Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Frankie and Annette get Summer Jobs

The summer Idyll is over.  Sigh.  Stubble got a job at a Nationally Known Pizza Chain and Ms. Flippers is working at a Nationally Recognized Zoological Park.  This means that they are finding out what it means to have a job that does not wrap itself around your college class schedule and is onlly 5 - 10 hours per week on average.  Just enough to buy gas and a movie (if you don't purchase from the concession counter).  Their friends are distraught.  No more fire pit!  No more marshmallows!  At least not every night.
We have yet to get used to Frankie and Annette's schedules.  They writhe like snakes.  My understanding was that Ms. Flippers was working Thursday - Saturday and Monday - Tuesday from 11 - 3.  She now closes.which means that she doesn't get home until 8 PM.  She is regularly called in on Sunday when she has stayed up late on Saturday anticipating a day off.  Luckily they have only called her in for afternoon shifts.  Stubble started working Thursdays and Fridays and Sundays (I think).  His schedule (I think) is now Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  Except that he got called in on Saturday AND Sunday.  And as for the TIME of the shifts.  Oh, sometimes it is 11 - 2.  Sometimes 3 - 6.  Sometimes (for Stubble) 11 AM to 11 PM).
On Sunday, Stubble had made plans to "play in the pool" with The Bearded One.  Literally a "date" to get into the pool together to play basketball and/or volleyball.  When Stubble was called in, the date had to be cancelled.  The Bearded One was sad, "He won't be here much longer and we used to play in the pool all the time.  Is that silly to be sad because we can't do it today?"
I assurred him that it wasn't silly.  I am sad when one or the other of them is not home for dinner.  I am doubly sad when both of them are not home for dinner.
They won't be home much longer.  It has begun.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Frankie and Annette Embrace the Summer

You know summer is here when the "children" arrive.  Other peoples children.  Released from the repression of school (college) and unable to find a summer job, they descent on our house like a swarm of yellow jackets at a picnic.  Except that they are no longer children.  They are turning 21 at a rate that continues to astonish.  Just yesterday they were excited munchkins headed for kindergarten in their new clothes with their new little backpacks holding their pencils and paper.  Yes, they were anxious, but now they were "grown up" and didn't have to just play school anymore.  They were there.  They were BIG kids now.

Fast forward to this summer.  They no longer arrive in their parent's car.  They no longer carry a note with their parent's cell phone number.  They no longer run back to the car to hand their parent a note with our cell phone number on it.  No.  Now they arrive with a 6 pack of Schmirnoff Ice and a foot long sub sandwichThe rule at our house is if you have been drinking, you do not leave the house unless you have a designated driver.  More than once I have had to break that news to gigantic hulking young men - who, gratefully, have always said "Yes Ma'm, Stubble already let me know that."  God Bless Stubble.

Now that it is summer they do not continually congregate in the game room like lumps on a couch with a controler and a headset (which allows them to be international lumps).  They head to the backyard.   To the pool and the hot tub.  I would be appreciative if someone would explain to me why they did not want to use the hot tub when it was 50 degrees outside but now that it is above 90 they want to get in.

And then there is the firepit.  Thoughtful previous owners left us a gift.  A fire pit on the deck area near the pool  The kids (I mean young adults) now have a huge wood habit (they prefer leaping flames to glowing embers) and are going through a bag of marshmallows a day.  I did thoughtfully provide the fixings for s'mores, but they are into "just plain burned" marshmallows.  Of course after their pilfering of every skewer in the kitchen, we went on an extended search for our camping toasting forks.  Could we find them?  You already know the answer.  A quick trip to a National Sporting Goods Store solved that probloem.

It is really nice and I do mean that sincerely, to fall asleep on a Friday or Saturday night listening to the crackle of logs, the sound of young voices, and music played over someone's smart phone.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Looking for the Little Things

I wrote this post quite some time ago - as my slide into mental "stuff" began.  I couldn't post it.  Now I am strong enough to look at it and laugh.  I hope that you laugh also.

Last month was a drippy month.  The kind where the "drip, drip, drip" of life begins to get to you...

