Lady of Leisure

As of this morning, I am officially unemployed.

For the past year and a half, I have been working. Working for people and places that I truly enjoyed. And, for a variety of reasons,

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I’ve made the decision to not do that anymore. Some of those reasons are exciting (I’m going to write more!), some of those reasons are mundane (someone should really dust this house more often), some of those reasons are more complex and intricate, which often happens when motherhood and employment intersect.

Cumulatively, all of those reasons kept bringing me back here; to it being the right time to be at home.

When I explained to a friend all of the complicated thinking that led up to me bowing out of the workforce for a bit, she helpfully pointed out, “Oh! So, it’s like you’re taking a gap year.”

“YES,” I exclaimed. “A gap year! Exactly!”

So, sort of like Cheryl Strayed in wild. If Cheryl Strayed regularly meal planned for her family of five while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

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When the kids found out that I would no longer be leaving the house for work each morning, the first thing they asked was if I could please, pretty please, drive them to and from school every day, a prospect that I find infinitely wearisome.

After I explained to everyone that they needed to suck it up and would continue taking the school bus like the rest of the kids whose mothers don’t love them enough to personally transport them to and from school each day, Millie looked at me and asked rather accusatorially, “So, like, what are you going to DO all day?”

Bob, understanding the deep value in our union, stepped in to wisely answer, “Whatever she wants.”

Which is absolutely accurate. With all of my kids in school full-time, this fall marks the first time since 2009 that I have not served as the primary caregiver for my three children. I have mothered them tenderly and lovingly for the past eight years, meeting their every need with infinite grace, wisdom, and patience. (That is all true. Just ask my kids.)

So, yes, Millie, I’m definitely going to do whatever I want. Which, if today is any indication, appears to be some rather sloth-like behavior.

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But, I mean, I do have goals and stuff for my gap year. Outside of the writing and the excellent parenting, there are certainly things I’d like to accomplish.

First and foremost, I’d like to really, finally, for once use my Crock-Pot. Every year, as soon as it gets cold outside, I think to myself, I should find some good recipes for the Crock-pot! Throw everything in in the morning, dinner is DONE. But, every year, my Crock-Pot just languishes, completely forgotten, in the cabinet. No more! I declare this coming winter, The Winter of the Crock-Pot. (As such, please forward applicable recipes. Must appeal to the pickiest husband and children on the planet. Also, cannot contain red meat, fish, or pork. In addition, cream-based sauces are out, as are red sauces, so is an abundance of cheese, or really any dairy at all. So, none of that. But, should taste good. Thanks in advance!)

Second, I am going to continue to read. I fulfilled my reading goal of three (3) books this past summer and, with a recent raid on the local used book store combined with the library’s sale, I have a stack about ten-high on my nightstand. I’ve really missed reading so I hope my friends are all prepared to enthusiastically discuss books with me at great length that they read five to ten years ago!

Also, I’m for sure going to clean my house with greater frequency. Well, try to. I’m definitely going to put forth effort. Sort of. Probably. I’m aiming for making my bed AT LEAST twice a week.

(As an aside, Bob and I are purchasing a new range for the kitchen and I want one that has the two ovens – the smaller convenience oven on top and the larger turkey-cooking oven on bottom. I think this would be SO HANDY when I’m trying to prepare both chicken nuggets AND tator tots for my kids at the same time. When Bob and I were looking at these types of models online, I said, “You know, that bottom oven looks really low to the ground. That’s probably going to be hard to clean.” Bob looked at me, squinting in a patronizing and patient way and said, “Is that really a concern?”)

Also, I’m going to organize the crap out of every corner of this house. When we moved in, three and a half years ago, I just… put things in closets. There it all has stayed, in disarray, chipping away at my psyche. No more! I’m going to KonMari my way through every closet and dresser and cabinet in this joint. It’s going to be amazing! No one is going to be able to find ANYTHING because it will be so ORGANIZED!

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I’m also going to paint the last three rooms in our house that need to be painted. Definitely, for sure going to get that done. I might even actually hang pictures on the walls. Finally! Maybe they’ll even be FAMILY pictures – of us! That I have printed out from the computer and everything! (This is getting awfully ambitious though.)

Okay. I’m off to throw out all of my kids’ favorite things in the name of organization! (Just kidding! I’m going to go binge-watch The Good Place. I really think pacing myself is the right approach here.)

Also, don’t forget about those Crock-Pot recipes!

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Looks Like This Will Probably Work Out

Today, Bob and I celebrated thirteen years of marriage.

