Friday, August 31, 2012

So Old. So Very, Very Old.

I did not see the Clint Eastwood remarks at the Republican National Convention last night so I am not a good judge of what he did or did not say. It was, depending on whether you are listening to my Republican Facebook friends or my Democrat Facebook friends, inspiring, cuckoo, bewildering, totally nuts, completely original, senile, a great tribute to a fine American, or just plain odd.

Boy#2 watched it, and was puzzled. One of the greatest actors and directors in all of movie-dom apparently walked out on stage and improvised a performance in front of a national audience. He winged it, Two said. (I had to correct him that, no, he RIGHT-winged it.)

Then Two made a horrifying confession.

"I'm going to be honest -- I can't recall a single Clint Eastwood movie that I've ever watched straight through," he admitted.

Oh, my gosh. Not Dirty Harry? Not Million Dollar Baby? Not Paint Your Wagon? Not The Eiger Sanction?


Nope, he said, none of those. "I guess I just don't get Clint Eastwood," he said.

I know just how he feels because I feel exactly the same way about Adam Sandler, which proves once again that I am old. Not as old as Clint Eastwood, but very, very old, and without four Oscars to wave at whippersnappers as I cackle "Make my day!" and throw them off my lawn.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

They Don't Call Them Deadlines for Nothing

Know what's the only good thing about the relentless alumni publication deadlines that roll around four times each year, whether I'm ready or not?

The local bistro's fattoush salad, eaten at my desk during proofreading.

This issue I may need to make mine a double.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Have a Day

I talked with one of the wretched Boys last night and he reported that this day had been better than the day before. "Of course, that was a pretty low bar," he added. I was fine with that report; as long as he was headed in the right direction I wasn't complaining.

This morning I began a text message of encouragement and found myself stumped over the third word.

"Have a great day!" I normally would have burbled, but that seemed excessive.

Have a fantastic day? Have a splendid day? Have an okay day?

I finally settled on "Have a bearable day!" That seemed to set the proper tone between an improvement in quality of life, and not aiming impossibly high.

It's kind of like the picture of the toadstool I took as I was watering my flowers this morning. I had intended for the picture to capture the fungus's weird Epcot vibe and the surreal fallen leaf beyond, but my photographic abilities were not up to that lofty goal. Instead, it's recognizable as a toadstool and not much more. There is no great or fantastic or splendid. It's merely bearable.

And in this case? I'm happy with that.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Clearing Up A Misperception

I may have given the perception over the past few weeks that once the Boys reached the age of majority  Husband and I stopped worrying about them.

"Lah-di-dah!" you imagined us saying. "They're leaving for school!"

"Lah-di-dah! They're out of the house and I don't have to cook any more!"

"Lah-di-dah! The remote control is all mine again!"

Sometimes I fool myself into thinking this perception is true.

"Lah-di-dah! Lah-di-dah! Lah-di-dah!"

But then two of the four Boys go through wretched re-entries into university life. They buck up, and they're handling it, but...wretched.

And then I remember how hard it was to leave them in daycare when I went back to work, how I wept all day even though I knew they were where they should be. How I wished I could somehow fix their unhappiness.

I remember it like it was this morning.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Good-bye, Old Friend

When I left for the Peace Corps, I took two suitcases and a backpack with me, a total of 42 pounds of clothes, books, shoes, photos, good luck charms, and other knick-knacks important to a full and happy life. That was to last me two years and three months during which time, Peace Corps told us ominously, we should not count on buying anything we needed except food.

Ha! The United States government underestimated both the development status of Costa Rica and my ability to find items to buy. Still, I was prepared to not add anything non-disposable to my life for two years, so I only took clothes I absolutely loved. There simply wasn't room for a skirt I might wear sometime, or the shirt with the marginal color. 

In the (whoa!) 43 years since that original power-packing I've learned to acquire clothes (hello, online shopping!) but I haven't quite mastered the art of closing the acquisition circle: I have a hard time disposing of them at the end of their useful lives.

