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Travel to the Homestead

Photo: Two little boys, wide awake at 6:15am, looking at their first airplane.

 

I told you a few weeks ago that we were summoned to Missouri by my Father-in-law to see his ailing mother. While I did my best to gently, respectfully discourage my husband from forcing all of us to make the trip, he treated it as a solemn duty. We made the arrangements to go, costing us a king’s ransom, and I prepared myself for it. Prayed over it. Couldn’t really get over it. But, on Thursday I packed us up, and on Friday morning at 3:50am, I got us up. We were summoned to the homestead and we would answer the call.

I am still processing the intensity of what we went through. While there were plenty of family elements to contend with, tightly spun family threads to pluck, pull, and unravel, there was also the incredible burden of shepherding these two excited little boys through the journey gracefully and patiently. They needed to be impervious to everything that was going on above them. It was our job to keep it light for them, keep them engaged and interested. We told them on Wednesday night what would happen and laid down the ground rules, understanding that Thursday would be the day to verbally work out the details and reiterate the expectations.

They rose to the occasion. They followed directions, they did as we asked without question, they knew what to expect at the airport and weren’t intimidated by security… they didn’t kick or scream or act a fool on the plane. Matter of fact, they squealed with delight during take-off and landing! There were many questions about flaps and buttons, the mechanics of flying, how we were able to stay up in the air. The Husband was overjoyed to show off the knowledge from his aerospace degrees. They were perfect. All three of them. I couldn’t be more proud of them.

I had to share half my seat on the plane ride to Missouri with a gentleman who…needed a little extra space. He was friendly, at least, chatting me up for most of the ride. No sleep for Mama. No comfort for the weary. The Husband was much more comfortable than I was, so he was tasked with the 2-hour drive from St. Louis to a small town in the Ozark region. I-44 through Missouri is a straight and hilly road, marked with no less than a hundred signs for the Meramac Caverns and other attractions. There were truck stops and tractor shops. There were churches and “trading posts” intermixed with motels and steak houses. Wide, wide swaths of pretty green land made me wonder about the pioneers and explorers who trekked across this continent. It’s bewildering to me what they accomplished.

When we got to my Father-in-law’s hometown, I was expecting extraordinary rural poverty. What I found instead was a cute little town that had certainly seen better days, but wasn’t totally rundown or abandoned. Old and new stood side by side, service similar purposes. For every boarded up window, there was a brand new building with an LCD display for this or that. It’s a town in transition, though I fully believe that there was a time when it was less than it is.

The family homestead, established in the late 1800s, is off a country road that is numbered instead of named. Land divided and redivided; poor, rocky soil stubbornly and proudly tilled and subsided on for generations, it is a house with a gravel driveway and a 2-car garage, a set of sheds and some bird houses. A pretty field of well over an acre swayed in the humid breeze, lifting a song made by grasshoppers as big as the boys’ hands.

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Inside the pretty little pre-fab home (3 bed, 2 full baths, air conditioning, cable tv.  This isn’t some shack somewhere), The Husband’s grandmother stood to greet us at the door and burst into tears as soon as she wrapped her arms around him. My two boys hugged her and she wept as she held them. The expense and the effort were worth it, just for that moment.

I will not tell you that this was a trip filled with joy or that it was easy. Quite the contrary: it was extremely uncomfortable and full of tears. It was extremely hot and humid, and the homestead has no shade trees (near the house, anyway), so the boys couldn’t play outside. We huddled in the air conditioning, but they were restless with boredom and newness. Great-Grandma was very adamant and particular about their behavior in the house. It was not ideal.

The moments they did get to spend outside were full of little boy adventures. Tractor rides and grasshoppers, dragonflies as large as hummingbirds, gardens and trails to explore. There were ticks and chiggers to worry about, but they were ok.

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Though she is improving in some ways, The Husband’s grandmother will be entering a nursing home this week. As such, she is trying to distribute her things among family members. She offered us a china cabinet (and some crystal that she has collected) and she offered me her collection her cookbooks. I was very excited to come across a vintage New York Times Cookbook and Joy of Cooking from the 1970s.

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There were also some fun Betty Crocker books (they all called for jello. Seriously. There is a chicken salad recipe where the first ingredient is lemon jello!) and other books. Check this out!

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It’s a delight to go through these things!

