Thursday, January 31, 2013

Grown-Up Smarty Pants Weekend

You guys, I'm at the airport.  I'm getting on a plane--by myself.  I'm flying alllllllllll the way to the other side of the country, alone.  I have novels packed in my carry-on.  And I'm going to read them.

Where am I going, you ask?  I'm going to NH, to see John Irving, only my favorite writer ever, speak in Portsmouth, only my favorite NH town ever.  With Tress, only my....well, you get it.  He's going to be talking about his newest book, In One Person.  Guess what I'm reading on the plane???!!!

Its not just that I'm going to see such a great friend and be in the same room with a literary god (this is like The Beatles, 1964 for the nerd girl bookworm in me--but hopefully I will refrain from screaming and fainting when he walks out onto the stage).  Part of what has me giddy is the vast hours of time stretching ahead of me today in which all i have to do is sit, read, read some more and then sit again and read more.

Not that I don't love my kid, because I do.  But yesterday?  During Ethan's play date?  I got to listen to an hour, an HOUR, of Ethan and his friend combine the names of Star Wars characters with a variety of potty talk.  Like Poop Vader.  Butt Vader. Luke Fartwalker.  R2-pee-poo. Poopy Fett. Jabba the Butt. Obi-Fart-Kenobi.  Each one followed by peals of hysterical gaffaws and giggles more raucous than the last.  And while I stood down stairs and laughed quietly to myself, I also felt my brain cells crying.  I literally thought of the cells in my brain as little sad frowny faces because--wow.  Being surrounded by lower elementary aged boys is not doing anything for my smarts.  I am a few potty jokes away from being Elaine Beniss watching tires rotate outside the auto shop and clapping my hands in delight.

I have been trying to recharge my brain; I have cut down on my internet lint-gazing time and reduced the number of "words with friends" games I let myself play at any one time--last year I started playing WWF under the guise of it being actually good for my mental acuity.  But really?  It ends up feeling an awful lot like being a mouse trying to get to the end of the maze for a little bit of cheese more than an intellectual undertaking. Don't get me wrong, I'd play WWF all day if I could (I'm not above the maze and cheese deal at all), but I knew as time went on that I just wasn't getting the mental acuity boost out of it that I thought I would.

Walking away from the computer and the iphone more has been great--I've got a long way to go, but my house is cleaner, my kid is happier, I sleep better and I'm reading more.  I don't just read at night now, before falling asleep (thereby forgetting almost everything I read).  I've started reading more during the day, when I would have normally been on the computer.  Its only 10-20 minutes here or there, but it adds up and maybe, just maybe my brain will be better for it.

Today I'm going to finish Nicole Krauss' The Great House (so freaking phenomenal--if you've never read her, do it.  Start with The History of Love) and then try to get through In One Person by tomorrow night before we go see Irving speak.   Then there's a whole flight home for more reading!!!!

Its so nice to get back in touch with my inner nerd.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

To Ski or Not To Ski....

Ah yes, it is that time of year again.  The time when the mercury drops to unspeakably cold levels and the snow piles up like so many mountains of fluffy cotton balls.  Children, rosy-cheeked from the cold and excitement of a snow day, burrow into snow caves, dare each other to lick frozen flag poles, or roll snow men into existence, giggling and breathing out clouds of freezing happiness.  In other parts of the country.


Here, we get a thin crust of frost on the car windows & have to go four rounds with the kids about why they NEED to wear a jacket out because ITS WINTER, and that's just what you do--from December until March, you were a parka! Something down-filled and quilted! With a hood! And a zipped-up zipper! Even if it's 50 degrees out, because Mama's from New England, damn it!!!

And that's winter in Northern California.  Unless you get in the car and drive 4 hours east.  Then? WEEEEEE!!!!!

It's a mountain! With SNOW on it! Yay!

When Husband & I moved to the west coast, it was with the understanding that I was going to need to spend a weekend or two each winter in the snow.  Therefore, in the past 4 years, I have spent approximately 6 days in snow.  And that's just about right--just long enough to gasp with glee when I notice that we've driven up to the snowy elevations and that suddenly there's snow blanketing the trees on the side of the road.  Just long enough to love the feeling of the icy cold air in my lungs and to romanticize the brisk, clean sparkly winter wonderlandiness of it all.

