Embracing Summer

On the first Friday of summer I decided that we needed to seize the summer a bit, so we went strawberry picking at Bowman Orchards.

IMG_4470

I don’t think that we’d ever gone to Bowman for the strawberries before. It was surprisingly busy. In fact, when we saw everyone, we were all a little worried that the place would be all picked over. Turns out that that wasn’t a problem:

Summer Begins

We had an inauspicious beginning to summer vacation, a day marred by rain, rain, rain.

rain on summer day

 

Also, the kids were crabby. I can’t remember why they were crabby, just at this moment, but they were. Wait: it’s coming back to me. M spent the night at a friend’s house, so the first day of summer began with J by herself. I asked her how she’d like to start vacation. Her First Day Of Summer Wish was modest:

Mexican Radio

So, we’ve visited Mexican Radio! Actually, we’ve visited Mexican Radio multiple times. It’s World Cup soccer time, and we have no cable. So there’s been a number of outings to bars lately, because Cute W is obsessed, M and I are very interested, and J will happily come to watch if it means sodas, Shirley Temples, Buffalo chicken wings or nachos are involved. But Cute W and I also had a date there–woo, hoo! We went on a Friday, fully expecting to wait around quite a bit, because, really, hanging around and drinking margaritas while chit-chatting with your spouse ain’t so bad. And we did wait, but we had a lovely time.

So! First, I should tell you that Cute W was extraordinarily excited for Mexican Radio. If only someone would give him a massive amount of capital, he has all sorts of economic development schemes that he’d like to implement in Schenectady. We’ve been pining for a sit-down Mexican place with margaritas for a very, very long time. Actually, we would have liked one on Upper Union Street so that we could each drink a pitcher and stumble home, but we were still psyched about Mexican Radio. And Cute W particularly likes to see businesses that are willing to invest in creating an awesome experience for customers (as opposed to when folks half-ass it–insert passive aggressive link here). So the gorgeousness of the new building and even the oh-so-slowness of the opening, only increased the hype in our household.

Deprived

This is how deprived my 12-year-old is. When a friend got a new phone, M crafted a phone for herself with the friend’s discarded packaging materials:

IMG_4452

“Mom, Mom, look!” she called, batting sorrowful puppy dog* eyes at me. “Isn’t this so sad? Oh my gosh, it’s really sad, isn’t it?”

I acknowledged that the homemade phone was both heartbreaking and a poignant reminder of her strength in the face of adversity.

“You know what’s the saddest part about my fake phone, though, Mom?” she asked.

I waited.

“I only put numbers–I forgot the letters. So I can’t even fake-text with my fake-phone.”

My darling girl. She is so brave.

 

 

 

 

*Speaking of puppy dogs, my children still don’t have a puppy dog, either.

Schenectady JCC Pool

You’ll be glad to hear that icy hatred has melted in our house. Meanwhile, we’re glad that it’s finally heating up around here!

This year is the first year I’m not throwing a large lump sum at the Town of Niskayuna. Both daughters have decided that they’re done with town camp, except possibly as counselors later. I’m a little sad about that. Cheap as heck and within walking distance of our house, it was a great way for the kids to have fun while I got things done in the mornings. Luckily, they’re independent enough now that I can leave them at home while I run to the grocery store. I can’t help but be a little wistful, because it’s the end of an era.

It’s also the end of the Era of the Town Pool. We’ve been loyal members for years, and the kids have grown up there. But during the spring I started checking my kid’s favorite people to hang around with against what I knew about local pool hangouts, and I realized that they have more friends over at the Schenectady JCC. To make it more dramatic, my friend/mom to J’s BFF had become an indoor member at the J over the winter, so she was considering the outdoor membership as well. Now, here’s the deal: M will find some way to entertain herself, but if J doesn’t have a friend, she will alternate between climbing into my sweaty lap, asking for another snack, and asking me to swim with her. Now, I enjoy a good lap-sit or swim or snack, but two or three hours of it in a row, and I’ll start to get fussy, and next thing you know, I’ll have a tantrum. So the surest bet to Optimum Enjoyment for Mom is for my kids to have friends who will entertain them while I chit-chat or read on a chaise lounge.

So for weeks we were wavering, largely because I wanted to ensure that J and her BFF would be together. M was advocating the JCC, because she’d visited often with friends and preferred it for the pool itself and the kids she’d find there. J was leaning Town, because it’s been such a big part of her summer every year. Finally, one day the BFF and her mom and J and I went to visit the JCC pool. I was surprised to hear that they’d never been to the pool, so they’d decided to check it out and come to a decision already. My friend loved the bigger pool and wide-open spaces, and another friend who’s a member answered our many questions, while J and her BFF watched their friend splash in the pool. Then J and her BFF headed over to BFF’s house, where they planned to have some dinner and create a definitive Town vs. JCC Pro-Con list.

