Top of Mind at the tipping point to summer

1) Bike to Work
This week was “Bike to Work Week”. My employer is big into Bike To Work week, and strongly encourages people to participate. It’s also pretty mellow on the “show up exactly at 9 and leave exactly at 5” scale (as long as your work gets done). So with the near-completion of the Stoneham Greenway, all the way through to Winchester Center, I reckoned just maybe it was time to give it a try. I’m pretty scared of biking in traffic. My sister had an extremely serious biking injury when I was in my early teens. Biking in traffic like a grownup seems terrifying. So I posted to an internal group that I was interested in participating (going from my house to Alewife and taking the T in), but asking for good route advice. I got excellent route advice, a t-shirt with a weird Illuminati-biking theme, the loan of front and back headlights, and a colleague who SHOWED UP AT MY HOUSE AT 8:15 to ride in with me and make sure I felt safe. The mind boggles that people could be so awesome, but it turns out that sometimes they are.

Commuting clothes

It took a surprising amount of mental energy. It also took about 2 hours each way, so that’s unlikely to become a regular thing. I thought a lot about what I was going to do, how I was going to do it, and what I’d do if it didn’t work. It was a really novel experience, and I was interested to see how much my mind was engaged and excited by the novelty of it. I was also surprised and pleased that I wasn’t all that physically wiped out by it (except for mebbe that last hill on the way home). I’ve been in better shape lately – we’ve been running a loop with the bikeway as well which is close to 4 miles and I set a personal record best time & personal record longest run last week.

There was this moment, as I spun through brand-new asphalt on the not-quite-yet-finished bikeway where I really really enjoyed the fact that it exists at all. The community came together and made this thing happen, which was not easy. My first post about it was five years ago. Since then there have been Town Hall Meetings, letters to the editor, phone banking, cleanup days and patient and concerted effort to make it happen. It’s astonishing to think that after so long, the efforts of the good-hearted people of Stoneham are bearing fruit, but here they are!

2) Plums
Speaking of bearing fruit, I’ve been more than a little obsessed with my plums this year. The point at which you’re putting a space heater out for a fruit tree, you have crossed some important line. However, I’m happy to say that they’ve made it the furthest this year in the history of this benighted plum. There are hundreds of tiny little fruits. Most are the size of a lentil, but there are one or two that are the size of really small olives.

I’m excited to learn what disaster can kill fruit at this stage! I’ll let you know.

There are a couple hundred plums, but these are the biggest

3) Attic Renovation
I’ve been getting strong pressure from maternal sources to post an update in the attic situation. Here’s the album where you can watch the whole thing progress. We have the electric & plumbing in, as well as a lot of the framing. Almost all the demo is completed (or was, until we increased scope like the home owners we are). The inspection has been done. There’s a bit of waiting for the next step – we need to put in the new windows, but they’re on order and won’t be ready until early June. We also need to get the HVAC in and all hooked up. We opted to go for a bigger unit so we can drop some cool air in summer down to the 2nd floor and actually get it to be a comfortable temperature – sandwiched between two zones. We also had to put in new hard-wired smoke detectors for the whole house to bring it up to code, and bring in a new electric bank. Once we have HVAC & windows in, we’ll do closed cell insulation from the bottom of the walls to the tip top of the roof. We’ll need to vacate the house then for a day. But that’ll be the biggest tipping point – then we can start doing finish type work like, you know, walls & stuff.

I reckon the project will be done by early August, if I’m lucky.

4)Time with my boys
I got to go to Fenway on Thursday night for the makeup game from Patriot’s day. It was so perfect. The weather was ideal. The game was excellent (and we won). It’s an interesting moment when you learn that your child is really good company. We had good conversations, we were game-watching-compatible. On the walk back to where we parked, he didn’t like how someone had bumped up against me, and then protectively took the spot between me and other people. How quickly we go from protecting them to them feeling protective of us. He’s still not bigger than me, but that will not last long.

Just as I took this picture, the Sox hit a home run

In the same vein, every year for Mother’s Day we go to the Arnold Arboretum for the Lilac Festival. And every year for many the boys have climbed these ponderous birch trees with tempting limbs and I’ve taken their pictures there. This year, we arrived to find a denuded slope. I never thought that the grand trees my boys climbed on would not outlast our Mother’s Day tradition. I will admit tears welled in my eyes. I’m grieved for the magnificent trees that were lost (although I’m sure the arborists did everything in their power to save them). But it was this shocking moment to discover that we are all now old enough for things that were traditions to come to final endings. It’s astonishing enough to have sufficient tenure to parenthood to have traditions in the first place. I feel very unready to have traditions end.

