my toughest critic

Gwen got a basketball hoop for her birthday, so we’ve been practicing basketball for “gym” on nice days. Let’s just say sports of any kind are not my thing.

Gwen: “I’m going to take a break, but I’ll be here to give you destructive criticism.”

Me: “Don’t you mean ‘constructive criticism’?”

Gwen: “Not the way I do it.”

vacationing and making

I’m back at my desk after two weeks off from work, and I think I should be a professional vacationer. I vacationed the heck out of that vacation. I stayed at home and did a lot of painting and cleaning and cooking and shepherding kids to appointments. I make a pretty good hausfrau when I’m not holding down a day job, if I do say so myself.

Speaking of kids, remember that fleeting two-week period where mine went to school in a separate building and not on Zoom? Sigh. It was nice while it lasted, but then we got one of those “Your child has come into close contact with someone who has COVID” calls and we pulled both kids out, at least until Gwen can be vaccinated. That was a giant bummer, but we’re getting by. Ellie manages her own schedule like a pro, and my Mom is helping wrangle Gwen for short bursts of homework. I do miss the uninterrupted work time but it’s only temporary (…is what I’m telling myself…again…)

Oh look! Pretty pictures!

I realize this year has been one of my most creatively prolific. I always thought I was taking the easy way out by working in digital mediums (photography, illustration, design) but I’ve put many more hours into tweaking a single vector graphic than I ever have a single painting. Maybe that’s why I find the medium so freeing.

And bonus photos of my adorable pets for good measure:

just like that

And just like that, they’re back to school.

Middle schoolers: Seventh and fifth

I have mixed feelings.

The house is so quiet during the day! I have long stretches of quality time to focus! No one has Zoom-bombed me or run into my office to ask about dessert at 10 a.m.!

Our school is the only local district to not require students wear masks, and boy, do I have some strong feelings about that. The last couple weeks have been a lot of conversations, a lot of running the various what-ifs. Eventually we decided the mental health risks of not going back to in-person learning outweigh the physical health risks for the kids…for now.

And I hate that we have to make that choice, I truly do. I hate that all of us, no matter our opinions on mandatory vaccination or masking or COVID protocols, are stuck in this unforgiving situation. It feels like it’s been forever, and we’re all beyond tired of it. The “come together, stay home, flatten the curve, support our healthcare workers” honeymoon period is long gone, and now it’s just the drudgery of the new-normal with a pandemic on top. Boo, hiss.

So I guess it’s nice to get back to “normal”, but in my case that just means an added layer of anxiety as I wait for the other shoe to drop. Crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

In the meantime, there’s work. I’m leading a small bug-fixing pod for the next couple months, so that’s keeping me busy. Automattic also started offering part-time arrangements recently, so I’m eyeing a move to four days a week starting in November. Love the idea of a regular three-day weekend.

When I’m not working, I’m cooking, cycling, or painting, and watching Miracle Workers. It’s providing just the kind of distracted humor I need in my life right now!

unsqueeeee

Y’all, I am probably not going to France. 😂

Oh, COVID, you tease! Given the rise of the Delta variant, and the number of airports I’d have to hang around in, I feel like I’d be asking for trouble.

Ah well. The good news is I have a ton of new paints to play with, and I’m still taking vacation. The kids will be in school most days, so I’ll have lots of time to paint.

I’m really into…whatever this style is lately. It’s messy, vaguely Seuss-ian? I dunno, I just really love playing with colors and shapes and seeing what happens when I put the paint on the paper.

We’ve been working on the house, cleaning out all the nooks and crannies that pile up with random stuff. Tim recently moved his office downstairs to a little room off the pantry, so my office suddenly has a lot of extra space. I share about 600 square feet with the guest bed and some general storage, but the rest of room is all mine. I ordered furniture from Joybird to set up a sitting area/reading nook and make the space a bit more inviting and cozy.

Part of the room is devoted to my new recumbent exercise bike, which I hope will help me manage my lipedema and stay active through the winter months. I started biking last summer when we purchased an adult trike, but the right pedal came off after only a few weeks, the threads were stripped and we never got around to fixing it. The new bike has the benefit of air conditioning and television and not having to worry about traffic. 🙂

Tim and I are taking a mini vacation to the coast for our 14th wedding anniversary this weekend. We’re a little nervous about traveling given COVID rates rising, but the weather looks good for spending time by the ocean. I think we might hit up the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens while we’re in the area, maybe do some light shopping. I’m looking forward to a few days with my favorite guy, a nice meal or two, and some relaxing by the pool.

squeeeee

Y’all, I’m going to France.

I made a really expensive purchase. A totally selfish, 100% impulsive, “OMG what did I just do” purchase. I found this amazing retreat through one of the class instructors, and after wrestling my fleeting hesitation into submission, I booked it.

And the flight. And bought the supplies. I’m committed.

Ahhhhhhhhhh!

I hope COVID doesn’t get in the way. I hope I’m not totally out of my depth. I hope I remember how air travel works. I hope I remember how to Human.

(I hope people like me? Let’s put it out there. I hope people like me.)

It’s been almost seven months since I started a daily painting practice. This is a heck of a way to celebrate!

bar harbor, 2021

Our big family vacation got off to a rough start, as we made the difficult decision to put Stitch down the weekend before we left. I would rather have “The Sex Talk” a million times over than have to sit down with my kids and tell them we’re putting a pet to sleep, but we made it through. We figured the trip would be a good distraction from our sadness, and thankfully it was.

