Six Years Old

Oh my, how ready you were to be six! More ready than I, I’m afraid.

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So much has happened for you this year, kiddo. You graduated 4K in May and preschool a few months later. Which then, of course, thrust us full speed into Kindergarten. Again… you were totally ready. I – as usual – had reservations about the transition. You basically held my hand through it.

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As with most changes, it hasn’t been without its bumps. I’m now on a first-name basis with the school principal, and I exchange regular emails with your Kindergarten teacher. We even gave your school bus driver a little Christmas gift this year because of the – uh – hiccups we’ve had as you’ve learned how to conduct yourself on the school bus.

But this is the magic of you – are you ready?

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Whatever ill-advised decisions you make and whatever frustrations you inspire in the grown-ups around you, we are all still 110% Team Graham. And we can’t help ourselves.

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We’ve talked at length about this with you, so I feel confident that as I write it here – even if you read this as a grown-up – you’ll nod your head in agreement at this being included in your story.

There are things that are not as easy for you as they are for everyone else. It has felt like a very long road to getting a grasp on what these things are – and you, your father and I are all still in the process of figuring all this out. Things that most people take for granted are very real, everyday challenges for you. Interactions with peers. Structured activities. Changes you weren’t expecting.

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Stuff that is so unconsciously secondhand nature for most of us that – when I take stock of how much of your day you either have to a) consciously navigate or b) be met with negative consequences by peers and grown-ups – I am utterly awed at how it is you wake up with such pure energy and joy to face your day each morning. Most of us would just throw our covers back over our heads until someone dragged us out of bed by force.

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Graham, honey – you are my hero. And it’s not just me either. Your dad, your teachers and your principal all see you. And we root for you every day – much in the way that one might root for an underdog sports team. The deck may be stacked against you in certain situations, but when you succeed – we are ALL going crazy in the stands.

I hope you feel the love and support around you, dear boy, because oh you are so very, very loved.

This year hasn’t all been about the challenges though. There has been some downright incredible stuff going on around here!

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This summer, we peaked. (Apparently.) We went to the Wilderness indoor waterpark resort in the Wisconsin Dells, and you have theretofore dubbed that the greatest day of your life. You do add that it’s a record you’re hoping to beat with, say, your wedding day or something like that. But point taken: we had a blast.

You and I also took a teacher in-service day and traveled down to Chicago so you could see the big city. You *loved* it. Every part of it: pigeons to skyscrapers.

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We’re also having fun while I’m between jobs hanging out after school together. You’ve gone so far as to say that, “Mom, when you do get a job, it’ll be a happy day for you, but a sad day for me.” Because ultimately, you’d be going back to after school care. That one stings a little, but I totally and completely get it. So we’re just enjoying every day that we do get to spend together while we can.

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Graham Andrew, you are a joy – plain and simple. As you get older, your dad and I are having so much fun rediscovering and considering the world through your eyes. I couldn’t ask for a better firstborn.

I love you like flowers love sunshine.

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Forever and always,

Your mom

Going Analog

If you work in an office environment, there is a pretty solid chance you stare at Microsoft Outlook a decent chunk of your day. If not the majority of your day. For emails, yes. Calendar, definitely. Both of my jobs used Outlook to schedule meetings. Smartypants Superusers like my husband keep their tasks and lord-knows-what-else in Outlook too.

You know how people cleverly tally up the number of hours you spend sleeping or waiting in line or in the bathroom in a lifetime? I’ll venture a guess that if I tallied up the number of hours I spent calendar-jockeying in Outlook these past 10 years, I would be horrified.

In fact, I spent so much time staring at my Outlook calendar, it became second nature to just plop in my personal appointments too – for planning purposes. If Andy and I needed to let each other know about work travel or impending visits from family, we’d just send each other an Outlook invitation that automatically blocks out the time on the other one’s calendar.

I’m saying all of this for you Baby Boomers out there, by the way, because my Gen X and Millennial readers are like “DEBBIE, EVERYONE DOES THIS. BLAHBLAHBLAH GET TO YOUR POINT.”

