Thursday, June 24, 2010

What an Antastrophy!

When the kids hopped off the bus last Friday we surprised them with a camping trip! We headed off to Pennsylvania to visit Hershey Park and Amish Country. I just talked to my former boss the other day and he couldn't believe that we like to spend our time in "small town America, taking pictures of the biggest ball of twine". For the record, we didn't find a big ball of twine but we did visit the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Factory in Lititz (www.juliussturgis.com) , where we made our own pretzels and learned they are actually a religious symbol. Who knew?! (You'll have to visit the factory to learn the story). My guess is that at least half of the people who live in that town have never taken the factory tour. My guess is that there are a dozen things right in our own backyard that we never even take the time to see or learn more about. I encourage you to pick one place to visit this summer that you have always wondered about but never made the time for in your own town. You never know what you will learn! Share it with us after your visit.

We arrived in PA after 8 hours....6 hours travel time + 1 hour traffic + 1 hour dinner = a buzz kill on your last day of school. As we approached the campground on small country roads we noticed thousands of fireflies. It was an incredible sight! I felt like a little kid again. I can't remember the last time I saw lightening bugs...nevermind thousands of them. They lit up the fields along the way and it felt very magical. This is typically what they call "the calm before the storm". Just as we pulled into the campground the kids fell asleep which ended up being a blessing because what came next was definitely a curse. We had a great spot 3 sites over from the pool and began to set up. As we were putting the kids bed down, we discovered HUNDREDS of ants running a rice krispie trafficking ring. Holy Badness. For those of you that don't know, I don't do well with bugs. Well, let's be honest, who does well with HUNDREDS of bugs? I happened to be outside and I just saw a small fraction of the chaos that was unfolding. Tim was inside and quickly yelled "Stay outside! I'll take care of this!" From what I could see, this was not a one person job. We grabbed hoards of paper towels and while Tim worked to squash the bugs from above, I killed those that poured out from the bed, onto his legs and floor. Holy, Holy Badness. In hindsight, I realized I was murmuring things like "Ok...this is ok", "Oh they make a lot of noise when you squoosh them" and "It will be over soon..you can do this". It felt like 30 minutes but I think we had the crime scene cleaned up in 10 minutes flat. There did appear to be a few stragglers that were coming from an area we couldn't reach so we plugged it up and had the kids sleep with us. Tim took one look at my face and said "We need a beer. We deserve it." While I drank it I pondered, "Am I really cut out for camping?" I should mention that I was wearing a super cute green and white a-line skirt, my green polo with the collar up, and pearls. Yes, this is the outfit I murdered ants in.

The next morning I awoke to the sight of a lone ant continuously circling the fire alarm. I just wanted the nightmare to end. But I put my best foot forward in my pink and green bathing suit and super cute cover up...and headed to the pool with the kids. Meanwhile, Tim went to work wtih some ant spray and a straw in the 90 degree heat. With the antastrophy cleared up, we spent the day enjoying the terrific pool...complete with swim up bar for the kids where they could buy candy, get ice cream, and all kinds of snacks. We learned last year that we needed to actually spend some time enjoying the great campgrounds we stay at so we always make it a point to spend at least one day enjoying all they have to offer. We were basically at the pool from 10-5 and couldn't have asked for better weather. That night we played on their mini golf course, ate homemade cupcakes, and caught fireflies. When I apply for my next job and they ask why I left my last job, this is the reason I will give them. Pure enjoyment of my family and enjoying every moment of it.

The next day it was off to Hershey Park and thankfully they have a water park, because let me tell you, it was hot! We spent a good deal of time floating down the lazy river. riding roller coasters, and floating down the lazy river some more. For those that haven't gone yet, yes, the town does smell like heaven...I mean chocolate...and Hershey Park is great. Fantastic rides for those looking for a thrill as well as laid back fun rides. We went to a great restaurant on the way home...Fenicci's in downtown Hershey which makes an awesome upside down pizza. The next day it was off to Amish Country. We rode quite country roads through Lititz, Lancaster, and then on to Bird in Hand and Intercourse. Absolutely beautiful farms. In all honesty, what I really want to do is live on farm in the country, in a beautiful farmhouse, with horses, goats, bunnies, kitties, cows (for Mimi and I)...with a duck pond filled with turtles for Jack. Timmy will be feeding them and cleaning up the poo (not because he wants to but because he loves us and knows we can't handle it) ...all the while we will be loving them. I will have a giant organic garden, wear adorable sun dresses, and we will live such a simple life. Side note: I have no interest in home schooling, doing hard labor, or smelling manure all day. I know now that I will never make it as an Amish person.

