Things and Such

This would appear to be my semi-annual check in at MotherMe. So much has happened this last year, some really BIG BIG stuff, but it’s so Big that I haven’t been able to really process it all in my own head, let alone put in writing. I’m going to work on that this summer, though. That (and a decent garden) are my goals over the next four months. Stay tuned for details (and for now just know that it’s great, and does not involve me being pregnant.)

In more recent, less-Big news, we just returned from our annual pilgrimage to Florida. It was a very lovely trip, shorter than usual (one week instead of our typical two) but wonderful nonetheless. We stayed in Summerfield this time, with a one-day jaunt to Orlando. The girls and I hung out at Wonderworks and hit up a Shake Shack (our first time) that day while DH attended a conference. The rest of the trip we stayed close to Nana’s house and her community pool. Weather was lovely, we met my brother’s sweet girlfriend, we played a lot of Tripoley (which is a super-fun game), and the girls binge-watched Pokemon episodes on Netflix. We flew YNG-PIE instead of driving, since it was a shorter trip, and even the flight was nothing-to-complain-about. S11 turned to S12 over the trip, and received a typewriter from Nana, much to her delight. She also received a phone* from her ultra-cool parents.

 

*Disclaimer: she actually received a photograph of a phone, with the promise that the actual phone would be waiting for her back in Ohio when we returned. This is because her parents are, while ultra-cool, also ultra-disorganized, and couldn’t get it together enough to have the phone activated or even packed in their luggage in time for this trip. However, as of this writing, she does have a real, live, activated, working cell phone, and is over the moon about her new connectivity.

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Add It To The List.

I noticed this on our condo’s refrigerator last night. Apparently, S7 has made a list of the things we are supposed to do today.

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So far we are on track. My BIL brought over Baby Joe (my nephew) this morning bright and early* and we have been playing with him all morning. He had a bit of a rough start due to some minor jet lag/travel overstimulation/tiredness/unknown baby issues, but BIL got him settled while the girls and I went for a dip in the pool. By the time we got back for lunch, JJ was up and at ’em, playing some peek a boo and rolling his ball with the girls.

Yesterday (which did not have a list, but was still important) we picked DH up in Tampa. While Tampa does not collectively refer to itself by its airport code (TPA), it does have a kickass airport. And unlike PIT(tsburgh), which makes people who are there to pick up arriving passengers orbit around the airport in their cars instead of offering them a place to park and wait, TPA absolutely rocks the hospitality with a huge cellphone lot- complete with restrooms, a large arrivals board visible from space, and FREE WIFI. You just don’t get much better than that, unless perhaps you have folks on rollerskates bringing milkshakes to you car window while you wait.

TPA is about an hour from our hotel in Orlando, so we decided to hang out there for the afternoon and see the Florida Aquarium. It was a great day for it, because it rained most of the afternoon and was fairly chilly for Florida. It was far more interesting to wander around the Aquarium than to hang out at our condo and be sad about the weather (which is still 1,000,000 times better than Ohio’s).

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The Florida Aquarium was pretty nice. We saw some really great exhibits on Florida coastal life, including some close-up views of alligators and river otters. The river otters put on quite a show by doing a never ending series of backflips right in front of the girls. Since their enclosure is clear acrylic, you can see them both above and below the water, which is infinitely fun. The girls really got a kick out of that.

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More importantly, we saw real, live Florida Gators. I particularly liked the fact that they were also behind very clear, very thick acrylic.

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We also saw lots of birds in the wetlands exhibit. But while interesting, we really didn’t come to the Aquarium to see birds. However, you would not know that from the number of photos of birds I happened to take while we were there.

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After all the birds, we walked through an exhibit on aquarium design.

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I liked that exhibit a lot, particularly the very modern Glass Themed Aquarium.

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Even the fish were glassy.

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My favorite were the vintage aquarium bubblers.

