Archive for August, 2011

28
Aug
11

too late, too tired, so just randomness

Took Second Son to college yesterday. That was weird. The house is pleasantly but discomfitingly quiet without him. Spent an hour yesterday throwing out four years’ worth of homework papers from high school and sweeping spent spider egg sacs from his “closet” floor. (Ick. This sounds really bad, like we’re some of those people living in filth and squalor, 3 days away from showing up on TV, like those men who were found in their apartment behind walls of newspapers. The only thing in the closet was four years’ worth of homework papers and a box of miscellaneous computer/cell phone/random cords we’ll never need but for some inexplicable reason can’t throw away. Does that sound a little less Collyer brothers?)

Last night Husband asked if I was going to continue to check in with Second Son about when he would be “home.” When I asked Secondo how he felt about that, he texted back “For the record, I will be in my room every night by 9 p.m. doing my homework.”

Allrighty then.

I miss him a little, plus now Husband is using his room as his office, since he has a big desk down there and a really !!! bright light so I have to go looking for him if I need my back scratched or for him to tell me if my butt looks big in my pants. (It does, always, but never mind.)

Second Son does go to college where Husband works, so I decided I would “recycle” some of the stale cereal we found in the cupboard (in the kitchen, not in the closet with the spent spider sacks; ew!?!) by making some “Rice Krispie” treats to deliver to him tomorrow along with his bike and a pair of his jeans and the Apple AirPort because hisdormroomdoesn’thavewificanyoubelieveit?, except the marshmallows were so stale they wouldn’t melt.

I didn’t even know this could happen.

The new academic year starts tomorrow. I don’t wanna. Summer, like all good things, went way too quickly, and I want just a few more years weeks of sleeping until I wake up and only teaching people who actually want to learn something.

Couldn’t I just make that a requirement or something? I wonder how empty the universities would be if that were a prerequisite.

Only Daughter is looking forward to an extended run of being an Only Child. Hope that works out, although she’s already a bit of a hypochondriac and needs a lot of attention. Maybe that will get better when she’s not competing for high-carbohydrate snacks and TV time with a 6’2″ hyperthyroid 18-year-old.

Heard at Dinner

Daughter’s told that she is going to get driven to, and thrown in to, the lake if she doesn’t stop being ridiculous (we can’t remember what she was doing, but it doesn’t really matter)

Daughter: “That’s okay, I’m a good swimmer.”

Me: “No, you’re not.”

Daughter: “I am with good goggles.”

Right.

 

27
Aug
11

not just me, then

Husband and I had a debate recently, which prompted me to post this survey.

The tepid response has not helped resolve the debate, but I was encouraged when reading the New Yorker review of the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love.

“The young actress Emma Stone, playing a straitlaced law student, has a classic moment: going home with Jacob, she orders him to remove his shirt, which he does, revealing a chest so perfectly sculpted that she’s revolted. ‘Seriously? It’s like you’re Photoshopped.’ Men may be relieved to hear that at least some women find a gym body a little too close to narcissism to be a turn-on. . .”

As the bloggess would say,

26
Aug
11

maybe not the sharpest tool in the shed

From the Chicago Sun Times:

Eighty-two-year-old Abe Feinstein, who has lived in Coney Island since the early 1960s, said he wasn’t going anywhere.

“How can I get out of Coney Island? What am I going to do? Run with this walker?” Feinstein said.

The retiree lives on the eighth floor of a building that overlooks the boardwalk; his daughter lives on the third floor. Feinstein watched Hurricane Gloria in 1985 from an apartment down the street.

“I think I have nothing to worry about,” he said. “I’ve been through bad weather before. It’s just not going to be a problem for us.”

It’s a hurricane. It’s not “bad weather.” You’re in your 80s, so we know you didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.

This isn’t about stubborn, it’s about stupid. I mean no disrespect or anything, but GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN, YOU IDIOT.

