Monday, November 30, 2015

Girl Power

Quickly, because I am supposed to be in bed now...

We had a fine, uneventful Thanksgiving, thank you. Of course, if Larry had had his way, it would have been more complicated.  You see, as the girls and I were working in the kitchen Thursday morning, Larry appeared in the dining room. He was carrying a drop cloth and paint brushes.

Seriously, people, at 10:30 on Thanksgiving morning.

Susie and Rachel and I stared at him. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm going to paint that door frame."

"No. You're not."

"I HAVE to. It's required by the door warranty," he said, attempting to make room for his painting stuff next to the already set dining room table.

Does NOT go well with turkey
Let's review: the french doors were installed around 2 months ago. 2 MONTHS. Moreover, Thanksgiving Day is followed by 3 days in which Larry could paint that door frame at his leisure. Does anyone else see the pattern here? Remember the bathroom sink incident before the cocktail party last December?

Sabotage, pure and simple.

"You can do it another day," I said. "NOT NOW."

Larry, believe it or not, looked annoyed - ANNOYED - by my intransigence. Couldn't I see he was trying to get something done? "The weather is perfect today for painting," he announced.

Lord knows, I am not one to stand in the way of home improvement. But we were expecting guests. So I braced for battle. "Look," I said, "the weather is supposed to be good tomorrow and Saturday. You can paint then."

"It will just take a few minutes," he insisted.

"But, Daddy," said Rachel (my newly favorite child), "the paint smell won't go away in time for dinner."

"Don't worry," said Larry. "It won't smell."

"That's right, Rachel," I said, realizing that Larry was positively delusional at this point. "Daddy's paint doesn't smell. Didn't you know that?"

And then all 3 of us looked at Larry, standing in the kitchen doorway with the dropcloth bundled under his arm and an exasperated look on his face, and we cracked up. Realizing he was outnumbered, Larry headed back down to the basement with his implements of destruction.

"I was just trying to help," he huffed. Which, yeah, made us laugh even harder.

[Paint can image: Clipart Panda]

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Gonna Cook Like It's 1999

Yesterday? I cooked.  Today? I cooked. Tomorrow? I will cook some more. I swear, I have no idea why this Thanksgiving thing is so much work.  After all, it is just DINNER. Once this holiday is over, I am breaking up with my kitchen.  This is just too much.

Also, I forgot that I had promised Just Mercy to someone! And no one reminded me.  Around my house, EVERYONE knows they have to remind me to do things.  Anyway, I somehow managed to remember (naturally, at 2 AM); so I hauled out my trusty ol' Random Number Generator (just kidding, I Googled it), put in my numbers, and let 'er spin.  The winning number was 8, which means commenter Gail has won the book. Gail, I don't have your contact info, so if you see this, please email me with your address, etc.

Tonight Rachel is at her very first real babysitting job.  It is hard to believe that when I first started this blog, she was a toilet-stuffing, stuffed-animal-decapitating whirling dervish of a 4-year-old. For her sake, I sure do hope the kids she is babysitting are nothing like she was.

Where does the time go, anyway? I've been blogging here for 8 or 9 years now, but it feels like just yesterday that I was sitting in our basement thinking up the name of this site. So this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for all of you who bother to come by and read these pages. No, really. What started out as a family newsletter and turned into a blog (once I discovered this thing called the Internet) has morphed into not only the most efficient way to settle arguments with my husband over which appliance broke down at what point in time; it has also been a wonderful opportunity to "meet" and chat with people from all over the US. Back in those days of little ones running around and never-ending laundry and month-long stomach flu quarantines, comments on this blog were my lifeline to the outside world. There are fewer comments now (darn you, Facebook!), but I am grateful to those of you who stick around and weigh in on things now and again. It's easier to write for an audience, and I NEED to write.  How else would I be able to prove to Larry how many times he has been wrong about paint colors? Or not, as the case may be...

A very happy Thanksgiving to you all!

