Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Grit and Rough Days

I was told this week that I am one of those super resilient people. At the time, I nodded my head in agreement. Logically, it seems like an accurate statement. All my 47 years of life experiences appear to support this conclusion.

However, I looked up several definitions of Resilient and I could not fully relate to any of them. The explanations used words like courage, patience (nope - not me) and unharmed. Descriptions referred to phrases such as "refusing to give up" and "even better for the experience." Resilience is also defined as a process - an adaptive response to a challenging situation.

Woody Allen famously declared that “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Grit is what allows you to show up again and again. Now, THIS I can relate to ...                 

To me, Grit is about showing up for Life. Grit is related to perseverance, passion and commitment. It is about "staying the course." The Grittier person does what needs to be done and does not think of it as a choice. Grit is a trait - you are born with it or you are not. While I do not know much about my Mother (she was killed when I was 4 years old), I am positive the Grit shared by both my brother and me came from her strong DNA.

The past couple days have been Rough. A friend described Rough as "nothing time and a good night's sleep won't help." 
Thanks Friend. Thanks Grit.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Interview: Youngest Son

I managed to coral Youngest Son (age 10) for a just few minutes to get his thoughts after Week 5:

How do you think things are in general? 
It's working good. I still miss him [Commuter Husband] but not too much.

What do you miss the most about Commuter Husband not being here during the week?
- Fresh, right off the grill cooking
- Not being able to play football in the mornings before school
- Not having him here to tuck me in every night

What has made things easier on everybody?
- Skype. Cause I can see my Dad.
- He comes home on the weekends.

Is there anything that is better?
My Dad is working and earning us money. So we can eat out more and can do other stuff like bowling, Six Flags and Harry Potter land.
(Hmmmm ... I might have a slightly different list for use of $$.)

Would you recommend this to other families?
Yes and No. Because depends what type of family you are. 
(A glimpse of wisdom here.)

What kind of family does it work for?
Families that are into adventures.
(Love this answer!)

What advice would you give other 10 years olds whose parent commutes?
Don't cry. They are going to be home on the weekends.

What has surprised you?

What do you think we should do differently?
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
(Can you tell Youngest Son's attention span is wavering?)

Do you still feel as much love?
Yes. I do not know how - it is my feelings.

If you had to choose whether to stay in Dallas or move to Houston what would you choose right now?
Dallas - I have friends here, I have a good school and I like my house.

The answers above are not complicated. Kids, especially little boys, tend go with it - whatever "it" may be. But it is still important to ask the questions as we go ... of each other and ourselves.
Look closely and see much of Youngest Son's world: Legos, baseball, basketball, books, art, cardboard and duct tape forts, peacock feathers and many objects of both affection and imagination ... 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

5 Whole Nights - So Excited!

Commuter Husband's backpack greeted me as I walked in the door ..
Commuter Husband is home for 5 straight nights and he is on vacation tomorrow- woo hoo! We have definitely lost that whole "take your spouse for granted" syndrome with our Commuter Family choice.

I am so appreciative that Commuter Husband will drive carpool tomorrow  - BOTH taking and picking up!

I am relieved that I do not have to organize childcare for Youngest Son tomorrow - it conference day so no school.

I am really happy that we get to go to Shabbat at Temple together as a family Friday evening.

After 5 weeks, we need this ...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The "Right" Way to Spend Quality Time?

The dilemma is the "right" way to spend time with Commuter Husband on the weekends. Like most important topics in life there is no one right answer. Decisions are multi-dimensional and time relative. Today's decision could vary from tomorrow's decision.

How our Commuter Family defines quality time is likely very different from the next family (commuter or not) because we bring to the definition:
  • Our four individual personalities
  • 12 years of our family history that has already involved some very non-traditional choices
  • Commitment to not avoid adversity but embrace it so the boys know life is not always fair, it is definitely not always easy and no one is entitled
  • Logistics of extended family
  • Institutional relationships
  • And lest we forget ... 50ish years of baggage from Commuter Husband and me!
So what does all this rhetoric really mean. Let's look at last Sunday ...

After a morning in our Jewish Community (Commuter Husband and I attended an adult Jewish History class while kids played with other Jewish kids), we spent the afternoon doing what many families do on Sundays - we prepared for the week.

