Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Trick-or- Let's Do The Time Warp-Treat

I remember being SO excited when the Little Prince was born, not just because we had one of each, but because I thought I would be exempt from bathroom-escort duty for the newcomer.

That, of course, did NOT happen. What did happen, however, was that I became exempt from trick-or-treat duty.

Even better.

The Little Princess was three-years-old when the Little Prince was born, so she was of her first, real, mobile-on-her-own, Trick-Or-Treat age, when he was most certainly not. At the time, we lived near one end of what was, arguably, the busiest street for T-O-T in W.L. – North Calhoun Street. For non-W.L. residents, this is one great big, long, almost completely un-side-streeted street that stretches for nearly a third of a mile – or the equivalent of at least 6 blocks, without any cross-streets. This was/is parent/child T-O-T paradise – let your kids out at one end, slowly drive your car up the street (and observe from warm comfort) as they go door to door to door, until they have a melt-down, their bag breaks from all that candy, or time runs out (or until you get bored), whichever comes first.

We had to take out a second mortgage to pay for all the T-O-T candy that we gave out when we lived there. (Never mind what we ate ourselves).

A side note: As a child growing up in WL, I lived two blocks (TWO BLOCKS!) south of this marathon stretch (T-O-T Nirvana/Valhalla) of North Calhoun, and never, in my recollection, did my T-O-T route venture that far north. (What kind of fool was I? What kind of kids never shared reports of this candy over-abundance?) Those were the days of grade-level class parties held at the town's churches and the Masonic Lodge – all of which (at that time) were South of the Thin, Sugared Line. (Except for the Middle School, which was 2 blocks East of NC, and therefore in a world all its own) At the time, my main concern was to plan out a route that was guaranteed to get me to my party on time! My most vivid, T-O-T memory is of the night my BFF nearly became a real, live, ghost/zombie in her haste to cross the 2-lane state highway that bisects the town. (P.S. I told her to wait.) (I blame the crappy, plastic masks of the day, of which I never was privileged to wear. Can you say perpetual hobo costume? Not that I'm bitter. Actually, Mom made me a furry Monster mask, which I wore For. Ev. Er.)

But I digress.

So we moved to a quiet sub-division of quiet W.B. A quiet sub-division, populated primarily by grandparents. There were probably eight children of T-O-T age in our subdivision that first year. But I was still in W.L. (and specifically North Calhoun) candy-buying mode. After amply supplying our approximately 20 Trick-Or-Treaters, we still had enough candy left over for one-bazillion and three kids.

The important thing is, His Royal Highness took The Little Princess Trick-Or-Treating, while I stayed home with The Little Prince, and handed out candy to the less-than-overwhelming horde.

And thus a tradition was born.
G&M, or M&M, circa a long time ago. Dang,they're cute.

The King took the Royal Progeny trick-or-treating on those cold, wet, dark (did I mention cold?) nights, for as long as they required an escort. I stayed at home, in the warm, well-lit, dry (did I mention warm and dry?) house, handing out (and eating) candy to an ever-shrinking number of trick-or-treaters.

And thus it came to pass, that on this All-Hallow's Eve I stayed at home where it was warm, dry, and well lit, and handed out candy to the neighborhood kids. (The grandparents have down-sized and moved away The sub-division has been re-populated by young families, of which we are not one).

And each time I answered the door I thought of my little ghost and goblin, and the costumes I sewed for them. (They were off doing who-knows-what kind of late-adolescent, it's-probably-better-I-don't-know kind of things.)

On the up-side, all the brown Tootsie-Pops have been handed out.

And I still have two bags of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

(Which I can give The Little Princess and The Little Prince when we have family dinner this weekend.)

(If there are any left.)



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Way To My Brain Is Through My Stomach

 I was mixing up a pan of Mr. Dell's Cheesy Hash Brown Potato Casserole and looking out the window at a gorgeous Midwestern fall day, when I was reminded of something The Little Princess said:

“I feel sorry for people who don't live in the Midwest. They've never had Puppy Chow. Or Scotcheroos.” (She also feels sorry for people who live in Australia because, apparently, they don't have the pop-n-fresh, “whomp biscuit,” canned-type cinnamon rolls. On the other hand, she says they call McDonald's “Macca's”, so . . . point for them.)

As I layered the cheesy with the potatoes, I wondered if this was strictly a Midwestern thing. There's a good chance it is, and if so, I feel sorry for everyone outside the Midwest who has never had the warm, gooey, cheesy, delicious, comfort-food goodness of hash brown casserole (or puppy chow, or scotcheroos).

And then I wondered what equally gooey, cheesy or chocolaty, delicious, comfort-food they might be enjoying that I have never tried.

And that reminded me of a quick trip we recently made to Madison, Wisconsin, for a wedding. From the interstate, all the metropolitan areas we by-passed looked alike – at least if you use restaurants as a point of reference.

There is a certain comfort in the familiar, a certain relief in uniform sameness, a feeling of safety that comes with sticking with what we know. When traveling, I – more often than not – eat at the chain restaurant nearest the hotel, rather than trying something new.

But . . . .

Sigh.

Where's the adventure in that? Where's the excitement of trying new things, of developing new tastes, of meeting new people? Where's the thrill of a new experience? The exposure to new ideas?

Comfortable conformity is all well and good, but when it is all, is it still good?

I could count on one hand the number of new restaurants closer to home that I have tried during the last year. What's worse, I tend to order the same thing every time I go to one of our familiar, “go to” restaurants – even when I swear I'm going to try something new. There's nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I wonder what might I be missing. (Granted, not all my “new” restaurant experiences have been winners, but still . . . .)

Old habits are hard to break. New things can be hard to try, whether they are new foods or new points of view. But maybe there's more to life than hash brown casserole and puppy chow.

Maybe I need to potluck more

Maybe we all do.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Stuff and Nonsense

The King and I moved into our current house when we outgrew our starter castle. Two young(ish) people with the usual assortment of starter-outer stuff had become two not-as-young(ish) people with two toddlers and a rapidly expanding amount of stuff. Rather than continue to make the boy-child sleep in what was basically the hallway, we pulled up stakes and moved. We gained a bedroom for the boy-child, if not much more in the way of storage space.

Years passed and  what was once cozy for two adults, two small children, a kitten, and all their stuff, became claustrophobic for two adults, two teenagers, a full-grown cat, and all their stuff. So we added on, expanding by approximately 860 square feet. And one teenager left the roost.

In a time of down-sizing and “tiny houses,” we added the equivalent of two tiny houses to our already regular-size house and decreased our population density. And there still isn't enough room for all our stuff.

The worst part is that we haven't added any new stuff since the remodel. In fact, we've gotten rid of stuff. While I was packing up stuff for storage I sorted, donated and threw away stuff we didn't use or need. As well as stuff I was tired of packing. I repeated the process when I started unpacking stuff from storage – sorting, donating and throwing away stuff I realized I hadn't missed while it was in storage. As well as stuff I was tired of unpacking.

We have twice as many cupboards in the new kitchen, and yet I still have pots, pans, dishes and gadgets sitting on counters (and in totes) waiting to find a home. The closet in our master bedroom is almost half-again as big as our old closet, and yet we still have totes and bags of clothes waiting to be put away.

