Friday, November 17, 2017

The Tin Box (Sub-title: my grandma is better than your grandma)

Monday's child is fair of face
Tuesday's child is full of grace
Wednesday's child is full of woe
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonnie and blithe and good and gay.

My church recently moved into a new building. It's been an exciting time for all of us. We're still working out a few kinks with the new joint and with the flow of our Sunday services. For example, there are approximately a hundred thousand light switches in the building and we're not sure what all of them do. We're afraid to flip some of them lest we inadvertently release the hounds of hell or something. (Oh, so that's what that switch was for!")

The church's stuff (chairs, piano, etc.) sat in storage from late 2016 until the spring of 2017. We still haven't found a few things, including tools. Our administrative assistant needed a screwdriver the other day and couldn't find one. Our mutual friend, Michael, offered to bring one in. He said, "I’ll bring an 'average' screwdriver. If we need an above or below average screwdriver, I’ll run home quick and get one." My friends are a clever lot.

All this talk about tools got me thinking about the supply of tools we have at our house. My husband inherited tools from his father, which is tragicomic because my guy doesn't fix stuff. We have lots of tools sitting in our basement, including below average and above average screwdrivers. My favorite tools, however, live in a decades-old tin.

When I went away to college nearly three decades ago, my grandmother gave me a gift right before I left. It was a square tin box that I imagine once held cookies. It was filled with things she thought I might need when I moved into the freshman dormitory at Texas A&M University in Galveston. She'd laid a patch of green felt at the bottom and then had filled the tin with a small hammer, a couple of screwdrivers, some nails and screws, and other sundry items that have been lost or forgotten over the years. I still have that tin and some of the original contents still reside within its slightly dented walls. 

The lid bears the words from a Danish proverb: "The road to the house of a friend is never long." The four sides each bear two verses of an old nursery rhyme. "Monday's child is fair of face . . . " I was born on a Saturday which, I'm sure we can all agree, is the very best day of the week. 

I've always loved the tin because it reminds me of my grandma. I'm hoping to pass the tin to my daughter when she leaves for college. It currently lives on a shelf in the basement, next to the dryer. And since at least one member of our family changes her clothes eight times a day, I am down there a lot. 

My grandmother is my stepdad's mom. I first met her when I was 9, after my original set of parents had split up. Elaine was kind and loving to me and my sister (our youngest sister wasn't born yet) right from the start. She never made any distinction between us and other family members who shared her DNA. I wish I could say the same for other relatives. My stepdad also had an aunt who was worried sick that my sister and I would try to use the family name (our last name remained the same as our father until we each got married). Elaine has always just been . . . my grandma. 

Elaine has many wonderful qualities - she is a skilled gardener and is one of those Christians who reads the bible and actually practices what Jesus taught. She's also fairly practical in nature. One year she got my mom bathroom rugs for Christmas, which went over about as well as you'd expect if you know my mother. We used to spend Christmas Eve at Elaine's house. We'd have a big dinner and then open gifts. To this day, I feel a bit wistful when Christmas Eve rolls around. Of course, we have our own traditions now with our little family of three, but sometimes I wish I was still that kid sitting by the tree at Elaine's house, waiting for wrapped gifts bearing my name to be slid across the carpet in my direction. 

When P and I got our first apartment, my grandmother was the first to donate a piece of furniture to us - an orange chair that we ended up keeping for years. After I embarked on the harrowing journey to parenthood, I sat down with her after my third or fourth miscarriage. Elaine has attended Lewinsville Presbyterian Church in McLean, Virginia since well before I was born. As a matter of fact, I found her photo on a page celebrating members of 50+ years. Back then, I was looking for some spiritual guidance and she answered the call. Whenever I visit "back home" in Northern Virginia, a trip to Elaine's house is always first on my agenda. Her health has become more precarious in recent years and hospital visits have become more frequent, so I call from time to time just to hear her voice and to check in on her. 

"I just wanted to see how you're feeling," I say.

"Well, aren't you just a doll?" she responds. Before we end the call, she always requests that I give her love to my daughter and husband. She always asks how we are doing and seems genuinely interested to know what we are up to. In nearly four decades, I've only heard my grandma speak ill of one (and only one) person. And even then it's only if you really press her on it. Let's just say that her ex-husband was not on her list of favorite people. He might have been on some other kind of list, though.

Elaine's birthday is coming up next week. For the past few years she's been purging things from her home so I know it's pointless to buy her knick-knacks she doesn't want or need. Instead, I send her a Kringle for her birthday just about every year because who doesn't like a Kringle? 

I hope she knows how much her love has meant to me for all these years. From the weekends spent at her house to visits to the five and dime to dinners at Anita's . . . I am so lucky to have such a wonderful person in my life. My mother's mom died when I was very young and I didn't see much of my father's mother after the divorce. Elaine has always filled the grandma role in the best of ways. 