Laundry: Mommy with Commuter Husband and Youngest Child
Youngest Son "Can you see me?"
After gathering all the dirty laundry, Youngest Son hid in clothes. Love this forever young child!
Youngest Son turning, turning, turning socks ...
Youngest Son separates laundry and turns all those socks right side out. Mommy with Commuter Husband (me) sprays the stains and starts loading the many, many piles of laundry including Commuter Husband clothes he needs for Monday.

Lawn: Commuter Husband and Oldest Son
Oldest Son raking out leaves
Commuter Husband and Oldest Son finish up front yard bushes - pruning and cleaning up. 

Dinner and Hanging Together: All
The very talented Commuter Husband ...
Mommy with Commuter Husband (me) dashed to Sprouts for fresh and wonderful groceries for Commuter Husband to grill for our Sunday backyard dinner. He kept the grill going overtime to prepare extra for our week. Sweet man!
Youngest Son swims while Commuter Husband grills poolside.
Oldest Son doing what he loves to do ...
The wings in front are collaborative effort between Commuter Husband and me . They are delicious!
So back to the rhetoric ... Sunday included these values for our Commuter Family:
  • Jewish Study and Jewish Community
  • All family members contribute to household chores and had some fun while doing it!
  • Boys learn life skills like doing laundry, cooking, lawn work, cleaning up, etc.
  • Independent time to be active, read or write
  • Coexisting together for hours at our home (mostly outdoors) without any technology diversions
  • Eating and talking together at the table with home cooked, healthy food
  • Each family member helped the other - the most important value really ...

Our choices are for our values. That is the best we can do.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Southwest Airlines - Thank You

Monday morning

4:40am     Commuter Husband's alarm
5:00am     Commuter Husband to me:     "It's time."
5:02am     Coffee in hand
5:10am     Commuter Husband to me:    "This is way better than driving - at least going back." 
5:18am     Commuter Husband to me:     xoxoxox (at Southwest Departures)
5:33am     Pull into home driveway
5:46am     Commuter Husband Text:      at gate will let u know when i get to houston
5:46am     Text response from me:          Love u
5:46am     Commuter Husband Text:      y tu a ti!

Thank You Southwest Airlines ...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Summer Reading

2012 Summer Books

No, this is not about the school reading lists for the Summer. This about the kind of reading that lights up the eyes of Oldest Son and Youngest Son.

The DC Comics Encyclopedia - This will be the twin to the Marvel Encyclopedia Oldest Son purchased at the Smithsonian last Fall. Oldest Son has had the Marvel Encyclopedia open multiple times a week since last Fall (no exaggeration.) His smile popped immediately at the sight of this book. I am sure we will hear the merits of DC versus Marvel debated in our Summer household!

Time Almanac 2012 - I have been purchasing these for years ... the boys love them. Commuter Husband grabbed this one first and started reading - classic.

Guinness World Records 2012 - Youngest Son opened immediately and started flipping through the pages ... looking for the cool new record.

The Oxford Dictionary - While we have at least 10 Spanish/English dictionaries in the house, we had no English dictionary. Youngest Son responded with a breathless, "it's about time" Thank You upon seeing this book. It is already sitting on his desk.

Boy's Body Book - Target audience is Oldest Son, age 12. Enough said.

We are not total book geeks (well we kinda are) but we also have fun ... Summer staples also include water shooters and balls!

Pool Toys
Mommy with Commuter Husband Note: All these items were a total bargain at one of those hallway book fairs at work. I admit that I cannot resist buying books. My guilt is somewhat alleviated since they are for the boys ... says the addict ...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Busy vs Stress vs Happy

So how are things in Week 4?

Are we Busy? 
Oh My Gosh. Busy is at an all time high. Busy in the sense of just getting through basic everyday life and commitments. But we are managing ... nothing too drastic has not been handled.

Are we Stressed? 
Of course we are stressed. Arranging all the moving logistics, settling into a new job, making many important life decisions and adjusting to new roles is stressful. 

