Category Archives: family

The Return of the Scorpions (and Other Stories)

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It’s Wednesday evening at 6 pm, and I’m making soup while listening to Lyle Lovett.  I’m always telling people I hate country music . . .  and I’m hoping Lyle doesn’t fall into that category since I love him so.  He sings so many amazing songs, and they always lift my spirits.

So tonight I was singing along with Lyle and getting out ingredients for my soup when I soon realized I’m talking to the vegetables.  “Tomatoes–you are positively squishy! You are definitely going into the soup!  Old onion, you smell terrible.  Hmmm, we’ll have to think about you.  Carrots, you are extremely long in the tooth, but I think you’ll do just fine.  I have my eye on you, red potatoes, haha!  Get it, eye??  I’m sorry, broccoli, I don’t think you’ll be a good choice for this particular batch.  Hope you don’t rot before someone eats you.” Then I made a sad face and placed the broccoli bag back in the crisper.

Should I be concerned about my mental health? I guess I should start worrying when the vegetables start talking back to me . . .  I’m just glad the family is not around tonight so I can chit-chat with my soup ingredients without being mocked.  With two adult children living with us this summer, I have to walk a fine line or else I find myself being teased by my wise-ass kids.  I guess evidence of their snarky humor just shows we raised them right.  (I feel it’s served me well in my own life.)

You may be asking, why is Mary making soup when today’s high temperature was 101 degrees?  The answer is I was feeling guilty about all the veg going bad from the lovely fruit/veg box I picked up at Clark Park a week ago.  What a bargain for only $20, but next time I will most definitely share it with a friend!  I’ve taken some fruit to school for our preschool snack, and gave a huge bag of Brusell sprouts to our friend, Chuck. (We are anti-cabbage here in the Vaughan household.)

In other news is the Terrible Annual Return of the Bark Scorpions.  I take my black light and an old flip flop out back every few days for a scorp hunt, and so far this Spring the grand kill total is 38.   We  had one in the house last week which Hubby decided to kill by squishing it  in a paper napkin. Let’s just say that didn’t go well, and he had a numb thumb for three days.  Another big number in my life is FIVE.  As in, FIVE DAYS LEFT OF SCHOOL!!!!!  Woot woot.  I’m really not sure what I’ll do with myself, but I know I’m looking forward to getting more sleep.

Lastly, I believe it may be time to take a break with Words with Friends since I’ve been playing the game in my dreams.  That can’t be good.  Some of my favorite, long-time WWF opponents have seemingly dropped off the planet.  To me it’s more fun to play the same people (all strangers) day after day.  For example, I try harder after Chocolate Thunder (this is a real person) has beaten me four times in a row!

My (mostly) carrot soup is now happy and is ready to be blended (recipe below).  Tonight I added an old jalapeno and two extra tomatoes.  Goodnight!

Do you Carrot All? Soup
2 teaspoons butter
5 large potatoes, skinned and chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 large carrots, skinned and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
32 ounces vegetable stock
1/2 cup chicken shmaltz

In a big-ass soup pot, melt butter and stir in vegetables. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add shmaltz and vegetable stock.  Cover and cook for an hour, or until potatoes and carrots are soft.  (Sometimes I precook the carrots and potatoes in the microwave to speed up the process.) Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

 

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That Day a Dog Ran into my Car

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You will not believe what happened to me yesterday:  I left the house for work at 8:00 and made an easy left onto Warner Road.  Two minutes later, driving west, I saw a golden retriever (off leash) run into the road heading straight for me.  I braked, and felt the loud thud of the dog hitting my right side door.  Panicked, I pulled off onto the nearest side street, grabbed my phone (to call someone to help me get the dog to a vet), and ran towards the site of impact.

I scanned the five-lane road.  No dog. I ran to the canal path where the dog had run from.  No dog.  I flagged down an elderly woman on a bicycle.  I was shaking and trying not to cry and explained what happened.   She pointed to three women walking north and away with a golden retriever and said, “It looks like it’s okay. ”

Well.  The dog could certainly NOT be okay.  I wondered if the women even saw their dog get hit?  It felt like so much bad karma to leave without talking to the owners, so I got back in my car and drove down the residential street that runs parallel to the canal, but I could not find them.  At this point I was shaking so much that I could barely call my school to tell them I would be late.  I drove the 20 minutes to school dripping tears, wondering if that beautiful dog was okay and wondering if there was something I could have done differently.  One might say I overreacted, but I live in a city where we do not run over live animals on the roads on the reg.  I posted about it on the Nextdoor website, saying if the dog had been on a leash, that never would have happened. It kinda ruined my day . . . and the dog’s.

