Craftsman Makes WHAT Possible?

 

Craftsman makes what possible?

The following is an actual conversation I had recently with my sister, who for the purposes of this blog I’ll call Kiki. For no particular reason than this will make her happy because she’s been trying to make a nickname for herself happen since 1982.

Kiki: So, because you’re my sister, I can tell you this. You’ll understand.

Me: Okay, what?

Kiki: So, you know how I’ve been having trouble with my feet? Like, these really big, painful callouses. Huge. I’ve tried all of this different stuff and nothing has worked. I was going to go get a pedicure but then a friend of mine said she got this really awful toe infection from a really good salon, so I decided not to do that.

Me: (wondering where this is leading):  Okaaaaayy….

Kiki: So the other morning, I had an idea.  (Husband) was still asleep, so I woke him up and asked him to get his electric sander out of the garage.

Me: Oh God. You didn’t.

Kiki: I did. He didn’t think it was a good idea, obviously. But you know how when I get an idea in my head I just won’t let it go? And I get really really mad if anyone tries to argue with me?

Me: Yes. Yes I do.

Note: Do not ever try to argue with my sister. It’s like trying to fight a large angry bear with a cotton swab; in the end you’ll lose and probably get eaten.

Kiki:   So he kept trying to say things like “Maybe you shouldn’t do that…” and “I’m not so sure this is a good idea!” But I just kept raising my voice over him until finally I was yelling  “WOULD YOU JUST GET THE SANDER OUT OF THE GARAGE FOR GOD’S SAKE!” You know how I get.

Me: Uh, yeah. So then what happened?

Note: see above

Kiki: So he finally brought it to me. And I sanded my feet. But the funniest part was that he was trying to film me with his iPhone while I was doing it, and I was screaming at him and trying to swat him away because I didn’t want him filming me, and the kids were upstairs and all they can hear is this really loud power tool start up and me yelling, “OH MY GOD STOP THAT! GET AWAY FROM ME!”  So they came running downstairs because they were convinced he was trying to kill me with an electric drill or something.

Note: My brother in law would never attempt to kill anyone with a power tool of any sort. In addition to the fact that he’s very nice and mild-mannered, he’s way too fastidious about his tools and I’m sure getting blood out of a drill bit would be a nightmare, amiright?

Me: Why am I not surprised you used an electric sander on your feet?  Wait… did it work?

Kiki: Worked like a charm. You wouldn’t believe how smooth my feet are now!

Me: Hmmmm… Interesting. So, um, what exactly was the grit of the sandpaper you used?

And this is why God made us sisters. Because she can call me to tell me that she just used an ill-advised power tool on her feet and then we can have an entire conversation about the proper grit of the sandpaper one should use for optimum foot-softness.

In non-hardware related news, I am honored to be this week’s victim/interviewee for  Getting Possessed with Kathy and the Dishwasher over at My Dishwasher is Possessed.  Click here to read the interview, and stay to peruse Kathy’s’s gaw-geous new site.

Happy Friday everyone!

 

Anti-Valentines: My Latest Million Dollar Idea

While I am taking an unwilling  break from blogging, please enjoy this festive Valentine’s post that originally ran last year.  

 

Sadly, after the kids left preschool, these adorable anthropomorphic plums were never able to find work again.

Sadly, after the kids left preschool, these adorable anthropomorphic plums were never able to find work again.

 

Apparently, sixth grade is the cut-off for school Valentines. Lucy told me, in no uncertain terms, “Bleccchh. No way am I bringing Valentine cards to school.” No ambiguity there. She wanted to bring candy, though. Apparently that is still within the realm of social acceptability for kids her age. So we trotted out yesterday in search of lollipops. She selected a box from the conveniently located Valentines display at the front of the store, we paid, and headed for home. We were halfway home when she ripped  open the box and was horrified to find out that the lollipops all had messages on them.

And not just any messages. These were emblazoned with gems such as “I Love You” Kiss me” Be mine” You’re Hot” You’re Cute” “Date me” “Totally Yours”, among others.

“Gaaahhh! What am I gonna do? I can’t hand these out, I’ll never live it down!”  she yelled, fully aware of the social devastation that would most certainly occur. Serious business, apparently, to send the wrong message.

I, of course, was laughing too hard to be of any help.

Industrious girl that she is, when we got home she grabbed a Sharpie and blacked out all unacceptable messages. Y’all, she was as efficient as CBS blacking out Katy Perry’s cleavage at the Grammys. Problem solved.

Note to the Valentines Candy People: You are leaving money on the table! Because unless you’re making expensive, exquisite artisan chocolates, most of your market is elementary school children. And children of this age? Mostly think the opposite sex is “meh”, if not downright yucky.

In that light, might I suggest a different marketing strategy, geared specifically for the 2nd through 6th grade buyer?We’ll call them Anti-Valentines.

Here are my ideas for alternative messages:

“You’re not totally gross.”

“You’re okay, I guess.”

“I’ll sit next to you because I have to. Just don’t talk.”

“Best Friends Forever. Or at least until next week.”

“I like you, but I don’t “like you” like you.”

