Let’s Slow it Down there, Speedy Gonzales

Our youngest son was born nine years after the previous child and the older children had lots of advice for him.  Foremost was “enjoy school” and “never move out of the house”.  Whenever he would come home with a story of how great his day had been, the older kids were quick to remind him - enjoy kindergarten, you’ll never get to play that much again.  Enjoy your first overnight school trip as you may never get to go there again.   Enjoy your senior year - you’ll never be that carefree again!

He really took that message to heart and I think was truly able to be in the moment for many of life’s often overlooked nanoseconds of time.  He just described for me the other day a memorable Italian meal in Rome, part of his “how lucky am I” high school senior trip.   A trip that, by the way, I had my hand in the air to chaperone the very first day it was announced.  No parents allowed!

I watch time speed up as daughter number one gets ready for our first grandchild.  Although 31 years is a lifetime to her, we ask her to slow down, enjoy this window of pregnancy she and her husband are so lucky to experience.

I feel the winds of time blow on daughter number two, planning and scheduling the biggest family wedding yet, on scale with William and Kate, sans the TV coverage.  We say, enjoy this engagement , the anticipation, the fun of planning your future with someone special - you’ll never pass this way again.

And so it goes for son number one, steering his life in a surprising direction for 2012, and son number two, anticipating new business opportunities across the country, new wife in tow. 

So here’s to long dog walks, red wine and a fire, and late night pillow talk - some of my favorite ”slow down” occasions.  Happy New Year!

What’s to be done with this strange week?  Kids are home, as are some parents.  We’ve overeaten, overshopped, over indulged ‘til we can’t move off the couch. 

After a month of holiday decorations, I’m yearning for breathing room.  Down it all comes, a backward slo mo of Thanksgiving weekend.  Two straight days of cleaning and storing; I feel lighter already (never mind the extra two pounds that went on way quicker than it will come off). 

I rise each morning with a plan; on really good days it actually comes to fruition.   Most often, I end up with tasks I didn’t know I had.  Unpacking and putting away a new blender led to an hour and a half cupboard cleaning. 

Dispose of the old blender (1970’s harvest gold), take everything out, clean out cupboard.  Collect loose recipe pages randomly stored - these need a new home.  But first, I have to READ them and see if I really need to keep.  Reminisce about dishes made, who liked them, where we were in our family at that time.  Wonder why I have recipes with more than ten ingredients, spices I don’t like, or heavy cream.  Is there a diet ever written that includes heavy cream?

Culled, clipped, sorted, all in a new file.  The best Chocolate Chip cookies ever, rave reviews from the fifth grade bake sale.  Chocolate Banana Bread made by a neighbor who was lovely enough to share the recipe.  Turkey Almond Bake, hot and bubbly, using up the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers.  These are among the keepers.

One cupboard leads to the next and before you know it, you have a pile of items for Goodwill and the freshest kitchen since 2009.  Seems a shame to mess it up by cooking dinner tonight…

Love those Mad Men

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you’ve surmised that I know enough about the internet to get by.   I was not always this technologically illiterate.   If you climb with me into the WAAAYYY BACK machine to the late 70’s, we’ll see that IBM was the name stamped on the mainframe at the mail order company I worked for, and the punch cards and data entry machines we used took up one climate-controlled room. 

The IBM reps were the 70’s version of Mad Men, with a few Mad Women sprinkled in. They were breathtakingly handsome in their blue suits, and I hung on every word as they help me create the first Word Processing division for my company.  We left the world of carbon copies and liquid white-out behind and learned how to save files and move paragraphs.  My bosses are notably impressed.  I continue my IBM lessons during extended company-paid lunches in smoky steakhouses…never mind, I digress.

Anyway, by 20 years old, I knew more than the average man on the street about how computers operated.  Fast forward twenty years and I have a growing, computer-based business on my hands.  Although I think I know everything, I know nothing.  I have website developers to walk me through the glitches of e-commerce, but I’m on my own when it comes to keys and shortcuts in my own home.   I have established the Colleen Chapin system of computer software and I’m doing just fine IF NO ONE TOUCHES MY COMPUTER.

Enter stage left two pre-teen boys, who have a striking physical resemblance to me.  They LOVE computer games, almost as much as they LOVE taking things apart.  If I leave the house for any reason, they declare open season on my computer.  They want to install software they’re certain will make my life easier.  They want to clean up some files for me, to make it run faster.  They want me to have the latest version of whatever.  In reality, they just want to see my head explode.

