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Posts Tagged ‘birthday plans’

Carla finally decided on her birthday plans: we will do an escape room. I am… skeptical. But the people who run the escape room venue seem confident that the kids will have a blast even if they don’t “escape.” 

Carla also kind of wants a loose spy/detective theme which is… challenging to find décor for. So I am still working on that. I’m leaning toward all-black décor (the escape room facility has a party room) and then buying the kids dark sunglassesspy notebooks and invisible-ink pensmagnifying glasses, and fake mustaches as party favors. Maybe if I am really on top of things I will give each kid a manila folder with some spy/detective stuff in it – like “how to choose your spy name” and “crack this code” type games. We’ll see. 

For her cake, Carla initially wanted a chocolate cake with lemon curd. My dear, sweet husband, upon hearing this choice, reacted with a Gross Face and a loud, “YUCK” (sigh) and so she rethought her choice and now just wants a chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting. Listen, I was game to try chocolate with lemon curd! Chocolate: good! Lemon curd: good! (Joey Tribbiani voice.) But… maybe this will be better. For her party, I plan to make black velvet cupcakes – to complement the spy/detective theme – and top them with these adorable magnifying glass toppers. I will order these black cupcake carriers so that kids can take the cupcakes home (in case Covid transmission continues to be high when Carla’s birthday party comes around). (Everyone will wear masks during the party and escape room.)

Carla has only two gift requests, which we fulfilled. And my husband and I came up with a few other ideas that we think she’ll love.

A Barbie motorcycle: I don’t know WHY, but this has been on her wish list for at least a year. I finally found this one in stock at Walmart, and was glad to order it for her.  It’s kind of tame for a motorcycle, but it does come with a dog which she will like.

image from Walmart.com

A 3-D pen: I am honestly not looking forward to finding 3-D creations all over the house, but this has been Carla’s TOP REQUEST for the past couple of months. Whenever I ask what she wants for her birthday, this is it. And I know she will love it.

image from amazon.com

With only two specific requests, my husband and I have been tossing around some other ideas that we think she might enjoy. 

A new board game: I’ve heard so many great things about Ticket to Ride, and have had it in my cart for previous gift-giving occasions… I think we’ll finally get it for her.

image from amazon.com

A LEGO activity kit: Carla still loves LEGO, and this Gear Bots kit seems really fun. (And less expensive than a LEGO set.)

image from amazon.com

A joke book: Santa Claus brought my husband a book of dad jokes last Christmas, and Carla honestly gets more of a kick out of them than anyone else. So perhaps she needs her own book of jokes to thrill us with. Maybe she will bring it on the road trip and get us all chuckling along with her.

image from amazon.com

Animal erasers: These little “desk pets” were all the rage in third grade, and I know Carla would love to have her own eraser menagerie.

image from amazon.com

A book of birds: Carla LOVES birds, and when we go for walks together she often regales me with facts about the birds we see. I think she would get hours of enjoyment out of this atlas of amazing birds

image from amazon.com

A book of beasts: When I was looking for bird books, I came across this book of forgotten beasts and I’m guessing it would also spark Carla’s interest.

image from amazon.com

A set of bath bombs: My husband is opposed to this gift (it is too expensive for what it is, he says, and he’s not wrong), but I think Carla – who is newly obsessed with Pokemon – would LOVE these Pokemon bath bombs. (I tried watching one of the Pokemon TV shows she has been so into lately and I don’t get it. At all. But she will regale me for as long as I will listen with amazing feats of electrical types and ground types and water types. None of it makes any sense to me.)

image from amazon.com

A shaved ice machine: This is another impractical/expensive idea that my husband’s voice of prudence will probably overrule… but Carla loves shaved ice and would LOVE making her own snow cones.

image from amazon.com

An art case: Not that we don’t already possess THOUSANDS of crayons and markers and colored pencils, but this case of drawing supplies would be SO fun. I remember having something like this when I was a kid, and it was a highly prized possession. I also think it would be good to bring along on the road trip; a good way to keep all the utensils tidy and contained.

image from amazon.com

A fun new novel: I am always trying to encourage Carla’s (limited) desire to read, and this Swistle-recommended novel combines several of Carla’s interests. 

image from amazon.com

A reading timer: This is something I’ve considered before – and it would probably make a better stocking stuffer than a birthday gift. But I think Carla would enjoy timing herself as she reads.

image from amazon.com

A sewing book: Carla hasn’t spent a lot of time sewing recently, and I hate to think of her sewing machine sitting there unused. Maybe this book would reignite her interest?

image from amazon.com

A decoder set: Considering that Carla is interested in spy/detective stuff recently, I wonder if she might enjoy this decoder activity set. This would be another good Road Trip! option, too.

image from amazon.com

A fingerprint kit: Along similar lines, this fingerprinting kit might be a lot of fun.

image from amazon.com

If you have (or have had) a nine-year-old in your life, what have been some of the top gifts they’ve enjoyed?

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May is chaos. I was whining to the mom of one of Carla’s classmates recently about busy I feel, and she said in a gritted-teeth, long-suffering voice, “That’s just how May is. And it will get worse as the kids get older.” So that was cheering. 

It feels like I was just chugging along, doing my thing, and then suddenly realized that I have fifty deadlines heading my way and I am only partway through each project.  Luckily, this isn’t true (at least in the paying work sense; I am on top of those at least). But it FEELS that way. Worse, it feels like everyone else has alsosuddenly had the same realization. My email inbox is jammed with teacher conference requests and reminders to schedule my gutter cleaning and invitations to end-of-year parties and check-ins about summer swimming schedules and gently scolding messages from camp to fill out my kid’s many, many forms already and notifications to update school payment plans and on and on. 

We had, in the past week, an invitation to a musical performance at Carla’s school literally three days before the performance itself. And then a notice, seven days ago, from Carla’s teacher, that the class has themed days all this week – and require things like sandals that I had not yet purchased. Then we had to schedule a meeting with one of the teachers to review Carla’s goals for next year. And I (stupidly) signed up to volunteer at a big end-of-school carnival. Not to mention, we get alerts near daily about Covid cases in Carla’s grade. Plus, Carla’s been working on her big Eleanor Roosevelt research project. IT’S A LOT.

I have not felt up to most things lately – reading, cooking, planning meals, blogging – but I miss those things (except planning meals). So let’s try a random info dump. I will try not to complain TOO much, but no promises. 

Zoom Awkwardness: While I am deeply, sincerely grateful for the ability to meet with people virtually, I wish someone would figure out how to solve the end-of-meeting awkwardness. You know what I mean. When you have all already said goodbye, but then you have to fumble around to find the button that ends the meeting. I realize that this awkward moment lasts maybe five seconds, but I find it excruciating. Often, I find myself distracted in the last moments of the meeting itself because I am trying to plan my exit in the quickest possible way. But no. Even if I can find the “end meeting” button ahead of time, I inevitably fumble it, or forget that I’ve carefully hovered my cursor over it for exactly that purpose, or the “are you sure?” box pops up and I just want to die of embarrassment. I realize this may not be as big a deal to some people as it is to me, and obviously I have lived to zoom again, but I HATE IT. Just let me out of this virtual discomfort! 

End of Year Teacher Gift: Every year, our Room Parent (i.e. Room Mom) collects money for a class gift. Every year, I dutifully send in money. Every year, I fret and worry and scour Etsy for an additional gift that my kid can give to her teacher, personally, on top of the considerable amount we have already sent in. Every year, I decide that the collective gift is BETTER – usually it’s a gift card, and I’m guessing it is much more useful/appreciated by the teacher than whatever dumb crap I could come up with – and exit Etsy without buying the personalized water bottle/bookmark/coffee mug I was pondering. And yet, despite going through this for SIX YEARS NOW, I inevitably find myself in the last week of school, fretting and fretting about the possibility of being the ONLY person who doesn’t double gift with a physical gift in addition to the cash contribution.