So add a dog hitting my car to the list of awkward things in my life.  Let’s just say I feel like my life needs a good shake or two, sort of like a snow globe with all the glitter stuck in one corner. I’m listening and waiting not-so-patiently for the message the Universe is trying to deliver.  Everyone and everything is just a little bit off—and it’s not even a full moon.  Everything seems to take a little bit more effort, especially at school.  Today I asked my students, “Did you have coffee before school?”  Everybody’s crying or mad, or is handing out some kind of damage.  And it’s not just the students . . .  I get home from work and my kids are angsty.  William is having weird stomach pain and anxiety (appointments are scheduled), and Eve is having terrible luck finding a good summer job.  She deals with the stress by sewing and crafting all over our kitchen.  I find it admirable that she works out her worries by making something new (I’ve always dealt with stress by administering the appropriate number of cocktails), but I must say, it IS messy.  Bits of thread and fabric on the floor, the sewing machine perched prominently on the kitchen table for days on end.  Nobody is helping with the cleaning, and our house looks like a bomb went off.

99% of the time I can turn lemons into lemonade, and today was no different. I mean, it’s my job to make sure I’m happy, not anyone else’s.  I made a plan to meet gal pals for a beer after work (laughing with friends is my favorite thing).  I smiled at my students all day and when one little guy asked for a hug, he randomly looked at my feet and said, “I like your shoes.  And I need to poop.”

Maybe I’m just making things too complicated.  I need to take that little guy’s attitude—just say nice things to people and remember to poop.

Cheers,

Mary

 

May

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Because it’s a time of endings and beginnings, May is definitely my favorite month of the year.  The spring semester ends in May, and we feel exhilarated and celebratory for all the work we’ve accomplished in our classrooms, whether we are teachers or students.  Anticipation for summer travel and summer projects is keenly felt.  Summer is a time to reconnect with friends and enjoy lengthy family dinners followed by a good game of Shanghai Rummy.  (I’m thinking a few games of Feely Cup are in order . . . )  I’m pretty sure my family would say in May, Mary is completely spastic, but I would respond saying, “I’m feeling positively giddy!” (My earworm this week is The Wind by Cat Stevens.)

May is also a time when our college student moves back home.  We couldn’t be more excited to move William home from Flagstaff this Saturday (you might recall Eve moved back home at Christmas to finish her degree and save some cash).  I’m trying not to be too worried about transporting William’s huge bed and couch to a storage unit three miles from campus in Hubby’s RAV4.  I have a strong feeling the Universe will smile upon us and all will go well.  If, instead, there is some bad karma to be reckoned with, I will be cleaning the apartment toilets at 10 pm while Hubby is out renting a truck to haul all our crap.  I’m trying not to give this move on Saturday much energy, instead focusing on how happy we will be to have William back home for THREE WHOLE MONTHS!!!!  With Eve here, too, it’s going to be a crazy, fun summer for sure.

Speaking of having our adult children back home, I wish I could travel back in time two years and slap my “oh pity me” self, who was so super angsty about becoming an Empty Nester.  OMG, what a WHINER she was.  Apologies all around to whoever had to hear my sad story about how my kids were abandoning me.  I’ve hated change my whole life, but once it happens, I’m filled with renewed vigor and vim.  (I know it’s usually “vim and vigor,” buy I’m doing a social experiment to see if I can change it.)  Hubby and I actually embraced being the only two people in our house (besides the three cats and Ruby the Wonder Spaniel).  The house was always clean and quiet, and we never ran out of toilet paper or toothpaste. There were always milk and eggs if we wanted them.  After raising three children, it felt extremely civilized (but a little boring).

If I could turn back time, slapping my old pitiful almost-empty-nester self would not be at the top of the list.  I would change a thousand things before changing that one thing.  At the top of my list of things to change would be being a better student instead of being such a wild child, visiting my grandparents in Illinois more often, being more patient with my children, and appreciating how good my life was even though we had little money.

