Sunday, September 29, 2013

Misguided Ambition

I drove to New Jersey this weekend, armed with 60 boxes and 6 rolls of packing tape.  Yes, it was time to clean out my dad's house, where he had lived for over half a century.  I thought I was up to the task.  I thought it would be cathartic to go through that stuff, sort it out, and box it all up.

And, yes, it was cathartic - that is, if catharsis is the process of grief morphing into a feeling of resentment toward the dearly departed once the mourner realizes, with a sense of dawning horror, that 60 boxes is NOT NEARLY ENOUGH.  60 boxes is a JOKE.

Woefully inadequate

I had a realtor stop by, approximately 24 hours into this process.  Up until then, I was doing okay - focused on my progress, energetic, hydrated.  And then, as I took her around the house, I snapped out of my illusions and saw the mess through her eyes - the accounting office with papers from 1978 on, the 2-car garage already full of boxes, the laundry room with I-don't-know what-all shoved into it.  It was in this last room that she turned to me and said, in the tone of voice one would use to disabuse a small child of the notion that she can single-handedly dig all the way to China, "You know, there are people who can help you with this.  They come with a big truck and take it all away."

Yeah, that would be nice, wouldn't it? 

On the bright side, I dug up a photo album filled with pictures of my father as a boy and a young man.  I had never seen any candid photos of him from that time in his life - I had assumed, in fact, that none existed.  He looks so young, so happy, with his whole life spread out before him - it's a nice antidote to my memories of him from the past 4 months or so, when he was becoming feebler and more senile by the day.  His physical and mental misery spanned maybe one year out of a total of 87 -- these photos remind me that that single year doesn't define his entire life.

Now to find those helpful people with the big truck...

[Boxes image: enviromom]

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Broken Dreams

A while ago, I announced on this blog the exciting (to me) acquisition of a new set of glassware, an acquisition necessitated by the sad fact that we had only 3 intact glasses remaining in our kitchen cabinet.

An all-too-familiar sight...
Fast forward almost 3 1/2 years - Brian dropped a glass in the sink and I realized that we, once again, had only 3 usable glass drinking receptacles left.  Now, in this house, 3 1/2 years is not a bad run for a set of glassware, not bad at all.  But still, I've grown to dread that sound of breaking glass.

In Target later that week, I chanced on a clearance shelf full of plastic tumblers.  Understand, if you will, that - approximately a decade ago - I had decided that I DESERVED glasses, not plastic tumblers. Sick of bowing to the exigencies of a house full of children, I swore that never again would my lips touch anything but glass.  And, until that fateful evening in Target, I had stuck to my vow, regardless of our kitchen's granite countertops and tile floor that spelled eventual doom for any breakable housewares we might have the temerity to possess.

But that evening in Target?  I was the one who broke.  Turning my back on the shelf of glassware that was beckoning just to my left, I put 6 of those cheerful red tumblers in my cart.  You see, it occurred to me that I was tired of cleaning up broken glass, tired of trying to fish jagged glass pieces out of the garbage disposal, tired of discovering shards of glass on my floor even though I had vacuumed the entire kitchen twice. What price, I wondered, was being exacted by my determination to be civilized?  What awful price?

THIS is what defeat looks like, in case you were wondering.

So, yeah, there they are.  50 cents each, and I bet they last forever.

[Broken glass image: Recycle This]

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Quick note to say I'll be back soon.  My dad passed away on Sunday, and we've been busy doing stuff - funeral, sitting shiva, eating ridiculous amounts of cake and cookies, and trying to figure out how to clean out a house that was lived in by the same person for over 50 years.

I'm grateful he isn't suffering anymore, very grateful - but it is disorienting (to say the least) that someone who has always been in my life is not there anymore.  Apparently, judging from my surprise at this situation, I have just figured out what death means.  Some of us are slow learners, you know.

And now, to bed - last night I didn't sleep well, as I was alone in my dad's house, with ALL the lights on.  I was working with the theory that a well-lit house would discourage other-worldly visits.  And then I turned half of the lights off, because I remembered my dad scolding us for leaving the house "lit up like a Christmas tree" and figured that my overuse of electricity might trigger a haunting.

