September 20, 2019

Curly's future as a smuggler, & ear-won't-pop Hell

I think I mentioned that I hoped like Hell that the airline didn’t lose the two checked bags where I had stashed enough food to sustain the girls and I for three days.  Who does that?  Me.  Enough said.  

People asked me while I was plotting out my menu creation/storage/packing how I planned to sneak food into a foreign country.  My response:  Freeze it, pack it, check it.’  Secretly I wondered if the airline would have an issue with it, but it is food.  You know what it is NOT:  food vaporized and stored in an aerosol can, stuffed carelessly in my bag, threatening to explode and jeopardizing everyone’s safely.  It is also NOT:  soup, or some liquid disguised as soup, in larger than 4 oz containers stowed in my carry-on.  

People eat in other countries, right?  I was traveling to Canada, and I did not believe any of the food I was packing was on a do-not-enter-our-country list.  But I was too busy grocery buying, cooking, baking, reorganizing the food in my freezer, and sweating my ass off in the kitchen to google it.  What did we do before google?  Anyone old enough to remember?  

We landed in Vancouver.  Mini's ear would not pop.  She may be 15, but apparently if her ear hurts she is going to become a retro 4 year old.  She REPEATEDLY pointed out to me that her hear hurt.  I told her that I understood.  I suggested she yawn.  Beyond that, I had nothing.  I was travelling with 2 kids and I had lots to attend to.  We needed to get currency.  Go through customs.  Get our bags.  

The ear was not anything I could fix.  

Customs:  we walked up to a computer station thing and followed the directions.  It took our photo.  Curly and Mini read prompts over my shoulder.  Had I brought raw eggs into the country?  Curly almost swooned in a 'Holy-Hell,-the- are-watching-us. -They-know-about-the-food' eleven year old moment.  I was focused on getting through this step but I assured her the eggs I brought in were hard boiled, not raw. 

I had to laugh when I
found this little love
note from the TSA saying they had
checked my bag.  I was sure
 to show it to Curly:
 'See, they dug around in my bag and
 there was nothing naughty
 in there, so they left it alone.'
We collected our bags.  Well, most of them.  One of our large food bags did not show up.  All the other peeps collected their bags and wandered away.  There was maybe one other family still staring at the empty conveyor belt.  Airport workers explained to us that a few bags fell out of the plane when being unloaded.  Encouraging.  The employees were just now returning for them.  Swell.  

Curly can NEVER be a smuggler.  She almost wet her pants insisting that the real reason our big-ass bag of food was not showing itself down the conveyor belt was because it had been confiscated for 'food.'  I kid you not, she would not relax and trust me.  On my other elbow I had ear-pain girl.  Pleasant.

It took about 45 additional minutes for our abandoned-on-the-tarmac-to-be-run-over-by-another-airplane bag to show up.  We got in a cab and headed to the hotel.  For the entire motion-sickness cab ride, I stared straight ahead trying to calm my stomach and felt Mini's face staring at my profile 2 inches away repeating:  'It won't pop.  It hurts so much.'  OVER AND OVER.  

September 18, 2019

resting near Ringo, oversold- how? & NOT checking the dress

A bit more about Vancouver, from JULY - I know, I know - the end is in sight, but there is more to tell.  Fun fact, I cannot sleep if I leave a party and realize I have not finished telling someone a story.  Shock, I know. . . 

At last the girls and I arrived at our gate.  I plopped down on a seat with a few other available seats adjacent to it for the girls.  I could not keep my eyes open, so I slept a little while surrounded by my girls, carry-on stuff, passports, & the fancy-ass Irish dancing dress.  Happy to be rid of the two  just-under-50-pound food bags being loaded under the plane (hopefully our plane).  

Across from our seats at the gate sat a woman maybe a little younger than me.  She was utilizing all of the charging station plugs within a close proximity to her seat.  She would have gotten tangled in all of her cords had she made any sudden movements.  

Laptop open.  Headphones in.  She was bopping to her music.  At one point she stopped using her laptop to search for a spot that her hand could jam out by extending it and tapping on the back of her neighbor’s chair.  Only no one was sitting next to her.  Who would?  
I inserted an orange arrow here to point out
the feet in purple socks no longer wearing shoes.
  Strange days indeed.  Most peculiar, Mama.  

