Monday, June 29, 2015

This Weekend

The Good:
--A baby shower for one of my soccer friends. I don't hang out with many of my teammates off the field and we're in the middle of a team baby boom, so many of them are skipping the season because they're pregnant; it was nice to catch up over brunch and also I won bingo because I am so skilled at the art of the shower.
--Lucy and I made impressive progress towards completing the third season of Orange is the New Black.
--My younger cousin, Paige, graduated from high school. (This is insane to me because she was born when I was in high school.) My parents, with the help of my aunts and uncles, hosted a generous and beautiful graduation party at the beach on Sunday. 
--Brady stayed at Lucy's house during the graduation party and he was a champion. Not only does he get along famously with Lucy's dog, wolf, but Brady was also very good with her boys. 
--While I'm bragging about Brady's good behavior, I should also mention that he is killing it at his new obedience class. I will have to write a whole post about it because this class has been so good for him and he just loves it and I am so pleased.

The Bad:
--My grand return to summer soccer after last year's injury has been dismal. I keep trying to come out of it but, you guys: it's bad. I am sluggish and slow and basically useless. It's not even fun.


The Humiliating: 
--My uncle brought over his new girlfriend to help get ready for Paige's graduation party, right? Well, this girlfriend is new and we all learned about her, like, 30 minutes before her arrival via text message. Awwwwwwwkward. Anyway. She seemed nice and whatever and, as I am a team player, I took a secret picture of her to send to my aunts and my cousins. What? We're curious people. So, I spent an entire day crowing about how I am the ultimate secret picture taker. EXCEPT SHE SAW ME AND TOLD MY UNCLE LATER. I've already started brainstorming how I can improve my game for the next girlfriend he brings around but, um, yeah. I am the creepy niece. Awesome.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Toddler's Revenge

Lucy's oldest son, A, is pissed at me.

They stopped by my work last week on the way to the beach. The intention was to scoop me up and bring me along, but it was a day where it was impossible to sneak out early. It killed me to say no.

"I have to go back to work," I told him.

"No."

"But I need to help some kids find books."

"No."

"I promise I will come over to your house soon and we can play."

"No."

I clearly lost that round. And then I didn't make it over to their house last weekend, because of this and that, only further cementing my place in A's dog house.

He's used to seeing me at least once a week and, in the month since they've been back from vacation, it's been far less. Lucy's sister-in-law has been in town, Lucy hosted a bridal shower and is in the process of changing jobs and I have been in the midst of the June from Hell

Last night, while Lucy was getting her boys to bed, A came up with a plan. Apparently this plan was devised while A was on his last-time-before-bed potty time, so he probably had a long time to think about it.

When he was done, A told Lucy "I wanna write Auntie a thank you card and send it in the mail. It will have Lightning McQueen and Mater and MISSILES. She can only have it if she comes here. That's the deal."

It's pretty awesome that he wants to see me but I do think he's confusing a random note with a thank you card.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Oh, June

What happened to June, you guys?

I have a foggy memory of someone mentioning the beginning of June but I was in the middle of helping my mom after her knee replacement operation that I barely noticed.

And now...it's almost over? Really?

I didn't even notice that it started.

June was my mom, post-op, and my mom, post-op, dealing with my dad who didn't deal well with my mom being post-op. Basically: one month of running interference.

June was episode after episode of Downton Abbey with my patient. Ice packs, coffee and Lady Grantham.

June was the beginning of my soccer season. It was when I found out how out of shape I really am.

June was celebrations galore (with more this weekend!) Baby showers and graduation parties. It's that time of year.

June was one year since I was in Brazil for the World Cup, which I can hardly fathom.

June was no nail polish and a lot of ponytails.

June was Lucy's birthday and barely any time, for either of us, to celebrate properly. (We're going to squeeze in some belated cheer this weekend, too, before we officially hit July.)

June was Judy Blume's In The Unlikely Event.

June was rainstorm after rainstorm. Yet I could never remember to roll up the windows in my car.

June was a blur.

And I have a feeling that July will be much better.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Trouble Brewing

Once upon a time I had a Keurig coffee maker and I loved it.

Actually, I still have my Keurig coffee maker that I got in, like, 2005. I just love it very cautiously.

First, there's the whole environment thing. But I only drink a cup per day at home so I just feel a little guilty about it. (And then I feel guilty that I don't feel guilty enough.)