“You could be worse.”

“You have Cheetos stuck in your braces.”

“Kiss me and I’ll slug you and then tell the teacher.”

“I guess you’d be cute if you weren’t so short.”

“Dad says I’m not allowed to date until I’m 30.” “

“You have nice handwriting.”

“Sometimes you can be kinda funny I guess.”

“You are okay at square dancing. Just try not to touch me.”

 

These will fly off the shelves, I guarantee it. You’re welcome, Candy Manufacturers. You get working on this right away, and I’ll see you next year.

 

Guest Post: Eli at Coach Daddy

Today I’m proud to announce that Notes from the Shallow End is hosting its first guest post! And the honor goes to Eli at Coach Daddy, one of the blogs I’ve been following since I started down this crazy path. Eli is a soccer dad, a coach,father of three daughters, and a fantastic writer; also it turns out he is as food obsessed as I am, which makes him the perfect guest poster!  Trust me, you’ll be inspired to hit the fridge after you read this.  Take it away, Eli.

 

Cooking is a highlight of my existence – right up there with coaching soccer and tickling my girls.

By Miia Ranta from Finland (Curing salmon  Uploaded by Fæ) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Miia Ranta

Seriously, I probably spend considerably more hours per week thinking about food than actually preparing it.

I realize this makes me sound a bit obsessed and perhaps unhealthily attached. Someone will probably retweet this column with the hashtag #dadswitheatingdisorders. They’d be completely justified, as I recognize I’m a bit dreamy when it comes to preparing food.

I actively seek nourishment in any way that especially involves me, a kitchen, kids, tortillas and cheese. I’ve made pancakes for no special occasion; planned my study time around pizza specials on campus, and would undoubtedly attend parties hosted by friends I might not like very much due to their propensity to serve delicious fare.

I used to love walking down Tryon Street on my dinner break when I worked uptown, for exercise, sure, but mostly to smell all the incredible aromas from the restaurants along the way.

Just nose shopping, I suppose, and trying not to look too hungry.

My kids have heard the phrase, “What do you want for breakfast?” to start almost every day of their lives, because breakfast is the most important meal. I’ve taught them that a well-balanced meal consists of at least two waffles, an egg, milk, juice if we can afford it that week, and should always lead right into thoughts about what we should have for lunch.

We’ve spun through the mall’s food court in hopes we’ll get to sample everyone’s chicken specialties.

“I’d love some!” I say as I consider wearing fake glasses or taking off my jacket or using a fake accent to give the appearance of being someone else for another run through the free food.

Food, while greatly appreciated when prepared by others, is a huge source of joy for me if I prepare it myself. I’m so food oriented; I know what I wore when I had a great steak four years ago, can’t wait to hear about the seafood specials, and although, I don’t know much about the term “fair market value,” I’m all about restaurant.com gift certificates.

I’ve been told that I’m an ideal dinner companion, as I have no particular restaurant preference, and I can get sauced on half a glass of wine. I am also likely to help you finish your entrée, and I’ll never forget to bring the leftovers out to the car.

Seriously, put some food in front of me so I can savor it, talk about it, and think about my next meal.

My girls, ages 8, 13 and 15, are similar to me in this way. In their world, food is a carnival, and they can go long periods of time just thinking about what to stuff in their crepes or who will get the first tortilla off the skillet.

And because breakfast is the most important meal of the day for pediatricians, clergy and President Obama, I can
celebrate our enthusiasm when it comes to nourishment. I’ve trained myself to embrace my affinity for it, and set aside each Saturday morning during the soccer offseason to prepare a breakfast chock full of yumminess, visual appeal, enticing aromas, and double whatever our favorite ingredient might be.

By [cipher] (http://www.flickr.com/photos/h4ck/2301135433/) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Cipher

I realize that my dedication, as is true for all parents who like serving as the occasional family chef, will be appreciated. The sugar cookies I made from scratch? Dipped in hot cocoa, and scarfed in unreasonable numbers. The omelets I prepared with “too much” cheese (as requested by Elise) and whipped up fluffy and delicious? Devoured with reckless abandon when they realized the inside tasted a bit like the county fair, Christmas and a birthday all rolled into one.

But rather than leaping from the couch to hug me and kiss my face after providing this culinary circus, or even just bring their dirty plates to the sink, they’ll simply prop their feet, conjure up H2O or the Andy Griffith Show on Netflix, and leave me to enjoy my own omelet in peace.

There’s a considerable portion of me that wishes to simply shrug internally and think, “Meh, they’ll cook for themselves when I’m not around. They’re not some entitled divas in a mansion in South Charlotte; there’s no way they’ll actually be helpless when it comes to making their own breakfast.”

I know this is true. The Wii fit all but admits this. That little animated circuit board sizes my girls up standing barefoot on it, in their form-fitting Aeropostale gear and soccer shirts, their strong leg muscles and taut bellies lean enough to give them enough power to overcome both parents if they wanted to; but it once murmured to me about one, “Maybe you could feed her a carrot once in a while. I mean, will she eat a carrot?”

I’m like, “Sure. I mean, I would imagine so. I think we have some in the refrigerator.”