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Finally, we got to the cool stuff: sharks. There is a really big viewing tank in a dimly lit room that gives you lots of shark-gazing. They are amazing animals, those sharks. I could have watched them all day, if it hadn’t been for the small people at my side starting to whine about wanting to go on to the next exhibit.

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We saw jellyfish, sea dragons, and sting rays. They had a touch tank with star fish and sea anemonae that you could brush your fingers against. DH and I thought those were really cool.

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The girls were more interested in the giant ceramic hermit crab shells that you could climb into. Something for everyone at the Florida Aquarium.

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The rest of the Aquarium had various random fish in beautiful exhibits. It was very pleasant just to walk through and take it all in. It helped immensely that the exhibits are very kid-friendly.

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Well, mostly.

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Finally, it was time to head back to Orlando. We dodged a few lingering rain drops, found our van, and got on the road. The end.

*Bright and early is, of course, a relative term.

Switching Gears

I really need to get some of the clutter out of this house.  It weighs on me so heavily it might as well be a physical burden.

The clutter here is a combination of:

  • Projects half-finished and therefore not put away
  • Recent acquisitions/purchases that haven’t yet found a home
  • Stuff that someone else has given us in an attempt to clean out their home
  • PAPER
  • Dirty socks (seriously, they multiply under chairs and tables around here)

Most of the stuff taking up space in our home, though, are not current items being brought into the house daily through the mail/shopping/adventure du jour, or things being dragged out of their hidey-holes as we go about life here.  And we don’t have a lot of knick-knacky items collecting dust, so that’s not the problem.  Most of it, truthfully, is stuff I’ve held onto out of some sort of imagined obligation to family continuity.

For example, I literally have about 1000 books that belonged to my dad.  Well, maybe not 1000.  But it’s a lot.  Many of the books in our library were mine to begin with.  Like, I have about six Richard Peck novels (one of them autographed by the author- my first-ever autograph) which I’m pretty sure my dad never even read, let alone owned.  But probably more than half of our library stash are dad’s old (1960s and earlier) books from when he went to college, plus books he accumulated over his lifetime, and I’ve held on to them all these years because I felt like I ought to. Like there was some sort of eldest-daughter-as-family-historian requirement that I keep all this stuff. And they’re fascinating titles, like Finding Latitude And Longitude On Cloudy Days, Masterpieces in English Literature, A Handbook of Machining and Milling, Menlo Park Reminiscenses, Ovid’s Metamorphoses (I have my own copy, thankyouverymuch), etc, etc, etc.  Some of these are practically antiques.  The oldest volume I found was from 1861, with many in the 1930s-1960s range.   But interesting as they sound, I am never going to read them.

I don’t even like having them.

That bizarre epiphany occurred when I took a handful of titles off the shelf to clean, then decided to see if I could sell some to a used bookstore.  (Side note: if you want to sell books online, you pretty much have to have an ISBN number.  Many of my dad’s books were printed before they even had invented Times New Roman, so the ISBN number probably hadn’t even been dreamed of yet.)  Seeing that clean little space on the bookshelf was strangely liberating.  That was all it took.  I grabbed every book that had a searchable number and started furiously typing them in to the search box.  Powell’s offered me about $85 in store credit for 35 titles.  I took it and ran.  Meanwhile, another pile of outdated textbooks, anthologies, manuals, handbooks, historical accounts, novels, journals, and coffee-table books began filling the family room.  I pulled scads of stuff off the shelves, practically rejoicing in the knowledge that I had no intention of ever putting them back.

When DH and I were dating, a bizarre sequence of events happened that helped put me in this position.  I bought a house, just before my 30th birthday.  In fact, I closed in January and my birthday was in March.  The day before I turned 30, my grandfather died.  Nevermind that it sucked spending a significant birthday (or any birthday, for that matter) at a funeral home.  My mom and uncle had to clean out his apartment.  And since I had just bought a house, it seemed logical that all of his everyday things (lamps, chairs, dishes, etc) go to me.  And I was happy to take them, honest.  I firmly believe in the waste-not-want-not philosophy.  And I was poor, having just spent everything on the downpayment for my house.  It was nice to have drinking glasses and a light and not have to shell out money I no longer had in order to get them.

