Guilty Pleasure

I think I found my future best friend. Her name is Leah Remini. I just discovered her reality television show that was filmed about five years ago. And I love it. I’m pretty positive we could be BFFs if we ever met. Yep, I know how creepy that sounds, but seriously, she and her family are so hilarious, and I just can’t stop watching her show. Thank goodness for all of these snow days lately.

In truth, I enjoy almost all reality television. It all started years ago with The Real World. I was in middle school and became obsessed with the lives of those fantastic 7 people. Over the years my taste in the types of reality television have evolved. I loved Survivor for several years, even looked into applying to be on the show, but now I don’t even know if it is still on or when it stopped being on if it is off the air now. I never really got into the the game-show type reality television like The Bachelor or Dancing with the Stars. I’ve watched a few episodes here and there, and thoroughly enjoy it when I do, but I don’t look forward to those shows or make sure I don’t miss a single episode like I do others. I was heartbroken when Mob Wives went off the air.

Today, aside from Leah’s reality show, my true reality television show loves are any and all of The Real Housewives. I look forward to each season, I go back and watch old seasons when I am bored in between season or if I happened to have- gasp!- missed some episodes. I even follow most of them on social media. I can’t explain why I love it so much when it is clearly trashy television, and in all likelihood is NOT actually real but scripted. At the least, it is staged. I simply can’t resist being pulled into these women’s lives and immersing myself in their beauty and their rich fanciness and of course their drama. I’m sure if I were to take a step back and analyze why I love this franchise so much, and why I refuse to stop watching it I could figure some things out myself. But why? It is a harmless vice of mine, and I choose to unabashedly embrace it.

Just the other day while looking for interesting podcasts to listen to, after watching the episode on Leah Remini’s It’s All Relative where she and Michelle Visage created a podcast, I found Stassi Schroeder’s from Vanderpump Rules on Spotify. I cannot wait to listen to it. Feel free to judge. It don’t bother me none. However, I kindly suggest you go enjoy your own guilty pleasure instead of judging mine.

Homebody

I am a homebody

I really do not like leaving my house unless I have to.  And the older I get the worse it seems to be. Just last night I travelled a good 30 minutes away to go to my oldest son’s first ever wrestling match.  Honestly, I was not planning on going. I had already prepped my son that I probably wouldn’t be there using excuses like “I have after school tutoring and by the time I get home and drive there it will be almost over”… “It’s supposed to get icy tomorrow evening”… “It will be too much to drive all the way there with your younger brothers.”  He was a good sport about and didn’t outwardly seem to care. It was supposed to be his 3rd match, which probably would have been fine to miss an away match at that point, but because of Snowpocalypse, it was his first. I tried to subdue my guilt by giving him extra kisses and another pep talk when I woke him up for school that morning and by leaving him some money for concessions and a note of encouragement by his backpack.  I knew his school was up against my school at this event called a tri-match, and talking to my students about it throughout the day only caused my guilty, slacker-mom feelings to intensify. On my way to pick up my youngest from daycare, I still wasn’t sure if I was going to go. The thought of driving somewhere I have never been, not being in the comfort and safety of my own home, not getting home until it was dark on a school night, not getting into my comfy pants until much later than usual, being around so many people I don’t know.  Too many unknowns and uncomfortable things. I just won’t go, he’ll be fine, he won’t even notice and won’t even care that I’m not there.

Then I got a text from my husband that he was leaving work and heading to the match.  This was a nice surprise because he hadn’t even mentioned going, in fact, I just assumed he wouldn’t be able to because he would be missing work for a field trip with our youngest son the next day.  Well, now I had to go. I mean, I couldn’t sit at home in my pajama pants while my husband, my son’s stepfather, was cheering in the stands. So I sucked it up, grabbed my middle son off the bus and trekked over too.  And I am BEYOND happy that I did. It was actually pretty enjoyable to watch. My heart was beating out of my chest. I was so nervous for him. More nervous than I have ever been at any of his events. Probably because this is something I have never personally experienced before, and I had no idea what to expect.  But he did so great. All of my stupid excuses from the night before seemed so trivial … even with tutoring I barely missed any of the match because it started late … it didn’t get icy until much much later which caused us to have another day off from school … the younger brothers were just fine enjoying concessions candy, their tablets, asking questions about what was happening and why, and of course cheering on their big brother.