Starting with a dented bumper.  Another car needing a new radiator.  A cold.  Recurring nosebleeds.  A "sick" cat.  A "barfing" cat (not the same one).  A pair of ruined "favorite" bluejeans.  A "flu like illness".  Another "flu like illness" but accompanied by a fever and intestinal symptoms.  The sprouting of the post rain "sea of weeds" in the garden.  The "missing" loaner text book that was actually turned in (we have witnesses).

Now, mind you, all of these things did not happen to me personally.  I wasn't the one with the nosebleeds - I was the one who got to soak the pillowcases to get the blood stains out.  I wasn't the one with the "flu like illness"(es) - but I was the one who got to run to the store for gatorade and immodium.  I wasn't even the sick or barfing cat - but I was the one who got to take a half of a vacation day to run the sick one to the vet and the one who got to step in the (cold wet) barf in the dark.  I was the one, however, who sat on a railroad tie and got tar on my favorite jeans.  And I am the one who is working my way through the overgrown dandelions in the vegetable garden, one small section at a time so that by the time I finish I will be able to start all over again at the beginning.  And I am not the one who has to fight with the bookstore about the book.  I am just the one who has to pay the bill when the fight is unsuccessful - as there is no "return receipt".

This leaves me looking for little things to be grateful for:

  • They now make enzyme pre-soak so that the blood will come out of the pillowcases.
  • The flu-like illnesses where short lived and not so terrible.
  • The "sick" cat was just fine - just a little bruised and tender from being pushed off of some high object by one of his sisters (they think).
  • The "barfing" cat is not sick - she just has a "delicate tummy" - she should never be plagued by hairballs.
  • In our area rain is not a year long phenomenon and soon the weeds will die off by themselves and the only things growing will be what we actually irrigate (so the current weeding is more of an esthetic exercise than a necessary one).
  • The bumper can be fixed.
  • The new radiator took care of the coolant leak.
  • My old gardening jeans were so ragged that a new pair was actually welcome.

I am not normally a "positive" person who sees the good in everything.  I have to really look for it - after being reminded to actually look.  Last month was good exercise.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


I fell off the world about 2 months ago.  I could feel it coming - my brain had gone all "kerwhacketty" and all of the things that I have learned to do to halt the slide were not working.  The list includes prayer, new projects in the house or garden, spending quality time with family, seeing my doctor...and on and on.  My family referred to me as "Bungee Cord Mom".  One minute I was crying and the next I was racing around like a banshee with more energy than I knew what to do with.

Nothing Worked.

I became suicidal.

I wound up in a psychiatric ward for a week.

I am still seeing that psychiatrist.  Weekly.

I feel like a giant human Chemistry Experiment.

The medications are being adjusted each week depending on what is happening::  "Let's give you something to regulate your moods - that is the first priority."  "Your manic side is breaking through - that is cause for alarm" - "We need to add more anxiety medication, lets' add a new medication to those you already take and increase the dosage of the others."- "You aren't sleeping, that needs to be addressed."

Yes, after years of being treated for Major Depressive Disorder I have been "rediagnosed" with Bipolar Disorder...

At least it can be treated and in another month or so I should no longer be Broken.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Comfort of a Nice Cheery Fireplace or "Lucy Ricardo gets the Utility Bill"

We got the gas bill yesterday.  To be completely honest, I was horrified to a state of shrillness that I usually only achieve when I look at the kid's rooms.  I understand that my face turned white and then red and then white again while my lips got all "squinchy and wrinkled".

Over Christmas, when we were "on vacation" we used our gas fireplace often - it was so warm and cozy - the cats were ecstatic.  They lounged in front of it for hours (see title picture).  It was a wonderful vacation.  We went back to work and school as relaxed and cheerful as a body ever is upon leaving vacation for work (or school) knowing that there will be at least 200 emails to answer and a full voice mail box.  We were living on a separate plane of reality from the rest of humanity.  All was sunny and cheerful and flower-filled.  There may even have been a unicorn or two.

Then we got the utility bill and our my alternate reality suffered a quick and painful death.  I stomped about blaming everyone but myself.  How could you turn the daytime temperature above 65?  (Well, the thermostat is only set to 68.)  How could you leave the house and not set back the thermostat? (We were only gone for a half hour - it wouldn't have done any good.) We're going to need to economize starting right now! (We already eat fried rice twice a week - what next? My answer:  Wrap up in blankets!)  We were going to get our gas bill down or freeze in the attempt! (As much as you can ever freeze in Southern California only 30 miles from the coast but we can always chop down the palm trees for warmth should it become necessary.)

