Posted by Susan Sey Sep 29 2014, 12:13 am in Susan Sey
Happy Monday, Bandita Buddies!
So it was a very busy weekend Chez Sey. Our girls had dance competitions both days, so Saturday & Sunday morning were both up-by-5:30, hair-and-makeup, who’s-got-the-dance-bags, where-the-heck-is-your-costume kind of deals. Come Sunday afternoon, all I wanted was to lie on the floor, read the Sunday paper & eat popcorn.
I mowed the lawn instead.
I didn’t want to mow the lawn, mind you. In fact, I felt very sorry for myself about it. But I knew the week ahead didn’t have any lawn mowing time built in, & the situation in the front yard was getting embarrassing.
So I grumbled but I got out there & mowed.
And you know what? It felt awesome. I’d been standing around indoors all weekend, trying to keep track of two different kids on two different stages, & I’ll admit it–it was kind of stressful. Mowing the lawn, however, was very zen. I got sweaty, I stretched out the kinks. I zoned out, thought my thoughts & breathed in the gorgeous smell of cut grass.
I didn’t have to watch televised football with the rest of my family (I don’t judge; it’s just not my cup of tea), and my lawn is no longer an embarrassment.
So I did the right thing–the responsible thing–and was actually rewarded for it. When was the last time that happened? I can hardly even remember. How about you? When was the last time you did the right thing & got to feel all righteous & awesome?
All images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Mouse over for artist attribution
Posted by Susan Sey Sep 19 2014, 12:04 am in art, memories, photos, Susan Sey
I have always liked the idea of RAM. It’s a computer thing, some particular type of storage. (RAM = Random Access Memory.) I don’t know what this means, not exactly, but I’m charmed by the idea of randomly accessing my memories.
Like many of us, I’ve abandoned photo albums since the advent of the camera phone. I don’t even print my photos out. There’s no writing a madcap note on the back (“Wanda & Me At The Beach with Lobster Boy!”) to remind myself who, what, where or when. No, when I scroll through my pictures these days, I’m lucky if I can remember what the photo is of, let alone why I took it.
All I have is the photo itself, a random image of a moment in time that leaves me wondering why I recorded it.
I actually enjoy this little game. I call it, “Now what do you suppose THIS is?”
Sometimes it’s easy. The first photo, for example, was my favorite meal at the state fair this summer: Pretzel curds, blarney fries & a good Irish beer.
I picked up photo #2 at the 4H building (also at the fair), proof of a fabulous fact that some kid picked up while doing research on…I don’t even know. Pole vaulting? Transportation in the middle ages? The origin of Olympic sports? I have no idea. But I know a bit more about the origins of pole vaulting now, & am kind of sad that we’re moved on to cars & bikes & buses & such.
#3 is obviously a guinea pig’s 2nd birthday party. There were treats involved made out of sunflower seeds & peanut butter. The party hat was homemade. Of course.
#4, however, still puzzles me. This is a sculpture I saw at an outdoor art park that was chock-full of weird stuff. Seriously weird stuff. But this…I want to call it a deer mobile?…took the cake. I can’t imagine what the artist’s intent was. All I can tell you for sure is that it scared the crap out of my sister’s dog.
#5, though? #5 I remember. I don’t recall what it was actually called, but my sister (seen smiling here) & I rechristened it “The A-hole” because it’s obviously a big hole with the capital letter A inside it. And once you see that, you’ll never un-see it. It’s the A-hole forever. Because we’re mature like that.
How about you? Is your phone your photo album these days? Or do you still print your pictures & put them in albums? How do you organize your memories?
Posted by Susan Sey Aug 29 2014, 12:12 am in birthday, celebrations, food, state fair, Susan Sey
I’m the luckiest girl in the world, & for a lot of reasons.
I have family–a husband who loves me (still!) & kids who make us proud (when they’re not making us crazy).
I have my health–though at 42 (today!) I’m starting to squint at the fine print. And make an unseemly amount of noise when I get up in the morning. Nothing gastro-intestinal (thank GOD) but a lot of snap, crackle, POP in the ol’ joints. It’s sort of musical, I guess. It has a beat. You could dance to it, maybe. Once you stretch out.
But the biggest blessing? My birthday. And not just because I’ve reached another one. (Though thanks be, right?) No, the best part about my birthday is that–through a freakish lucky break–it always but ALWAYS happens during the Minnesota State Fair.
Which is, as many of you know, the Very Best Time Of The Year.
That is where I am today, as I have been every single August 29th since I discovered the glory that is the Great Minnesota Get Together. I am at the state fair grounds with 150 thousand of my very best friends, eating my way through the day.
