Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Isn't Today Friday?

The day is only a few hours old but already at least half a dozen times I've found myself thinking "Hey! It's Friday!" Having Christmas break begin on Wednesday is about as wonderful as wonderful can be, seeing that it makes for a two-day work week.

And for everyone whose Christmas break begins tomorrow night at midnight and lasts exactly 24 hours, well, I'm really sorry. Truly. Having a 12-month contract in a nine-month work environment makes me appreciate how irritating it is when people around you are all WHOOPEEEE! about leave time that I don't have, but then I go and do it myself when it's time for the extended Christmas break many of us get in academia. It's like driving a Ford when you're surrounded by Cadillac owners, but forgetting that most people in the world drive Kias.

Yup. Most tortured analogy ever.

Anyway, in the spirit of thinking that today's Friday, I have a couple of orts to share. The first concerns the enormous box sitting just inside the front door. Want to know what was in the box pictured above that showed up on our porch a week ago?

Fifteen pint jars. That's what was in this container so large it would not fit through most of the doors in our house.

World Market, you get the 2014 Overpacking Award, although in your defense all of the jars arrived intact.

I leave you today with a Christmas story from Husband, who is still discovering things about me after 31 years of marriage. He was wrapping gifts last night when he mentioned that he had read yesterday's post in which I mentioned he was the gift-wrapper in the family.

"I didn't really intend to become the gift-wrapper in the family," he said, "but you are just so BAD at it." Then he looked at me to see if I had been insulted.

Insulted? I don't think so. Just surprised it took him 31 years to uncover my devious plan to make sure the job of wrapping didn't end up on my to-do list.

Mwahahaha, and merry Christmas Eve Eve!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Now, Not Then

Okay, next year at Thanksgiving dinner, I want someone to walk up to me and say "It doesn't all have to be done now."

That's because every. single. year I go into a Christmas panic on approximately Nov. 27.

I'll never get everything done! There's too too much! This year Christmas will be RUINED by my ineptitude!

What I forget is that as I panic in late November, I have three whole weeks plus four days in which to get the things done that I want done before Christmas. Everything doesn't have to be done before December starts.

In the past several days I've made great progress on my to-do list. Tree up and living room completely covered in festivity? Check. Finish knitting the rice-bag-friendly mitts for the wonderful co-workers in my office? Check. Host office party? Check. Rustle up a white elephant gift for my women's group party? Check. Discuss Christmas shopping with Husband and split up the actual shopping? Check. Shop? Check. Order Christmas cards and write Christmas letter? Check, with the proof that the graphic today is on the letter. The cards themselves will be in the mail before Thursday.

And because Husband is in charge of the wrapping in our family (did I find a rare one one or what?) my to-do's are down to baking peppernuts and weaving in the yarn ends on one final knitting project.

Everything did not need to be done by the time I first panicked about the mountain of tasks that were standing between me and Christmas. Everything had to be done now, and everything pretty much is done. The first wave of Boys arrives tonight, and I'm ready. I've even had enough time to take recuperation soup to a friend who had surgery last week.

It's a Christmas miracle.

Friday, December 19, 2014

No One Is Luckier

I have held jobs and had bosses since I was 14 years old. During these 36 years and dozen or so jobs, I can honestly say I have never had a bad boss. All have been smart, ethical, talented people who have mentored and nurtured me professionally and personally.

For the past 16 years I've had the same boss, and this week he announced he will be leaving Small College for a new challenge. This boss has been particularly fine and has both supported me and pushed me to succeed when I didn't have the self-confidence to push myself. He is smart and funny and likes words, which is the highest compliment I can give. The news that he is leaving makes me terribly sad, but because I have had good bosses all my life, I am hopeful that the person who replaces him also will be inspiring and ethical.

I have been a boss for those 16 years and during that time I have unfailingly had people working for me who inspire and challenge me, and make our school (and our department, and me) look good.

Yesterday we had our staff Christmas party at the House on the Corner. We ate soup and swapped recipes and played the most raucous game of Apples to Apples ever--I laughed until my ribs hurt. I really like these people I work with.

Lots of us love our families and spend our personal hours with folks who fill our hearts. But how many of us also spend our professional hours with folks who make us better at our jobs and (even more important) make us better human beings? Only the very lucky do this.

No one is luckier than I.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cross This One Off the List

The very last post I made here talked about hooow muuuuuch I had to do in the next few weeks, and how very buuuuuusy I am, and how tooooo muuuuuch my life is right now. So what did I do the next day? I let someone tag me with the black-and-white Facebook photo challenge.

I know! I'm an idiot, because have I mentioned I'm busy? (Also kind of in denial that Christmas is happening, but that's an entirely different problem.)

