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While we build our boat

How was your Christmas? Ours was lovely, just before the family scattered on their various journeys, and right now I am struggling to get back into “real life” mode while ALSO dealing with the fact that we’re under a flash flood warning and our yard has turned into a river (thanks, Obama!). This means that the dogs are all manner of freaked out—Duncan likes to bark to let me know he heard thunder, which is SUPER USEFUL—and also because they are delicate flowers, they don’t want to go outside in the rain and mud. And that’s fine, if they want to learn how to use a toilet, but apparently that’s not an option.

In short: it’s wet and dark and muddy and loud and I am running out of Nature’s Miracle. (If you don’t know what that is, consider yourself lucky. I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.)

I wrote you a post over at Alpha Mom, though, and I had plenty of time to write it because I haven’t seen my kid in days. Well, that’s an exaggeration: she tends to surface for food and Netflix binging, but as we continue the Countdown To Launch, we just opened up a whole new world of freedom here. It’s all so weird. I mean, she’s like, I dunno, 10 years old, right? Yeah.

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Obnoxious, but sometimes with good reason

I spent the bulk of the past weekend and this week baking cookies. Some doughs I make and freeze for later baking. Some cookies I went ahead and baked and froze when they were done. Some I baked this week and refrigerated. And then—like EVERY SINGLE YEAR as if I’m just new to this whole thing—on Thursday I of course discovered that the number of Cookie Gifting Vessels I owned vs. the List Of Teachers was a mismatch, and off I went to buy more containers. At least that trip to the store broke up my day of finishing baking and dividing up everything and packaging it nicely and printing little cards and all of that.

Several people have asked me why I still bother to do this, now that the kids are in high school. Most people don’t, I guess. For one thing, I enjoy it, even though it makes for a rather nutty week. For another, I can’t just drop a wad of cash on every teacher who’s making a difference in my kids’ lives (even though sometimes I wish I could). A bunch of cookies seems like the very least I can do.

Someone asked me what they have to do to get on my cookie list. I said, “Teach at my kids’ school and don’t piss me off.” See? It’s easy. (And honestly, only once in many, many years have I ever skipped giving a gift to a specific teacher. It’s pretty hard to make me mad enough to where I withhold cookies.)

And yes, okay, part of why I do it is because sure, I can be a pain in the ass sometimes (pretend to be surprised), and I want to do something nice for the folks I may have irritated earlier in the year. I’m not one to opt for “not making waves” over what I think is right (again, just play along and act like that’s surprising). I will hold feet to the fire if I need to. But then I’ll make you cookies. It all evens out.

This brings us to my column this week at Alpha Mom, wherein a mom asks if she’s being too helicopter-y, and I get right up on my soap box about speaking up, loud and clear. It’s not about cookies, it’s about teaching our kids what is and isn’t okay.

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I have many questions

My life is confusing. I mean, I’m sure it’s no more confusing than anyone else’s, but I am easily perplexed. Sometimes I just randomly wonder about stuff, and other times I am genuinely flummoxed. Because it’s Monday and I am me, I’m just going to share some of my recent questions with you in no particular order. Feel free to offer insight, or just to let me know you’re confused along with me.

What is a reasonable expectation for a cheap hotel? Some background: Over the summer during our Collegevisitpalooza, Chickadee and I stayed at a perfectly serviceable, if unremarkable, hotel near her chosen college. The cost for the night was… around $100, I think. (Bear in mind this is not in a major metropolitan area, or anything. Small town, maybe 8-10 hotels from which to choose.) Last week we went for another visit and this time I went poking around online and chose a slightly cheaper option—about $60 for the night—because I am cheap and it was just a place to crash for the night and no biggie. Yeah. Um. They did indeed LEAVE THE LIGHT ON FOR US, but it quickly became clear that that was perhaps because 1) they didn’t want us to wait in the dark for the 10 minutes it took the manager to appear at the check-in desk, and 2) the light scares the roaches a little. It was… so gross. Like, I-checked-for-bedbugs gross. We were there for about 9 hours and we lived, obviously, but when I submitted a complaint via the website, all I got back was a “we are taking measures to rectify this issue” email. Am I out of line here, or should $60 still get you a roach-free room? (more…)

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Never a dull moment

I really thought that once Chickadee got her license, my life would become less complicated. Like: immediately, and exponentially less complicated. Because everyone knows that just when you feel like your kids have reached an age of relative self-sufficiency, you are then relegated to 24/7 chauffeur status for years while they are too old for you to micromanage their lives but too young to handle their own transportation.