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Recently, Bob told me that the way I brush my teeth is absolutely ridiculous and super duper annoys him. Something about how I use too much toothpaste? So it creates too much toothpaste foam? I’m not really sure. I was too busy brushing my teeth when he was trying to explain to me how the way I brush my teeth is silly.

If the traditional gift for ten years of marriage is stainless steel or paper or something, it would appear the traditional gift for thirteen years of marriage is some sort of Airing of Grievances. Which, I’m not so sure is a road Bob wants to travel down.

So now, of course, I try to purposefully brush my teeth when Bob is in close proximity because spite is ALSO a way to celebrate thirteen years of marriage.

Obviously, the flame of our love still shines bright.

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Bob and I were married at this kind of fancy resort in Pennsylvania picked sight unseen solely for its location halfway between my family in the Midwest and Bob’s family in the Northeast. It was a perfectly lovely place but the resort’s execution of our event was fraught with problems, errors, and omissions.

I remember explaining to the hotel’s coordinator that the one thing – ONE THING – I wished for my wedding was for Bob not to see me in my dress before I walked down the aisle. It’s such a ridiculous tradition but it was my one thing. I cared not about any of the other things. “Not a problem,” she said. I rode the elevator with my father to the rooftop terrace where the ceremony was taking place thinking that Bob was already down the aisle. So, of course, when the elevator doors opened, there was Bob and his best man looking surprised to see me and totally confused about where they were supposed to be at that very moment. I remember uttering an expletive (classy!) loud enough that I was worried the guests had overheard. I’m pretty sure my father has blocked that part out. The part where he walked his dainty, lady-like, cursing-like-a-sailor daughter down the aisle.

There were so many other things that went wrong that day. A problem at each step of the way. From rehearsal to ceremony to reception. Whenever I tell people about how the hotel forgot to bake our wedding cake, how the catering captain pulled me aside after the reception began to tell me that there was (oops!) no cake, they assume that that was the worst part of our wedding day. But, it wasn’t. Nothing that went wrong that day was more egregious than the anticlimactic moment when those elevator doors opened and Bob was standing right there.

It’s funny because I knew, even as I was planning our wedding, that it was not the wedding I wanted. My ideal wedding was always one where we have our family and friends over for dinner and then get married somewhere between the appetizers and the entree. When my cheeks are rosy from the wine. Simple. Not fussy. There doesn’t even have to be cake.

So, at some point in the years since our hilariously hiccup-riddled wedding, Bob and I started talking about having another wedding. A different wedding. Something that was more… “us.” Maybe for our fifteenth anniversary. Or, our twentieth. I’d like to celebrate our union anew.

That is, if this whole teeth brushing thing doesn’t tear us apart.

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Six months into our marriage, I was pregnant with Henry so for most of the past thirteen years, our lives have been all about raising babies and toddlers and kids. Parenthood is all consuming and tiring and makes you forget why you got married in the first place.

But, now that our youngest child is in school full-time, Bob and I have been spending lots of time together. We’ve managed to meet up for lunch on occasion. Or, go swimming or hiking together. Sometimes, we just lounge about the house sshhhing the other person when they start to speak, lest it ruin the sweet silence of a (temporarily) kid-free home.

In a way, it feels like we’ve crested a parenthood peak and found each other on the other side. The kids and the noise and the chaos and the mayhem are still there but no one is in diapers anymore and everyone is sleeping through the night. It feels like there’s space for Bob and I – for us – now, too.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that we actually still have things to talk about. Namely, how I brush my teeth.

Opting Out

It appears to be soccer season again. Or, so a lot of the pictures in my Facebook feed would have me believe. I’m wondering though. Does soccer season ever really end? It feels like it’s always soccer season. Just one never-ending loop of panic-registering after the deadline has already passed, figuring out where to go for practice, complaining about how far away the games are, finding missing shorts, trying on shin guards to see if they kind of, sort of still fit. Soccer appears to be a sport of perpetuity.

We only participated in approximately 1.5 seasons of soccer. Mostly because certain members of this family (Charlie. It was Charlie.) were lacking in effort.

Let us never forget the great soccer experiment of 2015

That year was the last time our clan tried on team sports. Sure, there was a little dabble with basketball here and the occasional talk about baseball there, but none of my children have been clamoring to engage in a team sport. None of them are out kicking around the soccer ball until I have to drag them in for dinner. I never find a kid absorbed in Youtube videos about pitching technique and stance. No one is tearing themselves away from Netflix to practice anything, really.

