Break

The last time I unplugged entirely for any extended period of time was over three years ago, when I went to Rio de Janeiro with my law school moot court team. I was completely without internet or phone for almost a week. Internet cafes were pricy and crowded, we did not pay for my flip phone to get international service, and my hostel’s one complimentary computer kiosk with internet was extremely slow, usually occupied, and had a whole bunch of keyboard keys for random Portuguese symbols in the place of the usual English punctuation.  (I just re-read my posts about that trip – if you’d like to, here they are.  Not too long, mostly bullet points and pictures.  Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4. Part 5.

For about a week, I was no longer subject to the tyranny of constant interruption. It took me a distressingly long time to quit checking my phone for texts or missed calls, but eventually that reward-feedback loop ceased. Time smoothed out. My mind, released from the metaphorical chains of constant phone monitoring, became alive with ideas and connections. Although deeply homesick for my boys at first, eventually I settled into the blisteringly hot, dirty, exciting, over-stimulating city and really dug in to a minute-by-minute experience. My husband and I did not speak or text once, although he wrote supportive emails from across the ocean. I read them at my leisure, at the hostel communal computer, when I had purposefully blocked out the time to do so (and not as soon as they arrived). Somehow, our marriage survived this 5-day communication blackout, as did my law school career, my children, and my friendships. The world did not fall apart in my absence. I have longed, since then, to regularly un-plug – a difficult thing for a law firm associate. But I’m about to do it at last!  I’m taking a week off, and going backpacking for part of it. I literally will be unreachable for a while, lost among the trees. I AM SO EXCITED. This is so healthy. I wish I could leave now.

Daily life with cell phones is a bit like running a marathon through heavy highway traffic – we are trying to accomplish something difficult which requires focus, while always on high alert for that next communication, always dodging and weaving, always being forced to confront that oncoming car the very second it appears on the horizon. We are buffeted by emergencies beyond our control, constantly interrupted. And unfortunately, while some of those emergencies are actually emergency-ish – in that our immediate attention is needed – most of them are not. There’s no way, right now, to screen out the “this needs attention now” stuff from the “you can get to this whenever” stuff. I actually think this will level out. This technology is so new – the people using it are new to it. We have not yet developed social constructs, separate streams of communication, or apps, or whatever, to help us manage this problem because it’s such a new problem that nobody gets the scale of it just yet, or the urgent need for a solution. We’ll get there. Simply removing all notifications from my phone has helped a lot already, and automatic email filters also helps. But until we get this beast under control, I can feel my brain chemistry wigging out with each surreptitious click/swipe/enter password/check if something SHINY AND NEW is here.

Back in the day, life without cell phones could be highly inconvenient and sometimes isolating. (Example – when I was in Rio, I planned to go to Sugar Loaf Mountain with some friends in a different room, but ended up going alone because we could never find each other. I survived and it was a cool day, but I would have been safer and less anxious with my Spanish- speaking friends.) I dig tech and its ability to form and foster human connection, but we must get ourselves to a place where life with cell phones is not so crazy and addictive. We have got to get to where we are permitted by work and culture to interact with them on our terms, and not constantly “on-leash” day in and day out.

On my last day in Brazil, I sat on the beach with a book for hours. I read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and bought a rainbow-colored sundress from a beach vendor, who forced me, as part of the price of my purchase, to learn how to say umbrella in Portuguese.

It was a good day.

Posted in Sometimes I Get Hepped Up and Think I Know a Thing or Two, Travel | Leave a comment

The Littlest

This summer I have some potted flowers on the porch.  In the dog days of July and August down here in the South, these little beauties need watered twice a day.  Craig, my watering can buddy, ‘helps’ me with this task before and after work.  I step down the stairs and head to the spigot on the side of the house, and he meanwhile lays on his tummy about 20 feet away from the top of the stairs and starts scooching backwards.  I love that he has learned to go downstairs backwards on his tummy, and it always makes me giggle that he starts his backwards slide so far away from the actual stairs.

By the time he actually gets himself down, I have already filled the watering can and come back around to greet him at the base of the front stairs.  He watches me pour the water and we chat about how plants need water and soil and sunlight.  Before I can stop him he grabs a handful of blooms and crushes them, then lets the bits of petal fall through his fingers to the ground.  I scold and brush off his hands, then carry him up the stairs to water the pots by the door.  He strides around importantly, garbling baby nonsense and getting down in a crouch to get a closer look, dimpled hands on chubby knees, a discerning furrow in his baby brow.  He rips a leaf, holds it to his face, crumples it up and smooths it out and shows it to me.  I try not to wince at the daily rending of my poor plants’ delicate bits, and instead oooh and aaaah in wonder.

