Thursday, June 25, 2009

Underneath that adorable hair is a shocking collection of sports statistics

This was Christian one year ago, the day he turned 10.  I love this picture.

And here he is a year later, on his eleventh birthday.  To me, he barely looks like the same person.  I think he experienced an Extreme Life Makeover this year.

On his birthday--just as I have every other June 24th since 1998--I wondered how in the world I got so lucky to have him.  He is inherently good, fantastically funny, insatiably curious, unexpectedly kind, carefully cautious, unnervingly bright,  admirably brave, and terrifically nice to be around.

A few months ago, Christian went with Ryan to watch a Giants game on TV at the home of one of Ryan's older, distinguished colleagues.  At one point during the game the colleague wondered aloud where a particular player, Ahmad Bradshaw, had gone to college.

"He went to Marshall." Christian said, without missing a beat.

The older, distinguished colleague--a dedicated Giants fan and student of the game--thought that Christian was cute, but wrong.

After Ryan and Christian left that night, he looked it up and promptly sent the following email:

Hi Christian. You were right--he went to Marshall University.
I'll never doubt you again!!

Larry Cohen
Department of Psychology
University of Delaware

That's kind of how it goes with this kid.  At 10 years-old, he has university professors emailing him to give him props.  

Happy Birthday to my beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy.

How close are we on that time-travel thingie?

I'm sorry I forgot to mention that I would be out of order for a spell while I attended to a handful of busy matters, including a few days lounging on the beach.  I was hoping you wouldn't notice.

Anyway, I'm back.  Mildly sunburned, sufficiently relaxed, and daydreaming of a beachfront life (would homelessness be so bad at the beach?), I'm back.  

Well, until I leave next week.

But that's all the way next week.  Let's live in the moment, okay?

Actually, let's live in the past.  Specifically, let's live in Tuesday.  Tuesday was marvelous.  I accomplished so much: gazing, blinking, lying on my back, lying on my front, and listening to my iPod.  At the last minute, I managed to squeeze in licking an ice cream cone.  I'm an over-achiever that way.

In fact, over-achieving runs rampant in this household.  Tuesday, Christian dedicated himself to digging a hole, large enough to sit in.  I supervised from my nap.  

Oh please, oh please, oh please let me go back to Tuesday!

And if I can't go back to Tuesday, at least let me have Wednesday.  Wednesday was sunny and picturesque--everything a Wednesday hopes to be.  It was like living in a dream.  Or, maybe that was just the sunscreen smudge on the lens of my camera, making everything appear milky and dreamy.  Either way, Wednesday was like a postcard from dreamland.

Right up until my children turned their weapons on me.  What is it with boys and weapons?

Look at them, they're ready to take me down.  They're ready to attack me with their rubberband gun and B-grade light saber and rob me of every quarter I have.  But, really, who can blame them when there are oodles of cheapy arcade games to play?  I'd rob me too!  

Oh please, oh please, oh please let me go back to Wednesday!  Please?  I'll let you come along!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hap, Hap, Happy Birthday, Alyssa!

Let's talk about the birthday girl, shall we?
  • She's funny
  • She's kind
  • She's loyal
  • She has great taste in music
  • She appreciates art
  • She bakes
  • She cooks
  • She goes outside her comfort zone
  • She likes high-brow books and low-brow TV
  • She cared about the environment before it was cool
  • She's up for any adventure
  • She works hard and pushes herself to achieve
  • She's a good planner
  • She's a great house guest
  • She's a great hostess
  • She's good to talk to at 3:00 a.m.
  • She reads a variety of books
  • She loves animals
  • She loves my kids
  • She can be assertive when necessary
  • She likes good food
  • She plays a wicked game of Wii
  • She is generous
  • She loves her family
  • She is honest
  • She is successful
  • She makes the best Red Velvet cake on earth
  • She is a tomboy at heart
  • She has fun ideas
  • She is an incredible tour guide
  • She walks fast
  • She travels to amazing places
  • She's a deep thinker
  • She's a problem solver
  • She's my friend.  And I'm so happy to have her.
Happy Birthday, Alyssa!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Woe is Us

Years ago, I was rummaging through my local dollar store and happened upon this gem.

I fell in love immediately.  I felt an instant connection with the emotion on his face.  Just look at him.  

He is me.  I am him.  Him and me, we understand each other.  In parallel universes, we exist--slaving over a hot stove, making something out of nothing, laying our souls out on dinner plates for the unappreciative troops who perpetually forget to wash their hands.

I get it, you woeful army cook.  I get it.

Those 3.5 meals I prepare each week?  They're killing me.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bed & Breakfast

Once again, the neon No Vacancy sign was lit again at our makeshift B&B.  John and Janet (or, Jan and Johnet, as we like to say) arrived at our place for the second half of their tour of eastern states and places.

