Sunday, July 30, 2006


So, where did that time go?

We're back on the Cape, at Mom's. Connecticut is now a blur of humidity, air conditioning, and too much time in front of various screens. But we went to the movies, and ate and ate and ate, and spent time with cousins we never see, and played with the new puppy, and had a lot of fun.

I hate that we have just two more days here, and at the same time I'm more than ready to go home. Still not ready for the kids to start school, and totally not looking forward to packing everything up in a way that is airplane-viable.

Forecast is for two good beach days, so that's the plan.

(My thoughts keep drifting forward to Houston, as everyone keeps asking about what we're doing when we get back... I don't know. We'll just have to see what happens, right?)

Guilt descends on me as I think of the friends I haven't called. This was a working vacation, I tell myself, but I know that if I had really wanted to make plans to get together, I would have. Something in me said, Stay home this year, and so I didn't drag the kids to Boston or anywhere, really. It was the right thing. Tomorrow I'll call and say Sorry and ask forgiveness.

Home will seem very lonely. With DH off at work, I'll be the only grown-up around, again. I'll have to reconnect with all my girlfriends back home and then figure out what the heck I'm doing with all my free time... when I get back from Houston.

Monday, July 24, 2006

checking in

Too much going on, and not much time or desire to catalog it all.

DH arrived Tuesday night to general celebrations.

Wednesday, what? It's all fading into the mist already. I have to think about it. Ah, now I remember: In the morning, DH and my bro installed a new toilet in my mom's downstairs bathroom -- the 34-year-old harvest gold model was just using way too much water. About noon, my brother up in Boston called and had somehow managed to produce two tickets to that afternoon's Red Sox game, so DH and my PA bro took off immediately for the game. I took the kids to the beach, along with their new boogie boards. We were somewhat disappointed in the lack of waves, but the kids had fun anyway. The beach was empty once the day camp kids cleared out about 3:30.

Thursday, DH and I took a carload of stuff up to the transfer station (aka: dump), and then went out and bought pavers for a new back porch. After lunch, we took the kids to that go-cart place I'd driven by for the past 35 years and had never visited. We had a blast: go karts, bumper boats, mini golf, and an arcade, plus various other fun things. It was a late night.

Friday, it was a mostly cloudy and grim sort of day but we went to the beach anyway, and had it all to ourselves. There were big waves and it was fun. In the morning, we laid the pavers to make the porch, and DH and two of my bros made a frame so they wouldn't shift.

Saturday was the big bash, and it was great. After some minor drama in which my nephew, son of the guest of honor, said he wasn't coming, everything turned out wonderfully. The nephew, after a couple of serious discussions, came and brought his toddler (leaving the difficult wife at home), and that meant that every one of my mom's children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren was there. The caterers were efficient, friendly, and made great food; the weather threatened rain but only sprinkled on us a little bit. It was a very good, long day.

Sunday we were up early for mass, then home, and after breakfast, packing up the car to head for CT. It was nearly noon when we left, but that turned out OK. We stopped for fast food at Charlton Plaza, and then met my in-laws at Sturbridge Village, where we had a great time. Sunday night my brother-in-law and his family joined us for dinner, mostly because they had left their cat with my in-laws and needed to pick him up, but it was great to see them.

Today, the cousins came over just after lunch time and spent the afternoon with the kids. Nana filled up the wading pool, and the kids were in and out of it all day. We all assembled for dinner once again, but tonight we did a better job of getting the kids to bed just after 9PM.

Tomorrow, we're heading to Lake Compounce for a long day of water park and amusement park fun, and I have no idea when I'll be posting again.

Throughout all the CT fun: my in-laws cockapoo, Muffin. She has a sweet personality but my kids aren't used to dogs, so it's interesting to see how they react. DS1, thankfully, seems to be over his stark terror. DS2 likes dogs in the abstract but is more skittish of Muffin than I expected him to be. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


The weather cleared, and we've been taking full advantage of it. After days of cool rain, house-bound and busy with house-clearing tasks, the dry sunny days have been awesome.

Friday morning we marked time until lunch, and then the beach car was finally ready. I made the pizza dough in the morning so we wouldn't have to leave the beach early. The beach was glorious, huge waves that the kids loved to jump in -- even DS2, who fearlessly wandered farther and farther from the shore, since the shallows go on forever. We didn't leave till 5, and the pizza that night was as good as ever.