By Whitney from Chicago, IL (Ranch Dressing  Uploaded by Diádoco) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Whitney from Chicago

(Grace, the child who can go long bouts eating like starving artist, wriggles with joy at hearing carrots, because
it means copious amounts of ranch dressing, too).

Marie’s interest in food and ability to demolish a plate of nachos like a category 4 hurricane compels me to kick it up a notch. I mean, I have wheat flour; I’ve heard it’s healthy. I also realize that if I really succumbed to my inner foodie, I’d splurge the meager grocery budget on things such as cream of tartar, heavy cream, and fennel seeds.

With all those resources, it would seem the odds would be in my favor to produce something legendary.

But, with the newfound realization I’ve earned like a jester – not a king, I resolved to visit allrecipes.com, type in the not-so-exotic ingredients we actually have in the kitchen, and simply cook/bake/prepare. This is what evolved:

Two Saturdays Ago: I discovered a new recipe for crepes – thinner, yummier.

Verdict: They flew off the grill like hotcakes. Well, better than hotcakes. Elise would have loved to roll six or seven of them up in a row; she didn’t say the words, but I could see it in her love-drenched eyes. (I hope crepes are the only thing she gets dreamy about rolling up. Every time I think of her going to Appalachian State or UNC Wilmington.… ).

Last Saturday: I made pancakes from a recipe that called for mixing milk and vinegar, allowing the mixture to “sour,” but promising a glorious result of the fluffiest, tastiest proportions.

Verdict: An instant classic. Marie sheepishly finished a conservative serving of three silver-dollar sized pancakes, and then returned to the kitchen several times before lunch to steal more pancakes. “They’re like cookies,” she said, and I swear her eyes googled a bit like Cookie Monster’s.

Sunday: I baked cookies for a church outreach mission to a women’s prison – Grace and I found a recipe for molasses cookies, and after I convinced her we wouldn’t have to kill any moles in the process, we dug in. (Don’t ask what part of the animal she thought we’d be using.)

Verdict: Grace sampled many cookies as they sat on the cooling rack, declared them fit, and we agreed they’d be an enormous hit in prison. (Of course, the girls’ concept of “prison” is restricted to describing school lunch and Elise’s recent social studies unit on Alcatraz).

Tonight? I have this hankering to make tortillas, and pots of beans and beef and bowls of cheese and lettuce and jars of salsa and sour cream, and just let the kidlets express themselves on their tortillas.

Predicted verdict: “This is what heaven must be like, Daddy.”

It really must.

I can’t wait. (For dinner; heaven can wait.)

 

When he isn’t cooking or coaching, Eli writes about fatherhood, food, and futbol on Coach Daddy. Follow him on Twitter.

Mostly Dead All Day: A Tale of the World’s Worst Phone

Notes from the Shallow End

It was a quiet day. Nothing out of the ordinary was happening. I was doing some writing; the dog was licking his own nether regions. You know, the usual.

First, let me say I am always near a phone. I have three kids, and one of my fears is that something will happen to one of them at school, and the school won’t be able to reach me. I’m usually at home during the day, and if I’m out, I have my cell phone with me. Otherwise it’s turned off to save the battery.

But then, somehow my plan went to pieces. My kid got hurt and the school couldn’t reach me.

We have been having problems with the downstairs cordless phone, in that it won’t hold a charge for more than about a minute.  Conversations on it often go like this:

Person: Hello?

Me: Hi, it’s Lisa. I was just calling about the… hello? Hello? Aaaaaggh! Stupid phone!

So most of the time, the phone is nearly dead.  We’re talking gather the relatives, because it’s on life support. And sometimes it’s completely dead.  That means a mad dash up the stairs to grab the second floor handset phone every time it rings. Because it only rings four times before it goes to voice mail. (All of these years and I’ve never been able to figure out to change that. Time Warner, I’m looking at you!)) So I was typing away downstairs, enjoying a delicious second cup of coffee, when the phone rang. By the time I got upstairs, I had missed the call.

“Oh well,” I thought. “If it’s important they’ll leave a voice mail.” And I returned to my hot coffee downstairs. Priorities, right?

But when the phone rang again five minutes later, something told me I should move faster to answer it. I sprinted up the stairs two at a time and grabbed it on the last ring. And Thank God I did. It was my husband, calling to tell me that the school had just called him. It seems my son had fallen, cut his head open on a metal coat hook, and was bleeding profusely. They thought he needed stitches.  My husband, I should mention, was out of town on business.

So my husband, who was in Orlando, had to call me in Ohio to tell me to go to school and pick up my son. And I should mention that the only reason the school was able to reach him is that his morning meeting had been pushed back, otherwise his phone would have been turned off.

The good news is that my son is fine. He got to have a Popsicle in the school office, and when I brought him home and washed the blood off (head wounds… gaaahhhh!) it didn’t look as bad as we thought. He got to spend the rest of the day wearing his jammies and robe, snuggled with me on the couch.