I’ll wrap up with an interesting story from my classroom today: Our students begin the year at age three, and most of them have reached their fourth birthday now.  They are a very social, distracted bunch, so I appreciated when my lead teacher, put in place a strict lunch policy.  All children were to stay in their seats “attempting” to eat their lunches until the clock read 11:55.  This has been a challenge since our students don’t know if 53 or 59 come before, or after, “55.”  Today one boy thought he noticed the clock moving BACKWARDS, and Andrew (wise beyond his years), said, “Time never moves backwards. If any one of you can figure out how to go back in time, you will be the most famous person in the world.”  This gave them so much to think about that they quietly finished their sandwiches and fruit, their tiny containers of hummus, applesauce, and yogurt, and went out to recess with full bellies to play.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

The Horrible,Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Flu

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Earlier this week, I had a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad flu.  It started Sunday evening with a mildly upset stomach.  By midnight, it was as if all the fluids in my body had been given orders to evacuate ASAP.  All night I lay moaning on the bathroom floor, cheek pressed to the cool stone tile, waiting for the demon to rear its ugly head again . . . and again . . .  At some point I must have crawled back into bed, because when I heard Hubby brushing his teeth to leave for work, I hissed at him, “DO NOT LEAVE!!!  I’m DYING!!!”  He had miraculously slept through the disgusting events happening just a room away.  In my fevered dehydrated state, I imagined him returning home from work at 6pm only to find a dried up husk of me, something akin to a deflated party balloon, or a busted birthday pinata.  Thank God, before he left, Hubby was able to locate a ten-year-old Zofran pill (anti-nausea) which slowed down the entire process and helped me sleep through most of the day.

I slept through most of Monday and Tuesday, having terrible fever dreams much of the time.  A parade of flavorful foods danced through my brain, causing my stomach to roll with nausea.  Enchiladas, lasagna, chili dogs with relish, Texas chili, tuna casserole.  Noooooo!  Every time I closed my eyes, more aromatic spicy foods would come to mind.  I stopped sleeping and tried to watch tv, but then upon dozing, the characters from Shameless became part of my life!  Go away, Frank and Fiona!  You’re not helping!

When I began to feel better Tuesday afternoon, I had a funny fever dream.  My brother, Paul, had invited me to lunch to try out a new restaurant with an innovative concept:  Every table was equipped with an Easy Bake Oven, in which you cooked your own meal tabletop.  The craft cocktail list was from the 1960’s, and the restaurant was decorated diner style with over-stuffed retro-red leather booths and shiny chrome tables.  I can’t wait to tell Paul all about it.  (Am I onto something? We could call it the Easy Bake Diner and have a gift shop with retro toys and candy.)  I am constantly amazing myself with my fantastic ideas (lol).

I woke up Wednesday confident that I was well enough to return to work.  After eating exactly one piece of toast, one cup of broth, and one Saltine cracker in two days, I felt a little woozy. I walked Ruby the Wonder Spaniel into the backyard and was literally blinded by the bright sunshine. I’d been on the couch or in bed for THREE DAYS and not ventured outside once. My senses felt as enhanced as a bird dog’s; everything was SO loud!  Somebody, please turn those birds down!  ACCCKKKK—that plane overhead is going to burst my ear drums!  I wanted to shout at the people walking past our backyard fence, “Why are you screaming??”  I could hear a dog barking a mile away!  Throughout the day, I became desensitized and am now back to my normal self, able to withstand loud noises . . . and keep all bodily fluids where they belong.

Hear My Words, Good People:  Stay hydrated, wash your hands, and get lots of sleep, for you do not want to catch the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Flu.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

Friday Again?

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Life has been SO busy.  Every Friday, I say to my family, how can it be Friday again so soon?  The novel I’ve been trying to finish for book group sits gathering dust on the coffee table, my house looks like a bomb went off (a pet hair bomb), and the poor dog is itchy and needs a bath.  It seems either we are at work, or we’re being social, and then we’re too tired to clean the house (or the dog)!

