Monthly Archives: July 2014

‘BrickFair’ and ‘Insanity’ Both Have Two ‘i’s

Insanity is defined as carrying out the same action over and over, with expectation for varying results. No need to cite Merriam Webster. We all know this to be true.

At this moment, I beg to differ with the established meaning. Insanity — to me currently — is the overwhelming craziness that accompanies preparing for a weekend away with your family, all the while still running through your usual to-do list of daily and weekly activities. You know, the list. We all have one. If it were animated in any way, it would laugh demonically at us, while chanting “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft agley.” (Yes, my evil, never ending to-do list is a Robert Burns fan. Just roll with it.) In spite of having the same 24 hours a piece as everyone else, this list sometimes just barely fits into a 7-day stretch on its own.

Don’t get me wrong. I am very much looking forward to our weekend plans — attending BrickFair at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va., where we had a very interesting, albeit fatigued time last summer. As I’ve mentioned previously — maybe starting around this time last year, when we first attended BrickFair — we’re a family that is big on LEGO, which is what BrickFair is all about. (My living room table is half-covered in various bricks and minifigures on a continual basis. As I write this post, it holds as a truth.)

Nevertheless, I see it as a small miracle that this particular post you are reading even exists, as I’ve been so mentally consumed with thinking about BrickFair and assimilating what we’ll need while in Virginia, that I was creatively blocked all last week into the start of this one. This translates to me doing 11th hour writing, so to speak. Yes, created yesterday for today. I don’t like operating this way as it feels unpolished, and I fear it comes across that way. Especially as I couldn’t latch onto an idea or topic that seemed interesting enough. (I hope that I am not being a complete bore with this one!)

Still, I’m grateful that somewhere in that thin transitional line between a.m. and p.m. yesterday I realized that I could share with you that we’ve been readying ourselves for this little trip. After all, it isn’t the first for me to write about my most frequently occurring thoughts.

This year, we’re a little more invested, as my husband is exhibiting with the LEGO group in which he is a member, Charm City LUGS. Participation requires a five-day commitment. I’m not sure how this hits other spouses of BrickFair exhibitors, but I am certainly feeling the full effect of my husband’s involvement. It seems like BrickFair has been our main joint thought for the past few weeks. And because I dread packing for anywhere for any length of time (what if I forget something?), I’ve been mentally hyperventilating.

Oh, right. I have to keep reminding myself. This is going to be a good time. This is something I’m actually looking forward to experiencing again. Once we actually get to our destination. Why am I worrying so much? Because. It is just a natural reaction for me when something that is or feels big comes up. And because I feel like I am meant to worry about it. Supposing that if I don’t allow it to reside somewhere in my thoughts all week long, that somehow I will be neglecting the pending plans in some way, subtracting its importance to us.

Regardless of worries, it will be a blast, in particular for my kiddo, as the new addition this year, a moon bounce, has her more intrigued than she already was, which I didn’t think was even possible. This momma’s opinion is that the new kids’ attraction pairs well with something that was already offered, the Stay & Play area. Filled with LEGO bricks, as well as tables and chairs for ease of building, it is the one spot where the “no touching displays” rule doesn’t exist. Last year while exploring Stay & Play, my little lady and her daddy constructed a race car, then joined other kids and their parents in spontaneous match-ups via a brightly painted wooden ramp, placed there for that purpose.

Personally, I am strongly anticipating the Steampunk displays, which were really cool last year. But then, I found the overall event, the energy, the time, the thought, the creativity, and the apparent effort to be nothing short of impressive. To say that I spent that afternoon in awe would be falling a little short. Just as that very description probably won’t near the mark this go either.

While we are visiting that general section of Virginia, we will be doing other fun family activities apart from BrickFair, such as checking out the Reston Zoo. My daughter is as equally enthused for this, as she is for BrickFair. Really though, she’s stoked just about having a reason to stay in a hotel room. (I’m not sure why, but I also enjoy temporary hotel living.)

So, dear readers, we have a rare situation: I know what I will be writing about for next Tuesday’s post. BrickFair, obviously. I’ll include tons of photos, as I had last year, and possibly some video footage, if I end up lucky in that area.