I think it was at this point in the vacation when I thought to myself, "My kids aren't exposed to enough diversity.". They pointed at every Amish person they saw as though they were aliens. "Look Mom, an Amish boy!'..."There's another one!", "Look a horse and buggy on the road filled with Amish kids!" We took a horse and buggy ride through Amish roads, learned a lot about their way of life, and saw them in action working on their farms. They bring "simple living to life". Not for everyone but very impressive that there exists a population that truly lives simply. They don't have the cutest outfits but our buggy driver did mention that starting this year, was the first year the Amish could wear summer colors, including pink. Baby steps. Maybe next year they will be able to accessorize.

On our last night I was faced with a cross road. After dinner the kids wanted to go catch fireflies again in the baseball field. There were dishes to do and stuff to pack up for the next day. Tim took the kids over to the field and Mimi looked back and said "Mom, aren't you coming?" I told her I would join them later and while I did dishes I realized I was making a conscious decision not to be present in the moment with my family. My choices were to clean up and start packing, join them in the fun, and if I did join them, take time away from Tim and I later because we would have to spend our night packing rather than sitting an enjoying each other's company. I have to admit, it was a tough moment. Old Kelly would have missed the opportunity to live in the moment. Little Kelly did the dishes quickly (and squashed two ants) and ran to the field to catch fireflies. The kids were so excited that I joined them, which made me a little sad because I realized they never expected me to come have fun. Afterwards we headed back to our campsite, the kids went to bed, and to hell with packing...Tim and I enjoyed some wine and read our books. Sure, we had to get up much earlier than we wanted to in order to leave on time, but it was worth it.

Am I making you think more about living in the moment? I hope so. If so, please share it with us!

Next up....not wearing make up....do those words make you sick just thinking about the thought of having a naked face? I have to say, I have learned a lot lately on that topic...and likely scared many people. More to come soon...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Week Two: Lessons Learned - It's Okay to Be Furry

Technically I am on my third week of retirement but since the week isn't over yet, I'll share what I've learned so far on my journey as of week two. Writing down your to-do list is enlightening. When I reread it on the blog I realized it was not really about finding myself but more about the need to find a cleaning lady. Will I really find Little Kelly under all the dust? I think Little Kelly will feel more "in control" when things are organized but I'm not convinced I will rediscover myself by cleaning my baseboards and organizing all my cupboards. Traditionally, I have looked at all these things...giant dust balls floating across my floors, fur on my baseboards, unorganized closets....as failures. My inability to get my life under control. Here is what I learned...these aren't failures but rather indications that I am enjoying my life. My house isn't spotless, this is true. But it is lived in. A real family lives here. One that has fun, is very active, and cares more about getting together with friends and family then having everything look pristine. This is a big leap for me, people. It's okay to be furry. Breathe, Kelly...it's true.

I did accomplish some things on my list...sort of. I did order the pictures off of Snapfish to put in my albums, I did get a tip on a guy that cleans rugs, I did exercise more...than last week, I did spend some time with my girlfriends (had a great lunch with Chris & Melissa!), and I am going to read more (I just ordered The Choice by Og Mandino and Sh*t my Dad Says by Justin Halpern). Thanks to Chris & Michelle for those two recommendations - I love that you guys are recommending books...keep it coming and put them on the blog so everyone can see!

I did actually cross a few things off too. I cleaned under the kitchen sink...it wasn't that messy afterall. I did wash all the windows...and learned that the reason I probably haven't washed them in so long is that the grates are hard to put back in. I did try some new recipes....some were just okay...and another one inspired me to add a recipe section. Check it out!

I did relax a few times...but still finding that tough to do. How is it that I used to get so much more done when I was working? I guess because I had a finite amount of time and I put things on my to do list that HAD to get done. I have too much stuff on my list these days. It's self defeating. My friend Melissa told me I was stressing myself out and she is right. I am. Here's my piece of advice...stop doing that. Stop putting 20 things on your to-do list when you really only have time for 5. It takes away from your ability to live in the moment and really enjoy life.

