We Came, They Conquered, We Farkled.

ONE…

Remember Pam?  She’s my friend who gives everyone else 6 muffins each for Christmas, but she gives me twelve.  She loves me.

For the past 40 days, she’s been mailing me one birthday card a day.  The fortieth one arrived today.  I set up each of the 40 cards one at a time and took their picture, one at a time.  Forty pictures.  My plan was to oh-so-cleverly create some sort of collage or stop action thing as each card was added.  That would take about, what twenty minutes?

Hahahaha!  Hang on while I catch my breath from laughing so hard.  Twenty minutes!

Yeah.  As you can see, that didn’t happen today.  I ran out of time.

Why did I run out of time?  Because I have a real live New Year’s Eve party to go to in a few minutes.

OooOOOooo!!

Yes, dear friends, we have been invited to a real live New Year’s Eve party.

I can count on one hand the number of New Year’s Eve parties I’ve ever been to in my life.  We are way too nerdy to have been invited to cool New Year’s Eve parties.

But this year, somehow or other we managed to get on the guest list for a New Year’s Eve party with some people we barely know.  These new friends found out how much we love Sci-Fi and we were in.  Finally!  Our geekiness was our ticket into a party, instead of getting us kicked out of a party.

We’ll be heading out to the party soon.  All 900 children will be there. I hope we play some games and that everyone makes it until midnight.

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……We roused long enough to play some Farkle and for me to compose The Blog before midnight:

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———————

A Last Word:

I did it.

I took a picture every single day and wrote a little story about it every single day.

For a year.

And this was a leap year, too, which means 366 days.  366 blogs!

Darling Husband put my January posts into a PDF.  It  was 100 pages long.  100 pages times 12 is 1200 pages this year.

That’s a lot of writing!

And basically that means…I need a break.

Actually, that’s not true.  I don’t need a break.  My poor supportive, indulgent family needs a little break.

Don’t expect to see much, if anything, for a good 2 weeks.  I’ll be spending my evenings cleaning out closets and spending time with the family.  (Awww.)

I even returned all my library books today so I won’t be tempted to sit around reading all day:

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Now, for the sappy thank yous:

Thank you to Michael for giving me the idea of The Blog.

Thank you to my friends who provided me with such, er, inspirational (snicker) subject material, whether they meant to or not.

Thank you Kris, for this picture.

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And a big thank you to Darling Husband, Boy10 and Boy7 who indulged me in my non-stop picture taking and composing.

…AND DONE.

How To Write A Blog and A Peeping Tom

TWO

After writing 368 blogs so far this year, here are 10 tips on How to Write a Blog:

1. Take leave of all of your senses.

2.  Come up with a point to your blog.  Mine is taking a picture a day.  Yours could be writing about what your dog did that day.

Actually, I follow a woman’s blog who does just that: she writes about her dog every day and she is hilariousClick here to read her blog. 

3. It’s ok to write about your life, but think of the most intimidating person you know and imagine that they read your blog.  Don’t write anything that would get you fired if your boss read it.

4.  Don’t use the blog to vent.  No one else wants to read that.

Unless I’m venting.  Then it’s ok.

5.  If you realize you don’t like writing, stop.  There’s no shame in quitting.

Wimp.

6.  Write what you would want to read.  If you’ve written something boring, change it up.  My favorite technique is exaggeration.

Here’s an example:

What I wrote initially:

BEGIN ORIGINAL WRITING

Today we read about Arnold Schwarzenegger in our civics book.  The book explained that he could never be president because the president must be born as an American citizen.

Boy10 didn’t know who Arnold Schwarzenegger was, so he didn’t understand the reference.  I was surprised that Boy10 didn’t know who Arnold is, since I like Arnold so much.

END ORIGINAL WRITING

Booring!

So I fixed it:

BEGIN EDITED VERSION

Boy10 interrupted me to say, “Who is Arnold Shwaznerger?”

!!!!!

Are you kidding me?  Who is Arnold Shwaznerger??  My precious little boy couldn’t even say the name.  Oh, how I have failed as a parent!  I burst into tears right on the spot.

“Son!  Is this true?  You seriously don’t know who Arnold Schwarzenegger is?”

“Nnnnooo…”

“He’s Conan the Barbarian.”

“Huh?  Who’s that?”

“You don’t know who Conan…”  I couldn’t even finish the sentence.

END EDITED VERSION

See how that works?  Exaggeration is your friend.

