Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Do You Keep Score?

We had some long-time friends over for dinner last night with their little girl. We enjoyed a nice meal, had some great conversation, shared some wine and the kids happily played together. When they were leaving, my friend said next, we come to her house. We both looked at each other and sort of laughed.

A nice life they have indeed, a beautiful and sweet mild-mannered two-year old in a pretty house--all seemingly manageable. Here? Three boys in often loud, chaos that involves weapons, a sharp eye for anything breakable, plenty of wrestling and always farts. Do you really want to have us over?

While I concede we don't always make great company at "your house" it isn't just the kids. I spend my entire visit at someone else's house scanning the room for potential towering launch pads for bodies, breakable treasures that seem to have blinking lights on them flashing "Get me, Sam!" and apologizing profusely. A good time had by all? Most often not.

Maybe we should go more places so they learn to behave, but I am sure that will come in time. For now, they are little boys and too many rules just makes for lots of conflict. Conflict makes for frustration and frustration makes for punching! Don't even ask me to take them to a restaurant, I will likely laugh right in your face (unless there is outdoor seating).

While I don't usually enjoy myself at the home of others (unless the kids are home with the babysitter), it sure is nice to be invited. We do a fair amount of entertaining here, which I love. I have shared before how much I love to have a great meal with friends. But, it seems as most often, the invitation to someone else's house is never extended.

I try to think that not everyone likes to entertain like I do, but then, being the obsessively-insecure-about-any-kind-of-relationship-outside-of-my-marriage kind of girl that I am, I obsess and think they don't like us. I think they came over here, we chatted over dinner and they didn't have a good time and decided they didn't like us. But really, I think it is more that people just don't like to have people over any more.

Do you keep score? (That is a hint to comment, all you stealth blog-readers). Do you expect a return invitation if you welcome someone in your home? I certainly don't want the invitation if it is nothing more than a formality, a "now we have to have them over to our house." Trust me, it is no picnic in the park to have us over (unless we are outdoors, then all of the above doesn't apply and the boys are great). So, the invitation itself has become just as good as the actual event.

In other words, just getting invited makes me feel validated. Then, I usually talk them in to coming back over here. Not a martyr, just want to actually enjoy myself and that is most often done in our own home where anything they break, I know I already paid for.

Monday, September 18, 2006

More Summer Vacation

I had intended to update this sooner and finish out the discussion about vacation...but I should know better by now. I am just not reliable! Here are some more photos of summer vacation.

The weather was not great, rarely any sunshine all week, which made the lake seem very cold (and it was). The overcast skies and strong wind made the surf extremely rough, the beach was red-flagged every day we were there (that means no swimming). Of course, the boys swam some along the shoreline. I love this picture Jeff took at Tunnel Park beach.

One day, while Samuel was off with Oma and Grandpa, Jeff and I took a very long bike ride along the south shore of the lake with Phillip and Andrew in my bike's trailer (a heavy load indeed). The bike ride ended at the marina only to discover, thanks to some local folks, that there was a foot path all the way out to the lighthouse, Big Red. We walked, played a little in the water and rode home. A great morning!

The dune was beautiful and the lighthouse was worth the walk. Nice little beach to wade in the water (unless you're Phillip, who almost always gets all the way in).

A trip to the dune rides just outside of Saugatuck was beautiful. We saw deer, wild turkeys and beautiful views of the dunes with a backdrop of Lake Michigan.

A three mile round trip hike in the woods brought us on to this beautiful beach on Lake Michigan in Dunes State Park. Rough and cold water, but boys who were soaking wet and sand-covered.

Here is how Andrew spent most of his vacation...doing the Neste plunge into the sand, followed by several roles around in it. It was funny, but made for a messy boy every day we were within 50 yards of sand. It took a few days to get all of the sand out of his ears.

We left Holland after five days and headed to our second stop, Oscoda. Let's just say it sucked. I could give you a long list of all of the disastrous things about Oscoda (one of which is the "keep out" sign and mysterious puddle on the beach at the house next to us--can you say combined sewer overflow?), but we will wrap it up by saying we stayed one night and headed to a Westin in Detroit (with a full refund from the spot in Oscoda).

Detroit was fantastic! A ton to do, including the Motown Museum which gives you a tour of where it all started, up close and personal. You tour Barry Gordy's apartment, see the desk where Diana Ross answered the phone and then into the recording studio where it ALL happened. You can touch the piano little Stevie Wonder played, we stood where the Jackson 5 recorded, and much more. A fantastic tiny museum and a really big deal to me--a huge Motown fan.

The Detroit Zoo is beautiful and huge. We stayed there for two nights, but still didn't do everything we wanted to. The highlight was certainly The Henry Ford, an amazing complex created by Ford, including Greenfield Village--worth every penny. It is simply amazing. We didn't get to see everything we wanted to there, so will certainly go back (I discovered a Ritz right near by :)). Our Henry Ford experience ended with an amazing tour of the Rouge, the largest manufacturing facility and the site of much of Ford's history, as well as a tour of the new F-150 plant. I am not a Ford girl, but it is moving to see industry at work in the U.S. I am certainly very intrigued by Ford and have added a book about him to my must read list.