And there is the issue with photography, namely that I am really, really bad at it. Around my office I'm the designated Photo Nazi because I'm just dandy at arranging large groups of people so that everyone can be seen, and you in the red sweater, please make sure you can see the photographer or you will not be in the photo. Also, young lady, whoever told you that sticking out your butt and bust and putting your hand on your hip is super-sexy? That person lied to you, and cut it out right now.

So I'm pretty good at arranging photo shots mostly because I'm mean. But when it comes to taking pictures? Not so much. The only C I ever received in a class IN MY ENTIRE LIFE came in my college photography class. It wrecked both my grade point average and my ego, and made me hate photography.

But with today's new point-and-shoot cameras (also known as my phone) I always believe I am a photographer, and when friend M. challenged me to post five black-and-white photos on my Facebook page, I though "What fun! I'm so artistic! I'm a photographer!"

Yup. Wrong on all three counts.

This morning as I left for work I tried to figure out what artsy-looking subject I could shoot in black and white. Last night we had a big wind and all the autumn leaves finally dropped off the trees (I guess fall is over). The sweetgum tree in the back yard was left with only its gumballs clinging to the branches.

Ooooh! Artistic!

I switched on the black-and-white app on my phone, shot a few of the lonely-looking gumballs, looked at the results, and realized that for me the challenge was over. The lighting is wonky, the gumballs are out of focus, there is no real point of attention, and the whole thing is kind of a muddy-looking mess. I'm out of my talent depth, and this is me throwing in the towel on worrying about shooting artsy photograph.

Sorry to bail on you, M., but it's Christmas. I have 99 things to do and black-and-white photography just stopped being one of them.

I feel merrier already.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Not much new around the House on the Corner this week (except, of course, for the sewer line, which probably doesn't need a post of its own). I've been preoccupied sending the Boys and Husband photo texts with the caption "CHRISTMAS IS HERE!" or "READY FOR SANTA!"

Even while I'm trying not to think about how much I have yet to do in the next (ohmigosh) 13 days I'm loving the season this year. Last weekend Husband was at a conference so I did my gussying up of the living room, which is the one room in the house I decorate. To those of you who have trees in every room and special holiday Kleenex box covers, I have only one warning: Santa hates overachievers. Just sayin'.

Anyway, it's fun to put the wooden soldiers and Annoying Rudolph under the tree. The wooden soldiers are a set we found in a Mexican market for $3 when Boy#4 was an infant, and I am absolutely patting myself on the back that they are all still with us. It's probably because I'm suspicious they're painted with toxic paint so every time a child went near them I shrieked. It was quite effective as aversion therapy. The Annoying Rudolph, on the other hand, was practically loved to death. He was a Christmas gift from grandparents, as most completely annoying toys are, and when batteries are inserted he "walks" and bobs his head and plays "Jingle Bells" in the most grating e-music imaginable. Fortunately, we rarely had batteries in the house so he survived to become a tradition.

My list of items that must be done before Christmas is down to, well, just about everything that was originally on it. I still have peppernuts to bake, Christmas letter to write (in case there is anyone in the world on whom I have not yet inflicted this blog ), 14 knitting projects to finish, a party to host, and all of the presents in the world to buy.

I am surprisingly sanguine about trying to fit this ton of work into the 10-pound sack of time I have left.

These only have five ingredients
And for today's blurb:

My Free Space group had a cookie exchange Wednesday, and I used the occasion to make a recipe from my favorite cooking blog, Gimme Some Oven. Ali promised that her chocolate chip meringue cookies were "simple to make, super delicious, and only 35 calories each!"

She did not lie: They are, indeed, simple to make and super delicious. I'm going to take her word on the 35 calories part, because she is a Small College graduate and truthiness is something we stress here. The best part about this recipe is that you put the entire batch in the oven at once, then walk away and let them cook for half an hour and cool for half an hour in the oven, rather than being at the beck and call of the timer while you're scurrying around trying to find the beautiful Christmas sweater you wear to this party every year.

Be aware, though, that if you try to sneak-eat a cookie before the exchange and you are in a hurry, it may explode and you might end up with cookie crumbs IN YOUR HAIR that someone will have to pull out when you get to the meeting, and instead of looking like a sophisticated Christmas-sweater-bedecked party-goer you will look like a monkey being groomed.

Not that this would ever happen to me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Downside of Being Grown Up

Photo courtesy of Husband
Sometimes being a grown-up is not all that wonderful.

Today, for example, I am sitting at my desk at work getting ready to proofread while out back of the House on the Corner there are machines! And digging! And piles of dirt!

Twenty years ago I would have been parked on a blanket just west of the scene above, surrounded by four little boys bundled into their winter parkas and gloves and with hats pulled clear down to their excited blue eyes.

