Monday, July 31, 2017

Paint My Wagon

While Susie and I were staying at our friend's beach house, we watched her daughter transform - in a matter of hours - an older coffee table and side table into things of beauty - all through the miracle of chalk paint. Inspired, I decided that I, too, would turn a worn-out piece of furniture (and believe me, I have A LOT to choose from around here) into an attractively painted piece that anyone (and not just dumpster-divers like us) would want to have in their home.

So, in an unwonted fit of organized creativity, I not only managed to procure the proper paints and brushes since our return a mere week ago, I also actually painted a piece of furniture.

True, it's very small, but you have to start somewhere.

Susie is completely enamored of the color. "We should paint EVERYTHING purple," she said, as I brushed on the paint like the pro I am. I was similarly enthusiastic - that is, until the sun moved to the front of the house and I was stuck painting on the wax finish in approximately 90-degree heat. But, hey, I managed to get the finishing coat on, which is more than I can say for the last time I attempted something like this.

In other news, I can't keep up with the food consumption around here. Even with Brian away (he left us for Seattle, where he and a friend are staying in the friend's aunts house and living like kings for two weeks), I still have 4 kids to feed and I can't cheat by ordering a pizza, since Theo is here. I'm back to running the dishwasher twice a day, and baking breakfast goodies every other day, and generally doing what I did for, oh, I don't know, 15 or 16 years, before people starting growing up and leaving home.

I am entirely impressed by my younger self. She was very energetic, apparently.

In other other news, I woke up to a dead Fitbit this morning, which means I got NO credit for my morning jog/walk/stagger today. But it had charged up by the time I got back and now I have over 12,000 steps already, so TAKE THAT, Younger Self. I also weeded part of the back patio and sprayed natural anti-mosquito spray all over the vegetation and generally acted like a responsible homeowner, for once.

I know, shocking. I barely recognize myself. I blame the sudden drop in humidity levels (or dew point, as you weather geeks insist). I don't want to lose my momentum, so I'll sign off here. Tomorrow, I can discuss camping and our pop-up trailer and how Larry and I might maybe - just maybe - be getting the hang of this thing.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Beaten At My Own Game

So, yeah, here's a picture that inadvertently sums up my incredibly pedestrian day Friday:

There you have it - I rolled up 50-gram balls of yarn, knitted a gauge swatch, and battled an ant invasion with that can of spray and the vacuum cleaner hiding in the back corner of the photo. And, no, I don't know what all those corks are doing there. Let's pretend they're decorative, shall we?

The ants must have been trying to escape the rain. Because rain it did. It rained, and it rained, and it rained. It was the sort of rain where you stop what you are doing from time to time and wonder whether the house can withstand that much water falling out of the sky at once. Well, maybe that's just me.

Susie and I took advantage of the stay-indoors weather by playing Dutch Blitz. So, uh, what exactly do you call that phase where your kid starts beating you (repeatedly) at games you taught her oh so many years ago?

Oh, oh yeah. Growing up, that's what you call it. And, whaddaya know, here's the post where I rejoiced that Susie had finally learned to play this particular card game. It was 5 whole years ago. She was only 7 then. OMG, where has the time gone?

Today Larry drove to pick Rachel up from the Civil Air Patrol camp she attended this week. It's called Honor Guard and the kids spend the week learning to march in ceremonial drills and to toss rifles and (I kid you not) to carry coffins.

That's right - I sent my kid to a summer camp where she learned to be a pallbearer. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that one.

So, anyway, Rachel had a great time (let's face it, she's always been the weird one, right?) and wants to go back next year for the advanced level. Maybe that's when they learn to toss the coffins. I don't know.

That's it for now. Tomorrow Larry and I have to perform the yearly, divorce-defying ritual of opening up the camper, so we can get it ready for our August sojourn up north. Because why enjoy your weekend when you can argue over where to put sleeping bags and camp chairs instead?

[Dutch Blitz image: Dutch Blitz]

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Birds

As reported in not-so-riveting detail last week, Susie and I were invited by a friend of ours to visit her at her in-laws' beach house for a couple of days. So Sunday we set off for the Jersey shore with a car packed full with boogie boards and knitting and audio books and our Sportbrella, and really, is there any better way to spend one's time in the summer?

