Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Those Crazy Kids

I was going to blog at you last night, but Brian was hogging the computer, messing with hard drives and such, and I fell asleep on the couch waiting for him to finish whatever he was doing.

I think he was installing this thingamajig. Kids these days...

I woke up this morning and the computer is a zillion times faster, so I guess whatever he did worked. I swear, I don't know where he learned to do this sort of thing. Or maybe this sort of thing is really basic and I'm just really dumb? Beats me.

Brian also spent an inordinately large amount of time this week explaining to me what the download folder is and how to use it. I know! It's as if he knows he is leaving and has to impart to his aging parents as much computer wisdom as we can handle before he goes.

No, I didn't know what to do with the download folder before this. Before, I would email myself a picture from my phone, download it from the email, copy it, and then paste it to my desktop, so I could find it to upload to my blog.

Whew - I'm tired just typing all that.

But that photo up there? I uploaded it directly from the downloads folder. I am very proud of myself. Who says you can't teach an old mom new tricks?

So, the homeschooling conference last weekend went well and I got to chat with Melissa Wiley, who is a sort of homeschooling celebrity (because, yes, we have celebrities) and was perfectly fun to talk to because she also has 6 kids. She has a blog that is listed in my sidebar over there; it's read by way more people than this drivel here is, but who's jealous? Not me. Not much, anyway.

I also got to see all sorts of homeschooling friends who actually live way closer to me than the conference location was, but somehow we never get together except when we drive hours to something like this. Go figure.

Okay, let's try some more downloads folder magic. Abracadabra!

These bags are all quite full. You just can't tell because, hey,
I'm a writer, not a photographer, dammit.

That photo up there, my friends, represents $86 worth of groceries from Aldi's. Quite a haul, I think. Especially when you consider I bought the item below for only 99 cents. (Hey, what happened to the "cents" key? How long has it been missing from the keyboard? Am I the last one to know?)

Great on roast beef sandwiches

I love this stuff. I always forget it isn't just mayonnaise and put way too much on my sandwich and WHEW! Instant sinus clearer! Side note: the Burman's brand mayo is only $1.89 at Aldi's and tastes just like Hellmann's or Kraft.

Enough scintillating talk about groceries, though. Let's move on to Panera's:

This is what's left after Rachel and Brian and Susie
raided the contents of this Panera bag of wonders

Apparently, someone at Rachel's Civil Air Patrol unit works there and was giving out bags of this stuff last night. It was a veritable sampler of all their pastries and we didn't have to stand in line and then talk to an underpaid, overworked Panera cashier to try them. Woo-hoo!

And why is it that any time I go to a Panera's, I end up in line behind someone who has evidently NEVER been to that august establishment before? Someone who needs to have everything about the menu explained to them, including the concept about HALF a sandwich and HALF a salad?

I suffer. Oy, how I suffer...

Moving on again...

I don't recognize anything pictured here.

This is what shows up in your letterbox when your son is an engineering student involved in all sorts of weird engineering stuff. What the heck are those things? Why would anyone need them - I mean, on a personal basis?

David? Come get your mail - it's making me feel inferior.

Have I mentioned David recently? I don't know. He's on a spring-semester internship, doing work he loves and making more money than any liberal arts major makes even AFTER they graduate. We are very happy for him; but I'm telling you, engineers will rule the world soon, people, while the rest of us slave away at places like Panera's, serving clueless customers. It's the new world order, with the technocrats at the top.

Hey, David, your parents gave you a good childhood, filled with duct tape and craft sticks, lots of Legos, and a crappy old laptop to resuscitate - in short, everything you needed to get where you are today. So don't forget about them on your way up, you hear now? Stop by Panera's every once in a while to say hi - we'll even toss you some pastry.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

No Titles After 11 PM

I present to you this week's work of art from my family of misunderstood artists:

Maybe we could get an NEA grant?

I know, it's amazing. Especially the way the eggshells are carefully balanced on the empty potato skins - a tangible representation of the fragility of life, contrasted with the earthiness from which it sprung and to which it will return. And yet, despite all, there thrives the delicacy of beauty, as evidenced by the half eaten strawberry perched on top.

I bet you didn't catch all that on your first look, did you?

Today was crazy and tomorrow is worse - I have to drive a few hours to get to our statewide homeschooling conference. Now, I have only one 13-year-old left to homeschool, and I doubt anything I hear from anyone will change much about how I go about it; but I have to go because this year I was dragooned into being on a panel featuring -- let's should I put this delicately? -- a panel featuring experienced homeschooling moms, ones with perspective, shall we say.

We're the gray-haired old bats of homeschooling, essentially. I don't see how any younger mom of younger kids could possibly be reassured by talking to what is essentially the shell of the confident mother I used to be. Maybe I'm on the panel as a cautionary note - you know, a here's what happens if you do this homeschooling thing for too long sort of approach...

