Friday, June 29, 2012

Lucky 13

Happy Birthday Jack!
Jack is returning from Georgia today--spending his 13th birthday on a bus for 13 hours.  He's with the high school youth from our church and, with the possible exception of the bus driver, I'm sure they are all having a blast.   They've been at Passport--a youth camp that is part worship, part community service and a ton of fun. 

Last weekend Jack missed the bus trip down South when he caught a stomach virus.  By Sunday he was feeling better and was deeply disappointed to miss camp.  Paul and Katherine were still out of town so I tried to distract Jack with a mother-son adventure.  We ordered his favorite sandwich at his favorite restaurant, The Lost Dog (#7 with the coleslaw on the side).  We went to a movie (The Avengers) and I even splurged on 3-D.  And yes, there was ice cream.  Still, Mommy Camp doesn't really compare to a week away with your friends.

That's one reason we decided to give Jack an early birthday present in the form of a plane ticket to Georgia.  Paul got up at 4:30 a.m.  (I see Father of the Year Award in his future!) and drove him to the Baltimore airport to meet our former youth pastor and friend Cameron.  Cameron was flying down to Passport and graciously agreed to take Jack with him.  Now, Cameron has two children of his own and I'm sure he was looking forward to the peace and quiet of flying solo down to camp.  So this was really very, very gracious.

Jack called a few times this week to say hi and tell me he's having fun.  I haven't prodded him for details...yet.  This is the first time he's ever flown without his parents and the first time he's not even home on his birthday.  I guess he really is growing up.  I know "plane ticket" wasn't on his birthday wish list but it turned out to be a felicitious gift after all.  Happy Birthday Jack!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Change of Plans

The events I am about to describe are 100 % true.  I tell you this upfront lest you think I might exaggerate (I prefer the term "literary artistic license," mind you) by embellishing some of the nonessential details for the sake of good storytelling.

This is the kind of story that is no fun at all when you are immersed in its unfolding.  It is only weeks (months, years?) later when you can look back and laugh, ruefully, as you say, "Remember the weekend when..."

But let me back up to the beginning.  Back to coordinating summer plans and camps when I realize that, although different schedules and different states, the kids' summer camps overlap on two glorious days.  Let me repeat, for emphasis: Both children are scheduled to be out of town for the whole weekend!

Now, what are the odds that our youth pastor would be unable to fulfill his chaperone's duties?  When he calls Paul with a request-- "Lore's baby isn't due for a few weeks but I need a backup chaperone just in case," Paul is happy to be on call.  What are the odds?

Superstitious people will say I jinxed the whole thing by actually telling people out loud how much I was looking forward to this weekend with Paul.  When the call came Friday (no surprise--you saw that one coming) and he left, I was initially disappointed.   Then I began to regroup and ponder the unimaginable.  A weekend alone.  The house all to myself!  Whatever I choose to do will be uninterrupted!  I could sit in front of the TV with a pint of Ben and Jerry's and not have to share a single spoonful.

Friday night I help Jack pack.  With his bulging duffel bag finally zipped by the door, I tuck him in and turn off the light.  I close my eyes, snuggle into my sheets and start to drift off only to be interrupted by, "Mom?  I don't feel good."

That's when the vomiting begins.  We scramble to the bathroom.  With each subsequent trip to the toilet, I feel more helpless.  Other than offering a cool washcloth and murmuring my sympathies, there's not much I can do.  For eight straight hours, the stomach virus wreaks havoc on Jack's system.   I don't think I've pulled an all-nighter since college but neither of us sleep.   Sometime in the early morning hours, I realize camp is not an option.   The bus is about to depart for Georgia and, rather than waving his goodbyes from the window, Jack is curled up in the fetal position on a towel on the bathroom floor.

Jack finally falls asleep mid-morning, at which point I don my yellow rubber gloves to disinfect the bathroom, start the first of several vomit-saturated loads of laundry and consider my situation.  Ironic, isn't it, that last weekend I was upset that I slept too much and this weekend I am deprived of any slumber at all. 

Poor Jack. He was really looking forward to camp.  Change of plans. Instead he will spend the weekend at home with his mother.   I hope when he wakes up we can try to salvage what's left of it. 

I've still got a movie and some ice cream.  The new plan--two spoons. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Blogiversary

I feel more friendly when I am writing, nicer to people, much more generous, also wiser.
                                                                                                                --Toni Morrison

I am a writer. 

No, I haven't signed a book contract.  The blog hasn't gone viral.  That's OK.  One year ago I began writing about my "Year of Allison".  Anticipating how I would spend my days without a full-time job, I said, "I am still going to be a wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, teacher and friend.  I am still going to be a Girl Scout leader, Sunday School teacher and running coach." 

These labels are all true, and all good.  But what I realized is that each of them reflects my relationships with others.  Through writing, I am discovering who I am to myself. 
Writing is for ME. 

I am a writer.

In the beginning, the paper is a place for rambling, scattered thoughts.  They roll around on the page where I can see them.  Gradually an idea takes shape, growing and developing.  Soon I have lost track of time, giddy with excitement as my words come together like a puzzle.    

I am a writer. 
I choose my words carefully--pretty ones, sweet ones, feeling the words on my tongue before they touch the page. The dictionary and thesaurus are old friends.  Writing is more than communicating--it is my creative outlet.  For me, the fun is not just telling a story but considering how to tell the story. 