Anyway, though the time with family was fairly joyless, the boys and their reaction to it all was warming and wonderful. It’s such a pleasure to see them experience the world together.

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We’re exhausted from it all, but we have to get ready. School starts on Wednesday. There are things to do. Today was for Wegmans and Costco. Tomorrow is for the library and the park, laundry, and cleaning. On Wednesday, we wake up and get started. Here we are, another school year upon us. FINALLY!

Which means there is ever more to learn and share, right, Dear Reader? It’s the Monday of an important and busy week. I hope you are looking toward the horizon with a bit of hopefulness. I look forward to sharing with you!

Until Wednesday, stay productive and take care!

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[Quiet Thoughts] Back to School Moment

Photo: This beautiful blossom has the audacity to bloom outside of the safety of The Husband’s Triangular Prism of Safety. I do not know how long it will be before the groundhog comes to get it, but I praise it for it’s bold and beautiful petals, daring to be perfect and conspicuous outside of safety zone. May you continue to amaze, you radiant beauty! Thank you for your silent and brilliant teaching.

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I’ve been refraining from blogging about my writing lately. Maybe a bit out of embarrassment, having yet to succeed in my goal of publishing a novel. Many of you started reading this blog way back when I’d set a grand goal of publishing a novel on my 30th birthday. Well, 32 will be here next month and many projects have come and gone since then.

It’s not like I haven’t been working toward the goal. It’s just been slow, slow… frustrating, arduous… with many lessons learned from multiple teachers: books have been read, techniques have been tried, writing buddies have come and gone. Meanwhile, I’ve been part of a steady, wonderful writing group who have been with me along the way. This blog has helped a lot as well. I keep telling Major that practice is what makes guitar easier–the discipline of making the time, doing the work, is what is going to make him a rock star someday. Well, the steady blogging, going on what? Almost 5 years?  Anyway, it has helped a lot. It’s why I even put up “Fail” posts: the discipline is what makes me better. A better blogger, a better writer.

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I think that the best part about the steady blogging has been the relationship that I’ve been able to build with you, Dear Reader, as well as building a bit more trust in myself: I am capable of stringing together good stories that people want to read. They aren’t always perfect, but they are often comprehendible. The blog has become a weekly practice of bravery—learning what to share, how to share it in a compelling way, learning that vulnerability often yields a strengthening of bond, a further welcome into an expanding community. Your presence here, your patience with me, and your incredible kindness has made me a better person, a braver writer.

So when I took a leap of faith and sent an editor sample pages of both The Patron of the Meadowlark Inn and The Purveyor to the Sweet Soil Inns (both novellas that I wrote for November NaNoWriMos and published here as I wrote them), I was scared, but for all the right reasons. It wasn’t because I was worried about straight-up rejection, someone telling me that my writing was worthless and that they manuscripts were unsellable. Actually, I was scared because I couldn’t believe how easily I filled out the form, wrote the emails, prepared the pages and sent them off.

I got into my writing group chatroom and filled it with curses. “I can’t believe I just did that! What a stupid, foolish decision!” (That’s the expletive-free summary)

“Oh, you just had your back-to-school moment,” a wise member of my writing group told me. “September is the perfect time to take a risk and try something new. That was your moment. You just started something big.”

On Sunday night, the editor got back to me. Her notes were full of compliments and questions, challenges to make the two manuscripts better, plenty of encouragement. She expressed excitement over the prospect of reading more. I was truly shocked.

I showed the email to The Husband and he just nodded his head. “I told you so.”

I realize I’m still at the bottom of the mountain. I guess I also realize that I’ve come a long, long way in the last two years. Some of the work was unnoticeable, some of it was excruciating. Yet, I’m still on the hunt for that first publishing “yes” and the momentum that comes with it.

But my Quiet Thoughts are in the seemingly small acts of personal bravery that can propel. By virtue of getting in touch, making a pitch, sending some pages, I made a decision that I can turn back from. Much like with the freelancing, the simple act of saying, “yes, I will try,” is a big deal. The results have been momentous. I know that there is a lot of luck in that. I get to celebrate because things have happened to go right so far. There is still risk of failure. High risk. The freelancing could dry up. The fiction writing could never take off. I could ever remain right where I’ve always been: at the bottom of this tall, tall mountain.

But, Dear Reader, I’m trying. Small steps turn into feet, yards, and miles.