So I'm bringing Susie with me and she'll get to see the talent show and partake in the ice cream social, and maybe volunteer a bit at the conference. Really, I see nothing wrong with this plan except that we have to hit the road at 6:30 AM, and who do you think is kicking herself for not going down this evening with the rest of the homeschoolers from my area? I could have been blogging at you from a comfy hotel suite and looking forward to a good night's sleep. I definitely wouldn't have had to spend half an hour this evening carping at the kids to clean up after dinner.

But no, I'm still here at home, and it's late and I still have to pack. And I haven't even gotten to tell you how Larry ruined my snow day yesterday. Remember? I was blogging about how I was going to spend the day knitting and making hot cocoa? And that's just what I was doing until Larry said, "Hey, this is a perfect day to do our taxes!"

I don't know what is wrong with that man. Did I look too happy? Was that it? Probably.

This may look like a melted snowman, but what it
represents (artistically speaking) is a
snow day absolutely ruined by taxes.

So I did our taxes. While the kids played outside, sledding and building snowmen, because kids don't have to pay taxes. And to think I used to believe that being an adult would be fun...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Snow What?

After an ugly, boring winter, we are FINALLY witnessing the beautiful transformation snow enacts on our suburban landscape. Sure, it's officially spring, but better late than never, is what I say. My apologies to those Maine relatives of mine who are expecting their 57th nor'easter this week, but boy are we happy! Bring it on!

See? Even those electrical transformers look
 picturesque when capped by snow

I mean, heck, it'll all melt by Thursday morning anyway. Which I'm sure will make my tulips happy...

That's one confused looking tulip.

So today is the perfect day to finally finish knitting my sweater. Actually, I was going to finish it last night, but I decided to go to bed before 2 AM instead. I'll get up extra early, I thought. I'll finish it in time to wear it in the snow.

How's that getting-up-early plan workin' for ya? 

So yeah, that didn't exactly happen. But if I work fast enough today, I can still wear it in the snow before I have to pack it away until next fall. Just half a sleeve and a neckband to go!

Larry made us blueberry pancakes, because that's what one does on a snow day.

If I had any photography skills, this could
have been a really cool picture.

I mean, aside from knitting, of course...and making hot cocoa for returning sledders. As you can see, I have a busy day mapped out for myself, and time's a-wastin'! Also, Larry's home today - I can't let him think I spend my whole day talking at invisible people on the internet...I mean, the man still hasn't gotten over the whole GoogleHome incident last Father's Day.

So I need to go. Enjoy your snow, if you are as lucky as we are! Enjoy your blooming forsythia, the rest of you!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Knitter's Block

Okay, so I haven't knit ANYTHING since Friday, when I managed to finish this tube cowl:

Shepherd's Wool Crazy, my yarn infatuation

That's 72 hours of not knitting, people. I don't even know what is wrong with me. But my St. Patrick's Day socks got stalled out, because I dropped a wrapped stitch on the heel and can't find it. This is a very bad thing. BAD. So I have to wait for one of my more skilled knitting friends to help me. And I've got one-and-a-half sleeves done on my first-ever sweater, but I don't seem to be working on that right now. And I've got a sock-yarn-remnant blanket that's waiting for me, also, but nothing is happening there, either.

Probably the solution is to start an entirely new project, is what I'm thinking. Yeah, that's it. Something new. More socks, maybe?

While I was out and about today, I noticed this magnet on a car in the parking lot of a local bank:

I think I know the right answer to this one

Technically correct, but the message still seems a bit harsh, don't you think? I mean, for something promoting kindness?

I had to hold an HOA board meeting in my house this evening. I also had to cook dinner, because all the kids were actually home and everyone's been eating leftovers for forever, what with Bunco last week and then my trip over the weekend. So I made pot roast and baked potatoes and oven-roasted asparagus, assuming that Larry would be home in time to help me get the kitchen in order so I could take care of the paperwork needed for the meeting.

He wasn't. He called at 6 and said he'd be late. I had to go into hyperdrive and start ordering the children around like a maniac and now they probably hate home-cooked dinners.

That asparagus was really good, though.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


I drove back home to New Jersey this weekend - a quick trip, just Friday to Saturday - to see some older friends of my parents and a friend of mine I grew up next door to. And let me say this: I've been living in my area of the country for 30 years now. I've adapted. I'm comfortable here. But going "home"? It was like stepping into a warm bath. Familiar accents, speech cadences, conversational tics, as it were - they surrounded me and I mindlessly fell into them. They are the sounds of my youth, and they made me realize just how much effort I use in my day-to-day life to communicate in what is apparently NOT my native tongue.

I speak Jersey, and I'm not ashamed of it. I miss the easy give-and-take of  conversation; I miss the carelessly mangled vowels; I miss the rising inflections in declarative statements. One woman I visited had a repairman stop by to give an estimate while I was there; I almost wept with homesickness when he said the inevitable, "Well, I know a guy..." while discussing how to fix some stuck windows.

