Chickadee has been giving me a hard time lately about the blog. “You never write,” she complains. “Why don’t you write anymore?”
I look at her, and she looks at me, and I shrug. Sometimes I follow it up with the usual excuses—I don’t want to violate anyone’s privacy; my life is pretty boring; there’s other stuff that’s more important right now. Those things are true, but another truth lies between us, unspoken: It has been a hard summer, for all of us, but especially between her and me. And the kids are theoretical adults (or close to it; heavy emphasis on “theoretical,” too) and whatever I may struggle with relative to them might’ve been a funny anecdote when they were little, but not so much, now.
Still. She asks more often when things have been difficult between us. She wants affirmation that I still love her, but it is easier to needle me about my blog than to admit she is affected by anything I might do. Dear Chickie: I still love you. For the love of all things holy, please clean your room and the bathroom and maybe eat something with some protein in it and perhaps consider generally working on taking care of yourself and being kind to those around you. Love, Mom.
Anyway, she is right, a number of things HAVE happened, and we are long overdue for an update, so I will try to hit the highlights here as best I can. I do not promise that any of it is interesting, but what can I say? You always get what you pay for, with me.
We Tripped And It Was Good
Finally—at long last, and after a couple of false starts—Otto and I traveled to Asheville, NC for our much-anticipated anniversary trip. We ate ourselves silly and walked for miles and saw cool things and purchased Actual Art like grownups and had a wonderful time. We also—per recommendation from some friends, because this trip involved many hours in the car—started listening to My Dad Wrote A Porno, which is much less porny than the title would suggest. If you are looking for a funny podcast and you’re not TOO easily offended, check it out. Long story short, imagine an erotic novella written by someone who doesn’t actually understand how women or sex actually works, then imagine the author’s son and two friends reading this together and picking it apart and howling with laughter all the while. That’s it. I don’t want to spoil it but I will tell you that at one point AN ACTUAL LINE from the book is “He grabbed her by the cervix” during what is supposed to be a sexy scene. The hosts do a good job of discussing why this is just completely… oh, I don’t know… unsexy and also impossible??… but this caused me to first yell at the stereo WAS HIS ENTIRE HAND INSIDE HER?? and then THAT’S NOT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS! And I think Otto may have found that more entertaining than the podcast itself.
Also we spent some time combing local bookstores and I bought The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope because it was on a “recommended” shelf, and after we got back I devoured it in two days. It was a fascinating read and not at all what I expected (in a good way). My only quibble (so small!) is that I definitely would’ve titled it something else, myself, but hey, I guess I get to have an opinion once I’ve written my own fabulous novel, so never mind.
How Does My Garden Grow?
In an effort to thwart the thieving squirrels this year, I’ve taken a two-pronged approach: I’ve set up a squirrel feeder AWAY from my garden boxes and stock it with dried corn even though I pretty much hate the squirrels, and I’ve started picking my tomatoes at the first hint of color and letting them ripen inside. There have still been a few casualties, but for the most part, this is a compromise that works. I have so many cherry tomatoes (they don’t seem to like those…?) that we’ve eaten them and dehydrated them and now I’ve moved on to just giving them away, but the yield from the regular tomato plants has been a bit fickle. I’ve made sauce just twice, so far, and we’ve had caprese salad and grilled cheese with tomatoes just once each.
I also made refrigerator pickles for the first time, and it was such a success that I think I need to buy one of those wavy blade things (like this) so that next time I can make them PRETTY. That’s… totally reasonable, right? And I would use it on EVERYTHING, because really, the only thing better than eating all the eggplant I’ve been growing would be if it was FANCY.
Last night I realized that I’ve been neglecting my basil and it is taking over the world, so I hacked down most of it and brought giant stems inside and Chickie and I plucked/washed/dried a bunch and I processed it with oil and froze it for future use. I feel just like a homesteader, if said homesteader was looking forward to surviving the long, harsh winter by sometimes wearing a sweater and adding basil to everything.
Ding Dong, The Oven’s Dead
Not gonna link, but remember WAY BACK WHEN how I got a bunch of free appliances and it was super great except for the fact that we suspected some of said appliances might not be so fantastic after all? I don’t want to impugn the manufacturer, so I will just remind you that their name rhymes with… Midgetcare. Ahem. ANYHOODLE, after howevermanyyears I can tell you that we’ve replaced the electronics panel on the stove at least four times (maybe more) because the buttons eventually stop working. That part costs around $150, by the way (and thank God Otto is handy enough to do it himself so we don’t have to pay for service), and EVERY SINGLE TIME we have a conversation about whether we should just give up and replace the stove, and EVERY SINGLE TIME we look at stoves online and decide to just do the panel. The last time Otto replaced it, it actually died so fast the panel itself was still under warranty, so at least that time we didn’t have to pay for the replacement.
