spring break part II

Miss L’s Spring Break was mostly rained out but hopefully between a Painting with a Twist activity, roller skating, and a couple of movies at the downtown second-run theater (Rogue One and Lego Batman), she wasn’t too bored.

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We kicked things off with Mexican.

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We love board games. And by “we” I mean all of us.

There was, however, a LOT of time spent in pajamas.

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The swans are nesting at Kensington and the rookery is full of cranes. I can watch their nests all day – they’re like something from another time, enormous shaggy piles of sticks and twigs, with prehistoric birds rising from them and circling.

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We went to the library and I always end up reading her books as well as mine.

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She has, of course, already requested another Disney trip for our Spring Break next year, so I guess I will start saving my pennies again.¬† ūüôā

 

Betsie Bay Frozen 5k & warm snap skiing

Over the long President’s Day weekend, Jax & I loaded the kids (Miss L and his 2 teenagers – well, one is almost a teenager) into Finn (my Subaru Outback) and went north. There were running shoes in our bags and skis in the luggage box on the roof and we made good use of them over the weekend. On Saturday morning, Jax & I and his son B ran the Betsie Bay Frozen 5k. This is a great little event that supports nonprofits in the Frankfort / Elberta area, aka my happy place. A February event in the Betsie Bay area is typically snowy and arctic, but this year’s weird winter made it a perfect springlike run, with temps in the mid to upper ’40’s.

The event starts about halfway up the steep hill to the Elberta bluff, which overlooks Lake Michigan. It’s a perfect pre-race photo opp, with the lake, the Frankfort lighthouse and dunes in the background. Because parking is limited up on the bluff overlook, runners pick up their packets at the Frankfort American Legion hall and are bussed over to the start. It’s such a fun way to meet other runners and I hadn’t ridden on a school bus in years.

The first 100 meters or so is a sharp downhill, which is the perfect start for a race as far as I’m concerned (although I don’t know how they manage it during a normal winter – I could envision a pileup of runners at the icy, snowy bottom!) I’m a slow start runner so anything that forces me to go out at goal pace warms me up faster and usually improves my overall time. Next, you run through small Elberta, past the Cabbage Shed restaurant (the owners were outside with signs advising us that after the race, we’d more than earned a pint or two of Guinness) and out onto M-22, where you cross over the mouth of the Betsie River and wind down onto Main Street in Frankfort. The course is fairly flat after the initial downhill, and the locals come out to cheer you on, and the bus drivers that dropped you off are passing you on the road, honking and yelling their support. I surprised myself with a 27.18 finish, not a PR but a strong performance for me in a mid-winter event when my training has been spotty (I still got schooled by a lady in her 60’s and another lady pushing a stroller!! This event is stacked). Jax & B harbored secret hopes of placing, but had to content themselves with placing in their age groups only, as the event was chock full of Traverse City Track Club runners who blew everyone’s doors off. This was actually disappointing as there were tons of raffle items and little prizes for the top places. More so than any event I frequent, the local merchants and businesses donated a lot of cool swag and I was a bit deflated to walk away with nothing but my swag bag (not even my shirt – it was too big so I gave it to B).

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Miss L watching me come through the homestretch. She ran me in from here. ‚̧

 

On Sunday, we enjoyed skiing at nearby Crystal Mountain in 50-degree temps. Rather, Jax & his kids skiied while Miss L took her first-ever lesson and I sat on a hay bale in the sunshine, knitting and feeling happy to watch her joy. I’d paid for a 2-hour group session, but the warm temps had apparently diminished the attendance levels, so Miss L had a ski instructor all to herself. Midway through the lesson, they took a snack break for hot chocolate and L stripped off her jacket and finished the lesson in her shirtsleeves. She was a quick study and as I sat there watching her, I thought that few things in life are as pleasing as watching your child learn something new, have adventures, and accomplish things.

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The face of a happy mom.

After her lesson, Jax and his daughter took L on some of the easy hills so she could get good use out of her new skills. I knitted away and after an hour or so, Jax came down the hill, followed by a little pink streak who swooshed by me and came to an expert stop a few feet away.

 


Yup, Miss L is a natural on skiis, and reminded me of Little My in “Moominland Midwinter”, learning to skate on table knives and toboggan on a silver tray, wrapped in a tea cosy.

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what’s saving my life right now

A couple of the blogs I read (Modern Mrs. Darcy and Carrie Willard) do the “what’s saving my life right now” post right around this time of year – earlier this week we celebrated Imbolc for the pagans, St. Brigid’s day, Candlemas, and for the rest of us, the halfway point from the winter solstice to the Equinox. The darkness hasn’t bothered me so much this year, but it’s undeniably nice to know that every day we are turning back to the light, and on days like yesterday, when the sun is out and bright, I just want to sit in a sunbeam and soak up some vitamin D.

