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.

Friday, July 26, 2019

My Brain Is Fried, How's Yours?

Um, hi? Anyone still here?

Oh, what the heck, I can just talk to myself - no reason not to.

People, working with words 40 hours a week is exhausting. Oh, not steelworker or coal miner exhausting, but mentally - just wow. Each evening I'd think about sitting down and writing something here, and I just could not work up the energy. My brain, it is tapped out.

But, hey, new neural synapses are forming, I'm sure, so I guess neglecting my blog to stave off Alzheimers is a good trade, no?

Or maybe not. I love this place of mine on the Internet: not crowded, sort of cozy, and full of memories that I wouldn't have retained otherwise. I'm not ready to leave it just yet, even if my brain feels as though it is short-circuiting and giving off smoke by the end of the day.

Let's have some cookies while we catch up, shall we?
So, a quick sort of review here:

1. I've finally gotten to the place where I don't feel as though I have a gaping hole in my gum anymore. Yippee! It's more of a shallow depression now, which I can definitely live with.

2. I had a birthday! One a year, whether I need it or not, that's my motto. I turned 56, which is definitely the downhill side toward 60, but that makes no sense, because I'm not a day over, oh, I don't know...48? I'd feel younger, but I still have 3 teenagers. They make sure to keep reminding me what a dinosaur I am.

On the bright side, though, they'll fix anything I ask them to on the computer or on my phone, just so they don't have to watch me struggle to figure things out myself. I guess it hurts their little Gen X'er sensibilities to see me shaking my phone like an Etch-a-Sketch. Or smacking the printer to make it work.

Birthday Blueberry Buckle - when you're too old for candles

3. In the past month or so, I've had 3 (count them, 3!) flat tires. The second time, I was picking up Brian at the train station when I noticed my steering was wonky. It was 2 days before our beach trip, so I spent the whole way back to the house wrestling the steering wheel and wondering if I could get the car fixed before we headed off on vacation. Hmm, I thought, it must be the power steering, or maybe the steering column assembly...

I like how listening to Car Talk for 20 years makes me think I can diagnose cars.

So I finally got home and realized that it was just a flat tire, which was really good news after calculating a $600 car repair, right? But picture Larry, sitting at home happily ignorant of any car trouble, until his wife (that would be me) comes sailing into the house announcing gleefully, "I have another flat tire! Isn't that great?!"

Trust me, the look on his face was priceless.

4. We've had a big change in our family since last we talked. Those of you (any of you?) who remember that eventful day when we finally bought ourselves a working toaster may even feel a little wistful to learn that it has gone to that big appliance store in the sky. You see, lately, every time we toasted something, a smell of burning plastic would permeate the house, so we figured it was time to bid farewell to the gadget that won my children's hearts on that trip to Kohls, 10 seemingly short years ago.

Yeah, I cried a little, I'll admit it. And this time, shopping for a toaster was different, more mundane - I didn't have 4 kids, aged 12 and under, in the store with me, excitedly checking out all the bells and whistles on the toasters and essentially acting as though I were buying them a puppy. No, this time I merely looked up some models online and then went with Rachel to Best Buy, where she used my debit card and her employee discount to pick up a beautiful - but somehow less meaningful - toasting appliance.

New family member - cute, but no real relationship yet

You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone, is what I'm saying.


4. I'm exhausted. Words cannot express how tired I am of deciding where to put commas. Maybe I'll just ban commas from this blog. I'm the captain now.

5. There was a beach trip. We ate ice cream and pie and went to the beach every day and I didn't get into a car for an entire week. It was glorious. Except I took my computer and worked quite a bit while I was there, because I need to save up some leave for later this year. That part wasn't fun, but I made up for it by eating more pie.

Have I mentioned the pie?

Here, have a picture of a sunset over the bay - it's free:



Oh, and Susie and I found the mother lode of all the cutesy beach house signs! For the record, the house we stayed in this year instructed us to Find Joy in the Journey and to Bee Yourself. 



Apparently, every beach house is required to have at least 3 of these, at least in NJ, anyway. Maybe it's an idiosyncrasy of that particular state, like not being allowed to pump your own gas.

So much more to share, but I'm typed out...g'night, all!

Monday, June 10, 2019

I Heart Anesthesia

So, when last we talked, our deck was finally respectable-looking, Susie's birthday was duly celebrated, and my impacted wisdom tooth was hurting. Cliffhanger!