It'll be just six short years before I turn the box o'tools over to my daughter (who was born on a Tuesday, by the way). I hope she'll appreciate it like I always have. You just never know when you'll need an average or even above average screwdriver. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

These are a few of my favorite things

I wrote a blog entry about stress and anxiety and how I've been feeling lately, but then I decided to give it the ax and start over with something more positive.

There is a quote that often guides me in my life. It's from The Handmaid's Tale (the book - I haven't seen the series on Hulu):

“We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?”

My personal interpretation of these lines has always been that these might just be the happiest days of my life. I shouldn't bother chasing some future state of bliss. Things are pretty damned great right now. 

In the year since we accidentally elected a buffoon into the White House, I've been focusing more on little things, happy things. And maybe reading the news a little less. I thought I'd share a few of  the ways I distract myself from the fact that a mentally ill person is leading our country.

  1. Watching my kid perform on stage. I attended a performance last night (her touring choir performed with our local civic symphony) and will attend another tonight (show choir performance). She recently landed roles in two musicals. She will play Brigitta Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. This is her middle school's production. The high school needed a couple of younger kids to play roles in Les Miserables. My daughter was cast as young Eponine. I am very proud of her and her musical talent. Yes, it's a lot of rehearsals and driving, but I'll take that over shivering on a soccer field any day!
  2. Watching stand-up comedy. I love stand-up comedy. I am constantly digging around on Netflix or HBO for a new routine I haven't seen. Recently I re-watched all of Sebastian Maniscalco's comedy specials. I highly recommend it if you, too, are looking to escape reality.
  3. Eating baked goods. Going vegan kept me away from bake sales, but instead of giving up baked goods altogether (which would have been a good thing for my waistline), I simply figured out how to veganize everything. Get in mah belly, chocolate chip cookies.
  4. Listening to loud music in my car (and sometimes singing along). "And the ground's not cold, and if the ground's not cold, everything is gonna burn, we'll all take turns, I'll get mine too!"
  5. Wine. Duh.
  6. My doggies. Glinda and Grover might not be the brightest bulbs, but they are a lot of fun and they're both pretty darned cuddly.
Did I tell you that I got my nose pierced recently? I had been thinking about it for a while. At my last job, piercings were specifically prohibited in the dress code (the chapter in the employee manual was lengthy and very specific). At my new job, I think the dress code just says something like, "Wear clothes." 

So, on a recent Thursday night, I dropped my daughter off for a rehearsal and headed to the piercing place. This joint specializes in piercings. That's all they do. I almost talked myself out of it but then I parked my car and willed myself to walk inside. I had to show my ID and sign my name in a three-ring binder. For each customer, there was an entry for name, date of birth, signature, and type of piercing. I couldn't help but scan the other entries that were visible. Many of the other piercees were born in . . . wait for it . . . 1999. I started to wonder if I might be eligible for some sort of senior citizen discount.

I chose a tiny stud from the options that were presented to me. A piercing technician took me into a room that looked just like a sterile medical exam room. I guess that's good news. She wore latex gloves and was very professional. Before I knew it, she had a clamp on my schnoz and I was pierced. I was surprised at just how little it hurt. My right eye ejected a single tear . . . just for dramatic effect, I think. I didn't actually see what went through my nose to create the hole. It might be best if I don't know.  

The next morning, my husband kissed me good-bye and left for work without noticing the piercing. Sometimes I wonder just what it would take to get that guy to notice me. Speaking of which . . . I'm getting a new tattoo in a few weeks. My mom and I are getting matching tattoos. It's going to be so much fun. I can't wait!

Let's see. What else is knew? I got new glasses. My eye doctor said that my vision had deteriorated "two clicks" and suggested that I think about some new glasses. :::sigh::::  So, I got new glasses. They are similar enough to my old ones that no one noticed the change. It was fun to try on different styles. One of the opticians kept handing me different frames and saying, "Try these." I think she gave me far too much credit as far as being someone who can pull off wacky frames. Who does she think I am? Elton John, circa 1975? I liked the ones from Bebe's collection best. I got these:

I have to sign off now in order to get to the choir performance on time.  You know I gotta sit close so that I can yell, "That's my baby!" as often as is needed.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Mom Confessions

Is it June yet? I'm already tired of yelling about what time one should leave for the bus stop, why someone needs more than cookies in her lunch, and how hoodies really do need to be washed from time to time. It's gonna be a long year. On a more positive note, the tween is doing well in her classes so far. I stay right on top of her by checking the parent portal daily. I've already emailed several of her teachers just to confirm that my kid isn't full of poop when she tells me that some assignment "doesn't apply to her." Right now she has all A's and B's. She also got into show choir, so she has that for an after-school activity. When she's not at school or at show choir rehearsal (or at guitar lessons), she mostly just watches Glee reruns or Facetimes with her BFOTW (best friend of the week). I continue to check her phone periodically but the texts are all "IDK" and "FT?" It all seems pretty darned harmless as far as I can tell.

