Sometimes, spam is poetry, as the title of this post (from a spam comment on a blog I write for) demonstrates.
I have come to the conclusion over the past few days that I am doing it wrong this summer. What? It. All of it. Everything. In my quest to use up vacation days before they became so numerous as to cause problems *and* to visit family *and* to take some time for book writing *and* to do all the work that needs to get done at work *and* to try and have some down time for relaxing, I seem to have created a weird, patchwork schedule that has me bouncing between states (mostly on and off, though sometimes also NY and NJ) at what is turning out to be an uncomfortable speed. Plus 4 different camps interspersed with no-camp time for the kid, which is also pretty bouncy.
A wise person suggested that I sit down with a calendar and try to block out the days for the rest of the summer, which does seem like a good idea. I have a list, several, actually (of course!), but even so I’m having trouble remembering which days are which. Tomorrow, the calendar, the blocking! (And only one meeting, phew.)
Also the heat, I think there’s a finger of blame to be pointed there. It’s been over 90 degrees for like the past 3 weeks or something, seriously my brain is melted. Even with the a/c on at home — in weather like this even I drop the kvetching over the a/c — and the temps cranked way down at work (low enough for my summer cardigan, which is long and hooded). By the end of the day I’m just pooped out.
More than anything I’m thinking that when I have vacation scheduled I really really really need to make it truly vacation. I keep thinking wistfully about our trip at the end of last year which was just so very relaxing, and I think the secret was not doing any work at all, even checking email, for the time we were away. I don’t even know that the awayness was the key, it might just have been the sticking to a vacation plan and not checking in with work. I do have one solid block of days scheduled out remaining this summer, so I’ll have a chance to test that theory then.
Vacation! We’ve had some vacation so far this summer, and we’ll have some more still. First we made our annual midwest trip, this time with bonus heat! (not that it was any cooler at home) We had a blast over 2 quick days in Chicago seeing good friends and doing fun things. In order, we: ate Chicago dogs at Murphy’s Red-Hots (mmm, celery salt!), enjoyed a BBQ with ex-neighbor Brooklyn ex-pats, ate a maple-bacon donut at Do-Rite, visited the robot library and the Reg, ate garbage pizza at the Med, geeked out on the giant trainset and Tesla coil at the Museum of Science and Industry, ogled the architecture as we drove around, enjoyed a delicious dinner at Lula Cafe in Logan Square, and got our cinnamon rolls and Swedish sampler breakfast on at Ann Sather.
Then it was off to Indiana where we also ate well, including the always delicious Duane Purvis burger (mmm, peanut butter!) with fried mushrooms and a vanilla coke at Triple XXX diner and brisket + ribs from South Street Smokehouse. What is it about traveling lately that food has become such an important thing? I don’t know, guess we’re getting old. Of course it was lovely to see everyone, too.
We left the sprog in the midwest for a bit and indulged in some more food back home, a newish fancy restaurant and an old fancy restaurant, each with good old friends. Plus bonus art! At the Guggenheim, which I’d have sworn I’d been to in the past but when we got there I realized I hadn’t. The building is delightful (semi-circular elevator wow!) and the art was medium-arty, but the Rineke Dijkstra photography/video retrospective was phenomenal and totally worth a visit. We also rode our bikes to Governor’s Island which is easy-peasy on the way there and around the island and somewhat more difficult on the way back, evenmoreso when it’s 90 degrees. The weird park/museum that is Governor’s Island never fails to make me happy, though, so it was worth the uphill homeward trip for sure.
And now we are home and doing home things. Worky working for the adults, campy camping for the kid. We do have some other vacations planned this summer, family stuff to the mountains and the beach. But I am feeling a bit of traveling envy as well. I want to go to the Grand Canyon, to Yellowstone, to Hawaii. To Scandinavia, always, but especially because two books I’m readingright now are set there, and also because Gus has a friend who is traveling in Scandinavia with his family this summer. This is not the summer for long trips, though: I’m writing a book with my research partner about our big project, which is keeping me busy.
But maybe next summer we can do a longer trip. Certainly if temperatures in the 90s is the new normal it would be nice to flee the city, and Scandinavia in the summertime would be even nicer.
Woah, what happened to the summer projects list? Blame the vacation, about which I’ll write more soon. It was very relaxing (yay!) and involved much more reading than writing.
