overeducated & understimulated

"if you're going through hell, keep going …" -winston churchill

Gorilla dogs September 6, 2012

Filed under: Food,Life with kids,The meaning of life,Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 10:52 am

I could tell I was sick yesterday when I got a craving for Grill-A-Dogs.  Comfort food calls when the sinus cold hits.  Luckily, my illness coincided with the first day of school, so I was able to rest in a quiet house.  And I didn’t have to share my Grill-A-Dogs with anyone.

So what’s a Grill-A-Dog, you’re wondering?  It’s sort of a cross between a grilled cheese and a pogo.  (Or what I imagine a pogo to be, never having eaten one.)  To make them, you need two wieners, two pieces of bread, butter, and a Grill-A-Dog maker.  It’s similar to a sandwich maker, but instead it molds toasted bread around hot dogs.

Close up of the Grill-A-Dog maker

The hot dog compartments

Tastes just as good as on the campfire …

You can dip them in ketchup and mustard.  Mmmm…

When I was a kid, we used to eat Grill-A-Dogs at lunch time at the cottage.  My cousins, sister and I feasted on them all summer long, as often as our mothers would make them for us.  You can only make two at a time, and subsequent rounds of Grill-A-Dogs pose a bit of a burn threat to the chef.  It’s not as easy to load the bread and wieners when the thing is burning hot.  But our moms had mastered the art of gingerly placing the ingredients and clamping the griller shut.

They were motivated — the moms wanted their own Grill-A-Dogs, too.  This comfort food has a long and revered history in my family:  My mom’s family used to camp a lot when she was a kid and they were devoted Girl Guides and Boy Scouts.  Even my grandparents were involved in Guiding and Scouting from an early age and became leaders as adults.  So, when a local company started selling these Grill-A-Dog makers, it was a great addition to the camp kit.

Eventually, the family Grill-A-Dog maker ended up at the cottage.  Now, for a whole generation of cousins, it is eternally associated with summer, family togetherness, and eating lunch on the dock in a wet bathing suit as fast as you can so you can go swimming again.

When I moved away and started missing summers at the cottage, I realized that at least one element of that summer fun was portable … I started plotting how I could remove the Grill-A-Dog maker from the premises without anyone noticing.  But really, how could I deprive them?  The Internet saved me from becoming a thief, because I discovered that the inventors of the Grill-A-Dog maker are still in business and with several models to choose from!  If this post has inspired you or piqued your curiosity, you can even get your own Grill-A-Dog maker.

Soon the coveted Grill-A-Dog maker arrived at our house and I started making them for my own kids.  Of course, they loved them!  The eldest was convinced I was calling them Gorilla Dogs.  And she still is.  I like it — the 4th generation of Grill-A-Dog lovers is adding to the legacy.

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Is it wrong to say the end of the school year is the end of my life? June 25, 2012

Filed under: Life with kids — Aerin Rainey @ 2:17 pm
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I am so grumpy here all of a sudden.  I am biting heads off like a lurking snapping turtle cruising for random toes dangling in the water.  Any victim will do.

And I just realized why — tomorrow morning my kids are not going to school.  Summer’s here.  I am happy that we will be on vacation and have a lot of fun-filled days planned for the kids.  I love being a mom and spending time with my kids.  I look forward to summer and get excited about the last day of school, too.  So why the dread?

Well, because it is hard enough to find time for myself when they are at school 6-7 hours a day and now they will be with me constantly.  It will be like perpetual weekend.  Sounds good, right?  Except that I always breathe a sigh of relief on Sunday nights because I have been going all out for 48 hours and Monday morning is when I catch my breath.  I can go to the gym, call a friend, go for coffee.  Hell, let’s get real: I can just empty the dishwasher and re-load it and wash all the dishes that have been piling up on the counters since Friday. Then do laundry, buy groceries, make beds, pick up clutter, sort closets, etc., etc., etc.,

You see, we have a bad system here that totally relies on kids being out of the house for a chunk of the day.  The grown-ups in this house do no housework over the weekend.  Also, once dinner is made and eaten, it is very unlikely that any of the grown-ups will do anything resembling a household chore.  Originally, this system of running our household started because I noticed that once my husband was home from work, he is in relax-o mode.  He gets to sit down, chat, look at his computer, go on the internet, watch sports, whatever he wants!  Since he was not really able to be flexible in this for whatever reason, I decided that I would also be off the clock.  So, we sit around doing nothing all evening!  Just chatting and wasting time online, watching a show or a movie.  It’s great!  And the same thing is true on the weekends: Charlie does nothing, therefore, I do nothing.  It saves a lot of resentment.  And if he actually does something like set the table or unload the dishwasher or help with homework, or chauffeur kids around, I am really grateful.

Living in this house is pretty sweet, because there are no chores.  We all have our jobs during the day:

  • Charlie: go to work and earn an income
  • Kids: go to school and extra-curriculars
  • Aerin: take care of the house (i.e., do all the chores) and then be on what I call the “kid shift” from 2:30 to 8:30 pm.

