It feels like there should be a tie-it-all-up-nicely conclusion to the Arizona trip, but of course that’s never really how it happens. It was a wonderful trip and the week went by too quickly, and now we’re home and suffering the after-effects of all that
wine camaraderie and late-night gaming. Plus the time change coming back feels a lot like a hangover all on its own.
No one told me that my stepbrother is a game FIEND. During a lull one afternoon, the kids started going through the games they found on one of the rental house’s massive built-in bookshelves and decided that we could all play Yahtzee together. Unfortunately, opening the box revealed that there were no scoresheets.
“No problem,” said Bobby (no, of course that’s not actually his name), reaching for his laptop. “I have a spreadsheet for that.” Because OF COURSE HE DOES. It even calculates your score on the fly. I suddenly felt like a Luddite. (This feeling was not helped by losing spectacularly. Monkey won, followed closely by 5-year-old Banana, and then the rest is blurry except that I came in dead last.)
On our last night in Arizona, we put the kids to bed and then Bobby whipped up the last batch of Cuban Sunsets to accompany the night’s festivities.
Here I have to pause and tell you that Bobby is a magnificent cook. We had discussed how we’d all take turns cooking at the house and I was totally prepared to cook one night until Bobby whipped up his version of a “quick and simple” dinner the first night and it became clear to me that I should never, ever cook again. I’m not a bad cook, you understand, but neither am I an excellent cook. And I would say that even if he didn’t also make incredible drinks.
Anyway, back to the Cuban Sunset: I looked it up online after we got back home, and the recipes I found for it are varied and horrible (Sunny Delight?? no no no NO), but Bobby’s version involved habanero-infused vodka and passion fruit puree. Basically his Cuban Sunsets are delicious, tangy smoothies that make you want to eat tacos and also possibly dance on the table a little bit. In fact, they are the PERFECT accompaniment to the game we played that night, which was Pirate Fluxx. (If you’ve never played any of the Fluxx games before, basically the rules change CONSTANTLY. If you’re not a hardcore gamer-type, this will make you feel drunk even if you’re not, so why not have a delicious drink while you play?)
[Sidebar: One of the cards in Pirate Fluxx decrees that, once played, any player who talks like a pirate during their turn gets to draw an extra card. This is hilarious, of course, as the only thing cuter than our parents is our parents trying to talk like pirates, plus my husband apparently thinks that referencing what the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has to say about pirates counts as talking like a pirate (no). As for me, my vocabulary of pirate-isms is woefully limited, and the next morning my daughter asked why someone had scrawled SCURVY DOGS!!! on a paper napkin left on the table. She may have been confused by my contention that I was trying to talk like a pirate a little more quietly.]
Anyway, the point is that the evenings of delicious drinks and complicated games with the adults were one of the highlights. Of course, hanging out with everyone was awesome as well, particularly because my niece and nephew are still small and adorable and highly amusing, unlike my children who are bigger and often surly and never pronounce anything in a way which makes me want to dip them in ketchup and gnaw on their little heads.
Dinners were particularly fun-filled, both because we were all together and because Gerber regularly eats his weight in food while engaging in a running commentary and/or wiggly little dance about it. Also, when you’re three or thereabouts, the best way to make sure that everyone heard you is to say whatever it is you wanted as many times as possible until the requested action is performed to your liking.
Example: “Daddy, I want some more-a-dat biz-oh-doe. Please? I want some more-a-dat biz-oh-doe, Daddy. Daddy! I want! MORE-A-DAT BIZ-OH-DOE PLEEEEEEEZE!!” The risotto in question was a saffron and butternut squash concoction which caused The World’s Pickiest Vegetarian (“Oh, I don’t really like rice all that much”) to sigh and declare, “This is the best thing I’ve EVER eaten.” Bobby made an enormous chicken-stock-based pan of it for everyone, and a small pot of veggie-stock-based for Chickadee, and she just kept going back and going back until she’d eaten the entire thing. (To be fair, the rest of us made pretty short work of the non-veggie version, as well.)
We decided that not only did we need Bobby’s recipe, but that in Gerber’s honor we will only refer to this dish as Uncle Bobby’s Bisotto in our house. That seems fair.
Bobby’s family lives in Arizona, and so were able to drive to our location, and stop at Costco on the way. This meant we had a ton of delicious food that had me lamenting both our lack of a Costco and that my children were willing to eat all sorts of foods for Bobby and his wife Daisy (also not her real name) which they’ve never shown that much interest in at home.
Example 1: Bobby and Daisy showed up with several whole coconuts. Granted, I’ve never bought an actual coconut before, but we’ve certainly had coconut FLAVORED things in the past and both kids have turned up their noses. Daisy offered my children fresh coconut and they both ate it. Happily. The night before we left, I was helping the kids pack up and discovered that Monkey had asked Daisy for the empty coconut and she had given it to him, probably not realizing that he’d then gone and stuck it in his suitcase. “But I love him! He is my friend!” he protested as I wiped coconut bits off his socks and discarded the empty husk. (“Please tell me you’re joking,” I said, “because if this coconut is your friend I am concerned.”)
Example 2: Chickadee is a fruit fiend, but she’s never been all that keen on mangoes for some reason. Possibly because the ones we get here are often not all that ripe. Well. The Magical Costco Mangoes that showed up at the house were the Best Mangoes Ever, and every time Gerber and Banana would sit down with some yogurt and fruit (lovingly diced up by their parents) and Chickie spotted mango, she would disappear into the kitchen and return with what seemed to be a SERVING BOWL of the stuff. (“Did you ask if you could have that?” I would chide her. “Aunt Daisy said it was fine!” she would answer, mango packed in her cheeks like a fruit-crazed squirrel, not knowing or not caring that Daisy likely didn’t realize she was eating an entire mango at a time.)
As we were all saying our goodbyes and saying what a great week it had been, Chickadee announced, “This week was great. I now have a mango fixation.” This works out nicely, because I think we all decided that next summer we are going to send Chickadee to her aunt and uncle’s house to be an au pair for the littles (as she and her brother came to refer to Banana and Gerber), and now they can simply pay her in mangoes.
We arrived home in the wee hours on Sunday morning, and a friend had picked up Licorice at the kennel and brought her home (the kennel was closed Sunday and today) to wait for us, and BOY HOWDY was that dog happy to see us. We’ve left her before, of course, but never at a kennel, and although she was reported to have enjoyed it, she actually CRIED while prancing all over us when we returned. It was sort of sweet and also pathetic.
Sunday was spent trying to recombobulate ourselves; everyone slept late, I finished a book I started on the plane, we caught up on DVRed TV shows, we unpacked. Today it was (sort of) back to real life. I puttered around my garden and made the season’s first batch of pesto, because my basil went a little nuts while we were gone. Monkey and I went grocery shopping, because there was no food. (Yesterday we ate… ummm… dry cereal and take-out. Nom.)
While we were gone, it appears that the new birdhouse I gave Otto for our 5th anniversary (wood!) has been claimed by a pair of wrens, and I keep sneaking out onto the porch to watch them bicker and chatter while they flit in and out of it. You just know she’s chewing him out for putting the pine needles in there all wrong, and he’s telling her that it doesn’t matter and she’s being a total control freak. Life went on, is my point. We all came together and played and laughed and realized what a shame it is that we’re all scattered across the country, and now we’re back home and everything feels strangely quiet and incomplete.
And yes, I did buy some mangoes at the store. Even though I know they won’t taste the same.