The call of the blag has grown louder the past few days, so here I am to finish out the list. These are the less exciting projects, I have to warn you. But in the interest of completeness (and of keeping myself to the tasks by making them public)…
3. Ebay the old Legos
We’ve used ebay off and for years to get rid of old stuff, especially technology stuff which tends to fetch a decent price. Most of our stuff slated for removal from the apartment goes to our annual stoop sale and, thanks to my new vow never to bring stuff back into the apartment once it goes out to the stoop, off to Goodwill on the same day if it hasn’t sold. Stoop sales are easy but don’t usually net us much unless we have something biggish to sell, like a bike or a tape deck. Ebay is kind of a pain — all of that taking pictures and describing the items and setting the prices and mailing things out — so we tend to use it only if it seems like we’ll make decent money.
Legos are different from most of our other stuff. Gus has some sets that he really likes, but has never been the biggest lego fan (which still somewhat surprises me). Because I am a packrat and because I bought some legos as late as college (like the nerd I am), there are a bunch of my old sets that Gus doesn’t want. And it turns out that they’re actually worth some ca$h, too. So, ebay it is. And maybe I’ll share my loot with the kid. Maybe.
But the time has come: my wardrobe is in dire straits and I’m looking even frumpier than usual, even given the generous librarian frumpiness allowance. With summer Fridays kicking in I won’t have my usual excuse, which is that I can’t shop on the weekends because it would be so unfair to take time away from Jonathan and Gus on the weekend when I only see them for a few hours a day during the week.
This Friday we work, because of the July 4th holiday, but next Friday I’m off to the shops. It’ll be Friday the 13th, think that’s a bad idea?
And I’m thinking of bribing myself to clothes shop by dangling a prize: if I go shopping and end up adding a few more work outfits to my stash, I can treat myself to a new pair of sneakers. My favorite sneaker shop in the Village closed last year so I’m thinking of springing for the extra $30 to make my very own custom Sambas. What do you think?
5. Sew a new phone cozy
This one’s easy because it’s almost done! I’ve chosen the fabric and sewn the pouch already, so only the most labor-intensive parts remain: sewing on the ribbon edging. The old sock I’ve been using for a phone cozy is long LONG past its prime, and since I broke out the sewing machine a couple of weeks ago to convert some long-sleeved t-shirts into short-sleeved for Gus, I thought I’d get started on a new cozy too. This would be a good project for watching a movie or something similar as hand sewing’s not really a 100% of yr brain task.
I swear there was a 6, but now I can’t for the life of it remember what it was. Blag more, probably — I’m long overdue for post on the library blag I write for and the games network folks have a plan for more blagging, too. So let’s call it blagging, deal?
The semester’s been over for a few weeks now, though things are still busy with library projects and the college grant I work on and my own research. I’m not sure that I’m ready to write about the long of it yet, but the short of it is that I piled way way way too much on my plate this past year, and ended up somewhere on the spectrum of crispy, singed, fried, burned out, feel free to use whatever flame-based descriptor you like best.
Key to a successful summer for me, I think, will be having a bunch of non-work-related projects to chew on. Dare I call them leisure goals? I do dare. I like projects; projects provide a good framework for me to muck around in. Here are my summer project thoughts, in no particular order:
1. The Great Vinyl Digitization Project
Oh yeah, I got records: 12″, 7″, even a couple of 10″ EPs, some in fun, transparent colors. I’ve had a USB turntable for a while now but hadn’t made much headway on ripping the records to MP3. It was somewhat onerous and required me to push a button to break the digital file into individual songs. There’s also not really any way to speed it up the way that ripping a CD can happen at a faster speed than the recording — you just have to listen to the entire record. But I downloaded some new software that does a reasonably decent job of sensing the track breaks and cuts down the time considerably, so I’ve been hauling my laptop out to the living room each weekend to rip a few records.
It’s funny to listen to my records again. I bought most of them in high school before my family or I had a CD player, so there’s lots of 80s pop and new wave. Then there’s another segment from college, when I was either too stingy to shell out the extra cash for a CD or wanted something on vinyl only — that group includes lots of Wax Trax/industrial stuff (hey, it was Chicago in the late 80s, what can I say?). Finally there’re the mostly 7″s from my big indiepop buying days, the mid-to-late 90s. Some of this music has aged well, and some not so much.
