On The Rimrocks

I’ve learned/remembered a few things about travelling solo.

1. It’s really quiet

2. People will talk to you instead of your toddler

3. There is always a mechanical error on the plane.

4. The most annoying people on planes are not the kids, but instead the woman in her 40s travelling alone and telling everyone who will listen intimate details of her whole life.

5. Travelling without a plan is weird

6. Travelling without a kid is so peaceful

7. Renting a car is an experience

This trip to Montana has been interesting so far. I came in late last night, took an overpriced cab to my hotel, was overjoyed to find a clean room despite the smell of pool chemicals that permeated the halls and basically passed out. Lack of sleep from 22 kids keeping me up Friday night finally catching up to me. I’ve explored a little around Billings, but I’m about to get on the road to Red Lodge. May the drive be pleasant and without incident.

Here is a sandwich in a can

Thanks to a little place called the Staggering Ox. This was the Club. They also had the Rabbit Habit (veggie), Yo Momma Osama (Greek) and The S.OB (Sandwich of Billings).

And those promised rimrocks

According to the guy who drove the shuttle this morning the rimrocks are natural. Basically Billings MT sits in bowl.

I’m still on the look out for that cowboy ladies. Apparently I need to find two for the various ladies in my life. May there be more adventures to come.

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“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” — Henry David Thoreau

I’ve had some ups and downs this month in preparation for this trip but it is almost here. My solo sojourn to Montana is upon me. I’ve packed my bags, checked the flight regulations, mentally prepared for a full body scan, perhaps even a cavity search because I’m sure a solo trip to Montana is going to inspire someone to think I’m up to nefarious deeds. I’ve borrowed a neat camera, a nice jacket and acquired some waterproof snow boots. Even in the dead of winter there seems to be a lot to do in Billings, MT and the surrounding area. I’ve rented a car which is the first time I’ve ever done that in my adult life all by myself. Hotel rooms have been taken care of. I’m prepared for baggage fees. I’ve printed itineraries. For a last minute adventure I feel as prepared as I possibly can be.

What will I see there? Probably buffalo and mountains. I’m pretty excited about both of those actually. I’m even excited about being in an airport again after a 5 year hiatus from flying. Carl is preparing for his own journey to Disney World with his dad. It makes me anxious and I worry about how he will fly, but I have prepared him as best I can and really he is like me, a little adventurer at heart. I’ve gotten to share almost all his firsts with him in his young life so I can’t really begrudge his dad this experience. I hope they have a great trip. I know I will. No matter what the weather is like, no matter how cold I can feel that this is going to be a great adventure.

Parenting and stuff

As much as I have done a ton of research and had a lot of hands on experience with children the various parenting styles had actually escaped me. There are a lot of different strategies and ideas out there. There is permissive parenting, authoritative parenting, the cry it out method of sleep training, breast is best, fed is best, alive at the end of the day is best (which is really where I fall), something about only letting kids sleep on their backs (mine almost never did).  The idea behind letting your child guide you seems ok I guess. Why not cater to the whims of your newly earthside baby? I think we all do at least for a few months. And maybe in a few months I will look back at my reasoning now, the choices I’ve made, the things I’ve decided are important and laugh about how silly I was or how it was so much harder than I thought or how what I wanted to do was just not possible. I doubt it, but I am going to go ahead and acknowledge up front that it is possible. And if, in a few months, I feel that way I will be sure to write about it so that you out there can see I acknowledged the error of my ways. I’ve also been introduced to things like “attachment parenting” which always puts me in mind of a kangaroo. Everyon e sort of parents in a hybrid of a bunch of methods depending on the situation, or at least that has been my experience.

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I have a two and a half year old now and I feel like I can firmly say that the things that have actually made a difference upon him now were things I started really early. When he was six weeks old I put him in his own bed. Now I didn’t make him stay there all night but that is where he started out after bedtime stories and a bath. At around 8pm I rocked him to sleep and put him in his own bed. I’ve dedicated literally days worth of hours of my life to establishing a bedtime routine and at about 6 months he slept through the night in his crib. He had back and forth moments where he didn’t want to sleep in his crib. He cried. I cried. We all cried some nights but almost every night I put him in his crib. He went through spells of waking up around 2am which usually lasted a couple of weeks but eventually with persistence he slept through the night again. Each time we have moved was a new challenge and some times it felt like we started all over again. Since we bought our house in May after some initial adjustment it has been the most amazing period of sleeping he has ever had. He goes to bed after stories and a bath usually with a pout, sometimes with smile but once he is there he wants me to kiss him and hug him then he rolls over and goes to sleep. He sleeps from 8pm to 5:30 or sometimes even 7am.