As long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed just being home.  Around my family, people who know me and I can be myself around.  I even remember telling my mom to tell me no when my friends would call and ask if I wanted to do something.  “Hang on, let me ask.” Cover the receiver, shake my head, and mouth the word no before I’d uncover the receiver and loudly ask her the question and she’d loudly respond with, “No.”  Boom. Guilt-free chilling at home. I still do this, but now I use my kids and/or husband as an excuse.

This morning during our ice day, I was cleaning the bathroom and listening to Rachel Hollis’s live Facebook video.  She said a lot of great things, but this particular comment really struck a chord with me: “I didn’t know how much I missed that until I was sitting inside of it last night.”  This is totally me. When I am inside the conversations and laughter with my friends, and sometimes even family, I am enveloped in their love and friendship and it replenishes my entire being.  I usually leave wondering why I don’t make a point to be inside these moments more often. But leaving the comfort and safety of my home is just difficult sometimes. I just need to remember how much I miss those moments and how much I NEED those moments from time to time.

Pearl Jam

Most weekends we pile in the car as a family and head out somewhere.  Often times it is to Target. We have gotten into the habit of using our Spotify app each time we are in the car.  Generally, the four year old is in charge of our playlist as he is the boss of our daily lives as well. For awhile he was into Drake, and we would listen to ‘In My Feelings’ repeatedly.  Then, and I was extremely happy about this, he got into ‘Yeah’ by Usher. It is almost impossible to listen to the song and not do some sort of car dance. But now, he is into ‘Sunflower’ by Post Malone.  Again, this is a pretty good song, and I don’t hate listening to it on repeat.

As you can imagine his brothers loudly voice their annoyance that “the baby” gets to monopolize the music.  (Yes, we still refer to the youngest as the baby, don’t judge, you know you have something similar happening in your family too).  So, lately while in the car we’ve been trying to take turns and let everyone in the car choose a song they want to hear. Most of the times this is pretty successful.  But I have become very aware of a few things. 1. I very much do not like most new music, especially today’s rap music 2. I am still very much in love with Pearl Jam  3. My husband has very eclectic taste in music

This past weekend my choice was ‘Indifference’ by Pearl Jam.  I sang every single word of this song loudly completely unaware that anyone else was in the car.  Any pleads from my kids to ‘please stop’ went unnoticed without an ounce of guilt. Listening to songs that meant something to you when you were an angsty teenager will always have a powerful hold on you even when you are 40.  Suddenly you are young and full of indignant righteousness as you are driving back home from a trip to Target with a car full of complaining kids. In that moment you can take on the world. I love that about music. And I love that about teenagers in general.  The fire they have to want to change the world is astounding. Yes, I battle this same fire when they feel it is their teachers they must rebel against in order to change said world, and this can be utterly exhausting. But it is that fire and drive that actually DOES change the world.  So instead of trying to extinguish it, I think we need to listen to the music of our teenage past more often as adults and remember this fire and drive ourselves.

Once my song ended, my husband quickly pointed out how depressing that song is.  I quietly rolled my eyes and mumbled, “Whatever, man. Pearl Jam rocks. You just don’t get it.”  Okay, I didn’t actually do that, but the teenager in me did.

Snowpocalypse and the Polar Vortex

Day 4. Thursday. We’ve been hunkered down in our house for several days now. I have not driven or left my driveway since Saturday. The kids have been able to play outside before the arctic blast, and I have dutifully taken pictures of them frolicking in the snow. But I really do not like winter. And this week just solidifies my distaste for this season. I have never had this many days off in a row in my 18 years of teaching, but I am very thankful I have not had to drive in this mess or worry about my kids being outside waiting for the bus or walking to school. I am much more productive person when I have a set schedule to my day, so not as much has gotten done as one would think with all of these days off.

Things I have accomplished:
1. Sleeping in
2. PiYo (and now I am super sore)
3. Shoveling. So much shoveling.
4. Board games, old school with Life and PayDay
5. Reading (The Poet X is AMAZING)
6. Watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Vanderpump Rules
7. A little bit of writing (this post)
8. Grading (pretty proud of myself with this one, but of course there’s more to do)
9. Not getting dressed or putting on makeup
10. Picking up after my kids / laundry

It’s clearly nothing to brag about, but relaxing and actually enjoying this extra time with my family during this crazy weather is productive enough for me.

