Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Shhhhhhhhhh! (Ruby)

First of all, you make me nervous, dear Patty, when you describe all the 6 lane highways you’ve navigated over the years. I don’t recall EVER driving on anything that vast…3 or 4 lanes at the most, but typically I drive on roads that have two lanes going each way and one is under construction, creating annoyingly long stretches of one thin lane. Then there are all the intentionally-single-lane “highways” that wind through little hills with bales of hay and scruffy barns; it took some getting used to that these were not considered “country lanes”...oh no, these are HIGHWAYS where you CAN and WILL cross the median, one inch to your left, if you blink. All in all, I loathe fast driving between trucks and have to psyche up for lane changes at a speed faster than 55…so kudos to you for not screwing up your 6 lane maneuver last month!

Okay, my mother lives where she lives in Connecticut because she enjoys the solitude that results from not having to see or hear her neighbors. She’s actually more social than I am, but when it comes to her home, she wants loads of privacy. Not me. I detest large, open spaces and want to know that there are plenty of people around me. When I think about living where my Mom lives, I get ugly pictures in my head about some wayward UPS delivery guy/murderer thinking he’s hit the jackpot when he sees how long my driveway is and is tickled to know that no one would ever hear me screaming, in all that wooded tangle, when he pulls out his trusty axe…classic wanderings of my mind. I was terrified to move into our first house after years of apartment dwelling with Scot; too much space, too many doors, far too many opportunities for the obvious…INVASION.

However, there is a downside to the cozy neighborhoods that I prefer and it has to do with the words that we say and the sounds we make. We can hear our neighbors YAWN. Which means that they can also hear us yawn, or for instance, scream at our children…our desperate attempts at good parenting, soured by the ugly fact that our kids walk by us with their fingers in their ears saying “lalalalala”, not hearing most of what we are begging them to do or not do. Which only makes us get louder. My kids ask me why I always have to scream everything I say and I yell back “…BECAUSE YOU NEVER LISTEN WHEN I SAY IT NICELY THE FIRST 20 TIMES!!!!!!”

I’ve thought for years that we must sound like we live in emergency mode most of the time, and partly because of our non-verbal severely autistic 18 yr. old who can make every-day stuff feel so “matter-of-life-and-death-ish”. Like any of the times we found our front door open, which would mean he’d found a carefully hidden key and decided to wander. Screams echoing throughout the neighborhood: “OH MY GOD!!!!WHY IS THE FRONT DOOR OPEN?? WHAT’S GOING ON?!!WHERE’S KIER?? DAAAAADDY? LOOK UPSTAIRS!! CALL THE POLICE!! LOOK DOWNSTAIRS!! CALL MOMMY AT WORK!!!!!!” Or the time when we could see Kier in the backyard and could see the dog’s tie-out leash draped over the 6-foot fence…when Kier decided to toss the dog over our fence into the neighbors yard. Hmmm, well I hollered SHIIIIIIIIITTT!! so loud when I figured out what this visual meant that I could have compromised hearing across the city of Madison (doggy was fine…turns out the leash was long enough for her to scamper and frolic in the neighbor’s yard...but I was sure she’d be hanging from a noose...lifeless) Or any of the times the ENTIRE family has had the stomach-flu and our neighbors got to listen to the screeching, bellowing, dying sounds of…(vomiting…shhhhh).

Then I added this to my list of embarrassing things my neighbors got to hear me say/do: Montserrat and Atticus have been told (repeatedly) not to play with this wobbly, teetering ladder that went with an above-ground pool we had for one summer, (before we saw raccoons lounging in it at night…ewww) which means that these boys LOVE to play on it, in spite of our pleas (fingers in ears – lalalalala). So when they thought I wasn’t looking, they scurried on up that ladder to stage its collapse, making themselves fall off of it on purpose, just letting it sway pathetically to the ground, spilling their bodies randomly. I try to never watch boys play because of this; all I can think of is the risk, the injury, the certain death….the dirt. Then I noticed that they were also spraying each other with gigantic super-soaker water guns, upping the ante, ensuring sudden knee jerk reactions to the spray AS they were falling…..and I SHRIEKED at them “PUT THE GUNS DOWN & GET OFF THE LADDER!!!!!!!!!! Hmmm.