[Turkey image: Clipart Panda]

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Well! Here it is, the holiday season, when everyone focuses on gifts and food and decorations and general good cheer. It's that time of year when we are grateful for what we have and are eager to share our bounty with others, all while partying down to the end of yet another year.

Unless, of course, you're a hypochondriac.  In which case, you spend this time of year much as you spent the first 11 months of it - anxiously scanning the Internet for more news that will confirm your suspicion that we are all going to die horribly and soon.

Yeah, put that in a carol and sing it, will ya?

So here is the latest round-up, for those of you less vigilant about our coming collective demise. First, yet another article from Slate about how bacteria are all becoming antibiotic resistant; in the not-so-distant future, apparently, a cut finger will spell gangrene and maybe even death (if you're one of those wimps too slow to opt for amputation). Merry Christmas! But be careful washing those wine glasses - they break easily and you could end up with a fatal injury.

There aren't any mosquitoes at the North Pole.
And here is something from NPR about one of my least-favorite creatures, the Asian tiger mosquito. Not only do these savage insects carry West Nile, malaria, and chikungunya; they also help transmit the Zika virus.  Luckily, Zika won't kill you; unluckily, it looks as though a pregnant woman, if bitten, has a bigger chance of giving birth to a baby suffering from microcephaly. In other words, mosquitoes can not only incapacitate you with joint pain for months and months, but also shrink your babies' brains in utero. Oh, but Happy New Year!

And, lest we forget, 15 cases of plague have been diagnosed in the United States this year, predominantly out West. This is because the bacterium that causes plague runs rampant in the rodent population out there. Maybe it is time to rethink my plans to drag the entire family out to southwestern Utah next summer?

So, there you have it - the catastrophic disease round-up for the 2015 holiday season. Enjoy your holidays and raise a glass to us hypochondriacs - we who cannot be happy without first reading up on everything poised to destroy our good cheer at a moment's notice.  Oh, and don't forget - there are some risks that accompany all that holiday drinking...

[Wreath image: Clipart Pal]
[Santa image: Clipart Panda]

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Flour And Sugar And Butter, Oh My!

What's up? Oh, nothing really. Just here to remind you to throw your name into the hat for a free copy of Just Mercy, an excellent non-fiction book about fighting for legal justice in the South. If you're interested, leave a comment on this blog post - I will pick a name on Saturday. Or maybe Sunday, if I'm too busy Saturday finishing up the last of the Bunko candy.

Hey, those peanut M&M's aren't going to eat themselves, you know.

Just the beginning....
The season of holiday baking has begun: today I helped Susie bake a batch of mini cranberry muffins to take to Activity Night, where they were sharing family holiday traditions.  Activity Night is a biweekly event she attends with a bunch of her LDS friends, because what better place is there for a Jewish/Catholic girl to be than at a Mormon youth group?

We take being ecumenical VERY seriously here.

Then Rachel decided she was bored and needed to bake mini peach pies to pass the time.  Who am I to deny her that pleasure, especially since she actually cleaned up her mess afterwards? I suppose it really IS the season of miracles.

My point being, it isn't even Thanksgiving yet, and we are already awash in calories.  I need to order some new jeans to replace some that have worn out, but I am thinking maybe I should just wait until January to make sure I buy the right size. I'm nothing if not a realist these days.

Movie recommendations, anyone?  Anything you've seen lately that you really liked?

[Muffins image: FitWebMD]

Monday, November 16, 2015


You WANT to read this.
Just Mercy (the book I blogged about on Thursday) is now up for grabs, people.  Just throw your name in the hat, as it were, by commenting.  I will pick a winner on Saturday. This book, about a lawyer's untiring work for racial justice in the South, is definitely a worthwhile read, although now it has me panicked about David being in school in Alabama.  By some strange genetic throw of the dice, David - son of an Ashkenazi Jew and a father who is half Irish Catholic/half WASP - is dark-complected enough to look as though he hails from the Middle East somewhere. After reading this book (and after reading about Alabama's reaction to the sad events in Paris on Friday), it is all I can do not to pick up the phone and say to David, "DO NOT LEAVE CAMPUS FOR ANY REASON WHATSOEVER."  So far I have restrained myself. So far.

