Category Archives: Family

No Greater Expectations on Mother’s Day

We have a quiet Mother’s Day, my son and I. He came down with a terrible head cold on Saturday which means that, by Sunday, he is a hacking-wracked ball of phlegm and we can’t go visit grandma as planned. I call to invite her to come to our house instead–at least, to the outside of it. (She is immunocompromised–so masks and open air are her best friends.) The weather is perfect for an alfresco get together to chat and exchange Mother’s Day gifts. We agree on 1:00 pm and I hang up. Ordinarily, I’d leap into frenzied action, but it’s Mother’s Day and I make a different choice. A better one.

Anytime someone is going to come over, I usually have to engage in a massive disaster relief effort–the kind of clean up that happens after a storm has threatened to wipe a town off the map and leaves a ton of broken things to be hauled away. Only in this scenario–I am the tornado. Things are thrown down the laundry hamper. The dishes are piled into the dishwasher (or out of the dishwasher to make room for the newer, dirtier dishes.) Books are stacked as if they might, just might, get back to the library some day. Maybe.

As a rule, I make an attempt to provide plausible deniability that I am not, in fact, a borderline hoarder. Stuff gets shoved into rooms with locking doors. I am not a cleaner, so much as I am a denier of filth crimes. A hider of clutter. A shover of just-one-more-thing-into-the-junk-drawer fanaticism. Things get tidied because otherwise I fear someone might just call social services to report me for my lackadaisical housekeeping standards. Dammit.

But with the kid home sick I’ve had no help since Friday. I had a big mailing to finish for work which took priority, and the house shows it. With only a few hours until Grandma stops by, addressing the mess seems futile. Not to mention, since we are meeting out-of-doors, kind of pointless. Unless she needs to use the restroom.

With the kid coughing up germs left, right, and center–sometimes directly into your face–it seems prudent to at least try to minimize Grandma’s risk of contracting whatever plague he has. I douse the bathroom in a bleaching chemical bath and spray the faucets with antibacterial Lysol, change the towels, and call it good enough.

Outside, I drag the not-entirely-non-oxidizing-metal yard furniture in place and scrub to get last year’s bird poop off as best I can. I put the umbrella up, but I can’t drag the heavy base from the garage to keep it stable. So the furled edges flutter slightly whenever the warm air lazily passes by–nudging the ribbed canopy, fluffing it like a dancer’s skirt. I zip a circle of plastic with a felt backing around the center pole–an umbrella-friendly tablecloth with giant watermelon slices and what might be flip flops–or maybe pineapples?–scattered in glaringly bright colors across the surface. It too flaps frantically whenever the wind tugs it. It is a minor inconvenience. Sitting near the budding maple tree, shaded from the warm sun, drinking a cold beverage, it is probably as close to perfect as a day can get.

There’s only one not-so-small problem. What to do with the kid? Leaving him in the house likely means returning to an even bigger disaster than I already don’t want to face. Bringing his projectile coughing near Grandma runs the risk of making this our last Mother’s Day together. Even though he can wear a mask, it isn’t entirely reliable seeing as he wears one at school and still managed to catch whatever virus he’s got.

My solution? I drag a green bag up from the basement and hastily construct an A-frame tent we used to go camping with when the boy was much much smaller than he is now. There are a few holes and stains in it and the elastic that holds the poles together is stretched out of all helpfulness–but the design is simple perfection. It is the classic triangle tent depicted in all those Beetle Bailey cartoons and the kind we actually used in basic training, though they were made of canvas and not this water-resistant, windbreaker material. (Not washing machine resistant, as I discovered, but that’s another story.) It’s taken a beating, but once all the poles are in place, it holds its shape.

Grandma arrives, carrying a portion of angel food cake baked with pineapple and topped with whipped cream. I grab cans of diet cherry coke and we chat between interruptions from my son. Apparently his participation in this celebration requires him to drag every single one of his stuffed/plush toys and blankets out of the house and into the tent. This is no small task. A parade of Frozen, Paw Patrol, and Trolls character march past stuffed into a mound with his blankets. And then, once that’s done, he asks for lined paper and a popsicle before settling down to write calendars in his mobile green kingdom on the lawn.

Presents are exchanged. My ‘son’ gives me a new set of cornflower blue Rubbermaid food storage containers and Grandma gets a gift certificate to Kay Dee’s Garden–a greenhouse where she can buy a flat of pink and white cosmos to fill the flower pots outside her home. We talk for a while, but mostly we just enjoy the understated beauty of a sunny day with no greater expectations.

