Monday, October 26, 2015

Damn you, Monday!

Today started out dicey because I didn't sleep well at all last night so I was worried I'd be tired all day. And I did yawn at a few inappropriate times, but mostly I got through my workday without a hitch. Except, of course, I stayed late, like I do almost every day because my last class is scheduled till 12:45 and I am expected to leave at 12:45 as well. And there's no time to finish up, put things away, gather my things, etc. So, most every day I stay 15 minutes to a half hour late.

But, no worries, because I still had plenty of time to go to the store. Which I swore I was not going to do this week because we're "snug" (I heard that term the other day and thought it was hilarious - not "tight" but "snug"). But I went anyway because I needed some things for dinner and also because I'm on staff room duty and I need to bring treats each day this week. More on that later.

The shopping trip took me almost two hours! That was just to go to two stores that are right next to each other. Granted, I don't shop there all the time, so it takes longer to find things, but UGH! Why does shopping take so long?

After shopping I had to pick up a few things from my Buy Nothing friends. I REALLY just wanted to drive home and put away the groceries and get started on dinner, but I knew I couldn't put my pick ups off any longer.

So, I got home with my car load of groceries and saw my son's car in the driveway. YAY, I thought, grocery help! But, alas, no. I came in the house and was greeted by silence which I took to mean he was napping. How lovely to be afforded the luxury of napping in the middle of the day. I carried in all the groceries myself. AND put them away. Much later, my son appeared. I asked "What were you doing?" to which he replied "Chilling." Oh.

Then, the putting away of groceries took 45 minutes. I then proceeded to mix up a fall trail mix for staff room treats for Friday (when I won't be there to put something out so I needed something easy and ready for someone else to put out). I scooped the mix into 60 or so individual Halloween-themed bags. I stopped only long enough to look up a recipe and immediately started chopping veggies for dinner. I whipped up a broccoli/cauliflower/cheese soup and made crescent rolls. Bless the beautiful soul who invented biscuits in a can. Not only are they so easy and convenient, but I truly enjoy whomping the container on the counter to open them, thereby letting off a little pent-up steam after a long Monday.

While dinner was cooking, I attempted to make a treat for tomorrow. I found "break and bake" cookies at the store in apple spice. That sounded kind of ick to me, but I got the brilliant idea to push a caramel on top of each cookie before baking. Not so brilliant. The cookies came out GLUED to the cookie sheet and no amount of chiseling would free them. I hacked away at them and finally used scalding hot water to release the caramel glue. (Side note, yesterday's attempt at "mini caramel apples" was also a disaster as the caramel cooled and hardened too quickly and melted off the apple balls). Clearly, I should never use Kraft caramels. I still had a package of cookie dough left so I cooked them according to the package directions, left out the caramel centers and arranged the cooled cookies on a Halloween plate sprinkled with the leftover, unmelted caramels.

I had big plans for making up themed treats each day during my staff room week. It's only Monday and I'm already resorting to break and bake cookies. This is a metaphor for my life.

Big surprise - no one helped clean up from dinner OR did the dishes. So, I started that process and was busy running around the kitchen when I heard the dog go upstairs. I'm always suspicious of her exits from the room - they usually mean something bad has happened. I turned around to find a LAKE of dog pee on the kitchen floor - directly below my feet! How in the world did a 55 lb dog pee several gallons on the floor under my feet and not only did I not see anything, I didn't hear anything, either? She just unloaded and quietly went upstairs to wait out the impending wrath.

I used half a roll of paper towels attempting to sop it all up, but that was inadequate, and for some reason, all of my "dog towels" have disappeared, so I got the mop. I mopped up the floor with hot water and Pine-Sol and realized that my mop sucks and I need a new one. For one thing, it barely wrings so that after I was done, the floor was still sopping. I used some more paper towels to try to wipe up the excess water and waited for the floor to dry while still attempting to clean up the kitchen.

I needed a Halloween plate for the cookies, so I went into the living room where I had a few displayed on the coffee table. As I carried it into the kitchen, I tripped on the FULL dish of dog water and sent it cascading across the kitchen floor, it's volume exceeding even the gallons of dog piss I had JUST mopped up. I had already used up my paper towels and I lamented (loudly) that we didn't have any dog towels to use. My husband suggested I just get some dirty towels from the laundry so I ran upstairs shouting "I'm so f**ing tired of this sh*t. I just want to take a shower and relax already! I've had to poop for two hours now!" Which was true. I know, right? Not even time to poop.