I haven’t been to Bar Harbor since Ellie was a baby, so about 12 years. It’s a popular Maine tourist spot on Mount Desert Island, close to Acadia National Park. We thought this time of year would be less hectic than, say, July or August; there are no inbound cruise ships due to COVID, so crowds weren’t bad.

Our room at the Bluenose Inn was set on a hill with views over Frenchman’s Bay. We had this stunning landscape to take in every morning:

The kids spent a lot of time in the pools when we weren’t out and about. Gwen continues to improve her swimming skills, while Ellie prefers to bob around in the shallow end. I brought my art kit and fiddled around with my paints while keeping an eye on the swimmers.

We didn’t plan many activities, preferring to keep things low key. We drove up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia for some great views of the surrounding island:

One of the few things I scheduled in advance was a three-hour ferry ride to see some local lighthouses and wildlife. This proved to be about 2.5 hours too long for the kids’ interests, but we did see lots of terns, puffins, and harbor seals about:

We played mini golf at Pirate’s Cove and found I am still terrible at mini golf, no surprise there. The rest of the time, we wandered around Bar Harbor and shopped and ate tasty food in actual restaurants. I got a massage and wore not-sweatpants and nice blouses every day. It was a welcome return to normalcy and a nice break from…whatever it is we’ve been doing these last many months.

rest in peace, stitch

Stitch joined our family on a whim in the fall of 2002. She was the last of the litter, a tiny tuxedo spitfire who introduced herself by crawling up Tim’s shoulder and perching there, expectant, as if to say, “I’m ready, let’s go.”

She slept soundly in my lap on the 45-minute drive to our Brewer apartment; Nala was mostly Tim’s cat, and it appeared Stitch would be mostly mine. She trotted into her new home and greeted Nala by rearing up on her hind legs, asserting her dominance in one fluid motion. Nala might have been twice Stitch’s size, but that didn’t matter. “Though she be but little she is fierce.”

Stitch loved to climb. Her small frame and sharp little claws made it easy to scale the curtains and our legs. She chased laser pointers up the walls to impressive heights. At bedtime, she’d crawl under the covers and snuggle up between us, making me paranoid one of us would roll over and squash her. Even full grown, she was a tiny cat with a short, stubby tail. We called her “The Stitchenator” and decided she had plans for world domination, a la her namesake from Lilo & Stitch.

Stitch moved with us from Brewer, to Bangor, to Orono, and finally to the County. She stood by and watched disapprovingly as we adopted Pippen in 2007 (yuck), had kids (big yuck), brought that godawful dog-thing home in 2012 (torture), and adopted Ginger in 2018 (why must you torment me so?)

She liked to keep me company while I worked in my office by climbing my chair or laying on my keyboard or snoozing on the floor. Her favorite sleeping spot was her pillow (which also happened to be my pillow when she was feeling generous).

Nala passed away at 14 years old, but Stitch, who was only a few months younger, was still as spry as a kitten. We joked that she’d probably outlive us all; that coastal Maine grit is sturdy stuff.

Over the last several months, the old girl started to show her age. She gradually lost her vision, to the point where she regularly bumped into things and couldn’t find her way around. Her weight fluctuated, so we spent a lot of time with her at the vet, adjusting medications for her blood pressure and thyroid and treating chronic bladder infections. By the time we made the difficult decision to put her to sleep, she’d stopped using the litter box, had stopped snuggling or purring, and was only mildly interested in food. She spent most of her time sleeping, drinking, and peeing on the floor. It was time. I bundled her into her crate, snuggled her until the end, and said my goodbyes.

And then she was gone, the last vestige of our college lives. Stitch did not achieve world domination, but she dominated our hearts for 19 years; an admirable feat for a runty little scamp from downeast. If I’m honest, she was always my favorite.

Rest easy, Stitchy.

feeling the burnout

Hi, hello, yes. It’s been a long winter. Spring has finally sprung, the grass is bright green, and the apple trees are blossoming. New beginnings are just around the corner; I’m starting to see the light at the end of the pandemic-shaped tunnel.

All this new energy leaves us restless with the status quo. My kids have zero interest in school right now. Truth be told, neither do we; juggling two jobs and two kids’ school schedules is for the birds. Even our sweet Ellie, the geeky powerhouse she is, is complaining of Zoom fatigue.

It does not help that we planned a vacation, and now that brief five-day stretch in mid-June is top of mind for everyone in this house. You can practically feel the desperation for a change of scenery rolling off us in waves. It’s not even an elaborate thing; we’re spending a few days at a hotel in Bar Harbor. Hardly unfamiliar territory, but boy, you’d think we were getting ready to jet off to Europe. We’re researching restaurants and tours and shopping, and yes, we’ve left plenty of down time in the middle to hang out at the pool.

I even booked a massage. I AM SO READY.

Then, in the excitement and haze of vacation planning (vacation! planning!) Tim suggested we should do something just for the two of us, so I found the cutest oceanside resort and put a down payment on a long weekend in August. We may not make it to Canada this year, but damn it, we’re not staying home all summer.

Meanwhile, I paint every day whether I feel like it or not. It’s been five months of that, and I see a little progress. I would like to get to the point, skill-wise, where there are fewer happy accidents and more conscientious, consistent outcomes…but I’ll take the happy accidents for now. 🙂

I’ve also taken up cooking, which is wholly unlike me. We subscribed to Hello Fresh (discount code in case you want to try it, too) a couple weeks ago, and I find prepping and making a meal after my work day is a nice way to decompress. I actually look forward to it! Both making the food and eating the food. 🙂 Plus it gets me out of dish duty, haha.