But seriously, it just felt as though he would come walking around the corner any minute.  How could he not?  He had always been there.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Plumb Crazy

The rash hasn't killed me yet.  Just thought you should know...

Uh-oh, forgot to pack corn cobs!
Today?  I had to help Rachel get ready for her FIRST GIRL SCOUT CAMPOUT EVER.  Rachel's naturally high level of enthusiasm was ramped up to the nth power, because she gets to do archery and kayaking tomorrow and I'd even think of joining her, it sounds like so much fun, but the place where they are staying?  Has no flush toilets.  Yet it has cabins.  With cots.

SOMEONE at Girl Scout Central seems not to understand that plumbing is not a negotiable camping option.  Beds are negotiable.  Wooden shelters are negotiable.  You see, tents and sleeping bags suit even this civilization-loving gal just fine.  But, to my way of thinking, there just aren't enough s'mores in the world to make using an outhouse a reasonable proposition.  With or without the corn cobs...

[Outhouse image: Wikipedia]

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Walking The Walk

It's hot here.  Just thought you should know.

I left the air conditioning off for most of the day, because only 1 member of the family was going to be in the house most of the afternoon, and damned if I'm going to air-condition a 2300-sq-ft townhouse for hours on end for only 1 person.

By the way, that 1 person?  Wasn't me.  Key point.

So, David got to enjoy some solitude, at the price of feeling a bit, well, poached by the time the rest of us returned from our various classes and play dates and errands.  I was hoping the hot house would encourage David to go out and look for jobs in air-conditioned stores and eateries, but no such luck.  He seems content to continue to rake in money from hapless older people who cannot figure out how to move their photos from their cameras to their computers.  So be it.  Lord knows he isn't going to run out of customers any time soon.

Where was I going with this?  Oh, yeah, it's hotAfrica hot. So I turned on that AC as soon as I walked in the door.  Do teenagers deserve air conditioning?  Discuss.


I'm still waiting for the wealthy and wise part.
For the past 7 days, I've been making myself go to sleep at a decent hour and get up early (6:30) to exercise/walk before we do breakfast and school.  I hate to admit it, but I am feeling better about my life, as in I no longer feel like I am drowning the minute I wake up in the morning (NOT a good sensation, believe me).  The kids like it better, too, since I actually cook decent breakfasts.  That means, unfortunately, that I have to continue being sensible and healthy, like, forever.  I'm not sure I can pull that off.

In other news, I have a mysterious rash on my arm that I fear may be fatal.  At least, if itchiness can kill, it could be fatal.  So, if you don't hear from me again, it's because Larry, not believing my dire prognostications, provided me with some hydrocortisone cream rather than calling in the best medical minds to focus on my problem.  I tell you, I'm so tired of not being taken seriously around here.

[Benjamin Franklin poster:]

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Pinterest For The Rest Of Us

Rachel and Susie and I had quite the girly-girl day today, shoe-shopping (Payless BOGO half-off!) and going out to lunch and browsing at Michaels.  I came home after a few hours of this immersion in all things feminine and begged Larry to take Susie to the pool, because, really, there is only so much enthusiasm and chatter one person can take in a single day.  I am done.

To recover, I vegged out on the Internets and discovered this Pinterest board that was apparently created by someone who is most emphatically NOT Martha Stewart.  [Warning: if you don't like the f-word, don't click.]  I particularly liked her messy message board how-to. Then I bestirred myself to prep a pan of boppies early, as I will be taking Rachel to her tennis team try-outs right before dinner.  By the way, it still makes my non-athletic self giggle to think that I'm taking a child of mine to try out for anything.  Rachel's wearing her new Payless sneakers and her Target tennis skort, so essentially she feels as though she is going to kick some a**.  Only not in so many words...