The Little Prince, who is so low-maintenance he could subsist on air alone, moved into a room twice the size of his old room . . . and immediately filled up the larger space. Granted, his drum set, which once took up a big part of the “toy room” now takes up a big part of his bedroom. Unfortunately this did not (surprise?) free up any space in the room formerly known as the “toy room,” presently known as the “I don't know where else to put this stuff room.”

The only room in the house that doesn't seem to be overloaded is The Princess' room. I suspect that is because she has moved out of our house and into an apartment at college . . . where her room is filled with stuff. And to be honest, here at home her closet, bookshelves and the space under her bed are filled with stuff . . . that wouldn't fit in the “I don't know where else to put this stuff room.”

Evidently I had developed some seriously next-level, Tetris-master type storage/stacking skills pre-remodel, when we first realized we were space challenged. In theory, what I need to do now is figure out in which of the remaining un-unpacked totes those skills are packed.

Because I shudder to think what might happen if I had to pack everything up again while we add on even more space.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Good Night, Sleep Tight (But Not TOO Tight)

I haven't been sleeping well lately. Maybe it's because I've reached that age at which a woman's body goes haywire (but it's not puberty). Or maybe I worry too much. Or maybe I have an over-active imagination.

Or maybe it's my family.

Take the other night for example – it doesn't matter which night exactly, because they're all the same – I was having trouble falling asleep because The Girl Child (AKA The Princess, when I'm not so worried) is starting her second year at college, so she was not under my roof at that moment. And she's a girl so I know how she thinks, because – believe it or not – I was once a college-age girl. And because she's My Little Girl and I'm Her Mommy and I'm supposed to worry about her.

And that made me think of The Boy Child (AKA The Prince, when I'm not fretting), who is starting his junior year of high school, so he was under my roof but won't be for long. And he's a boy so I have no idea how he thinks, or even if he does sometimes. And because he's My Little Boy and I'm His mumblemumble Mom and that's just what I do.

But I forgot about those things because The Darling Husband (AKA The King, when I'm not distraught) was snoring so loud I couldn't sleep, and snoring may be a sign of sleep apnea. And just at that moment HE STOPPED SNORING and I freaked out because OBVIOUSLY HE WAS DEAD!

While I was straining to hear him breath I started wondering if I had “accidentally” smothered him with my pillow because HIS SNORING WAS DRIVING ME NUTS, but all of a sudden SNRKXSZERK he was snoring again and I was glad he was alive, but I was also kind of annoyed because HOW COULD I SLEEP WHEN HE WAS SNORING SO LOUD?

Then the cat, sensing my distress, jumped up on the bed. But instead of purring his rumbly, comforting purr, he curled up behind my knees on the outside edge of the bed, pinning the blanket down. This was a problem because TDH had pulled the blankets tight on the other side of me, so I was TRAPPED LIKE A MOUSE IN A BURRITO and I couldn't move. And between the little, furry body on one side and the bigger, furry body on the other I was HOTTER THAN HELL.

Since I have so much trouble sleeping I hate to interrupt any one else's sleep, even if it is the cat and he sleeps 26 out of 24 hours, so I reached down to scratch his little ears and maybe get him to move just a little bit BUT HE DIDN'T MOVE AT ALL and I realized that HE WASN'T PURRING EITHER, in fact I DIDN'T THINK HE WAS BREATHING and oh, great, first my husband almost dies and now my cat, when all of a sudden SNNNNNTTFF the cat started snoring.

So I was thinking “Phew, really dodged a bullet there,” and I wasn't sure which would be worse, if my husband died or the cat. Because the kids would never believe me if I lied and told them the cat “ran away,” but they might believe their dad “ran away” because they've both threatened to run away whenever I start dancing or singing. On the other hand TDH might help me dispose of the cat's body, but the cat would be ABSOLUTELY NO HELP disposing of TDH's body because I clean the litter box and I know how bad he is at burying things.

In the mean time, I was going to SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST, so TDH and the cat would both be reduced to ashes and there wouldn't be ANY bodies to dispose of.

And I'd have the entire bed to myself so I could finally get some sleep.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sandwich Mom in the Sky With(out) Diamonds

Yesterday I made my annual trip to the happiest place in the midwest – the Iowa State Fair. Other state fairs may come close, but I agree with the marketing geniuses who declared “Nothing Compares to the Iowa State Fair.” Nothing compares to the food (deep fried, bacon-wrapped, chocolate dipped, and on a stick), the fun (outhouse races), the culture (balloon sculptures), the spectacle (the gargantuan bull, boar and ram), the long lines (for the butter cow), the butter cow (at the end of the line), or the traditions (all of the above).

And for me, nothing compares to the terror of The Sky Glider.

I've had my moments of unbridled emotion before, but nothing compares to the near-hysteria of The Sky Glider this year – not even the time my Billy Joel concert ticket was so close I could see the stage with my bare eyes!

After a full day of fair fun my fair-going friends and I decided to wrap things up with a round-trip Sky Glider ride. Twice the ride, twice the terror.

The ride got off to an rocky start when it stopped – briefly – just after we reached cruising altitude (far enough off the ground to make my palms sweat). The ride restarted and I resumed my white-knuckle grip on the safety bar just before The Princess – my daughter, rock of bravery and gondola partner – said “Oh.”

“Oh?” I asked, WITHOUT turning my head OR MOVING in any manner.

“I can't do this.”

“Oh.”

I realized I would have to dig down deep into my Super Mom Power reserves to keep it together and set a good example. I had no choice but to suck it up and my assume my resp-Mom-sibilities. I relaxed my grip a little, forced a smile, and began chatting about all the ways this ride WAS NOT ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIYING. I even managed to LET GO OF THE SAFETY BAR WITH ONE HAND long enough to point out the lovely architectural details adorning the roof line of the historic agriculture building. I pointed out the happy people in the gondolas on the return side, the lovely breeze, the dense foliage BENEATH US AND OHMYGODLOOKUP! Look UP, UP! at those fluffy, white clouds.

All the while I was mentally cataloging the things that TERRIFIED ME:
What happened to those riders?

  • Looking DOWN at the roof line of the ag building.
  • The riders on the return side who were smiling and laughing as if UNAWARE OF THE DANGER WE WERE IN.
  • The riders who looked AS TERRIFIED AS ME BECAUSE THEY REALIZED WE COULD PLUMMET TO OUR DEATH AT ANY MOMENT.
  • The gondolas which were empty BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY THE PASSENGERS ALREADY FELL TO THEIR DEATHS.
  • The dense foliage BENEATH US that would IMPALE US BEFORE WE CRASHED TO THE GROUND.
  • The asphalt roads BENEATH US which we would SOON BE SPLATTERED UPON.
  • And the fluffy clouds WHICH SHOULD BE MUCH FARTHER ABOVE US.

By that time we were NEARLY three-quarters of the way up the hill – or nearly three-quarters of the way to the HALFWAY point if you have forgotten AND HOW COULD YOU FORGET? that we were making a round trip – and I had begun to giggle nervously, and maybe cry a little . . . because that's just what happens when I start to giggle uncontrollably/hysterically.

It was at precisely this moment The Third Musketeer – who was riding solo in the gondola behind us – announced that she WOULD NOT BE MAKING THE ROUND TRIP ON THE SKY GLIDER OF TERROR. And I started to giggle/cry a little harder because I HAD JUST BEEN THINKING THE SAME THING! I gave her a thumbs up over my shoulder BECAUSE I COULD NOT TURN MY HEAD AND LET GO OF THE SAFETY BAR AT THE SAME TIME.