That night, I asked J about their verdict. “Everyone wants the JCC, and it had more Pros,” she responded softly.

“Hmm,” I said, “But you don’t sound like you feel too excited.”

At which point her eyes filled with tears. She climbed out of bed and retrieved a photo album from her shelf, a gift from the BFF of pictures of them together as babies. She paged through, pointing out adorable shots of them at the Town Pool, like this one:

Pool Girls condensed

Oh, my gosh. She was adorable. It was heartbreaking. So we talked about changing and making new memories and visiting old places, and she agreed that the new pool might be fun, too. We talked a little bit about the Pros that made the JCC the winner:  kids are allowed to swim in the deep end even when they’re not going off the diving boards, and swim lanes are set up at all time, so there are no “adult swim” breaks like at the Town Pool.

 

IMG_4399

Another perk was that the pool was open earlier in the season, so we were able to go swimming weekend before last, when it was so warm and sunny. Oh, and the water’s warmer! We all liked that.

Sure enough, J adjusted quickly, and their first visits to the pool brought a slew of new Pros, like noodles that the kids were allowed to use:

IMG_4396

They kept pointing out little amenities and making plans for the summer, so those nostalgic tears are over. The girls were also pretty excited to find out that the snack bar includes fried dough. For the mothers, this seemed like a bit of a Con: honestly, who can enjoy fried dough while wearing a swimsuit? Which reminds me, if you go to their Facebook page, you might even catch a picture of Cute W and I lounging on chaises. After Cute W’s visit he declared himself strongly pro-JCC. Yes, I’m going to miss a few mom friends, but overall, it feels like more of a vacation than the Town Pool did. And I’m very excited that it’s closer to our house, which makes biking there easy and fun. The only tweak my friend and I want to make is to see if we can get a trashy magazine exchange going somewhere–that was one of our favorite pool activities, so we’ll see how it goes.

Perspective

Way back when my little brother was a teenager, he hit another car in a parking lot with my parent’s car. Then he panicked and left the scene, no note.  But someone had observed the whole thing, took down his license plate number, and left the information for the other car’s owner. The owner called our house and got my Dad–I don’t remember if my brother had already confessed or not. Either way, Dad listened, apologized, said that my brother would be punished, and pulled out his insurance information. The guy on the phone was irate, and he was baffled that Dad wasn’t completely blowing a gasket on the phone.

“You don’t even seem angry about this at all!” angry car owner spluttered.

The Village is the Best Mom Ever!

Among M’s social set in particular, I frequently feel like there must be some massive competition for Best Mom Ever that everyone forgot to tell me about. Seriously, how else can one explain that every single one of her 6th grade friends has a phone and that four of them have recently acquired puppies?

The only bright side to the phone ubiquity is that when the kids all walk over to TCBY or Starbucks after school, I can wait half and hour and then check Instagram for the Required Group Selfies With Frozen Treats and reassure myself that my child has been neither abducted nor run over. Yet.

There is no bright side to the puppy trend, at least here at our house.

Keeping Our Priorities Straight

I woke up to J hacking up a storm in the middle of the night.  Strange how I’m excellent at ignoring lawn mowers and chatter and random noise every morning, but sickness and distress get me up and at ‘em lickety-split.  J was hot and miserable, and I was just asking her to catalog her symptoms when she dramatically symptomed all over her bed. Awesome-sauce. Just so we’re clear, this is sarcasm: the sauce was not awesome.

My kids are not big pukers (knock on wood), but it’s funny how timing can be. For this little episode, I gritted my teeth, thinking about how she’d spent the entire evening at a friend’s house, no doubt spreading infection hither and yon, and the morning hours ahead were packed with a busier-than-usual agenda. In fact, I was mentally assessing and dismissing agenda items even as I bundled up the fitted sheet. By this time Cute W had called out weakly, did we need help? That would be great, I called, as I scooped up sheets and J blearily wiped her mouth while clutching the plastic trash can I’d handed her.

Shine Bright Like a Diamond

I’ve been feeling a little bit awkward lately because my left hand is naked. The other day I started twisting my rings like usual and man, it hurt. They were weirdly stuck. Upon closer examination, I’d bent the hell out of both of them.

wedding ring

So they’re at the jeweler getting banged back into shape, and all I’m wearing now is my dented flesh. It’s a pretty serious dent, actually, because Cute W and I have been married for 21 years today. Woo, hoo! Someone asked if we were going on an anniversary date, but since Thursday is gymnastics practice (J) and soccer practice (M) and yoga (K), we are not. We will, sometime soon. I promise. We did manage to get new bedding for the new bed, though:

bed

Although if you’re a longtime reader, you might be sad that I set aside the old duvet that merited an anniversary post 3 years ago. Oh, my gosh! Was that three years ago? Anyway, I’m not getting rid of it, of course.

