The Weekend, Food, and the Apocalypse

The 4th of July weekend, they call it, even though the 4th doesn’t actually fall on a weekend this year, but is in fact on Tuesday. But the fireworks and explosives junkies don’t let a little detail like that derail their plans to blow shit up and generally disturb whole neighborhoods and animals alike. FIVE days of fireworks in my neighborhood.

I am fairly certain the new residents of the only house that was still for sale were responsible for the majority of them, which doesn’t bode well for our community or their reputation. The former residents’ three boys earned a reputation for illegal and occasionally dangerous shenanigans. When they finally moved away, even the trees breathed a sigh of relief.

Anyway. I picked the kids up Monday morning with plans to go to my dad’s for the day. It wasn’t even 9 a.m. yet, so I went to my mom’s to pick up Todd’s table saw – that he’d left in her driveway on Friday. Just drove away and forgot it. We hung out with mom for a bit and the neighbor’s little Shih Tzu came over – the cutest little thing ever who might be cuter if she actually gave a shit about anything but treats. Veruca gave her a piece of Pupperoni and a whole one to Moses, my mom’s Great Pyrenees, which he held in his mouth like a cigarette and little Tessie hopped over to him and brazenly bit the end off of it.

We left mom’s and picked up hoagies at Wawa for later, and then went to McDonald’s for breakfast. Opac and I were hungry; Veruca had had breakfast before I picked her up but she was suddenly hungry again and stepped up to order her food: hot cakes and hash browns with a Mocha Frappaccino. It would seem that Todd’s luck with food places of any kind is wearing off on V – they made her the wrong drink but caught it before handing it over, and then she found a hair in her hot cakes which I’m fairly sure belonged to Tessie the Shih Tzu.

I watched the employee who made the first coffee drink lose her shit behind the counter and throw her cap down on top of the bagging station, which – I don’t know – seems like some sort of health code violation, all because the other woman told her the drink was wrong. She stalked around the counter and later out by the drink station, still hatless, bitching to some guy standing with her about I-don’t-know-and-don’t-want-to-know-what. She was angry. And big. And made eye contact with me in the midst of her rant, which somehow made me feel more uncomfortable than I like to be, that early in the morning.

Meanwhile, back at the pool, the three of us swam for an hour or so, played “colors” and some saturated Nerf football. We took a break for lunch, where V discovered that the hoagie she ordered had lettuce and onions on it and OH MY GOD they ruined it and now she can’t eat it. Really, though – HOW does one screw up an order when one is reading the order from a screen???

My wayward brother returned around that time and gladly took the poisoned hoagie. I unclogged the downstairs toilet because apparently kids can clog toilets anywhere. Dad came outside and we chatted for almost an hour, which was wonderful since with his work and so much traveling we haven’t seen each other in months, except for Father’s Day. He and stepmom just returned from Cabo. We compared our experiences since I was there long before there were luxury hotels and condos, possibly even predating the drug cartels.

Yesterday, on the actual 4th, Todd and I took my mom and the kids to the place on the water we’d gone to two days earlier. It was crowded but we got a table on the deck under cover, and enjoyed steamed clams, shrimp, crabcakes, double cheeseburgers and chicken fingers and fries. Opac ordered crabby fries too – French fries smothered in crab dip and melted cheese – which Todd was keen to try until it was delivered to the table with chopped tomatoes on top. (Reminder: he’s allergic. Reminder: shit like this happens every time he goes out.) We got a replacement because WHO puts chopped tomatoes on cheese fries, and our server was awesome and brought us one right away.

It was breezy and warm there by the water, until the sky opened up and folks were scattering to get under cover and away from the sides where the rain drizzled down over tables. We were fortunate to be seated in the middle. Still had a view, but it was very dry. Well, dry but for the sweating margaritas and a frozen one that took a nosedive onto my feet under the table.

No 4th of July is complete without a round of Clue (it was Peacock in the bedroom with a dagger, by the way) and comforting the two dogs during the apocalypse of fireworks coming from every direction. I’m telling you seriously, not one creature, great or small was spared. Even the frogs were hollering.

 

 

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Less Than 24 Hours

 

How long does it take for life to return to normal? Less than 24 hours.

I met the ex at our usual spot to pick up the kids, and no sooner did I close the car door than they were at it. Opac was teasing Veruca about something, and she was loudly and adamantly telling him to SHUT UP. She’s a little ball of frenetic pissed-offedry, and my empathic nature just absorbs all that shit and suddenly my heart is pounding with an on-the-ledge nervous energy. And she was also riding shotgun, the physical proximity of which always seems to enhance the urge to scream.

I warned O to shut it down and unsuccessfully attempted to make them both feel guilty that I haven’t seen them in 10 days and this is all they have for me. V continued looking sullen in the front seat for a few more minutes while O regaled me with humorous vacation tales. When the lull hit, she picked up the mic and started yammering on about the trip and asking me about when we’re going to do this? when are we going to do that? What are we doing tonight? What’s for dinner? Can we go there? Can we go here? What are we doing this week? Can we do this? can we do that?

