Category Archives: Family

Unexpected Gifts

When we first walked through the house in April, it was basically empty – no furniture or window treatments, nobody currently living there at the time. After we decided that yeah, we were gonna take a shot at buying this house built in 1900 (!), we came back and took a closer look.  I’d found out the hard way, from a house we’d signed a contract on a few weeks earlier, that it was a good idea to open those cabinets, look in the closets, really take your time and decide if you can make this place work. (We backed out of the other house after the inspection turned up some Bad Things, but I also hadn’t realized that the kitchen cabinets were actually horrible inside – I never bothered to open a door or drawer. Doh! The market was insane at that time and we were basically jumping at any house that hadn’t been sold out from under us.)

As we slowly inspected each room, opening cabinets and drawers, we realized that there was actually quite a bit of stuff still here. Pots and pans, dishes, silverware, lace curtains (still in the packaging from the dry cleaner) hanging in the closet.  The upstairs storage area, which I call the attic but really isn’t – it’s just a small room at the end of the upstairs hall with lots of space for storing things – had some holiday decorations in the back.  There was a propane charcoal grill on the back deck. Stuff like that.

We tried to piece together the story of these left-behind items.  The seller hadn’t lived in the house since 2011 or 12.  I found a whole kitchen cabinet filled with inkjet cartridges, markers, first birthday invitations, even photos, and our seller was not in any of them. Leftover invoices in the same cabinet had somebody else’s name, a couple with a small child from the looks of things.  I assumed they were renting the house and, for whatever reason, took off in a hurry and left a bunch of stuff behind.  I also assumed it would all be gone once we actually took possession in June.

But it wasn’t gone.  We opened the door with our new key, walked in, and found all these things in the same places we’d last seen them.  So I ended up with a couple of new pots and pans, donated most of the dishes, gifted to Paige all the things she needed for her new home, and tossed the junk in the trash.

I pretty much forgot about the holiday stuff. I mean, it was June and the holidays were the furthest thing from my mind. Once November rolled around, though, I started eyeballing potential spots for a Christmas tree.  You might remember my dilemma when we moved to the little house in Niles, a house so small that there was no possible place for a full-sized tree.  (I actually considered not having a tree that first year, until Dave insisted that we look at some pencil trees.)  To have multiple possibilities for tree placement was a novelty for me; even in Illinois, there was only one real option for where to put the tree (and I still had to move furniture to fit it in).

“We need to buy a tree this year,” I reminded Dave.  “I hate to spend the money, it would be cheaper to buy it after Christmas, but that pencil tree is just not big enough.  We’ll put that one out on the front porch.”

He held up a finger to stop me.  “Hang on.”

He went downstairs (we have a Michigan basement here, so I try to stay out of it as much as possible).  A few minutes later I heard something thunking up the stairs, and then a six-foot Christmas tree appeared in my kitchen.

He peeked around from behind it.  “It was downstairs! It has lights on it and everything. It’s from Bronner’s!”

I mean, what are the odds?!  This tree is the perfect size for the family room, and it is gorgeous.

I did suggest that we buy a second tree during the after-Christmas sales and put it up in the living room or dining room, but Dave shot that down.  Can’t blame a girl for trying!  😉

Saying Bye to Beanie

We think Sabrina, or Beanie (as we call her), is getting ready to cross the rainbow bridge soon. She’s 15 now, and back in November she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. She’d gone from about 12 to 9 pounds and just seemed constantly anxious and agitated. Once we started her on thyroid medicine she seemed to improve. She didn’t gain any weight back, but she maintained her weight, her fur seemed less unkempt, and she just seemed more settled and happy. She also corrected some litter box issues she’d been having. All seemed right in Beanie’s world.

But 2016 hasn’t been kind to her. She lost some more weight, down to 8-1/2 pounds, then gained it back. She started moving slower; you can really tell she’s a senior kitty. And a few days ago she had some kind of incident, possibly a mini-seizure. Dave found her lying down with one of her back legs kind of up in the air, and she seemed dazed. We waited for her to come out of it, watching to see if she seemed to be in pain (she didn’t), and she slowly came back to her usual self. But I can tell when I pick her up that she’s lost weight again (I don’t want to know, so I haven’t weighed her). She’s still eating and drinking, taking her medicine, but we can just tell she’s getting ready.

Dave and I talked and decided not to take her to the vet unless she seems to be in pain. All of my previous cats ended up being put down in the vet’s office, and I’m sure that’s what they would do to her if we brought her in. I don’t want that, unless she’s suffering. For once, I want one of my beloved cats to die peacefully in her own home. I want her to be surrounded by the things she loves and the people who love her. I want to honor all the happy days she’s given us.