When I have a piece of clothing that I love, I wear it over and over. That red-patterned skirt that falls just right. The v-neck that fits perfectly.

Clothes with sentimental attachment are even harder to move along. The tapestry vest my mom made me a couple of decades ago. The extra-soft T-shirt I wiped my eyes on when first Boy moved to college. The sweater I wore in my senior pictures. (No, I am not kidding.)

Saturday I had one of those rare days when I was in a mood to clean out stuff. My stubbornness in getting up EVERY SINGLE MORNING to ride the exercise bike has paid off in a fair amount of clothing that no longer fits. That means I can't justify the overstuffed closet, so I discarded with happy abandon. 

A few things I didn't mind getting rid of. Good-bye, stupid tiered peasant skirt that I wore even though I hated you. Farewell to you, shirt that I got for next to nothing but was always too deeply cut for this old lady's comfort. But oh, I will miss the tickle of that red skirt at just the right spot above my ankles.

I know I can get along quite well with only 42 pounds of stuff, and I'll be happier if I don't have to paw through a stuffed-full closet to get to this useful 42 pounds. The three garbage bags of give-away clothes now sit on the landing, waiting their trip to Goodwill. 

Good-bye, red skirt, you were a faithful friend. Maybe some day my senior picture sweater will join you. 

Or maybe not. I wouldn't want to be too hasty.

Friday, August 24, 2012

I Don't Miss This Day

Wow, were my flowers better when Boy#2 was five.
Today is the first day of school in Small Town, and all over town kids posed for pictures with their backpacks and new tennis shoes, faces shiny and ready for another year of learning. 

I do not have an easily-accessible picture of Boy#1's very first day of school. I'm sure it exists, somewhere, because those were the days when I still pulled myself together enough to photographically document such events. I remember the days as if they were today, though.

Remember when you were a first grader, and going off to school for the first time? You wondered if you would know anyone, or if the teacher would be mean, or if you would pass? Really? You didn't worry about any of those things?

Well, how about when you were a seventh grader and going to middle school for the first time? You wondered if you would know anyone, or if you'd be in a homeroom with all the unpopular kids (and worry that you were one of them), or whether that sweater that you thought was so cute really looked terrible on you? Really? You didn't worry about any of those things?

Well, surely you worried when you went off to college, and were afraid that all those teachers who told you college was so much harder than high school were right, and that you'd get terribly homesick, and that you'd never make any friends? Really? You didn't worry about any of those things?

I worried about all of those things, each and every year, and being a mother only meant I proxy worried for all my kids. The first day of school has meant nervousness multiplied: (Unfamiliar Teachers + Unknown Territory + Unexplored Pitfalls) x 4 Boys x However Many Years They've Been In School = My Jittery Mood Every Year Until They Went Off to College.

This year, though, I was able to look at Facebook pictures of my friends' grandchildren scrubbed and polished on their front porches, and send them some good thoughts. They'll be okay, just as I was and just as my kids were.

Still, I can't help being relieved that I've graduated from the days when it was my turn to walk away from the kid in the new classroom.

These are the days I love the empty nest.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Read Any Good Books Lately?

This image is from Barnes and Noble
So, since I seem to be talking about aging this week (I'm sorry, Boys, about yesterday's post, which your father considered a little...much) here is another symptom that I'm getting older:

I have no patience for books I don't like. None.

In the olden days, opening a book was a commitment, and I would stick with that book until the final page, no matter how many times I rolled my eyes at how tedious the book was, or how much the subject matter made me blush, or how irritated I was with the author for wasting my time. I read voraciously and constantly, and finding good books was practically inevitable given the sheer quantity of words I took in through my eyes.

Not any more. Now if a book has not captured my attention within 50 pages, I close it, and it is dead to me. (I'm looking at you, any book that includes a teenaged vampire.) As some guy named James Pryce pointed out, life is too short for reading inferior books.

My requirements really aren't that steep. The book's plot has to be engaging and/or intriguing, it can't have sex/language/violence that would make it X-rated, it has to have characters that are not ALWAYS good or ALWAYS bad, the vocabulary has to make me smile, and it has to have a satisfying ending.