I noticed that she returned with a new habit of shouting as she talks, something we have been coaching O to tone down for years. When I was in middle school, there was a kid who talked so loud all the time we referred to him as the loudspeaker, and now I think karma has come to get me. She’s been practically glued to my side for the last 2 days, so that in a single quarter-turn I’m practically stepping on her, and now she’s talking so loudly I’ve literally had to tell her not to shout at me because I’m standing right next to her.

Seriously, she’s ready for stage acting. We stopped at the grocery store for some incidentals and she’s shouting at me in the checkout line. If you can believe this, I was embarrassed. I know where she got it from too, but I’m not saying. Otherwise, I’d be having her ears checked.

So I worked the next day and they were home with Todd, who had to leave about an hour before I left work. Opac had a friend over who was asked to go home since no friends are allowed over when adults aren’t home. Todd called to update me on the kids, informing me about the friend and about Veruca’s blood sugars.

It was a busy day at work, as Mondays usually are, and the phones were ringing all day and patients coming and going. And soon after Todd left for work, V called my cell. I saw it ringing while I was on the phone. I was still on the same call when she called through a second time. And then a third. I could feel the tension rising, but it didn’t hit the wall until Opac called. By this time my call was over and I grabbed my cell and stepped away from my desk. What’s wrong? Because something HAS to be wrong if she keeps calling and then suddenly HE calls. Nothing, he says. He just wanted to know if it was okay for Kyle to come over if they stayed outside playing basketball.

Deep breath. Yes, it’s fine. Is V okay? Of course she’s fine. Our busybody needed to know what I was doing and it didn’t end there. She started texting me.

Mom did you know that Mason was supposed to leave and he didn’t. They are playing basketball. I just called you so call me or the house phone

15 minutes go by. I’m at work trying to wrap up my computer and people keep walking in and we’re suddenly busier than shit. Two of the other girls are on the phones and the third is running an errand. I couldn’t just get up and leave them.

Now someone else is here. One of his friends. Don’t know who it is

[Happy face emoticon]

Are you done work

??????????

??????????

??????????

Update it is Kyle

At this point she calls again, and my blood is boiling. I answer the call, and she’s surprised that I haven’t left yet! I calmly inform her, since my coworkers can potentially hear me and haven’t seen that other side of me, that it’s been very busy and I’ve been trying to close out my work station for the last half hour and her constant calls aren’t making that happen any quicker. Of course, I began our conversation by asking her if she was low or if there were any diabetes-related emergencies that prompted her call. I don’t need to tell you the answer to that.

She curtly replied and reminded me of the nature of her texts and aren’t I going to do something about it? I told her I’ve already discussed it with Opac and the details are noneya.

I got halfway home in the car when she called again, to report that Opac called her an “effing” something-or-other, which was after she stole the basketball they were using and took it inside the house. UGH!! And I was driving toward this circus.

I am seriously trying to get fit and healthy again, but this is driving me to break my vow to quit drinking.

Yesterday was mostly innocuous. Well, except for a glitch in my happy meter brought on by the car dealership. Neveryoumind that. Otherwise, Todd, V and I hopped into the beater truck and went to Home Depot for materials and paint for V’s bedroom.

Details to follow. Maybe.

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Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough

People have asked me why I’m not writing much… this is [one reason] why. Life is busier than I expected it would be these last three months. And now that school has let out – and Veruca’s softball season has ended – summer workouts for football have begun.

The title of this post is kinda random, since I was listening to the radio when I picked Opac up from summer workouts and this was on. I love this song, I love to belt it out and had it turned up until he got into the car. I watched him walking out from the building, looking like somebody had dragged him across the field on his head. He got into the car and reached over to turn down the volume saying “I gotta turn this shit down, it’s not my victory song” as he did so.

And so it goes. The kids are full of it these days – wit and wisdom. Two days ago he went to practice early so he could watch and “help” with the freshmen workouts, because “freshman make a lot of mistakes (they can’t help it).”

Meanwhile back in Veruca-land, where the world has to be just so or hellfire will burn your house down, a conversation about Opac being a junior now and my melancholy at this revelation that he’ll be graduating in two years prompted V to comfort me with a whispered, “don’t worry, he’s not going to be able to support himself, so he’ll come back home.” Who ARE these children??

Unfortunately, the frequency with which they make me laugh since school let out 36 hours ago is not surpassing the frequency with which the urge to kill is rising. V is testing every limit I have established for my nerves and sanity. She’s pissed that she can’t leave for vacation with her dad until Friday; she’s pissed that Opac is threatening not to go on said vacation; she’s pissed that I won’t buy tater tots; she’s pissed I won’t get her another manicure before her vacation; she’s pissed that Opac won’t play Call of Duty with her; she’s pissed that she can’t go to work with me. Seriously.