In the last 200 years, New York has seen only a few significant hurricanes. In September of 1821, a hurricane raised tides by 13 feet in an hour and flooded all of Manhattan south of Canal Street, the southernmost tip of the city. The area now includes Wall Street and the World Trade Center memorial.

In 1938, a storm dubbed the Long Island Express came ashore about 75 miles east of the city on neighboring Long Island and then hit New England, killing 700 people and leaving 63,000 homeless.

Yeah, that sounds like something one should stick around for and watch from the windows. You might feel the need to watch over your fifty years of National Geographic magazines, a dilapidated couch with the throw pillow your mother needlepointed, and an ancient TV, but if you can’t run with your walker now, Grampa, wait until the streets are under 13 feet of water.

Sheesh.

25
Aug
11

where I’ve been

It’s been a busy summer, especially with three weeks teaching at a music camp, and then last week we had the luck and privilege of renting a house on beautiful Lake Michigan in which to stay with friends and family.

Husband’s daughter and son were there for half of the week, First Son and Only Daughter were there the whole time.  First Son made the trip from Cleveland via Greyhound. Text message: “I’ve become really good at discouraging people from sitting next to me.” My reply: “Do you pick your nose and mutter to yourself?” Response: “Only when I’m competing with someone particularly scary sitting across from me.” Plus Husband’s brother and family all the way from Vancouver Island and my bff Jackie and her family from Chicago – a friend who’s more like a sister, who I’ve known since 1987 – stayed the whole time. Second Son had band recording sessions and gigs, and no gas money to drive back and forth, so we missed him. Maybe next year.

It was a beautiful week, and so much fun to spend it with so many people we love. I had a gig the first three days, so drove back and forth from the beach to the gig, and was sad about missing some of the fun. But we took turns preparing delicious meals, drank gallons of wine as well as the occasional gin and tonic or margarita, took dune rides that were “just like roller coasters,” and went horseback riding. Well, the kids and I and Husband’s brother went horseback riding, the rest of the derelicts adults snuck off and went wine tasting, apparently because they were being plagued by someone mowing the grass — at least that’s their story and their sticking to it, but we find it a little suspicious that this wasn’t mentioned BEFORE the horses strolled off in their well-ordered lines. And be careful about telling the “Wranglers” that you rode a lot as a child — I ended up on the biggest horse in the corral, with a back as wide as a Volkswagen, and had some serious knee issues by the time we got back. The woman tells me, at the watering trough, “You can get down now” and I think “Not so much.”

Okay, so he doesn’t look that big in the picture. But the stirrup was at my shoulder, and I somehow managed to a) put my foot into it and b) hoist myself up without falling in a heap in the dust or putting my back into spasm. This is a big accomplishment for me, who thinks of any form of exercise as something I should do more of, but would really like better if it weren’t strenuous or painful in any way. And the woman did not lead us by the bridle the entire time. Just so you know.

Stepdaughter and First Son have become close friends, especially because they coincidentally ended up at colleges 40 minutes apart. What was really fun for me was watching First Son entertain 4 girls 10 and under after Stepdaughter had to leave — countless card and Monopoly games, taking them out to the furthest sand bar on their little rafts. He is so much older than Only Daughter — 21 years old to 10 — that I believe he will just be a faint memory of her childhood, and it was nice that they had a week to hang out together.

There was also a fair bit of Girl Drama. We won’t speak of it here, except to wonder why it seems so necessary, everywhere. We did learn at camp that the Intermediate Girls division is now bigger than all of the boy’s divisions put together, which required the institution to hire extra psychiatrists. I’m not making this up.

I digress.

Of course, there was no Wifi, and my iPhone could only pick up satellite signals about half the time, so we were basically cut off from email and texting and phone calls. This was frustrating once in a while, but really nice for the most part. The hardest thing about coming back to Reality was how much stuff needed to be dealt with on such a persistent basis. I’d really like to live my life more like how so many of the Italians we met do — friends, family, good meals, LIFE! I feel way too much of my time is spent chasing the clock and answering incessant emails and dealing with people who don’t treat me with civility or respect. They probably have that problem in Italy, too.