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The Night We Helped A Very Tiny Caterpillar

Last Tuesday evening, I sat in my basement in the space that I lovingly call my “art studio,” under the effects of a zen-like state from crafting a birthday card. Simultaneously, I listened to my daughter and husband exchange joyful exclamations — a result of the video game that they were playing together — while a surprise visitor crept among our family of three, silently and softly shimmying along the carpet.

It’s ironic that in spite of not having the best or strongest eye sight, when I pivoted backward to put away some materials I spotted some small movement on the carpet. I crouched down, squinting at it, doubtful of what I initially thought that I was seeing. Confirmation! — it was a baby caterpillar, or rather, one so small that it appeared to be infantile.

This isn't the greatest shot, I know, but here is our little visitor.

This isn’t the greatest shot, I know, but here is our little visitor.

 

I observed it for a moment, fully aware of the smile that spread across my face — slow and warm, like butter — from the enjoyment of its presence. Simultaneously,  I wondered how it got into the house. Did it hitch a ride on my husband’s shoe as he entered from work a few hours before? A short span of time for us…but surely a seemingly longer duration for this mini larva. Where was it previous to that 8 o’clock hour that I was just noticing its existence?

I didn’t want to disturb it, but I also couldn’t leave it to scuttle along the length and breadth of our house, with no food source or natural habitat.

“He built a small house around himself, called a cocoon. He stayed inside for more than two weeks.” Except I knew — without having much knowledge on the life of a larva, really — that he couldn’t stay inside our small house for 24 hours, let alone 14 days.

At that moment, my daughter and husband entered the space, as it was her bedtime, and she was headed to implement her nightly routine. I already had myself positioned so that the caterpillar would not get squashed. Motioning with my arm extended back to slow their approach, I stage whispered “We have a guest,” while pointing to its little wiggling form on the floor.

“Awww, how cute!” my daughter exclaimed. The three of us watched this very tiny caterpillar until I broke our reverie by verbalizing my wonder, which was quick becoming concern — “Maybe we should help it get back outside. It might die in our house.” My spouse agreed that providing a friendly escort would be a good idea, especially as it wouldn’t be able to find food within the well-meaning, but stifling confines of our four walls.

He suggested a small, but sturdy box. How kismet that earlier that day I discarded into the recycling bin something exactly fitting from a makeup item. I retrieved it — a tiny, black Avon box — from the bin, and with all my gentleness, coaxed the caterpillar onto the ebony cardboard, explaining to my daughter that their little feet stick to things, which would help me to help our new friend.

Then the three of us walked gingerly up the basement steps — me with the Avon packaging-turned-larva taxi in my grasp — to the front door, opening it into the moist, dark end of the day. I settled the tiny caterpillar as softly as I could onto our welcome mat. “Bye!” the three of us said together, a slightly sad tone to our voices, as we had to part from our friend no sooner after making its acquaintance.

“And after that he felt much better.” At least, I hope it did, as it would have only met illness in our residence.

My memory of this particular evening will always be about this sweet act we did for another living thing, but also, I love the fact that it was even about more than that. In tandem, in giving the caterpillar back its freedom, we set a certain example for our daughter. My hope is that my husband and I are molding her into a person who will always take the time to set something on its way, as opposed to showing disregard by squashing underfoot or simply ignoring.

“He was a beautiful butterfly.” I’m still thinking about him, or her, hoping that s/he is indeed either preparing to spread some dazzlingly beautiful wings sometime soon, or already experiencing the joy of flight and life as a butterfly.

 

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The Trouble with 8-Year-Olds

My neighborhood is empty of children my daughter’s age. Mostly everyone is older than her. Largely, the other children are approximately eight — twice my girl’s age. That four years difference is a wide, deep chasm.

The trouble with 8-year-olds is that they are not 4-year-olds.

Four years on a time line is nothing. It’s a splash in the pan. It’s a blink. It’s the feeling that something happened, but what?

Four years between individuals is such a different matter, especially prior to the onset of adulthood in the early 20s.