New Year, New Me…Not

There’s a taste of my middle school sense of humor coming out.  Seriously though, I am not a fan of that slogan, new year, new me.  Barf.  First of all, there is nothing wrong with the current you.  Sure there might be things you want to improve upon, but don’t we all?  That doesn’t mean you need to change who you are.  In fact, you should not change who you are.  And if you really wanted to change the whole of your being, it is not as simple as just making the statement.  That is akin to Michael Scott trying to declare bankruptcy by simply yelling out, “I. Declare. Bankruptcyyyyy!” in the middle of the office.  It does nothing.

That being said, I am currently on a kick of trying to improve myself.   I spent the last few months of 2018 figuring out what truly mattered to me and trying to focus in on those specific things.  One of those things is writing, hence the blog.  I am a firm believer that in order to be a better teacher of writing I must also write more myself.  Also in full disclosure, one of my life long dreams is publishing a book, so I am writing more to attain that goal as well.

I am reading 2 books right now that I would loosely categorize as “self-help” books.  One is Atomic Habits by James Clear.  As you may have guessed from the title it is about changing your habits.  I am pleasantly surprised at what an enjoyable book this is so far.  One of the ideas mentioned in this book is to start considering yourself as the thing you want to be.  For example, instead of saying “I am trying to quit,” be it smoking, or drinking, or eating carbs, you shift to saying AND thinking, “I don’t (smoke, eat carbs, drink, etc).”  Seems so simple, and yet, when I think of connecting this to writing I have a difficult time saying, “I am a writer” instead of, “I  am trying to be more of a writer.”  It feels so braggy.  (“Is that braggy?  I don’t mean it to be braggy.”– Pam, from The Office)

Actually braggy isn’t the right word.  I feel like it isn’t true because I don’t have any evidence of it.  Maybe that is just the teacher in me coming out.  Make a claim and back it up with evidence.  I guess that is what I am doing with this blog, backing up my statement that I am a writer with evidence.  I am not a well-known, published author, and it is not my job, but I really enjoy writing, and I am going to change my habits slowly by shifting how I think about it until I fully become it.

Side note:  I really need to stop having The Office playing in the background as I am writing so I don’t refer to it all the time, but I can’t help it.  I just love it so much.

Super Wolf Blood Moon

I don’t know why I am so excited about this lunar eclipse tonight, but I am.  I’ve always loved the different phases of the moon.  I don’t know the names of all these phases.  I just really enjoy noticing the different shapes the moon takes on and how amazing it looks in the sky.  Sometimes on my short walk into work, I’ll just stare at it for awhile enjoying its magic.  I’ve been teaching for awhile now, and I am a firm believer in the power of the moon.  I know, I know, but I mean, if the moon affects the tides of the ocean, why can’t it affect humans, particularly younger, adolescent humans?  It does.  It just does.  And even if science tells me it really doesn’t, I don’t care because sometimes you simply need to acknowledge a force greater than yourself.

I set my alarm so I don’t miss this moon event.  I am hoping some of the magic of this event will trickle down from the sky and head my way.  I feel stuck.  Unsure.  I remember my first year of college one of my best friends told me she was jealous that I just seemed to know what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing while she was trying to figure it all out.  Becoming a teacher was what I always wanted to do.  It almost felt like a calling.  Seems so silly now.  How was I so certain of what career I wanted when I was so young, and now, 20+ years later I am so uncertain?  It doesn’t make sense.  Does everyone feel this way when they hit their 40s?  Is this the mid-life crisis always referenced in movies and TV shows?  Maybe I should just go out and buy a sports car.  Well, until then, I will look up at the super wolf blood moon tonight and hope for a little clarity or inspiration.

Mushroom Painting

This past weekend after my grandpa’s funeral, the entire family went through his house taking anything we wanted.  There was only thing I had my eye on.  This fantastic mushroom painting.  It’s not that it is visually stunning or painted by a family member or anyone notable.  I wanted this painting because it was a fixture in my grandparent’s house.  It had been there as long as I can remember.  I mean look at how my grandma used to decorate it when we were little.  Amazing.  I was surprised no one else wanted this painting.  I know everyone took something that means something special to them that might not hold the same meaning for anyone else.  This painting is my something special.  Others may see it as just another piece of garbage they need to get rid of before the house is sold, but when I look at at it, I feel all the warm fuzzy feels.  To me, it is a symbol of my grandparents’ home, their love, and all of the wonderful memories I have of being there.  When we got back home, and I had this beauty in my possession, my husband, who also recognized its awesomeness (true love, right?), put it up on our wall within minutes of us walking in the door.  It looks perfect.  As if it has always been there.  The mushroom painting will now be a part of my children’s childhood memories, and hopefully, when they look at it in their adulthood they will also feel all the warm fuzzy feels.  Maybe I will even decorate it during the Christmas season just like my grandma did.