One wonderful reason for not doing housework:  My aunt and uncle are in town from Illinois!  It was a last-minute trip, and we’re having so much fun hanging out with them.  Aunt Linda loves Changing Hands book store, so we spent an hour there, looking at every little thing.  We had long, relaxing dinners at both Pedal Haus and The Perch (I would recommend both).  If you haven’t been to The Perch, their “thing” is lots of exotic birds in cages.  They are all rescue birds cared for by professionals.  But man, they can be LOUD!  We had fun “chatting” with all the beautiful birds while waiting for our food to be served.  Due to the loud music and the loud birds, we were having a bit of trouble hearing each other.  We joked about how old we’re all getting.  I am a terrible joke teller, but managed to tell this old thing: “A woman goes to her doctor.  Doctor, she says, I’m having a terrible case of silent toots!  Can you help me?  And the doctor says, the first thing we need to do is get you a hearing aid.”  Ba-doom-cha!  (Apologies all around.)   I’m hoping we’ll see my aunt and uncle again before they had back to the chilly Midwest.

In other news, we teachers are counting down the weeks until summer vacation.  After this weekend, only EIGHT WEEKS LEFT!  I’m feeling worn down lately and am so happy when my lunch break arrives each day, when I have about 20 minutes to eat, and play Words with Friends, and look at Facebook.  Today while browsing Facebook, I almost spit out my sandwich reading a meme called,  “Name Your Vagina by using the name of the last movie or tv show you watched.”  Okay then:  Either Shameless . . . or New Girl!  LOL!  Ahhhh, the Internet.  What did I do before Facebook brought such class and sophistication into my daily life???

After lunch today, my lead teacher and I looked over photos from the entire school year to be used in the year book.  We were amazed at how much we have accomplished and how much our students have grown.  I love my job, but teaching preschool can be pretty intense mentally and physically and on some days, really overstimulating.  I can’t imagine doing anything else!!!  I’m 99% sure there’s no other job that includes as much laughter as we experience every single day, teachers and students alike.  I’m looking forward to summer travel and having time to lunch with my best gal pals, but I’m also feeling a great sadness knowing that soon my “kids” will be moving up a grade and having adventures of their own . . . without me.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

A Snow Storm

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It is Sunday, and again I’m cooking broccoli soup.  I did not fully disclose the reason for last week’s broccoli soup:  we had leftover veg from school snack.  Each school day a student is asked to provide a specific snack, and two Friday’s ago it was broccoli and crackers.  The parent brought in a 3-pound bag from Costco for 13 children, most of whom won’t even EAT broccoli.  So as you can see, I was doing everyone a favor by using up the remaining 2.5 pounds of broccoli leftover from school snack.  Last week’s pot of soup was SO YUMMY that all three of us enjoyed it for many lunches.  I feel terrible when I purchase vegetables and don’t use them—I always picture the migrant workers, bent and tired, picking the broccoli so we can have it on our tables.

In the oven is a new creamed spinach recipe.  It’s easy to stir up creamed spinach, but this recipe has an jalapeno pepper in it!  If it’s good, I’ll share the recipe next time! And Hubby, aka The Grill Master, is marinating sirloin steaks we purchased at Costco this afternoon.  It will be a veritable feast!

This peaceful day of reading Here Be Dragons on the couch under a blanket and puttering in the kitchen was well-deserved after our 24 hours away to Flagstaff on Friday /Saturday to check in on our youngest, William.  We’d had several angsty texts from him over the week, with worries ranging from health issues, to a failed Chemistry exam, to not being able to find affordable housing for the next school year.  I was born with strong empathy (not exactly a gift, I assure you) and was worried all week.  I am sooooooo lucky to be married to my best friend who usually agrees with me  . . . and who also felt it was a good idea to drive the 2.5 hours up into the mountains to check in our boy (who is a sophomore studying Chemistry at NAU).

Well.  We knew it was going to snow, but little did we know we were driving into a snow storm!  I was excited to see snow falling from the sky since it had been seven years since I’d seen that magic in motion.  We were two hours up the mountain when the snow started to come down hard.  Visibility was good, but the road was slippery.  Cars were avoiding one snow-laden lane completely, so we proceeded slowly up the mountain in single file, each driver happy to follow the path carved out by the cars leading this strange parade.

Still daylight, it was hard for me to enjoy the postcard-perfect views of the snowy forest out the window when I knew Hubby was tense and anxious about road conditions.  On the right side, two SUVs had slid off  the road and were without passengers in the ditch.  Just before Munds Park, a semi had jack-knifed into the grassy area that is the median, blocking one lane completely.   (We later found out that ADOT closed that stretch of highway an hour after we had driven it!)  We arrived safe and sound, only an hour late, and were so happy to take William and his girlfriend to dinner and for groceries.  And by golly, I believe we solved all the problems, arranging for a two-bedroom for Fall and after his roommate graduates, an adorable, tiny studio for the Spring semester.  It was fun to be sooooo cold; yesterday was 20 and when we went to bed Friday night, the temperature was 4 degrees!  4 DEGREES!!!

