Now that the summer is over….

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My daughter and Waffles at home this weekend.

My world is a little less crazy in September than it was in August. Of course, it’s only September 2nd. But, I haven’t left our desert in more than a week. The last two weeks of August, I trekked from Palm Springs to Santa Barbara to Phoenix—and my daughter and husband threw in a trip to Salt Lake City in between.

I was supposed to help my daughter set up her new home in Arizona this Labor Day weekend, but after my husband’s shoulder surgery Tuesday, I postponed my trip. A friend lectured me about leaving my husband alone after surgery. She said that my daughter should drive home to help us out—not me drive to see her. “After all, the new house isn’t going anywhere, she can get by with slowly unpacking, and you can help her at a later date,” she said. My husband did need attention, just a little, and my daughter happily agreed to come home for the weekend.

It’s only a short drive from the Phoenix area to Palm Springs. Four hours to be exact on one freeway—“the 10.” In So Cal, we say “the” in front of every highway. They don’t do that in NorCal or Washington, where I grew up.

My son lived four hours away in Santa Barbara, which is in the opposite direction of Arizona. In the words of a native Southern Californian to drive from Palm Springs to UCSB, “you take the 10 to the 210 to the 118 to the 23 to the 101.” I feel so much more comfortable with the drive to Arizona on “the 10.” Period. Except for the big trucks, which I don’t like, it’s a one-shot deal. I hope to get there soon to help her set up her new home.

I’m also anxious to get a fresh start to the fall. I’m relieved we made it through so many hurdles. Vacation, the move, the surgery, etc. are all behind us in the rearview mirror. It’s time to look ahead.

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Olive the cat seems to have survived another few days with Waffles.

What do you think about the end of summer and the start of fall?

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My super crazy, unbelievably busy August

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Waffles at the beach

Thank goodness I’m almost through with a momentous August. Usually, my Augusts are quiet and peaceful with countless hours reading books by the ocean or a mountain lake. But not this year. It’s been by far the craziest couple of weeks I’ve lived through.

Here’s a replay of the past few weeks:

• My husband’s pre-op nightmare battery of tests where they kept ordering test after test so he can have his shoulder surgery tomorrow. This is an entire story in itself that includes a cancer scare that I may write (complain) about on another day.

• Our dear friend passed out at the gym, having a blood clot lodge in her carotid artery causing a stroke—the morning we were driving four hours to see her.
 She spent a few days in ICU and after a few days was released and went on beach walks with me.

• My son’s girlfriend’s car accident on the day they were coming down to see us at the beach. The next few days helping them find a car. Eventually, they made it on vacation with us—in their new car.

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The VRBO we had for one week in paradise.

• Finally, a one week’s beach vacation. Gone in a snap.

• Driving up the mountain to move the RV back to the desert with a friend to help us drive it down the twisty, windy roads. It wouldn’t start by the way. The batteries died. I asked to borrow jumper cables and then a truck because our car has a “weird-ass” battery that can’t be used to jump a car.

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Big Bear Lake at the RV Park and Marina.

• Next, we drove to AZ to my daughter’s new house. My husband flew from Phoenix to Salt Lake City so he and my daughter could drive a U-Haul for 10 hours with her worldly possessions through flash floods and monsoon winds. I spent two days cleaning the dusty, dirty house until I was exhausted. But, I did have lil’ Waffles by my side the entire time.

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They arrived in the U-Haul after a 10-hour drive.

• We hired movers to unload the U-Haul because of my husband’s upcoming shoulder surgery, plus my daughter’s distance-swimmer shoulder. We were told about a website where you can hire two guys for two hours for moving, which I did. Guess what? The movers didn’t show up!
 I’m currently trying to get a refund.

• We spent Sunday putting together Ikea furniture and unpacking boxes before making the trek back home.

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My kids body surfing during one relaxing moment at the beach.

What could we squeeze in next? Shoulder surgery tomorrow and I get to be nurse and caretaker. Then I’ll return to AZ and help my daughter get settled—and bring the things I forgot to pack on our last trip–like her work wardrobe! Whew! No wonder I’ve been stressed lately.

What was your August like? Did it seem crazier than usual, too?

Our first day of summer vacation made me want to stay home

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The beach in Summerland near Santa Barbara.

The day we were leaving to visit our dear friends in Carpinteria, I got a text from one of them: “I am going in for emergency surgery to have a stent put in. Sorry to ruin the weekend.”