Theo is in the military, and I have never - for any reason - felt the need to warn him of danger, not even when he traveled to Morocco and to Jordan. Anna traveled to Colombia on her own, for heaven's sake, and I didn't blink an eye. So I don't think it's as though I am a helicopter parent hellbent on protecting her adult children. And, look, Michigan is being stupid, too. Hello? A terrorist can drive over from a neighboring state, you know.  What are you going to do - institute border controls with Indiana and Ohio?

I had to look up which states border Michigan - I guess I should watch who I am calling stupid, eh?

I traveled up to NY on Saturday to visit a former neighbor - the husband of the woman who witnessed my humiliation in Harris Teeter. She passed on 2 years ago, a year or so after they moved up there, but he is still around, as are their 2 daughters and their families, all up in the NY area.  So I got to see him and one of her daughters and even another former neighbor who drove down from Connecticut to join us. I ended up staying the night at the daughter's home, in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn is WAY bigger than I realized.
You know, I grew up in NJ, frequently visited Manhattan, was steeped in Brooklyn lore (my father's family hailed from there), have read books about Brooklyn - all to the point that I didn't realize until Saturday that I had never actually SEEN BROOKLYN. So my poor host, who kindly volunteered to take me on a walking tour of the Greenpoint and Williamsburg sections on Sunday morning, had to put up with a slightly manic guest exclaiming at regular intervals, "OMG! I've never been here! Look at those rowhouses! The East River! I've never seen the East River! Is that Manhattan across the water? The Williamsburg Bridge! Francie crossed that!"

I could not shut up. It felt as though I had come home to a place I had never been before. Brooklyn!

And then I had to drive all the way back, relying on my phone's GPS, which went fine until the moment that I realized it had stopped working (that happens sometimes) and I went to tap it with my finger and knocked it clear across the car, where I couldn't reach it. I was on Staten Island at the time, another place I had never been before. Luckily, I was close enough to NJ for homing instinct to take over, so I managed to find the turnpike anyway. Whew.

Anyway, I'm tired - 5 hours of driving, 2 days in a row, seems to be an activity I am aging out of. Still, I am glad I went (Brooklyn!), as I had been meaning to make the visit for a while; and now that that's taken care of, I can stay home and focus on ignoring Christmas until December 19 or so.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Brain Food

I'm still sick, in case you're wondering.  And the kids just finished off the Bunko leftovers. For dinner, I had to augment with some free subs from Harris Teeter.  Free, because we've racked up a lot of sub points by buying their subs.

How many times can I use the word "subs"?

These are my best friends right now.
I am still coughing, still feeling as though I will pass out when I forget and just run up the stairs.  Still sleeping on the couch so I don't disturb Larry. Still sucking on Ricola cough drops and praying I don't start throwing up the way Rachel did.

So, yeah, a fun week...

On the bright side, what with lying around on the couch most of Tuesday and Wednesday and today, I've gotten a lot of (non-Facebook) reading done. My brain had felt as though it were getting too thin, what with the steady Internet diet I feed it, so I procured 2 intelligent, non-fiction books (complete with paragraphs of more than 3 sentences apiece) and have been forcing myself to read them. One of the books (Just Mercy) is by a lawyer who has dedicated his career to defending death-row prisoners in the South.

Let us note here that, apparently, some people do worthwhile things with their lives. I'm guessing this guy wouldn't regard cleaning up the house for Bunko as the mark of a super-productive day.

This gentleman is a much better human being than moi.

The other book (Power, Faith, and Fantasy) is a history of America's involvement with the Middle East, all the way back to 1776. (Spoiler alert: NOTHING has changed.) I saw Theo reading it when he was home and realized he was getting way smarter than me; so I went to the library and got myself a copy.

Tell me: have books from major publishers always had numerous mistakes (punctuation, word usage, etc) in them? Or are editors just a dying breed these days?