Saturday we beached early with leftover pizza for lunch, and had another day of wave-jumping. My brother and his wife came with us -- DD loved sitting squeezed between them in the front seat of the beach car -- and we all had a great time watching the kids. DD complained about the seaweed and her kind uncle carried her out to the clear area by the sand bar. She clung to him for an hour, jumping in the waves.

When we straggled home past 4PM, my brother and his family from PA had arrived after an 11 hour drive. The kids immediately went to Hyperville, and they haven't appreciably left it since.

Sunday, DS1 and I went to the 7:30AM Mass and on the way home bought doughnuts for everyone. The day was perfect, and we knew the beach would be crowded, so we all hustled and we made it to the beach by 10AM, a miracle which no doubt will never be recreated. It was the first blue-sky beach day all summer, and the water was calm. We knew exactly where to pitch our camp, just past the peak of the high tide line, and we found our perfect spot.

It was a glorious day. The kids buried each other in the sand:

The magic words of the day: Today is a good day to find hermit crabs. The junior marine biologists then established several habitats for their critters. This is Hulk, the biggest, and meanest of the crabs; he had to be isolated because he kept trying to eat the others:

Hermit crabs were good for over an hour.

My two brothers delivered pizza to us for lunch, and we were the envy of the entire, considerably crowded, beach -- and then a little while later my sister arrived with her youngest and our nephew. All in all we spent 6 hours on the beach, and the only time anyone grumped over anything was when the moms insisted on re-applying sunscreen.

Yesterday we were all wiped out from the long day in the sun, but the kids still had a lot of energy. In the morning, the guys took off quahoging and my two sisters-in-law went shopping. The kids were mostly left to their own devices, but before lunch I loaded up all five of them and took them to the farm stand to by some sweet corn for dinner. After lunch, they were agitating to go somewhere, and all of us were wiped out and didn't really feel like doing anything, but I knew that wouldn't fly. My brother's kids had never been to the fresh water pond, and while I detest it, I volunteered to take them just so they could see it and get it out of their systems. ("You're a brave woman," our neighbor J commented as I pulled out -- five kids and one me at the beach? No problem.)

I suffered. Really, there's no way to be cool at that pond unless you are in the water. The kids, of course, had a blast. The found the large-ish fish and tried to catch them. They didn't mind the small swimming area because it wasn't crowded. They didn't notice the too-hot sand because they were never on it. They sprinted up the hill for a treat when the ice cream man came, and then they sauntered back down with their drippy sweets.

After snack and a quick dip to wash off all the sticky stuff, we went over to the playground.

Last night we let all the kids sleep together downstairs. They kept each other awake past midnight, when we threatened them with having to sleep in their regular beds if they didn't go to sleep right now. Now, just before 9, they're finally staggering awake.

Today we'll take it easy, and probably skip the beach as we're all tuckered out. Maybe not, maybe we'll go for just a couple of hours -- I don't know. It already feels like we've packed an entire vacation with the cousins into just a couple of days.

The kids don't know it, of course, but these are the days.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I make little boys cry

...because I am such a very mean mom.


It's like this: today is day 3 of rain, which means no beach.

It's day two of not having a car, and thus being tied to the house.

It's day N, one of a seeming continuous stream, in which I pay very little attention to the children while we're home (nearly all the time, these past few days), because I'm working on moving stuff around or sifting and sorting, and generally trying to convince my mother to just let go of some of the junk that has accumulated around here. (We don't, for example, need any DOS software manuals, or ancient copies of "PC Computing" magazines. )

Generally, I let the kids have free rein in the house while I'm busy elsewhere, meaning they can watch TV or play with their toys or on the computer as long as they are not killing each other or otherwise inflicting damage to anyone or anything.

The only thing I ask them to do is a bit of practice schoolwork, so they don't lose everything over the summer. "Brain drain" is the one big problem with the tradtional school calendar, and I work actively against it. So: a little writing, a bit of reading, 15 minutes of math drills a day. They could easily accomplish all of this in a half-hour, 45 minutes, tops, if they would just sit down and do it.

Mostly I get a lot of guff and I've reduced the lecture down to one word: six. "Six" is short for "six words," the six words beings: Day camp in Arizona next year.

Really, I don't need these hassles. I love spending time with my kids but I don't love it that they'll so casually blow me off or hassle me about what little I ask them to do. It's ridiculous.

Today, I told DS1 I wanted a reading summary. He did them all last year during school, and had been stuck for a writing topic, and so I gave him one. He didn't do it, even though I harangued him about it several times.

