccer."

And I said, quite naively, "With Daddy after dinner or with me now?"

He looked at me like I had four heads. "I do want to play with you and Daddy, but I mean I want to play on a team with kids my age."

I was dumbstruck. Huh? Team? Kids? Organized sports? You're 4. I mean really? You want a team?

The best I could do in response was, "Oh yeah? When?"

He shrugged. "When I'm a bit older and they have teams for me."

It's been nagging at me. Those last words he left me with - when they have teams for me. They do, I wanted to say, but I didn't.

I thought we were past the registration deadline. I didn't want to get his hopes up. I finally got online today to check. Deadline was extended to August 31st. We conferred. We agreed. I sat him down and asked if he really wanted to play. He beamed. I mean the boy practically glowed.

"Yes!" he said with the largest smile I may have ever seen on his face. The smile so big traces of it continued to linger around his mouth all day long. All. Day. Long. The boy is giddy with anticipation. He even giggled.

So I did it. I signed him up. His first game is September 9th. He has 20 minutes of instruction and 20 minutes of a skirmage amongst his team mates. 10 little 4 year old boys out to have fun and learn how to kick a ball without nailing each other in the shins. . .or something like that.

He even gets a uniform. And cleats. And shin guards.

Did I mention he's still giddy?

Did I mention *I* am? I'm so excited for him. My little trigger finger is practically itching to get all the photos of him in uniform...and in action.

I'm a soccer mom now. And some how it's yet to make me gag.


Green Thumb

I've had my garden for three years. Each year I attempt pumpkins. For some reason I keep going back to them despite miserable failure.

The first year I successfully grew about three pumpkins. They ripened and were ready to pick in August. They made lovely bread long before the autumn 'decorating' season. The vines, by the way, managed to be coated in ugly white powdery scum.

The second year I planted both orange and white pumpkins. We also added watermelon. I grew two melons. One between our chain link fence and the neighbors wooden one. The only way to free it was to slice it to pieces. It was too mangled to eat. The other seemed ripe. I picked it. We cut it open. It wasn't ripe.

I grew a small number of pumpkins too. The one little orange one that grew ended up out front with the other pumpkins last year. The white ones? Ready to pick long before we needed them. They rotted on the kids picnic table waiting for use. Oh, that is unless you count the one that grew on the other side of the fence for my neighbors to pick.

This year we tried again. I planted a packet of "Jack-0-Latern Pumpkin" seeds. One vine grew. I pretty much wrote off success early on in the season.

Near my one rinky-dink pumpkin vine appeared a surprise watermelon vine. Apparently a seed from my 'rescue the melon between the fence' mission produced an unplanned surprise. I transfered the fledging vine to another part of the garden. It's produced a lot of leaves. No watermelon. That is until recently. I appear to have one or two growing now. I promise to not touch them.

When we were building the patio last month my brother pointed to part of the pumpkin vine growing outside the cheesey garden fence. "You have a pumpkin you know," he said.

I didn't know and even as he pointed, I didn't see it.

It got ignored until one day it could no longer be ignored. It grew and it grew. It is the ONLY pumpkin being fed by one, GIANT, vine with huge leaves. Leaves bigger than your head. This means it's getting to be a fairly big pumpkin.

Megan likes to climb into the cave of leaves and hug the giant produce. "I love you punkin," she says as she rests her head on it. It makes for a cute picture and a good example of how big our single orange globe really is turning out to be. Surely not 'blue ribbon at the county fair' big, but big.


Now that's love

Today was race day. If you don't take spin classes, you likely have no idea what I'm talking about. Let me explain.

You sit on a bike - that has one wheel - and you tighten the resistance rod as high as you can stand it. Your goal is make it hard to pedal through. You want to mimic riding up a mountain. There are several styles of class: endurance, strength, high-intensity training and race day. Each style includes a variety of different spin techniques designed to get you working out within a target heart rate. Typically you aim to stay within an aerobic threshold, about 75-85%. (Ideally smack in the center at 80%) On race day, however, you go all out. On race day, you strive to hit and maintain a heart rate of about 92% your normal standing heart rate. And, if you're really looking to build heart strength, you might even push a little harder.

