Saturday, April 21, 2018

Miser family update: academic advent version

Many people think of the time leading up to December 25th as a time of activity and advent, either for religious or secular/commercial reasons.   But here in the Miser neck-of-the-woods, it's the end of the school year that brings frenzied, anticipatory, and celebratory activity to the forefront.  I've been going to parties, to lectures*, to dinners, to meetings, and all-the-while gearing up for the big unwrapping of the final exams I'll gift my students with (or they'll gift me with?). 

*lectures:  in addition to a few math talks,
in just one day, lecture by best-selling author Paul Tough
and then economist James Galbraith (son of economist John Kenneth G.)

Indeed, life is Rich and Full in the Miser Family Household.

And the rest of the family has been likewise full of vim and vigor.  My husband gave a presentation at a nearby synagogue on US/Israel military cooperation, in honor of the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel.  He also continues with yoga, with ESL volunteering, with protests (Tuesdays with Toomey) and with feeding our children the occasional restaurant food. He's getting ready to flee town for some kind of chemical conference, which I can't quite remember the specifics of, for reasons on paragraph #1.
Apparently, I have reared a fuzzy child.
Sorry for the blurriness.

N-son and I-daughter kicked off the week for me by singing in a concert nearby.  N-son then did his usual culinary arts stuff, and for extra excitement tossed in some drum practice at church (tomorrow I'll get to hear him live again), plus a field trip with his squash team (called the "Aces").  This is their last match before he graduates high school, and he texted me to say

I won my last squash match as a squash ace
Another fuzzy child with his chorus-mates. 
He sounds good, though!

Go, N-son, go!

J-son came down to town for some important legal meetings that turned out really, really well.  I was so glad to spend time with him (but as usual, my joy was nothing compared to the utter ecstasy that our dog Prewash showered upon him).  When our time together was done, I offered him a snack for the ride home -- peanuts I'd packaged up -- and J-son laughed and laughed and said, "it's been so long since I've seen canning jars!".  Yeah, I'm your mom, kid!  I fill up jars of love for my children.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A little love for an ugly car

My car is almost old enough to vote.  I think that's kinda cool.

I bought my car back in 200X, with X = a very small number  (2?  3?  I can't remember).  It was the Greenest of Green cars, back in the day:  Green because it was a first-generation Prius.  Green because I bought it used, not new.  Green because it was actually the color green.

I paid real money (!) to add gold-and-silver swirls, partly so I could tell it apart from other cars in parking lots (I'm not exactly a motor head), partly because making my car look different helps with theft prevention, and partly because I wanted my car to be even prettier.  My car.  My pretty green car.

My car was the clean car.  It was clean in the eco sense (did I mention it's a Prius?), but also in the sense that *I* was the driver.  My passengers were told in no uncertain terms that they took their garbage with them when they left the vehicle; my husband got to leave bottles and chargers and spare change and whatnot in his car, but my car was pristine, goshdarned it.  My pretty green car.
Passenger door,
with texture added.

Over the years, Things Happened to the car.  One of my kids, while driving it, got extra friendly with a pick-up truck, and part of the car got crumpled.  I loved my car, but I didn't love it enough to shove many-thousand$ of dollar$ into one crumpled side panel.  So the car got crumpled on the outside, but at least it was still mine on the inside. 

Then I bought my bike (the SPDM), and I bought my sons some bikes, and I worked hard on reducing our family's car usage, which mostly means reducing my own usage, because I try to not be obnoxious about other people's habits.  This means I used my car less and less frequently . . . nowadays, I climb inside my car maybe 6 times a month, and the majority of times I'm in the car, there are many of us together.  I'm not doing much solo driving these days. 

Eventually, we got to the point where we agreed to sell "my husband's" car and just have this one car between us.  And so, now the inside of the car isn't mine any more.  You can tell it's not "mine" by the potato chip bags and gatorade bottles that rattle around on the floor . . . it's a family car, not a Miser Mom car. 

