Sunday, December 01, 2019

A Thanksgiving Miracle And The End Of An Era

Well, I don't know how you all feel about the quietness at this here blog lately, but I just opened it up and read my last post and OMG I MISSED ME.

That is so weird. I mean, I'm with me all the time. But I missed me here. I don't know what that means. Other than you are going to continue to be subjected to my news (or, really, lack thereof) for the foreseeable future.

Good lord, I love this place.

Let's catch up (drawing up a chair). Let's see, last time we talked, it was mid-October and we had just returned from vacation in Bar Harbor (pouring myself a drink - orange juice, anyone?) and I had had the life-changing experience of actually cutting up a butternut squash before it rotted and making it into soup.

Which no one (including myself) liked much...

So you all were stuck with that cliffhanger for 6 weeks, I guess.

Fall finally happened
I was worried about how I would manage to prepare Thanksgiving dinner while working full time, but it turns out that raising 6 kids actually teaches you to multitask pretty well (who knew?). I already had a week-long cooking schedule laid out, because I always worked under the assumption that someone would come down with croup or something equally dire that week, so I needed to be prepared. Even as the kids got older and no longer did things like contract a major illness right before a holiday, I stuck to that schedule, because it worked.

And then Rachel (who is 17 and apparently did not get the memo that croup is only for young kids) came down with the dreaded virus. I had to run her to the doctor on Monday and listen patiently as the doctor gave me all sorts of not-needed advice (hello? 6 kids, all who had croup repeatedly) so we could get the coveted 24-hour dose of steroids that would allow Rachel to stop choking on her own phlegm and, well, BREATHE.

It worked. Only Rachel coughed nonstop all week. To the point that she and I ended up at Urgent Care at 10 PM on Thanksgiving night. Awful, right? I packed enough knitting to last me 4 hours, because c'mon, an HMO urgent care visit on a holiday is a serious investment of time. I also steeled myself for the fact that we were likely to pick up some other lovely holiday ailment from one of the other sickies in the waiting room.

And here is where our Thanksgiving Miracle happened: we walked in and no other patients were there. NOT ONE. We saw the triage nurse within 2 minutes, the doctor in another 5. Lung x-ray, 10 minutes later. It was unbelievable. I didn't even get to knit. And no stranger got to share his flu with us.

You know, I'm typing that and it still seems like a dream.

Random photo of my hand-knit sock collection
So, Thanksgiving! 4 kids (well, offspring - one of those "kids" is 28 now) were home, plus the next-door neighbors with their 3 kids. These neighbors have shared Thanksgiving with us for a number of years now, but I'd always worried they did so only because I asked and they felt obligated. I pictured them discussing whether they could say they were going elsewhere and then be quiet enough (remember, we share a wall) to convince us they weren't home.

So this year I decided to leave them alone and not torture them with an invitation, until Brian came home from college and said, "Are the neighbors coming?" And I said, "I don't know if they really want to" and because we grownups couldn't seem to communicate adequately, he and their same-age daughter took matters into their own hands and we all had Thanksgiving together as usual.

Brian's the emotionally intelligent one, remember?

Also, let's note that they didn't seem to mind that they were having Thanksgiving with Typhoid Rachel, who coughed all through dinner and then headed out to work at Best Buy, because she's a trouper. Of course, they barely blinked an eye when one of their then 4-year-old twins (I still don't know which one) managed to split the back of his head open in our basement and needed stitches. My neighbors are unflappable, is what I'm saying.

Oh, and I survived working during Thanksgiving week, although I did take some unplanned hours of vacation time on that Friday, because I came down with a migraine in the afternoon and couldn't understand words anymore. I considered quitting altogether, but then I came to my senses and took an Excedrin and lay down for a couple of hours instead.

So I think I'm still employed. Not sure, actually - I guess I'll find out tomorrow, though.

Before Thanksgiving (we're working backward here), Susie and I paid a long-overdue visit to IKEA, where we picked up (drum roll, please) an entire set of matching dishes. Two sets, actually:

This makes me insanely happy

I regret not having a before picture. Suffice it to say, our cupboard for the past 25 years was full of mismatched dishes, a look which might have been charming if said dishes weren't all chipped or scratched or just plain ugly (I'm looking at you, mustard-yellow plates I picked up for I-know-not-what reason). Thanksgiving was coming, and I wanted things to look normal for once. Also, Susie wanted pasta bowls.