Road Trip: I am doing a right terrible job of Not Complaining, so let’s talk about something positive. My husband and Carla and I are going on a Road Trip this summer!!!! Aside from the astronomical cost of gas, I am really excited about our Road Trip. (Yes, I am capitalizing it.) We finalized all our hotel stays over the weekend, and so now I am gleefully shopping for Road Trip Necessities. This is what my father refers to as a “Tool Buying Opportunity,” which is part of what makes the planning portion of something (an event, a hobby) as enjoyable as or more enjoyable than the actual thing itself. My husband is researching the best family audiobooks to buy (or check out from our library) for our trip, and I love that this is the way his trip planning excitement manifests. He has already played a few samples to Carla, so that they can figure out whether she’ll have trouble understanding the accent of the narrator. 

Birthday Planning Stagnation: Despite ALL of your lovely suggestions, I have made ZERO progress toward planning Carla’s birthday party. Zero. This fills me with dread and anxiety. However, I will say that with every confident, encouraging comment about hosting a party here, I grew more and more entrenched in my certainty that having a party in my home is NOT the right way to go. So that was extremely helpful, and I am so appreciative. I genuinely envy those readers who are so easy-breezy about hosting an in-home birthday party. You make it sound so easy! And fun! And like the better choice! But my gut was clear: NO. So whatever we end up doing, it will be somewhere else. Your kind, helpful suggestions also clarified for me something that I already knew – but did not know I felt with such stringency – which is that I loathe trampoline parks. We used to take Carla when she was smaller, because it was a great way to release her endless reserves of energy in the dragging months of winter. But even then I always felt like I had to be careful not to touch ANYTHING, and I would always through Carla in the tub and her clothing in the washing machine the instant we returned home. Perhaps this speaks more to the cleanliness of my local trampoline park than to anything else, but since that’s what we have available, I am going to skip it. So I suppose even if I haven’t made any forward progress, I am at the very least narrowing the field. Thank you so much for your help, even if you may feel like I am ignoring your very helpful recommendations. Your advice is helpful nonetheless. 

Handyman: In other good news, I finally finally got a handyman to not only return my call, but to come over and look at my long list of projects!!!! He seems great. He reviewed things and took measurements, and was very clear on things he can/will do and things he cannot/won’t. The most important result, though, is that he CAN and WILL repair our ceiling. I don’t know if I’ve described our ceiling hole in this space, but I am going to do so now in case you want to skip to the next equally riveting bullet. It is not a hole, per se. It is more like a place where the plaster has declined to provide its normal coverage. The plaster is peeling away from whatever material forms the ceiling, and so it looks like a hole. We have had the spot examined several times by a plumber (and by our fathers), and it does not appear to be a leak. And it’s been there for YEARS, so I think we would know by now. But this stupid plaster lapse makes me so self-conscious about our house. It looks terrible, and it’s right above the kitchen table, and I hate it. And now it will be fixed!!!! Of course, there is no scheduled date for the fixing; the handyman warned me he is booked out for several weeks. So I guess now I am just hoping he really will send me an estimate and offer some dates. I almost don’t care what it will cost because I want it fixed. But then again, I have no idea what this kind of thing should cost, so… I will report back on whether it is a swallowable amount or something that kicks me in the gut and forces me to live with the stupid hole for longer. Like I said, we’ve been living with it for YEARS, so it shouldn’t be such a big deal to keep on living with it. But at some point in the past few months, I have reached some sort of tell-tale heart level of complete inability to co-exist with this thing for one second longer. 

Calendar Bedlam: Recently, I am having an issue that makes me think my mind is on a steep decline. I keep making plans, putting them in EMPTY SPOTS in my calendar, and then realizing – sometime later – that I have double booked myself. Example 1: A friend invites me to a performance. I check the calendar and see I have plans that night. I decline. Later, a friend invites me to dinner. I check the calendar and see I am free, so I accept. The next time I talk to the performer friend, she mentions the day of her performance… which is on the day I originally had free but now do not. Example 2: I set a playdate for Carla. The next day, I notice that she in fact has an orthodontist appointment that day, so I have to reschedule the playdate. Example 3: I have to do a mandatory nicotine test per our insurance, so I schedule it in an empty spot on the calendar. I get a reminder for the test at the same time I get a reminder for a meeting with Carla’s teacher, because I have scheduled them in the same time slot. WHY AM I DOING THIS AND HOW CAN I STOP.

Dirty Martinis: I recently learned the joy and beauty of a very, very dirty martini. My whole life, I have been staunchly anti-vodka, but it seems that may be because I have only ever had cheap vodka? I recently had a martini with really good, smooth vodka and it was delicious. Then I made one at home, with the fancy expensive vodka my father-in-law drinks, and it was also delicious. I am now out of olive juice.

Jury Duty: My stint of jury duty went GREAT. The summons said that we needed to be available for five days, beginning on a Monday. So I prepared to be gone that entire week. When I did jury duty several years ago, I went in on a Monday, sat around all day, and then was called to a courtroom near the end of the day. I wasn’t selected for that jury, but I was released from jury duty for the rest of the week. This time, you call a number in advance of your service and figure out if your jury number has been selected for that day. I got to miss two days, but my number was called for Wednesday. Then I arrived at the courthouse, sat around all day, and… was released. I didn’t have to go back at all! It was… kind of pleasant? Of course, the anticipation was the dreadful part. I had to worry about childcare for Carla for the whole week, and then I had to worry about driving on a freeway during rush hour, and I had to worry about parking downtown. But once I had Carla stowed at school, had made it downtown, parked, and successfully made it to the courthouse, it was fine! Pleasant, even! It was a beautiful day and we got ninety minutes (!!!!) for our lunch hour, so I got something from Starbucks and walked around downtown. I was even a teeny bit disappointed that I didn’t get selected for a case – I think it would be interesting to serve on a jury. The biggest inconvenience of the week, it turned out, was that I kept having to email the school to let them know that Carla would or wouldn’t be arriving early for babysitting services. 

Step Off: My watch has developed quite an overblown sense of its own roll in my life lately. Constantly telling me to stop and breathe, or noting that I am usually more active at this time of day what is up????, or advising me that I can “still do it!” if I just take a brisk 20-minute walk at 11:15 pm on a weekday. And now this??? Stay in your lane, watch. I am doing the best that I can.

Keto Stall: I feel the need to give you a keto update. During my extravagant jury duty lunch hour, I ordered coffee with cream (despite the fact that I hate coffee) and a pre-made lunch kit that seemed to be fairly keto-friendly: salami, cheese, and some nuts/dried fruit that I ate even though I’m sure it was full of sugar. I did not eat the crackers. Anyway: I continue to follow a low-carb plan. And I have completely stalled. It is SO frustrating. I am doing the plan, I am eating the high-protein/high-fat foods. I am in ketosis. And yet my weight has gone nowhere. It wouldn’t be so terrible except that I HATE it. Food is not fun or enjoyable. I do not look forward to meals, and in fact actively dread them. I cannot stand to plan meals, because they are inevitably some variation on meat + veg, or else they are complicated and frequently end up tasting awful. I am constantly asking my husband what I should make for dinner. I am not having fun, I am not losing weight, it is all awful. And yet any time I LOOK at a carb, I instantly gain two pounds. So I don’t think I’m ready to quit keto either. At least I am maintaining this not-quite-ten-percent-of-my-bodyweight weight loss. ARGH. 

