Friday, January 27, 2023

Five on Friday: They're Driving Me Crazy But I Like It

 A recent day in the life that apparently I love . . .

1.  After the kids left for school the other day, I found an empty cracker box. It was next to the garbage can. It wasn't entirely empty, actually, it had one cracker in it. No waxy bag inside, just. One. Cracker. 

Next to the garbage can.

So close, yet so far.

2. A little later, I was looking for dried cranberries to make cookies. I found the jar in its usual spot, with ONE LONELY LITTLE DRIED CRANBERRY IN IT. One.

3.  Our 14-year-old son sent me a text soon after he arrived at school that day, asking me to drop off his uniform and sneakers. In his defense:
    a. the news that they'd need their uniforms for a picture that afternoon was only announced as he was arriving at school, and 
    b. He was in a sling and unable to play basketball so didn't have his basketball bag with him.

So even though having to find his stuff and drop it off was slightly annoying, that wasn't the crazy-making part. First there was him asking me to send him a picture to make sure I got the *right* white shoes.

Fine, smarty.

4. I bagged up the uniform and shoes (the sneakers, not the crocs) and left them on the shelf in the high school vestibule where hundreds of kids walk through, as one does when a child forgets something at home.

Here's where the crazy-making really starts: long before he needed these items, a half-day was called due to the weather and they were no longer needed.

I texted him to remind him to grab the bag where, as previously noted, hundreds of kids would be walking and any of them could potentially mess with it. Okay, he said.

Did he remember to grab the bag?

No. No he did not.

(Yes, this is the same kid that wanted to leave his cummerbund on stage until the next day. "Mom, it's fine.")

5. But apparently I like it! I love the chaos. It's actually true and my story for January's Story Slam at Scout's with the theme was Starting Over is proof:

Next Slam is February 24th . . . Under the Influence. See you then!

Friday, January 20, 2023

Five on Friday: MLK Day #20 in the Books

If you've known or been following me twelve months or longer, then you'll already know about the MLK Day of Community Service that I organize. When I started the event in my dining room, I had absolutely no expectations for growth. I certainly didn't think I'd be hosting it in a church hall two decades later.

Honestly, I almost burned out this year but then my passion was rekindled. Read on . . . 

1. I tried to start planning earlier this year. I really did. I literally wrote "MLK IS EARLY THIS YEAR" on my calendar. 

Would you like to know what date I put that on?

(Actual dates I started planning: in the week after Christmas.)

2. It always just seems so daunting to get started. I'll admit, I even had a fleeting thought that maybe this year would be my last one. As the plans very easily began to fall into place (which frankly does not encourage me to listen to myself about starting early) I reconsidered. I told my husband what I was thinking and he very easily convinced me to continue on for another five years. Twenty-five would be a fine time to hand the reins over to someone else and by then our youngest will be eighteen-- meaning all the kids will have grown up with this annual family community event.

3. In all honesty, I feel like I cut a few corners this year. First in-person event since 2020 and unsure of what the community response would be, starting the planning late and with the thought that it might be my last event . . . I don't know. I can't say my heart was completely in it. But then my Facebook memories began to include photos from previous events (including how we managed to pull it off "drive-through" style TWICE!) and my community donated more money than I asked for to buy supplies and my enthusiasm began returning.

And then the day came and along with it, the reminders of what matters the most about it:

4. The way MLK Day has now become synonymous with community. Children (not just mine) are growing up with the tradition of celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King by giving back. The day itself is part reunion (where folks who only see each other once a year at this event get to catch up while assembling toiletry kits to distribute at the homeless shelter) and part an opportunity to meet new neighbors (while helping children make valentines for seniors and veterans).