Who doesn’t say THAT to their kids….?

Hey, don’t worry about me…winter in Wisconsin is an unusually L~O~N~G season. Thankfully, our windows are closed tight for 7 or 8 months and no one has to know that we even live here let alone that we spend our days and nights screaming, fighting, chewing with our mouths open, vomiting…or yawning.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Life in the fast lane (Patty) kids get me on festivities sometimes, rolling their eyes at dusty, excessive holiday decorations coming down from the attic or the notion that they would want an Easter basket, now so BABYISH, so philosophically incongruous..the whole rabbit/Resurrection disconnect...
But then, I see one of them on Facebook happily hugging an Easter Basket...what's that about?
"Oh, Ben's mom sent me an Easter Basket, she's so great!"...Hmmm, wait, I thought you said they were ridiculous? I would totally do Easter if you guys didn't taunt me the whole time. Seems like my kids have been teens for a long time.
So I drove some girls to Los Angeles last night to see In The Heights at the Pantages, (possibly America's most ornate thing) and Ah-bed from Community was sitting right behind us. He is a "D" List actor to most, but to me and Parker, he is a major celebrity, we salivate and wait for Ah-bed to arrive on the screen and we were tickled about our major sighting. We kept thinking of lame but excellent reasons to turn around, it was almost hard to watch the show. Driving home, I was going maybe 75 mph in the left lane of an 8-lane freeway and I suddenly, quickly had to MERGE RIGHT...what the f***...practically killing us all, although they were completely unaware of their impending doom...I was so wired when I got home that I couldn't fall asleep until 2AM...
But we live on to see another day. Did I tell you that Zack got a job at Commander's Palace? He likes it a lot, they call him "College Boy" in the kitchen. He also found a bass guitar in his new on-campus housing, so he has started playing the bass. Now it's getting weird. John went to Jesuit High School, Zack went to Jesuit High School. John went to Tulane, Zack went to Tulane. John worked at Commander's, Zack works at Commander's. And John played the bass..they don't seem like people with that much in common but...
Please don't laugh when I tell you that I am on my way to a Harry Potter Convention in Orlando. If you are looking for me, I will be at (just kill me now) The Night of a Thousand WIzards!


Monday, July 5, 2010

Meat, Lentils and Balloons (Ruby)

We are winding down from one of the crazier holiday weekends in our household – “July third-fourth-fifth”. Montserrat’s birthday is the 3rd, the fourth is the 4th and Antigone’s birthday is the 5th. We make a big deal of birthdays around here by completely theme-ing out the dining room as part of the party surprise. When the kids were younger we had every theme you’ve seen in every Party store in America: Sponge Bob, Spiderman, Snow White, Mickey Mouse, Pirates, Zoo Animals, Winnie the Pooh, Tinkerbell, Cars, Scooby Doo…now that my youngest – Atticus – is 11 – the themes are more generic, more about color than a specific character, while still matchy-matchy with hats, cups, blowers, tablecloths, napkins, plates and wrapping paper all coordinated to look like a FUN TIME! Montserrat said he was in the mood for “red” this year and, admittedly, I threw in Elmo hats and blowers for hahas; Antigone said “just not purple”, so she gets lime green.

But besides the colors/themes and presents, there is the birthday dinner with all of us and another dinner that happens in the same week – “Night out with Daddy” – given to each of them as a present from Scot, written in different ways, tiny notes, scrawled across a large page and folded up, slipped into an eensie-weensie box or in Montserrat’s case this year, stuffed into the impressive Cylindrical Container that Scot’s Tomatin Scotch came in.

