August 30, 2010

I'm in Love with the Air

Mmmmmm...I can smell it in the air.  Fall is coming!  Don't get me wrong, I love summer as much as the next guy, and I feel a little gypped that we didn't get much of one this year, but still.  I love fall.

I love the smell and the way things move differently in the air. I love the colors and cooler temperatures, sleeping in flannels again, putting the comforter back on the bed but still leaving all the windows open.

I love the leaves all over the yard (sorry, honey!) and the branches getting thinner and thinner, opening my view to the neighborhood as nature's curtains are slowly drawn from my front windows.

I love the sounds...the crispy crunching of drying leaves and dying twigs.  The way the wind sounds stronger, more serious about its business, as it sweeps through my house and slams doors all on its own.

I love the briskness in the air and the darkness creeping in closer and closer to dinner time. I really love going to bed after the sun does.

But there's more. I love the beginning of school and the promise that this will be the best year ever. The year that I have the coolest school supplies and the cutest new clothes, the year that that certain someone will fall forever in love with me.  Even as an adult, I wish these things for my kids and I love helping them get ready for it, even if they aren't remotely seeing it the way I do.

I can't wait for Halloween; it's right around the corner! It's my favorite holiday of the year (here's why) and this year will be no different. No matter that my kids are too old to Trick or Treat, it's still a night that can't be beat around here. This year, the kids are having a party. Yep, they're old enough to have a party of their own. Yikes.

When fall is well underway and the ghosts and goblins have all crawled back into the graveyard, I take down the gory, severed head on the front porch and replace it with my beautiful homemade fall wreath.  And celebrate the end of my favorite season, it's time to get ready for ThanksgivingChristmasNewYear'sEve.

Why yes, yes it is one big holiday all wrapped up together.

And that's why I love fall.  Can you blame me?

Dream Job

I want Dinking Around on the Computer to be my job. I mean my computer, not some random company's computer, doing data entry. I want to get paid to sit here and write my blog, cruise around Facebook, make cool things in Photoshop, take online tutorials about how to create an iMovie or how to make eggplant cheesecake (just saw it, didn't really want to eat it).  All day.  How cool would that be?

Because, quite frankly, when I sit down, I sit here far longer than I should.  I read blogs and get ideas for writing and page designing. I check out websites of totally random things that have no bearing in my life whatsoever, just to live vicariously.  I so wish I were making big bucks doing it.

I freak out, thinking about adding a job-outside-the-home to my daily routine, especially now that school is starting again and I kind of have to get my act together.  Not that I'm oh-so-busy, but because my time management skills suck.  If I had a job, when would I have time to do this???


...I boycott the laundry. Boys are supposed to smell, everyone expects that.

...I quit picking Jack up from sports. It's only a few miles. He's an athlete, for Pete's sake, he can run home.

...I give up my quest to be The Best Cook Ever. Like I'm having any success anyway.

...I become the crunchy earthy girl I always wanted to be and save an hour+ on hair and makeup in the morning.

...I use Tuesday nights to blog, and give up Glee. Like that's ever gonna happen.

* Sigh *

No one's sending me a paycheck for parking my ass here, so I guess I better unload the dishwasher and make myself useful.

August 21, 2010

Ten Reasons Why I Love My Wayward Son

No one could have told me, a year ago, that I would be able to write this. I wouldn't have believed anyone who said that things would get better, that  my world would turn around, that my son would be home, for good. I would have wanted to believe it, but by then, I had given up hope and was trying to move forward.

It's been almost five months since Matt came back to live with us, and while I'm certain that he is internalizing much of the pain associated with the death of his father, I also know that he is coping better than I would have expected.  He isn't a talker, and being raised to believe that "only crazy people go to therapy; that's why your mother goes", he's not one to try counseling. Believe me, we've encouraged it, we've tried our best to get him to go.  But I have learned some things since he came home, and even if they aren't things I'd choose, they are true, nonetheless.

