The End is Nigh

There was a time towards the end of my sophomore year of college that I wanted to quit. I was done. Totally over it. All of the classes and the homework and the stress and the weird social life that college brings. I was working part-time and studying full-time and getting my degree seemed to be taking forever. I was so poor. So poor that my sister used to send me care packages that included toilet paper. I wanted to quit school and find full-time employment and make some money and not be so poor. I couldn’t grasp that if I just stuck it out for a couple of more years, the opportunities would be greater. The money would be better. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

My sister, Janet, used to visit often when I was a student at Purdue. She was newly married, without children yet, and lived only a few hours away. I remember the weekend she drove up and convinced me not to quit school. I remember sitting at the dining table in my little apartment kitchen going over, credit hour by credit hour, the classes I would need to take to earn my degree. She mapped out in full the last two years of my student life at Purdue to show me that graduation was indeed, imminent. That my time there was finite. That I would eventually finish. I would be done. And, maybe not so poor.

I don’t know if she remembers that weekend; if she remembers the assistance that eventually convinced me to persevere. That showed me there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

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I have been an at-home mom for a little more than five years now. During those years, I haven’t had a whole lot of free time. Time to myself to read a book or organize a closet or go to a yoga class or eat a quiet lunch or shower without having to stick my head out the door wondering if that screaming is the fun kind or the bad kind. I have had a child by my side every day, all of the days, for each of those five years. The work has been relentless. Worth every minute and every effort, yes, but relentless.

And, much like in college, I have had trouble seeing the light at the end of this current parenthood tunnel. I have had difficulty imagining my life as anything other than what it is right now: main childcare provider and meeter of everyone’s needs. I haven’t really stopped to consider my needs for a very long time. I have been getting a bit lost in the weeds.

So, registering Millie for preschool this week was an unexpectedly emotional event. Based on a suggestion from a friend, I selected a program that runs from 9:00 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon, much longer than the standard two or three hour programs typical for our town. Enamored at the thought of a solid five hours between drop off and pickup, I basically yelled, “WHERE DO I SIGN” to the slightly startled woman behind the desk. We hadn’t even toured the classrooms yet. The mere act of registering Millie, placing the deposit, making a commitment, has buoyed my spirits. For the first time in a very long time, I realized that my life this fall would be different. With my three children in school for the majority of the week, I would have the gift of time; glorious, glorious time. All to myself.

I’m not promising what I’ll do with that time. I might write more or read more or go to yoga class or volunteer at school but I also might just sit and stare at a wall because I CAN and I HAVE OPTIONS NOW. My joy is palpable. Because, it’s happening, it’s really happening.

Well, it will eventually happen anyway. After a few more months that are cold and then a few more months that are very hot and filled with restless, bored children on summer break. Then! Then it will happen. But, that doesn’t seem that far off anymore. It’s really just right around the corner.

Suddenly, I can see the forest again.

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House of… Maybe You Should Space That Out a Little, Lady.

I’m back! London was lovely. As was Edinburgh. There were many old things. There was really delicious food. There were frequent drinks. There was so much laughing. There was an abundance of facial hair. Especially, in Scotland. Like, really, really impressive beards. Beards are trendy there as they are increasingly here. I wanted to take a picture of some of our bartenders with beards but I was too chicken because I get the impression that men with that much facial hair don’t tolerate souvenir photograph requests. Even though that would make a great Pinterest board.

Still, besides all of the beards, there was a lot of this to see:

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And, this:

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We toured a palace AND a castle on Saturday. Because, they were only a mile apart. Something, I get the distinct impression, only happens outside of America, where the history runs a little deeper. I love history. And, I especially love old houses. So, it was amazing to be standing in buildings with 1,000 years worth of stories behind their walls.

Edinburgh Castle is the site of one of only several remaining time guns in the world. It is fired at 1:00 p.m. virtually every day of the year. In the past, it was fired to mark the time of day for ships in the port nearby. Nowadays, it is fired to mostly amuse tourists. Because my friend’s husband Knows People, we stood a few feet behind this thing as the shell went blammo. It was awesome and hilarious and very, very loud.

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Sunday evening, after our return from Scotland, my friends introduced me to House of Cards on Netflix. Perhaps you have seen this series? I hadn’t because we don’t stream anything on Netflix. (Actually, we have such slow internet out here that we don’t stream much of anything at all.) I was hooked on House of Cards about five minutes into the first episode. There are thirteen episodes to a season and I made it through, I think, eight of the episodes between Sunday night and Tuesday afternoon. I felt a bit guilty hunkering down in front of a television while on vacation in LONDON but it was MY vacation and you can’t tell me what to see or do.

I headed to Heathrow on Wednesday morning, bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t been able to squeeze in the last couple of episodes of season one before my departure and calculating in my head if I had enough time to order Netflix and watch all of season two before season three premieres in February and I just had so many questions about Frank and Zoe and Claire and I really like that editor guy, Tom. It was going to be a tough wait until my next viewing. And then, would you believe it? I got settled in my seat on the plane, turned on the in-flight entertainment screen and right before my very eyes, like a bright red envelope delivered right to your mailbox, British Airways had made available the entire season two of House of Cards on a screen about six inches away from my face.