True confession, though? This isn’t my first day at the fair this year. It usually isn’t.
See, the first day is when my whole family does the State Fair 5k. Here we are with our faithful friends the Ormans–who also accompanied us to the Boundary Waters earlier this month. (They are a family of intrepid adventurers & we love them. Hello, Ormans!) So we begin the day with a 5k, then proceed to vet the entire fair. We check out all the new vendors, the new exhibits, we knock off the kids’ favorite stuff–we do fair hair or get henna tattos. (See photo. The turkey leg–what’s left of it–is for scale.) We do the midway, the giant slide, etc. We eat caramel apples & minidonuts for breakfast, we get our free coffees & milkshakes (which come with the run.)
We watch Princess Kay of the Milky Way get her head carved in a giant block of butter. (Not even kidding. See?)
The second day is my birthday. Which is my day. So we do everything I want to do.
Here is my list for this year:
Visit the animal barns.
I like a nice, leisurely stroll through the barns. All of them. It’s fun to see the Big Pig–over one thousand pounds of swine on the hoof, ladies! Though, usually, he’s just on his side, because, dang. That’s a lot of pork. But I like the Miracle of Birth barn especially. Last year we saw a lamb being born. It was…amazing. And gross. And compelling. The kids could NOT look away. It was birth control at its finest, & yet educational. Win/win, as far as I was concerned.
See the 4H exhibits.
I grew up in the country, but we were never country people. My dad wanted land & space but he was in sales. He commuted into the city for his job every day, & we drove a good thirty minutes into the nearest suburb for most of our activities. It was a weird little combo that left us kids without the polish & street-smarts of city kids but also without the skills & know-how of country kids. We were useless little suburbanites. So I’m fascinated by 4H, & the amazing things these kids know how to do. I love to walk slowly through the 4H building & carefully read each project. I love to inspect the dresses they sewed, the sheep they raised, the cotton they grew. It’s wonderful. This corn cob fascinator right here is actually an art exhibit, but you get the idea. Plus…a CORN COB FASCINATOR? Yes, please. And thank you.
Do the fair at night.
This year we’re trying something new. We’ll do the daylight hours as a family, but I’ve arranged for a sitter for the evening. We’ll bring the kids home, get them settled, then Mr. Sey & I will go BACK to the fair & do the evening like a couple of carefree kids. We’ll drink beer & eat cheese curds. We’ll take in some live music. The fair is great about serving up a whole host of random B list musicians from our own teen years. We’re like, “Damn, Debbie Gibson??” And our children are like, “MOM. This is STUPID. Can we GO now?” So we’re leaving their complainy selves at home while we indulge ourselves. Maybe Mr. Sey will win me a giant stuffed banana wearing a Rasta hat or something. We’ll see.
Of course we’ll eat. Eat, eat, eat. Because that’s a good deal of what the state fair is all about. But you can only stuff down so much per day so a second day is definitely necessary. For example, during our first fair day this year my eldest child (aka Madame Fussy Pants) tackled one of those giant turkey legs, solo. It took her the better part of four hours but she nailed it. It was a laudable accomplishment–it might have weighed more than she did–but it didn’t leave her much room to try the Fudge Puppy or the Jello Salad Ice Cream. And after the caramel apple sundae, I didn’t have the wherewithal to tackle the Deep Fried Buckeyes. So you know, you really require a second day at the fair.
So that’s where I am today, folks. Internet is spotty at the fair, so forgive me if I’m not very present here today. I’ll try to live-tweet/Facebook our progress but if I’m not on the comments as much as I should be, please know that I’m thinking of each & every one of you. And I’ll report back.
So how about you? How do YOU like to spend your birthday? Do you celebrate? Do you down play it? Do you do cake and ice cream? Presents? What’s your tradition?
Posted by Susan Sey Aug 19 2014, 12:13 am in BWCA, canoeing, chocolate, food, Kids, Susan Sey, yum
Kids love water. I know they do. I have never yet successfully watered my garden without also watering my children. Setting up a sprinkler on the summer day is like rolling out the welcome mat.
Or the slip-n-slide.
To my knowledge there are no more joyously welcomed words than “Who wants to go swimming?”
So taking the kids canoeing should be a slam-dunk, right?
Well….I don’t know.
See, we’re taking the kids on their first canoe camping trip this weekend. It’s just a quick two night/three day paddle in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area–which is one of Minnesota’s hidden treasures. We have loads of lakes, as everybody knows, but fewer people know that we’ve preserved a big ol’ chunk of them right up near Canada specifically for canoeing.