So, phone? You’ve been unreliable for way too long. I hate to tell you this, but you’re fired. Pack up your things and security will escort you out. I’ll be shopping for your  replacement this weekend, because the school couldn’t reach me in an emergency and that is a feeling I never, ever want to have again.

 

Why Root Beer Floats and Costco Don’t Mix: A Cautionary Tale

 

Why Root Beer Floats and Costco Don't Mix: A Cautionary Tale

 

This is a tale of two trips to Costco in one day. They were, as you’ll see, radically different.

A good friend called me early one day last week asking if I could take her to Costco on my membership. They were thinking about getting a membership, but hadn’t decided yet. She needed some bulk items for a school function, so I happily obliged. Helping a friend out, plus a morning out sans kiddos? Win/win.

I never get to shop with girlfriends any more, especially during the day, so getting to peruse the aisles unencumbered by children was a special treat. Yes, it was Costco, but  as far as I was concerned it might as well have been Bergdorf’s.  We strolled the aisles at leisure, tried some of  the food samples hawked by friendly and enthusiastic vendors (Oooh! Dark chocolate covered acai berries? Don’t mind if I do!) , pawed through cotton cardigans, tennis skirts, and yoga pants, and did some impulse buying in addition to what was “on the list”. We encouraged each other.  “You should buy that. You deserve it!”

All in all, it was a fun, relaxing morning, and I was glad to be able to help out a friend and have some girl time, even if it was just to Costco. Hey, you take what you can get, right? (Okay, fine. I have no life. Help me.)

When I skipped in the door, as delighted as if I had been at the spa, for goodness sake, I told VP where I had been. He immediately said, “So, did you get the snacks for the game tomorrow?”

Oops.

Seems we were on the schedule to be snack parents for the next morning’s soccer game, and I had forgotten.

I quickly perused the pantry. Surmising that handfuls of rotini pasta and Dixie cups of tap water wouldn’t be kid-pleasers, I came to the sinking realization I’d have to go back. Yup. Costco twice in one day.

And since I had promised my kids that I’d take them for root beer floats after school, and the root beer stand is close to Costco, guess what? You got it. All of the kids were coming with me.

Hahaha! After they’d all had buckets of soda and ice cream! Hahahahaha! Ha.  Blerrgghh.

The trip started off like this:

“Yaaaay! Costco! We get to go to Costco!” Bounce bounce bounce. (As an experienced parent, I should have seen through their enthusiasm, and been able to spot the pure sugar rush. Because, hindsight.)

And then it turned into this:

“Let’s push each other in the carts!”

“Let’s race each other in the carts!”

“Can I ride under the cart?”

“Look Mom!” (Holds up industrial size box of Chee-Zee Bacon -n-Biskit Taco Nuggets) “Can we please buy this? Please please please?”

“Oooh! What’s that?” They raced from one food sample to the next, stuffing microwaved, bite-sized preservative bombs into their pie-holes.

It’s no wonder they didn’t want to eat dinner later. The amount of processed crap they ingested could feed a developing nation for months.

All in all, it was akin to shopping with monkeys. But we weren’t finished yet. Oh no.

We finally paid, and headed for the exit where the guy pretends to check each item in the cart against the receipt.  Three “mmmm-hmm”s and a smiley face drawn out of highlighter later, we headed for the parking lot, with me shouting my usual warning to my son about not running into the parking lot by himself.

I didn’t need to bother though, because his attention had been diverted by the pole he decided to climb on the way out. At the top of which he got the toe of his shoe wedged in a crack in the wall. So he slid back down the pole, but with one leg on the ledge below him and the other leg pointing upwards, rendering him stuck in a very impressive splits position. I quickly made a note to call Cirque De Soleil and ask if they’re taking on junior members.

Alas, this impressive feat also put him in the death defying (or just icky) position of being precariously suspended over a garbage can. (Wait! Forget Cirque De Soleil, call David Blaine!) So before his shoe came unstuck and he fell bottom first into other people’s refuse, I plucked him from the pole and carried him to safety. (Insert  ”keeping my kid off the pole” jokes here).

I quickly loaded everyone in the car and drove home, relieved that no one had knocked down a display of Authentik Hawaiian Style Chikin  Niblets, or cracked their head open, or fallen into a garbage can.

Something tells me they don’t have this problem at Bergdorf’s.

 

 

All the Pioneers Really Needed Was a Good Cabernet

View of the lake

 

There was a book written a few years back called The Last Child in the Woods. I haven’t read it yet, but I love the title. It speaks to me. And anyway, I’m happy to say the last children  in the woods just may be mine. Okay, that came out wrong. Anyone else picturing my kids as Hansel and Gretel? Just me? Okay.  As I’ve mentioned, our kids are outdoorsy types already. They play outside way more than inside. And every summer, for two weeks, we’re “unplugged”, so to speak.

Our vacation destination each summer is a cabin deep in the north woods of Michigan. Kind of like camping, except with electricity and indoor plumbing. If you know me, you know I don’t “rough it”, so this is as close to camping as I get. Which is to say not at all.  Anyhow, the place has no TV reception,  and no internet connection.  I’ll let that sink in for a minute. No. Internet. Connection.  It’s never bothered me much before. There’s something calming and transformative about disconnecting from everything going on in the world.

