Sunday, November 29, 2009

Traditional Thanksgiving Notsomuch

Two days before Thanksgiving...
Bear, who has complained of a headache on and off throughout the afternoon (which I initially chalk up to a lame ploy to convince me she should lay around and watch unlimited TV), suddenly announces, "I feel AWFUL." A sharp glance at her shows me that she is unnaturally pale and listless-looking. A hand to her forehead confirms. Fever. Super.

The day before Thanksgiving...
Our hardwood floor is being installed, to an accompanying soundtrack of nail guns and a massive air compressor machine thing-y. On a scale of "loud", I rank it somewhere between being inside one of those compactors that squeeze old cars into tidy little squares of metal and a sonic boom, except nonstop all-day. The kids have the TV volume in my room turned up to 40 in order to hear it. It is exactly as nerve-wracking as it sounds. My cats are both having a psychotic break under my bed. I'm pretty sure they'll both have some level of PTSD by the time this home renovation s over.

Bear is full-on sick, with a chesty cough, sore throat, and low-grade but persistent fever. Bug mentions a "scratchy throat." I call the friend whose house we always go to for Thanksgiving dinner. Shouting over the nail gun's KA-POW, I tell her we're a no-go this year due the kids impersonating crop-dusters, except with viruses instead of pesticides. She understands and sounds fairly grateful that I'm not exposing her kids to whatever mine have.

I hang up and realize that I have nothing in my pantry that resembles Thanksgiving dinner. I flirt with the idea of a Chinese food Thanksgiving. Are Chinese restaurants even open on Thanksgiving? Mild panic.

The guys who are installing our hardwood floor are certainly handy with a nail gun and seem nice enough, with a level of charm you might characterize as being somewhat "rough around the edges." They are, however, most certainly not the kind of strange guys with whom I would leave my sick daughters while I go to the grocery store. (And, no, there actually aren't ANY strange guys with whom I would leave my sick daughters. Or healthy daughters, for that matter).

I call Tom and persuade him to come home for lunch, while I hit the grocery store.

I pull into a packed-full grocery store lot and realize that I have just become one of the people I enjoy mocking every year: the moron who buys their Thanksgiving dinner groceries the day before Thanksgiving. Freaking karma.

Before I go to bed, I manage to paint the stairwell in preparation for tomorrow's stairway carpet installation, make homemade rolls, cranberry sauce, and a big bowl of chocolate mousse for my non-pumpkin-pie-eating crew. I go to bed feeling like I'm ahead of the game.

Thanksgiving Day...
I awaken to Bug coughing like a seal with tuberculosis. Fabulous.

After breakfast, I install both kids in my bed watching The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In the basement, I put the final coat of polyurethane on our dining room table, which I've been refinishing. In between checking on the kids and forcing them to sip liquids, I begin sanding and priming the dining room chairs. (Because the table looked so good refinished, I decided it would make the chairs look like crap. And I certainly don't need chairs with an inferiority complex).

At 2:30, I put the chickens in to roast. Did I mention that my non-pumpkin-pie-eating family also hates turkey? Because God forbid we be normal about anything.

I return to the basement and put a coat of paint on the chairs. I silently curse the person who invented spindle-backed chairs.

At 4:30, I pull the chickens out and make the side dishes. We eat:

Roast Chicken
Roasted, Spiced New and Sweet Potatoes
Whiskey-Glazed Carrots
Homemade Cranberry-Orange Compote
Jellied Cranberry Crap from a Can for the Picky People
Mousse au Chocolat, with whipped cream

Twenty minutes after dinner, I return to the basement and put the final coat of paint on the dining room chairs while the kids watch "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in my room.

Around 9:30, exhausted and liberally covered in paint, but feeling not unlike a rock star, I hobble into my bedroom to take a shower.

"Hey, Mom!" Bug greets me brightly albeit croakily, nestled snugly under my quilt with her head on my pillow, "Are we putting up the Christmas tree tonight...?"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Disney: The Magical Highlights

Our family Christmas gift from my parents this year was a trip to DisneyWorld.

The girls were super-psyched. Not only did they get a week at Disney, with their grandparents (who joined us there), but they got to escape the omnipresent construction mayhem at our house. For an added dramatic fillip, it snowed four inches the day before we left. They gleefully packed their flip-flops and sunscreen.