Change is hard

The above is an obvious statement, I know.  But it is true, and feels especially true for me recently.  Looking back at 2018, there were some pretty crappy things that happened in my life.  My cat died, my grandma died, and my grandpa died.  It probably seems silly to put the cat thing in there with the other tragic events, but Mojo was with me for a long time, over 15 years, and I miss him.  Even though the older he got and the more children I had, he became such a pain in the butt and so gross, he never failed to snuggle me each night, and I miss that certainty, that comfort.

My grandma, my mom’s mom, was 88 years old.  She was amazing.  She held onto her faith so firmly, yet would be able to have in depth conversations about things that she did not necessarily agree with.  She was the most incredible cook.  She was very creative and enjoyed writing.  She wrote a children’s book that was never published, illustrated by her younger brother, about a star in the universe trying to find its place.  I have some of that story tattooed on my arm.

My grandpa, my dad’s dad, was 89 years old.  He was a captain with The Great Lakes Fleet for 43 years.  He had a wicked sense of humor and was very opinionated and had no problem sharing his opinions to anyone who would listen.  He had an endless amount of stories to tell.  I loved just listening to him talk even if I had already heard that particular story several times.  He loved to listen to polka music on Sundays, and every time I hear polka music I feel right at home.

I have no more living grandparents left to visit or to call or to send pictures my kids drew for them.  This fact is still new, so sometimes I forget.  The other day I was thinking about something the boys and I could do for spring break, and one of the options that popped in my head was heading up north to stay at our family’s camp and visit my grandparents like we did last year.  But they won’t be there to visit this year.  Each August we try to get up there during The Nautical Festival.  My grandpa’s house is the epicenter for all family gatherings.  At some point during the Festival we all find our way there to eat, drink, catch up, and laugh.  So much laughter.  But now, where are we going to meet up?  Will our annual August pilgrimage up North even continue?   I won’t be greeted by that familiar smell of my grandparents’ homes.  I won’t be able to find the not so secret stash of candy my grandpa always had on hand.  I won’t be able tell my grandma we already ate as she puts together a meat, cheese, and cracker spread seconds after we have arrived for a visit.  Little things I’ve gotten so used to over the years will be coming to an end.  I have no fancy words for what it is.  Change is so hard to deal with sometimes.

That gorgeous picture at the top of my blog?  That is the beach we go to.  Just beautiful and relaxing up there.   And the memories.  I have to give my kids their own memories of being up there as well, so we will keep travelling to that special little town despite all of the change that 2018 brought.

Something I wrote back in July

Lazy, lazy summer daze.  Why they are so important and why I’m so lucky.

There are many a day that I wish I could go back in time and choose another career path.  But summertime, especially when I started having my boys, I realized that despite how completely exhausted and sometimes worthless I feel during the school year, I am so fortunate to have so much time to spend with my kids.  I’m not a huge fan of those Facebook posts that tend to circulate around each summer about how we only have 18 summers with our kids so make them memorable.  First of all, that implies our kids will never be around the summer they’re 18 and graduate from high school.  If my kids are anything like me, they’ll be around plenty to work or to eat or do laundry.  And second of all, why do family vacations have to stop once your children turn 18?  That’s just silly.  I’m 40 years old and have several planned family days with my parents and siblings each summer.  Now, granted, my parents really only want to see their grandchildren during these visits, but I’m not too proud to mooch food off of my parents.  I’ve even brought laundry to my parents house as a full grown adult with my own kids.  I am telling you my dad must have been a dry cleaner in a past life, he can get a stain out of almost anything.  

My point is, each time I see one of those posts, I feel a twinge of guilt.  They make me pause and question if I should be doing more and planning out each and every summer day with my kids so we get the most of these 18 years.  They make me feel like I am just not a good enough Mom. But then I come to my senses and think, Shut up stupid Facebook post.  I’ll do what I want, and we’ll have a grand ole summer even if we are lazy.  There are some days we sit around in our pajamas and binge watch TV together.  Just yesterday I was able to watch Baby Mama with my 13 year old while the younger two were downstairs playing video games.  Don’t judge. It was fun laughing at potty jokes with my teenage son. Would I have watched that if my 8 and 4 year old were upstairs with us?  Probably not. But that is only because they would have been too loud for us to enjoy it. Before the movie was over, we decided to use the M&Ms I had bought to make cupcakes for my 4 year old’s birthday, but then decided against it because we still had leftover cupcakes from a small celebration with family, so we made cookie bars instead.  None of this was planned out or involved us having to go somewhere to have fun. It was just us being lazy and enjoying each other’s company.

