Friday, December 31, 2021

Because COVID

New Year's Eve can be a sort of introspective time, but all I can think tonight is WTH were those last two years about? Was that even real

Susie's having some friends over for a sleepover, which was my counteroffer to her suggestion that I drive her to the high school homeschoolers' superspreader NYE party that is 45 minutes away. Larry and David are already asleep, as they have to get up at 3:30 to drive David to the airport. He was supposed to have left at 6 this evening, but there was a cancelled flight and all that. Because COVID.

Rockin' that interfaith vibe, as usual

All the kids were here for Christmas (David missed last year, because COVID). It was really nice, especially since everyone is old enough not to be crying all the time. (That's a low bar, I guess, but that's what having a bunch of kids will do to you.) We just sat around and traded presents and ate things and argued over whether the snickerdoodles tasted funny (they did - rancid flour). We're sort of a boring family, I guess.

This year I asked Larry (AGAIN) if he'd be willing to try an artificial tree so I wouldn't worry about the house burning down, and again he looked sad, so I said never mind, a real tree it is. 

But THEN I happened to score a 7.5-foot prelit artificial tree on our local Buy Nothing Group and set it up (all by myself, because it's EASY) and reassured Larry that if he didn't like it, we would go out and buy a real tree and give this one away.

Reader, the tree stayed. It makes me so happy, because I don't lie in bed envisioning its going up like a torch while we sleep. Also, we don't have to turn it this way and that to hide its bad side. And we don't have to string lights on it. It's awesome.

And free! Did I mention free?

The only thing we missed was that magical pine smell, so I ordered something called Scentsicles from Amazon. I was out when they arrived, so Susie followed the directions and hung all 6 on the tree. When - an hour later - I walked into the living room, it smelled as if a balsam bomb had detonated. Poor Larry was lying on the couch, looking somewhat dazed. "Get up!" I yelled, shaking him. "Get some air!" 

He threw open some windows while I focused on removing the skinny green scent bombs from the tree. I couldn't find them at first (skinny, and green) and had to throw on the KN95 mask I happened to have handy (because COVID) to continue searching. I found 3, which we sealed back up in their container and then in a Ziploc bag and threw outside, to be dealt with later (preferably by a professional in a hazmat suit).

It only helped a little, and it took the rest of the week to locate the remaining balsam bombs and dispose of them. Larry ended up buying a little wreath to put near the tree that would impart some (nonlethal) pine scent into the air.

Better than a Scentsicle, and YES the snowman is still there

Everyone but David was here for Chanukah, and Thanksgiving, too. It's all a blur. There were latkes and soofganyot (doughnuts) fried by Theo, and a guest at Thanksgiving (friend of Anna's) who was into Trivial Pursuit, so we were briefly a fun family that actually plays games when we gather. Miracles do happen. 

But the big news was earlier in November, when Larry and I welcomed our new bouncing baby camper van. Oh, yes, we did!

Small enough to fit in a townhouse parking space (and drive around town)

Big enough to camp in

I present to you Midlife Crisis (MC for short). Something about the past 2 years (hmmm, could it be...COVID?) brought home the fact that life is short and unpredictable and maybe we should get something like this now, instead of waiting until we were old and doddering or, uh, dead. It didn't help that while I was working the handicapped section of the vax centers earlier this year, I kept noting that the birth years of many of the people hobbling in with canes or walkers weren't all that far behind mine. I'm closing in on 60, people.

Absolutely no idea how that happened. 

So I won't get a remodeled kitchen (hey, the 1969 cabinets are old enough to qualify as chic vintage now, anyway), and there will be no new car (this will replace the 12-year-old minivan once it gives up the ghost). We thought long and hard before we ordered this thing earlier this year, but I was still shaking when I took delivery of it and drove it to our local garage for its inspection sticker. Should we have spent this much? Had we lost our COVID-addled minds?

The (habitually jaded) mechanics at the garage absolutely flipped out over this van. Every few minutes, another one would come up front and ask, "Is that yours? It's a camper?" The look in their eyes reminded me of the music critic who reviewed Bruce Springsteen back in the 70s by saying, "I have seen the future of rock and roll!" The jaded old guys at the desk went back to see it, too, and returned with the same look. So that was reassuring, I guess.