For some reason, nothing put me over the top, lo these many motherhood years, like “someone” messing with my computer.  Inevitably I had to call the cable company, or take the computer in, or in some cases BUY A NEW ONE, after their “helping Mom” attempts.  This could not end well, right?  They outgrew their obsession in college and grew up to be shoe salesmen or personal trainers?

Both of these fine young men have carved out unique, diverse careers in computers.  One does coding, all the detailed work necessary behind the scenes to make this web page appear as it does.  The other specializes in graphics, making cars talk and remote programs respond automatically.   Both of their jobs entail skills not taught in college, skills they honed at home and on their own, making mistakes and then making it right.

I still know nothing.  Sometimes you have to settle for just knowing who to call.  

Coming Home

WI snowI’ve lived in South Florida for almost 30 years, but truth be told, I still consider myself a Wisconsinite.  Here’s what I know about Wisconsinites - we’re hearty, hard working, honest, and shall I say delicately, for the most part, corn-fed.  I think we need a little extra meat on our bones to survive those lonnnnggggg winters. But a nicer group of people you’ll never meet.

I have to keep going back, just for my Wisconsin fix.  When I visit, the clerks look you in the eye and say hello and thank you and how are you today?  There are never any renegade shopping carts in the parking lot, because we always put them in the rack when we’re done - no matter how cold it is!  Neighborhood kids come knock on your door, introduce themselves, and ask if you need any help with lawn mowing or snow shoveling.  Seriously.  In 2011. 

I’ll be in Charlotte or Atlanta, waiting for my plane to Milwaukee.  I know I’m at the right boarding gate by eavesdropping on my fellow passengers’ conversations.  How awesome is Aaron Rodgers, don’tcha know?  How much venison sausage did you freeze this year?  Who’s playing at Summerfest this July?  I’m smiling as I board….I’m going home!

I’ve come to appreciate Florida and the lovely surroundings we get to enjoy year round.  Four of our five kids were born here, so for them, this IS home.  They are now scattered across the country, and I wonder if they feel the same when they make their occasional journeys home - does their heart sing when they lose the winter coat or pack a swim suit?  Do they look forward to a juicy magazine and a poolside chair? 

How lucky we are to experience the wide variety of seasons, geography and climates in all fifty states.  Wherever you’re going this holiday season, I wish you safe travels and godspeed.

Yes Virginia, there is STILL a Santa Claus

Maybe you saw the article I read yesterday, about the legend of Santa Claus being exposed via the internet.  Apparently, children are googling “is Santa Claus real?” with dismaying results.                                                          Santa 1960

When I first started reading this I thought, any child young enough to ask this question is too young to be surfing the web unsupervised.  Surely, this can only be a small segment of the pipsqueak generation.  But yes, Virginia, there are inquisitive eight year olds who have the wherewithall to know how to google this and who knows HOW MANY OTHER SERIOUS QUESTIONS(!), and then share this information with the rest of the Squinkies set.

I haven’t had eight year olds in many years, but I am so perplexed by this.  Intellectually I would want my children to be internet saavy (confession: as of 10 am today, most ten year olds know more about “apps” than I do).  But c’mon, there are many things fun about being a parent.  Perpetuating the Santa Claus/Easter Rabbit/Tooth Fairy triumverate is our right and responsibility, right up there with knock knock jokes and back seat sing-a-longs. 

Some things are meant to be a mystery (spaghetti on the ceiling, what happened to the last piece of chocolate cake).  Childhood just zooms by.  And the nest is empty long before you’re done feathering it.

How do we insure that they ask Mom and Dad first, so that we can offer the party line?  Can the internet be a back-up, instead of the first responder?  I had a full set of red encyclopedias when I was a kid.  I was loathe to open those up and would always ask Mom first.  Only when I had exhausted her entire brain with questions would I be sent to “look it up”. 

So let’s make a plan.  Just because we have the electronics, doesn’t mean they have to always be “on”.  Just because there’s a smart phone in your purse, you don’t have to share it.   We are still in charge of all media in our own homes.  Take back the power Mom and Dad!  Let the eight year olds be eight years old for one more Christmas.  The internet will still be waiting next year.