Today was the first day of summer vacation. I took V for a repeat blood test she needed (and, for the first time ever, she went back without me), picked up my new glasses again (long story, that one), spent $17 on lunch at Wawa, and then drove O to Dick’s Sporting Goods for some crazy-ass device you wear on your face to basically add more stress to your heart and lungs so you can build endurance. I talked him out of it, by the way. Seriously.

And then we stopped at Macy’s because I still have credit and a small shred of dignity and thought I’d see if there were any decent swimsuits to be had. As usual, I was wrong. The selection was abysmal, because hello! June. And everything this year has this new trend called “cutouts,” which are not really for real women but for meth addicts and size 0 bulimic models. We literally circled the store and the department in less than 10 minutes and were back in the car.

Wait. Back up. Opac was in the car, with V screaming at him that he promised she would get the front seat and she’s freaking out because “my stuff” is in the front seat. And guess what – he threw her “stuff” over his shoulder into the backseat, which only incensed her more. He threw her stuff! Good lord, what is the world coming to?

This, on the first day of summer vacation.

And of course the pets are following suit. Sabra has finally been spayed, and she’s doing great, except for the running and jumping she’s not supposed to be doing. She’s managed to slip under the fence into the neighbor’s yard, and yesterday she chased the  squirrel who buried his nuts in my potted plants last fall, from one tree to another.

Oliver has been more vocal than ever, running into the kitchen during my 3 a.m. blood sugar checks for Veruca, meowing at me like he hasn’t eaten in 39 days. This morning, at least, he waited until I woke up for the day… I sat up and saw he had stuffed his Biggie Smalls body into an empty Eminem shoebox I’d left near the foot of the bed. I need a picture of this.

So meanwhile, we’re all on pins and needles while Opac decides whether he’s going on vaca with his dad. I feel compelled to protect his feelings and his privacy, so I can’t explain his reasoning behind it all. But I am surprisingly surprised that some things (or people) just never change. Seriously.

 

A Day in PA

It was a great bookend to a very bizarre weekend that involved a new car and a fire, both of which I am not authorized to discuss publicly. Not to mention a shocking Superbowl win for the Patriots.

My mom had oral surgery yesterday morning and everyone knows you need a driver for that kind of stuff and as the daughter it’s my job to get her there. And take pictures.

So after a series of extremely fucked up dreams I fell into after each blood sugar check, all of which clearly indicate a very disturbed subconscious – including being detained at the airport because I was carrying pump supplies which weren’t authorized and another dream about being summoned by a mean spirit who lives in the restaurant who meant to harm me – I got two kids off to school without missing any busses and twenty minutes later I was on my way to PA.

Anyway, the drive was mostly uneventful, at least until I got to a major intersection where my right turn lane had the green arrow and I was following the cars in front of me into that turn when all of a sudden, this car from the other side of the highway does a complete U-turn right into me. Slammed the brakes, she slammed the brakes, and I could literally see the whites of her eyes while I lost my shit through my closed window.

Fact: U-turns are ILLEGAL in Pennsylvania. I know this because – born and raised – and lived 44 years (minus 3 in New York) in Pennsylvania. Had I not been on a tight timetable, I might have let her hit me. Just because I’m crazy enough to teach the little bitch a lesson in driving safety and another little something called, The Law.

So Mom goes to the oral surgeon. Except I’m driving and she keeps telling me where to go like I haven’t grown up in this town and don’t know my way around, and then she doesn’t even know where his office is, except I do because I’ve already been there with Opac. She gets out of the car and notes the concrete steps she’ll have to navigate on the way out when she’s all loopy. I told her I’d move the damn car after she went in. No, it’s okay, she said. I give her a pass, since she’s been up for 3 hours and hasn’t had coffee yet and I know how that feels.

So the procedure took about an hour or so and then she was in recovery and they come get me. I know many people have been there with their parents and/or have lost parents, but I have been doubly blessed to have both of mine and they’re healthy, so my eyes watered when I saw her. She was still coming out of the anesthesia so she was sleepy-eyed and her right cheek was bulging with gauze. She looked over at me and I held up my phone and, say cheese! Her eyes narrowed and I told her I was just kidding, because I was.

She was lucid enough to talk, and she was saying stuff to me I couldn’t understand – one, because I’m hard of hearing, and two, because her mouth is stuffed with gauze and so all I hear is wuh wuh wuh wuh ah buh wuh unh huh. And I’m pissed, because she is still in recovery and maybe I’m missing some really good shit here. But eventually she told me to go ahead and take the pic, and she posed with the bulging gauzed-out cheek and her eyes shut and her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth. We sent it to a friend and I captioned it, they said it’ll be another 2o minutes or so until she can get her tongue back in her mouth. And I started laughing so hard I was crying, and then Mom started sniggling and it was hard because she couldn’t feel the right side of her face which was even funnier.

