Monday, December 31, 2007
As a result, I've spent very few NYE's out. Having kids is a convenient excuse. Heck, if I had friends with kids, I'd be offering to watch the little ones if the parents wanted to go out. It's far less stressful to be at home.
So, you ask, did you *ever* go out for NYE? Yes, I did. One year (my first dating my ex), we spent a lot of money to go to a fancy dinner at a place on the North Shore (the Pig and Whistle). It was good, but not 100 bucks a head (in 1985) good.
A couple of years later, I went out again. Our friend Lisa had a party at her house, the dozen or so of us in the crowd met up at her place. It was memorable for a few reasons. Two bottles of 100 proof booze (1 SoCo and one Absolut) were dropped on her tile kitchen floor. Byebye booze. I also took a spill on the ice outside the liquor store. I still have an indentation on one shin from that fall. Finally, Lisa's dad decided the group was too loud (seriously, we were talking-the fact that we were having a good time pissed him off) and kicked us out.
Ed was so drunk, he should not have been driving, but none of us were much better off. He did not remember getting home or dropping Jim off, for that matter. That was the dawn of 1988 and my last New Years were I left the place where I'd sleep for New Years.
Well, not quite. I spent New Year's '89 and '92 moving. My lease was up on the 31st of December when I moved into and out of 212. Other than that, I've hosted parties (quite a few) or been to a party at my sister's house. Back before having the kids, we'd have the whole gang down from NY. They had a place to veg and I didn't have to go anywhere. It was a win/win.
In '92, I had my wrist reconstructed the day before Thanksgiving. I was still in a long arm cast for New Year's. I'd invited the friends down with the annual letter and had promised my famous Eggplant Parmesan. When they arrived, I begged off and Ed harrassed me that it was BAIT AND SWITCH!!!! You can't make people come 300 miles with the promise of Guplant and not deliver. I relented and fried the eggplant with the arm encased in fiberglass. While I did so, Ed and the ex took my 'surprise me' to the drink order seriously and video taped a secret drink concoction being prepared. (Ed also videotaped 'puppy cam', through the eyes of my lab, Bear).
The last party with more than two people coming to our place was the year Gameboy was born. Since then, it's been relatively quiet. I think we're both of the mind that there is no sense spending a ton of money to watch the ball drop on a tv outside of the house.
Yeah, we'd contemplated going to Sea World or Busch Gardens today, but two things made us change our minds. The weather was iffy and we are kinda spoiled visiting those parks without the crowds. Instead, we went out to lunch and got some snack things for dinner and we're playing the Wii. It's 10:30 and the kids are still up, so we may actually have the first New Years that they see arrive.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Some of my musings and assvice for the new year:
Take some time today or tomorrow to pick up the phone and call friends or family you haven't talked to in a while. No one's psychic (that I know, anyway), so if you've been thinking about them, let them know. I need to get those phone numbers out of the old cell phone (still), so I can do my part.
If you didn't get around to sending out Christmas cards (hi, nice to see you! I'm in good company), send out New Year's cards!
For 2008, just remember the most important words in the English language are Please, Thank You, I'm Sorry and I Love You. Words are free, so use them often. :)
Have a Happy New Year, everyone!
With this post, I've done two events in a row successfully. Let's see how Blog 365 goes. I'm hoping that it brings me some more new friends in the computer (hi Mandy, Lotus, Anna, Katie, Sarah, Mary and everyone else!) and helps me to keep in touch with old friends and family. A reminder to those of you who don't blog (or don't update your blogs)-keep up your end. Comment or call! I am NOT psychic. I'm psychotic, remember?
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I've got a few noodling around in my head. First and foremost is that I will get my head back in the books-2008, I WILL go back to school. I need to get those two CLEPs out of the way. I'm debating whether I should go to the graduation ceremony-graduates don't walk the stage. Then, if I get this act together quick enough, I'll start the education program in July.
Next up is to get in better shape. The leg is probably about where it's going to be, now I've got to exercise and adapt to the changes. Perhaps I need to get the physical therapy ball rolling, but I think I have a date with the iPod and crocs to walk a half hour a day several times a week. Too bad I can't dictate the blog while doing that, because it'd mean I walk every day AND blog.
Another one needs the okay of someone else. I'd like to catalog the photographs my stepdad has. He's gotten the short end of the stick since Mom passed because he takes care of his health. No emergency 'you have to come now' calls from him-that's not his style. As a result, he hasn't seen much of us. However, he's talking about moving to NY, so I should spend time with him while he's still here. The way I see it, if he's okay with my project, I'll spend a couple of days each month visiting with him.
I think those are pretty stout resolves.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
A couple of nights before Christmas, we had Mellow Mushroom for dinner. Chef jr was insistent that he was having anchovies. We'd said if he wanted to try it, that was fine-so we got him a personal size. The verdict? Anchovies 1, Chef 0.
They impart good flavor, but the oil is so concentrated that you probably could have put one anchovy on the thing and the oil would have seeped out onto the whole thing with plenty of flavor to spare. At least he wasn't devastated by not liking them!
Last night, we used the gift certificate my boss gave me for Christmas and went to Red Lobster. Yum! When the server took our drink order, I told him we'd definitely order an appetizer when he came back-we just needed to choose one. As soon as the words left my mouth, I had two men insisting we were getting the lobster fondue. No complaints from me.
Three of us made short work of it (Gameboy passed on this one, but he'll sometimes join in). Chef was so entranced with the lobster/cheese blend that he proceeded to pull every last morsel of cheese off the sourdough bowl. He was actually disappointed when the server took the bowl away, "there was still cheese on that!" (maybe a drop or three.)
He got the kid's crab legs, but wanted Shrimp Scampi, too. Back in the old days, he'd request "Shrimp with Juice." It's been a favorite since he was around 2. I ordered enough shrimp to share and Ed got the Crab Alfredo. Gameboy wanted Popcorn Shrimp.
Our kids are funny. When Ed asked Gameboy how he liked his shrimp, the realization set in that the child had been silent because he'd eaten every last morsel of his meal. Good deal. Chef, well, he had mom and dad pulling meat out of the crab legs for him, what's not to like? He did some of the work but Ed did most of it.
When he ate every bite, he said his usual after a yummy seafood meal, "I just took a trip to heaven with a side trip to paradise" Feed the kid seafood and you'll hear it, too.
Yes, it's a chain, but when a chain makes all of us happy, we'll be there. I'm kinda bummed I didn't have any leftovers to enjoy today!
Friday, December 28, 2007
Yes, there's Blog 365-participants are going to blog every day for 365 days or until the Internet blows up, whichever comes first.
We gave Chef Junior that game of childhood for Christmas-we gave him Life. Ed dubbed tonight "family game night" and the three of us sat down playing Trouble and then Life. Gameboy admitted fatigue and put himself to bed at 7:30pm. Should have checked him for fever.
Apparently, in the twenty odd years since I've last played Life, the game has had a revamp. There are student loans, midlife crises (a few of them, IIRC) and ways to earn more buckaroos. I read the rules to the menfolk and got the typical glazed over thing that guys get when confronted with instructions. C'mon Mom, we want to PLAY!
Okay, we start. Ed cracks that he's not going to make the same mistake in the game that he did in the real world-he's going to college (only now in the game, you're 100k in the hole before you go one space!) All three of us go the college route. I'm proud to report that my son became a doctor. Ed became an artist and I don't think you have to guess what I became. At least the game pays better than what I make in the real world!
Son is quite happy with his 100k payday and quickly takes the lead-buying a nice house, getting married and skipping having kids. He keeps raking in the bucks. Meanwhile, I'm quietly plotting my strategy (Ed calls me on it-if I'm quiet, I am up to something). He's ticked that he went to college to become an artist. At least one of the updates in this game is switching the salary cards. His fluctuates, and at one point, he's got Chef's 100k payday.
At one point, Ed took the wrong car for Chef's turn. This resulted in Chef having a midlife crisis (at 8? Man, kids are growing up fast nowadays but a midlife crisis? at 8?) and he becomes an entertainer making 30k a year. The child throws out a bunch of hilarious comments, basically saying his life sucks because he's broke, a pauper, penniless (all with about 500k in funny money in front of him, too!) and he's miserable.
It's at this point that I observe "Hey, that's the white car!" and Chef's salary and status in life were restored. It made paying out that 35 grand to host a charity concert seem like peanuts. A few turns later, Ed earns that coveted salary switch and he grabbed Chef's 100k card, opining that it could be worse-he could be an entertainer making 30k a year. Too funny.
Now the game has these "life" cards that you earn for philanthropic and altruistic endeavors. I kept getting them, the men-not so much. You're supposed to keep them face down, so we didn't know what the cards contained.