I’m like, “WHAT?” We were packing the car ready to embark on a week’s vacation with family and friends in the Santa Barbara area. I called my girlfriend immediately after I tried to make sense of her text. She answered in a weak, raspy voice and explained that in the morning she had been at the gym (she’s a health nut, works out all the time, rides her bike 60 miles and only eats healthy) and she passed out. They called an ambulance and rushed her to the hospital. She was headed into surgery when I called her on her cell. It turned out that she had a stroke and a blood clot landed in her carotid artery.

Talk about a jolt! I was terrified for her. How can one lead such a healthy life—and then something like that happens to you? The good news is she’s been released from ICU and the hospital altogether. A week later you’d never know that she underwent such a harrowing ordeal. She’s so fortunate she wasn’t on a bike ride when it happened, or working in her house alone. The stroke happened when she was surrounded by people and she got treatment immediately.

Later the same day, we got another phone call about a family member’s major car accident. After, that another health scare about another family member. Then to top it off, my cat got sick and she had to go to the vet. What else could wrong on the day you’re leaving on vacation?

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Father and daughter on a beach walk.

I turned to my husband and asked if we could postpone our vacation. I had no desire to leave the safety of my home. What’s the point of vacation anyway if all you’re doing is worrying about your loved ones?

We stayed home that night and I calmed down. I reflected on how fragile life is and how you never know what’s in store for you. I’m so thankful everyone survived that awful day and that they are all safe and sound. Then when we finally went on vacation, I treasured every moment I shared with my friends and family.

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Waffles at the beach

What are some of the most unplanned and crazy moments of your vacations?

Are your kids ready for #adulting?

 

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Where we went with our kids for summer vacations.

One of the side effects of doing everything for our kids is they won’t know how to do anything on their own. We’re setting them up for a big fail if we send them to college without basic life skills. In addition to the amazing grades, high SATs and sports achievements, they need to learn how to take care of their health, money, car and clothes.

I remember when I was 16, I took one of my best friends on a family vacation on our boat in British Columbia. One day we docked in Campbell River B.C. and my mom and dad divided up the chores we needed to get done while we were ashore. My dad went to the Marine supply store, mom to groceries, I went for bait and fishing gear. My friend was sent to the laundromat. A little while later, my parents met up at the laundromat and were shocked my friend had no idea how to do laundry!

I had done laundry since I was a little kid. My mom went back to college while I was in first and second grades. My brother and I were latchkey kids and we walked home from school to a daily list of chores. How we hated mom’s slanted handwriting that filled an entire sheet of yellow legal-sized paper. I understand now that she was keeping us busy and out of trouble by giving us a list of chores that we would never ever be able to finish. Either that or she was a slave driver. I prefer to think it was the former.

In any case at the age of seven, I could bake cakes, vacuum the house, sort laundry, weed the garden, mow the lawn, make my own lunch and do the dishes. I wonder how many high school seniors today do those chores? I know my kids could—but not often. I didn’t make them. It was easier for me to do it myself. My daughter came up with the best excuse ever–a unique mystery illness. While we were on summer vacations at the beach, we’d rent a cottage that didn’t have a dishwasher. She literally would break out in a rash on her legs and arms when it was her turn to do the dishes! Maybe it was an allergy to the latex gloves, but it looked awful enough for her to get out of washing dishes. Then, how could I make my son do them if she didn’t?

 

 

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Angus wasn’t allowed inside the beach cottage, but he sure wanted to be.

 

In the Montgomery Advertiser, Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman wrote “Parenting: Adulting goals for teens.” They have a one-hour syndicated talk radio show and give parenting advice. In their article, they list a bunch of things that our kids need to learn—before they leave for high school. I’ve also written about what our kids need to learn before they leave home for SwimSwam and here.

Here’s an excerpt from the “Adulting goals for teens article:”

Do our kids understand the basic principles of healthy eating? Do they know the difference between fats, carbohydrates and proteins, and do they know which foods are the best sources for each? Do they know that they need omega 3 fatty acids but should avoid trans fats? Are they familiar with which foods contain each?

Can they cook? Do they know the difference between a paring knife and a chef’s knife and why they would need to use one or the other? Do they know how to carve a bird or thicken a sauce or caramelize onions?

Can our teens self diagnose common illnesses? Do they know the difference between flu symptoms and the common cold, and can they treat either one with over the counter medicines or natural remedies? Do they know basic first aid and have they taken a CPR class?

