Monday, August 18, 2014

Camp Kristi

Summers are supposed to be fun. Sleeping in, playing games, biking with friends. At least, that's what it should be to me. My kids have different summers than I had, since they have two working parents. But this means their days are filled with day camps that are a blast, something I never had as a kid.

Except when something happens and your child is turned away from going to a day camp. That's what happened to Lindsey when her registration for "Unleashed" got screwed up. She had been looking forward to this camp hosted by the Animal Humane Society all summer, only to literally be turned away at the door on the first day of camp.

Her Aunt Kristi was supposed to drop her off that same day, only to walk away with Lindsey still by her side. They could have walked away dejectedly, heads held low. But not them.

Instead, they went and had breakfast at Bruegger's. And then they made plans for the rest of the week.

They went to the Big Thrill Factory.

They went horseback riding. They went to the Galaxy Drive-In for lunch and played chess on a huge chess set that made Lindsey feel like Alice in Wonderland.

And of course they had to visit the animals at the Animal Humane Society, which was her favorite part of the camp that she was sad to miss. That way she got to see her friends at the end of their camp day, too.

We came home from work to a tired, sweaty and smiley girl. All thanks to Aunt Kristi, who gave Lindsey one of the best "camp" experiences of her summer.

Thank you, Aunt Kristi!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

On Turning 50

To make this clear -- I have not hit 50 yet. But I have friends who have, and they have funny ways of celebrating it.

Our friend Mark had a backyard party to celebrate his 50th. We drank and ate and laughed like teenagers, while our kids ran around spraying each other with the hose and jumping on the trampoline. Some of the moms took a turn on the trampoline as well, showing off with backflips and somersaults. Gymnasts, those two.

Yesterday a group of us celebrated my friend Janey's 50th with a pedal and pub tour of Minneapolis breweries. Our friend Eric (henceforth known as Eric the Bike Man) organized the tour, with his considerable experience of the bike trails of Minneapolis. We met at their home, close to Lake Calhoun, to begin.

This was probably the most fun I've had on a bike. Ever. Rain sprinkled on us a bit on the way between stops, which made it all the more fun.

We biked to Harriet Brewery in the same amount of time it would have taken to drive and park, minus the hassle of driving and parking. It happened to be Food Truck Festival day, so the parking lot was filled with about a dozen food trucks Chicken wings, burritos, fish tacos, cupcakes, smoothies, pick your palate and enjoy.

Then off to Fulton Brewery, a brewery that started in our neighborhood of Fulton and moved its operations to downtown Minneapolis near the Target Field, where the Minnesota Twins play. Another food truck and an amazing patio, with a view of downtown Minneapolis.

We ran into a group of bikers wearing matching jerseys that read "Liver Strong," with graphics of a liver that is actually a beer tap. They had stickers to share with all.

At one point Janey commented to me that she felt so fortunate to have friends who were up for this adventure. As I looked around at the group, I realized that at age 43, I am the youngest. Everyone would be classified as mid-40's to early 50's. Biking for 12 miles at an average speed of 15 mph was no big deal for any of us.

We talked about moving out of our homes and taking over one of the beautiful condo buildings we biked past. When we get old.

By the end of the evening I had determined a philosophy for turning 50:

Turning 50 should feel like being a teenager again. Only with money.

Just good health, good friends and good times.

I'm pretty sure a classmate of mine wrote that in my yearbook back in 1989.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Turning Nine

Birthday celebrations should last for weeks.
Marissa and her friend, Erika, at the American Girl Doll bistro.
Marissa's began the weekend before her birthday, with a small gathering at the American Girl Doll store for a birthday luncheon. Our party was made to feel special, like we were the only people in the place celebrating something as wonderful as a birthday.  Marissa felt like a princess.

She spent a day with me at home six days before her birthday, just Marissa and mom time. We went for a long bike ride with a stop at the Linden Hills library to pick up a book, and a stop at Great Harvest bread for a cinnamon twist.

Marissa can make a trip to Ikea feel special, like walking through a magical universe where everything is fascinating and fun, even though we were really just shopping for a work desk for me. We took the time to stop in many display areas, checking out the kids bedroom sets, the kitchen drawers that close themselves, the pantries that have built-in shelving. They all became fun play areas to her, and we took the time to pretend.

Then, as she's done many other birthdays, she spent time by herself, singing songs, dancing, playing with her dolls and making up stories.  It was so sweet to eavesdrop on.

On her actual birthday we were in Tracy, MN, for her grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. We drove home that morning and let her open her gifts right away. The unasked for karaoke machine which I thought she might like has been her favorite plaything. The bubble gum machine is already half empty.

We celebrated dinner at her favorite restaurant, Olive Garden, with Aunt Kristi, who gave her a beautiful charm necklace.