The problem is, after the haranguing, I was then distracted by some stuff I was working on with my mom, so I let it drop, and the boy thought he was off the hook. Not so, because at bedtime I realized I had never seen his writing today, and so I told him that today's writing was an F as far as I was concerned.

I talk way, way too much some times, and unfortunately for my kids, this was one of them. But I am tired of the way they disrespect me, and it was time to say something about it. DS1 made a choice not to do what I asked, and I was angry about it, and he got all upset and blamed me for calling him on his choice -- well, tough.

I probably harangued him for about 5 minutes too long (the initial 2 minutes probably would've sufficed), but then I had to give him the model for how this situation should play out:
1. Choose not to do what I'm told.
2. Mom gets angry at my choice.
3. Accept that I made a bad choice
4. (most important) Do better next time.

More tears! What's with that? I don't think I can do better, he sputters.

Now that's just silly, as I demonstrated to him by reading all the great stuff he has already written this summer. He's a great writer -- I told him he has to be, since he's my son, and his father's a darn good writer also. It's in the genes.

What's really going on here is three days of cabin fever, plus being unaccustomed to so much humidity, and eating strange foods (marshmallow fluff!) and everything else that's weird. I've been homesick for a while, so I have an idea of how all the strangeness could be affecting him.

But I still can't give him a pass when he blows off the one thing I asked him to do that actually required some effort on his part today. I wasn't trying to make him cry, but that's going to happen sometimes and I have to live with it. I have to pretend to be heartless when my kids cry in situations like this, but I'm not heartless, and it does hurt. No parent likes to see her child cry, and no parent wants to make her child cry.

It's not easy being a mean mom, but I'm not doing my kids any favors if I let them grow up thinking that they'll never have to do anything they don't want to. That's just not the way the world works, and that's a lesson they'll be more than familiar with, if I have anything to say about it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

also noted

That lump on the right side of my neck, the one that came back with a negative biopsy?

It's as hard as a rock and killing me, and it's definitely bigger. I feel like someone transplanted a large marble into the side of my neck. I can feel it when I swallow, which is weird -- I'm used to having a lumpy sensation lower down in my throat (which I still do, even when I'm not swallowing, I feel like there's something there), but it's odd to have this feeling like someone is poking the side of my neck when I swallow. This feels new, and I'm not inspired to go read the archives right now to see if it is new or not.

Needless to say, metastases is the first explanation that jumps to my mind, just because that's the kind of person I am.

However, my nose is kind of stuffy so I may have some sinus thing going on -- so the size and the pain could just be due to reactive nodes. However, again, reactive nodes aren't usually as hard as rocks.

Salivaries are weirding out again, my eyes feel like sandpaper a good deal of the time, but my RA has been dormant except for a little hand-stiffness in the mornings. Given the amount of unusual physical activities I've been participating in (moving dryers and furniture, jumping in humungous waves, vaccuuming way more than usual), I'd expect to feel totally lousy. But so far, I don't.

My digestive system is working a lot better but mornings are generally bad. Any given day, at 10AM I feel horrid and sure I won't be able to get anything done because my stomach is so bad, but by 11AM that's passed and we've managed to have great days nearly every day. In fact I can''t think of a single flat-out bad day yet.

Sleeping is going pretty much OK, but I am constantly battling fatigue. Between the fatigue and the digestive issues, I've been happy to stick around here and not go driving all over the place.

And if I'm totally spoiling the kids because I have a sense of impending doom (see: Houston, late August), well, that's just because that's the kind of person I am.


I have a vague sense of My work here is done.

It's not, really -- it's just that I feel like I accomplished something today.

The beach car has sprung some sort of a coolant leak, so we couldn't go to the beach today; this morning's thunderstorms didn't help, either. It was so steamy this afternoon that I desperately wanted to go, but no, not today.

So instead I cleaned closets. Really what I did was move stuff out of upstairs closets into the closets downstairs that are for more general long-term storage. This makes sense to me because there are people actually living in the bedrooms now, and there will soon be even more people, and it will be nice to actually be able to use the closets in the bedrooms this year. (I wasn't kidding about the amount of stuff in this house. Really.)

The biggest accomplishment actually involved moving something into a closet: the big stack of shelves+cabinets ("the unit") that holds the prodigious video collection. No one has watched a tape in years, yet my mother balks at off-loading them somehow. That's fine, I say, gritting my teeth for the third year in a row, but there is too much furniture in this room if three people are sleeping in here and it's holding five people's worth of stuff, so how about I move this cabinet into the closet?

Mom was skeptical, but I accomplished this tremendous feat by moving the toy box downstairs into the newly re-done play room, huzzah!