First ripped this time around? Psychocandy by Jesus and the Mary Chain, because for some reason the song was stuck in my head and I kept having to listen to The Hardest Walk by watching the video on YouTube.
2. Buffy Rewatch
A couple of weeks ago something intriguing came through my Twitter stream: a website called NoWhiteNoise was organizing a Buffy Rewatch, in which fans watch the entire TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (either on DVD or on Netflix or websites) at the same time on Mondays throughout the summer. It’s been ages since we’ve watched them so we thought what the hell, we’ll bite (ha!).
If you had asked me before this whether watching the same episode of BTVS and live-tweeting about it with a bunch of people you don’t know was fun, I’d probably have given you a puzzled face. But you know, it’s actually surprisingly enjoyable. There are lots of younger folks who didn’t watch the show live like us oldsters, and there’s an incredible amount of foreshadowing that I of course hadn’t caught the first time around. And it’s just such a fantastic show, really, like catching up with old friends.
The only problem is the time: the Rewatch starts at 9:30pm on Mondays and includes 3 episodes @ 45 minutes each, which runs a little late for us on a school night. Once we make the transition from school to camp in a week or so things should get easier.
Wow, I have totally run out of steam, probably the 100 million degree heat is to blame (happy summer, ugh.). Stay tuned for leisure goals 3, 4, 5, and maybe 6, coming soon to this very blag!
A long time ago in a borough far away (well, maybe just across the bridge), before we were parents, we used to have gaming nights with friends. There was a period of time when we played Magic the Gathering with a couple of pals who would come to our house one night a week. We’d all order food + have a few beers + play a little Magic. We’d listen to music, too, and it was right after the Air album “Moon Safari” came out, the first record I bought of theirs. Good times.
This morning we drove to sleepaway camp to pick up Gus. He spent the first few hours at home obsessively dividing up Jonathan’s old Magic cards into their respective colors, reading each one individually and telling us about all that he learned playing Magic at camp. We didn’t know we were sending him to geek camp! It took 2 hrs to get lunch into him, one bite at a time between the organizing.
He was away at camp for a week, first time ever. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for us all, I think. We were away the week before last with only 2 days at home before camp. And one of the cats, who’s been sick off and on for a while, kicked it up a notch last weekend. It seemed touch and go for a while–can’t really think of a worse pet scenario than the cat dying the first time the kid goes to camp–but luckily the kitty has perked up since he’s been on the meds we got at the vet.
Since Gus has been home it’s been an alternating love + loss fest. He loves us so much! and missed us so much! he’s told us over and over again, but he loved camp so much! too, and misses it terribly! So difficult, this growing up business.
Today I spent most of my time doing ALL the laundry, because kids bring lots of real dirt (TM) back with them to the city from sleepaway camp. When we got there this morning they made a big announcement that they’d found lice on some campers + counselors (which I’d totally planned to check him for anyway), which was just another reason for me to enact LaundryFest2011. Actually it was really sweet: the camp seemed so apologetic about the lice, as if we don’t get a note from school about lice in Gus’s class pretty much every year. And we have that crazy German lice comb so we’re ready to pick the nits.
So far so good: no one seems to have lice, everything’s clean, and the cats and child are sleeping happily. I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep, too.
It’s early January, so it’s time for my annual summer camp freakout. I meant to write a big long post about our trip to Disneyworld over the holidays, but I’m sick again (thanks a lot, adorable but lethal nephew!) and have been periodically deep-ending on camp research for the past few days so this is easier. Sorry — I promise at least one meaty Disney post is coming soon.
Once again Gus has declared all camps *except* science camp to be boring and (loudly) proclaims that he will not attend any of them, thank you very much. We are so nice that we will stand in line for science camp again this summer (fingers crossed it’s above freezing that day!), but science camp doesn’t offer as much camp as we need for the summer. So I’ve spent the past week surfing around for other options.
I have to admit that the day camp scene is pretty uninspiring to me these days, too. Maybe it’s just that this will be Gus’s 5th summer of day camps, but the options seem pretty lame: straight-up camps (he’s done so many of these), sports camps (no), drama camps (double no). Cooler camps exist at places like the Bronx Zoo, Aquarium, and Museum of Natural History, but they are too far away to be practical.
