Saturday, October 30, 2010

Arrrrrrrrrrggggghhhhh . . . . . . oh

So in usual form, I have spent a hectic morning running from one task to another.  If you read my post about our Halloween party, you are familiar with my menu.  Did I have to plan and shop for all this stuff?  No.  Did I want to?  Yes. 

Today is another party.  A friend is turning 50.  It's a potluck and I am to bring a fruit salad and wear a costume.  The plan was for my friend, D, to come over with her son to hang out with mine.  My darling mother-in-law has graciously volunteered to chill with the kiddies while the grown-ups play.  Fabulous.

I stayed up pretty late last night, cleaning up the carnage from the Haunted House centerpiece, and doing dishes.  My alarm went off around 8 but I snoozed until after 9.  I sure needed that extra hour of cozy pillow time.  As soon as my brain started functioning, my thoughts turned to my "to do" list.  I am a compulsive list maker.  I am also the kind of person who flits from task to task, getting all worked up, but eventually finishing most of it.  In the meantime, stuff is chaotic.  The whole "stick with one thing at a time" is foreign to me.  I understand the benefit of it, but it's not my style.

I also had a list for J to do.  His room was still a mess from last weekend's sleep over.  He also had  belongings strewn from living room to bathroom.  He didn't want to hear about any chores.  He wanted to watch TV.  Not gonna happen.  J is what is known as a "slow starter".  He hems and haws and has a billion excuses to not get going.  He also wants me to "help" him with everything.  After some arguing back and forth about what I said and what he did or did not hear, we sat down for a little breakfast.  I brought along the dry-erase board.  I have found that when getting him to get through tasks, a list and a timer is the way to go.  It's still a struggle, but at least I have some voice and patience left at the end of the day. 

In the meantime, girlfriend D called and opted out of tonight's plans.  She just isn't feeling well and wants to reserve her strength for tomorrow (Halloween).  This meant that I would not have much female companionship at tonight's gala and J wouldn't have a friend to hang out with.  As much as I preach flexibility, it is a bitter medicine. We were both disappointed, but her health must come first.

D was still open to to having the boys hang out, but both of them had chores to complete first.  I now had even more ammunition against my kid and his resistance to chores.  In the meantime, I had to decide if the boys would go to her house (she wasn't contagious) but that meant rearranging my plans with my mother-in-law.  My brain started getting ahead of myself and I started getting short-tempered. 

Unable to make a decision quite yet, I made a breakfast smoothie, with bananas, protein, soy milk and a little splash of coffee.  I have heard that caffeine can help kids (and adults) with ADHD and wanted to run a little experiment on J.  I didn't tell him what he was drinking besides the bananas and chocolate.

My adrenalin flowing, I tackled the outside mess.  We had a yardsale yesterday and two days of charity pick-up, but there was still a file cabinet, TV stand, trash compactor, two soggy boxes of books (it rained this morning), a huge suitcase and a large box of rusting cabinet hardware.  I started wiping it all down, tossing the books that were soaked (they would just get moldy) and packing my truck to make a charity run myself.  Before muscling the trash compactor in, I wisely called the thrift store to ask if they would even take it.  They said no.  Instead, I grabbed our hand truck from the garage and put everything on the street.  I guarantee it will be gone by Sunday night. 

I was on a roll.  I threw some more stuff away, put other stuff back in the garage and decided with D that she would bring H over in an hour.  It's amazing how much of a roller coaster one's emotions can ride.  I have gone from happy to agitated to frustrated to determined to peaceful in about 2 hours.  Phew.  I'm  ready to shower, prep some food and get dressed for tonight's party.  Getting all this inane stuff off my chest has left me feeling relieved.  Thanks for listening. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Big Mess of Creative Play

The other day I was bemoaning to E about how I felt like I didn't really have a creative outlet.  As usual, the answer was right in front of my face.  I am a mom.  Halloween is right around the corner.  Although I am not having a big get-together this year, why not get a little crazy in the kitchen?  I find that I can spend hours on food preparation and not get bored.  The exhaustion rears its head when it is time to clean-up, but it always gets done . . . eventually.

 I have one child, but another is readily available practically anytime I ask.  E is my surrogate daughter.  She is a great sport and hears me when I ask something the very first time.  She is a breath of fresh air.  Despite the age difference between her and my son, they are like two quirky peas in a pod.  Her mom brought her over tonight and the kids went wild.  I have to admit, I did too.

