Saturday, January 18, 2020

Holidays? What Holidays?

We held our annual New Year's party 4 days early, because former neighbors were visiting and they wanted to see everyone. Which meant that, for the first time in 13 years, we didn't have to spend New Year's Eve getting our house ready for a party the next day. This felt weird. We ended up watching a (very bad) movie and then playing Monopoly. And then, New Year's Day? Nothing.

Do not watch this movie. Ever.
I mean, we must have done something, but I have no idea what it was. Maybe that was the day we went to the mall and I experienced the Miracle of the Jeans. You see, Susie convinced me to try on the jeans that all three of my daughters wear, and I agreed only because they are the only jeans that come in a short enough length for me to wear uncuffed.

I didn't expect much, because I am extremely apple-shaped and jeans that fit my hips and legs WILL NOT BUTTON around my belly, even with my truly excellent shapewear. Or, if they do button, the waistband digs into my stomach and makes me feel awful. Or they just look like crap. In other words, trying on jeans is a sure way to completely ruin my day, and really, should anyone be doing that on the first day of the new year? No, they should not.

But my beloved JAG jeans betrayed me this year by discontinuing the style that fits midgets like myself. The three pairs of jeans in my closet have holes in them, and NOT in stylish places, so there I was. Desperate. Forced to throw caution and good sense to the winds and risk dressing room humiliation.

Reader, they fit me. American Eagle, high-rise jeggings, extra short. I could weep with joy.

I'll never be at the level of tucked-in shirt, though
So this is the first time in years that I've been able to wear jeans that actually button (instead of my JAG pull-on ones). You know what this means? It means that I won't be walking around in public with my pants on backwards by mistake, that's what.

That link is much more amusing than today's drivel. You should read it.

Oh, what happened to December, you ask? Approximately 6,000 holidays happened. And there were house guests. And adult kids staying. And that early New Year's party I mentioned. All this. It felt like a blur. Because, yeah, there was the job thing, too.

I swear, you'd think I was the first blogger in the world who actually had to work full time outside the house. I am such a whiner.

At the beginning of the festivities-filled month, Rachel had just stopped coughing from the epic croup virus she picked up right before Thanksgiving. Everyone in the house was all Glory, hallelujah! because frankly? It was driving us nuts.

And then? She picked up a new virus, which resulted in her coughing THE REST OF THE MONTH.

We tried everything, including a zillion dollars' worth of my miracle cough drops. She kept coughing. Actually, I think she just stopped last week. Or maybe my wearing those earplugs at night did the trick. I don't know.

So! We started the month of December with house guests, finally managed to get a tree sometime in the week before Christmas (which essentially bore down on me with all the delicacy of a freight train), gifts showed up beneath the tree (thank you, Amazon, even if you ARE evil), and food miraculously appeared on our table Christmas Day. I have very few memories of any of this, and gee, wouldn't it help if I blogged more frequently than once a month?

Side note: Our tree looked pretty pathetic this year. It had some weird sort of duck tail effect with its bottom branches that bugged me every time I looked at it. I was going to show you, but apparently I forgot to take a picture of it. Or maybe I hated the duck tail so much, I chose not to? I can't remember.

Speaking of trees, check out the hat my friend knit:

It lights up!
We had friends over for Christmas dinner, the same friends as every year. Sometimes? Traditions are nice. Although, come to think of it, the tradition of cleaning up my entire house on Christmas morning because we're having guests later is one I could definitely do without.

Also, Uncle Matt and his girlfriend (who has been around since 2012, so maybe I should give her a name already?) showed up. And David flew in from Texas, where he helps build space rockets (that happen to be paid for by my evil Amazon purchases and yeah, I feel a little conflicted about that), and spent Christmas with us, which helped a lot, because he likes to bake. Also, it was nice to see him.

Brian was here, too, home from school for the holidays. He put up with us fairly well.

We had Chinese food for Christmas Eve, because we're an interfaith family. Also, because we like Chinese food. We all went to see the Star Wars movie for Chanukah, because the good guys are like the Maccabees, fighting the evil empire. But without any dreidels, of course...

We're really rocking the interfaith vibe here, I'd say
I worked at my job through all of this, and yes, I WOULD like a medal, thank you very much.

Speaking of my job, I celebrated my one-year workiversary this month, which was not quite as joyful as it should have been, because one of the other teams got laid off, so we're all just waiting for the ax to fall. I told Larry at one point, "Well, if I do get laid off for a bit, it will be great to get a break - I really need one!"