Unfortunately, our real life interfered with their visit a little more than I would have liked, but we made the most of the time we had together.  When life hands you lemons, make German Pancakes.  That's what I always say.

Thursday's rain made our plan to vegetate poolside impossible, so we made our way to our favorite orchard to see the farm animals instead.

We hung out with the goats,

puzzled over this up-close view of a turkey (it's like something out of Star Wars, no?),

and made up a new dance we call These Gnats Are Driving Me Crazy!

Building upon tradition, we exploited my brother for his home improvement skills.  He hung a big mirror that's been un-hung since we moved and also installed a ceiling fan in our screened porch.  I hope they never make up any laws making it illegal to use your house guests for labor!

After all the home-improving, the parents went out for a nice, relaxing Middle Eastern meal.  It was the bomb.  (And, no, that was not a distasteful Middle Eastern joke; I'm just really hip.)

Friday, they left us to tour Washington, DC.  We couldn't join them because of school and baseball obligations, but we were lucky to have Nate and Matt spend the day with us.

We spent some time at the pool before we attended Christian's Little League championship game.  That's right, after years and years of playing on losing teams, Christian finally got a chance to be on a winning team with a chance at the championship title.


HE WON!  (Lemme hear you say WOOT!  WOOT!)

The team and coaches were very gracious and expressed gratitude to their fans, some of whom traveled across the country to see this amazing game.  (OK, they didn't, but they should have!)

Saturday, we headed out to Hershey Park, with a stop along the way at an Amish bakery stand.  I had a filled donut that changed my life.  Put simply, it was a religious experience.  (And no, that wasn't a lame Amish joke.)  I don't have a picture of the donut, because Amish donuts don't like to be photographed and I'm all about respect.

Hershey Park was a blast.  There were incredible rides and the obligatory shoe-stuffing ceremony for the not-quite-tall-enough patrons of the park.  Don't worry, I won't tell anyone.

In a strange and inexplicable act, I rode on a ride with all the boys that guaranteed getting wet.  No, not wet--soaked.  Drenched.  Waterlogged.  I never ride those kind of rides.  But I did.  I still can't explain it.

Finally, Sunday was a busy blur--church, packing, eating lunch, and sending them off for their drive up to JFK with what we thought was plenty of time.  Turns out, they were racing to reach the plane with only minutes to spare.  Whew!

Thanks to Jan and Johnet for a few wonderful days that we'll remember forever!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Visitors: I Haz Them

See you next week.  My Bed & Breakfast is reserved for the weekend!

In the mean time, enjoy this video I found via Mindi.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hey, Utah, I've got all that moisture you've been praying for!

It rains here.  And when it rains, it pours.  (Now I know where the phrase comes from.)

Except for when it rains little misty dew drops like fairy kisses.  I love that.

But usually, it pours.  

And it's rarely a scattered shower; the rain here is a day-tripper.  It packs a lunch and stays a while; and if you happen to wash your car, it will be sure to stay the weekend.

Ryan is befuddled with the yard.  He used to experience Man vs. Nature in one way, fighting the elements and convincing his desert yard to bloom.  His favorite weapon was Miracle Gro.  His obsession was finding the perfect sprinkler timing to keep things green and use the least amount of water.  

Now it's a different version of Man vs. Nature--the overabundance of water.  The lawn grows so fast and stays so wet that our once fearless lawn mower has applied for a leave of absence and checked itself into the mental hospital with severe anxiety issues.  I went to visit it the other day.  It sat rocking in the corner, murmuring incoherently.  I patted it tenderly on the oil cap.  It was heartbreaking.

Everywhere you look there is something sprouting up from the ground--trees, weeds, wild grasses--eager to overthrow the landscape and take over the entire yard.  It's like a trillion little Kim Jong-Ils.

And the Miracle Gro?  It's been traded in for Round Up.  Last night Ryan sprayed the living crap out of all the little weeds.  I went out to find him dousing one of the flower beds.

"Seems like you're using a lot," I said.
"Yep," he said.

Then he sprayed them all again.  

And then he asked for a bigger sprayer for Father's Day.  

Now, all of this is not to say that I'm not enjoying my new environment.  After all, it's the lush, green landscape that won my heart originally.  The winding country roads are covered in a canopy of leafy green, which makes a drive to the nearest Wendy's a breathtaking experience.  There are giant trees here--trees that people didn't buy at Costco!  

What the?

And in the trees are birds that chirp and twitter (the old-fashioned way) and  sing all the live-long day.  I swear, some days it's like living on a Disneyland ride--the soundtrack is exactly the same.

