Saturday, October 20, 2018

Miser Family update: Bar Mitts, Books, and Conservation of Sons

Warm hands on a cold morning, biking home from
our rescue mission and the market.
In spite of the stock market ups-and-downs, life in the Miser Family household continues to be rich and full.  Just last week, we were basking and baking in 80+ degree temperatures, but the cold front that blew last Friday in changed everything, overnight.   We spent the weekend closing doors and windows, pulling out our puffy down comforter and winter-weather clothes, and dressing my bike in its "Bar Mitts".   The change in weather has been dramatic, and also more than a little beautiful. 

Speaking of warm clothes, here's a cute photo my step-daughter sent me of her dogs playing with the neighbor dogs in their matching "outfits".  Adorable!

My husband had surgery on his left knee this past Tuesday.  Can we pause for a moment to remember how incredibly awesome modern surgery is?  I mean, really, he should have died -- or at least been paralyzed -- a dozen years ago when he crashed his bike a dozen years ago and broke his neck in three places. But his neck is all better, and he's still biking like crazy.  So, this Tuesday he got operated on to put two of his ligaments back in the right places.  And later that very same day, he was walking around on that recently-repaired knee.  He mentioned he might drive to the drug store to pick up his pain meds, which he didn't actually seem to need at the moment, and I made noises about don't-get-in-the-CAR-because-I-could-just-walk-there, so he changed his mind and biked to the drug store.  Huzzah for doctors, I say.

N-son is still off having a blast at his school and will be gone there for another week yet; J-son is still doing well at his school and came to visit this weekend, so it's kind of like conservations of sons.  K-daughter took some big chances and has applied for jobs that would bring a big bump in her salary.  I-daughter traveled to New York to visit the Sheep and Wool festival there, but she sent some of her friends in her place to help me can applesauce (we put up 40 jars of various sizes).

And as for me, the big, happy happening of the week is that . . . the Book is In!  I sent the manuscript off to my editor, and I'm Dee-Oh-En-EEE Done!  Yay! Picture me, gonzo-style hands waving in the air while I run in circles!!! Woooooo!

Oooh, man, just writing that makes me want to run in circles some more.  So I'll end with that news of being wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Family update -- sons here, sons there, sons elsewhere version

Life continues to shower riches in abundant fullness on the Miser Family household. We've had some happy updates and some big changes this week.

We began the week in celebration at our second annual Super Hero Dinner, with 2/3 of my super children and all of my grandchild present, and a couple of heroic guests joining us for extra super festivity.
Look-it-me!  I'm flying!
And then on Monday, my youngest child left home.  (Pardon me while I pause a moment; something salty seems to have dislodged from my throat and gotten lost in my eyeball cavities).

N-son left Monday morning to head to his new school for an orientation/evaluation that is supposed to last "at least two weeks".  Before he left, he gave me a tearful-and-sobby-but-brave hug good-bye.  He was quiet for the whole 4-hour car ride with his dad.  And then he entered the building of his new school where the guard at the desk took his ID picture to hang on his lanyard, and he lit up.   He moved into his new bedroom that my husband described as reminding him of many army barracks rooms (admittedly, the Sargent's rooms, not 40-person halls full of bunks), with furniture designed for durability that has clearly already successfully survived generations of hardship.  N-son seemed delighted, and when he discovered he could go to the cafeteria for lunch, he waved good-bye and told his dad he could leave now.

N-son with three of his many new friends.
(I love this photo because it's obviously Not My House:
plastic bags, soda, paper napkins,
disposable cup, potato chips . . . )
N since called me twice.   Contents of the first call:

  • He made at least 10 friends the very first day.
  • He's in a nice room; it has a steel bed!  He might get a roommate soon, but he's not sure.
  • He got to have pancakes and sausages at breakfast.
  • He's spending his day in "evaluation".  I asked what that means, and he explained he had one day where he did a "speed time thing with his hands"; another evaluation included OT for strength stuff: can he lift heavy things, like 70-75 lbs?  
  • There's a great gym, with a basketball court and bleachers.  He's going to play flag football and join the intramural basketball league.


Contents of the second call:
He's not coming home for three weeks; he's decided that in addition to studying Culinary Arts and Materials Distribution (working in a warehouse), he also wants to study Building Maintenance.  So he's sticking around for extra evaluation.  
At any rate, he's super happy.