I'm glad that my daughter's middle school spans 6th-8th grades. My school was just 7th and 8th. I think that extra year really helps with the transition. Plus, at her school they keep the 6th graders segregated quite a bit so that they can get their bearings without scary 8th graders sitting next to them at lunch. My daughter is in 7th grade so she's already got that transitional year under her belt. Sometimes, I can't help but think of how miserable I was in 7th grade. I can't even pretend there was anything good about it. Awful from start to finish. I try not to make comments like this around my daughter, though. I don't want her to think that middle school sucks, even though every stand-up comedian on the planet will tell you that it kinda does once you have it in your rear view mirror.

Because of the bullying and nastiness I experienced in seventh grade, I suspect that I try just a little too hard to make sure that my kid has an easier time of it. Sometimes I feel guilty about it. When I was in seventh grade, the must-have item was Jordache jeans. They were around $40.00 at the time. It was crazy-talk. It wasn't happening. I am not sure that having them would have helped me too much, though. I remember wearing a pastel oxford (something that seemed to be "in" at the time) to school one day. Maybe I even popped the collar, which was a requirement in the 1980s. However, I made a mistake: I wore a necklace outside of the collar. I don't know why - I guess that's how I thought one should wear accessories? Amy in my home ec class did not waste a moment in advising me of my sartorial misstep. "Why are you wearing your necklace on the outside of your collar?" she asked in a tone of voice that made it sound like she was asking me why I'd just crapped on my desk.

These 35-year-old memories drive me to save my kid from my fate. If she wants Nike shorts (and she does), I buy them. She has Nike shoes - and Adidas as well. Converse All-Stars? Yep.

I am not proud of myself for giving in to these little indulgences. I do rein her in a bit when it comes to clothes. She doesn't get anything that's not on sale (Kohl's Cash for the win!). It's hard for her because she's so petite (her feet grow but the rest of her barely bothers). Her friends are able to shop at American Eagle and Aeropostale and wherever else teenagers spend their parents' money these days. She's still in a size 10-12. Even an XXS at American Eagle is too big. I know it bugs her that she can't always wear what her friends are wearing.

Mostly, she just wears leggings and hoodies (a formula not so different from her classmates, maybe). A whole closet full of clothes and she wears about five different things over and over. Sometimes I beg her to change it up a little. "How about this one?" I'll ask, holding up a shirt that I bought with a Kohl's coupon. Her expression tells me that it's a no-go.

"Just change it up a little," I suggest gently. "People are going to think we live in our car."

Anyway, if you are wondering what to get her for Christmas . . . I'd say that hoodies and leggings are a safe bet. She's all set with the over-priced shoes.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Let me tell you about this amazing woman I know

“It is because I think so much of warm and sensitive hearts, that I would spare them from being wounded.” ― Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist 

My youngest sister stepped out of the truck, a dying butterfly held gingerly in her hand. "I found him at the gas station," she said. "I didn't want him to die there." I hadn't seen her in a year and was anxious to hug her. Our two families met in St. Louis last week (which is roughly halfway between our home and theirs) for a long weekend. My brother-in-law was competing in an enduro bike race while we were there, too.

I gave her a quick hug and then she deposited the dying butterfly, its torn wing rippling in the breeze, on a grassy patch near the hotel where we'd spend the next three days in adjacent suites. Her three boys tumbled out of the truck right after she did. My brother-in-law was already inside the hotel, getting checked in. I subjected my nephews to hugs and noogies.

We settled into our suites. I sat with the three boys in their room while everyone was unloading (which makes me sound super lazy but my child and husband were able to handle our stuff without my involvement). As I sat with the boys, it struck me that boys and girls really are different sometimes. The boys immediately started testing all of the furniture to see what they could and could not lift. They examined a nearby rooftop through the window and concluded that they could all jump that far, should a rapid escape become necessary. My eldest nephew, the most talkative one, starts every sentence with, "Can I tell you something?" It's an endearing trait. I always think he is about to tell me something really revelatory, but it's usually a random comment like, "One time, I climbed a tree and I couldn't get back down." Someday, he may figure out some of the big mysteries of the universe but will still approach me with the same tone of voice and ask, "Aunt Claudia, can I tell you something?"