The way it dies is super charming, too (and by “super charming” I mean “random and infuriating”). It’s not like the entire thing stops working. Just… some of the numbers will stop working when you press them. The 3 goes first, of course, because that’s the one that gets used the most. I can generally limp along by using the default 350 (what it comes up with when you press the OVEN button, or setting the oven to 299 degrees or 400 degrees, for a bit. Then the 0 dies, usually, and the other numbers follow. Sometimes one or more of the burners will refuse to turn on. It’s always a surprise!
BUT! Last week I set the oven to preheat and threw a mess of eggplant in there for roasting, reasoning that I intended to leave it for a good long while and it could just go ahead and get put in there while the oven came up to temp. Half an hour later I wandered back into the kitchen to check it and the oven was still preheating and only 200 degrees. I checked the settings, put it on Convect instead of Bake, and half an hour later, it had topped out at 220. SAD TROMBONE. Otto’s diagnostics concluded STUPID OVEN IS STUPID, and we made the hard decision to fork over the cash for a replacement, as a working oven is kind of important to me. We did our research and opted for this LG range, which not only 1) works and 2) has a psychedelic purple interior, it also 3) has an app for your phone and a button to run self-diagnostics, in case it has issues, and 4) emits an array of DELIGHTFUL musical chimes rather than buzzing, for everything from turning on the oven light to letting you know the timer is done. We shall forevermore refer to it as MY PRECIOUS and I am so, so glad to be rid of the old oven. Also? This one heats up to 350 in 5 minutes flat, NO JOKE.
The Curious Case Of Crazy Or Crazy Like A Fox
Today is Monkey’s last day of his summer program, and then for the next two days he’ll go ahead and do the two-day orientation program at Giant Nerd University, which seems a little weird since he’s already been living there for a month, but whatever. We are looking forward to bringing him home on Friday and having a few weeks before he goes back for the fall semester. (HELLO YES HI I MISS MAH BAYBEE MUCHLY.)
Pros to this program:
1) Monkey has learned the campus and he got a good preview of how classes there work. (Bonus: he’s already considering changing his major based upon his newfound love of programming, QUELLE SURPRISE.)
2) Despite everything we’ve heard about how hard the first semester at GNU can be, I’m pretty sure this was ten thousand percent more stressful and fall will likely feel like a cakewalk in comparison.
3) He met a bunch of other students, including his summer roommate, who I think will be a lasting friend.
4) The opportunity to get used to life in the dorm before it was OH GOD I’M HERE UNTIL CHRISTMAS was very useful for my change-averse snowflake.
5) Busy Monkey is Happy Monkey (or at least, HappIER Monkey), and holy crap did this keep him busy.
Cons to this program:
1) We were told it was designed to “ready the kids for the rigor of GNU” and “build their resilience” but—call me crazy!—I think there is a difference between “Hi, this is an enormous amount of hard work and you will struggle and not get the A you are accustomed to” and “This is an enormous amount of hard work P.S. HAHAHA ACTUALLY THE TEST IS ON MATERIAL YOU’VE NEVER SEEN WHICH ISN’T EVEN PART OF THE CLASS, ENJOY YOUR F.” I’m just sayin’.
2) The number of technical issues encountered throughout the five weeks was mind-boggling, especially considering that this is supposedly an elite TECHNICAL school. For example: We were told to put money on the kids’ student cards for meals. We did. The cards were never activated for dining use. I’m out the money we put on the card AND the cash (sans card discount, too) Monkey had to pay for meals. (And it wasn’t just him.) Also: their system for alerting kids to online assignments and even serving those assignments was buggy, with numerous accounts of some kids receiving homeworks and even TESTS at times when others didn’t. Then the kids were told if they didn’t do it, too bad, they got 0s, even when they literally had NO WAY to access the work. Again, I get trying to toughen them up and also getting them to advocate for themselves, but come on. (Most of this was eventually resolved, but not without a ton of stress.)
3) There was some bullying and that was disheartening. Especially when some of it came from a TA. I let Monkey handle it and didn’t intervene because COLLEGE but UGH.
4) There was also a lot of “class is at 8:00 am sharp!” and then an email at 7:50 am “Just kidding, it’s tomorrow afternoon!” type things.