We eventually got the all-clear and she got her exit papers. We made a drug run to CVS where she made new friends as she waited with this giant ice pack pressed to her cheek, and I repressed my desire to blurt out that she was in a bar brawl, and then I took her home and made my way back to Maryland. But I can’t do this without passing through part of my old hometown, which is full of wonder and excitement that only the fully initiated can appreciate. I passed a woman standing on the side of the street in a camouflage bathrobe and flip flops, a winter hat with the ball on top that was bright blue with white snowflakes on it and a scarf wrapped around her face so only her eyes were visible. She was pacing back and forth. This is Pottstown at its finest, folks. I just can’t make this shit up.

I made it back home with 10 minutes to spare before the kids got there…by some miracle after being cut off, tailgated, and narrowly avoiding what should have been a 10-car pile-up on Route 100 in Lionville (for those who know) when this woman threw on her right turn signal and just merged without ever looking. Thank God for the car in front of me and their quick reflexes, because otherwise we were all going down.

Meanwhile, back in Maryland…

Ever have one of those days where you’re sure the universe is trying to tell you something? I think yesterday was that day. Besides the rainy day and the PA drivers living up to their stellar reputation for dangerous driving, I rushed home to find our garage door open – which has done so spontaneously now 3 times and so it’s been disconnected. I was gone all day, and I have no idea when it opened.

Then the kids descended on the house with their own level of chaos, ransacking the kitchen and scaring the dog and the cat, whose tail puffed out like a deployed airbag. And then they’re arguing with each other, which seems impossible when they’ve been apart for 8 hours. And then I get the news that the toilet is clogged again. And no one knows how it happened.

Rush hour here looks like: hurry up and make dinner, feed the pets, drag the kids out of their bedrooms where they’re both practically asleep, clean up dinner and dishes, process two loads of laundry, unclog a toilet and finish the vacuuming started by Veruca, who was ordered to clean up her mess under the counter. Fruity Pebbles are the annoying glitter of the cereal world.

How did it end? On the couch with V – watching old episodes of X-Files. Todd finally rolled in around 10 and I might have been awake for a whole 20 minutes after.

 

 

 

 

 

Three Years Later

It happened again. Another anniversary crept up on me before I even realized it was happening. It turns out today is the 3rd anniversary of our move to Maryland. If this is news to you, and you really want the back story, there are links at the end of this post. For the purposes of this post, however, I had to go back and revisit Two Years Later just to see how things have changed.

Three years later, our lives have seen some big changes and we’ve said some goodbyes. We said goodbye to elementary school, as Veruca “graduated” the 5th grade. We said goodbye to Neph, who decided to move back home. We said goodbye to Pi. She lived a long and happy life, but she was ready long before we would ever be. So, we now have just one dog and one cat, and no plans to add to the brood. Some extended-family dynamics changed as well, which are better left unsaid.

Three years later, Opac has returned to football after a broken collarbone acquired during practice tackling drills last year. He is starting this year as a JV defensive lineman. I heard his name and jersey number announced for the first time last night, when he ran the ball runner out of bounds. Proud momma moment! He’s still an honor student… nothing new to see here. He still likes his rap music, but he has recently discovered the WWF of the 1980s and loves replaying videos of his favorites, Randy Savage and Rick Flair. I wish I could just explain the irony of this.

Three years later, Veruca has started middle school. It was a much easier transition than I expected. I was much less emotional about it than I was when O started. This year, V has met two other girls in her grade with Type 1 diabetes, and it’s had a very interesting and positive effect on her. And, after much deliberation, she returned to cheer this year, but I think this is going to be the last year. She’s ready to try something new, and I admit I’m ready to put an end to six days a week of running kids to and from practices/sports.

Three years later, we didn’t do any major renovations around the house, but we did some minor things in preparation for my in-laws’ 50th anniversary party. Which we hosted here. It was a bit stressful in the month leading up to it, but the party itself turned out great and we had gorgeous weather. We had a tent, live music, and a neighbor hollered at one of our guests parking on the street.

Three years later, Todd is still a professor. He’s taken a step back from more intense responsibilities but if you ask me, I think he’s now climbing the walls. He is still working on that personal and potentially very lucrative project that I mentioned briefly last year. Breath held. Meanwhile – and I know this will come as a shock to those who know me – I’m still working in the restaurant business. Somehow I think I will die there, and they’ll bury me under the bar. However, I am also doing some grant research and writing – I’m really enjoying it and I’m hoping to see it develop more in the coming year.

Three years later, the apartment we said we’d never rent – is occupied. No worries – it’s a good thing. A good friend of ours was in need, and the timing was good. You know the family you get and the family you choose? He’s the family we choose. There’s a lot of trust there, and for that I’m grateful.