He loves nature, animals, swimming…all of these things point to sleepaway camp. There’s just no other way to get a hefty daily dose of nature when you live in the city, as far as I can tell. There are a couple of day camps in the northern suburbs that are naturey, but they’re a bus trip from Manhattan much less Brooklyn, and I can’t see asking my kid to commute like a Wall Streeter just to go to camp.
Gus’s reaction to the idea of sleepaway camp has been mixed. We have friends that go (an older + younger brother), and after talking with them last fall Gus was into it, esp. after hearing about archery. Then he changed his mind, because he would miss us so terribly. We would miss him too, and I’m not sure that we’re ready for it either. I went to a 1-week session of sleepaway soccer camp as a kid for 2 summers, but I can’t remember if that started as early as the summer between 4th and 5th grade. I don’t remember being particularly homesick, but a week is not really that long. And we have friends who have been sending their kids to sleepaway camp since they were 7.
But some of these camps look fabulous. Nature, swimming, animals, woodworking, archery, zip lines, climbing walls: what’s not to like? Maybe we just need to talk it up while waving around the brochures. One of the camps has a Family Camp over Memorial Day weekend that we are seriously considering — could be a good way to ease into it.
On second thought, maybe we should go to camp and Gus can get a job for the summer!
It’s been a whiny summer here at mauraweb!, and I’m sorry about that. Really, I am. Seriously! Stop laughing. I can still see you snickering behind your hand.
I realized the other day that I’m having a summer of female vocalists. First it was the new Tracey Thorn record in May. Then in June I got the second Lady Gaga record for my birthday, and almost immediately had to buy the first. In each of these cases I pulled a total deep-ender and found myself listening to little else (except for the occasional Orbital, which is my anti-writer’s-block go-to music).
For July it’s most definitely been Janelle Monae. I was a little late to this party–my pal Luke and millions of others have been blogging her praises since the record came out in May. But now I’m fully hooked. Everything everyone says is true: it’s an incredibly rich, diverse, funky album. I love the references to folks like Bowie and Prince, but I also adore the orchestral sections, esp. the strings. She’s arranged the record into two suites and it feels like a soundtrack, which reminds me of my obsession with the Diva soundtrack when I was in high school. And I double-dog dare you *not* to tap your feet along with the single. Go ahead, try it–I’ll wait:
I suspect that my August will continue to be filled w/female voices: Kristin Hersh’s new record was just released. Actually it’s a book and a record. A recbook. A bookord. Whatever it is, I’m ordering it right up.
It’s lame to complain about the weather. I know this, but I cannot help myself. It’s 87 degrees outside right now (down from today’s high of 934 or so) and feels like it’s been this way for weeks and weeks. Even with liberal A/C use (and the electric bills to prove it), I still seem to get all hot and sweaty several times a day. I’m tired of having to shower twice a day and all of the extra laundry. I’m sick of feeling lethargic and crabby and not getting enough exercise. Begone, global warming!
I spent what seemed like a huge amount of time this weekend ferrying Gus around to his various social engagements via car and subway, and I found myself daydreaming about a summer house someplace colder. But where’s cold enough? It’s been in the 80s in Vermont and Maine, and there’s not a lot of a/c up there. Upper 70s in Montreal and lower 70s in Quebec, that’s a little better. A surprising 84 today in Halifax, which takes it out of the running, I’m afraid.
Or we could go for the ultimate: it’s in the mid-60s these days in Reykjavik. And for an added bonus, the sun rises at 3:56am and sets at 11:13pm!
It was an interesting mental puzzle to keep my brain busy. In this scenario we would sublet the apartment and would pack up the cats + take them to our summer getaway. I could take my vacation and maybe some research time and smush it all together to make a biggish chunk. A month, say? We’ve never been away for that long before. We’d need to end up someplace that’s either so exciting + interesting (forest and water? ocean? pool?) for Gus that he’d have loads to do (because we would likely need to spend at least some of the time working) or put him in some kind of camp.
The reality is probably considerably less rosy (or feasible). We’d need to arrange for *some* time with other kids, because a month with just the three of us would probably drive us all batty. And I’m sure that once we got someplace cooler I’d be grumpy that there’s not enough to do. Because one of the other things that makes me sad about this heat is that we haven’t had the chance to do all of the fun summer things there are to do here, like go to Governor’s Island or check out the new part of Brooklyn Bridge Park or visit the lion cubs up at the Bronx Zoo. NYC FTW!
