Tuesday, January 30, 2018

homelessness and party hats

Editorial comment- When we were home for Christmas, Elizabeth asked if she could write a guest post for me. I assumed it would be a little tale of our latest escapades or tales from her days living on a farm.

I did not expect it to be an ode to myself.

I did not expect it to include never before published photos of myself.

It makes me squirm a little to post it but it made my heart burst with happiness. I do love having her as a sister even if she sometimes rolls her eyes at my puns.


For three years, Sarah and Annabelle have driven from New York to Massachusetts. They arrive in various states of travel exhaustion.

This time, bedraggled and disoriented, Sarah and Annabelle pulled into our driveway, just before midnight. The GPS had led them to believe that they’d arrive around supper time. This means they’d been traveling for five hours longer than expected.  (I have a theory and it goes like this- In brutal regimes, dictators punish dissenters by telling them to go somewhere using a GPS. They then rig the entire system so that the route the victims follow takes nine hours longer than in the GPS promised. If you’re reading this, current Kim, I’m on to you.)

Travel, especially unexpectedly long travel, can break down even the most hardened criminal. It nearly flattened my two girls this Christmas.

On this particular visit, Annabelle, who has never met a word she didn’t like, wandered silently into the house. She wobbled down the hallway with a Calico Critter in one hand and ketchup and French Fries stuck to the edges of her lips. She drooped into the living room, vaguely hoping to find out if any of the toys were new/rearranged/readily available. The ghost of her party spirit animal floated around at the back of her mind and suggested that she pick up a pretend microphone someone had left invitingly on the living room floor. She bent to pick it up, but she nearly fell over.

When I asked her about her ride, her critter, and her supper at Chick Fila, she looked blankly at me. Food? Chick Fila? She was clearly not herself.

At this point, Sarah pulled herself through the door, carrying a plastic Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup. It was full seven hours ago when she bought it and it was still half full. She has never been one to drink her coffee quickly and a day of travel is not conducive to starting new habits. Her party spirit animal, though also droopy, was slightly perkier than her daughter’s.

“Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww, Elizabeth!” she exclaimed, poking curiously around the kitchen. “Did ya make something for us to eat? Why is the couch on the other side of the living room? Where does Mom keep the glue and the tape? Is that a new plate?”

Some things never change. Some people are never too pooped to get the scoop.

In a few moments, the hardships of her life came tumbling out. That’s because, for a girl who loves a party, she’s had a pretty balloon-popping few months.
              
"Lizette, I have such a disappointing life,” she says, half moaning and half smiling. I tell her that anyone who packs up her entire home in the span of three weeks has a right to disappointment.  It's practically an inalienable right. I tell her words like terrible, horrible, mystifying, earth-shattering, and inspiring. She begins to see the light.
             
Even though these conversations are uplifting, they’re only occasional. 

Sarah still wakes up to a full plate. Instead of finding a sampling platter of red velvet and vanilla cakes, which she would have adored, she discovers she's been served an upside down cake. What's worse, the icing is flavored with change.  Absolutely not. No thank you. She’s highly allergic to change. Still, she doesn’t get to wake up to a full plate with a little sign beside it that says: the contents of this plate were prepared in a facility with CHANGE and may contain traces of it.
              
A big move to the South. A new zip code, New landlords. Meghan Markle. It’s a lot for one lady with small shoes and a big heart to handle.
              
There are those trying times when her white shirt has a stain on it or her leggings look too much like something Michael Phelps would wear. She’ll blow air dramatically through her lips and chock it up to her “disappointing life.”
Other than that, she doesn't complain about her topsy-turvy life. If I didn’t know she’s in the process of transitioning from one world to another, I’d have no idea. In fact, I needed to remind myself of this as I played Catchphrase with her, wore matching Christmas jammies, and painted her nails the color of a watermelon rind.
                           