My bff Jill couldn’t come for dinner on the night we invited other friends for because her elderly and somewhat addled mother fell and broke her arm in two places and apparently spent some time lying on the floor either too injured or too confused to call for help. This is sad. One of the friends who did come for dinner also has an elderly mother in the hospital, waiting for a stay in rehab. My mom is fighting two kinds of cancer simultaneously, which really sucks. I guess we’re all at that age, now, but I don’t want to be. I guess not wanting to be of a certain age hasn’t really been proven to be an antidote to aging, which is really too bad. Something should be done. I’d like to be 43 again, for a really long time.

When we got back there were mountains of laundry to do, and a fridge full of questionable food remains and nothing edible, and then our cat escaped and was missing for four days. I have a pile of mail, although this pile is garbage

and this pile needs to be dealt with.

What’s up with that, anyway? What a waste of resources — fuel, paper, stamps, time. I even started a facebook page once (Stop Sending Me Crap, feel free to join; I think there are 11 “likes” so far, so apparently not a movement that’s spreading like wildfire. Even if it should.) because I got so disgusted by the number of catalogues and unsolicited solicitations. Do we really need constant reminding of all the stuff we can buy that we don’t need?

Only Daughter and I walked all over the neighborhood yesterday putting “Have You Seen This Cat” flyers in people’s mailboxes. It was hot, and really humid, and I stupidly wore flip-flops so ended up with a really bad blister and had to walk the last 1/2 mile back barefoot. We got home rather disheartened, as much by the fact that of all the doors we knocked on, only 2 people answered, and one of them wasn’t really all that friendly. And no sign of Sophie the Evil Cat (she’s a heroin addict, except for the heroin is yarn) anywhere. While we were walking around I looked at the map of our neighborhood on my iPhone and realized there was this little side/private street that bumps up right against “our” woods, so when we got home I printed up a few more fliers and drove there. I noticed that some of my piano students who live on that road were home, so went and knocked on their door, and lo and behold, the mom had just gotten an email from someone down the road who had a Siamese meowling in their garage for the last 3 days, so I drove over there and found her in their back yard. She (the cat, not the mom, that would be weird) then spent the night causing mischief and lurking in the hallway for me to trip over on my countless trips to the bathroom fighting some weird stomach bug I still haven’t fully recovered from.

Also this week I took Second Son shopping to outfit his dorm room, and Only Daughter clothes shopping for fashions appropriate for a 5th grader who is 10 going on 20. (I have to stop saying this, because now, when people ask her how old she is, she says “10 going on 20.” Sheesh.)

The latest questions from her include: Do I ever worry about going out in public when I have a pimple, and, Am I proud of having big boobs. (I don’t, except maybe compared to hers, and I keep telling her they’re only called “boobs” if they’re fake and mine certainly are not. Anyway.) As part of the “appropriate” clothes shopping I bought her a “training” bra. I don’t really know what we’re training here — is there an Olympic event I don’t know about? Do breasts need to do some kind of conditioning or they come in all misshapen or flabby? It’s basically a tank top that ends at her midriff, but she’s wearing it under everything now, and asking me how often she needs to wash it. (She’s also quite convinced that she needs to start using deodorant, but the only thing she ever smells like is shampoo or cranberry juice.)

So here we are. Summer’s over, the academic year looms before me, we all keep getting older, and I renew my vow to grab time for the big important things and not waste so much energy on the little unimportant ones.

I’ll let you know how I do.

23
Aug
11

but is it food?

Making pizza for dinner, but our children don’t like what we put on ours (olives, caramelized onions, sun dried tomatos, etc.) so we’re going to make them what they REALLY want: frozen.

Here’s the list of ingredients.

That can’t be good.