The eight of us went out to dinner shortly after our arrival. We took two of the boys in our car. We are used to having only a moody tween in the back seat - it was definitely a change of pace adding her cousins to the mix. Believe it or not, we proceeded to drive to two different restaurants (both with the same name). It was like a bad sitcom. Once we were reunited, we had a nice dinner. My sister is vegan (she followed me into vegetarianism when she was just a kid; I followed her into veganism just a few years ago) so it was nice to bounce "what are you gonna eat?" ideas off each other.

The next day, we drove to St. Louis (again, in two vehicles) for some city adventures. Believe it or not, we had no idea that there were protests raging on in St. Louis that day. I guess we hadn't checked the news. We didn't see any protestors, though - I assume they were in a different part of the city.  The eight of us did the obligatory Gateway Arch excursion (A and I did it last year, but her dad was with us this time so we wanted him to see it, too). After the arch, we gathered at a pizza place across the street from the blues museum. I sat next to my sister so that we could share a pizza. She and I were in heaven - we had multiple vegan options! Side note: the up-charge on these things is annoying. I think our pizza ended up being a hundred million dollars after we added our "premium" toppings.

After lunch, we headed to the blues museum. My sister and brother-in-law had to head back to Farmington (south of St. Louis, where our hotel was located) to get his bike inspected for the race. So, we took the two older boys to the museum with us. The youngest one looked like he was about to fall asleep anyway. It was a long day for a little guy. The blues museum was great - we really enjoyed it. My husband has about 200 Sirius XM channels in his car but he only listens to the Blues one, so I knew he'd enjoy it. The kids had a great time, too. There are a lot of interactive displays that gave them an opportunity to play in a jug band and learn about sound engineering.

After we left the museum, I made a quick stop at at bakery that was getting ready to close. I was trying to score some vegan brownies for me and my sister. They were out of the brownies, but they did have some vegan cupcakes left in the bakery case. Our final stop for the day was at an ice cream shop. I really need to move to a bigger city because I was able to get some mint chocolate chip ice cream, which was basically a dream come true.

That night, the kids swam in the pool. My husband took one for the team and went with them. My sister and I ran to the grocery store to buy some stuff for a potluck we were planning for the next day. We knew we'd be spending the next day at the race track (I honestly don't think that's what the racing people call it, but I am sure it will not be a surprise to you that I don't know what I'm taking about) so we wanted to bring some grub along. She made chili dogs and I made chick pea salad (on Ritz crackers).

The next day, my sister and her family headed to the race location early in the morning to get set up. We followed along later that morning.  This type of racing is an interesting sport because you can't really spectate. The riders go off into the woods (often for several hours at a time) and you don't see them until they come back. My nephews also compete but were not entered in this particular event. We ate our potluck lunch under a tent and mostly just hung out. A gust of wind came through and threatened to send the tent off onto the course to check on the riders. So, since rain seemed to be headed our way, the mister and I decided to head out and go to a flea market for which we had seen multiple billboards. It was my youngest nephew's turn to ride with us, so his presence was a given. My sister flipped a coin for the older two boys. My red-headed, comic book-loving middle nephew won the toss. I watched my other nephew's face. He was trying to put on a brave face but his actual expression tore at my heart. He climbed into the truck so we wouldn't see.

The junk shop was, um, interesting. If you need a velvet Jesus painting, look no further. Bedazzled denim hats? You've found your source. The boys picked out some Matchbox cars and comic books, and selected some for the absent brother as well. My daughter selected two things: a metal musical note and a coin bank shaped like three stacked doughnuts. "You can only have one or the other," my husband told her. Moments later, I saw him at the check-out purchasing both items. That guy of mine . . . what a hardass.

Later, after we got back to the hotel room, I called my sister to ask if I could pick up my other nephew (they were still at the race) and take him out for ice cream. I just couldn't shake the feeling that I had let him down by not being able to fit him into my car. My sister assured me that they were going to take him out for dinner and/or a Slurpee on the way home. Plus, he got to spend some time without his younger brothers poking him. That, I suppose, was a gift in itself.

That night, we had one final swim in the pool. You should have seen my guy with four kids hanging off him in the deep end. He really is a good sport about that sort of thing. My sister and I sat in the whirlpool and talked. I found myself feeling sad that our time together was almost over. Living so far from both of my sisters hurts my heart.

If you met my youngest sister, you'd know that finding a final resting spot for a dying butterfly is a perfect representation of her personality. Even as a kid, she was introspective. She carefully observed the world around her. We used to drive from Northern Virginia to Myrtle Beach for summer vacations. We often joked that we might accidentally leave my youngest sister at a rest stop because she was often so quiet in the back seat. She is almost 12 years my junior, so it was an interesting dynamic.  Looking on the bright side: there's not much for two siblings to fight about when they're that far apart in age.

