Friday, July 14, 2017

Another one bites the dust

The Boy has been given his pink slip. Apparently my daughter cut him loose right after the school year ended. She is not allowed to have a boyfriend, of course. She is only 12. However, it is normal and natural for her to show interest in boys so I don't have a problem with her interacting with them. Whole relationships are carried out via text message these days. It seems pretty harmless for the most part. I check her phone periodically just to make sure the texts aren't actually coming from some 50-year-old pervert from Albuquerque.

This is the third boy who has been sent packing since September. I can only imagine how her love life will play out when she gets to high school.  The halls will be littered with broken-heart emojis.  Speaking of which, the most recent boy was listed in her phone with his given name plus some gooey emojis (hearts, etc.) Now, his name is just his name. He's probably lucky that she let him keep that.

The first boy (from back in September) fell out of favor because he's too nerdy and awkward, I think. He lives in our neighborhood. He would walk his Rottweiler past our house, the kid's little sister following along behind on a tricycle or big wheel. I kind of miss those days because my daughter also walked our dogs so that she could walk past the boy's house. Now she doesn't bother. The dogs could really use the exercise, though.

The second boy came along later in the fall. I don't think I ever met him. I know that he was short like my kid is. From what I can gather, he was simply too needy.  Too many texts, too much attention. Apparently, the poor lad cried in class when my daughter cut him loose.

The third boy was my favorite. He's funny and polite. He came to her birthday party and showed up at our house a few times. I even took both of them to our local amusement park one Sunday afternoon. I felt pretty cool sitting on the rollercoaster by myself while middle-school love was blooming in the front car. The two of them Face-timed so much that it sometimes seemed like he lived with us. I pondered the merits of charging him rent. He even came to our anniversary party back in May. He wore nice pants and a vest to the party, which earned him at least a thousand points in my book. He's diabetic so I would sometimes tuck his testing kit into my purse so that he wouldn't have to carry it around. He once told my daughter, "Your mom is funny." She disagreed and rolled her eyes.

I'm not sure exactly what he did wrong but maybe it was just one Face-time call too many. She wouldn't give me a lot of details but I think she just felt overwhelmed with the attention.

"So, um, can I still talk to him?" I asked her recently.

She rolled her eyes. "Mom! Seriously?"

I felt a little defensive. "What?! I liked him."

She said she still texts him periodically. "Tell him I miss him," I say. She just rolls her eyes.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

15 Knope

My daughter and I participated in a local cycling event for charity today. Participants could choose from multiple distances ranging from 15K to 100 miles. We chose the short, family-friendly one. Last year, we finished the event but she complained relentlessly the whole time because her bike didn't have gears. She couldn't adjust the resistance on hills and such.

I fixed this issue by buying her a brand new bicycle for Christmas. The new bike has 18 speeds. That's about 17 more than she had before. I figured we'd be all set for this year's bike tour.  I warned her to practice ahead of time since the gear-shifting bit was new to her.

This morning, I hauled her out of bed at 6:30 so that we could be out of the house at 7:30.  I loaded the bikes onto my bike rack and we drove to the starting point for the bike tour. As we prepared to set off, everything seemed fine. We applied sunblock and checked in with the organizers. We mounted our bikes and started the route.  The event features staggered start times so that there aren't hundreds of bikes crowding the streets all at once. We pedaled out of the parking lot and turned the corner.

That's right about when the complaining started. "Mom, wait."  I pulled over every few yards to wait for her, even though I wasn't going very fast at all. I could hear the incessant clicking as she changed gears over and over.

"Just find one that works and stick with it," I advised. I added: "Didn't you practice like I suggested?"

"No, because it's been raining so much." I could still hear the whining on top of the clicking of the gear shift.

That's when I started to go from annoyed to borderline furious.

"Really? It has rained every single day between Christmas and now?"  Last time I checked, we don't live in the rainforest. If we had received the amount of rainfall she seemed to be describing, our bikes would have rusted in place months ago. And for the record, yesterday was the quintessential perfect summer day and the sun didn't go down until after 8:30. It would have been, you know, the perfect night to ride a bike.

This went on for several miles. Whine, click, grind. I tried to keep riding and assumed she'd figure it out and stop complaining. "This is too hard!" she would wail.

Meanwhile, grandmothers and children of all ages were blowing past us. "Good morning!" each one would call out cheerfully. It wasn't a race but still, this was getting a bit ridiculous. An aid van stopped to ask if we were okay.