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Even if you are not a student, I love this time of year because it signifies an opportunity to try something new. We all get to reset as the children head back and we all recall first days gone by. So on this Friday, hot and humid, in total denial of the social change of seasons, I wish you your own brave back-to-school moment. Take the step you’ve been working for. Do it with a little bit of doubt, but a whole lot more faith in yourself and what you are capable of. I wish you quiet moments of contemplation, but then a bit of time to talk it out with a close companion. When was the last time you spoke your goals into existence? Be sure to share an intimate moment over good food, excellent drink. The harvest season is starting! Indulge in fresh tomato! Bonus points if there are fresh basil and mozzarella to add! Above all, as ever, don’t forget to share a bit of loving joy this weekend. Just say the words to someone: yourself, a family member, a friend, the love of your life… say the words, knowing that when you do, you get everything out of the world that you put into it: so express your love, your appreciation and your admiration to someone this weekend. Know that someone feels the same way about you. Feel it in your heart and surround yourself with it as you go about your days.

And come back ready to take on the world. It’s going to be a great start to the new season!

Until Monday, stay safe, be kind, walk bravely, and take care.

[Fail Post] Blame it on the Late Summer Night

 

There is peace in my home right now.

Crickets are chirping a late summer song. The dryer is humming, filling the farmhouse with the smell of perfumed fabric softener. There is evidence of the chaos of our day: Batman lays haphazardly on the television stand, three bunch socks rest on the floor in a triad, Minor’s bike helmet sits in the wrong room in the wrong space. There is a plate of grilled hotdogs that The Husband never got around to taking care of. There is a single, beautiful cookie waiting for me to consume it.

It’s 9:34 and I’ve finally found my quiet moment of the day. There is plenty to do, much that will be left undone until tomorrow. I can only focus on the crickets and a low, droning hum. And the click-clack of this keyboard, the glare of this screen, the guilt that I feel for being too mentally drained to write something more clever.

I suppose there are also the click-clack of this keyboard, the glare of this screen, the guilt that I feel for being too mentally drained to write something more clever. If only I’d paid more attention today, found the perfect narrative to tie together a full, intense day.

I’ve written a lot of Fail posts this summer. Not because of lack of words, but because of lack of bandwidth. Today was a day where there was not a moment to spare between one thing and the next. I was up at 6 and I’ve been moving ever since.

And now I’ve gotta rest. I’ve gotta wash the heavy-duty bug spray off of me before I get into bed. I’ve gotta get some aloe and oil into these locs, so desperate for a retwist. I’ve gotta sit with my Kindle and read a paragraph of something I didn’t write.  Writer’s Digest is out and this month’s issue is dedicated to querying agents and going legit traditional publishing. As I’ll explain on Friday, this month’s issue could not be better timed.

I know that I’ve also gotta balance my time a bit better. I’m sorry, Dear Reader. School starts soon, regular schedules will return before you know it, and then the Failure will happen less often.

Will you forgive me one last time this season, Dear Reader? I thank you for your patience. I hope that there are crickets singing outside of your window right now. I hope the mundane hum of the place you call home make you sink into your chair a little deeper, make your breathing slow down a bit, make you forget your worries and cares. The night is for stillness. Let us be still, Dear Reader. The busy time comes again soon.

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.

 

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Expectation Setting

Photo: I really must say, where my boys lack in composition, they certainly excel in color use!

 

It’s the last full week of Camp Mama and I’m doing my best to manage expectations. It’s the time to start setting good habits again, not just at bedtime, but at the start of the day. We have to start thinking about how we wake up, how we get ready, how we do things in a way that will get us out of the house on time. It’s time to start thinking about lunches. Yes, I’m that mom who has already Googled “school lunch recipes” in a variety of iterations. I’m rolling my eyes as often as I’ve clicked the “print” button. Some people out there have awesome ideas! Some people are fancy just to be fancy. I hope to share the hits and misses in the coming weeks.

I realize, however, that the expectations that most need to be managed are my own. I have to recalibrate my expectations for what’s going to happen, what’s probably not going to happen, and understanding that none of this is going to go perfectly. “It’s just kindergarten,” I’ve said to myself out loud a few times this weekend. “It’s low-stakes. It’s just kindergarten.”