The BWCA is one of the most gorgeous places on God’s green earth, & we’re about to introduce our kids to it via sweat equity. Not because we’re nature nazis, but because that’s the only way to see it. You literally can’t get into the BWCA unless you’re willing to put all your gear on your back, a canoe on your head & walk it in there. And then put that canoe down, get in, & paddle it someplace.
And the BWCA? Worth it. No question.
Now I’ve taken kids into the wilderness before. I’m not an amateur. I know exactly what it takes to make a trip like this do-able for the younger set. Well, for anybody, really. Outdoor life is wonderful if you follow two simple rules:
Staying warm isn’t easy when you (and your gear) spend the majority of every day a few inches above a chilly lake. But it’s not complicated, either. It’s very simple, actually. STAY DRY. I have impressed this upon my children, who are given to wild starts & unpremeditated actions. We can easily end up swimming rather than paddling if things don’t go exactly as planned, at which point they will be cold. And mommy will be unsympathetic, because what did I say about sitting DOWN IN THE CANOE?
Eating well, however? We’ve got that one nailed down. We’re a little limited, of course, as we can only take what we can carry on this trip. (As opposed to car camping, where you just load up the trunk & reach in whenever you want something.) But with a little practice & some creativity, you can perform miracles over a campfire. I can fill the kids’ bellies, no problem.
But we all know that eating is about more than just filling the belly. Eating is about pleasure, & one of camping’s great pleasures?
The S’more. Blessed, blessed s’more. That holy trinity of chocolate, marshmallow & graham cracker.
If there’s one thing that’ll make a kid smile–no matter how wet, how miserable, how whiny–it’s a s’more.
Now my oldest likes to light her marshmallow on fire. She enjoys waving it around, of course, but also really likes that crispity blackened outside paired with the untouched-and-still-sort-of-bouncy inside. She mooshes it between graham crackers with a wedge of classic Hershey’s & she’s golden.
Me? I take my time. I want my marshmallow perfectly browned until it’s warm & gooey all the way through. I prefer a Hershey’s Symphony bar–the kind with the toffee bits, please–and a couple of classic graham crackers.
Mr. Sey takes his with dark chocolate, & the little one just eats the crackers. She likes to toast marshmallows but prefers not to eat them. (We don’t recall having dropped her on her head when she was a baby but clearly something happened there. We’re looking into it.) I’m teaching her to toast mine, as it’s all about efficiency when you’re camping.
So I know you all have opinions about this. What’s your perfect s’more? Or, if you’re not a s’more girl (WHAT?), what IS your favorite over-the-camp-fire dessert?
Posted by Susan Sey Jul 29 2014, 12:22 am in Friendship, rwa14, Susan Sey, vacation, writing
There truly is no place like home. And you know what makes you really appreciate home? A vacation!
And yes, while home is where the heart is, it cannot be denied that vacation is where the restaurant food, hotel beds and far-away friends are.
And I just spent a week in the company of my beloved writer friends. We laughed, we ate, we brainstormed & plotted, we dressed up, we dressed down & we hung out. And it was so good for my soul.
More happened than I can possibly recap for you, but here are a handful of snapshots that’ll give you an idea.
There were these lovely hanging stars in the main conference hotel. I found them strangely fascinating. They were sort of a theme, actually. I discovered different versions of them all over the place. Is there an explanation for this? Is is a San Antonio thing? Or was it just a theme for the decor? Either way, they were beautiful.
The talented & amazing Joan Kayse opened her heart–and her room–to me this week, graciously sharing her bed and her roommate with me. (Hi, Lisa! Hi, Karen! I’m wearing pants!) This is us lounging around in bed with snacks & a mere sampling of the free books we were showered with. (insert big, happy sigh here) Free. Books. I *love* RWA’s national conference!
Speaking of books, here’s a small sampling of the Romance Bandits who participated in Read for Life Literacy signing, giving away their books to raise money for literacy. I couldn’t get photos of Tawny, Beth or Anna Sugden–I ran out of time–but I was proud to be among them all!
Then there was the eating & the drinking. I love food–and I especially love food I don’t cook or clean up, so eating out all week would have been a joy in & of itself. But the food in San Antonio came with friends! There was dinner with my Romance Bandits & PJ Ausdenmore from the Romance Dish…
…Drinks in the bar with thehilarious Susan Gee Heino…
And breakfast meetings over bacon. (Mmmmm, bacon.)
We wrapped things up with our version of the Oscars, the Golden Heart/Rita awards, where I was shocked & amazed at the line I had to stand in. Evidently, other people also wanted to watch the proceedings. Who could’ve known?