7.  Be very careful when writing about other people.  Since I write a humorous blog, my friends know that if they make an appearance in the blog, there will be humor involved.  Some people are ok with gentle teasing and some people are NOT.  Humorous or not, when you write about someone else, be respectful.  There’s a line you just don’t cross.  Know where it is.

Or else make up fake names like “Gerhot” or “Squat” so no one knows who you’re writing about.

8.  Just because you spent the time to write something, doesn’t mean you have to post it.  If it’s bad, delete it and start over.  I personally, never follow this rule.

9.  Some people will disagree with what you write.  They will probably judge you.  Be prepared to handle that.  How do I handle it?  Curled up sobbing in a corner eating Milk Duds.

10.  No, of course I couldn’t come up with ten.  

————–

Picture of the Day:

We went to Casa Rica today with Janet and Gerhot for our free birthday entrees.  Here’s my dinner:

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Here’s Gerhot taking pictures of dinner:

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Last time we were at Casa Rica, Gerhot told us of when he worked at a clothing store.  It was a small store owned by a single owner.  Gerhot was hired to do pretty much everything: change the light bulbs, lift heavy boxes, etc.  He noticed that if you stood on the balcony right outside the office door, there was a gap in the slats to the ceiling of the women’s dressing rooms.  From just the right angle, you could see into the dressing rooms.

Gerhot was suspicious.  So, he fixed the gap and then told the owner, “I fixed the slats for you.”

The 80-year old owner gave a distressed, “Oh, you did?  Oh.  Well.  Ok.  Thanks.”

Good going, Gerhot, defending women’s rights.

“How My Birthday Party was Almost Ruined” or “It was a dark and stormy morning. A shot rang out.”

THREE

This morning, at 6 a.m. I awoke to sick children.  Apparently, they’d been puking all night long.  Nooooooo!  No, no, no, no, no, no!  Noooooo!

What’s that?  You think I’m overreacting?  That’s because you don’t know.  You just don’t know.  So I’ll explain.  Read this excerpt from The Blog dated March 31st:

BEGIN EXCERPT

Just yesterday I was wondering, “Hmmm.  I wonder what I should do for my 40th birthday?”  And after today, I know.

Laser tag party. 

Laser tag party!  

I played laser tag for the first time today.  I took my sons to a kid’s birthday party today.  Anyone who wanted to pay extra could play laser tag.  And yes, of course I wanted to play laser tag, are you kidding?!

I am so glad that I have boys and I am so glad that they’re not babies anymore.  Here’s why:

Baby/toddler:  Mommy, take me to the park so I can get sand in my eyes and cry and eat a bug and you can push me on the swing in the boiling sun for half an hour, then I’ll get a runny nose and smear it on your shoulder while I scream in your ear because I don’t want to leave and then I’ll pee in my car seat on the way home.

Seven/Nine year old:  Mom, take us out to laser tag where you can skulk around with us shooting everything that moves and pretend you’re G.I. Joe for half an hour, but without the real guns and bullets and death and drill sergeants.

Sweating from pushing a kid on a swing: pure misery.

Sweating from skulking around shooing a bunch of kids with a blaster: pure delight.

Who knew that you could get so sweaty just skulking around?

I’m not sure who to invite to my 40th Birthday Laser Tag party.  Will any of my friends even want to come?   I may end up having to invite a bunch of ten year olds to come play with me on my special day. Let me know if you are interested and I’ll get an invitation out to you.  It’s in December, so you have time to get in shape and practice your aim.

END EXCERPT

People, I did it.  For my 40th birthday, I planned a Laser Tag Party.  It was scheduled to start today at 9:00 in the morning.  I invited all of my friends and as of yesterday evening 75 of them said they were coming.

Now, let’s start over:

This morning, at 6 a.m. I awoke to sick children.  Apparently, they’d been puking all night long.  Nooooooo!  No, no, no, no, no, no!  Noooooo!

And, to make matters worse, it was snowing ice crystals.  Noooooooo!

The laser tag party, with 75 guests, was scheduled to begin in a mere three hours!!  And the kids were droopy, begging for water, puking with fevers and the weather was bad.

Fortunately, Mom was willing to sit at home with the boys while they puked.  Oh, that woman is a saint.  And fortunately, the kids didn’t begrudge us going to the party.  What sweetie-pies they are.  I love them dearly.

Now, details:

First of all, as I wrote on March 31st, I wasn’t even sure anyone would be interested.  I brought it up at Soup Day, “Should I have a laser tag party for my birthday?”