5) While I hope time and perspective will change his view, right now Monkey’s take is that the program was more negative than positive. I still think it was useful in many ways, but I can also say that there were more days than not when he contacted me repeatedly to share his misery, and multiple days when he was rendered physically ill (most likely from stress) and felt like he had to go to class/take an exam/work in the lab, regardless. It was very hard to watch (there’s only so many “So I just threw up and I feel so awful but I have to go to the lab and finish this report I guess” texts a mom can get before she finds herself crying every time her phone BINGs with the kid’s tone) and harder for him to do.
Some of it I can see as being intentional to push the kids out of their comfort zones. A lot of it was, I think, either unintentional or beyond the pale. Certainly it was very difficult for ALL the participants, and even harder for a kid who’s non-neurotypical. It’s hard to know how to feel about it on balance.
Ask Not For Whom The Dog Barks, He Barks For Thee
Duncan is losing his mind. Really I need to take him to the vet, and I will, soon, but it is becoming clear that whatever his (advanced) age or previous injuries or mental damage we’ll likely never know the full extent of, he’s… getting worse. Chickie says he started barking at her a lot when we were away in Asheville, and we assumed it was because he was sort of anxious with us gone and his routine changed. But we came back and he hasn’t stopped; either he is asleep or he is wandering around barking or looking for someone to bark at. If we sit at the kitchen table, he barks at us. If we sit in the family room, if anyone has food, he barks, and sometimes if we don’t have food we can put him on a couch and he’ll settle down and go to sleep, but sometimes he barks then, too. He gets very restless and barky at night before bed, to the point where we now routinely close him in the room with us, lest he wander off and start barking at a wall in the dark.
I’ve said for years that Duncan obviously had a rough life before he came to us and his remaining time on Earth didn’t look to be all that extensive, but we could just love him for however long he hangs around. That’s still true, but 1) I’m really, really attached to that little asshole and 2) the barking is annoying.
I swear I’ll take him to the vet next week.
State of the Toenail Address
Remember how I bashed the utter crap out of my big toe and had a hole burned in it and everyone was all “You’re gonna lose that toenail!”? I was unconcerned. Because who cares? It’s just my toe, and if it didn’t hurt, I didn’t care. Welp. In my continuing quest to be the MOST SPECIAL of the special, delicate flowers, I did indeed lose that nail, but not before developing a massive infection in the nail bed, because of course. (See also: going barefoot to help my daughter in the shower at the hospital, then developing infection shortly thereafter.) So, uh, that hurt, for a while, and then things were better but the nail started to release from the bottom up, because the injury had been down at the nail bed rather than the kind of thing most runners get where the irritation is from the tip of the nail hitting the inside of a shoe. So basically the bottom of the nail grew out and then detached and I spent, oh, a month or so, soaking my toe every night and then trimming away pieces of the nail.
It was gross and I will spare you pictures.
Eventually the old nail was completely gone and the new nail is coming along, albeit with a large dent in it where it got smashed, but whatever. It no longer hurts at all, but because it’s super gnarly-looking I have been mostly wearing a band-aid it any time I have to be in public because I don’t want to scare small children. But… it’s a pain in the ass, honestly, and the band-aid has to go under my toe and thus I am walking on it and getting sticky and linty, and so IMAGINE MY DELIGHT when I was grumbling about this to a runner friend and she enlightened me. “Once the nail is gone and the new one is coming in you can just paint the whole area and no one will even be able to tell,” she said.
WHAT??? I had so many questions, because the majority of my toenail area there is SKIN, not NAIL. But she insisted that with a good base coat and enough coats of polish, it would work.
Turns out, she was totally right.
No more band-aids for me! And really, if you can tell something’s going on, chances are you are really too close to my feet, right? I mean…
… and if you must know…
Hopefully all that’s left now is to wait for the nail to grow back into some semblance of normalcy. (Also, I just looked at those pictures and hi, I’m Mir, and I’m 105 years old, as evidenced by my translucent skin and giant blue veins.)
Stuff I Wrote
I should’ve been writing here, but I wasn’t, because I suck. We’ve already established that. Here’s some stuff I wrote for Alpha Mom while I was away, though: If you’ve got a kid heading off to college, feel free to check out my list of dorm must-haves no one tells you about and instructions for the perfect dorm first-aid kit. If you want an unconventional take on rallying your kid (and a bit of a insight into Monkey’s summer program), it’s time to tell your kid to be an iguana. And finally, what to say to your kid before ADHD testing can feel overwhelming, but you’ve got this.
We’ve missed you, Mir!
