Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

We have returned safely. It was lovely being with my sister (two of them, actually) and getting to know my niece (that baby is truly a marvel), but it is still lovelier to be back home.

I think it's good to leave home every once in a while so I can come back glad to see everyone and everything I've been taking for granted. It would seem absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Highlights included:

Listening to Baby Bee's incredibly vast but unintelligible vocabulary. She uses one word, in particular, "Wit-too" most frequently and with great purpose. She seems very clear about what it means, but she's the only one. The rest of us just smile and nod.

Visiting with one of my college roommates and all around favorite friends of my youth and meeting her children. We became fast friends our senior year and lived together in a spooky old Scottish Manor house in New York for a semester. She hasn't changed a bit, despite the 14 years of marriage, 4 children and two moves across the country and back. It was wonderful to catch up.

Taking Man-Cub to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. We had a great time. Man-Cub loves all that kind of sciencey stuff and he just loved it! We saw planes, trains, automobiles, spaceships, submarines, and even watched a baby chick as it hatched! He got to use a periscope, get good and damp in the Fun Zone and I bought him a sailor's cap in the gift shop. It was overpriced, but the minute I saw it on him, I had to buy it. He wore it everywhere (bare chested, when possible, because that, as he says, is how they wear them) and everyone who saw him had no choice but to grin at him. He looks smashing in it and I could just scream that I don't have a camera!

Talking and laughing with Dharma about anything and everything. She's on bed rest at the moment, ending a solid week of post-surgery house arrest this very day, and is understandably discouraged and frustrated. It's not easy being a bedridden housewife. Thank heaven Daria is there to keep Baby Bee clean, fed and safe. As far as the house goes, hang in there, Dharma, help is on the way!

The Irish pub. I know I mentioned it already, but it was just too enjoyable to be mentioned only once. Mmmmm, Guinness, cider and a beef pasty. I could have that every day for the rest of my life.

Man-Cub creating a new word: scratchticles. I think its meaning is obvious. Oh, that boy.

In other news, there really is no other news. We are playing Lego Star Wars every free moment of every day, our computer is back up and running (yay!) and Redheaded Snippet is getting ready to go to camp for a week on Sunday. Oh, and I have an appointment with an endocrinologist tomorrow which I'm pretending not to be scared about. That's why I've just casually thrown it down here at the end of this post so I can try to fool myself into believing it's not that big of a deal. But, you see, there's a mass. We were calling it a nodule before, but now that I've read the ultrasound reports, I see that it's a mass. That's a tumor, right? Yeah, I know, 95% of all thyroid nodules/masses/tumors are benign, and the vast majority of all thyroid malignancies (I refuse to use the "c" word as of yet) are highly treatable, even curable, but somehow, that doesn't ease my mind a whole lot. So, I see the specialist tomorrow. And we shall take it from there.

With that, I shall move forward, breezy and unconcerned, and busy myself getting ready to take Redheaded Snippet to her youth group event for the evening. I may have no choice but to spend a few hours at Borders tonight. Won't that be horrendous?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Well, we've arrived safely. And I'm SOOOOO GLAD we're not driving home! Two days and a total of 15 hours in the car is just too much for a body to take without losing just a wee bit of sanity.

I am really quite tired and rather irritated with myself for not being asleep yet so I will be brief. No one died. We did not break down. We only got lost once (stupid bike race). No one committed any moving violations (well, let's change that to no one got CAUGHT committing any moving violations).

Man-Cub handled himself and his foot-and-a-half of space crammed into the back seat between our luggage, food, drinks and Daria's mammoth computer (I swear that thing is practically an ENIAC) with uncharacteristic grace and fortitude. He melted down as we pulled out of the driveway, begging me to take him back to his dad, but he got through it (with the help of a hand-held pinball game and a roll of bubble tape).

We had one crisis, checking out of our first hotel mere minutes after checking in upon discovery of the filthy carpet, insect-littered ceiling, gum stuck on one wall and blood smeared on another. Oh no, I am not joking. Who would joke about blood on a hotel room wall?

True crisis was averted when the lovely people at Holiday Inn, despite the late hour and even later notice, opened their welcoming arms to we three road-weary travelers, offering us a clean, comfortable, sweet-smelling room with soft, clean beds, soft clean floor coverings, clean walls, clean furniture, clean bathroom fixtures, all completely devoid of insects or bodily fluids of any kind. Did I mention it was clean? Holiday Inn ROX MY SOX. I will do endorsements for free.