I have learned to let him be, more or less.  He is no longer a kid. In many ways, he never really was. He's always been older than his years, and always a little less dependent on his parents than most kids.  All his life, I have tried to mother him, care for him, take care of him - but in the end, I must realize that he's not that kind of person.  He's very much like his dad was, in that way.  Completely happy taking care of himself.  Which is not to say that he doesn't want to be loved, or appreciated or even hugged and kissed.  He's very affectionate and sweet when it comes down to it.  He's just low maintenance, I guess.  This is in such great contrast to Jack, and even Casey, I think, that it's hard for me to accept. My other kids like to be cared for, they like to have boundaries and structure.  Not Matty, though. Nope, no coloring within the lines for that kid.

I worry that when Jack is almost 18 he will pull out the "But You Let Matthew..." card, but I doubt it.  I think even Jack knows that the way Matt lives with us is different for a reason. Sometimes, you have to bend and reshape the way you do things for each kid. Sometimes, all the same rules need not apply in all situations.

Like the fact that Matt doesn't really have a curfew.  This is a kid who has run away on multiple occasions, so really, setting a time to be home is pretty useless. The only thing I ask is that I know where he is and when he will be home.  He doesn't really have to clean his room or make his bed, at least not as regularly as Jack is required to. He doesn't have a bedtime or rules about driving or using the internet.  You think I'm crazy, don't you?

Here's the way I see it: he's almost 18 years old.  He's been arrested twice and he' been in juvie. He has spent nights in places I don't want to imagine; he's been lost to me for so long that the mere thought of losing him again is more than I can bear.  So I trust him.  I trust that he will make the best choices he can and that he will tell me the truth when he doesn't. So far, he hasn't let me down.  And he's still here.

Ten Reasons Why I Love Him

1.  When he goes out, he always asks me if I have plans and need him to stay.  He always tells me where he's going and with whom, even if he knows I don't like that particular friend, or event.

2.  He cleans up after himself when he cooks and he does his own laundry (and anyone else's that happens to be in line).

3.  He always offers to make something for anyone in the room when he's cooking or making a snack. He never fails to notice that other people are around him.

4.   He offers me gas money if he needs a ride somewhere (!)

5.   He texts me at 5:00 in the morning if he moves from where he was supposed to be spending the night so I always know where he is.

6.  He tells me things about himself and his friends that are personal and sometimes shocking, but I know that he tells me because he trusts me with his feelings.

7.  He does awesome little things for his brother, like taking him skating, or out for ice cream.  Or, if he's going out for the evening, he'll go find Jack at whatever house he might be playing, and make sure he tells him goodnight.  If he's home, he always goes in and says goodnight to Jack before he turns in himself. Even if Jack's asleep.

8.  He compliments me on my outfits, or my hair, or something I've cooked.

9. He always, always, always, hugs and kisses me goodbye, or goodnight, and says I Love You a thousand times a day.

10. When all is said and done, he keeps coming home.

August 14, 2010

On the Fence

The day has finally arrived, and I am the happiest blogger around: I went and bought myself an iMac. When I told my husband I had gone to the Mac Store, (because that's how out of touch I am with technology) he asked what kind of new makeup I bought. The very expensive kind, as it turns out.

I won't go on and on about it, because I've been doing that on Facebook all week, but I will say that this is the best thing I've purchased in ages. I love it.  I know, for all of you Macsters out there, this isn't news, and for those of you die-hard PCers (like I was, four days ago) you'll never be convinced (like I wasn't, four days ago).

I'm generally not a gadget person, but I am trying to push myself into the 21st century one little step at a time. I don't have any techie stuff, really. I don't have a DVR. I don't play video games. I have to ask Jack most of the time how to work things that plug in. Of course I don't have an iPhone; in fact, I don't even have a phone with internet access.  Up until about a year ago I didn't even know how to text.  The only gadgety thing I have is the GPS in my car, and the only reason for that is because it's built in.  Took me forever to figure out how to use it, but now I can't live without it.