Okay, maybe my requirements are pretty steep, when I write them out like that. It doesn't mean they're unreachable, though. I find myself gravitating to the young adult shelves, because these books usually have good plots and satisfying endings, and often they come in a series or can be re-read and enjoyed.

When I do find a good book in the adult section, I am delighted. Such is The Habit. Susan Morse talks about dealing with her aging mother, her teenaged children, her siblings, her delightful but often absent husband (David Morse! The actor! Boomer from St. Elsewhere!) in a way that makes me love all of them. I laughed, I cried. I got it.

I finished The Habit Monday. Since then, three whole days ago, I have checked out and opened six different books. I have closed and put down five of them, disappointed. Now I have great hopes for The Golden Compass (thank you again, young adult section).

So what are you reading, and what am I missing?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is the AC On?

I'm a sweater.

No, not this kind of sweater, although, how cute is that? Woochy-woochy-reindeer! (I'M KIDDING, FASHION COUNCIL.I would never wear a sweater with reindeer on it.)

I'm this kind of sweater:

I'M KIDDING, FASHION COUNCIL. I would never wear white loafers. That part about dabbing my brow with a bandana, though? That's all me.

The problem, as far as I can tell, has come about in the past few years. Up until that point my internal thermometer kept me in a fairly decent equilibrium with the world around me. Kind of like this:

Given that I live in Kansas, there were a few times when it was just too dadgummed hot, and a few more times when it was too dadgummed cold, but the majority of the time I was reasonably comfortable. I was Just Right! Even during the times when I was tending toward Too Hot, or tending toward Too Cold, I was just that--tending. My body would say, "You know, I think it's getting warm. I believe after I finish what I'm doing I'll take off my sweater and be Just Right again."

A few years ago, though, things changed for the uncomfortable. Suddenly my life was this:

Holy smoke.

My life went from being mostly Just Right to almost consistently Too Hot, with a dash of Too Cold (mostly between 2 and 3 a.m. on January 18) thrown in. The Just Right bar of my internal temperature disappeared entirely. And the transition into Too Hot! was a bungee jump into a firepit, not a gradual walk along the beach.

Husband has been completely supportive of this new phase of my life. Instead of throwing open the windows during summer nights so we can baste in the 90 percent humidity, our nighttime air conditioner chugs along at a steady 75 degrees. (We're still a sort-of-Earth-Friendly 78 during the daytime.) He turns on the ceiling fans when we watch television, and closes the driver's side vents so we can keep the car on the MAX AC setting.

Fortunately I know what's causing this recent discomfort, and it won't last forever.

It's global warming. We're doomed.

Monday, August 20, 2012

One Final Wedding Post

Does it seem to you that when something happens in my life I squeeze every single drop of bloggy-ness out of it before putting it to rest? Well, today you're going to be spitting Big Event pulp through your teeth for the final time.

When my father and his Lovely Wife were married two weeks ago they were not the only newlyweds celebrating their nuptials with a reception and dance at the Doubletree. No, the Espinoza-Zimmerman wedding was just down a hallway and past the swimming pool. Our party filled one small venue; they pushed back all the ballroom's dividers to accommodate the other shindig.

They seemed like nice enough folks --the groomsmen stood outside our party to chime in on our band's rendition of "Sweet Caroline" with the so good! so good! so good! part. But we knew it was a whole diff'rent group when my two sisters reported that they had stepped inside the door of the E-Z wedding just in time to hear the bride finish her welcoming remarks with "AND NOW LET'S GET WAAAAAAAASTED!"

That was almost the precise moment that the munchkins seated at the grandchildren's table were staring at Husband and me in horror as we attempted to foxtrot.(see photo above)

Yup. Two diff'rent parties.

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Apologies

When Husband and I were newly wed his parents traveled extensively. This was before the dawn of the internet so we didn't read their blogs or schedule a Skype visit to find out how they were doing. Instead, every few days we'd find a letter in the mailbox.

Oh, how we chuckled over these letters.