But we can get $15 off a ticket to Six Flags, and the pepperoni is “reduced fat.”

At least there’s that then.

23
Aug
11

Available at fine groceries everywhere

If you eat them, do you get the munchies?

Or is it more something like this?

01 Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

13
Aug
11

August night

Sitting on the porch in the quiet of the night
as the house sleeps behind me,
listening to the chorus of cicadas.
The darkness like a blanket
except for where the moon shines
its spotlight on the driveway
and one lone porch light gleams through
the trees across the road.

Ah, August.
The days shorten reluctantly and
summer recedes in your shadow,
gone too soon.

12
Aug
11

well that changes everything!

Idiot.

12
Aug
11

Xanadu

I would like to see this sign posted everywhere.

That one and the one below are really all we need for utopia, don’t you think?

Actually, I think we need one more, so I’m opening up a contest. Please submit your entries which iconically demonstrate the banning of stupid drivers of SUVs without working turn signals transporting fewer than 15 passengers, talking on his or her cell phone.

THEN we’d have Xanadu.

(Ah, the 80s. The hair, the shoulder pads.)

10
Aug
11

is it any wonder?

We’re waiting, anxiously, for Husband’s brother and sister-in-law and two-adorable-nieces to arrive from Vancouver Island, B.C. for an extended visit.

They are flying from Seattle to Denver, and then from Denver to Grand Rapids.

Of course, since we are planning on picking them up at the airport, we started tracking their flights mid-afternoon.

Here is a list of all of the Denver — Grand Rapids flights listed for today:

This is what the airline has shown since 2 p.m. today regarding the last leg of their flight:

Meanwhile, the airport shows:

We were debating whether we should call the airline, or the airport, to try to resolve the discrepancy, when we noticed an email message from Husband’s Brother, saying that their flight had been delayed, and that he trusted we knew this, as we had probably been tracking his flight, FLIGHT # 2353.

This was a little odd, as when the Frontier airlines website was searched for flights from Denver to Grand Rapids, there was a flight, #256, listed, as you can see above, departing and arriving at exactly the same scheduled times, and declared to be cancelled, and no flight given the number 2353.

And yet here it is:

And I’m just curious. Is it possible that this type of flight tracking and/or communication with their customers might have something to do with why Frontier Airline has recently been rescued from bankruptcy after a long and difficult financial position, basically since they opened in 1994? I picture some genius, who managed to finish his first semester of sophomore year in airline management, deciding that, rather than noting that flight numbers had been changed, it would make more sense to list the previously-numbered flight as cancelled.

Brilliant.

10
Aug
11

please sir, can I have another?

Just submitted the payment for the first installment of Second Son’s first semester at University.

Included in the bill was $1,684 for a semester in a dorm room, and $2,393 for a semester on the “silver” meal plan. (Don’t get excited: the “silver” meal plan is the cheapest one available. Those in charge of naming the meal plans are apparently not up to speed on the relative value of the nation’s precious minerals — I’m thinking zinc.) All students living in the dorm must purchase a meal plan, and all freshman must live in the dorm. It’s a beautiful system, really, if you think about it.

In other words, we are being extorted, and we have only ourselves to blame. And this is a state school, you know, one of the land grant universities whose mission is to provide educational opportunities for all and sundry.

First objection: we are paying $7.12 per meal for a child who lives on cereal. Even HE can’t eat this much cereal, and God knows he’s tried.

Secondly, we are paying $421/month for “room.” This equals $1263/month for a 12′ x 14′ room to be lived in by three 18-year-old boys (the thought of the “aroma” alone makes one shudder), which is more than I am paying for house payment, taxes, and insurance for 1300 sq. ft. + finished basement on 2 acres of wooded land in a perfectly lovely city with excellent schools.

And yet, universities are in trouble.

Husband speculates that the areas of the sciences cause the most trouble, as schools want their programs to be taught by the best and the brightest, and the best and the brightest in medicine, engineering, physics, etc., can expect to make six figures many times over in the private sector and for universities to compete they must pay accordingly.