That red-headed girl with the deep brown eyes grew up into a beautiful auburn-haired superwoman. Effortlessly cool, she's physically beautiful and also whip-smart. She cares deeply about animals and the environment, and gets pretty riled up over injustice of any kind. She raises her rough-and-tumble boys to see the world through her thoughtful lens. She lives in the country (on a "street with no name") but still manages to keep up with all the indie musical releases (plus, imagine how hard it is to eat a vegan diet when you don't have any stores in your zip code). Oh, and did I mention that she's a kick-ass writer?

My sister can be a hard person to know. She's not one to call you on the phone to chit-chat, but she'll humor you if you call. She doesn't often share what she's thinking on a deep level and if she's mad at you, you will probably never know about it. She's still that introspective girl in some ways. As her husband quickly learned, her deep thinking sometimes prevents her from doing things like cleaning up whatever exploded in the microwave. But hey, she's got a house full of dogs to clean up anything that hits the floor.

To my wee baby sister . . . if you are reading this, please know that I love you with all my heart and it was wonderful to spend some time with you. Let's not let too much time pass until the next visit. Also, I forgive you for that time you drew all over my middle school yearbook with a pen.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Six years doesn't seem like a lot of time

My niece recently went off to college. It's kind of a big deal in our extended family because Blondie was the first-born grandchild, niece, etc. She's currently a freshman at Penn State (more specifically, she's in the honors college - we're all very proud of that). My sister has three other kids at home to drive her insane take care of but I know she misses her college kid desperately. I cried right along with her when she had to leave her daughter in the dorms and turn around and head back home.

Having my niece head off to college got me thinking . . . I only have six years before my kid leaves, too! I am pretty sure that she'll go to an in-state school (unless some college in New Hampshire throws a bajillion dollars at her or something), so she probably won't be more than a few hours away. But, still. I know she wants to study music but I may encourage her to choose a minor in something else. As talented as she is, the pool of talent is quite large and I don't want her living in a van down by the river. A few weeks ago, I stopped to have a drink at a local bar. A small bluegrass band was playing. They were so talented and yet, there were only around eight people in the bar listening to them. It's gotta be hard to make a living that way. I once heard a talented folk artist sing a song with the lyric "there's no stage too small." That's true, of course, but rents must be paid and all that jazz.

I feel like there is so much to teach my kid before she leaves for college. I keep meaning to teach her how to do laundry. How to mince garlic and peel potatoes. How to level a teaspoon when baking. How to make yeast rolls. What bra to wear with what type of clothing. How to merge into traffic properly (I can assure you that her father can't teach her this one). How to balance a checkbook. Why white leggings should not be worn (and probably shouldn't exist). There is much to know.

I think I've mostly been focused on sending a decent human being into the world but I should probably start working on those other parental obligations, too. Last week she surprised me by grabbing one of my cookbooks and making (vegan) french toast muffins. They were perfect! Yesterday she tried to make snickerdoodles for church and I don't know what went wrong, but something definitely went very, very wrong. I assured her that I've ruined more than a few batches of cookies along the way. Maybe some lessons simply must be learned the hard way. It's kind of like taking a little bite of baking chocolate because your eyes have not convinced your brain that it really is not edible in its original form. But, everyone tries it and everyone learns.

I took her to the middle school for registration last week. She received her schedule and had her photo taken for her student ID card. She dismissed the photo almost immediately. "I look like I have a spray tan!" she wailed. I saw something different. If you compare her sixth grade ID photo and her seventh grade photo, it's easy to notice some differences. The girl in the new photo has the confidence of a young woman who has already tackled her first year of middle school. She's a girl who has learned a few things about mean girls in the cafeteria and teachers who are not messing around. She's a girl who makes friends easily and sometimes loses them, too. She knows she has talent but remembers not to get too cocky. She knows that others are talented, too, and that she has to work hard.

School starts next week. I know I'll have to replace that school ID at least once (at five bucks a pop). As always, I'll tell her that I'm adding it to her tab.

Friday, August 25, 2017

August was good except for the whole nazi thing

Our little clan recently returned from a week at the beach. It takes about 18 hours to get to my dad and stepmom's condo in Ocean City, but we had six glorious days of sun and sand before we had to turn around and head back. A co-worker let me borrow his toll thingie (that's the technical term) and let me just say that this was a game changer. I think it cut at least an hour off our trip. The mister and I didn't have to waste time fighting over where the toll ticket was, how many quarters we needed, etc. We just sailed right through. My co-worker will just let me know how much we owe him. Easy-squeezy. We've now ordered our own toll thingie. We can't believe we've lived without one for so long. We've been driving cross-country at least once a year for 22 years.