When the server said, "Happy birthday" to her, she said "Thank you" with such charm that he had to tell her happy birthday again, just to hear her say "thank you" once more.

She smiled the entire day.

Like previous birthdays, the day was punctuated with exclamations of, "This is the best day ever!"

She is sweet and kind, funny and carefree, she is our 9-year-old Marissa.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is Society Creating Helicopter Parents?

I found this post in my drafts folder, originally written in the spring of 2012. I don't know why I didn't post it but the topic is still relevant, even though two years have gone by since originally written. So I'm posting it now, complete with pictures from two years ago. Hard to believe that much time has already flown by.

Lindsey working on an art project. By herself.
One morning this past week I went to Lindsey's school to help her get a form from her locker. While walking along the hallway in front of the 3rd grade classrooms I saw other students' research projects that had already been turned in lined up along the windows. (See previous post on my lack of sewing abilities in assisting on this project.) While most projects were dioramas, as Lindsey predicted, a few had chosen the sewing projects.

After looking at the quality of the craftsmanship of the sewing projects, I can guarantee you that there was significant parent involvement in the final products. I thought one of the projects was a store-bought stuffed animal, until I saw the tell-tale seam where the animal had been stuffed and then sewn shut. For real? How does a teacher grade that, it so obviously isn't the child's own work?

Marissa proudly shows off her 1st grade writing project.
This same week, Lindsey's running club, Girls on the Run, has decided that their service project will be to hold a bake sale with proceeds going to the Animal Humane Society. The GOTR coordinator sent an email home to parents, explaining the group's chosen service project and informing us all that the girls would be planning the event after school on Thursday. Instructions would be coming home to the parents on what the girl would be bringing to the bake sale.

Before you could say "peanut butter chocolate chip," emails were flying around from all of the moms volunteering to bring various baked goods, cups, signs or what have you.

The coordinator emailed the group again and kindly but firmly said, "Thanks for all your enthusiasm for this service project. This is a girl-led project. Your child will be telling you what she would like to bring to the bake sale."

In other words, butt out. Such a good reminder.

Yet at the same time, in order to keep parents involved in their children's education, kids are assigned projects that in my opinion are beyond the child's ability to complete on their own. As a parent it becomes difficult to know where to start and stop with helping with the projects.

Lindsey's recent research paper and project had a great guide for parents to help with the writing piece. It reminded parents that the paper was to be the child's own writing, and that the parent's role was only to suggest edits or revisions, not to re-write the paper. There was a list of questions parents could use to help in that process.

This part is confusing to me. How can you make that clearer? You use this word a lot of times. Is there another word you can use that means the same thing? 

Those questions were extremely helpful to make sure I didn't take over writing the paper, yet could provide good feedback. But then the actual project portion of it clearly needed parent involvement to complete.

As a parent I am in disbelief at how quickly my girls are growing. It is easy to keep doing what I've done for them when they were pre-schoolers or toddlers, because I forget that they are now nearly 7 and 9, and can and should do many things for themselves. "Mom, may I have some water?" is now met with, "Sure. You know where the cups are. The faucet still works, right?"

I do not want to be a helicopter parent but I want to be involved in our children's education and lives. I am learning that it is an easy line to cross.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

One Week

I've been between jobs for one week now. Only the unemployed and retired know this feeling. There is nothing waiting for me at the office. No one needing an answer...on anything. No projects on my plate. Pure and utter blankness.

My project list at home, on a different note, has been tackled with gusto. I feel great about all the things I've done there, yet still found time to enjoy myself.

I am truly a believer that the universe works in mysterious ways, and that if we are simply patient and quiet, things will work out the way they were meant to, even if that's not how we planned them.

This job change was meant to happen, and this week between was, too.

I spent the first part of the week with my sister, who was also enjoying her final week of unemployment before starting her new job as a nurse at a hospital 2 miles from her house. We went to her apartment and hung pictures. We went for a bike ride/skate and enjoyed lovely afternoons on the patio until Wayne got home from work. We hung pictures at our house and cleaned out our front closet. Being silly sisters, we had fun every step of the way.
Artwork by Marissa (top) and Lindsey (bottom)

Then Kristi started her job and Wayne flew to Denver for a business trip. Marissa asked to stay home with me one day and so I said, "Why not?" She and I went for a bike ride to the local library and bakery. We went shopping for ideas for a home office for me, which was loads of fun for her because we were in the Ikea showroom.  Ideas galore!

Marissa enjoys a cinnimon twist from Great Harvest.
The egg! Meant for pre-schoolers, though.

