Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bee stings, balloons and the big picture

The balloon will make sense eventually.
Recently, I've had a few "what am I doing with my life?" moments.

It's not that I don't know what I'm doing at this point it time -- feeding, bathing, clothing, chasing and wiping various orifices of two small people; freelancing; feeling like an asshole as I chase the dog around the backyard pleading with him to stop barking at the squirrels running along the overhead power lines; attempting to figure out what that smell is.

I mean, the bigger picture "what am I doing with my life?" Like, when am I going to fulfill my destiny?  And, what is my destiny? Is finishing my novel in my destiny? Will my destiny always involve a dog lying on top of me and casually licking his feet, creating a very specific and also rather unpleasant aroma? 

And I don't even know that I believe in destiny. 

Given that I've been prone to depression in the past, I get a bit worried when I start asking the "what am I doing with my life?" question too often. It's kind of my barometer for inner peace (given the number of human, canine and feline inhabitants of my household, outer peace is a lofty goal). 

I've been asking it to myself (and sometimes to the kids) daily over the past two weeks, which has then made me anxious. So then on top of wondering what I'm doing with my life, I'm also worried about why I'm wondering, which in turn is making me pinchy, snippy, cranky and otherwise irritable and also not very much fun to live with. 

Last week, I was somewhat relieved to have found the culprit for the "what am I doing with my life-ing?"

Here's where I'm going to share too much information, albeit in a non-graphic manner. If you would prefer not to read about normal, gender-related functioning of the human body, please skip this section. I'll tell you when to start again. 


The culprit, I thought, was female-cycle-related hormones racing about my body with utter abandon after two years lying dormant. That's right. Two years. See what happened was, I was pregnant for awhile and then nursing Jovie for a year -- and as a result I hadn't had a proper lady flush in a while. I stopped nursing Jovie in June, which sent some sort of bat signal to my parts that systems were go for launch and when that happened the inhospitable portion of my brain responsible for anxiety, rage, insecurity, vulnerability, fear and sadness, lit up like the 'Parkly Deer House in February.

It seemed they'd gotten a little cabin fever all holed up for the past couple years, so they were pretty excited to be released into the wild. 

I'd forgotten about how much fun that is. 


But when my suspect went back into seclusion this week and I was still asking The Question, well, that was even more worrisome. 

I don't want to be depressed. I mean seriously, it's a real drag for everyone. 

So I've been trying to think my way out of it. And I had some useful revelations/realizations.

I've been going to yoga once a week. Which really isn't enough, but scheduling wise seems to be all I can pull off. And for the past month or so during my weekly class I really haven't been engaged. Like, I do my downward dogs and my trees and my hip stretches and my sun salutations and all that but the meditation and breathing have been all wonky -- probably because all through class I'm subconsciously asking The Question instead of just living my life in that moment. 

During today's class my normal instructor was MIA and so Kyle ran the class. And Kyle was all about us focusing our energy on different areas and really feeling it flow to the parts we were stretching. He said something that got me thinking: "Yoga starts from the inside."

Meaning, I think, that a good practice starts from a good mental place. From being present in your present body instead of strolling through murky corners of your brain in your present body.

I liked his thought but I still ended up spending my Savasana (the clear your thoughts and be calm time) worrying about whether I'd find enough freelance work.

Luckily, I got a do-over. 

One of my former co-workers has organized several free outdoor fitness classes throughout the summer, and tonight's class was yoga (up next: body combat).

So I parked my mat next to a friend and tried again to quiet my inside voices and focus on the present and all that. 

Then I got stung by a bee.

A small one though. 

I focused on how the bee sting kinda hurt for awhile and then refocused on my breathing and the present and all that.

Good practice starts from the inside, I told myself, erecting a soundproof room in my brain. Which didn't quite cancel out the gnat that flew in my ear (how can something so little have such a loud buzz?!).

As evidenced by the growing pile of bug carcasses strewn about my mat, my internal practice needed some work. 

I'm pretty certain that insecticide is not part of yoga.

So I kept breathing. Kept trying to stay in my present mind. And it worked. To a degree. By my second Savasana of the day I wasn't asking The Question. I was listening to birds and the wind rustling leaves and the AC/DC from the pickup truck in the parking lot. 

Just let your worries float away, the instructor said as we lay there. So I imagined a couple of birds swooping down, picking up The Question and flying away with it.