When I'm finished with Just Mercy, I will sponsor a giveaway, in case any of you also feel the need to shore up the ol' brain cells a bit. It really is a good book, even if it does make me realize I am a pathetic loser with no meaningful goals in life. I mean, self-knowledge is healthy, right?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Shades of Faust

"I'm home tomorrow," Larry announced last night, as he stood up and stretched after watching the debates with us.

"What, why?" I asked, seeing my peaceful plans of eating leftover Bunko candy while ignoring the children going right out the window.

"Veteran's Day, remember?" he said. "You should remember."

Larry won't sell his soul for this.
"Veteran's Day?" piped up Susie. (Yes, she was still awake at 11 - she had watched the debates with us, because civics. Or something like that.) "That means we get the free Bloomin' Onion, right?"

Larry made a face. "That's not necessary," he said.

"Why not?" asked Susie, disappointed.

"It's demeaning, waiting there for a free food hand-out - that's not what our military service was about!" he told her.

"But, Bloomin' Onions!" insisted Susie.

"Hey," I told Larry, who looked annoyed at our youngest's willingness to sell her dignity for a free treat. "This website says that World of Beers is offering a complimentary draught beer to veterans tomorrow."

Larry's frown disappeared as his face lit up. "Really?" he said. "Now that's cool!"

Apparently, every man does have his price.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Totally Out Of Post Titles, Sorry

See? Over to the side there? The "About Me" section? The last age just turned over for the year - Theo, our first-born, is now 24.  Theo's birthday is a special one, because he is the one who made me a mom.  So there you are - I've been doing this mom thing for 24 years now.

Don't you like how I made Theo's birthday all about me? I'm sure he appreciates that.

The family guinea pig, 24 years ago
But seriously, I look back and think, that poor kid. Essentially, the hospital let 2 only nominally adult people - people who did not know how to change a diaper and couldn't even keep a houseplant alive - take home a 2-day-old baby. How insane is that? An innocent newborn, totally at the mercy of our ineptitude. It's a miracle he ever made it to adulthood.

So, thanks, Theo, for letting us learn the ropes with you. I'm sure your siblings thank you, also.

That flu thing I had on Friday went away and was replaced with a horrid sore throat that gets worse at night and keeps me from sleeping. I guess if I were a kid, this would have been croup.  I drop off to sleep and then jerk awake feeling as though I am going to choke if I don't cough.

Oh, hey, maybe it's diptheria! Should I Google that?

So this went on for 2 nights and I actually felt a little better this morning and thought, gee, all I need is a little rest and I can kick this thing. Which was a nice little fantasy, considering that I had to host Bunko tonight and the entire house looked like hell because Rachel and I had been sick since Friday. Not only did I have to do the normal party-prep clean up, I also had to strip all the germ-ridden slipcovers from the couch and 2 armchairs and wash them, so I wouldn't worry about infecting the rest of the neighborhood. And then there were the cranberry mini-muffins to bake and the birthday package to send and the trip to Costco to stagger through.

So, yeah, by the time everyone showed up at 7, I felt as though I were dying. The sore throat was coming back, I couldn't eat anything because my stomach was feeling weird, and I kept coughing. I'm sure everyone was thrilled to see me.

The furniture looked great, though. Very germ-free. And tomorrow I will wake up to a clean house with tons of Bunko leftovers for the kids to eat. I mean, unless I drop dead from diptheria overnight.  That's always a possibility.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

A Disenchanted Evening

So! Those of you who follow this blog's Facebook page already know that the stomach virus fairy visited our house yesterday. Rachel was the lucky chosen one (so far) who got to throw up repeatedly and lie on the bathroom floor wailing, "Why me?" Caring, maternal person that I am, I took advantage of what I saw as a teachable moment to say, "This is what happens if you drink too much at college, you know."

Really, that was the first thing that popped into my mind.  What is wrong with me?