Would it be “fair” to suggest that medicine and engineering tuitions be higher to cover those differences? I think the argument could be made. The people graduating with degrees in those areas can expect to make more money throughout their careers: wouldn’t a cost/benefit analysis and the “laws” of fairness dictate that their education also cost more? And some consideration of the Canadian system, where a certain number of schools are “allowed” to teach certain programs and others are not, might not be out of order. This system allows individual colleges to prioritize and focus, and the situation of every school competing for every student is avoided, and more efficiency gained. I imagine that the average American would protest, as part of the American mindset is the right to have whatever you want wherever you want it, and if you don’t “qualify” through your grades and industry you should at least have the right to pay whatever premium necessary to get it anyway.

In any case, at this point in every child’s development, perhaps the most compelling motivation to the average American parent is the tradeoff between becoming a voluntary extortionee, and having the 18-year old move out of the house.

*

If you’re reading this, Second Son, I love you dearly. Now off you go.

*This is NOT a picture of Second Son’s room. This one was downloaded from the internet, the source which can be viewed if you click on the picture, chosen for its dramatic impact. I regret any misapprehensions. p.s.  He has more guitars, two amps, and less crap on the floor. However, the dust bunnies under the bed were beginning to form their own government, until they were vacuumed up in preparation for visitors, that is.

10
Aug
11

helpful signs

.

So what do you do if the van works, find another place to park?

09
Aug
11

When life gives you lemons. . .

. . .make limoncino.

Anybody know something productive I can do with these, now that they’re naked?

Okay, never mind.

A friend suggested we make fermented lemons, which can be used in sauces, on pasta, etc., and sounded not only delicious but interesting in a science-experiment sort of way, so we quartered them, salted them, and mashed them in a glass cookie jar that I got when I was 18 and somehow managed to keep for 28 years without breaking. It broke. We threw the 6 lbs. of lemons and chunks of glass in the dumpster.

Despite my sadness over the loss of the lemons, and the cookie jar, I can’t help but be amused by the fact that the lemon on the right in the front row of the picture looks an awful lot like a nipple.

This observation makes me think maybe I should maybe stop reading the bloggess, although this and this are two of the funniest things I’ve ever read. This one was pretty funny, too, and I’m thinking really hard about what I can write on my bananas. “Clean your room,” while both timely AND apt,  just doesn’t seem to cut it.

Which reminds me, in a related story, about leaving the house in the care of the 18-year old. So, I was off teaching at a music camp for three weeks, and my husband was home one or two nights a week, when he wasn’t up at camp with me and Only Daughter. (First Son doesn’t come home anymore — I just keep sending him Tshirts and sweaters that we find in closets and which he has forgotten he ever owns, and trying not to look at his bank balance since there will be a tuition bill in October that he can’t even BEGIN to cover and I’d like this to be hisproblem, notmine.) Since Second Son, for the three weeks I was gone and not forcing him to eat a meal with us (if he eats he has to do the dishes — this creates an intense mental cost/benefit analysis on a nightly basis, and fuhgeddaboudit if the entrée is fish), was basically living on cereal and the free food he could scarf at the-job-he-has-recently-been-let-go-from-for-no-apparent/good-reason (I’m assuming these two things are not related, hmmmmm. . .), Husband would occasionally lay in supplies like organic milk, Tide laundry soap (S.Son is a little OCD) and bananas. The bananas were apparently not getting eaten, as, upon our return, two of them had managed to ripen SO far, past when one has the olfactory and culinary fortitude necessary to pinch one’s nose to squeeze them out of the peel into a bowl to make banana bread with, that they had split their skins and begun to foam.

I think one of them actually said something to me as I scooped it up with a plastic bag, but I can’t be sure. It might have been the sound of me, lightly gagging.