I went to the oral surgeon (whimper) that week and he said, "I can pull that out Thursday." I started to ask a bunch of questions and he said, "You'll be out. Totally out. Don't worry."

I like that guy.

But, me being me, I still started to panic when they put me in the chair on that Thursday morning and wrapped a blood pressure cuff on my arm and a thingamajig in my mouth to prop it open and the doctor stuck an IV tube thingy in my other arm - like, tears starting to roll down the sides of my face panicked. And I was thinking, Why isn't anyone trying to reassure me?

Because I was out cold the next second, that's why. Next thing I knew I was awake, with no tooth, and positively giddy with happiness that I had not needed to be conscious for ANY of that. And I am NEVER, EVER, EVER having any extensive dental work done while I am awake, ever again.

Of course, then I spent the next week absolutely convinced I was developing dry socket, and called the doctor's office twice, but they told me to wait until my one-week appointment, where the doctor told me everything was fine, and good-bye, no need to come in again.

BUT, I'm squeamish. And no one told me there would literally be a hole in my bottom gum for, well, going on 10 days now. (Yes, maybe I should have been able to figure that out, but I didn't, okay?) And I've spent the last 10 days feeling utterly grossed out and pretty much screaming inside at the thought of the HOLE IN MY GUM.

I don't deal well with medical things, is what I'm saying.

In other news, Susie was utterly inspired by our newly respectable-looking deck - so inspired, in fact, that she went out there and planted all the little tomato plants that I had bought at the Farmer's Market and then just dumped on top of the planters, because I had that tooth thing going on; and she planted one of the planters with parsley and cilantro and green onions, so now we have a cute little herb garden happening; and she planted the marigolds (that - like the tomato plants - had been abandoned by moi) in the boxes that hang on the deck railing.

She also made us go to Home Depot (me clutching the side of my newly operated-on mouth) for more window boxes for the front railings and for the flowers to plant in them. While we were there, Susie insisted on buying nice-looking tomato cages (to replace our old ones) and plant props (don't know what to call them), in bright colors, and I did as she wanted, because heck, she's in charge of all things gardening now, I guess.




Brian came home from school and saw our pretty blue tomato cages and said, "Oh, I see you got rid of the tetanus specials?" So, yeah, I guess it was time.

We also went strawberry picking, 5 days into my recovery, so even though I may be a hypochondriac, I am not of the languishing variety. I am a very active sufferer, thank you very much.

Thanks to my blog post from last year, I knew that we only needed one flat of strawberries to make 2 batches of jam (with berries left over). After exercising an enormous amount of restraint and not picking 2 flats worth, we came home, and I worked at my editing job for 3 hours, and then I made gazillion jars of jam, all while still doped up on massive amounts of ibuprofen, and do I have any pictures of that Herculean effort? No, I do not.

My only evidence that I went strawberry picking

But at least I didn't have an entire extra flat of strawberries to deal with. See, this is what blogs are good for, Larry.  You don't have to deal with a strung-out, weeping wife at 10 PM, crying over rapidly rotting fruit. At least, not more than once...








Monday, May 27, 2019

Time Keeps On Slippin'...

It's a long, holiday-less stretch between President's Day in February and Memorial Day at the end of May! And it seems even longer if you happen to be a person (meaning, uh, me) not used to working a paid job 40 hours a week. I sort of staggered into the homestretch, as it were, on Friday, thinking that maybe I'm not cut out for this sort of thing, after all. But then a friend who has always had a paid full-time job said everyone pretty much feels like that by Memorial Day, so maybe I'm not lazy, just normal.

Oh, these three days have been glorious! Busy, but glorious. Susie (she of the missing arm and the magnificent public tantrums) turned 14 on Saturday, which is nothing short of ridiculous. ABSURD.

Still, no matter how old she gets, she'll always be the baby of the family. Theo walked into the house on Saturday, saw the 2 (count them, TWO) bundt cakes on the counter, and said, "None of us ever got 2 cakes for our birthday!"

Ignore the gross pan underneath it. IGNORE IT, I say...
Yup. He's right. But the lemon bundt cake Susie made came out smaller than expected, and I had invited some neighbors over, so I made a chocolate bundt cake to go with it, along with a vat of potato salad. Theo played grillmaster and did the chicken and burgers, so that just left me with cutting up the watermelon and cleaning the ENTIRE HOUSE. Larry had the honor of cleaning up the back deck, which he transformed from its standard trailer trash vibe to an aura of suburban respectability in under 2 hours. I was impressed.

Naturally, Susie got some gifts:

No gummi bears this year....