At first, as I watched Sarah brush Annabelle’s curls after sudsy baths and listened to her sing bathtime anthems, I theorized that her refusal to complain must be quite deliberate. Now, I’ve decided it’s not in her to do it. Complaining would rain on her own parade. She loves a parade. For the love of all the is sparkly, she will not rain on it. 

If complaining is not in Sarah’s blood, gift giving is part of her DNA.When she arrived a few days before Christmas, she brought bins of presents, each one exceptionally packaged and thoughtfully chosen. One frigid day, we went to Old Navy and she bought me a cute little tank top just because I said I liked it. When it was time to pay, she said, “Squidzen, you can just…go and look anywhere you want in the store. You can look anywhere. The whole store is full of things to look at.” She didn’t want me to see her pay for a shirt that says “loved” in pointy, cursive letters.

S
he asked me to run to the store and pick out a tiny tree so that Joana could have the first Christmas tree of her life. 

During the Great Snow Bomb of 2017, she brought Dad some soup from Panera so that he could have something warm to eat.

Nearly singlehandedly, she filled the Christmas stockings for each member of the family and excitedly instructed everyone not to forget them where they hang on the stairway. (My stocking got mixed up with my Twin brother’s stocking, which means he now wears a pair of socks with a pastel deer print on them. Sarah didn’t have the heart to tell him about the mix-up, but that’s okay. If deer print socks are the worst thing he’s up to, it’s a pretty good deal. As I tell Sarah, it’s best to be mildly wild. That way, you’re less likely to be really wild when you want to be.)
Editorial comment- I lose all control and sense of decorum when I'm with my siblings. Never in my wife/homemaker life would I launch myself and slide over the counter like a penguin BUT THERE I GO. Look at my offspring. She can't believe what's happening.

I’ve been away from Massachusetts for some time. Whenever I come to visit, I look to see if Sarah has been here. If I see something nice—a teapot card, a heating pad, or a soft fleece blanket—I don’t even have to ask who it’s from. I know the kind of trail Sarah leaves behind.

Sarah gives and gives. She reminds me of a little rhyme I read somewhere and haven’t been able to find again. It goes, “This is the song by which we live. It is so sweet to give and give.”  Like road trips, the journey to becoming a kinder and happier person sometimes takes longer than expected. But Sarah always arrives just on time, holding presents and climbing over the kitchen counter, and leaving sparkles behind her.


She might not ever know where she’ll go next. But one thing is for sure: we always know where she’s been. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

if I don't laugh about it I'll cry

Welcome to our home! All the big bloggers do tours of their beautiful homes and I wanted to jump on that bandwagon.

A multitude of boxes will meet you as you enter the front door. 
To the left, you'll see Christopher's study. It's really a place of peace and tranquility.
Be careful not to step on my product graveyard as we move down the hallway. I can't help it if I love free samples and new beauty products a little too much. When going through this mess I realized I have products that a) expired years ago and b) are the wrong color/style/smell but I'm never gotten rid of them. I worry if I get rid of it I'll want it, but if I haven't used it since 2014 chances are I don't need it. The fact that I have fifteen bottles of Bath and Body Works lotion is entirely Christopher's fault. I had to tell him to stop buying them for me since I wasn't using them as fast as he was getting them.
You're welcome to use the hall bathroom but in the spirit of disclosure, I have to tell you I trapped a frog in there this week. A FROG. A FROG IN MY HOUSE. I DO NOT LIVE NEAR A SWAMP OR IN A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY SO THERE SHOULD NOT BE FROGS IN MY HOUSE. I hate frogs. H-a-t-e them. Elizabeth said I should have been so worked up about it since it was one small frog, but it might as well have been the plague Moses sent upon the Egyptians. One frog, no matter how small, is too many.
Instead, you can use the master bathroom where we have not one but two scales. If you don't like the results on the first scale just step on the other and believe whichever is lower. Ask how I know.
Step right up to our living room where you can enjoy the latest episode of This Is Us while you sit amongst the boxes and various toys.
When it gets dark, turn on either of our of lamps or a small fan. They sit atop a state of the art end table that can only be bought in the poshest of stores. 
Feel free to stay the night. Just let me know so I can clear the guest bed.
Kristoff from Frozen sits on the otherwise undecorated shelf. He lost his head somewhere along the line and I have no idea where it is. Maybe it's in the same place as my own head. I lost that the day after we arrived.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

coming to you live from a(nother) new state

Hello! 