We had dinner in an Irish pub. I had a beef pasty and a drink the name of which escapes me but was half Guinness and half Magner's cider. Heavenly.

Later this week we are going to swim at an indoor waterpark, visit Vance's Real Life Mad Scientist Lab, go to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry and hang out and talk and laugh. It shall be lovely.

And now, to bed.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


In mere moments I'm embarking on what will either be the adventure of a lifetime or the most dismal experience ever to drive a person to therapy for years to come.

That's right...ROAD TRIP.

Daria and I are driving from New Jersey to Chicago. And we're taking Man-Cub with us. It's a 12-hour trip, folks. We're stopping in Ohio (little more than half-way) for the night in the hopes that swimming in a hotel pool, jumping from bed to bed, and stockpiling miniature bottles of toiletries will make the journey more tolerable. We'll just see...

Well, the car is packed, phones are charged and everyone has made a last-minute visit to the loo, so I guess it's time to depart.

I'll be back Friday night. Hopefully I'll have a whole new, exciting chapter for my memoirs.

We're a terd of hurtles!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wednesday's a Witch (and not in a good way)

Ah, Wednesday, you harshest of mistresses, even during Summer Vacation you find all manner of ways in which to grind my face into the dirt.

We no longer have to make the frantic dash to church every Wednesday night (that is, not until September) and yet, and YET, I find myself wandering dazedly about my house, frazzled, tired and considerably poorer each Wednesday night. I'm shell-shocked, I tell you. If I didn't love my Redheaded Snippet so dangedly much...well, I don't know what.

In the absence of regular meetings, the youth group holds weekly pool parties at different houses spread conveniently throughout the area. And when I say spread conveniently throughout the area I mean clustered tightly within a 1.6 mile radius from the church. And at least 15 miles (and $10 worth of gas) away from our home. And, I don't mean to complain, but when you're driving 30 minutes to drop your kid off somewhere, you need to have things planned out so you don't wind up driving 30 minutes there, 30 minutes home, 30 minutes back to pick them up and another 30 minutes home again. That's 2 hours folks! And $20 worth of gas!

Usually, I take advantage of those times to either visit stores in that area that I don't have near me or just while away the hours at the Borders that I know is there. Sometimes it's rather lovely to be forced to spend almost 2 hours idling in a bookstore's cafe, flipping through magazines and sipping something hot and sweet. But tonight? Tonight I had no such luck.

You see, The Viking has a friend who has recently started a new job. He thinks The Viking (who is looking for a new job) would be perfect for his company. The Viking has been considering it, but wanted more information so he invited the friend over to go through the particulars of the job (i.e. deliver his spiel). He set the time for 7:00 this evening. And he wanted me to there. Which meant I had to get the house company-ready, pick up groceries for dinner, make dinner and feed the kids all before 5:30 when I had to leave to take Redheaded Snippet to her pool party, arriving home at 6:30 with 30 minutes for last-minute preparations (filling the coffee maker, setting out cookies, etc). Then, because the party was over at 8:00 and it takes 30 minutes to get there, I would have to leave again at 7:30, arriving back home an hour later, long before the friend would have had to leave for home and really, meaning I'd only be able to hear 30 minutes of the spiel. I was fine with that but The Viking wasn't about to let me get off that easy.

The Viking called the friend and was able to reschedule for 8:00 which meant I could be there for most of the info, though I'd be 30 minutes late. This solved my attendance problem (goody for me), but created quite a different scenario for my evening.

The kids and I managed to get the house ready (except for the vacuuming which we left for The Viking) and out the door by 5:30. But buying and eating dinner turned out to be an impossible fantasy. Racing out the door, I resigned myself to the fact that Man-Cub and I would just have to eat on the fly (again) and gave thanks that at least Redheaded Snippet was going to a BBQ and would at least get something to eat.

It was about 7 minutes out of our driveway when the first monkey wrench was throw into my plans. I suddenly remembered The Viking's good suit at the dry cleaners. I had dropped it off so it would be ready for another job interview tomorrow. The shop would surely be closed by the time I got back. I had no choice but to make a detour.