The year after grandpa died, I got married.  We got a good amount of stuff from a bridal shower that my mom and aunts generously threw for us.  We good another haul from a shower that my now-mother-in-law generously threw as well.  Then DH’s gramma died, so even more stuff arrived when they cleaned out her place.

Right after we got married- like 11 days later- my dad passed away.  It was expected, and my mom had already started to clear out her house in anticipation of downsizing.  Most of the stuff she didn’t have a use for came… you guessed it… here.  But I wasn’t complaining.  It seemed easy to just take everything and get rid of what I didn’t need later.

Then we moved.  I moved with DH to the house we live in now, and mom moved to a smaller house up the street.  More stuff came here when mom moved to her smaller house.

Then my mom moved to Florida full-time.  Aside from a couple of sentimental photos and her darn stick blender (the one thing I’d actually use), everything else ended up here.  Books.  Photos.  Family albums.  Dad’s records.  Tools.  Clothes.  Furniture.

So, in the course of 8 years, I have absorbed four households plus a ton of stuff my MIL has purged from her own ginormous collection of inherited family treasures.  She has a similar situation, except my FIL won’t let her get rid of anything.  Poor woman.

The problem is that I hate to throw things away.  Hate it. It’s not that I can’t let go of the object (although I have had a bit of a hard time getting rid of some of my dad’s more valuable possessions), it’s that I can’t stand the thought of burying it in a landfill when it is still perfectly usable.  I just haven’t found an efficient way to match up the unwanted but usable item with a willing taker.   So this is taking for-freaking-ever.  But at least I’ve started.

So bye-bye, dad’s old books.  I’ll check you out at the library if I have the urge to read Contemporary Literary Criticism any time soon.


Randomness and Pudding

It’s the Ides of March, but forget all that blather about being wary today: winter’s finally ebbing.  It’s hanging on, but steadily losing steam.  Now that our 2+ feet of snow has melted, there are perky springy buds all over the place, and zillions of daffodil shoots poking up everywhere    My neighbor claims she planted over 700 bulbs in her garden last fall.  That will be a brilliant display, and you can bet there will be me and every other person in the neighborhood with a camera standing in the street taking photos once they finally bloom.

I made rice pudding today.  Been craving it since last week, when a friend and I went to some cute dinky diner for supper.  Rice pudding was on the menu, but they were sold out.  Damn.  I hadn’t particularly wanted any til they said it was all gone, and now it’s all I can do not to eat the entire pot here at one sitting.

I’ve been knitting like a fiend, sometimes working on socks but mostly doing a shawl that I decided, last-minute, would be nice to have for an early April wedding.  I want to finish it while the motivation lasts.  That window of opportunity is dangerously small.  Fortunately, so is the amount of knitting left to go on it.

Our garden seeds arrived over the weekend, and S-almost-6 and I spent a lovely afternoon planting some of them in peat pots.  We sorted the seed packets into piles of “start inside weeks early” and “sow directly after all danger of frost has passed”.  There’s one small pile for peas, because those get sown outside but early.  They’re rebels, those peas.

Finally, my husband had a job interview in another state.  I have no freaking clue what is going to happen with that.  The interview went very well, they called back a few days later to ask him some followup questions about salary, and then… nothing.  Two weeks have now passed. He’s adopted the “just forget about it and act as if we’re going to die here” attitude.  I’m not that placid, unfortunately.  I just want to know, one way or the other, what the hell is going on.

Guess I’ll just have some more rice pudding while we wait.

Creamy Rice Pudding

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk, divided
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 3/4 – 1 cup raisins
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 T butter

Combine cooked rice, sugar, salt and 1 1/2 cups of the milk in a saucepan.  Heat on medium flame until thick and creamy, about 15-20 minutes.  Stir regularly to prevent milk from scorching.  Combine 1/2 cup milk, egg, and raisins and pour into rice mixture.  Cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and butter, and let cool slightly.  Pudding will thicken as it cools.  Serve while still warm.

and buds and green all over the place.