I was positive that Barbetta would say no.  She’s my most sensible friend.  I was sure she’d talk me down.  But she said, totally off the cuff, “Sure, why not?” I was astounded!

But then it turned out that she thought I meant a laser tag birthday party for Boy10.  She said, “Wait, you mean a laser tag party for the adults?!?” And I thought, “Ok, here’s where she talks me down.” But instead she went on to say, “Oh, I am SO in! Do it!”

And there, my friends, was the green light.  If Rob and Jo-Ann, Kevin or Scott, or Michael and Kim say, “Sure have a laser tag party,” that doesn’t mean anything.   I mean, Rob and Jo-Ann are busy planning their bouncy-house party as we speak.  (Right, guys?  Because I am SO in. Do it!)  Michael and Kim are encouragers, so they’ll tell you to go for anything that’s not illegal, and Kevin and Scott are just goofy.

But for Barbetta to say have a laser tag party?  That means something.  That means the laser tag party is a go.

Highlights of the party:

1.  Cake.  Today is actually Darling Husbands 45th birthday.  My 40th birthday is tomorrow.  So Traci made two cakes.  She told me, “You cannot look at your cakes until you’re at the party and all the guests are there.”

I followed her instructions and waited to reveal the cakes until everyone was assembled.  There aren’t enough words to describe how much I adore these cakes.  Traci even picked out our favorite flavors without me having to tell her (carrot cake and red velvet).  I love my friends so much.

I got pictures of the cakes, but honestly, I was very distracted by all the dying giraffes (more on that later), so the pictures don’t do the cakes justice.

Traci managed to find the least flattering pictures of Darling Husband and me and turned me into Princess Leia….

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And Darling Husband into an Ewok….

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Hey, if you’re going to celebrate your 40th and 45th birthdays with a laser tag party, then you get Star Wars cakes.

2.  Singing.  Do you remember what I wrote on December 23rd?  Here’s the excerpt:

BEGIN EXCERPT:

After Christmas dinner, we headed to SIL and BIL’s house.  Somewhere in the festivities, Aunt Shirley in Ohio called, as she always does on holidays, and we all sang to her on the phone.

You do not ever want our family to sing to you.  We all pick a song (this time it was We Wish You a Merry Christmas) and then everyone chooses their own tune to sing it to.  I chose Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  Then, on the count of three, everyone sings the song to the tune of their choice.

It’s very disturbing.

END EXCERPT

When it was time to sing Happy Birthday, Dad was ready.  I don’t know if everyone knew what to do because they read The Blog, or if it was because of his amazing conducting skills, but without a word, he had the entire group singing Happy Birthday to whatever tune they felt like using.

Dad lifted his arms, started it off by warbling a lengthy, “Haaaaaa…” and everyone started droning along.  It had to have been the best worst rendition of “Happy Birthday” ever sung.  Later when I talked to Darling Husband about it, he said, “What?!  They were singing?  It sounded like…noise.”

And that pretty much describes it: noise.  They stood there Making Noise.  I’m not sure what sound dying giraffes make, but if there were a herd of dying giraffes all making dying giraffe noises, it would have sounded like my friends singing Happy Birthday.  Good job, guys!  I’m proud of you and you made my father-in-law very happy.

3.  Reactions.  The people who had played laser tag before enjoyed it as much as ever.  They knew what to expect and once the games started they were off following their own little strategies they’ve worked out in the past.

I was happy that they were happy, but I had the most fun watching the reactions of the first timers.   They basically had the same reaction that I had: they were astonished by how much they loved it.  Barbetta stopped me in the middle of the pitch dark laser tag arena with the music blaring to say, “I LOVE THIS!!!!!”  Jo-Ann laughed the entire time like a maniac in a Tarantino movie while she mowed everyone down.  Rob was delighted by the cardio workout.  I think he might forgo the gym membership and sign up for three sessions a week of laser tag.

Even Janet and Gerhard played.  I was a little surprised when they said they wanted to play, being that they’re my peace-loving hippie friends.  Blasting everyone with lasers doesn’t quite fit my image of them, but I am so pleased they enjoyed themselves.

——-

In the end, I think that everyone had a good time.  They all seemed amused at attending a 40th birthday laser tag party in the first place, and then either fell in love with laser tag for the first time or they fell in love with it all over again.

Oh!  And even though I wrote on the invitations, “No gifts: stalking and shooting our friends is gift enough,” we got gifts!