J-son is also thriving. When he came down for the Super Hero dinner, I gave him his birthday presents:  two copies of Netter's Anatomy (one in color, and one that he can color in).  This goes with his current studies in sports therapy.  And J-son was so into the book, that he wouldn't even look up to thank me.  Which was actually the best kind of thanks I could get.

Did you know that everything goes through the heart from left to right?  Now I do.  J-son showed me the vena cava.  He's studying that in school, and he thinks it's really cool that these books are like (maybe even exactly the same one) as what he's using in school.  He's gotten an internship in a boxing gym, so that's good, too.

So what else is going on?  My husband is not pregnant (phew!), but he's learned he's going to get an epidural anyway.  Something about putting steroids into his spine.  But first he has to have knee surgery -- but that's next week's news, not the past week.  My husband's happiest moment this week was meeting the author Timothy Snyder in New York, and also doing whatever canvassing he can now, before next week's surgery lays him low for a while.

We got a really lovely letter from X-son, the child from Haiti who we tried unsuccessfully to adopt, and who we now try to support in place in his school.  He's "in [his] last year of classical school", and looking good.  He's had such a series of challenges, some of them self-imposed, so it's a relief and an encouragement and a joy to see him doing so well now.  The letter is full of love and hope, and good for the heart.  ('Scuse me while I take care of that eye-thing that seems to have come back momentarily.)

What else?  I got to go to an amazing concert; one of the chorus members who got a solo was my very-own child, who just a few short days earlier was dressed as BatWoman, but who that night belted out an aria instead of belting villains.  (Thanks for the tickets, I-daughter!  My husband said he loved the whole concert, but that the best part for him was seeing me break into belly laughs at the transitions between songs).

And there was more, but this post has gone on long enough.  We really do continue to be wealthy in our adventures; may you and yours be similarly prosperous.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Stealth Roofers

I've been visited by elves this week. 

The elf story starts with the construction projects we've hired out for our home.  We'd asked our contractors to paint the ceiling in our guest bedroom -- a ceiling that had been water-damaged as a result of a leaky roof we'd fixed a few years ago.   Except that right before they started painting, we had a rain storm that demonstrated that the roof was no longer fixed.

The contractors, instead, with my blessing, took down the ceiling and helped us find some roofers (not an easy task with all the rain everyone here on the East Coast has been getting this fall).


With the ceiling reminding me of every girl scout summer cabin I'd ever stayed in, the contractors sent me an email saying,
A quick follow up. We are waiting for [the roofer] to let us know when you are in the schedule. Although don’t be surprised if he just stops in and completes it. I’ve heard he has a tendency to do that. 

So I gamely waited for a while,  until one day early this week I came home and saw this in my yard:  
Piles of compost dirt strewn around.
It looked like someone had strewn gopher-sized piles of compost or mulch around the yard.  Or maybe like someone had cleaned out our gutters (except that our gutter guards have pretty much eliminated the compost that used to accumulate there).   So I figured the stealth roofers had come by.  Sure enough, my contractors wrote to me later that evening:
I heard that Your roof is finished. Not sure if you knew . He just texted us saying it’s completed. I’ll get you on the scheduled for finishing the drywall

And here's a view of that pesky roof, from the attic window.  Just in time for the rain that blew in this evening.


So thanks to my stealth roofer elves!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Super Hero dinner!


Faster than a speeding Prius!
More powerful than a locavore!
Able to sweep tall buildings with a single broom!

It's absurd; it's insane; it's . . . Super Miser Family!
See me flying by???
What I love about habit and tradition is that it makes all kinds of things easier, even kinda kooky things.  Our family has such a habit of "Special Dinners" that, even though I've felt a bit swamped with (and frankly, even a bit dragged down by) grading exams, somehow this latest special dinner all fell together lovely on a late Sunday afternoon.

Food?  Well, even though it's only the Second Annual Super Hero Dinner, we had a menu precedent from last year.  (Super Heroes eat pizza and drink [root] beer, apparently).  Clothing?  Well, some of us were more Super-y than others, but mild-mannered clothing is always welcome, and those of us who suit up more spectacularly already had the spectacular lying in wait.  And super guests?  Well, that happened, too (more on that, below). 