5. Most importantly, the impact on the larger community is undeniably positive. Over $6,000 in gift cards and boxes of donations for two local food shelters and a veterans' housing facility collected, activity kits for pediatric hospital patients and homebound seniors created, new baby care kits decorated and assembled for local families, Meals on Wheels bags decorated and more and more and more . . . 
Here's to at least five more years. Big thanks to my family (particularly my co-organizing mother and husband and my children who are the reason I started and continue doing this but roll their eyes and ask, "Do I have to go this year?"), everyone who donated money so I could buy supplies and all the volunteers who set up tables, ran activities, moved boxes, cleaned up, brought donations and participated! Thank you for helping us to make it a Day On, Not a Day Off  in our little corner of the county for twenty years now!

Friday, January 13, 2023

Five on Friday: Finally Figured Out What This Thing From IA Is!

A phrase that really ages me is, "One time in IA . . .  " (IA=Industrial Arts, more commonly known as wood shop.)

They don't really do middle school wood shop around here anymore. Nor have they for quite awhile, so the idea is very foreign to my children. If I do somehow refer to IA to them, I then further horrify them by reminiscing about how the Ethel Hoppock Middle School playground primarily consisted of a large cement pipe, surely leftover from some local road construction, that was painted by kids. It was taking the 70s environmental movement's idea of repurposing old tires as playground equipment to its pinnacle.

But I digress.

So how would IA even ever come up in conversation? Let me tell you a little story in five parts . . . 

1. One time, as an adult, I was shopping at the church basement thrift shop near my parents' home (where I grew up). I found this . . . thing.

2. Even thought I wasn't sure what exactly this . . . thing . . . was, I thought it looked oddly familiar. I picked it up, turned it over and nearly died of embarrassment. 
Not just written, but stamped into the wood and then covered with red sharpie.

3. Oh right! This was a . . . well, I still don't know what to call it. It was a thing to sit on top of your dresser and hold stuff. A catch-all I guess? They couldn't call it a jewelry box or the boys wouldn't like it. It definitely had another part that was now missing but I don't know what it was.

Of course I had to purchase it and bring it home. I didn't want it per se but COME ON.  I could not leave JAMMIN' GINA there for someone else to see! (In case you were wondering, Mom swears she doesn't know how it got there. Must have been when Dad just scooped up a bunch of stuff from the basement and dropped it off.)

But what to do with it? My youngest daughter thought it could be a dresser for doll clothes but it never really worked out the way she wanted it to. 

4. With no purpose, it ended up just sitting in our oldest daughter's primarily unused bedroom, where I recently set myself up for a zoom call. I needed something to prop my laptop up on, looked around and realized . . . 

Ta-da! It's the exact right size for my laptop!

5. Not only does it fit perfectly, it also has:
A drawer for cords!

Or, if you need to plug in, a little spot for the cord to go through!

Little stoppers to keep it from sliding off the back!

So maybe it was weird as a non-jewelry-box-catchall and didn't work as doll dresser.  Could  Mr. Randall have somehow predicted a future need for this object? Or maybe . . . just maybe . . . Ethel Hoppock Middle School's 70s spirit of repurposing really influenced me.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Five on Friday: Big Kids Are Great & All, But . . .

I recently wrote a post in praise of the big kid. Even though I meant every word, I feel like I need to be abundantly clear in admitting they're also capable of being absolute pains in the ass. 

Here are some interactions we've had with the home kids recently that surely we will laugh about later. (Fine, maybe I'm laughing about some of them now.)

1. "I love you, get out."
(Hey, any time she says I love you is a bonus, right?)

2. Standing just outside the stage door at school after the holiday concert: "My cummerbund fell off on the stage, it’s on the ground. I’ll get it tomorrow."

(Followed by five minutes of me insisting he should just go get it now and him arguing that I was being ridiculous. And that was followed by:)

 "How'd it work out having to take a shower here after practice and before the concert?"
"Fine. Don't worry, Mom, I spread my towel nicely when I hung it up so it could dry."
"Wait, what? Where?"
"In the locker room."
"The towel from home that matches the other towels?"
"MOM. It's fine. I'll get it tomorrow."