I did try to give her some suggestions. The trouble is that this is something that only the rider can really "feel." I tried to explain that it shouldn't be overly hard or overly easy to pedal. She should feel a little resistance but not so much that she couldn't pedal. I tried to show her how my gears were set.  Nothing was working.

We made it to the rest stop at the five-mile mark. She wanted her dad to come and get her.  I called him and told him where she was. She plopped down in the grass with a cup of Gatorade and a chunk of bagel.  I don't know if this makes me a terrible mother but yes, I got back on my bike and kept riding. And you know what? It was pretty awesome. It was a perfect morning - cool but not overly so. A breeze but no wind.

I crossed the finish line and then sat down to eat an orange, wondering just exactly how bad my hair looked after I pulled off my helmet. I felt less annoyed by then.

Needless to say, I will be doing the event alone next summer. I'm annoyed with myself for losing patience with my daughter. I'm also annoyed with how easily she gave up. Is this a side effect of the "everyone gets a trophy" generation? I was not at all surprised at her lack of preparedness for this event, but I was surprised at how unwilling she was just to power through it and get to the finish line. Part of me wonders if this is my bad parenting at work. Have I not said "no" often enough or something?

When I got home (her dad did pick her up and bring her and her bike home), I was met with a teary-eyed middle schooler who apologized for ruining what should have been a fun event. I accepted her apology but yeah, I'm still doing it solo next year.

This photo was taken before everything went to shit.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Lamest milestone ever

I finally did it! No, not the murders I'm always threatening to commit. I got my first pedicure.

I have mentioned my reluctance to get a pedicure in the past. I always just felt very weird about it.  I had planned to get my (finger) nails done on Tuesday afternoon so I decided that maybe I should go ahead and get my toes done, too. It's summertime so my toes are spending more time on public view, as it were.

I normally keep blue or black nail polish on my toes.  I do this in direct protest of all the times my mother said, "Blue fingernails?  You look like you're in heart failure!" when I was a teenager. I decided I'd better take the polish off before going to the nail place. I had a hard time getting all of the blue stuff off so I still ended up looking like I, um, have heart disease. You win, Mom.

The nail place wasn't too busy so I ended up in the pedicure chair right away. I was assigned to a nice motherly lady who spoke very little English. She had dark hair that was pulled back into a ponytail. "This is my first pedicure!" I told her. She gave me an open-mouthed smile as if I'd said something pretty funny.

I watched her face closely as she examined my feet. I do take decent care of my feet so I felt pretty confident that compared to the gross stuff she's probably seen, mine weren't too bad. She didn't seem terribly alarmed by them as far as I could tell. Before I knew it, she was soaking my feet in the swirling water,  fishing them out to apply various potions and exfoliants, and then dunking them again. She even massaged my calves, which was also a first for me. I didn't want to be rude and stare at my phone the whole time, so I just watched the TV that was hanging on the wall. It was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday (that just happened to be a holiday), so the good news is that I have the full scoop if I do need a personal injury lawyer at some point.

After at least a half hour of the dunking/exfoliating/moisturizing, the lady wrapped my feet in hot towels and then patted them. I smiled at her. She had mouthed the word "hot" before applying the towels. I sure wish I could have learned more about her, like where she's from originally and whether or not she has nightmares about some of the feet she's seen.  At the end, she painted my toes in the color I'd chosen (NOT blue or green).  She wiped off my flip-flops and installed them on my feet.

"Thank you very much," I said. She smiled.

I finished my visit to the salon with a quick repair to one of my fingernails and a coat of the same pink nail polish I'd chosen for my toes. As I walked back through the salon, I saw the pedicure woman watching cat videos on her phone. They're hilarious in any language, amiright? When I paid, I left a very significant tip in hopes that most of it would go to that nice lady (she didn't wear a nametag - otherwise I'd definitely call her something other than "that nice lady.")  I guess I just didn't want to be yet another white chick sitting in the pedicure chair with a petite Asian lady crouched in front of me. And yet, I guess I was. I don't know how to reconcile that.

I have to confess that my feet felt pretty great when I left. And they certainly looked better than they do when I attempt a pedicure on myself.  Will I go again?  I don't know. Maybe. Probably not.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Before I get too embarrassing . . .

I stood in the aisle near the girls' clothing section at Old Navy, shifting my weight from one foot to the other. An upbeat song was playing through the store's speaker system. I picked up the pace a bit and added a little bounce, bending my knees as I moved back and forth. My purse swung from my shoulder. A look of horror appeared on my daughter's face. "Oh, Mom! No!" she hissed.