Once we hit retirement at the end of the game, Chef and I both thought we'd made the most money, while Ed wasn't so sure. This meant a count off and I had 1.4 odd million, Chef had 1.05 and Ed had 1.15. I had 6 'life tiles' and earned the four that the top person in Millionaire acres gets. This put me way in the lead.
It was a lot of fun to revisit Life. I never owned my own game. Instead, I spent many hours playing this at a few different friends houses. Since Chef Jr is really into playing games, I figured it was time to bring out this blast from the past. The updates didn't detract from it-quite the contrary, it provided fodder for Chef to be his entertaining self.
He is a little cut throat, which makes me think that its a good idea to wait before introducing Monopoly!
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Lately, I've got a little scratch in the Pay Pal account and I've been going after books. I've got a handful of authors that I like to own the books. If they're going to get read over and over, it just makes sense.
For instance, one of the latest acquisitions is the latest Faye Kellerman book. She has a series of books about LAPD detective Peter Decker and his wife, Rina (nee Lazarus). I'm a sucker for a well written mystery/police procedural and this series delivers the goods. On top of that, the couple observes Orthodox Judaism and the religion and its rituals fascinate me.
A friend turned me on to her books when I was holed up in the hospital for nine days with that DVT. I plowed through four or five titles in a couple of weeks and then the dreaded two to three year wait between titles began. The other authors Kristin offered up didn't appeal. I have yet to get more than two chapters into a Janet Evanovich and I trudged through one of Jonathan Kellerman's. I have yet to pick up any of his others-nor have I dared to read Faye's other series. I'm afraid they won't be as enjoyable as the old friends Peter and Rina have become.
Today's mail brought old favorites I've mentioned before. Dr. Deck, in 7th grade, required my English class to read "The White Mountain" by John Christopher. He mentioned offhand that if you liked the book, he had others for you to read. I finished the book in either one or two nights and in less time than it took my classmates to read the first book, I'd read the whole series. Now I've got the paperbacks in pristine condition. This is really cool-used and new starting at over fifty dollars, and I'm looking at a new set that cost me far less! Yes, it's sci fi for adolescents, but even thirty years later, I found the first book to be a nail biter.
Sometimes, I read something and later lament that I didn't buy a copy. Such is the case with one of the Meg Cabot books, Boy Meets Girl. She's written this one (and two others) as if they're emails/pda/journal entries among the characters. It's very disconcerting at first, but once you get used to the style, it's cute. She's one of those authors that I'll pick up any of her books, because it's guaranteed to be fun.
A former coworker, Jenn, turned me on to Marian Keyes with "Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married". I wrote last month about getting the latest in the Walsh family saga, "Anybody Out There?" As each book comes out, I love the wit and family interaction-but this one had me crying and laughing all on the same page.
Those are my latest finds from the Internet yard sale we know as eBay. Since I've still got some fun money left, I think I'll be looking for the Katie MacAllisters I'm missing, catching up on the missing Tom Clancys and the rest of the Nelson DeMille John Corey series. Yes, my tastes are eclectic, I will never deny that. Fortunately, eBay is even more eclectic-they've got it all. Best part is that if I don't like the price, I can wait to purchase the books until the price is what I'm willing to pay.
Maybe I should sell off those Evanoviches that are collecting dust! It'll make some Stephanie Plum fan happy and give me more money to buy my favorites...
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The afternoon involved some Bowling and Tennis for me and Chef Jr. I know he played with the Mario game while I was preparing dinner, and Ed played some of the sports games with him. Later, the Lego Star Wars was played as well.
Dinner involved preparing everything from scratch this year-just felt like doing it. I made a spectacular Cabernet au jus gravy that I wanted to eat with a spoon, lol! The roast turned out great and I think the crab cakes were enjoyed.
After dinner, more game play until bedtime for Chef. Then, Ed and I went head to head Bowling and playing Lego Star Wars. We cracked open the Wii Play and check it out. What a dud. After you consider the remote that was included in it, I suppose we got a ten dollar game. Lame.
This morning, Gameboy got his chance with the DS and the Wii. I don't think he'll repeat his mistake ever again-a day without the new games was torture.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
The nice part of it being a family gift is that Ed and I got to share the story of how we got the thing. We set each boy down in the living room and had them take a side. Chef Jr, as soon as he saw WHAT it was, began tearing paper in an Animal-like frenzy. They are very happy.
Ed's in the process of getting the thing set up...
Prior to opening the box. They've got no clue what this is all about.
Gameboy displays his stealth unwrapping mode (very quiet and methodical), while Chef Jr has realized what's in the box and stops short in shock!
Hey, we got a WII!
Look, Gameboy opening a present! Again, he displayed his quiet unwrapping technique.
Merry Christmas, everyone. I'm going to feel better after some bowling.
Instead, Gameboy woke up sometime very early and took all his presents into his room, hid under his bed and opened them. Never mind the coaching he got prior to bed. The rules are simple: if you wake up and it's dark, go back to bed. If it's not, come get the rest of the family. Nope, he was up before we got up at 6:30 and opened every damn thing.
Daily, it's a struggle with this kid. He doesn't get it, doesn't think he did anything wrong and the friggin OCD is going to be the death of me. Ed and I got each other some very small gifts. For both of us, the joy of the holiday is the giving-seeing the kids reactions to what we chose.
Now he's in his room and the presents have been taken away. When asked, he says "instinct took over". I had to explain that instinct would have had him getting his family, because Christmas has ALWAYS been about being with the family, NOT sneaking your presents off to open alone.
Our only saving grace is that they still don't know about the Wii. Ed had the foresight last night to cover it with a blanket in such a way that it looked like it was part of the tree skirt. I don't know when they'll see that one today. Probably after dinner.
Chef Jr had requested a cookbook to start his collection. Well, the first one he asked for, I already own. I told him I'd share, but this one goes with him when he moves out someday.
You can't have a DS without games. Well, you could use your old GBA games, but that's not as much fun, is it? Zelda for the DS, schweet!
Entering in his vital statistics so that he can play Zelda
Oh yeah, I get it. Trouble is Life. Oh, how I get it today...
Monday, December 24, 2007
Still on the to do list:
Make the lasagna for tonight.
Finish making the Korabiedes from Monday (that triple batch went FAR, people)
Macerate some Strawberries. Yes, it's official-Strawberry season in Florida.
Wrap Ed's present for under the tree.
Fill the stockings.
Prepare the Crab Cakes for tomorrow.
Get the kids to take showers.
Charge up the camera batteries and make sure we both have empty Compact Flash cards.
Fortunately, we switched out one tradition last night. Usually, present wrapping didn't occur until around 11pm Christmas Eve. We'd make sure the kids were sleeping, pop in some Christmas CDs, then have a wrap fest until 2 or 3am.
This year's task was done in about an hour and a half after Ed detoured to Wal Mart for some Santa paper. Yeah, he figured out there was no Santa because all the presents under the tree had the same paper as the gifts from Santa. So we always make sure the Santa gifts are wrapped in paper that is different from the rest and unseen by the boys prior to Christmas.
It's nice not looking at that list and wondering how much I can possibly get done before I am completely wiped out. It's also nice to look at the menu planned for tomorrow and see easy street. That's partly why I'm preparing the crab cakes today. I'll even make the remoulade for them today, so that the flavors have time to develop. Yum. I wonder how remoulade topped roast beef would be?
If I don't get to talk to you personally, Merry Christmas to you and your families!
Sunday, December 23, 2007
I really don't want to see the head popping off on THIS toy!
Every kid on J street wants one, right Jeff? Fun the whole family can enjoy!Mandy, I'll bet you didn't get THIS toy for your princess this year!
Once again, I want to share that I was meant to have boys. Now I get to play with the Legos and the stuff I didn't get to as a kid.
Bobby D's the guy who points me to blog entries about interesting Doctor Who rumors and Monty Python stuff. The recent one had a rumor about a one off 'Doctor' appearance. However, the blogger had the word "ExTREMinate", which makes me wonder if the Daleks are going to cut off limbs, a la the Black Knight from Holy Grail!
The old phone's backlight died about a month before I got the new phone, so I can't read the display without my eyes doing a cartoonish "ah OOOOH gah" popping out of my head. I suppose I could bring the thing over to an AT&T store and get them to port my address book into the new one. However, I think the throngs of people who are smart and buying gadgets for Christmas will be crowding the place. (Yes, I am firmly in the "gimme gadgets" camp and think they make awesome gifts, lol.)
This does present dilemmas, not having numbers in the phone. I suppose I need to break down and get some of those phone numbers transferred so that I can make calls for Christmas. One of my sisters and her daughter are getting a box of clothes sent to them. There is a pile of perfectly good business attire that is too big for me, but niece can use them. I have to get that number to call them and send this stuff out.