I want that stove just for the purple interior! I’m glad that everyone seems to be doing well, and happy to hear from you again.
Definitely nice to hear from you, here! Somehow it was all very interesting, despite your disclaimers.xo
Was Monkey’s summer program about programming? I got my lowest grade in college in a computer programming class. Supposedly entry-level, I regularly flunked quizzes and exams for which I studied my butt off but had material that was never covered in class nor in the books. Meanwhile, other students breezed through it just fine, and seemingly knew stuff I didn’t know and was never taught about. Note that I graduated magna cum laude from college and got my PhD after that, so I don’t think it was that I was dumb. That was possibly the most frustrating class I have ever taken.
It wasn’t specifically about any one topic, though I will point out that kids were required to take a Calculus placement exam and only a handful “qualified” for Calc 2, even though most—like my kid—have already successfully complete both Calc 1 and Calc 2 at an accredited university, and many had even completed Calc 3. I think that was the class with the most “what the heck even IS this??” tests. Yeesh.
PODIATRISTS ARE YOUR FRIENDS. They know how to remove toenails in one swell foop with lots of lovely local anesthesia. You may want to see one now, anyway, for a prophylactic prescription that will prevent fungus as the nail grows in. (The fungus probably has heard through the fungus grapevine about your situation and they’ll come looking for your toe with its incomplete nail.) You’re welcome.
I’m guessing you don’t want to hear the sad tale of my short-lived LG TV.
NO I DO NOT THANK YOU.
My LG washer and dryer, though the washer is a bit testy because it’s not installed on a concrete floor, has been going strong for 10 years now.
Poor Duncan! It sounds a bit like doggie dementia. My lhasa was diagnosed with it and we managed it for two more years before it became obvious that quality of life was an issue. She stopped interacting much, no longer had play drive, would get lost in the house (we would find her stuck in a corner crying), and eventually became incontinent. It was heart wrenching to watch and making the decision to put her down was devastating because she was not in pain physically (a heart EKG belonged to a much younger dog). I had her since I was 18, literally half my life, before husband and kids.
I hope it is not but they do have old doggie meds for meds and I think it gave us the extra time with her.
Our oven had that preheating issue once; we just had to replace the heating element. However, in your case, it was one oven betrayal too many!
I agree with Ali about poor Duncan. I’d offer my face for a face-bite if it would make him better!
Hey Mir, there’s another Mary K! I will reiterate what other Mary K. said, and add that I always worry that no news is bad news.
My Dad Wrote a Porno is hilarious! I’ve recommended it to quite a few people. Glad you and Otto seem to have as much fun with it as we have in our household. :)
I tried to leave a comment on AlphaMom with a suggestion for the Dorm Must Have list. But I couldn’t make it work.
Anyhow, here is my suggestion: lots of those one-serving tuna packages. Long shelf-life, don’t need to be refrigerated.
I won’t tell you what I said when I saw the iguana video, because it’s probably not blog-appropriate. However! I wanted to ask if either of your kids were David Quammen fans. He’s my favorite author, and he has a book called The Flight of the Iguana (https://smile.amazon.com/Flight-Iguana-Sidelong-Science-Nature/dp/0684836262). The titular essay talks about how Darwin was throwing these iguanas out to sea, because he was amazed they could swim so well. They hadn’t seen humans before, so the iguanas just went, “Oh well, I’ll just swim back to my spot.” And so they did, and Darwin would throw them out to sea again to watch them swim. It has always been my version of “just keep swimming,” and that video totally made me think of these resilient and persistent iguanas.
I don’t know if either of your kids is in science related field,
but wanted to mention REU is a wonderful,program –
So glad to hear from you again. You have had an eventful few months. I hope the kids find their way and that Duncan will be okay. My shih tzu barks at me sometimes when I come home, but then she barks at everything.
So…Asheville. What did you eat and did you get the book at Battery Park? Did you have wine? Hope you ate at honey Tupelo!!!
Oh, boy. I identify with quite a few of these things (I can’t talk about the oven just yet) but the toenail is what’s standing out most since I’m still dealing with what my husband lovingly refers to as BLACKTOE. I don’t remember hitting it but I guess I must’ve for it to turn black? That or I had/have gangrene and it never manifested beyond turning my nail bed black? Fungus? This isn’t fun anymore. ANYWAY. I’ve only been able to use dark polishes for months while it grows out. It never fully fell off but seemed to simply move its way toward the front and each time I cut my toenails I’d cut a bit of it away. TL;DR: toenails grow too damn slowly.