So what’s saving MY life right now?

  • Reading – I am bouncing back and forth between an “airport novel” – which is what I call the bestsellers that always seem to be on the racks at airport bookstores – fast paced, adventurous, usually with a spy or a team or agents of some kind. They’re an indulgence – this one is a James Rollins “Sigma Force” book called “The Seventh Plague” and somehow I am already halfway though it. Anyway, I’m bouncing between that and “The Happiness Equation” because one of my goals this year is to read more nonfiction and although self-help isn’t really what I had in mind, absorbing more suggestions on how to be even 5 or 10% happier is just fine.
  • Being off Facebook right now. Yup. I took my own advice and took a sabbatical from Facebook and Twitter – I stayed on Instagram because it is a much more beautiful and soothing brand of social media for me. My feed is full of beautiful pictures of Norway, of Japan, Europe, cats and birds, my alma mater, handmade things and my happy places and beautiful rooms. I need these things to stay alive and right now I don’t need to steep myself in the live feed of the unrelenting negativity of Donald Trump’s administration and the divisiveness that is causing in our country.
  • Podcasts. In particular I just love My Favorite Murder (stay sexy, don’t get murdered) and Thinking Sideways. I’m also immersed in the archives of You Must Remember This and just worked my way through her series on Charles Manson’s Hollywood.
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“My Favorite Murder” has some pretty funny merch, too – I think I need one of these mugs for our staff meetings.

 

  • Finding a brief moment of hilarity at work. One of our coworkers recently returned from a long illness and he was greeted by this actually very creepy Elmo balloon, which has arms and legs and is probably four feet tall. (Why do people buy Mylar balloons still? This balloon will be clogging up some whale’s intestines long after I am ashes and dust. This stuff doesn’t biodegrade.) Over the course of a few days, Elmo began to drift aimlessly down the aisles, bouyed by rogue air currents, and I would frequently turn around to find it staring in my office window. When the GC was out one day, we decided he could be her temporary replacement.

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  • The snug life with this little guy – with a hot water bottle under the blanket and a movie from the Lucky Day section of the library on TV – and below that, a throwback to my favorite little human’s early years, provided at random one day by my brother, who found this snap on his phone and shared it with me. ‚̧

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  • A gift that I gave myself, for my evening tea, a reminder of a childhood best friend.

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  • And lastly – the bonds of trust, respect, and affection that I share with other people in my community. This was demonstrated eloquently during the Multicultural Night that was hosted by Miss L’s elementary school. On a purely voluntary basis, families and organizations came together for a night to celebrate the beautiful diversity in our community. Children from all grades (including Miss L and several of her besties) volunteered to perform, to sing songs and show what they’ve learned on different musical instruments – maracas and recorders and Indian and African drums. Some children dressed in costumes representing their ethnic backgrounds and families brought all sorts of food to share. The halls, gym, library, cafeteria, and art room were packed – the turnout was amazing. Miss L and her friends ran all over the school making memories together, doing crafts like Chinese lanterns and Roman mosaics, having their wrists henna painted by the mothers and grandmothers of some of our Indian students, and watching Irish dancing from a local dance school. There wasn’t a single political comment made, but the entire evening, which is an annual tradition at the school, spoke volumes and made me so incredibly proud of our community and our public school. We are truly blessed.

Happy weekend, all. xoxo

shine like glamour

So what have I been up to since we last talked? Let’s see, we went to a carnival with my brother and his family.

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There’s something about a small-town fair that really appeals to me. I think it reminds me of how exciting it was when we were kids – all the old small-town festivals and county and state fairs. In daylight, they look tired and cheap, but at night, especially to a kid, they glimmer and shine like glamour.

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My brother is always an excellent carnival companion, perhaps the best there is. He is prone to pointing out that when I am on a particularly frightening ride, I curse in a decibel lower than my regular voice. This observation always makes me laugh and think of Chris Farley of SNL dressed up like the Gap salesgirl. He makes me laugh so hard and so often that my abdomen aches the day after I am with them.

Miss L juked me twice this year. If she wants to go on a scary ride, I of course must accompany her. However, as I get older, the heights really bother me. This year, she was determined to go on the shock drop, where you are harnessed in and they lift you up up up 70 feet into the air. You are essentially sitting with your legs dangling, nothing between you and oblivion but a locking harness. Miss L ran up, sat down; I sat next to her and locked my harness in place. Once this was done, Miss L jumped out of the seat and said, “Nope. Changed my mind,” and scampered off to join my SIL, who was shrieking with laughter. “Well hell no am I doing this, then,” I thought, and tried my harness. Locked and loaded. No escape. And the ride began its ascent. Everyone thought that was quite hilarious.