Of course not. That was a rhetorical question.

It worked! It really worked!
We spent 2 lovely days in Beach Haven, an eminently walkable beach town with decent bagels and a plethora of places to buy ice cream, and one of those days was excellent beach weather, which we took full advantage of. We spent 6 hours on Monday in the sun (well, under the Sportbrella) and sand and water and even convinced my friend to grab a boogie board and join the fun. And at not one point during that day were we attacked by seagulls.

Tuesday, we attempted the beach again, because the sun came out briefly. (It was too windy to put up our Sportbrella, though, and how many times do you think I can use the word "Sportbrella" in this post? That company should be paying me.) We spent 3 hours waiting for the sun to come back out from behind the clouds before finally giving up. But not before I took out a bag of Fritos (JUST LIKE THE DAY BEFORE) and started eating.

Next thing I knew, I was literally eye-to-eye with a very angry seagull. People, I never want to be that close to a wild creature again. Naturally, I startled and spilled some Fritos on the boogie board in front of me. Immediately there were several seagulls, dive bombing all around my shoulders and head as I frantically tossed those fallen corn chips into the sand away from me, so my legs would not be torn to bits by rapacious seabirds in search of a salty snack.

Hey, I get it. We ALL like Fritos. But they didn't even ask.

At the end there were at least a dozen seagulls swooping around me, calling shrilly to all their friends to come and get it, while I sat there, trapped in my beach chair, wondering if angry seagulls eat people. Eventually, they all left but one, who stood there in front of me for a while, maintaining eye contact, as if he somehow knew I still had half a bag of delicious salty goodness hidden under my swim dress on the chair next to me.

So we called it a day.

You can get a lot of steps in the ocean, apparently.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gratitude Is Exhausting

I have no idea what I've been doing all week, aside from complaining about the heat. You should be grateful I spared you all that, actually. Or maybe not - this heat wave ain't over.

So I've spent the week being thankful for whoever invented air conditioning. You know, I've been hearing people say how they are starting gratitude journals - they write down one thing each day that they are grateful for. If I had done that this week, the journal would have read: Monday - AC; Tuesday - AC; Wednesday - AC; Thursday - OMG, AC; Friday - GOD BLESS THE AC.

You get the idea.

But I don't get how come people are saying this gratitude practice changes their lives. For some reason, I do this nonstop in my head anyway, ALL THE TIME, and it's not like I'm Mother Teresa or anything. I mean, I glance at a newspaper headline about Syria, and I'm all, "Thank goodness we don't live in a war-torn country." Or I take my daughter to the orthodontist and I think, "Thank goodness we have the money for this." Or I drive somewhere and I think, "Thank goodness, I wasn't maimed or killed on the road."

Which, really - is gratitude a positive or a negative? Mine is all, "Whew, this horrible thing didn't happen to me." Or, "Whew, we're not in the poorhouse with crooked teeth." So maybe I'm not doing gratitude right.

Now I'm confused, so let's change the subject. I currently have 7 people living under my roof (thank goodness I have all these kids), because Theo - now officially an Army veteran - returned from his jaunt across Europe this week. So I'm back to assigning laundry days and running the dishwasher twice a day and cooking a whole heck of a lot. (Thank goodness I can afford to feed them.) I cannot believe I spent years working like this, day in and day out. At least I'm not changing any diapers this time around.

In the middle of all that, I managed to get a new eyeglasses prescription and today I ordered new eyeglasses AND prescription sunglasses (thank goodness I don't have to stumble around half-blind). Oh, and I went to the dentist to get my crown installed (thank goodness I can afford dental work, but OMG it is so expensive).

See? It's constant. Tell me you do this, too. Anyone?

Band camp ended today, so there was the concert (thank goodness for earplugs - ha, ha, just kidding), with me sitting there panicking about what the heck we're going to do for the rest of the summer until we leave for the wilds of Acadia again (thank goodness we have a camping trailer even if packing for a camping vacation is going to kill us one of these years). Luckily, a friend invited me and Susie to her in-laws' beach house for a couple of days next week (thank goodness for friends with generous in-laws) to partake in some sand and salt water.