It's been a while.

Last time we spoke I was in Massachusetts, feeling very much like a gypsy without a home. My New York home had been packed up by strangers and I wasn't sure where any of my belongings were. I so badly wanted to sleep in my own bed but had no idea which state it was in. I couldn't remember much about the new home I saw for all of 15 minutes almost a month ago. It was a tumultuous time for me. 

We left for Georgia last Monday with a car packed like a can of sardines. I almost had to leave my child behind to fit everything. Annabelle fell asleep, woke up an hour later and instantly asked for a muffin. Half an hour later she moaned, "My tummy hurts." I whipped out a bag and stuck it under her chin faster than you can say ''car sick.'' This is not my first rodeo. I have been down this road too many times before. That's how I ended up cleaning vomit out of the car seat in a McDonald's parking lot. I went into the bathroom to wipe down her shirt and as I opened the room I hear a man singing, "Sarah! Saaaarah!" I stopped in my tracks and looked around. When I opened the stall door he sang my name again. It took me a minute to realize the man singing my name was on the radio. After I got over the surprise it made me laugh so hard.
We drove for ten hours the first day and longer the second day. We stumbled into our new home at nearly 11pm. Annabelle had fallen asleep in the car and upon waking she was so excited to be here she ran around like the Energizer bunny until 11:30. I was anxious to get here but immediately got overwhelmed by the number of boxes to unpack and things to put away. I almost turned around and went back to Massachusetts.

We raised the population of our new town to 3,009. Clearly, this is a budding metropolis. Despite its small size, much has happened since last Tuesday. Within the first week of being here the water has stopped working twice, the washing machine leaked, we've heard multiple racist comments, the neighbor across the street lost control of the brush he was burning and nearly caused a forest fire (it's still smoking four days later), we visited urgent care and AB was diagnosed with an ear infection. Her allergies started acting up the day after we arrived. When I asked the urgent care doctor when allergy season starts he said, "Every season is allergy season here. It's more like allergy year. There's even pollen in the ice." So that's great. I'll need to buy a Sam's Club bulk pack of Claritin. 

We met some of our neighbors. In one house are the parents, five daughters, an uncle, a chihuahua, a beagle and two American pit bulls. We haven't met them all yet but we share a driveway and their house is behind ours so it's only a matter of time. The uncle came by to introduce himself and it was a very awkward encounter.  He said his name is Mike but everyone calls him Pedro (he pronounced it Peed-row). Mike Peedrow stood around for an uncomfortable length of time and I kept trying to wrap the conversation up without being rude. He slooowly talked about the weather, the size of the salamanders in the wall-less shed that is the centerpiece of our backyard, the demographics of the town and the land across the street. He said it used to be an evergreen grove but it was attacked by beetles so they cut the trees down. Now it's known as Rattlesnake Ridge and his brother in law killed a snake that made its way across the street. Obviously, we have to move now because I can't be living near snakes large or small. He might have been pulling our legs by why risk it?  
Subpar photo of our driveway with Rattlesnake Ridge in the background.

Monday, January 15, 2018

90.