That was when we FINALLY began our descent, and I was able to take an actual breath and look around me and that stubborn, pig-headed, go-big-or-go-home, warrior-princess within me said AWWW HELL NO! I WILL NOT BE BEATEN BY AN IRRATIONAL FEAR! I WILL NOT BACK DOWN!

And in a quieter but no less convincing voice, the cheapskate in me said I will not waste a return ticket. I MAY BE A CHICKEN BUT I AM A CHEAP CHICKEN AND BY GOD I PRE-PAID FOR A ROUND TRIP RIDE SO I'M DAMN WELL GOING TO MAKE A ROUND TRIP RIDE.

So I TURNED to face The Princess and I asked her if she wanted to get off or if she wanted to ride back down the hill WITH me. She looked at me with admiration – or as if I had sprouted a horn on my forehead – and considered her answer carefully before answering.

“I will ride back with you. Because I don't think we can pry your hands off the safety bar.”

I would love to say that we bravely continued our ride and we lived happily ever after.

But the truth is I had just dried my cheeks and started to realize I HAD MADE A HORRENDOUS MISTAKE when our gondola came around the end point to begin the return ride and the nice young man checked the safety bar and smiled at us.

“Enjoy the ride,” he said.

And I started laughing so hard I SNORTED and the look of surprise on his face was so funny that I laughed HARDER and when we reached cruising altitude and the RIDE STOPPED AGAIN DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN my eyes filled with tears. And for the entire two-and-a-half hour (or five minute) return trip The Princess and I laughed and “ooohed” and “awwwed” as we watched the lights of the midway, and talked about the breeze and the architecture and the foliage and the smell of deep fried, bacon-wrapped, chocolate-dipped fun on a stick.

And made plans for doing it ALL again next year.


If you're not afraid of heights, or if you want to experience them vicariously, check out this video (not shot by me, obviously because there is no screaming): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcSwm-5V5Zs


Friday, August 11, 2017

Apple Pie and Aliens

I stepped out of my house and into a Norman Rockwell painting.

Sunday's weather was unusually comfortable for an early August afternoon in Iowa, if a bit overcast. A few clouds were turning dark around the edges, making the sky look slightly ominous, while keeping the temperature in the mid-70s.

I chatted in passing with a neighbor working in her yard. Her hanging baskets overflow with beautiful flowers every year, filling me with envy and awe, as I struggle to keep hostas alive. We both grew up in a small town barely 12 miles away. Our current hometown high school and former hometown high school were arch rivals back then, and, as we were both cheerleaders, switching loyalty between the two would have been unthinkable. But a mom's first allegiance is to her children. We both wear t-shirts emblazoned with the current hometown school's mascot – requisite small-town boosterism.

I hiked down the dirt path snaking through the farm field that separates our subdivision from the town proper. The field was all grown up in weeds this year, although whether it was purposely allowed to lie fallow, or if the farmer just grew tired of people tramping through his corn and beans, I do not know. I do know the path moved a few feet to the west this year, skirting the worst of the erosion-carved ruts, particularly at the bottom of the hill.

As I emerged from the last of the weeds and scrub brush, a car pulled to a stop in the middle of the street ahead. A woman stood curbside, keeping one eye on a wobbly toddler, while visiting with the car's driver. I walked down the block, turned the corner, and still did not see any traffic that would disrupt them.

The streets were not entire deserted. I watched as a statistically correct family bicycled by in a neat line -- Dad, followed by Duckling One, Duckling Two, and Mom. On the next block, a small group of small kids played a game of driveway basketball. The “poing” of the ball echoed between the houses, as their shots fell short of the regulation-height hoop.

The dogs in this neighborhood are familiar with me, yet still bark a welcome and signal my approach to the dogs on the next block over, which they relay to the next, and so on.

I headed up another hill, this one covered by carefully manicured lawns. This street was part of the Hometown Days parade route the day before, yet not a speck of post-parade debris remains. American flags flutter from every porch or yard, many the result of a Lion's Club fundraiser/patriotic service project.

I listened as the wail of a siren grow louder and nearer as I approached the nursing home, then breathed a sigh of relief when the flashing lights stopped at the top of the hill, near the water tower. By the time I arrived, firemen were exiting the water treatment plant – a building not much bigger than a single-car garage. A few neighbors, drawn outside by the commotion, were heading home as the firemen repacked their gear. I recognized most – some by name, others by face.

It doesn't get much more “Our Town” than this, I think. I doesn't get much more Apple Pie, much more Red, White and Blue than this. Every Midwestern stereotype, every All-American, small-town cliché is played out here in my hometown. It is movie-set perfect.

So why do I find myself wishing for an alien invasion?


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Drivin' Like a Big Shot

In today's edition of Small Town Driver In The Big City, I am pleased to report that I did not get lost in Minneapolis.

Suburban Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Iowa, however, was another story.

But first: What, you might ask, could possibly prompt me to drive – by myself – in downtown Minneapolis? The answer is simple, and is the same reason I took on the streets of Chicago: Billy Joel. And so, now I must digress a little further for a mini concert review that isn't really a review at all.

** SQUEEE!!**

Billy Joel. Sigh. He was wonderful. I mean the concert was wonderful. Although I'll admit I'm not very objective when it comes to Billy Joel (SQUEEE), or the talented group of musicians performing with him. Mike DelGuidice and Crystal Taliefero singing “Nessun Dorma” and “Heatwave” – A. Maze. Ing! Instrumental solos by Mark Rivera, Tommy Byrnes, Carl Fisher and David Rosenthal – Swoony! Andy Cichon and Chuck Burgi – the bassist and drummer never get enough appreciation (and I'm not just saying that because The Little Prince is a drummer.)

The only drawback was the drunken fans in front of me. There's a not too fine line between singing along, and shut the flock up and sit down because if you flail about one more time and hit me things are gonna get ugly. Er.

So yes, while the concert was the highlight of the trip (or maybe it was meeting up with my high school pal for breakfast/gabfest), Driving through downtown Minneapolis without getting lost was a close second (or third).

And I will admit I was more than a little nervous after my last (solo) trip up North – also for a Billy Joel concert – although I did not get lost then, either. Technically, that is.

I did, however, try to check in to the wrong hotel. What can I say? It was dark, it was late, it was raining, there was traffic (there is always traffic). It was not my finest driving hour.

Determined not to make the same mis-adventure a second time, I pored over the maps and directions before I left home and planned my arrival for non-rush hour. In fact, I was so surprised by the easy route, minimal road construction and non-rush hour traffic, that I had to make up reasons to hyperventilate.

Google directions through the Twin Cities were surprisingly simple: “Keep Left,” “Use Left Lanes,” “The Other Left, Dummy.” There was no actual exiting. (Unlike that final “Keep Right/Exit” north of Waterloo, which the truck behind me almost missed, too. Dear God, I hope they weren't following my navigation!)

Since all the downtown Minneapolis traffic was in the right lanes, I hugged the leftest-left lane (after a brief moment of flop sweat when I couldn't remember which was left and which was right), and accelerated to Big City Speeds, meaning I passed almost as many people as passed me. It was glorious.

Until I realized I was driving solo in the car pool lane. And I was going too fast to read the hours for the car pool lane, but not too fast to read the part that said “Do NOT cross white line.” A quick check of the mirror, however, revealed that people obeyed the “Do NOT cross white line” sign about as much as they observed the “Speed Limit” suggestion.