Larger on the inside?
This invite inspired me to order a Sportbrella from Amazon (OMG, thank goodness for Amazon, a thousand times over), because Larry won't be with us to wrestle our 20th-century beach umbrella into the sand deep enough to keep it from being blown away and killing an unsuspecting sunbather. My purchase arrived today and Susie set it up in the living room, for practice. Larry just sat there and shook his head.

"What?" I said. "Don't you like it?"

"That's really big," he said. "Will there be room on the beach?"

"We saw them all over the beach last summer! Don't you remember? We thought they were a great idea!"

Larry had no memory of this.

"Well, I think they look smaller outdoors," I said, in a pathetic bid for reassurance.

"Yeah, maybe," said Larry, but he still looked doubtful (thank goodness for husbands who humor their wives).

[Sun image: Clipartix]
[Sportbrella image: Amazon]

Friday, July 14, 2017

Come On Everybody, Do Your Exercise!

Isn't that post title nauseating? I hate it so much, I have to keep it. And now I have a Wonderama earworm.

Wonderama was the only thing for kids to watch on TV on Sundays when I was growing up. Until nighttime, anyway, when you got The Wonderful World of Disney. I tell my kids that, and they don't believe me, having grown up suckling on the teats of Netflix, as it were.

I'm not bitter, I just sound that way.

I've been trying to exercise, in spite of its being July, with it's sauna-like air quality and temps in the 90s. The humidity has been utterly ghastly (although, I guess I'm supposed to be saying the dew point has been too high, but WTH science - why do you have to make everything so HARD?), to the point where even my early morning walk with my neighbor has turned into the Bataan Death March - the slow version. But, despite all these obstacles, I'm still chugging along with my brief morning jog/walk, which hasn't been progressing as swimmingly as I planned.

I'm in training. Sort of.
I mean, way back in March, when I started staggering around the golf course path for a mile every morning, I thought, Yeah, I should be able to jog this whole thing by, oh, end of April.  And then, a couple of weeks in, I realized I was in worse shape than I thought and I was going to be away for 2 whole weeks in April; so I changed the goal to end of May. By the end of May, I told myself, I'd be able to jog for almost a mile without stopping to walk.

Last I checked, it's July. I'm still stopping.

But, hey, I continue to get out there, looking pathetic, because persistence is everything (or so I've heard - so far, persistence just means looking like a fool - a fool who's about to have a heart attack, actually). I've revised my goal to Halloween, but have lately been considering just making it my next birthday.

That's right - when I turn 55, I MIGHT be able to jog a mile. Stay tuned - I know, it's riveting.

So! Larry must be thinking I am still not getting enough exercise, or why else would he have suggested we take a bike ride last Sunday? He had been driving (and getting lost) all day Saturday and maybe wanted to do something outdoorsy, I guess. Or else he's just trying to get his hands on my life insurance money. That could be it. Yeah, I think that's it.

There are too many people on the local bike trail in the morning, so we decided to do it late afternoon. And then we remembered Susie had to be driven somewhere at 5, so we made the totally not sensible decision to set out around 1:30 - you know, the hottest part of the day? I suggested we bike 5 or so miles to a local brewery, not feeling up to the 10-mile trek to the BBQ place we love (and that we've managed to bike to exactly ONCE). We dragged Susie along and, after way too much work, pulled up at the brewery.

Now, this place is right off the bike trail, always has tons of bikes parked by it, so you'd think it would be the perfect place for an air-conditioned stop for tired cyclists like ourselves. While Larry locked up our bikes and salivated at the thought of a fresh beer, I scouted it out. A maitre'd greeted me at the door.


I squinted up at him through the sweat that was dripping down from my helmet and said, "Uh, we were just looking for a place to eat."

I know, I'm smooth.

"Well, I'd be glad to seat you," he said, motioning to the graciously appointed tables behind him. "Or you could order drinks at the bar and bring them outside."

I glanced back outside, where a bunch of cyclists were standing around with their beers. No chairs. Hot sun. Glanced back inside. Fancy table settings. Expensive rustic decor. "Uh, could I see the menu?" I asked. He handed me one and I tried not to drip while I studied it.

No dollar signs. 