Because, you know, 12 whole months, right?

And then I realized I had said this to the man who has gotten up every single weekday (minus holidays) for, oh, 28 years and driven in to the office to support our family. Almost THREE DECADES. And has never griped about it.

But, yeah, let me complain to you about my 12 months of telecommuting, all right, Larry? It's been hell.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

A Thanksgiving Miracle And The End Of An Era

Well, I don't know how you all feel about the quietness at this here blog lately, but I just opened it up and read my last post and OMG I MISSED ME.

That is so weird. I mean, I'm with me all the time. But I missed me here. I don't know what that means. Other than you are going to continue to be subjected to my news (or, really, lack thereof) for the foreseeable future.

Good lord, I love this place.

Let's catch up (drawing up a chair). Let's see, last time we talked, it was mid-October and we had just returned from vacation in Bar Harbor (pouring myself a drink - orange juice, anyone?) and I had had the life-changing experience of actually cutting up a butternut squash before it rotted and making it into soup.

Which no one (including myself) liked much...

So you all were stuck with that cliffhanger for 6 weeks, I guess.

Fall finally happened
I was worried about how I would manage to prepare Thanksgiving dinner while working full time, but it turns out that raising 6 kids actually teaches you to multitask pretty well (who knew?). I already had a week-long cooking schedule laid out, because I always worked under the assumption that someone would come down with croup or something equally dire that week, so I needed to be prepared. Even as the kids got older and no longer did things like contract a major illness right before a holiday, I stuck to that schedule, because it worked.

And then Rachel (who is 17 and apparently did not get the memo that croup is only for young kids) came down with the dreaded virus. I had to run her to the doctor on Monday and listen patiently as the doctor gave me all sorts of not-needed advice (hello? 6 kids, all who had croup repeatedly) so we could get the coveted 24-hour dose of steroids that would allow Rachel to stop choking on her own phlegm and, well, BREATHE.

It worked. Only Rachel coughed nonstop all week. To the point that she and I ended up at Urgent Care at 10 PM on Thanksgiving night. Awful, right? I packed enough knitting to last me 4 hours, because c'mon, an HMO urgent care visit on a holiday is a serious investment of time. I also steeled myself for the fact that we were likely to pick up some other lovely holiday ailment from one of the other sickies in the waiting room.

And here is where our Thanksgiving Miracle happened: we walked in and no other patients were there. NOT ONE. We saw the triage nurse within 2 minutes, the doctor in another 5. Lung x-ray, 10 minutes later. It was unbelievable. I didn't even get to knit. And no stranger got to share his flu with us.

You know, I'm typing that and it still seems like a dream.

Random photo of my hand-knit sock collection
So, Thanksgiving! 4 kids (well, offspring - one of those "kids" is 28 now) were home, plus the next-door neighbors with their 3 kids. These neighbors have shared Thanksgiving with us for a number of years now, but I'd always worried they did so only because I asked and they felt obligated. I pictured them discussing whether they could say they were going elsewhere and then be quiet enough (remember, we share a wall) to convince us they weren't home.

So this year I decided to leave them alone and not torture them with an invitation, until Brian came home from college and said, "Are the neighbors coming?" And I said, "I don't know if they really want to" and because we grownups couldn't seem to communicate adequately, he and their same-age daughter took matters into their own hands and we all had Thanksgiving together as usual.

Brian's the emotionally intelligent one, remember?

Also, let's note that they didn't seem to mind that they were having Thanksgiving with Typhoid Rachel, who coughed all through dinner and then headed out to work at Best Buy, because she's a trouper. Of course, they barely blinked an eye when one of their then 4-year-old twins (I still don't know which one) managed to split the back of his head open in our basement and needed stitches. My neighbors are unflappable, is what I'm saying.

Oh, and I survived working during Thanksgiving week, although I did take some unplanned hours of vacation time on that Friday, because I came down with a migraine in the afternoon and couldn't understand words anymore. I considered quitting altogether, but then I came to my senses and took an Excedrin and lay down for a couple of hours instead.

So I think I'm still employed. Not sure, actually - I guess I'll find out tomorrow, though.

Before Thanksgiving (we're working backward here), Susie and I paid a long-overdue visit to IKEA, where we picked up (drum roll, please) an entire set of matching dishes. Two sets, actually:

This makes me insanely happy

I regret not having a before picture. Suffice it to say, our cupboard for the past 25 years was full of mismatched dishes, a look which might have been charming if said dishes weren't all chipped or scratched or just plain ugly (I'm looking at you, mustard-yellow plates I picked up for I-know-not-what reason). Thanksgiving was coming, and I wanted things to look normal for once. Also, Susie wanted pasta bowls.