I watched this series called Time of Death a while back, and it made a profound impact on me, totally changed how I view the process of dying (which I was terrified of before). I know she’s a cat and not a person, but I want to apply some of that philosophy to how we handle Bean’s last days with us.

This is an excerpt from a previous entry, and it sums up Miss Sabrina about as well as anything:

Our oldest cat, Sabrina (aka Beanie) was in residence for about ten months before the former-feral girls joined the household and rocked her world. Beanie is the sweetest, friendliest cat you could ever hope to meet. If you come to our house, you’ll meet Beanie. She’ll stomp toward you on her squat little legs, look you right in the eye and meow softly. She’ll stare at you, wearing you down, until finally you give in and pet her on the head. Beanie loves being petted, even on her stomach. She’s so docile and loving; sometimes she purrs so loud that we have to turn up the volume on the TV. (If we’re watching TV, she’s almost always sitting with or on one of us.)

Beanie’s a little weird about sniffing your hand, though. She seems to have a sensitive sniffer, and often seems offended if you let her sniff your hand. This is a common thing to do, offer your hand to an animal so they can sniff it first, and it might look like Beanie is slightly repulsed by your presence. Don’t be fooled, though; she loves everybody. She just doesn’t necessarily like the way they smell.

Beanie often seems put out by the fact that she’s so far below us, walking on the floor when we’re apparently up in the heavens. She’ll follow us around and meow pitifully, or sit on the floor in the bathroom while I do my makeup or brush my teeth, staring at me sadly. Finally, I give in and pick her up; I carry her round the house with me or I put her on the counter so she can watch me. She settles in happily and starts purring; no more meows, no more sad looks. Beanie really needs to just be carried around the house in a sling, the way I used to carry the kids when they were babies. To make Beanie happy, all you have to do is pay attention to her.

And don’t make her sniff your hand.

She is a wonderful, gentle, loving cat – we couldn’t be luckier to have been her family for the past 11 years. I wanted to write this now while she’s still with us, when I know I can publish this post, then walk into the bedroom and give her a kiss on the head and tell her how much I love her.

A Perfect Storm *

There’s four words that I never said during either of my pregnancies:

“My water just broke.”

However, that’s precisely what happened to my daughter on Monday night. Let me backtrack though, all the way to late November.

Thanksgiving came late again this year, didn’t it? I started decorating for Christmas the weekend before Thanksgiving, although I did wait to put up the tree until Nov. 28. I also started Baby Watch that same week.

Paige’s due date was originally Dec. 15 and then they changed it to Dec. 12. She and Eric both came about 9 days early, and I just had this feeling that Storm would arrive early as well. She was having a really smooth pregnancy, not a lot of morning sickness and no high blood pressure (which was my nemesis). She started having Braxton-Hicks contractions pretty early on, something I remember very well from my own pregnancies.

On Nov. 19, she had an ultrasound and they said Storm was 5 lbs, 9 oz. We figured he still needed some growing time, so I started thinking he’d come closer to his due date (if not after). In the meantime, Paige planned to keep working right up until he was born, if she could. That was another similarity to my pregnancy with her; I ended up working until two days before she was born. (I finished my week at work on Friday, went into labor late Saturday night/early Sunday morning and she was born at 5:37 am on Sunday.)

She had a weekly doctor’s appointment on December 2nd and they told her she was 2 to 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Her hips were starting to really hurt so they stripped her membranes to help things along, and scheduled her for an induction early on December 8th if the baby wasn’t here by that time. She kept going to work and then getting sent home because being on her feet was making her have non-stop contractions. All through the week I was getting messages from her saying that the contractions weren’t stopping and were anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 minutes apart. She even went to the hospital one morning, but they sent her home because she wasn’t dilating.

I started carrying my cell phone everywhere (usually I just leave it lying on my desk) and Dave had already hooked up one of our bedroom lights so that it would blink on and off when the phone rang (hopefully waking us up if she called during the night). I woke up frequently every night to check my phone and see if I’d missed any messages from Paige about being in labor.

When I was pregnant with her, they stripped my membranes on a Tuesday (I was 3 cm, 75% effaced) and she was born on a Sunday. Since her pregnancy with Storm was so similar to my pregnancy with her, I figured she’d have him on a Monday – five days after the procedure, just like me. Still though, she was having so many contractions and false alarms that I really thought it would be sooner, possibly the weekend of Dec. 5-6.