I had approximately eight hours of flying time to watch thirteen 50-minute episodes. It was going to take dedication, possible dehydration and probable ruined eyesight but I was going to give this a go, people. There was a moment in the first episode of season two that involves a central character and a Metro train and I gasped so loudly that PEOPLE TURNED AND STARED. I had to cover my mouth with my hand. I was not deterred. I kept going, not even letting the credits roll on one episode before stopping it and pushing play on a new episode. I was committed, is what I’m trying to say.

In hindsight, watching eight straight hours of House of Cards was possibly not my best idea ever. House of Cards is… intense. So, it should come as no surprise that, when a woman tried to encourage her two friends to cut in line, right in front of me, in the border control queue at Dulles, I went all Frank Underwood on them. There was definitely a slight southern drawl to my tone as I dressed down their effort to circumvent the 100 or so people standing in line behind me. Because, Francis would not tolerate that kind of behavior. And, neither will I.

I didn’t make it through all of season two but I came really close to my goal. I’m thinking I should take a break though since every time my kids do or say something ridiculous I keep looking around for a camera in which to roll my eyes. Yes, a break from House of Cards is definitely warranted.

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Henry’s class had worked on a Flat Stanley project when they were studying maps and geography so I had his teacher mail a Flat Stanley to my friends in London. While we forgot to take Flat Stanley to Scotland, we did remember to grab him a couple of times on our way out the door, once back in London. Unfortunately, it was always at night. So, while we have pictures of Flat Stanley cavorting in front of several amazing London monuments, they are poorly lit and look more like Flat Stanley’s Pub Crawl Tour. I’m sending them to school regardless.

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I truly had the most wonderful time. My friends were so gracious and generous and hospitable and hilarious and provided me with a wonderful respite from what was a very difficult 2014. I am so grateful and so thankful for them. I’m also thankful for Bob, who totally held down our own castle while I was gone. He did an admirable job under trying circumstances since there was a wide variety of school delays and closings and holidays to contend with. The kids were all alive and clean and dressed when they picked me up at the airport. It’s good to be home.

So, do you guys want to maybe talk about House of Cards? Just let me know.

On a Jet Plane

I’m headed to the airport in a few hours to fly far, far away from my husband and children. For eight glorious days I will not be responsible for wiping anyone else’s behind. I’m excited, you guys.

Bob and I had to think really hard to remember the last time I got a break from parenting. (A few hours of solo grocery shopping at Target doesn’t count.) Our memory is hazy but we both remember a time back in 2013 when I spent a couple of days with friends visiting Virginia wineries. That was almost TWO YEARS ago. Two years since I’ve spent a night apart from my kids. I’ve certainly never been away from my children for anything even close to a week before. That’s nine years of parenting without a vacation. My goodness, that’s the worst employee benefits package EVER. Perhaps I need to add ‘gain a little distance’ to my new year’s resolutions.

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I’ll be visiting my friend, Jenn, in London and we’re taking the train to Edinburgh, Scotland, for a couple of nights. I’ve never visited either city but I’ve been promised a tour of a castle so prepare yourself for a nauseating amount of Instagram pictures of Very Old Things.

Jenn and I have been best friends since sixth grade. Sixth grade! Almost thirty years now. She has been living in London with her family for more than two years and I haven’t seen her in about a year and a half so I’m excited to catch up. Even though, she’s the type of friend that you don’t really have to catch up with. When we get together, it’s like we’ve never been apart. That type of friend. Everyone should have a friend like that.

I’ve tried to be strategic about my packing and have my belongings down to one (1) suitcase and one (1) purse. Which is a big deal since, on my honeymoon, I brought a suitcase just for my shoes. I’m trying to travel light this time.

When my cousin was visiting over Thanksgiving, I fell in love with the bag she was carrying. Over my protests, and because she is incredibly kind, she left it behind for me as a gift. Turns out her mother, my aunt, made the bag! Because I have absolutely zero skills when it comes to making anything of any kind, I am simply amazed with her talent. It’s the Market Bag from her Etsy shop and fits everything I need for the airport and long flight (my Kindle, my huge MomAgenda) while leaving plenty of room for snacks.

It’s my new favorite bag and it’s making me very happy. As is that Orla Keily (for Target) wallet peeking out of the top there. I take my handbags very seriously.

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I have filled a good portion of the front of our fridge with magnets and notes to help Bob survive over the next eight days. He’s a completely competent father but even with his superior parenting skills, it’s the details I worry about. My brain is filled with all kinds of specific information and general knowledge that keep this household humming along and there aren’t enough Post-it notes in the world to share that data. So, I’ve given him bus stop times, Tylenol dosing information, the number for our pediatrician and contact information for a couple of neighbors.

I’m sure everything will be FINE. But, just in case, you might want to keep Bob in your thoughts and prayers this coming week. He’s going to have his hands full. And, probably, going to need his own eight-day vacation upon my return.