The next day Lindsey asked to stay home with me and, of course, I said, "Why not?" Her idea of fun, though, was entirely different from Marissa's. She tackled the junk drawer in our kitchen because "it's the first thing on your list and it isn't done yet." While organizing,  she asked if we could organize her clothes in her drawers next, or maybe her closet, which had become the dumping ground for everything that's on her floor whenever I tell her to clean her room. Instead we went grocery shopping which she also loved doing because she loves doing the self-service checkout at Cub Foods, pretending to be a checkout girl.

My organizer. Extra allowance for this girl!

The three of us spend our mornings on the patio, I drinking my coffee and the girls watching their Kindles or playing games.  I don't have to hurry anyone out of the house to be anywhere by any time.

My first day on the job wil be a rude awakening. And yet it won't, because I don't need to drive anywhere for it. It's right here in my house. On a regular basis I do not need to spend 1 1/2 to 2 hours on the road, getting to and from my place of work. It's going to be challenging, for sure. I'm looking forward to having clients again, and to getting to know a whole new team of people.

Today's my last day of non-working status. I'm going to finally get those other items checked off my list: a massage. A skating loop around the trails. A shopping excursion (for me, thank you very much).  Then time to dive in.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Interlude...and A Dream

I don't believe I've ever taken a hiatus from this blog before of this length. It has been nearly 3 months since I last posted. So not typical of me.

So much has happened, I do not know where to begin. So I will begin by saying that it was a needed interlude.

A week after my last post I flew to Indiana and helped my sister Kristi move to Minnesota. Already in the few months she has been here she has become a part of the fabric of our family. She is getting accustomed to the area, the climate, the social and natural offerings and having family close by. Weekly meals at our home are typical. The kids are disappointed when Aunt Kristi *doesn't* come for dinner. We plan outings together, we don't plan outings together but they happen spontaneously anyway. It's been an amazing, wonderful change. As wonderful as it is, it is still change, which can be hard and takes a lot of energy to process.

It is now summer, which means I am waking early in the morning to go skating, instead of staying up late at night to blog. I have committed to appreciating each morning that I do that, and not feeling guilty for the mornings that I intend to, but don't.

Lake Harriet, 6 a.m., June 30, 2014
Even though I haven't written a blog post for quite some time, my phone is still filled with random pictures I take with the beginnings of blog posts in mind. So I still think like a blogger, though I don't write like one.

And then, last night, I had a dream. Sometimes my dreams are just nonsensical, but most of the time they are a reflection of what is going on in my life, so much so that I had to write about it. 

I dreamt that I was driving a car through a construction zone. I was following the car ahead of me as people do in construction zones, keeping a close eye on its bumper as it navigated cones and signs saying to curve this way and that. It drove along a stretch of road that appeared to be an overpass with only a temporary railing of 2x4's nailed up in place along the roadway. The 2x4's had obviously been there for some time and were in some disrepair; they were not going to keep a car on the road if the car ran into them.

We were up in the air now, in an area that was clearly going to be part of some kind of cloverleaf or connection with another highway. Suddenly the car in front of me took an abrupt left, just behind a huge cement pillar, and I couldn't see the turn. I froze. What if it had just driven off the edge and was falling back to earth? What if the signage had told it to turn left but the work wasn't done yet and there was no road? There was no way for me to know if I should follow that car.

I stopped my own car, frozen. Traffic backed up behind me and drivers grew upset. In my dream I was having a full-out panic attack, sobbing and unable to make a move, frozen with fear. Finally someone put their arms around my shoulder and said, "It's okay, just trust. Trust." And suddenly, everything was okay. The honking, the yelling, the noise and the paralyzing fear stopped, and everything was okay.

I never saw a resolution in my dream, but when I awoke I knew that I drove my car around that blind corner, and that everything was fine.

I recently put in my notice at Gillette. I love the people I work with, I have a great passion for what I do and the mission is inspiring and incredible. But signs were telling me that it was time to start considering other opportunities, so I began talking to people in my industry and asking them to keep me in mind. I recently accepted a job on the vendor side of fundraising, working with clients to raise money through telemarketing.
This was left on my desk by a co-worker the day I gave my notice.
It feels like an abrupt left. But I don't think it is.

I think that it will lead me to new skills, new co-workers whom I will enjoy working with as much as I enjoyed my old ones, to learning new things and taking on new challenges. is change. And change is hard and takes a lot of energy. Even the good ones.

So there you have it. The end of the interlude...and a dream.

Monday, April 07, 2014

From Lincoln to Today

Over seven days of our spring break our family drove for 27 hours in the car and covered more than 1,500 miles. There was not a single fight in the backseat, thanks in part to the "Frozen" soundtrack which our girls LOVED to sing along with. At the top of their lungs. So while the peace was held, parental sanity was not.