For 30 minutes straight.

Race day comes with a few ground rules, at least at my gym:

1. Work at your own pace - set your restiance and your pedal stroke at YOUR level. Ignore everyone else. You race only with your own past performace, not the person next to you.

2. Drink a lot during the race.

3. Drink at least 16ozs immediately AFTER race and continue to drink water all day long. (or you will be destined for a head-ache any self-respecting hang-over would envy.)

4. Do nothing strenuous the rest of the day or the next day.

5. Nap if you need to.

6. Go ahead and honor your cravings. You body is trying to tell you something.

With two young children demanding I, you know, parent, I've only managed to drink my water and give in to cravings. (SHhhh....)

The kids, as is our custom, came into the spin room with me when we first arrived at the gym. They like to help me get my towel and water set-up on the bike before heading into child care. I dropped them off, put my heart monitor on, settled in the saddle and began to warm up gently.

We started. I raced. I pushed hard. I finished. I was exhausted.

We stopped to empty my life savings into the gas station attendant's hand on our way home. As the nice man filled our tank with regular unleaded, I laid out the rest of our day for my two gym rats.

Logan interrupted before we got too far into our plans, "Why do you need to take a shower?"

"Umm, because I just worked out at the gym and I feel gross and stinky."

"You don't stink," he said with complete (I'm sure disillusioned) sincerity.

"Thank you honey, but regardless, I'm taking a shower," I said thinking that was the end of it.

But it wasn't. Logan wanted to know more. He wanted to know what we do in class. I tried to explain it as best I could. "Today we pretended to race on our bikes," I told him.

He wanted to know how we all got around that little room on our bikes.

I explained the one wheel thing. The whole stationary bike concept. I told him how we had special dial on our bike to make it harder to pedal so it was like going up the mountain.

"You know how hard it can be sometimes to get your bike up the hill on our block?" I asked him. He nodded. "Well, it's sort of like that, only I don't have Daddy to push me when it gets too hard."

"Oh Mommy!" Logan said alarmed, "You should have come to get me from the kid room. I would help push you!"


Tigers and Lions and Bears. Oh my!

There's something about a trip to the zoo that sparks the return of one's inner child. Maybe it's the smells (gag!) or the sounds (ROAR!) or just the general melee of the crowds. Whatever it is, the four of us took the two hour ride south to the *free* zoo at the very end of our state to be childlike together.

I've nothing witty to say. I took loads of photos. I chased a toddler for what must have been a million miles. I paid more than a human being ought to for cold bottled drinks on a hot day. I had a good time.

Animals have the ability to appear contemplative and playful all at once. Sometimes you get to capture that in pictures - if the cage doesn't get in your way. Here are a few of my favorite images from the day. I find something beyond the mundane and past face-value in each of these. What do they speak to you? (click on each image to see a larger copy.)


Hot Diggity Dog

Do you have kids? Are they fans of the new (and computer animated) Mickey Mouse Clubhouse? Mine are. In fact, both the four year old and the nearly two year old can be heard singing Mickey's farewell song at any odd moment of any old day. "Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog. Now we got ears, it's time for cheers. . . "

Well friends. We got ears and it's time for cheers.

When Logan recieved his piggy bank - ahh, well when I recieved it as a shower gift - we began to put spare change in with the sole purpose of using it one day for a family vacation. Not just any family vacation. A Disney World family vacation.

With Megan's arrival we put the trip on tempoary hold. We wanted to find that magic time when Logan was young enough to not miss a week of anything other than preschool and Megan was old enough to actually enjoy at least some of the trip.

And that time has come.

I just booked it.

It will arrive in 2007. By the time we take off in our airplane headed to Orlando, Logan will be 4 1/2 years old. Megan will be 2 1/2.

The girl seems content to see JoJo and Princesses...and to shop. She's got a list. Really.

