Have Kids, Will…Live Without a Microwave

It wasn’t that long ago that we had to replace all of the appliances in our kitchen.  Once the dishwasher went bad, it seemed like they all started misbehaving.  At the time, money wasn’t tight, my kids (all boys, mind you) were eating A LOT (that hasn’t changed), and we could get a “deal” by purchasing everything at once…yipee!  Naturally, we got the largest refrigerator we could fit in our kitchen–you can store a side of beef and your four best friends in this thing–and a pretty sweet microwave/convection oven that has gotten a ton of use.  Until now.

Fast forward maybe five years, seven tops, and those GE appliances are once again dropping like flies in a hot attic.  That mac daddy fridge now creates a sheet of ice under the meat & cheese drawer that threatens to guillotine off your toes when you open it.  The dishwasher underwent several repairs that, at first,  Mr. Repairman attributed to apple seeds in the filter.  What?!  Turned out, the pump was bad.  The glass door on my oven completely shattered one year right before we were scheduled to host Thanksgiving.  And now, my microwave is blown.

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars to replace it with another expensive piece of s*&t, I’m re-learning how it was all done in the “olden days” before every kitchen, office, and dorm had a microwave.  I’m reheating leftovers on the stove!  And in the oven!  I feel so retro!  Not really, I actually feel like I’m camping and it kinda sucks.  But hey, we managed to have our hot tub fixed…maybe I can heat things up in there!

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Photo credit:

Vintage Everyday (2012, September 7). Old Photos of Hobos: A Hobo in Camp, 1935. Retrieved from http://www.vintag.es/2012/09/old-photos-of-hobos.html

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Have Kids, Will…Make a Fort (No Boys Allowed)

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Having a space of my own became an urgent priority a few years ago.  As the only female in my household for the past 20 years, I’ve desperately yearned for a place to call my own.  Our sweet little, old farmhouse only has one bathroom upstairs that we ALL share (go ahead, ladies, gasp!).  So while I’ve semi-patiently tolerated all sorts of bathroom issues that come with five males peeing all over the one toilet that I, too, have to use, I hit a breaking point when I was trying to work/write from home.  Having a home-based business has many upsides, but too many distractions for this lady to function well.

Much too long after man-caves became a “thing,” women have now been allowed the same accommodation… a little escape from the shared household spaces.  It never did seem fair that the fun, casual drinking spaces were reserved for the guys–a space that didn’t need to be cleaned very well or used to entertain guests other than more guys who also sought refuge from those damned feminized rooms within the home.  I like drinking and relaxing as much as the next guy (or gal) but I needed a space that didn’t require me to look around and think, “Oh, so-and-so didn’t put his laundry away.  I’ll just do that before I get to this article.”  Or, “Gosh, those dirty dishes in the sink are going to stink if I don’t load the dishwasher before I work on this floor plan.  Better take care of that.”

Obviously, if we’re only working with one upstairs bath we also don’t have a spare room to use as an office.  Eventually, I was able to wrestle this space above my garage into my own private fort.  Or, as one of the boys calls it, my tree house.  We painted the whole thing glossy white to maximize the light that comes through the fabulous round window that a client couldn’t use.  Then, I found these great light fixtures from Cedar and Moss, a lighting company in Oregon.  They’re way cool and great quality!

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Even though the furniture is all upcycled, repurposed, and second-hand, it came together nicely to provide a very comfy mom-cave work space that I absolutely love.  And it has a bathroom!

 

 

Have Kids, Will…Buy Spanx

Everyone has heard of them.  Many women have worn them.  I finally got around to buying them.  Not the knock-off brand at Target, mind you, the real deal.  At first, I tried the generic brand.  They may even be made by the geniuses at Spanx specifically for cheapskates like me, but when I tugged on the real ones…oh, mama!  There was NO comparison.

For those of us who are over 40, have had multiple children, and/or like to eat more than we like to exercise, the lower half of our bodies tend to put these things on display.  After trying to “slip on” a really pretty dress for my brother’s wedding, I realized I needed some (ahem) support for all that wayward bulge.  When I went for help, I went for the big guns.  Thank you, Nordstrom!

The sales lady who helped me was extremely kind.  She humored me when I cracked jokes about sausage casings and Barbie-size undergarments.  I was obviously new at this and awkwardly so.  I’m pretty sure my thighs looked at each other and laughed, Who does she think she’s squeezing into those?  But on they went…flesh stuffed and crammed, belly flab smooshed, wrinkled, pinched, and finally, suffocated.  But the heavens opened when I finally managed to pull those bad boys on.  This ain’t your grandma’s girdle, but now I know why she wore one.  Everything was so smooth!  There was even an opening in the crotch so I wouldn’t have to go through that wrestling match every time I had to pee.  Hooray!!!