We didn't drive straight through on this trip, of course. We left our house on Friday the 11th and stayed at a hotel that night. We finished the drive on Saturday the 11th. When it was my husband's turn to drive, I checked the news app on my phone. My heart broke over the events happening in Charlottesville that day. I don't think of myself as a naive person, but I honestly didn't think that many boneheads would turn out for a show of "white pride." It makes me sick to my stomach.

From what I've read, the overlord of the neanderthals told them to dress nicely for this event.  I guess the effect worked because now I am legitimately scared that neo-Nazi buffoons and/or white supremacists are everywhere - selling me appliances at Best Buy and sitting next to me at the movie theater. Gross.

As tragic as the events in Charlottesville were, I raise my glass to the "we won't let hate win" people who came out to protest the alt-right people. Thank goodness for the people who speak up.

As I understand it, the special white people planned the protest because of the upcoming removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park in Charlottesville. Here are my thoughts on that: if something upsets a group of people for good reason, maybe it's just fine for it to go. I attended Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Virginia. I never thought twice about the name. (In my defense, I was just a teenager and was mostly concerned with getting a ride to the mall.) There is a movement underway to change the name of the school. Fine with me. As a child, I thought the confederate flag was, essentially, a symbol of southern pride and not of oppression of minorities. However, it seems that I was wrong about that, and that's great. I don't mind being wrong about things. I'd rather be on the right side of history in the long run.

Anyway, back to the beach. We did a couple of things this year that we hadn't done in the past. We booked ourselves on a speed boat tour.  It was a lot of fun. The boat zooms down the coast and then the captain stops when he spots some dolphins. I didn't get any great photos of the dolphins, but it was pretty darned exciting to be near them. I've always been fascinated by the ocean, which is why I initially set out to be a marine biologist oh-so-many years ago. I wanted to learn more about what's in there. I guess humans have done our level best to make sure the answer is: mostly, our garbage. But, I digress.

We also took a tour boat to Assateague Island. You may have heard of Assateague (Maryland side) and its sister Chincoteague Island (Virginia side).  The island is known mainly for its wild ponies. We did get to see one! My bestie and her family drove down from New Jersey so they joined us on the boat tour as well. Her youngest son (my Godson) is not a fan of boats, as it turned out.  He was a pretty good sport, though.

Something new that I tried this year: yoga on the beach! My middle sister and her family were in town for the first two days that we were there, and she joined me for yoga on Sunday. It's definitely a different sensation. The sand shifts under your mat so you don't feel as grounded, but some poses (such as balance poses) are a little bit easier in the sand. And of course, there is nothing like being in savasana and hearing the waves crashing on the shore. I went back for another class on Wednesday. I would have gone to another class after that but my kid gave me a cold mid-week and I didn't want to leave snot all over my yoga mat. I also rented a bike one morning and cruised up and down the boardwalk. I'd never done that before either.

Let's see . . . what else?  We did some back to school shopping because Maryland was having a tax-free week. We ate Thrasher's fries. I also went back to the boardwalk on the last day to get one some fries just for myself - no sharing. What I usually do is to put vinegar on them (don't worry - this is a thing) and then my husband and daughter don't want them. We played games at Marty's Playland. We rode rides at the amusement park. We drove go-karts, of course. We toured a Spanish galleon (tall ship that was visiting). We celebrated my dad's birthday with a too-large ice cream cake that I think he is still working on.

So, now that I've taken two vacations in a row, I'll be at work for the next 50+ weeks in a row. Here's to next summer!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Here's to 20 more

We made it back from our anniversary trip to Orlando. Pro tip: it's hot there.  It's so hot that I wore shorts every day. Normally, I would not subject the general public to my legs but apparently I am getting to the "let it all hang out" stage of my life.

Our vacation technically started on Friday the 21st. P dropped the dogs off for boarding while I took our kid to the airport. She flew to DC to hang out with my middle sister and her family. Since the airport is a couple hours from home, we booked a hotel room. Our flight was scheduled for the next day. I didn't want to fly out the same day as our daughter - it just seemed too risky. If her flight had been delayed or canceled, we wouldn't have been able to catch our flight. (Can you imagine us catching our flight anyway and yelling, "Okay, good luck with everything!" as we headed to the gate?)

Fortunately, everything went as planned. The kid caught her flight on Friday and we caught ours on Saturday. We had some time to kill on Saturday morning so I found a place that sells vegan doughnuts. My obvious excitement over the doughnuts seemed to elicit a look of pity from the cashier. We still had time to kill after that. I suggested that we could just spend the rest of the morning petting a dog who was also hanging out in the doughnut shop. The dog was like, "Hells yeah!" We did give him a few pat-pats before heading out and driving to the airport.