A Good Salad: I did make a really good salad recently. It was arugula (yum) and spinach (yuck), heavily weighted on the arugula side for me and on the spinach side for my husband (who dislikes arugula). I added goat cheese, blueberries, strawberries, a sprinkling of sliced almonds, and grilled chicken. And then I added balsamic dressing because I love dressing as much as I love sauce. (Perhaps this is causing the stall in the previous bullet, perhaps indeed, although I don’t eat salads often because of the dressing factor.)

Strawberry Marketing: The strawberries in the aforementioned salad were PINK. My grocery store had a big display and they had a lot of marketing to assure customers that the strawberries are fully ripe! And taste like pineapple! I had to try them. My husband wondered if they might taste like underripe strawberries and indeed they did. They were fine with some goat cheese and balsamic dressing though, but NOT worth $6.99 per container when I can buy actual ripe strawberry tasting strawberries for $3.50. Between these berries and the miniature iceberg lettuces, produce marketers are really working hard for their money, let me tell you.

Garden Inertia: Let us turn to another pleasant topic, which is gardening. Of which I have also done ZERO. What the hell am I doing with my time, if I am not cooking or gardening or planning Carla’s birthday party? I am fretting and wringing my hands and going in circles is what. We have people coming for dinner this weekend, so now I am suddenly feeling Very Urgent about having at least some flowers in pots. It’s not like my “garden” is anything impressive. But I do like to have a few pots with flowers and I need to do that. Perhaps Carla and I will go after school. 

Spring Shopping Syndrome: In addition to fretting/hand wringing, I have been struck by Spring Shopping Syndrome. You are familiar with this yes? The point at which the weather begins to edge carefully toward warmth and suddenly you hate every single item of clothing you own? I have been buying (and then returning) things with great abandon. Loft has been my latest obsession, and they know it: they keep emailing me with adorable dresses front and center, and so I order the dress and then it doesn’t fit and I take it back. But, to get free shipping, I added on a cute blouse, and that DID fit, so now I have that sweet, sweet dopamine rush of clicking “buy” alongside the possibility, however small, that the item I bought will be cute, which makes me want to repeat the process all over again. Interesting how I am able to analyze this behavior and see it for what it is and yet I still can’t stop/won’t stop. 

All right, that’s it for now my dear Internet.

What’s clogging your calendar this month? Have you made any springy purchases? Tell me which deer-proof flowers to buy for my garden. 

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Carla’s birthday is a little more than a month away and I have NOTHING planned. Usually by this point, I have fretted all over this little blog about theme and where to find theme-appropriate napkins and how difficult it was to pin down a venue and which cake I’m going to make. But this year, I have… nothing. 

(Not even a cake request, which is very un-Carla! And perhaps… perhaps this is the year I outsource the cake baking????)

Part of the problem – maybe the MAIN part – is that Carla doesn’t have any sort of specific desire for a party this year. I mean, she wants A Party. But she hasn’t said “I want a tea party” or “let’s all play LEGOs” or “I want to paint pottery!” or whatever. I am not a creative person, when it comes to birthdays. All my creativity crumples into dust beneath the anxiety of planning an event and executing that event and then attending said event with multiple other humans, all of whom I am expected to interact with. 

The only things at all that Carla has expressed interest in are a) a sleepover and b) a party at our house, featuring a treasure hunt. 

Treasure Hunt: When Carla’s cousin was here recently, I made a treasure hunt for them. I’ve done one another time, when I hosted three other families and did a treasure hunt for the kids. I LIKE making treasure hunts. But the older the kids get, the more challenging it is to create clues that won’t stump them, but will take more than five seconds to solve. 

Plus, while I am fine chasing my one niece and my one child around our very safe cul-de-sac while they look for clues, I don’t know a) how I would feel about chasing multiple nine-year-olds around the neighborhood or b) how other parents might feel about their kids being let loose into the wild.

It is almost more challenging to come up with prizes for this age group. Although I suppose if Carla lands on a theme, I could find something that works. 

The biggest challenge of all with treasure hunts is making them long enough. You can make 20 clues and have the kids run up and down the stairs and around the cul-de-sac and it still ends up taking them under 15 minutes to finish. Which is quite deflating when it takes MUCH LONGER THAN THAT to create the clues and hide them.

Party at Our House: The main issue, though, is that I don’t want to have a party at my house. I find the idea of a bunch of kids invading my space SO stressful, even though it shouldn’t be. 

All my birthday parties when I was growing up took place at my house. And they were wonderful! I remember, when I was really little, playing games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, or drop a pin in a bucket while blindfolded. My mother made treasure hunts, which is probably where I learned to love them. 

My mom was fantastic about birthday parties, my whole life. She always did something fun and delightful. My favorite childhood birthday was the one where she bought a little Troll doll for each guest and we all sat around my kitchen table and decorated them. I seem to remember that it was a contest, but… I’m sure she found some way to make it so that everyone won. 

(Is there a Troll-doll equivalent that today’s nine-year-olds would like?)

There’s also a bit of Keeping Up with the Joneses going on, I can admit. Carla’s classmates often have very impressive parties – think bouncy houses and country clubs and backyard pools. Most of Carla’s friends live in enormous homes with beautiful properties. When we’ve been invited over for parties, there are gorgeous decorations and catered food. Our backyard is (currently) a marsh, and gets so incredibly hot in the summer that it’s not really comfortable for guests. Our outdoor furniture is old and mismatched and we don’t have the ziplines or stone patios or pools that many people have. Our house itself is smallish and somewhat in disrepair – both facts that seem glaringly obvious when we have other people over. Plus, after hosting Carla’s first two or three birthday parties here, I find decorating SO stressful it’s just not even worth it. I want the Instagram/Pinterest-worthy party, but I am not great at executing that level of creativity/cuteness. I suppose I could pay someone else to do it, but that sounds pricey.

If I could be certain that all the parents would just roll up to our driveway and toss their kids out the door and leave… I might feel a little bit better. Kids in general aren’t super judgmental – I don’t remember noticing the décor or size or quality of furniture at any of my friends’ houses – and I think as long as they got to roam around and eat cake, they would be okay. Maybe this is the age where parents would feel okay dropping them off? Maybe this is the perfect time for me to get away with a banner and a couple of balloons and maybe a colorful tablecloth and not do anything else???

I don’t know. Even if it were just kids, I think I would find it very anxious-making. I much prefer going to a specific place that has employees who entertain the kids or supervise an activity and then going home to my quiet, clean, one-kid-only home.

To recap: it feels like having a party HERE would require a) outsourcing and spending a lot of money or b) doing things myself and becoming very stressed AND probably spending a lot of money. I want to avoid it… but I don’t have any alternate ideas. It feels like we’ve exhausted the typical birthday party venues… and I’ve tried looking for others with no success. 

The new Jurassic World movie is coming out around her birthday, and Carla is desperate to see it. Our local movie theaters were allowing people to rent them out for birthdays… but I haven’t looked into whether they are still doing that. Plus, I don’t know how many of Carla’s friends’ parents would allow them to see a Jurassic World movie (nor how many of her friends would actually want to see it). That may be something the three of us do as a family. 

Sleepover: Probably the best compromise would be hosting a sleepover. The reason this feels like a compromise is that I would limit Carla to one or two friends, so it would be less stressful. Presumably. But… then she would have to choose just one or two friends, and she’s a kid who has a LOT of friends, so I don’t know how she would choose. In this time of Covid, would anyone even be comfortable with that (not that they aren’t sharing the same air every day at school)? And my beloved child is a person whose energy level escalates in direct proportion to how tired she is, so I am imagining that NO ONE would sleep at all. Not that you are expected to sleep much at a sleepover, but… no sleep sounds pretty dreadful for all involved, including the poor parents who would be collecting their exhausted children the next day. 