Speaking of living in the moment, I am making baby steps here. I didn't weed my gardens (on my to do list) but I do have breakfast each day on my bistro table out on my deck, reading the paper. (Side note: I got my lime green bistro table at Weston Nurseries last year for Mother's Day and I love, love, love it). I look at my gardens and I actually just smiled yesterday, enjoying the moment. My hydrangeas are coming out, my lillies are out, and I saw a hummingbird the other morning. They are cute little industrious fellows. In the old days I would have had breakfast standing at the island, speed reading the paper, eating as fast as I could, multi tasking, and never enjoying any of it. I have noticed my mind has slowed down and I actually listen to the songs on my iPod when I walk. Imagine that. When I used to walk before work I would be mentally reviewing all that I had to do when I got back, what I needed to do at work, what I had to do that night. I had no idea what songs were actually playing. I just noticed that if it was a fast song, I walked faster (if that is even possible...I'm a pretty fast walker in every day life). Did you know that in Single Ladies by Beyonce she doesn't put gloves on her hips, but rather gloss on her lips? I guess that was probably pretty obvious to a few of you. And if I had stopped to actually think about it, I would have realized that putting gloves on your hips was "stupit"...but really, who has the time to actually listen to the lyrics? Well, I think we all should. Then we wouldn't go singing about the "one winged dove" when it was actually a "white winged dove" (At one point, I did love Stevie Nicks).

I was more creative last week. SIX years ago we moved into our house and we decided to paint the tub surround ourselves...save a few bucks...easy enough job. Well, I just painted it last week. I didn't just paint it tho...there is a piece that is a panel that comes off so you can get to the plumbing. I grouted it with sea glass that we have found over the years. I then got my hot glue gun out (man, I missed that thing!) and I glued on a clam shell. It looks awesome! I was impressed with myself if I do say so myself. It definitely got the creative juices flowing. Look out, next week, I might have a hot glue gun party!

But the best part was realizing that I am a better Mom when I live in the moment. When Jack came home the other day he started playing basketball outside. I went out and joined him. I learned that when you do a jump shot sometimes your gut likes to make an appearance (eek) ...and it's better to play "pig" than "horse" because, honestly, we aren't going to beat 11 year old boys in basketball moves. But I also learned that he really enjoyed it and we had some great conversation about what happened at school that day. I made homemade chocolate chip cookies the other night at 8:30 at night. Old Kelly never would have done that. The mess, the time, the list ahead of me! But Little Kelly made them the other night. Jack lost in the semi finals (baseball) and I wanted to cheer him up. While he was crying in the shower I made the cookies and we all enjoyed them as a family and each took a turn telling Jack what he did great this baseball season. It didn't make it all better but I think it helped. Mimi and I slept on the couch the other night. The kids have been begging me to sleep on the couch some night. Old Kelly said "Couches aren't for sleeping on"....God, I sound like my mother. So, the other night, Mimi asked and once the boys went to bed we snuck down and snuggled on the couch. We fell asleep holding hands and she said "this is so fun!" in her sleepy little voice. It's the little things that make a big difference.

For those of you that are already enjoying living in the moment, you are probably saying "it's about time!" For those of you that have been like me and thought you were living in the moment, make sure you really are. The moments find you. Just grab a hold of them.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Laura Ingalls and the Whitie Tightie Strangler

I love, love, love camping! For those that know me, and know me well, this still comes as quite a shock. As soon as we get home from a camping trip, I want to go again. I didn't grow up a camper. In fact, I don't think camping was, or is, in my mother's vocabulary word bank.

Lately I have been trying to figure out what I love so much about camping. Especially given that our first few experiences were memorable in that "Don't make me relive it again" kind of way. It all started when we were coming home from soccer and on the side of the road we saw a pop up camper. It looked adorable...like a little playhouse. On a whim, we pulled over to take a look and $175 later we were pulling away with our first pop up camper. It was late October so the only camping trip we made was in our backyard. We lit the chiminea, made s'mores, and slept in the pop up. We played games by lantern and had a good old fashioned family time. To this day, it is still one of our favorite memories.

Tim opened up the camper in the spring to "air it out" and discovered that a large mouse family with irritable bowel syndrome had moved in. Tim tried to tell me it would be as good as new once he cleaned it out but there was no way my children and I were EVER going to sleep in there again. EVER. We bid a speedy goodbye to our pop up.