We loved machines and digging, and excavation of the nearly century-old sewer lines next to the garage would have called for a day of sidewalk supervision from the Boys while I reiterated the blanket boundaries and tried to keep them corralled. I would have been irritated at the tree roots that threatened the smooth operation of our plumbing, but (much like a good kindergarten Christmas party) the disruption would be a small price to pay for the thrilling spectacle.

But the Boys have grown up and are scattered around four states and instead of seeing the work being done in person, we're all getting text photos updates from Husband every few minutes--they've discovered an old gas line! And now city workers are coming by to make sure it isn't active! Such excitement!

I miss seeing the world through the eyes of little Boys. I'm glad I still have a big Boy on the scene.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Universe Loves Me!

This is the time of the year when I schedule all of my routine maintenance physicals. I am checked and questioned, poked and prodded, my tires kicked and my fluid levels checked to ensure that I am roadworthy for another year.

This morning I had a fasting blood draw to make sure my tendency toward low thyroid levels is being adequately medicated.

I do not like fasting blood draws. Not at all. And it is not because they're painful (my doctor's aide kicks all sorts of butt when it comes to painless procedures), it's because of cofffffeeeeee.

My name is MomQueenBee and I am a coffee addict. By 8 a.m., when the draw was scheduled, my brain already has been waiting for its triple shot cappuccino for 90 minutes (no, I'm not kidding) and is beginning to nudge my forehead with its give-me-caffeine-NOW sledgehammer.

Within seconds of when I checked out of the doctor's office I was on the way to McDonald's where I ordered a senior coffee (two creams) and a healthy bowl of oatmeal. When I got back to the office, though, I opened the to-go sack to find my order had apparently been switched with the order of the oilfield roughneck in the truck behind me.

It's way too far to drive clear back to McDonald's to correct the mistake (19 blocks, which in Small Town metrics means you practically need a passport to get there) so I laid the Sausage McGriddles and hashbrowns out on my desk to make a decision on whether I should go ahead and eat the roughneck's breakfast or go across the street to the House on the Corner to make my own bowl of oatmeal.

The decision-making process lasted less than a second, then I laughed heartily and tucked in because McGriddles are delicious.

Obviously the Universe loves me today, and who am I to turn down this kind of gift, even if this coffee was lacking its two creams?

Thanks, Universe. It was yummy.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

I start off today with a picture of the culinary centerpiece of the Best Day of the Year to remind myself it was only one week ago today that we were more stuffed than this turkey and hoping to never eat again, and yet...and yet...this morning Husband asked me if I remembered the last time I cooked a meal.

It was Tuesday. Okay? Tuesday. And I'm not ashamed to admit it. It's a busy time, okay?


But hey, here you are, Christmas! I'm decked out in a new Christmas sweater and candy cane earrings, wearing these age-appropriate seasonal indicators proudly and unironically.

Look for it here
And speaking of Christmas, this nifty gift suggestion came across my Amazon deal feed yesterday. It is a Smart Toothbrush.

You did not misunderstand me. This toothbrush, which is used to brush your teeth, is "the world's first toothbrush of its kind with Bluetooth communication between brush and smartphone."

I don't want to be cast as the Luddite of oral care, but really? I need my phone to tell me if I'm brushing my teeth right? I can just channel my old mother-of-young-boys voice for that.

It's here
Instead of buying that toothbrush, save your money for this gizmo. Of all the Friday blurbs I have written, this is perhaps the most enthusiastic and thumbs-uppy.

While the Boys were home they muscled the Christmas decorations down from the attic and Monday night I put on John Rutter's Christmas album and began to decorate. I was all wishing-me-a-merry-Christmas until I plugged in our pre-lit tree and it did not. Of the multiple strands of lights on the tree, only two actually lit. The rest mocked me as I checked each individual bulb for nearly two hours, then mocked Husband for about the same amount of time as he took over the task. I may or may not have done a fair amount of cousin cussin' ("DADGUMMIT! CRAPOLA!")" during this time, which does not add to the sacred spirit of the season.

It was then that we turned the great knower of all things for help. Google "how to get a pre-lit tree to light" and you will find a YouTube video on the LightKeeper Pro. This gun-shaped thingamajig plugs into a bulb socket of a strand that is kaputt and magically bypasses the dead bulbs that are kaputt-ing the strand. Then the strand lights up and it's easy to find and replace the dead bulbs.

Husband dashed to Big Box Store, plunked down his $20, brought the nifty red gun back to the House on the Corner and plugged it into one of the dark stripes on the tree.

And lo, the skies opened and the angels sang.