I felt physically lighter at the end of class (which is strange because after double yoga my legs felt heavy). 

For the first time in a long time, I got to drive my adorable lime green Beetle*, windows down and radio blasting. I let my hair down for good measure.

I was about to bemoan the lack of good music on the radio when this song came on:


And floating overhead like a technicolor beacon the whole ride home: A hot air balloon. 

Now, I'm not one to believe in signs. Except, that probably I am. 

But having just watched The Question fly away and rocked out to a song that was both strangely appropriate and also one of my favorite summer jams of all time,** it really felt like I was given the green light to let go. And the balloon! The balloon!

And this is the second time in a week I've been stung by a bee in a spiritual sort of setting (I got stung at a church on Friday). Perhaps the Greater Power or what have you is trying to suggest that I'm neglecting this important facet of my life and maybe if I tended to it, I wouldn't feel the need to worry about The Question so much.

Or, maybe I've just been pissing off a lot of bees.

* For reasons explained here, Brad drives my old car. He's a good man.

** You know how some songs are so firmly entrenched in a place that every time you hear it, you're there? This song will always take me back to Duluth, Minn. in the summer of 2004. Whenever I hear it I think of driving along Lake Superior and Walmart employees saying "you betcha" and ice cream sandwiches (the vending machine at the Duluth News Tribune where I was interning had the best ice cream sandwiches. I thank that vending machine and the dive bar across the street for the 10 pounds I gained that summer. Journalists don't seem to have much self control when it comes to food).

Photo courtesy of CarolynConnor/Flickr

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why you shouldn't sweat your crotch sweat

Hopefully that will be the only time I use the word "crotch" in a blog headline. Such a strange word. 

Moving on.

This afternoon's rant brought to you by Kotex Sports Liner:

Women's rights have really have come along way. 

We're allowed to vote.

We're allowed to fight in combat (you know, so long as we're not distracting the men with our pheromones and feminine wiles).  

We're allowed to make the heart-wrenching decision between staying at home with our children, working a full-time job or doing something in between while loaded with massive amounts of self-doubt no matter what choice we make, not to mention the judgment of others who think we're either failing as mothers for going to work or failing as womyn for staying at home.

When we are at work, we're allowed to make 77 percent of what our male counterparts make doing the same jobs. 

We're allowed to venture out in the world in whatever body we have and brace ourselves for comments behind our backs or to our faces about that body -- if it's too big it's because we're lazy pigs and if it's too little it must be because we have an eating disorder, if it's just right .... who are you kidding? It's never just right. As a result we can't look at food -- a substance required to sustain our existence -- without anxiety. 

We're allowed to feel beautiful. So long as every morning we shave our legs; shave our armpits; blow dry and style our hair; remove stray hairs from around our eyebrows, chins and upper lip; apply makeup; wear undergarments that makes our butts and breasts look perkier and disguises any unpleasant rolls (so long as nobody can tell that you're wearing said undergarments -- pantylines are not pretty); wear clothing that's in style and flattering (but not too flattering lest we're trying to advertise that we're seeking the wrong kind of attention) and don heels that both elongate our too-short legs while hurting our already overloaded backs. If we feel we are not reaching an unattainable standard of beauty because our bodies insist on getting older, then we are allowed to inject ourselves to erase wrinkles and undergo surgery to suck out fat and reaffix any parts that have dared to succumb to gravity and inevitable aging processes by sinking from their youthful heights. 

And now we're allowed to workout -- something that makes us healthier and stronger -- so long as we wear fashionable, body-hugging workout gear and nobody can see the natural byproducts of our workout. 

Of course, we're also allowed to ignore the endless and often outrageous attempts of advertisers to sell us a lifestyle that's not affordable, practical, realistic or fulfilling. 

We're allowed to retreat into our vacuum and accept ourselves and our bodies -- by doing so it becomes less important to judge others.

And we're allowed to celebrate each other as real people living real lives in a real world -- not some fantasy dreamed up by someone whose bottom line is more important than your self-esteem. 

In conclusion, don't buy Kotex Sports Liners. Your crotch sweat is your business.

