Keep It Busy

This past month was great, but didn’t really feel like I had any down time, probably because, um, I didn’t.  The last weekend in August hit, and suddenly over Labor Day weekend, we had four non-stop days of parties, festivals, and social gatherings, and from there, we never really lost steam.  We had theatre tickets, apple-picking, bridal showers, game nights, social events, and while it was fun, it was also go, go, go, pretty much non-stop all September.

I find myself — as I’ve gotten older and grown more into my identity as an adult who is actually able to make their own plans — feeling like I need to fill every possible opportunity with activity, and I’ve found that’s become doubly so since having my son.  I can’t tell you exactly why that is – or, I guess, I don’t think I can narrow it down to one thing.  Part of it is that I lived a fairly sheltered and socially deprived life as a child and young adult, and I often feel like I need to “make up” for all the freedom I never got to have during my formative years.  Part of it is, when I have down time, it’s really down time; I wind up being almost entirely sedentary, and my ADHD keeps me from doing anything really constructive (even those things I want to do and enjoy doing).  Having a place to be or an activity to do that is externally scheduled and structured is one of the few ways to guarantee I get out and engage.

But part of it, more and more, is that I feel like I need to be proactive and conscientious about not saddling my son with the stagnant, asocial childhood I had.

I didn’t have anything resembling a social life for, well, most of my life.  There were never any sports teams, never any dance lessons, or swim lessons, or gymnastics.  No Girl Scouts.  A lot of it was because my parent’s didn’t have the money for so much of what makes up a busy, structured youth – our grammar schools were tiny and private (read: where all the money was going), and didn’t offer any extra-curriculars; dance and gymnastics were pricey; and my folks had neither the time, energy, nor inclination to have to put forth the effort for something like Girl Scouts.  Even trips out to eat or to the movies were few and far between.

And I get that.  Bear is an only child and loves to sing and dance, so I’ve sat and priced out a number of music and dance academies, and I can appreciate how my parents – who had three kids and were already also paying tuition for our private schooling – must have felt overwhelmed by the potential cost.

But there were also no bike riding lessons.  There were very few trips to the park, or to the pool.  There weren’t many festivals or fairs, very few events, activities, or parties.  Trips to the library were sporadic at best, and I ha only one friend whose house I was allowed to visit.  I didn’t go to a birthday party until I was thirteen, and I had to fight tooth and nail for that, years after most of my classmates had given up inviting me to parties I was never allowed to attend.  Hell, there was barely even any plying outside. We could get hurt on bikes and skateboards and everyone in our neighborhood was looking to do us in, if you were to believe my parents.  Our time even in our own yard was infrequent.

And I don’t want that for my son.  I don’t want my son to be the kid who is never allowed to go out, and never learns age-appropriate social skills; I don’t want to be the parent that turns around and uses the fact of their lack of social skills as reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to go out.  I don’t want my son to grow up and realize at thirty-six he has virtually no memories of his childhood because he basically didn’t have one, because had so few stand-out moments and formative experiences.

I feel like we’re doing an ok job.  My son’s goes to parks and fairs and parties, and at 3, has already been on a plane more times than I had by the time I was 30.  We go to restaurants and the library, and while I hesitate to spend $14 on a movie ticket when I’m sure he’ll spend most of the time climbing on the seats, he’s been to several free outdoor movie nights.  We’re doing ok.

We’ll see what opportunities October brings, and what memories we can make.

Sense Memories

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Let’s be real:  with a pre-schooler, some of the only guaranteed “me” moments I get, I get in the bathroom.  If I sometimes take a little longer than necessary to indulge and get some damn reading time in, sue me.

Generally, it’s on my phone; it’s 2018, and I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Insta, and I’ve got this blog, obvs, plus e-mail, Buzzfeed, and about a dozen other time-wasting sites in my phone’s bookmarks.  But every once in a while, I go old school.

My folks, who are in their mid-60s, are old-school when it comes to bathroom reading. They still have magazine subscriptions, and still keep back issues in the bathroom.  I was flipping through one a couple of days ago – an old (like, 2016) issue of Reader’s Digest, which has been a staple in my folks’ house since I was a child.  One of the features in this issue was a Reader’s Question: what sound best encapsulates your childhood?

There were a variety of answers – the sound of playing cards in the spokes of a bike, the sound of chocolate milk being slurped with a straw, the sound of shuffling cards and rolling dice.

I started thinking; I don’t think I have a particular sound that fully encapsulates my childhood, but there are so many other lingering, powerful sense memories that harken back to the weirdest, most obscure moments or times in my life, but a lot of the recollections are likewise sensory snapshots, not narratives:

Mandarin Orange Body Spray, Unknown Brand
Late summers, early college; eighteen or nineteen years old.  My cousin Nikki practically lived with us; there were few weekends where she couldn’t be found camping out at our house.  During one stay, she forgot a bottle of mandarin orange body spray that I loved because it was warm and floral and spicy, all at once.  My sister and I sprayed it on our pillows before Nikki finally reclaimed it, and sometimes I can still smell it – 1 am, watching shounen-ai anime on VHS, camped out in the living room.  Matresses and sleeping bags lined up on the floor.  We had notebooks with hand-written RPG-style stories that we passed around, and hidden word documents with thousands of words of yaoi and slash fic that we wrote.  Listening to the Queer As Folk and Velvet Goldmine soundtracks, and watching Dragonball Z at midnight.  I sometimes wonder if there’s any chance Nikki’d remember what brand it was, or if it’s still made, but we’re talking almost twenty years ago, so I’m not especially hopeful.