So here’s my point: I have not yet successfully figured out how to survive effectively without Outlook during this, ahem, employment gap.

I’ve been using Google Calendar and making appointments on my phone using the calendar app. Shortcomings abound. We’ll start with the latter.

The Apple Calendar app is flawed. I personally like looking at a month view so that I can plan ahead… see whose birthday cards I need to buy and when the kids have appointments coming up, etc. Plan the week, you know.

This THIS is how Apple helps me plan ahead:

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Awesome, thanks bro. So no dots tomorrow, then? Sweet.

I’m joking. This is completely unhelpful. A dot indicates that something is happening on that day. It does not indicate what at a glance. Which is what I need.

I have to click on a day to get details, which then looks like this:

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Okay, better. Except now I’ve lost all spatial relationships to appointments. They’re all just… piled on top of one another. If a day doesn’t have an appointment, it simply doesn’t appear.

I’m sure this works for people. Just not for me. Screenshot 2016-01-10 22.27.32

This is what Google Calendar looks like when I log into it from my desktop computer. So nice, huh? (I know you can’t read it, but go with me on this.) Good color-coding going on. Spatially laid out with just a bit of detail. Very nicely done, Google.

Except… the only way I get this beautiful vista is if I walk into my home office, sit down at the Big Computer, and get on my web browser. Reference three posts ago as to why this happens, ohhhh…  basically never.

I’ve been stuck. Trapped in a neverending Pong game – alternating between habitually, obsessively checking my phone and neurotically making mental lists of appointments I need to remember.

Finally, FINALLY, today I took a time machine straight back to 2001, walked into an office supply store and bought a paper calendar and a bunch of colored felt-tip pens.

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BOOM.

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Peace.
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Serenity.

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And a handy location that is at once close to the kitchen, in line of sight when you’re coming and going from the house (Yippees from me!) and also out of plain view from the rest of the house (Hoorays from Andy).

Yes, I still plan on using my phone for making appointments and sharing them with Andy. And any dyed-in-the-wool organizer will tell you this is a death sentence to a new method. Have one location for any given thing and rid yourself of redundancy. It takes up extra time and ultimately either one wins out or they both fall away in lieu of something new. Lots of boring and perhaps obvious reasons for this. Regardless, passing this wall calendar gives me peace. And I’ll take any little bit of that I can get these days.

 

Heading into the January Funk

January.

Twinkle lights come down and Wisconsin officially brings the pain – as far as weather is concerned.

And as my unemployed status stretches into 2016… ahem…

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… I find myself needing another plan. I’ve now officially painted all the rooms. Just kidding – only three rooms: The living room, the kitchen and the downstairs bathroom. Either way, my painting projects are finished.

Good news is I have a potential job on the hook(!) Better news is it actually feels solid enough to post it on the internet, which is pretty big, guys. I’ll admit. But the interview process is taking longer than I’d like. The holidays are the culprit. All the end-of-the-year slow downs and then the whole WHAMMO WELCOME BACK HOW WERE YOUR HOLIDAYS? GREAT? GREAT. GUESS WHAT, BUDGETS HAVE REFRESHED I NOW NEED APPROXIMATELY 1 BAZILLION THINGS DONE THANKS doesn’t appear to be helping [my employed counterparts] either.

Meanwhile, my rooms are painted, Christmas is put away, and I have nothing much more to do in a day than brew cup after cup of coffee, stare at my four walls and try not to eat all the food in my pantry. Something my brain keeps asking itself – and rightly so:

Where are all those house projects I lamented about not being able to do while I was working full time? The “Oh… if I could only have a staycation! I could finally get so much done!” projects. What WERE those projects anyway?

Again, I say: I need a new plan. You’re all mentally sending me possibilities of things to do aren’t you? If you feel so compelled, go ahead and drop them in the comments.

Meanwhile, we’re coming up on a weekend. I’m probably going to finish out the rest of this day by decluttering (a.k.a. opening my cabinets and throwing a bunch of stuff away). Unfortunately, I can’t keep going like this. 10 years of: Make a strategy/set a timebound and measurable goal/measure progress against said goal has broken me forever. I can’t NOT project manage. I’m honestly not sure I know how.