She's the youngest. We've discussed this.

So now, every time I open our cabinet, I enjoy the beauty of unchipped, shiny, matching dishes. Totally worth the $50 or so it cost me, I'm thinking. And Susie - Gen Z foodie that she is - spends her time elaborately plating all her meals and taking pictures, because all our food looks way better on these new plates.

It's true.

We also picked up a new duvet cover set for the guest bedroom, only it ended up in my bedroom instead:

This also makes me insanely happy
What can I say? I'm a simple person. If you're looking for something more exciting than croup and new dishes and bed linens, you'll have to read somewhere else.

Reaching all the way back to October, Halloween happened. Folks, this was the first year we haven't had a trick-or-treater in the house since 1993. "Don't you want to go out and get some candy?" I asked Susie, a little wistfully. "Your siblings didn't give up trick-or-treating until they were 15!"

"No, it's dumb," she-who-used-to-be-adorable said. And that was that, the end of an era. I even had to pack all the candy bags by myself. The one bright spot was that our trick-or-treater numbers in the neighborhood finally started climbing again, with 58 costumed cuties showing up at our door.

I still have our costume bin in the attic, though - just in case. Hey, those pirate capes sewed by Auntie Kate should fit some future grandkids just fine, right?

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Too Much To Describe In One Title

It's fall now, thanks be to God.

But BEFORE it was fall, we decided to get the heck away from the mosquito-infested summer that would never, ever end by heading up to Acadia National Park in Maine. And just like last year, we rented a house, but unlike last year, this one wasn't haunted.

Well, there was the huge heating grate in the front hall, that Susie swore Pennywise lived in.

All it needs is a red balloon...

But otherwise, it was just about perfect, especially one particular picture in Susie's bedroom that we discussed slipping into our suitcases, we loved it so much (but we didn't, because a life of crime just isn't our thing).

Something about the colors - this photo doesn't do it justice

We hiked, we ate doughnuts, we gloated over the fact that we were missing the 96-degree weather back home. Susie ate blueberry ice cream (too cold for me). Rachel didn't come with us (something about college applications, senior year, blah, blah, blah), which suited her just fine, as she got to stay at a friend's house and enjoy what was essentially a week-long slumber party.

Did I mention we hiked?

There was some color up there

So, the day we were supposed to leave for this escape-from-mosquito-hell getaway, Larry said, "I'm just going to do a couple of things out front." And I said, "Sure! I'll finish packing up here and we'll go!"

People, THREE HOURS LATER, we hit the road. Because it turns out that Larry had decided to complete his entire landscaping project (remember the landscaping project?) in the front yard before we went on our 11-hour road trip. And didn't tell me.

Have I mentioned that communication isn't our strong point? Oh, yes, I guess I have. Okay, then...

So he finished the yard and then we spent the entire vacation week worrying that everything had died, because 96 degrees and NO RAIN. And, hey, I'm no master gardener, but maybe it isn't a good idea to plant new things and then not be around to water them, Larry? Sheesh.

Thanks to the heroic efforts of Theo (who stopped by on the weekends) and a neighborhood teen, however, we came home to everything being pretty much alive. I must say, our neighbors still aren't used to our yard not looking like an abandoned lot or a construction zone, but I guess they'll just have to find something else to talk about now. At least until Larry comes up with his next home improvement scheme, anyway...

So vacations are wonderful and exciting and all, but here's the most amazing thing that has happened  lately:

Portrait mode - it blurs out the mess on my counter

That's right. I'm showing you a picture of cut-up butternut squash. EVERY YEAR, I see all these recipes for butternut squash soup and think, "I should make that!" After all, I have 2 vegetarians in the household and wouldn't they just LOVE some warm, cozy vegetarian soup? And wouldn't I just be the greatest mom if I were to make them some? So then I go buy a squash, and it ends up sitting on my counter until it rots.

Every family has its traditions. Ours are just stupider than most.

But this year? This year, it was different. I cut that butternut squash up last night like a boss (no, I don't know what that means, really) and today...(insert trumpet fanfare here)...I MADE SOUP.

Alas! I didn't really like it. Neither did the vegetarians. If anyone has any idea what is missing from that recipe I linked to, please let me know. Because I still cannot quite give up on the dream...