She's the youngest. We've discussed this.

So now, every time I open our cabinet, I enjoy the beauty of unchipped, shiny, matching dishes. Totally worth the $50 or so it cost me, I'm thinking. And Susie - Gen Z foodie that she is - spends her time elaborately plating all her meals and taking pictures, because all our food looks way better on these new plates.

It's true.

We also picked up a new duvet cover set for the guest bedroom, only it ended up in my bedroom instead:

This also makes me insanely happy
What can I say? I'm a simple person. If you're looking for something more exciting than croup and new dishes and bed linens, you'll have to read somewhere else.

Reaching all the way back to October, Halloween happened. Folks, this was the first year we haven't had a trick-or-treater in the house since 1993. "Don't you want to go out and get some candy?" I asked Susie, a little wistfully. "Your siblings didn't give up trick-or-treating until they were 15!"

"No, it's dumb," she-who-used-to-be-adorable said. And that was that, the end of an era. I even had to pack all the candy bags by myself. The one bright spot was that our trick-or-treater numbers in the neighborhood finally started climbing again, with 58 costumed cuties showing up at our door.

I still have our costume bin in the attic, though - just in case. Hey, those pirate capes sewed by Auntie Kate should fit some future grandkids just fine, right?

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Too Much To Describe In One Title

It's fall now, thanks be to God.

But BEFORE it was fall, we decided to get the heck away from the mosquito-infested summer that would never, ever end by heading up to Acadia National Park in Maine. And just like last year, we rented a house, but unlike last year, this one wasn't haunted.

Well, there was the huge heating grate in the front hall, that Susie swore Pennywise lived in.

All it needs is a red balloon...

But otherwise, it was just about perfect, especially one particular picture in Susie's bedroom that we discussed slipping into our suitcases, we loved it so much (but we didn't, because a life of crime just isn't our thing).

Something about the colors - this photo doesn't do it justice

We hiked, we ate doughnuts, we gloated over the fact that we were missing the 96-degree weather back home. Susie ate blueberry ice cream (too cold for me). Rachel didn't come with us (something about college applications, senior year, blah, blah, blah), which suited her just fine, as she got to stay at a friend's house and enjoy what was essentially a week-long slumber party.

Did I mention we hiked?

There was some color up there

So, the day we were supposed to leave for this escape-from-mosquito-hell getaway, Larry said, "I'm just going to do a couple of things out front." And I said, "Sure! I'll finish packing up here and we'll go!"

People, THREE HOURS LATER, we hit the road. Because it turns out that Larry had decided to complete his entire landscaping project (remember the landscaping project?) in the front yard before we went on our 11-hour road trip. And didn't tell me.

Have I mentioned that communication isn't our strong point? Oh, yes, I guess I have. Okay, then...

So he finished the yard and then we spent the entire vacation week worrying that everything had died, because 96 degrees and NO RAIN. And, hey, I'm no master gardener, but maybe it isn't a good idea to plant new things and then not be around to water them, Larry? Sheesh.

Thanks to the heroic efforts of Theo (who stopped by on the weekends) and a neighborhood teen, however, we came home to everything being pretty much alive. I must say, our neighbors still aren't used to our yard not looking like an abandoned lot or a construction zone, but I guess they'll just have to find something else to talk about now. At least until Larry comes up with his next home improvement scheme, anyway...

So vacations are wonderful and exciting and all, but here's the most amazing thing that has happened  lately:

Portrait mode - it blurs out the mess on my counter

That's right. I'm showing you a picture of cut-up butternut squash. EVERY YEAR, I see all these recipes for butternut squash soup and think, "I should make that!" After all, I have 2 vegetarians in the household and wouldn't they just LOVE some warm, cozy vegetarian soup? And wouldn't I just be the greatest mom if I were to make them some? So then I go buy a squash, and it ends up sitting on my counter until it rots.

Every family has its traditions. Ours are just stupider than most.

But this year? This year, it was different. I cut that butternut squash up last night like a boss (no, I don't know what that means, really) and today...(insert trumpet fanfare here)...I MADE SOUP.

Alas! I didn't really like it. Neither did the vegetarians. If anyone has any idea what is missing from that recipe I linked to, please let me know. Because I still cannot quite give up on the dream...