You’ll recall that Scot and I are strict Vegetarians and that we started raising our kids as Vegetarians as well (I describe it as eating “nothing that has a Mother” to avoid the Chicken & Fish question). My Mom would visit and apologetically nibble on her meaty dinners and I would hand her a special “meat-sponge” to avoid the cross contamination that repulsed me, in theory. Scot and I had enjoyed superb vegetarian fare in New York City where we’d met and we tamed our dinners-out behavior only a little when we moved to Madison. But nothing will cramp a couple’s style of dining daring like having kids and pretty soon our vegetarian lifestyle was more about Mac & Cheese and cereal than about anything close to the Ethnic adventures that had inspired us earlier on (Ethiopian, Indian, Ukranian…). Scot would eat a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats at midnight and call it dinner. I lived on Vanilla Yogurt. Most of our dinners were entirely white. None of our five kids seemed to like anything we’d want to eat, nor did they like anything prepared the way their siblings liked it and Scot got extremely good at doing 6 or 7 variations on a theme as we tried hard to help them branch out; Burritos could be adapted and personalized to suit all the food preferences and aversions that made up our family. And there were the staples: everyone liked homemade Pancakes, Progresso Lentil Soup seemed to get family-wide thumbs-up, Pretzels were O.K., Saltines suited everyone, most of us ate bananas, as long as there were no spots or brown marks and about one inch at both ends could be discarded (by Atticus, to this day)…and a few of us have historically tolerated specific flavors of Yoplait Yogurt, but there was no leveling-up in the world of dinner adventures at our house….for years.

That is, until the kids started to have more school lunches and had their first tastes of meat, the worst possible, lowest-common-denominator meat introduction. And we now know what we all fear - that School Lunches CAN AND DO lead to more serious meat-eating. Pretty soon, we found ourselves doing family runs to McDonald’s and expecting a couple of the kids to order VERY meaty dishes whenever we ate at restaurants. Scot and I had LOVED growing up on meat and never wanted to stifle our kids from wanting it, we just weren’t in the mood to buy it and cook it at home if we could avoid it. Until the year we did a Tofurkey AND a Turkey (Gobble-Gobble style) for Thanksgiving, which stuck as a tradition from that point on and which christened our very own kitchen and our very own pots, pans and spatulas as functionally “Flexitarian” (flexible eating style that accommodates vegetarian as well as meat-eating humans). At this point there has been some major ebb and flow to the interest and disinterest in meat but at any given time there is likely to be Tofu sitting next to Steak in the fridge. Cutting boards and sponges have become less discriminating and we’ve even set the table on occasion with knives, which were never necessary before.

All of which gets me back to the third-fourth-fifth celebration weekend this year. Montserrat has grown to love RIBS, wants them all the time, salivates when we drive by Famous Dave’s and the new Brickhouse BBQ place in town, so I decided to go for broke and cook ‘em myself for his birthday dinner. I asked my Mom how to do them, looked online, asked friends…ended up with the simplest way my Grandmother had done them – slow-cooking for a long time, then slathering them with a good BBQ sauce and broiling for short stints on both sides. We called them “Chewy-Chops” growing up. And I have come full circle now, embracing the meatiest and messiest of meats, watching the boys who ate them licking their fingers, getting messy, sucking on those bones, growling and beating their chests, while the other half of us ate Scot’s fabulous Lentil-Loaf – a Meat-Loaf Wannabe that is actually out-of-this-world yummy and reminiscent of the real-deal comfort food I grew up on. For the Fourth, today, we had a cookout which was all-encompassing as well; a medley of Steak and Beef Burgers, Oscar Mayer Weiners and Tofu Pups as well as Scot’s leftover Lentil Loaf, sliced and grilled with onion and cheese….all to perfection. Everyone had something to hum about. And the rain held off until we were done with our S’mores and Sparklers.

So, one more birthday tomorrow, the dining room is decked out in green, very flowery and feminine, and all the food will be meatless because Antigone has reverted to her vegetarian ways after a few years of experimentation with Sushi and McDonald’s…her birthday dinner has been the same for a few years now: Spinach Balls (to die for) and Clafoutis (fabulous fruit and egg tart-ish). The whole meal goes down like “buttah” – no excessive chewing or cutting necessary – my comfort zone, for sure…

For their respective “Night’s out with Daddy”, Montserrat will do the equivalent of a Meat-Orgy at Samba Grill in town, where they slice hunks of various meats for you at your table according to a red-light/green-light cue from a wooden hourglass that you turn over to tell them either “keep it coming” (green end up) or “I have enough meat on my plate at this moment” (red end up). Antigone and Scot will go to our favorite Indian restaurant in town and nibble at meatless delicacies. Makes me hungry just thinking about it.