Then there's the friends that I want to call and when I go to do it, the reality of my laziness hits me in the face. For instance, I've wanted to text Paula pictures of the ship she will be cruising on in April. Instead, the picture sits on my phone.
That one is just as well, because you can't really see much-I took the picture with the sun behind that ship. It's a nice silhouette, though. She called me recently, but I found that this phone's call log only stores the last ten calls. Her number rapidly fell out of my log, well before I remembered to store it. Oops.
Then there are the people who ARE in my phone directory that I haven't actually talked to since I got the phone. Liz, there is just way too much phone tag going on! The other ones are good to not have had the opportunity to talk. Most of my doctors go in that directory because I don't want to be stuck having to track down their phone numbers when I need them.
I suppose that after January 1st, I need to drag the old phone over to AT&T and fix this situation. In the meantime, blanket apologies if I haven't called you and you were wondering why not. If you're feeling especially kind, give me a gift and call me so I can put you in the directory. Thanks!!!
Saturday, December 22, 2007
The other night, Chef Jr sang in the chorus for the school's winter concert and play. I missed the event, thanks to only having three days notice of it in December. In trying to switch shifts with a coworker, I got the okay-but didn't relay the confirmation. Alas, I missed out.
Ed was puzzled by what happens with the music programs in elementary schools nowadays. Both of us were participants in chorus in elementary school, and then I spent another six years involved in vocal music classes. Apparently, the kids don't learn multiple parts. They all sing in unison to a prerecorded soundtrack. Where's the learning here?
We both recalled singing two and three part pieces in grade school. My memories include the flamboyant elementary music teacher teaching syncopation and how to read music. We got recorders in third grade. We weren't spoon fed a simple melody, to be sung with a soundtrack. I'm of the mind that if you challenge a child musically in those early school days, they'll benefit in more than just music proficiency.
As a result, the two of us ended up having a conversation with Chef about next year. He'll begin a music program in school. I thought this meant band or orchestra (nope, just violin instruction). I told him he'd be tested and allowed to choose an instrument to learn.
It came as no surprise that he said he wanted to play drums. He has the drummer personality. Seriously, if you know what I'm talking about, you can pick the drummer out in any crowd. The fearless type, who is not afraid of getting attention, goofy, silly and will do anything for a laugh. The guy who thinks nothing of singing Christmas carols in July. We've even looked at drum sets several times over the years, knowing they'd be a good fit for him.
No, we explained. If you want to play drums, there's no sense in just learning in school-especially if the program the other night shows what is in store. Pick another instrument to learn (preferably one where you learn to read the sheet music, not little x's with sticks) and if you're serious, we'll get you drum lessons. He's mulling that one over now.
In the meantime, know that our house has always had its own Animal. Now he wants to complete the picture.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Some of the winners of years gone by:
I mentioned one in the Christmas meme recently. A cobalt blue sweater that had black sequins on it, size SMALL. This chest of mine has not worn a small since high school. It was angora like, which means I'd be scratching non stop. The giver probably regifted it to me, thinking that blue was my favorite color.
Hmmm, that gives me an idea. They should make color toilet plungers, 'but its your favorite color!'. The gift for that impossible person on your list.
My ex's mom was quite fond of buying me nightwear from Sears. Not flannel gowns, that would be an improvement over these. For four years, I got polyester teddies in colors that I don't think occur in nature. They had lace (more scratcing) and were hideously ugly. I don't even think a supermodel could make these items look attractive. I am no where close to looking like a supermodel, so they sat in my drawers with tags attached. (Heck, who would regift THAT?! Eww) He finally spoke up to his mom after four years of it by telling her I sleep in the buff. That was good-I think she was scarred by that prospect (but what if there's a fire?).
She redeemed herself on the thought front the Christmas after he and I split up. She found this really nice decoupage boxed gift set of a perfume she knew my ex had bought me. Gold star for remembering it. Alas, I had to limit my exposure to the scent because it was floral and anytime I smelled it, it reminded me of the jerk. I passed on the contents of the box to a friend to give to his wife, but I still have the box.
Sometimes, even those who have a clue about me strike out. My Dad usually did a fantastic job with gifts for me and Giggles. Seriously, my friends were jealous. I know I am not easy to select presents for, but he did it consistently. One year, he decided on some pierced earrings. (Funny how he resisted me getting them done, but one I had them, instant gift solution!) He saw an ad in Newsday for music themed jewelery.
The guy at the shop must have known that my dad knew nothing about what music should look like. I opened the box Christmas Eve and was greeted by a pair of HUGE dangly earrings. They were gold with a freshwater pearl at the end of the 4 gold wires on each earing. Gaudy. I don't do gaudy. I politely thanked Dad and continued on to other gifts, which were all more my speed.
A few months later, he commented that he had never seen me wear those earrings. I said he was right, I hadn't (lying to Dad? Not a good idea). He was sure I'd love them, as they were musically themed. I had to break the news to him that he'd been suckered-there was nothing remotely music based about them.
The end result was that all future jewelry purchases were made with either Giggles or I at his side. I was able to pick out our nameplate necklaces a couple of years later because he wanted to be sure that we'd wear them. Yet another one of my dad's endearing qualities. You know what? They are still in my jewelry box over 25 years later. They've never been worn, but the thought that was put into them keeps them there.
I think clothing is probably the hardest thing to select for me. I don't really buy it for many people, unless I am comfortable that I know *their* tastes. I can pick out a Joyce outfit pretty easily, Donna only slightly less so. Never would I dare to buy Giggles clothes-she has amazing fashion sense and I wouldn't want to disrupt her groove.
Ed's got a different take on it-he feels clothing is NOT a gift. You have to buy it anyway, right? Poor guy had an aunt who bought him pajamas every year until he was in his teens. It has sealed my fate-never am I to put an article of clothing under the tree.
How about you? Do you have some ghosts of christmas presents that need to stay in the past?
Thursday, December 20, 2007
He spent an hour at the chosen Game Stop and the UPS man had no Wiis. However, the employee suggested he come back today. If they didn't arrive today, then tomorrow he could put his name on a waiting list for the ones they will most definitely get next week.
This morning, he was back at Game Stop. He was customer number 4 at 11am when I called during my bank run. If they only got one box, we'd be out of luck, since each box contains three Wiis. He waited patiently, as we had a Zen approach to it. If it is meant to be under the tree, it will happen.
He called me about 45 minutes later and he was ecstatic. We have a Wii! This will be the memorable Christmas for our game crazed children. So, if you happen to talk to Ed, give him major kudos for scoring the present the boys will talk about for a looooong time.
Thanks, Honey. You're AWESOME. Oh, and I think I'll be up for some Bowling on Christmas Day, lol! Any chance we can get our hands on a camcorder to record the reaction to Gaming Nirvana under the tree?
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
We have our traditions, but not too many. Christmas dinner (eve or day) has to have Crab Cakes with remoulade. The rest of the meal is no longer set in stone, but that one item must be on the menu. I didn't realize it, but three or four years in a row now, we've had eggnog pancakes for breakfast and the kids are looking forward to them. (like camping breakfast must be pancakes, according to Chef Jr).
As I watch the traditions and memories in the making, I think back to the things that stand out from my youth. My parents did an amazing job of making the holidays special, even in the years where there wasn't a spare dime to be found. I never lacked for anything and while I never did get the pony, play kitchen, easy bake oven or whatever else I though was the perfect gift, what I DID get was appreciated and enjoyed.
The first year we lived in the house in Merrick, we'd been there for four months. There was a dining room set and a couple of basic chairs, but no furniture. They'd gone broke buying the house (for $42,500!) and the walls were still the same colors that the previous owners had left them (lots of harvest gold, shocking pink in my bedroom and a purple bathroom upstairs!).
Still, the tree was overflowing with gifts. I remember getting a bike and a stuffed Burger King. I thought he was the coolest. The bike was cool-green with an 'apple' seat. Giggles got a tricycle that year that was taller than she was. Somewhere, I've got a picture of her standing next to the behemoth.
The next year, the house didn't look the same. New furniture, the walls were normal colors and we had to bring the picnic table in from outside because there were over 20 people there. Nana and Papa were there, too, which didn't happen all that often. Legacy, her new husband and two kids (13 months and 2 months) were there-the house was full.
The highlight of that year was the Barbie jumbo jet and the Close n Play phonograph. It was given to me with a few 45's: Angie by the Stones, Livin in the City by Stevie Wonder and a Lovin' Spoonful single. That was the last Christmas where my parents were still together.
When I was 8, the Christmases would change. Part of the day would be spent with Dad and we'd get home in the afternoon to have dinner and spend time with the rest of the family. My dad began a new tradition: he took us to a Disney movie at the movie theater the next town over. Until I moved to Maryland, the movie for Christmas thing happened all but a couple of years. Sometimes, it'd be on Christmas Eve.