I know, I know, two weeks doesn’t sound like much. But for us, it’s a step in the right direction. It lets our kids know that they can live without the electronics, that the world isn’t going to come to an end if they haven’t seen the latest Instagram of someone making a duckface or Youtube video of a kitten sneezing.

Ever gone on a vacation to a place where you’re disconnected to the outside world? It’s strange to re-emerge after a couple of weeks  and hear about things that happened two weeks ago that are already old news to everyone else, but are new to you. “You didn’t hear about that? Have you been living under a rock?” Well, as a matter of fact I have, in a way. Not under a rock, but in a log cabin in the woods, Thoreau-style except with killer iced coffee and some fabulous wine and cheese that we picked up from Zingermans on the way. Please. I’m not a heathen.

And I usually don’t have a problem being away from the internet. But wait… I’m doing this blogging thing now. Don’t I need to be connected? What if I miss something? And there’s a royal baby on the way! A babieeeee! I’m gonna miss the 24/7 news coverage of the birthin’ ! And Lindsay Lohan is probably gonna be  released from rehab early, upon which she is going to… drumroll please…  attend her own birthday party.  Oh, the shenanigans  that will ensue!  If anyone needs to pre-emptively get the lawyers on retainer, it’s her.  Amanda Bynes has been sort of quiet as of late, so she’s primed for another round of Bonkers Pong  any minute!  And I’ll probably  miss all of it. Well, at least I got to have access to the interwebs for the birth of the Spawn of Kim and Douchebucket Kanye. So that was fun.  Okay not really.

Speaking of which, I kind of sort of think the name “North” is cool. And by that I mean it could be worse. But with “West” as a last name? Goes from cool to cruel before you can say “Imma let you finish”.  What the hell were they thinking? Oh, right, I forgot who we’re talking about. Idiots. 

Anyway, the cabin. My great-grandfather built it in the 1920s.  I’ve been going there all my life. My mom has been going there her whole life. My grandfather grew up going there. You get the picture.

It is my rest. It is my sanctuary. It is my place to unplug and disconnect from the world, including celebrity train-wrecks.  And since I fully expect my kids to unplug as well, I’m going to have to set a good example. Probably.  Which means no sneaking peeks at celebrity gossip websites on our rare trips into town. Goodbye Gawker. Ta-ta TMZ. What? This People magazine peeking out from under the cushion? Oh, I bought that back in Ohio before we even crossed the border, so it totally doesn’t count. Shut up.

The rule is the kids aren’t allowed to bring any of their electronic devices. That means no DS, no iPod touch. The adults will have non-functioning  cell phones (no reception in that part of the woods.) The adults will also have laptops, but until we make the twenty minute drive to town (the closest internet connection) the laptops will mostly  function as expensive paperweights.

So yes, my kids will be completely disconnected from computers, TV, and electronics for two weeks. But they’ve been going to the cabin every summer  since they were born. They’re used to it. And they’re not complaining.

They’ll play in the woods, swim in the lake, kayak, fish, catch frogs, and look for wildlife. At night we’ll toast marshmallows, read, and play board games or cards.  Secure on the screened sleeping porch, we’ll fall asleep to the sounds of the forest. (“Did you hear that noise last night? What was that?” Is an oft repeated line in the a.m.). In the morning, we’ll wake up to the chill in the air, the call of the loons on the lake, to the smell of bacon cooking and coffee brewing.  After  the fog on the lake lifts, we’ll spend the rest of the day on the water or lounging lakeside. And our biggest decision will be what kind of sandwich to make for lunch.

I won’t even bring my Nook. I considered it, after all, the point of its purchase was so I wouldn’t have to lug so many books on vacation that they needed their own suitcase. But… there are games on the Nook. Game that my kids are going to want to play if it is available. And my kids all have advanced degrees in pestering.  So, guess what? The Nook will stay at home. I’ll be lugging a stack of good old-fashioned books with me like always. No charger needed.

Full disclosure, though: As I mentioned, I will have my laptop with me, since that’s where I write.  Posting will present a challenge, obviously.  I may have to coordinate posting with going into town for supplies, kind of like the pioneers did.  Er, like they would have done if they had blogs. What? I can compare myself to pioneers or to Laura Engalls Wilder or Thoreau if I want. Just because my clothes aren’t all scratchy doesn’t mean I don’t suffer hardship, too. Once when I was up there I ran out of French Vanilla coffee creamer. That was a rough day, my friends.

Quick favor, though. Can someone just, I don’t know,  send up smoke signals or something  if Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes has a surprise  kid and names it something like  “Scrambled Eggs Haiku”? Because I’m pretty sure even Thoreau would have come out of the woods for that. Happy summer!

 

 

 

I’m a Lot Less Stabby: 11 Reasons Why My Husband Traveling Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

I'm a Lot Less Stabby: 11 Reasons Why My Husband Traveling isn't Always a Bad Thing

If you have read this blog before, you know I have a husband that travels a lot for work, and that it’s no picnic. Well, it could be a picnic, I suppose, but the mosquito-ey kind where Cousin Rita brings her suspect potato salad again and Paul’s future third ex-wife Denise runs around asking everyone to guess “real or fake” before getting drunk on Goebel and trying to dirty dance with a Parks Service employee.