Three years later, and this is a big one – Todd and I finally got that vacation. It was shorter than we would’ve liked, but it was longer than a weekend and we were alone.

Three years later, I’m a Marylander. I’m not just visiting, I’m not a new resident, I LIVE HERE. I no longer feel like an outsider, I truly feel like I belong here.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Changing Places – The Prequel

Changing Places – Moving Day

Changing Places – We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

**Disclaimer: I don’t use the upgraded service; therefore, you will see ads at the bottom of my posts (ads I don’t see because I’m not you). As it has come to my attention that certain ads may not align with my world views – I am compelled to add the following statement until further notice.

I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT SUPPORT DONALD TRUMP. NOT YESTERDAY, NOT TODAY, NOT – EVER.

 

 

 

Dad

 

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It’s taken me a very long time to sit down and write this. It’s difficult to explain – it’s not anything bad or to suggest indifference, but I just can’t seem to put this relationship into words. Or, maybe, I just don’t want to share it with anyone else.

In brief public statements, I have often said he’s the first man who ever loved me. It’s cute – and meant to be – but it is also the truth. To a little girl, the first man to love her will set the standard for all her expectations in the future. It is an awesome responsibility and, while there are a great many who met the challenge, there are also many who fell short whether by intention or by virtue of being broken themselves. I wanted to acknowledge the latter, because I have a few friends who feel let down by the first man they put their trust in. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I was an accident. Accident – because my mom and dad were dating and they were 19, and “apparently” they weren’t thinking about the consequences of certain actions. They were in love, I guess, and in the late 60s people got married under these circumstances. To make a short story even shorter, the marriage didn’t last.

Statistically, divorced fathers of children under the age of 5 are at a very high risk of not being involved in their children’s lives, or abandon them altogether. I was lucky.

The first man who loved me, loved me from the start. (And if he didn’t – no one ever told me any different.) I was lucky.

My dad was there for me. I never had a doubt of this – at any part of my life. I have snippets of memory of a life lived with him, when I was very small – more mundane than worth writing about, and mostly snapshots of the home I don’t remember.

He gave me the greatest, most enduring gift a father can give, besides his own love and support – he gave me my family. I am 75-and-one-quarter percent who I am because of them. They are my most valuable treasure.

Dad and I spent every Sunday together. We spent time with my grandparents and aunts and uncles. He taught me how to swim before I could walk. He taught me how to play pool and basketball.

He took me on wonderful adventures. He took me on a twin-engine plane ride. We went ice skating. We visited Washington, D.C. and New York City. We spent many summers at the Jersey Shore, and he posed for an Old-Time photo with me when I was 13.

We went away a couple of times to spend long winter weekends in the Catskills at a friend’s house, where I fed birds and deer from my hand, went tobogganing with the other kids, and walked across frozen ponds on rope bridges.

For my 10th birthday, he took me on my first jet plane to Orlando – to visit the wonderful world of Disney. The following year we drove to Orlando, making stops in Colonial Williamsburg and South of the Border, where I got a toy toilet that squirted water when I lifted the lid.

My dad took me to my first day of college, where he and my mother put aside their decade-old acrimony to smooth my transition. He supported my decision to transfer to a big city university two years later. He gave me the freedom to have no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up, so long as I chose something, which of course would never be set in stone forever.

He taught me to never be a quitter. He tangled with the tantrum years and the teenaged angst. He showed me his vulnerability when his father passed away, and it never scared me – but made me realize he was still just a [hu]man with a dad he dearly loved. He showed me how to honor family, by being there for his mother.

He walked me down the aisle of my first wedding, and gave me away to a man who wasn’t half the man he was. And when that marriage imploded, he took me into his home and gave me a sanctuary, held me when I cried, and talked me down off the ledge. He sat in the courtroom behind me. He is my greatest defender, perhaps eclipsed only by Todd today, and I know he is grateful if that’s a fact.

On the day I married Todd, he was there – silently standing at the back of the district courtroom. He didn’t walk me down the aisle, not because I didn’t want him to, but because he had taught me that I could stand on my own. On the day of our celebration, he hugged me and with a tear in his eye told me he loved Todd and was so glad he was my husband – and I knew to the core of my soul that he meant it.

We don’t get to see each other as much as I’d like, but we have frequent phone calls that I cherish for the laughter we share in those moments – the humor I inherited from him – we never have to explain what’s funny to each other.

I suppose I haven’t written about him because I cherish him so deeply, and I don’t really want to talk about it. Those who know me well, know the nature of our relationship, and I don’t have to explain it. It’s amazing. He has this ability – which I don’t think he’s aware of – of knowing when I need him, and he just shows up.

I don’t know what else to say. There’s so much more and I ramble too much. I also worry that I can’t do him justice.

He is my dad. I love him more than anything, and I am so blessed that God chose him for me.

