- My kids play tennis. Clarification, Zoe plays tennis, but my boys play a lot of tennis.
- We live in a northwest suburb of Minneapolis.
- Apparently, the Tennis Court Construction Guys feel that indoor courts are an unnecessary luxury for those of us in the northwest suburbs.
- After a hop, skip, jump, leap, dos-y-dos and gallop, along with jamming my foot down on the accelerator and cursing at a few other drivers for 17 miles three times a week, we safely arrive at indoor courts.
- Don't even get me started on how far we drive for weekend tournaments like, for example, I did this past weekend.
When I made the conscious decision to sign my kids up for extracurricular activities, I knew that I would be spending more time in the car than if they were to just sit at home all day with an Xbox controller in their hands and a bag of Chex Mix wedged next to them on the couch. What I wasn't prepared for, though, was how much time I spend in the car. Between the tennis lessons and tournaments, orthodontist appointments, piano lessons, errands, elementary school pick-up and drop-off, more errands and more tennis lessons, it gets to the point where I don't even want to get in my car to go to the bar on a Saturday night. And that's wrong. So very, very wrong.
Most mornings, I try to be organized before I head out the door. This usually means a grocery list, an errand list, a to-do list, maybe a tennis bag or two thrown in the back and a bag of snacks in case someone is absolutely starving after they get picked up. Also, if there are any calls I need to make or emails I need to return, I bring a list of numbers. Then when I'm singing along to the radio and waiting for a kid to appear, I can get something done besides just feeling like an idiot, waiting. And waiting. And getting angry because I'm waiting. This way, when the kid finally appears, I feel productive and angry.
There are times, though, when I find myself sitting behind the wheel with nothing to do. And it's moments like these that make me wonder: what else could I be getting done? I mean, I know I can't cook a pot roast or shake up a martini, and I could always pass the time spying on what the other moms are doing in the school parking lot, (Like last year when, I shit you not, I saw a woman trimming her nose hair.) but there has to be some sort of task that could be completed to make me feel like I'm not wasting decades of my life in the car. And then I found these ideas in the newspaper:
Do menu planning. I think this means I should plan nutritious meals for the entire week that are to be cooked in my home, with ingredients that I have written down and will have time to purchase, and then served at a reasonable time. What this fails to take into consideration is the fact that during the week, when we walk in the door at 6:30 or later, there isn't a lot of time for chopping, braising, saucing and serving. It's more like nuking, yelling, scarfing and homework-ing. At least I can get my grocery list done: hot dogs, buns, noodles, jar of sauce, limes, tonic.
Make doctors' appointments. This suggestion would work for someone that hauls around a ginormous planner with their entire life etched out in ballpoint pen. And although I have a color-coded wall calendar at home (stop laughing), most people I know, including myself, have switched to electronic calendars for when we're on-the-go. Which means that in order to schedule an appointment from my iPhone I'd have to keep saying "Hold on a second, I'll see if that day would work" and then hope like hell that I don't accidentally drop the call while I'm seeing if I can wedge the time between an ortho appointment and a tennis match. Luckily, I don't have to schedule very many doctor appointments. On the other hand, vet appointments for a puppy? Don't even get me started.
Plan date night. For me, hearing the term "date night" churns up the same nausea that the term "play date" manages to trigger. And everyone knows that if you plan anything that requires reservations of any kind, advance tickets, the booking of a babysitter and the purchase of a new piece of apparel, the babysitter will cancel and/or a kid will get sick, probably all over that new piece of apparel. If Doug and I happen to find ourselves with a free Friday night and we're extra thirsty, we go to the bar for beer, onion rings, more beer and hopefully a live band where people are dancing so that we can laugh at them. And we don't call it "date night," we call it "having fun" or "getting drunk."
Pay bills. I won't be doing this in the car, since the sounds of my screaming and crying might make other people worry.
Read. The article says I'm supposed to rip out newspaper and magazine articles and throw them in a tote bag for moments just like these, and this tip makes me laugh. One of my most vivid memories from my childhood is riding around on Sunday mornings in the back of my parents' Buick. The sun was blinding, I was tired and my brothers were on either side of me, still reeking of whatever party they were at the night before. Worst of all, my parents always brought a thermos of coffee and a couple sections of the Sunday paper. The amalgam of all those smells, paired together with the sloshy suspension of a Buick sedan, always resulted in the same thing for me: carsick. So now, even though I can tolerate the smell of my brothers and even like the smell of coffee, one whiff of a newspaper in a car makes my stomach turn. And I'm pretty sure no one needs to see me barfing in the school parking lot.
Catch up with a friend with a phone call. I try to limit the amount of time I spend talking on the phone when I'm actually driving, but because I'd like my conversations to consist of more than "Green means go, Moron!" I admit that I will never not answer my phone. Unless it's that one person. You know who you are. Anyway, for those times that I find myself sitting in a parking lot for the 18th time in a week, this tip is actually useful. But it only works if I'm waiting by myself, because even though it seems like my kids never hear a word I say at home, they hear everything I say when I'm on the phone.
Write birthday cards. Since most people I know would rather receive a phone call or email on their birthday, I don't waste $4.00 (or more) to send birthday cards anymore. I suppose, though, if all birthday cards were like this one, I might reconsider...