I’ve read some really hardcore criticisms of Spanx, written by well-meaning feminist champions who see these undergarments as articles of torture designed to keep us forever in the mind that we aren’t good enough as we are, whether in the eyes of a repressive patriarchy or by other women who subscribe to self-loathing by doing anything and everything to “fix” our feminine “problems”.  While I respect the intentions of these women and applaud them for their desire to help other women fight such destructive criticism, I REALLY like the way these tight panty-shorts make me look and feel in a slightly fitted dress!  Also, since they don’t come in packs of three for $7.99, I’m pretty sure I will get my money’s worth by wearing them with everything!635666814161464761-screen-shot-2015-05-08-at-11-29-47-am

 

Have Kids, Will…Nurse My Ego

Having boys has opened my eyes to a special kind of flattery:  the kind that only a Mommy can get from her little boy.   In his eyes you’re a princess…beautiful, nice smelling, kind, and infallible.  He wants to snuggle, hold your hand, and marry you because you’re the most wonderful woman in his world.  Your heart absolutely melts when he looks into your eyes and tells you how beautiful you are.  And you are.  I’ve no doubt about that.

But then, he gets bigger.  Older.  Wiser.  Maybe a little cynical.  Suddenly you’re being picked apart like last week’s garbage.  Your breath stinks (somehow that coffee breath previously went unnoticed), you’re mean and unfair, your butt is big, and you don’t know what you’re talking about.

My big nose and big teeth were recently subjects of scrutiny and raillery.  The boys were being very funny, cracking each other up as I stood there, a witness to my fall from familial eminence.  And this was on the heels of having my youngest draw a picture of me on the back of a restaurant menu…as a green witch.

Despite the slight bruising to my ego, I do find a sense of relief when my kids hit this point.  There’s a lot of pressure involved in being the most awesome person in the world.  When your children finally realize you are, in fact, a flawed human being and not the smartest person in the world, you’re off the hook.  I’m totally comfortable admitting to my mistakes and physical shortcomings because I have nothing to prove except that this ugly witch loves them unconditionally.

Have Kids, Will…Eavesdrop

Don’t you just love listening to your kids talk to one another when they don’t know you’re listening?  Or when they have a friend in the car and they suddenly start whispering and giggling together?  Considering I have all boys all the time, I regularly hear some really great (and equally appalling) potty humor.  All my best jokes have come from first and seventh graders.  It’s all ridiculous stuff that is innocent enough, whispered through the hot breath of little boys who don’t always brush their teeth.

Just last week I was carting a couple of elementary schoolers to a party.  They were playing a Nintendo game during the drive.  One friend asked to have a character created for him and, glancing up at me in the rear view mirror, whispered, “Name him Penis.”  The belly laughs that that comment induced were adorable, even if the subject was completely stupid.

The chalkboard in my mud room recently announced, “Welcome to Butt-town!”  Yes, indeed.  I live in Butt-town.  Every gross, stinky body function or body part is up for grabs in regular conversations and jokes alike.  Car rides are filled with farts, burps, and armpit noises.  Outside, it’s seeing who can spit or pee the farthest.  Words like “balls” and “nuts” garner snickers no matter what we’re actually talking about.

On the other hand, the sweetness that I get to witness when the boys are in their beds, with lights out as they settle in for the night, is sometimes miraculous.  Ages ago, when my oldest two were maybe 4 and 6, I heard Eli say, “I love you, Max.”  Just like that.  It was so out of the blue and surprising that Max replied, “Wow, Eli.  That makes me want to cry.”  I remember thinking, Same here! 

The younger two, who also share a room, were recently having a quiet argument as they were lying in their beds.  When I walked into their room, ready to tell them to be quiet and go to sleep, I realized they were actually arguing about how many moons Jupiter has.  Scientific discussions?  Declarations of love?  Why doesn’t THIS happen during the day?  I just better keep my ears open and savor all that good stuff.

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Have Kids, Will…Clean (Again and Again and Again)

There must be something very gratifying about having a clean house.  You can welcome guests with ease, confident that they’ll be comfortable in your lovely, uncluttered home.  You can have an impromptu gathering for coffee or cocktails, serving refreshments in clean glassware that’s been neatly put away in the cupboard and is free of dust or dried on gunk.  You can even sit back, put up your feet, and sigh a breath of gratitude for how lucky you are to live in such a nice, tidy space.  I wouldn’t know.