"Prince Edward Island was interesting," his mother might write. "We ate at Wendy's--shared a hamburger and a Frosty." Or "We've really enjoyed Nova Scotia. Went to Cracker Barrel and shared an order of meatloaf. They used quite a lot of onions, and a little green pepper, which was nice."

We might not have heard much about the sights and sounds of the places my in-laws were visiting, but we knew exactly what they were eating one order, shared, at a time. At the time we assumed their single-serving custom came about because they were on a fixed income and my mother-in-law had perfected the art of squeezing a nickel until the buffalo turned blue.

How delightfully, quaintly cheap they are! we chortled. Sharing meals!

Last night Husband and I had to visit Big City (not enough deck sealant in Small Town) and stopped by Olive Garden for supper on the way home. We had one order of Capellini Pomodoro with an extra salad, and two waters. It was delicious and, to our amazement, sufficient.

It turns out that the shared dinners Husband's parents enjoyed didn't just help their travel budget; they also helped them leave restaurants without the overstuffed waddle that usually accompanies unlimited breadsticks. Who knew?

Senior citizens everywhere, I apologize to you. Husband and I will be sharing many more meals in the future. We have met the elderly, and they are us.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I Love Them All!

Borrowed from
Almost every day my Facebook feed orders me around.

Click here! it tells me. Like this post if you agreee! it urges.

I'm an independent sort (ha! said the sheep) so I'm mostly able to resist these social media commands. Every once in a while, though, I wonder if ignoring the posts I resist is implying something about me to my Face-friends.

There are, for example, the posts that claim its clickers have the best husbands/sons/friends/sisters/brothers ever ever in the history of of the human race.

"My sons are super special," these posts might brag. "They look every adult straight in the eye and shake hands firmly, always make good decisions, brake well before the stop sign and never tailgate, always go to church AND Sunday school, and make their beds every morning."

Or "My husband is the best mate ever. He loves to watch Cupcake Wars with me, never raises an eyebrow when I buy stuff online, and gives me foot massages every night."

All of these messages end with the same dare: Click here if you agree. So if I click there, doesn't it mean I really believe your sons are the best sons in the world, or that your husband is the best mate ever? Where does that leave Husband and the Boys? Does it imply that I'm watching Cupcake Wars alone?

I'm declaring here and now, once and for all, that I love my Husband, I love my sons, I love my sisters, I love my brothers, I love you, you love me, we're all one big family.

Just don't tell me to click.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


My niece-in-law's delicious potato salad. None was left over.
Know what happens when all four Boys are home at the same time for a week? No leftovers.

Nothing growing mold in the refrigerator, no little containers with a dab of this or a smatter of that, all serving bowls cleaned out before they leave the table. The only leftovers are the fleeting ideas that have flown through my head during the week bracketed by the Big Event and the Great Exodus.

Topic: The Olympics. 

I heart the Olympics. My heart swells when the over-achiever wins, and breaks when the shoo-in loses. These Olympics did leave me with some questions/comments, though:
  • (after watching beach volleyball) Do women's butts really look that in real life? Seriously? Huh.
  • (while watching rhythmic gymnastics with the family) "You all be quiet! It is too a sport."
  • (after reading Ryan Lochte's post-win comments concerning peeing in the pool) "........"

Topic: The Elections

I do not so much heart the elections. I am willing to go out on a limb and say that fewer than gazillionth of one percent of the voters will change their minds on their electoral choices between now and November. That does not mean eager campaigners will STOP CALLING ME. Hrmph.

Topic: The Weather

It rained yesterday. Did you hear me? It rained! Our lawn and my tomato plants were toasty long ago, and our water bill reflects the water we've been pouring on our trees because TREES, PEOPLE!, but yesterday it rained. Today is relentlessly sunny and hot again, but I'm still smiling at the memory.

Topic: The Big Event

The destination of the wedding trip for my Dad and his new Lovely Wife changed at the last minute, after I asked Dad if the Lovely Wife had ever camped before, and he noticed my gape-jawed horror when he said she had not. I offered to make reservations for them and Boy#4 was in the room when I called the hotel. "So," he said. "Did you ever think that some day you'd be making your father's honeymoon arrangements?"  Nope, can't say that I did.