All too soon it was time head home. I’m missing my writing friends something terrible but I’m using all that emotion to fuel the next story. I’ve managed to hack my way to the end of Chapter One, & I think–I hope–I’m on the right path. But if I’m not, I know who’ll steer me back to it. I just spent all last week basking in their friendship, & advice is only an email away.
So tell me, what’s been the highlight of YOUR summer so far?
Posted by Susan Sey Jul 19 2014, 10:10 am in camp, independence, Susan Sey
So my big girl is off to overnight camp tomorrow, & I have to admit, we’re all feeling a little trepidation about it.
Not that we don’t love camping. We’re all about camping here in our house. Summer’s not summer until we’ve busted out the tents, thrown on the backpacks & burnt dinner over a fire. But this is different. This isn’t camping. This is Camp.
Like overnight camp.
Like away from the family camp.
Like sleeping in a cabin with fourteen other girls, & a couple of adults who don’t know that you like to sleep with the bathroom light on. Or that you often end up in your sister’s bed. Or that you have a deadly & unreasonable fear of spiders.
This is Girl Scout Camp, & unlike 5th grade camp, I won’t be in the next cabin over. I’ll be in San Antonio, hanging out with my writer friends. Her sister will be doing day camp & coming home every night to hang out with Dad, but my big girl will be having a big new experience. And as I mentioned, we’re all facing it with a little worry.
Not that I’m letting it show. No, on the surface I’m all, “You’re going to have a great time! You’ll be so busy you’ll hardly even think about us!” But inside? I’m worried for her. She’s a sensitive, loving kid, & she’s very family oriented. This is going to be a tough experience for her. It’ll be good for her, I know. Good for all of us to let her prove to herself that she can do it.
But it’s killing me to think she’ll be sad or lonely or afraid, and far from her mommy.
Do you remember the first shaky steps you took away from your family & into the world? How did it go? Any advice for her? For me? Share!
Posted by Susan Sey Jun 29 2014, 12:55 am in Susan Sey
One of my dearest friends in the world has a little cabin in the woods. We’ve spent many happy days there with her & her family, enjoying the lake, the woods, & the company. Last winter, though a number of fluky circumstances & some plain old bad luck, the heat went out, the pipes burst & the cabin flooded. It wasn’t a total loss, but it required a complete gutting. The kind of gutting that begs the age-old question:
Repair, or rebuild?
Now I don’t have a cabin & I probably never will, but I’m totally enchanted by this question. It applies to so many decisions in life, of course, but I personally like to apply it to my own house. I’ve never been in love with my 70s split level, but it’s in one of the better school districts in the Twin Cities, it’s in a safe neighborhood, & it’s got plenty of room for our family. I have nothing to complain about.
Not that that’s ever stopped me.
So listening to my friend think through her decision has got me thinking. Dreaming, really. So let’s say there’s an Act of God. Let’s say a storm dropped a tree on my house & I got to redo/replace three things. Only three. What would they be?
Oh, baby, I’ve got my list ready to go:
1) I’d tear off the screened in porch currently rotting off the side my kitchen & replace it with a kitchen addition, complete with an big ol’ island the whole family could eat at. Big glass windows, stovetop on the island….oh, yeah. I could get used to that.
2) I’d take our bathroom down to the studs & replace EVERYTHING from the plumbing out. We have a harvest gold bathtub people. Harvest. Gold. And the shower/bath toggle has never actually toggled properly. Our guests take shaths. Or maybe bowers. But you don’t get to pick either a shower OR a bath. Both the faucet & the shower head run at all times. I’d love to deal with that.
3) I’d tear out the ugly 70s faux stone fireplace in the basement & replace it with a natural gas fireplace/heater. I’d rip out that horrible old stone with the same terracotta tile I have in my foyer/kitchen & I’d put in an honest-to-goodness mantle. I’ve always wanted one. Someplace to hang the stockings & put up framed pictures. It would make our family room feel like a FAMILY room.
So what about you? What would you do if Fate suddenly handed you a reason to renovate? I know you’ve got a list…share!
All images courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net, mouse over for artist attribution…
Posted by Susan Sey May 29 2014, 8:38 am in haircuts gone bad, Susan Sey
Top Five Things That Happen When You Get Your Hair Cut Shorter Than You Intended:
1) The very short hairs around your ears now stick straight out around the arms of your glasses.
2) Your youngest child cries because you look like a boy.
3) Your husband says kind things about how it wasn’t what he thought you were getting but “it actually looks pretty good on you.”
4) You can’t stop feeling the back of your poor, shorn head.