The boy already has his list of things he MUST see while we were are their - the LEGO Imagination Center, the "Tea Cup" ride with Grandma, the Star Wars ride with Mommy and Papa, and Tom Sawyer's Island with anyone up for it. His list tends to end with the phrase, "And I will bring my allowance so I can buy those Mickey Mouse ears Grandma keeps talking about."

My parents are going the same time and staying in the same resort. Can you say "built in babysitters?" I mean really, this means at least one night of child free dining for the husband and me. It means when my 'early to bed' spouse and the children nod off for the night...and my dad for that matter...I have Mom to go with me to the comedy club and jazz clubs of Pleasure Island.

I'm excited. Bruce is excited. The kids are excited. The grandparents are excited. We're all excited.

Is it time to go?


For the Love of Headphones

The owner of my gym has decided her customers need a little motivation in the summer months. Something to get us to continue coming with regularity as the outdoors or the central air calls our names.

For spinners like me, we are given points for every class we take. The point value, or rather 'mile total', varies based on the goal of the day. Endurance class? 50 miles/points. Strength class? 25. Race day? 150. As you accumulate points, you rack up the prizes.

I missed two weeks of the program. Megan is a new convert to accepting, and enjoying, the child care room at the gym. Prior to that, I managed one class a week. So, that patio building Saturday eliminated a class for me as did the stomach flu the next weekend. However, Meg suddenly began to cooperate and I was suddenly able to take additional classes. By the second week of my new three times a week class habit, it occured to me that perhaps I really could make some use out of this incentive program.

As of this Friday I will have amassed enough points to earn myself a pair of cardio-headphones. I have no idea what cardio-headphones are - Ok, that's not true. I do. They are standard headphones you can use to hook up into the standard gym equipment. However, I have no idea what I'm going to do with cardio-headphones other than display them a big note that says "I went to Spin for 750 miles!"

Next week is the last week of the incentive program. It's a big week for classes, at least the ones I've been attending regularly of late. In this week alone I'll tact on another 425 points. And that, my friends, is enough to earn me a $10 drink card with points to spare.

It's not the prizes, although at $1.25 for water per class that I forget my water bottle the drink card is nice. It's not the reward; it's the accomplishment. It's seeing my name on that bar graph with the nice long line. It's accomplishment.

And, it's enough to get me to rethink my schedule starting September. With preschool and activities starting up, I can't make three spin classes. I can make two. But I can make two class plus two other days of general gym time. That's a huge step forward for me and some how I owe it all to a pair of headphones I'll likely never really use.

Funny how that happens.


Rodent State

When Megan naps, Logan and I play. We play a lot of different things. Computer games. Board games. Make pretend games. Outdoor games. Indoor games. We're not particularly picky.

Lately we've played a lot of board games. One of Logan's favorites in this genre is "Great States Junior." Using one of those little quirky shaped game pieces and a multi-colored cube you make your way around a red, white, blue and yellow (with a white star) path that surrounds a brightly colored map of the United States. As you land on a colored square, you need to answer questions from the color coordinated stack of cards.

Logan landed on a red square. These cards require you to find states that start with a specific letter or word. I pulled a red card from the pile.

I showed him the card and he read aloud, "Name three states that start with the word NEW."

Without missing a beat he began to poke a finger at the board as he called out his answer:

"New Jersey." Check.

"New Mexico" Check.

Then with a finger next to Vermont, he said, "New Hamster"

Ahhh, close enough.


I feel like I've been rather neglegent with blog writing lately. It's not that I have nothing to say. I just can't seem to get my head around saying it. Perhaps this format will help me. Blogging by emotion. I'm feeling:

Content - The new job is three weeks old and I'm content. It's taken some adjustment. (For example, this is the second week I forgot to do my timesheets before leaving on Thursday.) In the past jobs took time to ramp up for. Training. Understanding. Getting my arms around concepts. Employers putting education before production. This job I hit the ground running and it feels good. We sent out our first e-newsletter yesterday. All my own. It was recieved with big smiles and loads of accolades from the owners - my boss and his brother.