For the past few days, J, my son, and I have been pouring over the Halloween cookbooks, creating the perfect menu for Sunday, which is Halloween.  We are making a Spider Web cookie, Caramel Apple Cupcakes, Marshmallow Mummies (which will be a do-it-yourself kid activity with pretzels, marshmallows, fruit roll-ups and some chocolate icing), Mummy Dogs (hot dogs rolled up in bread stick dough with googly eyes), Boo Bites (chocolate and peanut butter rice-crispy balls), and some Mexican Chicken Soup. (I teetered on the idea of making the main protein something scary too, but I think just a delicious soup in the crockpot will save me from od'ing on sugar.)  There will also be a cauldron filled with fizzy grape and cherry juice.  I bought some dry ice today to make it foggy and bubbly and my mother-in-law is bringing some spirits for the grown-ups.

Pretzel Corpse
I set the kids to making a Haunted House centerpiece, which was comprised of two, empty half-gallon beverage containers, covered in chocolate frosting and then decorated with candy, cookies, pretzels and pumpkin seeds.  In true kid style, the most exciting part was opening all the goodies and putting them in bowls, while making sure none of them were poison.  It's called "quality control", right?!?  We slathered the foil-covered containers in chocolate frosting, then got to work, making windows and dead-bodies; tombstones and crooked paths. About 30 minutes into it, J was spun from the sugar, squawking like a bird.  E plodded on, creating the deathly tableau.  I served up some dinner to counteract the glucose.  J had officially lost interest in the decorating.  The table was covered in frosting and fallen goodies, but he was ready to play robber, first using masking tape to secure his feet together, then asking us to tape him to the chair.  E obliged and I took over, using pretzels and cookies to outline and refine the house.

"I would never eat your masterpiece . . . while you were watching!"
The robber, caught!

E's mom called around 9, wondering if we were about finished.  She was exhausted and wanted her girl home.  I dissuaded the kids from E's turn to be taped to the chair, and we quickly brought the bowls of goodies into the kitchen.  I made sure the chairs surrounded the table, as our boxer, Kodi, was sniffing around hopefully.  Since he has a history of eating my creative masterpieces (glue and all), I knew better than to leave him an opening.  Sure enough, after dropping the girl off, the tablecloth was pushed back at one end of the table, where the big boy had pushed his snoot around for deliciousness.  Luckily, the house was unscathed. 
I got the boy to bed, untaped our chairs, laid down a black table cover and centered the satisfying haunted house in the middle of the table, carefully placing all the chairs back around to keep it safe until fingers start picking the house apart on Sunday.  If only I could summon the kitchen spirits to whisk away the mess waiting for me when I am done here.  That's alright.  It's all part of the process.  Still gotta prep up those cupcakes and Boo Bites.  Gonna be a yummy Halloween.  I am grateful, as ever, for answered needs.  My creative cup is full for the night.     

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Yardsales, Children and Sleep Depravation

So.  I held a yardsale yesterday. 

We used to have them back in Ocean Beach years ago, but then swore off, preferring to donate our "treasures" for tax purposes.  Well, my girlfriend D called me a few weeks ago.  She had just remodeled her kitchen and had loads of stuff to unload.  She's going to Hawaii soon and thought a little extra cash might come in handy.  Some other friends who live across the street from us had mentioned that they might like to do a sale soon, as they had just cleared out a 10-year-old storage unit.  So, what could I do but organize something!  (Yes, I know, I could have let people work out their own stuff, but that's no fun!)

We decided to hold a "multi-family" yard sale, having my stuff intermingled with D's on my driveway and my neighbors would use theirs.  The thought was that buyers would not be able to avoid visiting both.  (I know I wouldn't!)  I live on a relatively busy street. My house resides between the hospital and a main street.  Forgetaboutit.  We get foot and car traffic all day long.  We posted notices in the Pennysaver, Craig's list and did a late-night-sign-posting excursion.  (When I say "we", I mean my son and his friend, E.  My hubby was out of town for a handball tournament.  Lucky dog.)

For the past few weeks, my free time has been a flurry of purging.  The only place that I didn't really delve into was the garage, as we had cleared it out recently.  I did run down there for the old beast of a suitcase that has laid dormant since visiting Japan in 1995.  It is powder-blue and takes up a lot of space.  We are duffel-bag people these days.  I texted E about selling his beer-brewing supplies, which have also been collecting dust since the 90's but he didn't respond.  I took the hint.

I prepped some crockpot chicken fajitas and rice, bought some tropical and cranberry juices to compliment the champagne and set the coffeepot.  J and I slept like the dead until about 5 a.m., when we arose and started setting up the stuff.  We put out 3 foldable tables and a whole bunch of old sheets for stuff to sit on.  J decorated one last sign with a bunch of shadowing and happy faces to adorn the sign-post to point the consumers to our two houses.  Friend D and her son, H pulled-up with doughnuts and more boxes of stuff and we got rolling. 