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Endless Summer

I'm sitting here, listening to some really old songs on Spotify and trying to once again explain to my 14-year-old that when I was her age, I couldn't just magically call up any old song ever written and listen to it. We were stuck with the radio and some cassette tapes. And we were HAPPY.

Gen Z'er that Susie is, she just shook her head in disbelief and walked away. I guess I sound the way my mother did when she explained why she and other old folks called the refrigerator an "icebox." Just...really? That's how you kept food cold?

But enough about how I am now a dinosaur, at least in my children's eyes. Let's talk about spending money. There was the new toaster in July, and the new fridge in August, and then? Well, I noticed the pile of kitchen rags I store under the sink was very wet, which led to the fun late-night activity of cleaning out the cabinet under the sink and determining that the water was coming from the faucet. Which, yeah, I guess should have been sort of obvious.

So! I called the plumber and discussed how much it would cost for him to come and fix it, versus just getting a new faucet. And I was sitting there, debating which to do, when I realized, wait, the faucet was already broken.

That's right - I was so used to the fact that it didn't work correctly (I mean, even before the new leak), that I almost paid good money for a plumber to come fix the leak and leave me with a faucet that still wouldn't work right.

If this seems surprising, you're new here, aren't you?

We bought the new faucet. It's super nice, and the sprayer works, and it costs less than the one we put in 10 years ago. Which means we got ripped off 10 years ago, but I'll try not to think about that. Actually, we probably got a little ripped off this time, also, but at least we were ripped off less than last time.

Progress, right?

Here, have a doggy picture:

Heeey, babe....
I think he was trying to get my attention.

Susie and I have been very athletic this summer, meaning we've actually gone biking together more than, say, 2 times. We both prefer to bike for food, so now we've worked up to biking 6 whole miles just to visit this great sandwich place a few towns over. I think this is healthy, but I'm not sure.


I mean, we DO have to bike the 6 miles back, also.

A few weeks back, I was outside, attempting to assert some control over the weed population in our little townhouse-sized yard. Only, because we live on the end of the row, and our house is set a little further back, it's sort of a big space. It used to be covered by lots of a very attractive ground cover, but for some reason half of it died and there are whole sections taken over by weeds.

"Hey," I said to Larry, "would you mind taking a shovel this weekend and digging up that little area in front of the rhododendron? There's no sense my weeding all that by hand."

So, I came home from yoga that weekend and saw a small section of weeds dug up and no sign of Larry.

"Where's your father?" I asked Susie.

"I don't know," she said, obviously bribed to tell no tales.

An hour or so later, I heard a beep-beep-beep sound and, looking out the window, I observed someone backing up one of those pickups you can rent by the day from Home Depot INTO OUR PARKING SPOT.

People, I just asked him to dig up some weeds. This is what ended up happening:

I chose to ignore what was obviously a major construction project. That's right - I didn't even ask.

A few days later, a neighbor said to me, "So Larry's going to dig up the whole yard?"

Me: "Is that what he said?!?"

I think the neighborhood is taking bets on how much longer this marriage lasts.

In other news, I made the mistake of going to the local farmers market last week.

I got a little carried away, I guess.

$12 for the bunch - I couldn't resist! We managed to use about half of them for a huge batch of salsa (or pico de gallo, I guess).  It was delicious. I put the rest of the tomatoes in the downstairs fridge for a batch of uncooked tomato sauce later in the week.

Guess what I found today? Hint: It wasn't pretty.

And that's all folks - I just wanted to pop in and say hi and I miss you and OMG working full time is no joke. Also, it was 90 degrees and humid here today, which doesn't quite scream autumnal equinox to me, you know? But Happy Fall anyway, especially to those of you in northern climes where the leaves are changing and the air is brisk and swarms of mosquitoes aren't lying in wait for you when you walk out the door.

As for the rest of us, well, at least we don't need to wear coats with our Halloween costumes, right?

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 Z'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.  Neighborliness is an extreme 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.


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.


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.



Saturday, May 18, 2019

A Lot Happens In A Month, You Know?

Hi! I'm still employed, which makes me a tad busier than I used to be, so when a friend of mine raved about how her Roomba does all the vacuuming for her, my ears perked up, as it were. I mean, short of a live-in housekeeper, that sounds like the next best thing, right? She sent me her model number, and hey, Rachel has an employee discount at Best Buy...