The weekend came and went with no baby, so we started planning for the induction on Tuesday morning. We had a bag packed with all kinds of things to keep us busy for possibly hours, since this was her first baby – Phase 10 (a card game), chargers for my CI batteries and our tablets and phones, money for the vending machines (because we no longer use our debit card after it got hacked – we’re waiting for the chip and pin version to come out). I put together a goodie bag for Paige with lip balm, hair clips and ties, magazines, her favorite candy (and Michael’s too), Goldfish crackers, bath gel for her first post-baby shower, and face wipes. I set the alarm for 4 am so we could be there at 5 am (even though we’re only an hour apart, they’re in an earlier time zone than us).

Monday morning she sent me a message saying her contractions were hurting more, and weren’t going away when she sat down. I had a feeling this was it – it was exactly how my labor with her started. She went to the hospital around 10 am and we didn’t hear anything for a long time; then around 1 or 2 pm she said they sent her home because she wasn’t progressing and was still 3 cm.

We were messaging back and forth, and she was fretting because her cervix was being so stubborn; she was afraid she’d have to have a C-section on Tuesday. I messaged back, “It’s not inconceivable that you could still go into labor tonight.” She said, “True.” That was at 3:15 pm.

Dave and I ate dinner and then settled in for some TV. We were watching The Good Wife when the phone rang. It was Paige.

Dave answered and there was silence on the other end. He hung up and I checked my phone. At 7:40 our time (6:40 her time) she had messaged me: My water just broke

Well, we went crazy. Dave called her back and got her husband, Michael. They were already at the hospital (it’s just a block or two from their house) and he said they were telling her she still might not have the baby until tomorrow morning. The doctor would be in at 5 am to check her; she was still 3 cm.

Dave said he’d call back in 15 or 20 minutes to check on them, hung up and we kind of wandered around aimlessly, not knowing what to do. Do we go to the hospital if they said she wouldn’t have the baby until the next day? Finally 20 minutes had passed, and Dave called back. He got Paige this time.

I was reading the captioning, and he had the volume turned way up so I could kind of hear through the handset as he talked to her. She was very breathless (turns out she was having a contraction at that moment) and said the contractions really hurt. Dave asked if she wanted us to come to the hospital and I could hear her yelling, “YES YES YES YES!” I flew around and had my coat on and everything together in just a few minutes. Hearing my little girl in obvious pain just kind of flipped a switch in me. We had to get on the road STAT.

We made good time and found the hospital pretty easily. We had to be escorted by security onto the labor and delivery floor because it was after hours (around 9 pm their time). When we walked in, I took in the scene: Paige in bed, getting ready to push, with Michael on one side and his mom, Renee, on the other. His sister, Aleigha, was standing back and there were a couple of nurses and a doctor in the room. Right away they said only three people (besides Paige) could be in the room, so Dave and Aleigha left and went to the family waiting room.

Renee said we had perfect timing, and she was not kidding. I couldn’t believe that in a little over an hour from her conversation with Dave, Paige was already at the pushing stage. For her first baby! I thought, seriously, we would be there for 24 hours or more.

She’d been given some pain medication that made her kind of loopy and out of it, so she fell asleep. (She didn’t want an epidural, but I doubt she could’ve gotten one even if she did because things happened so quickly.) She basically slept most of the time that we were driving. When she woke up, apparently, she had the urge to push. And that’s about the time we arrived.

She pushed for maybe 15 minutes. They started breaking down the bed, and things happened really quickly after that. I was kind of standing back from the bed, to keep out of the way, and I decided to move further down … just in time to see my grandson enter this world. It was completely amazing.

When it came time to cut the cord, the doctor asked if anyone wanted to do the honors. Michael shook his head no and I found myself stepping forward, something I never thought I would do. What a special moment!

Our new grandson, Storm, right after his birth

Our new grandson, Storm, right after his birth

Storm Dovahkiin Reeves was born at 9:18 pm on December 7, 2015. He weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces and was 20 inches long.

We think he is the most beautiful grandson ever. We’re pretty darn proud of his mama and daddy, and so glad that he came into this world surrounded by people who love him.

Is he not adorable?!

Is he not adorable?!

Best early Christmas present ever!!

* Credit to my friend Facebook friend Theresa for the title to this blog entry 🙂

Words Are Very Unnecessary

On our way home from Dave’s one-month checkup with his hepatologist in Fort Wayne, we stopped at Subway for lunch. Although we like the food, Dave kind of hates going there because the ordering process confounds him. They ask a lot of questions, and for someone with hearing loss that’s a real drag.

I have an easier time with this kind of thing (as long as it’s in person) because I lipread, so I am usually the one to order. I just consult Dave first to make sure what he wants, or if he starts to order himself then I will relay the questions to him if he misses them.