With four kids, all of whom are BOYS, a husband who is just as messy as the kids, a dog, a cat, and a house in the woods, where every stinkin’ pine needle, leaf, and clump of dirt comes in on everyone’s shoes and paws, my house is rarely ever clean.  And when it is, it’s because a monumental effort has been put forth to get it that way.  Admittedly, I HATE to clean and I can find a million other things to do with my time other than even basic maintenance.  As a result, it can get pretty gross.

Yesterday, I decided the upstairs bathroom really needed a good scrubbing.  Resigned to spend a precious half hour or so on the room, I wiped down the cabinets and walls which had been covered in several clouds of baby powder dust over the past week.  This is a new passion for the youngest two…a thorough dusting after every shower, which leaves a fine white coating on every surface.  A good, deep cleaning followed and, with pathetic pride, I stood back and admired the loveliness of having at least one clean room in my house.  Until they all came home.

By evening, nay by 4 p.m., I smelled a strong chemical odor coming from the upstairs bathroom.  Turns out, my boys can’t simply sit on the toilet to do their business, they have to keep busy!  One of them decided it would be fun to coat the counter top with Compound W wart remover while he was sitting there.  I imagine he was thinking: Let’s add a little baby powder to that.  Why don’t I trim my bangs while I’m at it and the scissors are right here in the vanity.  Oh, Mom might not like all this.  I’ll just grab one of those freshly washed towels to wipe it all off and then leave it on the floor.  Phew!  That was a close one.

At least I know who’s getting bathroom cleaning duty this weekend…not me!

Have Kids, Will…Parent an Adult

Unbelievably to me, my oldest son just turned 18.  This is a huge milestone, mostly because he’s now legally an adult.  An adult!  He can join the military, buy tobacco products, get arrested and put in regular, adult jail (scary!).  He can vote, make a will, sign contracts, get sued, and is eligible for jury duty.  Basically, he now has the legal right to do everything (within the law) except purchase and consume alcohol.  Amazing.  Didn’t I just bring him home from the hospital, in that little infant car seat with the teddy bear print?  Wasn’t it yesterday that I held his chubby little hand as he enthusiastically ran through the doors of his preschool and learned how to count?  And I swear, it was just last night that he cried out from his crib because he had gotten hold of the Vaseline jar from the changing table and smeared it all over his face, the walls, and into his soft, auburn hair.

Having a baby at 22 was the single scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  I wasn’t ready.  I knew I wasn’t ready, but…well…these things happen.  And for that, I will be eternally grateful!  He unwittingly introduced me to the art of parenting and, through the ups and downs of being my guinea pig, has been a beacon of light and the source of some of my greatest joy, frustration, and pride.  He is, and always will be, my baby: my sweet, raspy-voiced, precocious, nature-loving, little boy.

As we’re looking at colleges and talking about the next chapter in his life, I can’t help but to become a little wistful.  All those times I felt completely spent after long, exhausting days cleaning up after an active toddler who refused to sleep past 5 a.m., and some older person would see me, haggard and drooping, with my little firecracker in tow, and say, “Enjoy him now.  It goes by quickly,” I would think Yeah, right.  You just forgot how hard this is.  Well, I’m here to tell you, it does indeed go by quickly.  The days are often long, but the years just fly.

I love all my boys more than I ever imagined was possible, and Eli continues to be the guinea pig for my parenting, but what I’ve come to learn and really appreciate is just how fast time does go and how finite our time is to do the best job we can in raising our children.  Being a mom still scares me sometimes, but the love that causes my heart to swell for these wonderfully sweet, funny boys of mine, is so worth that occasional discomfort.  And now that my oldest is an “adult,” I catch myself admiring the young man he has become and think, I did okay.

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Have Kids, Will…Turn the Big 4-0!

I’ve put off writing this post since celebrating my birthday two months ago.  I wanted to give it some thought.  I wanted to marinate in being 40.

Leading up to this age, turning 40 seemed like SUCH. A. BIG. DEAL.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t.  It’s an age I’ve been almost looking forward to.  It’s solid without being weighty.  It’s mature without being old.  It’s middle-age.  But isn’t that the best part of a jelly doughnut: the middle?

To kiss my youth goodbye is a little sad, but the riches I’ve gained through experience and meaningful relationships is what makes getting older golden.  I love my family with a ferocity that I never knew existed until I had kids.  I love and respect my friends for all their differences, their strengths and weaknesses,  their struggles and successes, and their willingness to love me back.