Advent Calendar Day 1

We started using our Advent Calendar today and the girls just loved it.  S5 read a little poem I wrote, and O3 placed the star on today’s pocket.  Here’s what she read:

It’s the first of December!
Time to count down
to the day when old Santa
rolls into town.
Each number you see
represents one more day
closer to Christmas
and the big holiday!
So place the gold star
on pocket Number One.
Look inside for a treat,
then the countdown’s begun!

There were two little chocolates in the pocket, which the girls devoured.  They are really excited about tomorrow already.  I may have created a monster here!  How will I come up with 23 more bits of verse?  Better get working…

 

I Wasn’t In The Market, But If You Insist…

When I was pregnant with O3, and only had S-then-1, I drove a really cool four-door Jeep Cherokee. It had a little suspension lift and modest off-road tires, a roof rack that conveniently carried our skis and kayaks, four-wheel drive (which I used often, baby) and a nifty trailer hitch. I drove that truck for about 7 years. I loved that truck. But when we found out baby #2 was on the way, we knew it was time to look for something a little more family-oriented, especially since only one carseat could fit on the back bench.

A few months before O was born, we sold the Jeep and bought a minivan. The quintessential now-you’re-really-a-parent purchase, I quickly learned why it’s the vehicle of choice for many American families. With large, sliding doors and a foldaway rear seat, I could easily maneuver squirmy bitty bodies into carseats and haul home the groceries without breaking a sweat.

Our minivan, which is now three years old to us (but 11 years old on paper), runs well, but there are a lot of little things wrong with it. Most of them are just annoying, like the rear brake adjustor that squeals for no apparent reason (even after it’s been taken apart three times and tweaked and oiled and who knows what else). Some of the flaws are cosmetic, like the lemonade I spilled in the back hatch and which seeped into a strange and hidden crevasse of carpet and then promptly turned to a staining mildew, until it was discovered months later (too late, of course). A few things are actually broken, like the busted passenger sliding door-handle, or the tape deck that is now a jukebox (literally: the kids put all the coins from the coin organizer into the tape slot). (And, yes, my van is old enough to have a tape slot.)

Still, I hadn’t considered looking for another van, not yet. I had pretty much planned to drive this van until it croaked, figuratively or literally. But then my mom called to say that she and her husband were thinking of doing the patriotic thing and buying a new car. DH and I rolled our eyes at each other when we heard this. Her van is a 2005; mine is a 1999. Why she thought I would be sympathetic to the idea was beyond me.

But then she asked us if we were interested in buying her old van. Here was something we hadn’t even considered. And while it seemed silly at first, the idea grew on us, and we carelessly poked around at prices and values and Consumer Reports reviews and the like. But in the end, we decided that the blue book value (our price, should we accept) was a fair deal, but not a good deal, and with DH having some of his work hours cut back it seemed frivolous. We thanked my mom for asking us, but declined.

This morning, at approximately 9:32 AM, my mom called to say that they had found a new van and were going to purchase it. They had planned to trade in her 2005 van, but she wanted to check again to see if we were interested in it before they did. The price to us this time around was significantly less than blue book value, since she was now going by what the dealer was offering them for their trade. I told her DH and I would discuss it and said I would call her back.

At approximately 10:15, we called her back to ask a few questions about maintenance issues, logistics of getting it up here from Florida, etc. We said we would discuss some more. I asked her when she needed to know for sure. “Oh,” she said casually, “DH will be back around noon and we’re headed over to the dealership then.”

Well, shoot.

Normally I would just refuse to make any sort of decision like this in such a ridiculously short amount of time. But this deal was thousands of dollars less than a comparable van would sell for. Not only that, but we knew the history of the van (seeing as it’s my mother’s and all). We’ve driven the van. We know more about it than any other used vehicle we might look at. And our current van is in pretty sad shape, even though it runs well. We waffled. We wavered. We discussed. We ate breakfast.