Since it was just a light lunch, we did our usual and got the same sandwich in the foot-long size, and then split it. This location had a drive-through but we decided to go inside because I really struggle to understand anything through those speakers.

We were the only customers, and as we walked up to the counter the guy started talking. I wasn’t close enough to read his lips and had no clue what he said (he was talking really fast and also had a bit of a southern accent). I did my usual and just assumed what he probably said based on my past visits to Subway.

Well yes, I can relate to this.

Well yes, I can relate to this.

I told him the type of sandwich we wanted and the type of bread. He said something else that I missed, but I knew they usually asked about cheese and I thought I’d caught part of his question. “Did you say something about pepperjack cheese?” He nodded, and I confirmed that we wanted it. Then he asked if we wanted it toasted, which caught me off guard. I had to have him repeat the question a couple of times. After I answered him, I added, “I’m deaf and I’m reading your lips, so that’s why I sometimes miss what you say.”

Now, usually I add that I have cochlear implants and I hear with them; that way people know that I do hear sound but they also know that I’m reading their lips as well. But I figured eh, this is just a quick lunch order and why go into all that detail? Here’s what happened when I just let that statement hang in the air without further clarification:

The guy stopped talking.

He had been keeping up a constant patter while we were there, which was making it hard for me to tell if he was asking a question, making a comment about our order, or even perhaps just talking to himself. My statement silenced him, and what a gift it was!

He quietly made the sandwich and just kind of looked up when he got to the veggies, waving his hand vaguely in the direction of the options available. I smiled and said we just wanted tomato, nothing else, and no sauce.

Obviously he thought I couldn’t hear anything and there was no point in really talking to me anymore, so he resorted to his version of sign language – and it was perfectly fine with me (even preferable, if I’m being honest). I thought it was kind of hilarious; it’s been a long time since I’ve had someone react that way when I say I’m deaf. Even before I got my CIs and I really couldn’t hear, when I told someone I was deaf and reading lips, they would still keep talking to me the same way they had been.

(Before I get to my next story, I have to interject and say that Dave had his viral load tested at this appointment, and we got the results yesterday. As of one month into his three month treatment with Harvoni and Ribavirin, he has cleared the Hepatitis C virus! He never cleared it in 2013; he went from over 4 million to 11,000 but that was as low as it went. This time he started at over 3 million and BOOM … now it’s undetected. ! ! ! !)

The other hearing loss-related thing that happened around here was during a power outage. The power really doesn’t go out very often here, and when it does they get it back on within a few hours (at the most). It seems to go out at weird times, though, not during storms. The last time was about a week ago, after we’d had some rain come through. During the storms all was well, but about 3:15 in the morning my eyes just kind of flew open. I could feel that something wasn’t right; I just didn’t know what it was. I realized Dave wasn’t in bed, and then I looked over at the clock and saw that it was off – we had a power outage.  (Dave had realized about five minutes before me and was getting candles.)

It wasn’t hot so we didn’t have fans on (or else the room suddenly getting hot would have woken me up). I realized that when I’m sleeping I’m more sensitive to light (and the lack of it) than I realized. I always assumed I wouldn’t wake up from a strobe light on a smoke detector, and that I’d need something that vibrated the bed to wake me up. (Those systems are, by the way, very expensive.) Now I’m kind of wondering if the strobe light would actually do the trick. I must be more sensitive to that kind of thing when I’m sleeping since I don’t have hearing to rely on. Very interesting!


Hep C, Writing, Fitbit, House

“It says here that I should eat ice cream every day.” Dave looked up from his computer screen and smiled.

I have to give him points for trying – ice cream every day would take the sting out of going through treatment for Hepatitis C a second time.

His new treatment starts next week, and it goes for three months this time. He’ll be taking a new drug, Harvoni (I keep wanting to call it Havarti, like the cheese) along with his old friend Ribavirin. No interferon shots this time, thank God. We couldn’t remember if he had to take the drugs with a high-fat snack the way he did last time, so he was doing research to refresh his memory. (Turns out it was the boceprevir that required the high-fat snack, so no requisite Hershey bars or peanut butter this time around.)

This regimen should have way less side effects, although there will still be a few from the Ribavirin. (If he was treatment-naïve, he would just take the Harvoni which has very few side effects.) We’ll be making bi-weekly trips to Fort Wayne to pick up his medicine (he gets a two week supply each time) and have them check his labs.