It’s just kindergarten. We’re all just having fun here. The funky stuff is over: we picked the house in the right neighborhood in the right school district. We got him through the expensive, progressive preschool. We got into our perfect school that values what we value. We’ve made all the “right” decisions here. Relax, it’s gonna be fine.

Bullshit, right? Bullshit.

I wrote last week that this is more about adult anxiety than it is about the kids. All Major really cares about is that he’s gonna get to ride on the school bus in a week. He believes school is a fun and wonderful place where he gets to make friends and do new things. I’ve gotta keep it that way. I’ve gotta keep all my anxiety to myself.

And what the hell am I anxious about? Seriously. I’ve done the very best that I can.

I’m anxious because I know that this is not going to go perfectly. It’s just not how life works. We’re going to make a few mistakes as we acclimate to this new life as a K-12 family. That’s going to come with bumps and fumbles.

I’m anxious because I’m afraid that I’m going to absolutely hate it. Or that I won’t do well at it. I’m worried that I won’t find my place, that Major won’t either, that we will have put in all of this effort into getting to this very moment only to realize that what we’ve been working so hard for what was never meant for us at all. I’m anxious because I don’t have a viable alternative to what we’ve got.

It seems silly on the surface, I know. It will probably be fine. Major is a great kid and he’s going to have a great time. It’s not him I’m worried about. I suppose I’m asking a larger, more philosophical question: I’ve learned to “love” where I live, but do I trust it? Do I trust where I live with my baby? My precious eldest son? This child who has made me change the way I interact with every single inch of this world? This is the moment where I have to let go of him and watch him walk into the world, backpack on his back, smile on his face, ready to make friends. Knowing that the world in front of him will not always be kind.

He’s ready.

I thought I was ready.

I think that I’m ready.

I’ve got a week to get ready.

Maybe they aren’t ready for us.

We’ll find out soon enough, won’t we, Dear Reader? In a little over a week, we’ll all find out.

I’ll try to keep my anxiousness confined to this past. I’ll do my best to get it together. There is too much to do this week to be sitting here fretting and acting afool. I’ll write more about that on Friday.

Until then, the world is waiting for us and what we have to offer this week. What are you up to, Dear Reader? What are you going to accomplish? I hope that the wind is at your back this Monday, and that the sun is shining upon you, warm and encouraging.

See you Wednesday.

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[Quiet Thoughts] Duo Dynamics

Photo: That’s my baby, cheesing it up.

 

I’m feeling bad for my Yellow Child today. The second born in a family of first-borns, he’s been having a rough time of it. We three first-borns, we have moments when all we want is to be left alone. We yearn for the moments where we can breathe free, in our own thoughts, doing whatever we want without consideration for others. For Ursa Minor, this is a foreign concept. There is nothing worth doing that isn’t done with others. Everything, every single second of his life, has been spent in the company of another person. Partnership and collaboration fill his jar. Why can’t anyone see that?

Lordy, I see him. But it’s exhausting. My introverted self isn’t always up for it. The answering of a million questions, the positive modeling, the patient endurance as he explains this or runs through a stream of thoughts about whatever. Minor’s brain is always going, and he makes sure anyone within earshot knows exactly what he’s thinking all the time. It’s incredible. It’s exhausting. And you know who really takes the brunt of it? Ursa Major.

My Quiet Thoughts came to me late this afternoon as I was grilling tonight’s dinner. It struck me, watching Major ride away from his brother in the driveway, leaving Minor to sulk and sigh on his bike alone, that while Major and I have been going through our kindergarten anxieties, Minor has been going through a few of his own. The Dynamic Duo is splitting up in a few weeks. Ursa Major is downright elated by the idea. Brotherless time. I remind people often: there was never a Minor without a Major. But Major only had 7 months in this world to himself. I know that he’s a bit resentful of that. I feel bad about it. I know that if I had done things differently, he’d be enjoying a different sort of life.

Be that as it may, poor Ursa Minor… he’s left out. First is was the guitar lessons that he sulks through weekly. Now it’s the school bus and the big playground at the big school. He asks me daily when he’ll be five and when he’ll be able to do all of the cool things his brother gets to do. “Is my birthday going to be tomorrow? Or will it be the next day?” He’s asked me every day for a month.

