Category Archives: Life

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…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…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…Enjoy a Winery (With Kids!)

 

For as much as I love exploring new places on my own, especially those that offer something wonderfully adult (like wine and no whining), I do love to do things with my family.  It gets harder and harder to convince my two teenagers that our togetherness is important and time well spent.  They don’t buy it.

We were recently invited to a local winery that’s beginning to expand and offer fun events, like 5k races and paint nights.  Knowing it welcomes families, I made sure we all showed up.  The older two drove separately–just in case.

What a nice surprise to find a water slide!  And a playground!  And live music in a barn!  And picnic tables under tents!  I was in heaven!  Where were my children?

Seeing there were no other teenagers, my two darling, pubescent beasts sat in the bed of their pickup truck, likely grumbling about the lame family outing mom forced them into.  Again.  Perched in the back of my minivan, the younger two were raiding the contents of the cooler: fresh baguettes, cheese and prosciutto.  WTF?

Rather than forfeiting my own enjoyment, I let the big boys go home and sent the little boys out to the water slide.  We had a ball!  The wine was fantastic, the bluegrass  music was awesome, and we could relax with our friends, surrounded by the vineyard.  As the sun went down after a gloriously warm day, the kids were running up and down the lush rows of expertly trellised vines, playing a game of tag.

Of course, the water slide that had seemed like such a wonderful feature earlier, left me with two kids that looked like this:

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I won’t complain.

 

Have Kids, Will…Spring Forward

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Is it normal to nearly hyperventilate at the sight of emerging leaf buds?  This is the effect spring has on me every year.  Never mind that the weather forcast is showing a possibility of snow this Friday.  Never mind that.  We’re not discussing such vile things.  I’m just jumping-out-of-my-skin happy to see little buds on the trees and to hear the sweet song of spring peepers as I drive into my neighborhood.

What is it about the season that elicits such elation?  It’s still cold outside and it tends to rain a lot.  The ground is squishy, the trees are bare, and the time change has everyone out of sorts, grumbling to sleep just a little bit longer.  But the days are stretching out, providing enough light to let us know we’re almost there…the gloom, the chill, the darkness…it’s almost over.  There’s hope!

Hope is one of those feelings that elude some and rule others.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  When a situation feels hopeful, I experience a flutter in my chest and a hop in my step.  It’s a feeling to savor and appreciate because, damn it, life can be hard.  So, despite needing to slip on my rubber mud boots and jacket to leave the house, I’m going to enjoy the emergence of new life, the freshness of the air, and the hope of even warmer days to come.

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Attend a Funeral.

Yes, that’s right.  This is not a funny post.  I had to attend the funeral of a former classmate today.  He was 40 years old.  At the funeral, the priest talked about our purpose in life.  Sometimes we’re called “home” before anyone else thinks we’re ready, and sometimes we live agonizingly long lives that can’t end soon enough.  It’s usually not up to us, but it’s how we live that matters.

In this one short day I’ve realized there is something terribly wrong with how we, as a general American population, are living.  I’m not talking about the shallow made-for-TV-crap that we can easily remove ourselves from.  I’m talking about the day-to-day chaos that I, at least in this moment, am completely overwhelmed by.  Without much notice, it sneaks up on us in the most insidious way.

I attended today’s funeral and visited with some old friends afterwards.  I really wanted to enjoy catching up with people I haven’t seen in ages, but while doing so, I ordered Dominos pizza to be delivered to my boys at home and made sure they weren’t killing each other.  Then, I filtered through no less than 13 group text messages that had to do with sledding in this morning’s snow fall.  On top of that, I had messages coming in that the candy I donated for this weekend’s play was MIA, as was the payment for the “love note” I sent in for the play’s program.  I was also sent a reminder that both my 2nd and 4th graders had “snow day” work to turn in tomorrow–because kids just can’t have snow days anymore.  Then, a friendly request to see how pictures were going for the school fundraising auction, which includes coordinating pictures of some 65 sets of elementary and high school siblings during snow days, exams, field trips, confessions, play practice, sports orientation, and more….has sent me over the EDGE!

Tonight I was talking with people about a mutual friend who has completely removed herself from society.  We talked about it like it was the weirdest thing in the world, and the circumstances surrounding her decision are kind of weird, but really–who can blame her?  Shit piles up on us before we can even think to say “no”.  Our friend died at 40.  How many times did he think “I really wish I was doing something else right now”?

I’m not about to remove myself from volunteer work, or helping a friend in need or attending to my family, but sometimes–just sometimes–I would like the rest of the world to disappear and let me enjoy a moment.  Without anxiety.  Without requests.  Without demands.  And just be.

Have Kids, Will…Battle Bugs and Harvest Honey

Just when I thought I had a good handle on my beekeeping venture, which I only started this past spring, I found my hives completely infested with Small Hive Beetles.  These creepy little pests didn’t exactly come out of nowhere.  I had noticed some during one of my weekly/biweekly hive inspections this summer, and knew I had to do something about them.  But, looking back, I think I noticed them right before we were taking a trip to the Outer Banks.  Then, I didn’t order my beetle traps until we came home four days later.  The traps took another week to arrive.  Apparently, that is plenty of time for a handful of small hive beetles to conduct quite an orgy, multiply, and destroy the entire hive of a bee colony.  I’m sure those of you who are expert beekeepers are wagging your fingers at me and shaking your heads.  I know.

Looking for help, I called my mentor, an apiarist with the University of Maryland Agricultural Extension, and asked for his guidance.  I also called one of my neighbors, a tall, statuesque blond, who has two more years’ worth of experience than I. Lucky for me, they both agreed to come right away.  As Mike the Mentor pulled frame after frame out of my hive boxes and knocked off all the beetles, as well as the surviving bees, my neighbor and I steadily smashed, by hand, as many beetles as we could.  Picture the game Whack-a-Mole, but with two ladies crouched over a hive lid beating tiny beetles with metal tools.  It was gruesome and barbaric.  The worst part was accidentally smashing bees when the beetles hid beneath them just as our instruments of death were coming down.  Mike assured me those lost bees were a necessary casualty in order to get the beetle population under control and to save one of my two colonies.  It really didn’t make me feel any better.

After about 30 minutes of continuous smashing and crunching, I stood, sweaty and woozy, to help reassemble the one hive that still had a chance for survival.  There was still a queen present, brood, eggs, and capped honey, all of which equaled hope.  I regretted the destruction I had allowed to happen due to my neglect, the loss of bees due to the violent measures we had to take that day, and the amount of honey I had to give up in order to provide more food for the surviving bees. However, there was an upside to the whole debacle.

Since I now needed to provide frames of capped honey for only one colony, the frames that were remaining from the disassembled hive were mine for extracting.  There wasn’t much, but out of six frames that were only partially filled, I got about three pints of my own, delicious, fresh-from-the-hive honey…a sweet reward despite a stupid mistake!  That simple gratification is the driving force for me to continue, with extra diligence, to care for my remaining bees and look forward to purchasing a new colony next spring.  That, and the idea that our mistakes don’t always lead to total devastation.  Sometimes there is something sweet to be gained from making mistakes.

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