She also thought she wanted to ride the Zipper, in which you are locked into a tiny revolving cage and spun up and around, over and over. I climbed in – she climbed in next to me – the cage door began to swing shut and she was out of there like a shot. Luckily, my brother climbed in next to me, and as the cage door locked and we began the ascent, he said conversationally, “Well, if there was some sort of catastrophic event down below, we’d really be screwed, locked in up here, wouldn’t we?” NOT HELPFUL.

We went back and my SIL had arranged a lovely little birthday party for Miss L. It’s always a fun tradition and one that I remember all year long.

The weather has turned a bit cooler and Labor Day, the last hurrah of summer, is almost upon us. The major road construction that has plagued us is over, and school starts next week. Still, true autumn feels a long way off still. My friend had a Lularoe pop-up party on Facebook and despite my caution toward such cultish things, I bought some leggings and a skirt and am excited to wear them with boots and sweaters, hopefully soon. I need cool weather, rain and incense, knits and candles and a fire in the woodstove.

 

loose ends

The house has been empty and quiet this week with Miss L spending time with her dad & his fam, so I’ve been a bit at loose ends. Weeks like this can be tough for me as it’s easy to fall into a morass of missing her / hoping I’m a good mum / feeling guilty for having alone time / feeling guilty about spending time with Jax & his kids without her / hoping she’s having a good time with people she really loves and who really love her but also hoping with a small selfish part of me that she misses ME too = a lot of conflicting feelings that I’m sure single mums will relate to. Suffice it to say, although I really couldn’t be luckier / happier / more blessed about our blended family situation – in which all adults are incredibly mature and genuinely kind and loving – I still have a LOT of personal issues of my own to work through. No surprise, as I know I am still a work in progress, but I am committed to trying to put my own feelings to one side to do the best I can for Miss L in every stage of her life. Roots and wings, as my own mom told me, roots and wings.

So, as I mentioned, I spent some time at Jax’s house, made dinner for his crew and got some major loving from Izzy.

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I did some running and have some more to do this weekend. I’m at the point in my training where I am seeing and feeling results – both good and bad. My times and endurance are better, but my legs feel crummy – “sprung”, as I call it. My calves, ankles, and shins are full of tight, red-hot wires that pull and twitch. Everything south of my knees aches. 8 miles tomorrow.

I finished “Wolf Lake”, a gloomy wintery mystery by John Verdon, and just started “Ink and Bone” by Lisa Unger. I have so many books going that I don’t know where I am at any given moment. “Ink and Bone” is my actual physical library book – for bedtime and “serious” reading. I’m listing to “Her Fearful Symmetry” on an audio disc borrowed from our paralegal, and “The Likeness” by Tana French on Audible while I run. In between – for cross training on the elliptical or sitting around unexpectedly waiting for someone – I have “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton on my old Kindle.

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At work, there is a kerfuffle over whether the town hall doors (where we keep the office supplies, refrigerators, microwaves, trash, etc) should remain open or closed. I actually heard a heated meeting about this in a conference room on the other side of my office wall. “We’ve been doing it this way for FOURTEEN YEARS!!!” “It’s a black and white issue to me.” “WHAT IF SOMEONE IS CARRYING HOT SOUP AND CAN’T OPEN THE DOOR?!”

I’m starting to get heirloom tomatoes and I’m watching “I Am Not Your Guru” about Tony Robbins. Tomorrow I get to pick up Miss L and we head directly to my brother’s house for our annual trip to the carnival. I love the creepy small town carnival. I always think I might see a ghost.

catch up

 

I always sort of hate when I haven’t blogged for awhile, and I have all this stuff to catch up on, and no idea where to start, and so I just put it off even longer. Sigh. Anyway, I survived Turkey Day without my little chickadee, we were joyfully reunited, and then I had to turn around and fly to Miami for three days on business, which neither of us were pleased about.

The boys weren’t happy about it either.

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Miami was rainy and overwhelming. The sheer number of people pressing in on me every place we went was completely daunting. The traffic was beyond anything I’d seen. The hotel lobby was packed full of men (soccer convention?) in tight shirts, reeking of cologne and yelling at each other in some beautiful language. And staring. I’m unaccustomed to being frankly stared at and it had nothing to do with me being any sort of beauty, they stared at every woman in the same assessing, flirtatiously challenging way. ¬†I commented on FB that it was like ‘Night at the Roxbury’ in a hotel lobby and before a person is properly awake and had coffee, it is extremely off-putting. I did not make eye contact with anyone and pushed through for the toaster projecting an air of ‘don’t fuck with me’ which is kind of difficult when you’re clutching marmalade and a slice of wheat bread.

