What Have I Been Up To?

What have I been up to?

I’ll start off with what I haven’t been up to: writing. But you, clever people that you are, knew that already, didn’t you? I’m touch beyond words by those of you who’ve contacted me asking if I’m okay. I’m sorry to have worried you – my last post being about having the flu was just a weird coincidence. I’m not still sick, nor have I been abducted by aliens. Mostly I’ve just been busy with life.

Specifically, I’ve been busy with the part of my life that provides the financial means to live in my house and put food on the table. And as anyone with two teenagers can tell you, some months I think I spend more feeding those kids than I do putting a roof over their heads. I’d look forward to the day they leave home and my food bill drops below the gross domestic product of a small country except any savings at the grocery store will be more than eaten up by the college tuition bill I’ll face instead. As an alternate solution, I have spent considerable time wondering if grocery stores offer employee discounts. That might be well-worth checking out.

One place I can get an employee discount now is the local garden center where Alec just started his first job. Only my son would manage to find a job where he gets paid to play outside in the dirt!

He’s not the only one who’s been playing in the dirt (although he is the only one getting paid to do so). While I’ve been busy not writing I made time to shovel the last of the snow and ice off my garden and clear out all the leaves. We live in the middle of the woods, so leaves blow into the yard all winter. This year I had high hopes that the new fence around the garden beds would keep them mostly clutter-free. Those hopes were dashed in January when Rick, while teaching Lia how to drive a snowmobile, ended up dumping her off the back and plowing through my garden. Luckily the only injured party was the fence — which is really just netting and easily fixed. As Rick pointed out, teaching someone what not to do counts as a lesson just the same.

Now that the garden is ready, I just need to wait a few more weeks for the weather to stay warm enough to transplant my seedlings. I wonder how long it will be before I get any cucumbers from these babies?

Besides not writing, I also haven’t been able to fix the email functionality of my website, but that’s a story for another post. What have you not been up to lately?

Flu-ing Around

“You had a flu shot, right?” the nurse asked as she wrapped the blood pressure cuff around my upper arm.

“Yes,” I said, trying my best to not let the breath from that single word trigger another coughing fit as it tickled passed my throat. I failed.

She patted my arm. “Don’t worry, so far of all the patients exhibiting flu-like symptoms 100% of those who had a flu shot did NOT have the flu while 100% of those who did not have the flu shot DID have the flu.”

A few minutes later I became a CDC statistic. Apparently 100% wasn’t strong enough odds in my favor. Why couldn’t I have that kind of luck at Powerball?

Some interesting statistics from the Dwyer household:

3 of 4 Dwyers had a flu shot.

4 of 4 Dwyers got the flu anyway, and the last one to succumb was the one who hadn’t gotten the shot.

The first 2 of 4 Dwyers to exhibit symptoms didn’t seem all that sick and were told, “Suck it up and go to school. You only have a cough and a headache and it’s a week before midterms so you can’t afford to miss class. Here’s some Tylenol and a handful of cough drops. Hurry before you miss the bus.”

So yes, that elusive mother-of-the-year award continues to remain an unattainable achievement for me. But how was I supposed to know Alec and Lia had the flu when they didn’t even have fevers? It must be true what they say about those shots helping to lessen the symptoms.

Those same two Dwyers staged a mutiny the following week when Rick and I stayed home from work after having sent them to school. Just one more lesson proving that life isn’t fair, I guess. Although I wouldn’t admit it, I felt quite guilty about that, until my co-worker confessed that I wasn’t the world’s worst mother. She had sent her son to school with a stomachache that turned out to be appendicitis.

We’re — mostly — recovered now. I even made it to the gym today for the first time in well over a month. But now you know why my blog has been so silent. It’s hard to type when you can’t stop coughing.

Short & Sweet Sunday

After Lia called from the shower asking for someone to please bring her a towel, I had the following conversation with my sixteen-year-old son, Alec.

“Lia needs a clean towel.”

“Can’t you get her one? My legs are broken.” The whining was quite pathetic.

“Both of them?”

“Yes, both. As soon as I sat down on the sofa I’m pretty sure one of them was so badly broken that part of it actually fell off my body.”

Sigh. “Aren’t you being a little melodramatic?”

“Hmm…Nope. I don’t think so.”

“Fine, Mom. I’ll go downstairs and get Lia a clean towel.”

I smiled and snuggled further under my blanket. “Thanks, kiddo. I appreciate it.”

Alec laughed as he galloped down the stairs. “Only for you, Mama-Tee.”