Last month, on a particularly icy day, my husband decided to introduce the car to somebody's fence.  The car and the fence didn't get along particularly well, and both came away from the encounter needing a bit of TLC and counseling.  My car, in particular, needed a "new" bumper.  The body shop we took it to found a salvaged bumper somewhere and put it on.  They called my husband to tell him about it, and to add that the color of the bumper didn't quite match the color of the car . . .

. . . and while my husband was recovering from his laughing fit, they added, "This is the point where we usually point out that for Z-hundred-dollars, we can paint the bumper to match . . . "

. . . and while my husband was recovering from the next round of guffawing, they added, ". . . but we're going to assume that you don't want us to paint the bumper."   My husband assured him that, married as he is to ME, why no-thank-you-we-don't-want-to-fork-over-money-for-bumper-paint. 

Given the gold and silver swirls I paid for long ago, the silver bumper actually doesn't look horrendously bad . . . on this car that's so danged old it has a cassette deck, I kid you not. 

My car, it's not a pretty green car anymore.  It's gotten a lot of use, and more and more, the use is coming not-from-me.  I kind of like having a car with a cassette deck that no longer works, but a radio that works fine.  A car that's so ugly, and so distinctively colored and dented, that we don't have to worry about auto theft. 

I kind of like having a car I don't need so much. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Miser family update, here and there edition

So, I haven't done a family update since Easter.   "Easter", as in, church dishes that give Prewash a happy opportunity to live up to her name.   Prewash thinks life is rich and full here in the Miser Family household.

Easter was awesome for a bunch of reasons, more of which follow below.  But first, I promised I'd post a few photos that N-son took on his various travels.  His Squash team visited a military academy and Yale.  Which are kind of alike, and kind of not.  He ended up taking photos of various ivory-colored objects at these various places:  hat, cube, marble ring.  Photos attached. 


N-son cooking for L-daughter.
N-son ended up visiting (with his dad) a completely different kind of school from either of those places, and he might have found his favorite post-secondary institution of all.  More on that later, if it happens to work out.  It has dorms; it has a culinary arts program; it has [most important of all, apparently] intramural basketball teams. 

N-son also visited his sister L-daughter, taking a train all by himself to see her.  He ended up doing a bit of cooking for her.   And he came back with some new-to-him shoes, which are apparently awesome for playing basketball.  Thanks, L-daughter!

With all that traveling N-son has done, it's not so surprising that the rest of my family has also been on the road a bunch.  I-daughter went to Florida for a week or so, and came back with no sunburn but lots of good memories.  My husband went to DC for a chemistry conference, and he also visited a potential post-secondary school for N-son, and he also biked the 80 miles to Philly where he got to participate in the March for Science.  Yes.  Because they didn't have the "bike for science", apparently.

A-child came over to the house to play a couple of times.  The first time, almost the first thing she asked me when she walked in the door was "Can you read Ferdinand?" (which I did).  (Ferdinand's travels including being taken to the bull fights in Madrid, by the way).   The second time, she came over for our annual family Money Dinner.  I delegated Ferdinand to the next generation that night.  Adorable.

Me, I took a bunch of trips, too. 
  •  My smallest bike trip was to our soup kitchen, where I serve breakfast. 
  •  My next smallest bike trip was to the dermatologist. The doctor says I still have skin. It still keeps the inside inside and the outside outside and it seems to be functioning just fine. She'll see me again next year.  In spite of the weather being lovely, I was the only one who biked to the dermatologist today, apparently.
  • My longest trip was to Erie, Pennsylvania (by rental car), where I gave a bunch of talks and got to appreciate even more snow.  Erie does a lot of things, but they're especially good at snow.
  • My favorite trip, however, was on Easter, when I got to go visit J-son.  
Like N-son, J-son loves basketball.  We had an awesome time on the court together.  I don't have any photographs of myself doing two-handed dunks or nailin' those lay ups . . . would you believe me if I said I did?   But it's only because it's so hard to hold a camera and a basketball at the same time. y'know.  But I have an awesome photo of J-son mid-air. 