When we have finished, we tuck the watering can behind a rocking chair, and then I open the front door.  The threshold is a little ridge of metal and rubber about 2 cm above floor level.   He used to need my helping hand to navigate this obstacle, but now he just grabs the door frame, then slowly slowly lifts his foot (way higher than necessary) and steps over it and into the house, trailing bits of leaf litter and petal in his wake.  Literally sprinkling flower dust wherever he goes.

************

“Booh!” he shouts assertively, and hands you a book.  You have read this book fifteen times today already.  He swings his arms with excitement, then turns around and backs up slowly into your lap.  He smiles, absolutely thrilled to read “The Monster At The End Of This Book” for the hundredth time.  Inside you roll your eyes and scream “I. CAN’T. READ. THIS. AGAIN.” but you read it, again, and he flips the pages and bounces in barely-controlled excitement.  You have every word memorized, and marvel at how something a simple as reading a book can be both torturous and delightful.  Sigh.  For him it is all delight, though, and so you do what all parents do, and delight him though the mind-numbing repetition steals a tiny piece of your sanity.

Before you even finish, he is looking around, ready to grab the next book.  Sometimes you read three in a row and then he hands you the first one again, and you read all three again.  He loves it so much.  How can he loves this so much – the same thing over and over again. He snuggles back into you, you are cheek to cheek, and you steal sidelong glances at him as you read.  So much baby fat.  The dimpled elbows, the rubber band wrists.  You run your fingers up and down his baby smooth skin, and say “I, lovable furry old Grover am the MONSTER at the end of this book,” and watch him giggle at how terribly silly that silly old monster is.  What a delight he is.  What a burdensome, exhausting, absolute delight.

Posted in Categorizing Things is Overrated, Tex | 1 Comment

Snippets of Summer Part Two

  • We did some other fun things in Nasvhille, as well, including going to the drive in to see Inside Out.
The back of the Pilot is the site of much summer fun this year

The back of the Pilot is the site of much summer fun this year

 

My view

My view

Drive In Selfie

Drive In Selfie

Craig was there too - snoozing

Craig was there too – snoozing

  • We went to a huge park and splash park
Spinning on the merry go round

Spinning on the merry go round

This is all the farther he got

This is all the farther he got

As usual, it took some courage for Jack to get down the slide, but eventually he conquered his fear

As usual, it took some courage for Jack to get down the slide, but eventually he conquered his fear

Liam, meanwhile, was going down headfirst in no time

Liam, meanwhile, was going down headfirst in no time

  • Once the splash park eventually opened, we had a sort of great time.  However, this splash park allows no running, horseplay, climbing, toys, buckets, or other objects.  It is gated and locked and two lifeguards are stationed at all times.   I mean, like, what??  I got over my annoyance and helped the lifeguards police the 5 year olds from running and horseplay, all the while muttering my disgust.
Kids were not permitted to lean on this strawberry, lest it count as "climbing"

Kids were not permitted to lean on this strawberry, lest it count as “climbing”

My boys are the ones in the rash guards.

My boys are the ones in the rash guards.

  • We went to the zoo.
Nana and the boys

Nana and the boys

Looking at the fish

Looking at the fish

Craig is always piled in with the big kids, thinks he's one of them

Craig is always piled in with the big kids, thinks he’s one of them

Jack begged me to take a picture of every single animal we saw.  Every.  Single.  One.

Jack begged me to take a picture of every single animal we saw. Every. Single. One.

The petting zoo was my favorite.  Baby plus baby goats!  Augh!

The petting zoo was my favorite. Baby plus baby goats! Augh!

Craig was very gentle

Craig was very gentle

Checking out Jack's favorite animal, the "Gomodo dragon" (Komodo)

Checking out Jack’s favorite animal, the “Gomodo dragon” (Komodo)

Craig gets his face wiped after soft serv bliss

Craig gets his face wiped after soft serv bliss

  • And I’ll throw in a few more miscellaneous pix, for fun.  Many of these are of Craig – he’s the slowest, and easiest to catch with a camera:
Sitting on the riding mower

Sitting on the riding mower

Reading the funnies

Reading the funnies

Cooking out for supper

Cooking out for supper

 

 

Pretty porch

Pretty porch

getting up the nerve to go in the splash pad

getting up the nerve to go in the splash pad

Playing by himself

Playing by himself

Buddies

Buddies

Buddies, take two

Buddies, take two

Reading with Nana

Reading with Nana

Posted in Jack, Liam, Parents and Siblings and Cousins, Oh My!, Tex | Leave a comment

Snippets of Summer

My boys

My boys

  • To honor Lachlan and Grandfather, we decided to plant a tree in our yard.  The boys and I went to a garden center and after much perusing, selected a plum tree, along with a few bushes to plant around it and our willow.  The boys were thrilled to observe the singularly novel act of Daddy driving our vehicle across the backyard grass to the fence line opposite the driveway, where we backed the car in close and then pulled out various landscaping bits and bobs from the trunk.  The Professor and I labored to pull up much of the landscaping around the existing willow, extend the bed, line it with large cement blocks, dig holes for the tree and bushes, etc. etc.  The boys flitted about, largely in our way, and then we ‘let’ them all 3 of them get in the back of the Pilot, with the gate down but the back window flipped up, radio blaring.  They were basically caged in while we finished in peace.  Jack, sipping a juice box as he surveyed his father and I in our labor, declared it the ‘best day ever’ and also said he just loved doing hard work.’
Boys plus plum tree, on our way home from the garden center.  No pix of the finished product, sadly.