Not quite the same thing

5) Finding my feet again
Every year for Mothers Day I write my mother a letter about how things have been in the past year. Last year I wrote a letter that talked about how overwhelmed I was, especially with huge projects like the pastor search and kicking off the attic project. I added a few things to my tally during the course of the year, the largest of which was probably getting a new job. But slowly slowly slowly, since about January, I’ve been unburying myself from the accumulation of things that needed to be done, and shortening that infinite to do list. Clearing out the attic in preparation for our project was a huge one that I suspect added a lot to my anxiety. Things have been getting crossed off. I’m starting to arrive at a point where I almost feel like I can actually rest without guilt, sometimes. Of course, there’s always more to-do list to go, and I haven’t fulfilled every promise I made for “after we hired a pastor”. But I’m closer, and that’s really reassuring.

So that’s what’s up with me. What’s up with you?

7 weeks

Well, this is the first Thursday I soundly missed my 11 am target. It was, of course, because I did not write my post. My Wednesday was busy! I hope you forgive me friends. I did manage to pull of the discipline for at least 7 weeks. I think it’s a great habit for me, and feel like I’ve been writing more, and more enjoyably.

Part of my posting delinquency has to do with a lack of good topics. So in lieu of actual good writing, I’ll give you a grab bag of thoughts.

1) My boys are in an awesome spot
Grey and Thane have just been rock stars this week, in the behavior zone. I was prepped for a horrible week of “What do you mean I have to go to school every day” following five consecutive Mondays out of school. But no! I’ve had children doing homework without being told the minute they get home. I’ve had children cleaning their rooms when asked. There’s been cheerful chores doing, tremendous snuggles, and book reading. I don’t know what happened to MY children, but man I’m sure enjoying the kids I have this week.

I was trying to think of a good way to thank Grey for his behavior tonight, without including junk food. Adam is doing aikido again (yay for him!) and so I had the kids myself. I picked up Grey and asked how his day was “Awesome!” and his homework situation (done at the Y!!!!). Then I offered him the chance to make the evening meal, with my active support/training and a grocery run if need be. He decided to make omelettes “Like Aunt Andrea made”. We stopped to pick up ham for cubing. (And Lucky Charms. And the tortilla chips I like that Peapod doesn’t carry. And bananas since every single banana I’ve ordered on Peapod for the last month has arrived frozen.) And then Grey sliced the ham and the chives, and I taught him how to make omelettes! Next up: teaching the children how to eat dinner….

2) Imagine how easy our commute will be this spring
All over New England, working parents have been doing rock-paper-scissors over who gets to leave early enough to get to work by 9 am, and who has to drop off the kids and saunter in at the crack of 9:30. (This is an improvement. Last week it was the crack of 10.) I didn’t think anything would make my normal commute look good… but having all the lanes available and the traffic just normal-bad will feel like a vacation. And parking… the lots have been full a lot lately, leaving my carpool to park in a $34 a day lot that’s about 1/3 mile away in 12 degree weather. Getting back to a reliable 3 block walk from a $18 a day lot will feel like a cheaper and easier life! Add in a commute that’s only an hour, and the mind boggles!

3) I don’t understand how a capitalist society can not have gloves for sale right now
I got in a car accident (I was rear-ended by a hit and run driver) last Thursday night. The car is like $999 dollars damaged. (This is how you can tell you have a $1000 deductible.) I was sore, but I’m ok. What was I doing Thursday night? I was driving to Target to buy more ski gloves for my kids because they would lose their limbs if they weren’t firmly attached to their bodies. I don’t blame my kids too much – I always lost gloves too. (Still do sometimes.) But in Target, there were swimsuits. Summer dresses. Bubbles and sidewalk chalk. And not a single warm glove to be found. Seriously, I would give a lot for a store that sold clothes you would be appropriately dressed walking out of the store wearing, and gear that you actually need right now. I simply do not understand how it is effective selling to try to pawn off on me stuff I can hardly imagine using while refusing to sell me things I desperately need. That’s how you get a grown woman on the verge of tears in your aisles after having risked LIFE AND LIMB to get to your store… thumbing up the Amazon app on her phone and picking next day shipping. Do better, Target, and all the other retailers in the US.

4) Lent has begun
By the time Easter arrives, the snow may have muchly melted. It is a time of transformational waiting, and I suspect I will feel that even more than usual as we go from the frozen heart of winter to spring. Six more weeks.

I’m really looking forward to someday going places and doing things again. I’ll be sure to let you know if that ever happens!