Plus… what do you DO for a nine-year-old sleepover? The only sleepovers I remember (and, bless my parents, sometimes I had MANY friends sleep over) involved activities like calling boys on my phone or watching scary movies or playing with my Ouija board… all of which seem a little mature for this age group. 

A few of my friends-who-are-parents don’t do a party at all for their kids. For some, this is just the way it is. For others, maybe some years it works out and some years it doesn’t. I wish we could go this route! But I know Carla LOVES a party, so I’m not sure she would roll with it. 

As usual, the VAST BULK of this stress is mine. I know Carla wouldn’t really care about any of the things that bother me. I know her friends wouldn’t really care, I know even the most judgmental of parents would only turn up their noses for a few seconds before forgetting about me entirely. And yet I cannot talk myself out of feeling the stress. 

So here I am, doing nothing but fretting, as the weeks tick by.

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We had Carla’s eighth birthday party at a nature preserve. It took place outside, in an open-walled pavilion. The “entertainment” feature was to be a dinosaur-themed hike. 

Because Carla had requested a dinosaur theme, I bought dinosaur décor. I had first found some pink and purple dinosaur party supplies, but my husband thought they were too babyish, so we went with a more mature dino look

Very Mature image from amazon.com

It worked out very well for the venue, which had long picnic tables that I was glad we could cover up with tablecloths.  Although it was quite breezy so my mother-in-law had to spend a lot of time masking-taping the tablecloths to the tables. Bless her.

Note the enormous rock in the foreground that my father-in-law used to help keep the tablecloths in place. Added to the theme.

I set up the gift table with additional snacks – eight-year-olds can build up quite an appetite when they are out hiking. Plus, there is ALWAYS one kid who doesn’t want the cupcakes. So I packed Cheez-Its and the flavored raisins I mentioned recently and mandarin oranges and lots of bottled water. I also made sure we had tons of antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer; one can never be too careful, but especially during a pandemic. I also brought bug spray and spray sunscreen. I am nothing if not over prepared!

It looks quite sparse, but that’s because I forgot to tell my husband that half of the table would be for gifts.

My mother-in-law was such a HUGE help with the party, especially with the centerpieces. I wanted something to add a little visual interest to the tables. Yes, I know this is ridiculous; the kids don’t care. But * I * care. So I ordered these matching centerpieces, which were dinosaur cutouts that you affix to sticks and arrange artfully into vases or jars. 

This is what I expected them to look like:

image from amazon.com

My mother-in-law, bless her again, suggested the night before the party that we should set up the centerpieces in advance – for ease of carrying, and one less thing to worry about at the party. Thank goodness she did, because I could NOT get them to look right and was despairing. (My husband: “It doesn’t matter. The kids don’t care.”) But my mother-in-law persevered! She clipped greenery from our hedges and flowers from my flower pots and made the centerpieces look, I thought, quite lovely and wild. Did a single child comment on them? No. But I LOVED THEM. 

I am once again irritated that the decorations are one-sided.

I made cupcakes for the party, with colorful mismatched frosting. Per Carla’s request, they were vanilla cupcakes with lemon curd filling and lemon cream cheese frosting. When I ran out of lemon curd, I suggested we bring half plain, half filled, just in case some of her friends didn’t want lemon curd, and she was very amenable to that. 

Because it was SO HOT on the day of the party, I stuck my cupcake carrier into a big insulated bag and put ice packs under and on top of it. This worked very well, even though the cupcake carrier was too big to fit completely inside the bag. Not a single cupcake melted. (Better yet: no one got food poisoning from over-hot cream cheese frosting.) 

In classic me-making-things-as-difficult-as-possible-for-myself, I did not do all the frosting the same. But I rather like how colorful it turned out? I did three colors per frosting bag, trying out different combinations.

As I mentioned, the day of the party was HOT. And thunderstorms were predicted. I bought a book of dinosaur coloring pages – the kind where there’s a list of images to find in the picture – and a bunch of colored pencils, plus a couple of pads of drawing paper, just in case the storm prevented the hike from going through and we need to Do Something Else. Fortunately, it remained sunny and dry (and HOT) for the duration of the party. (It started pouring just as we were driving away, which was so lucky!)

I knew that the nature preserve staff allotted about thirty minutes between when the guests arrived and the hike began, so I brought some crafts to keep the kids busy. I found these dinosaur mask-making kits at Michael’s, and my in-laws helped each kid pick which mask they wanted to make, filled little plastic cups with glue, and distributed Q-tips and glue sticks. The kids seemed to enjoy the project, chatting with each other as they glued eyes and horns and spots to their masks, and making the masks took up the exact right amount of time. 

The hike leader was very sweet and friendly, but she seemed to have underestimated the amount of information kids today know about dinosaurs: every single time she tried to stump them with a question about dinosaurs, at least one child knew the answer. But the kids seemed to enjoy themselves, even if they weren’t learning anything new. It’s a PARTY, right? Not a college lecture series.

One of Carla’s friends told a delightful dinosaur joke: Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom? Because the “p” is silent. Carla’s friends thought that was hilarious. 

I sneaked around and applied sunscreen to the kids while the staff member was giving her spiel. I mean, I tried to sneak – obviously I had to ask the kids if they needed sunscreen and then sprayed them with it, so I wasn’t invisible. 

One of the staff members led the kids on a hike through the woods, pointing out birds and turtles and plants. My husband and my father-in-law accompanied the group on the hike, to keep the kids together and watch out for stragglers. The kids collected seashells and answered trivia questions about dinosaurs.

My mother-in-law and I stayed behind to clean up the craft and wipe down the tables in preparation for cupcakes. The craft – which required the kids to peel white covers off of approximately six million tiny pieces – was awful to clean up. The breeze had carried the little peels into every corner of the pavilion, wedging them in between the boards of the benches and planks of the pavilion floor. But I got every last one of them (I hope). We wiped down the tables and then my mother-in-law and I went and sat in the car with the air conditioning blasting. 

That was the worst part of the party: being so hot. I am not a hot weather person and I was a melted candle well before the party began. When our friends dropped off their kids, one tried to hug me. “I’m too sweaty,” I told him. He stepped back and looked me over. “You sure are,” he said. That’s a good feeling. Being visibly, appreciably sweaty. 

After the hike, I herded the children – masked – into the nature center, where they were allowed to use the bathroom. (The nature center was still closed to the public.) They all washed (“washed”) their hands and hurried back to the pavilion. We handed out cupcakes (MANY kids rejected the lemon curd, so I’m glad we had the two options) and lit a candle on Carla’s cupcake and sang her happy birthday. 

These cupcake toppers were one-sided too, but still cute.

Then we handed out favor bags (which I apparently didn’t photograph?) and the kids’ parents collected them. It was a quick two hours but very satisfying. Carla and her friends seemed to have a great time. 

I DO wish we’d had dinosaur wrapping paper, but I can’t buy wrapping paper JUST to fit a theme.

For Carla’s actual birthday – a few days later – I carried on the dinosaur theme. We had one tablecloth remaining, and I added the centerpiece sticks to a vase of flowers, and I ordered a big dinosaur balloon. We always decorate the birthday table the night before, so the birthday girl (or man) sees it first thing when they come into the kitchen in the morning. (This is a tradition leftover from my childhood.)