In other words, it makes life briefly interesting but then you kind of want it to be over so you can get back to normal.

We’ve been married for almost fourteen years, and he has always traveled. Sometimes once a month, sometimes a few times a month. It sucks, but you kind of get used to it. Over the years, I’ve learned to look for the silver lining. There is one, if you squint, and kind of tilt your head that way. No, the other way. There. See it?  Some perks of temporarily going it alone include:

I get the whole bed to myself.  I like my space, and it’s kind of nice once in a while to sleep without getting whacked by an errant elbow or knee. And, bonus, I get the middle.

I have full control over the air conditioning. VP didn’t grow up with air conditioning. I did. He doesn’t find it necessary. I do. The temperature of the house will be an ongoing disagreement until the day I can outrace him on my Rascal.

I order a lot more takeout without getting the stink-eye. I enjoy cooking, but somehow cooking for a family of five has taken a wee bit of that joy away. Wheedling complaints along the lines of, “Is there pepper in this? I thought I saw a flake of pepper! I hate pepperrrrr!”  tend to make me stabby. (Please note, this is the children I am quoting. Not my husband. Who incidentally loves pepper.) So when he’s away, and I’m super busy with the kids, ta-da! Look kids, we’re having Indian food!  Everybody wins.

I can have the TV in the bedroom on without VP complaining that it’s keeping him awake. Sleep is very, very important to him. He counts it to the minute. So out of courtesy to Princess Beauty Sleep my husband, I usually don’t have the TV on. When he’s away, however, I catch up on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, or any other late night shows that I usually don’t get to see.

I can do the laundry. I know, I know, that whole sentence looks like a mistake. But when VP is home, he’s like some kind of laundry ninja. He sneaks upstairs when he knows I’m distracted and grabs the laundry, and before I can stop him he’s already thrown a load in.  “But Lisa”, you say, “Why is that a bad thing? For I would consider it a privilege, lo, a delight, to have a husband that does laundry unbidden!”   My answer is this:  Due to countless past laundry disasters wherein everything was turned pink, the man should never be allowed near a laundering machine of any kind, not even a couple of rocks and a stream.

I know where everything is. Oh yes, he’s quite helpful when it comes to putting stuff away. Just not where anyone can actually find it. (Darling, I love you however the cleats that the Boy needs for his game tomorrow do not go on the basement workbench.)

I can skip showering for a day. I try not to do this when he’s around. Illusion or no, VP seems to be under the impression that I’m some delicately scented flower blossom.  He actually said once, in an amazed sort of way (I assume attempting to be complimentary), “You know something? You never stink.” I didn’t really know what to say to that except, “Uh, thanks, I… guess?” I don’t know what kind of girlfriends he had before me, but by his statement I can only assume that they set a low bar for personal hygiene.  So now, dammit, I have to maintain the aura of non-stinkiness because obviously I am better than all of those other skanks women.

It gives us a chance to miss each other. You know that whole absence makes the heart grow fonder thing? Totally true. The rough edges of those day to day annoyances are smoothed out and blurred, and the petty little squabble that seemed so important a couple of days ago is forgotten.

It means we have new things to talk about. I work from home. VP works from home sometimes too.We know all of the details of what went on during the day, from what we ate for lunch to whether the dishwasher is still making that weird noise. So at the end of the day sometimes we have nothing to tell each other.  When he travels, we catch up with each other on the day’s happenings right before we both turn in for the night. And there are always stories to tell each other when he gets home. And he loves my stories. (Don’t you, Honey. That’s right, nod and smile.)

I can go to Target without getting the third degree.  He wants to know why I am going, what I am going to buy, how much I am planning on spending. Silly, silly man. No woman on the planet sticks to a budget when she goes into Target. That popcorn smell is actually infused with brain-addling chemicals that make you want to spend all of the monies.

Sometimes, I need a reminder that I was once a strong, independent woman.  Before I was married, if something in the house needed to be fixed, I fixed it. If the credit card company made a billing error, I fixed it.  If the car died or got a flat, I… well, I called Triple A. But you get the idea.  Now, I feel like I rely too much on my husband to do things that I can clearly take care of myself. So when he’s away, I’m reminded how capable I really am.  And that is a good thing.

Do you have a husband that travels on a regular basis? I’d love to hear about your silver linings. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to crank the AC down to the “Meat Locker” setting.  Happy weekend, everyone!

 

Psst… I Think the Ants are Plotting Against Me!

"Pop me another cold one, Gladys, while I hitch these here trunks up a couple more notches."

“Pop me another cold one, Gladys, while I hitch these here trunks up a couple more notches.”

 

Happy Wednesday readers!