All the wind was taken from my sails when The Bearded One pronounced, after doing  "analysis" -that it cost us the same amount to use the gas fireplace as it did when we were burning DuraFlame Logs...

The only leg that I have left to stand on is "I'd rather see the money go to Home Depot than to SDG and E".


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Just Loving Them Isn't Enough

The following is a quote from Family Circle:
"As kids get older, it becomes harder and harder to spend time with them. Consider inviting their friends to join you....just hanging out at home.  You'll strengthen your relationship with your own children and also get a sense of the company they keep."

This happened to us completely by accident.  The boy across the street, just a little younger than Stubble, took to arriving at the house on Friday just after we arrived home.  He would head back across the street on Sunday evening (or when his Mom called him to do chores).  His problem wasn't his parents who are wonderful, but the fact that he was home schooled.  Stubble was his brother of another mother (his mother returned the favor for us).  Stubble's school friends were his "school" friends of another school (if that makes sense).

And that is how it started.  We would generally have 2-3 teenaged boy guests on the weekends.  All weekend.

Here is how to go about this in your own home (should you want to):
  1. Say, "Yes".  When your son/daughter calls or texts to say "Can so and so come over for dinner and the evening." Don't say, "No, your Dad and I have plans."  At least not all the time - down that path lie unsupervised parties and trouble.  If you need the company of your friends, invite them over and spend time in the living room while their offspring and yours (assuming that they get along) take over another room.  If you are going out to the theater, INVITE THEM TO GO WITH YOU.  For dinner and the theater, concert, whatever.  It broadens their perspectives, teaches them what a quality evening (without "clubbing") is all about and they invariably rise to the occasion, holding their own with other adult guests.
  2. Feed Them.  And not just pizza and soda.  When Stubble had guests we set the table for company and insisted that they join us.  We served real food (it is surprising that London Broil is cheaper than pizza or hamburger and if you serve it with tater tots and steamed fresh broccoli the guests think that you are serving steak dinner and comment that they wished their parents cooked like that).
  3. Talk to them. We had "real" dinner conversations and wound up sitting around the table conversing for as much as 45 minutes to an hour after the meal.  There is a trick here - treat your child and their friends with respect as thinking adults.  Respect their opinions and don't "pronounce" and you'll be just fine.  Assure them that their opinions are valid at your table as long as they resepect other points of view and you will be amazed at what the next generation has to offer. I will admit to being much relieved that they will be in charge of my "declining years".
  4. Give them space.  We regretfully gave up the family room to sleeping bags, pillows and gaming consoles.  Many of the boys would arrive with an X-Box or Nintendo (or whatever) and controllers - we provided the sleeping bags and pillows.  We always knew where they were and as long as they weren't making noise, let them stay awake.
  5. Expect them to help out.  If they were staying the weekend, when we needed "crew" to help weed the garden, move construction supplies, or lay a floor - they would put down their gaming controllers and help - willingly - for free.  Of course we were feeding them "steak dinners" - so it was quid pro quo.
I have never been Mrs. Bearded One to any of them.  At best I was Ms. Christie and was really ready for becoming just plain Christie as they got older.  I took my cue from "Fran", the wife of a professor at college.  When I was but a wee scruffy college student, Christmas shopping after a particularly awful exam week, she introduced me to one of her country club - type friends by name with the description: "the girlfriend of one of my husband's colleagues" - that boyfriend was The Bearded One when he was also just a wee scruffy college student and a student worker in her husband's lab.
I have never forgotten that courtesy.  She could have just walked by and nodded rather than stopping to greet me just as though I was someone who mattered.
Your kids (and their friends) are going to grow up.  It has been a privilege being a part of it and watching it happen (and maybe even contributing to it - just a little).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How NOT to Organize

I had one major goal over the holidays, besides surviving them.  Finishing the unpacking and organizing of the remaining boxes from our move last February.  We were functional in the new house but there was a stack of boxes in the guest room containing my late Mother-in-Law's jewelry and our unorganized family photographs.  Another stack of boxes lived behind our bedroom door which contained scrapbooks and letters, some of which dated back to my college days - back in the stone age before email.  And when long distance calls were EXPENSIVE!