Oh and this (seen here originally):

Monday, July 22, 2013

Playwright Ken Ludwig offers thoughts on soil quality

One thing I've learned about stay-at-home motherdom is the importance of taking advantage of any opportunity I'm presented with to have real conversations with people outside of topics involving toddler sleep habits, preschooler potty habits, toddler-preschooler eating habits, toddler-preschooler altercations, toddler-preschooler shenanigans, places to take toddlers and preschoolers for a good time, things the dog has barked at and, places the cat has pooped outside of places that the cat is supposed to poop. 

It is for this reason that freelancing for the Daily Record has been such a blessing. On a fairly regular basis, I get to call up new and usually interesting people (why else would we be writing a story about them?) and talk about new and usually interesting things. 
Admittedly, I often get sidetracked on these conversations -- veering into topics I know full well will never be able to fit into the newspaper (I can now hear the angry sighs of my editors and see them shaking their fists at their monitors. "Yeah about that Jennings," they'd say (too politely), "See our newshole is a bit tight these days and I don't know that we have space for your 50,000-word treatise on how bored the kid dressed up as Pete the Cat looked at the weekend book fair. Maybe think about cutting that down about 49,500 words, or so.")

Where was I? Oh yes, getting sidetracked. 

I just can't help it. When a majority of my day is spent listening to my almost-3-year-old tell me she's "huuuuuuuungry" and that she wants to watch "caaaaaaartoons" and trying to figure out what my just-turned-1-year-old wants when she points at the kitchen and says "dis?" I might get a little too enthusiastic during interviews.

Especially during interviews with internationally acclaimed playwrights. 

On Friday I had the pleasure of talking to Ken Ludwig about his new book "How to Teach Shakespeare to Children."

Admittedly, I'm by no means a Ludwig aficionado. While I'd heard about a couple of the plays he'd written ("Lend Me a Tenor," "Crazy For You" and "Moon Over Buffalo") I'd never actually seen any of them. But it was exciting to speak to a writer who's both successful and prolific. And even more exciting that he was so down to earth and gracious.

During our conversation I'd asked Ludwig why he thought children should learn about Shakespeare -- how would it help them in life?

I loved his response. It touched not only on the practical -- like how it helps you understand post-Shakespeare art and literature better, makes you a better writer and helps you find your own voice -- but that it also makes you deeper. 

"It Gives you something to draw on that makes you stronger, makes you think about things in a more interesting and complex way."

Then he quoted a biography on Nathaniel Hawthorne* written by Henry James: "The flower of art blooms only where the soil is deep." 

Ludwig then offered his interpretation:

"The flower of art within each of us blooms when the soil inside us is deep. When we have real resources to draw on. It doesn’t matter whether that art is medicine or engineering or art and poetry."

I really love this imagery of cultivating both your passions and your person. I think it's so critical to growing as a person and by extent growing as a civilization. When you neglect the soil -- when you choose to watch, say, terrible reality television instead of working on your novel or you decide to do away with elementary school arts and music programs to save money and focus on standardized testing, well then you might as well be salting your soil. No flowers will bloom here.

I also asked Ludwig how writing his new book compared with writing plays. He said it was easy. Writing fiction -- starting with a blank page and trying to create a whole universe -- is hard he said.

Well that's a relief to hear, I said, before telling him that I was working on my own novel and that I had the hardest time even opening the file for fear of having to stare at a blinking cursor.

"Stick to it," he told me. "The hardest part is that blank page. Literally that blank page. And you just have to think and say you need time by yourself. You need complete quiet."

Then he told me to tell my husband that I needed at least a three to four hour stretch of private, quiet time during which to work on my novel. I had a good laugh at that -- not that my husband wouldn't be willing, just that three to four hour stretches to accomplish anything -- whether it's floor-cleaning or noveling -- are hard to come by with the babies running amok.

So Ludwig confirmed what I'd already suspected: That accomplished writers don't journey to some magical land where a friendly gnome is able to read their minds, transcribe their innermost thoughts and before organizing them in a meaningful and compelling narrative. 

Like the rest of us mortals they force themselves to sit down in front of that horrifying blank page and make sense of the world.

* And for all of you out there who feel the urge to write, yet worry that nothing in your life is worth writing about, behold this excerpt from James' Hawthorne biography: 

"Hawthorne's career was probably as tranquil and uneventful a one as ever fell to the lot of a man of letters; it was almost strikingly deficient in incident, in what may be called the dramatic quality. Few men of equal genius and of equal eminence can have led on the whole a simpler life."
As a stay-at-home mom living in less-than-glamourous York, Pa. this is fantastic. Better than fantastic. For my life, too, is "strikingly deficient in incident" of any dramatic quality (unless you count the race to locate all the items on the grocery list before the kids implode with boredom as drama). 