This set Redheaded Snippet off into peals of dismay. "But, now I'm going to be late! I'll only be there two hours as it is! It's the only time I get to see him!" If you guessed that there is a particular person of interest who is also a member of her youth group, you'd be right. They're in like. And I guess you'd call him her boyfriend. But, you know, like in the 7th-grade sense.

Shortly after I picked up the crisply clean suit (which, to my credit, only took 3 minutes--the kids timed me), Man-Cub started on me. "I'm hungry! Why can't we go to McDonald's? I feel sick! I need to eat something! I know that song, but I'm not in the mood to sing it!" Apparently, the Snippet's song choice was making him feel pressure to sing along and aggravating his hunger pangs.

We arrived at the pool party 15 minutes late (not bad for me) at 6:15. I now had an hour-and-a-half to kill before the party was over and I was 15 miles from home. I did the only thing you can do in that situation. I went shopping. We were out of everything today: milk, bread, waffles, cereal, eggs, sausage, sugar, garbage bags. It was a critical situation and probably why Man-Cub was so desperately hungry. I swear the boy subsists merely on Frosted Mini-Wheats and wheat bread. So, I hastened my famished boy to the closest fast-food establishment and let him feed his face. Then I proceeded to the Promised Land, Wegman's to stock up on the necessary supplies as well as pick up some kind of fancy refreshment for the evening's meeting.

While we were there, strolling purposefully through the aisles, Man-Cub behaved himself beautifully. He charmed the girl behind the cookie counter (well, really, who wouldn't? She is, after all, keeper of the cookies), helped me with the scale and label printer in the produce section and generally kept me entertained the entire time. He was so good I bought him a cookie, some jelly beans and a set of lacrosse sticks (that were on clearance and he agreed to pay for half with his own money).

At one point, I was looking intently at a food product on a shelf, comparing prices and looking for the best deal when I heard Man-Cub sigh wearily and say, clearly but firmly, "I am tired of life." My attention snapped from dollars per pound to my poor, troubled little boy as I said, shocked to the soles of my feet, "Whaaaaaat????" I can't tell you the jolts that blasted through my synapses! "He's seven! Only seven! He can't be depressed already!"

He responded to my look of terror with one that clearly said, "Keep your hair on!" He indicated the box on the shelf he'd been looking at and repeated himself, "I'm tired of Life." That's right, we were in the cereal aisle. I burst out laughing, as much from relief as amusement and he asked, still bewildered, "What did you think I said?" When I told him I thought he was tired of living, he made a derisive noise in the back of his throat and rolled his eyes at me. "Yeah, right," was how he replied.

Clearly, it is time for a little variety in our cereal choices.

At any rate, I finished the shopping, retrieved my Snippet from her Chase-And-Splash Fest and managed to tumble into the kitchen with two children (one still very wet), dry cleaning and grocery bags in tow by 8:40. Not bad for the kind of evening I'd had, but I'd still missed 45 minutes of the presentation by the time I put the perishables away, herded the children into the other room and arranged the fancy cookies I'd bought elegantly on a china rose plate (in an obvious effort to divert attention from my lateness).

In case you're wondering, the rest of the evening went fine and it does seem this job opportunity might be a good one for The Viking. There may even some possibilities for me. But we still have some thinking to do and we're interested to see how the interview tomorrow goes.

At any rate, it is now once again 2:30 am and I still have to iron The Viking's shirt before I flop into bed.

Wearily yours,

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Last Day of Laziness

So, after a solid week's worth of playing or watching someone else play Lego Star Wars virtually non-stop, this has taken up what I can only fear is to be permanent residence in my brain.

Sigh. Han Solo is still quite fanciable. And one has to wonder how on earth a woman could run around blasting Imperial soldiers, slopping through garbage, swinging across chasms and fighting for her life and the freedom of her people with hardly a hair of such an elaborate coiffure out of place?

Redheaded Snippet and Man-Cub completed all levels of the story version last night. But that doesn't mean they've exhausted the game's resources, oh no. Those clever Lego and LucasArts people are no dummies. They've packed this game chock-full of satisfactifying fun. Right now my happy, rabid children are stomping, slashing and blasting their way through Lego Land trying to collect ONE MILLION studs (that's Lego money for you unititiated readers) because something is supposed to happen when you do that. They don't know what it is, exactly, but it is sure to be spectacular.