I’m not bragging. My kid can be as crazy as the next one. One church member called him a devil child after an episode one Sunday evening. What I am saying is that we are the most in control of our children and their schedules, habits, manners, etc at two or three or four years old that we will ever be. If you want a child to go to bed at a certain time you have to be the one to implement it. Kids aren’t going to give themselves a bedtime. If you want your child to say “please” and “thank you” and “your welcome” then you have to remind them after every applicable interaction. If you want your child to not scream indoors you have to be the one that reminds them about inside voices every time that there is an million decibel incident. Beyond that it is ok for children, even 1 and 2 year old children to know there are consequences for actions. In fact it might be the best way for you to introduce them to the real world of which they are soon to be a part. If time out is your thing do that, if removing them from a situation is your thing then do that. There are a million ways to enforce a consequence without yelling empty threats at a child. If you say you are going to do something then you had better be willing to follow through.

This parenting rant brought to you by my intense frustration with mom groups.

Cheers!

Spontaneity and all that Jazz

I’m not a particularly spontaneous person. Actually I am so far the opposite of spontaneous as to be insanely partial to planning every detail of every little thing…pretty much ever. I plan grocery shopping trips, work events, birthday parties and pretty much every other thing down to the minuscule details. I write lists with stickers and flags and sticky notes. Its a bit insane. Sometimes when I am planning a vacation I even hand draw maps of the place I am going. Which makes what I am about to do all that more nutty. Last week I started to consider what I might want to do with Carl gone to Disney World with his dads family for a few days.

My first thought was a road trip. The more I looked at places to go the more I realized I’ve already traveled almost everywhere I can get by car in 12 hours or less. After I realized that I started to look at flights. Most of the cheap flights were to places like Texas and I’ve already been to Texas several times. Finally I decided to look into a flight that was cheaper than almost any of the others to a place called Billings, Montana. Billings is the biggest town in Montana with 100,000 people. Its located in the southeast corner of the state close to the border of Wyoming. From there I started looking at what there is to do nearby. I found several places but the neatest one seemed to be a little town called Red Lodge an hour south of Billings. Less than 12 hours after finding the flight I had booked it. With no real prior planning. I feel much like a ship set out to see with no destination. I’m excited to see where this leads me. I’ve done a bit more planning. Enough to know that it is going to be closed for a lot of fun Yellowstone events, but open for skiing and maybe walking around in the snow and exploring some museums. I’m pretty excited even if this does register as the craziest thing I’ve ever done on the fly.

Maybe I will even learn to ski

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Reflections on how far I’ve travelled

Two years ago I was struggling, not yet divorced and I hadn’t yet decided I wanted to get a divorce. This is a reflection from that point that I never finished.

 

I try to only write positive things, which is probably some part of why my writing has been so sporadic in the last few months. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of happy to be thankful for. Carl is an adorable little bundle of sweet cuteness but I’ve had a really hard time dealing with the dry and barren wasteland that my marriage has become. I don’t talk about it, because who really wants to hear that stuff and the people that would listen are a little too close to the situation. Its hard to think that someone you made a kid with only wants to talk to you when it comes to how work was (strictly over the phone), how his dog is (that you are somehow still keeping because, hey, why not), or of course how Carl is.

And I get it. Carl is cute. It is much easier to talk about Carl than about the fact that we haven’t lived together in over a year and our only interactions are at the once, sometimes twice weekly pick up and drop offs. Maybe its my fault. I mean I certainly don’t initiate a lot of conversations about how I’m feeling. I rarely ever even comment when he says something I disapprove of and he does the same thing I think. It just sucks. Like majorly sucks. I never wanted to be in this position. I never wanted to have a baby and be the only one around when he is teething in the middle of the night or hungry or cranky or refusing to go to bed. You know who puts him to sleep every single night…Me. Who stays home with him when he isn’t feeling well? Me. I mean I really begin to understand the struggle of moms worldwide because god forbid that dad should take a break from his busy career and clean up after a drooly, snotty, demanding little baby, or older kid.