He asked me what I thought about what he's been through.  I told him, "You've been through a lot of bad experiences; a bunch of those aren't your fault, and some of them are your fault.  But you're working hard toward a better life; you're working toward redemption.  When I think of you, I think of redemption." 

He asked, "wait, isn't that in the Bible?"  I admitted, yeah, it is.  In fact, that's kind of the whole story of Easter, the day I saw him.

So maybe J-son has been on the biggest travels of all.  Those are the travels of our family, who continue to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Money Dinner: stopping on a dime game

The Miser Family annual Money Dinner (to celebrate Tax Day, naturally) took place Friday night.  Of course, the dinner included some now-familiar staples, such as Dollar pretzels . . . 

and lettuce and (bringin' home the) bacon, all of which was served on our home-drawn Dollar-themed tablecloth . . .
(I love the fact that our table just happens to be the right size
for a tablecloth made from a fitted twin sheet).
But in addition, we also had two new twists.  In particular, this year featured . . . The Goose that laid the Golden Eggs!

Or, perhaps, the wooden duck that laid the yellow eggs.  But, y'know, pretty close.  

Also, this year featured the first annual "Stop on A Dime" game.  The rules are that you are allowed to use anything that you find in the garage (a place full of random sports equipment) . . . 

. . . and try to be the person to land your object closest to the dime, which we'd taped to a piece of paper and placed in the yard.

We played several rounds, with each winner getting a gold (chocolate) coin.     
In this round, the player who tossed the tennis racket won.

Eventually, we realized the kids had been in and out of the garage, and decided they counted as "objects". The little ones turned out to be highly uncooperative with "sending" out to the dime, but  I-daughter won the championship round, beating out a tennis racket, several basketballs and frisbees, as well as a plastic wheelbarrow and a baseball mitt . . .

. . . by bribing her brother, N-son, to go stand on the dime.  Because, he'd been in the garage, y'know.  

Maybe next year we'll have to modify the rules to include only inanimate objects.  

Monday, April 2, 2018

A thirty-year-old towel

We're not throwing in the towel; we've mended it.

My husband came to me with a blue towel he's used for his showers, showing me a large rip in the middle of an even larger threadbare patch.   "Can you fix this?" he asked.

I mean, I could fix the hole, but to do so I'd have to add a patch.  And given my currently available patching materials, the patch would be pretty ugly . . . on a towel that's frankly pretty old already.  I could patch it, I told him, but scrapping the towel and using a new one probably made more sense.

He nodded his head, and put the towel aside.

And then a few days later, he showed me the towel again.  Could you fix this? he asked.  At this point, I realized the towel was more than an object.  I asked him about it.  He's been using this towel for 30 years, he told me.  My mind boggled . . . but then I thought about how much I love using and reusing the large yellow towels my mom got for me when I graduated from college . . . about 30 years ago.  We're a pair of 30-year-veteran-towel users, apparently.  Our towels are older than our kids, and we're not getting rid of our kids when they get a bit banged up, so why get rid of the towels?

So patch-and-mend the towels, it is.  As promised, the patch is ugly, or at best highly visible. I sacrificed a blue terry-cloth kitchen rag that I'd made many years ago from a discarded bathrobe: I cut off the hems and zig-zag stitched it to my husband's towel.  I then flipped the towel over and zig-zag stitched the tear in the towel to the rag.

The time and effort involved was minimal -- I think that patching the towel took maybe 5 minutes.  This was definitely faster than buying a new towel (not to mention exponentially cheaper).  When I was hesitating, it wasn't because I was reluctant because of time or effort; I was reluctant because of aesthetics.

See the scar?  Not too bad from this side.
But aesthetics be hanged.  Now my husband has his towel back, with a scar on one side, and a blue diamond on the other.  It's not lovely to look at, but it's familiar and comforting.  My husband is glad to have his old favorite back in use, and that's worth a lot to both of us.