Next thing I know, Tim is on the hunt for a new one and I have to admit, I was still interested...but in a clean, mouse free pop up. We found one in early summer and immediately headed to Truro for our first real camping trip. It all started out great...we set up our site, had a great day at the beach, made dinner on the grill, made s'mores, played games by lantern, and then the kids went to bed. Tim and I shared a bottle of wine and played Rummy (best card game ever). Soon enough I had to use the loo and although there was a potty in the pop up (which doubled as a seat) Tim was adament that it remain in use only for emergency purposes. I stepped out of the dark of night with my lantern swinging...my shadow ominously accompanied me along the way. The hair on my arms was standing at attention and I wore my "I am totally aware of everything going on around me and I will take you out if you attack me" face. I had visions of opening up the bathroom door to a creepy camper guy with a knife...my screams would be drowned out by the crickets as he made mince meat out of me. I quickly hustled back to the camper and this is where things got dicey. I could feel someone watching me and there off to my right was a large man hanging out on the perimeter of his campsite. And when I say hanging out I mean, leaning on his pick up truck clad in only a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and whitie tighties that went from his belly button to his thighs. He was rockin' granny whitie tighties. And just a side note, he wasn't in fantastic shape and he was hairy. The ember from his cigarette glowed as it dangled from his mouth. He raised his Pabst Blue Ribbon at me and said "Evenin' darlin." I thought, "Is he kidding me with this?!" There I was in my adorable navy blue a-line skirt, pink polo shirt with the collar popped, my pearls (of course), and my martini flip flops. Really?? Was he really thinking I might want a piece of him??!! The nerve.

The next spring we decided to take a pop up road trip so off we ventured to Washington DC for April vacation. We stayed at Cherry Hill Park in College Park, Maryland, just outside of the city. The first day when you arrive at a campground is what I affectionately call "the honeymoon period". You've made it...you are thankful the camper didn't fly off the hitch at 70 mph, the campground always looks great (at first), the staff seems so happy to see you, and then you give the kids soda and candy so you can set up in peace. Who isn't happier right then? We had a great first day and then the rain moved in. It drizzled in the beginning and we hugged the kids and said "C'mon...this is an adventure. It will be fun!" Two days later when the rain was falling so hard we thought it is going to rip the canvas, it was clear the adventure had turned into a nightmare. It continued to pour buckets our ENTIRE vacation. The canvas began dripping inside, subjecting us to Chinese water torture at night. Everything was damp...all the time. Our towels, our clothes, our blankets. The sun came out just in time to say goodbye to us as we rolled away. Somehow I walked away still wanting to camp, but with some provisions.

I needed shelter from the rain. I needed my own bathroom. I needed to feel more secure should the Whitie Tightie Strangler come looking for me again. Tim gladly went on the hunt again and came back with a hybrid travel trailer. It has a full size fridge, a 3 burner stove, a bathroom with shower, 2 queen pop out beds, heat, and even a/c! We have been camping in it since last year and we are loving every minute of it! On the left, you will see a new section called "Campgrounds We Love, Love, Love!" in hopes we can convince you to camp, camp, camp.

So, what is it that I like so much about camping? Well, as I mentioned earlier, a camper is like a little playhouse. I have decorated it with Nantucket baskets and pink and green dishtowels. My very own preppy playhouse. Who wouldn't love that?

Camping gives you permission to slow down your hectic life. The only time commitments are those you impose yourself. You can get up when you want to and go to bed when you are tired. Interestly enough, we never stay up late when we camp because we are so tired from taking it easy.

We eat delicious meals, often getting our food from local farmer's markets. You can eat burgers & dogs if you want, but you don't have to. Sometimes we eat better when we camp because we have the time. The kids keep telling me I should write a camping cookbook. I'll share some camping recipes with you from time to time....they aren't fancy or anything but I do have to admit, my steak tacos are to die for!

Camping brings out the most simplistic living. I feel like Laura Ingalls without the bad dress and combat boots. Since space is tight, it makes you really think about what you need, and don't need, to live comfortably. Believe me, you don't need most of it. When you camp, life is uncomplicated. You connect with nature and just enjoy being outside. We fish, hike, ride bikes, walk, explore. We play lots of games, have great conversation, laugh a lot, and hug a lot more. We really connect as a family, enjoy each other's company, and the kids fight less and play more together. I feel at peace and when I camp, I am most like myself. I don't want to be stressed, I don't want to lose my temper with the kids, or be running around like a chicken with my head cut off. But in all honesty, it's hard to remain calm all the time and fit everything in that needs to be done at home. We can't camp all the time and we can't keep running at the speed of light either. Camping isn't for everyone but finding the right thing for you and your family that allows you to take the time to destress and reconnect is essential.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