I soaked up the dog water and the rug was wet so of course I decided that it needed to be washed as did all the other kitchen rugs so I bundled them all into a pile to take upstairs. I tossed them in the wash and FINALLY got my shower.

The dishes still aren't done. I did manage to put the food away. After my shower, I went downstairs, got some milk and cookies, my computer and my phone and retreated to bed. I don't care if it's only 8 p.m. I'm so done with Monday!

P.S. My dog is kicking around her water dish which is her way of telling me she's thirsty. Guess who's not getting her dish filled? Payback's a bitch, Georgette. Swallow your spit.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

An adventure with Mountain Man...

Today I went on an adventure with Mountain Man. About once a month, Jeff goes to the woods, to his "hunting spot," and moves his game camera around. He enjoys keeping track of the game in this area, and the pictures prove that a bear, several deer, a coyote and a mountain lion live in the area. The mountain lion was actually strolling along the road while Jeff rode his mountain bike. It paused long enough for him to take a picture! So, naturally, I'm not thrilled with the fact that Jeff goes into the woods alone, to face nature, and possibly have that beautiful face eaten off by a bear. 

I've often contemplated joining him, but the trip involves driving to a certain point, getting on a bike and riding to another area, then hiking down a steep incline and wading across a creek to retrieve the game camera, collect the SD card to check out the pictures, re-load the camera with a new card, and move it to a new area. I'm not super excited about strenuous exercise, getting muddy and wet, and possibly meeting wildlife, so this trip has been a solo adventure for Jeff, while I usually stay at home and while away the hours on social media. 

But not today! Today I decided I was going to come along. At first, I was all in - I was up for the whole adventure. But then I started to second-guess myself in the "strenuous exercise" category, so I suggested perhaps I'd accompany him on the drive, sit in the car and read a book, and keep him company on the way home. 


I know I need to challenge myself - what's life about if we're not constantly challenging ourselves and trying new things? So, this morning I decided I'd go all in again. Jeff pumped up the tires on my 25-year-old mountain bike and we were off! We drove to the gate - the beginning of the private property where Jeff hunts. We pushed our bikes under the gate, climbed around the edges, and proceeded to push our bikes up a steep hill that went on for about a quarter mile. Did I mention I'm not a fan of exercise? Especially the first ten minutes of any exercise. I feel like I'm doing to die and I hate everything. So, this was about the same reaction I had today. I pushed my bike, took breaks while sucking air, and wondered when we'd see flat road again. Finally, we were able to start riding and I quickly remembered how hard it is for me to shift gears while riding a bike. My thighs were burning. My camera was hanging off my shoulder and swinging uncomfortably. I stopped several times to adjust things and catch my breath. I had to reacquaint myself with the pain of my ample butt on a bike seat, and the difficulty of riding on a gravel road with potholes. 

We finally made it to the game trail just after we spotted "the biggest bear shit I've ever seen" according to Jeff. 
The biggest bear shit in the woods. Proof, however, that a bear does, indeed, shit in the woods. 

How Jeff knew exactly where to stop along a road in the woods where everything looked the same is beyond me. But he stopped at the game trail and we made our way down the steep incline to the creek bottom. At this point, Jeff warned me not to fall and break my leg, citing the fact that he would have to leave me alone and in pain while he trekked the 3.5 miles back to the car to call for help. After seeing that giant (and seemingly fresh) pile of bear poop, the thought of being left, alone and injured, in the woods while it was raining, was enough to make me be very sure of my footing. We got to the creek and waded across. 

Thanks, Aunt Carol, for the cool rain boots! 

The game camera was strapped to a tree across the creek where Jeff thought game might travel. Previously, in a different location nearby, the camera took pictures of a large bear, a coyote, and some deer. This time, the camera only caught a couple of deer on two different days. Jeff decided to move the camera to the other side of the creek across from the game trail. 

Leaves floating in the creek - it was so cool to stand in the creek in my new rain boots! 

I mean, look at that view! Nothing but peaceful creek and birds chirping. 

We hiked back up the trail to the new location. Jeff chose the tree, strapped the game camera to it, and adjusted it with the laser so it would catch animals going down to the creek for water. In the meantime, of course, I took some selfies. 