Carla decided to stay home from camp. With all the birthday excitement, plus her grandparents being around, she’d been going to bed super late. So she wanted to sleep in and relax and I didn’t mind keeping her home. (I especially didn’t mind because her camp group was scheduled to go on a field trip that day, which required packing them all into a bus, during a pandemic, and driving them on a busy freeway. Two MAJOR anxiety points for me.) Carla didn’t mind missing her field trip and we decided to have a Girls’ Day. We put on dresses and makeup and did our hair fancy (she put an ornamental bird on her ponytail). Our first stop was a candy store. I gave Carla $5 and she was allowed to buy anything she wanted. I loved that we had nowhere to be, and absolutely no time pressure (I’d made her cake the day before, because it needed to be refrigerated overnight), so she could look at every single candy option on the shelves and take her time choosing. 

Then we went to a local bakery that sells macarons. I have taken Carla there twice since it opened, and each time, it was closed. But because we went this time so early in the day, it was finally open! The bakery has a little restaurant as well, and one of the tables is a beautiful Cinderella carriage. Because only two tables in the whole place had diners, I let her ask the manager if she could sit at the carriage table and get her picture taken. She wore her mask the whole time, but the photos are still really cute. She also told everyone we met that it was her birthday, and everyone was very charmed by her and wished her many happy returns. We got her a macaron to bring home and I asked what she wanted to do next.

Turns out, she wanted to go to Barnes and Noble and look at toys. (This despite the fact that she had JUST gotten a million new toys from her friends and had a million more family gifts to open later that night.) Fine! We spent a nice long time in the toy section, where she examined every Barbie and LOL and LEGO set and craft set and piece of Harry Potter merchandise in the entire store. Did we look at a single book? No. Again, it was lovely to be able to be as leisurely as possible, and let her take her time and enjoy herself. I took pictures of her holding things she wanted to buy, which I think gives her the same little thrill I get out of putting things I want in online shopping carts.

Then we stopped at a deli to pickup takeout sandwiches and headed home. 

For dinner, she requested homemade tacos. You KNOW I was happy to comply. And then we had raspberry cheesecake for dessert. 

It was a perfectly serviceable cheesecake. The crust was buttery and crunchy and the cheesecake had a good texture (except for the center, which was a little too soft for my taste). I had reserved some of the raspberry puree and we drizzled that over our slices. 

If only the entire theme could have been Sparkly Pink T-Rex. I would have really leaned into that.

Not my most beautiful or favorite cake, by a long shot, but it was what Carla wanted and I think it turned out okay. 

All in all, a satisfying – and surprisingly low-stress (once I secured the venue) – birthday celebration!

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My house looks like the scene of a collision between a LEGO truck, a dinosaur themed party supply warehouse, and a JoAnn Fabric. LEGO bricks and crafting supplies and dinosaur-themed things are strewn through pretty much every room. And our beloved housecleaner comes TOMORROW, along with the long-awaited plumber, so I need to de-toy-ify the floors at the very least. I am DREADING the act of finding a home for all these new things. WHERE will it all go? I’m sure it will lead to one of those things where you open the craft cupboard to put in new supplies and you decide the only way the new things will fit is if you reorganize the whole cupboard and I am not up for that.

Instead, I think I shall type up a blog post. 

New Nail Polish: I have been admiring some of Essie’s summer nail colors, but I have two problems with Essie nail polish. First, it is expensive. Second, it takes too long to dry and I am impatient, which means that any time I DO spend the $9 it costs to acquire an Essie nail varnish, I end up wasting a bunch of it because I smear my nails every time. Every. Time. I’m really a Sally Hansen Insta-Dri nail polish kind of girl, you know? Despite the absolute ridiculousness of spelling “dry” with an I, the Insta-Dri line has a wide variety of colors, dries in seconds, and costs under $5 per bottle. Done and done. But when I saw that Essie now has a quick-dry line of polish, I was very intrigued. The name of said polish – Essie Expressie – made me heave a deep, exasperated sigh, but what can we expect from those poor beleaguered nail polish marketing folk who have to continually pump out name after name for slightly different shades of pink? (In the Time Zone? Mall Crawler? Mic Drop-It-Low? How are these names? At least Get a Mauve On has an indication of the actual color.) This is all to say that I was intrigued enough to shell out $8.99 for a bottle of Crave the Chaos and I am very pleased indeed. The exact right shade of pink and it went on smoothly and with nary a smudge. Now all I need is a nail polish that sticks only to fingernail and repels instantly off skin. 

Mask-Friendly Mascara: While I don’t really wear makeup, I do have one true love and that is mascara. I almost ALWAYS wear mascara, because my eyelashes are pale and stubby and I feel like I look very odd when I go au naturel. The problem, though, is that mask wearing, especially mask wearing plus heat and humidity, make my mascara melt down my eyelashes and onto my cheeks. (And I am still wearing a mask indoors, in public, so this is a Real Issue.) I recall with horror one incident this past winter where I wore mascara skiing, and when I removed my goggles – but not my mask – to greet some friends I hadn’t seen in many months, I registered the Disturbed Looks on their faces but brushed them off. Only once I’d ambled into the restroom, much later that day, did I discover the Severe Raccoon Eye Situation I’d been sporting. Ever since that day, I have been doing something I SWORE I would never do: I wear waterproof mascara. If you know of a good waterproof mascara, please let me know because I do NOT. And every waterproof mascara I have ever tried is IMPOSSIBLE to remove. I have to practically rip each individual eyelash out of my lids to get that infernal substance off me. But I have found a solution! I got a sample size tube of Chanel mascara when I bought someone  fancy face cream from Nordstrom, and it came with a sample size tube of Chanel La Base mascara base. (A rather redundant name, but at least it isn’t “Taxi Hopping” or “Lose the Snooze” or “All Things Ooo” which a real, live person or persons came up with and slapped on the side of a nail polish bottle.) So what I have been doing is applying the base – which is white – and then putting the waterproof mascara on top of it. Voila! The waterproof mascara stays put, but comes off much more easily with the base than without. I am assuming you can use any base-coat mascara, to avoid paying THIRTY-TWO AMERICAN DOLLARS for the Chanel.

image from nordstrom.com

Good Clean Dino Fun: My mother-in-law brought Carla this soap-making kit, and, best of all, the soaps are shaped like dinosaurs. They did the project together and made little soaps for the favor bags we handed out at Carla’s dinosaur themed party. It was an excellent craft, very easy to clean up, and made very satisfying little soaps. If you have a child in your life who like both dinosaurs and crafting, this should be on your radar. 

image from amazon.com

Dinosaurs and LEGO Unite: While on the subject of the dino-loving child, she received this 3-in-1 dinosaur LEGO set from a friend. I think it will be PERFECT for when we visit my parents later this summer, because it’s small and yet you can make three separate creatures out of the LEGO bricks included. In fact, I have had this in my Amazon cart, waiting until we got a little closer to our trip to order it. (I find it’s nice to have a couple little surprises on hand, to help with the stress and potential boredom of traveling.)

image from amazon.com

Maxi Skirt: I have continued my search for a maxi skirt I like. And I think I found it in this Tie-Dye Striped Midi Skirt from Loft. The fabric is lightweight but sturdier than jersey, so it floats over my lumpy hips rather than rippling magnifyingly along every bump and bulge. I am pleased that it is also white and blue, which means I can wear it for the Fourth of July. 

image from loft.com

More Jean Shorts?!?!?!: Also from Loft, I am really enjoying these Fresh Cut High Waist Boyfriend Shorts. They fit my criteria: high rise, roomy leg openings, not too short, and free shipping.

image from loft.com

I find the name perplexing – fresh cut? like flowers? or a bundle of garden-grown herbs? And I really doubt anyone’s boyfriend would wear these, ever – but they are comfy and long enough that I can roll up the hems if I want to. Somehow I have transformed, in a single year, from a person who owned zero pairs of jean shorts to a person who now owns SIX PAIRS. (The shorts I ordered most recently have a button fly, which I dislike… but they are also very cute so I may keep them. And I also got a pair of these striped denim shorts from Loft that I am pretty sure I will keep as well.) Now that I have these bad boys and two more Madewell tanks, I am thinking my summer uniform is now complete. 