Unable to resist, I added a head bob for good measure. Before I had time to add any snaps or claps, my daughter flung her arms around me in an attempt to restrict my movement. "I love you - please stop!" she said, her her check pressed against my tee shirt-clad shoulder. She was desperate now.

"Okay," I replied. I was afraid she might have a seizure out of pure embarrassment.

Here's the thing, though. There was no one around. We basically had Old Navy to ourselves. If a tree falls in a forest and no 12-year-old girls are around to hear it, is it still embarrassing? Yes. Yes, it is.

The Old Navy visit occurred during a road trip that my kid and I took over the weekend. We stopped there on the way home in order to take a quick break before finishing the drive. We'd left home the day before and embarked on our little adventure. We stopped for dinner Friday night and then headed to a hotel that I'd booked (about two hours from our home). We swam and played in the pool almost as soon as we arrived (per the written contract drafted and ratified by hotel-dwelling kids all over the world). My daughter had packed three swim suits for our one-night stay. She must have studied at Diane D's Packing School, owned and operated by my mother. Motto: "You just never know." I have carried my mom's luggage and let me just assure you that she is a pro.

The next morning, I hauled Miss Crabbypants out of bed so that we could go out to breakfast. The hotel had breakfast available but I wanted to seek out a restaurant that serves items that are specifically vegan. After she plowed through a massive pancake with copious amounts of syrup, Her Highness seemed less crabby. I had an amazing tofu scramble with potatoes on the side.

After breakfast, we headed downtown for a huge farmers' market and street fair. It was so much fun. We both enjoyed the street performers - we saw acts ranging from a capella groups to full-blown marching bands. I stopped at a jewelry vendor bought a really cool necklace - I think I'll get a lot of wear out of it. On the way back to our car, we stopped in a shop that sells bath products. They have a lot of interesting/unusual items. I took my mom there on one of her visits. It's been a running joke between us ever since - the people who work there are so hip that they can't help, I guess. I have been in there dozens of times and not once has anyone ever greeted me or offered to tell me about some of the products. At this point, it's so ludicrous that I'd probably keel over if someone did greet me.

Our next stop was the real reason for our journey. I had booked us for a barn tour at a farm sanctuary. We couldn't wait! The tour was as amazing as we'd hoped. An outgoing, animated tour guide named Tera told us stories about each of the animals we saw: from Mister the goose who doesn't like women to Winnie the market pig who fell off the slaughterhouse truck when she was just a wee lass (she weighs about the same as a Smart Car now, I think). The last animals on the tour were a pair of donkeys and a miniature horse. This horse was shorter than my Boxers! The donkeys have a companion - a sheep named Joanie. We were repeatedly told to "Ignore Joanie. Don't even look at her."  I guess Joanie's kind of a twat towards you if you're not a donkey.

We bought tee shirts on our way out in order to support the cause. I wish there was a farm sanctuary near our house - I'd happily volunteer. I think we may make this sanctuary an annual trip - that is, until I get so embarrassing that it's not even possible to travel with me. I was sitting next to my daughter at breakfast yesterday as she returned a text from The Boy. "Can't talk now. Having fun with my mom." God only knows how she would have responded if I hadn't been sitting there.

Before  heading home, we stopped at a bakery that sells vegan cupcakes. We decided to split a drink as we ate our treats.  The bottle we had selected contained some sort of carbonated lime drink. My God - what an abomination. I gave the kid some money and sent her back to the beverage cooler to choose something less offensive (root beer).  After a quick trip through Trader Joe's, we finally headed back to our car. A black cat flung himself onto the sidewalk in front of us and required us to rub his belly before we could pass. It's times like these that really make me miss having a kitty.

We finally hit the road, stopping only at Old Navy on the long ride home. Other than my transgression at the outlet mall, I think I behaved pretty well.  I'll be sure to work on my choreography before our next shopping trip.











Friday, June 16, 2017

Artsy-Fartsy Project

I can share this now that my niece has seen the final product. My sister had an amazing idea for a graduation gift for my niece. Pinterest may have offered inspiration - I'm not sure.

She sent everyone in our extended family a 4x4 canvas to decorate. The idea is for the graduate to hang the whole grid in her dorm room at Penn State. It's a very cool gift and I may be tempted to play copycat when my kid graduates in 2023.