When Handy Man Turns Cranky

The problem with being married to a handy man is when things don’t go as planned, it doesn’t take much for handy man to disappear and cranky man to make an appearance.

When I went down to the laundry room I noticed Rick tinkering near the fuse box. The furnace blocked my view and I didn’t want to accidentally electrocute the man so I asked, “Will I interfere with anything you’re doing if I use the dryer?”

Here’s where being married for eighteen years has its advantages. By Rick’s growl I knew instantly that handy man was visualizing the nap he should have taken instead of spending the afternoon trying to fix things that showed no appreciation for his efforts. And if I needed further proof instead of simply responding, “No,” cranky man said, “There is nothing you can do that will interfere with what I’m doing, and nothing I’m doing will interfere with anything you want to do.”

I heard a click as he hit a switch and then all the lights in the house went out.

Again, here’s where being married for eighteen years has its advantages. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t need to. Cranky man sighed and said exactly what I was thinking. “Well, except for anything you had in mind that involves electricity.”

Short & Sweet Sunday

Had my crystal ball warned me that Lia would be invited to a last minute sleepover, I would have made a small loaf of bread instead of a medium-sized one. But the bread maker was already churning away by the time Lia left so Rick, Alec and I ended up with extra helpings.

If you know my son’s love for bread, you know this dilemma was a dream come true for him.

After dinner Alec asked if he could load the dishwasher later. The request itself was not at all unusual because “later” seems to be Alec’s preferred time of day to tackle any chore. But at least this time his excuse was original.

“I ate so much I think my stomach is going to explode. And when it does, breadcrumbs are going to go flying everywhere.”

I hope your holidays are filled with plenty of food, laughter and love. And if your kitchen is a little messy as a result, that’s a small price to pay.

The Magic of Believing

Some things are much easier around the holidays when you no longer have to keep up the pretense of Santa. For instance, you don’t have to explain why an article of clothing has store tags on it. (“Santa and his elves only make toys.”) Or why Santa’s gifts are wrapped in the same paper that Mommy and Daddy’s gifts were wrapped in two years ago. (“OK, Honey, I’ll tell you the truth about Santa. He doesn’t have time to make¬†and¬†wrap all the toys, so he drops them off unwrapped and we wrap them for him.)

And, seriously? What kid has that kind of memory to recognize wrapping paper she hadn’t seen in 730 days?

But the best part of your children knowing Santa is a tradition not a reality is that they can email you URLs of gift ideas, which makes buying them exactly what they want so easy you don’t even need to leave the sofa.

Alec likes to perform magic tricks. He is especially good at card tricks. This year he wanted to boost his performance by tossing magic cards into the mix along with the standard decks. He pulled up the URL for me and within minutes Santa and his elves were busy fulfilling his order.

A few days later I received the following text from him:

A nice little reminder that maybe it was easier when they thought the gifts didn’t arrive until after they fell asleep on Christmas Eve.

Short & Sweet Sunday

We live near one of those discount, never-know-what-you-might-find stores that’s always worthy of a trip during holiday gift shopping. Yesterday Rick and I stopped in and found some great toy buys. At least we thought we had, until we got to the register and realized exactly how much we spent.

After scanning our last item the cashier said, “That will be…um…ah…oh.” She frowned at the screen and hit the light switch to summon help.

I laughed when I looked at the total: $4,824,233,381.00. “Rick, I think we’ve blown the Christmas budget this year.”

Rick picked up the last item scanned for a closer look. “Apparently this is a real army helicopter.”

Like I said, you never do know what you might stumble across in this kind of store.

I hope you’re doing a better job of sticking to your budget than we are!

I’m Lost

Rick and I had various errands to run over the weekend — his, hers and ours. So we started off together and when the time came to divide and conquer we returned for my car, which we’d left in a commuter lot.

Rick was heading to the marina to finish winterizing the boat, and I told him I was hitting the gym. Several blocks later it dawned on me that I had gone the wrong way. This is nothing new for me. I could probably get lost going to my parents’ house, where they’ve lived since I was eight.

I know how to get where I’m going from home or from work. But if I leave from a different starting location, I’m easily confused when it comes time to decide whether to take a right or a left. As I turned around, I chuckled to myself wondering if Rick had noticed I’d gone astray after he dropped me off.

I decided to call him to find out.

When he answered I said, “I’m pretty sure someday Alec and Lia will have to sit me down and convince me to give up my license, but not because I’ve had too many fender benders. I think they’ll just be tired of me calling them up and saying, ‘I went out to run an errand, forgot what I was planning to do and now I have no idea how to get back home. Come find me.’”