The chickadee & I have been trying to slide back into our normal routine. She likes adventure and she has done awesomely well with dividing her time between my house and her dad’s, but it can take its toll, too, when she has traveled and I have, and things aren’t consistent. So the past few days have been lots of this.

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Alex, the Elf on the Shelf, has made his reappearance. He was absent last year, as in the years before that, Miss L, as a toddler, understood only that he was a spy for Santa. “I hate that elf,” she said thoughtfully. So Alex took some time¬†off and triumphantly came down the chimney a few days ago and Miss L is alternately charmed and apprehensive. It was funny when she found him wearing a Barbie skirt and leading a parade of her My Little Ponies; however, this morning, she came to find me in bed and said urgently, “Mommy – there’s something creepy in the bathroom, and IT’S THE ELF.” He was ziplining down some toilet paper unrolled between the top of the bathroom cabinet and the sink. I understood. Alex has kind of pointy legs that seem a bit spidery, and the glazed grinning face…yeah, I get it. However, once the lights were turned on and she saw him properly, she found it hilarious, but there is definitely still some lingering terror over the elf’s purpose and whether he uses his powers for good or for evil. I’ll have to make sure that the elf’s adventures are completely innocuous and nothing she could stumble onto in the dark, thus inflicting psychological trauma in the vein of evil clowns, dolls that come to life, etc.

greenfield village halloween walk

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My dad’s loathing of crowds is notorious in our family. One of my favorite grievances from childhood, which I dwell on with¬†regular morbid enjoyment to punish him, is the memory of taking a boat ferry to Mackinac Island on a lovely summer day…only to be confronted with an island full of tourists. My dad struggled gamely for a few minutes, we bought ice cream cones, I was enjoying a butter pecan in a waffle cone, and then bam. The huge influx of humanity evaporated his patience and just like that, I was being told to THROW AWAY THE WAFFLE CONE so we could get back on the ferry to the mainland.

As I get older, my attitude toward crowds is very similar. I still can’t imagine throwing away a perfectly good ice cream cone to escape them, but I find that large crowds really detract from my enjoyment of anything, and unfortunately, we experienced that this past weekend.

We are taking Miss L to Disney over Halloween weekend as a surprise, and although I know she’ll love it, I was starting to feel a little sad that she wouldn’t get the traditional Midwest trick or treating experience – the cold air, the fallen leaves, a sky full of stars, the crushing bummer of having to wear a coat over your costume. So I bought tix to the Halloween Walk at Greenfield Village.

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Greenfield Village is pretty awesome, but in my mind I always confuse it with Crossroads Village, which we frequented as children, and which is a little more rough-hewn, so to speak, than Greenfield Village. I was imagining more dusty tracks and rough edges and maybe a chill coming over the fields, a more genuine experience.

Pros:

  • The Halloween walk is a mile of hand-carved jack o’lanterns winding through a really amazing historic village.
  • They had a great old film reel of ghostly cartoons, all in black and white.
  • Parking wasn’t much of a problem.
  • The staff was decked out in amazing costumes.

Cons:

  • The crowds.
  • There were exceptionally long lines for the 10 treat stations and the treats were sub-par. If I’d known we were standing in line for a Twizzler, or a mini-Snickers bar, or a Halloween-themed postcard, of all things, I’d have bought a bag of treats ahead of time and doled them out to Miss L myself.
  • The crowds.
  • The crowds.
  • The crowds.

It was PROHIBITIVELY crowded and by the end of it (a winding mile walk is a lot for little six year old legs) we’d lost her mask and been dangerously close to being trampled several times. There was a vague promise on the website of the ‘Headless Horseman galloping out of the fields’ but this was just shtick as he merely stood near a fence and bantered with the crowds.

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Miss L was polite about the experience, but non-committal about wanting to do it again, and by the end of the night, we were both very happy to take our donuts home and get under a blanket on the couch. She was tuckered out from the crowds and the walking; I was a little bummed out about the crowds and the overall slick, unenthusiastic nature of the proceedings. I love autumn and I love Halloween, and I feel like people are so desperate for an authentic, historic, mystical, autumnal experience that they will stand in long lines for mass produced entertainment, crowded hayrides and pumpkin patches entirely devoid of sincerity, to achieve it. Go walk in the woods, for Pete’s sake, or visit a real¬†farm, or just spend an afternoon raking.

The whole crowd experience, and Miss L’s lack of enthusiasm about it, and my own perilously squeezed patience with the masses, has made me more than a little apprehensive about Disney this coming weekend…We shall see.

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