This being said, where do I get off wanting to go back to school and learn to do web design?  I'm completely enamored with browsing websites of all kinds, and most of the time, I look at them the way I look at rooms in a home. Hmmm, I think. This couch would look much better in this corner. Why on earth are there sheets on that window...what about some curtains, eh?  Good gracious, who thought to paint this room Pepto Bismol pink?  Not, mind you, that I'm all that when it comes to interior decorating. But I don't suck at it, either.  I wander around websites and I'm constantly making mental notes about how, if this were my website, I'd put that here. And this, there. I'd change that font and I'd make that link easier to find.

It keeps calling to me. I keep pulling out the catalog and looking through the class schedule - even though I'm not sure what half the classes are about - and feeling like I should just sign up and go for it. Matt says I should; he says I should follow my dreams. Of course he does, he's 17. That's what I thought at his age, too.

Why is it so much harder when you're older? I mean, money aside. Let's just say that I had the money for tuition tucked into a manila envelope under my mattress. Let's pretend for a moment that I wouldn't have to take out (yet another) loan to pay for it.  What else is stopping me?

Time.  This is every day, all day, five days a week. And no paycheck at the end of the month. Who has that kind of time? I should be home with my kids after school. I should be here folding laundry and running errands and making sure the cat gets fed.  And what about in the evenings? I'll be doing homework and not spending any time with my family.

Commitment.  This is serious stuff.  If I'm going to plop down this kind of cash, I better be serious about it. How can I commit to something that I don't even know the first thing about? How can I say I'm going to love it when I don't have any experience with it at all? What if I totally hate it; what if I really don't understand computers and I end up just not getting it?

The Future. So I get my degree and I'm the best web designer around, what if I still can't get a job? The whole point of doing this is would be to get a good job and have a second career as my kids start leaving the nest. Imagine putting in all that time and effort to discover, at the end, that the economy is still in the shitter, or - worse yet - that technology has advanced so quickly that websites are obsolete.

And...welcome to my brain.

Thoughts, anyone?

August 4, 2010

Kids These Days

What's with work ethic these days?  Here's a picture of Jack, trying to make some cash so he can go skating with his brother tonight. Look at his face: he's about to cry, I think. In the end, he did a fabulous job - better than I had hoped for, even - but getting him out there was a bit of a chore.  You'd think he'd want to get it done so he'd have the moolah in his hot little hands, but no. He is so freakin' lazy sometimes I can't stand it. Oh, did I have something to do with that? Did I pamper and coddle him to the point that work of any nature is painful? Woops.

Evidently, I didn't do that with Matt.  When he was little, he would do anything to make money.  To this day, he is a hard worker who never complains. He gets stuff done. He helps around the house without a word. If you give him a job, he does it to the best of his ability. Maybe I have to give a little bit of that to his Dad, whose neuroses and OCD made him a really dedicated employee and I think he passed that ethic on to our kid. I wish Matt would pass it on to his brother.

When he was about eight or nine, Matt would take his Radio Flyer out of the garage and fill it with a bucket, some sponges, soap and towels.  He'd pull that thing around the entire neighborhood, going door to door, washing cars. He had a whole price list, which I must have kept a copy of, I just can't find it. He had different prices for different kinds of cars/trucks/SUVs. They were pretty reasonable prices, if I remember, but you had to find the right category into which you fell. Like SUV's with a trailer hitch were extra.  And, if you had a truck, you had to help him with the roof.

One summer, he passed out fliers for a carwash he was going to hold in our driveway. The flier listed the time, the day and the prices, but that wasn't all. He also promised a "comfortable waiting room with magazines and Kleenex." When I asked him about it, he told me that's what all good waiting rooms have: magazines to read while you're waiting, and Kleenex.  In case you sneeze, I guess.