Here are my helpful hints about how to NOT do this effectively:
  • Do not open the box containing the letters and cards from your very first boyfriend.  Do not sit on the bedroom floor re-reading all of those letters and sighing over the pictures of the two of you both looking oh-so-young.  Do not google his name to see how he is doing now (he is just fine and living in Colorado).
  • Do not open the scrapbook assembled to cover your cheerleading years, wondering at the "I'm an INDIVIDUAL, dang it!" spelling of your name on your cheerleading sweater.  The spelling that surely made your Mother wonder what the heck was going on and why the name that they blessed you with at birth wasn't good enough for you.  Do not read all of the newspaper accounts of the games that your team lost during your senior year.  Also do not google the names of the members of your cheerleading squad to see how they are doing now (one lives in Hawaii, one in London (and she has never married), one died of cancer, one lives in Florida and is a gym teacher, the last one I couldn't find)
  • Do not open the folder containing your son's kindergarten "composition notebooks". You know the ones.  The ones where they drew a picture and the teachers and aides helped them write a few words (phonetically) to describe it.  Do not read through these notebooks page by page.
  • Do not buy three boxes of snack sized zip locks and go through your MILs jewelry sorting it into sets of matching earrings, necklaces and bracelets.  Well, actually do this but don't decide to keep an entire jewelry chest of it...the kind that is four feet tall and free standing and that causes your husband to say, "You are not seriously buying THAT and putting it in our bedroom!"  In my defense, I am wearing many of the art deco and other vintage pieces that she had collected.
  • Do not go through your theater scrap books.  Do not read every preview and review and especially do NOT read every card from other cast members and decide that you cannot recycle any of them.  Do NOT google the director's name to find out what ever became of him and find that he is doing well in New York theater circles - because, in your opinion, he "just wasn't that good".
  • Do not move the boxes that you don't get to into your son's largely unused closet because you will never get to them now.
And there you have it.  Do not do any of these things while organizing because, while it is fun to wallow in the past and relive old triumphs, it just isn't going to get the job done.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mommy

December 5th was my Mom's 96th birthday.

My mother has dementia - the non-Alzheimer's kind.  She managed, with the help of part time care givers, to stay at home for quite a few years after the memory loss began.  She has been in a care facility for about 7 years now.
About 2 months ago she stopped eating normally and began sleeping almost all of the time.  She is currently in hospice care.  She could go on like this for months as long as she doesn't stop taking liquid.

Enough of the "sad" stuff.

A few weeks ago I opened my 1970's Betty Crocker Cookbook.  The one that Mom got for me when I got my first apartment.  On the roast meats page, taped into place with very yellowed scotch tape, are her notes on making a standing rib roast:  "11 pound roast was just raw at 375 for 4 hours".  And then the addendum in a different color ink- "9 pound roast was perfect at 375 for 3.5 hours".  In the cookie section are her  notes on how to "perfect" the traditional sugar cookie recipe (2 Tbsp additional sugar - so that you don't need frosting).  If I open my recipe box, the wooden one that holds the old recipe cards, there is her handwritten recipe for "Carletta's Barbecue Chicken" - which started with a ketchup base and added brown sugar and vinegar.  Done on the stove top and having no smoke flavor whatsoever, it was much loved by our family.  That recipe box has now been supplanted by a looseleaf notebook because my recipes come off the internet rather than from friends and relatives, but do you think I'll ever get rid of it?  Not on your life!  There are little pieces of Mom in there.

Mom is all around me if I stop to consider:

In the closet where I still have her blue plaid Pendleton skirt (that I can still wear if I keep exercising regularly).  That dang thing is almost 60 years old now.  Dad gave it to her as a gift for giving birth to me - I guess that was the 1950's version of a "push present"...

In my jewelry box where I have the antique gold cross that she gave to me on my confirmation - that her mother had given to her.

In my living room book case where I have an entire ChildCraft series that she saved for my potential baby, should I some day decide to have one.

In  my cabinet where I keep vases; in among them there is a cream colored antique decorated with ceramic ribbons that she got from a student long ago when she taught early elementary school before marriage.  It is lovely with tulips in it.