Tired - I've been staying up late and for some reason the girl has been getting up at least once during the night to protest the great injustice that is sleep. And then one or the other kid is up by 6:30 am. I am tired. I am tired and coffee is my bestest friend.

Proud - When Meg naps, Logan and I play. Wednesday he was on a board game kick. We played the "State game" (Great States Junior) and we relearned geography. We played Sum Swamp and we practiced our addition and subtraction skills. We played Word Bingo and we practiced our reading. He did it all. I watched him whisper to himself as he held up his fingers to figure out how many spaces to move - "6 - 4. I have six. I take away 4...I have 2." My little boy isn't so little anyway.

Prouder still - I have a cold. Or maybe it's allergies. Either way it stinks. Logan overheard me comment about the sore throat and the general ick feeling in my head. He decided it was up to him to take care of me. He's been over the top with "extra attention" for me since last night. He even drags around my lap quilt so I can wrap up and feel better. His methods can be a bit much. Somehow extra attention translates to extra work and/or overwhelming. Yet it's sweet. It's indicitive of the caring, compassionate young man we've got on our hands.

Angry - The deal with old job was that I'd get paid within two weeks of invoicing. It's happened more or less that way for four years only because I had the ability to plant myself in accounting and glare. I've been gone for three weeks. I have now have an invoice that has sat with them for 5 weeks and another for 3 weeks. I call. I email. The response, "Oh I'm so sorry, we'll see about getting it in this weeks check run." My former direct supervisor is funneling me a project or two. I told him I'm finishing the current one but will not touch another until I get paid on the open invoices. He needs the project. He desperately needs it. He's now camping out in accounting.

Relieved - New job opted to skip the 'contact status' for me and put me on payroll. I got my first check yesterday. Direct deposit. They managed to pay me in my third week for my first two weeks. I'm still waiting for old place.



The wireless reciever for our weather contraption said the temperature was in the mid-80s, but after a week long triple-digit heatwave, the air felt downright breezily, comfortably warm. Not hot.

We piled in the 'Mommy van.' We drove to the little park on the Bay in the next Borough - which is a mere 5 miles if that from our front door. The kids played on the swings and various park equipment. I stood next to the small butterfly garden off one corner of the play area.

Megan joined me. First telling me, "Butterfly scared me flying by my head." Then she discovered what I had - the beauty, the peace, the calming and yet at the same time, the exciting impact of their fluttering and attacking the various flowers for a meal. We took a lot of photos. (Of course I'm already plotting which to frame and where to hang them.)

This was the same place I managed to snag some of my favorite floral photos a few months ago - the same ones that are now part of a framed grouping of floral shots hanging over Meg's bed. It's quickly become my favorite place to photograph anything other than my children. . .although I tend to photograph them there as well.

My guess is everyone with a mild passion for photography has such a place as well. Where is yours?


Mama's Girl

I was heading out last night to meet a friend for dinner. Megan wasn't thrilled about the idea. She told me her plans to join us. "I come too. I have dinner," she said as if bringing a climbing, figgety toddler to a place that has actual menus would be my idea of a nice 'girl's night out.'

Dropping to my knees so we could be eye-level I let Meg in on a little secret. "I have a very special job for you. Can you help me?" I asked her.

She nodded with wide-eyes, displaying exactly how serious she was going to take the assignment. She leaned in close and whispered back, "What my mish-in (mission) Mommy?"

The assignment - she'd be the only female in the house. She was going to have to take care of Brother and Daddy. "They need someone to take care of them and help them, Meggie. Can you do it for me?"

She sighed contently and again nodded. "Ok. I do it," she said and she ran off. She got busy playing and generally ignoring us all. That is, until I grabbed my purse and said my goodbyes. Meg saw me first. She heard my farewell biddings. She ran, a little paniced almost, and began to yell, "DADDY!"

She found him and quickly raised her arms up in the quick, resolute way that speaks volumes - pick me up. Once in his arms, she began to pat his shoulder. "Don't worry Daddy," she said softly. "I take care you."