To some extent it’s true that things are easier now, in the sense that I am no longer driving back and forth to school more often than not, because I can let the kids take my car and they do many of the same activities, and then I can just wait at home in my apron to serve them a hot meal they don’t want when they get back. (I almost never wear an apron, so that part is hyperbole.) And while Chickie doesn’t have her own car, we happen to have a spare (you know, the haul-the-camping-trailer truck which, now that the camper is gone, is mostly the haul-the-Costco-shopping-trip truck), so it’s not a hardship to let her take my car and leave me out of the daily GOTTA GO TO THIS THING AND THEN GO THERE BE HOME LATER BYEEEEEE thing.

On the other hand, sometimes the kids don’t have the same activity, and sometimes they still need me for something other than rides (the NERVE), and I’m supposed to be working on work stuff and I am also working on book stuff (shhhhhh; the first rule of HolyshitIamwritingabook Club is that we don’t talk about HolyshitIamwritingabook Club) and I am trying to get back to exercising regularly and it’s getting colder so I need to cook and bake stuff to make the house warmer (that’s totally a thing) and sometimes the dogs need me to play with them. Stuff is still going on, is my point. And mostly it’s manageable.

The thing is, it’s a delicate balance, and it doesn’t take much to upset it. CUE OMINOUS MUSIC. (more…)

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Chicken and parsnips and college

College sounds like a terrible addition to a chicken and parsnips dish. It would make it taste funny! But I am a poor planner and so I am jamming two wholly unrelated things together, plus I am giving you a recipe I sort of Frankenstein-ed together just because I liked it. Hey, you get what you pay for, here.

First, college: It’s that magical time of year when everyone with a high school senior is freaking out about college applications, so I wrote about it for Alpha Mom. You should probably go read it if college applications are in your kid’s future, because if I learned anything while asking around, it was that College Insanity has this pernicious habit of making itself look totally reasonable to its victims. To wit: Some people told me with COMPLETELY STRAIGHT FACES that their kid applied to 20+ schools. TWENTY. OR MORE. They didn’t think that was weird at all. That’s because crazy doesn’t know it’s crazy, but don’t worry, because I’m only too happy to point out how utterly bonkers that is.

Second, I made a super yummy dinner last night and it made me happy, though I discovered on Facebook that apparently parsnips are quite polarizing. People seem to either love them or hate them. Me, I love them. Otto, too. Chickadee had an alternate meal because we were eating animals, and then Monkey was very suspicious and told me the parsnips “taste like nothing” so I told him to shut up and eat his nothing. (I kid. I didn’t tell him to shut up.) If you’d like the recipe and a lot of parenthetical commentary, read on. (more…)

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Life is like a sticky banana

Bananas are a very tricky thing ’round here. They have to be ripe—but not TOO RIPE—and they cannot have any signs of bruising (because that’s not a thing that ever happens to bananas… oh, wait…) because that is Completely Unacceptable. This is where people who are new here assume that I have toddlers because HAHA no one over the age of 4 would be this picky about fruit, right? Yeah. No. (For the record, it is really only one child who is super-picky about the state of bananas, but then the OTHER child insists things like, “I don’t like watermelon” and WHO DOESN’T LIKE WATERMELON, THAT’S CRAZY so let’s call it a draw when assessing Which Teen Is More Insane When It Comes To Fruit, I guess.)

I don’t pack bananas in lunches all that often, on account of the whole It Must Be Banana Perfection thing, but every now and then the planets align and a perfect banana emerges. I will lovingly scoop it up, adorn it with a quick note a la The Bloggess (I did it once and then there was complaining if it didn’t happen every time), and place it INSIDE a large plastic container also housing a sandwich, so that the aforementioned pristine banana-ness may be maintained despite whatever trials and travails a lunch bag might encounter throughout the morning. Both children are aware that this constitutes an implicit Banana Contract wherein YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE BLESSED BANANA AND NOW YOU WILL EAT IT.

You can skip eating the crackers. You can leave the juice pouch. Heck, don’t even finish your sandwich. I don’t care! But eat the damn banana. Because perfection is fleeting. (more…)

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Love in a time of stuff

I often refer to our housekeeping style as “tidy with hidden pockets of disaster.” We spend most of our family time in the kitchen and family room; those rooms are clean and orderly, for the most part. My office desk tends to suffer from pile-itis, but I’m working on that. I exhort the children to keep their spaces free of clutter, or at least not covered in dirty laundry, which in teenage parlance is the same thing. But I must confess that somewhere along the way, part of how we kept the main areas of the house looking reasonable was to dump anything “to be dealt with later” into our master bedroom, because really, who goes in there except us, anyway?

My last big bedroom clean-out was probably 5+ years ago, and the clutter crept back in, and about a week ago, Otto asked if maybe over the weekend we could work on digging out our room a little…? You could tell he was hesitant with the request, and “we” meant “mostly me,” as most of the junk was on my side, and was a combination of stuff belonging to me and the kids. Otto asks for very little, and I love him, and he was right, it was out of control, so I spent most of Saturday sorting, pitching, and rediscovering that, huh, our bedroom is pretty big. I felt super accomplished about it, too.