5) You resolve to wear your contacts to your next haircut so you can keep an eye on the proceedings.
So…that pretty much sums up my yesterday. Have you ever had a haircut go awry? Let’s hear all about it while I wait for my haircut to grow out…
Posted by Susan Sey May 19 2014, 12:03 am in camp, Kids, outdoors, Susan Sey
As you read this, I am likely already at camp.
Fifth grade camp.
That’s right, friends. I’m up north this week, chaperoning my daughter’s 5th grade camping trip. And when I say “up north”, I mean it. From where I’m going, I’m pretty sure I can see Canada.
Which is fine by me. I like Canada. I also like camping. And fifth graders.
For a couple of years, in fact, I made my living taking 5th graders into the woods & introducing them to nature, so this is right up my alley. I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity to get back to 5th grade camp for years, & I’m pretty sure I’m about to have a great week.
Here, in no particular order are 5 things I’m excited about:
1) The smell of the north woods in the spring.
2) Taking a dozen girls & making a team of them.
3) Sleeping like the dead because we’ve been outside all day.
4) Reading my girls to sleep by candlelight.
5) Watching kids discover that school isn’t the only place–or even the best place–to learn.
That said, here are 5 things I’m not looking forward to:
1) Chow hall food.
2) All-day rain. (Scheduled for today.)
3) Discovering (the hard way) which kids are bed wetters.
4) Wet socks–no relation (hopefully) to #3.
5) Parent chaperones who think they’re on vacation.
Given that I’m at camp, I probably don’t have internet access, which means I won’t be very present on the blog today. But if the opportunity presents itself, I’d love to check in on the conversation. So here’s a question to get you started:
Have you ever been to camp? What was your most memorable camp experience?
All images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Mouse over for Artist Attribution
Posted by Susan Sey Apr 29 2014, 12:11 am in glasses, shopping, Susan Sey
True confessions time: I have terrible eye sight.
Now everybody says they have terrible eye sight, but I really do. Oh, it’s definitely not as bad as it could be. I mean, I don’t have bifocals yet (knock on wood) & my eye doctor (whom I visited just today) said my macula are immaculate. But for some people, glasses are just helpful. For me, they’re absolutely necessary.
I don’t have a bedside clock, for example. I just wear my watch to bed. It’s big & ugly, but it has indiglo & I can bring it right up to my nose without waking up all the way. And this is handy because I’m constitutionally unable to go back to sleep unless I know what time it is. I can’t explain it; I just know I have to know. So I wear my watch to bed.
When we’re lying in bed at night with our books & screens, and my husband wants to show me something on the iPad or in a magazine, he can’t just tilt the screen & say, “Hey, check this out.” He has to reach over & put it about six inches from my nose.
Driving? Ha. I was at the wheel on a rainy Saturday recently & I pulled off my rain-spattered glasses so my husband could give them a quick wipe for me. We made it about half a block before we decided that perhaps it was better for me to just look through the rain drops than have dry glasses. Safer for everybody.
It wasn’t but a few days after that when I was giving my glasses a quick wash. I opened the towel & discovered them in two neat halves, the nose bridge snapped clean through the center. I had a minor moment of panic. The last time I’d gotten new glasses, I’d had my old pair made over into prescription sun glasses. Which promptly broke. Did I have a back up pair? How old were they? Lord knows I didn’t want to go back to contacts. I know they work for many good people, but they always make me feel like I’m wearing a scoop of sand in each eye. They’re definitely special occasion wear.
Happily I found an old, sturdy pair buried in a drawer. And when I say “old,” I mean it. I think I was dating my husband when these frames were in daily rotation. (We’re having our 14th anniversary this summer.) Luckily, the 80s had already taught me some important if harrowing lessons about trendy glasses by the time I bought this particular pair. These frames were classics. I’ve been wearing them for a month now, & have actually received a handful of compliments on them.
But I deserve new glasses. It had been a solid four years since my last pair, & my rule is every three to five. So I’ve been doing some serious frames shopping, only to rediscover this tragic fact: It’s about as hard to find good glasses as it is to find good jeans. And finding decent jeans that flatter your body & don’t cost the earth? It’s a certifiable miracle. (Am I right, ladies?) So I finally just today pulled the trigger on a new pair. I think I like them but it’s hard to tell. I had to take my glasses off to try them on. I’ll have to let you know in a week to ten days.
So how about you? Do you panic when you blow out the knee of your favorite jeans or break you five-year-old glasses? Or are you already in the car heading for the mall with a smile on your face & a song in your heart? What’s the last important-to-you item you had to replace?
Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net