Secondly, I know that one day it will die on me and I will be unable to purchase another Keurig machine. So I keep my love at a distance.

This is why I will never buy another Keurig machine.

My parents had a Keurig and worked okay and eventually (after a reasonable amount of time) it died and they got another one. The Troublemaker.

The Troublemaker never worked quite right and they were always on the phone with the company, getting replacement parts and having the operator walk them through how to do this to fix it or that to fix it. These troubleshooting sessions did not occur once or twice a year, you guys. It was fairly constant.

So, after a whole year of fighting with The Troublemaker, my father got annoyed and requested that they send him a whole new machine. Which they did.

We will call that machine The Final Straw.

The Final Straw was delivered early this spring and it has been a terror since its arrival. Sometimes it brews half cups of coffee. Other times, it brews your coffee with an extra special surprise: a tablespoon of grounds floating around. Delicious!

Ever since the arrival of The Final Straw, my father has been calling about this issue and about that issue. More parts. More instructions on how to fix it. More grounds at the bottom of the cup.

Now, this machine isn't at my house so I probably shouldn't be so disgruntled. However, in the four weeks since Mom's knee replacement surgery, I've gone to their house first thing every morning to help out.

I have a cup of coffee when I am there. Correction: I TRY to have a cup of coffee when I am there and I have wasted so many K-Cups in trying to make one decent, ground-free cup of coffee every day and THIS IS SO FAR PAST RIDICULOUS.

I talked my mother into buying a new coffee maker last week. Having the Keurig was supposed to be about convenience but if you can't consistently brew a cup of coffee? If you have to call for technical support on your coffee maker once a week? NOT CONVENIENT, MY FRIENDS.

My mom won't need my help in the mornings for much longer but, until then, I am fired up to be reunited with the Cuisinart Grind and Brew. It's what my cousin Liz owns and what I used every day for the two years I lived with her.

Not only will we get fresh-ground coffee, but we'll get it without any drama. What a concept.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rhubarb makes everything better

Meg caught an episode of The Chew where they featured Buttermilk Cheesecake with a Rhubarb Glaze and she's been talking about it ever since, which is actually pretty funny because Meg isn't even a huge rhubarb fan. Or a big cheesecake fan, either.

You know who is a huge rhubarb fan? Me. But also my father. And, wouldn't you know, yesterday was Father's Day.

So I made Buttermilk Cheesecake with a Rhubarb Glaze. It was amazing and quite light. Not like one of those dense cheesecakes where you feel a little like you've just consumed a brick of cream cheese.

I have most certainly helped my mother with baking a cheesecake but I actually don't know that I have ever made one entirely on my own.

There's a first time for everything, boys and girls.


I didn't bother with baking it in a roasting pan with water, so: it cracked. I expected it to and really didn't care. Why get all worked up about a crack if you're going to put a glaze on the top?

My mom always says a cracked cheesecake "shows that it's homemade." She is not a fussy baker.

Our rhubarb wasn't particularly red so I didn't get the pretty pinkish color glaze that they showed on when they made it on The Chew. I considered a drop of food coloring before deciding that going to such lengths was entirely unnecessary. Maybe if I was hosting a fancy party? Probably not then, either. How would I explain how everyone's red tongues?
 
Sometimes you just need to go with what mother nature gives you. Even if it's not television worthy.

The taste more than made up for the color.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Routine

I have had Brady for almost five months and in those five months, I have not slept in. And I'm not talking about sleeping past 8:30 am on the weekend, my friends. Oh, no. This cute and furry little alarm clock gets me up at 6:10 every single morning.

It's like he doesn't even know what the weekend is.

(And, for the record: I don't need to get up anywhere close to that early to get to work on time.)

When he wakes up I imagine that it's because his stomach is growling because he wants his food immediately. He doesn't even want to be let outside first. No, it's food right away and step on it, lady.

Then we go outside to take care of business before I make coffee (or a cup of tea, I'm back to trying to cut back on the coffee) and we go back to bed.

Where he immediately falls asleep.

I most certainly do not.

So I spend the first half-hour or so of my day chilling in my bed, with my dog at my side and a cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other.

And it's not so bad, easing into the day like that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Full Steam Ahead

Since deciding to plan a trip with Meg, I feel like I have air in my lungs.