The year I was 11, we'd had a bitter cold snap and went through oil at a breakneck pace, much faster than usual. It ran out very early Christmas morning. Fortunately, our oil delivery company's emergency line took pity on us and filled the tank sometime around lunch time.
The next year, now that Giggles was almost 9 and I was in junior high, Mom enacted a new tradition. We'd open presents once everyone was there for dinner. This meant waiting until 5 or 6pm to open them. Not a big deal, though-because Giggles and I had another thing we did every year.
Around the corner was a family we called our 'other family'. Dick and Marcella treated us as if we were their own kids. Every Christmas morning, since we'd opened presents at 4am, the rest of the family would go to bed.
Meanwhile, Giggles and I would be all jazzed on that adrenaline rush you only get at the holidays. Around 8am, we'd take the walk around the block and join in the festivities as their daughter opened her presents. Then we'd go to Mass with them. Afterwards, it'd be out with Dad, then back home. You'd think that would wear us out, but it didn't.
One of the Christmases, we begged Mom to ditch her all blue light color theme. It's boring, we all told her. She then went out and bought several strands of C7 and C9 multicolored lights. On the tree they went, along with two blinky blinky strands of colored lights with tiny bulbs. After the holiday was over and the decorations dismantled, we all realized that they lacked something. The blue lights came back and the colored lights earned a new home on the outside of the house.
Somehow, when I was around thirteen, my step dad convinced Mom that it was time to ditch the artificial tree. We got a real tree that year that was about 3.5 feet and very broad. Mom deemed it too short and it ended up atop an end table with a tablecloth on it.
One thing that was constant: we'd always have a friend (or three) who otherwise would be alone joining us for dinner. When I was in high school, this meant my best friend (who was jewish) was encouraged to join us for dinner. It was always cool to have someone other than family around, especially once the liquor started flowing!
Christmas always meant hustle, bustle and controlled chaos in my house. I thought everyone's family had what we did, with everyone finding gifts for everyone else in the family. A friend told me of how they drew one other family member's name out of a hat to buy one present. What was up with that? Don't you want to shower those you love with some token of love and thought?
Remembering all this definitely makes me wonder what the boys will carry in their memories when they've got kids of their own. It's funny, while I remember gifts, the things we did stayed with me more than the gifts I received. Yes, I can tell you about getting those cherished gifts in the banner years. I'd rather share about how lucky I am that I have more to remember than the presents under the tree.
We're on a quest for a holy grail item for the kids. If we succeed, it will be a legendary Christmas for them. However, I'm hoping that not only will they remember that, but all the other trappings that make up the holiday. I suspect they will.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
If you want to read, here's the story. However, this IS the Hagerstown paper we're talking about. It's written to a second grade reading level. Yes, I did that exercise in college lit. My favorite columnist from the Post came up as 13th grade and the Herald came up as 2nd grade!
Monday, December 17, 2007
It's pretty neat when Santa addresses all the kids by name, but that's because he's a professional in the business AND is a den leader.
Seconds before this picture was taken, Chef Junior was patiently waiting and singing one of his famous made up songs, "I want a Wii this yeaarrrrrrr" Uh, that's a toughie, kiddo.
Santa's reaction to Chef Junior's request. Apparently, almost every boy in attendance tonight told him this is what they want. Oh, except for J, our former cub master's son. He asked for cow meat. His sister was teasing him that Santa was going to bring him Butterscotch. See why I like their family?
Gameboy is in touch with reality this year. He told Santa that he and his brother would like a Wii, but they know it's hard to get one. Santa, would you bring me a Nintendo DS and one for my brother if you can't give us a Wii? Can you believe it?
Santa gave each child a Pinewood Derby car. Guess part of winter break will be spent designing and executing the designs. Gameboy had a great design last year with a consistent heat time, somewhere in the low 2's (2.35 to 2.38 in four heats, I think). I think he'll go with a similar car this year. Meanwhile, Chef Jr's car couldn't get out of its own way before, let's see if he follows his brother's aerodynamic lead.
It was great to have our meeting AND get the visit with Santa in, too. I'm just wondering if they realized who he was!
Sunday, December 16, 2007
One child's constant refrain is "I'm bored." This is what is uttered from his mouth at least once every five minutes when he is denied his video games. It's the ultimate in CD skip-the same thing said the exact way every time. He hasn't figured out ways to occupy himself-no matter how many suggestions we as parents make, it doesn't click in his head that he could just read a book, play with legos or do something else. His brain is stuck in "must play games" mode.
Sometimes, I feel like I'm supposed to be the entertainment, come up with the fun things to do, places to go, people to see. Perhaps this is due to being the unofficial 'cruise director' for the gang when I lived in NY. Perhaps I used up all the good ideas back then. ;) It can be hard to hear that "I want to do *something*", but have to come up with what exactly that *something* will be.
Now that we live in Florida, there are more *somethings* to do, especially in winter. However, the plethora of things to do makes it harder, not easier to decide. There are TOO many things to occupy time that the brain chokes in choosing one. The only limits are time and money.
For the bargain price of 40 bucks a month, we've got three theme parks to choose from, though. We can barely see a movie for that amount, so to have unlimited access to those parks is pretty good. If you look at it that way, it's a hundred bucks a month for the family to have Disney AP's, however until they take a page from the Anheuser Busch corporation, we won't have that option. It's pretty cool to spend a day in a theme park for less than twenty bucks out of pocket-especially in winter.
Providing entertainment is tougher. If you've got a fresh audience that doesn't live nearby, you come off as the hero (zoo? aquarium? Sea World? Alligatorland? ) When someone's local and looking to you as a source of ideas and activities, then it gets tougher.
For that reason, I love asking people what they like to do with their free time. When I did the interviewing for my past two employers down here, one and all got asked "What activities would you tell someone new to the area about that you LOVE?"
After the year of recovery from the leg, I'm looking for more entertainment. More things to occupy, enrich and enjoy. No more sitting on my butt at home, wishing I could do things. We've hit a great age with the boys, it's easier to pick up and do. Ed wants to do, they want to go and finally, I'm at the point where I can, too(provided I've got the walker).
So, got any ideas? :) Who wants to share their ways to entertain themselves that doesn't involve video games or sitting around at home?
Those of you who were with me before NaBloPoMo, are you sick of me writing every day? Do you like coming to the blog and finding something new every day? Is there a January blogging event?
Saturday, December 15, 2007
There's a clear line of demarcation. It is that way here, you can see the rain pouring down from the clouds miles away, a lighter gray curtain against the dark clouds.
Of course, I get over to work and the rain has started. Little drops that are the leading charge for the huge drops. The advance army, as it were. I'm here early, so into the coffee shop to borrow some bandwidth and kill some time.
I make my purchase and look out the front window. It is a brilliant sunny day and there is a deluge going on outside. It took a while to get accustomed to it, but such is life here in Tampa. You can get a sunburn in a rain storm!
Last night, we ventured over to the mall, and the extended hours made things easier for us. When you don't visit the mall very often, changes surprise you. When did Kay Bee decide to shutter their stores? We went in and found that the games (of course) were down to the dregs of Gameboy Advance titles. No trying to sneak a purchase under the kids noses neccessary.
The trip out was because I wanted Tijuana Flats. Thankfully, Gameboy is finally on the Mexican food bandwagon and had some soft tacos. In a funny moment, one of the staff asked if we wanted refills on our drinks. We accepted. I held up my queso dip side and said "Can I get a refill of this?" and laughed. I told her I was joking, but she brought us one, anyway. YUMMMMMM!
We ran out of chips before we ran out of cheese, so Ed and Chef Jr, not wanting to waste a drop of the good stuff, started doing cheese shooters! The child ended up licking the last few drops of cheese out of that cup. Pretty freakin hilarious. Too bad we adults can't get away with that. Now that the kids will eat there, I've got to remember that I need two queso dips for the chips, because they'll hog it themselves if I let them.
Now, let's see how much of Chef Jr's science report we can get done in an hour.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Somehow, the comment was made about big presents under the tree. My response was that sometimes good things come in small packages, so don't go for the big present first. Then, I told Chef Jr my earliest Christmas memory.
When I was a kid, we'd be woken up around 2 or 3am with the words "Santa was here!" We'd all race down the stairs to find the tree was hidden by all the presents. This is what happens in a house with eight kids. Pandemonium would ensue, with packages being opened rapidly, paper flying all over, and loud exclamations ooohing and ahhhing over newly opened gifts.
The first Christmas I clearly remember was when I was four. We lived in the big duplex in Rockville Centre. I came down the stairs that morning to find a child's cardboard storefront next to the tree. If I could find a picture of one, I would love to show it. It was set up like a grocer's checkout counter, complete with cash register. I could pretend I was selling stuff and ringing it up.
