The Return of the Scorpions (and Other Stories)

Standard

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

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

That Day a Dog Ran into my Car

Standard

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

Standard

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

 

 

21 Days

Standard

If you look on the white board in our preschool classroom, you will see a number written in bold red marker.  Today it reads, “21.”  Andrew and I are counting down the work days until summer vacation.  I said to him today, “I still feel fresh, yet I’m excited to have a few months to do whatever I want!”  And he heartily agreed.  I couldn’t have asked for a better school year—great kiddos, warm parents, and an exciting emerging curriculum in which we studied sea creatures, birds, basic ecology, not to mention reading approximately a million fabulous books.  And so many dance parties!!!  Yep, a truly fun year (I heart my job).

Speaking of school, here in Arizona, the teachers were on a “Walk Out” protest this week.  The movement is called Red for Ed, and there have been tens of thousands of teachers, parents, and students gathered wearing red shirts and carrying signs near our capital building in downtown Phoenix for eight days.  All we’re asking for is that our lawmakers properly fund our schools and give our teachers a living wage!  Students are happy to have these days off in our last week of good weather and to be a part of (which is likely) their first social change movement.  Because my school is not for profit, we’ve had regular school hours at Awakening Seed, and I’ve not been able to participate in any of the rallies (insert sad face here).  At this point it appears a budget has been passed WITHOUT our Red for Ed demands, so the teachers and children will return to their classrooms tomorrow, and oh my, how fun will it be to vote out all the haters come this November!

I guess this is going to be ALL about school:  Eve finished her finals at ASU yesterday and was found napping on the couch when I got home from school.  Things were different back in my day!  For one thing, all of us finished finals on the same day, and we’d secure two big tables at a local pizza/hoagie shop called Appetito’s.  It was a five-minute walk from campus, and they served Lowenbrau Dark beer on tap, $4 a pitcher.  We’d each arrive as we finished our finals and much toasting and roasting was done.  Since most of us had pulled all-night study sessions, a nap followed our afternoon at Appetitos, then someone would host a huge house party which would go til the next morning.  It was absolutely joyful!  College is hard, and the feeling of accomplishment and relief on that last day of the semester is probably the biggest high I’ve ever felt in my entire life.

Saturday the 12th is the end of William’s sophomore year at NAU.  We’ll drive the 3 hours north through the mountains, coax his furniture into Hubby’s RAV4, take it to a storage space, then clean his apartment before heading home. These things used to stress me out (Do we have enough boxes? Will he have packed anything, or will we have to do it all?  How dirty is the apartment? Will we finish in time?)  Instead I’m approaching the task with a “where there’s a will, there’s a way” attitude, and if all goes well, we will arrive home, sweaty and tired, about 10pm Saturday night. Every day one of us says in a whiny voice, “I miss William!”

It will be such a treat for me to have two of my three children home with for the summer (and my oldest can be bribed for a visit with pizza).  (By the way, both kids need a job, so if you know of anything, shoot me a text!  William is NOT eager to return to the movie theater, and Eve is tired of her medical office job with spotty hours.)  I think back to the amazing summers we had when the kids were young, when we’d fill a poster board with all the places we wanted to go and the things we wanted to do over the summer break.  My kids probably won’t want to burn their math papers in the backyard chiminea like we used to do.  There won’t be the twelve-family, last day of school pool party at the neighbor’s.  And we won’t be flying to Illinois, as we often did, to visit grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins just in time for lilac season.

But I have a feeling that this might be one of our best summers ever.

Cheers,

Mary

 

The Horrible,Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Flu

Standard

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?

Standard

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

 

 

Vaughans Gone Wild in San Diego

Standard

A few weeks ago on my Spring Break from school, Hubby and I took a five-day vacation in San Diego, California.  This charming coastal town is an easy five-hour drive from our fair city of Tempe, AZ.  It was our first visit in 18 years!  We’d taken the kids to Sea World when they were little, but for whatever reason, we didn’t have a good time AND it was expensive, so we crossed it off our list.  After all these years, I’m happy to report that I HEART SAN DIEGO!!!  Mountain views, beautiful foliage and flowers, charming restaurants, great people watching, and clean beaches—-I can’t wait to go back!

And now I will attempt write a Very Professional Trip Report, and not drivel on and on like an idget like I usually do.