I was just beginning think that perhaps I was not equipped to drive, read directions, seek out road signs, and PANIC at the same time, and hoping that somehow MN-65 would miraculously turn into a quiet-ish 3-lane, one-way, city street from a mega-lane, concrete pretzel when . . . it did.

And I was downtown and I was just a turn and a turn away from the hotel, and I was feeling like a Grizzled, Big City Driving Veteran.

I was feeling so much like a Grizzled, Big City Driver that I wasn't even rattled (much) by the occasional, random honking. Because obviously that car wasn't honking at me when I was stopped at a red light. And obviously they weren't honking at me when I was waiting my turn to zip around the double-parked car and glare at the empty driver's seat.

The car (which came out of no where and) honked at the Small Town Girl walking across the Big City Street despite the flashing “Don't Walk” sign?

They might have been honking at me.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

50 Shades of Green ... Or More

It is officially, quite possibly, my favorite time of the year in Iowa. That long-awaited, much anticipated brief period of rest, sandwiched between the rush to get things done because it's almost summer! and the rush to get things done because summer is almost over! Those two or three days – maybe seconds, maybe minutes, and not necessarily consecutive – when you can look around, heave a sigh of relief and notice just how green everything is.

I certainly enjoy complaining about the heat and humidity as much as – if not more than – the next Iowan, but today dawned cool and clear, a welcome change from the heat, humidity and thunderstorms of recent weeks. Pleasant weather arrived just in time to miss several county fairs and will, no doubt, leave just in time for the state fair.

Before the heat and humidity return (any second now), I am going to relish this meteorological respite and the natural beauty of summertime in Iowa. It pains me to admit, but all that heat, humidity and rain, rain, rainrainrain that we've had lately have turned the landscape into a, well, if not tropical paradise, perhaps a cropical paradise.

This is the summer-green phase, when the grass and the trees and the beans and the corn and the weeds are all a rich, warm, green – almost black-green – lush and fecund. It is a more mature shade than the spring-green phase, when the grass, trees, beans, corn and weed grab the lightest, brightest shade of tangy yellow-green they can find as they rush to break free from the soil.

Looking out at the horizon, it seems we live in a snow-globe of green and blue. The green, green fields stretch up to an arch of blue-gray and azure, which leads back to more green. Flowers toss confetti blossoms of color, which are swallowed by green. Delicate white UFOs, launched by a bumper crop of Queen Anne's Lace, hover over ditches of green.

Soon even the air will be saturated with green, every breath will taste of chlorophyl. Soon I will become bored by the unrelentingly verdant countryside and long for some other – any other – color. There is a danger of drowning in green, of being crushed by claustrophobic greeness.

Just when I don't think I can stand it a moment longer, the green will begin its retreat. The plants will develop a slow leak, and drop by drop the green will drain away. Slowly, subtly, the vibrant colors will fade away unnoticed, until overnight the palatte of vibrant greens is swapped for more sedate, subdued hues of tan and gold and burnt orange.

The rush to get things done because summer is almost over! will be replaced by the rush to get things done because school has started! and then the rush to get things done because winter is almost here!

And I'll be the first to sigh and ask, “remember those wonderful, lazy, hot and humid days last summer when everything was so green?”


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sweet Corn Soliloquy

The halcyon days of summer produce have finally arrived in Eastern Iowa. Sweet corn stands are sprouting up alongside country roads, and the tables at Farmers Markets are developing an ever-so-slight swayback as, each week, more and more crops ripen.

These are the days we've been waiting for. These are the days of veritable vegetable gluttony. The days we dream of while shivering in January. The days that justify the humid agony of August: When you finish drinking the air, try a bite of this tomato!

The grocery stores have been teasing us with sweet corn imported from down south and out west for months now. Actually, those golden ears are available nearly year round, for a price. But every loyal Iowan knows this faux corn is a poor substitute for the real deal.

For corn connoisseurs (corn-oisseurs?) only homegrown Iowa sweetcorn will do – and the closer to home it's grown, the better. Sweet corn – even more so than tomatoes and watermelon – distills the essence of the land into its growth. Fresh sweetcorn bought from the neighbor down the road tastes of sunlight and humidity, of earth and place and memory. Of home.

I watched with delicious anticipation as the corn in the nearby fields sprang from ankle-high to waist-high, seemingly overnight. From there it shot directly up to “elephant's eye.” Meanwhile, produce stands – featuring close-but-no-cigar corn from Missouri – returned as seasonal parking lot squatters, and grocery stores rearranged their produce displays.

Those early, plump ears of pseudo-corn taunted me. The partially husked ears winked at me coyly. With each trip to the store, I circled my cart closer and closer to the emerald-wrapped seducer. I drove slower and slower past the parking lot PRODUCE stands.

I foolishly gave in to temptation.

The first batch of generi-corn tasted of plastic wrap and long days in a claustrophobic semitrailer.

I should have known better, having already succumbed to the enticement of a fat bottomed watermelon. The roly poly orbs, barely contained by their cardboard corral, dared me to thump and heft and sniff. Watermelon? Pseudo-melon is more like it. Where was the ruby-red juiciness of a Muscatine melon? Where was the spicy bite of Mississippi River water percolated through glacier-ground sandy soil and sediment? Where was the tincture of sunburn and fireflies and fireworks?

The second batch of getting closer-corn was (according to the blue-eyed, blond-haired farmer's daughter/produce attendant) grown in Ainsworth, only 40-ish miles away. I could taste the explosion of springtime growth, and the cool relief of summer evenings. A hint of deja-there recalled the sweetness of Dairy Mart soft serve, and left goosebumps from traversing the swinging bridge in Columbus Junction.

Now the pop-up canopies and pickup trucks with their hand-lettered signs and honor-system cash boxes sit in fields ever closer to home. Now it is only a matter of timing the arrival of the daily harvest against the number of passing commuters – and remembering to have cash on hand.

Now the sweet corn reaches its apex of flavor – steeped in sunshine and chlorophyll, thunderstorms, languid cloudless days and yes, even mosquito bites.


Now it is time for homegrown Iowa sweetcorn.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Cat Scratch Furor

We were late for the cat's veterinary appointment.

There's nothing new about me being late. What is new – and completely true, despite the skepticism of the staff at the animal clinic – is the reason we were late. And yes, it was a reason, not an excuse.

We were late for the cat's veterinary appointment because the cat had to use the litter box before we could leave home.

I swear it's true. Because really, how could I possibly make up something that ridiculous?

I will admit I was running a little not ahead of schedule, but we would have been fine – not early, mind you, but fine – if the cat hadn't decided to answer the call of nature.

Not only did he decide to answer the call of nature, but suddenly he decided he was quite shy about his litter box habits. The same cat who will hop up on top of a table – where he is not supposed to be – hoist a leg skyward, and commence to licking his privates in full view of everyone, decided he couldn't possibly use the little box while I was watching.

Not that I was watching. I was merely trying to locate him so that I could grab him, stuff him into his carrier and try to get back on schedule. I fully expected to find him hiding under the bed where it would be nearly impossible to get him, because where else would he be when we were almost behind schedule?

So there I was, searching of all his favorite, out of the way hiding places when I heard the familiar “scritch-scritch” of litter being shifted.