Let me tell you this: Eight-year-olds know about things that 4-year-olds do not. As a mother, as a 33-year-old, as an adult, I feel that many of these things neither age should be aware. But our world does not allow innocence to persist.

It’s true now. It was true 25 years ago. It will probably always be true and probably has been true since the earliest of modern times. Eight-year-olds know about things that they shouldn’t. Eight-year-olds know about things that 4-year-olds do not, should not know about.

I state this so adamantly because I was once an 8-year-old who knew of subject matter that I should not have (and how I came by it, I can not recall). Mainly, what comes to mind is the schoolyard trade-offs made between myself and my friend, Rebecca, who were both overly curious about sex. (Why? What was this about? Was it just because it was part of the not-yet-experienced?) Our giggly, hushed, rushed exchanges during recess were of stick figure drawings and stories scrawled on notebook paper — meant for the education we were supposed to be getting — of any understanding we thought we had about sex. I can remember a few…they weren’t completely wrong…but even so. I’m disturbed recalling this. I’m embarrassed opening this memory with you.

Even when it is not so much awareness of pieces of the adult world, sometimes it is simply the concern of behavior. Such is the case with a particular 8-year-old girl who lives on the next street that my daughter must look up to as she calls Red Wisdom (not her real name, but a play off of it) her friend. When she spots Red outside, she wants to be outdoors, too. Sporadically, she’ll mention Red. Depending on how I feel about Red at the moment influences my response: silent eye roll (negative) versus a short, but affirmative verbalization (positive).

She’s just a kid. I’m a grown woman. What’s my problem?

Ever since Red and her family moved into our neighborhood roughly three years ago, she has managed to state countless uncomfortable bits of communication, from bizarre to offensive. Not knowing where it really comes from, why she really says the things that she does, nor what her home life is really like in spite of being acquainted with both of her parents, I would create distance between her and her family, and the three of us whenever my encounters with her got weird.

For awhile, this worked. And well. So well that she began to travel down the street on the opposite side from my house, and shoot eye-daggers at me whenever in my vicinity or I in hers. I was convinced she hated me…and I was totally fine with that.

But then her parents began to chat us up more frequently, exhibit neighborliness. And even though I don’t trust it — in spite of making sure to always be polite and kind back — it caused me to notice that in the passing of time, Red seemed a little more grown up. A little subdued. A little nicer to be around.

So, when it progressed to the two girls beginning to hang out, I rolled with it. Trust is still absent — this is an area I struggle with overall anyhow. Once I’ve decided that I don’t trust someone, the best that I can return to is straddling a mental fence. This is where I was recently concerning Red and her family. The physical translation: my definite presence while she and my daughter play. After all, my daughter is only four.

Red suddenly upped her frequency of knocking at our door. I didn’t feel harassed until this past mid-week when she knocked three different times during the possible expanse of five hours, while I was experiencing an anti-door-opening, lock-the-world-out mood. I see nothing to apologize for just because I wanted to be with my daughter, just she and I, until Daddy arrived home.

When the time came that evening to put out the garbage for weekly collection, I slowed myself long enough to check all directions up and down the street, sensing that at any moment Red would pop into view. Sight lines were clear, so I muscled the refuse to its assigned spot on the grass, just inside the curb and forged onward to the mailbox. Convincing myself that I had managed my tasks without being hunted down by Red, I revolved back toward home only to notice her conversing with a boy that I had never seen. Oh, nonononono! I began to chant softly, hoping that she didn’t see me. That I could slip by and latch the lock behind me before she could catch up, or call out to me.

I couldn’t even complete that thought (go figure, a child interrupting an adult’s internal process). Red was no sooner calling after me.  Upon eye contact, she wasted not a nanosecond asking for my daughter to come out to play. I didn’t have an answer ready. I’m not the sort to think fast on my feet, while still coming across genuine and convincing.

“Uh, um, I’ll see. Let me go through this mail. I’ll send her out if she wants.” I stumbled. Geez, really?

In my annoyance, I decided that I would tell my daughter that Red was outside asking for her, but that I would make her wait a bit while shoes were grabbed and mothers were deliberate.