We stayed at the All-Star Music Resort, where each building was themed for a different style of music. Ours was Calypso, providing my father with the ideal opportunity to sing every calypso song he could think of. Let's just say that he knows a surprising number of them.

We arrived at our restaurant for dinner the first night and found Uncle Awesome and Aunt Fabulous casually waiting outside. Wrapped up as we've been in The Construction Project That Ate Our Lives, we had no idea they'd been vacationing in Florida the previous week. My parents secretly arranged for them to spend the first days of our vacation with us. We were thrilled to see them. (This is further proof that I'm the most oblivious person ever. Apparently my mother had nearly let the secret slip several times. I had no clue).
Bear and Bug dragged Nana and Papa along on all of their favorite rides. Papa kicked major intergalactic butt on the Buzz Lightyear ride. And let the record show that he was a very good sport about riding Bug's all-time favorite ride, It's a Small World. That ride with its dolls of all nations and endlessly repeating song has never bothered me until this visit when our boat got stuck in the last room of the ride for a good ten or twelve minutes. At which point I really, really needed someone to make the infernal singing STOP.

Bug prided herself on being quite the driver on the Tomorrowland Speedway and was especially difficult to live with when one of the ride operators handed her a Speedway Driver's License. She seemed to feel that this was some sort of special recognition for her driving skills.
I chose not to mention the fact that they seemed to be giving them out to all the kids.

See this? This is the face of a child who momentsbefore sweetly cajoled me into riding The Teacups with her by saying, "I just want to ride with you, Mom. I don't want to spin them at all." ...then proceeded to maniacally spin me into a nauseous, dizzy grave. If I'd been able to tell which of the three Bears I was seeing was the real one, I probably would have throttled her.
Our very last night, we went to Hollywood Studios and saw The Osborne (no, not Ozzy) Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. The millions of sparkling lights were originally displayed in this family's Little Rock, AK yard (and can you imagine being their neighbor?). It was much more impressive in person, as the lights were all coordinated to blink and twinkle in time with Christmas carols.

And yet, for my kids, one of the most magical experiences of all ... drumroll, please ...

SWIMMING AT NIGHT! Nothing says "Florida vacation" to them like being able to slip into their bathing suits after a day at the park and hit the pool. Add to that the fact that the resort had an enormous inflatable movie screen set up poolside playing one of their favorite movies and mugs of hot chocolate sat beside their towels on a deck chair. It doesn't get much better than that. For the record, while they swam I sat on a deck chair wearing jeans and a fleece, drinking hot chocolate and thanking God that they're old enough to swim without me being in the pool with them.

Thank you, Nana and Papa! We had a wonderful week and left with fantastic memories of time together. We returned to The Rubble Zone refreshed and ready to dig in for the last few weeks of construction.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Move! That! Bus!

It snowed today. Huge, wet flakes that whirled stubbornly down until the still-green grass finally relented and accepted a light covering of white. The sky was gray, the trees barren, and the air raw.

I hummed "In the Good Ol' Summertime" as I ironed my shorts, pulled out my flip-flops, painted my toenails, and carefully selected my most flattering (OK, fine, least non-flattering) swimsuit.

Why? Because tomorrow, we are heading here:
(Pictured: random, non-us people who had the bad luck
to be walking in front of the castle
and who now get to be on my blog.
Sorry, random people! I'm sure you're very nice).

And to answer your next question...NO, the construction project is not done. Not. Even. Close.

Status report: Living room has bare drywalled walls and ceilings, no trim, and no flooring. There is a gaping hole where the fireplace will go. A boarded-up section of kitchen where once there were stairs. Sad, shredded bathroom walls that once were covered neatly (though unattractively) in tile.

I have suggested (gently, but with undertones of true pleading) to my contractor that it would be great, really really awesome even, if we were to come home and find the project completely finished à la Extreme Home Makeover. Even the parts I said I would do, like the painting. Bus rental and dramatic presentation optional. He just laughed nervously and broke eye contact, so I won't be exactly counting on it ... just hoping.

Lest you think us even more moronic than we are, I feel the need to explain that the Disney trip was planned, booked, and paid for long before the home renovation. And even once the home renovation was conceived, the project was going to be done by the end of the summer. Well, September. Okay, beginning of November. Well, certainly by Thanksgiving. And all along, I've smiled serenely and told friends that I didn't really care how long the renovations took, as long as we were finished by the first snowfall. So, uh, today pretty much shot that all to hell. The bottom line being that we could all use a break around here.