“Ohhhh no! No, nonono!” I said, knowing full well that Lenny (aka Popper, aka Chicken Fingers aka NONONONO) tends to be quite leisurely when relieving himself. I know this because he typically has no problem using the litter box when I am in the room. In fact, sometimes I wonder if he ever uses it when I am not in the room. In other words, my presence has never deterred him from using the litter box.

Until that moment.

Unable to believe my ears – and knowing this really would put us behind schedule – I stood in the doorway to “Lenny's Room,” hoping against hope that he was just finishing his business.

Instead, he stopped, front paws in the box, and gave me a cat-in-the-headlight stare that said “Do you mind?

I quickly ducked into an adjacent room to wait him out. Hearing no additional scritching, I decided to check again. All four paws were in the litter box this time, and the look on his face was decidedly hostile, something along the lines of “PERVERT!”

Duly chastened, I slinked down the hall to make sure everything else was ready for our departure. I was standing by the door checking my watch, jangling the car keys and tapping my foot impatiently when Lenny eventually sauntered my way. With a frantic scoop, stuff, escape, chase, grab, re-stuff and zip, Lenny was safely yowling in his carrier and we were out the door. Only 10 minutes late.

It wasn't until after we returned home and Lenny was lounging on the couch, looking as exhausted, betrayed, and pitiful as possible – worn out, I'm sure, from yowling throughout the horrific five-minute drive to the clinic and back – that I thought about how utterly hypocritical he was being.

When I use the bathroom one of two things happens:
Watcha doin' over there, human?

1. If I remember to completely shut and latch the door, Lenny sits outside singing me the song of his people.
“Yeoowllllll. Where are you human? Why, oh why have you shut this door between us? Are you forgetting that it is your responsibility to care for me? It has been 30 seconds since I saw you, since you admired me, since I tripped you.
“Yeoowllllll. When are you coming out? I could starve! I feel myself weakening even now! Listen to this – I can hardly muster enough strength to scratch on this door! Look at this! Look at how thin my paw has become! I can pass it under the door! Yoo Hoo! Hellooooo! This is me waving at you! Remember me?
“Yeoowllllll. The door! Is it? Are you? It is! You are! Mphf. About time. Talk to the tail. Ingrate.”

2. If I don't shut him out, or if he sneaks in before I can shut the door, Lenny sits at my feet singing the song of his people.
“Yeoowllllll. What are you doing human? Why, oh why have you shut the door, trapping me in here with you? Why are you sitting down? What do you mean I can't sit on your lap right now? Are you forgetting that it is your responsibility to care for me? It has been 30 seconds since you held me.
“Yeoowllllll. There is no food bowl in this room! I feel myself weakening even now! It is all I can do to sit here and stare at you, while you do whatever it is you are doing THAT DOES NOT INVOLVE ADORING ME! This is an outrage! I demand that you . . . wait. What? What are you doing? Why is there water running? What is going on in this giant bowl? Why can't I see?
“Yeoowllllll. The door is open? No. No! I do not want to leave! I want to trip you! Or, wait, hey! Come back here! Nope. Changed my mind. Talk to the tail. Ingrate.”

On the up-side, I always remind the family to use bathroom before we leave the house. At least now I know someone has been listening.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Thank You for Not Sighing

Yes, I know we're behind schedule.

Again.

I knew we were behind schedule even before you started following me from room to room, only to stand there. Waiting. Silently.

And P.S.? Thank you for that. The silently waiting. Because if you were to audibly sigh, giving voice to your frustration, I would have to have to throat punch you. And then I'd probably feel bad and I'd have to take you to the emergency room and we would be really behind schedule.

I'm ready to go, now. Sort of.

I've been ready to go, sort of, since before you started following me from room to room, etc. It's just that about the time I was ready to go (sort of) the first time, I realized no one had fed the cat or cleaned his litter box.

So I fed and watered him. And cleaned his litter box.

And then I put everyone's breakfast dishes in the dish washer. Because I emptied the dishwasher right before I finished getting ready to go (sort of) the first time. Before you all finished breakfast. But that's beside the point.

Before that I had to round up the charging cords, double check to make sure I had the tickets, turn off the lights, sweep the floor, paint the hallway, re-roof the house, fell the tree, bale the hay, build the barn and check again for the tickets.

I wish I could be more spontaneous. I wish I could just walk out the door without a second thought.

But I can't.

Because I'm the Mom.

And if I don't feed and water the cat and clear the dishes, I will spend all day wondering how long it will take before the cat throws a fit and tears the house apart, or he at least jumps up on the counter and knocks all the dishes off. Or how long it will take before those dishes start growing mold and attracting bugs.

Or how disgusted the burglar will be when he breaks in and smells the dirty litter box and sees the moldy, bug-infested dishes scattered on the floor, and finds the cat happily stretched out on the counter, playing with the papers that should have been put in the recycling bin before we left.

Or how we will explain to the police that this is the mess the burglar made when he/she broke in, but that is the mess the cat made because we forgot to feed/water/clean his litter box, and there is the mess that we left on the table because we didn't want to be late.

And then the policeman will probably sigh.

And we'll really be late.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Double (Stuf) or Nothin'

The Health Food Tyrants have gone too far.

Have you seen a Double Stuf Oreo lately? I mean, have you actually taken the time to examine the ratio of mystery cream to bland cookie before stuffing it in your face?

There is no way Double Stuf are doubly-stuffed. They are barely single-stuffed.
Double Stuf? I don't think so.

A math teacher (with too much time on his hands) actually weighed and compared Double, Single and Thins in 2013 and – indeed – found that Double Stuf do not contain twice as much Stuf as Single Stuf. But that's not my point. My point is that Double Stuf don't contain as much Stuf as Double Stuf used to. I'd go so far as to say you have to eat double the Double Stuf to get half as much Stuf as Double Stuf used to have.

(BTW: Don't even get me started on “Thins” which look like someone whispered “stuf” from the other side of the factory as the stacks of cardboard cookie shapes were packaged.)

(While we're off the subject: Yes. I did walk five miles, uphill – both ways – through snow, while being chased by velociraptors to get to school.)

I did not buy Double Stuf Oreos because I was being health conscious. I did not buy Double Stuf Oreos thinking they were a low-calorie food. I did not buy a family-sized (Pfft! Family of pigmy mice, maybe!) package of Double Stuf Oreos, sneak them into the house under cover of darkness, hide them in the back of the cupboard behind the expired canned goods, then quietly open them at 6:30 a.m. after my morning workout while everyone else was sleeping, because I thought they were good for me.

No. That's what the bananas, which are conveniently located on the counter – splotchy brown and drawing fruit flies – are for. That's what the shriveled up apples in the crisper drawer are for. That's what the bag of mushy, liquifying, slightly grey and fuzzy . . . well, I'm not sure what it is/was . . in the veggie drawer is for.

You do not need a PhD in nutrition to know that Double Stuf Oreos (or any Oreos) are not a type of health food. Nothing that creamy and delicious, nothing that melts so delightfully on your tongue, leaving that slightly buttery, vaguely nauseating film in your mouth could be good for you. Without even looking at the package I could tell you the ingredients for that mysterious but crave-able filling are, most likely: sugar, sugar, fat, soylent green, and more sugar.

And I'm OK with that. In moderation. On occasion.

I bought this particular package of so-called “Double Stuf” cookies because I was feeling a little down and needed some comfort food. I needed to do a little emotional eating. I needed a chance to wallow in a bad food choice and then regret it and vow never to eat them again. Or until I was feeling blue again.