With that, I believe all the leftovers are cleaned out.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The First Day of School

Eight years ago when we dropped Boy#1 off at college, the president of his university spoke to the assembled parents of first-time students. I was madly chewing gum to hold off the tears that had been threatening all day. The president was a young-to-us guy, though, with kids just slightly older than the Boys and he had valuable experience to share.

"This is a day you've looked forward to for 18 years and the intensity has really ramped up during the past year," he told us. "You not only worked hard with your child to choose the right college, you've spent the last three months comparison-shopping mini-refrigerators and searching out extra-long twin sheets. For the last month your living room floor has been covered in Rubbermaid storage tubs filled with surge protectors and computer cords. Today, you moms unpacked your child's clothes into the dorm dressers and made the beds with navy blue comforters."

I had to laugh--he was on target down to the navy blue comforter.

"Next year," he said, "at the first of August you'll ask your son or daughter if they need anything to get ready to go back to school, and you'll help them load their cars before they leave, then wave good-bye as they pull out of the driveway. The year after that, you'll get a phone call sometime around the first of September, and it will be your child. He'll say, 'Mom? Dad? I forgot to tell you I was leaving, but I'm back at school now.'"

We haven't quite reached that state of benign neglect yet, but we're getting there.

All four of the Boys were home for their grandfather's wedding, then spent the week in the House on the Corner. I love this picture someone snapped at the the wedding, one that symbolizes our family dynamics today. Husband and I were off talking to someone and the Boys were busy organizing a paper football contest (and avoiding the dance floor) when the photo was shot. They were having a great time together and while they were happy to include their parents if we drifted around, they didn't need us to orchestrate their activities.

The college president was exaggerating when he said we wouldn't even notice after the first year when our students went off to college--you don't take that much chaos out of a house without noticing just a little--but he wasn't exaggerating the difference in the emotional tone of yesterday's leave-taking compared to the traumatic first years of college. Now we are included in the process but we are not essential.

And that's just the way it should be.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Shall We Dance?

Thank you,

When we heard that Dad and his Lovely Wife were planning a dance following their wedding dinner, Husband and I looked at each other and laughed. This is not our first ride on the wedding dance carousel.

My brother J and his wife were married just a few months after Husband and I tied the knot in 1983. I was recently returned from the Peace Corps where I had been completely immersed in a dancing society. I had discovered that while Kansans are urging their babies to "Say mama! Talk to me, bay-bee!" Costa Ricans are propping their barely hatched children up on non-functioning knees and commanding them to "Baile! Baile!" As a result, Kansans talk and Ticos dance. My new husband had heard me rhapsodize about how much fun the dances were, and how much I loved to dance, but he was a Kansan.

But Husband also is a problem solver so in 1984, when my soon-to-be-married brother told us plans for their big day included a wedding dance, my mate set about solving his non-dancing problem. He signed us up for dance lessons.

I know! Isn't that the sweetest thing you've ever heard? Six weeks, every Tuesday night, through the Free University in the city where we were living.

Our teacher was a suave, toupee-d 70-year-old who was smoooooth with a capital ooooo. He fox-trotted. He two-stepped. He tango-ed and he rumba-ed. He even polka-ed. His partner, a tiny blond in high heels, was bored and wrinkled as she waited for her moment on the floor but when the music came up her toes were twinkling.

Oh, my, could they dance. And when we watched them, so could we--in our imaginations. As we mentally waltzed (ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three) we were sure we were the new Fred and Ginger of the Midwest. Unfortunately, we then had to get out on the dance floor and we were more like this:

It wasn't that we didn't try. We watched attentively. We counted earnestly. We flexed our knees, and relaxed our shoulders, and swayed to the music, then we...

Thank you, Awkward Dancing Tumblr, for this image.
Yeah. Not pretty.