The marriage nostalgia and wedding ring repair reminded me of one of my favorite ring stories, the time when I lost my diamond.

The year was 1999, and Cute W and I were buying our first house.  Except that we lived in Brooklyn, so the “house” was actually a two-bedroom, fourth-floor walk-up co-op apartment. Notwithstanding its small size, it represented a sizable investment for us, especially since we both had graduate school debt already. We had decided that it was time to buy after Cute W had signed a three-year contract for a new job. We’d taken a look around our super-cozy one-bedroom apartment that had made one friend say, “Wow, you guys must really love each other!” and decided that three more years there was way too many. That was also the apartment where a mouse once ran over my bare foot while I was washing dishes. Incidentally, I think that colleges and universities are doing a real disservice to today’s young people by offering such comfortable and congenial housing. I don’t know how we would have survived the squalor of Manhattan and Brooklyn living if our middle class standards hadn’t been radically lowered by our years of cement-block-style college housing.

But I digress. The point is, on a lovely spring evening we found ourselves literally pacing around our mouse-infested apartment, hectic with anxiety over whether we were making the right choice to commit to a big mortgage and purchase a larger apartment in a sketchier neighborhood. And then we decided that the antidote was to take a bike ride.

We had just purchased a pair of bikes as a celebration of our impending apartment purchase. For years, we pretty much couldn’t own bikes, unless we were willing to lean them up against our futon or our kitchen table when we weren’t biking around. The co-op offered basement storage, which is exactly the sort of thing that means a trumpet fanfare if you’re living in New York City. We’d bought the bikes, but we hadn’t had a chance to ride them far. Why not distract ourselves with a little ride to our new neighborhood?  Or, our new almost-neighborhood, because while we weren’t going to be quite in Park Slope, we’d be close enough that we hoped that the tide of gentrification would engulf us soon.

We set out in the twilight, and right away, I felt shaky. I hadn’t had a bike since high school (which is another story), and I was out of practice. I know, I know: riding a bike is a lot like. . . riding a bike. But just like in a car, I feel anxious and accident-prone. Cute W, on the other hand, started at a perfectly-normal-person clip, and I didn’t even get a chance to pant, “Slow down!” at him before I panicked and squeezed both the handbrakes. And went flying over the handlebars, smacking both hands and my head into the Brooklyn street.

Luckily, I was wearing my helmet. It could have been ugly. As it was, I was shaken up, but not hurting too badly. I’d hyper-extended both of my arms, and I tried to shake out my elbows, wanting to quit immediately. But then we’d be back in our apartment with feelings of failure and cowardice to compound the debt-anxiety. So I hopped back on and pedaled at Cute W’s newly-moderated pace.

But it wasn’t going well. Biking was alright, but my elbows were beginning to swell and throb. Each time we’d stop and start again, the pressure of leaning onto the handlebars made me almost cry. I was trying very hard not to be a wimp, so I kept pedaling, and we made it to the park. At which point I conceded defeat. I called out to Cute W, half -weepy, that my arms hurt too much and I was ready to head home.

And it was just after we’d decided to go back that I looked down at my hands and saw this:

 

IMG_4293

The prongs of my engagement ring were squashed over like a garden plant that had been stepped on. And the diamond wasn’t there.

Here’s where I became a teensy bit hysterical. I started screaming at Cute W to leave me behind and haul ass to the scene of my recent crash. He refused to leave me biking alone and argued that for the moment the most efficient thing to do was to continue the torturously long circumnavigation the park (you’re actually supposed to bike one-way around the street that surrounds Prospect Park, or at least you were at the time) and try our best to calm down.

He was emergency-calm and I was emergency-freaked. At one point, he said, “It’s not a big deal. It’s just a material thing.”

And I half-shrieked back, “Yeah! That I inherited from my DEAD MOTHER!!!”

Which, you have to admit, is an unbelievably awesome come-back. I mean, if you want to get competitive about it.

So much for a throw-your-cares-away bike ride. We pedaled in near-silence through the dark streets of Brooklyn back to the crash-site.

And unbelievably, as we approached, there was a beautiful twinkling under the nearby streetlight.

My heart hitched with joy, and then I realized that the twinkling was way too unbelievably easy. I’d crashed right in front of a neighborhood bodega, and the street was littered with shattered glass bottles. If I’d bothered to look earlier, I would have seen the beautiful twinkles everywhere around me.

We paced the area. Parked cars had moved and new cars replaced them. We knew that someone could be speeding away from us with a diamond imbedded in their tire rubber, but we had to look. So we looked. And looked. It became obvious that we were hunting for something, and occasionally someone would offer to help. But we demurred. It would be too easy, we thought, for someone to pick up the diamond and slip it into their pockets. After a while, Cute W walked one of the bikes home and returned with flashlights. And we looked some more. Then he walked the second bike home returned with a broom and a dustpan.