The first year we went up to Tahoe, Husband and I, under some joint delusion of athletic prowess (or perhaps overconfidence in our basic gross motor skills), took ski lessons.  This was a misguided attempt  on my part to recapture my own non-skiing youth and turn it around. I"m from NH! I'm supposed to ski! How could I not ski?!!!  Every one in NH skis! I have friends who went to high school with Bode Miller, damn it!--just by association, I should at least be able to take a black diamond blind-folded with one hand tied behind my back!

Oh people.  I cannot ski. Not only can I not ski,  I can't even walk in ski boots.  I can, however, fall on my butt with astonishing flair and whine incessantly about the boots cutting off circulation (and shredding the skin from my shins).  And it turns out, Husband, who was born and raised way closer to the equator than me, couldn't really care less about ever learning to ski.  A match made in heaven!!! Yay!

So the next year, Husband and I dropped Ethan off at ski school (he LOVES skiing; apparently gravity is far less intimidating when you're only 40-something inches from the ground), and spent the morning and early afternoon lollygagging about at the resort, shuttling ourselves from Starbucks to one of the outside fire pits, to the bar, to the fire pit, to this shop or that, to the fire pit...and even though I love a fire pit as much as the next person, it got boring after a bit, and we found ourselves wandering over to the kid's lessons for the sheer entertainment value of watching tiny people on skis.

This year, we finally got it right.  You know what you do at ski resorts when you don't ski?  (besides drink?)  You get a massage.  BAM!

No pretending we're going to become mid-life skiers;  no playing the "we're too cool for ski school" card and lazing at fire places all day.   Just drop the kiddo off with a bunch of people we're assuming are trained to care for kids while teaching them how to ski down the side of a mountain, get ourselves some coffee & head towards the plunky-plunky new age music of the day spa.

I booked a couples' massage for myself and Husband--and I have to say the whole idea of lying naked on a table next to your partner, who is also lying naked on a table, while strangers rub you?  Its just weird.  Its not like you can hold hands, and you certainly don't want to chit-chat.  So what's the point?  I don't know.  But I do know this:  a ski resort is THE place to get a massage.  These massage therapists are used to people coming in after a hard day of swishing down mountains on skis and snowboards, muscles tight and aching.  They are used to working out the kinks in the athletically fit and ambitious.  So our gelatinous, squishy muscles were no match for their powers.

After being kneaded like so much dough, Husband and I headed to meet up with our friends (actual skiers) for lunch.  You know how a massage therapist will say that after a massage you should stay hydrated and drink lots of water to help flush out the toxins released by the massage?  Yeah.  Turns out, vodka, although a clear and tasteless liquid like water, is NOT really a good substitute for water in this scenario.  Um. Oops.  Lunch may have consisted of a couple adult beverages, which combined with the aforementioned massage-released toxins and threw what I assume is my "chi" into some sort of crisis and I felt pretty sick for the rest of the day.  Let's call that "altitude sickness" and not "stupid Sarah sickness," shall we?

Ethan trudging towards ski school--I think he might be wearing that parka until he's 10. 

Pre-massage beverage. Grande skim, extra hot, no water chai.  Oops.  Again with the no water. 

Look at the pretty mountain I didn't even pretend I was going to engage with in any way, shape or form except to take a couple pictures and say, "pretty." 

I love that he loves the snow. 

 I'm hoping we get up to the snow at least once more this winter.  More skiing for the kid, more massages for me.  Everybody wins!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Barf Mitzvah....

This fall, in the tradition of little Jewish boys & girls everywhere, Ethan started Sunday school, and thus the long and winding road towards his Bar-Mitzvah, in 7 years.  I am hoping when it happens, his Bar Mitzvah party will feature fewer poorly executed Michael Jackson covers by the band and less hair-spray glitter amongst the tween guests.  Guessing since it won't take place in 1984, as mine did, its probably a safe bet that we can avoid those party pitfalls.

Anyhoooo----things with Ethan's Jewish education are already looking far more productive and positive than was mine (staring at a chart of the Hebrew alphabet really didn't teach me much about being a good person and caring for my fellow human being).   On Sunday of last week, in conjunction with the observation of Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday, our congregation held a "Mitzvah Day."  For you non-tribe types, a "mitzvah" is a good deed. There were literally dozens of service projects to choose from, from making aid & relief packages to be delivered overseas by End Hunger Now to visiting seniors at local assisted living housing to participating in a Habitat for Humanity build in our area.  Ethan and I opted to work in the kitchen, making healthy snacks to be given out that evening at a local homeless shelter.