I’m always grateful that our three children have stuck so close to home.  It feels good to be able to swoop in and save the day (as long as it’s welcomed help), and have a little adventure, too.  I’d forgotten the peacefulness of falling snow.  As Hubby fixed their apartment dishwasher,  I stood on the patio, watching the wind blow snow out of the trees in the quiet forest area outside their front door.  I was awed by the humongous ravens cawing and flying about, and breathed the cold air deeply into my lungs.  I  thought to myself, surely this is a precious moment that I will hold close for a long time.

Cheers,

Mary

 

Soup Days

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By Golly, it’s been a long time since I posted anything here.  To be honest, I was plumb tuckered after all of the many wedding festivities!  Hubby and I hunkered down for a good two weeks, only making last-minute plans with friends.  What wonderful memories we have with friends and family from the wedding weekend!!!  Thanks again to everyone for their well wishes for the young couple.  Pat &  Sam’s wedding will go down in the books as one helluva party!

But now we are back to our usual busy pace, very happy and productive. I’ve planned a Spring Break trip for Hubby and I to San Diego, and both of us have spent approximately a bazillion hours looking for cheap flights to London for a summer vacation to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.  If you fly to JFK first, the flights are reasonable, but then you risk missing connections which adds stress.  I’m sure we’ll figure it all out.  I heart London so much, and we will spend a few days there before renting a car to tour (drum roll, please!) . . . WALES!  Wales has amazingly beautiful countryside and a rich history; you can’t swing a cat without hitting a castle.  Right now I’m revisiting a novel I read in my youth about Welsh history called Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman.  At 704 pages, I’ve assigned myself 50 pages a day so Hubby can also read it before our trip in late June!  It’s so good that it’s hard to put down.

I’ve spent way too much time googling stuff the past few days and giggled while viewing my browsing history.  Here’s a brief list:

  • Dulse Seaweed butter–a chefs secret weapon (can’t wait to try it)
  • Black Panther movie trailer (looks good)
  • Cheddar Broccoli Soup recipe (YUM!!!)
  • How tall is Charlie Barnes? (never did find that–he tours with Bastille)
  • List of the busiest US airports (Atlanta, LAX, then Chicago)
  • Phoebe Buffay’s fake names (just couldn’t remember Regina Phalange)
  • What is motor boating?  (er, umm, that’s what I thought it was–too much time reading weird stuff on FB lately!)
  • Henry Plantagenet family tree (to assist while reading a historical fiction novel)
  • 24 Things Not to Miss in Wales
  • SOOOOOOO much flight pricing!!!!!!!!

I’m just INTERESTED in stuff, you know?  Now I’ll give you the soup recipe.  I changed it by adding two potatoes and decreasing the amount of cheese and butter and flour.  My family thought it was delicious!  I love to make soup.  I find it homey to have a large pot bubbling on the stove, filling the house with yummy aromas.  My daughter bakes to relax.  She must’ve had a really stressful week since she made three different types of macaroons on three separate days this week!

Broccoli Cheese Soup
1/2 cup butter
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup flour
5 cups broccoli, chopped small
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in half
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you prefer)
4 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and white pepper to taste
one teaspoon chopped garlic

Get out a big-ass pot.  Melt the butter, adding onions and sauteing until soft. Stir in half a cup flour to give the soup some legs to stand on.  Add in chicken broth and milk, then the carrots, potatoes, and the star of our show–BROCCOLI!  Reduce the heat or else the milk will foam up into a huge cloud, which will spill all over your stove top and be a nasty mess.  (This happened to a friend—not me, of course.)   I simmered everything for maybe 45 minutes, testing the carrots with a fork for softness.  When all veg are tender:  add salt, pepper, and garlic, then stir in the cheese.  I used an immersion blender because the potatoes were still in chunks, and also because it’s a fun toy that I rarely get to use. Plus it scares the bejeezus out of the cats, which makes me laugh.

Cheers,

Mary