Have I even told you folks that Rachel (she of the decapitated-stuffed-animal obsession) works at our local Best Buy now? Being a very confident and take-charge sort of person, she does an excellent job there, if I do say so myself. Only, at least once a shift, a customer asks if she is Australian.

No, we don't know why.

Where was I? Oh, yes, Roomba. So I let Larry know that I want a Roomba, thinking he'd be on board with anything that would keep the house cleaner than I've been keeping it the last few months.

Because I have a job now. Have I mentioned that?

"Did you see the link I sent you?" I asked Larry, as we walked to a local pizza place that evening, because I don't cook anymore.

"What? No," he said.

"The Roomba! I sent you a link to one at Best Buy and..."

I saw him starting to shake his head.

"What's wrong with a Roomba?" I asked. "I mean, it's a little expensive, but..."

"It maps the whole house and sends data back to the company, " Larry said, with his technology-is-evil frown on his face.

Sigh. Considering Larry's reaction to his Father's Day gift two years ago, I'm thinking I'm not going to win this one.


In other news, I made the kids go with me and Larry on Mother's Day to see The Diary of Anne Frank performed by a local theater group. Because what better way to celebrate your mom than going to see a play where almost everyone ends up murdered by the Nazis?

We Jews know how to enjoy ourselves, is what I'm saying.

Before that, at the beginning of May, Larry and Susie and Brian and I went to Alabama for David's college graduation. That's right - the kid who spent his childhood building rocket ships out of empty oatmeal containers and flying kites he made out of fishing line and plastic grocery sacks is now an honest-to-goodness rocket scientist.

An employed rocket scientist, no less...

We left Rachel at a friend's house, because she couldn't afford to miss that much school, and then she came down with a really bad cold and missed school anyway. So, just for the record, she gets sick for all her brothers' graduations. And we were secretly relieved that this time around, she wasn't breathing her germs all over us in the car for 11 hours.

Stopped at Sonic, because we were in the South and that's how you do

Happily, we managed to stay in hotels the whole trip (no risking a camping fiasco again!) without a repeat of the incident from Theo's graduation in 2013, when Larry and I were woken out of a sound sleep at 2 AM by a knock on our motel door (which opened directly to the parking lot). Larry leapt up with alarm and peered through the peephole, only to see a very confused-looking Brian standing OUTSIDE.

Really, staying at a motel next to a busy highway is not the optimal time to discover that one of your kids walks in his sleep.

So, yeah, no sleepwalking, no kid with croup - it was almost the way a family trip is supposed to be. You know, fun? And not terrifying? I could get used to that.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Back In The Saddle

I don't even know how to get back to writing here, so I'm just going to jump right in and we're all going to pretend I haven't been missing for 3 weeks, okay? Thanks.

It's spring here.

One tiny box of neatness

I Marie Kondo'ed my handknit socks. They are the ONLY thing that I have (or ever will) Marie Kondo. When things are a mess, I open my sock drawer to gaze upon this testament to order and find the will to go on.

Speaking of socks (and, uh, disorder), I had to rummage through my clean clothes in the laundry basket this morning to find some socks (because I had worn all the Marie Kondo'ed ones, and how many times am I going to say that poor woman's name, I wonder?), and it took me NINE TRIES to fish out the second sock of a pair. I mean, what are the odds?

Even though it feels as though I have no time to do anything now, I still knit, because sanity is very important to me. This cowl is a Christmas present for a friend. Christmas 2018, but hey, who's keeping track of that sort of thing, anyway?

Hummus - it's not just for breakfast anymore. Susie has been pretty much living on this stuff, because she's vegetarian and I don't cook anymore and she is tired of eggs and grilled cheese. Theo found a place that makes really superb hummus (NOT the Sabra kind) and brings us a container on the weekend when he visits. He also brings us zatar-seasoned pita chips (pictured above), which are hard to describe, so just take my word for it - they're delicious.

The working life is still amazing, although I don't see how any family manages a 2-career thing with younger kids in the house. Larry and I are taking parental neglect to new levels here, and trying to organize doctor appointments and rides to activities for the 2 offspring still living in our home just might drive us around the bend.

We're lightweights, is what I'm saying. Some people are just not cut out to be power couples, all right?