Have you ever had an idea in your head and then your creation turns out almost exactly like you'd pictured it? I do not consider myself to be artistic by any stretch of the imagination. However, I thought I had a pretty cool idea for "my" canvas. I dragged my kid to Michael's and wandered around for what I can only describe as a "very long time." My kid and my husband also decorated canvases. A painted hers and wrote "Follow your dreams." It turned out great. The Mister cut up a comic book and pasted the pictures all over the canvas. I helped out only slightly by applying Mod Podge to seal it.

First, I painted the top half of the canvas yellow. Then I applied some tiny star stickers. Using masking tape, I cut tiny strips of tape to make one of the stars look like a shooting star. I painted the top half of the canvas black. Once that dried, I picked off the star stickers and masking tape very carefully.

Next, I painted the bottom half green and created a hill in the middle. The next hurdle was to create a small replica of my niece. I actually spent a lot of time stalking her Facebook page to find a standing photo of her that I could use as an outline. She refused to cooperate, which was super effing annoying (just kidding, Blondie!). I ended up finding a tiny paper doll on shutterstock and used that for the body. I cut out some floral ribbon to make a tiny little sundress. My niece wears floral sundresses pretty regularly so I was hoping it would work.

The next challenge was the hair. I had picked up some blondish embroidery floss at Michael's. I fashioned it into a ponytail and glued it to the head. I had purchased some ribbon for the ponytail but the ribbon was too thick. So, I improvised with some blue thread. 

I did have a couple glasses of wine while working on my creation, but I was really happy with how it turned out.

So there you have it - my Blondie wishing on a shooting star. I was excited to play a little part in this gift, as we send this talented young woman out into the world. If you see a mom sitting in a white Suburban, parked just outside Penn State's campus, crying her eyes out . . . that's my sister. Go easy on her.







Monday, May 29, 2017

Recent Goings-On

The Mister and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on Wednesday (we've actually been together for 25 years - the five-year lag is a result of him having very slow reflexes). Guess how we celebrated? We went to the optometrist. I'd nagged him to make the appointment and I don't think he thought about the date when he called. I accompanied him to his appointment because I knew he'd tell the doctor that he is "fine" and "doesn't need anything."  I strongly believed that the boy needed bifocals. I knew this because I'd already passed through the intersection of Age and Nearsightedness myself.  He reads a lot and typically takes off his glasses to read. He keeps leaving them around the house and Grover chewed the earpiece on one side. My husband just said, "It's fine. No one can see it behind my ear."  Because his near vision seemed to be growing worse, I knew he was headed for ye olde bi-focals.

Our optometrist, Dr. K, did seem to wonder why my husband had brought his supervisor along for a routine eye exam. "I'm here to help him choose his new glasses," I said. Because my husband had successfully avoided eye exams for four years, the doctor decided that he needed to dilate his eyes to make sure his eyeballs are healthy. Better him than me. The last (well, only) time I had my eyes dilated, the nausea was so bad that I had to be driven home and I went straight to bed. I feel woozy just thinking about it. Blech.

After the dilating drops were in, we decided to look at frames quickly while he could still see well enough to take a gander at them.  An optician handed us a bunch of pairs for my guy to try. He shrugged at each one so I chose the ones that I liked best. Then I left to race home and get the kid to guitar lessons on time (we had taken separate vehicles). I can't wait to see my handsome guy in his new glasses.

We did celebrate our anniversary in a more festive way, too.  Last Saturday, we hosted a party at my church.  My middle sister and her four kids were in town, so it was extra special to have some of my family members there.  We had drinks and cake and freshly-made guacamole (made by my niece). It was a lot of fun.

The final (and arguably most expensive) celebration will happen in July, when we head to Florida for a week of sun and roller coasters. We are shipping our kid off to Virginia to hang out with relatives. I know she will have a blast doing fun stuff with her cousins.

Speaking of those cousins, here are a few photos from last week's visit. My sister and niece ran a half-marathon while they were here (I loped along at the 5K that was part of the same event).










Sunday, May 28, 2017

Thanks for the memories, Paul

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know how I look forward to our annual cabin-by-the-lake trip. We typically go each August and it's one of the biggest highlights of our year.  We hike, we swim, we relax. The cabin belongs to my friend Paul.

Back in 2000, I worked with Paul at a technology company. He was a sub-contractor and stopped in regularly to drop off his timesheets. He and I were chatting one time that year and I mentioned that I had rented a cabin for an upcoming vacation. "Just use my cabin!" he said. That wasn't really an option because I'd already paid for the other cabin. However, I remembered his generous offer and when 2001 rolled around, I asked if we could borrow it that summer.