Have you noticed? The fancy places don't even print dollar signs on their menus, just the numbers. But Susie needed some affordable fries and a draft root beer, not expensive pomme frites. And we wanted a quick snack, not a long, drawn-out meal with table service that would require us to refinance the house.

Not beer, but still refreshing

I went back out to Larry and Susie and said, "It's fancy. I'm sweaty. We don't belong in there." With a regretful backward glance on Larry's part (he was really looking forward to that beer), we biked further (further) until we got to town; and then we walked another half mile looking for somewhere to sit.

We ended up at a Panera's, drinking frozen lemonades. Which is fine, if you weren't looking forward to a nice foamy beer, straight from the tap. Serves Larry right for making me bike in the first place, I'm thinking...

[Lemonade image: Panera Bread]

Monday, July 10, 2017


There's been a long battle fought here, folks, the battle to bring Larry into the 21st century -- the struggle, as tech-savvy Brian puts it, to get him to trust the machine. We've made a bit of progress - he does have a smartphone, after all; but there are still some modern-day staples Larry simply refuses to get on board with.

So pretty! And fun!
For instance, on Father's Day, we bought a GoogleHome for him (oh, okay, it was for us), and he made us bring it back. "Why would you want a microphone in our home, listening to everything we say?" he demanded, exasperated at our naivete.

"But it's fun!" I said. "Look! You can talk to it!"

He shook his head in disgust. Obviously I was willing to sell my soul for a mere mess of pottage, or - in this case - the ability to say, "Hey, Google, play some Billy Joel" and have "Piano Man" come blasting out the living room speakers.

Similarly, Larry fought the good fight against that newfangled thing called GPS for a long time, instead printing out his trusty MapQuest maps like it was 1999. But he has gradually become accustomed to using Google Maps on his phone when he drives somewhere new; so last Saturday, when he had to drive Rachel and 3 other Civil Air Patrol cadets to their week-long Encampment in a rural part of our state, he threw caution to the winds and left with only his cellphone - no stacks of computer-printed routes or maps whatsoever. Oh, we were so proud of him!

You know what happened, right? Do I even need to tell you?

His connectivity dropped out somewhere in the middle of farmland, in an area he was not familiar with. Luckily, one of the cadets had a different cellphone provider, so they got by on his GPS for a while. In fact, they were on a road Larry remembered from previous years and he was pretty confident where he was going, when the cadet said, "It wants us to turn right here."

That didn't sound right to Larry, but hey - trust the machine. So he turned from a paved highway onto a paved 2-lane road. Which became a not-so-paved 2-lane road, and then a dirt road, and then nothing. Nothing but a rutted track and some cornfields, one of which happened to have a huge Confederate flag draped across it.

This is usually the point in movies where you know things are not going to end well.

So Larry turned his car full of Yankees around and hightailed it back to the main road, where by luck and Apple Maps (which came to its senses) he finally made it to the Army base they were aiming for. And he came home swearing never to leave the house without his MapQuest printouts again.

It would be hard to overstate how smugly vindicated Larry is feeling right now. I think it rivals the purple paint episode of 8 years ago for smugness, actually. I mean, if he was right about the fallibility of GPS, WHAT ELSE must he be right about, his lone voice crying out in the wilderness of 21st-century technology? Or so he thinks.

Meaning, I'll NEVER get him to come around on that GoogleHome gadget now.

[GoogleHome image: PCWorld]
[Children of the Corn image: Random Enthusiasm]

Friday, July 07, 2017

It All Adds Up

I was just (belatedly) updating Susie's age in my profile over there in the sidebar, and I thought, "Hmmm, 12 - when I set up this blog, she was only 2." Employing my prodigious math skills, I realized that, hey, that means I've been jotting things down here for 10 solid years.

An entire decade.

Messy Knitter Syndrome (MKS)
It was 10 years ago that I was sitting in our basement (because at that point we still kept the computer down there so that it wouldn't take over our family life, and OMG isn't that quaint) and thought up the title of this blog. I was very proud of myself. Not being very familiar with blogs OR the Internet, I thought I was probably the ONLY ONE with such a clever blog name.