Sad.

*Disclaimer: This post may seem downbeat, but I’m really doing OK. Promise. Cross my heart. Just realized I should be blogging more and took the opportunity. :)

Happy 3rd Birthday, Reid!

Okay, I give. Reid’s birthday was a whole month ago! I blame unemployment for completely turning all routines I once had on their ear. But did you know? My baby boy turned 3 on December 4.

THREE. The baby. Not so much a baby anymore.

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Yes, folks, we celebrated the birth of a brand new threenager.

Proof. We give a slice of cake to a smiling, happy kid. Ready to make his wish and blow out the candles….

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… until literally halfway through the “Happy Birthday” song, when he realizes that everything about this situation does not live up to his expectation. The song ends, Reid pushes his slice of cake halfway across the table and bursts into tears.

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It is going to be a great year! Ha.

No, but seriously. All the lofty, fragile expectations and bold assertions that this year may bring, I’m ready.

To my Reid: you are an enigma. You have got this amazing spirit and fortitude. Quiet ambition. The smallest among us, you work so hard to look and play the part. You never wonder if you’re ready for something, you just assume that you are. Which means your Dad and I have to keep our eyes on you!

First name: “Reid”, Middle name: “Ready for Anything”.

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The flipside of not wondering if you’re ready for something is: you assert when something is not for you. Two things you’re not into? Water and Noise. These are your kryptonite right now.

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(Which made the water park vacation in the Wisconsin Dells a WHOLE NOTTA NOPES as far as you were concerned.)

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Only by suiting you up in this ridiculous getup [above] were you able to splash (FEET ONLY, THANKS) with a tenuous smile. The rest of the vacation looked like this.

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This year has been one of mastery and discovery. Toddler skills such as walking and feeding yourself having long been accomplished, you have started to truly enjoy your surroundings and be a buddy to all of us.

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If there was one Big Reveal about you this year, it’s that you are a complete ham. We always pegged your brother for being a comedian, but you hold your own, young one.

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Yet again – you bring balance to that goofy side with a sweet snuggly side.

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You are definitely all about Dad right now. A total Daddy’s boy… many times to my detriment. You’ll be so passionate about Dad doing things for you that if I even attempt to help you, you don’t hesitate to ball up a fist and slug me hard. We’re working on that… Many mornings, you’ll toddle into our bedroom, walk right up to my side of the bed and say, “Mommy! I going to be nice to you today!” It doesn’t always last, but I appreciate the fresh attempt every morning.

You are also still big into your milk. You slam two sippy cups of milk a day – one in the morning, and one before dinner. We’re in the process of cutting you back now, but all year this year, you were not able to function without these daily doses of dairy. When it was time to make a cup, you’d watch us pour a cup of milk and wait patiently on the microwave to ding. You’d yell “Milk’s ready!” and we’d snap on a lid and hand it to you. Once the milk hit your lips, that cup stayed attached to your mouth until you’d completely drained the cup. After it was gone, you’d hold up the cup, shake it a little and yell, “Empty milk!!” then chuck the sippy cup as hard as you could across the room.

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Big things for you this year?

You were cleared of all other allergies except peanuts, of course (oh, and cats). It was a huge thing – for Mommy at least – to be able to allow tree nuts back into the house. It at least doubled our cereal options alone!

No more diapers! You decided you were done with diapers late this summer. As with everything else, once you’d made up your mind that it was behind you, it was. Potty training was fast. You definitely made it easy!

Words, words, words. There is nothing you can’t say. You have a bit of a lisp, which is adorable. And right now you either start most sentences with “Because” or end them with “Though.” We’re not sure why except that you hear us using these words all the time and you think it makes you sound grown up. Examples: “Because I stayed dry last night! Because I didn’t wet my pull-up!” or “I want some milk, though.” Also – if something is big in size, you call it “a bigger”. So if someone calls you a little kid, you retort “No, I’m not. I’m a bigger!” Or if someone is trying to give you a small amount of milk, you’ll say, “I want a bigger!”