Otherwise, things are splendidly low-key as per usual. Today, my major accomplishments were taking a shower, washing and drying a load of laundry and baking a batch of scones. But, as today is my last day of idling about with little to no responsibility, I've got to put in a few hours tonight getting ready for the week ahead. After dinner, I must go through the week's coupons, make up the week's menu and grocery list and get caught up with laundry. Redheaded Snippet has hockey camp this week, which means I have to have her up at the high school at 9:00 each morning. That will force us to return to a more normal schedule, which I'm fine with after the week I've spent indulging my idleness. Tomorrow is going to be a bear, though.

Right, then, it's back to reality for me. Back to the daily grind.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Days Are Just Packed

Nine days have passed. And lots has happened. And yet, nothing has happened. How existential.

We are well into the indulgent, semi-uncivilized schedule we tend to slip into during the first two weeks of Summer Vacation. We sleep late, swim in the pool, sit around playing video games and go to bed late. We do manage to run errands and get chores done, but with three of us in the house all day instead of just me, the chores take a lot less time so there is more time for swimming and video games.

And when I say video games, I mean Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Man-Cub got it on Sunday as a belated birthday gift and I estimate it has gotten at least 10 hours of action every day since. If they're not asleep or in the loo, the children are sitting on the living room floor, flailing wildly in front of the TV. I must admit it's a pretty cool game. Everything is made out of Legos: the characters, scenery, weapons, vehicles. You collect studs, the Lego form of coins, you build things out of Legos to help you along in the game, and when you blow something up it blasts apart into little Lego smithereens, even the people/aliens/droids. And did you catch Lego Leia in her legendary gold bikini up there? Hilarious. And, if you look closely, doesn't it look like Severus Snape swiped a lightsaber and snuck in there? The game follows the movies almost exactly, with short film clips between each level of play. Fans of the movies, as well as fans of Legos, will find great enjoyment in this game. I give it a thumbs up, even if it has induced my children to spend most of their waking moments trash talking each other instead of working together. Oh well.

Redheaded Snippet has turned into a teenager. Although it seems she's been slowly metamorphosing for several years now, it's finally official. To mark the occasion, I provided her with a full supply of quality cosmetics of her very own. We've allowed her to wear make-up in stages, a little blush and lip gloss, then darker lipstick and concealer as needed, and now that she's 13, the floodgates have opened and the last hurdle has been cleared: eye makeup. The only make-up restrictions left are that she can't look like a tart and if she looks absolutely ridiculous, I'm going to find a way to tell her so. My kids are free to make choices in their appearance that make them look silly if they so desire, but I reserve the right to gently point it out to them just in case they are unaware.

Having been caught up in all the birthday revelry and good cheer, The Viking and I completely lost our minds and agreed to let our Snippet have a slumber party. Seven of her closest friends came to our house with bathing suits and sleeping bags in tow and spent the night swimming, playing games, laughing and eating. It really wasn't bad. My mom came to remove Man-Cub from the situation by having him sleep over at her house and wound up staying and she and I actually joined in the games. There was slip-and-slide-duck-duck-goose, pizza, leg-wrestling, build-your-own-sundaes, boneless hot wings and endless rounds of an old favorite game, Murder. Everyone had fun, nothing got broken or set on fire and nobody threw up. Success.

Since then we've been laying low. We're relaxing on purpose. The next few weeks get busy and then, don't tell the kids, but there will only be a month of Summer Vacation left once the dust settles. So, I'm not making many demands of them until I have to. This is what the Summer is for!

Just so you don't think I'm exaggerating, this is what our Summer schedule looks like:

We wake, leisurely and calmly, anywhere between 9:00 and 11:00 am. Unless we have to be somewhere before noon (and I am purposely scheduling everything in the afternoon to avoid this horror of horrors), I don't set the alarm or wake anyone up. This is the biggest luxury in life, in my opinion.

Upon waking we amble downstairs, still in pjs, to grab a bowl of cereal and eat it in front of the Wii. Usually it's the sound of the Wii that wakes me up as the kids have graciously adopted the Don't-Wake-Anyone-Before-They're-Ready policy as well. I take my usual position on one end of the couch, Man-Cub plants himself front and center on the floor in front of the TV and Redheaded Snippet kind of rotates around the room from the recliner to the other end of the couch to the floor next to Man-Cub and back again. She just can't sit still, even for Lego Star Wars.