Ethan was very excited to help out; I have to say, for all his expectation that the tooth fairy bring him ungodly amounts of money for each tooth and his whining about not having gotten a new toy in soooooooo loooooooong (3 days after Channukah....), Ethan's got some serious generosity of spirit.  We donated a shopping cart of new toys to Toys For Tots this year & I've never seen Ethan beam with such pride as he did when he put those toys into the barrels.  When we are stopped at a traffic light and a homeless veteran is holding up a "please help" sign in the median, Ethan is the first person in the car to start shuffling around to find a loose dollar or change--"Mommy, he served our country and we should help take care of him."  When we see a barrel at the grocery store collecting cat food for a local shelter--he's all about it.  He still wants what he wants, when he wants it, and isn't quite clear on the whole concept of money not in fact sprouting from trees in endless supply.  But he's got a good heart.

So on Sunday he got to combine his generous spirit and good heart with a whole bunch of melons & kabob skewers, to make fruit kabobs for the shelter.  Ethan and several other first graders (and their parents) milled about the kitchen for almost three hours, chopping melons into chunks to slide onto the skewers.  Please take a moment to imagine...."Wash you hands!" "Chunks! Cut them in chunks--you can't put that sliver of watermelon on a skewer!"  "Please don't eat that!" "Wash your hands!!!" "The skewers are not swords, boys!" "Don't put that on the kabob! Its been on the floor!"  "Wash you hands!"

After we finished 100 fruit kabobs, we whipped up some home made cocoa mix and helped another group dust powdered sugar on 100 healthy whole wheat cookies that were fresh out of the oven.    Sadly, I only have pictures of them making the cocoa and dusting the cookies, because somehow, despite my best efforts to remain on the periphery, I ended up corralling and coordinating much of the kabob business.

We don't mess around when it comes to our combining our calling to make the world a better place and enjoy our cultural and theatric traditions....we had our very own Fiddler on the (Kitchen) Roof.  I can't remember his name, but after his first name on the tag, it literally said, "The Fiddler."  He roamed the synagogue, playing his music for all the volunteers working on various service projects throughout the building and the grounds.  When he first came into the kitchen, the kiddos stopped their work and watched him stroll through the kitchen, effortlessly playing his fiddle and surveying our progress (or lack thereof at that point, given the kids' inability to focus on melon chunks while there was a real live fiddler wandering through the kitchen).

Waiting to measure the ingredients for the dry hot cocoa mix. Patience is a virtue and all that....

I had Ethan pose for this picture in front of the Stop Hunger Now organization's banner when I thought that's the project we were working on.  Turns out they were doing some hardcore emergency relief food packaging to go overseas, complete with giant bags of grain and assembly lines of volunteers--not entirely kid friendly, so we retreated to the kitchen and our melon kabobs.  But wow--it was amazing to walk through there and see the amount of food being put together to be sent to developing countries in need.

Ethan watched his friend measure out the cocoa....

Then Ethan got to level it off...

And dump it into the mixture

Then Ethan got up on the step stool to powder some cookies.

Still with the tongue out whenever he's concentrating....he took this powdered sugar business very seriously.

Then they helped clean up. And smiled about it.  Staggering.

A last, rogue batch of cookies came out of the oven as we were finishing up with everything else, and Ethan decided to "make it snow" and stood up on the highest step of the ladder before unleashing the powdered sugar snow storm onto the little village of sugar cookies below.

After all our Mitzvah-ing, Ethan and I met Husband down town for lunch.  And that, we think, is when our luck started to change.  We will never know if it was the chicken in our tacos or if there was some bug lingering in our guts just waiting for the moment to strike, but by about 5pm that afternoon, Husband and I were starting to

Very.  Very.  Off.

Its true that Ethan had thrown up a couple of times overnight between Friday and Saturday.  But after that he'd been fine.  A little tired, but no other symptoms and no desire to stop doing his thing.  We assumed it was something in the miso soup he'd had the night before. And he was certainly back to his old self on Sunday morning when we were fixing all those snacks for the homeless shelter. It didn't occur to either Husband or I that in those hours, Ethan had passed some puking bug on to us.

