The Distraction Dynamic

Clean floors and holiday decor

You know it’s been a busy day when you hit 11k steps on your Fitbit and you never left the house. I spent the entire day cooking and cleaning for the upcoming food fest on Thursday. I did fun things like mopping the entire first floor. I ironed napkins. I baked cookies and pumpkin bread. I washed and folded sheets, vacuumed, and did some holiday decorating. I made simple syrup and juiced limes for cocktails. I got in time on the Peloton and managed to squeak in a shower as well. I am tired just thinking about all I finished.

On days like this, I am amazed at how much I can accomplish if I ignore my phone, computer, and the news.

Life is full of distractions. It’s too bad that most of them are ones we created. I am not one to wax rhapsodic about the good old days, but every once in a while I think we would be much better off without iPhones, apps, unlimited television channels, Alexa, social media, and the Internet. I think I would probably be able to focus better and get more done.

The 21st Century Thanksgiving Catastrophe Equivalent

Thanksgiving is in a couple days. My husband just finished having a late night snack. He went to load his plate in the dishwasher and start it.

Excuse the filthy stainless, but the dishtowel should explain it

Him: “Uh oh.”

Me: “What’s wrong?”

Him: “The dishwasher isn’t working.”

In my past, at this point, I can say with all confidence I would be losing my shit. Just in time for Thanksgiving? Of course. Why not? That makes perfect sense. Even with only 7 people dining, that’s 7 dinner plates, 7 dessert plates, 7 glasses, 21 pieces of silverware, assorted serving utensils and pieces, and this would add up fast. Way too fast for this English major to figure in her head. The whole reason I unloaded the china we asked people to buy for our wedding was because I decided I would not ever want to wash all the dishes from Thanksgiving by hand.

Me: (incredulously) “It’s not working?”

Him: “No.”

He is pressing all sorts of buttons, and I can tell from his expression nothing on the display panel is lighting up.

This gives me pause, but rather than lose my mind as I would have done in the past, I simply decide that it’s fine. We can hand wash or we can use paper plates and plastic utensils (not environmentally sound, but desperate times call for lowered moral standards). Maybe we have it both ways and can use some paper and do some hand washing of other items, thereby alleviating some of my guilt for using disposable items out of sheer laziness while still managing to be somewhat lazy.

I watch him for a few more seconds as he pushes buttons. Then, I can tell from a look on his face, it is working again.

Him: “Never mind. It’s working again.”

Me: “That’s a relief.”

Him: “My hands must have been wet.”

I assumed that meant that wet hands interfered with the touch screen. I made my peace with the fact that the whole incident had been a non-starter. And just like back we were back to normal. Steve was finishing the last bite of his toast, and I was back to watching episodes of Seinfeld. Thanksgiving was saved. We could use three plates a piece instead of just two and could put saucers under the cups now if we wanted to. Oh, reckless abandon!

It’s Freshman Year Again

Since Joe went off and started college in January, I’ve worked very hard to figure out how not to miss him. I understand this is a process. When a child rightfully extricates himself from your home to pursue his own life, there’s going to be some sadness. I was pretty depressed for about a month back in January and February when we left him in Washington. There are some ups and downs that first semester at college, and it’s hard to be away from your child when you want to be there to hug them and let them know they’ve got this. But he and I both held it together and made it until mid-May when he came home for the summer. It was a little less sad dropping him back at school in late August because I knew he was going back to friends and had reason to believe he was getting the hang of the whole college life thing. We saw him for four days in October when he came home to see us and meet the new puppy. We had a great time during his visit and when he left, I was actually not sad at all. It felt like progress.

Thing One at home and being derpy…some things never change

Today he came home for Thanksgiving. Everything in his life is going well. He’s got a new girlfriend at school and he has decided on a major. He’s back in his room tonight. He played with his dog and went to In-n-Out with us and even went on our nightly dog walk. It feels a little weird having him here now because I know he isn’t staying. Even though he is still our kid, he’s not anymore. It’s like he’s on loan.

This kind of makes me sad, and I have to think that I would be broken as a parent if I didn’t find this separation process a little daunting. But, having him on loan is actually kind of amazing too. Like, I realized the other day that he does his own laundry and grocery shopping. He makes his bed. He runs errands. He makes his own appointments and fills his own prescriptions. He goes to classes and takes his tests. None of this is my problem anymore. It’s all off my plate.

Having kids is an odd thing. You’re your own person, living your own life, and then you get pregnant and there’s this new life you have full responsibility for. They need you for everything. It’s exhausting and frustrating. Some times you love it. Some times you want to get in your car and drive to Guam. Then they begin to become independent. They start driving. They get a job. They go out with friends. They get into college. Then they’re gone most of the year and you’re back to being on your own and living your own life. But now it’s like you’re relearning how to do those things because you haven’t paid much attention to them for eighteen years.

So, as it turns out, Joe is starting his life and figuring it out during his college freshman year in Washington. And I am in my freshman year of part two of my adult life. (There was the Pre Kids phase and now there’s a Post Kids phase.) It’s kind of exciting. Wonder what I will decide to major in this time?

Let The Holiday Season Commence, I Guess

I don’t know how it is going where you live, but in our neighborhood the holidays begin now, apparently. Many homes have their holidays lights up, and they are turned on nightly. It’s a little early for me. I don’t want my holidays combined like a vanilla/chocolate swirl soft serve. I want to suck every last moment out of fall and savor every drop of pumpkin spice latte. I don’t even want to think about putting a tree up until the last of the pumpkin pie slices and bites of turkey have been consumed. What is the big rush, anyway? The Christmas season in our home exists for five, precious, ephemeral weeks, and I think that is what makes them more special. It appears I am in the minority, though, because here we are, all lit up like I am already behind on holiday shopping and wrapping.