Are we Happy?
Oddly enough  - I believe the answer is Yes. 
  • There is the obvious financial relief of two incomes. 
  • Commuter Husband is back in the stimulating world of full-time, daily adult interaction, challenging decisions and professional fulfillment. (Thursday was a very good work day)
  • Kids adapt. While Oldest Son & Youngest Son do miss Commuter Husband, they are still well adjusted and happy kids looking forward to Summer.  
  • Me? I am definitely enjoying the additional time I have with Oldest Son & Youngest Son. And I am working on defining who I am as a mother, wife and individual in this new space. The reality is that change energizes me and I got a big ole dose of change ... stay tuned ...
And ... 
Scruffy the Mouse has not escaped this week!! Woo Hoo!!!!!
We have managed to not starve this week and only had pizza once :)
I can now unclog the toilet efficiently (I am woman hear me roar)
Commuter Husband FLIES home Friday - no more 4-5 hour drives - Thank Goodness.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Hours Are Our Enemy

Commuter Husband says "This was the worst week yet."
Me "The week or weekend?"
Commuter Husband "The weekend."

Agreed. Even before he said this, I had thought earlier today "The Hours are our Enemy."

What to do? Nothing really. We just need to make it through May.

We did get really good family time this weekend.

  • First Fencing Tournament (15 hours): Commuter Husband drove from Houston to Austin on Saturday morning to meet Oldest Son at airport. Commuter Husband shared a special experience helping Oldest Son through his first fencing tournament (who had a great showing.) They then drove from Austin to Dallas Saturday afternoon.
Oldest Son on right in motion ...
  • Lord of the Rings (9 hours): We watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Commuter Husband here for Saturday and Sunday viewings. Perfect movie for 10 and 12 year old boys and their parents: lots of action (i.e. battles and gore), good versus evil, bit of humor, a variety of creatures (many frightening) and a little romance (for Mommy with Commuter Husband.) Not as good as books (of course) but terrific entertainment!
  • Mother's Day (1/2 Hour): Breakfast in Bed with kolaches from West and kid made gifts - very, very sweet
  • Baseball (2 hours): Commuter Husband watched Oldest Son's baseball practice and played with Youngest Son on the side. Coach even said Youngest Son could be bat boy at Oldest Son's next game - nice coup!

But, the Awesome Family Time meant less Chore Time ...
  • The BIGGEST "TO DO" COMPLETE (2.5 hours): Get Scruffy the Mouse a new non-escapable home!! After several trips to pet store, consultations with the internet and pleas from me to get it done Today, we settled on a glass aquarium. Scruffy and Youngest Son seem happy and I am definitely happier.
Scruffy's New Home - Please No Escapes!
  • Lawn Work (Commuter Husband & Boys) and Paying Bills, Laundry & Other Stuff (Me) (Several Hours) - Done
  • What did not get done (Zero Hours)? No grocery shopping and prepared meals for the week which is the most helpful thing Commuter Husband does. Guess we will be having pizza and sandwich nights this week ... that will work.
The Big Finish for Monday Morning: Commuter Husband will be up at 3am to drive to Houston to be at work at 8am and I will be up at 3am to complete work due at 8am. Ugh.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Up Side

Adversity, and perseverance and all these things can shape you. They can give you a value and a self-esteem that is priceless.
Scott Hamilton

Deciding to be a Commuter Family was a multifaceted decision. There has never been any doubt in my mind that the adversities would provide Oldest Son and Youngest Son with life experiences that will shape who they become ...

Responsibility & Thoughtfulness - Making Dinner & Cleaning Up
I arrived home from work Thursday evening around 6:00. I can see Youngest Son is very excited and he "tricks" me into coming to the backyard. Youngest Son literally has Dinner on the Table! Oldest Son and I were treated to a Chef Salad on a lovely evening beside our pool. 

Youngest Son had retrieved grilled chicken, boiled eggs, tomatoes, celery, lettuce and cheese from our fridge. He sliced and tossed everything together topping with radish tops from our garden! He also had a surprise desert ready - home baked brownies that he made. (Adopted Grandmother was baby-sitting but he did it all by himself!)

I honestly felt so relieved and grateful to just sit down to a prepared, healthy dinner after working all day. Stress fell away (sounds like a cliche but it is true.) Youngest Son was glowing with Pride.