At the very least I shouldn’t be surprised if they give me a tracking device for Christmas one year.

Rick laughed, “You know, when I didn’t see you in my rearview mirror I wondered if you decided to do something else before going to the gym.”

After we hung up I realized he never disagreed with my prediction.

The sad thing is I’ve always had a terrible sense of direction. When I was in college I had plans to spend a weekend in Boston with friends. Normally I was never the driver because we left as a group from campus and the “locals” always drove. But it was summertime and I had to get myself there. I made arrangements to meet one of my friends downtown when he got off from work and he would navigate from there.

Tom promised his building was super easy to find and gave me detailed directions that included the fact that the exit I needed was right after going through a tunnel. I jumped on the Mass Pike in Worcester and forty-five minutes later I entered a tunnel in Boston. Cool! I got off the next exit and then smacked myself in the head when I immediately realized I was not at all where I was supposed to be.

Apparently, Boston was big enough to warrant more than one tunnel. Luckily I was in a nice college-town looking area and circled around trying to find my way back to the highway. Instead I found a payphone and decided I’d gone far enough.

I called Tom at work. “I’m sorry he’s already gone for the day,” the nice woman who answered the phone told me.

I laughed. “I promise you he’s still there somewhere. I’m supposed to pick him up and I’m lost.”

When Tom got on the phone and heard what happened he sighed. “This isn’t Connecticut, you know. We have more than one tunnel.”

“Yeah, I figured that out already.”

“Okay. Find your way back to the highway and…”

I interrupted him right there. “No. I’m not moving. You need to come to me.”

Tom laughed. He thought I was kidding. When he realized I wasn’t, he asked where I was.

“I don’t know where I am! That’s why you have to come get me. I came from the Mass Pike, got off after the first tunnel and then kept taking rights until I found a pay phone. You’ve lived here your whole life, that should be more than enough clues to find me.”

I truly didn’t think that was an unreasonable assumption on my part.

I heard Tom take a deep breath. “Okaaay…describe what you see around you.”

I looked around. “Cobblestone streets, brick buildings. It looks like a college area.”

Tom sighed. “That’s not really helping. Boston also has more than one college. What signs did you pass?”

“Um….” I closed my eyes and tried to picture what I’d driven passed. “There was some kind of music school, a coffee shop, lots of brick buildings…”

“Did you see any signs for the T?” Tom asked, because apparently my own clues weren’t good enough.

That sparked a memory. “Yes!”

“Great. What color was it?” The T system had various color-coded train lines that navigated the city.

Hmm. Observational details. I was never very good at those. “Blue?”

Now Tom laughed in earnest. “No. Trust me. You didn’t make it that far into Town. Try again. Maybe it was green?”

“Maybe,” I conceded. “What other color choices do I have?’

“Never mind. Believe it or not, I actually think I know where you are. I should be there in ten minutes.”

Of course, something like that never would’ve happened today. As soon as I veered off course my GPS unit would have spoken up. “Recalculating…”

Maybe Alec and Lia won’t have to take away my license after all.

Thanksgiving Freshovers

The downside of not hosting Thanksgiving is the noticeable lack of leftovers. So a few years ago I started my own tradition: freshovers. The Saturday after Thanksgiving I cook my own turkey with all the fixings.

My family makes fun of me every year.

“I can’t believe you made a whole turkey two days after Thanksgiving,” they say around mouths full of stuffing.

“It’s like Thanksgiving all over again.” (I have noticed this comes across more like a simple statement of fact, rather than a complaint.)

Inevitably one of them will point to the festive holiday table. “Not exactly. Aunt Jean doesn’t serve Thanksgiving dinner on her Christmas china.”

They may tease, but that doesn’t stop them from coming over.

The only thing that makes this meal even more fun is competing against myself each year to hunt down the biggest bargain on the bird.

Yesterday I found the best price per pound at a store that also honors their competitor’s coupon for $7 off a turkey. I bagged a fifteen pounder for $1.66.

As luck would have it, I had a second coupon so Rick ran back to the store today where he snagged another bird for $2.00.

That’s thirty pounds of yumminess for $3.66 — a personal best record I predict may never be broken.

Here’s hoping you and your loved ones eat as well as we will this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Short & Sweet Sunday

Finally some honesty on a topic most of us are only too aware of is fraught with false information.

The guy forecasting the weather the other night actually said, “Remember, none of the models are right. We have to shift through the data and try to find the one that is least wrong.”

That could explain why yesterday was a beautiful fall day while today was foggy, rainy and generally blah when the forecast had called for the exact opposite.