Chinese takeout salt and pepper shakers:

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Picture frame magnet:

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Um…a box of Christmas cards.  Maybe as a hint?  I haven’t sent out Christmas cards since Boy10 was born.

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OoOOooh!  They aren’t Christmas cards.  They’re gift cards packaged in the Christmas card box:

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And more gift cards:

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Star Trek and Star Wars greeting cards.  Gotta have the Star Trek and Star Wars cards:

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A travel notepad.

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And a Tardis ornament:

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Here was the setup for the pictures, if you were wondering:

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The Serial Heckler, Unimpressed Horses, Frantic Dogs, and Traci Cake

FOUR

Hey!  Remember yesterday how I told you about the man who stopped me in Walmart to tell me a joke?  Did you read the comments people left?  Go back and read them.  Apparently two other women I know have had this clown tell them mildly insulting jokes in the parking lot at Kohls and a local grocery store.  And a third friend responded on Facebook that her mother thinks she knows who this Roving Heckler is.

So, women of Pennsylvania—be prepared.  Next time I see him I’m going to point my finger at him and say, “No!  Bad dog!”  Maybe I’ll keep a rolled up newspaper nearby to bop him on the nose with.

—————-

Speaking of dogs, I felt like Balto today.  You know—Balto?  The dog that pulled the dog sled through Alaska to get the medicine to the dying children?  The Iditarod is supposed to follow the trail he took.  Today it did not snow, but there was snow on the ground while I delivered some medicine to a sick friend.  On the way back from her house, I saw some pretty horses in the snow.

I got a picture of this one, but the horse was obviously not impressed by me.  As you can see, it stuck out its tongue.  Cheeky!

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There was a dog on the horse farm that took umbrage to my picture taking and barked its fool head off at me, so I took its picture, too.

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The rest of the day was spent in preparation for Darling Husband and my birthday party tomorrow.  Tomorrow he turns 45 and on Sunday I turn…gulp…40.  (Gak!)

Nephew13 helped me set up the stuff for the party.  Part of setting up involved sneaking into Traci’s house to get the birthday cakes she made.  She wasn’t home and I had to obtain a key and break in.

I have no idea what the birthday cakes look like.  She won’t tell me.  I’ve been instructed not to open their boxes until it’s time to serve them.

Nephew13 had no such instructions so he peeked. From his expression, they must be awesome!  As if they’d be anything less. Thank you, Traci.

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Fruits in the Fruit Aisle and “Love Stinks,” said Eponine

FIVE

Walmart has some odd ducks in there.

I was at Walmart today studying the canned fruit, which is right near an end cap. Out of the blue, a man who was walking down the main aisle stopped where I was reading the labels and said, “Excuse me.”

He was probably in his mid 50’s, about 6 feet tall.  Grey hair.  Glasses.  Clean.  Good teeth.  There was nothing about him that got my Spidey-senses tingling.

Walmart Man:  Did you hear the sad news on tv this morning?

Me:  Uumm…

WM:  Or maybe in the paper?

Me:  ?

WM:  It turns out that Santa Claus’ wife is a cripple.  They announced it today.

Me:  (please-go-away expression masked as a pained expression)

WM:  That’s why, whenever you see Santa, he’s got that old bag on his back.

And he burst into laughter and maybe even slapped his thigh, I’m not sure.  Then he wandered away to the next aisle, presumably to spread his good cheer on another unwilling victim.

How bizarre is that?  How often does a complete stranger stop you at the end of the canned fruit aisle to tell you a random joke, laugh, and then melt away into the store?  Maybe there’s more than canned fruit in the fruit aisle at Walmart.

————–

Barbetta asked me today, “I hear you weren’t impressed by Les Miserables.  Didn’t like it?”

No, no, no!  It’s not that.  I really have no words for it.  I liked it as much as one can like something that’s, well, miserable.  There were such powerful themes of sacrificial love in the story that even though it was ugly, it was beautiful.  But it was still ugly.

Like I said yesterday, the word that comes to mind is powerful.  Kris provided another word for me: moving.  Yes.  Moving works as well.  I cannot stop thinking about it.  All day long, it keeps replaying in my mind.  Sort of like having post traumatic stress disorder.

I was moved and it was powerful but I do wish there had been just a little bit of comic relief.  And no, I didn’t find the innkeepers funny at all.  I found them to be disturbing to say the least.  Sneaky, manipulative people frighten me.