Then ... since Youngest Son cooked, Oldest Son did all the clean up including loading and running dishwasher. And I did not get any tweener attitude - woo hoo!

Independence & Self-Reliance - Flying Solo
Logistics are tricky these days so ... Oldest Son is flying solo as an adult (turns out 12 year olds are NOT unaccompanied minors) Saturday morning for a fencing tournament. Commuter Husband will drive from Houston in the morning and meet him at Austin airport. Oldest Son is excited.

Excited. Solving problems. Not scared or whiny or resentful. These kinds of experiences are happening all the time now. Both boys are taking adversity and it is shaping who they are which is the silver lining (another cliche but again true.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Week 3 Menu

Tortilla Casserole is this week's favorite!

Plenty of meat for the growing boys
Sometimes, actually most of the time, it is good to focus on the positives.

Commuter Husband first wooed me with his amazing culinary skills. Seventeen years later, Oldest Son and Youngest Son are his biggest fans. Literally, the first question they asked when we told them about the Houston commute was "Who is going to cook?" Thank goodness the answer is Commuter Husband!

Commuter Husband does the grocery shopping on the weekends and leaves us prepared food for the week. We are working our way through the Week 3 Menu:
- Chicken Green Chili Tortilla Casserole
- Marinated Grilled Chicken Breast
- Meatballs with a yummy sauce
- Bag of Boiled Eggs for Breakfasts and Snacks

And what did we get in previous weeks?
Week 2 Menu
  • Baked Pasta with Tomatoes
  • Grilled Turkey Burgers (awesome on iceberg lettuce leaves)
  • Marinated Grilled Chicken Breast and Brown Rice
  • Bag of Boiled Eggs

Week 1 Menu
  • Roasted Whole Chicken with Carrots, Potatoes, Celery and Onions
  • Bean Soup
  • Pasta Salad with Basil & Tomatoes (kids loved for breakfast!)
  • Tuna & Chicken Salad
  • Bag of Boiled Eggs

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Toilet

The Toilet Causing The Change
Is it possible that this weekend was even shorter than last weekend?

Game Plan: Commuter Husband drives back to Houston Sunday afternoon.

The Unglamorous Reality: Commuter Husband spends an unexpected 3 hours today fixing toilet when entire inner workings require replacement.

Panic Ensues: Commuter Husband breaks out in sweat on how to get "it" all done before driving out??

Clarity Quickly Arrives: Commuter Husband sends text to me "I am spending night tonight n headed out at 3am"

My Reaction: Relief. Gladness. Commuter Husband will be there when Oldest Son, Youngest Son and I arrive home from our all day VERY fun but exhausting outing.

Post- Script: Commuter Husband says to me before falling asleep "It was worth it to stay just to hear Youngest Son describe his day at Six Flags and tell me the enchilada casserole is not spicy enough." 
(Note: Boys' 1st trip to Six Flags and Commuter Husband made the casserole for us for the week.)

My Reaction: Gut rip.

Things are definitely better. But, I do not think life will be easier till Commuter Husband is flying on the  weekends and kids are out of school. Gotta get through May. Logistics are just plain hard right now.

No sign of Scruffy The Mouse i.e. no droppings ... suspect another trip to the pet store is forth coming.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Scruffy The Mouse - MISSING

Where Scruffy used to live ... escape hatch is blue ball on upper right side behind wheel.
Nothing says "I miss Commuter Husband" better than a missing pet mouse. Yes, Scruffy the tiny, cute, furry mouse who poops and pees every 3 seconds is missing from HER cage this morning. Yes, HER is capped for a reason! OMG.

This is exactly the kind of thing I normally would hand off immediately to Commuter Husband to help upset Youngest Son. Alas, Commuter Husband advises via iPhone to set the cage open and perhaps Scruffy will make his way back to the food.

We all have roles in our families. Commuter Husband is the Finder of our household. He has an uncanny knack for finding things! In addition to locating Scruffy, I also have my Blue Tooth and my Strengths Finder book on the Finder List for his arrival tonight from Houston. Both these items where in my hands, in the house and have disappeared - so glad it is Friday.