Land O’ Lakes Flavored Hot Chocolate
Christmas.  Always, always Christmas, and Christmas break.  Christmas Eve, standing in the doorway to the bathroom in my bathrobe and tights while my mom curled her hair.  The Animaniacs “Little Drummer Boy” segment. Playing Five Minute Mysteries while we waited for my parents to be ready to go out.  The faerie-light illuminated drive to my Aunt’s house, the holiday themed riddles and brainteasers that we always played.  Novelty Christmas songs.  Snowflakes that melted on the windshield before the wipers could wipe them away.  Late nights, watching the snow fall.  Waking up on Christmas morning at 3am, the house quiet.  Sneaking into the living room to explore untold treasures.  An old, creaky pull-out couch (with a bar that absolutely killed your back if you didn’t lay on it just the right way), watching old episodes of Beavis and Butthead, and the music video for Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”   For some reason – and I haven’t actually had any of it in years and years – I occasionally crave the Chocolate Raspberry one, even though I feel like at the time, it was not one of my favorites.

“Stars,” from Les Miserables
Summer, age fifteen.  Calisto and Caslon Antique fonts.  Writing late at night and feeling completely creatively unfettered for one of the first and last times ever.  Self-insert fanfics where I am completely inappropriately cast as the romantic interest.  My sister and I drawing fanart for our own stories, multiple illustrations over multiple chapters.  Kate M’s “Uncharted Stars,” and La Javert’s Flying Homepage.  Sitting outside after midnight and sharing headphones.  Drinking tea and watching soft-core pulp films on Showtime.  Trolling the AOL Playbill theatre forums and making fast friends with anyone under eighteen.  Handwritten letters and elaborately decorated envelopes.  Cassette tapes mailed halfway across the country where we talked and sang and played If-Cubed.  The echo function on Nikki’s karaoke machine, and the theme song to VeggieTales.  Videos filmed on an on-loan camcorder that weighed nearly as much as we did.  Nikki as Little Cosette, eyeshadow smudged like dirt on her cheeks.

What are some things – a taste, a sound, a flavor – that bring back memories, whether they are full narratives with a distinct plot arc, or likewise hazy snippets of visceral sensory recollections.  What conjures up something you thought you’d long since forgot?

Feel Good Friday/Friday Faves: July 14th, 2018

onnie & CaroleYes, yes, I know – it’s Saturday again.  I keep doing this.  This week, my excuse is that my whole schedule has gotten flipped upside down.  I spent a week out of work, and then had to adjust to a weird schedule of working only Tuesday and Thursday; we spent our Wednesday as a family out and about (which made it feel more like a Saturday), and to top it all off, my husband was covering a co-worker’s vacation and was working 2pm to 11pm instead of his usual 8am to 5pm.  So my whole week – and concept of time – has been thrown out of whack.

Here is what’s kept me grounded:

First, Wednesday was spent at Kimball Farm, which was a blast.  I hadn’t been there in several years (we did a community outing there during one of the other ESY programs I worked), and it really has something for everyone.  Bear got his first taste of mini-golf, he got to see some animals (and pet an alligator!), and spent some time earning tickets in the arcade.  He ended the day with a huge scoop of Orange-Pineapple ice cream.  I have a couple of small pics on Insta here.

Second, my sister spent hours online last night messaging me eBay links to long forgotten tech toys we had as kidsThe Teach-Me Reader and The Videosmarts Learning System to name a couple – and ended the evening by announcing that her 1984 Whiz Kid Toy Computer would be arriving on Thursday.  Seriously?  I still can’t believe she actually bought it, but I’d be lying if I pretended I wasn’t going to play with it.  I had one prior to first grade, and I loved it.  We can learn to spell together!

Third, Andy ordered me laminating sheets and I’m going crazy thinking of things I need to laminate.  All my checklists from my previous post have already gotten the treatment, and I’m busy designing both additional checklists and organizers for me, but also piecing together a preschool curriculum for Bear that we can get started, hopefully on Monday.  He’s looking forward to it, and so am I.  I plan on spending a big chunk of time after he turns in tonight getting some of those tasks completed.

Finally, the GISH registration has been extended and my team is starting to take shape (yeah, kind of late this year).  If you don’t know what GISH is, click the link or Google search its previous incarnation, GISHWHES.  It’s a massive multimedia international scavenger hunt interested in subversive art and acts of kindness.  This year it runs July 28th through August 4th.  I’m thrilled to see it brought back – we thought last year was the end!  – and am participating for the seventh year in a row.

That’s it for this week!  What’s kept you going through the week?