I describe the thing to the boys and Ed snickers that they had me pegged at four years old. Har har. I loved that gift . I remember I spent a good part of that night with my dad playing for hours with me in the chaos of post opening toy playing.
However, the thing that was hilarious and memorable about that Christmas was the other big gifts. Under the tree (rather, next to it) were two HUGE galvanized metal garbage cans. Like the one Oscar the Grouch lives in. They both had bows, one with a tag indicating that it was for my oldest brother and the second had a tag for Socrates. Those were the only gifts in that house for the boys.
Both of them were quite upset (let's see-I was four, so Socrates was 9 and Petey was 15). There was some sulking, some blubbering and a lot of confusion. This went on for about five minutes until someone suggested that they look IN the garbage cans.
A HA! There were presents in the cans. As many as the rest of us, though at that point, everything else had been opened by the rest of us in our package ripping open frenzy. It was probably better that way, they had all eyes on them as the opened those presents. The lesson I learned is that things aren't always what they seem. Oh, and that a garbage can makes a great gift!
Unfortunately, I told the boys about this last night. This means I'll never be able to trick them with that gift under the tree. If you're evil, you can hide the Wii or whatever big gift in a garbage can under your tree this year!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
A couple came in around noon and was looking around at items in the store. The wife asked if we had an item in stock, I checked on it and we did. She decided to purchase said item. While ringing her up, I asked for her zip code (something we ask of every customer). She gave me one that I'd recognized as from Long Island. I say "Lindenhurst? Jericho?" and she replies that she's from Syosset, a town on the north shore of Long Island.
She looked at me quizzically, and I explained that I was from Merrick. East Meadow, she says. Practically neighbors, we joked. We talked about how much warmer it is here, that they're in town for the day, that they've got a house elsewhere in Florida that they hope to move to full time someday.
Then she asked if she could leave the item with me while they shopped in other stores. Sure, can I get your name to put on it? Nystrom, she replies. I comment that she has the same last name as my all time favorite hockey player. "That's my husband!"
In talking, she tells me that they're here for the Lightning game tonight. Cool! I mentioned that I had moved to a hockey shy place before getting here, so I didn't follow it much these days. She teases me that I obviously hadn't, since I didn't know that the Calgary Flames had a Nystrom wearing the 23 again-their son!
I told her that when I was a kid, I was a huge fan of Bob's. One year, I got one of the very expensive hockey jerseys with Nystrom and 23 on the back. At the time, I was so short, my Mom had to cut at least 8 inches off the sleeves so I could wear it. Worn it got, at least once a week during hockey season for all those years. His wife, Michelle, said she'd send him back in to the store to pick up their package so I could say hello.
I'd met him a hand full of times before when I was a kid. He was the Spokesperson for the March of Dimes Walkathons on LI. I was a school representative for them all through junior and high school, and each year, he'd be at the kickoff meetings for all the volunteers. It was great-he didn't mind being swarmed by forty or so kids at these things. At one event, I brought him pictures I had taken at the previous fall's bike a thon and he autographed that, along with other pictures (I'd taken it with a 35mm, so this must have been '82). When you're 12, 14, even 18, meeting a sports star is a huge deal. (Someday, a story about meeting some sports stars when I was 3 1/2)
About an hour later, Bob and Michelle returned to the store. One of my coworkers is also a downstate NYer and he had just arrived to work. I ask him (in Bob's earshot-I am evil) "Ranger fan or Islander fan?" and he indignantly answers "Rangers!". Bob laughed when I said that I wasn't going to introduce him to the man standing there.
We chatted for a few minutes, about how they should move down here. Enjoy the game tonight was my parting comment to them. Then, I told my coworker who the man was: Bobby Nystrom, NY Islanders. He scored the goal at 7:11 in overtime the 7th game of the Stanley Cup playoffs in '81 for their first in a string of Stanley Cup victories. I hear "You like hockey?"
I have to say this. When you're a short kid, you think everyone, but everyone, is tall. I didn't notice him when I first looked at him because he isn't all that much taller than me! Oh, that and he no longer has a walrus mustache and flowing blonde hair. He still has plenty of hair, but it's darkened (time on the ice lightens hair?) with time. When he came back, once I looked at his face, yeah, this is the same guy. A guy who fit right in with everyone else shopping today.
It was pretty neat. Nice folks, especially since they indulged me in gushing over Mr. Islander. In the days of athletes with huge salaries and corresponding egos, it was nice to go back in time and remember the days when you idolized an athlete for their ability, approachability and athleticism.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
What is the project subject matter? Which product makes the biggest bubbles. It was inspired and it only involved a couple of hours of trials. We tested two types of normal bubble solution, Body Shop's bubble bath, Ultra Palmolive Soap and Kirkland Dishwashing Detergent. Each item had to be tested five times, but fortunately, it went relatively quickly.
I was smart. He dictated what his observations were during the process and this means tomorrow night's work load isn't that bad. This is where the ADHD was obvious-he'd manipulate the fixed items (the fan, the line measuring the distance from the fan and the bubble wand) and we'd have to put them back. He forgot why we were doing some of the process, but gosh, what he remembered was pretty neat.
You're probably thinking "how do you measure bubbles, anyway?" We had talked about it and figured we would use pieces of colored paper to 'catch' the bubbles. He'd draw an outline of the wet mark that the soap residue would leave on the paper. Alas, the bubbles barely left a drop of liquid on the paper! Back to the drawing board.
What ended up happening was that I was running around, chasing bubbles that had been blown with a ruler. This provided a lot of amusement for Chef Jr! He thought it was a trip that I had to run back and forth to get the bubbles. Believe it or not, the new method worked decently. The soap would leave a residue, I'd mark the ends with my thumbnails and then we'd figure out the measurement.
Looking at the raw data, Super Miracle Bubbles, purchased at Wal Mart, made the best bubbles. Little Kids bubble liquid was so much thinner, didn't make nearly as big bubbles and popped more than it blew up. The bubble bath made one bubble, despite many tries. The dish soap made pretty consistent bubbles-it was the easiest to work with.
Oh, if you're out of bubble stuff? Don't use dishwasher crystals. It was important to throw in something that wouldn't work, so he could use the process and form a hypothesis based on what he had already observed.
It'll be really neat to see what he does with the raw data when it's time to compile the report tomorrow. I can see several ways to present the statistics, but one thing has always been crystal clear with him. He's got his own opinions and isn't afraid of voicing them.
It was a lot of fun to spend a few hours playing with bubbles in the name of science. I wonder if next year, he'll choose something else fun. I hope so!
I've spent the last three days off, Sunday as my second day off last week and Monday and Tuesday this week.
Next week, Monday and then Sunday the 23rd. Then Monday and Tuesday, Christmas Eve and Day, then another day off later that week. That's two three day 'weekends' in a month. I am the only manager with Christmas Eve off. Boss says that I don't complain about the schedule. Apparently, this is the reward!
Heck, three days in a row off for Christmas. If there was some way to convince the boys that Santa would show up at a campsite, I'd say let's go camping!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
It's the 11th and the lights haven't been hung this year because it's just too hot (and we got sidetracked on Thanksgiving, instead of following that tradition). It's in the mid 80's right now and that just seems too warm to be up on the ladder and putting them up.
I'd rather hang them in the evening, but Ed doesn't like that idea. Mind you, I am the one who does this job and it doesn't bother me in the least. It's cooler and I can wear long sleeves to ward off the bugs. Nooooo, his big fear is that I won't be able to see. Hmmm, there is a street light right in front of the house, I don't think it's that dark. Last year, I was even smart and sunk a bunch of nails in the trim to anchor the lights along with those clips.
I don't know when they'll get done, but one thing's for certain. It isn't a winter wonderland around here.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Anyway, I came up with this meme.
Finish these phrases...
I can...read upside down, calculate most percentages in my head, write with each hand.
I can't...roll my tongue
I will...eat a whole bag of Milano cookies in one sitting if you leave me to my own devices
I won't...eat liver or eggs
I never...have traveled to Hawaii
I always...read Christmas letters (no matter how treacly they are)
I wish...people would take time to put themselves in the other person's shoes.
I want...more time with Ed and the boys
I don't want...to explain stuff to people that should know better. (Yet, I seem to end up doing this a lot. I'm an expert about medical issues that I've never had!)
I have...a thirst to learn more
I don't have...enough hours in the day to accomplish all I want.
I blog because...it is there.
All these journeys resulted in a house where you don't have to look far to find Ikea's imprint. Billy and Roi bookshelves, a computer desk and work station, the kids beds (formerly bunk beds), our dressers (all five of them). Out in our garage are unassembled shelving units for the records and a rough hewn utility storage system. In the kid's closets, there are a bunch of clear plastic tubs from Ikea. The kitchen also has a thing or ten from those travels.