But back to the food:  I've long been a proponent of the "Pantry Principle" I first read about in the most excellent Tightwad Gazette.   I keep vast supplies of flour, yeast, and other baking supplies in the basement, so whipping up a birthday cake for J-son and dough for pizza was as easy as . . . well, as easy as pizza dough and cake.  I keep canning jars of tomatoes in the basement as well, and blocks of cheese in the freezer, so the rest of the pizza emerged from the basement and the freezer right on cue.  Odds and ends from our CSA turned into pizza toppings.  In fact, the only shopping needed was a bit of icing (since J-son asked for a different kind of cake than I usually make) and root beer. 

As for activities, a long history of special dinners meant that the family showed up ready for action.  There were costumes (even my husband wore special super hero socks --- he knows I'm a sucker for a man with socks appeal).  One of my daughters showed up and announced, "I can't stay for very long, but I made sure to show up in time for the photo" . . . and for some reason, it was only then that I realized that taking photos at Special Dinners has become Tradition with a capital T. 

J-son is stuck in a tube.
N-son got his turn being stuck next . . . 
After dinner, there was traditional silliness, with the majority of silliness provided (per usual) by the younger generation.  J-son and N-son, who are diligently working their way upward out of the "younger generation" label, were goaded on by some crazed woman (me) to try to fit through my granddaughter's rainbow-colored crawling tubes.  You kind of had to be there to appreciate how funny that was. 

A-child, of course, had no trouble at all showing her uncles just how easy it was for her to slip on through.  Super Crawler! 


We were really fortunate to have a pair of Super Guests (who managed to escape photographic detection).  In keeping with the theme of "making hard things easier", both of these guests were people we invited because we're in awe of their Super Organizational Powers.   My daughter brought a friend who corrals our local chorus, and who also is becoming my applesauce buddy.  My husband brought a new friend who is one of the driving forces behind the structure of the Tuesdays with Toomey protests.  She's credited by just about everyone who attends with creating the framework (from pre-planning beforehand, to celebrating "Weekly Victories" together, to sending thank-you notes afterward) that make the weekly events such a smoothly running and powerful way for people to come together.  While she was with us, she told me a tiny bit about her love for process and structure (including -- be still my beating heart -- rules for dealing with trash).  I kind of wish I'd pumped her more . . . although  I admit I was a bit distracted by young men hollering that they were stuck in rainbow tubes. 

So, in the midst of my kids running in and out of the house on the way to chorus, K-daughter needing advice about job hunting, J-son celebrating a birthday, N-son getting ready to head off for a two-week evaluation at his new school, and a pile of exams still smoldering on my desk . . . in the midst of all this, we could still come together with family and friends for celebration of the Good Stuff of life. 

So, huzzah for pantries, huzzah for traditions, and huzzah for Super Organized guests who make the world a better place. 
Awww . .  . 


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Miser Family update: treasure edition

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family.  The week began for me being rich in waffles; my granddaughter A-child has started learning the all-important technique of stirring batter and helping to load it into a hissing iron.  She likes the stirring, but not the hissing. 


Meanwhile, my husband and N-son began the week rich in dogs and football, visiting L-daughter, her husband and brother-in-law, all three of whom play on a local team that had a blow-out winning game that weekend.  Records set all around. 

The week continued in its full way: once he got back home, my husband got to go to several protests, to Hebrew class, to synagogue, and also an MRI appointment.  N-son served breakfast and lunch and chopped vegetables at our local soup kitchen.  I held many office hours, and then tortured my students with a calculus exam that was way too hard, and then I tortured myself by grading the exam.  Somewhere in there, we went with K-daughter and I-daughter to a rousing performance of Treasure Island, which combines motifs from our recent Pirate Dinner and the Titanic show.  I think I need to go take a nap now.

Because that's the latest from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous. 




Sunday, September 30, 2018

Miser family update: thank a medical professional version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  We've had trips to the theater, trips to visit family, and visits with doctors --- lots and lots of doctor visits this week, in fact.

Why so many doctor visits?  Some of these were routine/background.  N-son is gearing up for the orientation/evaluation that his new school provides, and in preparation for that, they require a really comprehensive medical and mental background exam.  So, at their request and on their dime, he spent three mornings speaking with doctors and therapists this week.  I have to say, I'm increasingly impressed with our Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. 

Meanwhile, my husband got a shot in the arm, or rather, a shot of cortisone in the shoulder. He hasn't gotten his knee surgery yet --- they'll stitch up the torn ligaments in his knee in about two weeks from now, and he's starting to count down the days. 