There is only one holiday component that is allowed to begin before Thanksgiving, and that is the preparation for our yearly holiday card. The family holiday card is something we’ve done since Thing One arrived in 2001. We have not missed one year of this tradition. We know that in a couple years it’s likely that the photos on these cards will change as the boys move on into their own lives, but Steve and I will continue sending out holiday cards as long as the post office continues functioning. It may be old fashioned, but we enjoy it and there’s no stopping now.

Today I started the process for this year’s cards. I began looking online for outfits for the family photos. In the past, I have gone in person to Gap, Old Navy, or J Crew to try to piece together clothing that would coordinate but not be super matchy-matchy. But with a thirteen-week-old puppy in the house, I have too little time for those shenanigans so I opened my browser and got busy. It didn’t go as well as expected, so in the end today I decided to shop in our closets for suitable photo attire. Without too much digging, it was mission accomplished. Next up: location scouting.

We’ve never had a paid, professional photo taken for these cards. We do them ourselves, which makes them feel less polished and more, well, us, I think. We have had, on a few occasions, a family member or friend snap photos for us after Thanksgiving Day or after we cut down our Christmas tree. More recently, however, Steve has set up his fancy camera on a tripod at our chosen location. Capturing a decent photo has not always been easy. For starters, when the boys were younger, they seemed had an aversion to looking directly at camera. So, we would take 30-40 shots, sometimes pausing to run back into the car to warm up because it was so cold. Some years, we had to go with a photo that was not what we really wanted but was the best we could get. The process has not always been ideal. Often there are myriad complaints. Sometimes there are cross words. In the distant past, there may have been threats, bribes, or ultimatums in effect. I always have the final say over the photo we use because this tradition is my baby. I love putting together and sending out holidays cards, even as the number of them we receive has dwindled because others have given up on the expense, time suck, and frustration of this perhaps outdated holiday tradition.

I’m still not quite ready to let this go. I’ve kept a book containing our holiday photos over the years. It’s fun, if a bit sobering, to view these now. Each photo has a story or memory attached. There was the year that Joe insisted on having his shark, Bruce, in the photo. There was the year we took our holiday photos in Hawaii dressed like typical Hawaiian tourists. There was also the infamous year the boys had bowl cuts and were looking pretty spiffy. I am grateful, however, that we have persisted with this tradition because we will forever have these memories and photos of our time with our sons as they grew, no matter what the future holds.

Squirrel!

This is a Rocky Mountain Sheep I saw while hiking with my friend Celeste today. Squirrel!

Sometimes I wonder how I get anything done. Ever. I take the most circuitous routes when I begin a task. I guess I’m too easily distractible. I’m kind of like Dug, the dog in Up. I start out doing one thing and then somehow…SQUIRREL! So, that is what happened to me again tonight and that is why it is late in the evening and I am once again staring at my self-imposed deadline, which is less than an hour from right now, and shaking my head. The Squirrel effect seems to worsen at night and when I’m hungry and when I’m procrastinating and when I’m sleep-deprived and occasionally when I’m over caffeinated. Now that I think about it, it’s truly miraculous that I ever complete a task successfully. But, I digress.

Tonight I began researching airfare for our now decided upon Spring Break trip. We bid on and won a vacation rental last Saturday at the boys’ school auction. Now I have to figure out how to get us to our destination with the least expensive airfare. It’s all very exciting. And, while I should be focused on filling out paperwork so we can schedule all the testing we need to have done to get IEPs and/or 504s set up for the boys for next school year, researching vacation travel is a far less odious task so that has taken priority.

I began on Expedia, but as I was looking at the ludicrous cost of airfare for this trip the wind kicked up outside. We get a lot of high winds here in November and December so I immediately began wondering if tonight would be really windy. So, I buzzed on over to the site for the NBC news affiliate here in Denver to check our weather conditions. I was pleased to note that although we’re in for a cool down tomorrow, no high winds are predicted tonight. Dodged that bullet. But, while I was on the NBC site, I started wondering what the heck has been going on in the world since I’ve been checked out this week. Off to Fox News I went to figure out what is being reported on currently. I perused the headlines as I had planned but then, at the bottom of the front page in the Latest News section, a story caught my eye about some folks in the Florida panhandle who poached their neighbor’s pet turkey for their own Thanksgiving dinner. From that story, I noticed a link to the best and worst swimsuit photos from Hollywood. That seemed like an adequate distraction, so I went off to check those out. After deciding that most people over the age of 50 look sad and droopy at the beach (yes…I mean you David Hasselhoff and Ivana Trump), I was feeling discouraged about being just 5.5 years from that dreaded physical cliff (I can’t bring myself to care about the fiscal cliff because there’s nothing I can do about that cluster). In a desperate attempt to elevate my spirits, I texted with my friend Heather for a while. At which point, Heather reminded me that it won’t matter what I look like in a swimsuit at the beach in March because I’ll be at the beach in a swimsuit in MARCH. Well played, Heather. And, so I put my phone down and decided to get back to Expedia because I still have not booked any travel yet.

At some point in the next few weeks I will break down and actually commit to a flight itinerary…probably not without a massive mental meltdown as my shaking fingers attempt to input the credit card number I have memorized. But, I will do it because I have paperwork to fill out and I can’t get to that task until I have something really incredible to look forward to as a reward for all my hard work. And now, as I sit in bed and finish this blog, I’m wondering how I will be able to get the house cleaned, the table set, and the meal cooked for dinner at 4 p.m. because I am sure there will be myriad distractions tomorrow. Distractions are the thing that….wait…do we actually own enough napkin rings for 12 place settings?