The sale was set for 7 a.m., but as anticipated, as soon as the sun rose around 6:30, the cars started slowing and stopping.  We kept reassuring people that we'd be done pulling stuff out soon, and tried not to be grumpy at their early arrival.  We knew we they would come, after all, and a few things sold right away.  By 6:30, my living room and dining room were cleared of the boxes of stuff, and my friend M and I pulled out my gorgeous-but-humongous lawyer's bookcase with glass fronts that housed our  videos.  All of our VHS tapes and VCR were for sale and our DVD's had been moved over to the CD cabinets.  The CD's have been transferred to our i-tunes and boxed in the garage.  We can't bear to part with them quite yet.

I let a lot of stuff go for a buck or a quarter or 50-cents.  I let the bookcase leave me for $50.  (E has promised a love-seat for more seating to take its place in the living room).  A friend of mine warned against dwelling on the original prices of stuff when selling at a yardsale, as you will never get anything even close to it monetarily.  I did pretty good with this, except for the BBC language course, "Muzzy" that my dad had bought to teach my son Spanish.  He spent close to $100 on it and I couldn't get $5.  I eventually pulled it.  Perhaps I can get more on Craig's list. 

By 7:58 the champagne had been popped and the house smelled great from the chicken that had been slow-cooking since the night before.  The kids had their own table of stuff and were allowed to keep the money earned, as long as they were outside manning the stuff.  H racked in over $30 and J got about $22.  They were good sports and had a lot more tenacity than I had anticipated.  When they got bored, they played with the stuff that they were trying to sell or punish my bushes with sticks.

I visited my friends to see how they were doing.  A pimpin, fluffy purple hat caught my eye, but I resisted.  I did buy a new pocket-knife for my brother-in-law's bday.  It's a cheapie, but it will stand in until he gets another.  My friends were exhausted.  Because of the recent rain, they hadn't been able to go through their garage properly and had raced on Friday afternoon to get stuff sorted.  By 2 they had packed it in, determined to hold another sale soon.   By then my resolve had waned and the hat was still there.  I got it for a buck and will build my Halloween costume around it.  Leisure suit, tall boots and a bunch of bling.  I'm usually a witch or vampire but this year, I will be pimpin for sure.

By 3 p.m., we were exhausted too.  The crowed had waned; a car stopped once every 10 minutes or so and we were done.  We packed it up and documented the items, and loaded the side of my porch with the stuff awaiting the charitable pick-up on Tuesday.  I sent D home, keeping her son, H and little E, our dear friend who is 12.  I poured a cup of coffee and vegged out for an hour, watching a pre-recorded episode of "Storm Chasers".  (I am WAY into watching a bunch of shows on the Discovery channel these days.  Very cool stuff like "Hoarders", "Intervention", "Billy the Exterminator" and "Myth Busters" keep our family entertained and informed.  (I haven't let J watch "Intervention" yet.  He doesn't need to see people smoking crack quite yet.)

Then I packed the kids in the truck and did a recon mission, pulling down all the signs we had put up the day before.  We stopped for a Little Cesar's pizza and bread sticks, then to get E a change of clothes.  The kids were doing a sleep-over. 

By 9 p.m., I was a zombie.  I wanted the kids to clean-up their ginormous (gimme a break,  That word's awesome) mess, but they had creeped themselves out playing scary tunes on the synthesizer and telling supernatural stories.  I dispelled the mood by playing Chipmunk's Christmas full-blast on the house stereo and telling them to be more scared of my wrath than of any ghosts.  They got the hint.  The couch-bed pulled out and piled with blankets and pillows, they settled in to watch "Fred.  The Movie".  I am not proud to say I let them watch this pathetic soul for an hour and a half, but they were cracking up so bad, it was worth it. 

J was up by 6:55, complaining of a sore throat.  Great.  I got him some homeopathic stuff and was about to pull him in my bed for a few more winks, when early-riser H appeared.  Double great.  I relented and let them watch a movie while I climbed back in bed.  An hour later, J was back.  A picture had fallen from his wall and there was glass on his floor.  After I got that cleaned up and dealt with silly putty stuck on the synthesizer buttons, I poured a cup of coffee and got back to my copy of  The Power of Now.  Talk about extreme mornings.  Guess I should cook the heathens some grub.  One likes scrambled eggs, one doesn't like anything, one will eat anything.  I'll make a smorgasbord and let them pick.  No whining allowed.  I need to take it easy today, reserve my strength.  I need to go shopping for some pimpin duds and gather up my ho's to complete the outfit.          Thanks for listening.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ode to Punky (Bill Egan, R.I.P. 1941-2010)

I was 17 when I first met my father-in-law to be.  I was soon won over by this big, strong, funny, intelligent man.  The creed in the Egan household was all about enjoying life: experiencing what the world had to offer, hard work, perseverance, sports, delicious food and drinks,  and a lot of laughter (not necessarily in that order).  He welcomed me and my sister-in-law Jaime into the fold from the very beginning.