I’m asking a lot of him. I’m asking my youngest child to be ok with navigating the world without his best friend and personal superhero. To be clear: Ursa Minor loves his brother more than anyone else on the planet. There is no one bigger, stronger, smarter, more awesome, more brave, more perfect in the whole wide world to him than his brother. The love and devotion that he has for Ursa Major is whole and perfect. Minor doesn’t know how to be in the world without his brother. This separation will force him to find out. How could I be so foolish as to forget just how much I’m asking him to do?

And it’s not just the hours of school we’re talking about here. We’re talking the hours of time between when Minor is going to get home from preschool and the when Major gets off the school bus in the afternoon. It’s the whole day each week that I’m going to have to fill when Major is at school and Minor isn’t.

And that’s where my Quiet Thoughts are this Friday. I’m sitting here thinking about all of the ways that I could screw this up. How I’m going to want to scoop him up and keep him my lap all the time, and that isn’t helpful. Ignoring him isn’t helpful, either. But, Dear Reader, I’m an introvert! It’s not going to be sustainable to fill every single afternoon or non-school day with a fun adventure, that perfect magazine-glossy mommy & me time. So what are we going to do? Could we get over to the MFA one day? The Museum of Science? A day trip to the beach before the weather gets too cold? Is it fair to take him everywhere I can, knowing his brother will be left out? What the hell am I going to do with this child during the winter months, when it’s too damn cold and depressing to be anywhere?

And didn’t I just start my own business? Can I take a kid on adventures and be a writer at the same time?

I suppose we’ll all find out together. Hopefully, you’ll be patient through all my Bloggy Fail days to come!

It’s a mercifully cool Friday night here in Massachusetts. For you, my Dear Reader, I wish for a little fresh air with a touch of chill. Just enough to turn your mind over to the season to come, to get you looking forward to new flavors and scents. It’s still too early for All Pumpkin Everything, but why not get a good whiff of a cinnamon broom or some veggie soup? I wish you one brave act: a “back-to-school” moment of your own, where you decide to start something new and take a bold positive risk. Wiser folk than I believe that pressure makes diamonds. Propel yourself forward toward whatever dream you’re striving for, Dear Reader! I wish you time alone for your own Quiet Thoughts, but then I wish you time with others to collaborate and create something wonderful. This  world was built by teams and partnerships just as much as it was by individual dreamers. Reach out and grab a hand, Dear Reader. Delight us all with what you can do.

And don’t forget, in the intimate moments of your weekend, when you are left alone with your doubts and your wondering, to remind yourself of how much you contribute to the world. Remember how much you are loved and admired, knowing that much of it goes unspoken. Even if you don’t know how much or how far, know that you are profoundly loved. Your presence has meaning, your actions have power.

Until Monday, my Dear Reader, take care.

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Small Fish, Big Pond, Be Cool

Photo: Ain’t that the face of a little boy thinking about getting himself into trouble? This post isn’t actually about Minor, but I saw this in my pictures from the day and had to share. Lordy, this child…

 

There was a playdate yesterday for the kindergarten. An invitation for parents of incoming kindergarteners to come to the school and play on their new playground, maybe also choosing to play with their new classmates as well. This is really more for the parents than it is for the children: the anxiety feels firmly rooted in us, and seems to have very little to do with the children themselves…or at least that’s how it feels to me.

I admit to feeling anxious. Ya’ll know that I have a problem with this adult stuff. I suck at introductions, I suck at making friends. I was grateful to have two other moms who I sorta knew (remember how I had those mom drinks last week?), be there so I had someone to talk to. I was that horrible person who didn’t deviate from them, smiling and nodding to a few other parents, but not formally introducing myself. I know! I’m really awful. I’m really bad at that. I hate doing that. I know I’ve gotta get better at it!

There were looming thunderstorms in the area. It was late… you know, close to dinner time (5pm), not to mention prime time for afternoon commutes and what not… maybe that’s why so few people were there. Certainly those are good reasons why there were no other families of any sort of color there, right? Totally.

It was all I could do to keep the boys from running through the parking lot as soon as they got out of the Blackmobile. They held might hands right up to the sidewalk and then they were off to the races. “Wait!” I said to them. “Why don’t we try to be cool? You know, walk up and say hello like civilized people instead of charging right up?”

They slowed their pace, still far ahead of me. But with each step, their speed got a little faster, and a little faster, until finally they were sprinting. School! Playground! New friends! Major was yapping the entire time, mind you. Playgrounds, of course, are in the back of the school, he informed me. This is where I’m going to get to play every day, he told his brother. After he rides the school bus to school, of course.