On the other hand I suppose I am just jealous. There were moms at a support group meeting I went to this week who’s husbands sleep on the floor because they aren’t safe sleepers for the baby that is still in the bed but they still want to be there in the middle of the night if baby or mom need them. I hate to think about how I cosmically fucked up somewhere along the line to deserve this particular lot in life. I love my baby but I know it isn’t supposed to be this hard and it certainly not supposed to be this damn lonely.

But on the positive side I have a good support group. There are a lot bigger problems in life, these are just my biggest problems. And do they have solutions? Maybe. Have I found them yet? Nope. That’s life I suppose. Next year I will have an entirely new set of  problems… Lets at least hope they are different.

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Tucking ones hair behind the ears, or putting pants on before socks or having tea vs coffee in the morning are all habits we form almost subconsciously. Everyone has at least one little habit, even those that find making habits to be a hard task. I have a ton of weird habits. I tend to put a record on after breakfast while I answer emails and write. I check the mail obsessively every time I come home from anywhere even if its just the grocery store. I obsessively put commas and apostrophes everywhere when I am writing. I like to read from the same chair every night to Carl. And I put expiration dates on relationships. Once I had this marvelous revelation when talking to a friend of mine I can’t help but see it in every relationship I’ve ever had and apparently it isn’t unique to me.

My first real boyfriend came along when I was 15-16. We dated for about six months. He was sweet, if a little too emotional for my comfort. He was my first in many ways. The problem was I didn’t like the way his parents ran all over him or the way he would back down every time his stepfather was a douche bag to one or both of us. About two months into the relationship I decided if something didn’t change in six months I was going to break up with him. This was June. At the end of December, sometime after Christmas but not long into the new year, even though this poor guy wanted to marry me (looking back I realize that should have been a sign at 16 but I was 16) I broke up with him..It was almost like clockwork and of course he had no idea why we were breaking up because I didn’t bother to tell him he was on an imaginary time table.

Fast forward several years later and when I decided to move out and leave my ex-husband it was only after setting yet another imaginary time table for change, which in a few months he had failed to meet, so much like clockwork again I looked at apartments, and within two weeks I had moved out. Since the house we were renting was in my name and our roommates name he had to move to without all the mental preparation I had been a privy to with my mental time table. Even the last two relationships I’ve had were only 4 and 6 weeks respectively. I basically went into them with the idea that it wasn’t going to work but I would give it x amount of time to see how I felt about it. Again the other party in these relationships had no idea.

I realize this is a pretty deep psychological failing on my part to do with fear of commitment and abandonment, I should probably work on being more vulnerable to hurt that comes with not knowing when something is going to end or with enjoying something while it lasts but I am 28 and I have been operating this way for over a decade. I’m not sure I want to change now. Being alone is so much better than we realize it can be when we are teenagers driven by the fear of being alone and forgotten. I see so many recently divorced moms jumping from one relationship to another and every time that guy is the guy of their dreams that they have been waiting their whole lives for….until he isn’t a few months down the road. I don’t want that for myself and I am certainly not about to introduce Carl to a string of goofballs I think I’m in love with because of loneliness and pheromones.

What do you do with a deep self realization then? I guess you have a cup of coffee and keep on chugging cause that’s what I am planning on doing with this one.

Happy Halloween! (belatedly)

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Yeah, the only person in focus is Faith but this was still the best picture from the party.

Happy Halloween! We have managed to squeeze a lot of fun into this season of frights! We have partied a Fall Festival at the Zoo in Memphis. Zoo Boo was a ton of fun. Carl got to have his first, second and third hayride there. We threw a Halloween party this year which was really the best and also where this picture came from. We partied at the library for their fall story time event which was admittedly crowded but still fun. I did not try and squeeze as many events into the holiday as I have in the past but I still feel like we did a good amount of partying like rock stars.

Renascence Faire was the weekend before Halloween and as had become something of a tradition my parents came in full dress and Carl got to dress up as well. This year he was Carl the Slayer. He ended up in the paper which was pretty neat.