It's passing ridiculous that I should be so happy to have moved that unit, but I am totally psyched. I don't have to look at it anymore! You know what they say: out of sight, out of mind. If I don't have those tapes staring me in the face every day of the summer, if I don't have to constantly navigate around that unit, why -- it's as if they're already gone.

There's still more work to be done, of course. But I have to get the beach car checked out first, because I need transportation. Every year I think I should rent a car and every year I decide not to spend the money and make do with the beach car. In other words, I cheap out. It seems weird to say but being here does save us quite a bit of money, the beach being infinitely less expensive than day camp and all the other activities the kids would be enrolled in, were we still in AZ. I'm so profligate in everything else I do, I like it that I can actually spend less money for at least a few weeks a year.

I must give more serious thought to this question for next year, though, because having only an old (old - 1993!) car with no A/C really does put a damper on any travel plans.

In the meantime, I must take this creaky bod of mine off to bed.

Friday, July 07, 2006

"she's not on vacation'

(about me) "She's got the three kids..."

My Mom, on the phone to someone-or-other today. It made me laugh.

We had a rude-awakening moment today. When we finally got to the beach today, the parking attendant turned us away because "This is a resident-only beach, and you need a sticker."

I know, we have a sticker, I said, gesturing... to the empty place on the windshield.

Someone stole the beach sticker.

Forty-five minutes and ten dollars later, we were back at the beach, replacement sticker firmly affixed to the windshield.

I must've left the car unlocked out front, or perhaps someone swiped it in the beach lot, the last time we were there -- we usually leave the windows open so it doesn't turn into an oven.

So now I know to make sure that the car is locked and all the windows rolled up. In spite of the two-lane roads and small-town feel of this place, there are still creeps and jerks around, even if they are most likely tourists. Locals wouldn't steal a beach sticker, they wouldn't need to. At least, I like to think that.

Our time at the beach was cut short by the sticker-replacing detour. Any other day, we would've just stayed later until we were beached out, but today was Friday and I was on deck to make pizza. But the forecast is good for tomorrow, too, so we should be able to get in a good long day. The pizza was worth it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Before we left home, I had all these grand ideas about jaunting up to Boston with the kids for this or that great cultural experience.

Now that we're here, I don't feel like leaving. We manage to find things to do, and having friends next door is so awesome for the kids that I want them to experience that as much as they can.

Today, another rainy day, we planned to go to the movies in the afternoon. But the weather cleared about 2, and all the kids went out to play, and I just let them. Why should I hustle my kids into a movie theater to sit in front of a screen when they can spend that time playing (or arguing, as the case may be) with other kids?

People are always more important than things, especially things like movies, television, or computers.

* * *

I wonder if it's inertia I'm feeling or frustration. There is a lot of work to be done around this house, and most of it I am positively prohibited from doing. I want to do it anyway, but I also don't want to upset my mother. The problem is, there is a lot of stuff that she hasn't used or looked at in more than ten years, and in all likelihood she won't do either, ever. But she won't let me sort through it and dispose of it, either -- even though it's taking up precious space in the room my three kids are living in this summer.

People are more important than things, I think -- but I also think I need to respect my Mom's decisions, but then I think she's not making decisions, she's punting on the decisions that should have been made years ago because she doesn't want to deal. So let me! Let me deal with it all! Really, it would be quite painless for her.

Now I'm being a pushy daughter again. I have to find some way to let go of this feeling of constantly being thwarted. It's not a good feeling.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

accomplishment of the day

The plumber arrived at 7:55AM to install Mom's new dryer. I asked him about hauling away the old one, and he said he could but he would need help getting it into his van.

Considering that the dryer was in the basement and would need to be walked all the way around the house, I thought hard before I volunteered to help carry it up. It was heavy to me, because I am a wimp, but I didn't drop it, or trip, or pull or muscle, or anything like that.

For about 30 seconds, I felt buff, and then I had to go cook breakfast for the kids.

various liquids

Rain this afternoon, lots of it, after a day and a half of threatening and spitting. I'm hoping that it will all wash itself out overnight and we'll get a whole nicer day tomorrow, but the forecast says it won't clear till the evening. We may have to go to the movies if that happens!

Today, though, after bullying kids through their work (reading, journals, and math drills) I piled them into the car and we headed to Sandwich for the Pairpoint Glass Factory. I had visited it more than 30 years ago with my mom and brother, and we enjoyed watching the glassblowers and seeing all the cool stuff they made. So it seemed like a reasonable rainy day excursion, and for once the kids did not complain about it.