As for me, I'd started getting a bit freaked by a long-lasting sore throat and a semi-painful bump on my stomach. My standard habit when I start to worry about things like this is to write them in my calendar two weeks out, realize two weeks later that my concerns had gone away naturally, and then sigh with relief. This time, two weeks passed and both problems persisted, so I hauled myself off to my doctor, who sent me to an ENT and for a sonogram.  My ENT says my ears look good, my nostrils are PERFECT (who knew you could have perfect nostrils?), and my throat looks like a throat. And the sonogram folks didn't discover buried treasure or my long-lost car keys or anything else particularly scary down there; they say the bump is just my lipoma [a fatty bump].  I'll get that removed eventually, but for now I can breathe a little more easily.

So I'd just like to pause for a moment of gratitude to modern medicine.  A little more than a century ago, my great grandfather died of an ear infection.  A little more than a decade ago, my husband survived breaking his neck in three places.  The contrast between then and now continues to amaze me . . .  (gratitude, gratitude, gratitude) . . .

Also this week, I-daughter turned the tables on me:  she took me to the theater instead of the other way around.  We saw a really wonderful, rousing production of Titanic: the Broadway Musical.  It had a cast of 60 or 80 people, who sang together to knock my socks off.  They never once sang that horrible insipid song about hearts.  I got to do my standard feminist rant about the show's marginalization of women and people of color (because, I feel compelled), and I-daughter got to nod her head at me as usual.   All in all, a great show!

And J-son turned 20 this week.  He continues to thrive in his sports therapy classes -- he tells me he got all A's this first quarter.  And --- for the first time in his life --- he's doing his homework unprompted.  Like, he comes home and he actually wants to keep working on this stuff.  I'm so happy that he seems to have really found his passion. 

As I write this, my husband and N-son have taken off for the weekend to visit L-daughter and her husband and dogs.  They're watching football games together (my husband says the couch looks like person-dog-person-dog-person).

So, that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy (and mostly healthy) in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Miser Family update, periodic pirate version

Who's that in the distance?
  So, I don't understand how, when I ask other people, "What's new with you?", they can say, "Oh, not much."    And they actually really mean it. 

Because life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household, and new, exciting stuff continues to pour into our hours and into our days and into our weeks.   Oh, my.

Early in the week, my husband returned from London, where he'd been with a bunch of other chemists and historians of chemistry, preparing for the upcoming anniversary of something that Mendeleev did about a century ago.  (Or maybe 150-ish years ago, since I just checked and he died in 1907?)   Anyway, London had had my husband, and now it doesn't.

That's N-son and Prewash!  Running up the street to greet me
on my way home from work.  How sweet!
I spent a bunch of time early in the week procrastinating on preparing classes so that I could pound through the index to my book.  In some sense, total success!  The index is done!  I'm so psyched about working on this thing, and I'm all a-dither to be at the point where I'm no longer doing writing or editing or creating figures; I'm in the administrative weeds. 

In another sense, though, the penalty for procrastinating on my classes took a bit of an emotional toll on me later in the week.  I hate having emotions.  Especially negative ones.  So I was glad that on Saturday I could catch back up and even get a bit ahead on my classes and committee work.  Oooh, and I was a small part of getting two disagreeing committees to actually agree on something important for my College, and that felt really good. 

Turkey legs, Caribbean bananas, oyster crackers,
limes (to prevent scurvy), and briny pickles.
And, as I'm sure you're acutely aware, this year Talk Like a Pirate Day fell on Yom Kippur.  So our family postponed our piratical festivities by one day, but we and our guests still shivered our timbers with the best of them, if a bit belatedly. 

We added a few new Pirate jokes to the annual mix.  A favorite newcomer this year, totally appropriate given the coincidence of dates, was this one:

Q:  What did the Jewish Pirate say?

A:  Ahoy Vey!

We also had a bit more construction done on the house -- the room that has a leaky roof above it now has no ceiling.  The exposed beams and insulation, together with the dog hair and bunk bed, make that room look like every other Girl Scout cabin I attended.  Believe it or not, it's going to take a while to get a roofer to come fix the leak . . . so I get to have summer camp in my home for a while longer now.  I can live with that. 

What else?  N-son continues to volunteer 5 mornings a week at our local soup kitchen, and he's ending the week the way I began it: babysitting for my granddaughter A-child.  And I-daughter, after shedding her wench wardrobe, headed out for a weekend knitting getaway with friends. 

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in new adventures.  May your and yours be similarly prosperous.