Delivered by an angel of mercy
To keep Rachel company, I came down with some ache-y, flu-y thing that same day. Now, I am not a pleasant person to be around when ill. I get depressed and irritable (a situation not helped in the least by having to watch someone barf several times). I also get weepy.  So when a neighbor texted me from Target and asked if I needed anything, followed by my yoga teacher volunteering to work the desk at the yoga center for me on Saturday morning, I became positively maudlin, wailing to anyone who would listen that I didn't deserve friends like that.

Fortunately for Larry, he was at work all day and didn't have to listen to me.

So today both Rachel and I were in recovery mode (read, I was still irritable and she was munching on pretzels). But I felt well enough by early evening to insist that Larry and I go out to see Bridge of Spies, since it seemed to be one of the few movies both of us would enjoy.

You know, Cold War for him, Tom Hanks for me?

So there we were, happily watching a movie. It was a scene near the beginning, where Tom Hanks (a lawyer) is talking to this really old guy who owned the law firm.  REALLY OLD. And Larry leaned over and whispered in my ear, "That's Alan Alda."

Folks, I think Alan Alda, and what I see is Hawkeye from M*A*S*H.  I mean, I did see him in a movie during the 90s (Manhattan Murder Mystery); but he still resembled Hawkeye, albeit a little older and more distinguished-looking. So, it's not as though I didn't know the guy was aging a bit.

There. On the far right. The old man.

But, yeah, the 90s were 20 years ago now.  I just did the math.

I came home and messaged my best friend from high school - you know, the one who is supposed to know that neither of us will ever grow old? - and told her what had happened.  I mean, if Alan Alda can't stay young, what hope is there for either of us? Her reply was, essentially, "Um, what did you expect?" To which I say, thanks, friend of my youth. THANKS A LOT.

[Bridge of Spies image: Touchstone Pictures]

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Halloween Hangover

Halloween stats (several days late):

44 bags of candy handed out
3 trick-or-treaters: a pirate (Susie, and a very cute pirate she was), a black widow spider, and a reluctant teenage bat (Brian, who realized at the last minute he wanted some candy)
1 mom (that would be, uh, moi) who kept all the short, chewy strawberry Twizzlers for herself
8 costumed neighbors who attended our candy-swap party after the main event

All in all, it was your typical Halloween around here. We're still eating candy, although the girls are being remarkably selfish about their KitKats this year.  You know, you think you're raising them right, and then reality just up and smacks you in the head.

But that's okay, I just wrote them both out of the will.

Just add some bicycles, and this is pretty much us.
Larry has suddenly become interested in all the various little campers I've been looking at for the past year or so: the Little Guy, the Happier Camper, the Alto.  It might have something to do with the fact that we actually lost a little piece of our camping trailer last summer on our way up to Maine. Picture it: We're 3 hours late getting on the road, only halfway there, stress levels cranked up to max, and someone pulls up next to us on a major highway, trying to get our attention.  At first we didn't notice, because our car is quite a sight when we are towing the camping trailer with the cartop carrier strapped to its top, 2 bikes on the roof of our minivan, and 3 more bikes mounted on the back hatch.  I mean, LOTS of people stare, because we look like the Beverly Hillbillies of the camping set. But then I saw that the guy was gesturing at our camper and trying to tell us (at 60 mph) that something was wrong. We (meaning, Larry) managed to pull off the road and fix the problem, but not before one of those thingies (legs? struts?) that holds up the camper had gone missing.

Like I said, STRESS.

So, earlier this week, Larry asked me to show him all the mini-camper websites and even appeared to be listening to me as I explained what I thought were the pros and cons of each one. Then he spent the next few days doing his typical obsessive thing of comparing and evaluating absolutely every detail about these things.

Me, I just look at the pictures.

So whose method is better? I can't say, but I can tell you that we both pretty much came to the same conclusion as to which camper might best fit our needs.  And my way left me more time to eat the Halloween candy. Nuff said.

Of course, all this research was completely theoretical, since we don't happen to have $12 - 20K lying around right now to throw at our camper problems.  But, hey, we all need our fantasies, don't we?

[Beverly Hillbillies image: MoreThings]