I didn’t mean to let so much time go by without an update. I was taking an online class on how to make money from your writing, and it ended this month. By the end of the class I was feeling like I just wanted to write here and not try to actually make any money by writing – and then I stopped writing here, go figure. It was pretty eye-opening, though, and I’m glad I took the class. I had a lot of misconceived notions about writing for magazines, for instance. I didn’t realize that you don’t actually write a piece and submit it (unless it’s an essay, which I discovered is the type of writing I prefer). A magazine article is just an idea when you send a query to a magazine – ‘Hey, how about I write on this subject for you?’ – and then you wait to find out if anyone is interested. If they are, then you write the article.

And a book – well, my memoir has been stalled for months, so it’s not like I was on the verge of being done or anything, but I was still thinking of book publishing as ‘write a book, submit the manuscript and hope it gets accepted, if it does then the publisher promotes it and you hope people buy it.’ No sir. It’s more like, write a book and then try to convince a publisher to accept it by showing how popular you are and all the things YOU can do to promote it. I have NO desire to try to sell a book. I don’t want to have to give talks or readings, I don’t want to do interviews, I don’t want to spend my days begging my friends to buy my book. I just want to write, man. So I figured, screw it, I’m just going to satisfy my urge to write through my blog. And then, like I said, I stopped writing.

I was very caught up in the whole ‘I am not a writer if I don’t get paid for what I write’ thing and it was really messing with my head. So I backed off of everything for a while, I guess.

In other exciting news, sort of related to writing, I got a Fitbit last week. Influenster offered me the eBay Guide badge, where you earn a $25 eBay gift card by writing two eBay guides. It took forever and a day to have both of the guides accepted (they read them and approve them one at a time) and then to actually get the gift card, which was sent in the mail. While I was trying to figure out what to spend it on, they offered me an eBay Guide VIP badge for another $25 gift card. I decided to do two more guides, and held onto the first gift card so I could combine them. The second gift card came via email and voila, I had $50 to spend on eBay.

I had done some research on the Fitbit, and decided on either the Flex or the Charge. I don’t use it for phone stuff so the only thing the Charge really offered that the Flex didn’t have was an on-screen display. I did some pricing and realized I could get the Flex for very little of my own money, so that sealed my decision. I finally snagged a slate blue Fitbit Flex for $60 with free shipping, used my $50 in gift cards and got myself a Fitbit for the low, low out-of-my-pocket price of $10.

I am properly obsessed right now, and I do find myself extending my workouts to get in at least 10,000 steps a day if I can. I don’t really bother with the calorie portion of the app because I use the Livestrong MyPlate website to track my calories, but I do take note of the calories I supposedly burned (according to Fitbit) versus the calories I consumed (according to MyPlate).

I am holding steady with my weight, and I just have seven measly pounds to get to my ultimate, in-my-dreams goal. However, I’ve been within 4 to 7 pounds of that goal for nearly a year now. Maybe the Fitbit will take me over the top. If nothing else, I’ll be more active. Win, win!

Now I’ve gotten a third eBay Guide badge, the VIP Plus, for another $25 gift card. I completed those guides and they were accepted right away, so I’m waiting for the gift card (it usually takes a few weeks). Let me just say, finding topics that I could write on was really hard. You have to use the Influenster topic suggestion tool and use something from there. You click on this ‘inspire me’ button and it spins around and throws out a topic. Most of them were for things I’d never even heard of, or had no idea what to write about (how to replace a manual transmission; pricing Pokemon cards; birds of Asia). I lucked out with a couple of candle topics, one on canning, DIY hair stuff, things like that. It took a lot of clicking to get there, though.

I think we are finally ready to give the garden a go. Dave is out burning the brush pile right now; it has to go because it’s currently in the area we plan to till. Well, I think we may have someone come in and do the tilling for us. We’ve figured the cost of renting a tiller AND a truck (because we can’t fit the tiller in our Hyundai Sonata), and it may be cheaper just to pay someone to come do it for us with their own equipment. One way or another, though, the garden area should be prepared in the next couple of weeks and we can finally begin planting. One more thing – we finally started a compost pile. I’ve never had one, so I keep having to dig through the trash to pull out vegetable peelings, egg shells and the like.

We will miss this little house when we move on, but it won’t be until 2016 at the earliest. Last year was so full of trauma and upheaval, and we are looking forward to just staying put for this year. It is so nice to wake up every day feeling relaxed, wondering where the day will take us. Every day we find new flowers coming up, new buds on the trees. I’m already looking forward to mulberries and raspberries.

Raspberries from our yard last year

Raspberries from our yard last year

Reason 5,991,580 Why I Love My Husband

Like many areas around the US right now, Michigan is in the middle of a cold snap. It got down to nine degrees F last night, it’s a generous 13 degrees right now, and our high is predicted only to be 19 degrees.