And speaking of Disney, the fireflies are just starting to appear.  Fireflies!  They actually exist!  They are not a fictitious  Disney character as I'd previously believed!  Strangely, everything I ever knew about life east of the Mississippi, I learned at Disneyland.

Although, I will say that there is a disappointing lack of churros here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Putting the Dumb Back in Random

  • I feel like I need to bake something.
  • My toenails are almost healed.
  • My knee hurts.  I've never had knee pain before.
  • Yesterday my kidney hurt.  I'm falling apart.
  • I can't believe summer is finally here.  I've been stalking it for nine months.
  • Perhaps I will take it back someday, but I sort of enjoy the humidity around here.  It feels good on my skin.
  • I have a new obsession with eating dinner on our screened porch.
  • Ryan has a new obsession with reading his ratings on Rate Your Professor.  
  • Max has a new obsession with playing War, the longest card game ever invented.
  • Christian's obsessions remain the same.
  • Yesterday Christian was gone all day on a field trip to Washington, DC.  It was so strange to not have him around at all.
  • Yesterday I decided to stop buying the bulk of my wardrobe from Target. 
  • The schoolbus just drove by and Christian is still in bed.  He NEVER sleeps in, so he must be tired.
  • No Pilates today.  I'm sad.
  • Must work a lot today.  I've been putting off a project.
  • I never see late night TV anymore.
  • I need to clean out my closet and send the winter clothes down to the depths of the basement.
  • I can't seem to stick to my diet.
  • When I watch good dancers, I feel honored to be a human.
  • I love a good dream sequence on TV.
  • For years, I have wanted to grow lettuce.  The dream is finally being realized.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

When it's not being used to prepare bean burritos and cubed watermelon, my kitchen can serve as a recording studio.

Jesse and I recorded a cover of a Billy Joel song one morning during his stay.  Jesse did all the work--instruments, arrangement, and mixing.  He is amazingly talented.  I want his voice.  And if I can't have his voice, I'll take his metabolism.  (Please!)  

It was a no-brainer to pick a Billy Joel song because Mr. Joel's music was the soundtrack of our childhoods, the common denominator in our big family's musical taste.  To this day, a Billy Joel song can evoke vivid memories for me: the blue shag carpet in our living room, my brother Justin playing a towel like a saxophone, the sway and bob of our little houseboat on Lake Powell, the sound of a vacuum and the smell of Comet on a Saturday morning.  And now it will include another vivid memory: my little brother and me in my kitchen on an overcast spring morning.

You can listen to our little gem by clicking here.

Eastern Observation: Bless You!

People in the east are avid bless-ers.  If you sneeze here, everyone (and I do mean everyone) in a 300 yard radius will stop whatever they are doing and say, "Bless you!"  I'm not kidding.  I sneezed once outside a medical clinic and three surgeons leaned out the nearby window, blood up to their elbows, and yelled, "Bless you!" in unison.

It has come as a complete shock to me and my western roots.  It turns out that I have been a lazy bless-er.  It's not that I never blessed a sneezer.  If I was in conversation with someone and they sneezed all over me, I would say, "Bless you!" as I wiped debris off my face and torso.

But, if I was standing in line at Costco and the older gentleman seven people ahead of me in line sneezed quietly into his hanky, I would not even think about sending my blessing from among the cases of granola bars and giant bins of licorice.  The way he tried to muffle the sound would make me think that he preferred to sneeze in private, and that the kindest thing I could do was pretend that no such thing ever happened. 

Does this make me a bad person?

I don't really have a problem with all the blessing that's going on here on the east coast.  It's kind of sweet if you think about it.  Known for being stuffy and aloof, it turns out that easterners are incredibly conscientious, especially when it comes to one's involuntary, spasmodic actions.  

However, I have to say that sneezing--a subject I spent very little time and energy on in the past--has pushed it's way forward in my list of Things I Have Mild Anxiety About.  

First of all, I feel like my ears have to be cued to catch any unsuspecting sneezes from people around me.  I always feel dumb when I'm the fourteenth person to bless someone.  But I don't really want to be the first bless-er either; it feels a little too eager.  I prefer to be fashionably late to the blessing.  Being the second or third person to bless a sneezer is ideal, but not easy.  It takes a lot of practice.

Secondly, and most importantly, I used to really enjoy the occasional sneeze.  You know, just giving in to the whole thing with gusto and ending with a melodramatic crescendo of, "Aaaachooooo!"  

It felt good.

Now, when I feel a sneeze coming on, I immediately glance around in horror, making a quick tally of all the people who will suddenly shift their attention to me.  And then I check my teeth for broccoli.  I try to stifle the sneeze.  I clench my toes, my teeth, my butt.  I close my eyes and shake my head as if to tell the sneeze, "No, no!  Not here!  Not now!"  Sometimes I raise a single finger into the air, the international sign for, "Just a minute, I'm staving off a sneeze."