The kids still think we are crazy, though. But we don't care. Because COVID.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Kids These Days

"Oh, look!" I said to Susie, as I reached into the mailbox on our way into the house. "A postcard! What fun!"

"What's a postcard?" my formerly beloved youngest asked as she squinted at the rectangle of cardboard I was holding.

[She's gonna write a book someday: How To Make People Feel 100 Years Old in 5 Seconds Flat]

"It's, um, a picture you send in the mail! And you can write on the back, see?" I said, flipping this apparently archaic piece of correspondence over with my wizened 20th-century hand. "They're on vacation in Hawaii, and they're just saying hi!"

"But they can TEXT you a picture," Susie said, frowning in puzzlement. "Why didn't they just text you something?"

"Well, but this came from Hawaii, isn't that cool? Look at the postmark, it took nine whole days to get here! Gosh, I used to collect these..."

"Nine days? That's dumb - if they texted you a picture, it would get here in a minute. And it wouldn't cost anything," said Susie, shaking her head and proceeding through the door. "That doesn't make any sense."

Yeah, well, it USED to...

Thursday, September 02, 2021

The Calm After The Storm

 Uh, anyone still here? Let me just brush these cobwebs off my chair here...

Gratuitous picture of homemade hummus

When last we chatted, 3 months ago, my area was suffering the 17-year cicada plague, which  IN THEORY should now be just a dim memory that - like all trauma - will hopefully fade with time... 

But it's NOT. You see, although the cicadas went away, their nymphs hatched in July, which thankfully I mostly couldn't see -- well, except for the ones covering my car windows, ugh -- but still, they were all going to burrow underground and THEN it would be over, right?

Wrong. It seems that the abundance of cicada nymphs leads to an abundance of microscopic arachnids called oak mites, who feed on the nymphs and then (here's the fun part) feed on people. And when they bite you, you get a huge red circle around the bite, which itches for a week. Even Larry, who seems largely immune to mosquitoes, is walking around sporting multiple red spots and slathering himself in Benadryl gel and hydrocortisone cream. 

I know, I had most of you at "microscopic arachnids."

These creatures bite through clothing. They bite you on the neck. I am currently sporting a lovely bite on my face and praying it goes away before I actually land a job interview. These oak mites seem to be here until the first frost, which now occurs - thanks to climate change - sometime in November.

So, yay! Hot and humid DC summer, now with oak mites! Come for the monuments, stay for the pestilence!

But the big news here? The really big news?

Everyone moved out this summer. OUT. Except Susie of course, who is still the baby, but even she had the temerity to turn 16 and get a job (at Chik-Fil-A, complete with cow mask). 

Sigh. I'm not allowed to post a picture, but I want to.  Here, have a pic of our new collection, instead:

These seem to be piling up in our house now

Anna, who came home in June to get immunized, managed to land a job in DC, so now she is living the young DC professional life (which means sharing a townhouse with 3 other young and underpaid DC professionals). Rachel moved out in July to a nearby apartment and is working full time. Brian went back to college last week.

So I am actually typing this from AN EMPTY HOUSE. It feels marvelous. But weird. 

The best part about this almost-empty nest? Loading the dishwasher. Folks, I never realized how much of my mental space was occupied by dishwasher calculus. Think about it: I had to figure out what would fit, what I would wash by hand, WHO USED ALL THESE GLASSES, etc., once or twice a day for years. 

That doesn't sound like a big deal, right? And it was just second nature for me. But now? Why, I just toss whatever's in the sink in the dishwasher, pop in the detergent, and start that thing up, no thinking required! 

I feel so carefree. Is this how it is supposed to be? And nobody told me?

My container garden on the back deck has gone absolutely insane. I am deluged with basil. Usually, half the plants die by mid-July because of fungus or rot or some other botanical nemesis, so I bought extra plants this year.  EIGHTEEN, to be precise. I wasn't messing around.

Is this real life? Or is it just fantasy?