The Saturday came and he was out there, bright and early, getting his carwash set up. He placed three or four lawn chairs in the front yard with a little plastic patio table between them, on which he neatly fanned out several magazines.  Promptly at the opening hour, my dear neighbors, Mary and Leon, both then in their late 70's, arrived for their carwash. Matty showed them to the waiting room and offered them a magazine to read. Mary looked around and said,

"Hmm...I need a tissue. I thought you were going to have tissues here."

You should have seen his little face; he was stricken to have forgotten something.  He raced into the house and came out with a new box of Kleenex and apologetically handed it to Mary. I knew she was just messin' with him, but I learned on that day that he took his work - and his customer service - very seriously. I was laughing my ass off (all of us were) but deep down, I couldn't have been prouder of him. No way was that nice Mrs. Copeland gonna sit there in the waiting room without a Kleenex!

Leon is long gone now, but Mary remembers that day and I get a kick out of sharing it with her on occasion. They probably gave him a 50% tip, not because he was a stellar car washer, but because they believed in kids who had "spunk".  They came from a generation that taught them if you worked hard and treated people nicely, you'd go far in life. I think they liked that there were still some kids around who believed that too.

Of all the things he's good at, I really hope he holds on to that.

August 3, 2010

Sure Thing

I'm a yes girl.

Not like that.

I'm the girl who can't say no when you need something.  Anything. And it's not because I love house sitting, or feeding your guinea pig or babysitting your kids or running to the store at the last minute because you're out of milk.  It's because I talk before I think. Always. I hate it.

I'm always the first person to offer up when things are needed. Me! Pick Me! I'll do it! I'll buy it! I'll take care of it while you're in Hawaii for two weeks! God, half the time I don't even know what it is I've offered to do until I get a call the next day asking "Did you really mean you would plan my sister's wedding, or was that just drunk talk?" And still, I can't say it was drunk talk, because that would be rude. I said I'd do it, I'll do it.

I was the kid in class who raised her hand before the teacher asked the question because I wanted so much to be the one with the answer. It didn't matter if I didn't actually know it. That was totally beside the point.

The problem with being a yes girl is that it spills over into other things.  For instance, I'm the Queen of "Let's have dinner next Friday. My house! With all the kids!" Why can't I just say "Let's do dinner sometime?" because what I really mean is that I don't really want to hang out with you, but I don't want to hurt your feelings. I just don't know how to do that. I feel like I haven't said enough. Therein lies the problem. I don't know when to shut up.

I feel like it's good karma, though. As if saying yes to all of this means that one day, when I'm in need, I will have a good support system. Does that make it selfish? I hope not. I don't do it to get something out of it. I think I do it because I like to hear myself talk and saying yes requires a lot more talking than saying no.

August 2, 2010

The Beach House

That's where my friend Kim is this morning, and I am here, in my den, the fog outside beginning to lift with the promise that it may be sunny again today. I will have coffee with her when she gets settled in - phone coffee - but while I wait, I will imagine I am there, helping her unpack...

...a weathered Cape Cod with sand and tall grasses nestling the steps of the porch. Open windows with sheer Pottery Barn curtains flowing freely between the salty air outside and the wainscotted dormer room in which they hang, probably from driftwood rods my friend handcrafted. A kitchen with a worn hardwood floor and crisp white cabinets, artisan bowls of fruit or shells, exquisite framed photographs of her beautiful children on the sea blue walls. Beach towels that are huge and plush and that match. Fun and fanciful woven beach bags in which to tote them.  White wood bunk beds in the bedrooms and a diaphanous comforter on the master bed. We will sip our coffee in real Adirondack chairs facing the water, the morning tide soothing our every care away. Later we will chop fresh vegetables from the garden in the back for a gourmet salad we will savor at the table her grandfather carved himself and passed down to her.

Technically, you couldn't say I was jealous, because I'm longing for a place I just invented. I have no idea what Kim's summer place is like. For all I know, it's a 1970s duplex, six blocks off the water with a view of overgrown shrubbery.  But when you hear "Beach House", that's just not what comes to mind, is it?

I love how certain words just put me in a good mood. 

Beach House. There's two of them.