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On Halloween Eve I volunteered to hand out treat bags the kids made for a Trunk or Treat at Carver Heights. It was my first Trunk or Treat but I think the trunk looked pretty cute and I survived it.

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For Halloween itself we trick or treated around our little neighborhood (the two houses that were giving out candy). I honestly didn’t have a plan for trick or treating which is really not like me at all. After a great deal of co-oercing, Carl decided to go as Scooby Doo. He was pretty freaking adorable.

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Usually I have a full map drawn up for any adventure and a point by point plan. This year I decided to wing it. On the way to see Carl’s dad at UNA I saw some trick or treaters on walnut st. and decided to join them. Let me just say, Thank you people in nicer neighborhoods for providing a safe and happy experience for my kid. I really appreciate it and maybe one day there will be more kids on my street. We also stopped by a friends house on the way home. It was a really great, if really unplanned Halloween. I feel good about this year and I am excited for all the Halloweens we will have here in this house.

Now if I can just get the living room painted….and the Christmas tree up.

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I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers

When I think of fall, but especially October, I think of quiet, or the only sound around being the crunch of leaves. I enjoy being busy, having a toddler, and drinking coffee to keep me awake during the day as much as the next person. However there is something magical about having a few moments, sometimes even a couple of hours of silence. I don’t mean actual time without noise. Currently I am listening to a sweet Simon and Garfunkle live in Central Park record which is really the best. What I mean is time where no one is demanding my attention. Time in which I have put aside my to do list, where no one is talking to me and expecting me to listen. Few times during the month do all the stars align that my house is empty, Carl is with his dad or a grandparent, Faith is at work or something, dawn or dusk is coming swiftly and all is quiet. I think the few moments I am able to spend like this are exactly why I am able to be a semi functioning human most of the time.

If I could give one gift to women, but all moms especially it would be to find some moments like this in whatever haven you gather the most peace from. There is a great deal to be said and currently is being said about the mental load that falls on mostly women. Things like when is the bill due, are the kids going to need lunch/fundraiser/activity money, who is picking each kid up at a different time when school lets out and then taking each kid to a separate activity, and so on and so forth. Each month I write up a calendar of all the visitation dates Carl has with his dad, all the activities we plan to participate in from Library classes to zoo trips to church things. I try to include everything I can think of. I then send that along with any other pertinent information to his dad. I take that information and put it on the family calendar along with all my work dates, Faith’s work dates and any family events, trips or other things we have planned. I take all that and put it in my personal planner along with any activities I have planned then I put notes in about how much this or that is going to cost. I do this every month and I have been since Carl started have visitation days with his dad I guess at about 6 months.

And when I get some quiet moments I take advantage of them. I find that peace. I sit on my front porch or I sit at my desk or I got to Target or I do whatever I want that doesn’t require me to speak to another human and it keeps me healthy. We should all try and find ways to take care of ourselves…and if that doesn’t work I hear antidepressants can work wonders. But most of all the calming power of a changing season, cooling temperatures, and that hint of the holidays in the air can inspire joy and peace in us if we just let it.

 

What would it be like to wake up without a name every day except for whatever the shop keeper you just stole from shouts at you? What would it be like to be part of a less than popular minority in Europe? To be an orphan? To not even know what your heritage was? I sometimes bemoan the loss of my grandmothers home, but I still know where I come from. I have pictures, memories and people that claim me. But what if you had none of that and the only people to take you in where other street urchins who were as generally disliked and as much a misfit as yourself? Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli takes thatt premise to Warsaw on the cusp of Great War. I might have read Milkweed  if I hadn’t been so busy reading the Diaries of Anne Frank or the Hiding Place. My own child will definitely be reading Milkweed when the time comes.  I think this book more than many others has the power to leave an impression.

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The book takes place, first on the streets of Warsaw then in the ghetto. The young boy grows, survives, and takes on new names. When asked recently, a group of teenagers in my acquaintance named the fear of being forgotten as one of their great fears. I felt that way as a preteen and well into my late teen years. Spinelli does a wonderful job addressing that fear even as he doesn’t sugar coat how easily it is to be forgotten. As an adult reading this book was heartbreaking but sweet in its simple happy moments. Everyone addresses their anger and frustration with the situation, with the ghetto, with God himself differently.  Uncle Shepsel becomes a Methodist. Uri becomes a double agent. And the boy we learn to call Misha adapts to his surroundings and uses his wily nature to make the best of it. Isn’t that what we all strive to do when faced with life? GOotake a few hours and read this book. It will make you think and heaven knows we could all use more thought in our lives.