**********

Oh, and I have yet to have any takers on the offer of a teenager for the low, low price of $545, and I found a similar pair of boots at Sundancecatalog.com for a little less, so I’m offering a $50 discount for any offers received in the next 24 hours.

Please disregard any disparaging thing I have ever written about either Son; they are a delight, the light of my world, and a comfort in my upcoming old age. Yours for only $495, I’ll even waive the handling charge.

Just let me know.

08
Aug
11

week 3, and after

Wrapping up camp:

Conductor, in rehearsal, when the orchestra plays for another .25 seconds after the soprano cuts off her last note: “Never outsing the soprano. O. My. Lord.”

What is wrong with the algorithm at theweatherchannel.com that lists the day’s current temperature, i.e. 91˚, and the projected high at 86˚. Is there NOONE there who notices this and decides that perhaps the projected high should be projected higher?

And a question for all of you parents out there: Which is more stressful, being away from home for 3 weeks when you’ve left the house empty, or being away from home for 3 weeks when you’ve left the house in the “care” of the 18-year old?

***************

I had completed all of my camp responsibilities by noon Saturday, so husband and I went into Traverse City to act like tourists. We had a delicious lunch at Amical, and then did a little shopping. At first we may have upset the balance of the universe when husband bought two pairs of shoes and I didn’t buy any, but I did have some fun taking pictures.

I call this the “Embarrassed” sandal. It knows it’s hideous, but it must sit on its shelf, in plain view, for all to see. It doesn’t even have hands to hide behind.

I call this the “Beautiful” sandal. I would like them in brown, as shown, and black, 8 1/2 W. Sigh.

I call this “The Why Shoe.” I believe the title is self-explanatory.

These are just beautiful. I would consider selling one of my children for them — a deal at any price, but yours for a mere $545 plus tax and shipping/handling. First Son only has one year left of college, and I would include his college fund balance as long as it’s actually paid to his college; Second Son may have just hit a car in a mall parking lot, but it only did $500 worth of damage, which he (or I) will take full financial responsibility for, and he has been let go from his summer job 3 weeks early, but I suspect that, rather than this being a direct fault of his, his manager is an asshole and had an opportunity to hire someone for the fall and took it. Only Daughter is not yet a teenager, so she is still, as they say in the Master Card commercials, priceless, and therefore, not (yet) available for purchase. It is, as they say, only a matter of time.

[In a kind-of related story, related to the cowboy boots, that is, we watched Brokeback Mountain last night — neither husband nor I had seen it yet — and we both think they did a good job with a story that could have become campy or self-conscious. I do wish Heath Ledger could have mumbled a little bit more articulatively, but there’s nothing wrong with a good lookin’ man in jeans and cowboy boots.

To whit:

(Despite the fact that Husband posed for this photo, and he does actually know I have a tendency to “use” just about anything for my blog, he may insist that I take this photo down, so I hope many of you get to see it while it’s still here.)]

Anyway, back to Saturday.

When we were done at the shoe store, we investigated one of the galleries along Front Street.

This floating coffee table was kind of cool,

I thought it looked like it would maybe bounce a little, but I didn’t actually try.

I also liked these wood cuttings (sorry about the quality of the photos; I wasn’t sure how the woman in charge would feel about me taking pictures of stuff with my iPhone, so I was trying to be both quick AND surreptitious.)

I was NOT so crazy about the coffee table manufactured from the tailgate of a Ford pickup,

I’m not sure what this painting? collage? source of non-drug-induced freaky dreams?was called, so I called it Scary Alien Art.

I assume someone’s buying these, as there were at least a dozen on the walls, and the artist was featured, but really, really, thankyoubutno.

*************

Now we’re home; laundry’s done, I’m about to make my second cappuccino of the morning, and it’s time to return to reality. I must say, three weeks living in a cabin make air conditioning, floors that can actually get clean, and a washer and dryer within the residence feel like real luxury. It’s probably good to lower that bar every year or so.




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