And maybe if instead of singing that haunting and heart-wrenching song of unrequited love, On My Own, if Eponine had sung Love Stinks, that might have also provided some welcome relief to the intensity.  On My Own and Love Stinks are virtually the same song, just at a different vocabulary level.  (Oh, close enough–just go with it.)  If you click on each link, you’ll see that both songs start with someone wandering around in a dirty alleyway.  I told you they were the same!

————-

Picture of the Day.
I forgot to take a picture of the day so I had to resort to a self-portrait.

Figured I may as well practice something artsy while I took this picture of myself, so I played with light and shadow and then turned everything brownish in editing.  I like to turn my eyes brown.  And since I’m too wimpy to wear contacts, I’ll have to be content with brown eyes in pictures.

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More Snot, More Secrets I Cannot Reveal, and Something About Sewers.

SIX

Remember that old song from Sesame Street:  One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong?

Went to Lu’s Hibachi Buffet tonight with the girls.

And…uh…Eric.

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Then went to see Les Miserables with the girls…

…and Eric.

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I don’t know whether or not I liked the movie.  I mean, you may not know this if you didn’t take French in high school, like I did, but in English the title is “The Miserable”.  The Miserable?!  If I’d have known that’s what Les Miserables meant, I might not have gone!

How can anyone say, “Oh, yes, I loved a movie where every character slogged through years of pure misery dressed in dirty rags with bare feet in the winter, and almost all the characters (spoiler) died. It was great!”

There was lots of sweat and tears and snot and blood. I wish I could find a word besides “like” to describe how I felt about the movie.  I’m not sure I “liked” it, but I something’d it.  I’m just not sure what that something is yet.  Maybe I’ll have it figured out by tomorrow.  I suppose I can say that it was powerful, but beyond that, I’m at a loss for words.  (Imagine that!)

The movie was pretty long.  I wish they’d bring back intermission for long movies.  Gone with the Wind had an intermission.  I missed an entire scene in The Hobbit halfway through, because I had to go.  The Hobbit needed an intermission and so does The Miserable.  My bum was getting tired from sitting still for so long.  I wished I could get up and iron some clothes.

Look at this from Wikipedia about The Miserable:

“The novel as a whole is quite lengthy by modern standards, exceeding fourteen hundred pages in unabridged English-language editions, and 1900 pages in French. It is considered one of the longest novels ever written.

“Hugo (the author) interrupts the narrative with lengthy digressions on religion, politics, and society, including discussions of cloistered religious orders, the construction of the Paris sewers, argot, the street urchins of Paris, and the Battle of Waterloo.”

I am so glad that the movie didn’t interrupt the narrative with lengthy digressions about sewers.  ‘Course, the Battle of Waterloo might have added some interesting action sequences to the film.

On the drive home, Stacey and her sister Sarah started telling bizarre stories from their childhood.  I stayed really, really quiet hoping they wouldn’t notice me while I took mental notes.  But after a few stories, Brandi finally burst in, “Stop!  Just stopJackie writes a blog.  You do not want everyone knowing these stories!”  They made me vow that everything said in the van, stays in the van.

Good going, Brandi, ruining all my fun.  If I hadn’t caved and vowed not to tell their stories, tonight’s blog would have been awesome.   So, guys, if you don’t like the blog tonight—it’s all Brandi’s fault.

Dishrags for Christmas, Purple water, and Roast Beast

SEVEN

Marriages can be difficult near the holidays.

For example, Darling Husband’s family opens their Christmas gifts with a big black trashbag at their side.  As the paper is removed from the gift, it immediately goes into the bag.

My family, on the other hand, goes into a frenzy of paper-ripping and throws the paper around the room, willy-nilly.

We’ve learned to compromise.  Last year, we celebrated Darling Husband’s way.  This year was my way:

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Along with a very lovely sweater that I’m wearing right now and will probably wear every day for the next month because I love it so much (hey, I’ll change the shirt under it), my mother bought me some miniature gardening tools.  I’m sure she cackled while she wrapped them.  These miniature gardening tools are a pretty accurate representation of the amount of gardening I do.

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Here is Boy7 putting together his new Ninjago Lego set.

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Here is Boy10 putting together his new Spiderman Lego set.

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And here is Man44 putting together his new Hobbit Lego set.  No, it’s not a set for the children.  It’s for Man44.