But Jersey is more than that - it's a shared approach to using communication, a sort of timing and knowing when to interrupt (hintall the time) and knowing when to shrug and do a sideways tilt of your head. It's hard to describe, really; and probably, if you've lived there all your life, you're not even aware of it. But as an ex-pat, I certainly am. And now that I am back home, where I've lived for most of my adult life? I feel as though half of my communications skills lie dormant, waiting for a Jersey interlocutor.

Also, I miss the bagels.

Bagels I could bring back with me, at least.

While I was up there, I also got to see snow, because Lord knows that wasn't an opportunity available down here this winter.

This looks weird - as though I'm hovering
in the air above the snow pack. I'm not.

I came back so soon because I had a baby shower to go to with Susie this morning. It was a very realistic baby shower, because the woman being feted was having her 6th baby, and most of us there had had at least 4 babies ourselves. So there were no how-to-raise-baby books or outfits that would not come off easily in the case of a diaper explosion. And our hostess outdid herself in the area of melon carving, I must say:

The pacifier just about killed me.

In other news, Brian received a college acceptance letter while I was away. Considering that the one other college he had applied to had already rejected him (and a POX on them, I say), "relief" doesn't even begin to describe how we all felt when we heard the news. We've got one very happy teen in the house, people, is what I'm trying to say. And Susie is thrilled that she can move into Brian's room come August (it's bigger than hers).

Which means, hey, I get Susie's old room for my yarn collections, only 5 months from now...and Larry won't mind getting the yarn dresser out of our bedroom, that's for sure. I guess Brian's going to wonder why we're all offering to help him pack, poor guy...

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Hello! Still Here!

I spent all yesterday afternoon lying on the couch, but I have no idea whether I was sick or just exhausted from getting ready to host Bunco Monday evening. In the meantime, the privilege of driving Rachel to Civil Air Patrol, waiting 2 hours, and then driving her home was foisted off onto Larry, who had been up since 6 AM and who put in a full day of work while his wife languished.

I mean, in case you ever wonder who's getting the short end of the stick here...

Despite my ailment, I ended up driving Brian and a friend to youth group, which was actually a bad idea, but I felt guilty not holding up our end of the carpool obligations and it still wasn't as bad since I got to go straight home.

My hands are getting tired typing this. I want to lie down.

The plus side of having Bunco Monday night was that, when I was non-functional the next day, the whole house was clean and there was plenty of food in the fridge. It's a win!

It was a busy weekend (I mean, busy in a middle-aged, suburban sort of way, not a 20-something having fun sort of way): Larry's sister stopped by en route from Texas, so I actually had to make a real dinner Friday night. It was pretty impressive, if I do say so myself.

How about that juxtaposition of wine glass and
IKEA cups, eh? Pretty darn classy

It was Mexican shredded chicken and a black bean thing and asparagus that had not yet managed to rot in my black hole of a refrigerator. All perfectly complemented by the gaily decorated plates I found on the discount shelf at Target years ago...these have inexplicably survived at least 5 years in our home, which I think is some sort of a record.

And then I went off and spent my weekend doing stuff and unintentionally ignored our guest. There was yoga and knitting and all the other ways I distract myself from the existential angst that is always lurking there, just under the surface of my overactive psyche. There was (who would've guessed it?) driving a teen to an activity Saturday evening.

And then, of course, there was the darn time change this weekend, which you would have thought was an airplane trip over 10 time zones, the way my body reacted. I mean, seriously, all Sunday afternoon - when I should have been cleaning up the house for Bunco (have I mentioned Bunco yet? Suburban much?) - I was whining about how I couldn't get anything done. I ended up sorting through my living room yarn collections and carting half of it up to my room, but that was about it.

This looks normal, right? Tell me this looks normal.

Living room yarn collections are definitely a thing.  They impart that cozy yarn shop vibe to your very own home. Try it!

Oh, and while I'm talking about yarn (funny how that happens), check out what my friend bought for me in the airport in Iceland:

Now, I'm not much of an overseas traveler, but I've decided Iceland is one country that has its priorities straight (I mean, yarn in an airport!) and therefore merits a visit. Bonus: Larry can't possibly make us take the camper there. Sign me up!

Thursday, March 08, 2018

What's Bugging Me

Oooh, look at me! I decided to change the ol' blog up a bit, sort of a spring cleaning, if you will. What do you think? The new colors are a little bold, I know; but sometimes you just have to make a statement, even if that statement is only "I was bored, so I messed around with my Blogger template."

I think I'm the only blogger who bothers to use semicolons. I feel special.