Today is Grandma's 90th birthday.
She is one of my absolute favorite people. She's hilarious and every time we're together we laugh until we cry. Being 90 doesn't stop her from always wearing her pretty jewelry and reapplying her favorite lipstick. She loves to shop at the drugstore, specifically RiteAid, and has gone several times a week for as long as I can remember. She can get her milk, sugar, butter and coffee syrup all in one place so she really doesn't need to shop anywhere else. She taught me to play rummy and make a five-course Italian Christmas dinner. Other than Donald Trump I don't think I've heard her say a mean word about anyone. She's taught all her children and grandchildren how to play rummy and she and I will play for hours.
We had her party yesterday. She wasn't supposed to know how much of the family would be there but when we pulled up (I was the official chauffer) she knew something was up because there were 10 cars in front of Carol's house. We went inside and Carol said the cars were there because the neighbors were having a party and Grandma bought it. She was helping herself to some appetizers when Carol told her there was a book in the living room she wanted her to see. The "book" was the family in hiding. Everyone lives nearby but it's hard to get us all in the same place at the same time. Grandma was delighted to have almost all her children/grandchild/great grandchildren there. She couldn't stop smiling.
I labored for many hours over this photo decoration in chronological order. Multiple people said the 9 looked like a P. Fine art should be admired, not criticiz.
Every birthday we do a horrible rendition of Happy Birthday. People sign off key and at different tempos on purpose. It is truly awful but it's what we do so we do it badly with all our hearts. We sang it once but Grandma said it was too normal so she insisted we sing it again. It might have been our worst one yet. As always, Annabelle was in the thick of the birthday action.
We each told Carol four things we love about Grandma and she had it made into a print from Etsy. It was so sweet to hear what stands out to everyone about the birthday girl. 

I hope I can be half the person (and rummy player) Grandma is.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

none of us will be competing at the winter olympics

Annabelle has been asking to go ice skating for months so I finally took her this week. I can't skate well on the best of days so taking her was extremely optimistic on my part. This is actual footage of our entire time on the ice.
It was one slip and fall after another. Annabelle wasn't expecting the ice to be cold (???) and would have a small panic attack every time she fell. "It's cooooo'd! It's too cooooo'd!" She'd pull on my pants and jacket while I tried to pull her up and I'd nearly topple over in the process. Thank God for Auntie Elizabeth who took over and managed to make AB feel like she was really skating. It took half an hour but we finally made it around the rink and AB even stood by herself for a few seconds. Meanwhile, I was bent over the wall trying to work the kinks and sore muscles out of my back because apparently I'm now 147 years old. 

Sesame took a little rest as I retied her skates. It's hard work, literally being supported hand and foot.
At least we looked cute. Look at me with my arm behind my back like a professional speed skater. Maybe I'll make it to the Olypmics after all.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

a multitude of words about nothing in particular

On Thursday the great snow bomb hit Massachusetts and I for one could not have been more delighted. Sure, it was -5 and I spent almost two hours shoveling in the blistering cold with snow slapping my face, but when I was inside watching it was lovely. The next day we went out to play. Annabelle may have been born in Tennessee but she loves snow like a good northern girl. 
The snowbanks on either side of the driveway were over her head but she climbed to the top and demanded I help her build a snow castle "better than Elsa's." The thing about Elsa is she says the word and snow castles are built. I had to drag large "snow rocks'' from one side of the driveway to the other. Half the time the snow blew back into my face. It was much less beautiful than Disney makes it seem.
That night we slept at Ivy's house. The girls took a bath together and AB asked me to "hold Baby Ivy down" so she could wash her hair. Ivy was skeptical about The Sesame Salon.
Then she realized that it's pretty nice to relax while someone takes care of your every need.
It reminded me of this picture I found the other day. Elizabeth was NOT into my efforts to beautify her. "Oh ma gawsh, Mom. Who put this puffy thing on me? Rescue meeeeee."
Speaking of Elizabeth, she and I started a new exercise regimen last night. It was a beginners video and I sailed through the first 15 minutes with no difficulty. Elizabeth was struggling but we both finished strong. I didn't realize the workout had affected my arms until I tried to take a picture of Elizabeth at the end and my arms and hand was shaking so much I couldn't get a clear picture.
You might think I was shaking because we were lifting heavy weights. You would be wrong. We didn't have real weights so I lifted mayonnaise and oil while she did the salt and Adobo. The words you're looking for are fitness professionals. Look for our line of weights coming to a Dick's Sporting Goods near you.
Think of all the good dips we could have made with the mayonnaise in the time we were exercising!
Annabelle didn't want us to forget she was in the room too. How could we when she was constantly asking what we were doing and why we were laying down?
Grandma's 90th birthday party is this weekend which is perfect since Annabelle has plenty of party practice. For more than a year she's hosted a birthday party almost every day. The guest of honor at yesterdays party was Tiny Tim the turtle. Tiny Tim started as an imaginary friend who joined our family last week. Erika was getting rid of a little wooden turtle so I took it and told AB that Tim had come to life. Her little mind has never been more blown. All party guests were required to bring for TT and I brought a Hershey's kiss. I should have given away the mayonnaise and olive oil instead.
She looked at the candy the same way I do. So much love and affection!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Currently- the beginning of the year edition