Saturday night, 28 years later, the dance floor beckoned. Would we have magically developed some smooth moves? Is grace related to wrinkles and (in my case) cellulite?

I believe I can say now with authority that the answer to both of those questions is a resounding "no." What does change is the embarrassment factor. Instead of slinking off the floor to drink weak lemonade out of paper cups and commiserate with the nice young rabbi and his wife who also were taking dance lessons in 1984, we strode past the table where our four grown-up Boys were staring at their parents in horror.

We are still embarrassingly bad dancers, but we've passed the embarrassment along to our children.

Tango? Anyone?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Staying Afloat

Here's some advice for anyone who may be part of a Big Event such as my dad's wedding last weekend:

You will experience a lot of emotions. A lot. Emotions of all kinds, from joy to nostalgia to grief to anticipation to happiness to irritation to...well, a lot of emotions.

And even if the predominant emotions are (as they were in my case) peace and joy, there may be a moment when all those emotions coalesce and suddenly pour out of your eyes. This may happen just as the ushers dismiss you from your row, when everyone in the church is turning around to see how the groom's children are reacting to this life-changing moment.

Here is what you do in that case:

Look around for your cousin, whom you've known since you were born even if you haven't really talked to her for years and years. She will walk up to where you are trying unsuccessfully to stem this sudden cloudburst of tears and she'll hand you a Kleenex. Then she'll say "This is perfectly understandable--I miss your mom, too," and she'll talk to you about other things. Her grandkids. What it's like to take girls shopping. The drought. She'll look you straight in your tearstained face and keep talking as if holding a conversation with a spouting fountain were the most natural thing in the world.

Then after a few moments of what looked and sounded like ordinary chit-chat but was actually family therapy, you will hiccup for the final time, stuff your sodden Kleenex into your clutch, give that wonderful cousin a hug, and wonder how anyone managed before God invented families.

In the emotional flood that is a Big Event, they are your flotation device.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

It was surprisingly difficult for me and my siblings when my 85-year-old father told us he would be marrying the Lovely Widow.

This should have been an easy moment. Although we hadn't known this woman well, we had been acquainted with her for years and we knew she shared our father's faith and his love of music. We also knew Dad had been desperately lonely since Mom's sudden death almost three years ago, and that he is not a man who thrives in solitude. We approved of him keeping company with the Lovely Widow, attending concerts and swimming laps together.

We wanted him to be happy. 

Still, when Dad announced that he and the Lovely Widow had decided to marry, I swallowed past a lump in my throat to congratulate him. I was happy for him, truly, but oh, how I missed my mother. Knowing that my congratulations carried endorsement of another woman living in Mom's house felt disloyal, as if I were endorsing an erasure.

Two weekends ago as I finished cleaning out Mom's sewing room so that the Lovely Widow could have an office space, Husband helped me load 10 boxes of quilt scraps and wool strips into the car. "But you don't quilt or braid rugs," he said. "What are you going to do with this?" I didn't have a good answer. I only knew I could not throw them in the trash because Mom's hands had touched them, and I wanted to prolong that touch.

Last Saturday, though, Dad and the Lovely Widow stood before a wise minister who spoke in his exhortation about God's mercies, new every morning. God is the God of new beginnings, he told the couple and their gathered family. He gives us new hope, and new days, and new life. And on that day, He was giving a new covenant to two people whose covenants with their first spouses had been faithfully completed.

The pastor's words traveled straight to my heart. Because of this new covenant Dad will no longer come home to an silent house or wake up to an empty room. He will have a partner as he travels down the road, both literally and figuratively. As my father and his bride spoke their vows I thought of the joy they will bring each other and I smiled.

I will never stop missing my mother, but she was the one who taught her children that love stretched is love multiplied. We won't be erasing her love for us, or ours for her; that love is written in permanent ink. We will be stretching and multiplying love in ways Mom would approve.

Blessings, Dad, to you and your Lovely Wife. We love you.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Promises Shmomises

I know I promised no more camping posts but the weekend was full and wonderful and I've been in a work retreat all day, so this is a placeholder post while I look for words to do the Big Event justice. This photo shows what happens when the sweet young ranger takes five minutes longer than the promised one hour to get the restrooms cleaned.