Friday, March 22, 2019

I'm Terrible At Craig's List

YES, I'm still here. Just...well...still adjusting, is all. My house is still falling apart around the edges, since it appears that vacuuming/Swiffering once a week, along with wiping down the bathrooms once a day, is not quite enough to keep things, well, quite where they're supposed to be. My only goal for cleanliness levels in my home at this point is "not disgusting."

Which lowers the bar from my previous goal of "not embarrassing." I know, I am an inspiration to us all.

I have, however, gotten better at ignoring the mess while I work from home. Progress? I guess so. But I have to admit I felt a twinge when a friend informed me that she is planning to move (locally, thank goodness) soon. They're downsizing, so she's getting rid of things, and their new kitchen looks all sleek and modern, and there's no yard to care for, and I thought, "That's the solution - we'll just move! Fresh start!"

Larry didn't go for that idea. As discussed in these pages previously, that man is not a visionary.

Here, have some tulips

My desk search for my home office dragged on and on, until I inexplicably ended up with just the Craig's List meth-house desk I had been trying to avoid. I don't really understand it, but there it is, in my yarn studio, looking ugly, in the middle of all that pretty, pretty yarn I have no time to play with now. I think I had consented to it because it was cheap and I figured that that way Larry would stop sending me links to ugly desks on Craig's List. Good plan, right?

No. He still sends me those links, because it's a habit now, and I work at the dining room table, because the desk just isn't right (not just the looks, something about the keyboard tray being a part of the desk and not sliding out and that changes the ergonomics, and also, yeah, it's ugly).

But then the friend who is moving into the nice, sleekly modern house with big windows (and, really, I'm jealous at this point, okay?) mentioned she was getting rid of a desk and did I want it and I said, "YES!" because she's not the type of person to buy a cheap, ugly meth-house desk ever.

I'm just going to keep repeating the phrase "meth-house desk" - I like it. I should get some lovely Internet search traffic from it, too.

So now there is a disassembled metal-and-glass, not ugly, desk in my van, which I couldn't get into the house yesterday because it was raining insanely hard ALL DAY and I live in a townhouse that is miles from the parking lot. Or, it seems like miles when it's pouring out, anyway. Also, it has been raining here since approximately last June, and could it stop now, please?

I want to write more, and also figure out the winner of the Yarn Harlot book, but I'm already half an hour late to work, and this really explains why I haven't been able to talk at you people for the past month. So, I'll be back, but in the meantime, if you want to be in the running for a copy of "Knitting Rules," go back and comment on the previous post and let me know!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Telework's Not All It's Cracked Up To Be

Well! I would have posted last weekend, but Larry has this weird fixation on "doing taxes" and "staying out of jail," so I worked on our 1040 instead. That wasn't fun. Turns out we owe money because what one spouse means when she says (after doing the taxes for 2017), "You should lower the number on our withholding" and what the other spouse hears are apparently two different things.

We're both native English speakers, you know. There's no excuse for this. Yet, here we are.

PERFECT representation of our crappy winter this year
We had a snow day this week (Look away, Midwesterners! You wouldn't have even recognized it as such), so I actually got to work from home all day instead of going to the office.

Remember? I have a job. Maybe I haven't mentioned it enough...

So I worked from home on Wednesday, and you know what? It wasn't nearly as relaxing and energizing as NOT working from home. Seems that when you're working from home, you can hear the laundry calling you, and you can see what a mess your house is, and people keep talking to you and asking you things, and you can't avoid noticing that strange smell emanating from the refrigerator.

Found this in my fridge - from December, maybe?
Now, as some of the more astute among you may be aware, I am slated to start working at home within the month. This is a telework position, after all. Oh, sure, they'd let me stay at the office if I really wanted to, but there's this small issue of my having completely abandoned my children for the past 2 months just to get this job (with all my friends valiantly picking up the slack of supplying rides and entertainment and what-have-you). I can't keep doing that.

I mean, I thought about it, but...

So, yeah, I'm bracing myself for a major adjustment period. I mean, how DOES one continue blithely ignoring all other responsibilities while working from home? Is that issue addressed in those career women magazines I've never read, because I've been too busy being unemployed? Do those magazines even exist anymore?

Happily, Brian will be home the first week of March (for "Spring" Break, apparently); so I told the tech people at work that I needed the monitors and other equipment by then, so my teen could set them up for me. Which, it turns out, may have been oversharing, because they looked at me strangely...

Look, you have to hook things all TOGETHER. With a special thing that you plug into another thing. Dammit, people, I'm a wordsmith, not a tech wizard.