 

Present State of Mind

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Written to the sound of my dove calling, a cool breeze coming through the window, and Todd on the phone doing damage control on his software program.

They drove me to drink. We have a community yard sale coming up this weekend and I decided to spend yesterday organizing my crap for that, rather than wait until the night before like I always seem to. I dug in to our “office,” where I had been hiding all this stuff during the party. I’m quite proud of myself for getting this done in light of my present apathy. And, during what sounded like an airstrike coming from above in the form of my two kids already pissing each other off less than a week since school ended.

The screeching sound of Veruca’s voice, coupled with the slamming of doors and dog’s nails running across the floors above me, sent my blood pressure aloft. I took a deep breath and ignored it. Tried to ignore it. Her voice, relentless as diabetes always is, reached a fevered pitch whereby I was sure she was in some imminent danger. I stalked upstairs and there they were, in the hall, Opac wielding a hand towel, and she – standing in her doorway – red-faced and angry as a rattlesnake.

What IS it with siblings? I just don’t get it. They regularly needle each other until one is certifiably homicidal, and in summer they like to take it to the next level. I was an only child, with the exception of a stepsister during my youngest years – and we did totally “hate” on each other, though it was never violent. I have a stepbrother who is 11 years my junior, who attempted to terrorize my 20-something self with practical jokes like removing all the screws from my bed frame and stealing my remote control, and at age 23 I got a baby brother. I was never really in a position to fight with the two of them – given my adult status. Nor did I care to. Occasionally I’d like to slap my little brother, but for reasons I don’t care to elaborate on today.

Meanwhile, back in the Cuckoo’s Nest, Veruca – as expected – was climbing up my ass and, apparently, looking for a time-out. Her constant interrogations left me feeling stabby and by 6:30 last night I snapped for the second time after I told her I was not going to discuss it anymore (it was a specific topic I answered once – about 8 hours before). It is times like this she is 100% her father and I just want to scream.

Opac had football practice last night, simultaneously with a cheer meeting for the junior league Veruca is in, and I spent two hours of my evening in a car with a daughter on crack – she didn’t stop talking for HOURS. It doesn’t seem so bad until she initiates every single God-forsakened sentence with “mom” or “I have a question.” And she requires acknowledgment that you heard her. I finally got home by 8 and decided that it was five o’clock, everywhere.

So, on this 4th day of summer vacation:

Football practice has begun with a bang – Opac reported nearly half the participants threw up during runs on the soccer field. He was “able to keep it together.”

Both kids’ bedrooms were thoroughly cleaned yesterday after mom’s meltdown. (Surprisingly, they took the threat of going nowhere that day seriously.)

I’ve coughed up $55 so far for cheer stuff and there’s more to come, but I got a $10 refund from the football coaches for a cancelled 7-on-7 at the YMCA.

I’ve been living on party leftovers – jerk chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, fresh mozzarella, hummus, and poached salmon. There’s still more left – so much so that I’m taking a detour today on my way to work to drop off some to my girlfriend.

I completely forgot Opac’s physical yesterday at the doctor’s.

Veruca has been watching The Secret Life of the American Teenager. I sat down with her to watch last night and was surprised to see Molly Ringwald, Bo Duke (!!!!), and Shailene Woodley. There’s an awful lot of conversation about sex on this show. Too much, if you ask me. But – she and I have an ongoing open conversation about this subject, so questions get answered on the regular. Recently, I corrected her pronunciation of testicles (it was hilarious), whereby she repeatedly asked me to stop saying the word with even more hilarious results. The whole thing left me punch drunk and I couldn’t help repeating testicles several times, once to Todd, which left her mortified.

Go ahead, say testicles out loud. Try it. I dare you not to laugh.

 

Being Jewish

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Above photo copyright The Tara Chronicles.

Yesterday I attended a Bat Mitzvah. In case you were wondering, I’m not Jewish. Half of my family is – the half I married when I married Todd. Todd is Jewish. He was Jewish when we were 16-17, and it meant absolutely nothing to me. That is, until his mom invited me to Passover. But that’s another story for another time, if I ever heal the scars of having to try to politely eat gefilte fish.

I wish I could tell you that he was Jewish and I was Catholic  – the religious Romeo and Juliet – stereotypical star-crossed lovers whose parents wept at the very thought of us staying together and destroying a family culture deeply rooted in tradition. It would make an exciting and dramatic screenplay. But, alas, we are not those two people, and our parents are not those parents. However, today as 40-somethings, we two are deeply spiritual people who still carry those very basic traditions that were instilled in each of us from childhood – but not so stringent as to separate us. I was born into a Catholic family who left the church and call myself a Christian who believes in Jesus. He is not. And it doesn’t matter to us, because we both believe that all people are children of God and OUR God doesn’t dictate to us who we should be. He loves each and every one of us. Okay – enough said.