Boys plus plum tree, on our way home from the garden center. No pix of the finished project, sadly.

  • In a surprise last-minute visit, my sister and her husband – freshly deposited in their brand new Texas home, which is much closer to us than their former Ohio home – came on over to Alabama for the weekend.  They waded with the boys in our backyard wading pool, took them to a splash pad, went with us to a Boy Scout end-of-year shrimp boil and a birthday part at Chuck E. Cheese . . . they were good sports, and we loved having them!
My sister came to visit and was promptly, and permanently, draped in boys

My sister came to visit and was promptly, and perpetually, draped in boys

Sister + Husband gamely attended a kid birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese.  Note poor Baby's face - he spent a night with a mosquito.  He looks bad, but you shoulda seen the mosquito.

Sister + Husband gamely attended a kid birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. Note poor Baby’s face – he spent a night with a mosquito. He looks bad, but you shoulda seen the mosquito.

  • We threw Liam a fifth birthday party – an afternoon splash party in our backyard.  Jack didn’t get a party this year, so we let him invite a friend or two to Liam’s.  I have a few of the actual party itself, but they have other people’s kids in them, and I feel leery of posting . . . so you get mostly decorations.  We had a slip and slide, a wading pool, a water table, a sprinkler, and buckets full of water and watering cans and little buckets and that sort of thing.  The kids had a blast, the parents ate nothing, and so we had party snacks to eat up for days.
Birthday!

Birthday!

Splash party, ready to go

Splash party, ready to go

Smiley attendee

Smiley attendee

Basket o' towels

Basket o’ towels

Nominally a Skylanders party

Nominally a Skylanders party

Party!

Party food that no one ate!

Craig had a great time at big brother's party

Craig had a great time at big brother’s party

  • We took a trip up to Nashville to Nana’s to visit, while daddy was out of town.
Race track buildin'

Race track buildin’

Lazy boys watching toons in Grandpa Doc's LaZ Boy

Lazy boys watching toons in Grandpa Doc’s LaZ Boy

  • While at Nana’s, my dad had to have unexpected foot surgery in a hurry, so I ended up taking a day off so Mom could take him to the hospital (I normally work out of my firm’s local office up here).  Instead of trying to work with three kids in my hair, I just decided to make up the time on the weekend, and take the day completely off (checking email of course, always always).  And I took them berry picking.  I have literally wanted to take these kids berry picking for three years, but never been able to go.  When we finally got this chance, it was perfect.  It was overcast and breezy, dry (no mud), and the place was delightful, as were the proprietors.  Craig loves blueberries – he’ll eat a full clamshell in one sitting.  So when he twigged that the berries actually grew on bushes, and he could reach them and pick them and eat as many as his chubby dimpled hands could grab – well, let’s say I paid for a whole extra pound when we were done.  Let’s also say that the diaper situation since then has been, in a word, vile.  But that’s the price you pay for an engaged, happy one year old at the berry picking farm.
On the farm!  The lady who took our picture told me she'd had three girls, and always wanted a boy.  Funny how it works out!

On the farm! The lady who took our picture told me she’d had three girls, and always wanted a boy. Funny how it works out!

My little minions

My little minions

The boys were methodical, filling their buckets to the top.

The boys were methodical, filling their buckets to the top.

Craig's focus was on stuffing his face

Craig’s focus remained on stuffing his face

 

It's every one-year-old for himself

It’s every one-year-old for himself

He was in heaven

He was in heaven

I made a blackberry pie, two blueberry pies, and blueberry muffins with our spoils.

I made a blackberry pie, two blueberry pies, and blueberry muffins with our spoils.

Posted in Holidays and Celebrations | Leave a comment

Checking In!

It’s been nearly a month!  We’re still here, still doing just fine, just very busy of late.  I have a number of draft posts that I started but never got the chance to finish.  Liam had a birthday, we planted a tree, we’ve had a couple of Blue Apron meals, my youngest sister and her husband came to visit. . . I will write about all of these things (I hope) once I get the chance.  I’ve also done some meal planning and discovered a new tasty meal – these healthy burrito bowls!  Try it out.  I recommend the sliced black olives as a garnish.  Yessssss.

Hope you’re all well.  I have an early meeting so this is all I can manage today, but I am officially getting myself back in the swing of writing here!

Posted in Categorizing Things is Overrated | Leave a comment