By the time I ushered my daughter — who was plastered to the front door, looking for all the world like she was on her mark for a race —  outside, little miss Red had already taken company with another 8-year-old girl who lives two doors down from us. A girl who supposedly isn’t allowed to hang with Red. A girl that doesn’t truly like Red, talks badly about her with a third neighborhood girl.

Sidewalk chalk in tow, my daughter made her presence known — as she isn’t one to shrink back like I was as a child — by going to where the two girls and a boy their age were gathered, saying “Come on, Red. Let’s do chalk,” which she repeated a handful of times before I felt myself getting irritated by Red’s obvious blatant impulse to be rude to my daughter by ignoring her.

“Honey, come back over here. Do your chalk on your own. Red will join you soon,” I said, offering up the chance to Red to redeem herself.

But she didn’t. She continued to show the side of herself that put me off of this little girl in the first place. The side that I thought she had out grown. The side that whispers conspiratorially — in front of me, in front of my daughter — with the girl who normally whispers about her. The side of herself that thinks she could get away with slipping a piece of profanity into the short conversation she had with me, then pretend that she didn’t know what I was referring to when I asked her about the start of what she said, as I (lying) hadn’t caught it.

My daughter kept persisting, kept trying to be a part of these three 8-year-olds. To his credit, the boy that we had never met acknowledged her existence enough for the lot.

It burned me up to see my girl disregarded, and made me worry about what fickleness may be to come with other females in the years ahead.

Somehow, I want my daughter to mature quickly in the regards of how people behave and what their behavior really indicates. Meaning, I want her to be able to identify this type of a scenario as not worth her time, and the person undeserving of her friendship.

How do I teach this, especially when she barely listens to me — already — about pretty much everything else?

Red made it clear for me that afternoon that I should never have given her a second chance. That my first impression of her was correct. My daughter might consider her a friend, but to her my daughter is merely a fall back when none of the other children arn’t available. This makes me sad. It would be worse had my daughter processed all this as well.

But she was only confused by Momma’s sudden anger (what seemed sudden to her) and insistence that we go inside now, and catch up with Daddy (who had been home for awhile at this point).

And even though Red and the other girl were making sure both myself and my daughter heard them discussing going to Red’s house, they lingered by our steps, which made me erupt. Done holding back, I loudly said to my daughter, “It isn’t very nice when someone knocks for you, then ignores you while you are outside trying to play with them. That sort of person doesn’t deserve to know you. She better not knock for you again because we’re done with her.”

“That’s just kids being kids,” my husband responded after catching the tail end of my mood, and inquiring why I was “jawing at an 8-year-old.” Nope. Unacceptable. That sort of thinking allows for tolerance and tolerance then allows for larger alienation until that child begins bullying another child. Like mine. Then we really will have issues, Miss Red.

And this from a child who just made me feel sympathetic for her a week prior when she looked me seriously in the eyes and said, “My brother and I don’t have very many friends.” Hmm, should I be surprised, considering her hot-and-cold attitude?

Red hasn’t knocked again. And she better not either.

It breaks my heart to see my 4-year-old try to blend in with all the 8-year-olds. To try to be eight herself. Eight is not what, nor who she is — at least not yet. Who she is, is who she should be, without question or doubt. Because this was one of those fundamentally important keys to life that was not specifically highlighted for me growing up, I’ve been attempting to clearly show this to her. Be yourself. Why is she rushing already not only to accelerate her age, but to be someone other than the little lady I love and adore?

I get that she is ready for more friends — wants more friends — but as her mother, I am protecting her fiercely because it is my job and because it is my love. Attempting protection from the undesirable types of children, ones that will only cause drama and pain, the ones that would influence her down the wrong path. I don’t want the trouble of 8-year-olds, or any age, to be the trouble with my daughter.

 

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Playing with Words #1: Alternative

Alternative.

Alter    native.

Change from the original.
Change to what is not the norm.

Transform.

Re-create.
Reinvent.

Alternative has been one of my favorite words, and for a lengthier stretch than I realized until today.

Hearkening back to the 1990’s — my high school days — when grunge, a subgenre falling under the alternative umbrella, was king, and the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, and Soundgarden were the airwaves, have I been fond of the word.