What was I sad about when I bought them? I have no idea. See? It worked.

Why am I sad now?

I'm out of cookies.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

There's No Nest, Like an Empty Nest

It is 9 a.m. and I am alone in the house.

I have forgotten what silence sounds like.

There is no chatter from the other room. No laughter, no muttering. No radios. No doors opening and closing.

My car is the only one in the driveway.

The nest is empty.

There is no pitter-patter of workboots on the stairs, no hiss-bang of an air compressor, no smack-smack-smack of nail guns, no whirrrrrrrring of a radial saw.

The contractors are gone.

After an intense three-month push – a daily parade of electricians, drywallers, woodworkers, painters, insulation-ers, flooring-ers, and multi-taskers – the kitchen is finished and the contractors are gone. Work continued right up to the last minute to finish and polish, clean and stage for a builders' “parade of homes” – a sort of graduation party without the cake.

And now it is done.


I sit alone in my office – my office, not a corner of the living room, not a corner of The Princess's room/overflow storage – my office, sipping coffee I made in the kitchen – the kitchen, not the craft room/temporary kitchen, not The Princess's room/overflow storage/temporary office – the kitchen, basking in the delicious silence, and trying to remember how to think in solitude.

The cat, who has spent the last three months hiding under the bed from noises and strangers and strange noises is . . . well, hiding under the bed, because he is a cat, after all, and who knows why cats do anything. But now his movements are languid as he oozes out from under the bed skirt, stretches lazily, and saunters to the hallway. Despite his sanguine manner, his half-lidded stare, his lackadaisical yawn, there is an attentiveness to his posture as his sits, ears erect, keeping watch down the hallway, ready to growl and retreat at a moments notice.

And he is right.

They will be back.

A year-and-a-half into this project – beset with setbacks as are all remodeling projects – we are about three-quarters of the way done. A large portion of the basement ceiling is MIA, a casualty of plumbing and heating repairs, replacement and upgrades. There will be more insulation, more flooring, more painting, more air compressors and saws and nail guns.

This empty nest, like most, is welcome but fleeting.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Cell Phone Fable-tale

Once upon a time, a family of four bears got new cell phones.

Papa Bear and Baby Bear got their phones first. They transferred the data from their old phones to the new phones with no problem.

“Easy peasy,” said Papa Bear.

“Lemon squeezy,” said Baby Bear.

“So, all I have to do to make my new phone work is read the instructions and follow directions?” asked Mama Bear.

“That's right,” said Papa Bear.

Baby Bear rolled his eyes.

Sister Bear got her phone next. She transferred the data from her old phone to her new phone with no problem.

“Easy peasy, lemon squeezy,” said Sister Bear.

“So, all I have to do to make my new phone work is read the instructions and follow directions?” asked Mama Bear.

Sister Bear rolled her eyes. Then she went online and found instructions on how to activate “Grandparent” mode, making the Galaxy s7 “super easy” to use. Then she rolled her eyes again.

At last, Mama Bear got her new phone.

“So, all I have to do to make my new phone work is read the instructions and follow directions?” Mama Bear asked Papa Bear.

Papa Bear rolled his eyes.

Mama Bear carefully took the phone and all the accessories and instructions out of the box. She read the instructions thoroughly, because the instructions had big pictures and few words. She followed the directions and called the 800 number to transfer service to her new phone. She followed directions to turn off her old phone. She followed directions to turn on her new phone. She watched the spinning circle and read the cheerful greeting.

The cheerful greeting said it could take up to five minutes to transfer service.

She waited and watched the spinning circle spin some more.

“Is it supposed to take this long?” she asked Papa Bear.

“It takes a while,” he said, rolling his eyes, “but it's easy.”

Mamma Bear waited and watched and surfed the net on her laptop and looked at all the pictures from Billy Joel's latest concert at Madison Square Garden and played a game of spider solitaire and checked her email again and repainted the Sistine Chapel.

Finally, the spinning circle stopped spinning.

The cheerful message told Momma Bear the data from her old phone could not be transferred to her new phone.

Mamma Bear considered throwing the phones across the room, but it was a very small room and she figured they would probably ricochet and hit her in the head, killing her or causing extensive brain damage. At the very least she knew she would have to clean up the mess herself.

Mamma Bear cussed and read the instructions even more carefully. She Googled “How to Transfer Service” and cussed some more. She followed the directions she found on Google. She looked through her secret files to find the WiFi password. She found the WiFi password. She found her Googlemail password, her social security number the name of her great-great-grandmother's dog's veterinarian's cousin's neighbor's first-grade teacher, the square root of Pi, and her natural hair color. She typed it all in.

None of her information transferred.

“That's OK, “ Mamma Bear sighed, “I can put all those numbers in by hand.” Then Mamma Bear tried calling the home phone land-line number, just to check out her fancy new cell phone.

It didn't ring. Service had not transferred.

Mamma Bear tried to call from her old cell phone. No service there, either.

Mamma Bear considered punching a wall, but the contractors had just installed new drywall and she didn't want to impede progress.

Mama Bear took a nice, hot, relaxing shower. She poured a glass of wine. She poured a BIG glass of wine. She took a deep breath.

Mama Bear turned the new phone off. She did another Google search. She told Google what they could do with their search results. She told Samsung what they could do with their 3-step instructions. She took a wild guess.

It worked.

“Easy peasy,” she said.

“My ass.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Greetings From The Great Beyond

If you are reading this without an Ouiji board or a crystal ball, color me surprised.

Apparently, without my knowledge or consent, I have expired and passed to the other side. At least that is my conclusion after trying to communicate with my son – the boy child formerly known as The Little Prince, when I was not so annoyed with him.

I have become accustomed to talking at the boy, but lately I've noticed my words seem to bounce right off him and fall to the ground at his feet without so much as ruffling the bushy mass of hair hanging over his ears.

At first I assumed that the poor thing had had been struck deaf – perhaps as a result of playing the drums, or from listening to heavy metal music. But he seems perfectly capable of hearing the TV, his friends' cars arriving curb-side, and the ding of the microwave.

I accepted the increasing one-sidedness of our talks as typical teenage boy behavior. After one recent exchange – which I took to be a semi-active discussion, but turned out to be a monologue – he replied with his usual noncommittal shrug and vague grunt.

*Shrug* Eh.”

I interpreted this as “Yes, Mom. I understand what you're saying, agree with your conclusion and will endeavor to act in accordance with your wishes.” Especially after I point blank asked him “Do you understand? Can you do that?”

Instead, what he really meant was “*Shrug* Eh.”

Or perhaps, “    .”

Maybe even, “     !”

But more likely, “      “

There is a chance I've brought on this escalation of indifference myself. Frustrated by his ever-shrinking verbal exchange rate, I told him I was going to set a daily word goal for him. I was hoping to squeeze 20 words per day out of him.

He was thinking of a smaller number.

Like zero.

Of course, if he is purposely rationing his responses, that means that he can hear me – even if he chooses not to listen.

Which is good.


Because I really hope hears me when I tell him I hope that someday (in the far, distant future) he has a child just like him.

Friday, April 7, 2017

If You Can't Stand the Heat, Get Rid of the Kitchen

The remodel reached the critical mass stage – or perhaps that is critical mess stage – as destruction of the kitchen commenced.