I was walking around the happiest place on earth with a conspicuous wet spot on my front….

Recently my little family, (Faith, Carl and I) took a lovely vacation to South Carolina, then followed it up by three days and two nights at the supposedly happiest place on earth. I think everyone has a different happy place but Disney World is pretty damn happy. It was our second trip this year and honestly I hadn’t really originally planned to add it on to our trip that just how it went. It was fun, if busy and there is never enough time to nap. Probably that is my Disney trip related flaw, I do not allow enough time for the thrice daily needed showers and regular naps of sufficient length. On this last trip we bought tickets to the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and bundled Carl into his costume and then into the stroller for the 7pm-12am event. He had refused to take a nap earlier in the day which was not a great sign but we forged ahead determined to squeeze as much Mickey in as possible. Generally we accept that Carl will party until he falls asleep but I really didn’t think he would be asleep before we ever hit the parks. Nevertheless he fall asleep in the bus line and didn’t wake up until an hour and a half later when we were seated at Cosmic Rays Cafe eating a quick dinner.

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This wasn’t a really big deal. I knew he would soon wake up and all would be happy and glorious. He would love trick or treating around Magic Kingdom, we could get some cute pictures and ride some fun rides, yada yada yada.

To really understand this story I feel like you must understand what a crazy planner I am. On a trip like a vacation or Disney or even just a trip to the zoo I have a back pack for Carl filled with a bag of snacks (applesauce, cheeze-its, beef jerky, oranges, apples, graham crackers, animal crackers, veggies straws, dried fruit, nuts etc) sunscreen, bug spray, a few distraction toys like bubbles and slinkys, suckers, bandaids, extra clothes, wipes, diaper ointment, underwear, an emergency pull up, cash or coins, water, juice boxes, maps if necessary, and everything else I can think of we might need such as umbrellas and ponchos if it is wet. When we go on vacation I make gallon size ziploc bags filled with snacks for all three of us, one for each day. We almost always stay somewhere with a fridge and so I bring crock pots meals which I plan out ahead of time. If we are staying in a condo I plan all the meals and pack for them before we get there. I always bring at least one roll of toilet paper and paper towels, extra ziploc bags, a wine bottle opener, lighter and flashlight…I’m an obsessive planner.

So we get to the magic kingdom, and after copious security checkpoints we go through the candy line and get our bags for the night, take a few cute pictures, and decide to get dinner while Carl is sleeping. Well that is a fine plan so Faith orders food and I find the only table open in a restaurant that probably seats 250 people or more. For some stupid reason (because you are supposed to bring them in and there really wasn’t room to maneuver one) I decided to just hold Carl and leave the stroller outside. This worked out ok, except that this kids is 39 inches tall and I am only 63ish inches tall which makes holding his dead, sleeping self a little tricky. However I did manage to get seated and as I waited for Faith and food I thought maybe we would go get the stroller after all….Suddenly I felt hot liquid coming out of him and all over my lap and the floor…and there was nothing I could do about it. Carl is great about going to the potty when awake but we have been putting a pull up on him for a while at night. The backpack, which was so thoughtfully packed was outside so eventually I managed to flag down a sweet coworker and without explaining exactly why I needed them get her to bring me a stack of napkins.

And of course the one person I didn’t think to pack extra clothes for was myself. So for the next 5+ hours I walked around the happiest place on earth with a huge pee stain on my crotch. This is parenthood. Carl was thrilled to get to change into his pajamas earlier than originally anticipated and I didn’t have to stress about pictures anymore cause we weren’t taking any. Seldom has life ever been so funny in the curve ball it decides to throw. And you know what? It was ok. It was actually really fun. I wish I had relaxed and let us just wear matching tshirts, taken longer naps, and remembered extra shorts, but we had a blast. Life does not have to perfect for us to be perfectly happy. If you can just live in the present moment, without too much future worry or past anxiety you are guaranteed to find some happiness in my experience.