Do our high schoolers know the difference between municipal, state and federal agencies? Do they know who to call if a stop sign is knocked down or what steps to take if they have a fender bender?

Can they change a tire, replace their windshield wipers and check their oil? Do they understand the difference between liability insurance and collision coverage?

The questions could go on and on, and of course, there’s no way to prepare our kids for every situation they could possibly encounter, but if we set a goal to help our teens learn the basics of adulting, we can be pretty confident that by the time they venture out on their own, they will know enough to do well and be able to find the answers when they are unsure.

 

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The cottage we rented every summer for years.

How prepared are your kids for living away from home? Did you have more life skills then your children at the same age?

 

To Swim or Not to Swim: Reflections on a Summer Beach Vacation

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I’m a much better vacationer today than I was in my 20s. I’ve learned how to relax.

When I was in my 20s, my yearly vacation was spent going home to Washington. I had to see and do all the PNW things. Ride a ferry to the islands, dig clams, fish, go hiking in the woods, go to the city, ride a bike around Greenlake, go to my cabin and spend the night, visit my best friend and my other best friends—and all my friends. Visit my favorite professors. I had my Daytimer with me and scheduled events by the half hour! It would drive my husband crazy and soon I made my annual jaunts home by myself.

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This year, we rented a house in a sleepy little beach town near Santa Barbara. Our good friends live close by and we had many fun meals together, planned at the last minute. We spent hours walking on the beach, riding beach cruisers through town and sitting on the beach reading. I am reading the third Neapolitan novel by Elena Ferrante and there’s nothing better in my mind than having long stretches of time to read a good book.

My daughter came with us plus a swim friend from her age group days. Isn’t it amazing how swimming bonds friends through life? They’re both college swimmers and they ran, lifted weights, swam and got massages.13880146_10210575966699190_5499508276428958217_n

The only downfall of vacation was the spotting of great white sharks at the beach. Only two hours after the girls had an ocean swim, a 15-foot great white was spotted exactly where they had been swimming.

IMG_3338A lifeguard told me that last week, she watched a seal by the swimming dock. It was pulled underwater, tossed up and eaten by a large creature with a fin. She said it was like watching National Geographic as the water turned red.

I was looking forward to ocean swimming and kayaking. I was going to try SUP (stand up and paddle) for the first time. But, like I said, I’m better at vacations now and sitting on the beach with a book made more sense, given the great white sharks.

Video of the girls swimming before the sharks were spotted: 

What’s your favorite thing to do on vacation?

“Be Good. Do Good. We’ll Be Doing Good.”

My son learning to dive with the swim team.

My son learning to dive with the swim team. He’s third from the right.

“Do Good. Be Good. We’ll Be Doing Good.”

These are the words my son recorded for our voice mail message when he was four years old.  I saved that for years.

What a thoughtful thing for our young son to say! My husband and I adopted that saying as our family motto.

A walk on the UCSB campus during our vacation.

A walk on the UCSB campus during our vacation.

I try to do good. Be good. Some days it’s a bigger struggle than others. But, it’s something to think about, too. What are we doing with our lives? Are we making a difference? Is the world a better place because we are in it?

A lot has to do with our outlook. I’m definitely one of the “glass is half full” types. I try to look at the positive and stay away from those who are negative. Turning on the TV can put you into negativity land. I truly believe that we can stay positive by removing negative influences around us. Turn off the TV. Listen to music. Read interesting books and essays. Swim! Like Ray Bradbury said, “Garbage in, garbage out!”

My kids at the age when my son recorded the voice mail message.

My kids at the age when my son recorded the voice mail message. Vacation pic from years ago.

After spending a week in paradise—otherwise known as Carpinteria, CA—I look back on our vacation as perfect. We have great friends who live there who inspire me. I always come home with so much energy from being around positive, hard working entrepreneurs.

Also, my children spent a bit of the week with us. What a treat that was for me! With two college aged kids, having them together was priceless. We rode bikes, hiked, swam in the ocean, sailed, shared meals together. It’s hard to leave them, but I’m so thankful for the time we had together. That’s my glass half full talking as I sit in my lonely, quiet house once again.

Our main mode of transportation on our vacation.

Our main mode of transportation on our vacation.

I’m proud to say my kids look truly happy. They are definitely doing and being good.

My kids and friend.

My kids and friend.