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Endless Summer

I'm sitting here, listening to some really old songs on Spotify and trying to once again explain to my 14-year-old that when I was her age, I couldn't just magically call up any old song ever written and listen to it. We were stuck with the radio and some cassette tapes. And we were HAPPY.

Gen Z'er that Susie is, she just shook her head in disbelief and walked away. I guess I sound the way my mother did when she explained why she and other old folks called the refrigerator an "icebox." Just...really? That's how you kept food cold?

But enough about how I am now a dinosaur, at least in my children's eyes. Let's talk about spending money. There was the new toaster in July, and the new fridge in August, and then? Well, I noticed the pile of kitchen rags I store under the sink was very wet, which led to the fun late-night activity of cleaning out the cabinet under the sink and determining that the water was coming from the faucet. Which, yeah, I guess should have been sort of obvious.

So! I called the plumber and discussed how much it would cost for him to come and fix it, versus just getting a new faucet. And I was sitting there, debating which to do, when I realized, wait, the faucet was already broken.

That's right - I was so used to the fact that it didn't work correctly (I mean, even before the new leak), that I almost paid good money for a plumber to come fix the leak and leave me with a faucet that still wouldn't work right.

If this seems surprising, you're new here, aren't you?

We bought the new faucet. It's super nice, and the sprayer works, and it costs less than the one we put in 10 years ago. Which means we got ripped off 10 years ago, but I'll try not to think about that. Actually, we probably got a little ripped off this time, also, but at least we were ripped off less than last time.

Progress, right?

Here, have a doggy picture:

Heeey, babe....
I think he was trying to get my attention.

Susie and I have been very athletic this summer, meaning we've actually gone biking together more than, say, 2 times. We both prefer to bike for food, so now we've worked up to biking 6 whole miles just to visit this great sandwich place a few towns over. I think this is healthy, but I'm not sure.


I mean, we DO have to bike the 6 miles back, also.

A few weeks back, I was outside, attempting to assert some control over the weed population in our little townhouse-sized yard. Only, because we live on the end of the row, and our house is set a little further back, it's sort of a big space. It used to be covered by lots of a very attractive ground cover, but for some reason half of it died and there are whole sections taken over by weeds.

"Hey," I said to Larry, "would you mind taking a shovel this weekend and digging up that little area in front of the rhododendron? There's no sense my weeding all that by hand."

So, I came home from yoga that weekend and saw a small section of weeds dug up and no sign of Larry.

"Where's your father?" I asked Susie.

"I don't know," she said, obviously bribed to tell no tales.

An hour or so later, I heard a beep-beep-beep sound and, looking out the window, I observed someone backing up one of those pickups you can rent by the day from Home Depot INTO OUR PARKING SPOT.

People, I just asked him to dig up some weeds. This is what ended up happening:

I chose to ignore what was obviously a major construction project. That's right - I didn't even ask.

A few days later, a neighbor said to me, "So Larry's going to dig up the whole yard?"

Me: "Is that what he said?!?"

I think the neighborhood is taking bets on how much longer this marriage lasts.

In other news, I made the mistake of going to the local farmers market last week.

I got a little carried away, I guess.

$12 for the bunch - I couldn't resist! We managed to use about half of them for a huge batch of salsa (or pico de gallo, I guess).  It was delicious. I put the rest of the tomatoes in the downstairs fridge for a batch of uncooked tomato sauce later in the week.

Guess what I found today? Hint: It wasn't pretty.

And that's all folks - I just wanted to pop in and say hi and I miss you and OMG working full time is no joke. Also, it was 90 degrees and humid here today, which doesn't quite scream autumnal equinox to me, you know? But Happy Fall anyway, especially to those of you in northern climes where the leaves are changing and the air is brisk and swarms of mosquitoes aren't lying in wait for you when you walk out the door.

As for the rest of us, well, at least we don't need to wear coats with our Halloween costumes, right?

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Trying Spontaneity On For Size

Writing here only once a month is awful. I have no idea where to start. I last wrote to you on a Friday, 2 days before I was to host Bunko for the neighborhood.

I think I had just hit "publish" on that last post when my daughter came upstairs and said, "The basement fridge is warm."

Folks, that's not something you ever want to hear, and especially not when you're expecting to entertain a dozen people at your house in 2 days. So we ran back downstairs, where the fridge was humming away -- but not to any purpose, apparently -- and frantically started emptying it out into our camping cooler, along with all the ice packs I could find. We filled up that cooler and went back to the kitchen to get a drink of water and discuss strategy.