Last night Dave and I were talking over our plans for today, New Years Eve. We’re making chicken rice burritos but I also needed to fit my shower into the schedule, and I was trying to plan it so that I would have my ‘ears’ on (it makes it easier when we’re cooking together if I can hear him).

“I really dread taking a shower tomorrow,” I sighed. “Normally I would just take it as soon as I wake up, but the bathroom is the coldest room in the house!” I knew with the extra-cold overnight temperature, and the fact that two of the bathroom walls are exterior, it would be even colder than usual. On top of that, the heat register in the bathroom is the furthest one from the furnace and the air that comes out of it is not nearly as warm as the registers in other parts of the house.

“Here’s what happens when I take a shower,” I went on. “I finish up by rinsing the conditioner out of my hair, then turn off the water. While I’m standing there, wet and cold, I put on leave-in conditioner and rake it through. Then I use some kind of curl cream and rake that through. Then I flip my head upside down to finish with some more curl cream, scrunch my hair and put it in a flour sack towel. So I’m standing there for about five minutes, wet and freezing my ass off, while I do all this stuff.” I made a face, shrugged, and said, “Oh well, it is what it is.”

This morning I woke up to a beautiful sunrise. I love looking out the window in our bedroom and seeing all the trees lit up from the sun. Dave was already up. Maxie jumped onto the bed with me and settled in against my hip. I petted her and pointed out the beautiful view, but I think she was more interested in the birds feeding outside on the deck.

Then Dave came into the room, wearing his coat. I waved at him and put on my glasses so I could read his lips. “You’re up and about already!” I marveled.

“Yes! I bought you a heater!”


“A little heater like we talked about.” I had jokingly mentioned that it would be great to have a fireplace in the bathroom; then Dave mentioned a small heater, which I had assumed would be too expensive.

You guys. He went out early this morning and bought a little ceramic heater for the bathroom, for less than $20! It works perfectly. He had set it up to test it out, so when I got up he took me into the bathroom for a demonstration. Not only was the room warm, it made the rest of the house feel cold when I walked back out.

We won’t use it all the time, of course – just for showers, mainly. But my gosh, what a massive difference it makes.

Even better, the car started right up this morning. She’s been fine lately but the mornings haven’t been that cold … so now we know she’s fixed. My clever husband did what three car mechanics couldn’t manage to do.

Of course, I’d love him even if he couldn’t fix cars – that’s just one of the many perks of being married to him. But his thoughtful, kind nature – that’s reason #5,991,580 why I love him.

On my 50th birthday - Aug. 28, 2014

On my 50th birthday – Aug. 28, 2014

Happy New Year! See you in 2015!

And Then It Was Over

We did not have a white Christmas. As my mom so aptly put it, “We did not have a flake of snow.” Actually, that applies to both Michigan and Illinois – we had a Winter Weather Advisory for 1-3 inches of snow, and my mom (in Illinois) had a Winter Storm Watch for up to 7” of snow. But as I told Dave, it actually didn’t bother me because we were traveling on Christmas Day. I would rather have clear roads, no rain or snow, and cloudy skies if we have to be driving, and that’s exactly what we did have.

We got to my mom’s around 10 am (one of the benefits of living in different time zones … we left here at 8:30 am, it’s just under 2-1/2 hours of driving, and we got to her house at 10 am because she’s an hour behind us). We had a wonderful six hours together, and then we left a little earlier than planned because Eric needed to catch the 4:17 train back to Chicago and we had to get him to the train station in time. We had our usual ham and lasagna for dinner, along with green bean casserole and garlic bread. I’d told Dave when we were driving there that I’d been craving ham and lasagna SO BAD. He thought it was hilarious – what a combination! But it’s what we always have – ham and some type of pasta dish – and mmmm, it’s so good.

We got to spend Christmas Eve with Paige, her boyfriend, and her roommate, and that was awesome. Cinnamon rolls for breakfast, then gift opening; in the afternoon, Paige and Michael made Rice Krispie trees while Dave and I mostly watched, offering cooking advice here and there. We had beef stew for dinner, which was a first for us. I do believe these kids are pickier than even I was, so we had a brainstorming session the week earlier to find something they would both like to eat … and beef stew won. It really worked out well because I got the stew in the crockpot before we left to pick up the kids, and I didn’t need to stop and put dinner together later in the day.

Cinnamon Rolls

Dave’s awesome cinnamon rolls, a Christmas tradition

Dave and I opened our gifts when we got home from Illinois on Christmas night, and we waited until then to give the cats their catnip bananas (I wanted to be here in case they went Catnip Crazy). Let’s just say the catnip bananas were the hit of the day. At one point Maxie hid hers under the Christmas tree skirt, then started diving and freaking out trying to get it back. The Christmas tree did survive, but I’m glad we were here to supervise!