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Mom, Dad, Darling Husband, Boy7, Boy10 and I all piled into the car to head to Li’s Buffet where we would meet Gerhard, Janet and Gerhard’s mother.  And oh, the snow photo opportunities that I had to pass by!  Ugh!  Dreadful reservations.  If only we hadn’t made reservations, I could have pulled the car over and taken pictures.  The family joined in a prayer of thanks for reservations.

Next time it snows, I have to get the obligatory “cannon in the snow” shot at Gettysburg.  Every photography enthusiast who lives within a ten mile radius of Gettysburg must take the “cannon in the snow” shot.  If you don’t, the Photography Police will confiscate your lens.  The only way you can get out of taking the “cannon in the snow” shot is if you can produce a “monument in the snow” shot upon request.

But while everyone else was piling in the car, I did get this picture of the tree in my front yard.  I have no idea why the two water drops were purple.  Maybe one of those red berries was smooshed and it dyed the water purple?  Dunno.

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At Li’s Buffet, they had some traditional American Christmas Food, including Roast Beast.

Boy7 loves, loves, loves roast beast.  Boy7 usually gets his roast beast when we go to JJ’s Hibachi Buffet, but JJ’s is closed for the winter.  The woman who runs JJ’s was helping out at Li’s today (it’s the same family.)  She remembered how much Boy7 loves roast beast, so she made up a plate with a piece of roast beast just for Boy7, with gravy on the side.  Boy7 hammed for the camera.

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Speaking of ham, when I called my dad today, he said that their roast beast was of the pork variety with olive eyes, an orange slice mouth, and the tip of a carrot for a nose.

Darling Husband is still battling bronchitis and feels crummy.  So, while he “took a nap” (i.e. played games on his iPad but didn’t want to admit it to me) I took the boys to see the kid movie Rise of the Guardians.

Boy7 took a picture of me in the theater with my new zoom lens that I got for Christmas.

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Lest you think I have forgotten my love of practical gifts, I also received a new set of dishrags. Don’t get upset with Darling Husband. I picked them out myself and told him, “You got me these dishrags as a stocking stuffer.”  Normally I wouldn’t have spent the money on them.  Just because a dishrag has a frayed edge doesn’t mean it can’t clean a dish.  But being that Christmas is a major gift giving holiday and I was feeling generous toward myself, I got the dishrags.

Receiving Bad News

EIGHT

Saturday was an unsettling day.

There I was at Photo Club, all pleased that a guest that I’d invited actually showed up.  Most of the time, the people I invite pretend that they’re interested in Photo Club just to get me to stop talking about it, and never show up to the meetings.

About half an hour into the meeting, my cell phone rang.  That was pretty exciting because my cell phone almost never rings.  I rushed to answer it, feeling very popular and important to have my phone ring. “Excuse me everyone, I must answer my phone.”

It was Darling Husband.

Darling Husband, who often stumbles over his words because of his ADHD (his thoughts go waaaay faster than he can speak), was stumbling over his words, but it wasn’t the normal ADHD stumble.

ME:  Hi!

DH:  Hey.  Um…well…uh… your dad called.

And right there, I feel a kick in my gut.  I quickly walked away from where Photo Club was sitting.

My parents call about twice a year, and even though their call is noted as a rare event, Darling Husband wouldn’t have interrupted Photo Club to announce it.

This can mean only one thing:  bad news.

DH:  Yeah…um…well…it’s your mother.

I hope you’ve not yet felt the physical reaction that words like that cause.  When you’re bracing yourself for Bad News, some sort of powerful chemical releases into your bloodstream, and you can actually feel it coursing through your veins, starting somewhere in your head or heart area and dripping it’s icky goo of misery down to your feet.

DH:  Well, she’s ok, sort of.  They had to take her to the hospital.  Last night she kept passing out and then started vomiting blood.

Oh, no, no, no!  At least it was not the Very Worst of News.  But still, those are some terrifying words.  Vomiting blood is simply Not Supposed To Happen, people.

Darling Husband gave me the number at the hospital and I called my mother.  As usual, she deflected all concern and fear with jokes about feeding the local clan of vampires with all the blood the doctors were drawing and how lovely everyone at the hospital was and what a good time she was having chatting with them, but something always happens to ruin a good party, like throwing up on everyone.  Unless you consider throwing up on everyone to be a good party.

She said they weren’t sure what it was, but the least horrible cause would be an ucler.  My mother would call after the tests were done.

After the phone calls, I went back to Photo Club and saw that the lesson was on composition.  Scott had brought in a bunch of lovely pictures that he’s taken as examples of good composition, and as much as I wanted to admire them, I couldn’t concentrate.  All those icky-goo chemicals were still in my veins and they needed to be released.