Reading: Sisters First. It's the first of several books I got for Christmas. As mentioned an endless number of times, I am a fan of the Bush family so I enjoy a new perspective and reading stories I haven't heard before.

Excited about: the snow storm that supposed to hit tonight. I love sitting inside in comfy clothes watching the snow fall. It's perfect hot chocolate weather.

Not excited about: -5 degrees on Saturday morning.

Sewing: little fabric birds for Annabelle's new bedroom. It's hard being in Massachusetts and not setting up my new home yet but I'm doing what I can from here. Yesterday we glued fabric to thin cardboard then I cut the out in bird shapes. 

Watching: Fly Boys. We tried watching a girly movie but it wasn't working so we switched. Not that I mind. I enjoy any movie from this time period/most movies about soldiers.

Teaching: Sesame how to cook. I taught her how to peel carrots and she did 10 by herself. After that we zested a lemon. She's Julia Child Jr.
It's about time she earns her keep around here!

Playing: rummy with Grandma. I played with her growing up but starting when Grandpa died we played together every week. Every time I come home we play several games. Today AB was watching me play and wanted to help. We had 3 generations playing and it made me so happy. She asked me to teach her how to "shnuffle the cards." Her lingo needs some improvement but I love her enthusiasm.

Baking: rosemary butter cookies. I haven't made them yet but I tried them at Daniel's and they were delicious. My goal for the year is to eat more cookies so I'd better get cracking!

Monday, January 1, 2018

my motto for this year is "keep the expectations bar very low"

I'm not sure I made a list of resolutions on January 1st, 2016 but I don't want to check. If I did write any down I doubt I accomplished it. Generally I don't make resolutions because I feel like it's setting myself up for failure and I'd rather not disappoint myself. 

This year I'm keeping things simple by making a list of what I feel are very achievable goals.

1. Rewatch Parenthood. Achievable since it's next on my re-watch rotation.

2. Plant a garden. Since I do this every year it's almost silly to mention, but I wasn't pleased with last years garden and I want to research a little more this year.

3. Earn a minimum of 5 free drinks with the Dunkin Donuts app. I'm sure I'll earn more but again, LOW BAR LIFESTYLE.

4. Buy another phone charger. It will be a real delight to have an upstairs AND downstairs charger. 

5. Lose 5lbs. This is probably the most unreachable of my goals since I haven't lost weight since 2014 but one can only hope. Ideally I'll lose 10 but that might be pushing it.

6. Read the Little House series to AB. I wasn't sure if she's too young, but we started the first book a few weeks ago and she's enjoying it. 

7. Attempt to take more naps. 

8. Eat more cookies. Counter productive to goal 5 but we only live once.

9. Get a library card as soon as we get to our new house. 

10. Not move houses again. I don't want to pack a single box or sign another medical release records form.