Today, in the latest edition of Headlines that Aren’t News, “World’s Oldest Person Dies”. Really? Is anyone surprised? The man was 116. Not to sound unsympathetic, but  I’m pretty sure he wasn’t buying the Costco sized supply of toilet paper, amIright? (Oh, and that picture up there is not him,  so you know.) Also, in other non-news, “Kim Kardashian/Kate Middleton/Jennifer Love Hewitt Flaunts Baby Bump”.  Also known as getting dressed and leaving  the house.  Yawn.

Here at Notes from the Shallow End,  finally, finally, pool season has started for me.  I’m comfortably ensconced in my usual watchful spot. Yes:  at the shallow end of the pool. Read a double meaning into that if you like, fine, but I’m taking the rest of the summer to do as little as possible. I have my sunglasses, my flip flops, and a cool drink. What more does a girl need?

Anyhoo, for us, summer means a few things:

Every day someone can’t find their bathing suit. Despite having multiples, they only want the very one that they can’t locate.

Band-aids and Neosporin are the new black.

There is a persistent wet musty smell  in the house, probably originating from  the laundry room. That is because between pool, sprinkler, hose, water balloons, and super soakers, someone or something is  always wet. These children will not fully dry out until mid-September.

“The Ants Go Marching In” becomes no longer a cutsie song, but a threatening dirge fueling my will to do battle with the  insects that insist on invading my kitchen every summer.   Do not be alarmed if you see me whacking randomly with a flip-flop screaming, “Die! Die! Diiiiie!”

We are counting down the days until vacation. And by that I mean, counting down the days until we transfer to another location temporarily so I can just do the same job but with prettier scenery.

This year, we have once again resolved to be very diligent in our efforts to have the children do their summer workbooks. And once again, those efforts  will last about a week. (Oh, hi fourth grade teacher. Would you mind going over how to tell time with my kid just once more? Thanks.)

This is the summer we finally get organized!  Based on past efforts, I also give this a week. Also based on past efforts, I will be emptying this past year’s stuff out of backpacks the night before school starts in August.

That sticky stuff on the floor is definitely melted popsicle.

Saving water at home by having the kids shower at the pool. That’s right, I hand ‘em body wash and shampoo and tell them to go scrub down.  So efficient! (New slogan: Better Living Through Laziness!)

I will be getting creative in all the ways I can serve cold food to my children, so I don’t have to turn on the stove or oven. Trying to make “Cereal Picnic on the Deck Night”  a thing.

How’s your summer going? Hope it’s a good one!

 

My Love Hate Relationship with May

"Scoot, children. Mama's on vacation. And this may or may not be iced tea in my cup."

“Scoot, children. Mama’s on vacation. And this may or may not be iced tea in my cup.”

 

Morning, readers! What’s going on, you ask? Not much, unless you count watching my dog nap while, not five feet away from him, a squirrel stuffs his pie-hole with birdseed. (Given that he’s a hunting dog, I suspect he may be broken. Pardon me while I shuffle through this pile of paperwork to see whether he’s still under warranty.)

My apologies for the total radio silence from the blog this past week. Something had to give, and unfortunately writing took a backseat to the ten thousand other things going on right now. Even when I did sit down to write, not much happened beyond my mind wandering to the logistics of the coming afternoon and evening , and contemplating how to clone myself into three different people to get three different children to three different places at the exact same time. Four if you count one to make everyone dinner. (Oh, hello frozen pizza and takeout. You are my new BFFs.)

Welcome to the chaos that is May.

May used to be my favorite month of the year. Who doesn’t love bright blue sky, cool mornings and  warm afternoon days, when everything is lush and green, and flowers are popping up everywhere? Sleep with the windows open! Hit the nursery for some annuals! Get the tomato plants in the ground! The gateway to my absolute most favorite season, summer, May was a delight to the senses. Pure perfection.

But then my kids started school. And suddenly May became the busiest time of the year, putting even December to shame. Yardwork goes undone, flowers go un-smelled. Between field trips, talent shows, Olympic Day, sports events, sports practices, rehearsals, and class picnics,  some days brushing my hair counts as miraculous.  And did I mention every single activity requires its own end of year potluck or picnic?  Yes, that too. Take the above and multiply it all by three.  Ugh.

“Come and play!” May whispers. “Remember when we used to have such fun together? It can be like that again!”

“No can do, May! Gotta drop one kid at practice, go pick another one up, come home and start dinner, then get another kid across town for rehearsal!” I shout as I run out of the house and leap feet-first into the window of my mini-van like Bo Duke, my mind already racing ahead  to calculate the best route to avoid rush hour traffic. I fire up the engine while slinging juice boxes and peanut butter crackers, and roar off up the street while May waves sadly from the porch.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t be one of those moms… the kind who overschedules her kids and then constantly complains how busy she is. So please forgive me for this one ranty post. My kids don’t have an overabundance of scheduled activities. They only do one sport per season. We shy away from any activity that would be too much of a time commitment.  But, by virtue of the fact that they exist, and attend school, the commitments stack up this time of year.

I don’t do it alone, thank goodness. Most days VP can get home in time to help with child-delivery or pick-up service, or be on hand to get dinner out of the oven.  I realize I’m blessed from that standpoint, because the days he can’t get home in time, or is out of town, are logistical nightmares.  The days that leave me praying for a torrential rain that will cancel at least one evening activity.