I have spent too much time -- I'm not exactly sure when it started but maybe since I returned from Brazil, or when I injured my knee or over the long winter when I did little more than watch every episode of Scandal -- feeling like I am underwater.

While I have accomplished little more than browsing the possibilities and sketching out dates for this more-than-hypothetical-but-not-a-guarantee trip, it has reinvigorated me.

I was looking ahead and all I saw was a year with more of the same. I will stay in the same job and live in the same house, I will play on the same hockey team and bake the same Christmas cookies and spend my Friday nights with the same people.

Not that there is a thing with any of that -- I like my life, honestly -- but there was nothing notable on the horizon but a half marathon this fall that, with the way things have been going, could very well be more of a struggle than a joy.

Considering the cost of another big trip makes me hyperventilate a little, but I am trying to keep things in perspective. I'm getting a raise in a few weeks. I still don't have cable television. Maybe this will be the catalyst for me to downgrade my gym membership. And it's only money.

Which I'm never going to have much of, anyway. I work in government.

Plus: what the hell, right?

I want to go to France. So I think I'm going to go.

Maybe without even overthinking it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

My Latest and Greatest Idea

I got this really great idea on Friday that Meg and I should go to the south of France next summer and then I emailed her and she was like "well, I've never been to the south of France" and then I checked out a France travel guide and basically planned the entire trip in a few hours.

Just the rough details.

Practically, I shouldn't go ahead with this. I should save longer for a bigger trip (we plan to go to the next World Cup) but also life feels especially short and fragile lately and I might not always have the opportunity to travel with my only sister and also she speaks French which would be handy so why the hell not?

Although I am already nervous about leaving Brady for this hypothetical trip.

We want to see a little soccer while we're there (obviously) but also other things and I would be up for inviting my mom along, though with the current fragile state of things (her knee, my grandfather, work, etc.), I am not entirely sure that she would agree to accompany us on an adventure. It would make for a memorable just-before-you-turn-60 trip, though.

I'm not exactly sure where this idea came from but I'm not mad about it. I could really use a trip to plan (type A all the way!) and something to look forward to.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Showering


Yesterday, I mailed the invitations to my cousin Anna's baby shower. I am beyond pleased with how the design turned out and I'm excited for guests to received them, which is bizarre considering how much I have bitched about this shower.

The beauty of being the designated invitation girl for this shower was that there wasn't an established theme so, while I did run my idea past my mother and my aunt, I pretty much had free reign. 

Which is how my cousin Anna is accidentally getting a book themed shower even though that's my profession, not hers.

In my defense: my cousins, my sister and I were all raised on a steady diet of these books so it's very much a family thing, not really just all about me. Although I'm a little pissed that I didn't save the idea for my own very hypothetical baby shower.

I bought the invitations from a seller on Etsy (does anyone do anything else these days?) and a bunch of vintage books on eBay to use as decoration.


This week, I knocked out purchasing her present -- a gift certificate for newborn, 6-month and 12-month photos with a talented photographer in the town they're moving to just before the baby is born -- and so all that's left for me to do is wait for the RSVPs to start rolling in.

And attend the damn shower but, whatever. Almost anything can be survived in 3-hour increments, right?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Useful Spinster

If you haven't seen Downton Abbey yet but you're planning on watching it, maybe skip this post? It contains a bit of a spoiler if you're fussy about that sort of thing. 

My mom is seeing Meg for physical therapy but I am in charge of other aspects of her rehabilitation. Namely, I make sure there are groceries in the house and I watch hours of Downton Abbey with her. We squeeze in episodes here and there, but the best time to watch is first thing in the mornings. I get to the house, make us coffee and we sit in bed and watch an episode while she ices her knee. Then we get on with the day.

We are on season three and this morning Lady Ethel was jilted at the altar.

It was very dramatic.

In the aftermath, Edith gives a woe-is-me speech as she's forcing herself out of bed the next morning. 

"I'm a useful spinster, good at helping out. That is my role."

Oh, how I identify, Lady Edith. 

I am not writing this to be dramatic. I am not even writing this to make any of you feel sorry for me. I am simply writing this because it was phrased so perfectly and I identified with it so strongly.

I am a useful spinster, too.

I know, I know. Spinster is a bit of an ugly word but I certainly qualify.

And I feel exactly that: like I am the single girl who is very good at helping (watching babies, throwing parties, tending gardens, bridesmaiding, baking cookies, putting out fires) despite not having, or maybe because I don't have, much noteworthy of my own.     