"Dammit, I HATE to spend money to get a brand-new refrigerator for the basement," I groused.

I really wanted to use that word here. Groused. I was definitely grousing at that point.

"You could put the new one up here," suggested Susie.

"Nah, this one is practically new - not worth the trouble to move it," I said.

We continued to gaze at the kitchen fridge, admiring how clean it looked because we had removed all the magnets and other detritus from the doors (remember? Bunko was coming. I had to clean up.) Susie looked up at the top and said, "Maybe we could just buy a tiny fridge and put it up there."

And that's when we both turned to each other and --- I swear to you -- simultaneously shouted, "WE HAVE A TINY FRIDGE!"

In fact, it was only a few feet away from that cooler we had packed full of rapidly warming food -- Brian's dorm fridge, that had been sitting there empty all summer. I mean, if I had just looked up ONCE during that whole cooler-packing scene, I would have spotted it.

The miracle of the tiny fridge
So we survived and I hosted Bunko and then I went and bought the cheapest possible fridge I could find and stuck it down there in the laundry room.

You know what? It feels sort of good to see it down there in the laundry room, all shiny and white - or maybe that good feeling comes from knowing that nothing in there is more than a month old.

Okay, we also went on a trip this past month, because Larry was pining away for northern climes and the humidity and mosquitoes around here are horrendous and my job is portable, and gosh, aren't we spontaneous?

No. No, we're not. It was utterly exhausting, packing to go away again at the exact same time as Brian was packing to go back to school and Rachel was packing to go away for a week to Civil Air Patrol Encampment, where she is a staff member and gets to yell at 12-year-olds for 8 whole days and no, we don't understand it, either.

So, 2 weeks ago, we woke up at 4 AM Saturday to see Rachel off and then we helped Brian get ready to go and Larry drove him to school that night, so they could be in front of the dorm the minute it opened the next morning. Susie and I spent Sunday trying to clean up the mess everyone left behind and also pack for the trip. THIS WAS NOT EASY.

Then Larry got back and we headed north, but the trip took 3 extra hours because it turns out a lot of other people are heading north on a summer Sunday afternoon, plus we never thought when we put the bikes on top of the car to measure how high up they were...

I mean, SHOULD we have thought of that?

...and then the GPS put us on a highway with low-clearance bridges, which was utterly terrifying, and then there were big orange signs announcing that anything taller than 8 feet had to get off the highway NOW, so we did. And then we were wandering over back roads in Connecticut to find a highway without murderous bridges, all while the GPS kept trying to route us back to the highway of death (or, at least, of broken bicycles).

Keep in mind that Larry had woken early, unloaded a car full of stuff that he carried up to a third-floor dorm room, and then driven 2 hours to get home BEFORE he even started this trip. All of which could explain why, by this point in the drive, he wasn't enjoying the forced scenic route much.

But we got there eventually and our AirBnB wasn't located in Murder Alley or anything and yay! We were on vacation. Whew.

We biked to pie.

Right off the bike trail

We wandered around town. We ate amazing ice cream. I worked. A lot. But I sneaked in a visit to WEBS, which happened to be in the same town we visited and LARRY DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT EXISTED. Yup, he randomly picked a town with one of the best yarn stores in the US. I knew that, but I didn't tell him. I'm nobody's fool.

yarn store loot 
Then we drove east, toward Boston, because we're footloose and fancy free now with just one kid in tow, but we had to hurry up because I had a deadline and had to get back to work. We lodged at an Air Force base half an hour outside town, where we went bowling 3 nights in a row, like we were Ricky and Lucy or something.

Wait, did they bowl? Maybe it was Rob and Laura Petrie. Whatever.

We don't bowl often, but when we do, it's VERY patriotic
And then we spent a day in Boston, where -- Susie being allergic to museums and such -- we just walked all over and ate a bunch of food. It was an excellent way to spend the day. I hadn't been there in, oh, 15 years, I think. Last time we were there, Larry was toting Rachel in a backpack and simultaneously carrying a screaming David over any bridges with "holes" in them. Fun times!

The North End was awash in authentic Italian food.

"Best cannoli I've ever eaten" -- Susie
And then we drove home. And because, finally, I had thought to throw out the rotting zucchini BEFORE we went on vacation, nothing smelled bad. Which is my idea of a really great homecoming.

The mosquitoes are still here, though.

The End.