Of course, part of the motivation to get rid of stuff may have been that I am also in the process of accumulating more stuff. Shhhhh, don’t tell. Also, if you think I’m crazy, that’s okay, but over at Alpha Mom, I’m revealing how retail therapy is about more than shopping right now. I hope it works.

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Not sick, and slightly useful

I spent last week in a grudging state of malingering. Malingerment? Whatever. I was not SICK sick, you understand. I was not so ill that I could take to my bed without guilt, but I had a cold (THANKS, KIDS!) and just didn’t feel 100%. I got up in the morning and packed lunches and did the other morning routine things, then tried to work for a while and often ended up taking a nap at some point and trying to work some more and then making dinner. And I felt really stupid about it all, because: not sick. Not really. Just a little puny, that’s all.

[Aside: Now that I am officially Working Less my inherent tendency towards crippling guilt has kicked into overdrive. Not bringing in the big bucks? WE’LL HAVE LOVINGLY PREPARED HOMEMADE MEALS AND CLEAN BATHROOMS! Because if I’m not singlehandedly taking care of the mortgage, by God, there WILL be from-scratch focaccia with dinner! So what if I have to wash my hands twelve times while I’m making it because of all the nose-blowing and whatnot? I WILL COOK FOR YOU AND YOU WILL APPRECIATE IT. Also I appear to have made myself entirely too useful at the high school; I blinked and found myself holding no fewer than three positions requiring actual thought and action. I’m dumb.]

It was sort of a long week, is my point. Life didn’t stop and I wasn’t sick enough to opt out, so I just dragged along until I started feeling better on Friday. This meant, of course, that I tried to Do All The Things over the weekend and now today I’m tired and cranky. This whole being an adult thing seems overrated. (more…)

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Christmas in July?

Every Christmas, Otto makes his family’s traditional Christmas cake, which is actually a recipe that yields TWO bundt cakes. If we have company or are up north visiting, both cakes are consumed. If we’re down here with just us four, one cake gets eaten and the other one gets wrapped and put into the freezer in the garage.

I liked the Christmas cake well enough when I was still eating wheat, but I did not… how shall we say… hold it in the same reverent esteem as Otto and his siblings do. And this is sacrilege, you understand, not to feel a deep devotion to the sacred Christmas cake. (It’s hard to explain to someone how nostalgia might augment a taste in a way that cannot be recreated for those who lack similar experience.) No matter—Monkey was only too willing to jump on the Christmas Cake Is the BEST! EVER! bandwagon with Otto, plus Chickadee isn’t exactly going to turn down an offer of cake, especially for breakfast.

This is all preface to saying that last week, I went to get something out of the garage freezer, and I saw the second Christmas cake in there, and decided it was time for second Christmas. I pulled the cake and set it on the kitchen counter.

“Is that… CHRISTMAS CAKE??” asked Monkey, licking his lips.

“Yep,” I said. “Merry Christmas!” My family proceeded to eat cake every morning until it was gone, and I felt like a hero without expending any effort, so I’m calling it a win all around. Plus I was patting myself on the back about how great it is to have that extra freezer. (more…)

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Vegas, baby

So. Kira and I went to Vegas and took the town by storm!

Hahahahaaaaaaaaaaaa. Not really. But we had a good time.

It started like this: Every summer for the past 10 (!!) years or so, Kira and I have conspired to see one another. As ours is one of those “fake Internet friendships” where we simply met online while both of us were freshly divorced and newly wrecked, we’re not REAL friends, of course, but somehow at that first meeting long ago it turned out that neither of us was a pedophile living in a basement, and our friendship turned into a real boy, Geppetto (a real girl?), and we have been soulmates ever since. This is slightly inconvenient for our husbands, but not, because as wonderful as both of our husbands are (and believe you me, each was assessed in full by the non-marrying friend for worthiness prior to the actual gettin’ hitched part), neither of them wants to hear the sheer volume of words that pour from our mouths when we are in one another’s company.

We’ve somehow managed to visit once a year for a decade, even during the leanest years. Because it’s important. I will forever owe a debt of gratitude to Joshilyn for hosting us for that first girls’ weekend in 2005, during a time when I was depressed and directionless and had forgotten that sometimes girlfriends make it all better. Also, that was my first visit to Georgia, and at the time I had NO IDEA I’d be moving here not too long after. After that first time, we took turns visiting each other’s houses, but—I don’t know if you know this—we have rather a lot of children between us, and so there were always many small people in our faces during each visit. This isn’t AWFUL, you understand, but we felt like after a decade, we deserved a trip just for us. So earlier this year we pulled out a map and said, Hey, what’s between us? Maybe we can meet in the middle…? And so we planned to fly to… Texas. (more…)

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