So the problem is that when the kid shift expands from dawn till dusk, the chores take a serious hit.  Prepare to be surrounded by clutter, dirty dishes, and unfolded laundry. Plus, all the bits of “me” time I have scheduled in, like going to the gym, occasionally seeing a friend for a quiet coffee, maybe some yoga or a run, all seem to be things of the past (and not-so-distant future).  So, yeah,  I guess I am grumpy.

I can just hear all the working moms out there pshawing my worries about this transition and I know it’s a nice problem to have (luckily most of mine are that kind and I know it!) but it must be easier if you have the same job all year.  I mean, you just sign them up for camp or hire a babysitter or drop them off at the grandparents instead of the school and life goes on much as before … here we are dealing with a major change in routine.  And I am not that good at change.

Oh well.  Summer is short — I am just going to enjoy it and chores be damned!

By the way, this was my first post under my new pseudonym.  Blogging anonymously is actually a lot easier, so I can now release my inner opinionated woman.  Any of you who have followed me prior to this know my real identity and I hope you don’t mind going along with me on this … thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Success is not in the eye of the beholder March 15, 2012

Filed under: Fitness & health,Gifted,Life with kids,The meaning of life,Travel,Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 12:55 pm

This has been a very tough week.  I am not feeling well, I have one sick child, I had that job interview that blindsided me, my husband is sick, there was a snow day, plus I got my period.  I don’t know whether it is required for me to spiral into an existential depression every time hormones and low iron levels hit me, but that is what seems to happen.

In the words of Tears for Fears, from “Mad World”:

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
And their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow
And I find it kind of funny

I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying
Are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
‘Cos I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It’s a very, very
Mad world

But spring is around the corner and I have a lot to do.  My plan is that carrying out this simple list of projects (in whole or in part, which is more likely!) will help me get back in touch with my focus and let me bring my full attention to every detail and start living in and enjoying the moments of my life again.  Instead of sitting around worrying what those people running in circles think of me.

List of projects for a successful stay-at-home mother

  • Declutter the basement
  • Organize/purge kids’ accumulated art projects/school work
  • Finish painting the laundry room
  • Stay on top of laundry loads
  • Work on Brownie badges with Meghan
  • Plan and prepare healthy family dinners at least 4-5 times per week (prepare semi-healthy meals 16-17 times per week)
  • Help Meghan study for rider level test
  • Complete school’s online Scholastic book orders in timely fashion
  • Declutter my desk
  • Complete photo albums in Aperture and order prints
  • Contact all elementary schools in Greater Saint John area re: fundraiser (as per role on fundraiser committee)
  • Visit and present characters to elementary schools (as per role on fundraiser committee)
  • Purge kids’ DVD collection
  • Work out 5 days per week
  • Keep food record
  • Provide treats for teachers on St. Paddy’s Day (as per role on Special Events committee)
  • Declutter garage
  • Buy groceries
  • Hang hooks in stairwell for backpacks/sports equipment
  • Repair walls in laundry room, front hall
  • Hang new laundry rack
  • Ensure kids practice piano daily
  • Help kids with homework daily
  • Drive kids to and from all extra-curricular activities and playdates on time
  • Get birthday present for Clara’s friend
  • Plan summer vacation camps, trips, etc.
  • Plan trip to London
  • Pursue digital photography hobby
  • Read books I have purchased re: education, giftedness, health & dieting, photography, spirituality
  • Paint three bathrooms and two bedrooms
  • De-mold the upstairs windows
  • Clean all windows
  • Make/order blinds for kitchen windows
  • Install new shelf in Meghan’s room
  • Mail Helena’s housewarming gift
  • Blog 3-4 times per week
 

Setting a good example March 12, 2012

Filed under: Life with kids,The meaning of life — Aerin Rainey @ 5:40 pm
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I had my job interview today.  I don’t really know whether it went well or not.  Not an ace-in-the-hole, let’s say.  It was tough getting prepared during March Break and with the husband working and then catching up on much-needed sleep all weekend.  Afterwards, I thought I should tell the girls that it went really well, but we have to wait and see because they can only hire one person but there are lots of people who want the job.

Now why would I lie to my two daughters?  I pretty much felt like crying all day after this stressful event so I definitely needed to come clean with them and say I just didn’t get a  great feeling from the interview, and now I am going to have to wait and see what happens.

I guess I just thought it would be easy to get back in the workforce and show these two girls of mine how great the world thinks I am.  I want them to see me being successful.  The only problem is that I can’t seem to figure out how to measure success.  Is it paid work in the business world that I need to be considered successful?  I don’t know anymore.

 

Free to a good home October 6, 2011

Filed under: Life with kids,The meaning of life — Aerin Rainey @ 11:09 pm

This week, I made almost $100 selling stuff on kijiji.  I just took photos of kids my stuff have outgrown, posted ads on the website and soon, I was in business!  I am getting rid of stuff, gaining empty, clutter-free space in my house, and making some money.