I was too tired to move all of our stuff in order to avoid her, and there weren’t that many seats for the three of us, so I simply glanced at my girls.  Hoping they understood my ‘don’t-ever-behave-like-this-moron-in-public’ look.  Ringo propped her foot up on her carry-on.  For real.  She had her socked foot resting in the air, mid-isle.  Not far from my personal space.  People are strange.  

I was enjoying one of those naps where I don’t feel like I am asleep.  Just closing my eyes.  Then I sat up and felt the 'just-napped' nap feeling, and I knew I was zonked out for a few minutes.  Hoping of course that my snooze was less offensive than Bono’s body-rocking-to-her-tunes.  I would think so.  My appendages (still shoe wearing) were not protruding into the isle.  By the time I was awake from my nap, Cher was no longer sitting across from us.

I ordered the girls to eat the sandwiches that we packed and I inhaled my salad.  Between bites, I checked my email.  Thank God I did, because United had emailed me.  Gate change.  I rushed the girls to finish their lunch so we could gather our crap and walk a few miles thru O'Hare to our new gate.

I telepathically begged the airline not to lose my enormous checked bags of food (and paper plates, Tupperware, cereal, bagels, and various homemade baked breads).  Meanwhile, Curly’s Irish dancing dress that cost four times as much as my wedding dress, was tucked under my arm as we hauled ass to our new gate.  

The airline had impolitely over sold our flight.  I don’t get this?  How do they get away with charging me an arm and a leg to fly, then charging me a fee to check a bag (is there a way to fly without bringing your shit with you?  I mean I get the carry-on option, but how creative should people have to be to travel?  Isn’t it hard enough to travel without trying to pull it off with less than what you want to bring?  ‘Hope the weather doesn’t change on me, cause I can’t pack a sweater and pants!’), and then selling more seats than the plane offers.  INSANE.  

I had Mini snap this pic of me.  I wore some ugly clothes for the flight because I was trying to pack layers.  We were going to be hiking, so loose dry fit pants and a dry fit shirt seemed right.  The poop-brown and yellow colors were not my fave, but it made sense.  The reason for the pic was not to show you how awful the color combo was - check out the cover of my book, 'Flower Net' by Lisa See.  Same color scheme - I matched my book.   Am I good, or what?  FYI:  I do not recommend this book.  Liked her other books.  Not this one.  They say don't judge a book by its cover, but in this case I should have seen the ugly colors and assumed the book was not good, and then not dressed to match it.  
At the gate they demanded that all luggage (even carefully packed carry-ons) be checked.  This irks me.  I scrambled while standing in line, holding the boarding passes for me and my girlie traveling companions in my mouth while I yanked Curly’s dance shoe bag and my camera bag out of our carry-on/soon to be checked luggage.  No way in Hell was I gonna let those items be tossed under a plane operated by people who cannot count seats.  

I tensed up anticipating a flight attendant instructing me to put Curly’s dance dress worth more than its weight in gold in it’s oddly shaped triangular bag out of my sight under the plane.  Not happening.  (That sound? me weeping remembering how much this garment that she will soon outgrow cost us).   

No such request was made and I managed to slide it on top of the carry-ons that WERE SOMEHOW ALLOWED on board in a nearby overhead container.

Vancouver here we come! 

September 16, 2019

this JUST happened, in real time- LOOK WHO WE MET!!!

Curly and I flew to Princeton, NJ painfully early Friday morning.  Laddie was playing in a water polo tournament there, and I currently have Fridays off.  Lad's first game was in the late afternoon Friday followed by two games on Saturday.  One night in a hotel plus cheap flights.  Priceless.  
I decided Curly could miss school.  6th graders can make work up, right?  Then it turned out to be a half day (I never looked at the school schedule when I booked the flights).  I was like 'Swell, you won't have any homework!'  

Curly ended up being a bit disappointed, because half days are fun days at their school.  Team building and so on.  This half day was for the annual school run.  Oops.  Curly is a speedster.  I told her she could beat all the boys in 7th and 8th grade.  This half day our team building time would be spent cheering for Lad.  