Bill, AKA Punky, had definite opinions, but allowed others to have their own (even if he personally thought them foolish.)  He was an observer of life.  He found others very amusing, whether he liked them or not.  He was a visionary.  He would watch CNN and ESPN and the Financial Reports, read the daily paper and tell it like he saw it.  He was very often right.  He went to bed early and woke up before the rest of us, jotting plans on his yellow pads and oversize calendar and paved the way to an adventure-filled existence. 

He loved to rhyme in your birthday cards and twist up crazy nicknames.  "Well, well, Judy-Bell, that's just swell", he'd say when I would bring him something yummy.  If you were around him for the first time, watch out.  You just might come out of it with a nickname of your own.  And those names stuck and morphed and would encapsulate the past and the future in one fell swoop.

He was a man of particular tastes.  Slap-stick movies (at which he would laugh so loud and hard, you would be laughing too, even if you missed what was so funny in the first place), green olives and salt in his beer, and the best margaritas around.  My favorite memory of one of his concoctions was at the river one year when he decided to make a batch of margaritas in an ice-bucket with honey.  He stirred it all up with his big fingers and passed it round.  The best ever.  Another one of his quirks was the need of a toothpick at hand at all times.  You can find toothpicks in the garage, in the trucks, on the dining room table and in drawers.  You may have wondered why there are packages of toothpicks at your table. Please take them with you and use them with a smile.

Bill wasn't perfect, none of us are.  He could be stubborn at times.  But more than anything, he loved his family and friends and would go out of his way to make every day enjoyable.  I have learned a life-long lesson from this wonderful man, who lived life to the fullest.  He will forever live in my heart.  Love you, Punky!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wow. What a ride!

Mockingjay emblem
Harriet the Spy, my childhood hero
I have always been drawn to books with strong, female characters.  It's one of the reason I love reading Stephen King books.  When I was young, my life was shaped by books like Walking Out, which tells the story of a city girl who survives a plane crash and lives in the woods until she is rescued.  The Girl Who Owned A City told the story about "the end times" when children were the only survivors and how one girl rallied the children against bullies and re-established some semblance of normality in a world without adults or electricity.  I read and re-read Harriet the Spy.  My dad bought the book for me at a church rummage sale and I still have the original copy.  It's held together by a rubber band.  None of these books affected me like The Hunger Games series, however, and this is said by an adult who has immersed herself in YA lit for the past few years. 

I just finished book three of The Hunger Games and wow.  These books are INTENSE!  I read the first one shortly after it came out and had to wait (very impatiently) for books two and then three to make their way into my greedy hands.  I will do my best not to ruin the story for anyone who is moved to read it, so bear with me as I tell a bit of this amazing story.

It is the future.  The United States no longer exists.  The country is divided into 12 districts, in a communistic state, run by "The Capitol".  People are told what to do, who to marry and have barely enough to eat.  They are not allowed to leave their districts, which are surrounded by electrical fencing.  Katniss Everdeen is about 14 years old, and the main provider for her family, since her dad died in the mines and her mom has been swallowed by depression.  She has learned how to escape the boundaries and hunts to supplement her hungry family.  The title, The Hunger Games represents the horrific event that is held to amuse the people who live in the privileged Capitol and their president, Snow.  Many years ago, District 13 rebelled and were supposedly defeated.  As a gruesome reminder to stay submissive, two children from each district are required to fight to the death on public television.  (Think "The Running Man" but with kids.)  Katniss' little sister, Prim is called to join the games.  Katniss steps up to take her place.  What follows is a bloody and heartbreaking adventure, where only Katniss and her fellow district tribute, Peeta survives.  Katniss eventually becomes the figurehead of the rebellion against President Snow.  In an effort to quell the rebels, Katniss and Peeta are called back into the arena.  (I said that I would do my best not to spoil anything, but I think I may have already given some plot away.  Tough.  Read it anyway!)  In book three, Mockingjay, named after Katniss and the discarded weaponry of the Capitol (Mockingjay's were hybrid birds that and the capability to repeat what they heard to the establishment.  They were discarded after being fed misleading information by the rebelling citizens but survived and pick-up song and speech they hear).  Mockingjay has become Katniss' symbol.  Ok.  I've told you a lot.  Now stop reading and go read The Hunger Games and don't stop until you've read all three.  You may weep, you may cheer this amazing heroine, you will probably love her and all those she loves.  Then call me.  We'll chat.