And the music, of course.

And the idea — the truth — that there are options in life.

And that even as collective people or as individual persons, we can flow with and adapt to change to the point that we ourselves enter and journey through a metamorphosis.

I remember that when I initially heard that phrase about “how boring life would be were we all the same,” and was struck by how true that is, as well as how we don’t have to be cookie cut outs of each other as one of those simple beauties of life. One that far too many people either take for granted or have no appreciation for from the start.

Behind this, I wondered to myself why then, all the pressure — in school, at home (both of those because of my then-adolescent status), in life — to not be different.

No one way — of thinking, of being, of living, of loving, of expressing, of doing — is right (though I believe many if not most of us can agree that there are certain things that are fundamentally and irrevocably wrong).

Yet we have inspirational graphics reminding ourselves and others to “be you because everyone else is taken” and to “march to the beat of your own drum.” I love them; they’re beautiful and have served as little boosts when I’ve needed them. But wouldn’t it be even more wonderful if we didn’t need them? If being different — exercising an alternative of some sort, any sort — was so accepted that it never even crossed any human mind to question it?

Madonna has long instilled in the general population the concept she choose for herself: continual reinvention of herself. Just the mention of her name sets off a series of mental images of her throughout the various stages of her career, how she did alter, on several occasions, a few of those quite dramatically. Of course, one of her transformations was especially dramatic, and one that most people — from other celebrities down to commoners, like us — never thought would transpire, ironically, in spite of her name — shifting into the image of mother.

As an 8-year-old girl — who, as I look back at her, probably still had a touch of believing in fairy tales — when armed with cassette player, the will to sing at the top of my lungs, dance as horribly wonderful as I felt like, and just ample enough floor space, I’d keep “Dear Jessie” (and “Like A Prayer”) on repeat, occupying an hour or more of my innocent time.

I’ve long since stopped following her music anywhere near as closely as I did. Not for any true reason that I can recall though. Probably, out of fear of looking uncool, geeky. I mean, how could I be a brooding teen, listening to grunge with other brooding teens and also still enjoy Madonna. Right? (How ridiculous, youth!)

Even so, I’ll never lose respect and awe for her undertaking of herself, for the strength to stand on her own that has been exhibited in each instance. Having had that ubiquitous female example, even during when I wasn’t paying her any mind (as well as when I was but didn’t let on) spoke volumes to me about transformation, about the alternative, about life’s options. But because I wasn’t ready to hear it or use it until my twenties, it remained out of reach, one of those ideas you feel snarky about because other people got to do that. Not my reality.

Alternative. How attractive. How freeing, especially after realizing that with all the options in life, there is always another way, another approach, another alternative. I just wish that it hadn’t taken so much of my life passing behind me for this clarity.

I wish that I had been born knowing all on my own — like my 4-year-old — that not only can another approach be found in any situation, but that the willingness to find an alternative whenever it is called for should in and of itself be embraced. On occasion, does her skill in sussing out an alternative derive from mischief? You betcha. Like when Daddy has already said, “No, you can not watch the Hello Kitty DVD right now,” so she waits a beat and asks her unsuspecting aunt, who happened to be visiting, to help with her media mission. But because her skill is also what makes her a natural-born problem solver, her reinvention of what’s possible sometimes saves the day. Like when she pitches in on dinner ideas for the week, and thinks of the one meal that we haven’t.

Change from the original.

Transform.

Reinvent.

Alter.

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No Pressure, No Diamonds

“Shine bright like a diamond…/Find light in the beautiful sea/I choose to be happy…” Diamonds by Rihanna

An injury. A plateau. Another injury.

June was a challenging quad of weeks in my fitness endeavors, making each workout that I could manage more appreciated and hard-won than I had anticipated. Personal aspects simultaneously proved formidable.

The first injury was to my left shoulder — my dominant side, naturally — and occurred toward the top of a stressful week on my community homeowners’ association board.