When things aren’t planned, impromptu trips to a hobby shop to find rock polishing supplies and then to not find any, but instead find weird little cheap treasures that cause the youngest to have a complete meltdown in the car of which we can laugh and make jokes about are able to happen.  Such as, “Mom, Dominic should be the town’s tornado siren, he’s so loud.”  Giggle giggle giggle. This is why I am so lucky.  I can have lazy, relaxed days with my sons during the summer.  These days may not produce vivid memories that will stay with them forever, but they will provide a sense of love and belonging and knowing they always have a relaxed, inviting place to come home to no matter what is going on in their life.  Just like I still do with my parents.  That to me is much more important than planned out events that I can post on my social media sites to make myself look like a good Mom.  Now I just need to remember these relaxing, enjoyable days while I am in the thick of it during the school year…

 

Update on these July thoughts now that is in January.

I still believe strongly in the benefit of having a lazy, relaxed vacation schedule now that my winter break is coming to a close.  And I discovered another thing that bothers me about those “You only have 18 summers with your children posts.”  What about the parents that have to work all summer?  Does that mean their children are having a worse summer or a bad childhood because they’re in daycare most of the summer?  I was fortunate enough to have my dad home with us during my summers as a kid because he was a teacher, and my mom was able to take more days off so she was home more too.  But aside from a few family adventures each summer, we didn’t go do something every single day.  My dad didn’t have a planned schedule complete with arts and craft activities.  Nope, we were told to go play, and we did, and I have nothing my squishy lovey feelings about my childhood.  OK, rant over, I’m sure you get my point.

There Was a Declan Who Swallowed a Key

There Was a Declan Who Swallowed a Key…

Last winter, as I was relaxing one Sunday evening watching TV my middle son, Declan, burst into my room yelling, “Mom! I swallowed a key!”  He then promptly burst into tears. I wasn’t sure how to react to such a bizarre statement, but seeing my baby so upset I hugged him and asked him calmly to tell me exactly what happened.

“Well, I had the key by my mouth and Ty made me laugh, and I just swallowed it.”

“What key?  Your house key?”  I asked still confused.

“No it was that toy key that Ty has.”  After further investigation, the key in question turned out to be smaller than a normal house key, more rounded, and plastic.  What toy it went to, I am still unsure of, but that wasn’t the point so I moved on to searching on my phone as to how serious this situation actually was.  Did I really need to leave the comfort and warmth of my stretchy pants and blankets? No, Google, told me it should be fine. If there is no problem with his breathing, these types of things usually just find their way out naturally.  Our Sunday night continued as normal, but as the quiet of the dark, sleeping house settled around me, I began questioning my decision to not go to the ER. I got up every hour and checked on Declan, occasionally poking him to make sure that he stirred.  All of us woke up safe and sound the next morning to a large amount of snow piling up around us. A snow day. Relief. No need to call into work and stress about getting sub plans ready.

Once our doctor’s office opened, I called and spoke to a nurse who spoke to a doctor and called us back.  She told us the doctor put in an x ray order and to go to our nearest Spectrum Health lab, lucky for us one is right down the road.  Since it was a snow day, all of the kids were with me, we piled everyone in and were in and out pretty fast. It was determined that the key was in a safe place and should pass naturally, and that I needed to keep an eye out for it just in case.  Awesome. My next few days involved digging through my 7 year old’s poop to make sure all was fine. And all was fine in the end. Gross, but fine.

It was after this event in my life so far as a mother that I really learned not to be so quick to judge other parents.  Often times after hearing about tragic or crazy events involving kids I instantly place blame on the parents, but in reality sometimes things just happen and there isn’t just one person or thing to blame.  My situation with Declan was not that serious or in any way tragic, but it has made me pause before I think, Well, that would never happen to me.  We need to spend less time judging and more time offering kindness to those who experience crazy or horrific things. Because you just never know if you will one day, in turn, need some of that support yourself.