Of course.

I know that I’m taking Major’s readiness for kindergarten for granted. This is a child ready to go, ready for the challenges ahead of him. I don’t really know how I got him here, but I know that there are equal parts luck and blessing to go along with the hard work from birth to now.  I watched this boy, taller than the kids on the playground, confident in his strides, happy to lead and happy to follow, head into the Playground Playdate like he owned the joint. Not because he’s bossy, not because he’s a bully, not because he’s overzealous or overconfident. He walked into it like he owned it because he’s just so freaking ready for it. There is no better place for him, no place he’d rather be.

I don’t know if he’s going to thrive, I know that there will be rough days ahead of us, I know that this journey will be excruciatingly long while shockingly short… I have limited control over what happens next, but I know where we are right now. We’re at the starting line (not really. But this is the “official” one.) and my kid is standing at it, ready to go. Thanks be to God.

So why am I second-guessing myself?

Because he doesn’t know that we’re the small fish in the big pond. But I know, and it sucks.

I didn’t really enjoy the playground playdate. When the thunderstorms came, I was delighted to skip out early. I ran into another mom at guitar lessons today–she was one of the moms with me at Prescreening at the very beginning of the summer. She recognized me as we were leaving.

“Are you doing full-day or part-time?”  She asked me. It’s always a funky question.

“I decided to go full-time. He’s ready and I’m ready. Why not give him the opportunity?”

“Oh,” this woman said with a sigh. “We’re doing half-day. I just… I’m not ready. I’m just not ready!”

“That’s legit,” I mumbled, half truthfully. I believe that both choices are the right choices.

We stumbled through other pleasantries. Then I went in another direction. “There was a playground playdate yesterday. Only a handful of folk came out because of the rain.”

“Oh! Was that yesterday? I wasn’t paying attention. I’m just in denial! I really have turned off my mind to it. I’m telling you, I’m not ready yet!”

“Wow, you must be having a really great summer,” I said. Now look, I’m not saying I could control my face or my tone. I hope it didn’t come out as a full sneer.

“I mean, we really are,” she said in all seriousness. “I’m seriously trying to squeeze every moment out! I just want one more month of summer instead of starting school again!”

I can’t really pinpoint what about it annoyed the hell out of me. Maybe, actually, I’m a little bit jealous. Maybe I want a bit of that consistent, unabashed joy. Maybe I want to be able to tell people that every part of my summer has been precious, every day perfect, the whole summer full of happy memories. Maybe I secretly worry that I’m going to look back on these years and honestly think they passed by too quickly, that I didn’t give the boys enough of my attention. Maybe I will always wonder if I’ve done this all wrong, that I’m not doing this job as well as I could be.

So I found a deep dislike for this woman in that moment. It was the last thing I needed in a long day of mothering. So, I was ready to go. It was time to go before I got myself into trouble. So we said our goodbyes and said nice things like, “looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks.” But I was really thinking to myself, as I locked my two boys in their car seats, is this really how it’s gonna be? Please, Jesus, don’t let this be how it’s gonna be.

I came to the conclusion that this isn’t how it’s gonna be. Like preschool, I’m about to encounter a cast of characters on a spectrum of personalities and perspectives. It will take a while to get used to. As the small fish, the new fish, my job is to acclimate to the water temperature and figure out how everybody else swims. It won’t be long before I’m part of a pack and the anxiety falls away. Breathe, relax, be cool. Maybe even enjoy the ride. We’ve worked hard for our place here. Let’s make it count.

Oy oy oy… it’s Wednesday. Only Wednesday. But tomorrow is Thursday and I can’t believe it. I have so much more to accomplish between now and the end of the week. Oh, Dear Reader! How will we get it all done?

Hope you’re doing better than I am. You probably are.

I’ll see you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.

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Local Excursions

Photo: Isn’t this such an intense fortune? That’s what Major got on Saturday. I’ll talk more about Kowloon’s in a second.

 

Something ate the dang watermelon.

My precious little baby watermelon in our little garden was eaten by some sort of… worm, we think! So freaking frustrating. I can’t even describe my husband’s face when he told me. But that was after two little boys came into the house with tears in their eyes.

“Mommy! We have terrible news!”