I think I'd rather face a pack of mama grizzlies than this irritated group of middle aged bladders disguised as women.

(Tomorrow, really, a report of the Big Event!)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Last One. I Promise.

 I promise--I will stop talking about my "camping" trip soon. In fact, I almost wrote something else today because this weekend will be filled with excitement for the extended MomQueenBee family, and I can't think of much of anything besides the Big Event. Also, I almost wrote about my toenails.*

But I believe this is the final installment of my Why I Love to Camp series.

All of you who looked down your noses at my ridiculous array of electronic equipment (fan, DVD player, table lamp, Crockpot)--well, look no more. This is why you need to bring that final plugging-in friend on your "camping" trip.

Overnight Oatmeal.

Oh, my, goodness. I adapted the recipe from this site, but come to think of it, I didn't use any brown sugar. Or flax seed. Or milk. And I doubled the water and added Craisins and sliced almonds. So maybe this was a recipe I made up myself?

At any rate, throw all of the ingredients into the Crockpot just before you slide into your sleeping bag, and all night you'll wake up thinking, "Gosh, do bears like apple pie? Because if they do, I'm in trouble."

No, I'm just kidding. Actually you'll think "Wow! That smells amazing. Take that, neighbors who cooked bacon yesterday morning and didn't share."

When it's finally time for breakfast, plop some of this wonderful concoction into your plastic bowl and pour on a few tablespoons of the final secret ingredient:

Yes. Half & Half. Remember? You're going to be walking six miles straight up Mt. Everest to go to the bathroom, so you can eat pretty much whatever you want. And while you're at it, splash a healthy dose of the Half & Half into the coffee in your Joe the Eagle Olympic cup that has been on every "camping" trip you've ever taken.

I guarantee, this will make the whole trip worthwhile, even if especially if Husband takes one bite of the oatmeal and decides he'd rather have bran flakes. Not a problem--more for you!  Here's the recipe:

Overnight Slow Cooker Steel-Cut Oats

  • 2 apples, cored and cut into little chunks (or 3 apples--this isn't rocket science)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats. NOT quick-cooking or old-fashioned oatmeal. You will regret  substitution.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter. Or a plop of light soft margarine, which is what we had in the cooler. Or leave this out entirely.
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Half a bag of Craisins
  • Some slivered almonds, which you will be substituting for the chopped walnuts you really wanted to use but the almonds were aging off the shelf and really, really cheap and turned out to be delicious.
Spray the inside of your Crockpot with cooking spray, or better yet, use one of those slow cooker liner thingies, which is what I did and was SO glad I did when it came time for clean-up.  Then mix all of the ingredients together, go to bed, and be glad to wake up in the morning.

*Bonus Post-let: My Toenails

Any male types in my reading audience, you may stop reading now because I need the advice of my fashion council.

Yesterday I got my first pedicure ever in Small Town. I know! I need to turn in my girl credentials. But I've never been able to justify spending $25 on my toes when all of the kids needed shoes and I was perfectly capable of painting my nails. I've just ignored the old-lady heels that are now exposed since you, my fashion council, have decreed that I may not wear pantyhose.

Tomorrow is a Big Event, though, so I decided to treat myself.

Oh. My. Gosh. Now I see why all my girly friends make this a regular part of the budget. The pampering! The relaxation! The massaging!

Except that I chose the wrong color of polish. Normally my toenails are a peachy/pinky/coral shade of OPI that goes well with all of my clothes and doesn't bring attention to my feet. I thought this was the color I was choosing off the Great Big Wall of Polish Colors, but I was wrong. I ended up with something quite light, and I don't really like it. At all.

So fashion council, what should I do? Do I re-paint my nails in my usual shade and waste the professional efforts of the lovely pedicurist or do I go to the Big Event with my toes looking like Little Orphan Annie's eyes?

What say you?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Are You Tired of My 'Camping' Trip Yet?