Alas, we moved to Florida and went a long time before getting to the blue and yellow building. Our DVDs are housed in two gunmetal gray Billy bookcases. The acquisition of the first involved my scientific maneuvering. I swiped a DVD case off a shelf in the showroom, measured it and then pulled out the cellphone calculator to discover that each shelf would hold 43 DVDs and each unit could hold 4 shelves of DVDs. (Later, my fellow geek minded coworkers would laugh hysterically as I recounted the measuring saga). A year after the first purchase, Billy could fit no more and we bought a second.
Since moving, we've slowed up on DVD purchases due to lack of funding and lack of Billy bookcases. It seemed foolish to drive seven hours and waste all that gas for a 30 dollar bookcase, so we didn't. We made plans to get up there-then we heard that Ikea was coming to Florida. Waiting for the bookshelves made sense.
Yesterday, we traveled over to the new Yellow and Blue building. (In the interim, it's been announced that Tampa gets an Ikea of it's own in 2009. I drive by the site every day). As soon as Gameboy knew where we were going, he was jazzed that he'd get to go in Smaland, the play area. Hmmm, kiddo, not sure about that. It's been three years and several inches since you last played there. You may be too big.
Luckily, he's about a half inch from being too tall. Crisis averted. Once Chef and Gameboy were set up in the land of Smal, Ed and I visited the showroom. Many names were familiar, that have been around for years. Some items were new and funkier than we remember Ikea offerings to be. They even have their own appliances, made by Whirlpool.
Once we got to the Home Organization area, we found the Billys-but not in the color we own. In the three years since we last were here, the gray offered has become noticeably lighter. Bah. I guess this means we have to do what we were contemplating, which is to go to using two tall Billys. However, that light gray is too light for the neutral gray palette we like to use. Back to the drawing board.
We continued onward. Ed and I have pretty different tastes in decor. I would point out something I knew he'd love (loud and busy) and he did. If he saw something and raved, I knew it'd be something that I probably wouldn't want. It's always good to do this kind of shopping, where we get ideas and tell each other why something will (or won't) work with what we're doing. It's nice to see that the two colors we'd like to use in the bedroom are everywhere here. That usually means everyone else will follow suit in about two years. Yay.
Down in the marketplace, we found some items for the always needy camping gear box. They now carry a Le Creuset knock off enameled cast iron (interestingly, it's made in France). The fondue pot was calling me, but I was talked out of it. Do we really need five fondue pots? my answer is YES. Ed's was no.
A wine rack caught our eye, and once in self serve, Ed twisted my arm (owwww) to get it. He had a good rationale, as the wooden box storage we use for 20 some bottles makes it hard to see exactly what bottles are in there. Removing a bottle is a breath holding exercise, so a wire rack that will match the baker's racks I want to purchase is wise. Even better, they stack, so we can have 48 bottles of wine within easy view.
As we were getting the rack, time was up in Smaland. I had to get the boys. The smell of the restaurant while we were shopping made the choice for us, and once the purchases were stowed in the car, upstairs we went. Three swedish meatball meals and a mac and cheese. It was good.
The last stop was in the food store for some orange crisps, lingonberry preserves, an almond tart and cinnamon rolls. We all were happy. Chef Jr reports that peanut butter and lingonberry sandwiches are the best in the world.
It was great to visit an old friend, even if they didn't have what I was looking for. Sometimes, looking for other stuff makes up for it.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
In spring of 2005, she wasn't feeling well and went to her doctors. Tests came up negative, but she knew something wasn't right. When things really seemed to be going wrong. she had a PET scan on August 24th. She was gone on October 30th. My step sister showed Giggles and I how to read the thing after Mom had passed. Nearly Mom's whole torso was black on this scan. According to L, black indicates cancerous cells.
Meanwhile, Mom was still driving her car, visiting friends and kept on keeping on until about six weeks before she died. The only things that she had altered in her routine in the last few months were that she had been using a cane because it hurt to walk, and she was on the Duragesic patches for pain. This bothered her greatly. She was very proud that she beat polio as a kid, long before Dr. Salk and Sabin came up with cures. She spent almost two years in hospitals and all you could see of that was the limp that came when she was very tired.
Maybe that glimpse at her mortality when she was seven is why she was such a vivacious person. She saw what had happened to others from Polio. At seven, she was aware of how bad it could be for her: wheelchair, walker, or death. In 1938, there wasn't much that could be done to treat the disease. It makes you wonder, how people survived when others didn't. Was it medicine, protocol or just the patient's resolve? A combination? Whatever it was that was needed-she had it. She learned to walk again.
Growing up, it seemed like Mom was always pushing herself when others would have stopped. She had energy that seemed to come from nowhere. I don't think caffeine and cigarettes could provide that much, because I know others who live on that and have nada in the energy department.
In 1998, she and my stepdad decided it was time to move to Florida full time and she would finally retire from working. My stepdad had retired years before, but took on various jobs to keep himself busy (a sanity saver for both of them, I am sure). Now it was her turn. I'd thought Florida was probably not the place for them. Several reasons for it, but the nickname "God's Waiting Room" definitely had been at the top of the list. This woman was definitely not in the 'waiting to die' camp.
How wrong I was. They moved into a community that my grandparents had purchased a double wide in back in the 70's on a bay close to the Gulf. Over the years, they had been vacationing in my grandparent's home, so they knew many of the residents on a level.
Once firmly settled, there wasn't a retirement, just a change in what would become Mom's full time endeavor. She remodeled the mobile. She got involved with the social committee of the community, eventually leading the entertainment crew. There was always something going on, some activity to take up her time.
I think Giggles can probably relate the same thing here, that if you called her on the phone, there was always somebody there with her at the house. She was saying hello to someone, or goodbye and thanks for visiting. Always.
The month that I stayed with them while waiting for Ed and the boys to make the move to Florida was a whirlwind. She was just as busy as she'd been when working, but now, it was to make sure all her neighbors were having fun, activities were happening and her good friend Jeanne was eating! In the four weeks at their place, there was a 4th of July BBQ, a pancake breakfast, a spaghetti dinner and two memorials for residents. If that's slowing down, I want to know what busy is, Mom!
My free time was spent running all over creation with her, getting a gift for this one, picking up tomatoes at the farm market for the barbeque, going to her beloved Burdines so she could shop (and now, to her delight, stopping at Dunkin Donuts to get some coffee, too). My stepdad complained to my mom that I worked too hard when he saw my schedule, but hey, all he had to do was look at his wife to see where it came from.
In the past couple of weeks, I've said to a few people that I finally feel like ME again. The type of person who can keep that pace. The past year, I felt like I was sitting in God's Waiting Room, without the energy to go, to do, to see, to BE. Thankfully, I got my dose of being my mom's daughter back.
Its frustrating when you want to do things and you can't. It's even more frustrating to see people who can and don't. Life isn't meant to be spent sitting and watching it pass by, it's meant to be enjoyed. The word Ed used to decribe my Mom was so apt: Vital. She enjoyed until almost the end.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Once we'd left our first stop, the topic of where are we eating came up. I mentioned Greek, Ed said that sounded good and we had to make a slight detour to head west over to Ybor City to Acropolis. There will be a review on Wine and Foodies either today or tomorrow.
I love me some Greek food. Like Mexican, it can be consumed nearly every day and I'd still want more. The native born in the area that I know (very few of those around here) all mention it as being the best Greek around if you want more than a Gyro. There's a great hidden gem in Brandon, Romano's, but they're a blend of Greek and Italian in a storefront that reminds one of a diner.
Ybor City, Friday night. We may be fools for going to party central on a Friday night-but I wanted Greek and it was early enough that I didn't think we'd be dealing with drunken rowdies. At the hostess stand, we were told it'd be about fifteen minutes or so and my cell number was taken so that we could walk around.
I'd been down another Ybor street a few times, but during the day. At night, this place seems like a hyped up Market Street in Frederick, crossed with the Village in NYC. Each block has a tattoo parlor, an outdoor bar (only in Florida, folks!) and plenty of places for the young and carefree to congregate. We walked four or five blocks, then turned around and only had a couple of minutes to wait for a table.
Once inside, the belly dancers, music and flying napkins indicated that "OPA!" is the way it is here. They have a nice menu which is not very broad. That's smart. Gameboy is our challenge in these foodie inspired meals. Was there something he would eat when the menu was traditional?
Fortunately, they offer a burger. Onto Chef Jr. He's got a personal goal. At eight years old, he is checking off the list of sea creatures that he has tried. His goal is to eat all of the edible delicacies that the waters of the world hold. (No manatee on that list, but whale is). The blinking neon sign at the top of the "I really want to try THIS" list was Octopus.