We decided that we would do one final, thorough hunt, dividing the street into an imaginary grid to make it more systematic. Cute W swept all the debris from a small square into a pile, and then I picked through it.

At that point, we’d been searching for hours, so we’d become a bit philosophical. There was a natural disaster somewhere, and reminded ourselves that we were fortunate for the excellent weather. I’d started collecting the slivers and chunks of bottle glass. The glass really was lovely, and I imagined that I’d take it home and wash it and place the pieces into a small jar. The glass-filled jar would shine in the light from a window in our new home, and it would be a meaningful reminder of. . . something. That the everyday, left-behind moments that we’d collected together were more important than any single object . . . ? Yes, of course, I thought, eyes filling with tenderness.  And then I saw the diamond, and I was like, screw that.

I yelled, “I’ve got it!” And Cute W, who had also noted the way that shattered glass can look like a diamond over the course of the evening, answered with a skeptical, “Are you sure?”

“Oh, I’m sure!” I crowed. “Now that I’ve got my diamond, I realize that all this glass looks absolutely nothing like a diamond!” He bounded over, laughing, and we hugged in triumph.

Part of me wishes that I’d kept the pieces of glass. But at the time we just wiped our hands and the diamond on our jeans and left the glass behind, twinkling in the dusty streets.

 

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day Weekend Starts Early at Our House

I’ve updated the Events page, and here’s the KidsOutAndAbout list of local Memorial Day Parades. I’m also going to be on WNYT Newschannel 13’s Live at Noon tomorrow (Friday), talking about Memorial Day Activities with Kids and various local events.

Yesterday began inauspiciously when I woke up and realized that I hadn’t yanked the lawn waste to the curb the night before. No sooner did I think, “Well, there’s still time to do it quick” than I heard the rumble of the truck. It was stopped right next door, and theoretically I could have run outside and dragged two cans’ worth of tidying-before-Niska-Day weeds and tangled shrubbery. But I was still in my nightgown, and I just couldn’t bring myself to scamper out there, baubles bobbling, so to speak.

And then, I remembered about 15 minutes before my veterinarian appointment that I had a vet appointment for Isis the cat. I went out to the garage to get her carrier, and when I came back inside, she was AWOL. She’s disappeared. It’s almost as if she was a psychic who sensed a rabies vaccine shot looming. I ran around the house and the yard for the next ten minutes before giving up. I had to call the office and explain my utter lack of pet-parenting competence. I was told that it happens all the time.

Today Cute W took the day off to go on a school field trip to 5 Rivers with J. Alas, the tragic irony that we’d have a string of fabulous days, and then the nature center day is when there’s lightening, hail, and a tornado. What a bummer! Poor J was packed off to a regular ol’ school day, where reportedly some of her classmates wept in disappointment. Luckily it’s being rescheduled.

The cancellation left Cute W and me with unexpected time together in the middle of the day. We ended up mattress shopping. Our 21st anniversary is coming up, and we’ve had the same mattress all that time. A few years ago Cute W suggested that we get a new one, but at the time, I argued that it wasn’t worth buying a new mattress until both our kids were totally over jumping on the bed. I just imagined it driving Cute W crazy. Well, they’re basically too big now. Although, honestly, these new-fangled memory foam-style mattresses don’t seem like they’d be that great for jumping, anyway. Which seems like a tragic loss to American culture. In any case, we hopped from bed to bed miming sleep and discussing our options while the sales guy and a manager doted over us because it was the middle of a slow day. My personal favorite part was when Cute W said something about how we had to consider not only how it felt to lie still on the bed but also if we wanted to do something more, um, active. Which he was apparently trying to be subtle about, but subtlety is not his strong suit. I probably spent about 45 seconds with my face covered with both hands, howling with laughter, while the two men ran to a desk and huddled together over sudden urgent business. I tell you people: we have a really good time just walking around.

Cute W met J right after school and took her out for ice cream since they hadn’t had their quality field trip time, and now that she’s home from gymnastics, they’re watching Godzilla.

Oh, and I’ve been cyber-shopping for a new duvet cover to go along with our brand-new mattress. I sent Cute W a few links, marking one as my favorite.

He called out, “Okay, I don’t like your favorite.”

“Oh, yeah?” I replied.

“It’s just too [is it possible to hear a nose wrinkle? Because I'd swear that I heard his nose wrinkling]. . . it’s too mauve.”

“Uh-huh. . . .” I answered, in what I thought sounded pretty neutral.

“Never mind,” he conceded. “We can get that one.”

Holy cow, I love that guy.

Well, the duvet cover decision has not yet been made, but the mattress will be here on Saturday. Whoop, whoop!