I was in the middle of finishing up the second draft of the short story I’ve been working on. I looked up with a raised eyebrow. What could it possibly be?

“We can’t eat the watermelon! Something else did!” 

Welp… that’s news.

“Yeah, something got to it. Some worm… should have harvested it earlier,” my husband groaned.

I’m not saying that the garden is a complete failure this summer, as we have been able to harvest a lot of basil and we harvested our first three tomatoes over the weekend, not to mention the ridiculous amounts of sugar snap peas we had earlier in the season… but there is certainly disappointment. The lavender didn’t do well, the pumpkins only put out male flowers instead of female flowers (thus, no fruit), the marigolds bloomed for a total of 15 minutes, the strawberries were eaten by the damned groundhog and now my little watermelon has gone to the worms!

Where my investment in this whole affair has been more emotional than anything else, my husband is taking it hard. He was the one who got the seeds. He was the one who meticulously cared for the little sprouts over the winter in the basement. He was the one who put those seedlings in the beds. He had been their towering guardian.

“I’m learning a lot, though,” he told me. “Got bigger plans for next year.”

I love that man so much.

We were able to distract the boys from their disappointment by taking them back-to-school shoe shopping. We piled into the car and went to the other side of the universe to get to the Stride Rite outlet at the Assembly Row outlet complex. While it was nifty to be back in the old neighborhood (we lived 15 minutes north of there before we moved to MetroWest), we were really taken aback by the changes and, mostly, horrified about how obnoxious that place is. That’s the only way to describe it: obnoxious. Too many people, not enough parking, all the over-priced brands that make you scowl just a little bit as you walk by. Obnoxious.

Minor found light-up Batman shoes that were more yellow than black, so he’s pretty pumped. Size 11 wide. Are you kidding me, kid? Major found Star Wars shoes in blue with lightsabers that, yes, light up. Size 13 1/2 wide!!!!!! Who has feet like this? Do you know what that means!? That means that the next time I take that little boy shoe shopping, we gotta go to the big boy store. He’s grown out of Stride Rites! What am I a’gonna do? Somebody stop them from growing this way! Save the children!

Since we were on that side of the universe, The Husband and I decided that we had to go to Route One and visit the best restaurant on earth, Kowloon! I can’t recall our first visit to this magical place. I think we were driving on Route One to get something else and saw this place and simultaneously decided we just gotta know. It’s this big huge building with a Tiki figure on the front and that’s just the start: there are huge rooms on the inside, all themed and amazing, and the food is just good enough that you want to go back and visit all of them. Major was an infant last time we visited, so we were actually more excited about the boys experiencing it than we were anything else.

It didn’t disappoint.

“What’s with the big scary man on the front of the building!? What’s with the big scary man?” That was Minor. We hadn’t even found a parking spot yet.

“He looks like a giant! Is he going to step on our van?” That was Major. He didn’t seem too concerned.

The Husband and I just laughed. “He’s just a decoration. Isn’t he awesome? It gets even better!”

And it did, because we got to eat dinner in the big room in the back that features a bubbling fountain, a pirate ship, and a volcano. Did I mention the lights in the darkened ceiling making you feel like you’re under a starry night sky? Oh my God yes. Two little boys got to sit right next to the fountain and it was just… everything. Everything! They were so excited!

And then we ordered all of our favorite things and Ursa Major ate everything. Minor… ate half a dumpling and a few bits of rice. He might have eaten some beef…. anyway, he ain’t eat much.

Quote of the day, from Ursa Major: “Mama! This place is the best! This is my favorite place! You are the best for bringing me here! Thank you for bringing me here, Mama!”  Mommy win. Mommy win to last a while!

Mommy win. Mommy win to last a while! It’s the little things, Dear Reader. Sometimes, the words are enough.

I finished a short story (44 hand-written pages. lol. “short” indeed!) and now I’ve gotta get it into this computer, edit the hell out of it, and then workshop it with my writing group. What a process! But the composition portion is over. My mind is liberated to wrap itself around another concept while I get to polish this thing up. A good thing, because this short story did all sorts of horrible things to the novel I thought I was writing. I have to completely go back, replot, re-outline and, essentially, start all over again. This writing thing is gloriously no fun at all.

But I am writing. I can at least say that.

Dear Reader, it’s Monday. How are you feeling about the week? Smile. We’re gonna make it together!

Until Wednesday, take care!