(or maybe I’m just trying to psyche myself up for a hot hot bike ride to work tomorrow morning)
Gus is back in swimming lessons. He loves the water and can swim well enough to hang out in the deep end, but he’s still kind of spazzy and doesn’t know the actual strokes. Since we live on an island and he’s getting on in years, we decided it was time for him to really learn how to swim.
I was in 3rd grade when I first took swimming lessons, the second half of 3rd grade during which I went to a Montessori school and we swam once/week with school. (The first half I’d gone to the local Catholic school, which is part of another story.)
I can’t remember much about swimming before then. I don’t think I was afraid of the water. I had a great-aunt who lived at the shore (Ventnor, NJ) so I swam in the ocean every summer. We must have gone swimming in other pools too, at least occasionally, but I don’t really remember.
So I wasn’t exactly a swimming newbie in 3rd grade, but I don’t think I’d ever had lessons and I didn’t know any of the strokes. Even after I could swim enough to head out of the shallow end I must not have had much experience with the deep end or diving boards, because I vividly remember standing on the diving board adamantly NOT wanting to jump in, while the swim instructors encouraged me to.
Did they give me a gentle nudge to push me in? That I can’t say for sure. I thought that’s the way I remembered it, but now that I’m an adult and a parent I’m somewhat skeptical that it really happened that way. I mean, what sane adult would push a scared little kid into the pool?
Another piece of evidence against the pushing is that I don’t remember being particularly afraid of the water afterward, either.
A couple of years later I took swimming lessons again at a local pool in the summer. That must be when I really learned how to swim. I even ended up taking diving lessons in junior high. Yet another blow to the potential reality of the pushing memory?
Now I’m an okay swimmer. I know the strokes and can use them, but I’m not very good. A couple of years when we belonged to a gym with a pool I tried to swim. It’s certainly good exercise — it wore me out much faster than the elliptical or other machines. But chlorine really bothers me so I stopped, then we ended up quitting that gym. I still love swimming in the ocean each summer, though.
Post-vacation re-entry can be hard. Especially when it’s 100 million billion jillion degrees out. I spent the early morning trying to pull the fuzz from my head only to have to go out into the inferno for my eye doctor appointment in the afternoon, record-breaking temperatures be dammed! I now have a spiffy new prescription, though, so it was worth it (though I still have to get some glasses somewhere…).
We spent the long holiday weekend up in the northlands visiting extended family, where it was almost as hot as it is here. Gus got his fill of vacation awesomeness: swimming in the pool (for literally 4 hours straight on Saturday!), smores via campfire, snuggling with grandparents, and videogames + watching The Last Airbender with his teenage cousins. (The movie kinda sucked, but that’s a post for another day.)
This morning he trooped off to camp, sleep-deprived, of course, since staying up too late is another hallmark of vacationing. I try not to wallow in the murk of parent martyrdom, but I couldn’t help feeling kind of bummed all day. He was not very excited to go to camp. It’s a perfectly fine camp — lots of activities, swimming twice each week and the beach on Fridays. He went last year and had a good time, but this year he doesn’t really know anyone there. He’s well into the putting on a brave face in a new situation phase, but I changed schools enough as a kid to remember how yucky it can be walking into the first day in a new place.
Mainly I felt kind of sad that we can’t give him the summer he wants, which is clearly to swim, play videogames and burn things, maybe with some reading + hanging out with friends thrown in there for good measure. I’m hyperbolizing, but I do wish there were some way to give him some more unstructured time that’s *not* just sitting around our apartment playing videogames, as well as some outdoor and swimming time. For the first time ever Gus said he wished we had a yard, though he did concede one advantage of the city: it’s relatively light on bugs (mosquitos, at least).
Of course, noplace is perfect. Houses, yards + pools are lovely but require maintenance; living apart from others is peaceful but requires driving to get anywhere. Would that there was some sort of hybrid location *between* urban and rural. I guess this is why people move to the suburbs? Though the suburbs always strike me as the worst of both worlds: almost as much driving as rural and twice the strip malls, ugh.
Swimming lessons start up for Gus on the weekend, and maybe that’s the key to a nice summer: oodles of time by the pool. And we have lots of pools here in the city, all bug-free.