Right now, the area once occupied by cabinets, appliances and food is utterly and completely empty. It is also much larger, as we succumbed to the HGTV mantra of “open concept.” It is now a straight, open shot from front to the back of the house, from the living room through the kitchen to the dining room. One caveat not disclosed on television programming: no walls to obstruct the view also means no walls on which to place light switches.
Open concept, front door to the back door.

But that is a different worry for a different day.

My immediate concern is organizing a makeshift kitchen in the recently completed craft room. Recently completed as in I had just enough time to organize and then completely dis-organize this cozy room, before pushing all that mess to one side to make room for totes and boxes filled with kitchen stuff.

Totes and boxes which are, of course, completely dis-organized.

Despite my haphazard planning and chaotic implementation, I have absolutely no idea where anything is. I tried to be methodical, packing like-items together, but that requires time, energy and attention – resources I exhausted in about 15 minutes.

My original plan was to pack the contents of each cabinet in its own tote, tote the totes downstairs, then recreate the same cabinet layout with the totes. This may have worked, if my cabinets hadn't been so poorly organized to begin with. Then there's the whole time/energy/attention thing.

Actually, when I had all the boxes and totes scattered about the kitchen, it made some sort of sense (to me). I packed all (most) of the pots and pans together. I packed all (most) of the dishes together. Same with the glasses, bowls, spices and all that stuff that had been pushed to the back of the cabinets and forgotten about. I packed it all (most) together.

It's that (most) part that gave me fits. Somewhere along the way I had to tweak the ratio of “all” to “(most)” in order to create the proper ratio of “weight” to “breakage potential.” Then I started filling in the cracks with “what the heck is this” and “why do we have this” in order to balance the ratio of “time is running out” to “just get this crap packed up.”

It was much easier to move the food items. Once I culled all the foods that were past their expiration dates I only had about half as much to transport. On the other hand, I found twice as many snacks that I had hidden from the rest of the family but then forgot about. I dutifully found new hiding spots for them, then promptly forgot where I stashed them, so that's a wash. Unfortunately my new food-organization system is so well organized (unlike my previous system) that I still can't find what I'm looking for, despite the wide-open shelving concept.

All it not lost, however. One of the first things I did was to set up the coffee maker and necessary accoutrements in my temporary office/ the Princess' bedroom/ the cat's refuge.

It's all about priorities.



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fake It Till You Make It (Down the One-Way Street)

I learned something the other day, while in the People's Republic of Iowa City:

If you find yourself driving down a one-way street going the wrong way, you should look surprised – nay, irritated – to see another car coming at you in “your lane.”

If you look irritated enough, the driver of the other car – the car going the right way on the one-way street – may question whether or not they are actually driving the right way on the one-way street.

At least, they will if that driver is me.

There I was, driving in the left lane of the 2-lane, one-way street (Clinton St.) where it swoops around the back of the Johnson County Administration Building, cursing my luck for being in the left lane, which becomes a turn-only lane at the stop light at South Gilbert and wondering which of the nice people in the long line of cars zipping along in the right lane would be so kind as to let me merge in front of them when I looked up and . . .

Saw a car ahead of me. In my lane. Coming at me.

At that moment I discovered that when a crash seems imminent time slows, and your senses are enhanced so that you can take in a plethora of information.

What I thought: “Oh my! That car is going the wrong way on this one-way street. Surely they will pull into that driveway up ahead so as to avoid a head-on collision.”

What I actually said: “Ohshitohshitohshitohshit.”

What I could plainly read on the face of the driver of the oncoming car: “I refuse to let my driving be restrained by the arbitrary assignment of directions to streets. Maybe this street has self-identified as a two-way! How dare you impose your bourgeoisie ideas about 'way-ness' on this street. Get out of my lane, you capitalist, sexist, 'way-ist' pig! (And don't call me Shirley.)”

What I thought: “Crap. That driver looks pretty confident. Maybe I am going the wrong way. Maybe I should try to get over.”

What I actually said: “Ohshitohshitohshitohshit.”

What I could plainly read on the face of the driver of the car beside me in the right lane after I pulled as close to the center line as I could and they honked at me: “What the X@! do you think you're doing? Oh, hey, look at that! You are about to have a head-on collision with someone who is going the wrong way on this one-way street. Sucks to be you.”

What I thought when I turned my attention back to the oncoming car: “Oh crap! They aren't pulling into that driveway!”

What I said: “Ohshitohshitohshitohshit.”

What I could plainly read on the face of the driver of the next car to zoom past me in the right lane: “Hey, look at that! You're about to have a head-on collision with someone going the wrong way on this one-way street. Sucks to be you. But I'm not going to let you merge in front of me because I have an old clunker of a car and you would be doing me a favor if you would crash into me.”

Me: “Ohshitohshitohshitohshit.”

Driver of the third car in the right lane: “Hey! Look at that. Someone is going the wrong way on this one-way street and they are about to run head-on into this car which has come to a complete stop and is trying desperately to merge into my lane. Sucks to be them. But it would suck even more if they ran into my nice, new, shiny car, or if debris from their head-on collision were to dent my nice, new, shiny car, so I suppose I will let them merge in front of me. But I will scowl at them menacingly, so they will realize how put out I am by them driving down a one-way street the right way and their narrow-minded insistence that everyone pay attention to and follow road signs.”

Me, as I pull into the right lane seconds before the car going down the one-way street the wrong way hit me head-on: “Thankyouthankyouthankyou.”

Driver of the car going down the one-way street the wrong way, who still has not pulled over or slowed down, as they pass me: “Idiot. I scorn you and your weak, lane-changing, bourgeoisie avoidance of a head-on collision. Question road-sign authority! Viva la Revolution!”

My take away from the whole situation? Fake it till you make it. Or until you make someone else get out of your way.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Assault by Battery

I am not a morning person.

I've known this for a long time. And yet, after getting up at 4:30 a.m. to make the 5:30 a.m. workout, three times a week, for nearly a year (more than a year?), I thought maybe I had figured out how to compensate for my lack of morning alertness.

I thought wrong.

I know that I need that full hour of preparation in order to have a cup of coffee – caffeine being key to my ability to function properly in the morning – before attempting to dress myself (full set of clothing always selected the night before) and driving to the gym. I just hadn't realized how tenuous my grip on early-morning cognition was until last week.

Things were going along according to schedule until I knocked the teeny-tiny travel alarm clock off the teeny-tiny medicine cabinet shelf. I think the fact that I was able to hit such a small target in such an out of the way location with my early morning flailings says a lot about why I need to start waking up an hour before my workout.

And, I should probably mention, that teeny-tiny clock has sat on that teeny-tiny shelf for lo, these many years, trying in vain to keep me on time in the morning, without ever being bumped, let alone knocked off the teeny-tiny shelf. And that, for the past month or so I have noticed that not only was it off by an hour (from the last day light savings time switch), but by an additional 20 minutes, too. All of which means the teeny-tiny clock served more as a reminder that time is continually passing, and less as a notification of the actual time.

Regardless of the relativity of time, I watched in open-mouthed surprise (the medicine cabinet has a mirror in addition to teeny-tiny shelves) as the teeny-tiny clock fell (or jumped, in a desperate bid for freedom) off the teeny-tiny shelf and bounced in the sink, dislodging the teeny-tiny cover to the battery, which set the teeny-tiny A-sized battery loose (in its own desperate bid for freedom). The battery's freedom was short lived – or poorly executed – as it slipped down the gaping maw of the sink drain.