We loved downtown Princeton.  Lad ended up staying in our hotel room because his school team is on a tight budget.  The coach (not to be confused with my Coach) was booking 4 kids to a room and then one kid was going to have to sleep on the floor.  With Lad at our hotel, then each kid got to share a bed.  Besides, Lad is no dummy.  He knew he would get a better night sleep in a hotel with us early-to-bed types.  

After Lad's last game, we said good-bye and decided we had enough time to eat a quick dinner before heading to the airport.  We parked the car - people, this is no easy feat in Princeton.  Like any busy downtown area, parking spots are tough to come by.  At one point, as I struggled to park my medium sized rental car, Curly whispered 'Thank God you aren't driving the Great White!'  Parallel parking is not my favorite thing.  I started sweating thinking the surrounding drivers were getting ticked as I jockeyed back and forth into the spot.  

Saturday at 5:00 pm, Curly and I - now totally familiar with Princeton - found a spot a few blocks away from the restaurant that we wanted to eat at.  The place, for all of those of you who might visit Princeton University someday, is on Nassau and it is called Tacoria.  Mexican fare.  Awesomeness.  Thus our 2nd meals there.  

We joked on the way to the airport that they might have to announce to our fellow plane passengers: 'Excuse us but Passenger Shenanigan in isle 8 ingested black beans two consecutive dinners.  Sorry in advance for the inner-flight turbulence.  You've been warned!'

As we walked up the street away from our rental car, I heard a familiar voice.  A man was leaning into the barber shop that we were passing (AT EXACTLY THE RIGHT MOMENT, MIND YOU).  He announced:  'Hey guys, I am moving here in two weeks and this is where I am getting my haircut!  See 'ya!'  

His back was not two feet from my elbow.  I stopped in my tracks and turned around.  As he popped out of the doorway to face his girlfriend, I gasped.  Loudly.  

'Hey!  You have NO IDEA how often your show in our house!!!  Can I take a picture with you and my daughter?'  He said 'Sure,' and his girlfriend stepped out of the way.

Curly stood next to him and I held my phone up.  Then I gave him a brief Shenanigan life story.  'So we are in town to watch my son play water polo.  He goes to (insert school in New York) and we are from Chicago.'  People, I am a long-winded type (collective, 'No!  Not you?!' from my readers.  Kari, go ahead and weigh in here.  I have thick skin).  I managed to refrain from saying anything else.  Just 'Thanks!'   

He responded with, 'Cool!', (which Coach later translated for me in case I was confused, to 'I don't really care.  Leave me alone.')  And then he and his girlfriend waved good-bye and Curly and I wandered star-struck to the Tacoria restaurant.  

I am curious to know if any of you recognize him.  Go ahead, take a stab.  Use my comments below - you can do it, even if you have never commented before!  Do you know who this guy is or what show he is on?  

By the way, Curly has NOT recovered.  She keeps saying, 'I mean, when I woke up yesterday, I didn't know I was going to meet ____!'

September 13, 2019

checking everything BUT PASSPORT DATES before girl power flight

Ed went to Costco to get me a few things, including
 catsup.  I shared with you in the comments section
 that he went overboard.  Now you can see.
 I was NOT exaggerating.
On July 1st Mini, Curly, and I were finally off to the airport to fly to Vancouver.  Ed drove us to the airport.  While I tend to run incredibly, inexcusably late for most things in life, I favor arrival to the airport on time, or in this case -  crazy ass early.

I was traveling with a passport.  There would be customs.  Shoe and belt removal.  Frozen food sweating in my bags.  Why take any chances?  

I miscalculated though.  I was not aware that traveling to Canada from the States did not even involve being routed thru O’Hare’s international terminal.  Canada is a different country though, right?  Thus ‘international.’  

UPDATE:  I worried I had not left them
 enough food.  These boys can eat.  They ended
up cracking open some packages of make your own
pizza.  Packacge states clearly: 
refrigerate after opening.
The night before the female family members departed at least one of us worried about how the male members would manage for the next three days.  Would they forget to pack items before joining us in Vancouver?  Had I left them enough food?  Would they follow all of my lists of instructions?  Welcome to the innards of my mind.  

Anyway, night before girl-power flight I studied my checklist CLOSELY.  