We arrived in Orlando Saturday afternoon after an uneventful flight. The palm trees are the best welcoming committee ever. They remind me of summer vacations in Myrtle Beach when I was a kid.

We grabbed our suitcases and headed for the rental car counter. We had our pick from any mid-size car in Row 2 - so wondrous! We chose a nondescript Nissan and drove towards a resort area (just outside Orlando) called Champions Gate, which sounded super fancy. Our friends from Minnesota had arrived a few hours before we did, so we met them at Red Robin for food and drinks. The four of us would be spending the week together. Our friends were celebrating their 20th anniversary, too. They were married a month after we were. P and I offer them marital advice from time to time since we do have the extra four weeks under our belts.

On our first night in Florida, we went on an airboat tour. It was a blast - in a few different ways. We flew across Lake Tohopekaliga, propelled by a gigantic fan. The tour guide sported a headlamp. He could see alligator eyes shining back at him from amazing distances. He would then slow down so that we could get a closer look. Some of the alligators swam away. Some dove under the water (I imagined them saying, "The 9 o'clock tour is the worst!"). Some actually charged the boat. We were given goggle to wear so that bugs wouldn't assault our eyeballs as we flew across the swampy lake. It was definitely an experience.

We spent the next three days at Universal, rising early each day to arrive at each park just as it opened (which is basically the only way to get on the Harry Potter rides that are so popular). We started with Universal Studios, then Islands of Adventure, and then Volcano Bay (the new water park at Universal). It may have seemed odd to some that we didn't bring any children but hey, we didn't feel guilty at all. The four of us had been planning the trip for a couple of years. Sherri served as our master planner and map reader, guiding us to key attractions each day.

We spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at Disney. We started with Animal Kingdom, then Epcot, then Hollywood Studios (which is my favorite). The new ride at Animal Kingdom is the Avatar virtual reality ride. The line was super long even though we got there right when the park opened. P and I decided to pass on riding it since the line was so long and I'm not supposed to bake in the sun for hours. It was extra hot that day. We found a gift shop and looked for a souvenir for our kid. We basked in the air conditioning. "Is it okay if we just stay in here all day?" I asked the cashier. I was only half-kidding. I love rides but on this trip, I also looked for as many shows as I could find. There is a Monster Make-up Show at Universal that was hilarious - check it out if you get a chance.

Later in the day on our visit to Animal Kingdom, the Avatar line was a bit shorter so we ended up riding that ride after all. I had to admit that it was truly amazing. By that point, I had grown a bit wary of virtual reality rides (all of the newer rides use virtual reality). Or at least my stomach was starting to distrust them. However, a lot of those rides were very jerky and the Avatar one was smooth. You really felt like you were gliding on the back of a Banshee. It was amazing. I was impressed with the way Universal and Disney take advantage of technology - even right down to little things like showing how many parking spaces are available in each row of the parking garage at Disney Springs (which is an entertainment district open to anyone - you don't have to pay to get in).

Thursday at Epcot was also a lot of fun. It was a low-key day for us. We walked around in the shops in Norway, Italy, etc. In the afternoon, we ended up in the basement in Mexico for margaritas. They keep it almost pitch-black down there. Drinking margaritas in the dark, you could almost forget what time it is, the fact that you have a job, etc.

Friday was probably my favorite day. I just love Hollywood Studios. I know that the Tower of Terror and the Rock-n-Roller Coaster are older rides, but I just love them. I also picked up some souvenirs for me and the kid - they have some great gift shops at Hollywood Studios.

After spending three days at Universal (my first visit to Universal) and three days at Disney (my second visit to Disney), I can't help but draw some comparisons. Overall, Universal is more visually interesting. The Dr. Seuss area of Universal Studios really blew me away. Same with the Simpsons area. The Harry Potter stuff is amazing. You can see the castle from miles away. I think a lot of people would probably rate the thrill rides at Universal as being newer and better than at Disney.

Universal is pretty great but I definitely preferred Disney. I know that "cast members" at Disney are required to be nice to the guests but I like it, dammit! I started to get on the wrong car at one of the rides and the Disney chick said, "Oops! This one, Princess!" I'm 47 (and a half) and I don't get called princess very often. I also think Disney does a better job of entertaining people while they are waiting. We attended a "Music of Pixar" show (with a live orchestra) and the green army men from Toy Story entertained the crowd before the show. They put one audience member in time-out because he was looking at his phone instead of following their orders. Random side note: kids like to get autographs from the characters they meet in the parks. The green army men sign their names like this: Green Army Man.  I thought that was pretty funny.