Within half an hour the entire tree was glowing, even the strand that never worked last year. Thanks to the LightKeeper Pro, we will have Christmas.

God bless us, every one.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

My New Tagline

Husband is always on the look-out for ways to make visits to his office more appealing, even though I've told him over and over "Honey, that's really not necessary--people just LOVE to visit their accountant."

Nonetheless, he persists. The magazines in his waiting room are never more than a few weeks old, his assistant has standing instructions to keep every speck of dust at bay, and kids know exactly where wooden puzzles are kept. He has lovingly assembled his office furniture from antique and family pieces that offer a warm welcome to the receipt-bearers.

Husband's newest find is an antique candy vending machine. He'll put it out with a bowl of pennies for clients who need to sweeten financial verdicts with a handful of M&M's. It arrived at the House on the Corner this week and while my CPA was delighted with the old-timey look it will add to his workspace, he was not so pleased with the condition of the eBay-ed find: The paint is slightly chipped on the back and the green undercoat shows through just a little.

"But it's vintage!" I told him. "It's not supposed to be perfect. You did want vintage, didn't you?"

He gave me his best we've-been-married-31-years-and-you-still-don't-know-me look.

"Of course I wanted vintage, but I wanted it to be perfect."

Oh, people. Is that not the sweetest thing you've ever heard? I can read his mind perfectly, and obviously he was thinking of his wife when he put those two descriptors together: Vintage but perfect.

All you single ladies, take note. Accountants not only make the best husbands, they write your blog taglines for you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving by the Numbers

My dad and one of his newest and greatest great- granddaughters
For every successful holiday gathering, you need a number of things. In fact, you need numbers of things. Here's a run-down of our numbers:

Ages: Oldest  (almost 88) to remind us where our family came from, and youngest (almost four months) to remind us where it's heading. The future is pure cuteness.

Temperature: A Thanksgiving-ish 40s. Poor Baby's First Thanksgiving already is a tough kid, but her little tootsies were chilly by the time we finished taking pictures.

Dinner rolls: I've done the math several times, and it appears I baked (caution: math ahead) [(recipe x 4) + recipe x 3)] x 64 rolls per recipe =  448 rolls between Wednesday and Friday. As of last night, there are none left.

Turkeys: The human kind, of which we had 28.

Turkeys: The fowl kind, of which we had three.

Pies (pumpkin and pecan): One dozen. For 28 people. I believe you can do the math here. Much Older Sister is the pie maven of the family and spent Best Day of the Year Eve in the kitchen, bless her.

Potatoes: 20 pounds (Yukon gold) mashed; 12 pounds (sweet) casseroled.

Kinds of dressing: Two, giblet-ed and non-giblet-ed.

Number of people eating giblet-ed dressing: One! It's MINE! ALL MINE! MWAHAHAHA!

People missing who should have been here: Seven (nephew with temperature of 103 plus his not-yet-ill family). Also a brother and other nieces and nephews we don't count in the missing because they knew in advance they weren't coming, but we missed them anyway.

Dearly missed: My mom, the original and still the best roll-maker of the family. My mother-in-law, who would have made short work of decorating the tables.

Days until the next Best Day of the Year: Too many.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ye Thankful People

Lovely Girl, #1, #4, #2, #3.
I've adapted pretty well to the empty nest, wouldn't you say? You don't see me being all boo-hoo-I-miss-my-babies very often, do you?

But last week, when it looked as if Boy#4's work schedule was going to keep him in Texas for the Best Day of the Year rather than in the House on the Corner, I suddenly realized I was homesick. I missed the general chaos that defines the home of four boys. I missed the Friends of Boys who ring the doorbell at all hours of the day and night. (Well, not the morning hours, but all the rest of the hours.) I missed the piles of shoes everywhere, and the total inability to keep milk and Diet Dr. Pepper in sufficient supply. I missed the talk about football and politics, and the arguments over whether Two is still taller than Four.

I missed my Boys and Lovely Girl.

I missed them so much that you may have seen me wiping away a couple of errant tears during my morning walk, all the while telling myself how blessed we are that they are all in good places, even if those places aren't Small Town.

Then, when Four unexpectedly was able to get the holiday off and drove seven hours to surprise his brothers Wednesday afternoon, you may have seen another teardrop or two fall during the bear hugs and shouts. (What? I am not made of stone.)

During the days when the Boys were little I remember occasionally being tempted to swing my arms, just to clear a space around me where no one was touching or clinging and keeping me immobile. I didn't clear out that space, of course, because being within touching distance is part of being a mother. But the memory made me laugh last week as I found myself reaching out for a quick hug or to touch an arm. I had come full circle; now I was the one needing physical reassurance that my loved ones were within arm's length.

For three full days the nest was full again, and it was lovely.