"Of course!" he said. "Go up and have a great time."  He gave me directions and we made plans to head up there for a little R&R that summer.  His directions turned out to be critical because the cabin is on privately-owned land inside a national forest. The path to the cabin includes miles of dirt roads and few landmarks. We had a heck of a time finding it that first year.  We took a wrong turn and drove up on a man camping alone in a tent. Fortunately, he didn't shoot us or anything. My husband and I still joke about that poor guy.

Once we found the joint, we fell in love - with the lake, the forest, and the whole area. The lake is four hours from our home but it was worth every minute on the road. My husband and I felt so fortunate that Paul let us use his cabin. I had offered money (that year and every year after) but he would not accept it.

That first year, we learned just how soul-satisfying it is to step out onto the deck and see the lake shining through the pine trees. We listened for the loons, which we never failed to hear. At night, we stared up at the stars, amazed to be so far from civilization that no other light was visible. Humming birds came to the feeder that hung on the deck. If I listened closely in the early morning before anyone else woke up, I could hear the beating of their wings.

Every spring, I would tentatively ask Paul if we could borrow the cabin. "Sure thing, kiddo," he would say. One year, we didn't ask to use the cabin.  We had planned a trip to Texas and plus, I was always cognizant of not wanting to cross the line between enjoying Paul's generosity and expecting it. Later that year, Paul called me. "Hey, why didn't you go up to the cabin this year?" he asked. I think he truly just loved having families enjoying the cabin. Once A was born in 2005, we couldn't wait to take her to the lake. In fact, her first visit to the cabin occurred when she was just a few months old.

Since Paul would never accept any money for the use of the cabin, we made our own small contributions to it. Whenever I'd go "into town" I'd pick up food storage containers or other things that the cabin seemed to need. On our last visit, I installed a new shower head. One year my youngest sister joined us at the cabin and purchased a blender just in case any future visitors might also be in need of a margarita. When we left, we always cleaned the cabin as thoroughly as we could. The joint was rustic and there were always dead bugs in the windowsills.  One year my dogs found a dead mouse behind the couch. The rustic nature of the cabin was part of what we loved.

Paul and his brothers built the cabin themselves, which made it that much more special. There was a photo of them on the mantle of the fireplace. The harsh winters "up north" did a number on the cabin, so Paul was forever painting the deck or making other repairs.

Over the years, we made so many amazing memories at the cabin. My husband I still laugh about the time our daughter fell in the lake. My husband jumped into the shallow water after her, his phone still in his pocket. Sometimes friends or family would join us at the lake. The cabin wasn't spacious but we were happy to squeeze in some extra people so that we could all enjoy the crisp air and the amazing view. We received hundreds of mosquito bites and at least a couple of ticks in our annual visits to the cabin. Countless fish were caught and tossed back in. We ate S'mores and drank lots of adult beverages. We played games (the cabin had no TV and no internet, of course, which was also part of its appeal) and read books. We took afternoon naps while waiting for the cooler evening air to drift in. After sundown, which watched bats streak across the night sky.

Recently, I had a dream in which Paul told me that he bought new furniture for the cabin. It was powder blue and looked very expensive. In the dream, I was wondering what on earth he was thinking (cabin furniture usually consists of cast-offs from other dwellings - the main goal is "sturdy" and "doesn't stain easily"). I left him a voicemail recently and was going to tell him about the dream when he called back.

Instead, one of his sons called me after hearing my voicemail. "My dad died this week," he said. I couldn't believe it. Paul was 77 but in my mind he hadn't changed in the 17 years I'd known him. He was involved in pee-wee ice hockey and so many other things - he was very active. When I hadn't heard back from him, I guessed that he might be in Germany. Paul originally went to Germany for a work assignment but made so many friends that he kept going back just to visit them.  He had a lot of friends and I felt fortunate to know him. I remember that he used to wear a pin that said something like, "Men against violence against women." He was just a cool cat.

"Okay, kiddo," he would always say to me.

"Paul, I'm 47!" I would reply, laughing.

I would like Paul's children and other family members to know just how much Paul's kindness meant to me over the years. After our visits to the cabin, I would often send him photos in the mail - of my daughter in the rowboat or my husband fishing off the rocks. I know he liked knowing that friends and family were creating memories in that place that he built.

We'll find other cabins on other lakes for future vacations, of course. And I'm sure we'll have a great time. But, I'll never forget the generosity and kindness of the man who allowed our family to make a million priceless memories. Rest in peace, Paul.

With love from Kiddo.