Finally, at noon, I called her back to say we were interested. If things worked out on her end, we would like to do it. She said she would let us know after she talked with her DH, the bank and the dealership.

I didn’t think very much about it this afternoon, to be honest. We went on some errands, did some chores, started dinner. Then at 5:30 my mom called to say we were the proud owners of a 2005 Chrysler Town & Country.

Hoo boy.

So I asked her how she wanted to handle getting the van up here. I figured they would drive it up in August, when they were already planning to visit anyway. “Oh,” she said casually, “I’m leaving Saturday morning to drive it up there.”

Well, shoot.

So my mom is coming in on Sunday at some point to bring me my new van, which is very exciting, albeit very sudden and spur-of-the-moment. The girls are very excited about buying Nana’s van, because, well, because it’s Nana’s, and anything that belongs to or belonged to Nana or has anything to do with Nana whatsoever is extremely exciting for them in any case.

I have already promised DH I would not spill any lemonade ANYWHERE, and the children have been banned from using markers or stickers in the new vehicle (seeing as there is evidence of both markers and stickers in quite a few places in the old van, this seemed prudent). I find it amusing and sweet that hubby is more concerned with me trashing the inside of the van than he is with me wrecking the outside of it. That says something very significant about our relationship, I’m sure.

Oh- and to my friend L, if you are reading this and wondering whether or not I cut-and-paste most of this blog post from my earlier email, the answer is yes, and while it has been edited for content and privacy the truth is I was just too damn lazy to retype the whole thing after writing it once already, so sorry about all that. But you get what you pay for, ya know?

To Heck With The Normal

My life has been so much insanity these past few days. It’s been so crazy, even the crazy people would say it’s nuts. So, in keeping with the theme, I shall relate the events of today backwards. I was never a fan of proper chronology, anyway.

Last off, my children are finally asleep. It’s 12:20 AM.

Before that, we had a long bout of screaming and crying (performed, at high decibel, by O2). She was ridiculously tired – probably overtired- and proceeded to morph, eerily Jekyll-and-Hyde-like, back and forth between the Sweetest Girl On The Planet and the Bride of Chucky.

No, really. Here is a sample of our conversation:

Me: speaking softly, gently, with my head on a fluffy pillow: Sweetie, you need to rest. Your body needs rest.

O2: sitting upright on the bed, snivelling and snorting between sobs: I n-n-n-no n-n-n-eed *snort* rest.

Me again with the soothing voice: Yes, you need rest. Your toes need to rest, your arms need to rest, your head needs to rest…

O2 relaxing slightly, leans her head against mine

Me: …your fingers need to rest, your eyeballs need to rest, your hands need to rest…

O2 relaxes a little more, lies down next to me

Me: …your legs need to rest. That’s it, bunny. Shhh… rest…

A tender mother-child moment occurs, but only for a brief instant. O2 stiffens, then bursts into fresh tears.

O2: Y-y-y-y-y-ou sobsobsob f-f-f-orgot sobsobsob th-th-th-e ELBOWS!!!

Before all this, I gave my heathen urchins a bath. They were quite muddy. More on that earlier.

Prior to the bath, I made homemade deodorant. I blatantly copied Angry Chicken’s recipe, without remorse. Well, I didn’t have any ylang ylang, however the hell you pronounce that. So I substituted tea tree oil. And I didn’t use orange; I used lavender oil, instead. So maybe it wasn’t a blatant copy. Maybe it was a half-assed copy. I tend to do that. But I’m wearing the deodorant now, and I like the way it smells. It reminds me of the Tone bar soap my grandmother used to have in her bathroom, only more New Agey.