Well, that sums up our July so far.

Oh, and by the way, I also liked Christopher Plummer…and as far as what Bob Barker offered the world? a dimpled smile and – like I said - canned laughter, which was plenty for me as an eight year old!


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Party of 5 or 5 Parties of 1 ?? (Patty)

For a long time, we were 5 people living in one house. I never questioned this or anticipated a time when that would be the exception...
In the past year, we have moved to Laguna, possibly temporarily, so we have kept our house in New Orleans. Zack is moving to off-campus housing at Tulane and Madison into a similar type place in year, Parker will go off to college, so we will have 5 monthly payments for 5 different residences...that's just WRONG! Where was my family planning guru 19 years ago...3 kids in college at the same time, that is some stress on the budget!
The house that Zack and his buddies are moving into is owned by Chinese people. I begin speaking Chinese immediately every time I deal with them, i.e. "Hi Kate, (they all have American names and Chinese names, Kate's real name is Xiang) this is Patty, Zack's Mom." She replies with something like "Sure, sure! I know who you are! We talka yessaday!"
Then I say, "Kate, we NO talka yessaday"...She also shakes her head up and down, what I thought was the international signal for "yes".... while saying "no", must be an Asian thing...
After I attend the Harry Potter convention (just shoot me now...) next week, I am going to check out Madison's new digs in Buckhead, apparently we need to head to Ikea and stay indefinitely....
And by the way, how could you be in love with Bob Barker when Christopher Plummer was out there in Austria falling in love with Maria?!? If it wasn't for The Colonel, no one currently in their 40s and 50s would know that eidleveiss was small and white! What did Bob Barker contribute to society? Nada.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Let’s Make a Real-Good-Deal-o (Ruby)

Okay, so you got me remembering all the game shows that have inspired me over time…but first, I must inspire you regarding Parker and her gift for all-things-Jeopardy; I love that she has that focus…I saw it when I visited last fall…I think you and I were starting to snore and drool while Parker stayed alert, focused…ready to answer in the backwards “asking-style” answer that is unique to Jeopardy, as in “WHAT IS drooling and snoring?” Ahhhhh, such difficult questions to answer…so, GOOD LUCK to Parker – fingers X’d!!!

So, my very first “crush” on a boy/man was…are you sitting?…Bob Barker on “Truth or Consequences”, in the ‘60’s. Watching this show is among my very fave’ memories; while my Mom concerned herself with issues of younger sisters and their bedtimes, I would set myself up in the remodeled kitchen of our New York SUBurban home…and in the dark, with one very significant Jelly Sandwich on Wonder Bread – sans PB – I would slide my chair right up against the counter in front of the Black and White TV and snack while keeping my eye on The Bob…I loved that he was a smooth-talkin’ man, funny in a canned-laughter kind of way...packaged perfectly…and speaking of smooth…I would pull out the new smooth-rolling drawer which housed the likes of egg beaters and spatulas and place my feet into it, nestled into place, anchored in front of the TV. I’d stay put throughout Bob and then “The Patty Duke Show”, loving to believe in the duality of Patty and her British cousin Cathy! Never mattered that I was hip to the TV effects of the specific “twinnishness”…I was convinced by their unique personas and the fact that they parted their hair differently. But back to game shows, way beyond that crush on Mr.-Smooth-Talkin’-Barker, I loved the excitement, the fact that you could get good at this…second guess ‘em, feel like you knew the answers, feel like a fly-on-the-wall-winner, practically WIN-A-CAR!…if only vicariously…

The show that started it all for me, though, was “Let’s Make a Deal”; the hilarity of those people in costumes, acting like buffoons, hungry for recognition and a potential prize….a washer/dryer, a car, a his/hers motorcycle combo…a trip to Hawaii!!! Carol Merrill was iconic, gesturing as if to caress the goods…pumping us up as consumers, making us thirst for more. Our first stab at quasi-gambling, making the right choices on occasion, then the clapping, jumping up and down, squealing, planting an All-American kiss on the cheek of Monty Hall, showing our gratitude, our crazed, lusting appreciation of the magic which continues to be a reality in the world of game shows. The reality that tells us it can all work out in the end…with just a little luck.