I hate that I do that, by the way: the reducing the worth of my life down to my marital status. I feel like I should be more evolved than that way of thinking but I always come back around to feeling that way. It's how I feel. Incorrect or not.  

Maybe it goes without saying that reading Kate Bolick's new book, Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own, is on my list of things to do this summer.

As is rejoining eHarmony. Just in case I wasn't mean to be a spinster after all.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Game Day

The U.S. Women's National Team plays its first game in the Women's World Cup tonight.

The news is full of stories about the team. I read every one. I watch every television segment. And every one of them makes me cry.

This tournament, which only comes around once every four years, brings me right back to 1999. The 1999 Women's World Cup was hosted by the United States; my parents brought Meg and I to the games in Chicago. I remember feeling so inspired, so fearless, so certain that I could do anything I wanted, regardless of my gender.

And now the tournament is back in North America -- hosted by Canada -- and I can see another generation of girls being inspired by the current U.S. Women's National Team.

That's what makes me cry.

It's important.

Regardless of how much I love the (men's) World Cup (you'll note that I attended the World Cup in Brazil last summer but I am not going to any games in Canada this summer), the Women's World Cup feels more important. Not in the sports sense -- men's soccer will always be more popular -- but more socially significant. Maybe that's just because I'm close to this; it's personal.

Every girl should be inspired to dream big dreams.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Grandma and the Boy Scout

We had a minor incident with Grandpa yesterday. We caught it early, brought him over to the lake, and everything calmed down in short order.

My mom, who had her knee replacement surgery not even two weeks ago, is doing more than enough entertaining of my grandfather. He wants -- as any human does -- to feel useful. So every day he says he has "things to do" and he's going to do something, be it a task that you suggest or one that he comes up with on his own.

Basically he ruins things. Paints where he shouldn't paint. Rub solvents on surfaces that shouldn't be treated. It infuriates my grandmother, who insists on correcting him. My mom just lets him do what he wants to do and lets him ruin whatever he has his mind set on (within reason).

I think that my mom's outlook on this -- treating him, essentially, as a toddler who doesn't know better -- is why she can handle this so much better than my grandma.

Today, they both came over to my mom and dad's house. Grandpa had this idea that he was going to work on the deck (he brought a saw with, which was a horrifying prospect, but we managed to distract him from that) and Grandma was just seething the entire time.

She's having a really hard time lately. She's in this denial/avoidance mode where it seems, almost, that she doesn't care. I don't believe that it's actually the case. It's just how she's (poorly) coping.

Grandma is not interested in taking a caregiver class or joining a caregiver support group (she recently lied to the doctor and said that she had taken a class) or doing anything different. So she is just, well, it's very apparent that she is miserable. I hate that.

And my grandma's inability to cope just means that my mom is carrying a heaver load. I hate that, too.

There is really nothing about this situation that I don't hate, to be perfectly honest.

Except that my grandpa has started wearing suspenders with his khaki shorts and looks like am 82 year old Boy Scout.

That's basically the cutest.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Thanks/sorry

One of the smarter choices I made when I started this job (almost two years ago!) was packing my desk full of thank you cards. We interact with a lot of volunteers, generous citizens and otherwise goodhearted people and I enjoy taking a second to jot out a note to recognize the kindness and generosity of others.

Thank you notes are great but my favorite way of saying thank you is with food.

I paid some debts this week. We are on a campus with all of the other component units of the government and, occasionally, someone really steps it up and helps me out.

I delivered a pie on Tuesday morning.

I dropped off cupcakes on Wednesday.

The cupcakes went to the finance department, specifically the head of the department who is awesome and helpful and who I just happen to really like (she reminds me of my mom). I've been meaning to bake her a treat for weeks.

No, I have been meaning to bake her a treat for months.

I made these dainty, cute little white cupcakes.

She thanked me profusely.

And then told me that she's on the cabbage soup diet.
 
I need to stick to thank you notes.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Another Brady Update

I know you're all dying for an update on my dog, as canine behavior is just the sort of juicy and interesting topic that keeps you coming back to this ol' blog, so let me just get to it. 

Two weeks have passed since I last took Brady to the veterinarian about his anxiety.