Now we look toward New Year’s Eve, which we CAN’T WAIT for. Appetizers and games and awesome company! We don’t drink at all – Dave has Hepatitis C (and is going back into treatment in March – more on that later) and I take medication that doesn’t mix well with alcohol. But we don’t need to drink to have fun, so it’s all good.

I can’t say I’ll be sad to see 2014 go – we had some gut-wrenching changes this year – but we also had fun, and we made the best out of a bad situation. Hopefully 2015 will be a bit more calm and stable, but as long as we have each other I think we’ll be just fine.

Quick Takes, Holiday Edition

1.  They say our area has a 90% chance of snow on Christmas. It seems hard to believe, with a high today of 48 degrees and Christmas only two days away. But we’ll see – stranger things have happened. The main thing is that the snow they swear we’ll have tomorrow night is not supposed to be of the ‘well, we might get your road plowed by next week’ variety. Just a dusting, not enough to mess up the roads on Christmas Day.

2.  We’re in good shape as far as preparations go, with the exception of one gift for Dave that is obviously not going to arrive by Christmas Eve (or ever, apparently). I’ve already warned him that he’ll be helping me choose a replacement gift on Dec. 26th, hopefully from a seller that actually plans to ship things.

3.  I realized I hadn’t gotten anything for the cats. In the old house we actually hung stockings for them from the stair railing on the second floor. In this house I barely had room for the stockings that belonged to humans (I turned our large hope chest into a makeshift mantel next to the Christmas tree), much less room for the cats’ stockings. I guess not having the stockings out made me blank out on getting them a gift. Yes, I know they are cats. Yes, I know they don’t know it’s Christmas and expect no gift from us. But what kind of mother would I be if I forgot them?!

So I got them some Yeowww! catnip bananas, after seeing photographic evidence of my friend Kellie’s cat loving on his banana. (That sounds wrong, but you know what I mean.) I’ve gotten them Cosmic Catnip toys before but this is a new brand for us. I ordered them from Amazon because I knew they’d get here in time using their Prime shipping and, remember, I waited until the last minute to order them. They arrived promptly and I put them on a high shelf in the kitchen pantry, which is really just shelves off the kitchen that I’ve covered with a curtain.

The cats are now going crazy, pacing in front of the pantry, sticking their heads up inside the curtain, meowing, etc. This is for catnip toys that are in their packaging AND inside their shipping materials. I can’t wait to see what they do when we actually give them their bananas. (Go bananas, maybe? ahem)

4.  We’re in charge of Christmas cookies for dinner at my mom’s on Christmas Day, and I’ve been making a few types each day so we’ll have a nice variety to bring. Yesterday I made Italian anise cookies, which I remember fondly from my childhood. I can’t believe I’ve never made these before, because Dave loves licorice I don’t even know what made me decide to make them – I think the recipe popped up in an Allrecipes email or something.

There are wildly different recipes out there and I was really torn between them; finally I chose one from and crossed my fingers. If you’ve never had them before, they are almost like a little cake/biscuit type cookie with a glaze on top. We had to go to two stores to find anise extract, but it was worth it – I doubled the amount of extract in the frosting from 1/8 to ¼ tsp (we like the flavor) and they are so good. Dave’s face when he tasted the first one was priceless. He handed me a piece, I took a bite and said, “Oh my gosh, this brings back memories,” and then my eyes filled with tears. Crying over a cookie! But it just reminded me so much of Christmas Eve at my Aunt DeeDee’s house, my dad (who loved anise anything – cookies, biscotti, anisette liquor), and just all those Christmases of my youth when a platter of those cookies always seemed to be present. I am so glad I made them.

Italian Anise Cookies

Our Italian anise cookies — I remember the ones with round sprinkles the best.

This year we have a full day on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and I already know I won’t be writing again until Friday. So I want to take this moment to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season, no matter what holiday you celebrate. Thanks for being my friends, for sticking around even when I don’t write for weeks, for your valued feedback and comments and perspective. I hope all your wishes come true!

Bargaining with the Tooth Fairy

Earlier today I heard Dave chuckling. “Oh, this is totally you,” he said, pointing to his computer screen. I leaned over his shoulder to read the Reddit post he was talking about.

“That is absolutely something I would have done,” I agreed. It was a passive-aggressive note from a young girl to the Tooth Fairy … a very forgetful Tooth Fairy, apparently. (I did sympathize because I can easily remember at least two instances of ‘Oh crap, I forgot to be the Tooth Fairy last night!’ that involved me handing Dave some money and begging him to perform his magic – he could always slip that money under the pillow better than I. I’m pretty sure we forgot to retrieve the tooth at least once as well.)