I went back to one of the classrooms and had myself a nice little cry, and felt much better when I was done.  Sure, I was still upset and concerned, but not immobilized, which is how I felt before crying.  Ever notice that sometimes when you cry, you notice the stupidest things?  The tissues in the classroom were pink, and I wondered how many tries it took in research and development to make sure that the pink dye wouldn’t stain people’s noses pink.

After Photo Club, Scott came to the house to visit with us, which was good and bad.  Good, because having a guest meant that I couldn’t mope around all day fretting about my mother.  Bad, because Scott reminds me a lot of my mother and so I ended up thinking about her all day anyway.

I kept a phone near me all day waiting for a call.  Finally around 6:00, we got the news—ulcers.  Shew!  Not good, but at least treatable.

————-

Today is Christmas Eve and it snowed.  And not just a little bit of snow.  A LOT of snow.  Oh joy!

Here’s where I attempted an artsy shot of the bushes in my front yard lit by the Christmas lights.

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Here’s a picture of Baby out playing in his first snow.

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And here’s a picture of Boy10 at the Candlelight Christmas service at church.

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All in all—a good day.

P.S.  My mother lives 2500 miles away, which is why I didn’t go to her as soon as I got the news.

Snot, Steak, and Picky Love

NINE

Today was our Annual Christmas Festivities with Darling Husband’s family.  Yes, those would be my in-laws.

First I must make it very clear that I have excellent in-laws.  They’re generous and kind and generally pleasant to be around, but they do have their quirks, as do all families.

They enjoy picking on each other.

But I’m used to that.  I mean, my mother picked on me non-stop as I was a kid and my Dad would often join in.  My parent’s pet name for me was snotbag, after all.  My friend’s parents gave them pet names too, but they were things like “pumpkin” as in, “We just love our little pumpkin.  She’s the apple of our eyes.”

Actually, it was more my dad who fondly called me snotbag.  My mother mostly picked on me without resorting to gross pet names.  It wasn’t cruel picking.  It was lighthearted fun picking.  Sometimes my dad would step in and say, “Sue!  Stop picking on her!  She’s your daughter, not your little sister!”

My mom is the baby of her family, the fifth, and as many babies of large families are, she’s a complete goofball.  All she wants out of life is to have fun, tell jokes, and pick on people to see what sort of amusing reaction she can get from them.  Personally, I think it’s a lot of fun to be raised by the baby of the family.  You just never know what they’re going to say or do.

For instance, there was the time when I was about 17 years old and had a ratty old shirt I didn’t want to get rid of.  My mother kept saying, “Oh, just get rid of that shirt!  It’s so ratty and old!”  Finally, one day, while she was keeping me company while I cleaned my room, she picked up the ratty shirt and said, “Here, I’ll help you get rid of it,” and blew her nose into it.  I’m not sure which of us was the most shocked.  We both stood there perfectly still, staring at each other, wide-eyed, jaws gaping.  Her expression was one of “I wonder if I went a little too far, but aw man, that was funny and totally worth it for the shock value!”  My expression was one of, “Mo-ther!  Seriously?  You just blew your nose on my shirt??”

And as babies of the family often do, she got her way.  I never wore that shirt again.  Every day was like that.  You just never knew what was going to happen.  Some of the best moments of my life have been with her.

But, even with the teasing type of picking, she never put me down.  In fact, she’s been a constant source of encouragement for anything I want to do.  If I come up with an idea, any idea at all, she’s there to look for reasons for why it’s a great idea and ways to make it work.

But the in-laws’ picking is different.  I’m not sure if it’s a Polish thing or what, but they love to pick on each other in an effort to better each other.  I mean, no one likes it when it’s their turn to be picked on, but we understand that they do it because they love you and want to help you make good choices.  And it’s lots of fun when you get to be the picker instead of the pickee.

Here’s what I mean:

There we are at the restaurant reading the menus and getting ready to order our Christmas dinner.  Sister-in-law (we’ll call her SIL) says, “Nephew13, what are you going to get?”

“Steak.”

And here we go.  No matter what that boy orders, everyone immediately tells him that “he’ll never eat all that.”

SIL:  A steak?!  You’ll never eat all that!”

Mom:  Why don’t you order something smaller.  You’ll never eat a whole steak.

Nephew13:  Yes I will.  I want the steak.