This may not be the most exciting Mother’s Day ever recorded, but being outside after weeks of gloomy, wet weather, and enjoying a conversation with my mom is about as close to perfect as these things ever get.

So, to all the other mothers out there who would rather sit and relax on Mother’s Day–I salute you! And I hope that you too enjoy a day being a Good-Enough Mom that might otherwise have been wasted trying to be a Perfect One.

Another Woman’s Life

I like to go to secondhand stores–places like Goodwill, Mel Trotters, Changing Thymes–this gives me a chance to browse other people’s discarded treasures.

I sometimes post my finds to Facebook–things I find especially funny or ugly or both. But I recently went to a Goodwill depot to dumpster dive and I found something I have never seen before–another woman’s life up for sale. As I write this, I am uncertain of how much I will be allowed to tell you. So, this may turn out to be a bit like the hugely disappointing reveal of Al Capone’s Vault by Geraldo Rivera–a whole lot of nothing wrapped with a pretty bow.

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Attention Whore Seeks Audience…

Whenever we hold up the critical mirror of consciousness to do a self-check, I sometimes wish it came with a warning sticker to the effect: “The idiot in mirror might be a larger ass than they appear.

The following post is a painful acknowledgment that I am not as funny as I think I am, and maybe I should seek professional help. As painful as the following confession is to read, I promise you, it was a thousand times harder to write and admit to.

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Aunt Peg’s Layered Jello Salad…maybe

Long before such Food Network shows like Cutthroat Kitchen and Chopped introduced questionable cuisine–there were traditional homemade dishes with mystery ingredients that only got passed down in the family to the daughters who hoarded the recipes on 3 x 5 cards tucked away in a tin recipe box. Classics such as hotdog surprise or macaroni salad were hauled out for holiday parties–sometimes against the will of attending family members–and no holiday would be complete without these culinary treats at the table. I am about to share with you one such recipe.

Be warned, this one may become your very own secret surprise side dish delight!

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Dental Damns…

We are past the first hurtle. My son has survived having his wisdom teeth extracted and now has to just get through the next five days on a restricted diet of soft foods. Currently he is having ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

It may have been exhausting, but at least the hardest part is over. Now to survive the days with the benefits of top-notch pain killers. (Norco is the way to go. Sadly, only the kid is receiving them.) But, I am reaping the benefits of a narcotically stunned teenager filled to the gills with bowls of Super Scoop ice cream with a chocolate sauce chaser.

The even better news is that the two family members who have been teetering on the brink of existence in separate hospitals have now recovered enough to be discharged. Huzzah! Let everyone rejoice the homecomings!

And to anyone who was hoping the title of this piece was somehow a salacious intro to a naughty confession, my apologies. I’m sorry to disappoint your prurient desires.

Hell’s Home Kitchen – Napalm Edition

I recently read a few other bloggers’ trials and tribulations in the kitchen–HERE and again HERE and this made me reflect on some of my worst disasters.

Please enjoy my retrospective and recollections of thymes past.

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Happiness in a Box

I was given a quest this week to buy crayons. No problem, right? As my favorite character from The Big Bang Theory might have put it: “Easy-peasy, oh so breezy.”

This simple task turned out to be a lot more difficult than expected.

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When the Pumpkin Hits the Fan…

<<<STRESS>>>

Everybody has it. It’s the energy that fuels life. If you don’t have enough stress, you probably would have been eaten by something furry back in prehistoric times to keep you from reproducing your laid-back DNA. Stress kept you on your toes back then.

Nowadays, however, it tends to be a corrosive that eats away at your central nervous system unless you learn to deal with it in someway. Today was a test of my emergency stress management responses. You may have handled things differently–probably averting the same crises with ease. But, I defy you to read the following and not at least have a little sympathy for a mom who just wanted to read a book.

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A Boy, A Book, and the Gulf Between Them

Forgive me, this is a hard post to write and I’d like to do justice to both the joys and the sorrows in their turn. It is a post about discoveries and magical thinking–the good and the bad involved in both. This is about a book–and a boy who will probably never read it. I would separate them, but the two things are inextricably linked for me. It would be like dividing the sun from the moon.

Be warned, as it is written on ancient maps past the edge of the known world: Here be dragons!

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Artful Creations of Pain and Vision

Through a friend, I was invited to join fellow service women in an community-based artistic endeavor of a most mysterious kind–one with the thrill of possibly ending up shellacked and put on display!

How could I say “No” to that?

Continue reading Artful Creations of Pain and Vision