I've lost only 2, however, which means I've ended up with a freezer full of pesto. And there is still lots of basil on the deck waiting to be transformed into pesto. My kids (remember, they all moved out?) are sick of my trying to force jars of frozen pesto on them. I also have 3 plants full of hot peppers and cherry tomato plants that just won't quit. I have NEVER been this horticulturally successful. 

It's as though I've turned into an old lady overnight, with my cute little deck garden, cooking cute little dinners for just me and Larry (Susie makes her own, unless I make something vegetarian). I've even got a floppy sunhat (mostly to fend off oak mites, but still...). 

Quiche - I'm cooking quiche now. Weird, right?

Is this how it ends, all the craziness and all those years of kids and vomit and mice? With quiche and sunhats and me sitting on the couch in the afternoon, basking in the peace and quiet? It feels like the end of a wild carnival ride, where you suddenly slow to a stop and can stop gripping your partner in sheer terror. Oh, it's over? Wow, that was fast. But I'll take it.

I guess I need to change my tagline, though...

Sunday, May 30, 2021

No Escape

 A long time ago (17 YEARS AGO, in fact), our family lived for a year in Rhode Island, where Larry was pursuing a master's degree. It was a hard year, in general - I mean, picture it: we had 5 kids, ages 1-12, in tow and no support network, nothing. Just us in a 150-year-old house with no neighbors to speak of and a yard that my kids didn't seem to understand how to use, as there were no "other kids" in it. The toddler (that would have been Rachel) was at the age where the sight of books neatly lined up on shelves produced a compunction to REMOVE THEM ALL, so trips to the library or the bookstore were hardly relaxing. 

Oh, we made the best of it - we dragged them to every historical museum/display/site within a 2-hour radius (shout out to the New Bedford Visiting Center - best bathrooms ever!), took them to Mystic Seaport where the two oldest took (incredibly cheap) sailing lessons, and in general tried to make the most out of the opportunity of temporarily living in a different place. I made connections among the Navy spouses and homeschoolers in the town, so there were even a few social opportunities for the kids. And, of course, I managed to get all 5 kids to the beach a few days a week while the weather stayed nice.

Its being New England, though, the weather turned cold fairly early on. All the tourist places shut down. It was an abnormally frigid winter, with the thermometer repeatedly reading ZERO DEGREES when we checked it each morning. It started feeling like Groundhog's Day - the same thing, over and over and over. The kids were super, playing day after day with duct tape and craft sticks and tin foil and homemade playdoh, but it wasn't easy. I was terribly homesick for our friends, our neighborhood full of kids, my own house.

But then May 2004 rolled around. Spring arrived where we were, and at home? CICADAS. Masses of bug-eyed (naturally) creatures emerging from the ground and covering the trees, creating a sound so loud that my best friend couldn't hear me if she was on the phone outside. And for the first time during that long year in exile, I was grateful. Grateful I wasn't stuck in our house with several crying children who didn't like bugs. Grateful for the beautiful New England spring we were finally experiencing. And in no hurry whatsoever to return until all the bugs were gone, which they were by the time we got home, after mid-June.

I made a vow all those years ago. May 2021 would find me on a fun cross-country trip, visiting friends as I toured across anywhere in this great land of ours that wasn't covered in cicadas. Most of my kids would be fully grown by then and living elsewhere, so maybe I could even stay with some of them. As 2021 drew closer, I made a list of places to visit, friends to see. I was all set.

That is, until COVID shut the world down and turned me from an almost empty nester to having a full house again. Here I was in April 2021, in a world where out-of-town guests were not necessarily welcome, sitting in my most emphatically not-empty house, essentially trapped before the coming onslaught. TRAPPED.

In desperation, I booked a week at an Airbnb in Burlington, VT, for mid-May. It wasn't enough, but it was something. I looked up when the cicadas emerged last time and planned around that. Maybe, I thought, I'd miss the worst of it.

Burlington was beautiful and (mostly) bug free

Wouldn't you know it? The cicadas were late this year. They pretty much greeted Larry and Susie and I as we got out of our car - you know, when we came back from spending all that money to avoid them. And here I am, living with these damn bugs. Look, I know many people suffered worse losses as a result of COVID-19 - jobs, family members, friends - but dammit, COVID destroyed this 17-year-old plan of mine to escape the cicadas and I can't quite get over it.