People ask me all the time if my kids do day camps in the summer. The answer is no. We take the summer completely off of scheduled activities, except for swim lessons. The kids sleep in, they play with the neighborhood kids, they have lemonade stands. They swim, they play in the sprinkler, they draw endlessly with sidewalk chalk. My role in the summer switches from chauffer/schedule coordinator  to distributor of snacks and sunscreen. I can finally enjoy the season with them, but we just have to get through this month first.

Because, May? I hate to say it, but you’ve changed. It’s like… I don’t even know you any more.

Do Not Disturb

 

When Mom needs a nap

“Can’t you tell I’m annoyed with all of you? My eyebrows are all pointy.”

 

I just wanted to take a nap.

After a freezing cold early morning soccer game, allergies that are kicking my butt, and not a lot of sleep the night before, didn’t I deserve it? Yes. Yes I did. The children were occupied with neighborhood friends, so I closed my bedroom door, and crawled into bed, pulling the covers up tight around my ears. Blessed silence. I sighed in contentment.

Within two minutes:

Scrtch scccrrrtch.

The dog apparently felt it was unacceptable that the door was closed and he was on the other side of it.

With resignation, I got up to let him in. I then closed the door again, while he jumped up on the bed and made himself comfortable. If he could talk, he would have said, “Hey, a nap! I love naps! And so it is a good thing you let me in because now I can protect you while you nap!”

Fine. Whatever. I snuggled back under the blankets. Ah. Peace and quiet.

Then suddenly came a knock at the bedroom door. My dog flew off the bed in a frenzy of barking, determined to fell the intruder that was certainly there to do me harm.

It was Lucy. She  inched the door open a crack and stuck part of her face through.

“Mom?” she whispered.

“What?” I said as patiently as I could.

“I was gonna go on a bike ride but Dad said I had to ask you first.”

Okay, seriously? This required my input?

I answered her.  “Fine with me. Make sure you wear your bike helmet.”

“Thanks Mom. Love you!” She backed out and closed the door, but not before the dog snuck back out through the partly open door and ran downstairs.

I lay back down and closed my eyes. Within minutes, I again heard the telltale scrttch scccrrrtttchhh letting me know the dog was back upstairs and wanted to be let in again.

I sighed, and got up to let him in. “I never disturb your naps do I?” I grumbled. He thumped his tail and settled in at the end of the bed once again.

Then? The doorbell rang.

At which time the dog lost his mind. Again. He was now barking like Cujo on speed and trying to claw his way out, so I got up to let him out the door.  And he ran downstairs to protect us from whatever it was that now threatened our well-being.

This nap thing was not working. Now, before you ask me why I just didn’t keep the door open, I’ll tell you that our house is a beehive of activity. Our kids and kids from the neighborhood are in and out constantly. If there was a sped up movie of all of the comings and goings it would  be accompanied by Yakety Sax.  What I’m saying is our house is loud, and not conducive to napping with the door open. But our dog? Is not conducive to napping with the door closed. A closed door is the bane of his existence. (There is not one door or doorframe that isn’t scratched all to hell. It looks like the woodwork in our house was installed by Edward Scissorhands.)

But I had an idea. With the dog downstairs on Super High Alert Intruder Patrol, I quickly grabbed my pillow and snuck down the hallway to Magpie’s room. Her room at the end of the hall is clean, and quiet – Yes, her comfy double bed would do just fine. And the dog wouldn’t think to look for me in there, I was positive.

Gleefully I settled into the cozy flannel sheets. Bliss. Peace. I began to relax, anticipating at least an hour of delightful slumber.

Five minutes. Ten minutes. No dog. I was beginning to think this was going to work. Victory would be mine. Then? I heard the click of a turning doorknob.

In a flash I bolted upright and yelled, “What is going on?!” just as Lucy stepped into the room and the dog pushed past her.

Lucy jumped. “OMG, you scared the crap out of me!* I didn’t know you were in here!”

*Please note I am working on getting her to speak in a more ladylike manner. We’re starting with not using  the word “crap” quite so much. Baby steps.

“What. Are. You. Doing?” I said with clenched teeth. “You said you were going for a bike ride. Why haven’t you left yet?

“I just needed my grey sweatshirt. I think it’s in here,” she said, as the dog jumped up on the bed and curled up beside me, satisfied to have found me once again. I collapsed back onto the pillow in defeat as two more children thundered up the stairs. “Hi Mom! What’re you doing in here? Trying to take a nap? Can I bake cookies? Dad said to ask you.”  When the next child chimed in with, “Mom, she hit me!” I saw the last shred of hope I had for a nap disappear.

I stomped downstairs and into the kitchen. I’m not sure, but there might have been one of those cartoon black clouds hovering somewhere over my head.

“How was your nap?” VP said in a cheery tone.

I glared at him and he wisely backed out of the room.

But I haven’t yet given up on my quest for a good nap. In related news, if you drive my my house in the near future and see a tent in the backyard, I may be inside slumbering peacefully. Just don’t tell the dog where I am.