I can’t really write about turning 40, or aging in general, without acknowledging some of the things my girlfriends have said since sliding (tripping?) into middle age, things they never would have uttered at 20:

  • “Is there a bar in this strip mall?”
  • “We need to find a bathroom!  Now!
  •  “I might have to go into that Five & Dime and buy some pants in case I pee mine!”
  • “My butt cheeks are sagging.  I need lifts everywhere.”
  • “Is anyone else finding gray pubic hairs?”
  • “It’s 11 o’clock.  Let’s get a drink now and take a nap later.”

So, in appreciation for all the humor, joy, kindness, and love that are yet to be enjoyed…Cheers!  Here’s to turning 40!  I’m happy to be in the middle of my story because, God willing, I’m just getting to the good part.

 

 

 

Have Kids, Will…Get Back on Track

“Get back on track!”  That’s what I told myself.  That’s my intention.  The problem?  I don’t know what track I’m on or where it’s going.  That’s kind of a big problem.  However…I’m convinced that for every big problem, there is a simple solution.

After trying multiple combinations of working/parenting, and always being available to my children, I think it’s time for me to leave my nest.  That well-feathered, marginally clean, come-and-go-as-you-please nest is not a good work environment.  I need structure.  And high speed internet.  It’s incredibly frustrating that my neighborhood is without an internet infrastructure.  No cable, no DSL, no whatever else people use.  We have a satellite, which delivers normal speed service for the first 10 days of the month.  After that, we’re back to 1995 until we spend another four million dollars to add data to our already maxed out data plan.  Ridiculous.  And I’ve been trying to work from home for the last 10 years!

When I made the decision to stay home with my very first son (after taking him to work with me and attempting to breastfeed during the day amidst my all-male colleagues), I never thought it would be another 17 years before I went somewhere to work.  But three more boys later, and that’s where I am.  I’ve worked at their school, have floated in and out of my husband’s company, written freelance restaurant reviews, and made myself useful in all sorts of volunteer positions.

Now, with my oldest starting his senior year of high school and my “baby” in third grade, I think it’s time for gainful employment.  That’s my new track.  So, technically speaking, I need to get ON a track rather than to get BACK on track.  Anyone hiring?

Have Kids, Will…Extract Honey

After surviving a long, cold winter and a cold, wet spring, my beautiful honeybees shook off the chill and went straight to work collecting pollen and nectar, building new combs, raising baby bees, and creating that divine food of the gods: honey.  I was beyond ecstatic to find a super (the shallow box placed on top of a hive) full of capped honey.  It was early in the season for harvesting, but there they were: eight frames of golden deliciousness.

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The process of extracting honey isn’t difficult, but it is messy–in the best, possible way!  After successfully removing the super from the hive and making sure there weren’t too many stragglers hanging onto my stolen treasure, I drove from the organic farm where I’m now keeping my bees, back to my house, ten miles away.  I had borrowed/rented the extraction equipment from my local Beekeepers Association and set it up in my kitchen ahead of time.

Uncapping the honey is done first.  I used an electric uncapping knife, which gets hot enough to melt the top layer of wax which the bees create to seal the honey inside each cell of the honeycomb.  Holding the frame vertically over a container fitted with a wooden cross-bar, I carefully slid the hot knife downward, allowing the wax cappings to fall into the container.

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I then placed each frame into the extractor, which is a big, stainless steel drum with frame holders that look like metal paint straining pans.  Some extractors are spun manually, but the one I used was electric and very efficient.  The frames are spun around inside the extractor until the honey is flung onto the inside walls of the steel drum and drips down to the bottom, where a valve is opened for the honey to drain into another container.

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Once all the frames went through the extractor, I placed a nylon paint strainer around the valve and lifted the valve cover, straining all that wonderfully fresh honey into the bucket below.  The straining process keeps any dead bees, wax, or other debris out of the finished product.  That’s really all the processing required; no other filtering is needed, and under no circumstances should honey be heated or boiled.  Doing so would destroy all the beneficial antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties that make honey so miraculously good for us.

The result of this fun, sticky process was almost two gallons of pure, fresh, straight-from-the-organic-farm honey made by my very own little, Italian honeybees.  The honey was sweet, floral, and bright, delicious on yogurt, in tea, or right off the spoon.  No matter how many times I’ve been stung, or how hot it gets in my bee suit out in the afternoon sun, the reward of harvesting my own honey is something that has me totally hooked.  IMG_1975