(In his defense, he did. But please note at home I am always begging them to not leave wet towels in lumps on the floor or furniture and the one time I would have expected him to lump it up and throw it in a bag, he hung it up nicely to dry.)

3. Found yet another can in the kitchen recycling that had food remnants. This recent time was particularly bad as it was literally CHUNKS OF ANCHOVIES.

4. 14-year-old: "You didn’t have a microwave when you were little? Why not?"

Me: "Because they weren’t invented yet."

Him: "Oh. I didn't know you were that old."

5.  Some of the gingerbread cookies the big kids decorated: 

Friday, December 30, 2022

Five on Friday: Holiday Magic 2.0

By virtue of the fact that nobody even bothered to finish what used to be the highly anticipated countdown until Christmas morning, it feels pretty safe to say the "holiday magic" has dissipated around here. (Though of course the advent calendar filled with sweets did get finished.)

But there was that other kind of magic. The kind that I'm loathe to mention at the risk of sounding like I'm repeating a tired trope, recycling a thematic standby for holiday feel-good stories. The thing is, though . . . I have to, because it's absolutely true. There is magic in being afforded time to spend with the ones we love. 

Of course I appreciate it so much more now that two of the kids don't live here anymore--so the time with them home with us having meals, playing games, watching movies and making music is precious. Maybe it's also that I can appreciate it more now that I don't have to spend so much time creating that little-kid mystical holiday magic.

An important component of our  holiday magic 2.0 is handmade gifts and crafts. They've always been part of our traditions but this year they feel particularly poignant with this renewed focus  on what is truly important.

1. I went to a "turn the top of an old sports trophy into a wine topper" workshop and transformed a lady bowler trophy into a Janeane Garofalo as The Bowler from the movie Mystery Men

Want to guess who the recipient of this gift was? It was my adult daughter who can legally drink wine and loves that movie!

2. Likewise, she presented me with a pair of earrings that she made . . . OUT OF TWISTED NOTEBOOK PAPER. 

3. Daddy-O knocked it out of the park with thoughtful homemade gifts this year:

Check out the amazing hanger for wet socks/etc (I don't know what to call it) that he made on the right! Much bigger, better and sturdier than the one on the left that I frequently use.

4. Our 12-year-old daughter purchased gifts for her siblings and me but didn't know what to get Daddy-O. I told her that what he'd really like is a letter, but she had to spend time on it and write something really special. I honestly wasn't sure if she had it in her to spend the time coming up with something nice so I'm glad to report that she did write something really sweet.

Then, to our surprise, both my husband and I were gifted with very thoughtful personal letters from our 20-year-old son. They are very much treasured.

5. Lastly in this list of older kids/together time/new holiday magic/craftiness: the hot cocoa bomb experiment. I picked up a kit on a whim and, well, let's just say hilarity ensued.

Insert sappy analogy here about how it doesn't matter how ugly/decidedly not magical my hot cocoa bomb turned out, what was important was how much we laughed at it together.

Am I at five already? Wait, there was more! Kid card-creating sessions and drawing competitions and OH MY GOD I didn't even tell you about this year's gingerbread!!!! 

Everything about it fits perfectly with this week's theme! Introducing Pittsburgh's Duquesne Incline   gingerbread:

No, the cars don't really move, but . . .

. . . the lights work!

Friday, December 23, 2022

Five on Friday: In Praise of the Big Kid (Holiday Edition)

 I, like most parents, have been in conversations with other parents lamenting how fast their kids are growing. "I can't believe they're graduating 8th grade! Getting their license! Almost done with High School!" 

While I also find it hard to believe, I also have to be the lone voice of dissent, pointing out "It's not all bad! As a matter of fact, there's a lot to be said for having adult children!" Then I share some of the ways it's really fantastic having kids that aren't kids. 

I still can and sometimes do miss the tiny, cute, sweet people my children used to be--yes, I've occasionally even cried about it. But recently I've been thinking a lot about how many great things there are about older and adult kids, most of them specific to this time of year! 