One of the stops on our whirlwind spring break tour was Springfield, IL. Wayne had been there as a boy on the only vacation his family ever took. The initial reason for the trip was to see family, but while in Springfield they stopped by the Abraham Lincoln home in Springfield. Since we were heading south to Arkansas from Wisconsin and had to swing through Illinois anyway, this seemed like the perfect diversion.

What a diversion it was!

The most photographed angle of Lincoln's home.

His writing desk where he wrote many speeches.
Our first tour was of the Lincoln home. This is the 3,100 sq ft  home Lincoln the lawyer made for his family, an unheard of size for the time period. He worked late into the night as a lawyer and politician in order to give his family all the things he didn't have as a young boy:  An education.Sufficient food and clothing. Opportunity. Ironically, his eldest boy, Robert, was distant from his father, as his memories are of Abe saddling up to serve on the judicial circuit and never being home. By the time Robert's younger brothers came along, Abe's work was in town and he was home most days, so they were closer with their dad.

We then went to the Abraham Lincoln National Museum in downtown Springfield, where we spent the majority of the day. You don't have to love Abe Lincoln or history to find this museum and its presentation moving. Humbling. Respectful. Pick your adverb, it was an incredible and somber experience.

Except for this part. This part wasn't quite so somber.
I learned some things about old Abe that I didn't know.

1. He was not a popular president. As a matter of fact, between the time he was elected president and he took office 12 states had seceded from the union, they were so infuriated with his being elected. (Hmmm....I remember some politicians threatening to secede if they had to buy into this "Obamacare" business...)

Lincoln's physical features made him a favorite of political satirists.
2. Once in office, his detractors were many. He appointed some of his fiercest political foes to his cabinet. While this helped him understand what others' positions were on slavery, it was also fatiguing to constantly defend himself among his closest "advisors." One of his advisors only agreed to join him in his anti-slavery stance because he thought all the blacks would sail back to Africa after being freed, even though most of them were American-born.

This scene is seared in Marissa's head. It was very impactful and emotional.
3. Only one of his four sons lived to adulthood. Guess which one? Yep, Robert, the oldest who did not have a close relationship with his dad. The tragic deaths of the other three sons from what are now preventable disease took an emotional toll on Mary. Robert had her committed to an insane asylum after her third son's death, which occurred two years after Lincoln was killed. She wrote letters of protest which were printed in the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers. The public embarrassment of having "shut away" his mother when the asylum stated she was well enough to leave forced him to petition for her release just months after her commitment. She and he never reconciled.

Scenes of Willie's illness in the White House and Mary's grief at his passing.
 4. The Emancipation Proclamation was a heavily debated and disputed document by both sides. Abolitionists said it hadn't actually "freed" anyone: blacks in the north were already free by previous legislature; states in the south said they did not have to follow the law of a "foreign" country, so it made no actual difference in the lives of slaves. It wasn't until after his death that the importance of the statement of that document was recognized and respected.

Representing the reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation
5. Lincoln was assassinated just months after the end of the Civil War. John Wilkes Booth was fine with blacks not being slaves, but when he heard the idea that they may become landowners -- or even have the right to vote! -- he was pushed to the edge. Even though his signature was on it, Lincoln did not get to see the 13th Amendment which abolishes slavery become law as not all the lawmakers had signed it at the time of his death.
The devil snuck in the back way.
The presidential portraits of Lincoln -- one for each of the four years he was in office -- showed him visibly aging what seems like decades every passing year from the heavy responsibility of war. He felt the weight of hundreds of thousands of deaths on his shoulders. I do not think he slept.

The wax figures, scenes, documents, lighting, and audio effects made history literally come to life. No one got bored. Okay, so Marissa kept trying to push me along to see the next room because it was SO COOL, but she definitely was not bored.

The White House and Civil War displays were dark. Somber. Moving. It seemed odd to go from there to the children's shop where the girls could try on period clothes and make dinner from the log cabin kitchen. That was our final stop of the day, and the following day we stopped at Lincoln's tomb before heading south on our journey.
Statue of young Lincoln on the left, and President Lincoln on the right. The heavy mantle of war is on his shoulders, weighing him down.

Ironically, we happened to arrive on the first day of it being re-opened after a 4-month closure for remodeling. Visitors could walk through the circular hall, admiring statues along the way, and eventually view Lincoln's sarcophagus. His wife and first three sons are buried in the tomb with him. His eldest and longest-living son is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, due to his stature as a politician and ambassador during his own lifetime. Many times friends tried to convince him to run for the presidency but he always turned it down, saying that there was something "fatalistic" about wanting to become president.

Considering the assassination attempts on those who followed his father in that office, there's something to be said for that. And, he had some really big footsteps to follow. I'm sure he knew that no matter how good a president, he would never measure up to his father. I don't believe many today would.