And while never being one to excel at Jeopardy, Teen or otherwise, I do feel that the arena of my expertise these days might be “The Price is Right”, now that I have focused my efforts more than ever on saving money where I can. I have become crazy-aware of a Real-Good-Deal-O, as Zappa would say. The chance to buy 3 of something we may need at some time, because it makes SO MUCH GOOD SENSE, relative to the inflated price of a meager single unit, is a behavior that can get a little manic though, as you justify owning three jars of mayonnaise, as if it epitomizes wisdom and foresight. Anyway, I have – yes – developed a skill that rattles off comparative prices of all things relevant in our particular household, from soap to beer to #2 Pencils.

Anyhoo, those are the thoughts that come to mind as I think of Parker waiting to hear about her game show destiny. Let me know as soon as you hear!!!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Where was I? (Patty)

We are official Lagunatics, that is, we have moved to Laguna Beach. It is a kinder, gentler place. The police cars are Priuses and the eco-bus around town is's a nice mix of The Wealthy and The Bohemian, lots of surfers and art galleries and Mercedes coupes. Many of the restaurants have ONLY outside seating, and people walk around town barefooted... I went to court once to contest a parking violation and I was the only person on the docket all day! The Laguna Beach High School sports teams, until fairly recently, were the "Artists", not as menacing as the "Cougars" or the "Jaguars"...but I guess it was politically incorrect because they are now "The Breakers", which is appropriate because its got to be one of the few schools in America where you can see the Pacific Ocean from the classrooms, but still does not strike fear into the opponents...
Parker has made a slow adjustment. She went two or three months without ONE plan on the weekend. That is where Camp Patty came in...a weekend camp with just one 16 year old camper...since I dragged her out here, I was determined to make the move as fun as possible, between January and March, we went to Disneyland, we went to La Jolla, we jumped in the car one Saturday and drove to Las Vegas, we visited Pinkberry and Thrift shops and saw every teen movie, I am now an expert on Robert Pattinson and all things Twilight and I was glad when Emelio didn't win Project Runway...
All of a sudden, in April, thank-you Jesus! ... she started having plans, and has now dumped me as a weekend companion. It was a fun way to see the area and also kind of killing me...a four-hour drive for a one-night stay?!?!? I'm too old for that.
One other Parker thing...we love Jeopardy, and I now know that about 10,000 kids each year try out for Teen Jeopardy. You hate to crush a child's dreams, but Parker thinks she is going to be on Teen Jeopardy. It's like when your child confidently says they are going to be the President...the only thing to say is, I hope you are! First, there is a difficult on-line test, and they administer it just once a year. You think it's going to be fine, but when the test time arrives, let's say at 6PM on January 15th, its always the WORST time, last year we almost missed a plane because she was taking the stupid on-line test! I was yelling, "Parker! We HAVE to get on the plane!!" And she's like "But Mom! If I miss this I will have to wait another YEAR!!!!" As though it is her destiny put on hold....She tried and failed two years in a row.... You have to successfully jump through some hoops, but this year, she got through the group of 10,000 into the group of 1000 and from there, into the group of 150. From 150, they will pick 15 to be on the show. So last weekend was her audition! It was like 4 hours long, so much fun, they did a written test, an interview, played the game, rapid-fire answers to everything from pop-culture (Who did the Jonas brother marry?) to general knowledge (What product is Goodyear known for?) with the "signaling device"...her chances of getting on the show are still extremely low, but at least we got close!
And now you are completely up-to-date!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

are we back? (Ruby)

after months, perhaps it's time to come back folks.....we've missed this. More to to me Patty!!!!