I was a bit of a bitchy, dramatic kid. My mom would leave aggrieved notes reminding me to empty the dishwasher or whatever; I would correct her spelling and punctuation with a red pen, then leave the corrected note for her to see when she got home from work. I can also remember writing woe-is-me poetry when I felt I’d been wronged. I would shape it into a paper airplane and fly it into the living room where my parents sat watching TV, then run back to my room and slam the door. (My mom saved those notes, bless her heart – a few years later, I found some of them under the pot holders in a kitchen drawer.)

After I saw the tooth fairy note, I walked into our guest room and checked one of my jewelry boxes. When we moved, I got rid of a lot of childhood papers I’d saved from both kids – mostly graded worksheets, anything impersonal. I kept their stories, drawings and poems though, and I was pretty sure I had some Tooth Fairy notes. Sure enough, I found this, from Eric:

He wrote this when he was in a stage where he slept on the floor in my room -- had to make sure the Tooth Fairy could find him!

He wrote this when he was in a stage where he slept on the floor in my room — had to make sure the Tooth Fairy could find him!

And this, a year or two later (I can tell he’s older by the handwriting):

"I lost I think a big tooth. Please give me $10 $5 or in the middle"

“I lost I think a big tooth. Please give me $10 $5 or in the middle”

... and he offers some more monetary suggestions.  :)

… and he offers some more monetary suggestions. 🙂

Not to be outdone, Paige also left the Tooth Fairy a clever note:

"I would like 50c or more for my tooth because it is cute."  :)

“I would like 50c or more for my tooth because it is cute.” 🙂

I can’t remember for sure but I believe these notes did net bigger payouts from the Tooth Fairy, although not $10 per tooth. I think Eric was probably angling for 25 cents, not 25 dollars, in the first note … but I did teach him to dream big, so who knows.

Happy Holidays (emphasis on ‘happy’)

After all the snow we got in November (16 inches before Nov. 15th, another good six inches on Thanksgiving, with little flurries many days in between), I was positive we’d have a white Christmas. In fact, I was a little nervous about whether we’d be able to make the drive to Illinois on Christmas day. It seemed entirely possible that we’d be snowed in.

In Illinois, we lived in a suburb about 35 miles west of Chicago. About half the time that snow was predicted, it wouldn’t show up at all. Usually we’d get just a little bit while other areas got dumped on. I love snow, and this used to drive me crazy. We’d hear the term ‘lake effect snow’ but it never applied to us because we were too far from Lake Michigan and in the wrong direction as well.

When we moved to southwestern Michigan, we got our first taste of lake effect snow. We aren’t right on Lake Michigan – you have to drive 30 to 40 minutes to get there – but we’re right in the little area where lake effect snow seems to develop. In fact, the towns right along the lake tend to get less snow than we do. The boundaries of the lake effect snow area are really dramatic – the storm that ultimately gave us 16 inches of snow dropped just a couple of inches in towns right around us.

So here we are, almost exactly halfway through December, and we’ve had no snow. Not only have we had no snow, but it’s also been fairly warm for this time of year (today I think it’s going to be around 50 degrees). While this is nice for the car – she actually starts up first thing in the morning with no hijinks on our part – it’s not really nice for the whole Christmas spirit thing in general. Even Dave, who is ambivalent about snow, has complained that we should have snow by now.

I’m used to this from Illinois – it was typical for us to have no snow on Christmas and then get tons of snow starting in January. But our ultra-snowy early start to winter had me pretty excited – I’d moved to the perfect place for snow!

Oh well – for some reason, I still feel full of Christmas spirit even without my beloved snow on the ground. Our grass may still be green, but that doesn’t bother me. I’m happy knowing we’ll be able to get to Chicago with no drama on the 25th (assuming the no-snow thing keeps up for the next 10 days), and I’m happy knowing I’ll be able to see my kids and my mom this year on Christmas.

We have cookie-baking plans with Paige and her boyfriend Michael, our gifts are mostly bought, and our budget wasn’t stretched too far beyond its tight confines. Earlier this week Dave pulled me out of the house for a nighttime drive to look at Christmas lights, something we both love to do. We brought out just the right amount of decorations for our little house, my doorway arch is filling up with holiday cards from friends near and far, and Dave has recorded the Christmas specials I remember so fondly from my childhood. (I still cry when Frosty melts – I can’t help it.)

My heart is full and content. While I’d love to look out the window and see white, glittery snow as far as the eye can see, I’m happy instead to look out on our birds and squirrels (and occasional wild turkey).

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