Larry and the boys arose at 4:30 this morning to help their Boy Scout troop set out orange cones for a local triathlon.  I signed them up for that, because it gives me a happy feeling inside to watch the teen boys drag themselves out of bed at o'dark thirty.  I felt a little bad about Larry, as he became a sort of collateral damage in this nefarious plan of mine.  I don't feel too bad, though, because he woke me before he left by flicking the light on REPEATEDLY to "look for stuff."  That's one passive-aggressive spouse, I tell you; I may decide to go back to my plan of decorating our bedroom with posters of world-class tennis hunks, just to bother him.  What can I say?  Maturity is not my strong suit.

[Message board image: Pinterest]

Saturday, September 07, 2013

I REALLY Like Tennis

Can't help myself...another scenic tennis photo...
I couldn't bring myself to post yesterday, because I liked the pictures in Thursday's post so much.  Do you think Larry would mind if I went all teen-girl-y on him and plastered photos of male tennis players all over our bedroom walls?

I guess I know the answer to that one.  Spouses can be so stifling.

I went with a friend for a pedicure today; I spent 15 minutes trying to choose a new color and ended up with the exact same color I've always gotten.  Because I'm adventurous like that.  Although, really, just getting the pedicure itself is adventure enough for my personal-space-craving self....

And, finally (because there really isn't much going on in this neck of the blogosphere, and really? Sometimes that's a good thing), let me recommend Marinka's little tour de force on why her husband REALLY shouldn't try to discuss family budget issues with her.  Ever.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Open Minded

We don't get cable TV, so imagine my delight at discovering that ESPN is streaming the US Open matches live on a computer near you!  Oh, my, those tennis fellas are delicious.  I mean, um, talented - very talented

 All this, and brains, too....

That Serbian guy is no slouch, either, of course.

Tennis skills honed during the NATO bombing of Belgrade - talk about cool under pressure, eh?  AND he speaks 5 languages, including French.  Ooh, la, la!

I know, I know, I'm much too old for any of these nice young men.  And I don't have a shred of cougar in me.  But I do have 3 daughters to marry off, so it behooves me to research potential sons-in-law, don't you think?  Duty calls!

[Youzhny image: WSJ]
[Djokovic image: Adelaide Now]

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Truth About Parenting

A few months ago, our oldest child Theo – a newly minted Army officer - surprised us with a visit. He came home over a holiday weekend, because – get this – he just felt like it (awesome!); and we old folks at home were thrilled.  That is, I was enjoying his stay until something unfortunate occurred, an incident that left me, essentially, a broken woman, contemplating the futility of all human endeavour.

You see, I’ve spent many years (22, to be exact) watching reality steamroll over my na├»ve child-rearing aspirations.  As the mom of 6 kids born over a span of 13 years, I’ve experienced my share of disappointments: I’ve had to gradually surrender all my nutritional ideals to the great god Sugar, for example; I’ve watched the Internet pretty much destroy my dreams of a TV- free home; and I’ve even accepted that teaching my kids to maintain orderly bedrooms - and their actual doing so? - are two entirely separate matters.  

But, despite my multiple run-ins with reality as I raised the next generation, there remained one singular accomplishment on which I continued to pride myself.  Not to boast  but, as the mother of 3 boys, I trained those young lads from the beginning to ALWAYS put the seat and the lid down after using the toilet.  


I know…it was as if I had supernatural powers, right?

Is this REALLY so hard to do?
I knew – I KNEW – that, no matter what twists and turns my boys’ lives might take once they left the nest, this one principle that I had harped on for years would stay with them.  I KNEW that I had managed to raise young men who would be fundamentally incapable of leaving that seat up - at least in any household containing members of the fairer sex.  You know, in my darkest moments as the mother of teens, when the harsh reality of childrearing seemed bent on stripping me of the very last vestige of hope –  that hope that I could at all influence my growing children’s attitudes or beliefs or behavior?  In those darkest moments, I would wander into any one of the bathrooms in my home and reassure myself with the sight of that closed toilet.  It was a sign from the heavens, telling me that, yes, I was doing at least one thing right.