Here are Jeff and the boys at Greenfield Village in the artisan part, we watched medal smithing, glass blowing, printing, pottery, and much more! This is a very special place.

One of my nicknames bestowed upon me by my loving husband is Leona Helmsley. Yes, the witchy hotel owner who practically whipped her staff if standards every fell below perfection. I am a serious hotel snob, thanks to my childhood days. I feel most at home in anything with four stars and above.

The Westin was great, with its plush robes, heavenly beds and heavenly shower heads. And of course, the best thing in life...room service! The boys had their own room adjoining ours and loved it to pieces. Just like I did when I was little (only I didn't give them the minibar key so they could eat a $3.00 package of M&Ms). Ahhh....

We had so many great pictures from the trip. You really cannot go wrong with the Nikon D70, it makes everyone feel like a pro photographer. For more vacation photos and for photos of Samuel, not even four yet, now riding his bike without training wheels, visit Jeff's blog at www.cu-copper.blogspot.com.

Good news on that front--he returns to light duty today. More later (well, maybe more soon..).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Instead of one long post about our vacation, which I really rather not rehash in full detail and in response to my husband who thinks my blog entries are too heavy, I will provide a series of entries that chronologically document our vacation in photos (with a little narrative).

So here are the first few days...

We headed to Holland, Michigan. The drive was about 4 1/2 hours. Jeff thought the drive was great, but I thought it was an eternity, as I heard my name more than 1,000 times in that 4 hours. Mom, mom, mom, mommy, mom, mama, mama, mommy, mom. And, the car was packed--oh, I am sorry, the van was packed, so that should be a pretty good indication of how much stuff we took.

I usually don't take this much stuff, but figured since we were only going four hours away, instead of the usual 16+ to the west coast of Florida, I could take more--including a ton of food so I didn't have to buy it there and I could help ensure we continued to eat pretty healthy stuff. The food took up a lot of room. So did all of the beach crap (where we go in Florida, we know what they have--chairs, umbrella, etc. so we don't take anything). And we took our bikes on the new bike rack. We were totally loaded down.

We arrived safely and the house we rented turned out to be rather nice. We arrived around 4:00, so we settled in a bit and then headed off for a dinner out and to the grocery store. The next day, we spent shopping in downtown Holland. They have a street of very cute and unique stores with stuff you would actually want to buy (not just vacation/tourist crap). We had lunch at a local micro brewery and eventually headed back to the house for exhausted Andy to nap and to meet my dad and his wife who were joining us.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Revelation

At the close of my last entry, I think I had a revelation about my body image issues. It isn't so much about wanting to be accepted by boys (although that period in my life was still traumatic and difficult), it is more about wanting to be accepted by girls.

I have always had a difficult time maintaining friendships with females. I don't know why, but I just sort of suck at it (and I am sure if I thought hard enough about it I could figure out some reasons why I suck at it). I was one of those girls who my best friends in high school were always boys. I had a hard time relating to girls my age, and I still find successfully maintaining female relationships one of my greatest challenges.

So, now I see that perhaps feeling skinny makes me feel more powerful than other women in the room, sending a message that I don't need them to like me. Hmmm. This sounds a bit crazy, but I think I am on to something. In fact, I am certain there was a point in my adult life when I picked friends who were "worse off" than me because I felt they needed me more and wouldn't leave me for better opportunities.

That said, this also goes back to that same period of my life (around 5th to 7th grade) where I had a huge and devastating shift in friends. The move from fifth grade in our elementary school to sixth grade in the junior high merged our small group of friends with kids from other elementary schools. Somehow, lots of them knew each other and new clicks formed, that did not necessarily include me. Then, my life-long best friend that had moved away (and we were still friends long distance) moved back, and for some reason, we were not really friends again. My only other friends developed interests that I did not share and I sort of found it difficult to fit in there too.

Like I said, I am still challenged by my female friendships. In fact, in my mind, I seem to always wait for my friends to leave me. I worry and fret over the state of friendships and work hard to do the best I can in them, but I still feel as though things are temporary and investing is dangerous. Sometimes I think I invest too much too earlier and I scare friends away, then I think that is crazy, just follow the path of the relationship as it naturally develops and I do that (sometimes with success, sometimes not).

I do think I have made significant progress in this area over the past few years and now have several successful friendships (but, I will confess that this issue was a topic of some counseling while I was pregnant with Samuel and I have only recently succeeded in the past few years due to conscious effort). Anyway, the point is is that I really think that my body image issues stem from my need or desire to be accepted and included in that mainstream "girlfriend" culture, which I feel I have always been on the outside of. Enough.