Photo courtesy of Mike Baird / Flickr

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dispatches from under the heat dome

We've officially entered the summer doldrums.

Our beach vacation is behind us.

The Rocky Mountain high of our surprise weekend getaway is fading.

The pink hippo pool that the girls were so excited to play in in June has lost its novelty. (And now has a leaky head, which means it's a headless pink hippo pool, which is to say, it's just a pink pool with a -- let's be honest -- kind of phallic-looking tail*). 

And it's hot. 

So hot. 

It's as if the Eastern United States is swaddled in a high pressure system that's pushing warm air to the surface and trapping it there as if under a giant, glass dome. A heat dome, if you will. 

I want out.

Last week, while slightly less hot then it is this week, was overcastish and rainish and generally not very conducive to outdoor adventures. 

So we've had a lot of indoor time. Which has locked me under a dome of my own fragile sanity. Desperate for activities that don't involve removing all the books from off the bookshelf, throwing all the pillows off my bed onto the floor so that they might be flopped about in (Lily calls it a Pillow Party), or scattering Jovie's new plastic sea creatures all over the living the room so I can't find a seat on the couch without being poked in the butt by a whale shark or starfish, I've resorted to letting the girls make legitimate messes. 

We've gotten out the Play-Doh and finger paints and glue. The heat dome has forced me into the crafty underbelly of stay-at-home motherdom: Toilet paper tube octopi.

Look what you made us do Heat Dome!
The world was a less scary place before you foisted demented button-eyed cephalopods on us.
I wasn't cut out for this.

That's not to say we haven't ventured outside. Earlier this week, the girls were two of, like six kids, trudging about a playground that on any other day is bursting with small, screaming people. I trekked down to Maryland to meet up with my sister for a couple hours of pool time. We went outside to get the mail and water the flowers yesterday and spent some time in the sandbox today. 

(If you're wondering where I get the energy to keep up with such a thrilling lifestyle, let me reassure you that I couldn't do it without my afternoon cup of coffee and reasonable amounts of sleep each night.)

Since the experts would have you believe that in this heat, your child's face will melt off  "Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark"-style the second it comes in contact with Heat-Dome-Trapped Air, we don't stay out for long. And truthfully, after a half hour both girls start looking wilted and listless. Within minutes of returning to the air conditioning the perk up and return to their destructive ways. 

I was actually looking forward to taking the dog to the vet today with both girls in tow. I knew Lily would enjoy the chance to see other people's pets (she's down with OPP) and also, the vet's office isn't my house. Snacks even likes going to the vet. He bounded through the doors, jumping on the counters, and straining to sniff other patients. As everyone in the waiting room looked at me -- mannerless dog dragging one arm, wily 14-month-old occupying the other one, excited preschooler trailing behind -- I could read the singular thought crossing their minds (and hear one of them actually verbalize it) -- that woman has her hands full.

Yes! Yes I do! Thank you world for observing this, yet again.**

The dog and the girls were great -- you know -- aside from trying to use the table-sized scale as a trampoline and scattering various waiting room toys on the floor. They, too, were happy to not be at home. 

All was well except for the moment when one the vets exclaimed "Snacks! You have love handles! What happened?"

See what happened was with two little kids, a lot of food ends up on the floor in our house and Snacks, a master of food acquisition, ends up eating it. This hasn't been helped by the reduced exercise regimen (damn heat dome!!!!). I told all this to the vets. And they nodded in sympathy. But seriously, he could stand to drop 5 pounds.  

We'll get right on that, too. 

As soon as we can leave the house without our faces melting off.
P.S. The squirrels seem to be having a memorable summer vacation despite the heat wave.

P.P.S. On a procrastinating on writing the novel note, this and on a making excuses for living a fuller life note, this.

* Crap. I don't mean to keep using this word! It's just in this case, it was so appropriate. 