And now, for Theo's edification, I'd like to point out that there is a downside to being the youngest child. You may indeed get two cakes, but you also get two (and only two) pictures of your birthday party. Yup, folks, those 2 images are all I have in my possession to document my baby turning 14. And I only realized that fact as I was looking for photos for this blog post. No pictures of her presents, no pictures of her pretty face, no pictures of the chocolate bundt cake or of all the guests that we had over that day. NOTHING.

So you'll have to take my word for it that the party was a success. And we still have food left over, which made the rest of the weekend feel particularly holiday-like. For me, anyway...

The neighbor we invited over is in the middle of moving house, so she held a pottery sale this weekend (she is an excellent potter). But first she let Susie pick out a mug, which is the loveliest thing ever, and I am coveting it:




And she gave me the most cunning little sugar bowl she made herself, because Larry (along with a few other neighbors) pretty much risked his life this weekend helping move the heaviest bookcase in the world from their house to the house of another neighbor who wanted it. Seriously, people, it took 4 guys to do it, and even then we weren't sure it wouldn't fall on one of them and kill him. Extreme neighborliness is a sport around here, I guess.


My photography skills do not do this justice
Larry and I pretty much spent Sunday napping, because apparently we can't handle excitement anymore. Also, the impacted wisdom tooth the dentist told me last January I had to do something about? It finally started acting up (seriously, smack in the middle of the party), so I was sort of doped up on painkillers Sunday. NOT FUN. Between naps, I did manage to go through two drawers of my knitting dresser and get rid of a bunch of stuff, inspired as I was by watching my neighbors try to pack up their home of 30 years.

Wait, did I say inspired? I meant, terrified. TERRIFIED that I was watching a picture of Larry and myself 10 years from now, when we'll be wading through mounds of yarn and knitting paraphernalia and emptying a closet full of camping equipment, with all 6 of our kids asking, "Why do you have all this stuff?"

Our neighbors look pretty tired and overwhelmed, is what I'm saying.

Today we were more energetic, with Larry going kayaking with Theo and me taking Rachel and Susie to the mall so Rachel could pick out eyeglass frames and look for shorts, which believe me are two very time-consuming endeavors. Time-consuming, as in I managed to get 2 miles worth of steps in the mall while the two of them tried on clothes at American Eagle. Rachel was ready to hit a few more stores, but unfortunately she's stuck with an older, doped-up mom with dental problems who just couldn't take anymore, so we went home.

And then I went knitting with my friends, because hey, it's my day off from work. My HOLIDAY day. Which means (and seriously, this just occurred to me) I was paid for all that - the mall, and the walking, and the knitting. Which is sort of cool, you know?

Now I just have to make it to July 4th.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Few More Things Before I Disappear Again

So a long time ago I imagined myself a gardener, which didn't work out so well. But I never totally gave up, settling for 6 or 7 planting containers on our back deck. Mostly, at this point, I buy a bunch of basil and tomato plants at the local farmers market, and I plop them into those pots on the deck and water them when I remember.

Easy, right?

Only, no. You'd THINK it was easy, but it turns out that even if the dirt is contained in a pot, you still have to weed it and dig through it and add compost and I don't know what all. In short, if it is 87 degrees and 1050% humidity, it's JUST AS MISERABLE to be planting things in a container garden on your deck as it would be in a regular garden.

Harder than it looks

Just thought I'd let you all know that before you run out to Home Depot and buy yourselves a bunch of pots and a few bags of dirt. You're welcome.

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While I was working at the yoga center this morning, Larry went outside and heroically dug up all the nettle plants that have mysteriously appeared in our front yard. He also attacked the remnants of the weird-smelling, variegated ivy that keeps showing up and trying to take over. Brian pulled up most of the ivy last week as a Mother's Day present, but every time we look outside, there's more.

Plants are scary.

All this to say, Larry and I seriously discussed getting rid of all the vegetation and just putting in a stone patio already. Please note, we live in a townhouse, with a townhouse-sized yard. We shouldn't be having a problem staying on top of yard maintenance, is what I'm saying. But the truth is, we CAN'T HANDLE the plants.

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The CDC never showed up to deal with things, so today I cleaned out my fridge. It was pretty much as bad as you can imagine. No, worse, actually. Who knew tortillas could expire? And we just won't talk about the condiment situation, all right? Suffice it to say that ChikFilA polynesian sauce doesn't keep as well as you think it might.

I ended up with an empty shelf. This is a new experience for me.

WEIRD

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