Hard to believe I actually put on makeup and straightened my bangs before this trip. Duh. 

Look how happy I am to be in nature! 

The face of someone who just rode 3.5 miles in the rain. Stunning. 

While Jeff worked the camera, I enjoyed the scenery. There really is nothing quite as lovely as a rainy, mossy wood on a fall day. 








 I poked my finger on a thorn on the way up the trail and so I had a brief "Lord of the Flies" moment where I smeared blood war paint on my face. Sorry.

Mountain Man worked expertly, placing the camera, cutting away branches that were in the way. being careful not to fall in a gaping hole in the earth, and laughing at me when I gasped "Did you hear that?" when a branch snapped nearby. 

Changing locations. 

Choosing the new location. 

Mostly, though, he exhibited patience. With me. He's clearly the more experienced one riding a mountain bike. He has way more stamina. But he stopped several times and waited patiently while I adjusted, gasped, and took breaks on the way up the trail. He calmly helped me down the trail to the creek bottom. He held my hand as I waded across the creek. He answered my questions about anything and everything. A trip that could have taken him a couple of hours took much longer with me by his side, But he allowed me to have a fun adventure and do something totally out of my comfort zone without making me feel like I was holding him back. By the time we headed back down the hill, I rode a little faster than I'm comfortable with, down steep hills and over thick piles of leaves, and I loved it. 

Not a day goes by that I don't realize how lucky I am to have this Mountain Man. We may be opposites, and I have a hard time understanding his obsession with the woods, hunting and all things primitive, but I can sort of understand the way the woods breathe life into you and the peaceful feeling that comes from being in a quiet place with just the sounds of nature all around. It's pretty cool. He's pretty cool. 

I'm still worried about the bear, though. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

When your kids grow up faster than you.........

Yes, it's October. Yes, I last blogged in May. I guess this is what you call "writer's block". I find it hard to believe a whole summer passed, where I had hours of free time, and I did not blog even once. What was I doing all that time? I feel like I had a fun and productive summer, was busy, accomplished things......and yet, not a single blog entry. Yet, every time I committed myself to writing I got......nothing. It's not that there was nothing going on, or that I truly had nothing to write about, but I just couldn't make those "somethings" into a blog post. I can't explain it. But, here I am again, and I got an inspiration, and so I'm writing about it.

It really sucks when your kids grow up faster than you. I mean, I'm still a young mom (in my mind) and I still want to do all the fun "young mom" things with my kids. For instance, it's October and pumpkin patches are open and ready for fall fun! And we've been trying for a couple of weeks to find a time when all of us are free to take our annual trip to the pumpkin patch. Last year, we, quite literally, managed to squeeze out ONE hour of time when we could all be physically present at a local pumpkin patch. We took pictures, selected pumpkins, petted animals, and then the oldest child scurried off to work. This year, we've attempted a group text to keep up with who is available when, and so far, no dice. The oldest works varying shifts, so it's really a crap shoot if she'll be available at any given time. The second oldest goes to school three nights a week and works during the day. The next kid works a few nights a week, every weekend day, and goes to school during the day. The youngest works varying shifts, usually nights and weekends and goes to school during the day.

Last weekend, it was gorgeous and sunny and perfect for a pumpkin patch field trip. But my husband was on a hunting trip. For two days, I looked at the gorgeous fall colors and sunshine and longed for a trip of days gone by, when the whole family was under MY control, and we went to the pumpkin patch when I said so. Long gone are the days of mom being in charge. Now, everyone drives, has jobs and school and, truth be told, I don't even know where my kids are half the time! I never know who's going to be home for dinner (so I don't make dinner every night anymore) and sometimes I realize hours have gone by and I have no clue where my kids are, if they should be home, if I should be worried.

It seems so simple - a family outing. But it's NOT. Not anymore, and it's only going to get worse. Of course, I realize that the time will come (terrifyingly fast) when the kids will be on their own, with their own families, maybe not even living in close proximity. They might not come for Christmas or Thanksgiving. They'll go to Disneyland and on other vacations without me and I'll have to be satisfied with looking at pictures on social media and living vicariously through images. Sure, it's the circle of life. It's normal. But it sucks.