Both parks do a great job of getting you to part with your money. However, Disney seems to find a way to do it that doesn't leave you feeling annoyed. Universal is clearly more focused on pure profit. When you buy a soda, the cups have a little code on the bottom. The soda machine reads that code and prevents you from using the cup for a refill.  Part of me was like, "You suck, Universal" and part of me was like, "That's genius." While I am not usually one to try to get a free refill, I also know that when a company charges you $6.00 for a soda, the actual soda only costs them a few cents. So, even if you refill your cup, they are still doing a-okay in the profit department. At Disney, I saw a cast member give a kid a free dessert because it was his birthday. I feel like Universal would have shaken that kid down for cash first.

Disney gives out pins if it's your birthday, anniversary, first visit, etc. My friend Sherri got all of us "Happily Ever After" pins to wear in the parks. A cast member had written "20 'ears!" on them. People were congratulating us left and right, which was fun.  On Friday, Sherri and I went to Hollywood Studios by ourselves so that the boys could sleep in and join us later. She and I wore our pins anyway.  The lady selling frozen lemonade congratulated us on our union. It seemed easiest just to say, "Thanks!"

You may be wondering if I found anything to eat at the parks. I will say that Disney is more vegan-friendly. At Epcot, we ate lunch at the Liberty Inn and I almost cried when the cashier told me that I could choose from three different dishes. I did have to do some research ahead of time, though. I had a hard time finding food at Animal Kingdom (I did end up finding falafel later in the day after I was already in a bad mood about finding nothing but hummus for lunch). I learned that I needed to do more research ahead of time and was more prepared when we went to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Also, I found a Facebook page called Veg Disney on which people will just list everything a vegan/vegetarian can eat at Disney. I wish I'd discovered that a little bit sooner! At Volcano Bay (Universal), our friends rented a cabana for our little group (which was amazing because that way I could stay out of the sun when I wasn't on a ride). We even had our own server, who made sure I got a vegan lunch. So, props to Universal for that.

When Saturday rolled around, it was time to check out of the townhouse in which we'd been staying. The four of us decided to go to the City Walk at Universal to catch an IMAX movie (we saw Dunkirk). After that, we parted ways. Their flight was leaving quite a bit earlier than ours and they still wanted to do some souvenir shopping.

P wanted to check out a couple of comic book shops, so I dutifully drove him to two different ones. He didn't like the first one, but he was ready to stay all day in the second one. I killed as much time as I could in a nearby Marshalls, but eventually I had to pry him out of there so that we could get some lunch. I scouted out a place called Market on South. This joint made all of my dreams come true. Vegan food galore! The mister ordered a burrito and I had two chili dogs with a side of cajun boiled peanuts. There was also a bakery so we ate lunch and then went back to the counter to partake of the baked goods. I had a massive doughnut with sprinkles. When I left, I had food on my shirt and I didn't even care.

We still had some time to kill before our flight. P asked the cashier at the restaurant for recommendations. He started talking about a lake with lots of shops, bars, etc. I told my husband that unless Orlando stores that lake indoors, we were not going. I was just tired of sweating at that point. Instead, we headed to the Orlando Science Center. On the way there, I turned a corner and saw some rainbow flags out of the corner of my eye. It was the Pulse Night Club, where 49 people were gunned down a year ago. I decided to turn the car around to stop. It seemed too important not to stop and honor those who died there. I couldn't believe that I stumbled upon the building like that. Had I know that there was a memorial there, I would have sought it out. The building itself is fenced off. There are tall vinyl canvases covering the fencing. From what I could tell, artists had been invited to add to the canvases but the general public had chimed in, too. There were 49 potted plants (succulents) lined up along the fence. There were photos of the dead, along with messages of hope and despair. Just standing there was very sobering. I felt like crying. I don't know what the plans are for that building, but it would be a great place to (permanently) honor diversity, loss, and love.

Our final stop before the airport was the science center. We were definitely the only people there without children. We had fun, though. We played with the exhibits and built some stuff. There was a show starting at 5:00 in the dome theater, so we decided to check it out. It turned out to be a laser show. Basically, pictures flashed across the screen while popular songs played. It went on and on and on. It was profoundly lame. Every time a song would end, some kid in the audience would ask "Is it over YET?" People would leave after each song until the theater was half empty. P and I were falling asleep. Eventually, we started amusing ourselves by pointing out any laser image that even remotely resembled a penis. Then we laughed a bit too loudly. I'm glad that he and I got to spend so much time together last week. I don't mind telling you that we hadn't really been clicking all that well for the past six months or so. It was good to reconnect, I think.

Our flight left Orlando at 10:30 Saturday night (35 minutes late). We got a hotel for the night and then picked up the kid the next day, when her flight arrived from DC. Speaking of the kid . . . I didn't feel guilty about going on vacation without her (we have a family vacation coming up next week), but I did decide to take her to Disney for Christmas 2018. It'll be her Christmas gift.

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).