He looks at the menu and is a little confused by the greek lettering, but then I pointed out the english just below. I pointed out that they had Octopus and that was all she wrote. The description made it sound like it was served cold, and I feared he wouldn't like it. Have some Patsitsio kiddo, you know you'll love that. He settled for that, but glum was still written across his face.
I asked "Are you really sure you want it, even if its cold?" Yes, he said, he was sure he wanted it. It was the holy grail of his food exploration. I told him if he didn't like it, he could share my sandwich. I even ordered an appetizer, just to be on the safe side, to put some food in his belly, lest he hate his meal. (I think we were all very happy with that appetizer, btw. Need to seek and acquire that cheese)
Our server was surprised at our young man's selection, but when I explained about our Crustacean Kid, it became clear. He explained that it was served warm and the lemon marinade would be in the bowl like a broth and served with pita bread on the side. Sold.
Then our meals arrived. Gameboy, as is typical, turned up his nose at his meal. I was very pleased with my choice and Ed appeared to have an extremely abundant plate. Chef Jr looked at his food and you could see the trepidation in his eyes. He was probably wondering what in the world he'd gotten himself into, as this looked like chopped up stuff, not octopus.
He picked at the first piece, which looked like a tiny purple rectangle. He ate and wrinkled his nose. The bottomless pit professed that he was not hungry anymore. I offered some of my food, some fries, bread, whatever. Nothing doing. The child sat there, and it was clear he was upset-with himself. The Octopus had bested him. He did NOT like it.
Ed and I continued to eat and enjoy and we told him it was okay, but clearly, this was not okay to him. He's supposed to love everything from the ocean. This must be an imposter octopus, because he thought it'd be better.
Once Ed had bested his piled plate (and let me tell you, I almost ordered what he did-I am so glad I got the smaller item), he asked for Chef's bowl. Then he took a piece that looked like crab leg, for lack of a better description. He peeled off a piece and proclaimed it good Octopus (Ed had eaten it before).
This, father instructed son on what was tender and what was not and Ed proffered a piece at the child. He ate pensively and was hard to read. Like? Hate? As soon as he was done, he asked for more. He LOVED it. Really loved it.
For about twenty minutes, the kid was tangled in the tentacles because he'd chosen a rubbery piece. Thankfully, daddy got him untangled and he's got a new favorite sea creature to eat.
I suspect that the leftovers were the first thing the child went to dine on today!
Friday, December 07, 2007
So, you're wondering what recipe I use? Glad to share it. It's actually a recipe found on Hershey's website. I'll post the link and the recipe and note my changes to the recipe, too.
(double or even quadruple-I regularly quadruple this and no one is upset that they didn't get some)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I always double this-tastes like you melted vanilla ice cream into the brownies)
- 2 eggs (when doubling, 3 eggs. Quadrupling, 6 eggs. We like a chewier brownie)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts(optional)
- CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING(recipe follows) (I have yet to do this, since the brownies are so moist without it)
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch square baking pan. (Double in a 13x9 Quadruple-2 separate 13x9 pans)
2. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in nuts, if desired. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.
3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Prepare CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING; spread over brownies. Cut into squares. About 16 brownies. (My suck ass stove needs 35 minutes for these)
CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
3 tablespoons HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1 tablespoon light corn syrup or honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
Beat butter, cocoa, corn syrup and vanilla in small bowl until blended. Add powdered sugar and milk; beat to spreading consistency. About 1 cup frosting. (something tells me that milk, eggnog or baileys would be a better liquid than milk)
Now, if you're a purist, check out Mike Menninger's Good Eats Fan Page for Alton Brown's version.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Last night, we had one of those meltdowns that happens every night at bedtime. He didn't want to stop playing games, he hates bedtime, he doesn't want to take a shower because he took one last week, he hates bedtime. Yelling and screaming. As is typical, I ask if the crying makes him feel better, does it get him what he wants? What happens when you cry? Okay, so if it doesn't make you feel better, doesn't get you what you want and gets you in more trouble, why do you still do it? "I don't know" is the answer. It's his answer for all of this.
After years of it, we've started saying if you don't like our rules, leave. You're making our lives miserable, too. He doesn't like that answer, either. He wants everything his way and for us to provide it. It is frustrating. Last night, though, he said he was going to tell his teachers on us and get us in trouble. Okay, fine, do you know what they'll do? Take you and your brother away. Is that what you want? No, it's not, but the emotional maturity of a three year old doesn't delve into what happens when you do that. He just thinks life will be sunshine and roses when Mom and Dad get in trouble-that the law will tell us to let him play games all day, not go to bed, do homework or go to school. He doesn't believe that they'll be tougher on him than we are.
Chef Jr heard the conversation and got extremely upset at the reality we painted. He was horrified at the thought of child protective services taking them away from us because his brother was throwing this temper tantrum. There isn't an easy answer to dealing with this-you can't give an inch with an Aspie, but you have to remember that any neurotypical kid is going to be hypersensitive to the harsh realities you have to put in front of the Aspie.
Sometimes, the horrible parent in me thinks it would be great for him to be taken away-he'd see that we're pretty damn good to him. It'd be nice to not be on guard for everything related to his care-does he have meds? that food doesn't have dye in it, right? did you make sure there are no carbs in the pantry? did he do all his homework (one page equals at least an hour of torture for all of us)? did you take the gameboy and hide it? did he brush his teeth? did he take his meds? why is he freaking out so much? No breaks from this, its a war in our house every day. One that we feel like we're losing, despite our best efforts. I feel great empathy for the troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, because I feel the small feeling of never letting my guard down, lest the enemy (Asperger's) undoes all that I have been doing.
More thoughts will come to this entry when I get home from work tonight...
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Back when I was a young teen, I rode my bike A LOT. I also played the piano A LOT. Both activities put my wrists in an awkward position. Once, after a 25 mile bike ride (yes, I rode that much), I began to have pain in one of the wrists.
Years before Carpal Tunnel and Repetitive Stress Injuries were common phrases, I was in a world of hurt. Dad took me to our (nearly useless) family doctor, who sent us to the ER. Some Xrays were taken, and no fractures could be found. I was sent home with a script for anti inflammatories.
Six weeks later, the hospital sent an appointment card to come to a follow up clinic. Apparently, this is what they did with cases where they didn't arrive at a definitive diagnosis. I did something that shows a lot about me at 14 years old: I took the bus up to the hospital and went to that appointment by myself.
The doctor that saw me had tons of questions. What activities do you do? Where is the pain focused? Do you notice improvement when there's heat/cold? He was confused by the symptoms but concluded that immobilizing the wrist in a split was the best course of action. The high tech split was made by warming a piece of white plastic in hot water, molding it to my wrist and then cutting out a area for my thumb to move. It was then wrapped to my wrist with an ace bandage. I walked out with a script for some anti inflammatories and a suggestion to visit an orthopedist and possibly a rheumatologist.
I wish I could say that that was then end of the story, but it wasn't. I spent six years seeing eight doctors, six of whom could not find anything on xrays and declared there wasn't anything wrong. (One went so far as to call me a hypochondriac) The rheumatologist discovered arthritis (in my knees) and was a help in treating that. It was a stroke of luck that found doctor number eight. Giggles had sustained an injury and was referred to an orthopedist with a great bedside rapport.
My dad commented to the doctor that his other daughter (me) had been having trouble with wrist pain for years and no one had been able to treat it. Dr. K encouraged my dad to bring me in. The usual happened: I was xrayed, the current splint was inspected and I was questioned extensively. The thing that had confused each and every doctor is that the pain was in my non dominant hand. (I know now that I am truly ambidextrous for all but a couple of things, though)
Then I heard the magic words: "Just because I can't find it on an xray, doesn't mean there isn't something wrong." Dr. K got it. For the next six months, we followed some treatments I'd been through, then some I hadn't. A cast. Different anti-inflammatories. Cortisone shots (OWWW). One last try at a cast. That one was emblazoned with "It's Tendonitis" in black permanent marker in grafitti letters because I was so tired of six years of "what did you DO?!" Dr. K had a good laugh when he took THAT cast off.
Finally, he formed a conclusion after I'd had a contrast dye x ray. It was deQuervain's disease and the tendon sheath was the cause of all the trouble. He described in great detail what would happen. It was outpatient surgery, I'd get a Bier Block (a form of local) and the recovery would be pretty swift.
Other than trips to the ER, this was my first encounter with a hospital. Pre Op testing was easy. Surgery day came, and Dr. K worked his magic. I remember dozing in and out of consciousness in recovery. This first trip taught me that it SUCKS to be so fair skinned-they think you're too pale and keep you far too long.