Ignore the Mom behind the curtain

I know that I could be accused of painting rosy pictures of life. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Facebook effect, where it seems like all your Facebook friends are immaculately put together, live in perfect houses, go on great adventures, and generally live a life far more awesome than your own. This is because all of us edit our narratives. We want to share the exciting/flattering bits, and tend to downplay the mundane/embarrassing ones. (And if we don’t, unless we are FANTASTIC writers who could make imaginary dialogues between deodorants hilarious – looking at you here Amalah – our readership is quite limited.)

Anyway, what I’m saying is that I know my blog is like that. All the fun stuff, all the picturesque stuff, all the deep thinking, and none of the “I’m a complete mess”. But guess what… sometimes? I’m a complete mess.

Let’s begin our story when our heroine left work 15 minutes late because she was in a not-fun meeting. (As opposed to a fun meeting, which happens roughly never.) So. Late. Rainy night. I check my text message alert, and it’s riiiiight on the borderline between freeway or back roads.* I call to see if it’s changed, and I find out that it got really bad on the freeway, so I opt for my backroad commute. Tick tock, tick tock, the daycare clock!

Did I mention my husband has been in Florida for a week, and although due back will not be in time to pick up the kids? No, I didn’t because I never let teh intarwebs know these kind of things in advance, just in case. But Adam was in Florida, so there was no calling him if I didn’t make it on time (which is my usual backup).

Then, just as I had fully committed to the backroads route and there was no turning back… whammo. Traffic stopped moving. Like, one or two cars a light. There’s never a backup here!?! Five minutes, I didn’t sweat. But then it turned to ten, fifteen, twenty. When I had 15 minutes to do 30 – 45 minutes of commuting, I panicked. I called all my parent friends (including those I should have known were like, you know, in Dallas.. hoping he was kidding when he told me who I was interrupting…) asking if anyone could pick up my kids. Of course, it’s extra complicated because who wanders around with two extra car seats? No one! In fact, almost none of my friends has a car that can seat two extra kids never mind car seats. And it was raining, hard! And super dark! Yay! Fun! Finally, I reached one friend (actually there at that moment picking up her kids) and we cobbled together a plan that involved her taking my kids to my neighbor’s house and then returning to the center for her own. I gave my permission over the phone to the daycare people to release my kids almost as I was passing the accident.

Phew. Can I say this? Three years ago, I wouldn’t have known what to do. I don’t know how I got this lucky, but I have awesome friends who have my back and are there for me when I need them, and I am SO GRATEFUL. I may be alone while my husband’s gone, but I’m not unsupported.

Anyway, so I come home. I park my car. I put my backpack inside, and head down the payment full of adrenalin and frustration to my neighbor’s house to retrieve my children. And just as my sidewalk joins my neighbors, I stepped on a rock wrong, and went down HARD.

I had one of those moments that stretched very long. I was on the ground, rain falling poetically onto my face, right leg obviously badly scratched up, but truly wondering if I had just popped the graft on my left leg, and I would have to do this fantastic surgery all over again. With the rush of pain and adrenalin and fear, I couldn’t tell how bad my left leg was. I could tell I’d done something non-zero, but was it epic? Was it a pull? Was it just the persistent tendon tightness we’re fighting at PT and nothing wrong at all? I had to wait, on the ground, for several very long minutes to find out. I’m extremely happy to report that based on knee function and subsequent pain, it is nothing serious. However, I’m deeply saddened to report that my absolute favorite pair of tights that are incredibly comfortable have come to the end of their lives. Also, I did a number on my shoe. Finally, I also scratched up my good leg (but I care less because eh! It’s only a flesh wound!)

Are you getting tired of pictures of my leg injuries?
Are you getting tired of pictures of my leg injuries?

I picked myself back up and continued down. Things improved. I walked in on my neighbors feeding my children. They very generously put a plate out for me too. I sat at the table and watched my children rough-housing and being rude and periodically yelling things at them like, “No throwing Christmas ornaments at the dog!” and I was just so very very grateful that I wasn’t alone.

Then I came home, and put them to bed over an hour early, because oh. Those children. Based on the fact they both went to sleep, I think they must have been tired. Then I had to do worky work for an hour. Now I’m writing an unflattering blog post about my own incompetence.

So what about you? Have you ever had a day like this – falling far short of tragic but definitely rising to the level of highest annoyance?

* This is super helpful, so let me share. Navteq allows you to set up a commute and a schedule. Then every day you set up, it texts you a numerical value of how your commute is. I have mine set to check the route at 4:45. So every work day at 4:45 I get a text message with a number. Through experience I know that at 2 or over, I’m better off taking back roads. Additionally, in the text message, you can call a number at any point and ask how your commute is now and they’ll give you the latest conditions. I would pay for this service, but I get it for free. It’s fantastic for those of us with highly variable commutes.