So, it's been a while since I've shared what I'm reading on the internets, but this article definitely caught my eye. The part where the woman discovers all of the clothing she is wearing is completely covered in teeny-tiny ticks? My brain can make a full-length horror movie out of that image. I mean, just, OMG.

THOUSANDS of these - on her CLOTHES

But, as if that isn't enough to make a bug-phobic person such as myself run screaming in circles around the room, there's the description of this particular new pest - the one that explains that this tick can reproduce simply by cloning itself (GAH).

Scientists, what are you waiting for? Fix this, STAT, before they take over the planet! Thanks.

Looks like we are also going to be invaded this year by the spotted lanternfly, an import from the Far East that decided to pack its bags and see the world. An entomologist from Pennsylvania describes it as "the weirdest, most pernicious insect I've ever seen," while an entomologist from Maryland simply calls it "really a nasty critter."

Think about it - those are people who LIKE bugs. How do you think the rest of us are going to feel about this particular creature, hmmm?

Does NOT have a good reputation, apparently

Long story short, I am dreading the warmer weather, when ants and centipedes once more invade my home, while stinkbugs and cicadas buzz around in great multitudes outside. Do any of you live in Canada? Do you have bugs up there or do your cold winters kill them all off? Would you like a house guest who does dishes and can cook? Talk to me.

[Asian tick image: NPR]
[Lanternfly image:]

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

In The Halls Of Power

So today I did something I haven't done in 26 years of parenting - I chaperoned a public school field trip. I did it out of a sense of civic duty, plus hey, I wanted to go where they were going, anyway, and this way I wouldn't have to drive. I did have to endure a ride on a school bus, though, and yeah, I'd forgotten how sick that makes me feel (it's been, oh, 37 years since I've last experienced that). Plus, I worried all last night that I wouldn't know how to chaperone correctly. It turned out to be pretty simple, though. The teacher gave me a list of 9 kids (including my own Rachel) and said, "Make sure they get on the bus to go there, and make sure they get on the bus to get back."

You know, I LIKE that teacher.

The Holy of Holies, down at the far end there
I ended up with over an hour to wander around on my own and finally managed to see the inside of the Supreme Court building (I've lived in this area for 3 decades now - it's shameful how little I've seen). I was even able to go inside the actual courtroom, as the Court isn't in session right now. Guys, the whole thing is like an American temple, with the steps leading up to the huge columns outside, and inside there is the long marble hall (more columns!) leading to what is, essentially, the curtained inner sanctum of the courtroom itself. I half-expected to see the Ark of the Covenant, sitting up there by the Justices' bench.

That didn't happen.

And we were given tickets to sit in the Senate gallery at the Capitol, where I totally geeked out  recognizing all sorts of Senators down below. (And why is seeing someone in person completely different than seeing them on TV? Tell me.) Schumer, Gillibrand, McConnell, Graham, Kaine...the guard twice had to tell me to sit down as I attempted to see who else was down there.

We had a tour of the Capitol building with a great tour guide, interesting and funny. AND we were all standing in the ....I don't know what you call it, that middle part under the great dome...when Benjamin Netanyahu himself walked through on his way to Paul Ryan's office. He was less than 10 feet from me and I briefly considered shouting, "Stop the settlements!" but decided that I didn't want to be tackled by all those security guards surrounding him.

Sort of wish I had, though.

So, yeah, I did something new and it was fun, and I managed not to be arrested for disturbing the peace, so my day was a win all the way around, I'd say. How was yours?

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Vowels Are Important, Redux

Heading to the basement last night to throw in a load of laundry, I spotted Brian settling in for some late-night TV viewing in our family room. "What are you watching?" I asked, hoping it was something I'd like.

"Everything Sex," he said.


"Everything Sex," he repeated, looking annoyed.

Now, granted, I don't monitor his TV viewing much. I mean, how? If I banned something on the TV, he'd watch it on his laptop in his room without my knowing, if he really wanted to. And in another 6 months, at college? He'll be able to watch whatever the heck he wants.

Watch at your own risk

So, yeah, I adhere more to the BE AWARE philosophy - that is, know what he's watching so we can discuss it. Still, Everything Sex? Looked to me as if a serious talk was now necessary.

"So, uh, what's that about?" I asked, not really wanting to know.

"It's a 90s show about high schoolers," Brian said, looking annoyed at the parental interrogation.

I took a deep breath. "Look, hon, you DO know that high schoolers aren't really having much sex, don't you? Or if they are, they probably shouldn't be?"

"What?" said Brian, looking confused.

"I mean, a show about high school sex definitely isn't realistic," I continued. Gosh darn it, why can't I sound more intelligent when I talk to the kids about these things?

"WHAT are you talking about?" asked Brian, staring at me as if I had 2 heads.

"What are YOU talking about?" I said. "Isn't the show called Everything Sex?"

Brian smiled. "Everything Sucks," he said. "SUCKS."

Well, never mind then...