Unfortunately, I should have done this before my previous activity, which found me busy lugging all manner of heavy items off the front lawn. These items mostly came from my mother’s house. Actually, it’s no longer my mother’s house. She moved out this morning. At this moment, she is somewhere in South Carolina, on her way back to Florida. Anyway, she gave me more things than I could possibly ever need or want. I’m grateful, but this means an awful lot of scratching our heads, trying to figure out where to put everything. And it also meant I was sweaty and smelly from moving heavy lawn furniture and kid toys all about.

So before I was hot, sweaty, and sticky from moving things off my front lawn, I was hot and sweaty from bringing in the groceries. Yes, I managed to do the shopping today, and I went by myself, which is actually very pleasant because it meant I could shop without interruption. When I shop alone, I can stop and read things, without other merchandise mysteriously finding its way into the shopping cart while I’m distracted. It means, if I want to dash into a store to look at something and then dash out again, I can do so, without it taking longer to buckle and unbuckle everyone from their carseats than the dash itself. It means I don’t have to constantly check that both children are visible, proximate, and not about to cause irreparable harm to themselves or some object that does not belong to us. I feel much less obtrusive when shopping alone. I prefer being incognito. One of the things I bought was half-pint jars to hold my homemade deodorant. I also bought pickles and Murphy’s Oil soap, among other things.

I went to the store via my in-law’s farm, which is where my nephew, J2-Today, had his birthday party. It was a nice affair, as these affairs go. We picnicked under a huge tent- a Big Top, if you will – and celebrated in style. The sun was out for most of the party, which was nice. Unfortunately, the sun was not out for the sixteen hours prior to the party, which meant that the ground was full of muck and mud and puddles and sloshy spots. And there were ten children present. Nine of them were mobile. Eight of them did not have casts on their arms. So we gave them squirt guns and filled a little pool up with water, so they could fill up their own guns and not need a grownup to constantly help with the filling up of squirtguns (which gets very tedious when you’re the grownup filling up all the squirtguns while trying to enjoy a party and trying to stay reasonably dry). We figured that they were going to get wet no matter what we did; the best we could do would be to minimize the mud quotient. Letting them hose themselves off with squirtguns seemed obvious. We were reasonably successful.

Before this, I left my mother’s house with the last of her unwanted worldly possessions hastily thrown into the bed of our pickup truck. We walked through her empty house and made sure the last soap dish, the last extension cord, the last coffee cup, the last trivial anything, was all picked up and put in a box and packed away. We got all the copies of her housekey together and put them on a ring in one of the kitchen drawers. The realtor even came and took away her Sold sign. And then that was that. It was kind of sad; I mean, this wasn’t a house I ever lived in, but we did make some very nice memories there, and it is hard admitting that my mom has totally and completely moved away. Even though she wasn’t here in Ohio very much, her house was still here. And it’s only a half- mile up the road, so I went by it nearly every day. Now it belongs to some other person. It’s no longer “Nana’s Ohio House”, as the girls call it. As S4 astutely noted today,

“Now Nana has ZERO Ohio Houses.”

Spot-on, kid.

And to start it all off, I got up at 8AM. On a Sunday. 8AM! That’s like the middle of the night for me. (Not really, but I’m trying to make it sound horrible.) Feel some pity, would you? Because this is just NOT how we do Sunday morning in our house. I missed out on the family breakfast-in-bed, where I bring a tray of toasts and fruit and other breakfasty-type foods into the bedroom (where we NEVER EVER EVER eat, except on super special Sunday mornings) and I read the paper while DH watches the news shows, and the kids read, and we all snack and lounge and laze about. And while you may be saying to yourself, “Huh! This sounds like ANY given day in MotherMe’s household,” you would be wrong, because we only take the paper on Sundays. The rest of the time, I watch the news shows, too.

So, that’s today. Most of it. The important stuff. I have pictures to post, but I’m too tired to post them, so maybe tomorrow you can see some plants getting down and dirty in the garden. There was some hot action in the pumpkin patch this weekend; and I suspect that there was a little light S&M happening on the cucumber trellis.

Later, I’ll catch you up on the search engine terms that the preceeding nifty paragraph managed to snag.