My parents are flying Bear, Bug, Tom, and I down to DisneyWorld (and meeting us there!) as our Christmas gift this year. Having just carried many thousands of armloads of STUFF from the kids' old bedrooms to their new ones, I am personally thrilled that this Christmas gift is taking the form of a trip and not of more STUFF. Also? As exhausting as this construction project has been, my version of heaven has been modified to something like sitting on a bench near a palm tree while bathed in warm sunshine. I think I can make that happen. I might even be able to eat something yummy on a stick at the same time if I'm feeling ambitious.

I'll be seeing you in a little over a week. I plan to be relaxed and slightly tan in a nice, glowy kind of way.


PS - Dear DisneyWorld, Do you think we could skip the horrendous food poisoning this time? I'd be truly grateful, and trust me, so will the resort's housekeeping staff.

PPS - Dear Florida, Please get a handle on the humidity levels before Saturday. I'd like to have one set of Disney vacation photos in which I do not appear to have attached shrubbery to my head.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


(Please insert the sound of a seatbelt buckling. Thank you).

It's not that I don't want her to grow up. Let me just put that out there.

It drives me nuts when I hear other moms whine, "I just want him to be my baby forever." or "Why can't she just stay little and cute?" Because life doesn't work that way. My ultimate goal as a parent is to raise my child to be a completely independent, self-sufficient, contributing member of society. I am proud to watch my kids learn independence. I don't equate my own self-worth with how much I do for my kids, but rather in how much I am able to help them learn to do for themselves.

But the other night, as I watched Bear dress for her school dance, something was bothering me. I couldn't nail it down. Was I turning into one of those pathetic keep-her-my-baby-forever moms? I mean, Karma's a bitch and all. It would be just like Her to have me turn into one of these women I've devoted years of sarcasm to making fun of. (Yes, it's a dangling preposition. Deal with it. I'm ranting here).
It's really not even that I'm not looking forward to parenting a teenager. I used to teach high school. I like teenagers. I like watching them figure out who they are and helping them to work through those tough choices that ultimately lead to them developing their own beliefs and sense of self.
And it's certainly not about me feeling old. I'm more comfortable with who I am at thirty-eight than I ever was in my twenties or, God forbid, teens.
No, what it is, when I delve way down to the root of the matter, is that while I expected her to grow up, I was in no way prepared to have her start looking like a teenager. Holy smokes. I am equal parts proud and slightly nauseous when I look at my lovely, graceful girl.
Does that make sense?

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Halloween was a bit of an afterthought around here this year. We have been slightly preoccupied with trifles like obtaining, oh, plumbing and walls. Which is why two weeks ago, it suddenly dawned on me that we should probably figure out costumes. Also why Tom and I were desperately rummaging through boxes labelled "Halloween" for the kids' trick-or-treat bags exactly one hour before we were scheduled to walk out the door.

We managed to pull it together sufficiently to head out into the wild, windy Halloween twilight accompanied by a ghost and a "tavern wench" (according to the tag on her straight-from-Target costume).
Once I pushed aside all of the seriously iffy, slit-to-the-thigh witch, nurse, and French maid costumes, Bug had four costumes to choose from. One was a gorilla suit. I'm pretty sure she chose this one for the nifty lace-up bodice. I was equally sure that she had no idea what a "tavern wench" was. Nor did I know how to explain it to her. ("Uh, like a Hooter's girl, only four hundred years ago," I pictured myself saying to her). Luckily, she didn't ask.
I was disconcerted that when I asked her to give me a pose "in character", she cocked a shoulder at me and smoldered alarmingly at the camera. I made a mental note to send her to a convent as soon as she hits puberty.

(Disclaimer: that is is glitter hairspray and not dandruff. She wanted you to know).
For Bear's character shot, she gave me her boilerplate gaze of Adolescent Pathos.
I told her that if I post one more of those on this blog, someone is going to assume we're beating her and report us to Child Services, who will come and take her away to a group home WHERE SHE WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO HAVE A CELL PHONE OR NAIL POLISH.

So she agreeably gave me this:
Happy Halloween, all!