**  A while back while I was out on a walk with the crew, a man actually stopped his car and laughed at me. He apparently found the whole scene, kids, dog and me, highly amusing. He pointed at us and said, "that's awesome." So that happened. And something I found highly amusing, given the fact that a majority of the people who choose to comment about my situation say that I have my hands full or that I need more hands, on another walk, one of my neighbor's whose husky had wandered off her property actually asked me to grab her dog for her. You know, with one of my extra appendages. Two dogs. Wagon. Poo bag. Need me to do anything else? Want me to pick up your mail for you while I'm at it? Maybe bring your trashcans back up the driveway? Prune your hedges? Bring it! (The dog and neighbor were actually both very sweet. I just found the request hilarious. I don't think she saw the humor though). 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Stub Story: The Avett Brothers at Red Rocks

Tonight - my third Stub Story. Except that this one will be nonfiction. 

But wait, you say, how can you break the rules on just your third story? 

Because, I do what I want. And anyway, for this story I think the truth is more entertaining than fiction. 

To placate the masses (or just the one or two people who still read my rambling) I will write this autobiographical Stub Story in the form of a fairy tale. As it was in real life. 

Let's get started. 

The Stub:

The random words: 

The story:

Once upon a time, in a land filled with leaky sippy cups and sticky floors, there lived a perpetually disheveled (and often pungent) housewife. 

The housewife spent her days ignoring the increasingly aggressive balls of fur drifting about her kitchen floor while admonishing her almost-3-year-old to stop licking her just-turned-1-year-old and day dreaming about her pillow and a nice glass of wine.

It was a simple existence. One where the biggest adventures involved a shopping cart, grocery list, and (hopefully) free cheese at the deli counter, lest the almost 3-year-old be sent into starved convulsions.

Then one day her handsome husband returned home from a day spent battling the Saxo-Techs and prepared a feast fit for a queen after the children were tucked away snug in their bed. They talked quietly about their plans for the upcoming weekend as the almost-3-year-old whimpered "mommy, mommy, mommy" and "I want to cut my toenails" and "I have to go potty!"  in the background. Baseless pleas by a procrastinating sleeper.

Grandma and Grandpa were planning to visit from the northlands of Wallenpaupak so that they could attend a re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. The weary, but agreeable housewife asked her handsome husband how the group might fair at the event, what with the 90-degree temperatures, record-setting crowds and two small children who did not have the smallest interest in watching grown men and women dress up in woolen garb and eat hard tack. 

"It will be fine," he reassured her, before changing the subject to more pleasant things. "What's on your bucket list?" he asked. 

"My bucket list?" she asked, inwardly questioning the futility of such a document, what with the ability to achieve such lofty goals all but impossible with the endless demands of childrearing, household chores, freelancing and dog chastising. "Before I shuffled off the mortal coil, I'm much desirous of completing my novel and visiting Alaska to view the Northern Lights."

The handsome husband then showed her his iPad on which he'd pulled up -- "The 10 things to do in Colorado in your lifetime." Scrolling through the app he landed on about seeing a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater.

"Oh yes," she said. "That's definitely on my list. That would be incredible."

The handsome husband smiled mischievously, "What about if we did that this weekend," he asked. 

Confused, the often-dimwitted housewife replied, "What?"

The handsome husband slid a pair of tickets across the table. The Avett Brothers at Red Rocks, just two days hence!

He told her of arrangements, months in the making. There would be no re-enactment. The Fairy Grandparents were journeying from afar to watch the halflings while their parents sojourned west to the mystical land of Colorado, filled with craggy peaks and  live music. 

Shocked, the housewife could not stop smiling. To see one of her favorite bands at such a renown venue was something out of a dream. And to do it without first having to encounter the nightmare of air travel with children was out of an even better dream. 

Oh happy day!

With that, the pair kissed their little ones farewell (a little, too gleefully) and began their journey.

Their seats aboard their flight -- a magic carpet bound for endless possibilities and at least one full night of sleep -- offered a view of the wing and a chance to post enviable pictures via social media, the kind she'd long cursed boastful, childless acquaintances for sharing.
The handsome husband was pleased as well, for the conveyance offered ample storage space for his beloved rolly suitcase.

They settled themselves in, watching as other parents toting diaper bags, snack cups and wiggling, noisy tots scanned frantically for open seats. Not us, they said, clinking their rum and Cokes before turning to traveling amusements: Sudoku for the handsome husband and dollar bill origami for the housewife: 

Upon arrival in Denver, they were shown to their ground transportation. A royal blue chariot, or Caravan rather, fit for a king (and the king's heirs as well).