The closest I get to a kid being super into a sport is Millie’s current infatuation with gymnastics. I think she’s just in it for the sparkly leotards. Regardless, for the better part of this summer, Millie decided, instead of simply walking out of any room she happened to be in, she would somersault out of any room she happened to be in. Done with a bath? Somersault to her bedroom. Done with dinner? Somersault to the living room. Nighttime story read? Somersault to bed.

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So, outside of one (1) somersaulting five-year-old, there is zero (0) interest in team sports around here. Sometimes, I wonder if our kids are broken. Should they be more eager to do all of the things everyone else’s kids seem eager to do? Maybe we broke them. Should we be fostering more of a competitive team sports attitude? Because team sports are a big, big deal around these parts.

When I was in elementary school, I joined the “basketball team.” It was more of a “basketball club.” We met at the end of the school day, in the gym, and practiced for a bit and then scrimmaged for a bit. (Is “scrimmaged” the right word? I’m not sure. I’m not very sporty.) The whole thing was pretty low pressure. One time, during a scrimmage(?), I sort of ran – completely forgetting to dribble – with the basketball to the wrong end of the court to try to make a basket. Everyone was yelling at me to turn around but I did not hear or understand them. When I did finally grasp the error of my eagerness and excitedness, I was so embarrassed that I wanted to quit the team immediately. My parents were all, “Nope. You need to finish what you started. You need to honor your commitment.” It was shortly thereafter that I took up horseback riding.

In my day, elementary school was kind of the breeding ground to try on different sports to see what stuck. Then, those interests were fostered in middle school and then really ramped up in high school. That’s when I can remember my siblings playing on our high school’s tennis teams and my friends playing on the basketball, football and track teams. When I wasn’t horseback riding, I was on the National Honor Society Team (TOTALLY a thing. Probably. Somewhere).

But things are so different now. Kids start team sports at such a young age. There are tiny, tiny people playing all kinds of sports. I don’t even think Charlie would have been potty-trained if we had started him in soccer at the age some of his teammates began. And then, the longer we waited to jump on the team sports train, the wider the skill gap grew between my kids and the other kids. It’s hard to imagine my middle schooler starting a sport that his teammates have been playing for seven or eight years already. Now, I’m too scared for my kids to try a team sport. They will TOTALLY run the basketball to the wrong goal.

There’s also all of the logistics to manage of kids involved in heavy extracurriculars. It took us a full season just to recover from that last soccer season. There was so much running around and eating in the car and stressing over homework completion. All that effort and frenetic energy just didn’t feel worth it when my kids were all, “Soccer is okay, I guess,” at the end of the day. It’s like they’re just simply tolerating the activities. Amusing us. I have friends and family whose children are unbelievably passionate about their sport. One friend’s daughter is a very talented gymnast. My nieces and nephews are all phenomenal at volleyball and softball and baseball and tennis. My brother’s daughter – who is THIRTEEN – spent her summer in New York City practicing ballet. That is some next-level commitment. She’s amazing! If even ONE of my children were to get super psyched about a sport, I would most likely indulge their interest but my kids seem perfectly content playing Minecraft or building with Lego or reading their favorite books or just hanging out at home. Everyone loves to just… be. I mean, Charlie comes home from school and immediately changes into his pajamas. At three o’clock in the afternoon. It will not surprise you that this is a point of pride for me.

Maybe this really is all my fault.

I think we’ve landed on being a non-team team sports family. Which, for us, means fostering skills and interests that are less organized but could turn into something later, maybe? Possibly when the kids are old enough to drive themselves to their own activities and we’ve aged out of team snacks? I want my kids to be sporty but without all of the commitment.

So, we basically have our own on-site rifle and archery range here at the house. Nary a weekend goes by that there aren’t arrows being lobbed (mostly) in the direction of a target around here. Charlie has become quite a sharp shooter with his BB gun. Bob started skiing with the boys this past year which Henry really took a liking to. This year Millie gets added to the mix and if you don’t think she will absolutely shred those slopes on a snowboard well, you’ve underestimated the most able of our pack. The Appalachian Trail runs along the mountain ridge behind our house so we also spend a fair amount of time hiking with the kids. Bob drags them on bike rides. The pond across the street is stocked for fishing. They spent all summer in the pool and have become adept swimmers. And, in a sunrise/sunset moment Charlie took his first horseback-riding lessons this summer at a neighbor’s farm.

We do stuff but it’s not necessarily what everyone else is doing and sometimes that knowledge makes me feel like I’m doing it all wrong.

I think my greatest hope is that my kids find a passion for something. I want them to be able to pursue an activity or sport that really holds their interest. I would be happy to facilitate that but I don’t think we’re there yet. Perhaps I should go and find a gymnastics class for my somersaulting panda.