This pic looks like pita bread.  It is really
remaining pizza bases left in the bag
IN THE PANTRY.  Hello, mold!
‘Coach, do you have the boy passports somewhere so that you won’t forget them?’  Then, my mind took a temporary pause from worrying what the guy-group could screw up and a HORRIFYING thought occurred to me about something I could have totally botched

Kid passports expire sooner than adult passports.  Duh.  Reggie and I got our passports BEFORE the rest of the family.  Mine was a renewal.  Getting his initial passport was a nightmare.  Several trips to the post office.  Once I didn't bring him.  Rookie mistake.  Once I didn't have a letter of consent signed by Coach.  

You see, Reg and I were forced to travel to Montreal for Irish Dancing World Championships.  Lest you are confused about 'forced to travel somewhere' just hold tight, because my tell-all book of Irish dance drama details will follow, at least that is my life mission.  

Anyway, in typical Ernie fashion I opted to cause myself a massive stoke just before bed.  I raced from the study where I had been calling reminders to Coach who was two rooms away (he LOVES when I holler important info from two rooms away) for the thousandth time.  Reminders that he was no doubt tuning out, which is why I covered the island and the fridge in boldface, sharpie notes before I left.  Just in case. 

With my hands in my hair like a mad scientist and inaudible curse words tumbling from my trembling lips and my mouth drying up as all my bodily fluids threatened to exit dramatically in a matter of moments, I ordered Coach to hand me the stack of penis-only-passports.  I flipped open Reg’s.  His passport expires in February.  Folks. February.  2020.  That was close.  Well, I guess it could have been a lot closer, but for me in that panic moment-it felt scary close.  How could I have forgotten until the night before my flight that his passport could have expired sooner than everyone else's?  
While it isn’t totally necessary for me to take on full responsibility of, well, EVERYTHING - I lean that way.  I was handling:  the food prep, the dancing details, the minimalist wardrobe packing, the purchasing of suitable kids’ sneakers, the mail/paper vacation holding, the accommodations reserving, and the like (cause there is more -but how boring).  At least:  Coach planned our tourism stuff - running a few things past me.  My variety of responses included:  nod, shrug, OK, kids won't like that one, and sounds great. 

I hoped that it would be great, because I was EXHAUSTED!

September 11, 2019

fudgsicle walls, utter confusion, we will never know

While I inhaled some ice cream, Coach drove over to my parents' house with a laundry basket of mostly bags of frozen veggies.  (Just joining us?  Our freezer started to defrost a week before we were going out of town).  I left a message for the appliance lady because the freezer was less than 2 years old.  It is a Thermador.  Hello - not a cheap-ass appliance!

Later than night we noticed that the freezer had begun to freeze things again.  The spoonful of sherbet that I stuck in a baggie was now frozen solid.  What the?

The technician was able to come out a few days later.  I did not cancel even though the situation felt less emergent because now it seemed to be less drippy and more chilly.  Go figure. 

The bummer -he found no issues.  Come on, give me something!  I started using the freezer again a bit, but I was hesitant.  I did not want everything defrosting right before we left - especially the meals that I made and froze for the trip.  Not to mention, what if it started to defrosts while we were away? 

I told my mom that I would try to send one of the boys over to get my frozen veggies from her before they left for Vancouver.  Frozen vegetables that do not belong to someone but are seeking a cold shelter can apparently heighten anxiety levels for the cold-environment provider. 

The boys never ran that errand for me.  I honestly preferred not to use the freezer anyway until we got back from Vancouver so I could keep an eye on it, so I hadn't reminded them or threatened their lives if they didn't do it. 

As with every other millisecond of the trip, we landed back in Chicago (don't worry, I still promise to flash back to details of the trip) and one by one my offspring started to grill me about what I was serving for dinner.  I was like:  'I am standing next to you in an airport.  I didn't start my crockpot remotely, so I DON'T FRICKING KNOW.  CHILL OUT.  YOU WILL NOT STARVE.'

We stopped at the grocery store on our way home from the airport.  Coach grabbed dogs to grill and milk and I scooped up some fresh fruit, bread, and yogurt.  While they waited for the grill to heat up the kids switched into ransack mode.  Reg opened the freezer to see what he could stuff in his face while he waited MINUTES for dinner. 

He gasped.  I peeked in and found the walls covered in brown grossness.  I could NOT for the life of me figure it out.  I stood there for a minute thinking the freezer thawed again.  I had a couple of huge-ass frozen containers of Italian Beef in there.  Even if they had thawed, how would they have gotten shaken up and spilled all over the walls of the fridge?  Someone had some 'splaining to do. 