So yesterday we drove an hour and a half to attend the Bat Mitzvah of his cousin’s daughter. I was eager to meet more of Todd’s extended family – those I hadn’t yet met from his mom’s side. But, secretly weary, after having attended Nephtoo’s Bar Mitzvah three years ago. I was going over what to wear, trying to encourage Veruca to wear something appropriate that wasn’t sports leggings and a sweatshirt. I was anticipating “the rules” of this event. At Nephtoo’s Bar Mitzvah, which was conducted in a Modern Orthodox synagogue, the men and women sat on opposite sides of the sanctuary. As this event took place during Shul, I was initially surprised that people were coming and going throughout the FOUR hours we sat there. As Veruca was just 7 years old (not to mention a Type 1 diabetic), we got up a handful of times for bathroom breaks and boredom busters.

I felt like a fish out of water. And not just a fish out of water – but a fish who just realized he made a wrong turn and ended up at a fish-fry. I tested Veruca’s blood sugar while we were sitting and, as is habit, dug through my purse to write it down on my little notepad. A stern looking woman two seats to my left was making hissing and spitting noises in my direction and I quickly learned I wasn’t “allowed” to be writing in Shul. I felt embarrassed, and a little bit indignant.

Later, at the Kiddush luncheon in the adjacent hall, a woman stopped Todd halfway across the room because he was holding Ava’s scale – and informed him that these video games were not permitted. Todd turned to her and curtly informed her it was a scale for weighing our type one diabetic daughter’s food. I watched her mouth snap shut, but the scathing expression never left her eyes.

So, after this experience, I was prepared for anything yesterday. Turns out – I didn’t have to be. This Bat Mitzvah was in a Reform synagogue, still rooted in the basic principles of Judaism but not Orthodox. The shul was lovely. There was music and singing and a cantor who played guitar and, as we were seated behind the immediate family, we were blessed with the beautiful singing voice of Emily’s oldest sister (who, it turns out, is an accomplished opera singer). The Rabbi was eloquent and humble, easy-going and humorous at times. The two hours went by nearly without notice, except for Veruca’s occasional question as to what time it was. And Emily was flawless and a lovely young lady.

I left feeling a renewed sense of family and community. Everyone was kind, warm, and welcoming. I have nothing against Orthodox – I just really felt like I had no place there and self-consciously (and maybe a bit paranoid) like I wasn’t welcome. Not by the family, not by any means… but by the congregation. Yesterday, it felt exactly the way Emily’s family said it felt to them – like a home.

Miscellaneous Tidbits…

According to Urban Dictionary, shul can be used to describe something cool, in a Jewish way. Those bagels with lox yesterday were totally shul(I think I like this way better than on fleek.)

According to the Talmud, one can be defiled by contact with or exchange of genital fluids and be considered unclean. This is what Todd and I were reading during the end of services. I whispered that I do believe I have been defiled. These fluids include semen and menstrual blood, by the way. A new way of thinking about your sex life, ya’ll.

And while we’re at it, a [married] woman’s right to sexual intercourse is called 0nah. Sex is the woman’s right, not the man’s. It is his duty to provide her with sex and make sure it is pleasurable for her. He is also obligated to decipher that she wants sex and to give it to her without her asking for it. Hot damn! Who’s converting??!

Wait a minute – not so fast! Orthodox women are considered unclean for two weeks surrounding their period, and cleanness is obtained by immersing in a kosher mikvah, otherwise known as a ritual pool. It is a ritual cleansing, rather than a physical one. It is also used in conversion. My mother-in-law (who, for the record, doesn’t do the mikvah) says the women are totally nude for this mikvah. Whoa! That’ll be all, thank you.

 

Grown up, But Not Fully Grown

I had to go out today because Opac forgot to take his medication. So I drove to the high school with impeccable and completely unplanned timing (since I can never remember his schedule), as he was in the middle of lunch. The office has a window looking out into the cafeteria, so I saw him coming from the other side of the room. His gait was tall and serious, like an FBI agent moving stealthily through a crowded airport. Of course he had no idea why he was being paged to the office, but I can’t imagine he’d be worried given that he’s, like, never in trouble.

He came in and was all business, took his pill and bid me goodbye in a formal way like a boss ending an interview. As I walked out the front doors, I giggled to myself. He’s so different in any school-related environment… cutting an austere figure with his mother in the presence of his peers. I wish I could say he’s trying to be the cool dude, but I don’t really believe he’s trying. I think he’s more just trying not to look like a doofus.

At home where he is relaxed, he is silly, loud, obnoxious, cool, and occasionally emotional and sensitive. He was home sick for 3 days last week and, while he usually is hiding out in his room, he spent most of those days on the couch hanging with me. I absolutely love the moments I can spend one-on-one with him, because they are fewer and farther between. He’s fifteen now. He’s in high school. He’s already anticipating being 16 this year and driving.  A car. In just three short years, my baby boy – the little man who snuggled against me for the first four years of his life, whose big brown eyes and long dark lashes gazed at me with love and wonder – will be looking ahead to college and moving away. I’m sure I’m not the first mother to announce that I’m not ready.