A fellow resident, who was soon to see his vehicle towed due to expired tags, thought that he could undermine the community rules by deciding upon his own personal set when he drove the vehicle off the parking pad, through a grassy common area central to several homes, visibly ripping up the turf, and parked it in his newly-built back yard gate. As if it were a carport. We have no carports in our neighborhood. Also, who does that? Who parks a vehicle in their back yard?

I was assigned by the president of our board to draft a letter post-haste. Forty-eight hours into the situation, I had composed four different drafts. Then the vice-president wrote one. Then the president wrote the final draft. Then one of the other board members attempted comedy — that just read like foolishness to my eyes by mid-week — about what he worked on while the rest of us played law office. (Resignation popped ’round for a visit, screaming a “HELLO!!” in my face. I used exercise to get through the stress, and to silence Resignation for another month.)

By now, I have no idea which workout or instructor that I follow via DVD hurt my shoulder, both from time passing in what felt like an excessively rapid fashion, and life itself moving at a speed that prevented me from processing each day until at least the next one, when, of course, more was already happening.

Because I’m a little stubborn sometimes, I found a way around any and all shoulder discomfort in order to still exercise while that sudden tender spot remained bothersome. Chanting in my head in the throes of physical activity, “Be mindful of the shoulder. Be careful of the shoulder…” and intentionally doing a few rotator cuff segments in my fitness DVD collection to help me through. (A little poking around on Bing informed me that I had experienced a tear, as I had suspected. My first ever rotator cuff tear — remaining virginal in this respect would have been fine with me. )

With that back to 100% — even though it took up to two weeks — I returned to attacking one of my faves, kickboxing, with no insight that more very large pebbles in the road were ahead (including more board drama in the form of a long-time resident bestowing a personal attack upon me via written word — twice. Funny though, how this kind of aggression says more about the person expressing it then the person it is about and toward).

A dogged few pounds extra combined with a raised BMI were my unwelcome sidekicks at the scale one morning, appearing like an overnight drop-in. Maybe I ate too much yesterday. Maybe I allowed an indulgence that was nothing but a bad decision. Maybe I’m retaining water (thanks, humidity!). Maybe one of my organs grew?…Does that happen? Maybe so many possibilities.

I accepted it, whatever “it” and all of “it” was, from the inner physical battles to the outward bombardments, and began to tweak. My nutritional intake. My output of thoughts.

But that new small excess has been sticking around. Ugh, a plateau. Marvelous. I suppose I’m due as my last was the better part of shortly under a year ago. (I wrote about this. Maybe you remember? https://iloveyoumorethanicecream.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/fitness-freak-navigating-the-ups-and-downs-of-attempting-a-healthy-living/).

While all of that was being dealt with, I took my neck out. Badly. The worst I ever have since becoming serious about exercise 4 – 5 years ago. I think it was Gilad Janklowicz’ fault. Sorry, Gilad! I respect you, but having people put their hands behind their necks during ab work can only lead one place. Illin’ necks.

At first, I wasn’t worried. I’ve been sore before. And injured. Occasional par for the course when you integrate exercise as a part of your life. It even happens to athletes.

But the connecting weekend was trying and tiresome just with my body attempting to fight off and eliminate pain, in spite of the involvement of such a small area.

I began to fret that I had disconnected something vital. Then I felt scared.

After 2 -3 solid days, I caved. I did what I try in which to not resort. I took some over-the-counter meds — Tylenol. My body had convinced me that it was at the point where it needed help. That it could no longer do on its own what I needed — deletion of the pain and healing from my own random carelessness. For the second time in a few short weeks.

In all of this, I kept positive. I didn’t get hung up on numbers when the scale kept spitting up junk information. I kept my movements gingerly for the sake of my neck, which did eventually feel better, too, and avoided my hands behind my head at all costs — even in slumber. The workouts didn’t stop — couldn’t stop, wouldn’t stop — even as my husband thought me foolish for my tenaciousness. In fact, I hit up my girl, Jillian Michaels more often this past month than in any other point of my fitness history so far. (Thank you for showing me how to kick my own ass, Jillian!) She helped add to the good vibe, reinforcing for me that people can do and say whatever, but those acts themselves don’t cause any truth.

What they do cause, have the potential to cause is the pressure that makes one shine like a diamond when things get heavy.

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