Blue arrow is pointing to frozen Italian
Beef.  See how the color of the walls
 resemble splashed beef juice?
I could NOT have been
more confused, because the
 beef was still frozen.
  Like did a small elf come
 in there, thaw the
 beef and then shake the Hell out
of it?  I know.  Far-fetched.
 Utter confusion.  

I noted that mom had returned my frozen veggie bags, so I called her to see if the fridge looked like a fudgsicle exploded in there while she restocked.  For the record, I did not have fudgsicles in the freezer.  Sounds yummy though.

Me:  Hi, we're home.  Thanks for returning the veggies (insert eye-roll).  Did my freezer look . . .

Mom:  Oh, so you saw IT!  Yes, I came over there the other day and the inside of the freezer was a MESS.  Someone put a pop in the freezer and left it there.  It exploded.  (lots more details and chit chat about this event).

Me:  (Insert more eye-rolls because of the unspoken:  'yeah Mom, I know.  Our kids are slobs'.)
See my very artsy double arrow -
 it is pointing out the veggies still
in the grocery bags that Mom delivered,
 so while the kids are panicking about
 what to eat - I was like,
 'Well, who wants veggies?'

Me:  Tank did you put a pop in the freezer and forget about it?

Tank:  Sure. (inconclusive, as this is his code word for stop accusing me of stuff and leave me alone)

Translation:  clear as mud.  It was either Tank, Lad, or Reg.  The girls would never.  Ed  doesn't drink pop.  No one fessed up.  The next few times Tank or Reg got in trouble I made them scrub the inside of the freezer just to cover my bases.  I must admit that I was super relieved that the freezer had not defrosted again. 

What are the chances that the freezer malfunction would coincide with the one (but probably not the last) time my kids ever explode a pop in the fridge?  

(Part of the issue is we never have pop in our house, but I overbought for Ed's grad party and certain children have a tough time keeping their mitts off of taboo items no matter what we say).

September 9, 2019

freezer snafu, hold the cool whip and frozen veggies

Before we ever left for Vancouver we ran into a little freezer snafu.  I had been gradually cooking up dinners and freezing them in large zip loc bags to pack for the trip.  We planned to feast on sloppy joe's, turkey (that was the only meal not frozen), chicken cacciatore, and leftover mostaccioli from Eddie's grad party that had been in the freezer since June.  I also whipped up enough additional servings to feed the male family members who would be home for a few days before flying out to join us.

One night while I was making dinner, I noticed water dripping out of the freezer every time I opened it.  As with most debacles, I blamed Tank.  (group moan:  'oh, poor Tank').  I suspected that when he returned from landscaping in the heat he emptied his cooler, rinsed his freezer packs in the sink, and then stuck them in the freezer.

Me:  'Tank your freezer packs are still dripping with water.  Next time dry them off.'

Tank:  'Sure'  - he responds this way for most things just to get me to stop talking to him.  Yes, you are right to assume that this can be very irritating.  Silly me.  Once he paid attention to what I suspected him of, he was like 'I didn't rinse my freezer packs off.'

After dinner, I got out ice cream.  It was Lad's 21st birthday and the kids were eating cake, but I celebrate with ice cream.  The spoon plunged deep into the ice cream way too easily.  Oh shit.

Our freezer was defrosting.  My to-do list was lengthy so I was frustrated that I now had to clear out  the freezer in a hurry.  I tossed some stuff.  I set stuff that didn't have to stay frozen aside like Nestles chocolate chip morsels.  I loaded laundry baskets with food and ran down to the basement to see what I could fit in that freezer.  The answer:  not much!

Laundry basket appears overflowing in the bottom right corner.  The bonus is lots of ice cream got eaten last night, and no one got in trouble for it.

I emptied out the basement freezer.  I eliminated cardboard boxes with one or two items remaining to conserve space.  I juggled and maneuvered and prioritized and utilized the freezer door space differently.  In the end I realized that I may never again need to purchase cool whip or frozen bags of vegetables.  Oops.