SIL:  You won’t eat the whole thing.

Mom:  You never eat the whole thing.  Pick something else.

Nephew13:  *with determination*  I want the steak and I’m gonna eat it.

Here’s his steak.

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That picture is my quirk that the rest of them have to deal with.  Poor Nephew13 wanted to dig into his steak, but I grabbed his plate right out from under his nose and started taking pictures.

Mom:  Give that poor boy back his steak!  He’s hungry and wants to eat it!

Me:  He can’t eat it yet.  It’s too hot.  He’ll burn his tongue.

Fortunately, Nephew13 has seen this often enough to know it’s best just to ride it out.  He gave a small sigh and waited patiently for the photo shoot to be over.

Here’s Nephew13 happily eating his steak.

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Everyone quickly lost interest in Nephew13 and his steak (which he did eat all of), and so the picking turned to my brother-in-law.  We’ll call him BIL.

Mom:  When are you going to take vacation time so your dad can bring you some wood?
SIL:  He lost all his vacation time.

Mom:  What?  How can you lose your vacation time?
BIL:  I didn’t use it, so I lost it.

Mom:  You should demand that time!  You need to take a vacation day so your Dad can drive down and you can help him unload the wood from the truck.

BIL:  I can’t take vacation time.  I’m the only one at work who writes the estimates.  No one else can do my job.

Mom:  Well, they need to hire someone else who can help you.  You need your vacation time!  It’s not healthy not to take vacation time.   And your dad can’t unload the wood by himself.

BIL: (going on the offensive) Well, why didn’t Dad bring the truck today, then?

After a while the vacation/wood conversation petered out and it was Darling Husband’s turn.

Mom:  You have bronchitis?!  Didn’t you get your flu shot?  You should have gotten your flu shot.

SIL:  If you have asthma, you have to do it.  Nephew13 almost died in the hospital because of pneumonia.

Mom:  Right.  When I get my flu shot, I don’t get as much congestion in the winter.

Darling Husband has learned how to deal with this. Don’t try to fight it or justify your behavior, especially when everyone else is right.

DH:  You are both right.  I should have gotten my flu shot.  Oh, what a lowly worm I am that I didn’t get my flu shot. (Ok, he didn’t actually say the line about the worm, but he sure looked wormy.)

Fortunately this time SIL and I were left alone.  She usually gets picked on for her lack of cooking skills and I get picked on for my lack of formal education.  The conversation usually goes like this:

Mom:  If you go back to college now, in a few years you’ll have your degree.  Those years will pass either way, and won’t it be better if you have a degree at the end of them?

Me:  Yes.

SIL:  Your husband works at a college.  What sort of discount do you get?

Me:  The classes would be free.  I just pay for books.

SIL and Mom:  *gasps of shock*  You can get a free college education and you’re not!  Bad, bad, bad!!!

And then I hang my head in shame and agree that they’re right.  And they are!  They’re right about all of it!

After dinner, we headed to SIL and BIL’s house.  Somewhere in the festivities, Aunt Shirley in Ohio called, as she always does on holidays, and we all sang to her on the phone.

You do not ever want our family to sing to you.  We all pick a song (this time it was We Wish You a Merry Christmas) and then everyone chooses their own tune to sing it to.  I chose Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  Then, on the count of three, everyone sings the song to the tune of their choice.

It’s very disturbing.

After that we pass the phone around and take turns chatting with Aunt Shirley.  Darling Husband doesn’t know it, but Aunt Shirley and I exchange funny stories about Darling Husband and then cackle madly.  We have the best time telling those stories to each other.

At the end of the evening, SIL revealed her new hobby to me, but I won’t tell you what it is.  She’s a little embarrassed by her new hobby, but loves it so much she just had to talk about it.  Hey, I know what it’s like to have a hobby totally take over your life.  After all, I’ve taken over 12,000 pictures since May, which is when I started counting.  Before that—who knows how many I took?

I’m not sure why SIL revealed her embarrassing new hobby to me, but I’m just the person to reveal it to.  Remember my mother and her encouragement?  Yeah, I learned a few things from her and love to encourage people in their new hobbies.  I told her that her hobby sounded awesome (and it does) and that I’m glad she’s enjoying it so much (and I am.)  You, go, girl!

Then it was time to go home, whereupon I promptly missed the last step on the staircase and fell over in a heap in their foyer.  I peeled myself up off the floor, stumbled out the door and that was the end of our festivities.

And a merry time was had by all.