I took the opportunity to finally rent Straight Outta Compton because Veruca was in school and I’m that mom. He’s totally a rap addict, and was looking forward to seeing this since the day it opened in theaters. I bought the other movie he hadn’t seen – Star Wars: The Force Awakens – which he’s been dying to see… one, because he’s been a huge fan since I introduced him to the original trilogy when he was 4, and two, because everybody else has seen it and he’s been unwillingly exposed to a handful of spoilers. I popped that DVD in and periodically watched his face for reactions. When the first shot of the Millennium Falcon appeared, I watched the slow smile spread from his lips to his eyes and it filled me with the exact same joy and heart-rush that I felt every time we watched Star Wars together. It was like watching that four-year-old boy’s thrills, one frame at a time.

I’m glad he likes to share with me. He shares every last detail and thought about the music he listens to, what happened at Death Row Records (not like I wasn’t sitting right next to him watching the movie), how his Biology test went today, how many deadlifts he did in weight training yesterday, and all the God-awful-stoopid videos he finds on You Tube. I don’t want the conversation to stop. I hang on to those moments like I held on to my Todd’s gazes across the gymnasium in high school. He won’t talk to me about girls. I ask occasionally, and he quickly brushes it off like a nagging mosquito. He will still occasionally take my hand, absentmindedly wrapping his fingers around mine, and then just as quickly drop it like he suddenly remembered he’s 15. When he got in the car to go home last weekend, he picked up my makeup bag from his seat and asked what it was. And then he asked me why I wear makeup because I don’t need it. Sigh.

I once wrote about how surreal it is to be hugged by your own flesh and blood that is now larger than you. How he can pick me up. He still hugs me every day. I make him. Well – it started out that way – I told him he has to hug me once a day, every day. He hasn’t forgotten and some days when we’re really busy he will come to me for it before I’ve had a chance to even think about it. And I’m grateful. These are all the things I’m holding on to… hoping they will always overshadow the other 50% of who he is. I’m still getting used to the stubble on his face when I kiss his cheek. I will never get used to him growing up.

Potato, Potahto

Nephtoo has been missing of late. Not missing missing… just missing around here. Admittedly, both Neph and Nephtoo have been missing, and I miss them. Opac and Veruca have been missing them too. We must fix this. Especially if I am to not continue to embarrass myself with my mispronunciations.

Herewith follows a snapshot of a conversation I was not a part of, but was inspired to share secondhand. Mostly because apparently I was accused of being stuffy. More on that later – let’s get down to the dirty details.

Nephtoo – a scholarly young man who knows just as much as he knows not – recently questioned whether the word vase was vah-z or vay-z, and his mother said – and I would have to agree wholeheartedly – that [we] don’t make enough money to own a vahze. So, middle class masses – it is VAYzes for you! Or, if you’re like me, you have amassed a cloudy collection of florist vases from all the flower deliveries ever received since 1989, and have stored them under the kitchen sink.

Still, it does raise the question – how much do we have to make to own a vahze? I need to know this. Today. Because I’m adding it to my bucket list. I will one day buy a vahze. And I will put fresh cut flowers from my gardens in it, and place it on the dining room table. Or maybe on my bedside table. Maybe I’ll carry it from room to room. Or would that be too eccentric? You’re laughing – and it’s not because I would carry my vahze from room to room. If you know me, really really know me, then you are laughing at my gardens. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, back in Nephtoo’s world, the conversation segued into how I pronounce “fondant.” Nephtoo asked if I was stuffy for pronouncing it fon-DONt. Stuffy?! Confession – this is a word I’ve always been uncomfortable saying out loud – kind of like the word “sherbet.”

So I Googled the pronunciation of fondant. In English, the proper pronunciation is FON-dunt. I always thought it was fon-DONt. And actually, in French it’s pronounced fo-ndaw. So I was half right. And no one at the restaurant ever corrected me, which is surprising since Andy wastes no time correcting my speech in the kitchen – though he would let me walk around with spinach between my two front teeth all night.

The pronunciation of “ramen” became an endless source of laughter one evening a few months ago at my expense. Apparently I’ve been saying that wrong too. I said RAY-men and Neph thought this enormously funny. The correct pronunciation is as the Japanese say, RAH-men. And now I have to constantly correct Veruca’s pronunciation of it every time she asks for it and, like the diva she is, she refuses to be corrected.

This brings to mind a waiter we had – back in the days where we had to recite the evening’s specials – who insisted on pronouncing basil, baa-zil (baaa, as in sheep) instead of BAY-zil. This was a guy who marched to the beat of his own tackle box, like the night he marched it in from his trunk and over to a table to show them all his fishing gear. Which had absolutely nothing to do with basil.