I called my mom and she agreed half-heartily to accept some of my freezer goods into her freezer. My folks have a freezer in the kitchen and another one in the basement and maybe one in the garage.  There are two of them.  Space was not an issue, but Mom does not like things out of place.  Reason #437 why I must have been adopted.  I wanted to ask her when the last time was she even opened the mostly-empty freezer in the basement.  She uses it to stock pile cookies near Christmas but THIS WAS END OF JUNE!

Now what was I going to do with all of the meals-to-travel-with that were supposed to be frozen until we left the following week?  For the moment, I shoved the dinners that I made that day in the fridge thinking I would just have to keep them there till I could freeze them in a few days.

Then I helped myself to another scoop of ice cream.  There is more to this story, and I wish it involved more ice cream eating, but sadly no. 

September 6, 2019

wait, those socks weren't red?!

Finally Flakey landscaping customer texted Tank.  She was in Milwaukee at a wedding and had not realized that they had a set appointment.  He could not just show up to do the work. She had to be there. Besides, she found someone else who could do more stuff that she needed done. 

Well, this is a fine time to tell a 16 year old kid that you are cancelling. He could have caddied and made close to $100. I made him pull up her prior text messages so that I could inspect.  I know that Tank is not the best communicator, so I wanted to check it out. It looked to me as though they had a set appointment. Bull Shit! I instructed him to text her back and let her know that she would be charged a $20 cancellation fee.  This was a small price to pay, but I wanted her to grasp that she had messed up his day.  

Tank drafted a message that I edited BIG TIME.  Then he called his afternoon gig and made plans to go there earlier.  He sometimes pays his friends to drive him to these gigs, because he cannot always rely on me being available to drive him places.  Before you judge me for not being available to him, understand that he also struggles to time these jobs well enough to know when he is going to need a ride. I drive him when I can. His buddy dropped him off at his job, and I drove to the pool to try to snooze (remember me being tired and on a mission to get a few rays before picking up from dancing?).

I wasn’t poolside 20 minutes and Tank called.  ‘Yeah, so this lady thinks I need stitches. I think it is going to be fine, but I was cutting something and the blade slipped and it hit my shin.  She sprayed some of that germ stuff on it. She’s kind of freaking out. I just wanted to finish the job, but I told her I would call for a ride.’ 

I had to leave to get Curly in a few minutes and I was picking up other dancers.  I could not be late. I asked him where he was, and I told him I would call Coach.  Coach’s physical therapy clinic is across the street from the country club, so he sometimes works out at the health club and then goes to his office to get things done while he waits for caddies to text him to say they are ready for a ride.  They usually have a car at the course, but they don’t always finish at the same time.  

Coach told me he was about to pick up Mini and he was working on payroll while he waited.  He wanted Tank to text him the address and he would get him soon. Coach is the rub-dirt-in-it kind of guy, so if the wound was questionable I knew he would air on the side of ‘Ah, looks OK to me.’  You all remember my passing out history? Better for everyone, if I kept my distance. 

On the way home from my lengthy commute to dancing, I texted Coach from a stoplight.  ‘Stitches?’ Coach responded, ‘Oh yeah.’ Tank later told me his customer was worried he was going to bleed out and he had to keep reassuring her that he was OK.  I think our lack of emergent response did not impress her.  

This is the pic that Curly wanted to see,
 but was denied when she would not allow
Tank (who I suspect pulls her hair)
 to touch her mop.
Once home I asked to see the photos of the injury that was now all closed up with 4 stitches.  Tank showed me the picture on his phone and proudly stated, ‘The doctor at urgent care said he had never seen such a deep cut.’  Swell. Apparently he had been using a small landscaping saw to cut a branch of something and it slipped off of the branch. He stabbed himself right in the shin.  

Curly asked to see the picture.  He bargained with her: ‘Only if you let me touch your hair two times.’  Curly is like a poodle to the touch and her hair is DELIGHTFUL to play with. She will literally let anyone touch her hair.  She enjoys it, but NOT Tank. That was a deal breaker. No hair touches were granted to the wounded landscaper, so he would not show her the picture. I think Tank has a tendency to pull her hair while the rest of her admirers use extreme gentleness.
I don't mind a laundry challenge, but this is extreme.  

Me:  ‘Good thing you were wearing red socks.’  

Tanks:  ‘Oh, those weren’t red.’ 

And, again I ask: Why can't you just caddy? Heavy sigh.