PROS:

  • We saw way more elderly couples than college students, which was a happy surprise.  (I was worried about obnoxious crowds of frat boys.)
  • We stayed at the Bahia Resort at Mission Beach, which was affordable and on the bay, but not within walking distance of any restaurants off site. But I felt the location between Pacific and Ocean Beaches was a good compromise. Next time we would want to stay near Pacific Beach.
  • Our hotel room was right on the bay, and directly out our sliding glass window was the marina where around 200 boats were anchored.  The two Riverboats which the hotel uses to transport hotel guests north to the Catamaran Resort go in and out of this bay.  (We never were there at the right time to ride the river boats.) We had little foot traffic by our room, except for the mandarin ducks and mud hens, which often pecked at the closed glass door to our hotel room.
  • San Diego Breweries:  There are a zillion charming places at which to drink delicious craft beers.  (Apologies for the overuse of the word “charming” but seriously, San Diego oozes charm!)  There are tap rooms which do not serve food, and there are brew pubs with full menus. We Ubered to Stone Brewery our first night, since it is, without a doubt, the mecca of breweries in the Southwest.  The service and food were incredible (quite pricey meals at $30 per plate), and the building itself is super cool with HUGE amounts of seating. Nobody has cooler t-shirts or better beer, hands down.  Lots of good people watching, too!
  • Travelling off-season, we had easy parking and no waiting at restaurants. I’m certain this is not true in the summer months.  Nice though that there was still a fun, tourist vibe . . . even though it was off season.
  • We live in the desert where it NEVER RAINS.  So though we had a few cloudy days with sprinkles of rain, that was actually a plus for us.  WEATHER! YAY!
  • Visiting the Birch Aquarium at Scripp’s was so much fun.  We arrived just in time to see the fish feeding in the humongous kelp fish tank.  Two divers swim into the tank, and the crowd can ask them questions.  It was super fun, and also very informative.  We patted ourselves on the backs for visiting this busy tourist venue at the perfect hour—NAP TIME!  All the families cleared out around 1:30, and we had the place mostly to ourselves.  We saw so many strange and wondrous sea creatures, and also enjoyed the amazing views of La Jolla from our high vantage point.
  • We visited a shell shop from which you can access a sea cave.  I’m glad I was brave and decided to follow Hubby on the 120 slippery steps down to see the cave. The cave was dug in the 1920’s, and I’m sure every owner since then has been making money hand over fist.  The line was out the door to pay our $5 per person to see the cave.
  • We had Eggs Benedict every day.  The best one was at World Famous on Pacific Beach.  It featured a crab cake base, instead of an English Muffin.  YUMMMMY!

NEGATIVES: 

  • Our Bahia Hotel was old, thus the walls were thin. The first night the neighbors (two adult men) next to us talked all night until 6am in boisterous voices.  They drew my attention later in the day, sitting at the bar, and I felt like approaching them, but instead decided to ask at the desk.  They had checked out . . . whew!  I was tired after a night of holding a pillow over my head to block the noise.  We had one quiet night, then the weirdest thing of all:  The new neighbors had their tv turned on high to a religious station. I kid you not, every few minutes I heard the preacher saying the word, “Lucifer,” in bold, chiding tones.  The next morning I went to the front desk, and they assured me they would assist me, even if it was just a loud tv.  Lucky for me, we had another quiet night.  (Hubby sleeps like the dead and heard none of it.)  (Note to self:  Investigate into sleepy drugs for our next vacation.)
  • Driving in San Diego is pretty tricky.  Thank God for Google directions, which often said, “In .2 miles, cross four lanes of speeding traffic to turn right.”  Certainly not safe after ANY alcohol, so we Ubered a lot, which added to our vacation budget, for sure.   Also driving over the mountain areas one-hour out of San Diego, we had thick fog which was a bit unnerving.  Hubby has nerves of steel, and we arrived safe and sound.
  • The Uber drivers we’ve had in the Phoenix area are very professional and good drivers.  HOLY MOLY!  Our first San Diego Uber experience was disgusting; the driver had obviously chain-smoked in his car, then sprayed some noxious odor-remover.  I rolled down my window and tried to not smell.  The next night, our driver was a young man who appeared to be a) in a hurry or b) on some sort of stimulant.  We careened down the highway, miles past our hotel when I spoke up and said, “Ummm, I believe you’ve gone past our hotel.”  Not saying a word, he made a U-Turn and had us back on track toward our hotel.  90 mph, not braking for turns, it was a Wild Ride for certain.  I said a prayer, “Thank you, Universe, for my wild and splendid life.  It appears it may be ending in a few minutes.  Amen.”  And then we arrived at our hotel.  I caught my breath and said, “Wow!  That was VERY EXCITING!” with a laugh.  In the rear-view mirror, I caught a glimpse of smile.  Until you walk in someone’s shoes, right? I don’t know what his deal was, but wow, it was frightening.  Yet we lived to have another fun day in beautiful San Diego, my new go-to for Spring Break.  Who’s in to go with us in March 2018???

Cheers,

Mary