Kid, I can’t believe that just over three years ago I had no idea who you were. This strong, solid little boy who hits hard and hugs harder. You have an easy spirit. Also a temper that will burn hot then fizzle because you’d rather just make up and not fight anymore. You are this great balance of love and fury. Energy and joy. I am so honored to be your mom. Happy Birthday, big guy.

Home Computers: A Cautionary Tale

Friends who have work-issue laptop computers, beware.

You all have home computers. I’m sure of it. Andy and I do too. We bought our current Big Computer in 2009 just before we had Graham. It was great.

In recent years, however, it has transitioned from ‘The Place We Go To Do Everything’ to ‘The Place We Go To Dump the Photos Off Our Memory Cards and/or Handheld Electronic Devices’. Mostly because we can do almost everything else on our tablets and phones and – because the Big Computer has been creeping up in years – the tablets and phones are easily 2-3x faster than this old machine that I’m typing on here.

The work laptop I never really used as a personal computer. At least that’s what I thought. But after having turned in my laptop my last day of work I realized I did regularly use my work laptop for one thing: writing my blog posts. There’s just something about having a physical keyboard and good, old-fashioned multiple-windows-visible-on-one-screen interface to work from.

Hence, when I turned in my work computer, the blog posts came to a screeching halt.

Butbutbut, you say, you have a Big Computer. What about Big Computer?

Yes, good question. I’ll answer that with this:

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And this.

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Oh, and this.

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I sat down to write a post at 8:30 this morning. After much rainbow-wheel spinning and grinding sounds in the hard drive, I decided to get a stopwatch and see how long this endeavor was going to take me. Just to paint a picture so you can see why exactly I haven’t been writing. Because – just so we’re clear – I have sat down to write on Big Computer a handful of times over the last month.

This morning, I was determined to get something posted. When I first wiggled the mouse and got rid of the screen saver, I saw my internet browser was open with multiple tabs open. I decided the fastest way to get out of this was to close out of the browser altogether and start fresh. It took 2 minutes 30 seconds of rainbow-wheel-grindy-noise action for my first window to pop up telling me a page wasn’t responding. I killed it. Then 15 seconds later, I got another pop-up, so I closed out of that too. Finally at 3 min 17 sec after I hit the “x” on my internet browser window, the browser actually closed. Relief. Except… I hadn’t actually accomplished anything, had I?

I waited a whole minute for the grinding to subside (not stop, mind you) before taking a deep breath and opening the Photos app (where I have to go to get the photos off my phone for a post). 40 seconds after clicking the icon to open the application, the application icon was still bouncing indicating that it heard me – but no actual window was open yet. At 1 min 3 sec, a window appears. Ahoy! But… the window came with yet another, slightly different wheel telling me to Please Hold On while my computer tries to rally and, you know, actually DO something.

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I stared at this screen until 5 minutes 45 seconds had passed. I decided that maybe restarting the computer was a good idea. I clicked the apple icon in my upper-left hand part of the screen to open the ‘shut down’ menu, but all I got was more grinding and the tortuous (yet oddly memorizing and pretty) Rainbow Wheel. I stared at the Rainbow Wheel for a solid minute, until I finally reached around the back of the computer and held the power button until the screen went black and the grinding was put out of its misery. No more grinding. Peace.

Time check: I’m now 14 minutes and 45 seconds into the process of writing a blog post and am staring at a powered-off computer.

I start the bugger up again and a paltry 5 minutes later (just shy of a total 20 minutes from the outset of this journey) I have succeeded in starting up my computer, downloading the photos off my phone and opening a browser window to start a blog post.

Not bad! Except, yes, BAD. Awful, in fact.

So, back to my original message. If you have a work-issue computer and you have been using that to get by  – all the while neglecting to keep your home computer up to date – you might think about doing a little maintenance on your home compy. Dance with the one that brung ya.

Because it’s almost an hour since I first sat down to post since I went dark over a month ago – and you STILL have no idea how I’m doing or how the family’s holidays were. But we’ll get there. Promise. Just maybe after I’ve stared at my Rainbow Wheel a bit more.