But it never works.  I sneeze.  And all the clenching and shaking before is sucked into the sneeze and wrangled into the whole ugly spasm.  By all accounts it looks like I have not only sneezed but suffered a grand mol seizure at the same time.

Wait a minute.  

I guess that explains why people feel it so necessary to exclaim, "Bless you!"  For a split second, it must appear as if everything is on the line.  People watching me sneeze must experience mild panic, reaching for their cell phones to dial 9-1-1 if necessary.  When the moment passes, they must be so overwhelmed at my return to normal, they call out to invoke God's blessing--to reward me for my courageous fight and to keep me from ever suffering again.

I think I get it now.

Sneezing is much simpler in the west.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Week in Review

A week goes so fast.  Today the guest room is empty again.  The sheets and towels are in the washer and our full house is now back to its regular roster.

We packed a lot of fun into eight days.  Let's run the highlight reel, shall we?

Tuesday we visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Amazing.  We saw many beautiful pieces of art and a beautiful apple dumpling in the basement cafeteria.  At one point I got asked to leave a gallery whilst speaking on my cell phone.  Oops.

Wednesday we drove around Amish country.  We fell into a stupid tourist trap that offered an expensive underwhelming buffet and a gift shop filled with trashy Amish romance novels.

However, things took a turn for the better when we drove further in and saw many a buggy and horse-drawn plow.  One Amish dude was really flying down the street in his horse-drawn carriage and the sudden sight of him filled us all with a surge of happiness so strong that Jesse exclaimed, "Look at that guy!  He doesn't even give a crap!"

Which, I guess, is the way we can sum up the difference between ourselves and the Amish--giving a crap or not.  Some days I really wish I didn't give a crap.

We stopped by a farm and bought homemade root beer and potato chips from the cutest little Amish boy you've ever seen.  I wanted to take him home with me and make him churn butter while I watch.  And listen to my iPod.

Next, we were thrilled to discover a giant statue of an Amish man to pose with.  Life was officially complete.

That night we attended a Phillies game where I made friends with my seat neighbors, Kristen and Tom.  Kristen and Tom have been dating for two years, four months, and seven (well, now fourteen) days.  Kristen has been separated from her husband George for several years now, but they remain married because George has a good medical plan.  Even though he's a schmuck.  They have four kids together, the girls live with Kristen and the boys live with George on his farm; they are drawn to his John Deere equipment.  The kids don't like Tom, but it's nothing personal--they wouldn't like anybody.  They're still rooting for George.  Even though he's a pathetic schmuck.  Did I mention that already?

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with them and can give you many more details of the Kristen & Tom story if you would like to contact me by email.

Thursday it was back to Philly to see historic sites, except that all the historic sites had been taken over by field trip kids from New York.  Boo.  So we ate cheesesteaks on South Street and bought baked goods at Reading Terminal Market.

Pardon the interruption here, but what is up with my niece?  It should be illegal to be so adorable and well-mannered.  And, unlike my usual style, I'm not exaggerating even slightly.  The child is golden.

Friday it was off to New York City.  We wandered the galleries of MoMA (with much thanks to Alyssa for getting us passes).  I think it's my favorite art museum.  And I was thrilled with how much my kids enjoyed the art.  

If you don't think that art evokes emotion, just take a look at Max in front of this giant Jackson Pollock.

And who doesn't like an artist with a sense of humor?  Nobody I want to know, that's who.

We also spent some time in Times Square where traffic has been re-routed and replaced with lawn chairs.  That's right, lawn chairs.

How about this money shot?  I call it "Pensive Baby Brother."

At Alyssa's suggestion, we kayaked on the Hudson River Saturday afternoon.  It was a blast, and it was FREE!  

And even though we got a little wet, none of our skin eroded or fell off!  Bonus!

One other moment of import was Jesse's french toast.  It was to die for.  Look at Jesse being killed softly by it.

Seriously, I think we all were yearning for it.  Check out Natalie eyeing it during this shot.  I swear I heard her say to the french toast, "How you doin'?"

We spent time in Central Park, rode the Staten Island Ferry (Ryan's favorite!) and had scrumptious plates of carbohydrates in Little Italy where I was mistaken for a Minnesotan by a short Italian tour guide who told us mob stories.

Alyssa was kind enough to schlep around with us all day--often leading us and coordinating subway routes--and even got into an altercation with a cabby on our behalf.  Thank you, Alyssa!

We returned home in the wee hours of Sunday morning and spent a relaxing day before we drove Jesse, Natalie, and baby Abby to the airport and bid them farewell.  

I miss them already.  And I don't even give a crap.  Wait.  How does it go again?
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