The Saturday after we got back, Larry swept (I'm sorry, did I say swept? I meant SHOVELED) all the cicadas off our back patio. I looked out the back door on Sunday and saw this:

They just keep coming up out of the ground, ew

There are so very, very many of them. They seem to love the color blue:

Larry's in charge of recycling/trash for the foreseeable future

I've been fine with the sound, which surprises me. But as the shells and the dead cicadas decompose on the sidewalks and parking lot, they release the most sickening smell. I tried sweeping out our spots, so at least I wouldn't have to walk on them as I got into the car, but after 10 minutes I felt so sick I had to go inside.

I'm not having fun, is what I'm saying. The cicadas are now at the point where we can watch them swooping in and out among the tree canopy, for all the world like drunken spring break revelers, with some of them - seemingly inebriated by the excitement of it all - falling out of the trees onto the ground (if we're lucky) or sometimes onto our heads (OMG, EWWW).

There's such a thing as cicada pee. I wish I didn't know that.

So, yeah, I was going to tell you all about Mother's Day and the Burlington trip and Susie's birthday (she's 16, my baby's 16, I can't stand it), but I had to get all this off my chest first. I'm mostly spending my time rewatching Schitt's Creek and pretending the outdoors doesn't exist. And trying not to think about the destruction of a cherished 17-year-old dream...

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Mothers WEEKEND, Thank You Very Much

 Why stop at just one day, is what I'm saying...

(Accidental) Mother's Day tulips
Note the dish of strawberry candies on the table in the picture there. They automatically appear in your house once you're past a certain age. DESTINY, DESTINY, NO ESCAPING DESTINY...

I bought those tulips myself, I'll have you know. Whole Foods was having a good sale, so I grabbed these flowers, forgetting Mother's Day was coming and that Larry would be wanting to buy them for me. So I told the kids to just slap a "Happy Mother's Day" sign on the vase on Sunday and I'd be good.

Low maintenance, I am...


When Larry and I returned from a postprandial perambulation on Wednesday evening, I spotted this sign on the kitchen light switch:

Confusing, right? What's a "wasp lid," I wondered? And why is this sign on the light switch? And who in my house has that handwriting that I don't even recognize?

So many questions, which were only partly answered when I swung my gaze from the switch to the ceiling (you know, where the lights are) and saw this:

Here, have a closer look, I sure did:

Ooookay, so a wasp apparently flew into the inset light in the ceiling and Brian decided to trap it there. That boy can think on his feet, that's for sure. "Don't worry," he said. "I Googled it, and it takes them 2 days to die, so we can remove that on Saturday morning."

"Oh, but don't turn the light on," Brian added. "It might melt the Pyrex lid." The WASP LID. Suddenly, everything made sense. Sort of.

We endured a dark-ish kitchen for a few days until the great unveiling this morning, executed by Larry and Brian. "Well?" I asked when I went downstairs for breakfast and saw the light was back to normal. "Was it dead?"

"Uh, we don't know," said Larry. "It wasn't there."

So, yeah, no idea what happened to the wasp. It probably crawled into the ceiling and is plotting its revenge. Nice.


I referred to Brian as a "boy" up there, but he turned 21 last month and would probably not approve of that designation. Also, because he is against generating unneeded consumer waste, we were a little stymied as to how to celebrate his birthday (our usual style being a lot of wrapping paper and gift bags and silly cheap gifts). Susie turned to Pinterest and - working REALLY hard - generated decorations, wrapping, AND gifts out of mostly newspaper, paper bags, and glue.

The results? They were impressive:

Paper towel tube idea was mine, though

They're coasters, duh


Of course, we've left all those rosettes hanging there, because hey, they were A LOT of work and Mother's Day is coming and then Susie's birthday and now that we're all so ecofriendly, why not recycle/reuse them, right? Recently, though, Brian was looking more closely at one of the rosettes and said, "Susie, did you use the OBITUARIES?"

Reader, she did. Turns out, we've been sitting around our house with pictures of dead people dangling from the ceiling of our living room and hey, if any of you need an experienced decorator for shivas or wakes, just let us know, okay?