I still really like the name, actually. But I know there are better ones out there. And better writers. And people with way more interesting lives. But, hey, this is mine. Without really planning to, I've inadvertently catalogued our lives for the past 10 years, and maybe, at some point, my kids will find it fun to read back over all this. Because they sure as heck aren't going to be able to reminisce over the non-existent family photo albums. I lost my grip on those about, oh, hey, 10 years ago.

I guess that's not a coincidence, huh?

Flowers are still alive, thanks to the rain
But, you know, a photo album wouldn't let the kids know the details of Larry's frightening foray into the wizarding world, or how I was briefly famous among German au pairs, or that our broken dishwasher inspired an honest-to-God appliance poetry slam.

A photo album definitely wouldn't tell them how the purchase of a rolling cooler backfired on me, or how much fun it was to take David to his first "real" movie at the ripe old age of 14, or how their father and I HAVE experienced a few rare moments of perfect marital harmony.

What gets me is, I didn't think anything much was happening all those years. And, on the scale of world events, that was true. But in the microcosm of our daily lives, writing this blog helped me catch all those little moments that really do add up to this thing called a lifetime. And for that, I am grateful. Maybe my kids will be, too.

And they DO have all those refrigerator clean-out photos - there's that.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Fiber-Rich, Calorie-Poor

Today, I felt fine, just fine, unless I ate something. So I didn't eat. Instead, I went to Aldi's, my new love, because it sells perfectly decent mayonnaise for less than $2 a jar. Also? Watermelons for $3.50 each, and good Kaiser rolls for hamburgers at $1.50 for 8.

Yeah, I had a stomach virus but I went food shopping. They don't call me "Mom" for nothing, you know.

And then I headed to the yarn store, because there was a 25% off sale there. I managed to snatch up the last couple of skeins of Crazy yarn, which is my current fiber crush. Every skein is different! Trade 'em with your friends! After that, I went home and tried again to eat, but that still didn't work, so I just knit instead.

See? It's CRAZY (even without the camels)
Cowl I knit from other skeins of Crazy (sans dromedaries)

With blatant disregard for my inability to eat, Anna chose today to make key lime bars to die for.  I'm saving mine in the fridge, for if I ever feel better again. Lord help the kid that eats it by mistake, I'll say that right now.

Larry is planning to kayak tomorrow morning, while I make a vat of potato salad and prep the hamburgers and chicken, stomach virus or not. We haven't invited anyone over, so it's not as though this is a Typhoid Mary scenario or anything. And I figure that anyone who lives in this house is already doomed, right?

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Food Would Be Nice

Larry and Rachel helped park cars at a July 4th Festival all day yesterday, so I used the quiet time around here to do some food shopping, clean out the fridge, cut up a watermelon. "I'll make more potato salad tomorrow," I told Brian. "Maybe some tuna, also. And we'll do a barbeque on Tuesday!" Oh, I was full of gustatory plans.

It all seems like a dream now, 24 hours later, all that food and talk of food. Because the fast-moving stomach bug that has been laying waste to families all over my state arrived here last night: first poor Rachel, who came home from 8 hours in 90-degree weather with a stomachache, one we attributed to dehydration, even though she kept insisting, "I drank! I drank the whole time!" She fell asleep curled up on a living room chair, after vomiting (and why do my kids all insist on a witness to their distress? Why did she have to yell "Mommy!" as she ran to the bathroom? Couldn't she have yelled "Daddy?"), with our words ringing in her ears, "Remember this next year! Stay hydrated!"

Because we're wonderful parents that way, wrongfully (as it turns out) blaming our children for their illnesses.

I fell sick later that night. I ended up on the couch, near Rachel, because it was cooler down there (yes, I DID turn on the AC that day) and spent a few sleepless hours wondering how to make up to her for our baseless accusations. I slept late, staggered out to knit with my friends (because no one can deny illness like I can) and then staggered back home and slept the rest of the afternoon away.

I thought longingly of this all day.
There's some really good watermelon in my fridge that I haven't been able to eat. I ate some crackers this evening, though, and half a banana - so don't tell me I don't know how to party on a holiday weekend.

And that's all, folks - I'm boring when I'm sick. Maybe you all could discuss the fun things you get to do this weekend, so I can enjoy them vicariously?

Or not - as you wish...