So whether it was some sort of crazy coincidence that all three of us ended up with food poisoning within a 72 hour period (Husband's initial theory), or the same virus ripped through us in varying degrees of "omg, just let me die now....." -iness, its no matter.  In a moment that made me SO grateful we didn't fall under the spell of that adorable little totally-vintage, 1-bathroom house we looked at while house hunting, Husband and I began with the puking at the exact same time.  And for hours after.  I lay on the floor of one bathroom texting him "Are you okay?"  and reading his responses, "I think I cracked a rib that time."  We debated via text when/if we should go to the ER, which one of us was more dehydrated and who would be able to take Ethan at 11:30pm on a Sunday night if we had to take ourselves to the hospital.  At the odd times when we found ourselves both out of the bathroom and in our bed at the same time, we communicated through pained moans and whispered "make it stooooooops," until one of us had to get up again and stumble to the bathroom.   It was like that scene in Bridesmaids, but without the wedding gown.  And the street.  And it wasn't funny.

By morning, the most violent of it was over.  But in the past few days, we've decided that the lingering effects are much more virus-like than food poisoning-esque.  And now I have to wonder if our mitzvah of the fruit kabobs and sugar cookies carried this curse of The Barf to those we set out to help.  I am really really hoping against odds that it was the Mexican food we had for lunch because I would feel just awful to think that by being in that kitchen on Sunday, I'd somehow sent this bug on its way to people who are least equipped to deal with it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Day Tripper

California's public schools may be a mess of budgetary angst and well-intentioned fundraising-induced inequality, but they got at least one thing right---teacher's professional development days are scheduled to bookend federal holidays, turning a 3-day weekend into a 4-day weekend.  Sweet!

So on Thursday morning, while we sat in the small-town traffic jam that happens daily at school drop-off time, Ethan and I planned our great weekend get-away.   Still having rooms full of unpacked boxes, I felt a little guilty heading off for an adventure that involved no unpacking, organizing or cleaning whatsoever.  And given the number of boxes I have unpacked in the past couple of weeks, I had neither the energy or motivation to plan an extravagant trip to some far-flung Sunset-Magazine styled fancy-pants weekend excursion.  So we stuck with what we know.  Monterey.

Friday morning Ethan and I packed our iPads and iPad mini and computers and cameras and iPhones (can you say "time for a technology diet?!!!!") and a change of clothes into an overnight bag, left out extra food for the cats & drove down the coast an hour to the land of Steinbeck (and also tourist shops hawking t-shirts of sea otters wearing round glasses and holding wands, emblazoned with the words "Harry Otter" on them.  Dignified).

First stop was the aquarium:

we made it to the kelp forest just in time to see the scuba diver feeding the fish.

hello, ladies. 

In the "at the shore" exhibit, giant waves crash down outside the glass every 15 seconds.  


Ethan "using the force" to make all the fish go in one direction....I didn't have the heart to tell him....

cranky old man turtle gave us a wave as he swam by....

And we got a lesson in symmetry in the psychedelic jelly fish exhibit.  If you look closely, that's me & Ethan.

And some of my favorite sea creatures--sand dollars.  I have no idea what they do except stay half buried on the sea floor, but I think they are fabulous and magical.  (and Ethan has already told me that I'm weird for that).

And what does one do after three hours in the aquarium but walk down the block to Ghirardelli?

Strawberry ice cream & chocolate-dipped waffle cones with sprinkles!

Seriously, look at the size of that thing.  Absurd.  And delicious. 

He had to contemplate exactly how to go about eating this ice cream cone the size of a Renaissance Fair(e) turkey leg. 

After we gorged on ice cream, we rolled ourselves back to the hotel, where Ethan spent the next TWO hours in the hotel tub (I will not think of the germs. I will not think of the germs. I will not think of....), reveling in the joy that was his aquarium gift-shop purchase---a shark rescue set, complete with boat, two rescue divers and a gaping-mouthed shark, apparently in need of rescue.   So Ethan spent time getting good and prune-y in the tub, draining the cold water & refilling it with hot when he'd been in there too long, rescuing the same shark over & over again, blissfully unaware of how icky it is to sit in a hotel bathtub.  Ah, to be a 6 year old boy).

After I pried Ethan Cousteau out of the oceany depths of room 2107, we headed down to the beach to watch sunset.  One of my favorite places in Monterey is Lover's Point.  Crazy jagged rocks, stubborn, fearless seagulls,  wildly reaching cypress trees, crashing waves--its all pretty awesome and begging to be explored.

Dinner was sushi, because naturally after a day of admiring the ocean and all the mysteries and beauty it contains, of course you go out and eat some raw fish (sorry, Nemo!).