She wrote him a prescription for some hardcore anxiety medicine which I will fill if I need it. The vet wanted me to first try an alternative, which is some sort of a derivative of a milk protein and hopefully is a miracle drug. I won't pretend to understand the science behind it but I think it's supposed to make him feel deliriously happy and milk drunk just like when he was a puppy and his belly was full of his mother's milk.

I haven't tested it out on Brady because life right now is utter chaos and the pills are super damn expensive so I would rather wait until we can be really consistent and patient and give him the best shot at succeeding. I'm thinking it will be a couple of weeks until I'm not rushing over to help my mom in the mornings, until a few things settle in at work, until we can get back into a routine.

In the meantime, we're enrolled in another obedience class! Instead of the traditional obedience class that we did this spring, this course is all positive reinforcement based. There are no corrections, which the trainers and I quickly learned broke Brady's very sensitive spirit, just a lot of treats and this magical clicker that supposedly helps capture the dog's good behavior and make him want to repeat it over and over. The trainers seem to think that it will be good for him, so we will give it a try.

Which is exactly how I am approaching my dog parenting as a whole: giving it a try. Guess and test. And a lot of crossing my fingers. 

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Unplugged

Lately, I leave my phone in my car. I turn it on vibrate. I leave it in the other room. I ignore it, purposefully. It feels good.

I was obnoxious with my phone for a minute there. It was around the beginning of The Coach era. I wanted to be available at every second of every day. I kept the ringer up as loud as it would go, I picked the most abrasive text notification tone. I refused to miss a thing.

I was anxious about it. My phone. Missing something. It wasn’t terribly long until I realized that I didn’t want to be That Girl Always On Her Phone. Then Lucy, my best friend, had her first son and was really good about being disconnected. I learned something from witnessing that. I got better.

But not entirely.

I feel like my phone still makes me anxious on occasion. When I’m mindlessly, regularly checking it for a text message that will never come. When I’m scrolling through Facebook when I am stopped at a traffic light or in line at the grocery store simply because I can. When the battery is low and I am faced with considering the horror of a dead phone. When I think that it is lost but really it’s just somewhere in the bottom of whatever giant purse I am lugging around that week.

I am better than I was but I am not where I want to be.

My phone is still too important. The connectivity is something that I still crave. Lately, I am consciously leaving it behind. (Usually when I would rather not.) And this newly strict diet seems to help. I’m learning to disconnect in small doses – a few hours at a time here and there – and care a little bit less.

My life is not and cannot fit onto a 4.7 inch device.

How positively silly that I need to remind myself of that.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Still Caregiving

I cancelled my Saturday night plans with Lucy and Chet to stay at home with my mom. There wasn't another viable option; Meg was in a wedding and my dad was attending another one on behalf on the family. Also there were coconut cupcakes and we are rapidly making our way through Downton Abbey and, while she insisted that she was okay to stay by herself, she wasn't.

Have I mentioned how exhausting caregiving is?

Everything is going as well as to be expected but I am beyond tired. I am delirious. I can't tell which way is up. And I don't have much to show for it -- I get Mom ice and refill her coffee cup and keep her company and turn on the next Downton Abbey episode but I am back at work today and, quite honestly, barely functional.

Yesterday finished me off.

On Saturday morning, my pregnant cousin Anna showed up in town with her husband for a very sporadic visit home. Like, they decided at 10:00 on Friday night to come to Michigan for the weekend and they left 20 minutes later. She called on Saturday morning to let us know that they were in town and she mentioned coming over to see my mom. I knew there was no way it would be a I-know-you're-laid-up-so-I'll-just-stay-for-5-minutes visit. On Saturday afternoon, I went to the grocery store and stocked up for visitors.

Visitors, indeed.

Their Sunday evening visit turned into a full blown family party. When Anna said she had invited her father and his wife to join us, bringing the total number of dinner guests to 10, I nearly started crying.

Instead I made appetizers and a salad. (Anna brought the main course.)

It was good to see her (and everyone, really) but it was a lot.

My mom was a really good sport about it. She knew that the circumstances were utterly absurd but she was a trooper. She smiled through the evening and didn't even try to do the dishes.

It's okay that I'm pulling more than my fair load of the burden in the wake of Mom's knee replacement. She's pulled more than her fair share for my entire life. But I will admit that I am looking forward to the return of normal. Between dogsitting for Lucy and Mom's first post-surgical week, I feel like I can barely remember what my normal life feels like. I just know that I miss it.
 
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