Well.

Not having any idea how to rescue the teeny-tiny battery, and being more than a little miffed that it would choose that particular moment to bolt, and knowing that the sink would not be used again until after I returned from my workout, I did the only thing my sleep-lacking brain could think of – I turned off the light and went to the gym.

As soon as I pulled out of the driveway, however, I started to imagine that teeny-tiny battery making its way through the drain pipe, through the sewer system, and out into some creek, where it would be eaten by a teeny-tiny fish, who would die a horrible death and then be dissected by a humorless EPA official who would find the teeny-tiny battery and somehow trace it back to me and immediately send a SWAT team to apprehend me at the gym.

I may not be very physically coordinated in the morning, but my imagination functions just fine.

So it was that I found myself planning an elaborate, Rube Goldberg-esque, system for retrieving the teeny-tiny battery instead of paying attention to the workout instructions (not a totally new situation), and managed to mess up two of the stretches. Stretches, mind you. Stretches which are important, but not, typically that mentally demanding.

I returned home and gathered supplies – needle nosed pliers, a drinking straw, a slender wire, and a piece of gum – for my MacGyver inspired battery-retrieval plan, only to discover that I couldn't even see, much less reach the battery with whatever it was I had in mind.

So it was that the husband found me searching for a monkey wrench to dismantle the drain pipe. I had hoped to handle this situation without his knowledge because he was preparing to leave for a week-long, work-related trip, and he had more than enough on his to-do list already. The husband – who is a morning person – calmly told me I probably would not need a monkey wrench, but reminded me to place a bucket under the pipe before proceeding.

And so it was I left him in the tool room, pondering the wisdom of leaving me to care for the teen-age son and the cat for an entire week.

Such is the miracle of modern, plastic drain pipes that the s-curve was quickly disassembled without any tools, the teeny-tiny battery was rescued and properly disposed of, the lives of countless innocent fishes were saved, and the SWAT team intervention was averted.

And the teeny-tiny alarm clock on the teeny-tiny shelf received a new battery and has been set to the actual time. Or something close to it.


But I'm keeping the wire and gum nearby, just in case.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Little House of (Renovation) Horrors

The Poseidon Adventure. Earthquake. The Towering Inferno. Airport. What do these disaster movies all have in common?

Each event was less of a catastrophe than our home remodeling project.

I'm fairly certain our contractor – who has done amazing work – is shaking his head and wondering how he ever got involved in this project of the damned.

I haven't blogged about our setbacks, because I didn't want to anger the Fates of Remodeling. But after yesterday's misadventure, I've decided the fates are obviously so pissed at me, it couldn't get much worse.

Really.

I mean sure, the whole thing could go up in flames, forcing us to rebuild from scratch, but at this point even that couldn't put us much further behind schedule.

So, what was our latest SNAFU? What disaster du jour has me questioning whether that light I thought I saw at the end of this very long, dusty, partially remodeled tunnel was a beacon of hope or an emergency flare?

Yesterday a delivery van got stuck in the mud behind our house.

For more than two hours.

Postponing the delivery and installation of the carpet that will signal the honest to God complete, totally for reals completed, finally finished completion of approximately one-third of our renovation.

And we're only eight months behind schedule.

We used to joke about the house being done in time for The Princess' high school graduation. Last May. Now we joke about it being done before The Prince's graduation. In 2019. These days I reply to that joke with nervous laughter, bordering on hysteria.

So what's the big deal? What's a couple more days? Progress – amazing, beautiful, fantastic work – continues on other parts of the project.

It's symbolic. You see, this is not the first time our yard has swallowed a subcontractor. A skid steer (that's right, a skid steer), got stuck while excavating for the footings last fall.

Footings which, once poured, filled with ground water. And did not drain. Pushing back work until spring. After the ground thawed and eventually firmed up again.

Spring. When The Princess graduated from high school. When the contractor took pity on us and delayed work until after we could have a small reception for her in the garage. The garage which, the day after the party, we filled with the displaced furniture and boxes that are still there.

No, the delivery van getting stuck is just one item on a long list of unexpected challenges and scheduling hiccups. In short, almost anything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. I've watched enough “This Old House” and HGTV to know all remodeling projects have their share of problems. But I have to think we are approaching the point at which even Tommy and Norm, Chip and Joanna, and Jonathan and Drew would throw up their hands and cut their losses.

Despite all the set backs, I try to stay positive. The parts that are finished are beautiful. Things are progressing. It will all be worth it once it's done.

Despite the problems, I try to find the humor in the situation. For most of the summer we had the distinction of being the only house in the neighborhood with a port-o-potty in the front yard.

Talk about yer' curb appeal.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Going Banana (Bars)

There are days I should not be allowed in the kitchen.

Today was one of them.

For lunch, I decided to try out a new recipe (first mistake) for a tuna (second mistake)-noodle casserole. It could be that this recipe, in the hands of any other cook would be just fine, and not the bland, yet colorful, left-overs-for-days nightmare that I created. It could be that I tend to use recipes as “guidelines” rather than “directions” when I am cooking, adapting them to family likes/dislikes and ingredients on hand.

It could be that I completely changed the taste of this casserole by subsituting sauteed, fresh peppers for a jar of roasted peppers (both of which are vegetables and both of which are disliked by the boy child). It could be that I angered the pasta gods by substituting penne pasta for fusilli pasta (potato, potato).

Or it could be that any recipe which combines tuna (which the boy child dislikes), and green beans (see: boy child/vegetables/dislike) was doomed from the start.

The husband, who likes to eat much better than he likes to cook, declared the casserole was “tasty.” This was a bold-faced lie and we both knew it. He continues to lie to me this way because I am currently enjoying a 60% success rate in terms of tasty cooking. I am coming off a string of hits including, but not limited to potato soup, monster bars, and scotcheroos.

The boy child, on the other hand, has not figured out the link between bolstering Mom's ego and a continued supply of monster bars. Within an hour, he was digging through the freezer searching for un-frostbitten pizza rolls.

Undeterred by my lunchtime loss, I decided to try a new recipe for banana cake. “Baking,” unlike “cooking,” is a mystical art that is part chemistry, part sorcery. I make every attempt to follow the recipe carefully, if not obsessively, while baking.

I mashed the bananas and set them aside; I mixed the dry ingredients and set them aside; I creamed the butter until it was light and fluffy. I added the eggs.

Only when I noticed my light and fluffy butter becoming bumpy, clumps of butter surrounded by snotty egg whites, did I realized I had forgotten to cream the sugar and the butter before adding the eggs. During my brief stint as a half-baked home ec teacher I drilled that important step into the minds of my students. But it was too late to turn back. What was the worst that could happen? I knew the worst that could happen, and it did.

Instead of the “smooth, slightly thick batter with some lumps” the recipe said I would have, I had a runny batter with a lot of gloopy, curdy lumps.

I was frustrated, because I had waited all week to try out this recipe. But my frustration was half-hearted, because I am the only one in the house who actually likes banana bars/cakes/bread. And if I'm being honest, the only reason I like them is because I can use up the ripe bananas, relieving some of my guilt over letting them go to waste.

The good news is the banana cake turned out ok. It is banana cake, after all, not brain surgery. And the cake features a thick layer of cream cheese frosting.

Cream cheese frosting makes everything better.

Everything except tuna casserole. (But I wouldn't bet against it.)