At first, I figured I’d give the stuff away.  In fact, I donated a lot of it to a pre-school.  But in the spring of 2010, I had my first and only garage sale, and made enough money for five of us to go whale watching on the Bay of Fundy for a day.  I realized, Hey, I have a lot of good stuff.

The stuff I have now fits into two categories: (1) Stuff that I think members of my family or circle of friends may want one day; and (2) Stuff that has been so carefully chosen and obsessively cared for that I just can’t bear to release it to the whimsies of the universe.  I mean, after keeping track of all those Little People farm characters for so long, and never losing a single one, keeping the cash register in working order, pristine, clean and shiny, with all its play money and basket of groceries intact … how could I now take the risk that in their next stages of existence, these precious belongings would be scattered to diverse locations, no longer a complete set?  Or the sandals purchased with love on a trip to Montreal, an agonizing choice between pink beads or blue sparkles — how to just let them go without ceremony or anyone to recognize the significance of these particular sandals?

No doubt, some people will think this is crazy — who cares, it’s just stuff, right?  Ahhhh.  I care.  I know I shouldn’t worry about material possessions and that the memories and people supported by these possessions are really what is important in life.  But.

Then kijiji.  Users are combing through the listings, hoping to find that perfect item that will be a great bargain and the envy of all their neighbours.  I love selling stuff on kijiji … I know my stuff is going to a good home.  People who will appreciate it and who are willing to drive, sometimes, across the province to get it!  I would give the stuff away free, but the number of takers would simply be too much for me (and my inbox) to handle!

 

Made-up stuff October 3, 2011

Filed under: Life with kids,The meaning of life,Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 10:43 pm

I love our new art room.  All the arts & crafts supplies can be found there.  My kids can splatter paint and spread chalk dust around to their hearts’ content.  There is even a plasma car to ride around on when you feel the need for inspiration.  Finley, the betta, has taken up permanent residence on the table and the iPod is plugged into a speaker and set on a continuous loop of the Tangled soundtrack.

I would have loved a space like this when I was a kid.  Chock full of glue, paper, pom poms, glitter, paint, markers and possibility.

Don’t get me wrong — when I think about the basement at our house when I was a kid, it was all about imagination.  Made-up games, as my girls call them now.  And listening to them play pretend is bringing it all back to me.  In that unfinished space of my childhood, full of carpet remnants and mismatched furniture, my sister and I and our neighbourhood friends spent hours not just playing our made-up games, but setting the scene for our dramas.

First the cast of characters, complete down to their middle names.  An involved family tree and background story had to be conceived and fleshed out for each person and, if the game was a continuation from yesterday at supper time, we had to recap the entire pretend history. This was really the best part.

Next, we had to build the forts.  After all, even made-up people need somewhere to live.  The pool table, a cast off from my grandparents’ house was coveted for its cozy interior and rooftop garden.  Behind the bookcase was also a fab pad, as it came furnished with bean bag chairs.  Last and definitely least, the couch/coffee table combo.  My poor younger sister often got stuck with its sagging afghan roof and skull-and-coaster-jarring low ceiling.

And then we played.  “Say I’m …  in a car accident and you find me unconscious!” “Say I … get fired from my job, but on the way home I buy a lottery ticket and win!”  “Say … we all go to the beach and we get chased by sharks!” “Say … ”

“Say I’m a world-famous author … “

 

Welcome to The World October 1, 2011

Filed under: Life with kids,The meaning of life — Aerin Rainey @ 12:25 pm

In three weeks, we’re leaving for Disney.  I am planning like crazy.  I have all the dining reservations booked, lists of attractions in the order we will visit them, and the kids have been working hard to earn “Disney Dollars” for months already.  Am I going overboard? Maybe.  Probably.  Okay, yes.  But I can’t just throw some bathing suits and sandals in a suitcase and wing it … I mean, that would be asking for disaster.

I didn’t know anything about Disney World when we decided to take the kids there.  But most people seem to have extensive knowledge and advice about Disney.  I wanted to learn, so I did what I always do when I want to learn about something:  I read a book about it.  The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.  854 pages.  Cover to cover.

Anxiety set in.  Questions were everywhere.  Should we spend two days at the Magic Kingdom, or one day each there and at Epcot?  If we do go to Epcot, whether to eat lunch at Coral Reef Restaurant or Akershus Royal Banquet Hall?  And should we pass on the overpriced Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or would it be the highlight of the trip?

Well, these are very nice problems to have.  But problems nonetheless, and I still felt like I didn’t know enough.  The biggest problem was how to move past all these questions and make some decisions.   I turned to the web.

There are so many websites dedicated to Disney.  It’s like the Bible: if you look hard enough you find evidence to support anything.  Soon I realized that recommendations are only as good as the person making them.  How do you know whether you even have anything in common with these recommenders?

Well, I figured it out.  It doesn’t matter what we do because it is all good — it has to be, after all, it is all Disney.

I am still taking my lists.