The couple giggled about the irony (while secretly cursing Thrifty for its demented Wild Car option) and set forth to the weekend's accommodations: The City Center Marriott -- a palace replete with giant, cloud-like beds and free from plastic dolphin toys and errant copies of "Clifford's Birthday Party." 

After freshening up and grabbing a bite to eat, it was time to go to Red Rocks. A singularly beautiful concert venue nestled in the Front Range with uninterrupted (well, except for a few front, front ranges) views of the Denver skyline. 

It was here that the housewife's cell phone battery died -- well before one of her favorite bands ever took the stage. Not that cell phone pictures would've properly captured the beauty and infectious excitement of the place. Licenses plates on their hike to their seats revealed that pilgrims had arrived from across their great land -- Wyoming, Missouri, Mississippi, Florida, Virginia and, yes, even Pennsylvania. 

Seemingly everyone was a tourist, making it acceptable to snap pictures of the towering pillars of red rocks bookending each side of the theater -- pictures that the housewife would've wanted to take herself, if not for the lack of phone charging foresight. 

Luckily, the handsome husband (pictured right) was prepared. Capturing a shot of his rather vacant wife (lower right), staring in awe at the surrounding geological wonders and exclaiming "how pretty!" as the lights twinkled on one by one in the city below.

The bands were equally as giddy. Old Crow Medicine Show opened electrifying the crowd with much banjo, fiddling and foot stomping and the Avett Brothers followed suit. The audience sang and swayed and screamed for more until the lights came back on and they all had to make the long hilly walk back to our cars at the stroke of 11:15 or so.

The experience was memorable and worthy of all the fanfare. As was sleeping in until 8:30 the next morning. The housewife couldn't overstate the gloriousness of this moment.

Nor, indeed, the wonder of reading in bed instead of watching "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" or showering uninterrupted or setting out for the day without having to account for diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, leaky sippy cups and extra snacks. 

But the housewife had started pining for her little ones. So she called home and spoke to her older child -- whose little voice raced over the Appalachians, across the Mississippi and over the plains to warm her heart. All was well at home. Well, except for a tummy ache. 

Using the power of the internet, the Handsome Husband located a tavern at which the hungry pair could procure a delicious meal. While the wait at Snooze A.M. Eatery was significant, the free coffee and people-watching helped the time pass. 

The establishment was replete with young hipsters begging to see and be seen and the housewife was all to happy to see (and hopeful that no one would look too closely at her own non-hipness, what with her lack of tattoos, Sunday morning brunch stilettos and adorable summer dress). 

She and her handsome husband whispered about the young rogue who, in a practiced Ivy-league-esque voice stated with confidence, "My goal for today is to speak to three beautiful women" before proceeding to court the hostess. (The housewife made mental notes to create a character modeled after the gentleman in a future story).

The meal was well worth the wait (the housewife had the Caprese Benedict -- a traditional eggs benedict paired with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and a balsamic drizzle -- and the handsome husband had the OMG French Toast -- perhaps the single most delicious brunch item you'll ever have the pleasure of eating. Seriously. It was a winner).

Their hunger satiated, the couple ventured out on a lazy day of city strolling. They got lost in the Tattered Cover, a bookstore that made the housewife pine for her days of bookstore employment and the long hours she'd spend reading when she was supposed to be shelving. She browsed the end caps, imagining what her own novel might look like sitting on one -- a recommendation from a well-read sales associate taped to the shelf. 

They eventually returned to their room, the handsome husband napped as the housewife read her book. That evening they met her parents, who live outside of Denver part-time, at Rioja -- a fine-dining establishment they most certainly would not have been eating at with an almost-3-year-old and a just-turned-1-year-old. 

Alack, the reunion was too short (though the food was phenomenal), a 3:30 a.m. wakeup call in order to make their 6:30 a.m. flight home necessitated an early night. The now-well-rested-couple bid their kin adieu and retired to their hotel.

And in the blink of an eye, their child-free weekend getaway came to a close. 

On the flight home he slept, she read some more -- trying to suck as many words off pages as she could before returning home, where books languished on her nightstand, dusty and unfinished.

Not that any of that was really too bothersome for the housewife. For while she appreciated the adventure -- the live music, the quiet meals, the deep sleep -- home, with its pattering feet and big smiles on little faces, was far sweeter.