T'was the day before severance started and visions of cheese curls were dancing in my head. For months, I had fantasies of what my first day of freedom would behold. As the day drew closer, I could just taste the cheese curls I was going to eat for breakfast. It was going to be a miserable, rainy, cold day (so that I wouldn't feel guilty for lying around). I was going to sleep in and Tim was going to get up with the kids, get them breakfast, make their lunches, and get them off to school. I envisioned getting up around 10-ish and then moving to the couch, cuddled with my blankie, to lounge in my pj's and catch up on Ellen and HGTV. There would be no showering on this day. And it was going to be filled with eating things that were bad for me. Cheese curls and lemonade for breakfast, nachos for lunch, and there would be snacks in between. When the kids got home (magically they would not have homework), we were going to snuggle on the couch and rent an on demand movie. Tim would stroll in the door around 6 with take out and then I was going to head to bed early, exhausted from relaxing all day.

Here is what my day actually looked like:
- Got up at 6 am with Jack
- Made Jack breakfast
- Touched lunchmeat way too early in the day
- Trudged to grocery store
- Met Denise for lunch - had an awesome time!
- Unpacked camping stuff that was strewn all over my house (we came back from camping the night before)
- Laundry (from camping)
- Gave pets a little attention since we were gone for 5 days...pat, rub, pat, rub...okay, enough of that...
- Picked up Jack at volley ball tournament (his team won!)
- More laundry, unpacking, and then did a load of dishes
- Met Mimi at bus stop
- Took Mimi to horseback riding
- Made dinner
- Helped kids with homework
- Vegged in a coma on the couch while the kids watched something silly
- Kids to bed
- Resumed coma position

There were no cheese curls. There was no rain. There was no lounging on the couch. I touched lunch meat at 6:30 am . I showered, dressed in something other than sweats, and put make up on...all before 9 am. I would not have traded my lunch with Denise for anything, but that is about the only part I wouldn't change. And it turns out, that night I wasn't exhausted. I was hell bent on getting a "do over"...and that's exactly what I did. I stayed up until 1:30 a.m. watching dvr'd Oprah episodes, crying my eyes out (even the happy ones make me cry), sipping wine, and eating cheese-its (I forgot the cheese curls when I trudged to the grocery store). In hindsight, that was "stupit"...at least that is what my body told me the next morning.

I'm still waiting for a great rainy day to lounge around all day...or for the moment when I decide I won't feel guilty for doing that on a sunny day. Baby steps....

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I've decided to call 2010 "The Year of Rediscovering Little Kelly". Have you ever wondered what happened to that little kid that had big dreams with no awareness of the possibility for failure or even the fear of the obstacles that might be presented along the way? Where is the little girl that could get lost in the world of Barbies for hours without feeling guilty of spending time doing something she enjoyed doing rather than thinking about all the things she should be doing. I long for the days when I took the time to live in the moment, without even realizing what I was doing. I long for the days when success was measured by my smile at the end of the day rather than how many check boxes were crossed off my to do list.

My name is Kelly and today is a new beginning for me. I recently left a great job that I loved after 14 years with a major financial firm. Upon learning that my position was moving to Boston, I started thinking about what this would mean for me and my family. Ultimately I would leave the house at 6:30 am, before my son left for his bus and before my daughter was even awake, and wouldn't return home until 6:30 on a good day. Then when I got home, tense as a high strung poodle, I would get sucked into the world of dinner, dishes, endless homework, asking "how was your day?" while I chopped vegetables, never once looking at my kids as they answered the question. There wouldn't be time for eye contact. And with any luck, we would squeeze in some "quality time" of cuddling on the couch before bed time. Forget about having meaningful conversation with my husband at that point. We would quickly cover what was on tap for the next day before we fell into comas. That wasn't the life I wanted for me and my family. I am a big believer that everyone has a purpose here on Earth and I couldn't accept that this was going to be my fate. Don't get me wrong...I know there are many people out there who live this life and will tell you that their children are happy, well adjusted beautiful people, that they have wonderful relationships with their spouses and friends, and that they feel successful and fulfilled. But I do wonder if they look in the mirror and ask themselves "Where did that little girl go? Who have I become?"

I left my job to find myself again and my blog will take us all on the journey of finding Little Kelly.