But that weekend, with my beloved first-born visiting, I walked into our powder room and discovered what was, essentially, a cross nailed through the heart of my one remaining parenting illusion.  That’s right – that darned toilet seat? It was UP.  There it stood, as it were, mocking any dreams I may have enjoyed of worshipful future daughters-in-law throwing flowers at my feet and thanking me for how well I had raised my sons.

The lesson here, folks, is a simple one.   In the Sisyphean struggle that is parenting, reality will always win.  Expect it.  EVERY SINGLE TIME.

[Toilet image:]

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Ours Is Not To Reason Why

I know, I know, lots of mothers all over the blogosphere are over-the-moon happy today that it is the first day of school.  But while those lucky women dance around their newly liberated households, strewing flowers and kissing school-bus drivers, there is a small group of us moms that is steeling itself for battle instead.  We are sharpening our machetes, as it were, to hack our way through the school-year jungle of workbooks, unit studies, educational apps, and field-trip planning that springs, fully formed, the day after Labor Day.

Yes, the homeschool moms.  It's us.  We feel a tad left out this week.  Behind all our bravado and nonchalance, there is a teeny part of us that wonders what it would feel like to have the house empty 6 hours a day, 5 days a week; we go all aquiver at the thought of our kids getting upset with someone WHO IS NOT US over assigned math problems; in fact, sometimes we even fantasize about nodding sagely at parent-teacher conferences and running the PTA gift wrap sale.  ANYTHING, that is, but do what lies before us.  AGAIN.

Because, yoo-hoo, 6th-grade math the 5th time around?  NOT FUN.  I'll wager I could face down any of you when it comes to calculating fractions and percentages, but the thrill is gone.  GONE.

Sing it, Rosie!
And,'s in our blood.  Homeschooling is a way of life.  And, by the time that first-week-of-school excitement evaporates and the first head-lice notices come home, I and my homeschooling compatriots will have settled comfortably back into the traces, ready to do battle with children who, while able to teach themselves multiple computer languages, cannot seem to remember a basic list of prepositions from year to year.

We salute you happy moms this week, as fellow soldiers in a great battle - we are sisters in suffering, fighting the good fight to get our unappreciative, Minecraft-obsessed children educated, one way or another.  Remember, ours is not to reason why...

[School bus image: Wauconda School District]
[Rosie image: Wikipedia]

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Don't Google, Be Happy

Some quick updates:

Still working on the crocheted plastic sleeping mat for Haiti - I've got 10 inches done, so this particular good deed should only take me approximately 6 more years to complete.

You wouldn't believe how many plastic bags are in this picture.

Still aghast at what the ravages of time have wrought on one of my favorite singers

Still walking around humming "The Circle Game" and mourning my lack of cute babies to squeeze

STILL have not worked up the nerve to change out my starter earrings for something prettier (although I am planning to use the Neosporin hint that Cassi passed on (one that she got from Jen on the Edge).  I've said it before, but I'll say it again:  I LOVE the blogosphere.


The only thing new is that Theo dropped by for the weekend, so I bestirred myself to cook a bunch of food in honor of his visit.  To be perfectly honest, it was more of a group effort:  I prepped the meat, but Larry grilled it; the children shucked the corn so that I could boil it; and I braved the hot August (wait, September?) sun to buy rotini for the pasta salad David was making. 

These bags do put up a fight

But I am proud to announce that I DID make the green salad all by myself.  And if you think it was easy to open that bag of lettuce, you most certainly haven't tried looking for a pair of scissors in my kitchen lately.  I was fairly verklempt by the time I dumped those leafy greens into a pretty bowl and set it on the table. 

A cold Coke revived me enough, however, to realize that we didn't have enough room around the table for 7 people - which left me wondering, what did we used to do?  I mean, when we moved into this house 6 years ago, there were 8 of us living here.  Did 2 children skip dinner each night?  Maybe I was able to count on sending at least 2 to their rooms during any particular meal?  I don't remember, even though that was ONLY 6 YEARS AGO. 

I must be losing my mind.  Early-onset dementia?  Is this a symptom?  Dare I Google it?


[Lettuce image: blisstree]