For example:

1. These wrapped gifts have been piled in the dining room corner for weeks. They are the same gifts that will migrate to the family room to go under the tree on Christmas morning. It's been wonderful not having to figure out places to hide them.
2. I am really not missing having to make holiday magic this year (subject to change in upcoming years).  I am too busy and tired to, for example, make sure the wrapping paper from Santa is not the same as the wrapping paper from us. 

3. No need to hide or explain stuff like this!
4. Sick kids home from school can lay around on the couch all day just fine without me if I need to work or run errands.

5. Formerly sick big kids remember (sometimes) to say, "Thanks for taking care of me, Mom."

Friday, December 16, 2022

Five on Friday: No Power, No Problem

I only had some loose ideas for this week's list, nothing really firm. I hoped that with a good night sleep and a hot cup of coffee I'd be able to sit down and crank something out.

Then we woke up with no power. Does that mean I had no coffee? Aw, heck no. But as I turned on the generator  walked around doing the things that I do when we have no power, I found inspiration for a different post.  

Short, sweet and pic-heavy, here's a glimpse of how the other (non-generator-having-by-choice) half lives:

1. First: light some candles.

2. Next: Light the stove, boil some water and . . . 

3. . . . make some coffee, pour-over with the coffee maker method.

4. Then light the *other* stove.

5. Get the bottled water (previously filled via tap and then stored for this very reason) out.

Ta-da! So now I'm sitting with my feet up, hot coffee in my mug and the fire crackling.

Bonus: My own little Christmas tree has battery-operated lights! So that's making the room brighter and my heart happy.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Five on Friday: My Own Little Tree

When the Christmas decorations came down from the attic this year, there was a small artificial table top tree in one of the boxes. I immediately and excitedly remembered that I had bought this with a very specific purpose in mind. 

Ha! Just kidding, I actually spent a day and a half wondering, "What the hell is this? We don't have a fake tree. We don't do fake trees. Where did this come from?"

Eventually I got to, "Oooh that's right! I bought this tree! For myself! And I LOOOOVE it!"

Why would Little Miss "We Don't Do Fake Trees" buy and loooove a three-foot-tall sparsely branched artificial tree? Because once I remembered the plan, I remembered how much it was something I had wanted to do for a very long time and how, in January, I impulsively decided to just do it already.

The plan? To have my own little tree for some very special, poignant, vintage holiday decor that would get broken or not noticed on our regular, big, live tree. So I put them on the little tree and I think it's just perfect.

Let me show you around, starting from the top:

1. The blue-haired angel. When I was a kid, she was our tree-topper and I thought she was absolutely magical. One year, my mom got a gift of a new angel. She was okay, I mean, if you like blonde angels. 

Actually, I did think this new topper was very pretty. But when I found out she was to replace blue-hair, I felt absolutely betrayed. Mom was insistent but did let blue-hair sit near the top at fancy angel's feet. 


She has been in my possession for years but she is not as appreciated by everyone else as she is by me and, quite frankly, she sort of gets lost at the top of a big tree. So now she has a  unintentionally blue-and-silver themed, appropriately-proportioned tree of her very own to preside over.

Working our way down, you will find:

2. Vintage ornaments and silver tinsel that belonged to my Babci. (Yes, when I was a kid I thought it was insane that she put the tinsel up strand-by-strand every year and then also took it off and saved it. Now I do that.)

3. Vintage tiny glass ball garland that my mother-in-law gave me years ago and I've been too scared to use around the kids.

Then at the bottom:

4. I needed something to cover up the battery pack for the lights so used a scrap of white chenille for a snowy look.

5. Lastly, I found this little pink metal car with my ornaments--it had been part of Babci's under-the-tree train/town display. 

Ta-da! My own, special, little, blue-and-silver, vintage, poignant, artificial, table-top tree: