Monthly Archives: November 2007

On the flip side

Now that my in-laws have been out of my house for a full 12 hours and I have had a chance to sit back and gain some perspective, I feel I must acknowledge that they aren’t actually bad people. No, this isn’t a forced revelation because my husband read my last post (I doubt he did, he rarely does), but rather, I feel I am misleading the blogosphere a little by painting my in-laws out to be the worst house guests in the history of all house guests.

With the exception of my brother-in-law, who my nicest comment about is usually, “wow, I didn’t want to bash his head in with a shovel today,” the rest of my in-laws are actually caring and fairly considerate people. During their six day stay with us, my father-in-law helped my husband rake our entire back yard, which, was quite a feat. He also saved my Thanksgiving butt, by getting a pre-cooked turkey from the store after I found out (from my mother-in-law) that you have to defrost a turkey 1 day for every five pounds. Considering it was Tuesday night and I hadn’t even bought our turkey yet, they both showed amazing patience and flexibility when trying to scrounge up a turkey. My father-in-law even paid for it and had no problem with the fact we had a bunch of extra fixings that came with the meal.

During their stay they treated us to lunch at the art museum, as well as tickets to see the special exhibit. They took the entire family (minus my brother-in-law’s kids–his choice) out for Mexican food, which included three pitchers of margaritas. They even got my husband a bottle of Jack Daniels when they popped out to the liquor store for more Scotch.

On Thanksgiving day, they helped keep the mess in control by constantly doing the dishes, even after the meal when we all felt our stomachs might explode.

They spent a lot of time snuggling, feeding and playing with my son. Considering they are in their 60’s, they spent a lot of time on the floor.

On their last night in town they took us out to a spectacular Turkish meal, complete with appetizers and dessert. I have to admit that the baklava was AMAZING! As was the bite of the strange shredded wheat/cheese/honey syrup dish my mother-in-law cut off for me before she even tried it herself. She didn’t even take an exchange piece of my baklava.

Plus, they did take us to Ireland two years ago, which resulted in the birth of my son.

I’m not going to sugar coat it, they do frustrate the hell out of me at times. They can be rude, inconsiderate and the plans change so much, my head whirls, but over all they are pretty darn nice people.

While I’m certainly glad they are now home safe and sound and that there probably won’t be another visit until my son’s first birthday, all in all, it was a pretty good Thanksgiving break.

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A holiday quiz

In honor of the holidays and my in-laws’ impending departure, I’ve put together this little quiz. The answers follow, but try not to cheat.

1) During their visit my in-laws drove me crazy in my own kitchen by doing all of the following EXCEPT:

            a) Not actually letting me prepare Thanksgiving dinner, but rather allowing me to

            merely chop some onions, toast some bread and mix some dry ingredients.

            b) Leaving dirty cups, dishes and silverware either in the sink or on the counter

            rather than tucking them away in the actual dishwasher

            c) Running my dishwasher, despite the fact that it was less than half full only

            because we’d put a meal’s worth of dishes in it

            d) Insisting on drying every dish by hand, despite our drying rack, therefore

            dirtying every kitchen towel I have and then when I try to get the new ones out to

            use, chastising me because I’ll dirty them

2) While visiting, my brother-in-law annoyed me by:

            a) Pointing out a store and asking us if we needed to go there. When we said no,

            insisting we go there anywhere, and then the minute we are in the door, turn and

            ask us what we need there. When we say nothing, he then walked through the

            store and rather loudly pointed out that his kid needed socks, hoping, I think, to

            get my father-in-law to buy them.

            b) Telling my father-in-law an absolute lie about why he got kicked out of his

            weekly card game that made him look like an absolute saint.

            c) Referring to my son all day by his initials.

            d) Making us change our plans yet again, because despite the fact that he knew we

            were going out for pizza, he supposedly ate it “every day this week.” So instead

            of going to the pizza place I really wanted to try, I got stuck going to the same

            Mexican place we go to all the time, where he drank the majority of the pitcher of

            margaritas.

3) The most annoying change of plans this week was:

            a) My sister-in-law finally getting back to me about Thanksgiving, giving me

            grief about what they’d bring and then at the last minute calling to say that she

            and the kids wouldn’t be coming after all, so my meal for 12 was down to 8, after

            I’d already cooked for 12.

            b) My in-laws being constantly late to get back to our house and leaving when

            they were supposed to spend the entire day with us because my father-in-law had

            some chores to do at their house.

            c) Having to reheat dinner when my in-laws arrived because no one decided to tell

            us they were going to see my brother and sister-in-law first so they could go drop

            off some package to someone they’d never met before as a way to “help out.”

            d) Having my brother-in-law and nephew join us at the art museum, even though

            it was originally just supposed to be a foursome (and the baby)

4) Annoying things my in-laws did while at my house:

            a) Slamming doors, yelling across the house and turning the TV up really loudly

            despite knowing their young grandson was trying to go to sleep. All of these

            resulted in a crying baby at least once a night.

            b) Talking during every single movie we watched, including making repeated

            comments about how Hugh Grant should have been in An Ideal Husband because

            it was “his kind of role” and asking questions like “How are they all connected?”

            within the first five minutes of Fast Food Nation.

            c) Trying to involve me in constant political conversations, even though they

            know I don’t like politics much and I was trying to grade essays that needed my

            full concentration. Apologizing for bothering me and then proceeding to continue

            to ask me questions with important topics like whether or not I like Rosie

            O’Donnell (in case you are wondering, I couldn’t care less about her).

            d) The constant criticism of Fox News and yet the just as constant watching of it

            and the absolute inability, even after five days (and really two years) to figure out

            how the remote control works so that I have to stop what I am doing and switch

            on Fox News.

Answers

1) I know this is a hard one. All do seem like possible answers, but the winner is C. While they did not actually run my dishwasher after every meal like they do in their own home, I did have to endure multiple reminders that there were dishes in there that needed to be cleaned.

2) This is actually a bit of a trick question, I’ll admit it. All of them are things my brother-in-law has done. The first two I just heard about from my husband and while they add to the growing list of annoying things he’s done, they didn’t really bother me at all. C is something he does quite often, but somehow he managed not to do it the entire day on Thanksgiving. The answer, my dear friends, is D. It’s the only one he did directly in my presence, but he kept going on and on about it (including talking about how awful the pizza place is, which I know to be a lie) and once again, all the plans changed because he whined.

3) While each one annoyed me a bit at the time, in hindsight, dinner without the kids meant my son napped the entire time, which was actually nice. My in-laws being late meant more time to goof off and be “normal,” which was also stress-relieving. C really annoyed me at the time, but the dinner still tasted great and got rave reviews. I’m going to go with D, because the time spent at my house before hand and most of the time spent in the museum consisted of my nephew talking about cards from his collectible card game that almost drove me to physical violence, aimed at his father for not telling him to change the damn subject.  

4) I apologize. This is also a trick question. All of these answers are right.

Happy holidays. Wow, this was a great four day weekend off of work. Oh wait, I still have all that work to finish. Wow…I can’t wait until Christmas.

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What I’m thankful for

I know it’s a complete cliche, but I feel the need to partake in one of my family’s many Thanksgiving traditions. Since I will not be spending the holidays with my family and am giving up my usual mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce in a can and Brown N’ Serve rolls in order to prepare the meal my husband always associates with Thanksgiving, I thought I’d take this moment to do something my family always did which his doesn’t really seem to do: give thanks.

Don’t get me wrong, they are always thankful for the gathering of family and the admitedly delicious food on the table, but when I was growing up, before we were ever allowed to eat a bite of turkey (or stuffing, my personal favorite), we each had to go around the table and tell what we were thankful for. While we were waiting for our meal to arrive each Thanksgiving, I would ponder what I wanted to give thanks for. I wanted to make sure my list was sincere enough to make my mom proud, but also short enough so I could start cramming rolls into my mouth. I know it kind of goes against the whole point of the list, but I was a kid and I was mostly thankful for the stuffing, which I usually only got once a year unless it was on a restaurant buffet.

My mother was not much of a cook when I was a kid. Most of our Thanksgivings were spent at large church gatherings where every family brought one item to share with their assigned table (my mom usually signed us up for rolls or stuffing fresh from the box) or eating out at Sizzler or if the child support check arrived at just the right time, a fancy buffet with a table full of desserts to pick from. I always got pumpkin pie. Well, it was always one of my desserts.

My wierd childhood aside, while my son is sleeping, my husband is mesmerized by the TV and my in-laws are still visiting with the rest of the family, here’s my list. Dinner isn’t waiting on me to finish it, so it will be just the right mix of sincerity and length to hopefully cover everything I am greatful for this year.

-My father still being here, despite the nasty scare he gave us all. He is my rock and always has been, so I’m so happy I have more time with him.

-My son, who has truly taught me what love is all about. He is the most amazing person I know and no matter how bad my day is or how stressed out I feel, a smile from him and everything else melts away.

-My husband, who can drive me absolutely crazy and then make me laugh so hard I cry in the span of two minutes. Even though we squabble sometimes, I can’t imagine sharing my life with anyone else.

-The best friends I could ever ask for. They laugh with me (and at me). They cry with me too. They challenge me in ways I sometimes wish they wouldn’t, but they have helped make me who I am today. I don’t know where I’d be without them.

-My family, who can be thoroughly embarrasing at times, who can fight and argue and just want to throttle each other, but when things get rough and one of us are in trouble, drop everything to come together and support each other. Heck, they’ll be raking my dad’s leaves and helping him create a horrible winter wonderland of giant blow up penguins that will no doubt mortify me when I go to visit, but at least they are there for him.

-My job. While the source of most of my stress, it also offers me great co-workers who help me deal with said stress and also keep me laughing every day at lunch. Even my kids aren’t that bad. Heck, every now and then they even do crazy things like send me emails or drop by to see me after they’ve graduated and tell me just how much I’ve meant to them.

-My house, which may not seem like much to a lot of people, but is one of the first real homes I’ve had in my life (we were always apartment people growing up). I love it, creepy murder hallway basement and all.

-My health. Yeah, I know it’s just as trite as the list, but a collegue just lost their 30 year old son, so I’m thinking being healthy, happy and fairly well-adjusted should be pretty high on the list.

-Chocolate. I know this may be like praying for selfish things (which I was always chastised for), but I’m just happy the stuff exists. What stress my husband and friends can’t help me to overcome, frozen turtle cookie dough, a Godiva truffle or even just a good ol’ Heath bar can always help me get over.

-The TV shows Lost, The Office, My Name is Earl, Scrubs and Bones which help me to remember people can write good TV all have to be reality shows and crappy teenage dramas about overpriveledged kids who either don’t exist or shouldn’t. I’m glad some entertainment out there is actually entertainment.

I have more I am thankful for, but my in-laws are back, so my fun is over.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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T-minus 20 hours until they arrive

I would love to write a very long blog either about the reality check some of my students got today, the improving health (and returning smart assedness) of my father or even raving about my genius of a son who has learned to crawl, eat tiny bits of puffed snack treats and pull himself up from his belly to standing all within the space of about a week and a half, but my in-laws descend upon us in less than 24 hours and my house is a wreck. Not the “oh my gosh there might be mold growing on that plate” or “oh lord, what is that smell” sort of wreck, but the “wow, exactly how long has that pile of books and catalogs been sitting there” sort of way.

To me this is completely liveable and in fact, I prefer it to complete order and chaos (after all, who knows when a Godiva catalog or old issue of Parents magazine might be exactly what you need), but my mother-in-law’s house is always immaculate. And while she has a cleaning lady who comes in to help her keep it that way, I don’t want my house being compared (either in that silently judgy sort of way or in the jovial, “hey I’m not really joking way) to my sister-in-law’s house, which always looks like a tornado sucked everything off the shelves and set it back down in the same general area, but not even remotely where it belongs. That’s called having three small children, I realize, but I only have a baby, so the excuse just isn’t there.

With my dad having a kidney removed, finding out he has cancer, making two trips to visit him and the massive amounts of grading I’ve had to do because of the worry and visits, my house has been sorely neglected. I didn’t do one speck of cleaning all last week because I was busting my ass to get work graded so I could send midterm reports home on Friday. And while I got most of that done, I still have quite the pile of grading to do (from the end of last week) and I have to make this place at least a little presentable.

I am dreading this week.

For the record, I like my in-laws, I really do. However, since my father-in-law is retired and my mother-in-law works from home in her own business, they have a lot of free time on their hands. This means they have time to drive here to spend Thanksgiving with us. In an endeavor to beat the holiday traffic, they arrive tomorrow evening just in time for dinner and don’t leave until Monday morning after I take off for work. While this is very smart on their part, this means six days with my in-laws. And even the nicest house guests can drive you crazy after about four.

It’s not their actual being here I mind. They are intelligent, interesting people. It’s the constant worry and upkeep of cooking, cleaning and entertaining two extra people. I am content most nights to throw together a simple dinner of onion soup burgers or frozen casserole from the deep freeze. With my in-laws here, I have to put together not only a thought out dinner with multiple sides, but also breakfasts and lunches, meals which usually come in boxes for us during the week days. I’m also completely content to leave all washing and cleaning to the weekends or in the case of clutter, five minutes before company shows), but with them here, I’ll have twice as much to clean and since my mother-in-law runs the dishwasher after just about every meal in her house, I have to not only keep up on the cleaning, but also keep her from over cleaning my house. As for the entertaining, this is not quite as hard in the evenings as they like to watch movies, but their hearing isn’t always great and they want to watch movies at volumes that easily wake the baby. Not to mention that during the day we are happy to spend time snuggled on the couch watching TV (something my in-laws don’t do), or one of us reading and the other playing on the computer. We don’t have to be talking and doing something at every moment. With the in-laws here, constant activity is a must.

After two straight weekends of time with my family and what will end up being almost an entire week with my husband’s family, I need a holiday of my own. I wonder how mad everyone will get if I just refuse to travel anywhere for the next month or so. Since it’s my son’s first Christmas, I think I might actually be drug from my bed, forcibly strapped into a car and driven to my dad’s. I need a vacation from my vacations.

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A new word of the day

This last week has been really stressful for everyone I love. When we heard the word cancer after my dad’s surgery, we all lost it. We had to get it back together pretty quickly though, because he was being escorted up to his room. Finally, after hours of waiting, we got to see him. He looked surprisingly good for a man just coming out of a three hour surgery to remove his kidney and a tumor the size of a football. I’m not sure he actually remembers us being there. They put him on a morphine button with no limit and he pushed away. He drifted in and out as my step-mom and I kept a vigil by his side. He had a roommate so we were in pretty cramped quarters. Luckily his roommie seemed friendly enough. We did have to hear all about his intestinal difficulties, but that was only because the doctor came in to talk to him.

We left late that evening exhausted, knowing we should eat, but neither of us really wanting to.

The next morning we headed back to the hospital. The doctor was supposed to talk to my dad about his condition that morning, but apparently he is a slow surgeon, because by the time we arrived my dad still hadn’t seen him. My dad kept asking us what the doctor had to say. We couldn’t bring ourselves to tell him. We didn’t have any answers other than the dreaded C word, and figured it was best to wait until the doctor could give him the whole story. Why worry him with our tiny bit of information, especially if we were wrong?

Waiting for the doctor was excruciating. My poor son quickly got bored of being held. I took him to the waiting room and he had a blast crawling all over the no doubt filthy floor. At that point I didn’t care though. Four children who had been visiting their sick great grandmother desended upon us. The oldest couldn’t have been more than 8 and the youngest were both 2. They were transfixed by my son. I could tell just how bored they were when they started fighting over his stuffed dog. Sure, it talks, but I had trouble believing a puppy repeating “yellow foot” and other colored parts of his body was really that fascinating to them all. I couldn’t believe their parents brought them to the hospital and let them wander unsupervised into the waiting room with nothing to do. I had to practically fight them to get the toy back when I realized their tight circle around my son and petting of his head was really upsetting him. He’s usually a people person but they just got way too close.

We went back in the room and waited some more. My dad was still on the morphine drip so he would talk to us for a few minutes, then fall asleep. He would try rejoining the conversation he’d dozed during, which I have to admit lightened the mood a little. He also started right off complaining about the “bastard” of a roommate he had. The complaining was a good sign. Apparently the guy spent the entire night telling the nurse he was fine, and then calling her back in 10 minutes later with a complaint. To add insult to injury, he tried to convert my dad at 4:30 am. When his wife and family members gathered in the room at 5 am to see him, my dad just about lost his mind. Had he not been strapped to his bed by lots of tubing and a catheter, I think he might have throttled the man. As it was, he told the nurses if the guy came back from surgery, they’d better find one of them a new room. Luckily the guy got transferred.

It was getting dark and I had to leave in order to get my son home for bed. The doctor still hadn’t been in to talk to any of us. My step-mom looked tired. I knew she needed a break. My uncle took over for us and we headed back to her house. I hated leaving, not knowing what was going on, but I also knew the hospital wasn’t the best place for my son. We drove home. My sweet boy fell asleep in the back seat, leaving me time to cry quietly. I tried my best not to cry in front of him. He doesn’t understand when I do and joins up in sympathy. Or because it’s fun to make noises.

On Saturday I called my dad to make sure he was ok. More complaining about pain and nurses, but aside from that he was fine. I needed to get out and try to destress a little, so I met up with my best friend for lunch and horribly bad for us giant cookies and chai. She listened as my sob story unfolded, and somehow managed to make me feel better and actually laugh a few times.

My phone rang. Usually I’d ignore it, but with all the drama, I grabbed it. My husband was on the other end. He said, “Guess what the word of the day is?” I had no idea what he was talking about. Before I could even attempt an answer, he said, “benign.”

My words caught in my throat. In the middle of the lunch rush at our favorite coffee shop, I just started crying. I couldn’t believe it. I mumbled goodbye, hung up and immediately dialed my dad. The words wouldn’t come. I couldn’t ask him if it was true. I was afraid my husband had misunderstood. I asked my father how he was. He spent a good five minutes rambling on about his day. He told me he got to use the actual bathroom, that he walked down the hall, that eating made him dizzy, that his annoying roommate was gone. He told me about the nurses and who’d been in to see him. I sat silently, worrying my husband had been mistaken. Finally  he said, “oh, and I don’t have cancer.” I was so happy to hear it, I instantly forgave him for his smart ass delivery of the news. After all, he was back to his old self. My healthy father with two kidneys would have given me the news that way. My sick, worried father of two days ago would not have been so jovial.

Although the delivery annoyed me to no end, all that mattered was the message. It’s benign. He still has a long road to recovery, but who cares? Recovery takes time and now I know we have it. I want to cry just sitting here thinking about it. But this time they are the good tears. Benign might just be my newest favorite word.

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The word of the day: CANCER

My dad had surgery on Thursday morning and it was terrifying.

As soon as the bell rang on Wednesday afternoon, I jumped in my car and sped off to get my son. We headed straight to my dad’s house. The trip from the babysitter’s took about three hours, which could have been a nightmare had my precious little angel not decided to sleep for nearly two hours of it. The rest of the time he talked to himself and made the occasional grunt. Moments after we walked in the door I had to plunk him in a high chair, feed him, bathe him and put him to bed. The change in routine left him unhappy and bawling for a good twenty five minutes after I put him in bed. Which in turn rattled my already stretched nerves. The night passed quickly though.

The next morning we were all up early in anticipation (ok, my son was just up early because of the time change). We got to the hospital at 8:30. My dad had to check in and I went to sit with him while he answered questions. I could tell he was nervous. He didn’t say much, which is a rarity. When he did talk he was trying to tell his usual smart ass jokes, but they didn’t quite have their usual edge. Minutes later they took him back to prep him for surgery. My step-mom, two aunts, my son and I all sat waiting.

After about 20 minutes my step-mom went to look for him. I’m not really sure she was supposed to, but I also don’t think she cared. She came back, tears filling her eyes. I hadn’t seen her that upset in quite some time and I didn’t know how to take it. She told me to go back. I hugged my son a bit tighter and then handed him off to my aunt.

When I sat down next to my dad, I noticed just how shaken he was. He took my hand. He couldn’t quite look me in the eye as he whispered, “they have to take the whole kidney.” I was not prepared for this. It honestly never dawned on me that he’d lose his kidney. I thought the doc would go in, snip out the tumor and my dad would be sore and bitching within the hour. Apparently my dad didn’t realize losing a kidney was an option either.

The tumor, it turned out, was bigger than he’d led us to believe. I’m not sure if the doc couldn’t see it all, if my dad wasn’t listening clearly or if my dad tried to spare us some of the details in order to keep us from worrying too much. I have a suspicious it was the latter. Not that it mattered. The tumor was not the orange sized mass I expected, but nearly twice as big as my son’s head. Or at least that’s what the doctor told us when the operation was finished. I suddenly understood why my step-mom’s face was so tear-stained. As much as we’d all been hoping this was nothing, suddenly the word tumor seemed even more nefarious.

No one could get a clear idea of just how long the surgery would be. My step-mom said at least an hour. An hour passed. We listened to our stomachs grumble a bit. None of us had been in the mood for breakfast. We watched my son roll about on the many blankets we’d covered the waiting room floor with. We stared in horror as some talk show teaser tauted an eight year old girl who weighed over 300 lbs. Another hour passed.

When the clock swept down past noon, I started getting jittery. I think we were all on edge. We tried keeping the conversation light, but every time the doors leading to the OR opened, all of our heads swiveled. Finally a nurse came out and told us things were fine but that the surgery was taking longer than expected. We were able to breathe a little easier. I noticed my step-mom was looking very pale (she has all sorts of health problems including diabetes and hadn’t eaten that day at all). I once again handed my son to my aunt and headed to the cafeteria. It was hard to find something to eat as nothing looked at all appealing. My stomach was still doing flip flops, but I knew not eating wasn’t really helping. In the end some chicken salad and a diet Coke topped my list as I grabbed a turkey sandwich, some chips and a Pepsi for my step-mom.

By hour three the food had been eaten and we were the only ones left in the waiting area. It was unnerving. We spent less time talking and more time just looking at our hands or when he did something particularly cute, my son. Once again he was an angel. He didn’t cry or fuss. He just calmly passed from hand to hand or rolled on the floor with delight.  It was odd to look down and see him completely happy. He had no idea I was biting back tears with almost every breathe. If it wasn’t for him, I’m not sure how I would have held up.

My doctor finally came out of the OR to talk to us. The surgery went well. He got everything he could see and although my dad would have a slow healing process, he felt very positive about everything. However, it was at that moment he said the word we’d all been dreading: CANCER.

In that second I had the wind knocked out of me. My head was underwater and everything was happening in slow motion. CANCER. My step-mom let out a small gasp and asked if he was sure. One look at the tumor left him no doubts. We wouldn’t know exactly what type and how serious it was until the biopsy report came back, which the doctor told us probably wouldn’t be until sometime this week.

We collected our things so we could head to my dad’s room. I ducked outside to call my husband. I stopped even trying to fight back the tears as I told him the news. Being the sweet man he is, he wanted to jump in his car and head straight to the hospital. I told him to stay put. I was planning to stay another night, but all his driving up to my dad’s would do was make both of us exhausted. I needed him well-rested so he could take care of our son when I got home the next evening.

I was only planning to spend one night at my dad’s. I brought an extra outfit for my son and a little extra food, but nothing extra for myself. I’d left lesson plans at school just in case I couldn’t get back for some reason, but I had no intention of actually using them. I was so sure that despite all my worry and upset that my dad would be fine. I had not planned for such a potentially devastating result. I believed that my strong daddy would pull through and this would be no more serious than the aches and pains he gets after fighting a fire. For the first time I realized I might actually lose my father. I started crying all over again.

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Not a real post

This is not a real post persay…I’m in far too foul a mood for that. I just want to know how in the hell anyone found my blog by typing in the words “Tom Brady Shower Scene.” Seriously, isn’t he like a football player or something? Why in the world would my blog come up in relation to football, let alone a shower scene with a football player?

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