More Adventures in Reading

We have a lot of those "Step into Reading" books. If you have a young child, perhaps you're familiar with them. Logan likes to call them his "reader books." I like to call them "Today's Dick and Jane." The wide range of titles come within a framework of 5 levels. The first is for pre-readers. It sets the stage - a lot of rhyming, a lot of site words. Stage 2 is labeled "reading with help."

Several weeks ago Logan insisted we buy him "more twos." So I did. I mean really, I'm a book whore. I just can't bring myself to say no when one of my kids wants a book.

Last night Logan opted out of Tom Sawyer. He wanted to read one of the "Twos." The plan was to take turns reading sentences. Me. Then him. Me. Then him. His idea.

I read.

He read. He sounded out words a letter at a time when it wasn't one he recognized. Then he'd announce what he'd discovered proudly. One such sentence was spoken by one of the characters:

"I kah-now..." Logan said with gusto before I stopped him from going on.

I smiled. I rubbed his head and said, "Well, ok. I understand why you *think* that says kah-now, but that's not quite it. That word is know. As in I know how to read."

Logan stared at me with that look that he pulls out when he thinks I'm messing with him and he's not finding me funny. "No, Mommy. That's wrong. I know how to read. That word is KAH-NOW. See! K is Kah. N is Nuh and O with a W is oww! Kah-Now. Know is spelled N - O."

I nodded. I squelched the urge to just ignore it and move on, this wasn't like when he made up the rules to the board games we play. I tried to explain the silent K and the long vowels and the short vowels and the way some words sound the same as other words but are spelled differently.

I showed him how if we covered up the K we'd have the word "now." Logan nodded, and then he put his little finger over the W.

"See, mommy," said Logan with a little bit of know-it-all-ism seeping out, "If we had no K and no W we'd have NO."

It was then that I decided the guy writing down all these phonics rules was most certainly drunk at the time.

(And today, for good measure I bought Logan the "Step 2" book "Here comes Silent E." Which we've read already. Logan has prounounced the "silent E" rule "Stupid." Again I say, who can blame him.)

(Read on to find out why I'm melting...if you care. ha!)

I'm melting

If it weren't for math, Bruce would have been a weatherman. Not the kind that merely reads the weather reports on air - the meteorologist kind that actually writes the forecast. The man is happiest outside in a blizzard or Nor'easter simply because he's one with weather.

Several years ago, as a birthday/Christmas gift, he purchased his dream gift - a Davis Weather Station. He constructed a big pole with an arm to one side. It rests in a big mass of concrete next to our fence off to one side of our yard. (Yes, you can put these things on your roof...but there's this whole lightening paranoia going on sparked by a boyhood weather station that was struck back in the day.) The arm holds both the fancy encased thermometer/barometer and the rain gauge. On top of the pole rests the fancy weather vane.

The actual read-out from all these instruments is sent to a wireless unit that sits on top of Bruce's armoire in our bedroom. I like to tease him the whole set-up, but truth is, it's pretty neat having the forecast for your own backyard. Other times, like this current heat wave we're mired in, it's almost too much information.

I mean really, I knew it was hot. I know the humidity was pushing the heat index to ungodly numbers. I really just didn't realize how much it sucked until we got home and I glanced at the monitor. Yeah, it was hot. Then I dared to punch a few bottoms to find out the high for the day. Ahh, well I'll let you see for yourself.*

There are two rows of numbers - the big number at the left on the top row is the high temperature for the day. (For what it's worth, it is now 98 at 5:30pm) The number next to that is the humidity at the time the high was recorded.) The number below that (high two digit number) is the temperature in our bedroom. The central works -- the lines just run through the freakin' hot attic and so, it's not quite as cool in our abode as we'd like it to be. Time to buy attic fans. The big number to the right of the 2nd row is the heat index - or, as I like to call it, "So this is why I'm sticking to everything I touch!"

(*Degrees are in Fahrenheit. Oh, and ignore the dust that coats the top of the armoire. I'm only 5 foot 3 people, I don't see it. It does not exist. Damn this camera!)