Fun Raisins: Well, this is a post of eating my words, I think. I never thought I would be a shorts-sporter, or a waterproof-mascara wearer, or a person who buys $9 nail polish, but I NEVER EVER thought I would be someone who eats raisins for non-life-and-death reasons. And yet here we are. My sister-in-law had a box of strawberry flavored raisins with her when she came to visit, and I tried some to be polite, and they were SUPER YUMMY. They tasted more like slightly-sour candy than a raisin, which, I cannot stress enough, was always right up there with eating someone’s surgically-removed mole in terms of appetizing. But I liked them so much I bought a box MYSELF, and a box of watermelon flavored raisins to have as a cupcake backup at Carla’s birthday party. They are very tasty and I highly recommend them. Even if you are a raisin hater. NEVER SAY NEVER.

What are you loving lately?

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It is a very hot Saturday, although not so hot for me as it is for some, and I have some unexpected Alone Time on my hands and am not quite sure how to fill it. I could fold laundry. Or I could continue editing my manuscript. Or I could exercise. But none of those things sounds appealing in the least, so let’s have some randomosity.

  • I am developing new purse lines below my bottom lip. Purse lines? Is that the right term? The little vertical lines above and below your mouth that indicate you have been pursing your lips, possibly in a very judgmental fashion. I am trying very hard to Be Aware of my mouth, and to relax my lips whenever possible. But it’s an ongoing battle. I don’t even think I’m doing it in a judgmental way – at least, not always. I can’t figure out WHY I am doing it, though. But I am not looking forward to the deepening of these particular wrinkles. 
  • I have already made 36 cupcakes today. They are vanilla with lemon cream cheese frosting and they are perhaps not my best effort. But they are DONE and ready for Carla’s birthday party. All I have to do is stick little dinosaur toppers on them before giving them to the kids. I will try to get a picture, but children bear such a strong resemblance to locusts when cupcakes are involved. 
  • My biggest fret about the birthday party is the cupcakes. Well. The heat, really. Because I am afraid the frosting will melt. I have a cupcake holder and plan to set it on top of some ice packs and put some other ice packs on top of it for the part of the party that doesn’t involve cupcake eating. We’ll see if that helps. I am also slightly nervous that there will be a thunderstorm during the party and the nature hike portion of the party will be canceled and I will be stuck having to entertain ten eight-year-olds. I have packed some easy crafty type things just in case. 
  • My in-laws are here, for Carla’s birthday. It is so lovely to see them. I cried when Carla hugged them. She hasn’t hugged a grandparent for nearly 18 months, which is too long. And then they took her with them, in their car, away from the house, leaving my husband and me alone together. What?!?!?!?! We squandered the opportunity, me by making cupcakes and him by going to get his hair cut. But it was lovely and weird to be together without our child for those few minutes.
  • You know I’ve been in a big Cooking Slump, and it hasn’t dissipated with the arrival of guests.Sometimes guests can be just the inspiration I need to find some new recipe to try… but not this time. Right up until the day they were here I kept asking my husband, “But what should I cook for dinner?” We even figured out that all I really had to do was cook for three of the nights they are here – the other nights, I am being kind to myself because of things like birthday party  (won’t want to cook but will want a stiff drink after that’s over) and spending the day making a cheesecake (don’t know how to make a cheesecake and anticipate having to make more than one, so won’t want to cook). And one of those three nights is Carla’s birthday, and she requested tacos, so all I have to do is come up with TWO MEALS. And I just… couldn’t think of anything! What do we EAT? What meals do we MAKE? It is like someone zapped the specific part of my brain devoted to food preparation. Fortunately, I have recorded all my meals on this here blog for a million years. So I started scrolling through the Dinners This Week posts. The first thing I noticed is that this Cooking Slump has been going on for a looooonnnnng time. The second thing I noticed is that I have been making (or at least planning to make) the same approximately four meals for months now. None of which seem appropriate for guests. My husband was at an equal loss. 
  • You are dying to know what I decided on, I can feel it: Crockpot balsamic pork, which I served over brown rice and topped with feta cheese, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, marinated artichoke hearts, and caramelized onions. It was easy, delicious, and my in-laws both commented on how nice it was. The other idea I had was to grill chicken shawarma alongside some zucchini planks. And, if I could get it together, maybe serve it with a quinoa salad. And then the third night, tacos. For the rest of the nights, we will have takeout. 
  • I am having a lot of fun testing out the capabilities of the Dawn Power Wash I bought recently. I have not yet tested out Gigi’s suggestion to use it on my shower door. But I did use it to scrub a stain off of my siding. (The stain reappeared, through no fault of the Dawn Power Wash.) When I caramelized the onions for the balsamic pork last night, the bottom of my pan of course turned all black and sticky. So I tried Dawn Power Wash on that, and it worked – like magic! – and my pan is shinier than it has been in years. The only thing that has proven too tough for Dawn Power Wash, so far, is the inside of my wok. I made fajitas awhile ago and the bottom of the wok crusted over with a sticky, black layer that has refused EVERYTHING I’ve tried: attacking it with Dawn Power Wash, vinegar soak, vinegar and baking soda; washing it in the dish washer; boiling vinegar in the wok; trying to cook something else in the wok in hopes of loosening it up. The wok is, for now, unusable because I’m not sure what to try next. 
  • Did you notice that I mentioned “cheesecake” up there awhile ago? For her birthday this year, Carla requested a raspberry cheesecake. Because I have only once ever made a cheesecake once (and I was so bowled over by morning sickness at the time that I could not enjoy it), I gave in to my husband’s suggestion that we outsource the cheesecake to professionals. I think YOU know how difficult a decision that was for me, considering that I have always baked Carla’s birthday cakes and use the baking time to process my complex feelings about her traumatic birth and her refusal to stay a baby/toddler/young child as long as I wish she would. We bought MANY cheesecakes to try, hoping to find The One True Cheesecake. And none of them were good. I would say only two of the five? six? we bought were even edible; the rest were too soft or had gelatin in them or the crust was disgusting. So. We are now back to ME making the cheesecake. I am a tiny bit relieved. Where are all those Time Is Fleeting feelings supposed to GO if I can’t pour them into a cake??? It is surprisingly difficult to find a recipe for a raspberry cheesecake that doesn’t have white chocolate, but I have found one and am going to try it. Wish me luck. 
  • I found a very cute black dress on a new-to-me website and ordered it. And, in doing so, figured I would try a pair of jeans and a pair of shorts as well, what the hey they have free returns, and hit ORDER. Then I got an email that the dress is out of stock. Sigh.
  • Speaking of things I have recently ordered online: I finally decided that I need a new bathing suit. Dress for the body you have, not the body you want, is what I’m trying to wrap my brain around. The bathing suits are bikinis, which is a stretch. And they are high waisted, which I fear will get the ol’ nose wrinkle from my husband. But I am going to try them and hope for the best. (I got two in slightly different styles, just to see.) Bathing suit shopping is worse even than jeans shopping, but being able to order things online and try them on in my own home makes it a teensy bit better. 