I am a writer.

Over the past year, I shared a small part of my life with you in 65 blog posts.  Maybe one of the posts made you think, or laugh out loud.  Maybe you learned something new or found we have something in common.  Maybe you read one post.  Maybe you've read all 65.  In some ways I haven't changed much at all.  Despite goals I set for myself, I still can't do a push up (Independence Day) and I still check my email way to much when I'm procrastinating (Email Diet).  I still get through my days with a grin, some grit and a bit of grace.   Along the way, I discovered that writing makes me happy. 

So then, I am a writer. 

Happy Blogiversary!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

One Nap Short Of Perfect

In my mind, today is supposed to be perfect.  Perfect cloudless sky.  Perfect temperature.  Yesterday was the last day of school.  Today is the first perfect day of summer.


Except the last two weeks have been such a busy whirlwind that I need to regroup.  I just need to do a few things before I begin my perfect day.  Like fold 6 loads of laundry.  Like buy milk.  Like walk the dog.  I should probably straighten up a bit.  The kids cleared out desks and lockers but now I can't walk in the front hall because it is piled with overstuffed notebooks, moldy lunchboxes, smelly gym clothes and sweatshirts. 

So what if the morning is spent on chores and errands--the afternoon will be perfect.


Except that I can't seem to decide what to do.  Should I sit on the patio and read?  Head to the pool and take a swim?  Ride my bike?  Celebrate summer with a pedicure?  Suddenly I feel very tired.  I will just put my head down for a minute.  Then I will decide.

Except a minute turns into an afternoon nap.  I wake up feeling groggy.  I look at the clock.  And then I cry.  Today was my perfect first day of summer.  And I slept through it.

Silly, I know.   But if you know me well, you know that I find comfort in lists and schedules.  I like being organized and I have a hard time being spontaneous.   A nap was not on my list of things to do today.

I dream of someday writing a book called Confessions of a Reformed Perfectionist.    Problem is, I'd actually have to reform.  In the meantime I recognize that my body was exhausted.  There will be other days for the pool, the patio and the pedicure.  Today I was just too tired to be perfect.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What's For Dinner?

In an ideal situation, I love to cook.  Crank up the tunes, pour a glass of wine and give me something to chop.  I'm happy.  Over the years, I've accumulated a giant binder of recipes that caught my eye, torn from various cooking magazine subscriptions. 
Step one--chop red onion and zucchini
This weekend I went through that notebook with a critical eye.  You see, family dinners are important to me.  As busy as life gets, I want my family to convene for a meal on a regular basis.    After a horrible day or tension over homework, the dinner table is our neutral territory.  We begin the meal by sharing reasons why we're thankful.  As we eat, we tell stories about our day or reflect on the daily news.   It is a real grounding event and one that I cherish.  I'm not the only person who places importance on family dinners.   Once I read about a survey conducted of National Merit Scholars.  Researchers wanted to know if there was one quality the students had in common--some marker that could could be used to predict future success. 

“A survey of National Merit Scholars—exceptionally successful eighteen-year-olds crossing all lines of ethnicity, gender, geography and class—turned up a common thread in their lives: the habit of sitting down to a family dinner table.”—from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

After a little digging around, I found the NMS study is not the only one to see the value of family dinners.  You can read about more evidence here:  Importance of Family Dinners
Step Two-Toss salmon and veggies with marinade in a casserole dish and bake.

So, family dinner is a priority.  But preparing a healthy, tasty meal day after day is not easy.  The hour between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. is known as the witching hour in our house.  Everyone is tired...except the dog who has suddenly found his second wind.  Homework, sports practice and dinner prep merge and overlap into one ugly giant mass. Recently I realized these challenges will be magnified in the fall when I transition to a full-time schedule at work.

That's when I took a look at my binder's often impractical ideas with a different perspective and resolved to clean it out.  To keep a recipe, it had to meet three criteria--fewer than 10 ingredients, no unusual and hard-to-find items and a prep time of less than 30 minutes.  I was ruthless.   Gone is the recipe for vegetable lasagna (Who has time to dice 6 different types of vegetables?) the Lobster Thermidor (Not really a weeknight staple) and Tomatillo Kale Quinoa (what was I thinking?).  By the time I finished, the notebook was noticeably thinner and my recycle box was overflowing with rejected clippings. 

Tonight I prepared one of the remaining recipes. The music was loud and the wine was cold.   The recipe was fast, easy and delicious.  I'm happy.
Step Three: Enjoy!
Allison's Easy Marinated Salmon and Veggies
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Chop up a red onion and a couple zucchini and toss them in a baking pan with this marinade(reserve about ¼ cup):
·         ¼ cup honey mustard
·         3 T soy sauce
·         3 T. lemon juice
·         3 T. brown sugar
·         1 t. vegetable oil
·         A little salt and pepper

Add some salmon to the baking dish and drizzle the rest of the marinade on top.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.  Remove the fish and return the veggies to the oven for another 15 minutes or until tender.

Serve with rice.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Countdown to Summer

10 days of school left
9 lunches still to pack
8 June celebrations
7 more tests and projects
6 baseball games
5 chorus concerts
4 hours of Field Day
3 Girl Scout events
2 guitar lessons
1 tennis practice
Tatum's looking forward to the dog days of summer too!