I still want to make caramel apples, and Halloween crafts, and decorate pumpkin cookies. I still want to dress them up and take them trick-or-treating.  But they're "too old" for that. And who decides that anyway? The other day, daughter #3 asked me if we could have two bowls of candy this Halloween - one to give out to trick-or-treaters and one for the kids to eat while they're standing on the other side of the door, handing out treats. And why not? Wasn't that one of the most delightful parts of Halloween? Who doesn't love candy?

I broke out the Halloween decorations last weekend. I've been sick, so decorating has happened slowly, over several days. When the kids were little, I'd decorate the whole house all at once, while they were at school, so they could come home to the wonderland of whatever holiday was upcoming. As I looked through the Halloween decor, I realized so much of it was purchased haphazardly - these from the dollar store, this one from the craft store. Still others were homemade, but had seen better days. I made up a box of decorations I was ready to pass on and gave them to my oldest for her apartment. I really didn't have much sentimental attachment to many of the items. Some, like "Cauldron" have stories that make me cherish them, even though they are plastic icons of a commercial holiday. When my youngest was three, we stopped in a craft store to pick up a few Halloween supplies, likely for a school party. He spotted "Cauldron" - a black, plastic cauldron with fabric "flames" and an orange light that, when turned on, mimicked a flaming witch's cauldron. He was so transfixed with it that I shelled out the $16.99 for it. On the way home, he buckled it into its own seat belt and proceeded to tell it stories all the way home, always addressing it as "Cauldron". How can I NOT treasure that silly thing?

At work, I signed up to bring treats the week of Halloween, I chose that week specifically because I knew it would be a great excuse to make up all those themed treats I used to make when the kids were little. Sure, I might not be room mom at an elementary school party this year, but I can replicate it at the elementary school where I teach! And, even with those good intentions, I know the week will creep up on me, I'll be busy and tired, and all my Pinterest-worthy dreams of Halloween treat magnificence will fly out the window like a witch on a broomstick as I pick up chips and dip on my way to work in the morning.

I do realize there is a beacon of hope on the horizon. Grandkids! Surely some day, with four kids of my own, I will be delivered a couple of bouncing grandchildren. I will be able to relive the glory days of holidays with children all over again, make the messes, do the crafts, and then send them home so I can nap off a productive afternoon. But for now? It's the dark years. The dreaded time when your own kids are too old, or too busy, or just plain uninterested, in doing the holidays up like you used to, The chasm between busy mom and a mom with too much time on her hands, just waiting for the hands of time to click on the magical hour of grandparenthood. For now, I relish the time with my great-niece and nephews to get my "kid fix" but they live too far away.

So, whether we make it to the pumpkin patch or we take five minutes to take a quick family picture next to a gorgeous fall tree in a parking lot (if we can find five collaborative minutes to actually meet somewhere), Halloween will come and go. Thanksgiving will creep up, with its usual awkwardness of who's going to eat at which parent's house, and whether the other parent should make a big dinner if no one's going to be there. Christmas will come and we'll have long dispensed with our detailed list of "must do's" - watch Christmas movies, make cookies, drive around to see Christmas lights, go see a holiday show. Our long-standing tradition of dollar store shopping for each other has given way to kids with jobs and bigger bank accounts, therefore bigger presents. We'll face the pumpkin patch dilemma all over again when we try to find a time to get together to take Christmas card photos. Then again, last year, exasperated, I just asked everyone to send me their best selfie. We dispensed with the forced living-room session in bad lighting, me getting more irritated by the minute as the kids goofed around and no one looked at the camera. As much as I love my pictures, especially the rare photo of us all together, I love the memories more. Capturing them on film is just a bonus.

So, maybe we won't make it to the pumpkin patch together this year. Maybe, as in some years past, I'll just take the kids to the grocery store to pick out pumpkins and then hold an impromptu carving session at home. I don't even like carving pumpkins. Spending good money on a gourd just to carve it up and watch it mold on the front steps seems so inane to me. But I do it anyway, because it's TRADITION! And who am I to buck tradition?

Sometimes, new traditions need to be made. Or old traditions tossed. As much as I hate it, I'm not in control anymore. Truly, I never was. Life unfolds and spreads out like a pumpkin vine and people grow up and go their own ways. And there's not a thing I can do about it. Except enjoy every blessed minute.