All right, Internet. That’s all I have for you today. What’s up with you this weekend?

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Sometimes the day just seems to fall apart before it’s even really gotten going. Like today, when Carla was late to camp because we (I) forgot an essential at home and we had to turn around to get it. 

And then I went to Target to return some ill-fitting water shoes, and decided to pick up a couple more pairs of jean shorts for Carla because she prefers jean shorts to anything else. And there was a big display of Cat & Jack shorts that said “comfy jean shorts $10!” Under the sign were multiple piles of jean shorts, in multiple colors, and I looked suspiciously at some of the tags that clearly said $15 instead of $10… but Target is notoriously bad about many things that involve any sort of detail orientation, so I grabbed two pairs. Target also makes it nearly impossible to see what you are being charged as each item goes over the scanner: the only way to do it is to stand back by the conveyor belt and stare over the checker’s shoulder at their computer. Of course, I missed seeing the shorts scan. And I am terrible at math, so I thought maybe the final price was a little high, but could be in the realm of accurate? (I grew up in a state with no sales tax and have NEVER SINCE been able to figure it out.) I even asked the checker if the shorts rang up as $10 and he looked and said yes. This is a very long and boring story!

As I left the store, I looked at the receipt and one pair had indeed rung up as $15, so I went back in and asked at customer service what the deal was. And they shrugged and said, “Well, the display meant that THESE comfy shorts are $10, but not all of them.” And while I was trying to parse that in my head, I nodded and shoved the shorts back in my bag and left, and then fumed all the way home about not simply returning the shorts when I had paid $5 more than I intended to pay for them. Or at the very least saying what I wanted to say which was, “Well, that is a deeply misleading sign.” 

Anyway! Home!

To discover a giant leak underneath my kitchen sink. All of the cleaning supplies and trash bags and extra Scrub Daddies were completely soaked. 

And while I was removing each item and then drying out the cupboard and trying to diagnose the source of the leak (why? how? I am not equipped for that nor for addressing a leak should I find one), the pest control people CALLED ME BACK.

Which just added to my hatred of this morning because I had specifically asked – via email (after I had responded, via email to an invoice, and he left me a garbled voicemail) – that the guy EMAIL ME INSTEAD OF CALLING.

Not only is he boldly ignoring an explicit and reasonable request, he is trying to retroactively change the pricing terms we had discussed before I had the pest control people come out to deal with a Wasp Situation. And I was Very Frustrated and Sharp with him on the phone, and told him that I didn’t mean to be sharp, but I was dealing with a leak and this was not a good time (why did I answer the phone? why did I bring home the $15 shorts?) and would he please EMAIL ME all the rates that we had discussed, and instead of saying, “Sure,” he said, “Oh I understand completely, give me a call back when it is more convenient.” NO. EMAIL ME. OMG. 

His reasoning is that their rates change, so I guess he didn’t want to commit to something in writing. Which a) is bullshit and b) can’t he simply spell that out in the email??????

I did finally persuade him to email me, but it took an increasingly strident and near-tears additional request.

Oh, and now that I am writing this out, I do think he finally agreed to email me what we’d talked about (EXACTLY) so that I could talk it over with my husband, which in retrospect seems VERY condescending and sexist and jerkfacey. I mean, I was being quite short with him, but wanting to see a list of rates rather than having to remember all the specifics shared during a conversation, especially when I am otherwise distracted, is a reasonable desire and not an example of my poor feminine brain being unable to compute simple numbers. And if I didn’t absolutely adore the guy who comes to do the application of pest spray, I would find a new pet control company in a heartbeat. 

These things are all handle-able. They ARE. None of this is the end of the world, or even, taken individually, that big of a deal. I am not despondent, just frustrated. Frustrated because of these things and because today was supposed to be my one day this week to do some writing. (Does venting to you count as writing?)

Frustrated, too, because I am in a phase where everything seems to be falling apart: our fridge is still on the fritz, which means either an expensive repair or a new fridge; the shade in our bathroom no longer goes up more than a few inches; the WASP SITUATION; there is a stain on our front siding that I scrubbed off last week and has since reappeared, indicating a potential leak inside our soffit; we need to paint/stain/do something to both the trim on the front of the house and the playset in the yard.

And Father’s Day is this weekend, along with two birthday parties Carla is attending, and I am meeting a friend for her birthday tomorrow, so I have a million presents to wrap today/tomorrow and, this weekend, lots of good, wonderful reasons to not be writing. But it is all feeding the frustration. 

And Carla’s birthday is coming up and so there are a bunch of things to think about for that.

And my in-laws are visiting next week.

Anyway. It’s just now ten o’clock and I am already DONE with the day.

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I just got off of back-to-back phone calls and am feeling drained and relieved and, as always, a little self-scoldy because making a phone call is rarely quite as bad as I think it will be. Honestly, even if a phone call IS as bad as I imagined (issue remains unresolved, I have to talk to someone unpleasant, I feel like I have no idea what I’m talking about), it is usually over fairly quickly. Much more quickly than justifies the days/weeks/months of procrastinating, resisting, and fretting before I make the phone call. 

One of the calls was for a dermatology appointment – I have a mole that’s being constantly irritated by non-negotiable clothing, and I would like to have it removed. Plus, I would like to get a skin check. The scheduler seemed to think I could just go for a skin check, and have the dermatologist look at the mole then; I suppose that makes sense, to have him check it out first before he commits to scraping it from my body or whatever mole-removal procedure he uses. I had been delaying this call because I have only been to a dermatologist once before, and I could NOT for the LIFE of me remember her name. So I blurted that out right at the beginning, and the scheduler was very lovely and said she could look it up, and it turned out that my previous dermatologist was no longer with this health system so I will be going to a new one entirely. 

To continue telling you overly personal and yet somehow deeply boring things about me, I figured that as long as I was on the phone ALREADY, I would try to do something that I have wanted to do since January: find a new gynecologist. I had SUCH a bad experience this past time – more than an hour’s wait, with no updates from the staff, in an increasingly crowded waiting room during a pandemic – that I was ready to leave. But I had made no progress toward finding someone new. This is the sort of thing that works best with a referral, but all of my friends see doctors in a different health system, not covered by health insurance. So! I simply asked the scheduler if she could get me in with a new gynecologist. Since I don’t need an appointment until next January, I figured I had a good chance of finding someone. And lo! the scheduler DID find me a new gynecologist and I got an appointment and PHEW. Cross two items off my list. 

The second phone call was with a company that provides entertainment for children’s parties. Specifically, they bring dinosaurs to your event and play dinosaur-themed versions of Red Light Green Light etc, and bring out fossils and talk about dinosaur facts. The dinosaurs are adult-human sized and seem to be half robot, half puppet. Carla is obsessed with dinosaurs, so I think she would love it… but I am a leeetle bit concerned that it will be too babyish for her. Like… maybe it would be ideal for the 3- to 5-year-old set. The woman I spoke to said that eight is on the upper range of the ages they serve – any older, and the kids get a little scoff-y. That was… only slightly reassuring. I mean, maybe CARLA would love it – I really think she would – but maybe her six-months-older friends would find it babyish and lame. And I think having your friends think your party is babyish and lame would be absolutely crushing at this age. Anyway, I am still mulling it. NOTE: If you would like to watch some brief Instagram videos of this company in action and weigh in on the babyishness factor, please email me and I will send you the link. 