So the exhaustive lists with which I successfully pack the trailer for a "camping" trip do not include clothes for me, because really, who knows how to pack clothes for camping? The temperatures might be 100+ degrees, which they were during our last trip, or they might in the 50s, as I always optimistically predict they might be.

Hahahahaha! Oh, optimistic me.

Anyway, shown above are the clothes I packed for our week in Colorado (minus the underwear because while I might overshare on the internet I haven't quite descended to that depth. Yet.). They include:
  • Two skirts.
  • Two polo shirts. 
  • Two pairs of capri jeans.
  • Two pairs of actual jeans.
  • Three sweatshirts.
  • Two sweatpants.
  • Five T-shirts.
  • Two "shorts" (or at least the old-lady equivalent of shorts, also known as short-ish culottes).
These are the clothes I actually wore:
  • Two skirts and two polo shirts. Because I am NOT going to wear capri pants into town because holy cow, have you SEEN me in capri pants?
  • Two pairs of capri pants. Because we were camping, and as we all know the rule of camping blindness means if you are dressed inappropriately (or undressed, in the case of changing clothes in a tent with inadequate curtains) anyone who looks your way is struck with temporary blindness that causes them to look right through you and not see you in your capri pants. You yourself are not immune from camping blindness, and it will come in handy when you are walking to the bathroom and pass the guy you just saw stumble out of his camper in what was obviously his sleeping attire. Can't see a thing!
  • One pair of jeans, because dadgummit, you are in COLORADO and it's supposed to be cold here.
  • Two T-shirts because human decency demanded you change after wearing the first one for four days.
You also will have worn this:
  • One sweatshirt and one pair of sweatpants, also known as pajamas for that single night that got kind of chilly. 
But really, it doesn't matter what you wear because you also packed this:

The 11 books and 15 DVDs don't care how you're dressed, and when you are in in the mountains with your favorite guy and this embarrassment of media riches, you don't care how you're dressed, either.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I've Got a Little List

I have a friend (and she's a doctor's wife, so she should know) who says that every time a woman has a baby half of her brain is removed during the process. I believe that. Before I had kids, I could remember four, five, six things at a time. Now that I've had four children, I'm working with one-sixteenth of a brain (if my memory of fractions is correct) so I can't remember squat.

Instead, I make lists.

I have lists for things to do, and lists for things to buy. Lists for people to call and people to write. Lists of what to eat for Thanksgiving dinner, lists of possible blog posts.

Years ago when Boy#2 was a baby and we started camping I made this list. It has been transferred from computer to computer as we've upgraded and is perhaps the single item most crucial to our camping enjoyment.

You see, when you are in the wilderness and have left Dishpans (2, nesting) at home, you don't just run over to the dollar store and replace them. You have to figure out some way to wash your Coffee Mug (1) and Saucepans (large and small) without the use of the Dishpans (2, nesting) and that is not always an easy proposition.

There are substitutes for Potato Peeler (from kitchen)--you can use the Paring Knife, or even the Big Knife in a pinch. But if you don't have the Colander (yellow) and need to cook the spaghetti you've boiled in the Dutch Oven, the best of luck to you.

Some items on the list will make you feel incredibly efficient, as you pull out the Zip-Loc Bags (quart and gallon) for all kinds of uses, from storing leftovers to impromptu ice bags after someone drops the camper trailer on her toe. Yes, it still hurts, but wooo! Camping injury!

Over the years the list has aged along with the list-keeper. When it was first assembled, for example, I thought nothing about putting a check-mark next to Thongs, knowing that they would keep me from getting athlete's foot in the communal showers. Now I would perhaps call that item by a different name. I also don't obsess on the "Miscellaneous" section of the list as much as I did--if Husband still needs the Baseball Mitts/Ball/Bat to keep himself occupied, he's on his own. Camera/Film is outdated as well.

The camping list, though? I'll keep printing it off every time we get ready to roll. Otherwise I might forget my Bug Spray (killer) or Bug Spray (repellant) and have no defense against the critters that take the irony quotes off of "camping."

All it takes is a list.