That was 1987. I was almost 21 and once I dealt with the usual post surgery thing, I was golden. I learned how people with nearly normal wrists live, for the most part. In 1990, I got that first 'on paper' management job and as a condition of employment, they wanted a medical release from an orthopedist that I could lift sixty pounds.
I'd moved to Maryland a couple of years earlier, so I scoped out my medical provider directory and found an orthopedic practice within walking distance of my townhouse. It was serendipity-the doctor I saw was a wrist and hand specialist. He was very abrupt, but he looked at my x rays and said that Dr. K did a nice job. I'm glad I saw him, because it's a very pretty picture of my wrist.
About 9 months later, on April 16, 1991, I shattered the wrist at work. Cautionary tale is that you should never jump on boxes to flatten them for the recycling dumpster if your boss leaves with all the box cutters. I broke the radius and ulna and had scrambled all the small bones of the wrist. Oh, and I did it at 9pm but finished managing the restaurant that night. One of my employees drove me in my car over to to ER because I couldn't manage the stick shift.
The ER visit was quite interesting. Try pulling down your pants to pee with one hand! The X Ray tech came out with films in hand shaking his head vigorously. No one on the medical staff would even consider doing more than putting a splint and an ace on it with orders to call my orthopedist as soon as the office opened. Thankfully, I'd called Ken and he drove over from Hagerstown and drove my car home while one of his roommates drove his. I got home at 6am.
(My ex husband heard a mumbled "It's broken, I'm calling Dr. M in a couple of hours" in my Demerol haze) when he woke up at 7.
At 8:30, I was on the phone. The office didn't want to set up an appointment until Monday morning, since Dr. M was out of town. I explained that the ER sent me home with a splint for what must have been a bad fracture. They relented and set me up with Dr. C at 9:45. Not enough time to go back to sleep.
Dr. C took more films and decided to manipulate the wrist with some Novacaine. I got another X ray, and a clamshell cast. I plead sleep deprivation in that the alarm bells did not go off when he looked at them and said "I think that will be okay." Dr. C sent me over to Washington County hospital for a Tomagram. Somewhere in there, I contacted my usual car rental place to rent an automatic, as I would not be driving stick for a little while. He met me at the hospital and I dropped him back at the car rental place an then DROVE TO WORK. I know, I am stupid!
I did not miss a day of work with that wrist. After the swelling went down, I got a lovely long arm cast that I wore until May 27th. I remember the removal day because it was my anniversary. Soon after came the physical therapy, and it was torture. The therapist I normally saw was trying to get my wrist to a nice 90 degree angle and showed me how my left wrist did it, see? Well, what I didn't know at the time is that my left wrist had the same 10 degree downward turn that all of us have. My right wrist, the mangled one? It was set 22 degrees UP-a difference of 32 degrees!
Months of PT caused a lot of pain and tears. I would leave those sessions, walk home and go to bed crying at the pain. Finally, Steve (the therapist) decided I had endured enough of his torture and decreed that it was as good as it was gonna get.
Thanks to the trauma the right wrist was undergoing, my left hand had to do double work. Soon, I was experiencing some very familiar pain in it. At least this time, I didn't have to wait six years and see eight doctors to get a diagnosis. I made an appointment with Dr. C, since he'd been the one treating me already. He followed the same protocol that Dr. K in NY had: splint, anti inflammatories, cortisone shots and skipped the cast with good reason. Once he realized that I was in that tiny percentage of deQuervain's sufferers that gets surgery on both wrists, I was passed back to Dr. M.
Some facts about deQuervains for you. It is usually considered a 'new mommy' disease, that picking up and caring for a baby puts stress on the tendon sheath in such a way that many moms develop symptoms. The majority of patients get better with splinting or anti inflammatories. Surgery is the last resort and only occurs in 2% of cases (my first 2% that I know of), but then only 1% of those who have surgery go on to have the surgery on the other hand.
I was back in the care of the wrist specialist and he did a tendon release in late April, 1992. As he knew I was a lefty and remembered a frantic phone call from me when I was at work with the cast on, he wrapped a ball of gauze the size of a grapefruit, put it in my hand and then wrapped me post surgery. He wanted to make sure I didn't do anything to damage his handiwork. (At this point, I think he thought I was a problem patient.)
In one of the post op visits, I made an off hand comment about the right wrist being perfect and then I screwed it up. He stopped, looked at me and asked several questions, then put my films on the light box. The calm, cool and collected Dr. M then showed a hint of his temper. He whipped around at the chart, saying "Who the hell set this mess?" He saw Dr. C's notes and made some sort of comment that I don't remember. (This was a turning point in his bedside manner). He realized that I wasn't a whiner-the wrist was really screwed up bad.
He spent about a half hour going over what had to happen. He had to reconstruct the wrist, take a graft from my hip and put some pins in it to anchor the grafts. I would be in a long arm cast for 8 to 12 weeks and go through another round of physical therapy. As I'd spent the previous April and May in a cast in the humid Maryland weather, I asked if the surgery could wait until fall. Once I gave my rationale, he agreed and promptly wrote a script for some anti inflammatories that were the most effective of any I'd ever taken.
November rolled around and I had the surgery the day before Thanksgiving. Dr. M came in and talked to me and the ex like we were shooting the breeze around the kitchen table. It'd be a four to six hour surgery if all went well. He apologized that I had to go under a general for this one (a first for me) and warned that I may have to spend a night in the hospital. I sent the ex off to work-I just couldn't see the point in sitting around the hospital all day.
Dr. M came to me in post op and talked to me for what seemed to be a long time. I could see his lips moving and instead focused on the ceiling tiles behind his head. I remember going tacacardic and puking sometime after he left. The next time I woke up, I was in a hospital room, Ken at my side. I vividly remember that conversation, his dad had died that morning. A nurse came in, gave me some ginger ale and told me I could use the phone if I wanted.
I called the ex to say I was in my room and that I'd probably be staying overnight. He then laughed and told he had spoken to Dr. M an hour earlier and that I was going home. Apparently, I did better than expected and he thought home was better. The ex was wrapping up the work stuff since I wouldn't be okayed to go for another couple of hours. (Darn fair skin again!)
This time, I was off from work for the recovery. I should have been the first time, but I felt that darn obligation to work! I had to jump through some hoops to get Worker's Comp from the old employer to pay for everything, but they did. So, I spent 8 weeks on top of a mountain in my newly purchased farmhouse. We were so far out of town that the only channels we got were the holy roller, Maryland Public Television and an NBC affiliate. Can you say 'stir crazy'? Dr. M's plan was to keep me out of work for 16 weeks. I wore him down at 8 when he saw the paint flecks on the cast.
The day came that the long cast came off, and four weeks after that, the short arm was removed and the pins taken out. Therapy went far better this time, though Dr. M told me that the wrist would never be normal. It wasn't "if you get arthritis", but "when you get arthritis." I appreciated his honesty.
A few years later, I started having more pain in the wrist, caused by some bone spurs on the site where the two pins had been. I had to get the case reopened, only once it was, I was pregnant with Gameboy. No elective surgery for me. I spent half the year (every year) in pain, splints and on medication.
Finally, the day came and I got the bone spur surgery. However, in the interim I developed a common problem-Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Surgery would be on both sides of the wrist. Dr. M greeted me like an old friend when I came in for appointments. The first time I'd seen him as a single woman, he did a double take, now I had a different husband with me!
Remembering my difficulties with the general anesthesia, he offered me the option of having the surgery done under local or twilight, which I jumped on. We discussed how long I'd be out of work. He replied "The average patient? Six weeks. You? Three." We laughed. Once again, he worked some magic and three weeks later, I was back at work and in physical therapy. This time, I got an angel and it was so much easier to get the wrist functioning.
Five years later, you have to really examine my wrists to find the scars. The only noticeable one is the first scar from Dr. K's traditional stitches. Dr. M is fond of a 'wire' closure that he sews underneath the skin. So, when the coworker walked in with a splint a few weeks ago and we started talking, she had no idea that my wrists had been through war.
The benefit of all of the war is that I could share what the protocols were. She went to a doctor who gave her three cortisone shots and wanted to schedule surgery. The digital age means she didn't have a doctor telling her she was a hypochondriac and she was informed about other options. Now she had someone who'd had deQuervain's and could share what happens, though I was quick to point out that I am in that tiny percentage that had to have the surgery.
Today, I talked to her some more. She got a second opinion and this doctor wants to follow the conservative protocol that Dr. K had put me through twenty years ago. Apparently, there isn't some step that has been added or makes all the steps unnecessary since then. She laughed at my offhand "I'm a freak of nature" comment and you know what? I can now say that there are only a handful of days in a year where the wrists give me trouble. They went through all that trauma and adapted.
I hope someday I can be in the same place with my leg.