There are, of course, interruptions to this blissful idleness. Teacups must be refilled, ringing phones must be answered (I believe it's a Scientific fact that no one moves faster toward the sound of a ringing phone than a teen-aged girl), barking dogs must be ushered into the house, mail must be collected, and bladders must be emptied. But all is done as quickly and efficiently as possible so not a minute of idleness is wasted.

At some point, a midday meal is needed. After a bowl of rice, pbj sandwich or plate of leftovers from the night before, I throw in a load of laundry, begin folding the load from the dryer and direct the kids in a few cursory chores such as making their beds, bringing the dirty laundry from upstairs or tidying up the dishes that have accumulated in the living room all morning (I admit, I'm not good at keeping the dishes out of the living room). Then we usually take care of a weekly chore such as changing the bed linens, cleaning the bathrooms, dusting or sweeping.

As soon as that's over, the kids either go back to the Wii or head out to the pool, depending on how hot it is and how frustrated they are with trying to work together to complete levels of Star Wars episodes. I may read one of the many books I've borrowed from Daria as part of my Summertime Horizon Broadening project, give myself a manicure, or keep at the laundry. Once in a while the kids and I flip through the soap operas to make fun of them, being sure to turn the channel the minute things get dicey. I love that the kids think they're ridiculous. It shows they have good taste and good sense.

Sometimes we have an errand to run such as grocery shopping, orthodontist appointments, dropping off dry cleaning (which, CRAP! I forgot to do today and The Viking needs his suit cleaned by next Wednesday--must make that Priority #1 tomorrow) so we do that in the afternoon leaving enough time to make it back in time for me to make dinner.

The kids help me while I'm making dinner, setting the table, doing another run through the downstairs making sure it's tidy, assisting me with the cooking, and then they get more free time until it's time to eat. This is when The Viking comes home. He walks in, the kids run in to get a hug and a smile, the dog jumps around excitedly, and he goes up to change and go outside to survey his land until dinner. Unless he has something to do, which he has two nights this week. Or unless I have something to do which I did tonight. So far this week, we have yet to sit down to a meal as a family. The Viking had his night at the fire station on Monday and a band rehearsal last night. Tonight I got to drive a total of 75 miles in order to get Redheaded Snippet and her friend to a youth group pool party and back. I was gone for 4 hours. And used up nearly $20 worth of gas. But I just keep telling myself it's an investment into my daughter's well-being and character.

After dinner, if we are all together for it, we clean up and then gravitate back toward the living room. By now, The Viking's laptop, being the only functioning computer in the house, has been unearthed and battles for its possession have been waged. The victor settles happily with it while the losers console themselves with either the Wii or the TV.

Eventually, much later than the time they would be required to during the school year, the children are bade to pack up their toys and gadgets and get themselves ready for bed. They trudge upstairs as slowly as possible and The Viking and I indulge in a little child-free quiet time. Usually we just decompress in front of the TV for a while before The Viking finally heads off to bed himself.

That's when I get MY time. I fiddle around on the laptop, watch stupid TV and make my lists for the next day. Sometimes I update this here blog, but that takes an awfully long time so I don't get to do it as often as I like. Once my time is over, I pack up the laptop, turn off the TV, make sure nothing is left out for Nutmeg to drag all over the living room floor in the night and check the locks and lights before going up to bed.

There you have it. A Summer's Day of intentional relaxation, Wits' End style. It's not glamorous, it's not even interesting, but it's darn relaxing. It wouldn't be healthy to live like this ALL the time, but for a few short weeks, it's very nearly pure Heaven. In just a few days, Redheaded Snippet's hockey camp will start, then Dharma & Co arrive from Chicago for Lobelia's baby shower and Baby Bee's FIRST BIRTHDAY celebration. That's right, our Miracle Baby is already a year old. Then Man-Cub and I are going back to Chicago with them and somewhere in there Redheaded Snippet has sleep-away camp. See what I mean about things getting busy? Clearly, the time to be idle is NOW!

Well, I must be off to bed. I have another day of hard rest and relaxation ahead tomorrow. A day with NO ERRANDS, except for that dry cleaning, of course. That should be fun. The dry cleaner has a blanket of ours that's been in their keeping since about February. They hate when you do that and have no qualms about telling you so.

Ok, that's all for tonight. Must go get my beauty sleep...