Just as bad as the concern over how babyish it might be is the fact that the party would need to take place in my backyard. Please believe me when I say that having a party in my backyard fills me with utter dread. I am pre-stressed by even the IDEA of it. I want to go somewhere that is in the business of kids’ parties, where all I need to do is show up with a cake and some decorations, and they do everything else. And then at the end I can leave. I promise you that I will be stressed enough just doing that. 

(Last week, I did call just such a place! I had a couple of questions that didn’t have answers on their website – in fact, one question was about an add-on that was mentioned on the website, with no further details than price – so I wanted to speak to a human. I waited on hold for a long time just to leave a message. And then got an email last Friday that listed the exact same details that were on the website, and no more. I responded via email immediately, with no response; and emailed again today, only to get an out-of-office reply.)

Sadly, this is going to be a phone-call heavy week. Not only do I have a school meeting via Zoom that I have been fretting about, but I also need to call U-Haul to ask about getting a trailer hitch installed on my car. THAT is the type of phone call I hate the most, because I have no idea what I’m talking about. They will ask questions and I will have no answers. 

I also need to schedule a dentist appointment; I think I need another crown. No need to speculate on why I am dragging my feet on that one.

You know how I mentioned above that I felt a little reproachful of myself for wasting so much energy agonizing over the phone calls when really they weren’t that bad? Yeah, well, that feeling didn’t linger. 

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I am in a mood to write, but can’t think of anything particularly worthwhile to write about. So I am taking a page out of Stephany’s book and doing five bullets for this sunny Friday.

1. Our housecleaner came back! I am so delighted. But man alive was I ever awkward about the whole thing. I kept finding myself cleaning in the days leading up to her arrival. I didn’t want her to think that our house had devolved into TOTAL disarray in her absence. I am can be a decent housecleaner when I want to (i.e. when guests are imminent), and I did a pretty good job of keeping the house neat and tidy, for the most part, for the past year and change. But then I’d say to myself, maybe that will make her feel GOOD and NEEDED, to see a layer of dust on the bookshelves and a layer of soap scum on the shower door. And then I would feel ridiculous because perhaps she has no thoughts at all about the state of my house beyond, “Wow, this is really dirty and will require more time” or “Okay, this doesn’t need much attention today.” So I finally talked myself into simply tidying things – moving piles and encouraging Carla to pick up her toys and crafting spreads. It was SO NICE to have her back, but I was super awkward in person – we never hugged in the past, so I wasn’t going to hug her NOW, especially because of a pandemic. And I was really sweaty for some reason (perimenopause, or some sort of pre-housecleaner-return panic attack) so I was uncomfortable and my mask was sticking to my face. And I didn’t want to be TOO gushy about having her back because, after all, this is WORK for her. But I did want to be appropriately gushy because I missed her, both as a housecleaner and as a person. We exchanged a little bit of small talk and then she got right to work and I flapped about the house, not really knowing where to be or what to do. I kept remembering things to tell her – let me know if we are out of some cleaning supply you need; make sure you take as many mask breaks as you need; open the windows if you feel more comfortable – and then I went outside and sat on the porch and failed to concentrate on anything because Someone Was In My House.

2. Carla’s birthday is coming up. We are contemplating an Actual Party this time (outdoors), which makes me pre-exhausted. I don’t want to find a venue or buy decorations or come up with an activity or figure out how to do everything in a way that provides everyone with the least exposure to Covid. I want someone to plan her party FOR ME. Is there someone I can call and pay to do this? Why yes, Suzanne, this is called a Party Planner and they exist and cost way more than what you want to spend on an eight-year-old’s birthday bash, get it together.

3. We, once again, had too many overripe bananas in the house. Not a SINGLE ONE of my many cookbooks had a recipe for chocolate banana snack cake. Only the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook even had any banana snack cake recipes at all. It’s like Martha Stewart and Maida Heatter have never even HEARD of bananas, although I think their books had entries for how to store overripe bananas. But then what to DO with them, Martha and Maida????? Anyway, I found this Betty Crocker recipe online – chosen primarily because I didn’t have to soften any butter, and secondarily because it didn’t call for buttermilk, and tertiarily because I could mix the entire thing in the baking pan itself – and it turned out very well. EVEN THOUGH I didn’t have the right pan size and therefore had to increase the recipe by 50%, which required a LOT of math. My husband had three pieces last night alone, so I know it was a hit. (If you recall, I do not eat bananas.)

4. My skin has pretty much returned to normal, after its prolonged temper tantrum the other week. I have no idea what to do with the FIVE BOTTLES of skincare product I used literally once or twice. My husband suggested that I try them out, one at a time, to see which one is the culprit… but a) if I were a betting man, I would guess all three of the products with retinol were responsible and b) they were meant to be used together, not separately, and c) I don’t wanna.

5. I have absolutely no plans this weekend. Normally, this would be fine – especially seeing as one of the days would be designated Cleaning Day, and dusting, floor scrubbing, and vacuuming would take up a good portion of the day. But now that I have my beloved housecleaner to take over the heavy lifting, I have an entire day back! Obviously, I could curl up in a chair and read all weekend, which is always delightful. But I’m in an activity kind of mood (subject to change). Let’s see. I still have no desire to go to a restaurant. But it would be nice to Do Something this weekend. Perhaps the zoo? The botanical garden? Maybe we could scope out a few potential birthday party venues? Gah. What are YOU doing this weekend, that I could potentially copy?

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First, a warning: I bought myself a bag of Easter-themed peanut butter M&Ms. They are delicious, but they are the exact shape/heft of a peanut M&M, which means that I am always, every single time, surprised when there is no peanut inside. 

Now, a heads up: Looking up a link for the peanut butter M&M eggs, I discovered that there is something called M&Ms Easter Mystery Mix Eggs, which is a bag full of eggs and some are chocolate and some are peanut butter and some are double chocolate. FYI. There is only so much time left until Easter, so I advise trying them right away to determine how many bags you need.

This week is my birthday and birthday plans are in the offing. We are having not only tacos on The Day, but we are also getting Mexican takeout (including margaritas) on the weekend. AND my husband is making me a lemon cheesecake, which is VERY exciting and also darling (he has never made a cheesecake before! he is also planning to make his own lemon curd! plus he took the afternoon off to make the cake and spend extra time with me!). AND a friend is taking me out for birthday tea (we plan to park next to each other and chat between cars). In non-food fun, I have a Zoom happy hour planned with my high school girl friends; it has nothing to do with my birthday, which is ideal. AND my family and I have an outdoor excursion planned with another family. If we have any energy leftover, I have requested that Carla and my husband and I play games; I bought Clue for this very reason, but we have many other games as well. (Apparently there are TWO Clue movies?!?! Perhaps I will force encourage my husband to watch one or both with me!) I am going to buy some champagne to sip while we play. Should be a lovely celebratory weekend!

Since not everything is about me (gasp), Purim falls during this week, so I will be attempting to make hamantaschen. (They will be filled with apricot and raspberry preserves, per my husband’s request. The recipe makes plenty for sharing with the neighbors.) Also also, I am cooking dinner for a friend and her family one night this week and I am planning to make some chocolate brownie cookies for them. I have already made a banana chip snack cake with the inevitable overripe bananas that accumulate when I try to meet my family’s banana needs; there is no way to achieve an ideal number of bananas at an ideal level of ripeness: I have either too few bananas or far, far too many; they are either mostly green or nearly black. Thank goodness for banana snack cakes, amirite?

It is indeed a food filled week! Which, as you know, is my favorite kind of week.

Dinners for the Week of February 23-March 1

OMG INTERNET NEXT WEEK IS MARCH.

If nothing else, I will start my fifth decade with a full, happy belly. And I will definitely report back on the cheesecake. 

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