And then there are the memories:

Birthday and Holiday dinners in a house with no formal dining room.  Early in the morning, as Mom made fruit pies, Dad would move living room furniture up to their bedroom - two swivel chairs and the curved section of the couch so that we could fit a table for 12 into the space.  And Mom would cook and cook and cook some more, all the while protesting that she "couldn't do this - it made her too nervous".  And the dinners always came out beautifully.

One Thanksgiving there was "no room on the train".  It was Standing Room Only all the way to Chicago.  I called to say that I couldn't come unless my boyfriend drove me - but his room mate would be all alone then - could she fit two more at dinner? " Of course!" was the answer - we were 14 at the table and very crowded that year.

When I finally had a son and she came to visit, she brought home made "clay dough" with her on the flight.  Red and green and requiring refrigeration, she and the 2 year old Stubble played with it for HOURS.  I have the recipe that she brought with her laminated in my loose leaf cook book under the heading "other".

She taught me how to sew by helping me make Barbie clothes by hand.

She taught me to plant and care for a vegetable garden.

She taught me how to can tomatoes.  Well, jar them actually.

She taught me how to get ANY stain out of ANYTHING - she was a genius at that.

She taught me so much and gave me so  much.

I love you, Mom.  Happy Birthday!

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Most Blessed (and Restful) Christmas Day!

Generally our Christmases are chaotic - early morning presents being opened followed by frenzied cleaning and cooking in anticipation of dinner guests - one or more of us generally winds up on the couch with a blue ice on his or her forehead in the middle of these festivities.  This year things were made even more hectic by our (heroic) efforts to handle (and treat) the "Massive Christmas Eve Fish Tank Die Off".

We have a 30 gallon tank filled with "rescued" feeder fish.  They get quite large and develop very distinct personalities - which endeared them to The Bearded One as well as to their technical owner, Ms. Flippers.  The fish (all 13 of them) would greet The Bearded One as he got his coat and hat each morning, begging for "just a pinch of food!" so that they wouldn't starve before Ms. Flippers got up 2 hours later.  Christmas Eve morning they were JUST FINE and eating well and the chemistry in the tank was JUST FINE.  By dinner time on Christmas Eve I noticed dead fish stuck to the filter intake.  The pH of the tank had plummeted (yes, it was buffered).  "The heck with raising the pH by 0.2 per day!"  said Ms. Flippers, "This is a matter of life and death."  And it was.  We were checking pH every 1/2 hour and bringing the pH up as gradually as we dared.  By the time I left for church we had only 4 fish left - Ms. Flippers and I held a short service for the lost under the Avocado Tree when I got home.  By this time fin crud had showed up and antibiotic treatment was begun.  In the end we managed to save two of the fish.

By comaparison to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day was completely relaxing.  Following "The Longest Christmas Eve Church Service in Recorded History" (see Guiness Book), I just fell into bed exhausted from all of that singing including that which was done in the dark when the choir loft lights were turned off.  I'm sure that the long suffering choir director found it enchanting as well.  Luckily the next morning The Bearded One had handled all of the Christmas Stockings, lighting the completely un-necessary fireplace (because the morning was already over 60 degrees) and feeding and watering the cats. At 8 AM we gave the first of the wakeup calls - to kids who eventually rolled out of bed between 9:30 and 10 AM.  This had allowed The Bearded One and I leisurely showers, a couple of pots of coffee and breakfast.

Following presents I put on my "farming clothes" and spend the rest of the day weeding and transplanting and fertilizing and such in my vegetable garden.  I LOVE to muck around in the dirt (and by the time I was done with parts of it, mud).

This was followed by a steak dinner and a Snooze on the couch.

I have made a list of all of the things that we avoided by having a quiet, "just the four of us" Christmas:
  • rushing presents by getting young adults up before they have slept their fill (even worse than having a cranky toddler)
  • dinner guests who arrive a) too early or b) too late (worse)
  • whiny overtired, overexcited, oversugared kids
  • complaints about the selection of food for the dinner
  • arguments about HOW TO COOK certain foods
  • at least one drunken relative
  • repeatedly biting my tongue so that I have to eventually find laundry that needs doing NOW.  YES, I MEAN NOW!
More will come later about our large holiday meal which happened on New Year's Eve - a MUCH better time to hold an extended family meal.

Yes, the two surviving fish are still doing well.