We stopped for lunch at a tiny place called John's Capeside Diner, which was a real diner and so not-a-chain-restaurant that it was awesome. DS1 enjoyed his burger, DS2 ate about 2 bites of pancakes, and DD sulked -- the two little ones had been snacking all morning and had no room left for lunch, and it didn't matter a bit. I loved my scallop roll (OK, I ate the scallops and left the roll), and we hustled out through the steady rain back to the car, and to the factory.

When we visited there in the '70's, it was set up differently; I vaguely recall a tour guide, or at least someone explaining the processes we were looking at. Now, I'm sure they couldn't do that for insurance reasons, and it has a pretty neat, simple setup: one entire wall of the shop is glass, and the windows look down into the workroom, where you can see the glassblowers. One huge benefit: the windows block out most of the tremendous heat from the furnaces. I could easily have stood and watched for an hour, but the kids were restless and wanted to explore the shop, so I limited myself to a few minutes.

How crazy is it to bring three kids into a hand-blown glass shop? With my kids, not that crazy. Yes, they picked up some things, but they were careful, and they put them down when I told them to. They didn't jostle anything, they didn't run around or engage in any horseplay. They spent a long time looking at all the cool stuff before they decided what they wanted.

This trip was probably the most extensive on-vacation shopping we've ever done together. Each child picked out a pressed glass cup plate, which I paid for as a vacation souvenir, but then they wanted other things, too. DD picked out a tiny mille fiori crab paperweight, as well as a yellow glass bead bracelet, with a tiny white flower on each bead. DS1 picked out a set of three bird cup plates, each with lovely colors, and I sprung for a rack so he could hang them up in his room at home. For us, I bought three suncatchers for the kitchen windows, and a hefty glass starfish. It's so cool. Then I got some smaller glass shells to arrange around it at home. I'm not really the tchotke type, usually, but these... they're art.

Photos later, when the cable gets here!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

way cool news

DH and I are averaging two 5-minute phone conversations a day, just keeping tabs on the goings-on both here and there. But after one of yesterday's conversation, he called right back to tell me that I had a letter from my most favorite magazine, Cook's Illustrated.

A few months ago, I sent in a tip. If they print your tip, you get a year's subscription. They're printing my tip! I'm totally psyched. Not only will I get a free year of the magazine, which is awesome, but I'll also get to add "contributed to Cook's Illustrated" to my list of clips.

no time for introspection

Or contemplation -- or maybe it's just that there's no desire for either.

The weekend was pleasantly busy. My brother and his wife came down on Friday, and it was very nice to have other adults around. We worked on clearing out one of my mom's many over-stuffed rooms, and it turned into an extensive project with excellent results so far. There is a frightening amount of stuff in this house, a lot of it lovely, but more that is here only because no one has taken the effort to dispose of it. So we're making the effort, bit by bit -- it has to happen sooner or later.

Saturday was a windy beach day with very high waves. For the first time ever, the lifeguards called everyone out of the water because some Portuguese Man-o-Wars were seen drifting at the next beach over. We've had quite a rash of them this week, with several people requiring hospital visits for treatment for stings. We built a sandcastle in the meantime, with my brother acting as lead architect. (He has been building things since he was tiny. He used to build the tallest card houses, routinely stacking up 12, 15 stories. I could never get a third story on without toppling the entire thing. We each have our talents.)

Sunday was mostly a working day; I had laundry to do and that is when we did the majority of the work on the renovation. I cooked again: ribs and coleslaw and biscuits, to general acclaim. The biscuits were iffy since the baking powder is circa 1995, but they came out fine if a little flatter than I would have liked.

Monday was regular house cleaning -- vaccuuming, dusting, and de-spiderfication -- in preparation for Mom's arrival home from Rome. I took the kids to the fresh water pond for swimming the afternoon (no need to worry about jellyfish stings). They had a good time but I spend the entire time we're there gritting my teeth. It's not so bad when it's not crowded, but it was hot and sunny yesterday, so it was packed. It's quite a tiny beach area, so everyone's on top of each other, and there's barely a breath of air it seems.

I love the going the ocean beaches because I always feel as if my mental cobwebs get cleared away. At the pond, I just felt stifled.

Today, Mom's getting eased back into being home, the kids are all finished with their schoolwork, and the sun is trying to come out but the forecast calls for clouds and thunderstorms. I don't know what we'll do, we'll figure it out.

DH has already put my camera cable in the mail so I should be able to update with photos later this week if all goes well.