So, anyway, I have to find a desk to stick in my yarn studio, so Brian has somewhere to set this all up. Larry found a perfectly nice corner desk on CraigsList, but he put that in the guest bedroom in the basement, which I've also dubbed his study, even though he doesn't really ever go in there. Now all that's left on CraigsList is astonishingly ugly. I swear, all the pictures on there look so seedy, as if they were taken in a meth house or a murder scene.

I'm just babbling now, ignore me. Larry always does.

Speaking of my yarn studio (we were speaking of that, right?), I'm a little late for my annual giveaway of the Yarn Harlot's book Knitting Rules. Of course, I don't have THAT many regular readers, so maybe I've given everyone a copy already? If not, throw your name in the hat (well, in the comments, actually) and make sure I have a way to reach you if you win!A

This book (as I've explained before, and also here, and probably a dozen other places) was a life-changer for me, which really, how many books can you say that about? I can't even remember why I picked it up in the first place - maybe I was looking for an instruction book? And, yes, it does have some patterns (or more like recipes, really) for projects, but those are interspersed with all sorts of funny ruminations on the knitting life and the creative process.

It's a fun read, is what I'm saying, and maybe it will change your life, too. Who knows?

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Before And After

Apparently, I post once every two weeks now, whether I have anything to say or not.

Is it possible to feel exhausted and energetic all at the same time? Apparently. I look forward to work each day, I come home tired but feeling very accomplished. Okay it's a little hard to get up at 6:30 every morning, but hey, it's dark out! I bet even Kimmy Schmidt hates getting up in the dark.

The house is sort of falling apart around the edges, and I try to catch up on the weekends, but currently there are two baskets of laundry in my bedroom, waiting to be put away, and a ton of dust under my bed, threatening to choke me in my sleep if I don't start Swiffering. Also, there are approximately 40 dozen winter coats in our hall closet, and there are only 4 people currently living in this house. Why? I know not why, and I don't have time to find out.

We won't talk about the refrigerator, okay? Lord knows what's happening in there. We'll just let the CDC sort that out.

All my IRL friends are tired of hearing me talk about how I love having a job, and I don't blame them. So I'll just say it here: I love having a job. It helps that I'm doing something I enjoy, and I get to work with fairly interesting people, and the hours are somewhat flexible. But what I hadn't realized is how, before I was working, my day was filled with unrealistic (for me) expectations: there were a zillion things I didn't get to, and WHY didn't I get to them? AFTER ALL I HAD NOTHING ELSE TO DO.

What I'm saying is, the self-talk was pretty negative, and constant, and I didn't even realize it was there. It was even stealing the joy from my knitting. WHY WASN'T I GETTING MORE DONE? I HAD ALL DAY.

January socks
But now, with full-time work? I have a finite number of things expected of me on a day-to-day basis: go to work, come home, play with Susie (she's on a Yahtzee kick), drive/nag Rachel (yes, she still lives here, but with a breathtaking amount of disdain for her housemates, as befits a 16-year-old girl), make sure the fridge has some basic comestibles in it.

That's it. If I do cook dinner, well, it qualifies as an amazing feat. Yay, me! (Whereas, BEFORE, I was SUPPOSED to cook dinner. ALL THE TIME. See the difference?)

Yes, we HAVE seen this recipe before, but this time? I'm amazing for cooking it
Having a job has pared down the number of things expected of me to a manageable number. Who woulda thunk it? I swear, I feel lighter than I have in years.

None of this is ha-ha funny (and I do prefer to make people laugh), but I wanted to write it down here, in case there is anyone else out there who is feeling dragged down but doesn't know why. You might just be suffering from a case of irrational expectations, is what I'm saying. I'll repeat: BEFORE, the self-talk was pretty negative, and constant, and I didn't even realize it was there. 

I mean, I (unwittingly) fought past it pretty well. I took care of the house, I took care of the kids, I pretended I didn't mind feeling as though I was always dropping the ball (ALL THE BALLS). But it's tiring, all that fighting. No wonder I feel so much more energized now - it's as if someone took 20 pounds of weight off me.

Now if I could just lose the actual 20 pounds that have attached themselves to me since menopause...but hey, I guess that's why God invented spandex...

Coming up next time: Larry makes me do taxes. Also, my favorite shapewear. I know! Riveting!