And then?  Ethan got up at 4am and started puking.  Because really, what makes a stay at a hotel more special than your kid alternately watching the Disney channel and vomiting into a trash basket until 6am?  No fever, no other symptoms--just random vomiting for 2 hours.

The next morning was a little rough....

nothing a little Starbucks won't cure....

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Speaking of HGTV....

I'm trying not to open the Pandora's box that is my desire to over-decorate, over-furnish & over-spend on all things having to do with the house.  I'm taking my time with the unpacking, telling myself there's no rush, really.  Except for the impending visit from family in less than a month.  Who will be staying in a room that is currently lined with moving boxes and furnished with a California king bed frame supporting a regular king sized mattress (not exactly conducive to a good night's sleep).  So I guess there sort of is a rush.  I should probably continue to sit on my butt in Starbucks and write then, huh?

Thanks to Pinterest, I need about 4 houses worth of rooms to use all the color palettes and styles I've fallen in love with in the past year.  Because I probably can't have a shabby chic living room adjacent to an industrial/modern kitchen attached to a rustic-but-not-country dining room. And because if I want a deep eggplant hued wall in my bedroom, I probably can't have bright blue & yellow walls in the master bath.  Husband & I are already debating furnishing our dining room with mis-matched sets of chairs because we like so many of them (damn you, West Elm & Pottery Barn!!!).

And built-ins! I need built-ins! Because on Pinterest there was a pin that showed you how to surround your TV in a way that makes the TV kind of disappear into the wall.  Because we don't want people to know that we watch TV all. the. time.  So surround it with books!!

And maybe we can knock that wall down--because they do that on Love It or List It every single episode (just don't have that woman do it because even though it all looks great at the end, she is ALWAYS finding problems and I don't trust her one tiny bit).

Sabrina Soto! Someone get me Sabrina Soto! I need a dining room that looks like it cost me 20K to decorate and furnish but really only cost the loose change I found under my sofa cushions (have you seen what that woman can do with a barn door and some hinges???!!)

Clearly, I need to reign it in.  My "I've got all the time in the world to get this stuff done" and my "House. Must. Be. Perfect. Now!" sides really need to have a good old fashioned come-to-Jesus with each other & work this out because right now, I'm feeling a weird  mixture of frenzied laziness and that is just not good for my sanity.  And I have to get the inside of the house under control before spring because there is a whole other level of indecision outside.  Decks that need furnishing and plants that need killing    pruning.

But friends and family will be thrilled to hear that I am in fact, finally and for the first time in my life, going to employ a cleaning lady. Or ladies.  When we were getting information about the house from the previous owners, I asked the woman who her cleaning lady was & she replied that she'd never used one.  So I casually said to Husband, "perhaps I will try to keep the house up without a cleaning lady."  He was not amused.  At all.  I'm not really a "great" house keeper.  The word "abysmal" comes to mind, even with my best efforts.  The "housekeeping" part of the brain must be somehow linked up with the part that also controls mathematical abilities, because I'm about equally proficient (meaning not at all) in both.

At least Ethan's room is done.  After 4 years of sleeping on a mattress on the floor (because we're dirty hippies), we finally bought him a bedroom set at Pottery Barn Kids & it was delivered last week.  Ethan likes it, but there was a minor misunderstanding when the set arrived.  At the store, the bed was covered in PBK's Star Wars sheets, shams, pillows, quilts, etc, the likes of which would have been almost as pricey as the bed itself.  So even though I absolutely 100% remember telling Ethan in the store that we were getting the bed and bureau, but NOT the Star Wars stuff yet & that we could get that piece by piece over time, when he came into his room & saw his same old sheets and pillows on his mattress, he may have melted down in dramatic style and told me that I had lied to him. Yeah.  Called me a liar.   Sadly, this cost him dearly, as I had to put the kibosh on Husband's plan to surprise Ethan with the Star Wars bedding set that weekend.  Sigh.  The issues of gratitude & attitude are a whole other blog post for another day.  But yeah.  Someone's going to be waiting a long time for a Death Star quilt.

For now I'm trying to stay off of Pinterest as much as possible (is there a 12-step program for that?) and avoiding HGTV (do I have time in my life for a second 12-step program for that?) and focusing just on getting what's in the boxes out of the boxes and finding a home for them.  I'm also fighting the urge to get a membership at Costco because I have pantry! And storage closets!!  And a big fridge!!! Think of all the toilet paper & cheese sticks I could fit in this house!!!

::deep breaths::